One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

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Butler Off to a Rough Start in its Inaugural Big East Season

Posted by Walker Carey on January 10th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s tilt between DePaul and Butler in Indianapolis.

Butler‘s meteoric rise from the Horizon League to the Big East in just two years has been well-documented. While it is great to discuss how the little school from Indianapolis was able to conquer some of the country’s national powers and sustain the success that predicated the conference ascension, Butler is now in the Big East and it is now appropriate to discuss what the Bulldogs have to do in their new league to carry on the past success. After last night’s loss to DePaul in a double-overtime game where the Bulldogs gave up an 11-point lead in the final minutes of regulation, Butler sits at 0-3 in conference play and is wondering what has gone wrong.

Heads are Hanging at Butler after an 0-3 Start (AP)

Heads are Hanging at Butler after an 0-3 Start (AP)

In the preseason, Butler was viewed as an unknown commodity and was subsequently picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll. It had a new head coach in Brandon Miller and its top returnee – Roosevelt Jones – was lost for the season with a wrist injury suffered over the summer. Once the season began, the Bulldogs appeared to be better than advertised during the non-conference slate. Despite finishing 1-2 at the Old Spice Classic in late November, the Bulldogs played well in all three games – including a two-point loss to preseason top 10 Oklahoma State, and a two-point overtime loss to an LSU squad that entered the season with high expectations. If you removed the three games in Orlando, the Bulldogs went a perfect 10-0 in non-conference play. Along the way, sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall began to emerge as a legitimate high-low combination with standout potential.

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The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013’s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

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Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall Have Emerged For Butler

Posted by Walker Carey on November 20th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed his report after Tuesday’s game in Indianapolis between Butler and Vanderbilt.

The 2013-14 season is supposed to be a transition year for Butler as it entered its first season in the new Big East. For starters, the team lost key offensive weapons Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith to graduation after last season. With the team’s personnel already in a bit of a rebuilding phase, things took a stunning turn in early July when Brad Stevens left Butler to take the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. With assistant Brandon Miller replacing Stevens, things got even dicier for the Bulldogs in August when top returnee Roosevelt Jones was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury during the team’s summer trip to Australia. Entering the season then, a Butler program that had developed a reputation for stability over the last several years was suddenly searching for an identity. Through the first three games of that search, Butler has found a semblance of what it is looking for in the play of sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall.

Khyle Marshall Was Outstanding Tuesday Night (IndyStar)

Khyle Marshall Was Outstanding Tuesday Night (IndyStar)

As a freshman last season, Dunham experienced a lot of the ups and downs that goes along with being a freshman. He put up a respectable 9.5 points per contest – which was good for fifth-best on the team – but he only shot 37.5 percent from the field. Stepping into the void left by the departed Clarke, Dunham has upped his level of play thus far in his sophomore season. After putting up a solid 13 points in a season-opening 89-58 blowout victory over Lamar, the sharpshooter had a career-best performance in this past Saturday’s narrow 70-67 triumph over Princeton. In Tuesday evening’s overtime defeat of Vanderbilt, Dunham set the tone early for Butler by scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first half. As Vanderbilt fought back to force overtime, the sophomore showed great resolve in effectively facilitating the Butler offense and providing excellent defense against a Commodore attack that valiantly battled back from a 14-point second half deficit.

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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

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  1. New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun experienced a sense of relief among the various schools at last week’s Big East Media Day in Manhattan. After many seasons played under the shroud of conference realignment, culminating with the awkwardness of last season’s farewell tour for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the Big East is now a settled, basketball-driven league focused on private schools in metropolitan markets. While the conference’s new members — Butler, Creighton, and Xavier — are all located in the Midwest, they fit into the league quite well culturally. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin actually thinks the new schools fit in better than some of the public universities that have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, and the schools who left for the ACC for largely football-based reasons: “It’s not like a ‘Sesame Street’ deal — which one doesn’t belong… You’ve got a tree, a bush, some seaweed and then a truck. It just didn’t fit. I think now we have a league that’s more similar.”
  2. Georgetown lost an excellent player to the NBA Draft in standout forward Otto Porter, but guard Markel Starks thinks that the Hoyas are more than just one player and that his team will look to prove that this season: “We play as a unit… We play as a group. Obviously, we just lost a great player. Even still, with or without him, we play as a unit. … I think we can still be a very dangerous team.” Starks, now a senior, will probably bear much of the weight of Porter’s absence in the scoring column, after averaging 12.8 points per game last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who proved capable of exploding for big point totals last season. Smith-Rivera scored at least 14 points in three of his last four regular season games last season, and dropped 33 in 34 minutes against DePaul on February 20.
  3. One of the major changes fans will notice in the conference this year is a lack of legendary coaches on the sidelines, although the Big East will not be hurting for talent in that spot. Gone are Hall of Famers like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino, but rising stars like Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Georgetown’s John Thompson III are poised to lead the conference into this new era. Thompson agrees that the coaching talent in the league is very high: “If you look around the room, the quality of coaching is outstanding. Yes, we lost some Hall of Fame coaches, but I don’t think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room. Every game is going to be a battle. That was true last year; that’s going to be true this year.” Williams also believes in the overall quality of the league, and thinks it stands up with the best conferences in college basketball: “Every coach is going to say they play in the best league, but if you objectively study the numbers, I think what this league has done the last five years speaks for itself. I think this year that will hold firm, too.”
  4. Even without the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, many are excited about the prospects of the Big East, especially those at the league’s three new schools: Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Between the television contract with Fox Sports 1 and the ability to play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East provides a great increase in exposure for the former Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Atlantic 10 teams. Rumble in the Garden‘s Chris Ronca caught up with Xavier’s Chris Mack and Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who were both very excited about these new possibilities. Mack says his players are excited about playing at MSG:  “Playing for your conference championship in the Mecca is an amazing opportunity for Xavier fans and players.” McDermott talked about the league’s TV contract and it’s impact on the Creighton program: “[Creighton’s] fans have longed for this for awhile.” McDermott went on to say that “with Fox [Sports] 1, it’s very exciting for the program… there’ll be a lot of new ideas with how [Creighton’s] product is shown nationally.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s [and RTC‘s] Chris Johnson’s “Stock Watch” series sets its gaze on the Big East, and he’s quite bullish on Villanova, while throwing a bit of shade on Butler. Johnson cites Villanova’s surge in the middle of last season, where the Wildcats knocked off top five Louisville and Syracuse outfits in a a five-day stretch, as evidence that Jay Wright’s club is very dangerous. He likes the combination of Ryan Arcidiacono, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, and believes that if the team continues to get to the free throw line and play stingy defense, it can push for the top of the league standings. As for Butler, Johnson believes that the loss of Brad Stevens in conjunction with an increase in the difficulty of conference play will hurt the Bulldogs, as will the departures of Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith as well as the injury to Roosevelt Jones.
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Morning Five: 08.19.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 19th, 2013

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  1. New Butler coach Brandon Miller was probably already facing an uphill battle replacing Brad Stevens. Not only did he have to contend with a conference change from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East and the departure of several key seniors, but he was also facing Stevens’ considerable shadow. Now he will have to do all of this without Roosevelt Jones, who was perhaps the team’s top returning player, is out for the season after tearing ligaments in his left wrist during the team’s trip to Australia. Butler was going to have a tough time dealing with all the changes and now doing so without Jones might be too much for Miller (or even Stevens if he had stayed) as the Bulldogs seem destined for the bottom of the Big East this season.
  2. The NCAA has found itself in quite few politically unpopular situations over the years, but they may have topped themselves with their latest act–taking a year of eligibility away from a Marine veteran for playing games on the base. The latest poster boy for the NCAA’s ongoing quest for bad publicity is Steven Rhodes, a 24-year-old freshman at Middle Tennessee State, who just finished a five-year stint with the Marines and was planing on coming back to play college football. Unfortunately his plans have been put on hold as the NCAA has ruled that Rhodes has to sit out this season. Although Middle Tennessee State is not the typical site for major NCAA stories, we have a feeling that this will turn into a national story in the near-future.
  3. The start of the college basketball season is getting very close, which you will be reminded of with the onslaught of college basketball previews that you will see online once the college football season starts and we are pretty much ready for the season to start, but one name–Chris Walker–remains in limbo. Walker, one of the top players in the class of 2013, is still waiting for clearance from the NCAA, but it appears that the NCAA Clearinghouse is reviewing his grades now. We have no idea how long it will take the NCAA to review his grades, but they will need to clear him by this coming week for him to be eligible to play this fall, but if he is eligible by December he could enroll at Florida and play the second half of the year. If neither of those options work, we get the feeling that he might pursue the Ricky Ledo option.
  4. When Shivaughn Wiggins announced that he was transferring from Mount St. Mary’s we figured it would not take long before he found a new home and it only took a few weeks as he announced that he was transferring to Coastal Carolina. Wiggins, the NEC Rookie of the Year, averaged 9.6 points per game last season and should be a huge pick-up for Coastal Carolina when he is eligible to play in the 2014-15 season. If you are looking for a more in-depth evaluation of Wiggins’ potential impact on the team, check out the breakdown put together by Big Apple Buckets.
  5. Out of all of the Candid Coaches questions that CBS has released the one about which elite 2014 prospect will struggle the most in college is certainly the most controversial. We won’t pretend to know much about any of the 2014 prospects at this point outside of recognizing a few names, but it will be interesting to see if these anonymous comments will affect their ranking at all and whether it might scare off a few coaches. We doubt that it actually will, but we imagine that several of the prospects listed here (and more specifically their parents) will be concerned about that. While this is interesting on some level and will certainly make its way around the message boards we are actually more interested in seeing this come out for the incoming freshman since we will be able to judge those evaluations right away.
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 74, #6 Butler 72

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #3 Marquette and #6 Butler. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Buzz Williams Got It Done For the Second Time in the NCAAs (AP)

Buzz Williams Got It Done For the Second Time in the NCAAs (AP)

  1. Survive and Advance — In a pod full of mid-majors with Cinderella history, it was the Big East power who emerged at the end of the day, but not before being pushed to its limits. This was more of a see-saw affair than Marquette’s great escape against Davidson, and they seemed to take control of the game mid-way through the second half. But Butler was resilient, and the Golden Eagles almost threw away the win, just as Davidson did on Thursday, with an errant inbounds pass with three seconds left and a two-point lead. No doubt, memories of Marquette’s fateful loss to Butler on a buzzer beater in Maui creeped into the minds of Marquette fans. But a well-executed defensive scheme on the final possession resulted in an ugly three-point attempt from Andrew Smith that was well off the mark. After the game, Buzz Williams refused to explain his defensive setup, explaining that given all the close games Marquette has played — and is likely to play again — he wasn’t about to reveal state secrets.
  2. Butler Couldn’t Escape the Turnover Trap — The biggest advantage of Butler’s tournament draw is that none of the three teams in its pod is very good at forcing turnovers. A major reason that Butler went 0-4 vs St. Louis and VCU this year was its poor ball control. Through three halves of basketball this week, Butler committed just 10 turnovers, and in the first half tonight, Marquette had zero fast break points — a big reason the Bulldogs entered intermission with an 8-point lead. But Marquette stepped up the pressure in the second half tonight, and Butler started to crack. They coughed up the ball 10 times after halftime, allowing Marquette to score eight fast-break points and 15 total off turnovers.
  3. Rotnei Clarke Faded Down the Stretch — Clarke had a tremendous first half, showing off not just his dead-eye three-point shot, but also his underrated ability to score inside the arc, with an array of pull-up jumpers, runners, and drives to the rim. But the cooling of his hot hand in the second half deprived Butler of a reliable scoring option. After starting off 7-of-10, Clarke made just one of his last seven shots. With Roosevelt Jones struggling to a 3-of-11 performance, Butler was left with few scoring options. They labored to score, and while they managed to keep scraping points together, in part due to Andrew Smith’s yeoman effort underneath, they couldn’t scratch out enough.

Star of the Game: Vander Blue had a tough act to follow, after his late-game heroics gave the Golden Eagles a last-second win over Davidson in the Second Round. But he more than came through, putting the team on his back and carrying them to a win with an outstanding performance at both ends of the floor. Blue finished with 29 points on just 15 shots and grabbed four steals. Two of those swipes came on crucial back-to-back possessions late in the game, both of which Blue converted into easy fast break points, turning a 2-point deficit into a 2-point lead in 60 seconds. Blue had so worked himself to exhaustion that after those two plays that his coach had to give him a short rest. But he had enough energy after coming back to hit the biggest shot of the game — a corner three-pointer with 1:26 to play that tied the game at 69.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Butler 68, #11 Bucknell 56

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Butler and Bucknell. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Mike Muscala Could Not Get It Going — All eyes were on Bucknell’s Mike Muscala this afternoon, and the big man shrunk under the spotlight. He got off to a poor start, scoring just two points in the first half on 1-of-9 FG shooting. He started to find the net a bit in the second half, as the Bison climbed back from a double-digit deficit to make it a competitive game. But he never developed a good rhythm, and at the end of the day, Bucknell needed more than his nine points on 4-of-17 shooting. Butler’s defense gets some credit, but Muscala missed a lot of shots that he typically makes.

    Brad Stevens' crew flustered the Bucknell offense all game long. (AP)

    Brad Stevens’ crew flustered the Bucknell offense all game long. (AP)

  2. Not That Easy on the Eyes — Apart from an exciting stretch in the middle of the second half, this game was plagued by ineffective offense. Butler hardly put on an offensive clinic, but Bucknell was the biggest offender. After shooting a miserable 25.9 percent from the field in the first half, they couldn’t find a consistent rhythm in second. Apart from a pair of lightning quick runs that actually gave them a six-point lead, the offense continued to struggle. And it wasn’t just Muscala who struggled. The Bison’s second and third leading scorers, guards Cameron Ayers (12.5 ppg) and Bryson Johnson (11.1 ppg), continued the disappearing act that they unveiled in the Patriot League tournament, combining for 0 points on 0-of-4 FG shooting in the first half.
  3. Butler Overcame Its Cold Shooting — Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham combined to make more than 150 threes this year, but against Bucknell, the two were stone cold. They shot a combined 2-of-9 from three-point range and missed several two-point jumpers, combining to go 5-of-18 from the field. The two guards made up for their poor shooting, though, by taking care of the ball. Turnovers have plagued the Bulldogs’ guards all season, but Clarke and Dunham committed none today.

Star of the Game: With Butler’s shooters in a game-long cold spell, it fell to Roosevelt Jones to ignite the offense with his unorthodox game. Perhaps it was fitting that Jones, who resembles a fullback in appearance and style of play, was the star of a contest that had a 21-14 football-like score at halftime. Jones’ ugly shotput runners in the lane and ragged drives to the basket epitomized the ugly nature of Butler’s win. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and added five boards and four assists. The turnover-prone guard also had just one miscue.

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Morning Five: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2013

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    1. Many of the ideas for fake award teams that get created often try to hard for their own good and end up being something completely useless, but one that always seems to point out the right guys is Seth Davis’ Glue Guy Team. Using the same methodology of selecting “players whose value was lost in the shadows” Seth picked Mike HartKyle AndersonMelvin EjimRoosevelt JonesNate Lubick, and Travis Releford for this year’s version of the team. We are sure that people can come up with a few other players who probably belong (most likely listed in Seth’s honorable mentions), but we think these are all pretty solid representatives and with a little luck for Iowa State we should be seeing all six (#DausterMath) in the NCAA Tournament.
    2. We have been trying to keep the firings as separate points in the Morning Five, but there were just too many yesterday so instead they get grouped together. The list of coaches who were fired yesterday: Chuck Martin from Marist (41-118 overall), Mark Phelps from Drake (77-86 overall), and Billy Taylor from Ball State (84-99 overall). Mike Gillian fared only slightly better as he resigned at Longwood after going 93-214 at the school. While none of these are what we would consider high or even medium-profile jobs they are all jobs at the Division I level, which will probably viewed as stepping stones for coaches at prominent mid-majors who are looking for their break.
    3. College football fans have been inundated with the SEC Speed meme, but somehow that dominance has not translated over to the basketball court. In fact, as Pat Forde points out, the level of play and interest in SEC basketball has been appalling. Obviously there are some very good programs (Kentucky, which could be argued is the standard-bearer in the sport, and Florida, which has been one of the top programs in the country for over a decade), but outside of that the quality of play has mostly been bad. On top of that the fans don’t seem to care as evidenced by the poor attendance across the conference. Forde and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive offer a variety of explanations and proposed solutions, but the heart of the issue is cultural and until the schools and fans start caring about basketball as much as they do football they will continue to be a second-tier conference.
    4. In the wake of the ongoing Miami debacle, the NCAA brought in Johnathan Duncan to replace Julie Roe Lach, who was the scapegoat for identified as having obtained information improperly during the Miami investigation. Duncan may not have had to campaign publicly to get his job, but he will if he hopes to win the public relations battle/nightmare that he has inherited. Duncan has an 18-month window (the duration of his interim term) to turn things around for an organization that is being increasingly vilified with people beginning to talk about dissolving the institution as it is presently constituted. There are plenty of tougher jobs, but there are not many in sports than the one that Duncan is tasked with.
    5. With all the coverage that we have had across the site for the conference tournaments we have tried to stay away from commenting on specific games, but the Richmond meltdown was too ridiculous not to mention here. If you missed the highlights of the game, Richmond led Charlotte 63-60 with 4.7 seconds left when they decided to foul before giving Charlotte a chance to attempt a three-pointer. They were able to execute the first part successfully, but after Pierria Henry made the front end of a one-and-one (now 63-61) Richmond’s Derrick Williams and Charlotte’s William Clayton got tangled up trying to grab the potential rebound and Williams shoved Clayton to the ground resulting in a technical, which resulted in two more free throws. Henry converted the back end of the one-and-one and made both free throws (now they were up 64-63) and still had the ball, which they inbounded and knowing they would get fouled Henry put up a three-point attempt leading to three free throws. The foul call only further incensed Chris Mooney, who picked up two technical fouls for good measure. Henry made four of the seven free throws (now they were up 68-63, which was the final margin). So if you are scoring at home in 1.9 seconds of game time Henry took 11 free throws and made eight of them. This sequence will never be made into a “30 for 30″, but it is probably more surreal than what Reggie Miller pulled in Madison Square Garden.

 

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or follow him on Twitter @vtbnblog.

(ed. note – this week’s column does not factor in Wednesday night’s action, which saw Saint Louis beat Saint Joseph’s, Richmond defeat George Washington and Dayton top Charlotte.)

Looking Back

  • Saint Louis Breaks Out – The Billikens evicted Butler and Virginia Commonwealth and decisively took sole possession of the conference penthouse last week. On Tuesday Saint Louis hosted Virginia Commonwealth, the team that paced the conference from virtually the opening week and ranked #24 by the AP the previous Monday. The Bills pummeled the Rams by 14, 76-62, handing coach Shaka Smart’s squad the worst defeat of their season. With barely 48 hours to celebrate, the Billikens packed their bags and traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse to play #15 ranked Butler on Friday night. Saint Louis held on to defeat the Bulldogs by 4, 65-61, and hand Butler only their second defeat at home this season. At 10-2, SLU sits atop the conference with a half-game lead (one fewer loss) over second place Virginia Commonwealth.
  • Conference Difference Margins, Week 8 – The difference margin continues to divide the conference roughly in half; nine teams have positive margins, seven teams have negative margins. The paradox is that the Atlantic 10, much like many conferences in parity, the number of teams with a 0.500 record or better numbers 11 (or 69% of the conference membership). For a power conference this parity (if the top of the conference was strong enough) could, in effect, “pull” a middling team or two into the NCAA tournament. Is the A-10 strength of schedule enough to yield a fifth or sixth bid?

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Reviewing the numbers (from Ken Pomeroy’s kenpom.com site – the conference results through Monday February 25) gives us a few things to consider:

  1. The difference margin adds greater definition to Saint Louis’ breakout last week. At +0.156, the margin is half again larger than that of their nearest rival (Virginia Commonwealth). To this point Saint Louis is in a class by itself. A rocky out of conference run will most likely keep the Bills’ NCAA seed in the #4 to #6 range, probably deceptively low.
  2. The teams are forming a series of well-defined tiers, many of which are consistent with the conference records earned so far. Note the Virginia Commonwealth/Butler grouping, distinct from the Massachusetts/Xavier/Temple tier.
  3. Duquesne and (yet again, unfortunately) Fordham have “lost touch” with the rest of the conference. The difference margins for the two lowest ranked teams suggest they are no longer competitive with their 14 conference mates. Temple’s loss to Duquesne on February 14 becomes all the more puzzling and damaging to the Owls’ post season prospects.
  4. Charlotte’s record says “even”, but the difference margin suggests the 49ers have been susceptible to blowouts. A look at the schedule reveals a tendency to lose big on the road Miami, Richmond, Saint Louis). Not the kind of credential one wants to present to the Selection Committee.
  5. Dayton maintains a positive difference margin (+0.013) widely at variance with their losing record (4-8). A Pythagorean Winning Percentage calculation suggest the Flyers should be closer to a 0.500 record (or 6-6, since they have played 12 games). They are, however, so far underwater that it is likely the Flyers will “run out of games” before they can get to a 0.500 record (8-8 given their 16 game conference schedule).

Reader’s Take

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by CNguon on February 20th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

*Ed. Note: the statistics in this column were aggregated prior to Tuesday night’s St. Louis-VCU game.

Looking Back

Difference Margins in Conference Games: The offense/defense difference margins are beginning to “behave” as teams with winning records (Charlotte and Temple excepted) have positive difference margins, while teams with losing records (Dayton excepted) have negative difference margins. Temple, with a 5-5 record, has a -0.001, just two one-thousandths under “positive.” Tiers within the winning and losing groups continues to be messy, and occasionally explains why a team is succeeding or failing.

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Looking over the “standings” this week a few things jump out…

  • Fordham and Duquesne are losing contact with the rest of the conference, and that includes 3-8 Rhode Island. For the Dukes, with a new coach and a program in disarray, the trend is not surprising as wins are hard to come by. Fordham, coming into the season with senior all-conference forward Chris Gaston and a promising young backcourt, has to be a disappointment to fans and university administrators. Granted, Gaston has struggled with injuries and extended absences, but the current late season fade continues a pattern established over the last five seasons.
What's that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis is running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

What’s that you say? Jim Crews and Saint Louis are running away from the rest of the conference. (AP)

  • Saint Louis appears to be running away from the rest of the league. If the Bilikens’ numbers hold up over the course of this week (they play Butler next, after eviscerating VCU last night), expect coach Jim Crews’ squad to emerge with the #1 seed going into Brooklyn and up in the NCAA field where they are currently seeded in the #9-#11 range.
  • Temple’s -0.001 efficiency margin reflects the fact that the Owls have had a series of one-point decisions (more in Temple’s team report below) against both stronger teams (Charlotte) and weaker teams (Duquesne).

Going, going… The topic touched on during virtually every Division I basketball game over the last week is “Who is in?” usually accompanied by a discussion of bubble teams – right side/wrong side, S-curves and “What happened to…”. Alhough the field is still under construction and opinions vary as to whether the Atlantic 10 will have six bids (Jerry Palm as of February 17) or four (Joe Lunardi and RTC’s own Daniel Evans), there is an emerging consensus that several preview “contenders” are in the field, somewhere on (or near) the bubble and clearly out of the conversation entirely. Some quick takes on the “bubble… sort of’s” and those who are “out”:

  • Charlotte – Jerry Palm lists the 49ers as a #11 seed and well beyond the “Last Four In” category. Daniels lists them on his bubble watch of February 18 while Lunardi remains silent. Can good conference wins versus Butler and Xavier really negate double-figure losses to Richmond, George Washington and Saint Louis? More than any A-10 team not named Temple, winning their last five games going into the conference tournament will make or break this resume. Read the rest of this entry »
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