Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 19th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Dealing With Expectations

Forgive me if six weeks and 10 games (more or less) into this season I am a little dizzy from all the twists and turns. Most understood Massachusetts would be good, especially with Chaz Williams’ decision to take his last season of eligibility in Amherst, but undefeated? VCU would be nicked in the non-conference schedule — that much was a given — but three losses that include a 14-point loss to Florida State on a neutral court and a loss to Northern Iowa? That is a surprise.

What's new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

What’s new? UMass standout Chaz Williams is having another great season. (AP)

First Team

  • Chaz Williams (Massachusetts) — It may be hard to believe, but the unanimous pick has actually exceeded expectations. Williams has led the Minutemen to a 10-0 undefeated start and a #22 ranking in AP’s Top 25. UMass is the only conference representative.
  • Dwayne Evans (Saint Louis) — The Billikens’ slashing forward’s sluggish offensive numbers mirror the larger problems facing St. Louis this season. Evans can score inside as his 51 percent two-point completion rate attests, but absent a consistent long-range scorer, opposing teams find it very easy to stop the Bills — pack the lane and wait for Evans (or guard Jordair Jett) to drive. The stingy defense lives on, Saint Louis is ranked #3 defensively by Ken Pomeroy, but a team-wide three-point drought (Jake Barnett excepted) leaves Jim Crews’ squad with a one-dimensional offense.
  • Tyreek Duren (La Salle) — Hobbled by a troublesome plantar fasciitis condition that dates back to last May, the point guard has to adjust his energy to manage the Explorers’ offense rather than create it through his typical to-the-basket drives. There are many reasons the Explorers are struggling this season and with a better start Dureen’s inability to move laterally and plant for a jumper would be a footnote.
  • Treveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth) — Graham continues the domination that established him as a first teamer last season. He leads the Rams in scoring (196 points, 16.3 PPG) and combines prolific scoring with efficient scoring, earning a 117.9 offensive rating from Ken Pomeroy. Questions on how to get VCU back on track should not start with Graham. He is on pace to accumulate last season’s numbers, and has improved his defensive rebounding to boot.
  • Juvonte Reddic (Virginia Commonwealth) — VCU’s second leading scorer (140 points, 11.7 points per game, 110.1) and leading rebounder (30-56-86) has stepped back slightly in offensive efficiency, but has improved in block and steal rates and in getting to the line. If his contributions hold steady through the season, Reddic should be in the thick of an All-Conference conversation come March.

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Who Won The Week? Florida, Chaz Williams, and Jalen James…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 13th, 2013

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Florida

Billy Donovan and Florida had a week to remember. (AP)

Billy Donovan and Florida had a week to remember. (Getty)

The Gators bounced back in a huge way from its last-second loss to Connecticut a week and a half ago, knocking off Kansas Tuesday, winning 67-61 in Gainesville. The win was especially impressive given how Florida (7-2) took the lead early in the first half and never relinquished it, but also for the play of point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was expected to be out for weeks with a sprained ankle suffered against the Huskies. Instead, Wilbekin started and led his team in points (18), assists (six), steals (four) and minutes (36). Between the presence of Wilbekin and fellow point guard Kasey Hill, who was also expected to miss this game with an ankle injury, Jayhawks’ point guards Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason combined for more turnovers (nine) than the Gators had as a team (eight). With Wilbekin and Hill healthy and coach Billy Donovan’s tight seven-man rotation intact and led by breakout senior forward Casey Prather, the Gators have the look of a team that could go very deep in the NCAA Tournament, and beating one of the nation’s marquee basketball programs certainly speaks to that potential.

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What Pomeroy Knows About The Current Top 25 That You Might Not

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 13th, 2013

It’s happened to many a college basketball fan (hopefully not just me). You pull up kenpom.com, just needing to check Doug McDermott’s offensive rating, or Syracuse’s adjusted tempo. You quickly accomplish your goal, but 45 minutes later, Doug McDermott’s offensive rating has morphed, several times over, into a glance at individual seasons similar to Joe Trapani’s 2007 campaign at Vermont. Fortunately, I am not here to discuss John Shurna’s freshman year (one such similar season), and instead, I’ll spare you a bit of KenPom wandering. Via college basketball’s statistical maestro, here are four takeaways in comparing his metrics with the current AP Top 25.

The Folks In The Oakland Zoo Are Probably In Agreement With Ken Pom's Take On Their Panthers; After A 9-0 Start, Pitt Is #4 With Pomeroy, But Still Unranked In The AP Poll

The Folks In The Oakland Zoo Are Probably In Agreement With KenPom’s Take On Their Panthers; After A 9-0 Start, Pitt Is #4 With Pomeroy, But Still Unranked In The AP Poll

Most Overrated/Underrated

KenPom’s ratings are never a perfect match with the polls. Expect the two evaluative systems to converge a bit as the year progresses, but let’s note the teams with the most decisive split of opinion at the moment. On the plus side of things, Pittsburgh sits at #4 in KenPom’s ratings, despite having not yet entered the AP poll. The potentially underrated (at least by AP voters) Panthers were third in “receiving votes” last week after a 9-0 start to the year. One of the teams that beat the Panthers into the poll was the Missouri Tigers, yet they rest some 37 slots below Pitt at #41 in KenPom’s rankings. Mizzou hasn’t done anything wrong yet – the Tigers are also 9-0 and coming off consecutive victories over West Virginia and UCLA – but Pomeroy’s model doesn’t yet view them as an elite squad. Other teams that pollsters are a bit keener on include Colorado (#37), San Diego State (#40), and UConn (#21).

Extremes Of The Youth Movement

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted by Jesse Baumgartner on December 4th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Arizona‘s balance. So far, this year has been all about the fantastic freshmen and the individual talents that have really driven early-season interest in the college game. But I have yet to see a team that looked as consistently balanced across the floor as the Wildcats did against Duke last Friday night, particularly down low with stud freshman Aaron Gordon and veterans Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. That tripod of length, skill and athleticism spells two things — high quality shots in the paint, and rebounds galore. And it’s really cleaning the glass that will be toughest on opponents in March and April, as we saw with Louisville’s run last season.

I LOVED…. a reasonable contract extension. Dana Altman has done a great job at Oregon, no question about it — he’s brought the Ducks back into the national picture, won NCAA Tournament games, and really put an exciting roster on the floor in Eugene (and hey, let’s just assume for argument’s sake that he had absolutely nothing to do with that horrific floor design). But while it seems like we see so many contracts these days that give out too much money/years on just a season or two of success, Altman’s three-year extension seems just right. Good job, here’s a cookie, and more to come as the program keeps growing.

Dana Altman Remains One of the Most Quietly Effective Coaches in the Country

I LOVED…. UMass back in the AP rankings for the first time in 15 years. You know, just another one of those programs John Calipari hit and ran on. Somewhere, someplace, Dr. J is smiling.

I LOVED…. seeing Villanova put in a solid performance in the Bahamas to outlast Kansas. I’ve always liked Jay Wright as a coach, and it seems like he’s nearing the point where he needs a solid NCAA Tournament run to reinforce that the program isn’t too far removed from the 2009 Final Four squad. For Kansas, that game seems to just reaffirm what is true for so many of these uber-talented, uber-young teams — any given night they can go down.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

The 2013-14 college basketball season is off and running, and it was a really interesting week for the Big East conference, which saw a number of teams compete in big non-conference games.  Only half of the teams in the league remain unscathed, so there may be some shuffling in our power rankings this week.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Week One Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (2-1), Last Week (10): The Blue Demons very nearly knocked off a Southern Miss team that many expect to be among the top squads in Conference USA, falling to the Golden Eagles, 75-68.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are off to strong starts.
  • 9.) Butler (2-0), LW (9):  After handling Lamar, the Bulldogs had a close call with Princeton, knocking off the Tigers, 70-67.  Butler is getting even scoring across the board, with five players averaging at least nine points per game.
  • 8.) Seton Hall (2-1), LW (7): Things haven’t been easy for the Pirates.  After participating in the game that launched a thousand referenda on refereeing in 2013, Seton Hall edged by Kent State by two before dropping a game at Mercer in double overtime.  Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs look very good early, but with the Pirates sitting at 231st in the nation in assists at 11.7 per game, they need to do a better job of moving the ball.
  • 7.) Xavier (3-0), LW (8): Unsurprisingly, Semaj Christon is good at scoring the basketball.  The Musketeers are glad to have Dee Davis back after missing two games—the junior guard had a well-rounded game against Morehead State, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, and doling out nine assists in 35 minutes.
  • 6.) Providence (3-0), LW (6): The Friars’ opening night win against Boston College doesn’t look quite as good with the Eagles going on to drop games to UMass and Toledo, but they’ll have chances to prove themselves with games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky rapidly approaching.  Providence has an array of scorers, headlined by the consistent Bryce Cotton, and as a team hits free throws at an 85 percent clip. Don’t foul these guys, America.
  • 5.) St. John’s (1-1), LW (5): The young Red Storm nearly came away with a big win against Wisconsin in their first game.  D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson look very good through two games, while Steve Lavin and company are still waiting for freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan to put everything together.

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Is UMass Finally Ready To Bust Out?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 14th, 2013

Trendy sleepers only stay trendy for so long. After receiving preseason love as an Atlantic 10 darkhorse before each of the last two seasons, the UMass Minutemen watched that buzz quiet a bit this time around. That’s not to say UMass was expected to struggle this season – they were picked a respectable fourth in the A-10 Preseason poll – but the familiar makeup of this group of Minutemen left many wondering how they could possibly carve out a different, happier ending from that of years past. Well, fast forward a week into the season and take a nice whiff of the optimism emanating from Western Massachusetts. Opening week victories over BC and LSU don’t make UMass anyone’s team of the week, but they do show this team’s capability (thus far, at least) to do something their predecessors could not – handle their business in the non-conference. March fates are rarely decided in the second week of November, but take notice, even if it is a year or two past schedule: That sleeper may finally be waking up in Amherst.

Chaz Williams Has One Final Chance To Lead UMass Back To The NCAA Tournament For The First Time Since 1998; Does A Strong Opening Week Mean Williams And Company Are Ready To Make It Happen?

Chaz Williams Has One Final Chance To Lead UMass Back To The NCAA Tournament; Does A Strong Opening Week Mean Williams And Company Are Ready To Make It Happen?

A couple of 9-7 records in Atlantic 10 play (UMass’ finish in both 2012 and 2013) are rarely part of the recipe for an at-large bid to the Dance, but in each of the last two seasons, the more damning portion of the Minuteman resume was not their so-so in-conference performance. Two years ago they posted just one top-130 victory before January (a home win over Davidson), while striking out on opportunities against top-50 foes Florida State and Miami (FL). Last season’s non-conference effort was marginally better, but wins over Harvard, Providence and Ohio should not be the pre-conference highlights for a team with serious NCAA Tournament aspirations – especially one from a non-BCS conference. Making matters worse, the chances were again there for Derek Kellogg’s club, but losses to NC State, Tennessee, and Miami (FL) all came by double figures. Once again, those touting the Minutemen were quickly made to look too ambitious.

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The ACC’s Soft Middle Tier: Time to Panic Yet?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 14th, 2013

We are less than one week into the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season and the median of the ACC is nearing panic mode. Maybe not quite yet, but things certainly could have started better for the NCAA’s mightiest conference. To date, N.C. State has lost to Cincinnati by 11, Virginia lost to in-state rival VCU (displaying the power shift between traditional Virginia basketball schools), Miami barely squeaked by Georgia Southern in overtime and posted an inexcusable overtime loss to St. Francis (NY), and Boston College suffered an opening defeat to Providence and followed that up with a 13-point shellacking at the hands of a game Massachusetts squad. What does this all mean for the ‘almighty’ ACC as the nation’s premier basketball conference? Does this, for one, quiet the whispers of the ACC as the greatest basketball conference of all-time?

Boston College

BC has little to celebrate after an 0-2 start (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

A lot of a conference’s overall reputation and greatness has to be attributed to its depth and the overall quality of teams across the board. Now VCU happens to be a top-25 team that has largely surpassed the Virginia basketball program of late under Shaka Smart, but a team that has ACC title aspirations and is laden with senior leaders needs to win games versus A-10 programs, especially if it doesn’t wish to find itself on the bubble again. N.C. State is in what most people consider a rebuilding year under Mark Gottfried, but Cincinnati is not a powerhouse and the middle of the league must prove formidable for the ACC to solidify its place in history. Last Friday night, Maryland lost to a top-25 Connecticut team boasting one of the best backcourts in the nation by only a single point, but the Terps walked away with a close loss rather than gloating about a big win on their non-conference résumé. Miami wasn’t expected to have a great year after losing Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and the rest of its roster from last season, but losing to a NEC foe is a humbling step backward, to say the least.

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New Memberships in the A-10 and Mountain West: Can These Leagues Sustain Success?

Posted by BHayes on October 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) is an RTC national columnist.

The tumult of conference realignment has hit few conferences harder than it has the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, but as we prepare to set sail on the 2013-14 season, both leagues again loom as the best college basketball has to offer outside the now “power seven” conferences. We touched on each league a little bit in yesterday’s Morning Five, but storylines abound in two leagues that have generated plenty of national buzz in recent years. Both are expected to maintain holds in the upper echelon of the mid-major hierarchy, but offseason membership changes have left things less certain than usual, especially in the A-10. The constant churn of programs jumping from conference to conference has left leagues in varying states of disarray, and 2013-14 finds both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 at a crossroads. The challenges are different in each situation, but with the relatively uncertain future of today’s college basketball’s climate, another strong season in comparison with the high-majors would go a long ways towards stabilizing each of these traditionally strong conferences.

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

This season’s iteration of the Mountain West is bigger, but is it better? The preseason poll released Tuesday offered confirmation of the general consensus surrounding newcomers Utah State and San Jose State: Stew Morrill and the Aggies should be a factor in the top half of the conference, while the Spartans, despite their eye-catching new floor, are likely to be MW doormats. But even if Utah State matches or exceeds expectations in their conference debut, the conference as a whole will struggle to replicate the success of 2012-13 – those good old days when the MW was number one in conference RPI (no typo). The trio at the top of this year’s preseason poll all have a chance at replicating, or even improving upon, their successful campaigns of a year ago.

The return of preseason MW POY Kendall Williams and first teamer Alex Kirk has left New Mexico as the conference’s presumptive favorite: the Lobos earned all but one of 24 first place votes. A talented but overhauled UNLV squad scooped up that final first place vote, while Boise State’s return of nearly every key contributor earned the Broncos enough acclaim to tie for second with the Rebels in the poll. The Morning Five highlighted another talented San Diego State roster that sits behind those three teams in the eyes of the media, and let’s face it — it’s probably time we start giving Steve Fisher the benefit of the doubt – the Aztecs are an annual factor out west. But behind the Aztecs and Aggies (Utah State was picked to finish fifth) lies much of the intrigue in this year’s MW. A season ago, the four non-Tournament teams (Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno State and Nevada) were all extremely competitive, especially on their home floors. Their strength was a big reason for that heady conference RPI. This year’s bottom half again appears feisty, with a couple of teams – Nevada (#9) and Fresno State (#8) appearing especially undervalued in the preseason evaluations. Nobody – inside our outside the league — is expecting the MW to finish atop the conference RPI again this season. But another solid campaign, on the heels of that banner season of a year ago, would be awfully sound validation of a league unprepared to leave the national consciousness anytime soon.

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In The Spirit Of The Season, Holiday Tournaments Offer Opportunities For Future Bubble Teams

Posted by BHayes on July 19th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

It may have been slightly less dramatic than Selection Sunday (okay, maybe a lot less), but yesterday’s unveiling of college basketball’s holiday tournament brackets still provided a bit of fun during these dry days of summer. Fans across the country were offered the opportunity to lick their lips at the thought of some tantalizing November and December possibilities, with matchups like VCU-Michigan, Baylor-Gonzaga, and Duke-Arizona all not so far-fetched. But if we look beyond those potentially epic matchups, there’s still a lot of substance to be found. Preseason tournaments are an opportunity to build momentum for the season ahead, and for many teams, a rare shot for resume-boosting wins that can mean the difference between NCAA Tournament and NIT come March. A good showing in the holiday tournament season goes a long way for any team, but the five teams listed below need it more than most.

Can Chaz Williams and UMass parlay a strong showing in Charleston into a Tournament bid for their long suffering fans?

Can Chaz Williams and UMass parlay a strong showing in Charleston into a Tournament bid for their long suffering fans?

UMass (Charleston Classic)

First Round Opponent: Nebraska, Possible Marquee Opponent: New Mexico (semifinal)

Before Derek Kellogg and UMass flirted with the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, it had been awhile since Minuteman fans had even received a March sweat. Whiffs in all three big non-conference games a season ago (NC State, Miami and Tennessee) created too much work in the A-10 season for the Minutemen to make up. Getting past Nebraska would be nice, but a semifinal win over New Mexico would give Chaz Williams and co. not just a sweet November scalp, but a real sense that this is the year they finally get over the hump.

Texas (CBE Hall Of Fame Classic)

First Round Opponent: BYU, Possible Marquee Opponent: Wichita State (final)

Well, I guess this tournament can’t possibly go as poorly as Maui did last year for Texas (thank you Chaminade!), but nevertheless this is a massive spot for Rick Barnes’ club.  And Rick Barnes. The seat is pretty toasty down in Austin, and the best way to avoid suffering through a year like the last one might be to leave Kansas City as champions. Provided Wichita State skirts by Depaul, a CBE HOF Classic title for the Horns would mean beating two solid teams (BYU in the opener), and would offer an important reminder that this roster still has enough talent to make some noise in the Big 12 – and keep Barnes employed.

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Morning Five: 04.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. We will start off today by offering our best wishes to ESPN analyst Digger Phelps who revealed that he had surgery and will be treated for bladder cancer. Most of America knows Digger for his work on ESPN including his matching tie and highlighter combinations, but he was also an outstanding coach at Notre Dame from 1971 to 1991 as he was able to knock off the #1 team in the nation seven times during that stretch (a record he shares with Gary Williams) including ending UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak. We do not know much about the stage of the cancer and subsequently the prognosis, but we wish Digger the best as he continues to undergo treatment.
  2. In what might end up being the biggest early-entry decision this year, Doug McDermott announced that he will be returning to Creighton for his senior year. There have been several players with more NBA-level talent than McDermott who made early-entry decisions over the past few weeks, but none of them will have as profound an impact on their school, conference, and the national landscape as McDermott will. The Bluejays will be losing some key pieces (Grant Gibbs and Greg Echenique), but McDermott’s return should make them competitive in the new Big East and a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. We are not sure how much McDermott will help his NBA Draft stock by returning, but as Andy Glockner points out the move to the new Big East should give McDermott the ability to showcase his skills against more high-level talent than he had in the Missouri Valley Conference.
  3. The other notable early-entry announcement yesterday came from Baylor where Cory Jefferson announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Jefferson, who showed a dramatic improvement last season, is essentially the polar opposite of McDermott as a NBA prospect in that he is a ridiculous NBA-level athlete, but his offensive game is very limited. We are not sure that Scott Drew is the best person to work on that–at least based on what we have seen from him in terms of in-game adjustments–but an extra year of college basketball should give Jefferson enough time to round out his game to make him a better NBA prospect and a probable first-round pick although with how deep next year’s NBA Draft could be Jefferson needs to continue his upward trajectory to ensure himself a first-round spot.
  4. One of the things that we always have a hard time understanding is the hype surrounding transfers. One example of this is Hunter Mickelson, who is transferring from Arkansas to Kansas. Mickelson was a highly recruited 6’10” Arkansas native who tried to get out of his letter of intent when the coaching change at Arkansas occurred, but was not released by the school only averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in just 16.6 minutes per game. His 2.3 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game as a freshman was impressive, but we are not quite buying the hype on Mickelson yet even if his block per minute numbers compare favorably with what Jeff Withey was able to do (see Jesse Newell’s excellent analysis for a more detailed breakdown of what Mickelson brings to Lawrence). Like Mickelson, Jabari Hinds was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, but struggled during his two seasons at West Virginia before eventually finding himself on the bench late last season. Now Hinds appears to be headed for Massachusetts where as Jeff Eisenberg points out he could benefit from playing against lower-level talent. Perhaps the most perplexing case of all is Tarik Black, the Memphis big man who put up unremarkable numbers–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds–last season yet finds himself being heavily recruited by Duke among others. As Gary Parrish points out some of this is supply and demand. At this point there are not many big men who have proven they can play at a high-major level so now there are “at least 20 other high-major programs are all lined up and working like they’re the last 25 dudes in a bar with just one moderately attractive girl”. The part that Parrish leaves out is that the one “lucky” dude/program has to wake up the following morning next to the moderately attractive girl.
  5. With all the movement in the coaching carousel there will inevitably be a few recruits who change their minds about where they want to go to school (see Mickelson above). Two of the bigger moves in the coaching carousel this season were at UCLA and Rutgers both of whom were involved in some recruit movement yesterday. In the case of UCLA they released Allerik Freeman from the national letter of intent he signed last November when Ben Howland was still the coach at UCLA. We are not sure if this decision was mutual or if Freeman was the sole driving force, but given how quickly this went down we would be surprised if Steve Alford was not ok with having an extra scholarship available. On the other end of the country and spectrum was Rutgers who picked up its first recruit of the Eddie Jordan era when junior college guard Craig Brown committed to the school. Rutgers obviously has a very long way to go to be a national-level program again and picking up a junior college guard will not turn many heads in New Jersey, but the speed with which Jordan picked up the commitment is impressive.
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ATB: Boise Stumbles, Two Baffling NIT Home Losses and JMU Preps For Indiana…

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 21st, 2013

ATB

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

Tonight’s lede. ‘Tis the Season. By the time you read tomorrow’s ATB, it will have begun. Indeed: a long and riveting season highlighted by a historically good Big Ten, a flurry of court-rushing upsets, and the official formation of a basketball-only Big East, has winded down its yellow brick road of regular season rising action to the annual apogee of college hoops as we know it: the NCAA Tournament. The first March Madness Thursday is basically a national holiday, but if you do elect to stay true to your respective employment duties, the urge of live internet-streamed games will reduce your productivity to a highly inefficient Pomeroyan work-per-minute rate. Trying to get stuff done on March Madness Thursday is like trying to pick Georgetown’s #2-#15 matchup with Florida Gulf Coast and not even once consider sending the Eagles through to the round of 32, just to raise the probability of a potential TV appearance from coach Andy Enfield’s supermodel wife. Whether you choose to show up at the workplace or not, the joy of the moment, the culmination, should push you through whatever endeavors keep you occupied from 9-to-5, right in time to come home and catch some of the day’s best action. Enjoy.

Your watercooler moment. An Easier Than Expected LaSalle Triumph.

A First Four loss from Boise State was not the way the Mountain West envisioned starting its 2013 Tournament (AP Photo).

A First Four loss from Boise State was not the way the Mountain West envisioned starting its 2013 Tournament (AP Photo).

If there was a team in the First Four with destiny on its side, it was Boise State. The Broncos earned their first NCAA at-large appearance in school history thanks to a credible run through the non-conference season (including a win at Creighton), a steady if plucky presence in a thorny Mountain West and a bevvy of hot-shooting guards. And in a year where fans and analysts nationwide are expecting the Mountain West to finally cash in on a deep-round run, you got the feeling Boise could get the MW off on the right foot with a First Four victory. La Salle made it clear from the start it wouldn’t relinquish its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 21 years without winning at least one game (quibble with round-nomenclature all you want, these games count on the record), and Boise was helpless to stop an explosive Explorers’ offense. But for a few incipient bursts of offensive energy in the second half, La Salle dealt with the Broncos without batting an eye. It was a patently disinteresting affair – which, disappointing as it may be for observers, is a very good sign for the Explorers as they prepare for a tough match-up with Kansas State in the next round. The Wildcats, whose No. 21 efficiency offense ranks more than 20 spots higher than La Salle’s, will offer more formidable resistance.

Wednesday Night’s Quick Hits…

  • The Brashness of JMU. It’s not easy to get excited about James Madison and LIU-Brooklyn. Only the wonkiest mid-major die-hards viewed this as anything more than anything more than a portal to Hoosier-induced destruction. The Dukes will go on to face Indiana in the Round of 64 after handling LIU with leading scorer Raymond Goins, who was arrested over the weekend on obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct charges, serving a one-half suspension. After trading scoring runs throughout much of the game, the Dukes tore off a 10-2 spurt to seal their spot in the next round. No one realistically expects JMU to faze Indiana, or even keep the game close any longer than five or so minutes into the second half. The Dukes aren’t backing down. Here’s what freshman and all-name team candidate Andre Nation had to say about the upcoming match-up: “They’re Indiana. We know about them. We see them on the TV all the time.” The Hoosiers should erase that confidence swiftly and painfully on Friday.
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Four Thoughts From the Atlantic 10 Tournament Evening Quarterfinals Session

Posted by CNguon on March 16th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. He’s covering the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn this week. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Virginia Commonwealth eliminated a gutty Saint Joseph’s squad, 82-79. After holding double-digit leads for much of the second half, the Rams withstood an uncharacteristically furious press and scoring blitz from the Hawks. Meanwhile, Chaz Williams led Massachusetts to a 79-74 upset of Temple to close out the quarterfinal round. The two teams, playing within a six-point margin for the entire 40 minutes, evoked memories of the John Calipari vs. John Chaney matches of a decade ago. Without the vitriol.

Four Thoughts After Session Two:

  1. Quarterfinal results may have an impact on the NCAA field: La Salle’s loss appears by consensus to put the Explorers in the dreaded Last Four In category, a disappointment for coach John Giannini who promised to “go nuts” watching all of the bubble team games this weekend. Turns out he did not have to leave the Barclays Center to catch one of those bubble games, as Massachusetts eliminated Temple, 79-74, for the second consecutive time in the quarterfinal nightcap. The upset put the Minutemen in Jerry Palm’s play-in list with a #12 seed, slated to play opposite Villanova on Tuesday. If Palm’s scenario holds, the conference will pull an unprecedented six dance cards, as many as the Big 12 and more than the ACC, the Pac-12 and the SEC.

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

  2. Spike Lee loves him some Shaka Smart: The five boroughs’ second most famous film director (and most famous basketball fan) abandoned his courtside digs in Manhattan (Madison Square Garden) to catch the Virginia Commonwealth-Saint Joseph’s quarterfinal (see photo – in the green windbreaker) in Jay-Z’s digs in Brooklyn. Unable to get a courtside seat, the filmmaker had first rows just behind the scorer’s table. Maybe he will be back for the semifinals this afternoon. Maybe Jay can score him something courtside for that one. Read the rest of this entry »
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