Bracket Prep: Albany, Tulsa, Texas Southern

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 16th, 2014

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As we move through the final stages of Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners. 

Albany

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For the second straight season, Albany surprised the America East and is going dancing. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • America East Champion (18-14, 12-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #210/#195/#199
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. For the second straight year, Albany capitalized on its home court advantage in the America East non-championship rounds before pulling off a road upset in the title game. That means the Great Danes – instead of league champion Vermont or preseason favorite Stony Brook – will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament. The Catamounts or Seawolves would probably have been more serious upset threats (especially Vermont, once projected in the 13-seed range), but Albany is among the more experienced teams in the country and did go dancing last season, which never hurts.
  2. The Danes’ identity lies on the defensive end, where they held opponents to under one point per possession in conference play. Will Brown’s club switches between man defense and a stout 2-3 zone that gave Stony Brook all kinds of issues on Saturday, including a six minute stretch where the Seawolves failed to make a single field goal early in the second half. Albany is anchored inside by 6’10’’ center John Puk, whose defense against America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney showed he’s capable of holding his own against skilled big men – the kind he’ll surely face in the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, the team is led by Australian shooting guard Peter Hooley, who averages nearly 16 points per game and shoots 40 percent from behind the arc. Fellow Aussie Sam Rowley is the team’s leading rebounder and was the go-to scorer on Saturday – he averages 11 per night – while speedy point guard DJ Evans and small forward Gary Johnson also score in double figures.
  3. With an adjusted tempo of 63.3 possessions per game and an average offensive possession length of 19.3 seconds, the Danes look to methodically execute in the half-court and control the pace. The vast majority of their shots are taken from inside the arc – besides Hooley and Evans, no player has attempted more than 50 threes on the season – and they are proficient both at drawing fouls and making their free throws; Hooley ranked second in the conference at 86 percent from the stripe. Ultimately, though, Albany wins with its defense, preventing opponents from getting easy looks and cleaning up misses at a high rate. In their upset of Vermont, the Danes allowed the Catamounts to corral just 20 percent of their misses.

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Conference Tournament Primer: SWAC

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 12th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with yet 10 more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Southland, SWAC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.

Dates: March 12-15
Site: Toyota Center (Houston)

2014 swac bracket

What to expect: The most bizarre conference tournament you’ve ever seen. Four of the league’s 10 teams are ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores yet the SWAC is allowing that quartet to compete in the conference tourney. That means that the eligible team that advances the furthest in the bracket will win the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. In case of a tie — multiple eligible teams advancing to the same round but no further — the highest-seeded team — second-seeded Texas Southern is the leader in the clubhouse — would advance to the Big Dance. Crazy, right? Just imagine how weird it will feel if a team loses in the tournament championship game and still gets to celebrate an NCAA Tournament bid. The SWAC hasn’t won a non-play-in game in the NCAA Tournament since Southern beat Georgia Tech in 1993.

Favorite: Texas Southern. I guess I’ll go with the favorite to make the NCAA Tournament. This is all so confusing. Top-seeded Southern, the team that won a game by 104 points earlier this year, should actually win the SWAC Tournament. But thanks to APR issues, the Jaguars aren’t eligible for the Big Dance. So Texas Southern is the favorite to go dancing.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Akron, Taylor Braun, Marvin Menzies & Texas Southern…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 25th, 2013

While this past week may have been devoid of many huge upsets or season-defining wins, there was certainly no shortage of great basketball games and interesting storylines across the O26 landscape. Just take Saturday, for example: There were 11 players who scored 30+ points, seven games that went to overtime, a few big boys taken down at home, an example of HAVOC on steroids, a MAC squad that improved to 11-0, an 81-possession game, a coast-to-coast buzzer beater… and a partridge in a pear tree. And remember, that was all in one day. So as Christmas is here, let’s take a moment to pass out some weekly honors to a few top performers.

O26 Team of the Week

Demetrius Treadwell and the Akron Zips had a fine week. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Demetrius Treadwell and the Akron Zips had a fine week. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Akron. Yes, the Zips were throttled over the final 13 minutes by Iowa State in Hawai’i on Monday, and no, they are not the aforementioned undefeated MAC team—that’s headline-generating Toledo. But over a three-game span last week, stretching from The JAR in Akron to the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Keith Dambrot’s group was nothing short of excellent. At home on Monday, Akron took an early lead on Southland favorite Oral Roberts and never relinquished control, as 6’7’’ forward Demetrius ‘Tree’ Treadwell recorded his first of three-straight double-doubles and the Zips forced 20 turnovers en route to a 10-point win. It was their best home win of the young season and a sign of good play to come. That is, until Wednesday, when things got off to extremely rocky start against Horizon League foe Detroit. At one point trailing 22-8 in the first half, the Zips saw their win probability dip below 30 percent and wound up taking a nine-point deficit into the locker room. To any clear-sighted onlooker it would have appeared that an upset was beginning to take hold… until the second half began. Seemingly at the drop of a hat, Akron took complete—and I mean complete—control of the basketball game, nailing three three-pointers in less than two minutes to tie it up and then proceeding to blitz the Titans out of the gym with a 58-point second half and a 19-point victory. It was an impressive run, and Treadwell finished with a superb 22-point, 13-rebound line. But it was by no means the team’s finest moment of the week.

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Morning Five: 08.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2013

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  1. The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement by Emmanuel Mudiay that he was committing to Southern Methodist. Outside of being a shock to the fans of the top schools–Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State–that were reportedly in the running for his services, it is also surprising that he would choose SMU and may validate to a degree the decision by the school to hire Larry Brown, who may not even be there when Mudiay arrives on campus. Many in Big Blue Nation are still in shock that a second top recruit in a few months would spurn them (Andrew Wiggins being the other) as Mudiay had reportedly narrowed his choices down to SMU and Kentucky, but for us the bigger story (outside of the fact a top-5 recruit in the class of 2014 is headed to SMU) was the fact that Texas was not even a consideration for a top Texas recruit and it speaks volumes about the state of Rick Barnes’ program.
  2. For all of Gonzaga‘s success over the past 14 years they have often remained off the radar for many elite recruits for a variety of reasons (location, offers from bigger names, etc) so when Josh Perkins, a class of 2014 point guard who is ranked in the top 25 overall in his class, commits to Gonzaga it is pretty big news. Perkins, who was also seriously considering UCLA and Minnesota, has been Mark Few’s #1 target for this coming season and should fit in well when Kevin Pangos is ready to leave Spokane. Although there have been some other Gonzaga commits over the years who have been as highly sought after (Austin Daye comes to mind), but it is still quite a coup for Few.
  3. We are just a few weeks from the start of the college basketball season, but Texas Southern has managed to pick up one of the best available transfers on the market as the school announced that  Aaric Murray will be headed there. Texas Southern will be Murray’s third school as he transferred from La Salle, where he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season, to West Virginia, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, but battled disciplinary issues as he was arrested in December 2011 for marijuana possession and was suspended in a separate incident for an undisclosed disciplinary violation. Murray, who is eligible to play immediately as he graduated from West Virginia this past spring, should make Texas Southern, which went 16-2 last season, but was barred from postseason play, a strong contender for the SWAC’s automatic bid.
  4. Dave Rice’s job of keeping UNLV competitive this season despite the loss of several key players just got a little tougher as the school announced that Savon Goodman will not play this season after news surfaced that he was facing two felony charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny. Despite Goodman’s paltry production last season–3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game–he was expected to be a much bigger part of the team’s game plan with the departures of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser. Now Rice and the UNLV staff will have to scramble to find a replacement for Goodman, who would have been the team’s starting power forward. That role will probably fall to Jamal Aytes, a three-star recruit who committed to the school just one week ago.
  5. We are not sure how D.J. Haley, who averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at VCU last season, will fit in with “Dunk City West” after it was announced that he will be transferring to USC, but we guess playing in the Havoc defensive scheme should be good preparation for a frantic style of play. The 7-footer will be eligible to play immediately after graduating early from VCU and will be enrolling in USC’s engineering school. Despite his limited production last season Haley does have quite a bit of experience and actually started for the Rams during their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four and his experience should help a Trojan frontcourt that is not very deep and lacks experience.
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The Other 26: Let the Madness Begin

Posted by IRenko on March 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

As the calendar turns to March, let us declare: Let the Madness begin. The NCAA Tournament is still three weeks away, but the fight to get there begins in earnest this coming week, as 12 mid-major conferences will kick off their tournaments. The Big South and Horizon League will have the honor of kicking things off on Tuesday night, with their first round tournament games. Ten more conferences will follow suit with the first auto-bids being awarded a week from today in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.

We’ll be back next week with updates on all the action, but until then, there is still the homestretch of the regular season to attend to. So let’s move on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and (regular season) games to watch this week.

Top 10

RTC -- TO26 (3.2.13)

Honor Roll

The Honor Roll is our weekly fixture highlighting the teams, players, and performances that impressed us in the past week.

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The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

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This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) — This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) — Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

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ATB: Nebraska’s Improvement, San Diego State Wins Sixth Straight, and Michael Carter-Williams’ Near Triple-Double…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 4th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. The Big Ten Reaffirms Status as Nation’s Best League. One of the prevailing truths surrounding the beginning of the 2012-13 college basketball season was the Big Ten’s unquestioned status as the nation’s best conference. However you measure conference strength –whether by top-to-bottom depth, high-end quality, or somewhere in between – the Big Ten’s No. 1 perch was not up for debate. The first five weeks of the season has done little to debunk that trope. If anything, the Big Ten’s proven stronger than once believed. The latest testament to the heartland conference’s incredible lineup came Monday night from an unlikely source. Perennial bottom-dweller Nebraska, energized by the arrival of head coach Tim Miles and a newfound commitment to upgraded facilities and financial support from school administrators, made easy work of USC in Lincoln. In a vacuum, that win won’t spawn any grand proclamations of NCAA Tournament potential or league contention. What it will do, on a night best described as a black hole of hoops intrigue, is make people stand up and take notice. It’s not only a statement for Nebraska’s improvements under Miles, but of the incredible depth of the best league in the country.

Your Watercooler Moment. MCW Takes Syracuse To A Whole New Level.

Despite losing key pieces from last year’s one-seed team, Syracuse could be just as potent in 2012-13 with Carter-Williams controlling the offense (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Every year, I find myself glued to one player through the early months of the season. Last season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist captured my undivided attention. He epitomized practically every natural quality I hold dear in the college game: hard work, toughness, leadership, a never-say-die attitude, the willingness to attack the rim with impunity, and in the same breath guard the opposing team’s best player on the defensive end. I can go on, but I’d like to think many of you can empathize with my MKG mancrush. Several candidates made strong cases for my personal fascination early this season – Yogi Ferrell handles the point guard position better than any freshman I’ve seen outside of the John Calipari dynasty line; Otto Porter is as versatile as they come; Marcus Smart just flat out knows how to play – but I’ve reached a verdict. It’s Michael Carter-Williams. On Monday, MCW nearly notched a triple-double in the Orange’s 84-48 win over Eastern Michigan, but my growing attraction to his game began long before his most recent spout of brilliance. MCW is far and away the biggest breakout star on the national scene. Forget his unparalleled vision and passing accuracy, his ability to guard different positions, his penchant for cutting in the land and crafty scoring touch. The biggest reason why MCW has gripped my attention is the massive rippling effect he has on his teammates. He makes everyone around him better, whether through setting up open looks or drawing defensive attention or providing timely defensive insurance. Typically, players with these kind of transcendent skills foist massive responsibilities upon themselves and end up forcing shots and frustrating their teammates. MCW does just the opposite. If you haven’t seen him this season, get to a TV set and DVR the next Syracuse game. MCW is a special player, and he probably won’t be around much longer, so observe while you can.

Tonight’s Quick Hits… 

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Two

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the second week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Colorado, 5-0 (-): After a 4-0 opening week that got Colorado into the national Top 25 rankings, the Buffaloes only played one game in week two. It wasn’t always easy on Sunday night against Air Force, but Tad Boyle’s squad went on a 13-3 run halfway through the second half to put away the Falcons and cruise to a 15-point victory. Freshman forward Josh Scott led the way with 20 points for Colorado. This was a nearly unanimous pick, with only Drew not picking the Buffs at number one. They now have a warm-up game against Texas Southern before traveling to play a good Wyoming squad on Saturday. Up Next: 11/27 vs. Texas Southern.
  2. Arizona, 3-0 (-): Just like Colorado, it was a one-game week for Arizona, who has only played three games since the nationwide opening night back on November 9. But the Wildcats continued their winning ways, throttling a Long Beach State team that hung with North Carolina for 30 minutes. An 18-3 run late in the first half erased any doubt about the outcome, and UA cruised to a dominating 94-72 win. The Cats easily managed their way through their first three mini-tests, dispatching Charleston Southern and UTEP before the 49ers. The 3-0 start has been good enough to boost them to ninth in the nation in the AP/Coaches polls. Zona now gets a small reprieve against in-state rival Northern Arizona before going into a rough four-game stretch through early December. Up Next: 11/28 vs. Northern Arizona.

    Freshman Forward Brandon Ashley Leads The Ninth Ranked Wildcats With 13.7 PPG (credit: John Miller)

  3. California, 6-0 (^1): The team that has won the most games so far in 2012-13 comes in at number three after two weeks of play. All three of California’s week two wins came in the DirecTV Classic, where it got two less-than-impressive wins before dominating a solid Pacific team in the classic final. Justin Cobbs was undoubtedly the player of the week in the conference, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in Anaheim. The Golden Bears’ perfect record will be put to the test in their next three games, when they go to Wisconsin and host UNLV and Creighton in Berkeley. Up Next: 12/2 @ Wisconsin.
  4. Oregon, 5-1 (^1): Oregon got maybe the conference’s biggest non-conference road win in what, two or three years, on Friday? The Ducks went into one of the most hostile environments in the country and pulled out a 83-79 win against UNLV, building their record to 5-0 on the season. They’d eventually lose a hard-fought battle with Cincinnati the next night, but the fact that they were a couple bounces away from knocking off back-to-back ranked opponents in the same weekend was enough to boost them up a notch in this week’s rankings. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson was the surprise of the weekend, averaging 14 PPG. If he can continue that kind of production in the coming weeks, Oregon’s schedule sets up so it can escape non-conference play with only one loss. Up Next: 11/29 vs. UTSA.
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Morning Five: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2012

  1. There was a scary moment Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, at a session of The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics when former Maryland star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmore collapsed in his chair during a Q&A session. Luckily, the 6o-year old Harvard Law graduate and resident hoops intellectual was back up on his feet after paramedics arrived and he shortly walked under his own power to his hotel room thereafter. According to the Washington Post, Elmore told SMU president Gerald Turner that this incident was related to a “longstanding health issue” of his and has happened before. We’re glad to hear that Elmore appears to be doing alright, but we sure hope that his ailment is manageable and doesn’t cause him additional and dangerous related problems.
  2. One thing we failed to mention from Monday’s fire hose of preseason information released by CBSSports.com was their article outlining the group’s selections for conference champions, Final Four teams/champions, and major postseason awards. Some of the more interesting choices were Gonzaga making the Final Four on two ballots (Goodman and Norlander), Arizona doing likewise (Goodman and Gottlieb), along with UNLV (Norlander and Borzello) and Michigan State (Parrish). None of the five writers chose the same national champion — Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana — and they were equally disparate when it came to picking Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. When it comes to NPOY, though, the group was nearly uananimous — Cody Zeller showed up on four ballots, with Doug McDermott picking up the lone contrarian vote. One thing is for sure: The field is completely wide open this year and any number of schools will start practice on Friday with reasonable dreams of cutting down the nets next spring in Atlanta.
  3. Yesterday the WAC announced two new additions to its basketball-only league — and make sure you’re sitting down when you read that these titans of the sport are joining the once-venerable old conference — Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. After all the recent defections, these two schools will join a ragtag group that now only includes Denver, Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State. For the next two years, the league will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament under an exemption that allows it to do so without the requisite minimum of seven schools. For a conference that at one time or another boasted such notable basketball schools as Arizona, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, Tulsa and Utah, this is a little bit like looking at a former supermodel in her 70s — it ain’t pretty anymore.
  4. The Battle of the Midway has been saved from liquidation, much to the relief of both Syracuse and San Diego State, the two schools set to face off on the retired ship come Veteran’s Day. But if you want to grab a ticket, make sure to bring your American Express platinum card — ducats for this outdoor game will start at $150 a pop and increase up to as much as $500 the closer you get to the court. Novelty plus scarcity is a certain way to increase demand for a product, but we’re not convinced that pricing a game like this in the rarefied neighborhood of courtside seats to an NBA game is the right way to handle it. Honestly, we’d have preferred that some deep-pocketed sponsor pick up the tab and let military personnel make up the entire audience, but nobody asked us.
  5. It’s not very often that we’ll mention a SWAC school in this space, but it’s also unusual that a school is hit by the NCAA with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” penalty. Texas Southern received just that news on Tuesday, as the NCAA in a statement said that the school was “responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits” over the course of a number of years. As a result, the basketball program, now led by former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, will be banned from the postseason next season and lose two scholarships for the immediate future. The most surprising punishment is that the school must vacate all of its wins in every sport from 2006-10, one of the most egregious penalties we’ve ever seen the NCAA mete out to a school. Davis was certainly informed that he would be walking into a difficult situation at TSU, but we’re guessing that he’ll spend quite a few days clicking his heels together and hoping that he magically re-appears in Bloomington again.
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Morning Five: 08.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 3rd, 2012

  1. Thursday was a day of personnel movement around the college basketball landscape, but it was an endorsement of a proposal by NCAA leadership that made the most news. If approved as expected by NCAA presidents in October, a new measure for much more punitive penalties against NCAA rules violators would include “postseason bans of up to four years, fines that could stretch into the millions and suspensions for head coaches.” If these sanctions sound familiar, they should — Penn State’s unprecedented probation meted out by the NCAA just over a week ago included several components of these changes. Perhaps the biggest and most important change is in the shifting of culpability from individuals within the program to the “captain of the ship” — the head coach. Under the new guidelines, head coaches would be presumed vicariously liable for illegal actions performed by members of their staff — the burden would then fall on the head coach himself to prove that he was completely unaware of those transgressions (and was not negligent in doing so) to avoid responsibility. We haven’t had time to give this a lot of thought just yet, but in the era of ensuring plausible deniability among top dogs everywhere, this is a sea change in the way the NCAA views its expectations of conduct.
  2. Kelsey Barlow was last seen getting booted off of Purdue’s basketball team in late February after his second disruptive incident in a year, when he and teammate DJ Byrd became involved in some kind of confrontation at a West Lafayette bar. A tremendous perimeter defender with ideal size for the position at 6’5″, Barlow left his team high and dry for the second straight year during March Madness — in 2011, he was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and while VCU thoroughly ripped Purdue in that year’s Round of 32, he surely could have helped the Boilers in their tight game with Kansas at the same spot last year. Illinois-Chicago announced on Thursday that Barlow will resurface in the Loop, sitting out next season as a transfer to become eligible to play as a senior in 2013-14. Barlow started 22 games for Purdue last season, averaging 8/4/2 APG in a key glue guy role while also helping to lock down opposing guards in Matt Painter’s sticky defense. This is a talented pickup for a program that was absolutely terrible last year — 3-15 in the Horizon League, 8-22 overall — let’s hope that Barlow uses his second chance wisely.
  3. USC basketball received excellent news on Wednesday when doctors cleared its star point guard Jio Fontan to begin full contact practices again. It was a little over a year ago when the Trojan playmaker tore his ACL during an exhibition trip to Brazil, effectively torpedoing USC’s season before it even got started. A 19-win NCAA Tournament team from 2010-11 drooped to a disastrous six-win group without Fontan’s floor leadership as injuries mounted and hope was lost. Next season, though, Kevin O’Neill has a much higher ceiling for his squad — with Fontan back to join the intriguing prospect of seven-footer DeWayne Dedmon and a host of talented D-I transfers, the Trojans may be poised to leap back toward the top tier of the Pac-12 in a hurry. For comprehensive coverage of USC basketball, check out our Pac-12 microsite’s USC Week from back in early July.
  4. Going from the national championship game to an interim tag in the SWAC is a precipitous decline for a single decade of work, but that’s exactly where former Indiana (2002 national finalist) and UAB head coach Mike Davis finds himself this Friday morning after accepting the interim head coaching job at Texas Southern. According to local reports, the school “plans […] on keeping” Davis on board permanently as soon as it figures out how to handle the abrupt resignation of its previous head coach, Tony Harvey. Davis, along with Matt Doherty (UNC) and Billy Gillispie (Kentucky) represents one of the holy trinity of hires at elite programs in the last decade who were way, way in over their heads at that level. The race to the bottom knows no bounds.
  5. There’s no shortage of bizarre arrest stories in sports, and this one won’t move the broader society needle. But the weird “clerical error” involving Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland that resulted in his arrest during a routine traffic stop on Thursday is borderline absurd. First of all, he was reportedly stopped for “failure to signal” at a turn near the UK campus in Lexington. In most situations, this is otherwise known as a pretext to profile someone — seriously, who gets stopped for a turn signal violation? But it appears that in stopping him, a whole new can of worms was opened in that it turns out that Strickland’s license is currently suspended in Tennessee (which, through reciprocity with Kentucky, showed up in the national criminal database). That suspension stemmed from another arrest in October 2007 when he was pulled over while intoxicated and at the time was driving on a suspended license from Maryland! He also has a DUI conviction from Kentucky in 2010 which temporarily suspended his license there (it was reinstated in 2011). Good grief, man. It sounds like Strickland has a problem — whether with poor decision-making or something more sinister. Regardless, he just needs to leave the car at home.
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Hope is Running Out in Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 19th, 2012

Just three short years ago, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson led the Beavers to a CBI Championship in his first year as head coach in Corvallis. A year later, the Beavers went to the CBI for a second straight season and Robinson was given a two-year extension thru 2015-16. Then things went south. The Beavers won a total of 11 games in 2010-11, with head-scratching losses to opponents like Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington. That season had Beaver fans questioning Robinson and the direction in which the program was going, but rest assured Robinson said, next season would be the year. The team was entirely his, and in his words, “We have the talent to compete in every game we play in.”

Fast forward to three months later. The Beavers are 11-7, which is not a bad record by any means, but not very good either. Their best win was over a mediocre Texas squad on a neutral court, and they have lost five out of their six conference games. But worst of all, the team (all of Robinson’s guys) have stopped playing for him. And it’s because, quite honestly, the guy isn’t a very good coach. Beginning on the offensive side of the ball, the Beavers look completely lost. Robinson has fallen in love with Ahmad Starks, and the team is suffering mightily because of it. Forget the offense that got you ten wins in nonconference play, why not just give the ball to Starks, let him dance around the perimeter for however long he deems necessary, and throw up a shot? This might be a good idea when you need a barrage of threes late in the game, but in the first half? Why not work the ball in and out, maybe get it to the guy who is the supposed “leader of the team” in Jared Cunningham? Robinson has completely abandoned Cunningham on offense, and opponents have picked up on this.

This guy needs to shoot more. (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Defenses are more than willing to simply pack the key and let Starks shoot away for two reasons. One, he’s incredibly streaky. Starks loves to shoot, obviously, and when he’s making them, that’s fine. But those moments are few and far between. Secondly, when the defense already has three players in the paint, it makes it pretty easy to get a rebound. But when Starks is launching threes with the Beaver bigs (especially Devon Collier) out on the wings or on top of the free throw line, it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to get offensive rebounds and second chance points. You’d think Robinson would work on this in practice, but yet we see Collier and Brandt reaching and going over the back every single game because they are never in position.

Another reason offensive production has gone down in conference play is because of Eric Moreland. While Moreland is a great defender, he has no clue what to do on offense and should not be taking up minutes until he learns some basic offensive skills. To Starks’ credit, he does do a good job of slashing through the paint and creating options for everyone. But Moreland is constantly clogging the lane and that takes a way too many possibilities. Players like Angus Brandt and Joe Burton have to get more playing time since they can not only score and pass but also move around and open up the offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Behind the Numbers: Who Is Killing Their Own Team?

Posted by KCarpenter on December 1st, 2011

A lot of the effort in basketball analytics goes towards the good things that players do that do not appear in the box score. This is the driving idea behind Michael Lewis’s seminal New York Times feature, “The No-Stats All-Star,” an early look at analytics in the NBA primarily focused on Darryl Morey, Shane Battier, the Houston Rockets, and adjusted plus/minus. This makes sense: finding hidden strengths is the coach’s angle while finding hidden value is the economist’s angle. As a result of the fine work of smart guys with formulas and others with a willingness to watch a lot of games closely, Charles Jenkins and Nate Wolters were household names last season. This, of course, assumes that your household is filled with basketball dorks, but you get the idea.

Faried Was An Underappreciated Star

Finding diamonds in the rough is a noble pursuit and talking up the greatness of underexposed and underrated players is a worthwhile task (Hey there, Kenneth Faried!). Sometimes, however, there is a joy in using analytics and “advanced” statistics to look for the guy who is hurting his team the most.  Let’s ignore the diamonds and go straight for the rough.

How does a player hurt his team? Well, when push comes to shove, there are basically only two ways: offensively and defensively. Sadly, however, contemporary box scores assign no grade for bad defense to the individual outside of counting how many fouls (which could very well be offensive) a player commits. Our primary understanding of player’s individual defense comes only in positive contributions like blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds while the effect on an opponents shooting percentage is measured at a team level. The noble effort of Luke Winn, David Hess, and others that has sought to enact Dean Oliver’s defensive charting schemes is a good start at really quantifying individual defense, but a very small percentage of Division I games have been looked at in this way making the approach of limited use to someone who wants to look at the whole of college basketball. So, acknowledging that analytic approaches to finding bad defensive players are limited, let’s at least take a quick look at fouls.

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