Ethan Back is the Horizon League correspondent for RTC.
The Departure of Butler: It’s pretty crazy to think that the Horizon League has produced two of the last three runners-up in the NCAA Tournament, but Butler did indeed reach the final game of the season in both 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs have been the reason why the conference receives the national attention that it does, but they are now members of the A-10. What does this mean for the conference? Wright State head coach Billy Donlon and Cleveland State head coach Gary Watersdon’t seem to think much of the departure, as the former noted that Butler finished fifth in the conference a season ago, and the latter speculated that the Bulldogs would not have been the favorites this season. Despite this, Butler’s departure has been covered extensively by the national media, and we will be able to see its effects in the seasons to come.
Will Valparaiso Dominate Conference Play? Results from the Media Day polls would seem to indicate that Valparaiso will indeed dominate the Horizon League, as the Crusaders received 40 of the possible 44 first-place votes this preseason. Valpo went 14-4 in conference last year, and returns reigning Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff and first team all-Horizon League forward Kevin Van Wijk. Reaching the NCAA Tournament will be the goal for the Crusaders, as this was a feat they were unable to accomplish one season ago.
Will The McCallums And Detroit Step Up To Fill The Void Left By Butler? (AP)
Just eight years after essentially getting kicked out of the Big East for its poor on-field performance and attendance numbers Temple will rejoin the conference. Yesterday, the Big East announced that Temple would be returning to the conference for football this coming season and other sports the following year. The move ensures that the Big East will have eight football teams for the coming season and gives the Big East another very strong basketball program. In addition, it should create an even more interesting dynamic between Temple and Villanova now that they will be in the same conference.
One of the big storylines of the opening week of the NCAA Tournament will be that of Detroit, which features the father-son combination of Ray McCallum Jr and Sr. Most college basketball fans are very familiar with their story, but if you need a refresher before next week’s onslaught, this column is a pretty good place to start. Between the father-son combo and the school’s former coach (some guy named Vitale) the school will be getting plenty of publicity as long as they stay alive.
One player who will not be part of March Madness is Arizona‘s freshmen guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely by the school after violating unspecified team rules. The suspension is Turner’s second this year as he missed a game earlier this season against Florida. Turner, who came in as a highly touted recruit, has averaged 6.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 29 games this season. Even with him the Wildcats would have been hard pressed to make a run in a weak Pac-12 conference, but as a local writer points out Turner’s absence is a big blow for the team right now.
There have been plenty of columns on Bruce Weber and his imminent firing at Illinois, but most have focused on where he faltered. Michael Rosenberg takes a decidedly different approach choosing instead to focus on the decision to fire Weber and how it reflects on the current state of college athletics. Rosenberg compares Weber to Illinois legend Lou Henson and points out some small changes to history that would have led to Weber keeping his job. While we do find Rosenberg’s take interesting, it is worth pointing out that those small changes are essentially what makes history, which will most likely be demonstrated again over the next four weeks.
Last year Charles Barkley‘s inclusion on the Selection Special on CBS created quite a bit of discussion among college basketball fans as Barkley, who is fantastic analyzing basketball games appeared out of his element discussing some teams and their resumes to that point. This year, Barkley will not be involved in the show, but will continue to be involved in the studio analysis. Both Barkley and CBS/Turner state that the move isn’t necessarily due to a lack of trust in Barkley, but instead a move to highlight his strengths and frankly a good move in our opinion.
Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.
The Week That Was
Cream of the Crop Rises: It’s only mid-December, but don’t let the overall records fool you: The conference cream of the crop has already risen to the top. There is a clear division between the upper and lower halves of the Horizon League in 2011-12. Some teams (Milwaukee, Detroit, Butler, and Valparaiso) chose to test themselves before conference play begins. With Butler having a down season, a conference crown is there for the taking and each of these schools is hoping that their tough-minded scheduling philosophy pays off late in the season.
UW-Milwaukee Pushes Wisconsin: Playing in front of the largest regular season home crowd in school history at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee, the Panthers went on a 16-1 run in the second half to cut 17-point deficit to two. But Wisconsin hit a few big shots down the stretch to hold on for a 60-54 win. UWM – who were without injured starters Kyle Kelm and Ja’Rob McCallum – dug themselves a hole in the first half after they shot just 30% from the field and made seven of 17 free throws for the game. Tony Meijer scored all of his team-high 15 points in a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half.
Return of the Titan: 6’10’’ center Eli Holman returned from an indefinite suspension and played in his first two games this past week. Though he didn’t start either game, Holman dunked his way to 21 points and snagged seven rebounds in his season-opener against Western Michigan and then went for nine and nine (points and boards) in the Titans’ loss to Alabama. Coach Ray McCallum Sr. seems to be making Holman earn his way back into the starting lineup, which is probably smart for the sake of team chemistry. Detroit survived a tough non-conference schedule without him including a nice win over St. John’s, but a low-post force like Holman is a rarity in the Horizon League. With him, the Titans should challenge Milwaukee and Cleveland State for conference supremacy.
Brad Stevens May Have Scheduled A Bit Too Aggressively With Significant Graduation Losses Giving Way To A Young Team
Cleveland State(10-1, 2-0) –The two best non-conference wins of the season thus far belong to the Vikings (road wins over Vanderbilt and Mid-American Conference favorite Kent State). Senior D’Aundray Brown has bounced back nicely from an injured hand to lead the team in scoring (12.7 PPG) and is second in rebounding (4.5 RPG). Guard Trevon Harmon was named conference Player of the Week after averaging 20 points in victories over Robert Morris and at Akron. The key to CSU’s early-season success, however, has been tough defense. With former star Norris Cole now in the NBA, the Vikings have used a quick, smaller lineup and their trademark pressure defense to hold opponents to just 57.5 points per game while swiping ten steals per game, both conference-bests. Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
This is a very light night of hoops but you may want to check out two games between bottom-tier Big East teams and a pair of Midwestern mid-majors.
St. John’s @ Detroit – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)
Godsgift Achiuwa and Friends Have Faced a Tough Early Schedule
St. John’s has been in an early-season slide, having lost four of its last five games. The Red Storm play only seven men and the tired legs are already starting to catch up. St. John’s is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country at 26.2% and averages only 35 rebounds per game. This will likely be an up-tempo game because the Red Storm has athletes that like to run and Detroit loves to maximize the number of possessions in a game. One thing St. John’s does very well is to keep opponents off the foul line and it will have to do just that against a Titans team that shoots 78.4% from the charity stripe. Moe Harkless and God’s Gift Achiuwa played well at Kentucky last week and more progress against a severely depleted Detroit front court is something the Johnnies should count on tonight.
As mentioned, Detroit’s roster has been decimated. Head coach Ray McCallum, Sr., has only eight scholarship players available after Eli Holman’s legal troubles, Nick Minnerath’s torn ACL and a host of other issues including academics and other personnel departures. Chase Simon and Ray McCallum, Jr.,have to lead the Titans and score points in transition against the turnover-prone Nurideen Lindsey (3.9 turnovers per game) and company. Unfortunately for Detroit, Simon and McCallum are just as prone to giveaways.
This game will be a war of attrition with foul trouble and fatigue playing a major role. St. John’s is the better team but not by much. With Detroit playing at home against a Big East team while honoring former head coach Dick Vitale with a special ceremony, there will be some buzz in the arena. We have no idea who will win this one and the Vegas line agrees, calling this game a pick’em.
Milwaukee @ DePaul – 9:00 PM EST on SNY, Sports 32, ESPN3.com (**)
Last season, the Horizon League put four teams in the postseason — can it do it again?
Eli Holman’s Leave of Absence: The Detroit big man is easily the best returning post player in the H-League, but whether or not he will return is a big question. Holman was placed on “indefinite leave” from the team at the end of September to handle some legal issues drawn from an incident at a fraternity house earlier in the month. Big Ten fans will remember Holman as the player who left Indiana after getting into a confrontation with then new coach Tom Crean. Without Holman, the Titans have a big hole in the post and would have to rely more heavily on Nick Minnerath and LeMarcus Lowe to pick up the pieces of a broken inside game. They still have some of the best talent in the league, but without that dominant force, who knows what they’ll get.
Kaylon Williams In Trouble: Milwaukee got some bad news as well, with starting point guard Kaylon Williams getting pulled over in Iowa and blowing a .228 BAC. What makes matters worse for Williams is that he fled the scene on foot, although he was picked up shortly afterward. No official word has come down from the university on punishment besides a short statement from head coach Rob Jeter. “We are aware of the situation involving Kaylon Williams. We are disappointed and will take appropriate action as we gather more information and the legal process runs its course.” This is Williams’ first offense and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss. Last season, Milwaukee had difficulty with Williams off the floor, but prepared for further uncertainty by recruiting junior college player Paris Gulley and high school point guard Shaquille Boga.
It Says Here That Matt Howard Was the Difference Maker at Butler
Butler’s Back Again: Obviously, the college basketball world is familiar with the recent NCAA Tournament dominance of Butler. “Familiar” might not be the word; “obsessed” may be closer. In any case, Butler came a 50-footer from the title in 2010 when no one thought they would make it. They suffered a poor shooting night in 2011 to keep the Bulldogs from that elusive title when no one thought they’d be back. Is it so crazy to say that they could make another run to the Final Four? The answer is yes. While losing Gordon Hayward and some key players from the previous year’s team didn’t spell the end for them in 2010-11, 2011-12 will be a different story. Forget Shelvin Mack, Hayward, and even Brad Stevens. To me, the one person that deserves the most credit for both of these runs is Matt Howard. We all knew from day one that he was a special player, and what lack of NBA athleticism (he’s still athletic) he had was made up big time in his skill, determination, and intelligence. To me, he’s the best leader-by-example in basketball that I have ever seen, and his graduation means someone else at Butler will have to try and pick up that torch. You can replace Shelvin Mack’s scoring and Zach Hahn’s knack for the timely three-pointer, but you can’t replace Matt Howard’s… Matt Howard.
Coming into this season Detroit was thought by many to be a potential mid-major sleeper. After a 17-16 record last season, the Titans were expected to be one of the top teams in the Horizon League. Led by Ray McCallum Jr., who averaged 13.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 4.9 APG in a spectacular freshman campaign playing for his father Ray Sr., and Chase Simon, who also averaged 13.5 PPG last season, the Titans had one of the top backcourts in the country and they had an established inside presence in Eli Holman, who averaged 11.8 PPG (on 61% FG shooting) and 9.6 RPG in his first season after transferring from Indiana. Now, it looks like those aspirations at a conference championship may have to be put on hold as Detroit has announced that Holman will be out on an indefinite leave of absence while he tends to personal matters.
Holman's Absence Leaves A Big Hole In The Middle For The Titans (Credit: HorizonLeague.org)
In a statement, athletic director Keri Gaither said, “We have been working with Eli Holman for some time to assist him in addressing his personal matters. At this time, we feel it is in Eli’s best interest to step away from basketball to allow him to concentrate on these matters. He has been excused from all team-related activity for an indefinite period while actively addressing these issues. We continue to support Eli during this time and we are asking everyone’s cooperation in respecting his privacy.” Like the school, we won’t speculate on the subject as nearly anything (family, health, academic, legal, etc.) could be classified as “personal matters” and we will respect Holman’s privacy. As for the Titans, this is a major blow unless Holman comes back relatively quickly because they have very little depth inside and Holman gives them a dimension–a major inside presence–that few teams in the Horizon League have.
Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
A Look Back
The big picture of the Horizon League got further muddled when Valparaiso, who owned first place not one week ago, lost two successive games in Wisconsin (sandwiched around an excellent Bracketbusters victory over Missouri State) and dropped back to the pack. Cleveland State is in first for the time being after defeating Wright State last week. Their loss at Old Dominion all but ensured the Vikings need to win the conference tournament to make their way into the Big Dance, but it’s not over yet. The big winners were Milwaukee and Butler, who moved up to second place (five losses) with Valpo’s loss at Green Bay on Monday night. Both have hopes of hosting the Horizon League Tournament next weekend, but only two schools – Cleveland State and Milwaukee – are in control of their own destiny.
1. Cleveland State (21-6, 12-4) – Gary Waters and his program missed a great opportunity to get the marquee victory they needed to get into the Dance. Like Utah State, their resume needed a big Bracketbuster victory to set them up for an at-large berth. Unlike USU, they didn’t deliver, and now are faced with winning the conference title to go dancing. Fortunately for Cleveland State, all they need to do is win. Two home victories over Milwaukee and Green Bay mean Cleveland State is the sole regular season champion, and the Horizon League Tournament goes through Cleveland. Lose, however, and the Vikings are almost guaranteed to drop out of the top two spots (and the double-bye that comes with them) due to being swept by Butler.
2. Milwaukee (16-12, 11-5) – I’ve spent the whole season putting the Panthers lower on the Power Rankings because I didn’t want to be accused of homerism, but the fact is Milwaukee deserves to be in this spot. Beating Valparaiso at home was huge, avenging yet another early season loss and putting the Panthers’ goal of winning a conference championship directly in sight. CSU and Milwaukee are the only teams that control their own destiny, with either team winning out being crowned conference champs. However, the Panthers would share the regular season crown with any combination of Cleveland State, Butler and Valparaiso. Should Milwaukee win out, they have the trump card, a sweep over Butler that no other team has. The loss on the road in the Bracketbuster is deceiving; Milwaukee held out their defensive stopper, Ryan Allen, after he took a hard fall on Wednesday. He will be tasked with guarding NorrisCole, who still riding a season-long high after his national coming-out party against Youngstown State when he went off for 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
3. Butler (19-9, 12-5) – The Dawgs most likely will dispatch Loyola on Senior Night, and let me just say that nobody deserves to be applauded more than Matt Howard. Talk about a career, this guy has put everything he has into starting at power forward for the Butler Bulldogs since his freshman year, and I’d be astonished if his last regular-season home game was a loss. Loyola has recent history of winning at Hinkle, but look for Butler to enter the Horizon League Tournament with yet another 20-win season. To win the conference and host the tournament, Butler needs the winner of Thursday’s Cleveland State-Milwaukee game to lose on Saturday. It’s a tall order, expecting the 7th place team to win on the road or the 9th place team to win at home, but both have done it this season – Green Bay won at Valpo and Butler fell on the sword at Youngstown State.
4. Valparaiso (18-9, 11-5) – You wanna talk about bad luck, look no further than Valpo. Heading into Milwaukee, Valpo sat at three losses and owned a tiebreaker with Cleveland State. Just six days later, they’re on the wrong end of tie-breakers with all three teams. At Milwaukee, the Crusaders missed two bunny layups in the final seconds, although they got help with the Panthers missing several free throws in the closing minutes. At Green Bay, Howard Little grabbed a rebound that would have all but sealed a victory for Valpo, but he fell to the ground and traveled, giving the ball back to Green Bay for the winning basket. Valpo will likely start the conference tournament at the ARC in the first round. The good news? They only have one home conference loss.
5. Wright State (16-2, 10-7) – The Raiders were still in it a couple weeks ago, but lost games to the contenders and find themselves out of the running. Wright State is still a very dangerous team, and has beaten almost everybody in the conference despite absences from Troy Tabler and Cooper Land. Vaughn Duggins and N’GaiEvans, when it comes down to it, are still one of the best backcourt tandems in the H-League. Depending on where they finish, the Raiders will play Green Bay or Loyola in the first round of the tournament, teams they should be able to beat.
6. Detroit (14-15, 9-8) – Remember the beginning of the season, when the national pundits kept putting Detroit in first or second place? Why was that? Of course, the answer is Ray McCallumJr. Guys like Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and Seth Davis couldn’t fathom how a top-20 recruit would go into the Horizon League and lose enough to finish out of the top two, especially when he’s got a 6’10 monster transfer from Indiana in the block. The truth is, none of those guys really know how good the Horizon League is. Detroit isn’t a bad team; they have a very talented starting five and will be a tough out in the Horizon League Tournament. Their problem is lack of bench depth and questionable coaching. How can Ray McCallum Sr. not want the ball in Eli Holman’s hands every time down the floor?
7. Green Bay (12-16, 7-9) – The victory over Valpo on Monday was their biggest of the season, on Senior Night no less. Brian Wardle has an outside chance at the six seed, but will likely open the conference tournament on the road at Detroit. He is looking at a tough year in 2011-12 without Bryquis Perine, Rahmon Fletcher and Greg LeSage, but Monday night showed that he’s got an excellent building block in seven-footer Alec Brown.
8. Loyola (15-13, 6-10) – It looks like this could be the swan song for Jim Whitesell. For the fourth season in a row, Jim Whitesell’s weak non-conference scheduling has led to the team being unprepared for the conference season. The Loyola Ramblers haven’t been above the eight seed in the conference tournament since 2006-07, and they have a large renovation to the basketball arena taking place after the season. This could be a situation like Missouri State, when new digs meant a new coach in Cuonzo Martin. Unlike the Bears, however, the Ramblers haven’t come truly close the tournament in a long time. Gone after the season are seniors Andy Polka, Terrance Hill and Geoff McCammon. The Ramblers have good pieces in Ben Averkamp, Denzel Brito and (potentially) JohnGac, but they won’t have the firepower to compete in 2011-12 and after that season will lose almost everybody else of consequence.
9. Youngstown State (7-18, 2-14) – It sure looked like Youngstown State was going to make me eat some crow there for a bit. The day my RTC post condemning the YSU program as unworthy of the Horizon League was released, they up and defeated Butler. Nearly taking out Valpo a couple days later would have been big for a program that hasn’t had a whole lot to root for. It’s likely the final go-round for Jerry Slocum, whose wild success in lower-division NCAA did not translate to the D-I Penguins. But the problem isn’t Slocum as much as it is the inherent problems the department has. Unless some money is taken from football and injected into the basketball program’s budget, the Penguins will be relegated to the bottom of the barrel for the time being. And even then it likely won’t be enough.
10. UIC (6-22, 2-15) – Unlike Youngstown State, UIC has the structure to be competitive in the Horizon League. This season was a lost year the second April 2010 came around and JimmyCollins was still coach. The season was further doomed for every month Collins remained, staying long enough to make things especially tough on incoming coach HowardMoore. The truncated recruiting timetable left the Flames with a couple good players remaining from Collins’ team and bunch of residents of the Island of Misfit Toys. UIC will be better in 2011-12, but it will be a few years before Howard Moore gets them up to speed. It seems funny that two of the conference’s best non-conference victories, over Illinois and Rhode Island, came from the Flames.
A Look Ahead
The season is almost over, with only one weekend remaining. Games on Thursday and Saturday will determine the championship and seeding for the Horizon League Tournament, and while no seeds are official, we do know this:
The top four seeds – Cleveland State, Butler, Milwaukee and Valparaiso - are untouchable. A fifth, Wright State, has guaranteed at least a home game in the conference tournament. Detroit has an outside chance of losing their home game to Green Bay, but all signs point to Green Bay at Detroit next Tuesday. Loyola is the safest team in their seed, with only a 0.6% chance they land in the seven seed. Youngstown State and UIC will fill out the final two spots, and YSU will likely be the nine seed.
The final thing we know is this: the winner of Thursday’s game between Milwaukee and Cleveland State all but locks up a conference championship going into the final game of the regular season. Both teams would need to sweep; each team going 1-1 and Butler beating Loyola would make Butler the conference champion. That scenario, however, is unlikely as Cleveland State hosts Green Bay and Milwaukee visits Youngstown State. A game this big deserves the viewership, and as long as you’re reading this, you can see it: HorizonLeague.org, Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern.
2.24.11 – Milwaukee at Cleveland State, 7 p.m., Time Warner Sports 32/HLN
2.25.11 – Detroit at Wright State, 7 p.m., HLN
2.26.11 – Milwaukee at Youngstown State, 1 p.m., HLN
2.26.11 – Green Bay at Cleveland State, 2 p.m., HLN
2.26.11 – Loyola at Butler, 2 p.m., HLN
Video of the Week – With such a huge game on the Horizon for Thursday, we’ll take a look back to December, when Cleveland State went to Milwaukee and laid a drubbing on the Panthers:
Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League correspondent for Rush The Court
A Look Back
How They Fared: The Horizon League, unlike most conferences, begins its conference season the first week of December; most teams play two games, with a couple playing only one game and competing non-conference the rest of the week. Easily the most impressive team of the week was Cleveland State, who rolled through Wisconsin and preserved their undefeated record. Norris Cole has the inside track on Player of the Year, and coach Gary Waters has assembled a dominant team behind him.
Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot: Fans unfamiliar with the Horizon League would assume that Butler is the team to find at #1 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25. They’d be wrong. Butler has given way to Norris Cole and Cleveland State, who are all the rage as they take no prisoners. The Vikings absolutely dominated a Milwaukee team at the U.S. Cellular Arena, where the Panthers are almost unbeatable.
Tip Of The Cap: This week’s TOTC goes to Matt Howard of Butler, who tied Bobby Plump (you might know him better by his fictional likeness, Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers) for 11th on the Butler University all-time scoring list. Our friends at Victory Firelight were happy to see that.
Cleveland State (10-0, 2-0 Horizon) – For the past decade, the Vikings were 1-19 in the state of Wisconsin – 1-9 in Green Bay and 0-10 in Milwaukee. In the week leading up to the games, coach Gary Waters called it “Revenge Week.” Mission accomplished. The other mission accomplished? Putting Norris Cole in the driver’s seat for Player of the Year.
Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0) – Coach Homer Drew‘s Crusaders made the short trip to Chicago and calmly walked out 2-0 with a nail-biting victory at UIC and a commanding performance at Loyola. Winning the latter pushes Valpo past Butler in our conference power rankings for the week.
Butler (4-3, 1-0) – Shelvin Mack and the Bulldogs sweated out a victory on Chicago’s near north side, beating Loyola 65-63. A strong showing against Duke should have kept them at the #2 spot, but for the uncertainty surrounding Mack’s cramps and RonaldNored‘s concussion. Both players should be on the court this week, but the Dawgs are much thinner than last season and need both on the court even more than before.
Detroit (5-4, 1-0) – The Titans split two games last week, losing at home to Akron before dumping Horizon League foe Wright State. Ray McCallum Sr.‘s Titans could be winning even more if they had some bodies to spell their stellar starting five; four Titans are in the top ten in the conference in total minutes and minutes per game.
Loyola (7-2, 0-2) – It was a sobering week for the Ramblers, who have to be thinking about 2009-10, when they began 11-2 before flopping all the way down to 14-16 for the season. For the second straight year, the Ramblers put a scare into Butler, but the excitement at the Joe collapsed following a double-digit home loss to Valpo.
Green Bay (4-4, 1-1) – Brian Wardle‘s crew came into the week favored to win a game and lose a game. They did just that, dropping a home loss to Cleveland State before wiping the floor with Jerry Slocum’s Youngstown State Penguins. RahmonFletcher continues to be a boon for the Phoenix, placing third in the conference in scoring at 16.6 PPG.
Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1) – It’s hard to put the Panthers lower since they did win convincingly over Youngstown State on Thursday. It’s impossible to put the Panthers any higher given the absolute garbage showing against Cleveland State on Saturday night. Last week, we talked about their Jekyll and Hyde ways. That continued this past week, but at least they came out with a W.
Wright State (3-5, 0-1) – Had the Raiders pulled out a victory against middling Big East team Cincinnati or Detroit, they’d find themselves much higher on the list. Bobby Donlon‘s crew is much different than they were under Brad Brownell, whose defensive mindset has lost its way. The Raiders are giving up 78 points per game this season, and they won’t be seeing a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament unless that changes.
UIC (4-5, 0-1) – Akron pulled out the close victory at UIC, the second near-victory for the Flames of the week. If UIC had been killing teams heading into the conference season, they might find themselves higher. However, that signature win over Rhode Island seems further in the rear-view mirror every day.
Youngstown State (4-3, 0-2) – The Penguins’ 4-1 start got the fans in Youngstown paying attention, but a quick 0-2 start in conference against struggling clubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee puts YSU at the bottom of the barrel. Along with Wright State and Loyola, the Penguins are one of the only teams to go winless; unlike Wright State or Loyola, they weren’t playing significantly better competition.
A Look Ahead
Week one of conference play is in the books, and the standings will remain the same until after Christmas. Three games against high-major foes dot the lineup this week, with Purdue visiting Valpo’s ARC and Milwaukee taking a trip west to Madison. Loyola hopes to pull off a stunning upset at Kansas State. Let’s hope the timekeeper knows what they’re doing at the Cintas Center this year as Butler takes its turn as the away team in a home-and-home with Xavier.
12/7 – Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ESPNU
12/8 – Milwaukee at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
12/8 – Wright State vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. HLN
12/9 – Butler at Xavier, 9 p.m. ESPN
12/11 – Milwaukee at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
12/11 – Loyola vs. #3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
12/11 – Cleveland State at Sam Houston State, 4:30 p.m.
Remember When… they screwed up the clock at Hinkle last season? Take a look back:
You know what tomorrow is, right? Yeah, October. Us too.
Scare at Tennessee. A very frightening story out of Knoxville earlier this week was that Vol sophomore forward Emmanuel Negeducollapsed while lifting weights on Monday and reportedly had to be revived by UT medical staff prior to his transport to the hospital. He’s spent the last two nights there under watch, and doctors continue to perform tests on him to make sure that he’s not suffering from something deadly. We all know the stories over the years, from Len Bias to Hank Gathers to Reggie Lewis, and these are always scary incidents. RTC wishes Negedu the best of luck and wishes for a full recovery.
Cleaning up at Binghamton... Two ugly incidents put an early stain on the 2009-10 season, as we discussed in separate posts when they happened last week. Both were stories capable of sending shock waves through college basketball this week, though, as Binghamton yesterday fired an adjunct lecturer who claimed in a NYT article last February that basketball players were receiving preferential treatment in the classroom (grade changing, independent study, and the like). The Binghamton program is now in shambles on the court, but we continue to be shocked and amazed that Kevin Broadus, the recruiter of all the problem children who ended up dismissed (and arrested), is skating on this one. Seriously, think about this – Binghamton cans the whistleblowing prof but not the coach who orchestrated the entire mess? How is this possible? Isn’t the SUNY chancellor now the same woman who stood on the library steps and shouted “no more” to the Cincinnati faithful when she 86ed Bob Huggins four years ago? And yet she’s curiously silent (along with BU’s president, Lois B. DeFleur, for the most part). Something’s not right here, and we figure there’s more to come. If there is, we can rest assured the NYT’s Pete Thamel will figure it out. EDITED TO ADD: Yep, the AD is gone, can Broadus be far behind?
…and Kansas. Perhaps the uglier incident last week was the three fights between members of the KU basketball and football teams. Much was written about how embarrassing this was to the university, the athletic department, the coaches and players involved, and Thursday’s public, formal apologies did little to defuse the PR hit that Bill Self’s program took last week. The word is that players were fighting over (what else?) girls and rep, but KU football players shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that just because they’ve had a nice run in that program the last few years that Kansas will ever be anything but a basketball school. The question now is what will Bill Self do to punish the guilty parties? We already know that Tyshawn Taylor was involved due to his dislocated finger that’ll hold him out of workouts for around a month. We also know that one of the Morris twins pushed a football player down the stairs, a very dangerous act of battery (this would be Markieff’s second, btw) that was mitigated by another player catching the falling player as he made his way downward. News outlets all report that there were some other hoops players involved as well. We think that, for the sake of his program, Bill Self has to take a very serious stand on this one. You simply cannot have the players on a preseason #1 team running around campus fighting indiscriminately with players from the football team. Not only can your own players get hurt, but with so many big bodies involved, run-of-the-mill students can also get hurt. Luckily, that didn’t happen here, but Self needs to show that he’s totally in charge of his program. Anything less than a several-game suspension for all of the players involved would reveal that early-season Ws are more important to him than discipline. If it were us, we’d sit the Morris who threw the player down the stairs for ten games and the others for five each. No questions asked. If Kansas loses an early game or two versus Memphis and/or UCLA because of it, well, too bad. The good will that Self engenders as a no-nonsense coach will provide far greater benefits over time in terms of recruiting and public reputation than it will by letting these players off easy.
Non-BCS Schools Receive Harsher Penalties Than BCS Schools – No Way!! This jewel made it into our inbox last week from the Orlando Sentinel. The Michael Buckner Law Firm performed an analysis that showed that the average years of probation meted out to non-BCS programs was longer than those handed out to BCS programs over a 4+ year period in the late 2000s. The average amount of probation time for a non-BCS program was 2.74 years versus 2.58 years for BCS programs. There’s no accounting for whether the difference is simple error or actual bias, but what is more damning from this study is the finding that the HBCU schools (historically black colleges and universities) were given 3.83 years of probation versus the aforementioned 2.58 for BCS schools. That seems a little ridiculous to us. Of course, the NCAA predictably dismissed the study on statistical grounds, and we understand their complaint. So here’s our suggestion to the NCAA: hire an independent researcher to examine your enforcement policies and practices for consistency and bias, and get back to us. Something tells us we’ll be waiting on that for quite some time.