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.
As you know if you read this blog, we take pride in providing our readers with the most comprehensive coverage of all 31 Division I conferences available in the so-called alt-media. But given our pitiful pay scale, sometimes perfectly good correspondents lose interest in providing their usual excellent coverage, and we need to find some new reliable bloggers/writers who are willing to step in and take over for certain leagues. This is especially important as we move into conference season and start thinking about bubbles and brackets over the next ten weeks until Selection Sunday. So please, if you have any interest in becoming an RTC correspondent for one or more of the below conferences, or if you know of someone who would, please drop us a comment below or send us an email.
Conferences Needing Correspondents
Email us at rushthecourtATyahooDOTcom if you think you can help…
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!”
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.
WYN2K. On its surface, the Southland appears to be an improving league. Over the last three seasons, the league has won progressively more games against OOC D1 opponents (26/33/41) for an overall record of 100-212 (.321) during this period. Additionally, while the league has been a #16 seed in six of the last eleven NCAA Tourneys, it has earned a higher seed five of the last six years (#14/#15/#16/#15/#14/#15). The #14 seed in 2006 (Northwestern St.) paid off with one of the biggest upsets of that year’s tournament, as the Demons defeated #3 Iowa 64-63 in miraculous fashion (see below). We think that the competitive balance among the top of the league this year will allow the Southland to continue to earn a higher seed than #16.
Predicted Champion. Sam Houston St. (#15 seed NCAA). There are five teams who we figure can win this league, but out of the group, we like SHSU’s experience returning along with POY candidate Ryan Bright. Bright is a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire – he finished in the top 250 players nationally last year in several categories, including eFG% (183), dReb% (120), blocks% (161) and steals% (178). The Bearkats were poised to challenge Texas A&M-CC last year before a first-round conference tournament upset at the hands of Lamar.
Others Considered. Texas-Arlington is a rising program, returning everyone of consequence from a team that won eight of its last eleven games last year. Still, we’re not completely sold on a team that had a losing record (13-17). Lamar is another intriguing team, as they return four starters and have brought in a couple of juco PGs to battle over that position, but again, they only went 15-17 last year. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi lost nearly everyone from a team that gave Wisconsin a huge scare last year in the NCAAs (Tx A&M-CC was up 25-7 at one point), but the one key player they return (7’0 Chris Daniels) was last season’s conference POY and tournament MVP. Northwestern St. can’t be counted out either, as they always seem to find themselves in the conference mix, having been to five of the last eight Southland title games.
Games to Watch. Again, only one Southland game will be on the national radar.
Southland Championship Game (03.16.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. The Southland hasn’t shied away from scheduling BCS teams, with 34 on the agenda this season. Last year the conference defeated three BCS bottom-dwellers (Texas A&M – CC over South Florida; SE Lousiana over Oregon St. and Penn St.), and there are some similar opportunities this year.
Northwestern St. @ Stanford (11.10.07)
Texas Tech @ Sam Houston St. (11.14.07)
Lamar @ Mississippi (11.16.07)
Northwestern St. @ LSU (12.15.07)
Mississippi St. @ Texas A&M – CC (12.21.07)
Texas A&M – CC @ Auburn (01.02.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.Slim to none. Had Texas A&M-CC not lost just about everyone, we could have made an argument for their inclusion as an at-large and likely 26-4 team, but that’s not the case. This is a one-bid league.
Neat-o Stat.Nicholls St. apparently believes in stomping on its players’ throats and eviscerating their spleens trial by fire, as its nonconference schedule last year was rated #17 by Pomeroy and it is on target for that level of difficulty again. Last year the Colonels played Mississippi St., Northern Iowa, Washington, Pepperdine, LSU, Texas, Ole Miss, Auburn and Vanderbilt, losing every game. This year NSU will play the likes of Florida St., California, LSU, Alabama, UNC, Minnesota and UNLV – all on the road, all before the new year, and all likely Ls. Hard to build much confidence that way.
64/65-Team Era. The Southland is 4-23 (.148) in the era, but those four wins are a little misleading – two of the wins were from Karl Malone’s Louisiana Tech team in 1985 that went to the Sweet 16, and one of the wins is from the PiG in 2001 (Northwestern St. defeated Winthrop 71-67). The only other first-round win was mentioned above – Northwestern St. over Iowa in 2006.
We’ll Take Any Excuse to Bust Out this Pic
Final Thought. The champion of this league is a team to watch next March. Last year, Texas A&M – CC gave Wisconsin all it wanted for 30 minutes. The previous year we know what happened to Iowa at the hands of Northwestern St. And in 2005 #2 Oklahoma St. struggled against #15 SE Louisiana before pulling away to win 63-50. The championship-caliber teams that come out of this league can play, especially against the Big 10 (it seems)!
Hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday… although we gotta say this midweek holiday thing kinda sucks. Give us the three-day (or four!) day weekend instead.
Anyway, we’re now ready to unveil the conference follow-up to our June analysis of the Top NCAA Performers of the 65 (64) Team Era. Once again, we’re going to take several different views of the world here. Today we’ll just look at the raw statistics and make some obvious insightful observations. In the next post, we’ll take a look at how conferences have performed versus its seeds during this era, and whether we can draw any broad conclusions from the data about overachieving and underachieving conferences.
What Kind of Conference is This?
A couple of notes before rolling out the data. First, with only one notable exception, we counted a team’s performance in a given year toward the totals of its conference at the time. For example, Louisville’s 1986 national title counts toward the Metro Conference totals (the Metro disbanded in 1995), not the Big East totals. The notable exception is that all Big 8 totals were subsumed into the new Big 12 conference, since every member of the Big 8 ultimately became Big 12 members. See Table A below.
Table A. NCAA Tournament Success by Conference (1985-2007)
Notes: this table is sorted by winning percentage. The conferences whose names are in red are conferences that no longer exist.
BCS Conferences. This won’t surprise anyone, but we wanted to show the numbers in context. The following represents the percentage of each category achieved by the six BCS conferences from 1985-2007.
46.4% of all NCAA Appearances
60.9% Winning Percentage
72.5% of all Wins
76.6% of all Sweet 16s
87.0% of all Final 4s
90.2% of all #1 Seeds
91.3% of all Titles
If you’re writing a paper on the correlation between resources, exposure, talent and success in NCAA basketball, the above numbers should be included in your first paragraph. It matters.
Best in Show?
Best in Show. Over this 23-year period, there can be no question that the ACC has been the strongest performer in the NCAA Tournament. This conference leads in every objective category except for appearances, which actually makes their hard numbers with respect to S16s, F4s and Titles look even more impressive. The most shocking finding for us regarding the ACC’s success was that more than half (52.5%) of its participants during this era won at least two games (i.e., made the Sweet 16). This is phenomenal, especially considering that the next-best major conference is the Big East at 42.6%. Of course, when you’re winning greater than two-thirds of your games as a conference, then it shouldn’t be that surprising.
Next Best. From our view, the next tier of conferences include the Big East, SEC and Big Ten – you can pretty much throw them all in a pot and pick any of the three as second behind the ACC. The Big East leads in S16s and winning percentage; the SEC leads in titles and mostly has middle-of-the-pack numbers otherwise; and the Big Ten leads in appearances and F4s. We rate the Big 12 slightly below this group because there seems to be a drop in most categories from the above three, most notably in winning percentage and titles (ouch – only one). But the Pac-10 clearly performs worst over this era, earning the fewest bids, having the worst winning percentage and owning by far the least wins, S16s and F4s.
Mid-Majors. From the numbers, we only recognize four true mid-major conferences during this period – the Metro/Great Midwest/CUSA and WAC/Mountain West hybrids,the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley. What’s interesting is that only the Metro/GM/CUSA teams have a winning record during this period, while of course all of the BCS conferences easily have winning records. This shows once again just how large of a disparity there is between the three levels of college basketball. Remember when during the mid-90s, the A10 was supposedly overtaking the Big East in talent and performance? – the lesson here is to not believe the hype. Within that group, Metro/GM/CUSA has had the most success, led by Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis. Now that two of those three are in the Big East, we don’t expect CUSA’s success to continue. We were also a little surprised at how low both The Valley and the Mountain West performed here – they have poor winning percentages and the Mountain West in particular has only put two teams (of 18 bids) into the Sweet Sixteen since its inception in 2000 – pathetic for an annual multi-bid league.
Tark Has This Effect on Everyone
UNLV and Gonzaga Effect. The Big West and West Coast Conference exhibit how one very successful school can make a league look better than it actually is. By the numbers, the Big West looks like a mid-major league, but when broken down further, you quickly realize that the Rebels account for 21 of the conference’s 28 wins over this period. Excluding UNLV, the Big West is only 7-23 (.233) in the NCAA Tournament, which would put it on par with the Sun Belt and the Mid-Continent. The same is true with the WCC – when Gonzaga is excluded, the league is 7-21 (.250) during this period.
Stay Away from the NEC if you Want to Win in the NCAA Tournament
Low Majors. Picking a best conference among the low majors is a little like picking the prettiest ugly girl in the bar (not that we know anything about that, mind you), but if we have to choose, we’ll take the Southland Conference (note: we consider the conferences on the list above between the Great Midwest and the Sun Belt mid-majors, although the Sun Belt’s one S16 appearance with 32 bids is strong evidence that we might be giving that league too much credit). We choose the Southland because it’s one of only two of these conferences to put a team into the Sweet 16 (Karl Malone’s Louisiana Tech in 1985), and it has a better winning percentage than the others. We realize, of course, that all of these low majors are virtually equal in their NCAA ineptitude – only the Ohio Valley and the MAAC have ever received at-large bids (1987 – Middle Tennessee St.; 1995 – Manhattan) – but that’s our pick here. Our vote for the worst conference in D1 is a tie – the SWAC and the Northeast Conference. Each has the unenviable distinction of only winning one game in the NCAA Tournament during this period. Of course, maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way, and instead we should be celebrating the fact that every single conference has managed to win a game in the Dance during this period.
Final Thoughts. Can anyone catch the ACC? The Big East has a chance to tally significant gains if it continues to put eight teams into the NCAAs, as it did in 2006. But numbers alone probably isn’t enough – after all, the Big 10 has put the most teams in the Tournament since 1985. Rather, the ACC gives the obvious recipe for success by having two dominant programs that over the long haul consistently go deep into the NCAA Tournament (Duke and Carolina). Looking ahead, the Big East has an aging Calhoun at UConn and Boeheim at Syracuse so we’re not sure about its prospects. The Big 10 has Thad Matta the Recruiting Machine at OSU, but Michigan St. has regressed in recent years, and who else can rise up (Weber at Illinois? Beilein at Michigan? Tubby at Minnesota?). We’ll keep looking. The Pac-10 has an obvious supernova developing in Westwood at UCLA, but where else? Arizona will be in what kind of shape after Lute retires? Our choice for the conference to challenge the ACC in the next decade is the SEC. Billy Donovan at Florida has already proved his mettle; and with Billy Gillispie at Kentucky and Bruce Pearl at Tennessee challenging anyone to outwork them, it almost makes up for the coaching lightweights over in the SEC West (you know who we’re talking about). The youthful exuberance of these coaches at several programs willing to put forth the resources for success may give the SEC the best shot at catching the ACC, but the truth will ultimately lie in what happens to Duke after Coach K retires. If Duke manages to keep its dominance intact with their next coach, then it won’t much matter what happens with the other conferences – they’re not going to catch the ACC.
Coming Next: a look at how conferences overachieve and/or underachieve relative to their seeds over the years. Should be interesting stuff. Check back early next week.