NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South

Midwest

  • The Creighton Bluejays aren’t bothered by Alabama‘s defensive prowess going into their opening round matchup. Creighton has pulled off wins against athletic teams in Long Beach State, Wichita State and San Diego State, but in an elimination setting, the margin of error becomes thinner.
  • Kansas forward Thomas Robinson responded to some early smack talk from Detroit‘s Eli Holman prior to the team’s departure for Omaha. Holman was probably doing his best to keep confidence high, but likely generated some bulletin board material in doing so. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, East and Midwest Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 13th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

“Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively.” – Voltaire

We will undoubtedly be guilty of both this week, as we focus obsessively on college hoops… from one game to the next to the next to the next.  From the TO26 perspective, this is also the time of year when Division I’s red-headed stepchildren can become the object of the nation’s attention, if only fleetingly.  Which teams are best-positioned to stay in the limelight the longest?  Which ones are likely to head home after just the briefest of shining moments?  Today, we analyze the chances of all of the TO26 teams the East and Midwest regions, grouping them into four categories based on their chances of advancement.  Within each group, we order the teams based on their potential to make a deep run.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Creighton's Potent Three-Point Attack Gives Them a Shot at a Run to the Regionals

Creighton (#8, Midwest) — Creighton’s first-round matchup against Alabama will be fun to watch.  The Bluejays will put their highly efficient offense, led by a potent three-point attack, against Alabama’s stout defense, which defends the three almost as well as anyone in the nation.  Things will be uglier at the other end; Creighton’s defense has struggled all season, its mediocrity matched only by Alabama’s offense.  The good news for the Bluejays is that they’re a bit tougher inside the arc – I noticed a tendency to collapse their defense to the ball line when it goes inside – which is by and large where Alabama operates.  At the end of the day, I like Creighton’s chances, as they have steadier guard play, a legit go-to player, solid free throw shooting, and the ability to knock down the clutch three when needed. And if they get by the Crimson Tide, I wouldn’t be stunned by an upset of UNC.  Why?  The Tarheels’ defense is particularly vulnerable to the three-point shot (which will also make them susceptible to an upset loss to Michigan should that matchup materialize in the regional semifinals).

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RTC Top 25: Week 13

Posted by KDoyle on February 6th, 2012

With the Super Bowl now behind us and the NBA being, well, the NBA, it is college basketball from here on out for the next two months. There was not a whole lot of movement inside the top five as Kentucky retained its position as the #1 team in the nation, while Missouri jumped to #4 after posting a win over Kansas. You may have missed it with the Super Bowl festivities, but a surprise loss at home to Miami (FL) has Duke outside of the Top 10 for the first time this season. The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

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The Other 26: Week Ten

Posted by IRenko on February 4th, 2012


I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Given this past week’s special Bracketbuster edition, this week’s regular column will be a bit shorter than usual.  We’ll hit the highlights of what you should be watching for this week right after the updated Top 15.

Looking Forward:  What to Watch

  • Xavier at Memphis (2/4, 1 PM) — What looked like a premier non-conference matchup in November has lost its luster, but will still be a critical game for two teams looking to bolster their at-large resumes.
  • Middle Tennessee State at Denver (2/4, 4 PM) — The Blue Raiders put their undefeated Sun Belt mark on the line against a tough Denver squad.
  • Dayton at St. Louis (2/4, 5pm) — At various points, each of these teams has looked like the A-10’s best, but neither has been consistent enough to hold on to the claim.
  • Oral Roberts at North Dakota State (2/4, 8:30 PM) — ORU looked invincible just a few days ago, but after a 15-point whipping at South Dakota State, they lead the Summit League by just one game.  Their tough road trip continues at the league’s third place team, and the pressure will be on, as a loss will drop the Golden Eagles into a tie with South Dakota State for first.
  • Iona at Manhattan (2/4, 7pm) / Iona at Loyola (MD) (2/10, 7p PM) – This may not be known, given the relative hype for Iona this year, but the Gaels are in a three-way tie for first in the MAAC.  And this week, they will travel to play their co-leaders on the road.
  • Valparaiso at Cleveland State (2/9, 7 PM) — The Horizon League’s top two teams square off, with CSU trying to avenge a six-point loss at Valpo a few weeks ago.
  • St. Mary’s at Gonzaga (2/9, 11 PM) – A bit of a role reversal from years past, as the Zags will be trying to catch the ranked Gaels in the standings.
  • Harvard at Penn (2/10, 7 PM) — This may be the toughest league game the Crimson play all year.  If they lose at one-loss Penn, the race for the League title may be tougher than they hope.
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The Other 26: Week Five

Posted by IRenko on December 23rd, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will bring you his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences each Friday during the season.  Follow him on twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

The biggest and most impressive result — but also most perplexing — of the past week was Davidson’s 80-74 win versus Kansas. The Wildcats are a genuine contender in the Southern Conference this year, but they haven’t proven to be one of the best teams in the TO26.  Indeed, the win in Kansas City was sandwiched between a 23-point drubbing at Charlotte and an eight-point loss at UMass, two teams that are hardly the caliber of the Jayhawks.

Nik Cochran Led Davidson to a Truly Shocking Upset

Yet for one shining moment in their non-conference schedule, Davidson went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country in one of the toughest road environments and in the process, managed to avenge their loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight in 2008.  Nik Cochran led the way with 21 points on just six field goal attempts.  He was 4-5 from three-point range and 7-8 from the free throw line.  But it was a fairly balanced effort for the Wildcats, who also received double-digit scoring from Jake Cohen, De’Mon Brooks, and J.P. Kuhlman.  Perhaps most importantly, they were able to contain Thomas Robinson on the defensive end.  Although the Kansas star notched 21 points, it took him 18 field goal attempts and 12 free throw attempts to get there.

More on the week that was after the updated Top 15 rankings, after the jump.

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl

Reader’s Take

 

Caught on Film

Conference USA Player of the Week Alandise Harris had the throwdown of the week with this dunk in a win over Arkansas that earned the top spot on ESPN’s Top Plays.

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Falls In Maui, Picks Itself Up: The 13th ranked Memphis Tigers have had an up-and-down beginning of their season, finishing with a total of 196 points in their two victories, while shooting a miserable 33 percent from the field in their lone loss to No. 15-ranked Michigan. The Tigers failed to find an offensive spark against the Wolverines, losing 73-61 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday. Senior Charles Carmouche was the only Memphis player to shoot 50% in the game making six of his 12 attempted shots and finishing with a team-high 14 points. On Tuesday night, the Tigers redeemed themselves, holding on to narrowly defeat in-state foe Tennessee 99-97 in double overtime. Memphis was in control most of the way, but blew its ten-point halftime lead as the Volunteers surged late behind a stellar performance from junior Jeronne Maymon, who hit a game-tying shot in the closing second of regulation. He finished with 32 points and 20 rebounds while guard Will Barton had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Antonio Barton and freshman Adonis Thomas helped the Tigers, providing a spark off the bench and finishing with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Antonio, the little brother of Will, hit a crucial jump shot in the second overtime with a little over a minute remaining.
  • Rice, Marshall, Tulane Off To Hot Starts: While the conference’s current leaders—Rice, Marhsall, Tulane (all 4-0)—will see tougher competition in weeks to come, the three teams have gotten to the top of the conference standings by throttling weaker competition. Junior swingman Arsalan Kazemi has the Owls started in the right direction, averaging a double-double through the first four contests. Similarly, junior swingman Kendall Timmons has been an integral part of the Green Wave’s early season surge out of the conference cellar. Timmons is shooting a pristine 66.7% from the field while averaging 18.7 points a game for Tulane. The Thundering Herd are the least shocking of the unbeatens remaining in conference; however, they’ve taken advantage of a weak early schedule. Marshall can prove themselves in weeks to come when they play a pair of Big East giants—Cincinnati and Syracuse—on the road. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #9 – Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Reader’s Take

Despite having two teams earn bids into the NCAA Tournament last season, Conference USA walked away without a win.

 

Top Storylines

  • Can Memphis Pull Away?: While the Tigers have fielded strong teams since John Calipari left after the 2008-09 season, they’ve never had quite as much talent in that time as they figure to show this season. With essentially every notable contributor returning, a huge gap could form quickly. On the other hand, chemistry rarely comes instantly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Memphis have a double-digit loss season, either.
  • Central Florida Continues To Build: Thanks partially to a soft non-conference schedule of six opponents with KenPom ratings 200 or lower and a non-D-I matchup, UCF cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history. While the Knights came down to Earth once conference play began, momentum is important no matter how it’s established. After winning two postseason games, we’re excited to see how the UCF follows up on a surprising season.
  • Realignment Hovers Over C-USA: Perhaps no single conference houses as many schools that were rumored to be on their way out than Conference USA, even if its membership ultimately stayed intact. East Carolina and UCF are frequently connected to the Big East; Memphis’ basketball program is as valuable a commodity as there is outside of the Power Six, and in its shakier days, the Big 12 could have found itself eyeing the Texas schools as a contingency plan in case the Longhorns and Sooners packed up for the Pac-12. It didn’t come to pass, but you have to wonder just what C-USA will look like in the long term.

This Year's Tigers, Led By Will Barton, Could Be Pastner's Most Talented Memphis Team Ever

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 08.23.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2011

  1. Forgive West Tennessee residents if they feel like their beloved Memphis Tigers have taken on a colorful desert hue lately.  Head coach Josh Pastner announced on Monday that his open third assistant coaching position will go to former Arizona star and currently locked-out Los Angeles Laker, Luke Walton.  Walton continues the Wildcat theme on the banks of the Mississippi River, as Pastner and his two other assistants, Jack Murphy and Damon Stoudamire, are also UA graduates having come from the coaching tree of Lute Olson.  Walton will be responsible for big man instruction as well as some recruiting at Memphis, and the 31-year old who has only played intermittently because of nagging injuries the last two seasons, is probably looking for a comfortable landing spot once his playing career ends.  If you’re interested in more information on this, Pastner discusses the hiring of Walton in this clip.
  2. New Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers received great news with the completion of transfer paperwork for Southern Mississippi guard DJ Newbill on Monday.  Newbill, a native of Philadelphia where he was the Pennsylvania Class AA player of the year in 2009-10, had a fantastic freshman season in Hattiesburg.  He was selected as an all-CUSA frosh after a year where he contributed 9.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG while shooting 53.5% from the field.  His rebounding numbers are what sets him apart, though; at only 6’4″, 195 lbs, the lithe Newbill finished in the top 200 players nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (11.3%) and had six games of double-figure boards.  When he becomes eligible with three years remaining in 2012-13, Penn State fans are going to fall in love with the heart, effort and desire of this guy.
  3. It’s been a week since the Nevin Shapiro/Miami fiasco hit the media, and in the interim, Gary Parrish writes that Missouri brass have done exactly the wrong thing in leaving their new head coach (and subject of allegations) Frank Haith dangling in the wind.  By stating on the record that they are “waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out,” they’re essentially cutting the legs out from under Haith’s ability to compete on the recruiting trail against schools that are without question using that uncertainty against him.  Of course, what Parrish argues makes complete sense here: Either you come out with full public support of your coach, or you don’t, but to leave him in a purgatory of pending is to effectively emasculate your own program.
  4. We talk a lot about the difficulties that mid-majors have in developing good schedules to improve their RPIs and, by proxy, their chances at the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.  But we rarely discuss the quandary that lower-level power conference teams face when setting their non-conference schedules.  As this piece by Brian Rosenthal at the Lincoln Journal-Star shows, Nebraska assistant coach Chris Croft called nearly every major basketball school in America in an effort to improve the Huskers’ schedule in 2011-12.  Most had no interest in a game with Doc Sadler’s team anywhere, and even fewer were inclined to travel to Lincoln during the winter.  Eventually they confirmed games against USC, Wake Forest and Oregon, but other schools, like Notre Dame (“stop calling”) and Duke (“only in Durham”) were considerably less interested.  Furthermore, with Nebraska’s recent move to the Big Ten and a less-than-amicable split from the Big 12 still fresh on everyone’s minds, the Huskers got a full Heisman from their old league — not a single school would play them next year, anywhere.  Go figure.
  5. Staying in the Big 12, Kansas announced on Monday that it would be holding an alumni game called “Legends of the Phog” on September 24 in Lawrence.  The NBA lockout has created a situation where NBA players have more available time for games like these (Kentucky, as you recall, had something similar in Lexington and Louisville last week).  The Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce has already committed to the game, and you can bet that many of Bill Self’s recent Jayhawk stars such as Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and others will be in attendance.  Some of the proceeds will go to charity, and tickets will go on sale the week after Labor Day.
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RTC Summer Updates: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 18th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our Conference USA correspondent, Steve Coulter.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Joe Jackson Goes Patriotic: The Memphis guard and MVP of the CUSA Championship was selected as a member of USA Basketball’s U-19 Would Championship squad on June 23. After a week of training camp, Jackson was among the final twelve players selected by the USA Basketball committee. The squad left for Europe on June 30 and returned July 10. While Team USA disappointed in finishing fifth, Jackson more than held his own against some of the top international talent in the world, averaging over 11 points and 4 assists in 9 games. Jackson was accompanied to Latvia for the competition with eleven other collegiate sophomores including Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Villanova’s James Bell, Stanford’s Anthony Brown, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr., Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, Butler’s Khyle Marshall and Florida’s Patric Young.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was a bright spot for Team USA in Latvia, despite a fifth-place finish in the FIBA U-19 World Championships. (Vytautas Mikaitis)

  • Thundering Herd Runs Deep: Marshall already had one of the more loaded backcourts heading into the 2011-12 season with stars Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane, but with the addition of Justin Coleman, a one-time Louisville commit, the Thundering Herd will certainly have the deepest backcourt the conference has to offer. Coleman sat out last year, but he will be coming off the bench as a shooting guard this season. Along with Coleman, junior college transfers Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon will be new faces for the Herd. Goff and Tinnon are strong power forwards, looking to aid a weak Marshall frontcourt.
  • Memphis Coaching Legend Larry Finch Passes Away: Former Memphis coach Larry Finch passed away from natural causes at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis on April 2 at the age of 60. Finch finished his career with the most wins in Tiger basketball history, a record he still holds today. Before leading the Tigers from 1986-97, Finch was a player at Memphis from 1970-73 and worked as an assistant at his alma mater from 1979-86. He passed away as not only a celebrated coach of the game, but a rare influence at the collegiate level. During his 11-year stint as head coach, Finch had seven 20-win seasons, made six NCAA appearances, amassed 220 wins and propelled 7 former players into NBA Draft selections. He finished his career with a loaded resume, having taken his alma mater to the Final Four, getting his jersey retired by the program and becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis: Freshman swingman Adonis Thomas, the No. 16 ranked prospect on Scout Inc.’s Top 100, is the conference’s best newcomer and he joins the already lethal Wesley Witherspoon as a scorer on a loaded Tigers roster that includes two of the nation’s best young guards in Joe Jackson and Will Barton. Head coach Josh Pastner can continue his Conference USA dominance this season, but the Tigers need to play solid defense and claim more out of conference wins then they did last season. Otherwise, they will be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives again come March.  As of now, Witherspoon and Barton are two of only four Conference USA prospects in the Top 100, ranking in at No. 79 and No. 80, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
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O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 14

Posted by KDoyle on February 18th, 2011


Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

If you are a true fan of Mid-Major basketball, then this is the weekend for you. Many fans who find a whole lot of joy in watching teams from the smaller conferences compete, share the common gripe that there is not nearly enough coverage of these teams. Well, at no other point during the season will you see ESPN dedicate an entire Saturday of basketball almost exclusively to the best Mid-Major teams around the nation.

Playing against the same faces within a team’s conference can become monotonous, but the BracketBuster weekend enables 114 teams around the country a brief recess before the final stretch of the regular season and tournament time to play an opponent they would otherwise never play. Although many of these games will have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are a select few that have serious implications as several Mid-Major teams partaking in the BracketBuster weekend sit squarely on the bubble.

Brace yourself for a great day of college hoops on Saturday. With so many of the top Mid-Major teams in the country playing—George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary’s, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Missouri State, and Wichita State—you can bet that at least one of these teams, if not more, will be wearing Cinderella’s slipper come March.

The Other 26 Rankings

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