Big East M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 18th, 2012

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  1.  Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim won his 900th game narrowly over Detroit last night and while the rest of the Internet is off celebrating his worthy and incredible milestone, the good folks over at Casual Hoya decided to celebrate the occasion in a much different way — by putting together an exhaustive list of all the issues and arrests involving the Syracuse basketball program since Boeheim has been in charge.  Of course every coach who has that many years under his belt is sure to have overseen his fair share of less-than-savory characters and many programs have similar legal issues, but it is still quite an impressive list of mischief, borderline criminal behavior, and outright criminal behavior displayed by the fine men who have worn the orange. I am sure plenty of folks from the righteous corners of the Internet will condemn a post of this nature in the wake of Boeheim’s big day, but in my opinion, the money he earns and his own candor in interviews make the head coach fair game for some excellent tongue-in-cheek ribbing like this. In fact, I wish we could see a list like this for every coach who has stayed with one program for more than two decades.
  2. Poor Kevin Ollie. The first-year Connecticut coach has almost no job security, a limited roster from a talent standpoint, and now he has to deal with the fallout of the crumbling of the Big East. This guy just can’t catch a break. When asked for his feelings on the sudden departures of the Catholic 7, Ollie basically said he didn’t have any, which is good, because worrying about conference realignment is not his job and he clearly has enough on his plate already. The Huskies are the clear losers in conference realignment, left for dead in the shell of the Big East with an unknown future, and as that situation grows murkier, the more you will hear calls for UConn athletic director Warde Manuel to give Ollie the job. Manuel seems set on waiting for a larger sample size of games before extending his rookie head coach, which is fine, but he just better hope that if Ollie isn’t the guy that he has someone else in mind, because selling a UConn job with stormy weather still ahead won’t be easy.
  3. This is a cool financial look at what’s ahead for members of the Catholic 7, involving a lot of rough math on whether these new schools will be able to stay afloat without the financial support of a football conference. Marquette, Villanova, and Providence were the only members of the seven to turn a profit from their basketball programs and concerns about NCAA Tournament units and TV deal revenues mean that the schools will need to find creative ways to make a buck or two from their hoops squads, which, as you might expect, spend a lot of money. There is a lot of good, in-depth information in this piece that the average fan might not be aware of, so be sure to read through the entire thing, even if it is quite lengthy.
  4. Tomorrow will be the first Crosstown Classic between intracity rivals Xavier and Cincinnati since last season’s infamous brawl, but while everyone in the media pretty much insists on using the brawl as their story peg, most of the players and coaches involved have moved on and are hoping that everyone else can do the same. Bearcats’ point guard Cashmere Wright‘s point about all the players actually involved in the brawl now gone is a fair one. Yancy Gates, Mark Lyons, Tu Holloway, and Octavius Ellis have all moved on and it seems unlikely that any of the current players will bring back any bad blood. These programs play tough, physical, hard-nosed basketball, and it would be a shame if that brand of basketball didn’t show up on Wednesday night for fear of inciting yet another fracas. The hope for everyone, fans included, is that the game can remain competitive and gritty without getting violent. If that happens, we will likely be treated to an excellent game and the first true test of the season for Mick Cronin’s undefeated Bearcats.
  5. Who is ready for a good ole fashioned family affair on Wednesday night when Rick Pitino and Louisville square off with son Richard Pitino and Florida International? You better believe that Pitino’s ever-quotable wife Joanne would have something to say on the matter (as a side note, Joanne Pitino is rapidly shattering records for most spousal mentions on a college basketball blog), and it sounds like everyone is predicting a Cardinals’ blowout. The younger Pitino inherited a depleted squad at FIU and is just beginning the rebuilding effort, with help from his overbearing father, who just can’t seem to stop coaching basketball even when his own team isn’t involved. This story doesn’t involve any earth-shattering information, but it is a chance for the entertaining Pitino family to get another chance to introduce themselves to the public and frankly, they don’t disappoint. I, for one, hope the elder Pitino never retires. College basketball just won’t be the same without him.
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Bidding Them Farewell: Paying Homage to the Undrafted College Seniors

Posted by EJacoby on July 2nd, 2012

The NBA Draft is only two rounds long, so it’s quite difficult to crack the top 60 eligible draftees into the league in a given year. It’s even more challenging for graduating seniors, who not only compete with younger collegians but also foreign prospects from around the world who possess greater ‘upside’ in the minds of NBA evaluators. Constantly in search of the next hidden gem, general managers tend to overlook the players they’ve watched over the past four seasons in college. Only four seniors were picked in the first round during last Thursday’s draft, and while another 17 made it into the second there was still a large pool of graduates who didn’t hear their names called. There were far more than 21 impactful seniors in college basketball last season, and we’re here to honor the careers of those who didn’t get selected. We won’t forget the contributions of these following players, and with hard work and a little luck they should have a strong chance of cracking an NBA roster in the future.

Kevin Jones had a brilliant college career but wasn’t recognized on draft night (Getty Images)

  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia – A career that included a trip to the Final Four as a sophomore and leading the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior wasn’t enough to merit consideration by the NBA. Jones averaged 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season on 50.9% shooting from the field and 78.0% shooting from the line while also making a three-pointer per game. He also led the conference in Offensive Rating, this all coming on a squad with little offensive help elsewhere.
  • William Buford, Ohio State – Buford was a McDonald’s All-American guard with prototypical 6’6″ size who averaged double figures every season at Ohio State, making two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He shoots it well and has shown a strong tendency to fit into an offensive scheme with other talented scorers, but his inability to take over games perhaps made him overlooked by scouts.
  • Scott Machado, Iona – Machado led the country in assists last season (9.9 per game) while also reaching career highs in points, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage as the leader of an at-large NCAA Tournament team. Even in a weak point guard draft, no team pulled the trigger on Machado, but he’ll have a great chance to dazzle in Summer League as one of the more polished floor leaders. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: And Then There Were Two

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2012


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.

Thirty-three TO26 teams entered the greatest weekend in sports, and just two — Xavier and Ohio — survived to make it to the second weekend.  This is the weakest showing for non-BCS teams since 2005, when only Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Utah made it to the Sweet Sixteen (where they were dispatched by Illinois and Kentucky, respectively). But that’s not to say that it wasn’t an exciting first weekend for the TO26. Indeed, Friday was a historic day, as not just one, but two #15 seeds notched wins. It was mad, it was March, and it was why we — especially those of us who relish the mid-major game as much as the high-major one — love college hoops.

Below, we take a look at how those 15 seed upsets confounded us and and how they didn’t, the likelihood that Xavier and Ohio will continue to carry the TO26 banner into deeper rounds, and reflect on the surprising and not so surprising first round losses suffered by some of the best TO26 teams.

The Survivors

Can the TO26 makes its mark on the regional final or — gasp — the Final Four?

Ohio — For the second time in three years, D.J. Cooper has taken the NCAA Tournament by storm, scoring 40 points in two wins.  More generally, the Bobcats are a young, athletic, and dangerous team with a surprisingly high talent level for a MAC squad.  Their #13 seed reflects a bit of trouble that they had in the middle of the season, but this team is playing better than that, almost as well as the ’06 George Mason and ’11 VCU teams did when they stormed the Final Four with a #11 seed.

Can John Groce D.J. Cooper, and the Ohio Bobcats Make History?

Still, under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t give them great odds against a North Carolina squad that tends to dominate inside.  But for those of you who just returned to civilization from a one-week absence, be advised that these are not normal circumstances.  Kendall Marshall’s likely absence (or limited ability, at the least) may leave UNC vulnerable to Ohio’s turnover-generating defense and without the ability to run its vaunted transition offense.  If the Bobcats can rattle the Tar Heels and UNC is unable to push the ball effectively, this could be a real contest.  And after that, who knows?  Kansas, with its effective interior game, would be a real challenge, but NC State would be eminently beatable.  It is not inconceivable that the Bobcats could become the first team with a seed higher than 11 to land in the Final Four.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: South Region

Posted by EMoyer on March 22nd, 2012

On Friday night, Kentucky will play in its 23rd Sweet Sixteen, facing rival Indiana . Here we preview the game between the Wildcats and Hoosiers as well as the possibilities for the Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

SEC NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal Capsule

South Region 

  • #1 Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 52; Record 109-47; Best Finish: Champion – 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, National Semifinal
  • #4 Indiana: Championship Appearances: 36; Record 62-30; Best Finish: Champion – 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987; How Qualified: At-Large, Big Ten; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, First Round
  • #3 Baylor: Championship Appearances: 7; Record 8-8; Best Finish: Runner Up  – 1948; How Qualified: At Large, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2010 – L, Elite 8
  • #10 Xavier: Championship Appearances: 23; Record 21-22; Best Finish: Elite 8 – 2004, 2008; How Qualified: At Large, Atlantic 10; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Sweet 16
All-Time Meetings
  • Kentucky vs Indiana: Kentucky leads 31-24; Last Meeting: Dec. 11, 2011 (Indiana 73, Kentucky 72)
  • Kentucky vs Baylor: Kentucky leads 6-0; Last Meeting: Dec. 8, 1979 (Kentucky 80, Baylor 46)
  • Kentucky vs Xavier: Kentucky leads 37-2; Last Meeting: Nov. 30, 1968 (Kentucky 115, Baylor 68)
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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ATB: Absolute MADNESS – Chaos Ensues As Round of 64 Concludes…

Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – Thursday was a fairly slow first day of NCAA Tournament action, producing just two total upsets and leaving much to be desired in terms of thrilling finishes. Friday was a completely different story – two #15 seeds won on the same day for the first time ever, with the results coming just a couple of hours apart. We also saw a #13, #12, #11, and two #10 seeds come out victorious in one of the craziest days in Big Dance history. Half of the games on the schedule resulted in upsets, including seven of the final nine contests on this freaky Friday night. Without further ado, we provide everything you need to know in this installment of After The Buzzer…

Your Watercooler Moment. #15 Norfolk State Stuns #2 Missouri.

It was supposed to be the late afternoon game to fill the only quiet block of the evening. #15-seed Norfolk State against #2 Missouri, the exciting up-tempo team that produced the most efficient offense in the country this season with its four-guard attack. Mizzou was a very popular Final Four pick, considered the team with the greatest upside in the West Region. But then things got interesting; pesky Norfolk State was hanging around and had the game tied at halftime. Every time you looked up at the scoreboard in the second half, Norfolk was ahead or behind by a couple of points and that’s when it was time to tell all your friends that we might have a serious bracket-buster taking place. Sure enough, it happened. The Spartans of the MEAC conference became the first #15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game in 11 years since a fellow MEAC school did it in the form of Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001. This year, it was dominant big man Kyle O’Quinn who paced the way with a monster double-double for a team that shot 54.2% from the field and went 10-19 from three. Missouri played fine offensively, shooting 52.7% itself, but the Tigers allowed the tournament’s least-efficient offense to hit shots from everywhere on the floor as well as out-hustle them to loose balls and open rebounds. Little did we know, the madness was only beginning on this night.

Also Worth Chatting About. Hours Later, #15 Lehigh Makes History

Most brackets were busted from Missouri’s loss alone, but those who happened to have the Tigers falling early in their pools surely didn’t survive the rest of the night, either. The 7:00 PM ET block of games blew the roof off of this tournament, beginning with the little guys from the Patriot League. #15 Lehigh had a terrific year led by mid-major star guard C.J. McCollum, but nobody thought this team had a chance against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, the most successful NCAA Tournament team of the past 20 years. #2-seed Duke, though, was vulnerable because of an injury to starting forward Ryan Kelly and an overall trend of weak recent play thanks to a porous defense. The Mountain Hawks took advantage early and often, leading this game early in the first half and continuing to put the pressure on Duke’s ‘D’. McCollum was the star of the show, Duke wasn’t hitting from the perimeter, and Lehigh really had a chance to win this game. Late in the second half it was anyone’s game, but McCollum made big play after big play while no Duke guard could counter. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins combined to shoot 4-19 from three. Gabe Knutson matched Mason Plumlee inside going for 17 points on 5-5 shooting. And when the buzzer sounded, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were winners in a thorough victory that made history. For the first time ever, two #15 seeds won in the same year of the NCAA Tournament. And it all happened on the same evening, just two-and-a-half hours apart.

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Rushed Reaction: #10 Xavier 67, #7 Notre Dame 63

Posted by mpoindexter on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Don’t try to Get Away with Anything at the end of a close Game. Officials in this year’s NCAA Tournament games have made a point of calling small violations in the final seconds of games. Down by two with 2.8 seconds left on the clock, Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins went to the line for a 1-and-1. His first shot went in, but an official erased it and the following attempt by calling a lane violation on Notre Dame. Then, on the ensuing play, the official called a flagrant foul on Notre Dame for tugging on a Xavier player’s jersey before the ball was put into play. Xavier’s Dezmine Wells took his foul shots, icing the game. We weren’t as likely to see these calls in previous years, but it’s obvious that the NCAA is making an effort to have their officials call the games consistently start to finish, regardless of the score. This may initially lead to some head-scratching, but it’s better for college basketball in the long run.
  2. This was the Tu Holloway We’ve Been Waiting For. Xavier’s star senior Holloway has been solid this year, but he hasn’t played quite as well as the All-American season many expected. Holloway lived up to the hype against Notre Dame though, putting in 25 points with a 10-for-15 shooting performance.
  3. Offense, Offense, Offense. The Musketeers and Fighting Irish played hard on defense, but today’s contest was really a slow-paced shootout. Notre Dame would usually win scoring 1.09 points per possession, but Xavier managed a stunning 1.22 points per possession. The Musketeers took 44 shots on the night, and 22 of them went in. That type of efficiency will get you a long way in March.

Star of the Game. Tu Holloway, Xavier. As stated above, Holloway hasn’t lived up to the very high expectations set for him this year. However, he carried the Musketeers down the stretch, most importantly hitting a late-game running floater over two Notre Dame players while fading away from the basket to put his team up by one with 22 seconds left. The NCAA Tournament is about narratives almost as much as it is about wins and losses, and today’s performance against Notre Dame may be the first step to Tu Holloway reversing the negative one that he and his team have dealt with since the Cincinnati brawl.

Sights and Sounds. Notre Dame and Xavier played a fantastic, competitive game, but most in attendance seemed exhausted after experiencing Lehigh’s prior victory over Duke. The Lehigh cheering section went off to celebrate, the large Duke contingent went off to forget, and what was left was a sparsely-populated coliseum that felt more like a high school crowd than anything else. The 10:15 start time was late, and the basketball was slow and methodical. Yet, at the end, well after midnight in Greensboro, as the two teams traded baskets and the clock wound down, the crowd rose and the Greensboro Coliseum, once again, became electric.

What’s Next? The Lehigh Mountain Hawks. And if today’s UNC Tar Heel favoring crowd is any indication, the Musketeers will be playing against a team that has the crowd behind them. Lehigh is playing with tons of confidence at the moment, but Xavier should look to use their slight size advantage to their benefit against the Mountain Hawks. Xavier could be a man down, though, as starting forward Andre Walker spent much of the second half at the end of the bench. Walker caught an errant forearm to the face before hitting the floor hard. Walker and his 28 minutes per game would be a huge loss for Xavier on Sunday.

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Atlantic 10 Tournament Finals, Daily Diary

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2012

Three Bids? Four Bids?
If the nearly unanimous opinion leaving the Boardwalk Hall Saturday night was that Xavier was definitely “in”, the feeling was less certain as the Championship game wound toward a conclusion. Xavier looked like the January 24 edition rather than the March 10 edition. Saint Bonaventure had seized the automatic bid, had Xavier’s lackluster performance knocked them out of tournament? The Selection Committee must have liked their body of work, because Xavier drew a #10 seed in the South Region and will face fellow Midwesterner Notre Dame in the second round, while Saint Bonaventure drew the #14 seed (fitting for a team not even in the bubble discussion a week ago) in the East Region and will play Florida State in Nashville on Friday. Saint Louis and Temple were “in” to start the week, so elimination before the Championship game hurt at most a seed. Saint Louis was seeded #9 in the West Region and will face Memphis on Friday in Columbus and lastly Temple was seeded #5 in the Midwest Region and will face either California or South Florida (the winner of the #12 seed playoff in Dayton on Tuesday) on Friday, also in Nashville. The conference did draw 4 bids, the third time in conference history that four teams have made the field of 64 (or 68…). The conference has earned five bids twice, in 1996-97 and in 1997-98. This marks the 13th time in the last 17 post seasons that the conference has earned more than two bids.

Nicholson Helped Guide Saint Bonaventure To An Automatic Bid

The Gate, Again
The announced attendance for the Championship game was 6,101, as Saint Bonaventure fans from all over the Northeast drove in overnight to cheer their Bonnies on. The absence of the three Philadelphia teams did not appear to depress the attendance numbers as many feared, while the crowd, loud and enthusiastic from the introductions to the final buzzer gave the barrel-ceiling auditorium the intimate feel of a college campus arena.

Temple is Out, Who’s Got Next?
Though the Owls are due to play another season of basketball in the Atlantic-10, speculation has begun about who will replace Temple as the 14th member of the conference. Concern about presence in media markets have some looking at another New York metro area school while those concerned about quality of the basketball (what else?) program look elsewhere. New York metro area teams mentioned include Iona (too small perhaps) of the MAAC and Quinnipiac (located in Connecticut) of the NEC. Given the conference’s extremely large footprint, George Mason, a Virginia state school with excellent facilities and reputation, was also mentioned. The Patriots would make a good “traveling companion” for Charlotte, Richmond and George Washington. George Mason’s affiliation with the CAA, combined with their run to the Final Four in 2005-06, make it an attractive acquisition target for the A-10. Given Commissioner McGlade’s southern orientation (she spearheaded the move of the conference’s headquarters from Philadelphia to Virginia Beach when she became commissioner) gives credence to George Mason rumors. Another intriguing candidate, mentioned frequently, is Butler, the Horizon Conference power whose runs to the Final Four in 2010 and 2011 along with their historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, speak to a long and successful tradition in basketball.

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Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinals, Daily Diary

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2012

Joe Dzuback filed this report from the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Coach Rick Majerus is a Gentleman. The Saint Louis coach was as effusive in his praise of Xavier, winners over his Saint Louis team earlier today, as he was of La Salle, the Billikens quarterfinal victim on Friday. The coach began each of his postgame press conferences this weekend with complementary remarks about the play and dedication of their opponents. The referee crew assessed Saint Louis player Brian Conklin with a “Flagrant 1” foul early in the second half, effectively benching Saint Louis’ man in the middle for another precious five minutes during a crucial part of the second half. The call put Tu Holloway on the line and gave the ball back to Xavier. Given how miserly Saint Louis is with possessions, giving the ball back to Xavier must have hurt at least as much as the free throws. When asked about that call and some of the other no-calls at the end of regulation, Majerus, in a sharp contrast to NC State Coach Mark Gottfried’s postgame comments, blamed himself for not being more demanding on his players.

Does the NCAA Tournament Have Room For a Fourth A-10 Team?

Two, Three or Four? Speculation over the number of bids the conference could get took a dramatic turn this afternoon when Xavier eliminated Saint Louis in its semifinal game. Both Temple and Saint Louis will get at-large bids, leaving the third bid to go to the conference tournament winner tomorrow. If, as suggested by RTC’s Zach Hayes and CBSSports’ Jerry Palm, Xavier is in, then a Saint Bonaventure win tomorrow should bring a fourth bid to the conference. Will the Selection Committee see it that way? The conference final is played on Sunday and for the last two postseasons, the Selection Committee appears to have set the conference’s seeds on Saturday night rather than working out alternative scenarios that might account for multiple outcomes. By seeding the 2009-10 tournament champion Temple #5 and runner-up Xavier #6, and the 2010-11 tournament champion Richmond on the #12 seed line, the committee appears to settle on a compromise seeding  that would account for either outcome (a Temple or Xavier win in the 2009-10 conference tournament and Richmond or Dayton win in the 2010-11 conference tournament) in the conference tournament championship game. Will the committee develop a “compromise seed line” this time around? According to virtually every bracketologist near a microphone tonight, Xavier’s win over Saint Louis seals a bid for the Muskies irrespective of tomorrow’s outcome. Of course having Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski on the Selection Committee should also help motivate the committee to do its homework.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

Points per Possession Margins Through February 12

Temple and Saint Louis continue to “walk away” from the rest of the conference, leaving the next four teams in the upper division (Xavier, Massachusetts, La Salle and Saint Bonaventure) clustered on the “plus side” of the points per possession margin. Though nine of the conference’s 14 teams have .500 or better records, only those six (and Saint Joseph’s with a 0.000 margin) have offenses that scored more points per possession that their defenses yielded, suggesting that some of those .500 or better teams suffered one or more blowouts in conference games this season.

Though Fordham and Rhode Island have firm holds on the bottom two spots in the conference standings, their negative points per possession margin is still not large enough to suggest they are uncompetitive with their conference mates. The gap between top-ranked Temple and bottom-ranked Fordham remains at about 1/3 of a point (0.337), well below the half-point gap last season. With nearly 37% of the conference games still to be played this season these margins can shift.

Conference Realignment: Does the Road to the Big East Go Through Irvine, Texas?

The Big East filled out their dance card for the 2013 football season last week and Temple, one of two schools who have vigorously lobbied for a spot in the power conference over the past four seasons, was passed over for the other long-term applicant, the University of Memphis. The conference negotiated a 20 million dollar early exit fee from West Virginia, and promptly invited C-USA member Memphis to join for 2013-14 season.

Passed over for the second time since last October, Memphis is the fourth C-USA school to accept a Big East invitation in 2011-12 and the ninth C-USA member to be invited since 2004-05. CBS Sports writer Brett McMurphy reported that Temple had been contacted by C-USA officials about possible membership. The membership is rumored to be for all sports, and with the proposed C-USA merger with the Mountain West Conference and a planned two round playoff system for the conference championship (that would, I assume, culminate with a BCS bowl bid). Though the Owls have a 55 year relationship with fellow Big 5 and A-10 members La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, the prospects (and money?) may be too good to pass on.

Despite Consistently Producing Quality Teams and Players Such as Ramone Moore, Temple Was Passed Over For A Spot in The Big East (AP)

Massachusetts is expected to join Temple in the MAC – like the Owls for football only – when the Minutemen move up to the Bowl Division in football. Temple signed an agreement to continue play in the MAC just last summer. No details concerning an exit fee were disclosed at the time of the signing.

Power Rankings

Temple continues to roll through their conference schedule but has yet to regain a spot in the AP or USA Today Top 25. Saint Louis and Massachusetts continue to nip at the Owls heels, while five others (Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, and Duquesne) battle for the conference’s last bye seed. Most bracketology sites put either two or three teams in the field (Temple, Saint Louis plus one other…), so games played between Xavier, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Dayton will carry extra-conference implications.

  1. Temple (19-5, 8-2) – Temple continued their run with another 2-0 week, beating George Washington by just enough, then answering the bell against Xavier on Saturday night. Ramone Moore again earned conference recognition, in no small part from his game versus the Musketeers. The strength of schedule (table above) may suggest an easier path than most for Coach Fran Dunphy’s charges, but even with the Xavier hurdle cleared, the Owls still have rematches with city rivals: a road game with Saint Bonaventure and a tilt with Massachusetts. If the Owls keep winning, no one can catch them. Temple takes a mid-winter road trip to one of the least hospitable stops in the conference on Wednesday — Saint Bonaventure in a western New York winter. They return to Philadelphia for a home game with Duquesne on Saturday (2/18). Read the rest of this entry »
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