Evaluating AAC Non-Conference Schedules: The Bad and the Ugly…

Posted by CD Bradley on October 30th, 2013

We looked at the best of the AAC non-conference schedules in Part I, after explaining a bit of what makes for a good non-conference schedule. This season, there’s quite a bit more bad than good, which could drag down the collective RPIs of AAC members and ultimately lead to lower NCAA Tournament seeds come March.

Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs, a popular sleeper pick, have a lot riding on a trip to Virginia.

Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs, a popular sleeper pick, have a lot riding on a trip to Virginia.

The Bad

  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats return the favor of a visit last season from MW favorite New Mexico with a road trip of their own to The Pit. They also will play former Big East rival and mid-level ACC squad Pitt at Madison Square Garden. Then… well, there’s the rivalry game with Xavier, which seems poised to finish in the bottom half of a newly constituted (read: relatively weaker) Big East; N.C. State, clearly headed toward the bottom of the ACC, and Conference USA also-ran MTSU. That trio might end up in the RPI top 100; it’s highly unlikely any other team on the schedule will come close.
  • Louisville: If the defending champs can escape Rupp Arena with a win, all will be forgiven by both their fans and the committee, as a road win against Kentucky is perhaps the highest quality victory available in college basketball this year. Southern Miss, which finished with an RPI of #30 last season, is favored to win Conference USA. They face a potential Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off final against North Carolina at the Mohegan Sun. They need the Tar Heels to be there, because the rest of their foes are middling teams in weak leagues, with Charleston the most likely to crack the top 100, and several – we’re looking at you, Hofstra and UMKC – seeming likely to end up north of #300.

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North Carolina Shows A Perimeter Focused Approach in Victory Over UAB

Posted by KCarpenter on December 1st, 2012

Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc) is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between North Carolina and UAB in Chapel Hill.

In North Carolina’s Saturday win over UAB, the difference between this team and Roy Williams’ teams of the past became readily apparent. Gone are the days of dominant interior scoring powered by Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson. For nearly 10 years, North Carolina has followed a simple blueprint for success: an up-tempo, forward-centric offense that draws fouls and scores from the free-throw line. Hansbrough, naturally, was the epitome of this approach, a bruising big man who set the NCAA record for the most made free throws over the course of his collegiate career.

The Power Game of UNC Past Isn’t Apparent This Season

This year’s incarnation of the Tar Heels is distinct from those of the recent past. In the second half of Saturday’s game, North Carolina fueled its separation from UAB with a barrage of threes launched by a small lineup that featured 6’5” P.J. Hairston at the power forward position. The team shot 10-of-23 from the arc, and 18-of-21 from the free throw line. However, of the 18 made free throws, only two of them came from North Carolina’s post players. This team is simply different. By going small and spreading the floor, North Carolina opens up space in the lane for attacks off the dribble while also maintaining the threat of a potentially deadly perimeter game.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Northwestern Wildcats

Posted by KTrahan on October 19th, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for all of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Northwestern Wildcats. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Last year, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody thought he had put together a solid non-conference schedule. There weren’t any marquee wins, but there were good wins against Seton Hall, Tulsa and LSU, respectable losses to Baylor and Creighton, and no bad losses. That didn’t turn out to be a winning formula, as the NCAA selection committee favored teams that had some marquee wins and forgave their bad losses. This year, there is a chance for several marquee wins — some even in Evanston — and NU must take advantage of those opportunities in order to finally make the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern Wants to See More of These

Major tournaments: Last year, Northwestern won the Charleston Classic, which isn’t a huge tournament but a respected one nonetheless. This year, NU heads to the South Padre Island Invitational to face TCU, and then either UAB or Illinois State. That’s…um, well… a terrible schedule. Luckily for the Wildcats, they’ll have other chances pick up big wins, but that set of games certainly won’t be the most entertaining group we’ll see this season.

Toughest opponent: Last year, Northwestern was utterly embarrassed at home by Baylor, and this year, the Wildcats have to go to Waco for what will undoubtedly be their toughest non-conference game. Last year’s game was probably the biggest mismatch NU faced all year, as Baylor was dominant on the boards and has athleticism down low, while the Cats couldn’t do anything in the paint offensively or defensively. This NU team will be better inside and Baylor isn’t quite as talented as it was last season, so it shouldn’t be as much of a blowout but it will still be NU’s toughest non-league game by far, especially coming on the road.

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UAB Fines Athletes to Improve Academic Standards; Slippery Slope?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 21st, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Earlier this year, Connecticut was one of 10 college basketball teams to receive a one-year postseason ban for not meeting the NCAA’s minimum four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) threshold of 900. The Huskies filed an appeal, arguing that recent reforms had produced increased scores over the past two years. In the end, though, the NCAA stuck to its guns and reaffirmed its initial ruling. And so it was that UConn – a program that has experienced a rapid rise into the college hoops elite under coach Jim Calhoun – just one and a half years removed from winning a national championship, was banned from the sport’s pre-eminent postseason tournament. The Huskies probably won’t feel any measurable downturn in recruiting success or national cachet as a result, but the sentencing proved that even the sport’s marquee brands are vulnerable to the NCAA’s increased academic standards.

After struggling to keep up with the NCAA’s APR standards, UAB is going new lengths to improve its academic standing in the coming years.

A one-year postseason ban in men’s basketball doesn’t come close to the sort of multi-faceted, crippling atom bomb the NCAA dropped on Penn State.  Alabama-Birmingham is nonetheless determined to avoid a UConn-esque fate, and it’s adopting a unique approach to work toward that end. The program has endured a rough history of keeping up with the NCAA’s academic reforms. During the last measured four-year APR period (2003-07), UAB had six teams fail to meet the minimum mark and was the second-most penalized program in the nation for its academic shortcomings. With that spotty track record, it comes as no surprise that the Blazers are seeking new ways to enforce academic responsibility. In a formal Q & A with the Birmingham News, athletic director Brian Mackin outlined his plan to keep UAB’s various teams above the APR cutline. Along with increased academic support, study time and access to student-athlete advisors, UAB has laced its academic compliance code with monetary disincentives.

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Who’s Got Next? Domingo A Hoya, Robinson A Hoosier And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 25th, 2012

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

Lead Story: Georgetown Reels In Top-50 Junior Wing

Domingo Is A Great Pick-up For Head Coach John Thompson III And Georgetown.

Domingo A Big Pick-up For the Hoyas. Georgetown has been working hard on local guys in the Class of 2013 such as point guard Rysheed Jordan, shooting guard Davon Reed and center BeeJay Anya, but the Hoyas went to the opposite end of the country to pick up their first commitment in the junior class as small forward Stephen Domingo, a California native, made a verbal to head coach John Thompson III. Domingo is actually the second California wing to commit to Georgetown as Hollis Thompson a Los Angeles native. Domingo also has ties to the nation’s capital since his grandparents are D.C. residents and his mom is a District native. Domingo is a great pick-up for the Hoyas since he is a great shooter with terrific range and a smooth stroke. He can knock it down off the bounce or in catch-and-shoot situations and has great height and length. Georgetown is also chasing after point guard Tyler Ennis, small forward Nick King and power forward Jermaine Lawrence in the Class of 2013 although they may be out of the race for top-100 small forward Josh Hart now.

What They’re Saying

Junior Juwan Parker on where each school stands in his recruitment: “I’m considering three schools right now: Memphis, Georgia and Stanford. I would rank them in that order.”

Memphis Leads For Junior Standout Juwan Parker. (Daryl Paunil/National Recruiting Spotlight)

Junior Stanford Robinson on why he committed to the Hoosiers: “[Indiana head] coach [Tom] Crean, we connected very, very quickly. We shared a lot of laughs, he presented his plan of where he sees me fitting in and how I could play a part in it.

Junior Stephen Domingo on choosing Georgetown: “It was really the relationship I developed with coach [John Thompson III] and the way they promote the versatility of their wings. They rely on their wings a lot and they use their wings in a way I can be productive offensively and defensively.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2012

  1. He may not be coaching this weekend, but Frank Martin may have been more active yesterday than any of the coaches that will be coaching in the Final Four. The former Kansas State coach will become the next South Carolina coach. Rumors about this initially came up a few days ago from a source on Twitter that wasn’t well-established and took them down soon after they spread like wildfire. Now a few days later, it looks like there may be some validity to the rumors. Initial reports indicate that South Carolina is looking at paying Martin $2.05 million per year, which is a substantial raise from the $1.45 million per year he was getting at Kansas State. And of course there was the admission on Sunday that Martin routinely sent money to his former high school players when they needed it in college much like what Jamar Samuels reportedly got that led to his suspension.
  2. With  Dan Hurley leaving to take over at Rhode Island, Wagner was in search of a coach and they looked inside their program to hire Bashir Mason, who was acting as an assistant coach before Hurley left. At 28 (not a typo), Mason will be the youngest head coach in Division I (and younger than both of the RTC editors). From our research/Twitter query, the youngest coach in Division I history we are aware of is Bob Knight in 1965 (at 24) and in the modern era is Dane Fife in 2005 (at 25). Fortunately for Mason, Hurley left the program in better shape than where he found it.
  3. This morning UAB will announce Jerod Haase as its new head coach. Hasse, who will turn 38 on Sunday, has spent his entire college coaching career as an assistant under Roy Williams first at Kansas (five seasons) then at North Carolina (nine seasons). Of course, most of you will probably remember him as the co-captain on the great 1996-97 Kansas team that was upset in the Sweet Sixteen by eventual champion Arizona. It is probably not lost on Kansas fans that the game in 1997 against Arizona was in Birmingham. Fortunately for Hess, UAB plays at an on-campus arena so he will not have to battle those demons with every home game.
  4. Murray State put an end to any speculation that Steve Prohm would be leaving after his first year as they signed him to an extension that pushes his contract through the 2015-16 season. Prohm, who went 31-2 in his first season, was mentioned as a target for the Mississippi State job after a search firm put him on the short list. As you may remember Murray State did not react too well to that and now appear to have secured Prohm for at least a little bit longer. It should be pointed out that even with the new contract his increased base salary is still “only” $270,000 per year with an additional $30,000 for doing TV and radio. If it ever becomes about the money for Prohm, any team from a power conference would be able to produce an offer several times higher than that.
  5. A day after a report surfaced that George Mason and VCU, the premier basketball programs in the CAA, were headed to the Atlantic 10 the two schools and CAA refuted those claims. Of course, with the way the statements from the schools are written they could be making a move in the future as they are fairly well-crafted (outside of the occasional typo). Honestly, if we were George Mason or VCU we would be very tempted to move to the Atlantic 10 given the increased national exposure and the increased ability to earn an at-large bid from that conference compared to the CAA.If the schools do leave the CAA, it would be a devastating blow to the conference particularly in basketball.
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Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2012

  1. By now you have probably heard about the decision by Kansas State to hold Jamar Samuels out of its game on Saturday against #1 seed Syracuse after there were concerns about his eligibility due to a $200 transfer he received from his former AAU coach. While most issues of impermissible benefits are met with anger towards the person giving the benefit preying on a college athlete, that has not been the case here. Curtis Malone, the former AAU coach who sent the money, readily admits to doing so, but felt that it wasn’t against the rules because he was not acting as an agent and had a longstanding prior relationship with Samuels. Based on the response we have seen online from all sides (media, coaches, and players), this decision may force the NCAA to reevaluate its rules.
  2. After initially saying it would take some time to consider its options, UAB announced on Friday that it was firing  Mike Davis after six seasons. During those six seasons, Davis went 122-73 including four consecutive 20-win seasons, but went 15-16 this season. However, it appears that it was not just a losing record this season that led to his dismissal as the school also cited poor ticket sales among the reasons for the change. Davis, who is owed $625,000 for the one year remaining on his contract and is best known for leading Indiana to the NCAA Championship Game in 2002, should be able to find a job as an assistant coach at a major program fairly quickly or he may choose to wait for another favorable head coaching position to open up.
  3. Plenty of people in Kansas and around the Big 12 rejoiced in seeing soon to be former Big 12 member Missouri lose on Friday night. One of those people was Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger who told a group of alumni in Omaha that it was “karma, karma, karma”. The video showing this appears to have been removed, but in light of the Jayhawks performance last night fans in Missouri were nearly able to use another well-known phrase about karma when talking about the Jayhawks.
  4. If you missed out the Carrier Classic and wanted to see another high-level college basketball game on a naval carrier, you are in luck. Maybe. Well if you have really good connections, enlist in the military, or join a team as an assistant manager or something like that. In addition to an event in Charleston, South Carolina aboard the USS Yorktown there will be another game in San Diego aboard the USS Midway. The game in Charleston will feature Connecticut and an as yet undetermined opponent while the game in San Diego is expected to feature San Diego State and Georgetown. Neither event will be associated with Morale Entertainment, which hopes to return to San Diego in 2013.
  5. After a solid freshman season it appears that Moe Harkless may not be around St. John’s much longer. Harkless is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2 PM today where he is expected to announce that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Harkless, who was the Big East Rookie of the Year, is expected to be a mid-first round pick. If Harkless does leave, it would be a significant blow to a program that struggled at times with a freshman-dominated lineup, but was expected to improve significantly with an extra year of experience under its belt.
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Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 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.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2012

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:


The Week That Was

  • UCF Hits Speed Bump With Transfers: Usually at this point in the season it’s all about lacing up the sneakers and getting to business. However, the challenges striking the Central Florida men’s basketball program persist. Transfer guard Jeffrey Jordan, Michael’s oldest son, left the Knights over the weekend citing “personal reasons” and Central Florida Future announced Thursday that senior forward Dwight McCombs will be following suit after he was handed a season-ending suspension on Wednesday. The losses may not seem like that big of a deal with Jordan sitting on the bench and McCombs only averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a night; however, the decisions of both players to leave the school only adds additional trouble to a program that has been marred with the departure of its athletic director this season.
  • Memphis Continues Success Against Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took the nation’s seventh-longest winning streak into FedEx Forum on Wednesday night (11 games), but exited with their third loss of the season and their 18th consecutive loss to the Memphis Tigers. On the other sideline, the Tigers enjoyed their 135th home victory since the 2004-2005 season. Memphis is the winningest home team in the nation at 135-16 since that year. The Tigers were able to hold to a close victory behind a pair of Chris Crawford free throws with 31.7 seconds remaining.
  • Dennis Tinnon Has A Career Night: Marshall barely escaped with a victory last night, defeating UAB 60-58 and setting up a marquee conference matchup with UCF on Saturday night.  Junior forward Dennis Tinnon led the Thundering Herd, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Another unheralded junior, forward Robert Goff, sealed the victory for Marshall with a gigantic three-point play with under a minute to play. DeAndre Kane also enjoyed a successful evening, scoring 21 points and recording 10 rebounds. UAB senior Cameron Moore put the Blazers up late, but failed to convert on what would have been a game-tying basket in the final seconds.
  • Kazemi Keeps Rolling: Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi continued his case for conference player of the year last night in a 68-52 rout against Southern Methodist. The junior forward recorded his 40th career double-double, the 13th of the season, which ranks him as the nation’s best. The Iran native finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Ahmad Ibrahim made a solid first career start for the Owls, recording 14 points.

Head Coach Donnie Jones (left) Hit A Bump In The Road When Dwight McCombs And Jeffrey Jordan Decided To Leave The Knights.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (11-5, 2-0): They may not have the conference’s best overall record, but the Tigers are the deepest team in conference and they have the most offensive firepower. Wednesday’s win over Southern Miss proved that the Tigers can win defensive bouts too. Memphis has won six of its last seven after falling from the national rankings. Will Barton continues to put forth a First-Team All-Conference effort, averaging 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per night.
  2. Southern Miss (15-3, 2-1): The Golden Eagles were unquestionably the best team in conference until last night, which should be a great learning lesson for a relatively young team. Southern Miss can rebound the ball almost better than anyone in conference, averaging 38.1 boards a night as a team, which is third only to UCF and Marshall in C-USA. Senior guard Darnell Dodson has elevated his play.
  3. UCF (13-3, 3-0): With guard A.J. Rompza back in the lineup, the Knights have been unbeatable, winning both at home (carrying a 16-game home win streak) and on the road. Forward Keith Clanton and guard Marcus Jordan continue to be the conference’s best duo for coach Donnie Jones in what has been an up-and-down season for the Knights.
  4. Marshall (12-4, 3-0): If Marshall—the same team that has wins over Cincinnati and Iona—is the fourth best team in conference, then C-USA could be presenting a reasonable case for four teams come March. The Thundering Herd have revived from a two-game losing streak by winning their first three conference games. DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have found a force in the low post in junior forward Dennis Tinnon. Marshall is fourth in the country in rebounds with over 42 a night.
  5. Rice (10-7, 1-1): Arsalan Kazemi continues to be the story here. The junior forward is averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, leading the nation in double-doubles with 13 this season. Fellow junior Tamir Jackson has been a pivotal player, running the team’s offense and averaging 12.9 points per game. The Owls don’t seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference, but with Kazemi they will contend throughout the season.
  6. Tulane (12-4, 0-2): After a 9-0 start, the Green Wave has stumbled; however, there isn’t a team in the conference that has played a tougher schedule in recent weeks. Since their December 22 loss to top-ranked Syracuse, the Green Wave has played two of the conference’s best teams in UCF and Southern Miss.
  7. Houston (9-7, 1-2): The Cougars have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back conference loses at UTEP and UCF. With the losses, Houston has fallen to the middle of the conference rankings, but have a huge opportunity this weekend when they play host to the Memphis Tigers. If the Cougars can continue shooting the way they have this past month, then they can contend with anybody. Currently, Houston ranks 25th in the country in shooting percentage, knocking down 48.3% of their shots from the field.
  8. SMU (9-7, 1-1): Senior forward Robert Nyakundi continues to lead the Mustangs, averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Arlington native hasn’t had to do it alone, though, with the addition of Texas transfer Shawn Williams. The sophomore swingman has been an immediate contributor in Dallas since joining the team on the court eight games ago. Williams isn’t the only transfer making a difference. Junior guard London Giles, a Nevada transfer, has been a crucial performer at SMU all season, averaging 11.5 points per game.
  9. Tulsa (8-9, 1-2): Another team on the outside looking in, the Golden Hurricane have struggled consistently this season in close games, losing three times in overtime and four times by three points or less. Jordan Clarkson will end up on an All-Conference team, but he hasn’t much help thus far.
  10. UTEP (8-9, 1-2): Tim Floyd’s squad enjoyed a bit of a revival before the holidays, but has floundered since, failing to win consecutive games since December 22. The Miners enjoyed a nice home victory over Houston, but haven’t been able to win a true road game all season. Although they haven’t found a replacement for Randy Culpepper, the Miners are extremely deep with a bench of 11 players.
  11. East Carolina (9-6, 0-2): The backcourt has been stout this season for the Pirates. Junior Miguel Paul has emerged as one of the best point guards in the conference, scoring 16.2 points and dishing out 5.7 assists per night. Senior forward Darius Morrow has also been a force for ECU, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. In addition, the big man is shooting 54 percent from the field for a streaky Pirate club that won five straight heading into conference play, but have gone 0-2 early on.
  12. UAB (5-10, 0-2): The Blazers have continued a porous non-conference run with a rough conference start, dropping contests at home to Memphis and Marshall. UAB’s offense is still the worst in conference, averaging less than 60 points per game. Even worse, preseason conference player of the year Cameron Moore has been spectacular, but hasn’t been able to abate the Blazers’ woes. With their next four games scheduled against Southern Miss, Rice, UCF and Marshall, the losing skid could very well continue.

Looking Ahead

  • UCF at Marshall, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET: While the Southern Miss-Memphis showdown lived up to the hype, C-USA fans will be watching this one with a close eye as first place in the conference is on the line. It will be extremely interesting to watch the backcourt duo of A.J. Rompza and Marcus Jordan duel against DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Marshall boasts a three-game winning streak; however, it is UCF that is undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference. The Knights have won nine of their last 10.
  • Rice at Tulane, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Two of the conference’s best individual talents will square off on Saturday when Arsalan Kazemi leads the Owls into New Orleans against Kendall Timmons and the Green Wave. Tulane is coming off a full week’s rest and is arguably the most rested team in conference, which should play into their favor against a Rice team that has played five games since the holiday break.
  • Memphis at Houston, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: The Tigers are riding an emotional high into Saturday’s contest at the Hofheinz Pavillion, which gives the Cougars the perfect opportunity to pull the upset. Houston is probably the best team in conference to matchup against Memphis’ high-powered offense. Currently, the Cougars are 39th in the nation in points per game with 76.6 a night. Houston has developed a quartet of double-digit scorers in addition to three other players that average more than six points a night. The Cougars are surprisingly deep and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • SMU at UTEP, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: Neither of these clubs is able to rebound well, lacking frontcourt talent and depth. The Mustangs rank 326th in the nation in rebounding with an average of 30.4 boards a game, while the Miners are even worse at 335th with 29.6 rebounds a night. However, UTEP has been able to improve its field goal percentage in recent weeks, shooting 47.4% from the field. Last time they played in the Don Haskins Center, the Miners shot 61.2% in a 70-50 thumping over Houston on January 7.
  • Marshall at West Virginia, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3): This game serves as the conclusion for Marshall’s non-conference schedule and provides head coach Tom Herrion’s club with another opportunity to showcase their talent on national TV. Of course, this is an in-state rivalry so the emotions will be as high as any game this season. So far, Marshall is 1-1 against Big East competition. Another win against the nation’s deepest conference, in addition to their victory over Iona, could serve them come March if they fall short in the conference tournament.
  • Memphis at UCF, January 18 at 8 p.m.: It’s not too early to look towards next week’s conference schedule with Memphis traveling to take on Central Florida in a matchup that could be for first place in the conference. Another marquee game to look ahead at is Marshall at Southern Miss, which won’t be played until January 21 and will be aired on national television. These are the four top teams in conference and for the second straight week in a row, there will be a pair of pivotal conference matchups that feature all four.

Spotlight On…Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan

UCF has greatly benefited from the addition of A.J. Rompza and from the development of sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes. However, it has been the tandem of Clanton and Jordan that has fueled the Knights this season with consistent performance. Clanton is arguably the best post player in the conference, averaging 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. His latest performance against Houston, a 18 point and 13 rebound outing that included 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, showed that he will be able to dominate teams with inferior big men, which the conference is chock full of. To further understand Clanton’s importance, one only needs to evaluate the Knights as a team. They are ranked 200th or lower in every major statistical category other than rebounding, where they rank 38th in the country with an average of 38.9 boards a night. In addition to Clanton, Marcus Jordan has been playing top-notch ball for head coach Donnie Jones. In addition to be the team’s leading scorer, Jordan has been the epitome of consistency, scoring in double-digits in all fourteen games he has played in so far this season. In a season filled with tons of upheaval for the UCF athletic department, the Knights basketball program has weathered the storm, winning nine of its last ten. They couldn’t have done it without the stellar play of both Clanton and Jordan.

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Morning Five: 01.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2012

  1. After thinking it over on Sunday night Khem Birch announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Birch chose UNLV over Florida and New Mexico State, his two other reported finalists. In the end, it appears that Birch saw what Mike Moser, one of several transfers on the UNLV roster, was doing in UNLV’s system and felt that he could play a similar role for the Rebels. Birch will join an interesting roster next year that will feature three other transfers and a solid incoming class with one more scholarship spot available. Of course, many Rebels fan will view this decision through the prism of how it will affect their recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 overall recruit in this year’s senior class. According to Muhammad’s father, Birch’s announcement “only strengthens UNLV in the eyes of Shabazz.”
  2. While Birch knows that he will be playing college basketball in a year, the future is not so bright for UAB student Todd O’Brien as his appeal for a graduate student transfer exemption was denied by the NCAA. O’Brien’s saga, which technically began last summer, rose to national prominence last month when he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated calling out Saint Joseph’s and Phil Martelli for not granting him a waiver and not providing him with a reason for their denial. As we noted last week, Saint Joseph’s has tried to hide behind the veil of  student privacy although reports last week indicate that the school would not divulge its reason(s) even if O’Brien waived that right. Now it appears with little non-legal (the real legal system not the NCAA version), O’Brien appears willing to call Saint Joseph’s bluff and we will see how the school and Martelli respond.
  3. Over the past few years, Todd Bozeman has become known as the one coach who had managed to overcome the  now infamous show-cause penalty to become a success Division I basketball head coach. Unfortunately, Bozeman’s path to redemption took a detour over the weekend as Bozeman was involved in an altercation of some sort with senior guard Larry Bastfield. There are conflicting reports on what actually happened–Bozeman says it was “accidental contact” while others say it was a deliberate punch–but for the time being Morgan State has decided to suspend Bozeman indefinitely while they conduct an investigation. From the reports we have read the evidence does not appear to be clear cut especially since both Bozeman and Bastfield now claim that the incident was overblown, but for someone with Bozeman’s history this is the last thing he needs to have around him.
  4. It did not generate nearly the same level of buzz that Birch’s announcement did, but St. John’s picked up a commitment from transfer Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after just 11 games this season. Branch, who was a consensus top 100 recruit last season, will be a welcome addition to a Red Storm team that lost much of its heralded freshman class to a variety of eligibility issues and are still waiting on several members of next season’s incoming freshman class to finalize their decisions.
  5. In this week’s Hoops Thoughts column Seth Davis explores the downtrend in fouls called and scoring with some analysis from John Adams, the NCAA’s supervisor of officials. Adams provides some interesting insight and clarifies a few common misconceptions that some fans have about new or controversial rules. Seth also offers a variety of random thoughts on different teams and even touches on his belief that coaches should wear more casual/comfortable clothing on the sideline citing St. John’s big win over then #1 Duke last January when its coaches wore sneakers and open collars, which they also did when they when they lost at home in November to Northeastern by 14.
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