Previewing Tight Races in the Mid-Majors: Part II

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 3rd, 2016

Yesterday we published Part I examining the tight races at the top of the WCC and Atlantic 10. Today in Part II we will take a closer look at projected two-horse races of the Ivy League and MAAC.

Ivy League—Princeton vs. Harvard


Can Freshman Phenom Siyani Chambers And Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker Turn The Crimson Into Tournament Darlings? (Joe Murphy/Getty)

Heading into his final collegiate season, Siyani Chambers, who has been one of the pillars of Harvard’s resurgence, arguably leads Tommy Amaker’s most talented team ever. (Joe Murphy/Getty)

  • Who they are: Last year’s very good Princeton team lost only two Ivy League games. The only issue for the Tigers was that Yale, which lost only one Ivy League game, was even better. But while the Ivy League champion loses many of its best players and should fade from the title picture, Princeton returns every key contributor plus Hans Brase — a player who averaged 11.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 2014-15 before an injury caused him to sit out last year. Henry Caruso is a potential Ivy League POY, Spencer Weisz isn’t far behind him, and sophomore Devin Canady had the best offensive rating in the conference last year. Princeton is not a difficult team to project: the Tigers will run smart, efficient offense with good outside shooting, play sound defense, and certainly won’t beat themselves.
  • Why they will win: Because teams that go 10-2 in conference play and come back even better the next year generally win their conferences. Consider this: KenPom ranks Princeton 35th nationally, ahead of the likes of Connecticut and Texas. The Tigers are going to be really good. Head coach Mitch Henderson has been building toward an NCAA Tournament berth for a few years now, and this is the season where he will make it happen.
  • Why they will lose: If the Tigers don’t win, it will probably have more to do with Harvard than with Princeton. The only team to which Princeton lost that was ranked outside of the KenPom top 100 was — you guessed it — Harvard. Which brings us to…


Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Previewing Tight Races in the Mid-Majors: Part I

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 2nd, 2016

In this NCAA Basketball preview season, we are bombarded with lists. One common list is that of the trendy mid-major ready to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting college hoops world. Unfortunately, some of these high-quality teams find themselves in the same conference staring each other down for scarce March Madness bids. No mid-major is ever guaranteed an invitation to the Field of 68, of course, no matter how impressive it looks in November and December. Just ask the 2015-16 iterations of Monmouth and St. Mary’s about that. In this preseason post we will analyze several mid-major conference races that should be two-horse races, with details on each team, why they will (or not), and a bonus sleeper who isn’t yet in the conversation. Part I covering the WCC and Atlantic 10 will publish today. Part II on the Ivy League and MAAC will release later this week.

West Coast Conference—Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga

It's always fun when these two guys get their teams together

It’s always fun when these two guys get their teams together. (AP)

St. Mary’s

  • Who they are: Randy Bennett’s team came out of absolutely nowhere last year to become an offensive juggernaut, and the Gaels return every important piece from that 29-6 team. All six returning perimeter players are above average three-point shooters, with junior Aussie guard Emmett Naar looking an awful lot like the next Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Rahon acting as a capable secondary playmaker. On the inside, Dane Pineau is ruthlessly efficient and productive, and his backup Jock Landale is no slouch either. The Gaels play at a glacial pace and they don’t beat themselves.
  • Why they will win: This is going to be one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball once again. Last year’s team went 29-6 and last year’s team is essentially this year’s team with another year of experience. The Gaels could be second weekend good.
  • Why they will lose: If we learned anything last year, it is that St. Mary’s has no margin for error with Gonzaga also in the conference. The defense has to be good enough to compete and the outside shots have to fall. Otherwise, the Gaels may be on the outside looking in once again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Programs on the Rise: Eight Teams Poised to Break Out

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 28th, 2016

On Monday, we brought you a list of under-the-radar O26 players primed for big seasons in 2016-17. This time around, we’re examining several programs on the cusp of making serious moves upward, either within their respective conferences or on the postseason stage.

  • Cal State Northridge – 2015-16 Record: 10-20 (5-11 Big West): Cal State Northridge (CSUN) may not have been very good last season, but it was certainly better after Kendall Smith became eligible in December. The UNLV transfer led the club in scoring (15.3 PPG) and was among the league’s best at drawing fouls. He, along with the team’s next four top weapons, all return — a fact which would alone be enough to portend improvement. Then consider what the Matadors added. Along with his intact roster, head coach Reggie Theus lured four high-major transfers—Darin Johnson (Washington), Dylan Johns (Texas A&M), Rakim Lubin (Connecticut), and Reggie Theus, Jr. (South Carolina)— each of whom bring positional size and talent to a squad already known for scoring points in the paint. If the pieces gel, CSUN can reverse its conference record and finish among the top four in the Big West.
One of the nation's top defensive units, College of Charleston may be smiling a lot in 2016-17. (

With one of the nation’s top defenses, College of Charleston could have a lot to smile about in 2016-17. (

  • College of Charleston – 2015-16 Record: 17-14 (8-10 Colonial Athletic): College of Charleston was defensively elite last season, and not just in the CAA—its adjusted defensive efficiency (93.3 AdjD) ranked 20th in the country, ahead of teams like North Carolina, Michigan State, and Oregon, among others. Then again, its offense ranked dead-last in the conference and among the 100 worst nationally. The return of nearly their entire roster, including CAA Rookie of the Year Jarrell Brantley (11.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG), should help the Cougars improve in that department, especially with an entire offseason to gel without the expectation of Canyon Berry’s return. If Earl Grant’s crew can put up just a few more points to complement that suffocating defense, look out. A conference title is within reach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 12.19.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 19th, 2014


  1. Last season, Dayton was one of the Cinderellas of the NCAA Tournament and the team that cost me $1 billion (ok, it was the first game of the Tournament). This year that will be hard to replicate and they might not even make the NCAA Tournament after they dismissed their only two big men–Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson–on scholarships. While the school did not explain why the two had been dismissed, it was later revealed that they were caught stealing from on-campus dorms. After losing Scott, a 6’9″ junior who averaged 9.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, and Robinson, a 6’9″ junior who averaged 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, Dayton does not have a scholarship player who is taller than 6’6″.
  2. It seems like every year we read an article coming up with some back-of-the-envelope calculation about how much college players are worth. The article always gets passed around as “proof” that college players deserve to be reimbursed financially for playing for their team. The latest version of this article is a chart that tries to extrapolate the value of the average basketball player by multiplying the program’s revenue by 49% (to mimic the NBA’s revenue sharing plan) and dividing that by 13 (the number of scholarship players). The headline number is that the average Louisville player is worth a little over $1.5 million per year using this methodology. Of course, we have some questions about the methodology used in this analysis such how reliable those revenue figures are in terms of subsidies and how easily numbers/dollars can be moved around.
  3. Branden Dawson is expected to miss at least the next two games after fracturing his left wrist in Wednesday night’s win. Dawson, who is averaging 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, suffered a “non-displaced fracture” after missing 10 games last year when he broke a bone in his right hand. Fortunately for Michigan State, their upcoming schedule is pretty easy with their next two games coming against Texas Southern and Citadel before they open Big Ten play against Maryland (that feels so weird) on December 30. So while the injury could be a big blow for the Spartans at least it comes at a time when they can recover before starting Big Ten play at which point they need to start picking up quality wins because their resume thus far isn’t exactly inspiring.
  4. When Florida State declared Aaron Thomas ineligible for the rest of the season last week we figured that he might try to transfer, but now it looks like he is considering playing overseas. While the news is not completely unexpected since Thomas isn’t a NBA-caliber player, it is still a big blow to the Seminoles who might have hoped that the junior guard would return next season to anchor a team that was poised to add an excellent incoming class. Instead, it appears that Thomas, who was averaging a team-leading 14.8 points per game, will start his professional career overseas a year early.
  5. By this point you are probably aware of what we think of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings, which is consistently the best weekly column you will find. Like most power rankings, we could do without the actual rankings because frankly we find the order an individual writer thinks teams should be ranked useless, but Winn always has useful and timely information about the best teams in the country. This week our favorite stats are his breakdown of Kentucky‘s platoons (technically provided by Sean Lawless of GroupStats) and using expected value predictions on how to defend Jahlil Okafor. The analysis of Kentucky’s platoons are more of an interesting theoretical exercise and probably mirror something along the lines of what John Calipari should probably use. The Jahlil Okafor breakdown is a little more interesting from a practical perspective and might be something that should concern Duke fans going forward.
Share this story

Fright Club: The O26 All Hallows’ Eve Team

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 31st, 2014

With Halloween upon us, it’s only natural that we examine the spookiest, scariest, creepiest, crawliest, most fear-inducing hoopsters in the O26 world. WARNING – you may experience nightmares, especially if none of these guys play for your school.

Siena's Jimmy Patsos coaches our All Hallows' Eve team. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

Siena’s Jimmy Patsos coaches our All Hallows’ Eve team. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

‘The Robbin’ Goblin’

Briante Weber – PG – Virginia Commonwealth. Weber is arguably the most terrifying player in college basketball. Over his first three years in Richmond, the 6’2’’ guard has consistently and relentlessly harassed opposing ball-handlers to the point that Phil Martelli hailed him as the best defender in the country last March. Not only does Weber own the VCU and Atlantic 10 records for career steals, but he’s also posted the highest steal rate in the country for three consecutive seasons. In 2013-14, he logged more than five thefts 11 different times, including seven apiece against Stony Brook and George Washington – impressive outings to be sure, but neither of which even touch his 2012 season opener. In one of the most incredible defensive performances in recent memory, Weber tallied a whopping 10 steals in just 18 minutes on the court, a rate so absurd that even Gary Payton would have to tip his cap (er, glove). To this day, the mere thought of Weber must send shivers down Andy Enfield’s spine.

‘The Serial Thriller’

Desi Washington – SG – Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks’ second-leading scorer does his most sinister work late in games, a fact that repeat-victim Fairfield knows all too well – Washington beat the Stags with buzzer-beaters (or near buzzer-beaters) three different times last season. That’s uncanny, improbable and – if you’re Sydney Johnson, or really any other MAAC coach – downright horrifying entering 2014-15. Incredibly, the now-senior shooting guard also picked off Seton Hall in similar fashion, scoring 34 points and drilling a deep three in the closing seconds to pull off the road upset. To call Washington ‘clutch’ would be an understatement; ‘categorically lethal’ is probably more appropriate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Tournament Primer: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 6th, 2014

Day four of Championship Fortnight means three more conferences tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next two weeks of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s conference tournaments. Today, the MAAC, MVC and WCC get started.

Dates: March 6, 8-10
Site: MassMutual Center (Springfield, MA)


What to expect: The highest seed has not won this tournament since 2010, but that could change this year with Iona atop the league standings. The offensive-minded Gaels have advanced to the Big Dance in each of the last two seasons – including as an at-large bid in 2012 – and look poised to make a return, winning 13 of their final 14 games and playing steady, efficient basketball along the way. The one loss in that span was to Manhattan, the Gaels’ most likely challenger in Springfield. George Beamon’s 20 points per game leads the Jaspers offensively, but it is on the defensive end where Steve Masiello’s squad has the distinct advantage – center Rhamel Brown is a long, game-changer in the paint who boasts the highest block rate in the country. If Manhattan and Iona meet up in the conference championship on Monday night, it will be must-watch television. And don’t ignore Canisius, either — the team’s electrifying point guard, Billy Baron, averages more than 25 points per outing and is capable of catching fire at any moment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

If Canisius Goes Dancing, Billy Baron Could Become the Next March Star

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 19th, 2014

Ice Bath, and watch Stephen Curry highlights for an hour.

According to a “10 Questions With…” feature on the Canisius mens’ basketball page, that’s the sum of Billy Baron’s pregame routine. And it makes perfect sense, when you think about it. An ice bath for the ice water that runs through his veins — evident from the game-winning shots he so often takes, and hits — and the Curry highlights to remind him of just how captivating a player he can be, how rare it is to possess the kind of quick-release, out-of-the-gym range he has in his arsenal. Not to mention the crafty shot-fakes, gorgeous passes, sudden changes of direction and countless other moves put on display by the Davidson legend. Baron probably watches for those, too. And while the MAAC Player of the Year favorite certainly has elements of Curry in his game, it was BYU great Jimmer Fredette who Siena coach Jimmy Patsos compared him to earlier this season, an appropriate parallel in its own right. Whether he’s more like Curry, Fredette or some other former hoopster, though, doesn’t really matter. The larger point is this: Baron is a rare talent who demands your attention when he takes the court and who’s fully capable of becoming a mid-major star in March, depending on how far the Griffins can go.

Billy Baron vs. Notre Dame, December 29, 2013.

Jimmy Patsos thinks Baron is similar to Jimmer Fredette, which certainly makes sense. (ABOVE: Billy Baron vs. Notre Dame...BELOW: Jimmer Fredette vs. Gonzaga)

Jimmer Fredette vs. Gonzaga, March 19, 2011.

Perhaps the most electrifying aspect of Baron’s game is his ability to pull up and hit from just about anywhere inside the half-court line. And I mean anywhere. Though opposing teams try guarding him all the way up the floor, often using additional defenders to step out and help or even double-team when necessary, he is still able to exploit the tiniest amounts of open space and briefest moments of defensive relaxation. Like Jimmer (and his brother, Jimmy), Baron will simply hoist from four or five feet beyond the three-point line, catching unwitting defenders off-guard and leaving opposing coaches pulling out their hair. Last month, he hit a three from the ‘A’ in Iona’s mid-court decal late in the first half and another from the ‘I’ early in the second. In fact, he’s nailed shots from numerous giant logos this season, regularly enabling his team to cut into deficits or build on leads in the blink of an eye. And like Curry, Baron also has a tremendous feel for how the opposition will react to his movements. He will employ the slightest shot-fakes and hesitations to make defenders over-commit, then take a quick dribble left or right to find the open look. On the year, the 6’2’’ senior is shooting over 42 percent from behind the arc, which is incredibly impressive considering how closely opposing squads guard him and how difficult his attempts can be. When Baron gets the hot hand, it’s hard to look away.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Weekly Awards: Wyoming, Billy Baron, Brian Wardle & George Mason…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 19th, 2014

We are officially less than one month from Selection Sunday (hooray!), so standout performances (and dreadful upsets) are now more impactful than ever on conference races and NCAA Tournament aspirations. Let’s pass out some awards to the best of the best from the O26 last week.

O26 Team of the Week

Highlighted by the upset over San Diego State, Wyoming had a stellar week. (Jeremy Martin/AP)

Highlighted by the upset over San Diego State, Wyoming had a stellar week. (Jeremy Martin/AP)

Wyoming. The Pokes began the week with their biggest home win since joining the Mountain West in 1999, and ended it with their greatest defensive effort in that same span. On Tuesday night, Wyoming notched its first victory over a top-five team in Arena Auditorium in 16 years by defeating San Diego State, 68-82, to end the Aztecs’ 20-game winning streak and prompt a well-deserved rushing of the court. Not only did the Cowboys out-shoot, out-defend and out-energize Steve Fisher’s club, but they did so with style, eschewing open jumps shots (their offense is predicated on burning the shot clock and finding the best look possible) in favor of wide open dunks, time after time down the floor. At one point, as they opened up a double-figure lead midway through the second half, the team was exuding such high-flying swagger and cool confidence that it became hard to tell if you were watching  this year’s Wyoming club or last year’s Florida Gulf Coast. And when SDSU made a late charge to pull within four at the under-one minute mark, in a moment where it seemed the league powerhouse was going to exert its will, Nathan Sobey went ahead and threw down a transition slam — what else? — to bury the Aztecs for good. The last time Wyoming knocked off a team that highly ranked, the year was 1998, the opponent was Rick Majerus-led Utah, and the Cowboys’ head coach was… Larry Shyatt. The first time around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

AAC M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on November 29th, 2013


  1. Houston freshman big man Ahmed Hamdy is one of two Egyptian players ruled ineligible this season by the NCAA, but both say they relied on the advice of a former Division I coach. Their infraction was spending an extra postgraduate year at a Texas prep school upon the advice of Marco Morcos, an Egyptian who was an assistant at both FIU and Rice and who helped bring them to the US. Morcos denies he advised them to stay, or that he had any particular influence over their decision. It seems, rather, that this is a rather stark example of exploitation; Hamdy and Aly Ahmed, a sophomore at Cal State Bakerfield, barely speak English, and a number of adults seem to have been trying to push them in directions advantageous to the adults rather than the teenagers. And yet the NCAA, as it so often does, punished a technical violation of the rule without the appearance of common sense having been applied. Here’s hoping Hamdy and Ahmed get past this and find the chances they deserve.
  2. Memphis rolled past Siena 87-60, a necessary first step toward a potential rematch with Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic. That’s something they claim to want, despite how poorly it went the first time. Now it’s obvious that the Tigers would like to win the Old Spice Classic – they play LSU in Friday’s semifinal – and that would likely require beating the Cowboys on Sunday. At least this time it wouldn’t be in such a hostile environment. But still, they lost by 21 the first time after trailing by as many as 32. The game was a blowout after a tight first 10 minutes, and it doesn’t seem that they’ve had enough time to patch up the flaw that the Cowboys so easily exploited, namely their lack of an ability to run an offense with anything approaching efficiency.
  3. Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin is most thankful for his three senior captains – Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, and Titus Rublesto whom he gives much of the credit for the team’s 5-0 start. In particular, he says their sustained effort has allowed the Bearcats to pursue their pressure defense for the full 40 minutes. The results so far, even against a fairly weak schedule, are hard to dispute. According to KenPom, Cincinnati ranks #15 in adjusted defense, #13 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage, and a lofty #6 in turnover percentage. But probably most important is that all three are playing substantially better on the offensive end in the early going. Of the trio, only Kilpatrick managed an offensive rating over 100 last year at 108.5. His offensive rating through five games – an admittedly small sample size, to be sure – is a ridiculous 150.7, good for #11 nationally. Jackson and Rubles have seen similar improvements, from 82.5 and 87.8, to 109.7 and 108.3, respectively. If the trio can continue to produce on the offensive end, the Bearcats will likely exceed expectations based on the perception they would struggle to score.
  4. Louisville had a wildly successful year athletically in the 2012-13 academic year, including its third basketball national championship and the election of coach Rick Pitino to the Hall of Fame. Now the school apparently plans to buy airtime on ESPN to relive the highlights, which also includes a Sugar Bowl win and a trip to the College World Series, among others. Pitino told WDRB that the school is producing a “Year of the Cardinal” special as a marketing tool. Athletic Director Tom Jurich has been rightly hailed as perhaps the best in the country at what he does, and this looks to be another outside-the-box idea that could pay long-term dividends for the program.
  5. The news cycle has mostly moved on from Chane Behanan’s championship ring-gate, but Louisville still hasn’t officially weighed in beyond saying that it’s looking into it. That probably is just because of the holiday, but we’ll see if they have anything more to say before returning to the court against Southern Mississippi at 7:00 PM Friday night. Guessing not.
Share this story

Feast Week Mission Briefing: Washington State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Washington State has looked awful in the first three weeks of the season. After sneaking by Cal State Bakersfield on opening night, the Cougars handled Lamar with ease nine days later. They then made the short trip over to Spokane to face Gonzaga, where they were easily dispatched by the Bulldogs, 90-74. That wasn’t the low point, however. That came three days later in front of a sleepy home crowd at Beasley Coliseum, where lowly TCU came in and pulled off a stunning 64-62 upset.

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

First Round Preview: Washington State meets Butler in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday morning. The Bulldogs have started the season at 4-0 and their best win came in overtime against Vanderbilt last week. They feature as balanced an attack on the offensive end of the floor as you’ll see in this field, with both forward Khyle Marshall and guard Kellen Dunham averaging 15.8 PPG a piece. Where the Cougars have been struggling is on offense, and junior Alex Barlow will prove to be a pesky pain in the side for their guards. He’s averaging 2.0 SPG and recorded three of them in Butler’s game at Ball State last Saturday.

Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, it looks like the Cougs will face Purdue on Friday and Siena on Sunday. These aren’t exactly opponents that will provide a huge boost to the RPI, making a possible upset of Butler even more important. The Boilermakers have opened the season at 5-1, but that record doesn’t look as good when you consider the fact that the best win came against Eastern Illinois. Everything goes through sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson for head coach Matt Painter, who is scoring at a 13.8 PPG clip and averaging 4.4 APG. Siena has opened the year at 2-4 with wins over St. Bonaventure and Cornell. It faces Memphis in its opener at the Old Spice Classic.

Outlook: While two wins may be possible, in all honesty the Cougars should be expecting one. Until Ken Bone’s guys show some resemblance of an offense, it’s going to be best to keep the expectations low in Pullman.

Share this story