Murderers’ Row: Five of the Most Ruthless O26 Non-Conference Schedules

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 26th, 2013

Both Long Beach State’s Dan Monson and Oakland’s Greg Kampe are on record in saying that their philosophy of building extremely difficult non-conference schedules, among other things, helps with recruiting—players jump at the chance to play on the biggest stages against schools that never gave them a look. Other cited reasons include: checking player egos, identifying team weaknesses early in the season, and, of course, the influx of revenue those games produce. And while all of those interests appear legitimate—it’s hard to argue with two guys who have made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances apiece—there reaches a point, whether it’s in Rupp Arena or the Dean Dome or during a trip to the McKale Center, when one has to beg the question: Is it worth the agony? With that in mind, let’s examine the five most brutal O26 non-conference slates this season.

Oakland. Kampe’s schedules have been reliably absurd over the last decade, and this year is no exception. How about this for a road trip to start the season: games at North Carolina, UCLA, California and Gonzaga… in a 10-day span. The Golden Grizzlies ended up losing all four, with only the California tilt being close, and two players—starting point guard Duke Mondy and forward Dante Williams—were arrested during the west coast trip and forced to miss several games as a result. A couple of neutral court contests and a game at Western Michigan later, Oakland was heading home for Thanksgiving with a dismal 0-7 record. Now sitting at 4-10, the good news for the Grizzlies is that they are back to full strength and demonstrating a level of resilience, even pushing Michigan State for 40 minutes in the Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend. Travis Bader, the most prolific three-point shooter in college basketball, has also begun heating up; the senior hit 21 shots from behind the arc over his past three games.

Greg Kampe and the Grizzlies face a gauntlet schedule.

Greg Kampe and the Grizzlies face a gauntlet schedule.

Notable non-conference games@North Carolina (L), @UCLA (L), @California (L), @Gonzaga (L), Ohio (W), @Indiana (L), N-Michigan State (L).

Long Beach StateMonson probably did not expect he would have to dismiss two key contributors before the season started when he created this non-conference deathtrap. But that’s exactly what happened when Tony Freeland and Keala King, who combined for 20 points per game last year, were kicked off the team last May. Perhaps the 49ers coach would have avoided the trip to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic or backed out of agreements with Arizona or Missouri or another (or two) of LBSU’s talented non-conference opponents. But then again, probably not. The man loves facing elite competition, and his team’s 3-9 record so far this season is clear evidence of that. By the time the Niners enter conference play in January, they will have played eight KenPom top 100 foes, including five in the top 50. That seems like a recipe for a lot of losses, especially after the graduation of star forward James Ennis. One positive note for Monson’s club, however, is that UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb became eligible to play last Thursday night just in time for a home tilt against USC, in which he scored 20 points and helped snap the team’s nine-game losing streak. Brighter days are ahead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 8th, 2012

  1. Few can argue with the fact that the job that Buzz Williams has done at Marquette has been incredibly impressive. What’s perhaps the most interesting thing about how he’s gone about building the program is the unique way he’s done it. Where programs like Iowa State and Missouri have plucked large amounts of transfer players from the ever-expanding college basketball waiver wire, Marquette has found many of its best players under Williams in the junior college ranks. Rob Dauster at College Basketball Talk discussed Williams’ unique perspective and relationship with these players, including a large quote from the ever-quotable Williams in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal.  In the days leading up to the Syracuse-Marquette match-up in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, I remember Williams taking the time to tell his own personal story of how he made it to among the highest levels of coaching, and it was among the more impressive things I’ve ever heard. Many are put off by Williams’ histrionics on the sideline (and often, the court), but his incredible story of triumph and love and respect for the game more than overshadow that, for me at least.
  2. One wouldn’t expect Frankfurt, Germany to be a town heavy with Connecticut fans, but a number of UConn fans serving on Ramstein Air Base, the site of Huskies’ upcoming showdown with Michigan State, prove that notion wrong. Kevin Ollie’s squad has received a warm reception at Ramstein, and seem to have done a great job of connecting with the fans serving at the base. In the Hartford Courant article, UConn fan Tony Hodges describes the impact that the game has had on those stationed at Ramstein: “It’s tremendous for the morale… It’s like being home, and it shows that people haven’t forgotten the ones who are stationed far away.”
  3. It’s been a tough year for Villanova basketball, and the hits continued yesterday with the announcement that point guard Ty Johnson would be transferring at the end of the semester. Johnson backed up Maalik Wayns at the position last year and played in every game, starting nine for the Wildcats and finishing second on the team in assists. This offseason, Villanova brought in transfer guard Tony Chennault and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, who expect to log the majority of the minutes at the point, but I’m sure that Jay Wright would have preferred to keep Johnson for the depth he would provide.
  4.‘s Brendan Prunty released his Seton Hall season preview, and did a great job of outlining all things Pirate-basketball. In the piece, Prunty took a look at three possible outcomes for this year’s team: an NCAA Tournament berth, a spot in the NIT, or a “long offseason.” Since the start of the season is now upon us, and that’s reason enough to be optimistic, let’s take a look at the keys for a Seton Hall tournament berth in March: “The other four spots on the floor overshadow the PG hole. Last year, the point guard spot was the strongest on the floor for the Pirates. Jordan Theodore was an all-league player, guiding Seton Hall to the cusp of March Madness. Well, with Theodore graduating and transfer Sterling Gibbs’ hardship waiver not being granted, Willard is forced to put (Aaron) Cosby in that role. Seton Hall’s success though will ride on the rest of the starting rotation — particularly transfers Oliver and Gene Teague and Fuquan Edwin — to pick up the slack.”
  5. It’s a new basketball season and that means it is time for a new Syracuse basketball rap song.  Syracuse has a long history of official team themes, which began in 2009-10 with then assistant coach Rob Murphy’s classic track “Shut it Down”.  Murphy has since left Syracuse to become the head coach at Eastern Michigan, so the basketball team has recruited rapper and Syracuse resident World Be Free to pen this year’s theme – “We Got This”.  If ‘this’ is a repeat of the 2009-10 season, or last year’s 34-3 campaign, I think that most Orange fans will be quite pleased with the result.

Dan Lyons is a writer for Rush The Court’s Big East microsite. He also contributes to Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and Ultimate Athlete Magazine.  You can find Dan on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2012

  1. In what seems to be a summer rite of passage involving several of the top recruits entering college basketball, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the latest and greatest elite prospect whose eligibility the NCAA is investigating. According to the LA Times — and unlike the inquiry into NC State’s Rodney Purvis (the organization is reviewing the credibility of his high school) — the NCAA ” is reportedly investigating financial dealings between Muhammad’s family and friends,” specifically involving Muhammad’s former high school assistant coach, Geoff Lincoln, and his brother, Benjamin Lincoln. Of course, an investigation like this wouldn’t be any fun without an AAU connection, so the NCAA is obliging by also looking into the funding of Muhammad’s summer team by a New York financial planner named Ken Kavanagh. What does all this mean? Probably not much — the financial dealings likely involved trips that Muhammad made to visit North Carolina and Duke during his recruitment (worst case: he repays the cost of the trips), and good luck getting anything concrete out of the financial planner. Still, it means that UCLA has chosen to hold Muhammad out of its upcoming trip to China, costing the Bruins valuable preseason time to get to know each other and build team chemistry. At least one commentator believes that Ben Howland might be cursed.
  2. From one piece of great news to another, the UNC academic scandal that not may or may not include former two-sport star Julius Peppers is getting uglier. And given what we’ve seen over and over and over again in this peculiar industry, it’s likely to get downright hideous. As an administrator you know that things are not going well when’s Gregg Doyel focuses on your program, and his article on Tuesday blows up the entire athletic department with his description of UNC’s negligence as perhaps “the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history,” and even suggests that the 200o Final Four banner should come down. Like Dana O’Neil before him, he also takes the NCAA to task for dragging its feet on a thorough investigation — perhaps they, like Doyel and most of the media, think that the revered Dean Smith is still running things in Chapel Hill? What we know is this: Public pressure is building on North Carolina to come clean with a comprehensive review of the entire department — basketball included — and as we’ve seen with the Peppers transcript (as bizarre a flub as we’ve ever seen), that means actually removing the veil of secrecy surrounding the program and allowing independent investigators to assess exactly what happened there. Louis Freeh is probably available.
  3. One day after announcing its partnership with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures to handle its upcoming television negotiations, the Big East announced the hiring of CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner heading into those talks. Conference realignment across the board has fostered an alarmingly shortsighted arms race environment where every actor involved seems to believe that pursuit of the almighty dollar is without question the only thing that matters. The Big East, with its recent loss of West Virginia and the pending exits of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, hopes that by highlighting its numerous large markets and continent-wide footprint, it will enable the league to secure a massive television deal that will rival other major conferences and provide some much-needed stability. Perhaps it will work, but we have to believe that eventually someone is going to figure out that market penetration — how many people are actually watching the games? — is far more important than the total size of it. Right?
  4. If you’re an unemployed head coach out there still fretting about the coaching carousel not holding a chair for you last spring, dust off that resume — Eastern Michigan’s position appears to be open as its head coach, Rob Murphy, is reportedly taking an assistant coaching job with the Orlando Magic. The 2012 MAC Coach of the Year led EMU to a 9-7 conference record in his only season, and with a couple of good transfers joining a strong returning core, bigger things were expected next season. No official sources have been cited, but Lehigh’s Brett Reed, Michigan State assistant Dane Fife, and former Utah head coach Jim Boylen were mentioned in the article as possible selections with Michigan ties.
  5. Two players who were not expected to play college basketball in 2012-13 appear to be heading back to school after all. BYU sophomore guard Damarcus Harrison was expected to begin his two-year Mormon mission this fall, but instead he has decided to transfer closer to home at Clemson. The 6’5″ guard had a solid freshman campaign in Dave Rose’s lineup, averaging 3/1 in nine minutes per game, but he contributed 14 points and five boards in two NCAA Tournament games and showed considerable promise. American University picked up some great news when former all-Patriot League forward Stephen Lumpkins announced that he was returning to school for a senior season after spending last year playing minor league baseball in the Royals organization. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Lumpkins averaged 13/8 and shot a healthy percentage from the field — the talented big man will be able to slide into a starting lineup that returns three key contributors from a team that contended for the PL title last season.
Share this story