Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 6th, 2012

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  1. Normally when Yahoo! releases an exclusive report we pay attention because we are sure there some salacious details particularly when Charles Robinson is involved. Yesterday’s report by Robinson and Pat Forde falls far short of that. In their investigation, Robinson and Forde found that Syracuse may have failed to adhere to its internal drug testing policy. According to the report, at least ten players since 2001 have failed drug tests and been allowed to play when they should have been suspended if internal policies had been followed. The only reason this story is even somewhat noteworthy is that the authors assert that the NCAA could sanction the school for playing ineligible players although the extent of those penalties and even which teams would be involved is unknown at this time. For their part, the school released a generic statement saying that they are working with the NCAA on this matter.
  2. Memphis is starting to look like a dangerous team, having only lost three games since Christmas by a combined six points, and some additional help may be on the way in the form of freshman Adonis Thomas, who has been cleared to play this Thursday. Thomas, out since January with an ankle injury, should provide additional help for the Tigers and should not alter their offense too much, as he is not a high-volume shooter, but it will be worth watching to see what kind of shape he is in and how the dynamic of the team changes with his return.
  3. The wheels on the coaching carousel have started and yesterday two schools announced that they were firing their current head coaches. With their season just completed on Saturday, Brown announced that it was firing Jesse Agel after the team went 8-23 overall and 2-12 in the Ivy League to finish second to last. Agel, who went 39-79 in four seasons, had a 33.2% winning percentage, which was the third worst in the program’s history. Perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement is that former Syracuse killer T.J. Sorrentine was announced as the interim head coach, although with the school’s athletic director leaving at the end of June that appointment could be very short-lived.
  4. Randy Peele has had significantly more success at Winthrop, but even two Big South Conference titles (2008 and 2010) were not enough to overcome back-to-back losing seasons including a 20-loss season this year, which was the school’s first since the 1997-98 season. So the school announced yesterday that it was firing Peele, who finished 77-82 in five seasons. Unfortunately for Peele, his time at Winthrop was feast or famine, what with the two NCAA Tournament appearances and three losing seasons in his five years there with nothing in between. The school, which owes Peele $165,000 for the last year of his contract, will begin looking for a successor.
  5. With the regular season over, John Gasaway decided to run his Tuesday Truths column a day early. In this week’s edition, Gasaway takes a look back at the regular season conference numbers and provides brief previews of the conference tournaments. Most of the numbers are about what you would expect based on the standings, but some statistics (like those for a certain Big 12 team that is horrendous at making in-game defensive adjustments) might surprise a few people.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our One on One interview with the always-entertaining Tom BrennanIn addition to learning that integration helped knock him out of a starting spot at Georgia and that his athletic director at Yale all but pushed him out the door to Vermont, we re-discovered that the man simply loves to tell stories.  Whether it involves him telling his new boss that he’s already fulfilled all his career goals or thinking he had coaching all figured out at the tender age of 27, he had us riveted to each and every word.  Part II is only better.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Rush the Court: Guys like us who study the sport knew you were pretty good in ’03 and ’04, but most of America, though, didn’t know about you guys until that ’05 season.  The ESPN program helped with that, but then of course the NCAA Tournament run built upon it.  You guys really caught lightning in a bottle in terms of national coverage, and with Taylor Coppenrath, TJ Sorrentine, and yourself, you all became national names almost overnight.  What was that like?

Tom Brennan: We were pretty.  We really were pretty.  I had this radio show every morning during morning drive-time.  It was like something out of a novel.  Sorrentine was the little street kid from Pawtucket [RI], you know, who was the leader and had his hat on sideways.  And Coppenrath was like Lil’ Abner; he was from a town of 200 people, and they loved him.  They loved him!  He never complained; he was really a treat.  And then I had three or four other guys that just really blended in.  I always say this — like, David Hehn — the first year we won [in 2003], we won at BU, and he made a jumper with about five seconds to go to win the game.  So now, it’s Vermont’s first championship, we win it on the road.  Everybody’s nuts, but then we had Coppenrath and Sorrentine.  You know, Sorrentine was out that year, and he’s coming back and he’d been the MVP.  And the year he was out, Coppenrath was the MVP.  So now I got these two studs, and they’re both really good, but I also have to manage all this sh– to make sure everybody is on the same page.  Like Hehn went from a superhero to A Chorus Line — he went back, “just let me guard the other team’s best player.”  But if any of those kids had ego problems, I think we could have blown up.  They were just so good about it, and everybody really was into the idea that we’re all better if we’re together, and we’re all better if we don’t care who gets the credit and that kind of stuff.  As cliched as it sounds, it really was the truth.  Coppenrath and Sorrentine were both ultimate teammates, and the other three guys were as well.  And we were tough!  We’d been around — all the same guys — for three years, then ESPN got interested.  ESPN The Magazine did a big story on us, and Sports Illustrated.  It was off the hook, and it’s such a little state and we’re the only Division I school, and people just went crazy about it.  Really, those guys were like the Beatles — they really were.

The Vermont Rock Stars Knowns as Brennan's Catamounts (Getty/J. McIsaac)

RTC:  So let me ask you about those three NCAA Tournaments.  In succession, you went up against Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo.  [laughter]  There’s no break there, right?  What was that like?  Olson’s now retired — he coached until he was about 150, but these other guys continue to get it done even as they advance well into their coaching careers.  What is it about these coaches that makes them so successful?

TB:  I always said, “if God had another son, he would look like Lute Olson.”  It was remarkable what Calhoun did last year — he finished ninth in their league!  And it’s not like he’s going to rally them — he’s a bad-ass.  You know, he gets in those kids’ faces; he doesn’t take no for an answer.  I mean, he’s just ruthless, and yet, man, they did it.  They did it.  I was always impressed with that, and what happened was… it was funny.  I was so in awe of Lute Olson — it was just unbelievable, because, again, the guy was like a god to me — and I didn’t know him, but I just knew of him, and what he’d done and what he’d accomplished and how he looked and he was always so gracious.  And so I’m walking down, we’re getting ready to play them, and what happened was that his wife had died a while back, and then he ended up with this woman from Pennsylvania [Christine Olson] — I don’t even know how the hell it happened, but she was like a Republican leader, some big deal from Pennsylvania — and I read this thing where he was very happy.  That he’d met this woman and she’d really made him happy, so I didn’t think much of it, but when I was walking down to say hello to him, I was so nervous.  Honest to God, I wasn’t even nervous about the game, I was nervous about him!  Because I knew, they’re a #1, we’re a #16 — I mean, they had [Andre] Iguodala, they had all kinds of players on that team.  We had been stuck in the snow, we didn’t get to Salt Lake until 1:30 in the morning, and we played at 11.  It was crazy.  It was just crazy.  Our kids were like, “f—, look where we are.”  And that’s the thing, by the time the second year came around [against UConn in 2004], we really weren’t that shook, and by the time the third year came around [against Syracuse in 2005], we knew that we could win.  We really knew we were good enough.  So, anyway, I go up to Lute Olson, and he said, “Coach, how are you?”  And I said, “Coach, I just wanna say that I’m just so happy that you’ve found peace in your personal life.”  I’m thinking to myself, “what the f— are you saying?!?!”  I’m hearing these words come out, and I’m thinking, “you a–hole!”  I didn’t even know what to say to him; I was so awestruck, honest to God.  So he said, “well, thank you.”  And I just turned and ran like a rabbit, and thought “jeezus… good first impression, there.”  But you know what, when I retired, he wrote me the nicest letter.  He wrote me a beautiful letter, and so it was nice.  But you know, we never had a chance.  [Vermont lost 80-51.]  I have a picture on my cell and we were up, like 7-6, got it blown up and put it on my wall.  But then, and this is a cute story too.  We got stuck in the snow, and I went on [Tony] Kornheiser’s show, PTI or whatever it was — I guess it was his radio show at the time — and I said, “you know, this is ridiculous.”  I said, “they make billions of dollars on this thing, and they can’t get us from Denver to Salt Lake City?  If you think this was Duke in this hotel, we’d still be here.”  I wasn’t even finished, and the AD knocked on the door: “hey, yo, that’s enough about that.”  [laughter]  So that was enough about that.  So then anyway, but what happened was, we did get tapped out, and to take us home, the NCAA felt so bad and I guess my rant had a little bit to do with it, they sent us a plane that [Bruce] Springsteen uses, the Rolling Stones use, and you couldn’t even tell it was a plane.  So now, my wife and I are standing at the back, and the captain comes down, and he says, “are you the coach?”  I said, “yes, sir.  I’m the coach.”  He said, “well, you come with me, I’m going to take you to Mick Jagger’s suite.”  So I turned to Lynn [Brennan, his wife], I said, “hey, you gotta turn into a Brazilian model by the time we get to the top of the stairs.”  [laughter]  It was wild.  But it was a great experience; it was a great experience for our kids.  And I knew that we had a chance to keep going, that we had this group that was good.  So then the next year we played UConn, played them tougher than anybody as I recall, on their march to the championship.  [Vermont lost 70-53.]  I think they beat us less than anybody else, and then the next year we got Syracuse.     

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #7: Two Shades of Orange(men)

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2009


RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

We got two excellent submissions involving Syracuse, so we decided to throw both of them up in this memory (yeah, it’s cheating… take it up with our compliance dept.).

Syracuse, Finally (submitted by The Kiff)

Growing up in suburban Albany, NY, I have been a Syracuse basketball fan all of my life. Until 2003, that meant a life of never having had “my team” win the NCAA tournament – although it has meant heartbreak (see, e.g., 1987, 1996). That made 2003 all the more sweet. That year was my last year of law school in Virginia. My roommate and I decided on a whim that we would go to Vegas for the first week of the tournament – not an original idea, but still a great one. We got a flight on Southwest and a room at some crack den that has since been torn down called Bourbon Street. All I can say in justification is that we were poor students and that it was a 3-minute walk to Caesars Palace – and we weren’t killed. We got to Caesar’s Palace early Thursday morning, finding slot machines to sit at where we could watch the games, and just absorbing everything around us. While half of the screens in front of us were showing bombs of a different type in Iraq, we were largely focused on the upcoming games (and nervously wondering if there were going to be any).  I remember my buddy telling me that I could get 40-1 on Syracuse winning it all. I laughed and told him he was crazy – Cuse never wins it all, they just make you think they can. Damn it.

On Friday, we found ourselves actually sitting next to a couple of big Cuse fans, which was perfect. All I remember about the first game against Manhattan is that they won – not convincingly, but they won. I also remember that my hands hurt like a bitch from all of the high-fiving, and that I could barely talk from all of the yelling. On Sunday afternoon the good seats in Caesars opened up, and we were sitting pretty right in front. Unfortunately, the game started out rough – Cuse went down big early on (a Google search shows me they went down 17 points – jesus!). My buddy and I were going insane that they might lose in the second round with that lineup (McNamara, Anthony, Warrick, Edelin) – although I remember being less stressed than this kid sitting in front of us who we were pretty sure had bet his entire college tuition on the game. In the Final Four game against Texas, my memory is that Carmelo Anthony scored about 95 points and Gerry McNamara was hitting 3-pointers from half court. And this.  That may be the result of a faulty memory, but they definitely dominated. Finally, Syracuse was back in the Finals – they would be a major part of “One Shining Moment” – hopefully the best part.

This next part is a little embarrassing. Saturday night after the Final Four game, I had to go to an incoming-student event at the local pub. I spent the night drunk, chanting “Let’s Go Orange, Let’s Go!” (add clapping here) to anyone who would or would not listen. Now, I didn’t know my wife at that point, but when I later met her, and subsequently her friends, they knew me as the pathetically drunk dumbass in the [bar name redacted to protect the innocent] who had been screaming about “the Orange” all night. Alas, if they only knew how big it was to get into the Finals again. I couldn’t stand to watch the final game in a bar, so a buddy from school who is from the Syracuse area and is a bigger Cuse fan than me came over to my apartment and watched it with me. Needless to say, Hakim Warrick is a god to us. I have (almost) forgotten his missed free throws that almost killed us because the subsequent image of his diving block of the 3-pointer with no time on the clock is burned into my retinas. I have never been so happy watching a sporting event – except maybe the 1986 World Series, but I was too young to appreciate that one. If the Bills ever win a Super Bowl, I’ll have to revisit that statement, but for now, the 2003 Tournament, with my first trip to Vegas, the amazing games and Syracuse’s first Tourney win, will never be forgotten (note: the below video isn’t me, but it could have been).


The other memory involving the Orangemen didn’t quite go the same way…

Sorrentine… From the Parking Lot (submitted by Michael Hurley)

There is nothing greater in sports than March Madness. It does what high school basketball no longer accomplishes. Except for in Kentucky and Delaware, high school basketball breaks their state tournaments down into classes by size. The NCAA tournament pits the big schools against the small schools. Every team needs to win six games straight. It is the same concept regardless of the size of school. Yes, there is seeding which makes it easier for the bigger and higher seeded schools, but the fundamentals are still the same. This is what enables teams along the way to write their own story and provide memorable moments in single games.

It’s the 2005 NCAA tournament. Syracuse was 27-6 and a four seed going up against Vermont, a thirteen seed. The Big East had six teams qualify for the tournament while Vermont was America East’s only representative. Syracuse had just won the national championship only two years before and Vermont had never won an NCAA tournament game. It had all of the makings of a David vs. Goliath. Vermont played Syracuse tough though, holding them to 23 first half points and was only down four. The Catamounts started to believe and came out in the second half and sent the game into overtime.

In overtime the Catamounts found themselves down two points with just under two minutes remaining when Germain Mopa Njila, who had been playing the best game of his career, hit a three to give Vermont the lead. The next play down the court for Vermont T.J Sorrentine hits the shot I will always remember. Sorrentine runs the clock down before tossing up a three-pointer from what it seemed like, halfcourt. The television camera catches coach Tom Brennan’s reaction to the shot and it is priceless. Brennan, who had announced at the beginning of the year he was going to retire after nineteen years at Vermont, is jumping for joy. Even though Vermont got knocked out their very next game, their victory over Syracuse will always reside in my memory when it comes to slaying the giant. T.J Sorrentine’s shot truly is the sweetest moment I can remember from the NCAA tournament.

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Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2009

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Right now, the Ivy League is a mess. Somehow, heading into the final weekend of conference play, a Cornell team that is superior to any other in the league has yet to clinch its berth in the Big Dance (remember there’s no conference tournament in the Ivies). Somehow, Princeton – the same Princeton that started 2-8 with losses to mighty teams like Maine, Central Connecticut and Lafayette on its resume – controls its own destiny. And somehow, Yale and Dartmouth – yes, Dartmouth! – are still mathematically alive with two games to play.

Here’s the deal in simplest terms: If Cornell (9-3 league) takes care of business and beats Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night at home (where they are undefeated this season), then they win the league. They can also win the league if they beat Penn while Princeton loses at Columbia tonight.  But if Princeton (7-4) is able to sweep Columbia and Cornell this weekend, then the Tigers’ game Tuesday against Penn – the final game of the Ivy League season – could either make or break their chances of winning at least a share of the league title. (In the case of a tie at the top, there would be a one-game playoff between the co-champs with the NCAA berth on the line).

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Conference Primers: #25 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Vermont (21-7) (13-3)
  2. Boston U. (18-10) (12-4)
  3. Albany (16-13) (10-6)
  4. Binghamton (14-13) (9-7)
  5. Maryland-Baltimore County (13-16) (8-8)
  6. Maine (9-19) (6-10)
  7. Stony Brook (10-18) (6-10)
  8. Hartford (9-21) (5-11)
  9. New Hampshire (6-21) (3-13)

America East Logo

WYN2K. The Am East has a tendency toward top-heaviness, with a couple of good teams in a given year that are competitive with mid-major and (sometimes) high-major teams while the rest are relegated to the morass of low-major fiefdom. Over the last several years, the three sentinels of America East basketball have been Vermont , Boston U. and Albany, the three of which have won the last six regular season and conference tourney championships of the league (although only once in the same year – Vermont in 2005) . Led by these programs, the conference has gone 119-176 (.403) against nonconference opponents over the last three seasons, which is a clear step up in success from the conferences below it. We expect the same three programs to battle it out for this year’s crown.

Predicted Champion. Vermont (#16 seed NCAA). Choosing UVM here was an extremely close call, as we fully expect BU and Albany to make a push for the league crown as well. Despite the losses of rebounding fiend Chris Holm (#3 in oReb% nationally) and rising star Joe Trapani (transfer to BC), the Catamounts return probable Am East POY Mike Trimboli at the point guard slot. We feel that his heady play, combined with the losses at the other schools will allow Vermont to hang on to the top spot.

Others Considered. BU is rising quickly, led by a quartet of precocious sophomores who surprised the league by finishing 8-8 in the conference last season. The most interesting of these players is Tyler Morris, reigning Am East ROY who also has the distinction of being the HS teammate of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. See if you can find him in the video below (look very closely for the white kid in green). Two-time defending NCAA entrant Albany must also be dealt with, despite losing Am East POY (twice over) Jamar Wilson. Brent Wilson and Brian Lillis (Am East DPOY) have more than enough support to make another run at the title. A final consideration goes to Binghamton, who hired Georgetown assistant coach Kevin Broadus to bring the Princeton offense to upstate NY. Considering that Binghamton was already one of the most sure-handed offenses in the nation (#9 in oStl%), we think this group will be ready for the transition. It also doesn’t hurt that the 2008 conference tourney will be located in Binghamton. Watch out for the Bearcats as a darkhorse.

Games to Watch. As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.

  • America East Championship Game (03.15.08). ESPN2.

RPI Booster Games. The America East shies away from playing numerous BCS conference teams (18 games scheduled last year; 16 this year), but it makes up for it by playing quite a few winnable games against mid-major teams. For example, last year Albany defeated Utah to go along with the league’s three wins vs. BCS opponents (Vermont 77, BC 63; Binghamton 79, Miami (FL) 74; Stony Brook 59, Penn St. 51). There are several such opportunities this season.

  • Vermont @ George Mason (11.09.07)
  • Vermont @ Virginia (11.11.07)
  • Boston U. @ George Washington (11.14.07)
  • Maryland-BC @ Wichita St. (12.04.07)
  • Albany @ Duke (12.17.07)
  • Boston U. @ UMass (12.29.07)
  • Albany @ Iowa St. (12.30.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Zip. Even with Vermont going 15-1 in the league last year and losing to Albany by one point in the conference tourney final, they were relegated to the NIT (losing to Kansas St. 59-57). This year will be a more competitive race, which leaves no opportunity for multiple bids.

Neat-o Stat. We have several today. The Am East is a league where coaches get their starts – names like Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Mike Jarvis, Mike Brey, and Jay Wright all earned their chops in the league before moving onto bigger and better things. Will Binghamton’s Kevin Broadus be the next coaching star from the America East? Also, just call Maryland-Baltimore County’s Brian Hodges the Human Cannon this season – he ranked sixth in the nation in shots attempted, taking 37.4% of his team’s shots while on the floor. Finally, everyone thinks UVM stands for University (of) Ver… Mont, right? Well, no – it actually is latin (Universitas Viridis Montis) for University of the Green Mountains. Go figure.

64/65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) over this era, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). #13 Albany was blitzed last year by #4 Virginia, but in 2006 the Great Danes were leading #1 seed UConn 60-48 with eleven minutes remaining before Marcus Williams took over and finished them off down the stretch (34-9 run by the Huskies). And who can forget the Sorrentine and Coppenrath show vs. Cuse in 2005?

Final Thought. The Am East is one of our favorite low-major leagues. In the few games we see involving these teams, the fans seem to be incredibly rowdy and into the games. The level of basketball as a rule is decidedly below the rim, but teams make up for it in execution and shooting. And how can you not like resident Am East cheerleader (and former UVM coach) Tom Brennan doing studio work for ESPN all winter.

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