Who’s Got Next? Updating the Class of 2011 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

This week has been full of events ranging from my final class of 2011 rankings to high-profile commitments to big-time performances to much rumor mill chatter. Players being lost in their recruitment, underclassmen making names for themselves and conference champions rescinding scholarship offers from top-five recruits are just a few things that happened in a very eventful week in the world of college basketball recruiting.

What We Learned

Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34 – Duke) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early.

Murphy Heads to Duke a Year Early. Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early (to see why, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below) as he has already passed the necessary courses to graduate and has been in high school for four years. There was speculation since he first committed to Duke that he would reclassify to the class of 2011 and the fact that he never denied it just added to the conjecture. The scouting report on Murphy is that he has a very nice shooting stroke from both the perimeter and mid-range game and is a superb slasher who finishes well around the basket. Given his length and athleticism, he is also versatile and will be able to play either forward position for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. However, he needs to add strength to his frame and become a better rebounder, but there have been rumors that he will redshirt so if true he will have another year to develop both of those attributes.

Kevin Ware is a Knight… I think. Shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Central Florida Monday joining an impressive class including center Michael Chandler, small forward Rod Days and power forwards Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson. However, we don’t know whether Ware still wants to be a Knight. Since he already signed a letter of intent with Tennessee (which they released him from after Bruce Pearl was fired), NCAA rules prohibit him from signing another one in the same year with UCF, so Ware is free to do whatever he wants. The first thing that raised eyebrows about his future college choice was the fact that he was announced as “undecided” in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic over the weekend (although his stepfather later said he filled out the forms before he committed and didn’t feel like changing it). The next thing that made people question his commitment was when a Louisville website reported that Ware told them his recruitment to UCF wasn’t a done deal and that he was “absolutely” still considering Louisville (see the “What They’re Saying” section for Ware’s quotes on this). Also, he reportedly told fans at the Derby Classic while signing autographs that he was still considering the Cardinals. The excuse for all of this that has been picking up steam lately is that Ware was simply afraid of potential backlash from Louisville fans at the event, which is plausible since Ware tweeted he was afraid of a backlash before he left for it. We still don’t know what is going on with him but hopefully by next week we will have a clearer picture of his college choice.

UNC Rescinds Shabazz Muhammad Scholarship Offer. In a surprising move, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pulled the scholarship offer from junior small forward Shabazz Muhammad (#5) this week while at the same time offering his teammate, small forward Rosco Allen (#27). It has seemed as though Carolina was losing steam with Muhammad ever since he didn’t attend the North Carolina vs. Duke game at Chapel Hill (although a reason to why he missed it was never confirmed), and the rumor going around now is that he is close to making a commitment elsewhere. The other schools that he would be presumably choose between are Duke, Kentucky, Texas and UCLA. Muhammad is an impact player who will start from day one no matter the program he goes to since he is such a prolific scorer on the offensive end and is so athletic and versatile. He is a better scorer inside the arc than anyone else in the class of 2012 but needs to work on consistently rebounding and improving his ball-handling to become a complete player.

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Conference Report Card: Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.


Looking Back

2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (Saint Louis and George Washington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.

So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected]  in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)

Final Ranking, Team-by-Team

  1. Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
  2. Temple (26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Live: Atlantic 10 Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2011

Games #205-206.  It’s time to get serious in Atlantic City as two Cinderellas meet in one game with two conference heavyweights in the other.

1:00 pm Dayton vs. Saint Joseph’s. The first semifinal features the Accidental Tourists of the tournament. Neither Dayton nor Saint Joseph’s was supposed to survive the first round, much less advance to the semis. Friday’s quarterfinal round opened with a bang as #9 seed Dayton (21-12) ran up a nine-point first half lead over #1 seed Xavier (24-7), 36-27, and held on to win a by single point, 68-67. The game was decided on Xavier’s last possession, Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tu Holloway’s “one-legged” runner was wide of the mark. The Flyers advanced to a semifinal meeting with Saint Joseph’s (11-21). The Hawks, who logged loss #20 at Massachusetts on February 23, are riding a 4-1 run that includes a three-game winning streak. The Philadelphia media labeled each of their last three games an elimination game – lose and they start the offseason. Coach Phil Martelli’s charges beat Charlotte in Charlotte to clinch the #12 (and last) seed in the tournament, then beat #5 seed George Washington University at George Washington, 71-59 in overtime, to advance to the quarterfinals…where they disposed of #4 seed Duquesne (18-11), 93-90, also in overtime.

3:30 pm Temple vs. Richmond. The evening bracket behaved as high seeds won out, but this semifinal match, #2 seed Temple (24-6) vs. #3 seed Richmond (24-7), features two very well-coached, veteran NCAA-bound teams. Execution and discipline should make this game every bit as entertaining as the first semifinal. Temple will look to junior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore who have clicked very well with senior forward Lavoy Allen to produce a defensive juggernaut. Richmond features two All-Conference seniors, Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson, who can attack the basket or hit from the outside.

Join RTC Live at 1:00pm from the historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for Dayton vs. Saint Joseph’s, followed at 3:30 pm by Temple vs. Richmond.

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BGTD: Friday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  Here’s Friday afternoon’s coverage…

  • OSU Survives.  Northwestern seems to play the #1 Buckeyes as well as anybody, taking Thad Matta’s team to the brink twice this season, and losing both.  No other Big Ten team played OSU as closely as the Wildcats did this year, not even Purdue and Wisconsin, the two teams who beat the Buckeyes once each but were blown out in Columbus.  Jared Sullinger did his thing dominating the inside (20/18), but the key takeaway from this game is that in two contests this season, Bill Carmody has found a way to slow down Jon Diebler’s scorching three-point attack.  Recall that Diebler had hit a ridiculous 17-20 in his last two games and is over 50% for the season, but in the close games against the Wildcats, Diebler was only 2-8 from deep and 5-14 overall.  Slowing him down is absolutely essential to knocking off the Buckeyes, so you’d better believe that coaches over the next three weeks will be studying the Northwestern game films very carefully for clues.
  • Michigan Surges. We couldn’t really figure out what happened to the Wolverines last season, but we knew that something was structurally wrong because John Beilein is an excellent coach.  He’s proving it again this year, as Michigan has now won nine of 12 games after today’s comeback victory over Illinois, with the three losses being by one point to Wisconsin, two points at Illinois and eleven points at #1 Ohio State.  At the under-8 timeout, the Wolverines were down nine points and struggling to put points on the board (only 42); from that point on, UM went on an 18-4 run, holding Illinois to a single field goal down the stretch by making several big plays to finish it off.  Michigan is playing well, and their style is very difficult to prepare for — don’t be surprised if Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and company give the Buckeyes all they want tomorrow and make a run at the Sweet Sixteen next week.
  • Carolina: Master of Close Wins.  Everyone knows that the Tar Heels have been on fire, winning eight in a row and thirteen of their last fourteen games and making a case for an outside shot at a #1 seed next week.  What’s interesting to us is how Roy Williams’ relatively young team is consistently  coming back to win close games — today’s buzzer-beater by Tyler Zeller underneath against Miami (FL) is only the latest example.  The Heels were down nineteen points with around ten minutes to go, but somehow, someway, led by Kendall Marshall’s artistry and some timely three-point shooting, they went on a 27-6 run to close out the game and get the victory to move into the ACC semifinals.  Whether these close wins against average competition (six ACC wins by one possession) represents a weakness or a strength, we’re not quite sure, but Carolina is showing an ability to make the right plays in the clutch.
  • Do You Leave Alabama Out? If the intent of the NCAA Tournament is to invite the 37 best at-large teams to dance, then we’re not sure you can leave Alabama out of the NCAA Tournament.  In a recurring theme this weekend, the Tide roared back from fourteen down in the last seven minutes to force overtime where they were then able to pull out the key victory against Georgia.  That gives Anthony Grant’s team 13 SEC wins out of 17 tries, and although the conference is exceptionally weak, especially on the West side, it’s difficult for us to fathom that Alabama isn’t one of those top 37 right now.  We think the Committee will see it the same way, and Alabama will be in one of the First Four games on Tuesday or Wednesday night.
  • A-10 Craziness.  The top half of the Atlantic 10 bracket was blown up this afternoon with #9 seed Dayton getting out to a big lead early against #1 Xavier and holding on down the stretch; and, #12 St. Joseph’s knocking out #4 Duquesne in overtime.  This sets up a Saturday semifinal between a #9 and a #12 seed that nobody who follows this league could have seen coming.  Bubble teams around the country are rooting for #2 Temple to run its way to the title game and easily handle one of these two; otherwise, the Atlantic 10 will be guilty of bid larceny on Sunday.
  • Bubbling Up.  Clearly, Alabama, who may have played its way into the First Four with today’s win over Georgia… Clemson, who crushed BC in a possible knockout game in the ACC Tourney…
  • Bubbling Down.  Georgia, who may have played its way out of the Tournament with its collapse and unfortunate timing on the time out at the end of regulation…  Boston College, who never showed up against Clemson…
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O26 Primers: Atlantic 10, MAC and MEAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 8th, 2011

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

With the completion of several conference tournaments over the weekend, the field of 68 is slowly beginning to take shape, but there is still much to be determined. The kicking off of the Atlantic 10, MAC and MEAC conference tournaments later today will weed out even more teams as we approach Selection Sunday. The Atlantic 10 is definitely a multi-bid league—it is just a matter if two or three teams make the field—while the other two conferences will only have one representative in this Tournament.

Atlantic 10

The Favorite: There was little doubt heading into the season that Xavier would be a formidable team in the Atlantic 10 and one that could do some damage throughout the season. They advanced to the Sweet 16 last year and returned do-it-all player in Tu Holloway, but after a rollercoaster non-conference performance that saw the Musketeers go 8-5 questions were raised. All these questions were answered and more as they went 15-1 in the A10. Although Temple and Richmond are right on their heels, Xavier is the team to beat heading into the tournament.

Dark Horse: Richmond concluded their season with four straight wins—all coming by double digits—and Chris Mooney has the Spiders playing some great ball. The dynamic and versatile Justin Harper is capable of taking over a game, and Kevin Anderson is a steady point guard that has the scoring ability of a shooting guard. Currently, Richmond is on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament and a strong run in the A10 tournament will be needed to earn an invitation to the Dance.

Who’s Hot: Aside from a fluke four point loss to Charlotte in the middle of their A10 slate, Xavier went perfect in the conference and has only two losses in 2011.

Player to Watch: If there was a player in the A10 capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them to a few wins in the tournament, it is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. The senior from Ontario has scored more than 30 points on four occasions this year and hit buzzer beaters in consecutive games against Buffalo and St. John’s. Nicholson is a scorer and is clutch: watch out for him.

First-Round UpsetSt. Joseph’s over George Washington. It took a while for one of the youngest teams in the nation to become acclimated to the college game, but St. Joseph’s youngsters are starting to come around. The Hawks began their A10 schedule with an 0-8 record, but went 4-4 the rest of the way.

How’d They Fare? The Atlantic 10 had a very successful regular season as they placed three teams in the Tournament, but two of them struggled and were unable to get out of the first round. Temple, the highest seed of the three at #5, lost to Cornell in the first round. #7 Richmond struggled to keep up with Omar Samhan and St. Mary’s losing 80-71. The saving grace was #6 Xavier who defeated Minnesota and then upset Pittsburgh in the second round. The Musketeers were very close to defeating Kansas State and advancing to the Elite Eight, but fell 101-96 in double overtime.

Interesting Fact: The A10 has been a multi-bid conference ever since 2005, and that looks to continue this year with Xavier and Temple being safe bets to earn a bid to the Tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Looking Back in the A-10: Road Warriors & Homebodies

Playing some part of the out of conference schedule away from the comforts of the home arena is increasingly a fact of life for every Division 1 program that has any aspirations for life beyond the conference championship tournament. Travel is a budgetary requirement for some teams in a few conferences, but by and large A-10 teams travel either because of the challenge (Temple’s former Head Coach John Chaney had an “anytime, anywhere” policy for scheduling out of conference games), for the RPI bump or for the national exposure that comes from participation in the early season invitational tournaments. The Road Warriors this season are listed first in the table below:

In addition to counting all away (a game played in the opponent’s arena) or neutral court games as a “not at home” game, I also count games neither neutral nor technically “away”, but out of the program’s home arena, as a “not at home” game. That half of the conference has played at least 50% of their games “not at home” is a little surprising (but not shocking). That ten of the conference’s 14 members (71.4%) play at least 40% of their schedule away from their home arena makes me wonder if this is a strategy to help the boost the conference RPI. For Xavier, the strategy may have backfired. The Musketeers took three neutral court games at the Paradise Jam and scheduled an away game with Miami (OH) as a balance to their west coast trip to Gonzaga (this Wednesday) and their Crosstown Shootout game with rival Cincinnati, but they lost the Miami game in possibly their worst performance of the season. Rhode Island’s Jim Baron scheduled quite a few for the Rams this season, especially in the early part of the season. Duquesne had a terrible travel record last season, and Coach Ron Everhart appears to have taken the bull by the horns and scheduled a greater number of road games early in the season. The Dukes opened a four-game home stand with a game against IUPUI, and will take to the road to open the A-10 conference season (and take one last out of conference road foray, this time to cupcake Houston Baptist in Houston, TX).

Can anyone blame Fordham for being a bit road shy? Going into the season it appeared Coach Tom Pecora would have his hands full just logging wins. The Rams have done that much and more, logging their first road win in two seasons already.

Taking the team on the road is one thing, but how did A-10 team’s fare once out there? The table above suggests that the teams perform about as well as teams from most “above the Red Line” conference can expect. Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s, the two programs that have taken the largest portion of their schedules out of their own arenas, appear to be underperforming (compare their won-loss records with their efficiency differential in the far right column above), which might be expected from so much time away from the comforts of home. Massachusetts and Fordham might surprise, but remember that Fordham has taken very few games out of Rose Hill, and two of the Minutemen “not on the home court” games came in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles away from the campus and thousands of miles (and a few climate zones) away from the homes of Texas Christian and New Mexico State. Given the last minutes roster changes at St. Louis, the Billikens’ difficulties are hardly surprising. Replacing critical members of the squad is tricky enough, but having to implement the transition in hostile environs can really kill a team’s post season chances. The biggest disappointment on the list (so far) has to be Dayton. The Flyers are supposed to mount a serious challenge for the conference title this season, but though the squad has a good share of upperclassmen, they have struggled at times. The road loss to Cincinnati was devastating, and the efficiency numbers for out of home court games reflects that.

Power Rankings

Movement in the rankings comes among the bottom three this week, as Fordham has pushed their record to 5-4, and leapfrogged George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. The conference season will most likely bring the rankings back to “regular order”, but for now, Fordham has the better record won against good competition. They earned the bump this past week.

1.  Temple (8-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Northern Illinois 84-74

Next Week: 12/22 @Ohio

Like most teams, Temple faces that between-the-semesters slump in student support. Coach Dunphy penned a thank you note for fan support at the Georgetown win (December 2, 68-65) and an appeal for a big turnout for the Northern Illinois game last Saturday. The response from the Temple fanbase was a bit less than resounding, though probably better than all but one other Division 1 game played in Philadelphia last Saturday. If Ramone Moore was upset he took it out on the (NIU) Huskies, as he earned his third Honorable Mention from the conference for his 21 point, (career-high) six assist and (career-high) two blocked shot effort Saturday night. He scored his 21 efficiently, recording a 62.5% eFG% on 7-12 overall (1-3 on threes, 6-9 on twos) and 6-10 from the stripe.  The nucleus of the Temple offense is forming around senior forward Lavoy Allen, junior center/forward Michael Eric (when he is in the game) and a committee of junior guards Juan Fernandez, wing Scootie Randall and Moore. The Northern Illinois game is the latest in the pattern that saw Allen and Eric score efficiently (and often) when they are in the game, with either Moore of Randall lighting it up from the back court/wing spots. Fernandez might join the party as well, or just set the others up offensively. For NIU, Moore was hitting his shots and Randall was not.

2.  Richmond (8-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Georgia Tech 54-67

Next Week: 12/22 UNC-Greensboro, 12/26 @Seton Hall

Down by one at the half (25-24), the Spiders managed to take a two point lead (36-34) 25 minutes into their game at Atlantis in the Bahamas on a Kevin Anderson three. Over the last 15 (or so) minutes of the game however, the Spiders collapsed…on both sides of the ball. Over their last 25 possessions Chris Mooney’s squad posted a terrible 0.63 points per possession, considerably less than the 1.0 considered minimally efficient in D1 ball. Georgia Tech by contrast converted their possessions to points at a 1.34 rate, good enough for an additional 33 points and a 13-point winning margin. If fouls and turnovers are an indication of lost composure, Richmond’s 10 fouls and five turnovers over that last 15 minutes suggest the squad unraveled a bit. The Jackets managed a 123.1 FTA/FGA, capitalizing on Richmond’s tendency to foul when Tech went to the basket. Justin Harper and Darien Brothers in particular struggled with their shots, going a collective 2-10 overall (1-5 for threes, 1-5 for two point attempts) from the field.

3.  Dayton (9-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Western Carolina 71-60, 12/20 vs. Winthrop 73-58

Next Week: 12/22 @Seton Hall

The Flyers posted a 2-0 week as senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference honorable mention for his career-high 30 points in Dayton’s win over Western Carolina. The senior forward scored another 10 points versus Winthrop to average 20.0 for the week. Freshman point guard Jawan Staten dished 18 assists against 4 turnovers in the Flyers’ two wins.  Coach Gregory’s squad returns to the New York City metro area, scene of their NIT triumph last March, as they look for this season’s 10th win at Seton Hall. Rush the Court will host a live blog Wednesday night from Seton Hall’s home court (“The Rock”) in downtown Newark, NJ.

4.  Xavier (7-2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Wake Forest 83-75

Next Week: 12/22 @Gonzaga

With the win over struggling Wake Forest, Xavier pushed their record to 7-2. Junior guard Tu Holloway shared Player of the Week honors with St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. Holloway notched a triple-double when he scored 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, the rebounds and assists are career-highs for Holoway. Junior Kenny Frease paced the X-men with a double-double of his own, his third this season. Frease scored 22 points on 11-19 overall shooting and 0-1 from the line and pulled down 14 rebounds.

5.  Massachusetts (7-3)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Central Florida

Finals and end of the fall semester sidelined the Minutemen last week.

6.  Rhode Island (7-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. New Hampshire 64-52

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Lafayette

Coach Jim Baron’s squad downed New Hampshire by 12 points as senior Delroy James again led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 8-22 overall (4-8 three pointer attempts, 4-14 two point attempts) and 2-2 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nikola Malesevic was the second squad member to break into double figure scoring, as he hit 3-6 overall (2-4 three pointers, 1-2 two pointers) and 3-4 from the line to score 11 points. The Rams should have little trouble taking Lafayette out of the Patriot League, and they two more chances for resume wins as they host Boston College on the 29th and travel to Florida for a game on January 2nd. They should have suspended sophomore Orion Outerbridge, benched this fall for academic problems, back shortly. Outerbridge should provide more rebounding and another scoring option to go with James, Malesevic, and guards Akeem Richmond and Marquis Jones.

7. La Salle (6-5)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Bucknell 77-89

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Rider

Sophomore Aaric Murray earned his fourth conference honorable mention for his career-high 28 points as the Explorers dropped the second straight game in their home stand, 77-89, to Bucknell of the Patriot League. Although two other squad members, guard Ruben Guillandeaux and forward Jerrell Williams chipped in more than 10 points apiece (15 and 13 respectively), La Salle could not avoid their fifth loss on the season.

8.  St. Bonaventure (5-3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Ohio 112-107 (4OT)

Next Week: 12/23 vs. Virginia Tech, 12/28 vs. Siena

The conference split the Player of the Week honors between Tu Holloway and the Bonnies’ forward/center Andrew Nicholson this week. The junior joined the list of “Most Points Scored in a Single Game” in the Bonaventure program at #8 while posting his fifth consecutive double-double. Three other Bonnies, senior Ogo Adegboye (with 13), sophomore Demitrius Conger (with 23) and junior Michael Davenport (with 19) scored in double digits in the longest game played by a St. Bonaventure team.

9.  Duquesne (5-4)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. IUPUI 81-54

Next Week: 12/22 vs. George Mason

The Dukes pushed their record north of 0.500 with a 17 point win over IUPUI.  Four Dukes, senior wing Damian Saunders (12 points), freshman forward Joel Wright (11 points) and junior BJ Monteiro (11 points) scored double-digit points as senior forward Bill Clark drew his fourth conference Honorable Mention in six weeks for his double-double which included 17 points and 14 rebounds. Clark also dished five dimes, tied with freshman point TJ McConnell and two less than freshman guard Mike Talley’s seven.

10.  Saint Louis (4-5)

Last Week: 12/15 vs. Jacksonville 69-64, 12/18 @Missouri State 61-85

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Northeastern (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/23 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup), 12/24 TBD (Cancun Governor’s Cup)

The Billikens continue to struggle to get north of the 0.500 mark. Coach Rick Majerus is looking for leaders, and so far the freshmen appear to be the ones stepping forward. The St. Louis scoring leader in both games last week was freshman guard Jordair Jett (16 vs. Jacksonville and 18 versus Missouri State), with junior wing Kyle Cassity next (14 and 11)  the third scorer in each game was a different player, but always a freshman (Jacksonville – Dwayne Evans with 11; Missouri State – Mike McCall with 11).

11.  Charlotte (5-6)

Last Week: 12/17 vs. Tennessee 49-48

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Wright State

The 49ers recorded the first big win of the Alan Major Era with their one point win before 8,400 fans in the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The game was played for 60 possessions, about 12% lower than the Division 1 average, and about 15% below the 70 possessions the Vols normally play for. Darrio Green was the most efficient Charlotte scorer, converting at a 50% eFG% rate with a 1.32 PPWS, though he only took 17% of the shots while he was on the court. Jamar Briscoe, playing about the same amount of time (92.5% of the minutes at pg) took 32% of the shots and hit at a far less efficient 30% eFG%. Briscoe scored a point more than Green (14 vs. 13), but was considerably less efficient doing so.

12.  Fordham (5-4)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/22 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/27 @Georgia Tech

The Rams are on hiatus, concentrating on finals. Coach Tom Pecora’s charges will swing back into action against Kennesaw State and then take a post holiday trip to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Yellow Jackets.

13.  George Washington (4-5)

Last Week: 12/18 @Oregon State 87-79

Next Week: 12/22 vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @UAB

Freshman forward Namanja Mikic became the latest name in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his 19 point performance against Oregon State last Saturday. Mikic shot 6-11 from the field (6-10 three pointers, 0-1 two pointers) and 1-3 from the line for a striking 81.8% eFG%. The eight point win was the first Colonial road win over an above the Red Line team since 2001. Junior wing Tony Taylor also drew an Honorable Mention for his double-double versus the Beavers. Taylor scored 19 points while dishing 11 assists.

14.  Saint Joseph’s (3-7)

Last Week:  None.

Next Week: 12/21 @Boston University,

Off for finals and a much needed regrouping, the Hawks take to the road to play Boston University.

Looking Ahead in the A-10

  • Rush the Court will play close attention to the road games of Dayton and Richmond this week, as both travel to the Rock in Newark to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall University. This correspondent will host a live blog from the Rock in Newark for each game.
  • Rhode Island should have news about Orion Outerbridge this week. If the sophomore has passed his fall classes he should rejoin the team for the Rams’ Wednesday game versus Lafayette.
  • St. Louis will head south to participate in the Cancun Governor’s Cup Invitational. The Bills drew Northeastern in the first round, with East Tennessee State or Southern Mississippi in the second round. Third round candidates include Mississippi, Appalachian State, Colorado State, or Texas State. This three game set will be the longest out-of-Chaifetz experience for the Bills this season, with ESPN televising some of the games. The Cancun Governor’s Cup is the second-to-last invitational tournament in which an A-10 team is slated to participate. Fordham will play two games in Santa Clara, CA on December 29 & 30 to close out the A-10’s early season invitational participation.
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Around The Blogosphere: December 9, 2010

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2010

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Top 25 Games

  • #18 Minnesota 83, St. Joseph’s 73: “In a game that had the appearance of a trap for Minnesota, the Gophers traveled to Pennsylvania for their first true road game of year and took down the St. Joseph’s Hawks 83-73 behind Trevor Mbakwe’s double-double and timely threes from Blake Hoffarber and Devoe Joseph.” (From the Barn)

Other Games of Interest

  • Maryland 99, UNC-Greensboro 56: “As far as easy rebound wins go, they don’t get much better than the 99-56 drubbing that Maryland gave the UNC Greensboro Spartans. After a demoralizing loss to Temple that came this close to resulting in some lineup changes, Maryland could’ve used an easy win, and it’s just what they got. The Terrapins shot 43% from 3 and 52% from the field, outrebounded the Spartans by 20, received yet another double-double from Jordan Williams, and generally dominated play en route to an easy 43-point victory.” (Testudo Times)
  • Colorado 90, Colorado State 83 (OT): “The game was an exciting one throughout… a buzzer beating three by the Buffs made it a 33-30 Colorado St. lead at the half, and a layup by Jesse Carr of CSU with 0.6 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime. From there, it see-sawed back-and-forth until a late miss by CSU sealed their fate, and eventually Colorado got the home win, 90-83.” (Veteran Leadership)

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The Cases For & Against a Duke Unbeaten Season

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

If you haven’t heard, this year’s Duke team is pretty darn good.  The defending national champions are loaded with talent on every area of the court and they’ve looked mighty impressive in the pre-conference slate against an impressive cast of characters — #5 Kansas State, #6 Michigan State, Marquette and defending runner-up, Butler.  As great teams are expected to do, they’ve  handled the contenders and destroyed the pretenders on their way to an 8-0 record. According to Ken Pomeroy’s latest figures, the Blue Devils have the most efficient offense in the nation and the fifth-most efficient defense — their efficiency margin of 36.8 points per 100 possessions is the best around, and they’ve been doing it against a schedule that rates in the top 25 through the first month of the season.  On most nights, the talented combination of playmakers featuring the versatile trio of Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will be enough to secure another win for Coach K’s team; on the rare night when the offense sputters, the Blue Devil defense will keep the game close until the last few possessions, and Duke will have arguably the best point guard in the game handling the rock in crunch time. What’s not to like?

One of the Few Things Coach K Hasn't Done is Go Unbeaten

With the usually-reliable ACC looking like a mangled mess of mediocrity outside of Durham this year, some of the early-season buzz has already noted that Duke has gotten through the toughest part of its 2010-11 regular season schedule.  Liberally allowing for many of those good-not-great teams (i.e., Virginia Tech, UNC, Maryland, BC, etc.) to put it together and make the NCAA Tournament this year, Duke will have at most between 6-10 remaining games against quality competition the rest of the way, making for an interesting barstool debate over whether the Devils can run the table this season.  The argument goes as such:

  1. The remaining nonconference schedule is manageable.  Even considering the ACC as down (see #2), there are seven more non-conference games on the slate.  The next four — Bradley, St. Louis, Elon, UNC-Greensboro — are home or quasi-home games that Duke should have no trouble with.  Two others — UAB and Temple — are also home games that they typically win, although they’ll need to perform well against the Owls.  The last — a roadie to play St. John’s in another familiar environment, Madison Square Garden — is interesting on its face but will ultimately depend on how much Steve Lavin’s team progresses over the next two months.
  2. The ACC is down, way down.  In a typical year the best team in the ACC can expect to be put through the ringer with trips to Maryland, UNC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, etc., pending.  Duke has all of those road games on the schedule, but already half of those teams have lost home games this year, and all of them will eventually.  The essential point is that if you’re not good enough to generally protect your home court against the likes of Stetson, Virginia or even Florida, you’re not likely to do so against Duke, an outfit that prides itself on road conference wins.
  3. Duke is not a team that is prone to many letdowns.  There are some schools that for whatever reason do not seem to take the regular season as seriously as they do the postseason.  Michigan State comes to mind immediately, but there are others.  Coach K has never been one of those coaches — in fact, a common critique through the mid-late 2000s was that he wore his teams down by overworking them during the regular season so that they had nothing left in the tank for the NCAAs.  Still, the Devils more than any other team and regardless of personnel tend to come strong all year long.  It’s difficult to catch them snoozing, one of the key recipes for a team to pull a major upset. Read the rest of this entry »
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Around The Blogosphere: Where We Decide Titles On The Floor

Posted by nvr1983 on December 5th, 2010

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Top 25 Games

  • #1 Duke 82, Butler 70: “There is absolutely zero belief in moral victories on this end, as Butler lost to a team who was better than it was and who, in crunch time, played better than it did. There are several reasons why that happened – which will be brought up in a bit – yet there were some positives to come out of losing to the Blue Devils in a contest that was within a couple possessions both ways for most of the day.” (Victory Firelight)
  • #9 Villanova 71, St. Joseph’s 60: “The Hawks of Saint Joseph’s held the lead over the Wildcats of Villanova for the first 4:30 of the game, relinquishing the lead briefly to regain it at the 13:53 mark. They would hold it for only 30 seconds more before releasing it for the last time. For the next 33 and half minutes the question was only by how much the Wildcats would win. The answer turned out to be 11, as Villanova won 71-60 and ran their Big 5 record to 2-0 for 2010-11.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • #10 Georgetown 68, Utah State 51: “No matter how thrilling and enjoyable Tuesday night’s win against Missouri was, I will take a game like today every single time.  After a back and forth first half, the Hoyas came out of halftime and tore the Aggies apart, winning 68-51 in Washington, DC. Chris Wright was the best of Run DMV The Holy Trinity our dynamite three guards that have yet to be named.  Wright attacked the basket time and time again, getting easy layups while scoring 21 points on 9 shots.  He added 4 steals and 2 assists.  No other Hoya was in double figures, but 5 other players had 6 points or more.” (Casual Hoya)
  • #12 Minnesota 71, Cornell 66: “The Gophers pulled out a 71-66 win Saturday night over the Cornell Big Red. That’s the good news. The bad? The  Gophers again played no perimeter defense, had just occasional consistency on offense, and shot free throws at a 59 percent clip (26-44). It wasn’t pretty. At all.” (The Daily Gopher)
  • UNC 75, #14 Kentucky 73: “For Kentucky, this is a tough, brutal loss.  Speaking as a Kentucky fan, my disappointment on losing this game could be measured on the Richter scale.  I know we played well enough to win, and a gritty effort by Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins now goes by the boards.  I know that this is sometimes how basketball goes, but right now, I am absolutely inconsolable.  This is a game Kentucky should have won, and frankly deserved to win.  Alas, we did not.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • #16 Syracuse 65, NC State 59: Breaking down a lackluster performance by the Orange. (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #18 Purdue 66, Alabama 47: “It’s funny. We were ribbed the other day during the Va Tech game via Twitter about “Purdue’s vaunted offense” and how we were wrong to have taken issue with people like John Gasaway and other MSM types. Sure, Purdue’s offense isn’t blowing people away, but they won that night and they won again today. It’s always fun to have your team’s offensive prowess mocked… while they’re still winning. Matt Painter trademarks are pressure defense and smart play. The Boilers, while sloppy at times today, used their suffocating defense and their plenty-good offense to win today’s game with the Crimson Tide, 66-47.” (Boiled Sports)
  • #23 Illinois 73, #24 Gonzaga 61: “Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  Another big time, nationally televised game; another big time, nationally televised Gonzaga flop. It has truly become an abysmal trend that Gonzaga can’t shake.  There is going to be a lot of finger pointing after this game so I’ll go ahead and fuel the fire.” (The Slipper Still Fits)

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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Floriani: Behind The Scenes At Big East & A-10 Media Days

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2010

Ray Floriani of NBE Basketball Report and College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC, but he also covers many events and games in the NYC metropolitan area. He had the opportunity to attend the Big East and Atlantic 10 Media Days last week and snap a few photos.

Big East Media DayWednesday, October 20 – New York City

The media days are upon us, a sign as indicative of the first leaves falling that the opening tip is not far away. Last Wednesday, the Big East had their day at Madison Square Garden.

The media days often provide a host of scripted quotes. “We have a big challenge… our seniors must step up… there are no nights off in the (fill in your league) conference…” Despite their regularity, they serve a purpose of promoting the conference and they afford the chance to renew acquaintances. For us media types,  it is great to see friends you haven’t seen since March and to discuss the game with the coaches in a calm environment. All coaches are 0-0 and optimistic (for the most part) about the upcoming campaign. With games a few weeks away, you can actually get a chance to engage in some small talk if there isn’t a big media crush at that coach’s table.

The day started with everyone in a theater-type seating area. Commissioner John Marinatto gave a short “state of the conference.” Marinatto opened with a call to remember Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, injured a few days ago, in everyone’s thoughts. Marinatto said renovations at MSG will make the “Big East postseason tournament the premier conference tourney in the country.” The commissioner also noted that since expanding to 16 teams, NCAA bids have increased by 20% for the Big East. Austin Freeman of Georgetown, the preseason Player of the Year choice, addressed the group on behalf of the players.

Marquette head coach Buzz Williams fields questions at the Big East’s Media Day at Madison Square Garden

The working media session was broken into two parts. Each school had its own table where the head coach and a few players were present to field questions. The first half saw eight coaches interviewed by electronic media as TV affiliates. The other half stayed at their tables with a few players from their team as print media ascended. After about 90 minutes, the procedure was reversed. Following the work session a luncheon was provided before everyone adjourned.

A few short notes from someone in attendance:

  • Buzz Williams’ methods of attention to detail and organization always intrigued me, as the Marquette leader is an advocate of maximizing each possession, even if it means limiting them. We discussed the concept of possessions and points per possession. As I discussed the four factors often seen on this site, which include free throw rate, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and effective field goal percentage, Williams dutifully made extremely meticulous notes in his book. Turnover rate is something of paramount importance to the Marquette mentor. “We have been outstanding in taking care of the ball,” Williams said. “It is something we emphasize.” Looking at the turnover rate (percentage of possessions ending in dreaded TOs) the last two seasons, Marquette’s TO rate has been 15.3% and 14.8%. I noted that 20% is the threshold that teams want to avoid; hitting it, or even worse, exceeding it, is unacceptable.  “If one-fifth of your possessions end in a turnover, your offense is not good,” Williams added. Amen.

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Big East: We Won’t Sit Idly By and Wait For the Big Ten Pillagers

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences and an occasional contributor.

There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.

The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.

Greed is Good?

But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do.  When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”

Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.

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