O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

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

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

Conference USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After the Buzzer: Butler’s Unfurling & Opening Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

In case you’re just catching up with us after a football weekend, we covered Friday night’s games — the real Opening Nightin a special ATB that evening, while RTC contributor Zach Hayes put together an Opening Night edition of his 10 Scribbles series to share some of his initial thoughts on most teams’ first games of the year.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This is something we don’t see much and it may be a long time before we see something like it again, so Butler’s banner unfurling from Saturday night was this weekend’s best moment.  Jump ahead to the 2:20 mark if you’re the impatient type (a shorter alternate version is also available).

Quick Hits…

  • Emmanuel Negedu.  Hey, if you can literally come back from the dead and contribute 8 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block in your first game as a New Mexico Lobo merely a year after you were resuscitated, you deserve all kinds of props.  Can’t root for this guy enough.
  • Chris Singleton. Quite possibly the best defensive player in the country, Singleton pulled off a very difficult triple double by going for 22/11/10 stls on Sunday against UNC-Greensboro.  Oh, he also added four blocks just for show.
  • Illinois Backcourt. Bruce Weber’s backcourt of Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul off the bench was outstanding on Saturday against Southern Illinois.  The three combined for 43 points and 16 assists in that game, and in three games this season all of them are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from deep.  With the solid play inside of the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale), the Illini look very strong right now.
  • Kyrie Irving.  As good as advertised, with 17/4/9 assts to prove it against Princeton on Sunday.  Everything seemed completely natural and smooth with very little wasted motion.
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  MBA’s been getting a lot of hype all offseason, but we weren’t completely sold due to his inconsistency over the last three years.  After a 28/13 performance against McNeese State on Saturday, we might be coming around.  As a side note, the Huskies had an inconceivable 67 rebounds in that game.
  • Matt Howard’s Foul Trouble.  Sure, we know the game was against Marian College, but the fact that Howard failed to commit a single foul in 23 minutes of action is encouraging.  Without Gordon Hayward around, Brad Stevens must have his star big man on the floor most of the time this season, so committing nearly four fouls a game again isn’t going to work.
  • DJ Cooper.  Keep an eye on Ohio University again this year — the MAC champions who took out Georgetown in last year’s first round NCAA game return MAC POY candidate Cooper, who debuted the 2010-11 season with a strong 25/5/7 assts/3 stls evening.
  • James Rahon.  SDSU’s transfer guard from Santa Clara hit three straight threes in the mid-second half to give the Aztecs breathing room to win a true road game in front of a packed arena in Long Beach.  If the Aztecs can get solid guard play to match their dominant post play, Steve Fisher could have a MWC juggernaut on his hands.
  • Jeremy Hazell.  Seton Hall might be able to put together a surprisingly good season if it can continue to get the types of games it got from Hazell today.  28 points on 8-11 FG and 8-8 from the line is extremely efficient, something that Hazell hasn’t always done well.

… and Misses

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part seven)

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2010

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

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Seven: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.

Last time out we introduced you to the marketing side of mid-major basketball programs and its range of athletic budgets from the one-man Sports Information Department on up. This week, we’ll take a look at another big difference between mid-major programs: the size of the markets in which they play. When these schools compete in small college towns, they can be the talk of the town when things are going well, but for those schools in bigger markets, they are in danger of being overshadowed and potentially lost in the crowd no matter how well they’re playing at the moment.

With So Many Entertainment Options in Big Cities Like LA, Finding Fans Can Be Tough

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: I definitely think it is an advantage (to be in a smaller market), here in the state of Arkansas. I’m originally from Texas, the Houston area, and two schools in that area are in our conference: Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. They have at times been lost in the shuffle of everything else that is going on, because you’ve got professional sports franchises and other colleges in the city of Houston and high school football and they have sometimes voiced concerns with the amount of coverage they have gotten. There is just so much going on in the city from a sports perspective. At times, it’s just hard for those programs to get ample amount of coverage because there is just so much going on. You’ve got a lot of competition for coverage among those other entities, where in Little Rock its UAPB, its UALR and then that’s really it in the Little Rock area. You’ve got the Arkansas Razorbacks, but there aren’t any professional sports in the state, so there is probably more ability for the news outlets to cover local colleges.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It can go both ways playing in a small community. Our fans are very much diehard fans. We’ve got very hardcore fans, which is great if you’re winning, and if you’re losing, they let you know about it. It can work both ways, but I’d much rather be in this situation. Let’s say you’re a mid-major program in a big city, it’s tough, because you can easily get swallowed up from a media standpoint and a PR standpoint. In the newspaper, you might be on the sixth or seventh page, if at all, whereas when we do something good or bad, it’s going to be the lead story in our paper. No question, if we play tonight the lead story in the paper tomorrow is going to be about ETSU basketball. If you’re a mid-major in a big city, you probably have to flip to the back pages to see anything about your program. That would be something you fight. So I like the situation we’re in, but if you’re not winning, then it can obviously work the other way.

Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland: When you look at Gonzaga, as far as the city of Spokane, they are the biggest show in Spokane, by far. Portland is not the case, we’ve got the Blazers, we’ve got Portland State, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got more nightlife, we’ve got more going on, which is good. But from a standpoint of getting corporate sponsorship and getting fans, if you’re a company in Spokane and you want to wine and dine your clients, you take them to a Bulldogs game, because there’s nowhere else to take them.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: We’re not a small market, so I actually think it is a little more challenging for a smaller school in a large market, as compared to some of our league opponents who are in smaller markets where there’s not as much competition for entertainment. I don’t necessarily think that we directly compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for fans. I think that we as a mid-major school compete with that dinner-and-a-movie crowd, that’s a little more comparable to what our price point is. But we do have to compete. There are so many entertainment options in Kansas City, from the art to the theater to the ballet to the movies to concerts at the Sprint center to football games to Royals games to Wizards games. There are so many options of things for people in KC to do, so we have to come up with creative ways to keep UMKC basketball at the top of their minds.

Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: We’re obviously competing against UCLA, USC, everybody else in our league, the Lakers, the Dodgers… there’s so much to do here. Getting attention in a place like this is a lot harder here than it was at Boise State in terms of local media and stuff like that, but I would say it is probably an advantage in some areas too. You’re more apt to see North Carolina come and play us, or play UCSB like they did a couple of years ago than to see them visit, say some mid-major in a smaller market.

Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron: I would say we compete for the professional sports fan in Cleveland, no question about that. That might change a little bit with what has happened with the Cavs and LeBron and all that this summer but certainly the last five or six years, that has been something that we definitely fight. It is not something where football overshadows basketball or basketball overshadows football within our department, I don’t know that we have that issue, but maybe fighting some of those outside things for what people are spending their entertainment dollars on. Even with Ohio State, we’re just two hours north of Columbus, but most of the state is into Ohio State and Ohio State football, so that’s something that we fight as well. I’m not saying someone is not going to come to an Akron game because they are necessarily going to an Ohio State game, but maybe they’re going to stay at home and watch the Ohio State game on TV or go to a sports bar, or something along those lines. So that’s something that we fight and that something we take into consideration a lot of times in terms of how you are going to schedule a game or how we are going to market a game.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: There is no question that we compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech, as our town sits right in the middle between the two. Our philosophy has been for a long time, we’re not going to steal Tech fans or steal UVA fans, that would be a fruitless effort. But those fans don’t always have games at Tech or UVa on the nights that we are playing, whether that be football or basketball. We here are their hometown team and we reach out to them, that’s part of what I would say are our non-traditional fans, that we’ve really begun to grow our fan base with the success we’ve had. Those people are big sports fans and they come watch us. Does that mean they’re giving up wearing maroon and orange for Tech or blue and orange for UVA? No, it doesn’t mean that. But they become fans of ours. Ultimately, we’d love to think that some of them would become primarily Liberty fans, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to put on a good show and maybe they’ll come to our games on a night when their team isn’t playing.

Putting on a good show is often a goal for these mid-majors, not only getting their fans to come to the games, but making sure they have a good time so that they are more likely to come back. And one of the big things is to create a game atmosphere that is not only fun for the fans and the student base, but also an environment that could aid the basketball team. The first step is getting the fans there.

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RTC Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 4th, 2010

David Ely is an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Jackson State (15-3)
  2. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-5)
  3. Alabama State (12-6)
  4. Texas Southern (11-7)
  5. Alabama A&M (9-9)
  6. Prairie View A&M (9-9)
  7. Mississippi Valley State (9-9)
  8. Grambling State (7-11)
  9. Southern (3-15)
  10. Alcorn State (2-16)

All-Conference Team

  • Junior Treasure (G) — Texas Southern
  • Tyrone Hansen (G) — Jackson State
  • Savalance Townsend (G) — Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • De’Suan Dixon (F) — Jackson State
  • Shannon Behling (F) — Mississippi Valley State

6th Man:

  • Cornelius Hester (G) — Alabama A&M

Junior Treasure (with ball) is the best among the bevy of guards featured in the SWAC. (AP/Val Horvath)

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The New NCAA Tournament — We Can Live With It

Posted by jstevrtc on July 12th, 2010

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

The NCAA got around to announcing “The Decision” regarding the layout of the now 68-team tournament and specifically the makeup of the competitors in the four “play-in games” today, and the end result?  Punt.

Getting the terminology out of the way first, these games are officially no longer part of the Opening Round, nor are they “play-in games” (not that they ever were). They now make up the entirety of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as the First Four. Those games that get played on Thursday and Friday? Those are now the Second Round, with the weekend games now the Third Round, with the winners there still advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

We knew before today that there were three main options that the NCAA was considering: the final eight at-large teams matching up, the lowest eight automatic qualifiers matching up, or some combination of the two. That last one, that’s what we got. And you know what? That’s probably the best decision.

The NCAA dropped back and punted, here -- but the resulting field position isn't that bad.

If the NCAA had chosen to send only the lowest eight qualifiers to these games, there would have been numerous problems, not the least of which would be a continuation of the idea that those first four games aren’t really part of the NCAA Tournament. The teams that advance from one-bid conferences like the MEAC, SWAC, American East and Big Sky (to name just a few of the usual suspects) would battle it out in Dayton in relative anonymity for the right to advance to their chance to get killed by a one-seed, while your typical college basketball fan would ignore the whole thing. In the process, sure, the teams involved would have a better chance at winning a game in the NCAA Tournament and thereby earning themselves an extra share of the proceeds from the tournament, but once the “actual” tournament started, there would be four less automatic qualifiers sticking around for their chance to get on national television and test out their slingshot against Goliath. Then there’s also the fact that after spending $10.8 billion on the rights to the tournament, the first four games of the package would be a total wash for the television networks, stuck broadcasting games like Mississippi Valley State against Northern Arizona to a national television audience of almost four digits.

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ATB: Play-In Game and NIT Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Welcome to the Real Dance, BluffersArkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44.  Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year.  With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate.  For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts.  Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second.  Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.

Allen Smith Moves On to Play Duke (DDN/L. Powell)

Argument for the Play-In-Game.  In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason.  Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely.  We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative.  The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game.  We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store.  We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country.  Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two.  Here’s the rub, though.  Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend.  You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games.  This year, that would have meant the following scenario:

  • Utah State vs. Mississippi State
  • UTEP vs. Illinois
  • Minnesota vs. Arizona State
  • Florida vs. Virginia Tech

How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest!  Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home.  The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids.  The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins.  Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #26 – Southern Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on October 12th, 2009

seasonpreview

Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

North Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1.  Western Carolina (14-6 SoCon) 22-11 Overall
2.  Samford (12-8 SoCon) 16-15 Overall
3.  Applachian State (10-10 SoCon) 17-14 Overall
4. Chattanooga (9-11 SoCon) 15-17 Overall
5. Elon (8-12 SoCon) 16-16 Overall
6. UNC Greensboro (3-17 SoCon)  4-26 Overall
South Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1.  College of Charleston  (16-4 SoCon)  24-9 Overall
2.  Davidson (12-8 SoCon) 19-14 Overall
3.  Citadel (11-9 SoCon) 17-15 Overall
4.  Wofford (9-11 SoCon) 16-17 Overall
5. Georgia Southern (7-13 SoCon) 11-20 Overall
6. Furman (6-14 SoCon) 10-21 Overall

North Division

  1. Western Carolina (13-5 SoCon) 22-11 overall
  2. Samford (11-7 SoCon) 16-15 overall
  3. Applachian State (9-9 SoCon) 17-14 overall
  4. Chattanooga (8-10 SoCon) 15-17 overall
  5. Elon (7-11 SoCon) 16-16 overall
  6. UNC-Greensboro (2-16 SoCon)  4-26 overall

South Division

  1. College of Charleston (15-3 SoCon)  24-9 overall
  2. Davidson (11-7 SoCon) 19-14 overall
  3. Citadel (10-8 SoCon) 17-15 overall
  4. Wofford (8-10 SoCon) 16-17 overall
  5. Georgia Southern (6-12 SoCon) 11-20 overall
  6. Furman (5-13 SoCon) 10-21 overall

All-Conference Team:

  • Andrew Goudelock (G)College of Charleston (Jr.) – 16.7 ppg
  • Cameron Wells (G) The Citadel (Jr.) – 15.6 ppg
  • Harouna Mutombo (F)Western Carolina (So.) – 14.4 ppg
  • Bryan Friday (F)Samford (Sr.) – 12.5 ppg
  • Noah Dahlman (C)Wofford (Jr.) – 17.8 ppg

6th Man. Jake RobinsonWestern Carolina (Sr) – Led the team in three pointers made (60) and attempted (167), coming off the bench in 19 games.

Impact Newcomer. Rashad WrightCollege of Charleston – Intimidating presence inside with his 6’9″ frame, averaged 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and four blocks a game at South Kent High School last season will look to contribute to a team that is lacking in size.

What You Need to Know. Although this conference lacks the star power of a certain recently departed, diminutive guard from Davidson, the conference is not devoid of talent as witnessed by the fact that the aforementioned guard didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last year. While the Wildcats will certainly fall off this year, don’t be surprised to see the second most famous basketball personality in the league last year (Bobby Cremins) getting plenty of airtime in March.

Predicted Champion: College of Charleston (NCAA Seed: #15) – Made it to the SoCon Championship game last season after a Cinderella type run knocking off the favorite in Davidson on their way to the finals. They have always been an athletic team that uses stellar guard play to offset lack of size inside. With the starting back court of Tony White Jr., who scored 31 points in the SoCon finals game against Chattanooga, and junior all-conference candidate Andrew Goudelock who led the team in points per game and three pointers. CofC should be the team to beat in the Southern Conference this season with close to 75% of its scoring coming back from a team that made the finals in the conference tournament.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #27 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2009

seasonpreviewJC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC conferences. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Alabama State (20-9)
  2. Jackson State (16-13)
  3. Alabama A&M (15-11)
  4. Prairie View (13-16)
  5. Mississippi Valley State (13-18)
  6. Alcorn State (10-19)
  7. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (10-19)
  8. Texas Southern (9-20)
  9. Grambling State (5-21)
  10. Southern (5-26)

All-Conference Team:

  • Christopher Jones (G) – Prairie View – Purest point guard in the SWAC, but will have to reduce his turnovers for the Panthers to be successful this season.
  • Troy Jackson (G) – Alcorn State – Ruthless scorer who also shot better than 40 percent from the field in 08-09.
  • Grant Maxey (F) – Jackson State – Versatile forward will likely emerge as the 09-10 SWAC Player of the Year
  • Douglas Scott (F) – Southern – Tenacious rebounder, came on late last season with three double-doubles in his last five games.
  • Darnell Hugee (C) – Prairie View – If he stays out of foul trouble, could be one of the best post players in Division I basketball.

6th Man. Deandre Hall (G) – Texas Southern – Turnover prone, but can do damage from interior and perimeter.

swac logo

What You Need to Know.  The SWAC is among the worst conferences in all of Division I basketball. There’s no sugarcoating the lack of talent and the brutal out-of-conference schedules that the SWAC member schools play just to keep their athletic budgets afloat. But what they are lacking in appeal and talent, their upper-echelon teams make up for in competitive drive and great coaching. Alabama State took SEC opponents Auburn and Mississippi to the wire on the road last season before dropping both games by fewer than five points.

Predicted ChampionJackson State (NCAA Seed: #16). Jackson State has played second fiddle to Alabama State in the regular season for two years in a row. But while the Tigers return key seniors Grant Maxey and Garrison Johnson, the Hornets of ASU lost a lot in the departure of PG Brandon Brooks and forward Andrew Hayles. The JSU Tigers will prevail in the conference championship, but not without serious tests from the likes of Prairie View and Alabama State.

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Grumbling at Grambling

Posted by rtmsf on September 28th, 2009

This story got lost in the Friday afternoon rush of people heading to happy hour, but Grambling St. University basketball made national news for the third time in a year that day, and unfortunately, not for anything good.  Rick Duckett, the head coach who (likely) orchestrated this particular crime against hoop-anity back in January, reportedly resigned after one of his transfer players, Henry White, fell ill during workouts and later died.   

rick duckett

Connecting the dots, it might make sense to presume that Duckett somehow felt responsible for White’s death, as the White family attorney asserts that it was common practice for Grambling coaches to run their players outside during intense summer heat and humidity, and had in fact done so that day (where two other players also fell ill).  The problem with that theory is twofold: first, Andy Katz reported on Saturday that Duckett claims he didn’t resign at all; rather, he was fired (technically he’s on leave until Oct. 31, then he’ll be released).  And not just him, but his entire staff of assistants save one (new interim coach Robert Washington, Jr.).  Second, on the day that White collapsed during workouts, Duckett wasn’t even at practice.  In fact, he wasn’t even on campus.  Instead, he was instead having an undisclosed medical procedure of his own at the time. 

So what in the name of Eddie Robinson is going on here? 

We understand the legal concept of vicarious liability, and if Duckett directed his assistants to run players through the sweatbox known as Louisiana humidity against all better judgment, we could believe that university officials are looking to CYA here.  But one question.  Don’t Grambling football players also run drills in the sweatbox throughout August?  In pads?  If true, it would appear difficult for us to believe an argument that it’s ok for the football team to run outdoors, but not the basketball team.   

It’s also clearly not performance-related.  Grambling takes its football team very seriously; basketball is pretty much an afterthought.  Duckett’s 6-23 record in his first and only year didn’t turn any heads, but the school’s had only two .500+ seasons since 1994, so there’s really nothing unusual about that.  The last head coach, Larry Wright, wasn’t much better: over nine seasons, he turned in a record of 88-160 (.355).  Furthermore, Duckett was successful at the D2 level, so there was reason to believe he could turn around the Grambling program. 

The bottom line about this is that something is missing from the story – Grambling officials are leaving something out.  Considering their recent history of making up stories about SWAC refs when it suits them, we’re not exactly surprised. 

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NCAA Preview: Alabama State Hornets

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Alabama State University (#16, South, Dayton sub-pod)
vs. #16 Morehead State
Thurs., 3/17 at 7:30 PM
Vegas Line: Alabama State, +2.5

General Profile
Location:
Montgomery, AL
Conference: Southwestern Athletic Conference, Automatic big
Coach: Lewis Jackson, Overall Record: 64-58
08-09 Record: 22-9, 16-2
Last 12 Games: 11-1, 4 wins
Best Win: 66-60, Jackson State University, 1-3-09
Worst Loss: 79-74, Alcorn State University, 1-26-09
Off. Efficiency Rating: 100.2, 193th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 103; 202nd

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Brandon Brooks, 13.8 ppg, 39.3 3pt%, 2009 SWAC Player of the Year
Unsung Hero: Chief Kickingstallionsims, 9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1 bpg, SWAC Defensive Player of the Year
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Brandon Brooks has the opportunity to sneak in as a low second-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He is deceptively quick off the dribble, and shoots a high percentage for a point guard.
Key Injuries: N/A
Depth: 32.1% (126th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Despite having a seven footer, the Hornets only average about three blocks per game.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: If they can create an inside-outside threat with Brooks and Kickingstallionsims early and often.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Brooks and Andrew Hayles are shooting poorly from the perimeter.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2004
Streak: N/A
Best NCAA Finish: 1st round exit
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids)

Other
Six Degrees to Detroit: Freshman guard Tramaine Butler is the Hornets’ sole roster member from the Motor City.
Distance to First Round Site: 523 Miles
School’s Claim to Fame: They are the first SWAC regular season champion to win the conference tournament in four years.
School Wishes It Could Forget: It plays in the worst RPI conference in college basketball
Prediction: ASU will get past Morehead St. in the play-in game, and will shrink against the inside game of the Louisville Cardinals.
Major RTC stories: N/A

Preview written by JC of HBCU Sports Blog

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27 Down, 38 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009

There are twelve automatic bids today, so we’ll be updating these as the day moves forward…

#16 – Binghamton (23-8, 16-3 Am East).  Binghamton took care of business today against upstart UMBC to win their eleventh in a row and earn the school’s first ever NCAA bid.  Reggie Fuller had 19/10 and alleged non-POY DJ Rivera added 16/5 in the RTC home win.  We had more coverage on today’s BGTD.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Binghamton is um, size-challenged.  Their tallest starter is the 6’6 Fuller.  And have you heard that Tony Kornheiser has an affinity for this school for some reason?  Yeah, we hadn’t either.

tony-kornheiser-2

#17 – Memphis (31-3, 19-0 CUSA). 25 straight wins in a row.  61 CUSA wins in row.  Memphis just keeps on truckin’, with another stellar defensive performance in holding Tulsa to 26% from the field and 2-14 from three.  This was also the 135th win for the Tiger senior class, who is focused on getting to #141, according to Coach Calipari.  Robert Dozier had 18/14 and Tyreke Evans had 18/5/6 in the same-old, same-old for Memphis.

Projected Seed: #2

STR:  We’re going to be a little contrarian here, but we’re not buying that Memphis is a national title contender this year.  Are they better than anticipated?  Absolutely.  Are they on the same level as UConn, Pitt, Louisville, UNC, etc.?  No freakin’ way.  Their defense is outstanding, statistically the very best in the land.  And CUSA is a better league than people tend to think it is.  But the fact of the matter here is that Memphis is playing with house money right now.  They were beaten by Georgetown, Xavier and Syracuse in the pre-conference slate.  Tennessee took them down to the last possession.  They rolled up Gonzaga in their building, but the Zags wilted in the face of their athletic defenders.  Memphis is a very good team – but they’re not going back to the F4.  Remember that you heard it here first.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2009

dynamiteWelcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.

6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.

7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.

8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:

Early Games

  • UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
  • Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title

Afternoon Games

  • Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • #6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
  • #1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • #25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals

Evening Games

  • #23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
  • Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
  • Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title

Late Night Games

  • San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
  • Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
  • #5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
  • Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
  • Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)

10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.

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