After 10-For-10, Dayton Goes Four For (First) Four

Posted by jstevrtc on September 9th, 2010

For the past ten years, the city of Dayton has been host to the NCAA Tournament’s Play-In Game (though the NCAA doesn’t really like that moniker). Affectionately known as the “PiG,” it wasn’t exactly a destination to which teams aspired after a long regular season and a conference tournament championship. If your team got into the dance, you wanted to be in the dance, you know? Despite the city’s admirable support of their Flyers — the student section in UD Arena was one of the loudest we encountered last season — among college basketball players, Dayton became a place you hoped you weren’t sent by the bracket-makers. Even though the NCAA treated it and paid schools the same as any other appearance, you didn’t want to have to play into the Tournament. You wanted to be in the Tournament.

The NCAA, the citizens of Dayton, and the people who work at the arena, however, have brought every ounce of dignity and elegance they could muster for the PiG, and they’ve done it each of the past ten years. There was never anything close to a half-hearted effort on their part. Despite the reputation of the PiG, Dayton made teams, fans, and media feel welcome. The seats were always filled.  The people of Dayton embraced the PiG. On Thursday, the NCAA confirmed that Dayton will be the site for all four of the first round games — the First Four —  that were created earlier this summer when the NCAA increased the tournament field from 65 to 68.

UD Arena, In Its Usual Sold-Out State

To this, we say bravo. It’s a great, appropriate reward from the NCAA to Dayton, and we hope they extend this beyond 2011. Dayton would get four NCAA Tournament games every year, quadrupling any economic spike they’ve enjoyed by hosting the PiG for the last ten years. As for the games themselves, two of them will involve the last four “at-large” teams that gained admission to the dance, and two of them will involve the last four automatic qualifiers. They’ll take place on Tuesday and Wednesday after Selection Sunday, which means that there is no longer that seemingly infinite wait from Sunday night to the tournament’s start on Thursday (yeah, we know, the PiG was on Tuesday). You get Selection Sunday, then Monday to crank out your brackets. The first round begins on Tuesday with the start of the First Four.

There is one final question, though, and that’s who plays when. Will the last four at-larges play on one night and the 16-seeds all play on the other? We communicated with David Worlock, the Associate Director of the Men’s Basketball Championship, who told us that “was still to be determined,” but the NCAA’s contract with CBS and Turner Sports allows for “maximum flexibility” in terms of scheduling the games. If TV is making the ultimate decision on this, we figure that they’d be getting maximum eyeballs each night by pairing a 16-seed game first with a “marquee” at-large battle second, using, say, the old 7/9:15 PM ET game windows. Nothing wrong with that.

It’s fun to be talking about this kind of stuff. And it’s going to be a fun way to start the Tournament, and we know the city of Dayton will get behind it.

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Opening Round Questions Still Unanswered

Posted by jstevrtc on July 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee met this week in Chicago, and the biggest item on their agenda was to decide on the format of the new 68-team tournament. In deciding to expand from the 65-team tournament, which has been the rule for the last ten years, to 68 teams in time for the 2011 tournament, the NCAA has committed itself to four opening round games.  The questions of who will play in those games, however, and where those games will take place, among other logistical issues, are still to be decided. While it doesn’t look like a decision will be announced this week, outgoing committee chairperson and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has spelled out three possible options for who will compete in the opening round games:

  1. The teams that would be the 16th and 17th seeds in a bracket, or those teams seeded at spots 61 through 68 in the overall field — likely teams from the historically one-bid conferences,
  2. The last eight non-automatic qualifiers or the teams generally referred to as bubble teams — generally teams from a mixture of BCS leagues and mid-major conferences, or
  3. Some combination of the first two options, with the most talked-about scenario being the last four bubble teams playing in a couple of games and the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers (seeds 65-68) playing in the other two.

While it is still within the realm of reason that additional options could arise (maybe the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers each match up against one of the bubble teams), the answer will likely be one of the three options above. And, frankly, option three is a bit of a copout, so the decision between options one and two comes down to something of a battle between the big power conferences and the less influential conferences that nonetheless make up the bulk of Division I. And neither side wants to play in those games.

Should a conference champ be sent to an opening-rounder and have a better chance to make more money, or should their performance be rewarded with a spot in the main draw?

“I think that if you are an automatic qualifier, you should not be in a play-in game,” said Winthrop head coach Randy Peele when we talked with him earlier this week, and he’s had experience with the opening round game as the coach at a school that has now appeared in two opening round tournament games, including last season’s loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Peele’s sentiment was echoed by Michael White, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications at East Tennessee State University. “For teams like ours that come out of a league with one tournament bid, and to have to earn it by winning our conference tournament, we don’t want to have to be sent to a play-in game.”

Even the term “play-in game,” used in reference to the single opening round game played in Dayton for the last ten years, is a divisive one. The NCAA has gone to great lengths to make sure that game was referred to as the “opening round game,” despite it commonly being referred to by fans and media as the play-in game. “The way the NCAA markets the first day is critical,” said ETSU’s head coach Murry Bartow. “They shouldn’t be marketed as play-in games, where you’re not even in the tournament until you win that game.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 3

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

Could it really be that, as of this coming weekend, we are only five weeks from Selection Sunday? That means we’re only four weeks from putting crowns on the heads of conference tournament champions and even closer than that to anointing some regular season champs. It doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. I think this also means the Ivy League announces its tournament representative, like, what, tomorrow?!? OK, maybe not that quickly. But it’ll all be here pretty darn soon.

After much cunning, good timing, and top-flite negotiation, the boys and I have made the Vegas hotel reservations (deals abound like you wouldn’t believe) and locked in our flights (deals aren’t as great as ya might be hearing) for the annual Vegas excursion for the first two rounds. The Vegas-related e-mail chatter has increased. Ah, how I love it. And since I’m here in the RTC Midwestern Compound, all this Vegas talk provides a wonderful antidote, a perfect bridge from now to the first tip in March, over what we hope are the last strains of what’s been one hell of a winter.

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The RTC MW Compound is nice, but does not have a view like this. (credit: gpsmagazine.com)

That said, let’s take another peek inside the collective head of the Vegas oddsmakers and see what they’re thinking. Most of you probably know, but for the untrained, the way the money line works is that if you see a team with, say, +1000 beside them then that means if you bet $100 on them, you get $1000 back, plus your bet. The lower the x is in +(x), the bigger the favorite. If you should ever see a team with a negative (-1000) that means you have to bet $1000 on them to win $100. That doesn’t apply to this list, though.

The last time we checked this was early January…here’s the latest from The Greek:

vegas-odds-2009-season-edition-vol-31

Yep, it’s still Carolina. They’ve given up another $30 since the last time we checked, going from +220 to +250. But it looks like someone in Sin City has found something to like about the oft-bewildering Connecticut Huskies, since their value has been cut in half from +1000 to +500. Odd that Vegas would basically feel twice as good about UConn, seeing as how the Huskies seem to lose focus so easily at times. It can’t just be about the #1 ranking, because the last time we looked at this, UNC had just taken their first loss and actually extended their lead as favorite over the next-closest contender. Connecticut is a fine team and undoubtedly a title contender, but that’s a big move. I wonder what else it’s based on?

Mr. Calhoun cant explain it, either.  But he aint arguing.
Mr. Calhoun can’t explain it, either. But he ain’t arguing. (credit: daylife.com)

Call me crazy, but I still think Louisville is an attractive option at +1800 even though they’ve been “demoted” a couple hundred bucks since last time and they have the occasional problem staying focused, as well. The chance to win 18x your money isn’t a bad value for the current #5 team in the country, eh? I also think UCLA is playing better recently than the mere $200 bump Vegas has allotted them (+2000 to +1800). Heck, even Memphis (+2000 from +3000), a very athletic bunch playing very well of late, can’t be ignored; come on, like you wouldn’t plop down a little dough for the chance to win twenty times your cash on that team. But as far as I’m concerned, along with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, I think the best bet on the board comes in the form of the Oklahoma Sooners (+1500), a current #2-ranked team that Vegas will give you fifteen times your money for if they take it all. Not a bad deal for a team that has who I consider the national POY (in spite of, uh, THIS) surrounded by an incredibly athletic and hungry surrounding cast. The only thing in the college basketball world bigger than the value you can get for the Sooners and Cardinals is perhaps Andy Kennedy’s head.

Another interesting matter is the continued presence of Gonzaga and an unranked Georgetown team high on the list. I was all about Gonzaga earlier this year — and why not? They have a good coach, exceptional guard play, solid inside game, what we thought was a budding star in Austin Daye…and yet they can barely stay afloat in the Top 25. Everyone thought this was going to be the year Gonzaga, as a program, took that next step into adulthood…what happened? True, the season’s far from over but all the evidence we have up to now has to make you wonder why they’re ranked 19th in the AP poll but still sit as the 9th favorite according to Vegas. And for some reason here sits Georgetown, careening downward like an Acula class submarine, GONE from the Top 25 but still perched here as Vegas’ 12th choice. These oddsmakers usually know their stuff — I wonder what they still see in the Zags and Hoyas?

One final thing I definitely have to mention…even with all of the lines up there that it seems strange that they’d even mention (Georgia at +50000? Texas Tech at +17500?), maaaaan…to just throw more dirt on Indiana like that, actually bothering to list them at +99999?!? That’s got to be classified as cruel and unusual!! Haven’t they endured enough for one year?

Coach Crean says “WTF, VEGAS?!?!?” (credit: ancestry.com)

The next time we check this will probably be in a month, as we take a final look right before the tournament starts. My hombres and I have our suite waiting and our sportsbook seats reserved, and we’ll be touching down the night of the play-in game…so hey, if you see something on the odds board you like, feel free to send us some dough, and we’ll put it in play for you, ya know? Come on…you can trust us!

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Mr. Stevens promises your money will not be used for…tips. (credit: chinadaily.com)
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2008-09 Season Primers: #26 – Northeast

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2008

Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Mount St. Mary’s  (20-9) (15-3)   
  2. Central Conn. St. (19-9) (14-4)
  3. Sacred Heart   (17-10) (13-5)
  4. Robert Morris    (17-12) (12-6)
  5. FDU    (14-14) (10-8)
  6. Quinnipiac   (13-14) (8-10)
  7. LIU    (11-16) (7-11)
  8. Monmouth   (11-17) (6-12)
  9. Wagner   (11-18) (5-13)
  10. St. Francis (NY)  (9-20) (4-14)
  11. St. Francis (PA)  (5-23) (3-15)

What you need to Know (WYN2K). The Northeast Conference, in its 28th season of operation,  formed in the Eighties from the old ECAC Metro. The eleven school league has granted admission to Bryant University who begins NEC play in 2012. The league postseason tournament admits the top eight finishers. Each game is played on the home floor of the high seed in the pairings. What this all means is February games are played hard each night out. Teams are fighting for a tournament berth, a higher seeding or to just become a spoiler. After Valentine’s Day everyone is scoreboard watching. The nation’s fourth most improved conference (behind the Southland, MAAC and Sun Belt) a year ago will see 60% of its starters return. Featured among them are All-NEC performers Jeremy Chappell, a senior swingman for Robert Morris, and  LIU junior guard Jaytomah Wisseh. Central Connecticut also welcomes back 2008 NEC Rookie of the Year, sophomore point guard Shemik Thompson.
 
Predicted Champion. Mount St.Mary’s (#16 NCAA). The NEC defending tournament champs return four starters from a team that captured nine of their last ten games and took the tournament title on Sacred Heart’s floor. Junior lead guard Jeremy Goode, the team leader in scoring, assists and steals is back. Sophomore guard Jean Cajou caught fire late last season and wound up as NEC tournament MVP. Talent plus the momentum of a year ago, which included a play-in win over Coppin State, certify Mount as the favorite. Look for another 16 seed – could a Tar Heel rematch be in the works?

Others Considered. Central Connecticut St. will be in the mix. Four starters return and veteran coach Howie Dickenman is certain to have the Blue Devils playing their best as the season winds down. Sacred Heart finished as tournament runner-up the last two seasons and cannot be counted out. The same goes for Robert Morris, last year’s regular season champion who was upset in the NEC semis and represented the conference in the NIT.

Important Games.

  • Mount St.Mary’s @ Sacred Heart  (12/4/08)
  • Mount St.Mary’s @ Central Connecicut  (12/06/08)
  • Quinnipiac @ FDU  (01/03/09)
  • Robert Morris @ Mount St.Mary’s  (1/25/09)
  • Sacred Heart @ Central Connecticut State  (2/19/09)
  • Mount St.Mary’s @ Robert Morris  (2/28/09)

RPI Boosters.

  • FDU @ Pitt  (11/14/08)
  • FDU @ Wazzu  (11/18/08)
  • Rhode Island @ Monmouth (Hoop Group) (11/20/08)
  • FDU @ Mississippi St.  (11/22/08)
  • Monmouth @ Villanova (Hoop Group) (11/25/08)
  • Mount St.Mary’s @ George Mason  (11/25/08)
  • Akron @ FDU  (11/30/08)
  • Mount St.Mary’s @ Georgetown  (12/20/08)
  • Robert Morris @ Xavier  (12/31/08)
  • FDU @ TBA in Bracketbuster  (02/20/09)

Neat-o-Stat. The NEC boasts three coaches who have hit the 400 win total. Dave Bike (464-414) of Sacred Heart leads the way. Mike Deane of Wagner and FDU’s Tom Green hit the magic number this past season. Deane, in his sixth year at the NEC school, has a 416-292 mark. Green, entering his 26th season at FDU, has a 400-328 ledger.  Of the trio, Bike owns a national championship. He led the Sacred Heart Pioneers to the D2 crown in 1986.

Neat-o-Stat con’t. Robert Morris owns the best overall record among conference schools over the past two seasons even though it hasn’t won the tournament title. The Colonials are 43-19 during that time. Interestingly they did it with two different coaches. Mark Schmidt put together a 17-11 record in 2006-07 before heading to St. Bonaventure, and last season, in his first year in Coraopolis, Mike Rice’s club was a gaudy 26-8.

65 Team Era.  NEC life usually means facing a #1 or #2 seed (20 of the past 24 years), and unfortunately, the NEC has yet to defeat one of those teams in the first round. FDU under Tom Green has been competitive each time out. In 2005, they gave top ranked Illinois a battle for twenty minutes, and have also given #1Michigan (1985) and #2 UConn (1998) scares over the years. Last season, conference tournament champion Mt. St. Mary’s defeated Coppin State in the play-in game before running into the UNC juggernaut the next time out.  
 
Final Thoughts. In a perfect world the NEC would be a multiple bid conference. This is not a perfect world (see the $700 billion bailout) so the conference gets one invitation to the Big Dance. From a fan perspective that makes for added drama as the regular season and postseason tournament takes on huge meaning. The championship is especially intense as teams vie for that one spot on Selection Sunday.  Geographical proximity is another issue. You have three schools (St. Francis (PA), Robert Morris and Mt. St. Mary’s) ‘way out west’. But a good percentage of the membership is in relatively close driving distance of each other. In fact, FDU, LIU, Wagner, Monmouth and St.Francis (NY) are all within a 40-mile radius which affords their fans an easy, nearby road trip.  Another attractive feature of the NEC is that players stay around. If a coach recruits a player, then outside of transfer or academic issues, they are typically on board for the duration. No ‘one and done’ to David Stern’s league here.

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11.04.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2007

Another week full of information to catch up on…

  • Lute Olson is taking a leave of absence (not medically related) from Arizona (see video below). Asst. Coach Kevin O’Neill will take over during the interim (update: UA isn’t looking very good during its exhibition game vs. Concordia today).
  • This is a very cool map of every D1 school – did you know there’s only one D1 school in Minnesota? We didn’t either. (h/t to Meaningful Collateral)
  • Post Game Heroes breaks down the College Hoops 2K8 Sports player ratings (nice to see Bo McCalebb (#3 SG) and Kyle Hines (#2 PF) getting their due). EA Sports NCAA08 March Madness also lists its top 25 teams.
  • Did you know that Davidson is playing at Texas today? Yep, a closed scrimmage. We’ll see if we can find a report of this game later.
  • Everyone’s favorite play-in game is now worth the same amount as any other first round game.
  • MTD plugged a college coaching simulation game that really sounds interesting – once we figure out how to quit our job and watch hoops all day manage our time more effectively, we’re all in.
  • NCAA Hoops Today gives a sweet rundown of upcoming games on the tube.
  • After whiffing on Greg Monroe, Duke got a commitment from Elliott Williams, a shooting guard from the Memphis area. Oh, and Duke’s three football fans were miffed when Coach K scheduled a scrimmage at the same time as their game vs. FSU last weekend.
  • It turns out the college hoops fans are the most superstitious of all. Now excuse us while we arrange our chair just so in front of the tv.
  • Injuries, Suspensions, Returns -
    • Washington three-point specialist Ryan Appleby broke his thumb and will miss 6 weeks.
    • UCLA guard Michael Roll tore the plantar fascia in his foot and will be out 3-5 weeks.
    • Sticking in the Pac-10, USC is battered and beat up.
    • Marquette’s Trevor Mbakwe is out for the season with a knee injury.
    • Wisconsin’s Michael Flowers has returned from a two-week leave of absence.
    • Auburn top returning scorer and rebounder Josh Dollard will miss the season for medical reasons.
    • Tennessee forward Duke Crews was allowed back on the team from his month-long suspension. His buddy Wayne Chism, however, was taken to the hospital with a concussion last week.
  • Season Preview Materials -

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