Championship Monday Night. Four middies had their conference tourneys tonight, and we’ll be damned if we didn’t see at least a couple of RTCs out there (and a half-RTC in the WCC just for good measure). Make no mistake, though, the four mid-major teams that won their leagues tonight are all excellent teams that nobody, we repeat, NOBODY, is going to want to see opposite their name in the brackets next week. Every one of these four squads are seasoned, experienced and battle-tested units that won’t get rattled by seeing some bright lights, a big arena and a brand-name team standing at the other end of the court. If none of these four teams pulls a first-round upset, then we don’t know anything about this game.
WCC Championship. St. Mary’s 81, Gonzaga 62. This game came down to a team that looked like it was playing for its NCAA life versus a team that was just happy going through the motions. It was a complete mismatch in the second half of the WCC title game, as St. Mary’s confirmed its bona fides in a cathartic victory over its biggest rival and in the process serving notice that there are two powers coming out of the WCC this season. The Gaels broke up a close game at halftime with a 51-point second half that included 68% shooting in the second half led by multiple threes from Mickey McConnell (26/6 assts/4 stls) and Ben Allen (20/9/4 assts). Essentially it was a do-no-wrong kind of half for Randy Bennett’s team to the point where his team didn’t even need a big offensive night from their superstar center Omar Samhan (9/7/6 blks). As for Gonzaga, this was the latest in a series of disappointing no-shows during the last six weeks where Mark Few’s team looked largely uninterested and apathetic — losses to San Francisco and LMU were similar occurrences. Elias Harris in particular was miserable tonight, shooting 3-13 for eight points, and the entire team seemed to have grease on their hands with fourteen TOs in the game. We realize that the Zags are always a threat to do some damage in March, but we’re just not convinced that this is one of Mark Few’s better teams, so it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it was St. Mary’s that sticks around a little longer next week than their better-known counterparts in the NCAA Tournament.
Nope, SMC Didn't Surprise Us (AP/I. Brekken)
MAAC Championship. Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT). For an oh-so-brief moment, every bubble team in America held its collective breath. Colin Nickerson’s three-pointer from the left corner was in the air to win the MAAC title for Fairfield, and if it had dropped, the weak bubble would have suddenly gotten a little more crowded with Siena joining the party. Of course, it didn’t fall, and instead Siena capped off its title game comeback by dominating the overtime period and capturing its third straight MAAC championship to return to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight night, Siena found itself down at the half (this time by eleven) but as appropriate for a seasoned team, they never panicked, instead keeping their cool and eventually working their way back. Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, veterans of four NCAA Tournament games in their careers, combined for 49/19 to lead the Saints, but it was Ubiles’ 360-dunk in the second half that signaled to Fairfield and the rest of the building that Siena was not going to leave without a victory tonight. Forget about the six losses on Siena’s record this year — five of those were away games, and the last we checked, the Tournament is played on neutral floors, and we know what this group is capable of in that respect. Ask Vanderbilt or Ohio State: nobody wants to play this team next Thursday or Friday. To close out the MAAC, check out this video from SienaSaintsBlog of the RTC tonight. Great stuff.
Quick Hits – With the Southern Conference season ending on Saturday it looks like the conference champions of their respective divisions are clinched. Congratulations to Appalachian State (12-5) for winning the North division thanks to a season sweep against Western Carolina this season. Also the Wofford Terriers for winning the South division with a solid 14-3 conference record. The Terriers clinched the division title on Thursday night with a 74-68 win at home. The conference tournament starts on March 4-8, being played in Charlotte, N.C., at the Time Warner Cable arena. In my opinion four teams still have a chance to be dancing in March with Wofford (14-3), Appalachian State (12-5), Western Carolina (10-7), and College of Charleston (13-4).
Conference Tournament Champion prediction: College of Charleston – I believe they will avenge their losses to Wofford and Western Carolina by defeating the Catamounts in the SoCon championship to head to the NCAA tournament. With the way the Cougars can move the ball around the perimeter I believe they will cut down the nets in Charlotte.
Predicting Post-season Awards:
Player of the Year: Donald Sims (Appalachian State) 20.1 points per game, leads the conference in 3 pointers made (90), free throw percentage (.948) 146-154 missed eight free throws all year.
Coach of the Year:Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State) 19-11 overall, 12-5 SoCon
Freshman of the Year:Jake Cohen (Davidson) 13.1 points per game
1st Team all-SoCon
Donald Sims- Appalachian State 20.1 ppg
Andrew Goudelock- College of Charleston 19.2 ppg
Cameron Wells- Citadel 17.4 ppg
Noah Dahlman- Wofford 17.4 ppg
Amu Saaka – Furman 16.1 ppg 7.1 rpg
2nd Team all-SoCon
Ben Stywall- UNC Greensboro
Jordan Miller- Furman
Brandon Giles- Western Carolina
Willie Powers- Georgia Southern
Drew Spradlin- Elon
Final Games remaining:
February 27th – Samford @ Appalachian St. 3 p.m.
February 27th – Citadel @ Wofford 7 p.m.
February 27th – College of Charleston @ Furman 4 p.m.
February 27th – Davidson @ Elon 7 p.m.
February 27th – Chattanooga @ Western Carolina 3 p.m.
March 1st – Georgia Southern @ UNC Greensboro 7 p.m.
Appalachian State has won two-straight conference games to take over first place in the North Division. Western Carolina has been reeling of late after losing on the road against Elon. WCU with the loss is now second in the division.
Georgia Southern is the most disappointing team to date with a dismal 3-9 conference record and 6-19 overall record. The Eagles have struggled on the road this season.
Sizzling Players. These top seven guys continue to lead the conference with their stellar play for their teams.
Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Sat, Feb 13
* Mon, Feb 15
* Wed, Feb 17
College of Charleston
* Wed, Feb 17
* Wed, Feb 17
Key Results from last two weeks.
On Saturday Feb. 6th, Appalachian State went on the road and defeated Western Carolina, 89-77, to sweep the season series from the Catamounts. That win for the Mountaineers completely changes the Southern Conference and puts App. State in the drivers seat for the division title.
On Monday Feb. 8th,The Citadel went on the road and beat the College of Charleston, 72-65, which proved to be a nice win for the Bulldogs. The Cougars are trying to hold off a late rally by Wofford to claim the South Division title.
Also on Monday Feb. 8th,Western Carolina continued its poor showing on the road in 2010 by losing to Elon, 81-76. WCU with the loss now sits a full game behind the Mountaineers in the North Division title race.
Monday Feb. 8th continued to be a busy day for the Southern Conference as Wofford went on the road to defeat Furman, 76-65. Wofford improved to 10-3 in conference and continues to show that the Terriers could be a contender for the league title in the next couple of weeks.
On Feb. 11, the College of Charleston beat Elon, 80-77, after Donvan Monroe scored a career high 29 points to lead the Cougars to victory over the pesky Phoenix.
On the same night Appalachian State beat Davidson, 66-56 to sweep the season series from the Wildcats. The Mountaineers now control their own destiny in the North Division with the victory.
JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC conferences.Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Alabama State (20-9)
Jackson State (16-13)
Alabama A&M (15-11)
Prairie View (13-16)
Mississippi Valley State (13-18)
Alcorn State (10-19)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (10-19)
Texas Southern (9-20)
Grambling State (5-21)
Christopher Jones (G) – Prairie View – Purest point guard in the SWAC, but will have to reduce his turnovers for the Panthers to be successful this season.
Troy Jackson (G) – Alcorn State – Ruthless scorer who also shot better than 40 percent from the field in 08-09.
Grant Maxey (F) – Jackson State – Versatile forward will likely emerge as the 09-10 SWAC Player of the Year
Douglas Scott (F) – Southern – Tenacious rebounder, came on late last season with three double-doubles in his last five games.
Darnell Hugee (C) – Prairie View – If he stays out of foul trouble, could be one of the best post players in Division I basketball.
6th Man. Deandre Hall (G) – Texas Southern – Turnover prone, but can do damage from interior and perimeter.
What You Need to Know. The SWAC is among the worst conferences in all of Division I basketball. There’s no sugarcoating the lack of talent and the brutal out-of-conference schedules that the SWAC member schools play just to keep their athletic budgets afloat. But what they are lacking in appeal and talent, their upper-echelon teams make up for in competitive drive and great coaching. Alabama State took SEC opponents Auburn and Mississippi to the wire on the road last season before dropping both games by fewer than five points.
Predicted Champion. Jackson State (NCAA Seed: #16). Jackson State has played second fiddle to Alabama State in the regular season for two years in a row. But while the Tigers return key seniors Grant Maxey and Garrison Johnson, the Hornets of ASU lost a lot in the departure of PG Brandon Brooks and forward Andrew Hayles. The JSU Tigers will prevail in the conference championship, but not without serious tests from the likes of Prairie View and Alabama State.
For those of your who haven’t been spending as much time on Rush the Court the past few months as you should (looking at myself in the mirror), we thought we would offer you a quick guide to what we have been working on over the past few months.
General Overview: Some top quality writing/prognosticating to get you in the spirit for the run from today until the early morning hours of April 7th, 2009.
- Finally, It’s Here: New RTC feature columnist John Stevens offers his thoughts about the upcoming season.
- A Little Preseason Bracketology: RTC co-editor (Do we even have titles?) rtmsf does his best Joe Lunardi impression and makes a surprising pick for his national champion. I’m smelling an attempt to make the RTC preseason bracketology championship the new Madden cover.
- Vegas Odds – Preseason Check-In: For the degenerate gamblers out there, RTC co-founder rtmsf offers an analysis of the Las Vegas odds for the 2009 NCAA champions for pure academic purposes. . .
- Preseason Polls Released: The surprisingly employed (I’m running out of titles here) rtmsf analyzes the AP and Coaches polls going into the season with a deeper look at unanimous #1 UNC’s early schedule.
- ESPN Full Court: 562 Games of Gooey, Delicious Goodness*: Once again, rtmsf comes through with the entire ESPN Full Court schedule with a Steve Nash-style assist from Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball.
Big Early Season News: While there are several big stories going into this season, there were 2 major stories that have come out recently that you should know about before you start watching games.
- Tyler Hansbrough Out Indefinitely: Who? Oh yeah, that guy. Everybody’s favorite for national POY and NBA Draft Day snub (get ready for the annual Dick Vitale rant) Psycho T will be out for a while, but we think the Tar Heels will be ok by March.
- Jai Lucas Leaving Florida: In a story that isn’t getting nearly the attention that the Psycho T story has (for good reason), Billy Donovan has lost last season’s starting point guard on the eve of the new season. While it appears that Lucas was probably heading towards a role as a backup point guard on the Gators, the timing of this announcement is surprising. It will be interesting to see what the Gators will do if freshman guard Erving Walker struggles in adjusting to SEC basketball.
As the season progresses, we will have more features and content including updates from all 31 conferences. We hope all of you are looking forward to the new season as much as we are and even if your team looks like it will struggle to make it to the NIT, remember the words of Kevin Garnett, who incidentally didn’t play a minute of college basketball (that’s another post), “Anything is possible!”
Prediction: by the end of the first week of December, UNC will no longer be #1 in the major media polls.
No way, there’s too much pressure and they have too many good teams to handle before we even get our advent calendars. Oh, and did you hear, a small piece of their offense will be out for a while with a stress reaction? Even if this substantial piece never misses a game, which is extremely unlikely, he’s going to miss practice and be out of ‘game shape’ for a while. And no, we’re not talking about Marcus Ginyard, but his loss hurts too.
Here’s Carolina’s early schedule – you tell us how they’re going to come out of this unscathed…
v. Penn (11.15.08) – easy enough at home, right?
v. Kentucky (11.18.08) – this home game suddenly becomes extremely interesting if TH is out or still ailing – Patrick Patterson will wipe up the inside.
@ UCSB (11.21.08) – UNC fans will remember the west coast stopover game before Maui in 2004-05 well. Trap game.
@ Chaminade (11.24.08) – Maui Invitational first round – easy W.
v. Alabama (probably) (11.25.08) – UNC should be careful to not sleep on an athletic Bama team, but will probably win regardless.
v. Notre Dame/Texas (probably) (11.26.08) – either of these teams could defeat a less-than-full-strength UNC in Maui.
v. UNC-Asheville (11.30.08) – easy home win.
@ Michigan St. (Detroit) (12.03.08) – 40,000 people could watch this game at Ford Field, and UNC will absolutely need to be at full strength to win this game vs. MSU.
There are at least three opportunities for the major upset here, and if Hansbrough and/or Ginyard are out for any of those games, go ahead and mark it down. UNC will not enter the second week of December #1 and unbeaten.
Now, on to the polls, where UNC was a unanimous #1 in the AP Poll for the first time EVER (nope, not even 1991 UNLV, 1992 Duke or 2007 Florida), and also unanimous in the Coach’s Poll. No pressure or anything… FYI – UNC has been preseason #1 six times in its history (incl. this year) – the results of those seasons are: 1982 (Natl. Champs), 1984 (S16), 1987 (E8), 1994 (R32), 2008 (F4) – all that’s missing is a first-round loss or a title game loss.
Here are the polls.
We plan on doing some broader-based analytics of preseason polls in a general sense next week, but for now, here are a few things that we noticed right away.
Biggest jumps from AP to Coaches – Georgetown (+4) and Duke (+3)
Biggest drops from AP to Coaches – USC (-3) and Wake Forest (-3)
Coaches tend to vote by available talent + belief in other coaches’ abilities – what does this say about Tim Floyd and Dino Gaudio in relation to JT3 and Coach K?
We’ve made it through eighteen of our thirty-one season conference primers so far, and our correspondents continue to top each other with their breadth of knowledge and coverage of the one-bid leagues. So we want to thank them and once again highlight their fantastic work over the past few weeks by anchoring their primers in one post here, so that you (and we) can easily access them. Going forward, we’ll primarily be dealing with the traditional multiple-bid conferences or conferences that should expect to see multiple bids this season. Conference #13 will go up tonight, and we’ll be counting down to tipoff on Nov. 10, when the #1 conference primer will be unveiled.
Also, keep in mind that our correspondents will continue to bring RTC comprehensive coverage of each league throughout the season. Each of the above leagues will have an update post every two weeks, beginning in mid/late November.
We're seeking knowledgeable and reliable writers for our Big East and Pac-12 microsites in 2013-14, as well as on the national site.
Please contact us at email@example.com with a writing sample and your specific areas of interest outlined.
Arizona is still undefeated, thanks in part to dunks like this from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Dude’s got hops. #DunkOfTheYear