Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 27th, 2013

After a lackluster start in non-conference play, the ACC has somewhat rebounded with some impressive showings in the early season tournaments so far. In the seven events that have already completed, the ACC has a record of 12-5 (not counting designated home games related to the events, only the neutral court games). That record includes three championships, one runner-up, and two third place finishes. That’s a big improvement over recent years, considering that ACC schools have only won five such titles in the previous three seasons combined.

Marcus Paige leads North Carolina to Hall of Fame Tip-off Title (Photo: Getty Images)

Marcus Paige leads North Carolina to Hall of Fame Tip-off Title
(Photo: Getty Images)

Leading the way was North Carolina, which bounced back from a home loss to Belmont the weekend before to stun #3 Louisville 93-84 in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Connecticut on Sunday. That followed a 82-72 Tar Heels win over Richmond the day before. Marcus Paige was sensational in his new role as North Carolina’s primary perimeter scorer, scoring 58 points in the two contests. He displayed a tremendous shooting touch going 9-of-14 on three-point attempts and 19-of-20 from the free throw line over the weekend.

Similarly, Maryland rebounded from a bad home loss last Sunday to Oregon State, winning the Paradise Jam Tournament title. The Terrapins got to the title game with wins over Marist, 68-43, and Northern Iowa, 80-66. They then beat Providence, 56-52, in Monday’s championship game. Dez Wells was selected as the tournament MVP while averaging 15 points and five rebounds over the three games. He was supported by transfer player Evan Smotrycz who scored 20 points against Northern Iowa and had a double-double (13/11) in the finals.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 26th, 2013

Happy holidays everyone! Feast Week is upon us, and the Big East has been performing pretty well across the board so far this season. There appears to be a lot of parity in the conference, and a few surprise teams like Xavier and Providence look like they may be real contenders this season. Let’s jump into the previous week of action.

Power Rankings

Xavier is Creeping up the Power Rankings Behind Semaj Christon

  • 10.) DePaul (3-2), LW (10): DePaul looks like it might be a solid step up from where it has been the last few seasons, but last night’s game against Wichita State shows there’s still a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • 9.) Seton Hall (4-2), LW (8): The Pirates have a penchant for close games. Four of their six games have been decided by single figures, including both of their losses: a 77-74 double-overtime heartbreaker to Mercer, and an 86-85 loss to Oklahoma.
  • T-7.) Butler (4-0), LW (9): Butler is still undefeated by the narrowest of margins, winning an overtime thriller against Vanderbilt and a one-point game against Ball State last week. Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham are keeping the Butler offense afloat, each by averaging 15.8 points per game.
  • T-7.) St. John’s (3-1), LW (5): Phil Greene IV had a big week for the Johnnies, scoring 16 and 22 points in tight wins over Bucknell and Monmouth, respectively. Greene’s contributions in the backcourt have been very important for a St. John’s team that is struggling to score.
  • 6.) Providence (6-1), LW (6): The Friars had as good of a week as anyone, winning three games over solid competition before dropping last night’s Paradise Jam championship to Maryland. The frontcourt combination of Kadeem BattsLaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris has been as effective as any in the league in the early part of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 20th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Butler may not get flashy play  from starting point guard and former walk-on junior Alex Barlow, but the Bulldogs value the consistency and defensive intensity that he brings to the table. News-Sentinel writer Tom Davis often finds himself and his colleagues in the media openly questioning the athleticism and abilities of Barlow, but he admits that it is probably time that he stopped after talking about the guard with members of the program. Head coach Brandon Miller was quick to point out some of the crucial skills that help Barlow excel: “A lot of times when you think about Alex Barlow, you don’t think of athleticism, but he’s very good laterally. He has an ability to stay in front of the ball. He has quick hands.” Barlow’s contributions aren’t always tangible or easy to find in a box score, but they surely don’t lack importance, adds Davis: “There is no statistic in the box score under ‘help and recover’ or ‘talked on a switch’ or ‘rotated quickly and properly’ or ‘closed out under control and contested the shot.’ If those categories were tracked by the media, Barlow, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore, would be All-Big East this season.” Interesting stuff.
  2. Georgetown‘s non-conference slate is among the most challenging in the Big East, and it may take another leap depending on how things in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off shake out. The Hoyas open the tournament with Northeastern, and will then face either Charlotte or Kansas State.  Should the Hoyas make a run to the finals, most expect that they will meet last year’s national runners-up, Michigan, who is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season to Iowa State on Sunday. In speaking with The Hoya, Georgetown players and coaches brought up a couple of newcomers who may make a big difference for the team in Puerto Rico — UCLA transfer Josh Smith and freshman forward Reggie Cameron. Smith flashed his interior scoring talents in a loss to Oregon to open the season, while Cameron was 3-of-5 from deep against Wright State. They both add new dimensions to a Georgetown attack that is averaging 81.5 points per game in the young season.
  3. Providence point guard Kris Dunn saw his first action since the preseason, coming off the bench to score three points and dole out eight assists against Vermont. Dunn injured the shoulder that cost him the first nine games of his freshman season in an exhibition with Rhode Island College in early November. He solidifies a rotation that is already getting strong scoring from forward Kadeem Batts and stalwart shooting guard Bryce Cotton. With Dunn running the offense, Cotton scoring in bunches, and Batts threatening for double-doubles on a regular basis, Providence is off to a nice start in 2013-14.
  4. The Crosstown Classic, the annual showdown between Xavier and Cincinnati, a couple of universities separated by just over two miles, is one of college basketball’s great rivalries but recent turmoil has threatened the future of the game. Since the infamous 2011 brawl, which forced the game to be called early, the Classic has been moved off the campuses to a neutral site — downtown Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. While both schools would like to continue the game, there is some debate as to where it should take place in the future; and quite naturally, there is some disagreement between the schools. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin praised last year’s neutral site game, while Xavier’s Chris Mack expressed a desire to have the rivalry back in the campus arenas.
  5. Between preparing for the likes of rivals like Cincinnati or the other foes in the new Big East, Chris Mack has taken on some coaching duties on the side, becoming the head of a proud third grade program at Blessed Sacrament School, where his daughter Lainee channels Semaj Christon on Sunday afternoons. As with any big-time program, Mack is keenly aware of how the rabid Internet fans react to poor play: “I’m sure the message boards are saying, ‘They’re not shooting free throws good enough.’ “ CBS Sports‘ Gregg Doyel stopped by to watch Blessed Sacrament take on St. Pius, and penned a great story about how important this time is for Mack and his family: “I didn’t want to be that dad who shows up with the lawn chair and then leaves at halftime because I have [a recruit coming on] an official visit. I want to have that same experience with my kids, and I want them to have those memories like I have with my father.”
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Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 28th, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part II, which includes a look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, the Paradise Jam, the Progressive Legends Classic and the EA Sports Maui Invitational.  To check out Part I of our series, click here.

These early season tournaments mean different things to different teams. For the traditional powers Duke and North Carolina, these events are just another part of the non-conference schedule, and not usually the most important part. With the national profile of those schools, building a quality non-conference slate is not all that difficult. But for others in the ACC, these tournaments are often the most challenging games those teams will face outside of league play. If you’re a potential NCAA Tournament team, a good performance in one of these events can considerably lessen the pressure to need a great league record to make the field.

Virginia's Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

Virginia’s Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

The opposite is also true, as Virginia found out last year. Losing to Delaware at home in the Preseason NIT gave Virginia a bad early loss and cost the Cavaliers a trip to New York, which would have improved their non-conference RPI and was a primary reason an 11-7 ACC team was left out of the field. Beyond just notching quality wins, the additional benefit is the RPI boost received from merely playing these games against other quality opponents. As Ken Pomeroy wrote in a March 2011 article, the RPI may not be a great metric but it is the main way NCAA Selection Committees sort teams. With 75% of a team’s RPI based on opponents’ RPI, poor performances in the non-conference schedule by multiple teams can damage an entire conference’s standing dramatically.

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Pac-12 Early Season Tournament Round-Up/Preview

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

It’s a great time to be a college hoops fan. This week in college basketball is arguably the fifth best week in the season, you know, right behind the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament and the week of the conference championships. We’ve got a chance to see teams, often for the first time, matched up with other schools from disparate corners of the country in tournament play, with the opportunities for teams to snag resume-boosting wins in rapid-fire fashion. Sure, we’ve already got a few tournaments wrapped up, and there are even a handful that come along later, but for the most part we’re right in the wheelhouse for the early season tournaments. So, we’ll take a quick look at all the Pac-12 teams and either preview or review the early season tournaments that each team is participating in.

  • Arizona – The Wildcats got things started right off the bat with an appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. After dispatching of Valparaiso and Duquesne in the first week of the season, they rallied from behind in the semifinal against St. John’s to advance to the championship game, but folded down the stretch there, losing to Mississippi State.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils are in Orlando over the Thanksgiving weekend for the Old Spice Classic. They’ll get things started with Fairfield, expected to battle Iona for the MAAC title this year, before facing either Dayton or Wake Forest on Friday.  Texas Tech, Indiana State, Minnesota and DePaul make up the other side of what looks to be a relatively weak bracket, but given ASU’s poor start to the season, expecting them to do much damage in Orlando seems to be a pipe dream.
  • California – The Golden Bears are in the middle of the CBE Classic tournament in Kansas City this week, where they will play Missouri tonight in the championship game at 7 PM PST. They got to the final by demolishing Georgia last night 70-46, after handling George Washington and Austin Peay with ease in Berkeley last week.
Brandon Smith, California

Brandon Smith And The Cal Bears Take On Missouri In The Finals Of The CBE Classic Tonight

  • Colorado – A seventh place showing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off wasn’t what Buffalo head coach Tad Boyle had in mind, but that’s exactly what he got last weekend, after dropping the first two games of the week to Wichita State and Maryland in relatively close games before taking care of Western Michigan to avoid a winless trip to the tropics.
  • Oregon – The Ducks spend their tournament time in something called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, December 20-22 in Eugene, with games against North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin doing absolutely nothing to help their at-large chances. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2011

  1. Let’s face it. It has been an ugly start to the season for the Pac-12 conference. Bad losses have been piled upon off-the-court problems and injuries to create some struggles out of the gate. The UCLA losses are the poster children for this epidemic, while Utah and Arizona State, to name just two, haven’t done much to help either. All that being said, Saturday night’s USC game was a new low. It’s not just that the Trojans lost to Cal Poly, a team that is a halfway-decent, middle-of-the-road Big West team. It is the manner in which the Trojans lost. They scored 36 points in the game. They scored 16 points in the second half (which, really, was only slightly worse than the first half). It’s not like they had a ton of possessions (roughly 54), but still, that works out to 0.67 points per possession. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions, and when they didn’t turn it over, they posted a 32.9% eFG. They only grabbed 65.7% of available defensive rebounds and just 16.7% of available offensive rebounds. Their best player, sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit just one out of 11 field goal attempts, and now has just a 29.7% eFG this season. The good news is that there are some good young players on this USC squad which should provide a good foundation upon which to build this program; the bad news is, Trojans fans might need eyeball replacement surgery if they watch too much of this team this season.
  2. Washington had a bad day from start to finish on Sunday. It started out with the Huskies getting absolutely taken apart by Saint Louis in the morning, a game in which they fell behind by 25 points at the half before making a bit of a run at the end to only lose by 13. While the Billikens are a very good team and played a terrific game Sunday morning, the Huskies were exposed in their first loss. First and foremost, the relentless ball screening by SLU caused Washington all sorts of problems defensively, creating wide-open looks for threes and clean entry passes into the post. Secondly, because the Huskies were forced to take the ball out of the net so many times, they were forced to play a lot of halfcourt offense and struggled to get good looks out of their sets. Really, we know that the Huskies are going to improve as the season goes on and SLU is some good competition so this is by no means a crushing loss, but it does mean that the Huskies will be working their tails off in practice this week. Still, the long day wasn’t done for the Huskies when the final whistle blew because their flight back to Seattle was forced to make an emergency landing in Spokane and wait for an hour for the next jump back home.
  3. Colorado wrapped up their disappointing weekend in Puerto Rico on Sunday by salvaging seventh place in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a win over Western Michigan. The Buffaloes were able to seal the win despite playing much of the game without sophomore forward Andre Roberson, who fouled out in just 11 minutes of game action. Senior forward Austin Dufault and sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks picked up the slack for Roberson on the glass, each snagging eight rebounds, while senior wing Carlon Brown did the bulk of the scoring, hitting  eight of his 14 field goal attempts for 23 points while adding six rebounds and four assists. The win sends the Buffs home with at least something to feel good about, despite dropping winnable games in the first two rounds against Wichita State and Maryland.
  4. Just when you thought the Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA was done (at least until the next thing goes wrong on the court), Nelson missed the team bus to the airport on Saturday for the team’s flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. He was allowed to take a later flight to Maui and is expected to play today when the Bruins start the tournament by playing the host, Chaminade. Head coach Ben Howland also confirmed on Sunday that the whole Nelson suspension thing was first started when he was late for a team meeting the day after the Bruins’ season opening loss to Loyola Marymount.
  5. Oregon State is in the middle of an 11-day, three-game east coast trip, and got their travels off to a good start on Saturday night with an overtime win over Texas in the semifinals of the Legends Classic. We’ll have more on the Beavers later today, but this morning we wanted to share with you a peek inside their program from the perspective of the players, specifically senior Kevin McShane and sophomore Roberto Nelson (collectively McBert, apparently) who are keeping a blog about their road trip. The first entry gives you a glimpse at the practice and travel schedule of college athletes, while the second captures the emotions following their big win on Saturday night. Great stuff from an otherwise dismal Pac-12 landscape this weekend.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 16th, 2011

  1. Less than a week ago, there was excitement around the UCLA program for the upcoming season. Now, after an opening game loss to Loyola Marymount, the suspension of last year’s leading scorer Reeves Nelson, and last night’s 20-point loss to Middle Tennessee State, the program is officially in freefall. The Blue Raiders shot 71.4% from the field, and made 10 of their 11 three-point attempts for a whopping 78.6 true shooting percentage. (To put that into perspective, when Villanova shot lights out in the 1985 National Championship game to upset Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, the Wildcats shot posted a 82.7 TS%.) Meanwhile, UCLA only managed a 42.9 TS% of their own, and after a 4-20 night from deep, they are now 6-35 from three on the season. Sophomore center Joshua Smith was fairly effective for the Bruins inside, posting 15 points and nine rebounds (with 11 of those points coming in the first half), but the twin faults of being unable to consistently hit perimeter shots and the inability of UCLA defenders to guard, well, anybody or anything, leaves UCLA at 0-2 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final year. UCLA begins the Maui Invitational on Monday, and Nelson’s status for that trip remains up in the air.
  2. Things weren’t a whole lot better in Tempe on Tuesday night, as Arizona State dropped a home game to Pepperdine, a team that finished 12-21 last season and was picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference this season. Outside of junior wing Trent Lockett, who had 23 points and nine rebounds, ASU went 10-42 from the field for a 29.8 true shooting percentage. With still no update on the eligibility status of freshman point guard Jahii Carson, it looks like the Sun Devils will have to move forward with their currently eligible players, meaning that this is more or less the same team that struggled to a 12-19 record last season. And after all the offseason talk about significantly upping the tempo, the Sun Devils are still only using about 64 possessions per game, good for putting it right smack dab in the bottom 20% of Division I teams.
  3. With all the talk about the turmoil in UCLA, the fact that Arizona’s freshman point guard Josiah Turner was never asked up off of the bench in the Wildcats’ win over Ball State on Sunday has been swept under the rug somewhat. Turner has been ineffective so far in Tucson (seven points, four assist and three rebounds combined in UA’s first three games), but while head coach Sean Miller hinted that the DNP may at least be partially behavior-related, Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star points out that most of the great lineage of floor generals at Point Guard U took some time to get going out of the gate. In other words, it is far too soon to write off last year’s #15 recruit (according to ESPNU).
  4. Up in Corvallis, Oregon State has opened the season with a couple of wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Division II West Alabama by an average of 28.5 points. While neither opponent is much to write home about, the performance of junior center Joe Burton has Beaver fans excited. Burton has averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, five assists, and three steals in those two games, while knocking down a three in each game. Of course, much bigger challenges lie ahead for OSU, but head coach Craig Robinson believes that the hard work that Burton has put in off the court will continue to pay off the rest of the season.
  5. Finally, a look ahead. We mentioned UCLA’s trip to Maui above, but in the next couple of days we see a couple other Pac-12 teams hit the road to compete in early season tournaments. Arizona will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and Friday nights for the final two rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer (okay, I’ll go ahead and call this thing by its actual name, the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer – name just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?), with a semifinal matchup against St. John’s followed by either Texas A&M or Mississippi State the following night. An Arizona/Texas A&M matchup in the championship seems mighty appealing. Also, Colorado is in the Caribbean as we speak, preparing for their Puerto Rico Tip-Off opening round game against Wichita State on Thursday, with either Maryland or Alabama lying in wait in their next game. The Buffs only have a warm-up against Fort Lewis under their belt, so we’ll get to see by the end of the week whether they have what it takes to compete in the Pac-12 this season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.14.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2011

  1. The biggest result of the opening weekend was clearly UCLA’s upset loss to Loyola Marymount on Friday evening, a game in which UCLA looked awful, showing an inability to get their talented bigs involved offensively as a result of poor guard play and non-threatening perimeter shooting. Former Bruin and current Fox Sports analyst Marques Johnson broke down the loss frankly with the Los Angeles Times, perhaps summing it up by saying, “if you have good big guys and average to adequate guard play, you’re going to struggle.” Luckily for Bruin fans, next year’s big recruit, Kyle Anderson, didn’t overreact to the loss, reaffirming his commitment to the school, but one has to wonder how the loss affected UCLA’s chances at its other big recruiting target, Shabazz Muhammad. And then there was Josh Smith’s unfortunate reaction to the loss on Twitter afterwards, making those coaches who ban their players from tweeting seem like they’re on to something.
  2. Just before Washington’s 17-point opening win over Georgia State on Saturday, freshman forward Jernard Jarreau decided that he would be joining fellow freshman Andrew Andrews in taking a redshirt season this year. With five other players on the roster 6’7” or taller, head coach Lorenzo Romar agreed with his decision, noting that the year off would allow the 6’10”, 195-pound forward to add strength and likely earn playing time next year. As for the opener itself, the Huskies were led by five three-pointers from junior wing C.J. Wilcox (one of only three players to redshirt for Romar prior to this season) on the way to a game-high 22 points. Freshman guard Tony Wroten, Jr., also impressed in his debut with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes off the bench.
  3. There was some great news on the court this weekend for Pac-12 fans as Arizona junior wing Kevin Parrom returned to practice for the first time on Friday since being shot on September 24. Then, he surprised fans by returning to game action on Sunday in the Wildcats’ 73-63 victory over Ball State, entering the game off the bench to a standing ovation and playing 18 minutes, hitting a crucial three, taking a charge and grabbing four rebounds to go with six points. Teammate Alex Jacobson, a senior center, also participated in the full practice on Friday after having missed most other preseason practices due to a back injury, but still has yet to appear in a game this season. Also of note in the Ball State game was the absence of freshman point guard Josiah Turner from the box score. Head coach Sean Miller indicated after the game that his DNP was not a suspension, but was some sort of punishment for off the court actions.
  4. Colorado kicked off its first season as a Pac-12 member with a 28-point domination of Division II Fort Lewis, and sophomore forward Andre Roberson began his charge for potential All-Pac-12 honors, leading the way with a 13-point and 15-rebound performance. Roberson had 13 points and nine rebounds at the half before a relatively quiet second half in the blowout. Senior forward Austin Dufault also added a double-double for CU (18/10), but the Buffaloes will get a much stiffer test in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off this week, starting with Wichita State on Thursday. The Pac-12′s other new institution, Utah, gets its season underway tonight with a visit from San Diego Christan College.
  5. Finally, we wanted to check in with USC and Dewayne Dedmon’s debut for the Trojans on Friday night. The 7’0” sophomore center who didn’t begin playing basketball until his senior year in high school backed up head coach Kevin O’Neill’s glowing offseason comments about Dedmon’s potential by scoring 16 points (for the record, that’s 14 points more than he scored in his entire high school career) on 7-8 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking three shots despite being limited to 25 minutes by leg cramps in SC’s seven-point victory over CS Northridge. However, it was sophomore point guard Maurice Jones who saved the day for the Trojans, leading them back from a four-point deficit with under five minutes to play by scoring eight of the final 12 points for USC on his way to 16 points, despite hitting just two of 13 field goal attempts. Dedmon, however, was back on the court making plays at the end of the game as well, slamming home one of his three dunks on the night and grabbing a couple of rebounds in the final 24 seconds. Iowa-transfer Aaron Fuller was also big in his USC debut, as he was the third Trojan to score 16 points in the game, also grabbing nine rebounds.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths.  Tad Boyle’s got a couple of terrific athletes at the wing in Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson, each capable of being offensive threats, strong defenders and excellent rebounders for their positions. While neither of them is a great shooter from range, point guard Nate Tomlinson is, and big man Austin Dufault can also step outside and hit the 18-footer, allowing the Buffs to stretch the defense to clear room for their slashers.

Weaknesses. After losing the top four scorers from last season’s squad, the biggest weakness for the Buffaloes is simply the lack of experience. While this team sports four seniors, only one of them has been a primary offensive option for his team before, and that’s Brown, who did it at Utah two years ago. Beyond that, while this CU roster features four guys listed a 6’9″ or taller, Dufault is the only big man who has earned significant playing time in the past. Finally, you can expect this team’s free-throw shooting, ranked fifth in the nation last season, to take a serious hit this year as Roberson, in particular, has struggled from the line.

Andre Roberson

With last year's top four leading scorers graduated, Colorado will need sophomore Andre Roberson to play a bigger role.

Nonconference Tests.  The Buffs start their season the weekend before Thanksgiving in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they’ll open with a game against Wichita State, then play either Alabama or Maryland in the second round. All of those games are significant tests, as are Iona, Purdue and Temple, three possible Sunday opponents in that tournament, depending on results of earlier games. Colorado will also travel to Air Force and Colorado State, with a visit from Georgia sandwiched in the middle, before seeing their December slate ease up substantially.

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