Tonight’s Lede. Thursday was a transition night during Championship Week from small-conference finishes to power league beginnings. Most mid-major tournaments are now completed, as the automatic bids came flying in over the past five days. Check our Bracket Prep posts to get the scoop on all of the lesser-known teams that have qualified for the Big Dance and will fill out the lower seeds in the bracket. But Thursday night included no tournament finals and instead was a jam-packed day of mostly power league teams dueling to keep their seasons alive, work their way off the ‘bubble,’ or jockey for NCAA Tournament seeding. There were also a few other smaller league tournaments that produced notable results as well. If you missed anything (with 49 games, you probably did), we’ve got you covered…
Your Watercooler Moment. Cincinnati Spectacle – Bearcats Victorious in Double-Overtime
Cincinnati is All Smiles After Thursday's Clutch OT Victory (AP Photo)
The Big East Tournament has been catching some flak for the fairly boring games taking place during the nightcaps on ESPN, but the NYC tourney produced fantastic results during the afternoon on Thursday. Following a hard-fought game between Connecticut and Syracuse, the Bearcats and Hoyas did battle for 40+ minutes, extending all the way into two overtimes in what looked like could have been an even longer game. Georgetown led for most of regulation in the game, but Cincy stormed back in the second half with a strong defensive effort and plenty of big plays, many by the veteran forward Yancy Gates. Although being played at a low-scoring, slow pace, this game was full of clutch shots and crisp basketball plays at the end of regulation and both overtimes. In order to extend the game both times, Georgetown needed to make shots on a final possession while down by two points. First, Otto Porter tied the game in regulation and then it was Henry Sims in the first overtime with a beautiful swooping layup as time expired. But in double-OT, the Hoyas were down two once again with the ball and this time went for the win. Sims’ three-pointer wouldn’t go down and the Bearcats were victorious behind Gates’ 23 points and eight boards. They move on to play Syracuse tomorrow in the Big East semifinals.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Marshall and Tulsa Play Three! If you thought the Cincinnati-Georgetown game was crazy, you’ll want to hear about this one in Conference USA. Marshall was the lower-seeded team and had played yesterday but is probably the more talented squad than Tulsa, who was higher-seeded thanks to a better record in the C-USA season by one game. These two teams did not want to go home empty handed, as they combined to score 205 points in 55 total minutes of play. In three overtimes, Marshall star DeAndre Kane went for a career-high 40 points including nearly all of the big plays down the stretch of the extra sessions. Kane also piled up seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals and played all but one minute of the entire game. Four Tulsa players scored at least 14 points and the Golden Hurricane led by at least three points in all three overtimes, but they could not contain the Thundering Herd’s desperate comeback efforts that resulted in the win from sheer passion and effort. Marshall lives to play another day, but who knows how much it has left in the tank for Friday.
Jamaal Franklin For the Win. San Diego State struggled to put away pesky Boise State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament, but the Aztecs happen to have the conference Player of the Year who’s made great plays all season long. Franklin had 19 points in the game but it was his incredible long-range heave at the buzzer that stole the show and won the game for SDSU. Head coach Steve Fisher described this final play call as, “Give him [Franklin] the ball and let him make a play.” Check out the footage below.
Tonight’s Lede. The Big East Tournament continued in the early afternoon, but nothing crazy has happened in New York City, yet, with all favorites moving on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Big 12 and Pac-12 tournaments also got underway on Wednesday, but all of the top seeds had byes until later rounds. The most exciting action once again took place in the smaller conference tourneys, providing more do-or-die action with Big Dance tickets on the line. We start with the best game of the night, which took place in the Patriot League:
Your Watercooler Moment.C.J. McCollum Outduels Mike Muscala for Lehigh Victory
C.J. McCollum Put the Team on his Back to Send Lehigh Dancing (Getty Images/R. Martinez)
The Patriot League final took place on #1 seed Bucknell’s court, and the home team’s star player went off for 30 points and 14 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough, as the conference’s leading scorer made a few more plays for the road team. C.J. McCollum, the league Player of the Year who put up ridiculous numbers this season, again ran wild for the Mountain Hawks on Wednesday night. The junior guard scored 29 points with five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, doing it all for Lehigh including hitting 10-13 free throws with several of them in the final four minutes. Mike Muscala had a monster double-double for Bucknell, but he could not convert on the team’s final couple of possessions and didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Lehigh held on to win, 82-77, and is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Brooklyn Represents the Northeast Conference Once Again. LIU-Brooklyn is one of the highest scoring teams in Division I, and not even the NEC’s best defensive team could slow down the Blackbirds on Wednesday night. LIU defeated Robert Morris, 90-73, on Wednesday night to capture its second consecutive NEC title. The Blackbirds head back to the NCAA Tournament where they last were disposed of by North Carolina in a high-scoring round one game. Expect much of the same for an LIU team that has high-flying forwards (Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere each average about 17 points per game), but doesn’t play a whole lot of defense. The attacking style worked in the NEC, but could it work as a #15 seed in the NCAAs? Regardless, Brooklyn will be in the house for the Big Dance. Read the rest of this entry »
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 26, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 19-7 (9-4)
SE Louisiana 15-11 (7-6)
Northwestern State 10-16 (5-8)
Nicholls State 9-17 (5-8)
McNeese State 9-18 (4-9)
Central Arkansas 8-19 (2-11)
Sam Houston State 20-6 (12-1)
Texas-Arlington 16-10 (8-5)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 14-13 (8-5)
UT-San Antonio 17-9 (7-6)
Texas State 12-15 (6-7)
Lamar 14-15 (5-8)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UTSA guard Devin Gibson was named Southland Conference Player of the Week. The junior from Cy-Falls in Houston averaged 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as he hit 64.3 percent from the field.
ALMOST TOURNEY TIME
With its victory over McNeese State on Feb. 24, the Sam Houston State Bearkats clinched the top spot in the 2010 State Farm Southland Conference Basketball Tournament in Katy, Texas. SHSU (20-6, 12-1) also earned at least a share of the regular season championship, the school’s third since 2003.
Stephen F. Austin (19-9, 9-4) also punched its ticket to the conference tournament. The Lumberjacks won the regular season championship last year.
If the SLC tournament started today, the seeding would be:
Sam Houston State (12-1)
Stephen F. Austin (9-4)
A&M-Corpus Christi (8-5)
Southeastern Louisiana (7-6)
Texas State (6-7)
Northwestern State, Nicholls State or Lamar (5-8)
SFA – Still battling with a couple of teams to earn the second-place seed for the Southland Tournament. The Lumberjacks have three games remaining – A&M-CC, Central Arkansas and UTSA. The prediction here is that SFA goes 2-1 down the stretch and retains the No. 2 spot for the tourney.
SELA – Took a big step toward trying to overtake SFA in the SLC East as they defeated the Lumberjacks on Feb. 20. The Lions have a very manageable schedule with Central Arkansas, McNeese State and Northwestern State left. Look for the Lions to go 3-0 in their last three games to jump past a couple of teams for the fourth seed in the tourney.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Picked up a big win over Lamar on Feb. 20, but the Demons have a tough road ahead of them. NW State faces Texas State, Sam Houston State and SELA, so the prediction here is 1-2 with the Demons on the outside looking in come tournament time.
NICHOLLS STATE – Picked up two very important victories last week (Texas State, UCA) which thrust the Colonels into the mix. NSU has two road games this week (McNeese, UTA) then closes with Lamar at home. The prediction is a 2-1 finish and a berth in the tournament.
MCNEESE STATE – Has a very slim chance of getting into the tournament, but helped itself with a big win over A&M-CC on Feb. 20. The remaining schedule has Nicholls State, SELA and UCA. The Cowboys will likely go 1-2 which will not be enough to slip into the conference tournament.
UCA – Just trying to play out the last three games since its still in an NCAA-mandated transition period and is not eligible for this year’s postseason. But the Bears can play a seeding spoiler with SELA, SFA and McNeese still on tap.
SHSU – With its 20th victory of the year, Sam Houston joins some select company in terms of national statistical categories. SHSU stands as only 1 of 38 teams in the NCAA to have produced 20 wins in four of the last five years. The Bearkats close out the regular season UTA, Northwestern State and Texas State.
UTA – The Mavericks are trying to move past SFA into the second seed for the SLC Tournament. UTA has won three straight and gets SHSU, Nicholls and A&M-CC. They could finish 1-2 which would drop them into the fourth or five spot.
A&M-CC – Broke a three-game losing streak which dropped them into third in the West. The Islanders have SFA, Lamar and UTA in their last three games. The prediction here is a 1-2 finish and a No. 6 seed for the tournament.
UTSA – Put together a four-game winning streak which brought the Roadrunners out of the cellar. UTSA is the only team to defeat SHSU and has Lamar, Texas and Stephen F. Austin for its last three games. It looks like a 2-1 finish, and that would be good enough for a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the tournament.
TEXAS STATE – The tide could swing either way for the Bobcats as they have tough three-game stretch to end the season. TSU is on the road against Northwestern State and UTSA, then host Sam Houston. A 1-2 mark could be enough for a berth in the postseason, but 0-3 could spell doom.
LAMAR – A four-game losing streak puts the Cardinals in a must-win situation down the stretch, but Lamar must beat two teams ahead of them (UTSA, A&M-CC) and one tied with them (Nicholls State). If the Cardinals don’t finish 2-1 or better then their dreams of a postseason berth are likely down the drain.
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 19, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 18-6 (8-3)
SE Louisiana 14-10 (6-5)
Northwestern State 9-15 (4-7)
McNeese State 8-17 (3-8)
Nicholls State 7-17 (3-8)
Central Arkansas 8-17 (2-9)
Sam Houston State 19-5 (11-0)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 13-12 (7-4)
Texas-Arlington 14-10 (6-5)
Texas State 12-13 (6-5)
UT-San Antonio 15-9 (5-6)
Lamar 14-13 (5-6)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
For the third time this season, Sam Houston State University junior Gilberto Clavell has been named Southland Conference Player of the Week. Clavell averaged 20.5 points per game as the Bearkats moved to 11-0 in conference play. Clavell posted his second 30-point performance of the year as SHSU defeated A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 13.
SFA – After a two-win week, the Lumberjacks now hold a two-game advantage over second-place Southeastern Louisiana in the SLC East. Those same two teams collide Saturday in Hammond, La., at 3 p.m. SFA then travels to San Marcos to face Texas State on Feb. 24.
SELA – Came out with a 1-1 mark last week in SLC play after defeating Nicholls and falling to Texas-Arlington. The Lions are two games behind SFA and two games ahead of third-place Northwestern State in the SLC East. SELA faces the Lumberjacks at home and A&M-CC on the road this week.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Breaking a three-game losing streak, the Demons won twice last week and moved ahead of McNeese State and Nicholls State in the SLC East. NW State bounced both Central Arkansas and McNeese State last week and look to continue its inspired play with games against two teams from the SLC West (Lamar and UTSA).
MCNEESE STATE – A four-game losing streak in conference has placed the Cowboys in a tie with Nicholls State at 3-8. Things don’t look too bright for MSU as they face the West’s top two teams in A&M-Corpus Christi (Saturday) and SHSU (Feb. 24).
NICHOLLS STATE – The Colonels have two big losing streaks this season, and one of them is in league play. NSU lost eight straight to begin the season and now have a five-game losing streak in SLC play to put them in fifth in the SLC East. Nicholls faces Texas State and Central Arkansas this week.
UCA – The Bears picked up an inspiring win over UTSA this past week, then fell to Northwestern State and remained at the bottom of the SLC East standings. UCA has a chance to even its conference record with Nicholls State as the two teams face-off Feb. 24.
SHSU – Disposed of second-place A&M-CC with relative ease 90-74 on Feb. 13 and still have an unblemished conference record. Pesky UTSA is next up for SHSU on Saturday, then the Kats face McNeese in Huntsville.
A&M-CC – Fell out of contention for the SLC West title with two losses this last week. The Islanders are 2-4 in their last six conference games. A&M-CC faces two Louisiana schools in McNeese and SELA as they attempt to stay ahead of UTA in the standings.
UTA – Jumped a couple of teams in the West standings and have won six of its last seven conference games. The Mavs have two winnable games against Central Arkansas and Lamar as they try to pass the Islanders and jump into second place.
TEXAS STATE – The Bobcats are pulling out just enough wins to stay right in the middle of the pack in the strong SLC West. Texas State defeated Lamar by 14 on Feb. 13 to move past the Cardinals. They face Nicholls State and Stephen F. Austin this week.
UTSA – Has won three of its last four conference games and moved up a notch in the West with wins over UTA and A&M-Corpus. The Roadrunners battle SHSU and Northwestern State this week – both games are in San Antonio.
LAMAR – The Cardinals were riding a wave of wins until fellow West Division members Texas State and SHSU hung them with two losses. Lamar has Northwestern State and Texas-Arlington on its plate this week as it tries to climb out of the cellar.
Stephen F. Austin dominated Northwestern State on the glass in a 69-59 victory on Feb. 10. The Lumberjacks nearly had as many offensive rebounds (24) as the Demons had total rebounds (28).
Northwestern State’s Will Pratt has scored in double figures in 10 straight games, averaging 17.1 points per game over that time period.
Despite making only 2 of 12 three-point attempts and shooting 10 less free throws than its opponent, UTA outrebounded Southeastern Louisiana by 13 and came out on top 85-73.
Devon Baker scored a season-high 24 points and led Northwestern State to an 82-76 victory over UCA on Feb. 13. Baker has scored in double figures in all but four games and is averaging 13 ppg.
SHSU’s Gilberto Clavell scored 30 points against the Islanders as he went 13 of 17 from the field. Clavell is averaging 20.2 points per game over his last five games.
McNeese State’s Dontae Cannon is averaging only 3.6 points per game, but on Feb. 13 in a loss to SFA, the freshman from Alexandria scored 10 points in 10 minutes of action.
Nicholls State’s Fred Hunter scored a season-high 26 points in a loss to Sam Houston on Feb. 10. Hunter averaged 23.5 points per game this past week.
Central Arkansas continues to be a balanced scoring team as four players score in double figures and one sits as 9.3 points per game.
Sam Houston sits at 11-0 in SLC action this year with five games to play. Only four teams have ever finished the Southland season undefeated: Abilene Christian 1965; Arkansas State 1966; Louisiana Tech 1971; and Arkansas State 1974.
Preston Brown scored a season-high 19 points to lead the Bearkats past Lamar on Feb. 17. This past week, Brown was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Team 2010 All-District honor squad.
UTSA guard Devin Gibson became the 13th player in UTSA history to surpass 1,000 career points. He currently ranks 12th on the Roadrunners’ all-time scoring list.
SHSU senior point guard Ashton Mitchell needs only 14 points to hit 1,000 career points for the Bearkats. Mitchell recently surpasses Donald Cole for 21st on SHSU’s all-time list.
Marquez Haynes continues to lead the SLC with 23.6 points per game, a figure that ranks third nationally behind Houston’s Aubrey Coleman (25.6) and Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody (24.1).
Pardon the baseball reference, but we know that if a guy’s throwing a no-hitter you’re not supposed to talk to him about it. In fact, you’re supposed to just stay away from him, let him sit in the dugout alone, and act like nothing special is happening. We don’t go for such superstitions around here, so let’s check out the teams that are currently undefeated in their conferences, and who has the best chance to actually pull off a perfect conference campaign.
Last season, there were only two teams that streaked through their conference schedules without a blemish — Memphis went 16-0 in the CUSA, and Gonzaga tallied a perfect 14-0 in the WCC. Memphis kept it going three games into this conference season, but back on January 20th UTEP showed the Tigers that they were having none of that, and snapped Memphis’ conference winning streak at 64 games. The Zags stumbled ten days later at San Francisco after winning their first six WCC games this season.
Can Aldrich, Collins, and the rest of the Jayhawks run the conference table?
Right now (before Thursday night’s games), there are no less than eight teams with perfect conference records. We list them here along with the next time they’ll put it on the line, and our prediction as to when they’ll drop their first conference game — if at all:
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings as of Feb. 5, 2010
Stephen F. Austin 16-5 (6-2)
SE Louisiana 13-8 (5-3)
McNeese State 8-13 (3-4)
Nicholls State 7-14 (3-5)
Northwestern State 7-13 (2-5)
Central Arkansas 7-15 (1-7)
Sam Houston State 15-5 (7-0)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 11-10 (5-2)
Lamar 12-11 (4-4)
Texas State 10-12 (4-4)
Texas-Arlington 11-9 (3-4)
UT-San Antonio 12-8 (2-5)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Southeastern Louisiana big man Patrick Sullivan was named the SLC Player of the Week after averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in wins over Nicholls State and Central Arkansas. Sullivan is a 6’9 senior from Florida, and scored a career-high 27 points against the Colonels to go with 12 rebounds. It was the 18th double-double of the year for Sullivan. The two scoring outbursts by Sullivan moved him into 11th place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE
In the battle of unbeatens, Sam Houston State defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 70-58 and is the only team in the Southland Conference with a perfect record in league play.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – With two victories last week, not only do he ‘Jacks still sit at the top of the SLC East (6-2), but have now reeled off five straight wins in SLC play. SFA downed McNeese State in Lake Charles, then pulled out a one-point overtime victory over Nicholls State on Feb. 3. The ‘Jacks face two middle-of-the-road teams in Lamar and Northwestern State this week.
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA – Trying to keep pace with East Division-leading SFA, the Lions won both games last week with relatively easy wins over Nicholls State (84-65) and Texas State (75-66). SELA trailed TSU at halftime, but outscored the Bobcats by 12 in the second half. The Lions go up against UTSA and Nicholls State this week.
MCNEESE STATE – Jumped past Nicholls State in the SLC East by going 1-1 this past week. The Cowboys snapped a two-game SLC losing streak with a 92-85 victory over NW State in Natchitoches. McNeese will head from Louisiana to Texas this week with games against Texas State and UTA.
NICHOLLS STATE – Started another two-game losing streak with losses at home against SELA and on the road to Stephen F. Austin. The loss to SFA was particularly tough in that the Colonels got 38 points from Anatoly Bose. NSU faces two Texas schools in A&M-CC and Sam Houston State this week.
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Picked up a nice win against Central Arkansas (74-68) then had a letdown at home in losing to McNeese State 92-85. The Demons will face a tough Texas duo in Texas-Arlington and SFA this week.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS – The struggle continues in Southland Conference play for the Bears, who have now lost four straight in conference play and 10 of 12 overall. UCA travels to Huntsville to face SHSU, then hosts UTSA.
SAM HOUSTON STATE – The Bearkats were forced to scramble after trailing the Islanders by 15 early in the first half, but came out on top 70-58 to become the only undefeated team in the Southland. SHSU hosted UTSA and pulled out a six-point win to sit at 7-0. SHSU hosts Central Arkansas then hits the road to test Nicholls State.
A&M-CC – The Islanders coasted out to a 15-point lead against rival Sam Houston State, then the wheels fell of and A&M-CC took its first loss of the season, 70-58. Things didn’t get much better as they were defeated by UTA on the road four nights later. Nicholls State and Texas State stand in the way of the Islanders getting back in the win column this week.
LAMAR – After winning two games against UTA and McNeese State, the Cardinals fell back to Earth with three straight losses to the Islanders, Bobcats and Bearkats. Important games loom against UTSA (Jan. 30) and Central Arkansas (Feb. 3).
TEXAS STATE – After two inspiring wins at the end of January, the Bobcats came crashing back to Earth as they lost to UTA and SELA. Things don’t get any easier for TSU as they compete against McNeese and A&M-Corpus Christi this week.
UTA – Two wins against Texas State and A&M-CC have the Mavericks feeling good and they could steady the ship with Northwestern State and McNeese on the horizon this week. Plus, the Mavs have welcomed back senior leader Tommy Moffit.
UTSA – How the mighty have fallen! The Roadrunners started conference play with two wins, but have now lost their last five games and are in the West cellar. A tough game against Southeastern Louisiana looms ahead, then UTSA might get a reprieve when they face Central Arkansas.
Texas State’s Cameron Johnson strung together three games where he averaged 22.3 points per game and 12 rebounds, but crashed against SELA with eight points and two rebounds.
UTA’s Mr. Everything Marquez Haynes was “held” to 21 and 20 points, respectively, after going off for 32 points against non-conference foe Houston Baptist.
Lamar sophomore Anthony Miles never stepped off the court in two wins last week. Miles played all 40 minutes against UTSA and had 19 points and six assists, then 40 minutes against UCA and had 14 points and four assists.
An odd two games for UTSA… First the Roadrunners lost to Lamar as they were outrebounded 37-23 and placed only one player, Morris Smith IV, in double figures (19). Then UTSA outrebounded SHSU 35-29 and had five players in double figures, but still lost the game.
Not a great free-throw shooting team as they are hit 69 percent of their charity tosses, SHSU made 17 of 18 (95 percent) against A&M-CC and 15 of 18 against UTSA (83 percent).
After scoring 0 and 11 points in his two previous games, SHSU forward Gilberto Clavell went off for 27 against UTSA.
A&M-Corpus Christi’s Kevin Palmer (21 games) and UTA’s Marquez Haynes (20 games) have both scored in double figures in every game this season.
Nicholls State forward Anatoly Bose hit for 38 points in a loss to SFA on Feb. 3, but that wasn’t his high for the year (46 points on Jan. 23). Bose is on a scoring tear right now averaging 32.7 points per game in the last four games.
Patrick Sullivan and Trent Hutchin each scored a career-high 27 points and Southeastern Louisiana beat Nicholls State 84-65 on Jan. 30.
Texas State junior Tony Bishop scored a season-high 19 points against SELA on Feb. 3. Bishop averages 7.4 points per game.
P.J. Alawoya was a difference maker in McNeese State’s win over Northwestern State on Feb. 3. The 6’7 junior from Alief Hastings HS scored 13 points and pulled down a season-high 16 rebounds.
Both Will Pratt (Northwestern State) and Tadre Sheppard (Central Arkansas) filled up the box score as the Demons prevailed 74-68. Pratt had a season-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds, while Sheppard scored 17 points, had 11 rebounds and five steals.
Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.
Current Standings (as of Dec. 30, 2009)
Stephen F. Austin 9-3
SE Louisiana 7-4
Northwestern St. 5-6
McNeese State 5-7
Central Arkansas 5-7
Nicholls State 4-9
Sam Houston 8-4
A&M Corpus 5-6
Texas State 4-8
PLAYER OF THE WEEK. UT-Arlington guard Marquez Haynes scored 31 points and grabbed seven boards in a 101-85 win over Texas Wesleyan. This is the second POW honor for Haynes this year.
NON-CONFERENCE. With Southland Conference action slated to begin the second week of the New Year, let’s take a look at the games, players and statistics from non-conference play in 2009:
Sam Houston State University set several Rupp Arena records as they lost to the nation’s fourth-ranked team, Kentucky, 102-92, then hammered fellow SEC member Auburn 107-89 a month later.
The Nicholls State Colonels began the season losing their first eight games after being picked second in the SLC East in the preseason polls. Included in the 0-8 start was a 72-58 loss to Division II Alaska.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi started the season off with a bang by downing Oregon State, of the Pac-10, 67-43, in Lubbock of all places. The Islanders were led by Kevin Palmer’s 23 points.
In its first contest of the year in Ames, Iowa, UTSA bested Iowa 62-50. The loss snapped Iowa’s 46-game winning streak in home openers.
The Southland Conference has battled numerous Top 25 teams in non-conference thus far, including teams ranked No. 1 (Kansas), 2 (Texas), 3 (Kentucky).
One of the biggest surprises has been the improvement of Lamar’s Anthony Miles. The 6’1 sophomore guard from Clear Brook High School is seventh in the league in scoring (15.2) after averaging 6.3 ppg as a freshman last year. Miles has doubled his stats in nearly every statistical category this year.
UTA’s Haynes, a senior transfer from Boston College, has lived up to his billing as a preseason All-Southland Conference selection. Haynes has scored in double figures in all 11 Maverick games and has posted 30 or more points four times. He leads the conference in scoring at 24.7 ppg.
Another All-SLC preseason pick, SHSU’s Corey Allmond, has been streaky thus far. The senior guard from Maryland torched Kentucky and Auburn for 37 and 25 points, respectively. He hit 11 of 16 three-pointers against Kentucky, which is a Rupp Arena record. The 37 points are a career high.
Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose is on a tear. The 6’6 junior from Australia has scored more than 20 points in five consecutive games with a season-high of 27 points coming against Southern-New Orleans. It’s no coincidence that the Colonels have won four of their last five games as Bose has heated up.
Kevin Palmer, a 6’6 senior at A&M CC, has scored at least 20 points in six of the Islanders’ 11 games this year. He is second in the SLC in scoring at 20.2 ppg.
Lamar’s Justin Nabors continues to lead the SLC in rebounding. His 9.2 boards a game is nearly three more than the 6’7 senior averaged two years ago. Nabors pulled down a league-high 24 rebounds against Louisiana College.
SLC newcomer and junior college transfer Gilberto Clavell has helped SHSU to an 8-4 mark. Clavell averaged 25.2 points per game during a four-game stretch. His 34 points against Auburn are a season and career high.
Stephen F. Austin’s Jordan Glynn had a stretch where notched a double-double in five straight games, averaging 13.8 points and 11.2 rebounds a game during that span.
Stephen F. Austin – Put together winning streaks of three and four games to start the year 9-3. Nearly missed on big wins against Texas Tech and Arkansas. Won the SLC West last year with a 12-4 mark. Looks to start the New Year and SLC season off right when they play arch-rival Sam Houston State in Huntsville on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Southeastern Louisiana – Might be a little of an unknown quantity in the SLC this year. Picked to finish third in the East, SELA played Mississippi State and LSU relatively well, but has played a relatively weak non-conference schedule with three non-Division games. Senior center Patrick Sullivan (15 ppg, 8.4 rpg) will need to play big as conference play begins.
Northwestern State – Looking to improve after a dismal season last year, the Demons are streaky at best. They are last in the SLC in free-throw percentage (61 percent) and in the middle of the pack in field goal and 3-point percentage. The Demons have no real go-to player, but senior guard Damon Jones tries to fit that bill, having scored in double figures in six of the last seven games.
McNeese State – Led by senior Diego Kapelan and sophomore Patrick Richard, the Cowboys played eight of their 12 games on the road thus far. Kapelan has increased his scoring average each year, and after scoring five points a game as a freshman last year, Richard is now throwing in 12 ppg.as a sophomore. McNeese closes out the non-conference schedule with Texas Tech and LSU before playing three tough SLC games to open the season.
Central Arkansas – Picked by most to finish last in the SLC East, the Bears lost four of their first five games, then went on a four-game winning streak and sit at 5-7. UCA boasts a balanced scoring attack with five players netting double figures. Junior guard Chris Poellnitz leads the way with 13.8 points a game. The play of JC transfer Tadre Sheppard (11 ppg.) has the Bears optimistic they can better last year’s 3-13 mark in the SLC.
Nicholls State – The Colonels were picked to finish second in the rough and tumble SLC East, but began the 2009 campaign by losing their first eight games. NSU rebounded by winning four of its next five, but the Colonels have an 18-day layoff until their SLC season begins. Forward Anatoly Bose has been a beast of late, but NSU will need more production from Fred Hunter and Maurice Foster if they want to start the SLC off the right way.
UTSA – Junior point guard Devin Gibson (13.7 ppg.) from Cy-Falls in Houston has led an experienced group of Roadrunners to an SLC West best 8-3 mark. Of UTSA’s eight leading scorers, six of the players are either a junior or senior. The Roadrunners played in the championship game of the SLC Tournament last year, losing to SFA. UTSA begins SLC play on the road in two of its first three games.
SHSU – Year in and year out the Bearkats are one of the teams to beat in the SLC. Picked to finish first in the West, SHSU has played well in non-conference, but four of its eights wins have come against non-Division I teams. JC transfer Gilberto Clavell has been labeled by his coach as a “beast” and he brings toughness down low to the Kats, who rely heavily on their guard play. SHSU tips off conference play at home against bitter rival Stephen F. Austin.
UTA – The Mavericks have one of the best scorers in college basketball on their side. Senior guard Marquez Haynes has scored in double figures every time he has stepped on the court, and along with fellow senior Brandon Long (16.6 ppg.) make up a troublesome duo for teams in the SLC. Things could be rough for the Mavs without senior guard Tommy Moffitt, who broke his foot in early December. UTA opens with Texas State in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Lamar – Had a stretch of six of seven games on the road, but has won three of its last four to stand at 6-7. Senior forward Ashton Hall (9 points, four rebounds a year ago) has only played one minute this year due to a knee injury. The Cardinals are picked to finish second-to-last in the West after finishing in last place a year ago. Look for guard Anthony Miles and senior Justin Nabors to carry the load.
TAMU-CC -The Islanders are picked to finish right behind SHSU in the West, and have played some stiff competition in non-conference to check in with a 5-6 mark. Mr. Everything Kevin Palmer was an All-SLC pick a year ago and he hasn’t disappointed thus far. Palmer scores 20 points per game to go with 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists and 3 steals. The Islanders start conference play with Central Arkansas, Texas State, Northwestern State and Lamar and could be 4-0 on Jan. 20.
Texas State – After finishing fifth in the West last year, the Bobcats are picked to be the team in the cellar this season. TSU has losing streaks of five and three games this year and open the SLC campaign against two strong opponents in UTA and A&M-CC. The Bobcats have three players scoring 10 points each – John Rybak (10.9), Cameron Johnson (10.9) and J.B. Conley (10.2). One of these players will need to step up for Texas State to be competitive in 2009-10.
Saturday, Jan. 9
Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 13
Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.
Story of the Day. Are the Heels Overrated? Only at places like UNC would we be asking questions like this, but after UNC sleptwalked through a tougher-than-it-shoulda-been home win 88-77 against Valparaiso today, it begs the question — are they overrated? Most of the top teams have been busy annihilating their opponents, but other than against North Carolina Central, UNC has allowed vastly inferior teams like FIU and Valpo to hang around much longer than they should. One quote from point guard Larry Drew II really seemed to hit home with us: when asked about pre-game intensity, Drew said, “honestly, I thought everything was all good, but Coach kind of told us before the game, ‘It seems like you lacked a little intensity out there for the shootaround.'” As the point guard and unofficial team leader, Drew should be able to read his team better than that, and it really makes us wonder whether he has the chops to become the leader this team ultimately needs. Carolina was never seriously threatened with a loss, but the Heels allowed 7-10 shooting from deep in the second half, and Brandon Wood (30 pts with six threes) lit their perimeter defense up. It seems that we’re not the only ones who realize that things in Carolina Nation aren’t quite up to snuff yet (and honestly, after losing what they lost, why would they be???), but this weekend’s twin tilts against Ohio State and either Syracuse or California will give us a better sense as to the answer to the above question.
Upset of the Day.UT-San Antonio 62, Iowa 50. It’s not often that a Southland team wins a game on a Big Ten team’s home floor, so even though it’s abundantly clear that Iowa is down (way down), this is still the choice. UTSA used a 17-3 run to open the second half and their experience was able to hold off the much younger Hawkeyes down the stretch as they repeatedly made mini-runs. Despite outrebounding the Roadrunners by twelve boards, Iowa had trouble finding the basket to the tune of 34% from the field and 19% from deep. Not to sterotype or anything, but we thought this was Iowa, you know, where kids can shoot the ball. Morris Smith, IV, led the way for UTSA with 16/4, but it was a balanced attack that did the trick for this team, as five of the seven players who saw playing time scored in double figures. This is the second win over a BCS conference team this weekend for a Southland team, as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi nailed Oregon State on Friday night.
RTC Live. Tulsa 81, FIU 49. This game was an impressive win for Tulsa, and Jerome Jordan is one of the most impressive big men I have ever seen in person, Simply a dominating presence on both ends of the court — 12 points on 7 shots and 6 blocks in 24 minutes. I would be shocked if he was not a first round pick, or even a lottery pick. Tulsa is hungry, disciplined, well-coached, and a force to be reckoned with in Conference USA. This is their year to capture the Conference title. FIU, in contrast, was abysmal, shooting 21% from the field and 15% from beyond the arc. Only Marvin Roberts had double figure points with 18, and that came off of 4-16 shooting. They were undersized and not very physical on either end of the floor. At one point during the game, Isiah Thomas was upset and said loud enough for press row to hear that Tulsa had “no class” for continuing to play its stars, but afterwards in the media interview room, he backed off those comments. Regardless, he has a lot of work to do before this team is even respectable, but I expect him to make this team much better in the coming years with his experience and incoming recruits (h/t RTC correspondent Eli Linton).
Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks (#14, South, Miami pod) vs. Syracuse (#3)
Fri., 3/20 at 12:15 PM
Vegas Line: SFASU, +12
General Profile Location: Nacogdoches, Texas Conference: Southland, Automatic bid Coach: Danny Kaspar , 158-103 08-09 Record: 24-7 (16-3) Last 12 Games: 10-2, won last eight Best Win: North Dakota State, 112-111 (3OT) on December 12th Worst Loss: Louisiana-Monroe 60-58 on November 25th Off. Efficiency Rating: 96.6, 242nd Def. Efficiency Rating: 88.9 13th
Nuts ‘n Bolts Star Player(s): Matt Kingsley, 16.2 ppg and 7.8 rpg, Josh Alexander, 14.5 ppg, and 5.4 rpg Unsung Hero: 5’3” Eric Bell starts at the point and averages 3.6 points and assists per game. Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): None Key Injuries: None Depth: 28.4%, 230th; percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: The offense is awful for an NCAA Tournament team. Low shooting percentage (200th best) hurts this team because they don’t grab any offensive rebounds for second opportunities. Will Make a Deep Run if…: SFASU shoots the lights out and Syracuse’s legs are dead from playing seven overtimes in the Big East Tournament Will Make an Early Exit if…: The Syracuse zone exploits the fact this team can’t shoot and the Lumberjacks lose by 40.
NCAA History Last Year Invited: Never Streak: Never been dancing Best NCAA Finish: First Appearance
Other Six Degrees to Detroit: SFASU beat North Dakota State who beat Oakland who beat Wisconsin-Green Bay who beat Detroit. Distance to First Round Site: 1224 miles School’s Claim to Fame:Stephen F. Austin tried to win a Wikipedia War with Syracuse. School Wishes It Could Forget: Stephen F. Austin lost its Wikipedia War with Syracuse. Prediction: This team is one and done. The Lumberjacks didn’t beat anyone in the regular season to make you think they could beat Syracuse. Major RTC stories: None
So we got through yesterday, where twelve auto-bids were handed out, and now we’re down to four remaining conference championships today. Let’s give our brief synopsis on each as they day moves on…
#28 – Stephen F. Austin (23-7, 16-3 Southland). SFA got 20/6 from their center Matt Kingsley as the Lumberjacks (there are trees in Texas?) defeated UT-San Antonio 68-57 to advance to their first-ever NCAA Tournament today.
Projected Seed: #14
Something to Remember: #2 nationally in defensive efficiency – these guys get after it. They held Texas A&M to 34% shooting earlier this year, one of their worst outputs of the season.
#29 – Duke (28-6, 14-5 ACC). Duke ran all over Florida St. today to win their seventeenth ACC title this afternoon, tying UNC for the most all-time. Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were superb today, combining for 56 pts on 15-27 FG and 8-13 from three.
Projected Seed: #2
STR: You may have heard this team’s name once or twice before. The perception is that the Devils are great three-point shooters, but that’s only a perception. At 34.4% on the year, they are middle of the pack nationally in that statistic (#154). However, because Duke plays such stifling defense on the perimeter, when they do hit a fair number of threes (like today), they’re very difficult to beat.
#30 – Mississippi St. (23-12, 13-7 SEC). MSU outlasted Tennessee 64-61 in a game that saw not one, two, three, but FOUR straight turnovers on an out-of-bounds play with ten seconds remaining. And that coming off of a mishandled rebound off a missed FT. Great basketball there. The SEC will definitely get three teams in this year, and it’s a league that has made itself easy to pile on, but all three of these SEC squads are extremely athletic and well-coached. Nobody will want to play these guys.
Projected Seed: #12
STR: Jarvis Varnado. His 4.6 blocks per game leads the nation, even ahead of Hasheem Thabeet at UConn. MSU’s overall defense isn’t as good as it usually is, but Varnado can change a game by himself. Keep an eye on MSU as an upsetter if they play an undisciplined team that won’t work the ball for the best available shot (someone like FSU or USC, for example).
#31 – Purdue (25-9, 14-7 Big 10). Purdue fought hard in a typical bruiser of a Big 10 game to get their first Big 10 Tourney win in the decade-plus of the event. Robbie Hummell is just outstanding – he had an all-floor game of 9/11/5 assts, but it was E’Twaun Moore’s five threes, including several timely ones in the mid-second half that led to the Boilers coming back from a deficit and taking control of the game.
Projected Seed: #3
STR: Like most Big 10 teams, Purdue is driven by its defense, but in our eyes, unlike most of the others, Purdue can actually boast several offensive playmaking options in Johnson, Moore and Hummell. Plus, they’re balanced – their offense mostly comes from the point, the wing and the post. This will be a difficult team for most to handle, and Matt Painter has proven that his teams are tough (Purdue gave 2007 Florida its toughest game in the back-to-back season, for example).
#32 – #65. That’s it. Everyone else has to get an invitation to the Dance. Join us over at RTC Live for the Selection Show right now, and let’s talk about it.
Redefining The Zone. Texas Tech 88, Texas A&M 83. Mike Singletary set a new career-high tonight in Texas Tech’s first round Big 12 Tournament game against Texas A&M… in the last ten minutes of the game. That’s right, Singletary caught lightning in his shooting hand, as he exploded for 29 straight points (9-10 FG; 8-10 FT) in the last quarter of the game (previous career high: 25) as he brought his team back from a 21-pt second half deficit. His performance was the second-longest such conflagration of consecutive points, ranking only behind (you know this one, right?) Bill Mlkvy from Temple fifty-eight years ago, who threw up an ungodly 54 in a row in a game against Wilkes. Courtesy of ESPN FC, we got to see the second half of this one, and we’re glad we did. Singletary didn’t look particularly quick or athletic or smooth – he just hit nearly everything he threw up at the rim. Oh, and did we mention that he didn’t even start the game tonight – maybe Pat Knight should just play him in the final ten minutes of the game from now on. Texas A&M, on the other hand, may have just watched its NCAA dreams die with their second-half gag (Mark Turgeon, double-team the guy torching your defense!!!) tonight. Probably not, though – the Aggies’ RPI is still strong, and they did finish hot down the stretch.
Other Important Bubble Games.
Providence 83, Depaul 74. PC allowed the Blue Demons to hang around in this one, and by virtue of playing the 0-18 team, they probably didn’t help their RPI or SOS any… but a win is a win, and with the win comes the opportunity to play #1 seed Louisville in the Big East quarters tomorrow. The good news for the Friars is that Louisville is lifetime 1-3 in this tournament, but the bad news is that the only team that has beaten them all three times has been Pittsburgh.
Baylor 65, Nebraska 49. NU probably didn’t have much of a case for an NCAA bid, but this loss solidifies their exclusion. The more important question is whether Baylor can salvage their extremely disappointing season by going on a run to win the Big 12 title. They will play #1 seed Kansas tomorrow, and although highly unlikely, KU is still a rather young team and could be vulnerable.
Oklahoma St. 81, Iowa St. 67. OSU will get a chance to renew bedlam with Oklahoma tomorrow based on their handling of ISU tonight. The Pokes were already in solid RPI position, but this win ensures their bid. Now it’s a question of seeding, and with two hard-fought Ls to Oklahoma already, will the third time be the charm?
West Virginia 74, Notre Dame 62. ND meekly slithered into the night (NIT) with their loss to WVU today. The Irish really needed a strong run into the late rounds of the Big East Tournament, and instead they couldn’t out-physical a team that thrives on that style of play today. Alex Ruoff had 25 pts and Devin Ebanks had 7/18 in the winning effort; the Mountaineers will get Pittsburgh tomorrow in what is sure to be a slugfest.
14 Down, 51 To Go...
#13 – Robert Morris (24-10, 15-3 NEC). Dallas Green instantly became a NEC legend tonight as his shot from the baseline after scooping a loose ball off the floor was the game-winner that sent RMU to it’s sixth NCAA Tournament, but its first since 1992. It was his only basket of the game, and even his coach said “oh no” when the ball scooted to his direction. Much-maligned Mezie Nwigwe scored three points in eighteen minutes of play.
RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)
Projected Seed: #14
Something to Remember: Although it didn’t show tonight (4-14), the Colonials are a strong three-point shooting team, averaging 39.1% throughout the season. They hit nine against Miami (FL) in an 8-pt road loss.
#14 – Portland St. (23-9, 11-5 Big Sky). PSU nearly let their second consecutive Big Sky title get away from them tonight, as they allowed upstart Montana St. to come back from ten pts down late to tie the game. But it was Julius Thomas’ dunk with 3.5 seconds remaining that gave the Vikings the lead back and a strong defensive effort on the ensuing MSU possession ensured that Jeremiah Dominguez and company will make a return appearance in the Big Dance.
Projected Seed: #14
STR: Beware. This team is an experienced squad that lost by one point at Pac-10 champion Washington and beat Gonzaga by seven. #1 Kansas ripped them last season, but they should have a higher seed this time around, and if they can catch a somewhat limited offensive opponent, they have a chance to pull the upset.
Other QnD Tourney Updates.
A10. St. Louis, St. Joseph’s, Duquesne and Richmond all advanced to the quarterfinals tomorrow. RTC Live is there with College Chalktalk live-blogging all of the action. The best game of the day Thursday will likely be the streaking Richmond Spiders (6 of 7) taking on Dayton.
Big 12. The only other game not covered so far was Texas’ win against Colorado. There are some juicy matchups in Oklahoma City tomorrow, but we’re most looking forward to the third incarnation of Bedlam – OU vs. OSU in a true neutral venue. OSU just might do this one.
Big East. Marquette had an easy time with St. John’s and Syracuse got into a bunchastuff with Seton Hall before finally pulling away late. We’re going to say it right here, right now. Tomorrow’s quarterfinal round is the greatest collection of teams in a conference tournament’s quarterfinals round EVER. There are four teams with realistic F4 chances and seven teams with legitimate S16 possibilities. Providence is the only weak link, and they managed to beat a #1 team this season. All of the games are worth watching (damn you, Dauster), but we’re most excited about the Marquette-Villanova game at 2:30 EDT so we can see how to parse these two teams.
Big West. Two minor upsets with UC Davis and UC Riverside today, but this league is completely wide open. Don’t be surprised if an eight-seed wins this thing.
CUSA. Over in the Retread Conference, Rice (Ben Braun), S. Miss (Larry Eustachy), Tulane and Houston (Tom Penders) all advanced today. The best game tomorrow is the Houston-UTEP matchup.
MEAC. No upsets in this league tonight, as all the higher seeds but one (who will play tomorrow) advanced to the semifinals.
Mountain West. In the opening round game, Air Force knocked off Colorado St. Tomorrow keep an eye on UNLV-San Diego St., a game with potential bubble implications depending on how deep the winner of this one goes.
Pac-10. Stanford and Wazzu advanced to the quarterfinals tonight. Several good games in the quarters tomorrow, but we’re most interested to see how UCLA responds after its loss a couple of weeks ago to Wazzu, who they’ll play again tomorrow night.
SWAC. The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced tonight. Two other quarterfinal games continue tomorrow.
ACC. The first round matchup of Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech holds the most interest, as both teams have been slumping down the stretch, but have enough talent to turn things around in short order.
Big 10. The first round begins tomorrow, and clearly the best game here is the Northwestern-Minnesota game. Neither team will get in from winning this one, but they will assuredly be out if they lose it.
MAC. The MAC continues with its quarters after a day off as well. No idea which game to keep an eye on here. None whatsoever.
SEC. None of the first round games are very good, but if you must pick one, go with Kentucky’s attempt to win 4-in-4 to keep the NCAA streak alive, starting with Ole Miss.
Southland. The quarterfinals begin, and Stephen F. Austin is the favorite.
WAC. The WAC is picking back up after a day off in its quarterfinal round. Remember that RTC Live will be there for the Utah St. vs. Fresno St. game, which should be the most interesting game of this round.