Balance and Efficiency Taking UNC Wilmington to New Heights

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 18th, 2017

Perhaps no box score better encapsulates UNC Wilmington this season than its 101-77 drubbing of William & Mary last Wednesday. By night’s end, six Seahawks had reached double figures—three with 18 points, two with 14 and one with 11—as the team shot a blistering 70 percent from inside the arc and forced 17 turnovers. It was the second straight game in which five players eclipsed double-figures, and the fourth time this season that UNC Wilmington had scored 100. Put simply, Kevin Keatts’ unit pushed the pace, created good looks and capitalized more often than not. Now 17-2 and ranked #43 in KenPom‘s ratings, the Seahawks seem destined to surpass last year’s record-tying 25 wins and first-round NCAA Tournament appearance. With one of college basketball’s most balanced and efficient lineups, they have legitimate second weekend potential.

Devontae Cacok has been a revelation for UNC Wilmington this season. (Photo by John Crouch)

Taking care of (and simply taking) the basketball. If stellar guard play is the mark of a true Cinderella, then UNC Wilmington certainly fits the bill. Keatts starts four guards—Denzel Ingram, Ambrose Mosley, Chris Flemmings and CJ Bryce—three of whom are seniors and all of whom can handle the ball. All that experienced ball-handling has helped the Seahawks post the second-lowest turnover rate in the country at 13.8 percent, a level of mistake-free prowess put on full display last week: In 143 combined possessions against William & Mary and Hofstra, UNC Wilmington suffered just 11 turnovers. Conversely, its defense has been especially aggressive this season, forcing turnovers at its highest rate ever (23.2%, 13th nationally) under the Rick Pitino prodigy. On top of all that, the Seahawks don’t seem to care who shoulders the load. Bryce, the team’s best player (17.8 PPG, 3.2 APG), Flemmings (16.1 PPG) and Ingram (15.6 PPG) have each led the team in scoring multiple times this year, and UNC Wilmington remains the CAA’s only unit without a player who takes more than 25 percent of his team’s shots while on the floor. Combine balanced, mistake-free basketball with easy buckets from turnovers, and what do you get? One of the 20 most efficient offenses in college basketball. Read the rest of this entry »

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O26 Power 13: New Year, New Order, Same Teams on Top

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 4th, 2017

With 2017 now upon us and conference play ramping up, let’s take a step back and reexamine the best of the best across the O26.

1. Gonzaga (14-0) West Coast. Despite its cast of untested newcomers, chemistry and balance have not been an issue for Gonzaga this season. The Bulldogs have cruised to a 14-0 start behind a lineup whose top six scorers all average between 9.3 and 13.8 points per game. In fact, only two players—Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski—get more than 30 minutes per night, thanks largely to the effectiveness of bench players like Zach Collins (10.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and Killian Tillie (4.6 PPG). Mark Few’s club has been equally excellent on both sides of the ball, ranking among the top 12 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That well-roundedness helped the Zags notch three neutral court victories over KenPom top-30 opponents, giving them a non-conference resume that should hold up very well in mid-March. A win or two over Saint Mary’s would only strengthen the cause. The Zags are once again a legitimate Final Four contender.

UT Arlington surprise win at Saint Mary's opened eyes across college basketball. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

UT Arlington surprise win at Saint Mary’s opened eyes across college basketball. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

2. Saint Mary’s (12-1) West Coast. Since its jarring, 14-point home loss to UT Arlington on December 8, Saint Mary’s has held five straight opponents under 0.90 points per possession. That’s a positive sign for a unit that has often struggled to win games when its offense goes cold. The Gaels—with victories at Dayton and Stanford—have also proven their ability to win on the road, which is not something they could claim last season (the NCAA Selection Committee took notice). With one of the nation’s elite point guards (Emmett Naar) and a center, Jock Landale, who currently ranks second in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings, it’s hard to imagine this team slipping much in WCC play. January 14, Saint Mary’s first tilt with Gonzaga in Spokane, can’t come soon enough.

3. Wichita State (12-3) – Missouri Valley. The Shockers’ 100-66 dismantling of Bradley on New Year’s Day perhaps best captures this team’s identity. Sixteen different players saw action (Wichita State leads the country in bench minutes); ball movement was crisp (25 assists on 34 made baskets); and the physicality was unrelenting. Put simply, Wichita State is going to pummel a whole bunch of inferior opponents in Missouri Valley play. With an already-tenuous at-large resume, however, one major question remains: can the Shockers avoid losing more than one or two games in the conference? With Illinois State and Missouri State both surging, nothing is guaranteed.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 93, #13 UNC-Wilmington 85

Posted by Chris Stone on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will provide immediate reactions to each of the 63 NCAA Tournament games from the First Round to the Championship.

Three Key Takeaways:

Brandon Ingram goes up for a layup during the first half versus UNC-Wilmington. (Credit: AP / Charles Krupa)

Brandon Ingram goes up for a layup during the first half versus UNC-Wilmington. (Credit: AP / Charles Krupa)

  1. Brandon Ingram has arrived. For much of the season, college basketball’s focus has understandably been on the incredible number of talented seniors in the sport. Duke’s Brandon Ingram is ready to take back some of that attention. Ingram has a legitimate shot to overtake LSU’s Ben Simmons as the #1 pick in June’s NBA Draft (with Simmons sitting at home during the NCAA Tournament), and he showed why this afternoon against the Seahawks. Ingram scored 20 points and displayed an array of dribble moves that weren’t in his arsenal even back in November. If the Blue Devils can put together a strong NCAA Tournament run this month, Ingram will remind everyone that the one-and-dones aren’t going away that easily.
  2. Grayson Allen needs to find his shooting stroke. Allen finished with 23 points on 12 shots, but he was just 4-of-12 from the field today against UNC-Wilmington after making 41.7 percent on the season. Allen was quick enough to beat the Seahawks’ guards off the bounce, but that likely won’t hold for the remainder of the Tournament as more talented opponents are tabbed to defend the sophomore guard. The Blue Devils will need to Allen to find his range to make the best of March.
  3. Duke’s defensive woes aren’t going anywhere. The Blue Devils allowed 85 points to the 75th best offense in the country, as UNC-Wilmington scored 1.15 points per possession. This is a concern given that the Seahawks only created 10 turnovers, one of their primary methods of producing points this season. UNCW also made 11 three-pointers and shot 44.1 percent from the field, with an enormous 79 of their points coming in the half-court. If Duke makes that run, it probably won’t be a product of its defense.

Star of the Game: Marshall Plumlee. Ingram showed why he’s NBA-ready, but Plumlee’s presence changed the game for the Blue Devils. The senior blocked two shots and altered a few more during Duke’s 16-2 run to open the second half. Plumlee delivered a huge all-around effort, scoring a career-high 23 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking three shots before fouling out with 2:01 remaining. Marshall Plumlee cares not for your Cinderellas.

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Conference Tourney Primers: Colonial

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 6th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

CAA Tournament

Dates: March 6-9

Site: Royal Farms Arena (Baltimore, MD)

(cbssports.com)

(cbssports.com)

What to expect: Could this be William & Mary’s year? The Tribe, one of only five original Division I programs to never make the NCAA Tournament, heads to Baltimore with the Colonial’s top seed and most dangerous offensive attack. Senior Marcus Thornton and his sharpshooting teammates boast the 5th-best effective field goal percentage in college hoops and 30th-most efficient offense. But they also give up a lot of points and the separation between the Tribe and their three co-champs – UNC-Wilmington, Northeastern and James Madison – seems minimal. To complicate matters further, all four teams lost one of their final two regular season games, so it’s hard to attribute ‘momentum’ to any one contender. After a season defined by parity, expect a tournament defined by parity. This one is up for grabs.

Favorite: William & Mary. This team is not balanced – its defense can be downright awful at times – but when everything is clicking offensively, William & Mary is hard to stop. Not only is Thornton the most dynamic scorer in the conference (19.4 PPG), but his frontcourt running-mate, 6’5” Terry Tarpey, might be one of the most underrated forwards in America. The junior leads his team in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Plus, the Tribe will avoid facing Northeastern, Delaware and Drexel – teams which accounted for two-thirds of its CAA losses – until the title game (if then).

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CAA Breakdown: Four Teams Still Vying for Top Spot in Final Week

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 25th, 2015

The Colonial Athletic Association could just as easily be called the Chaotic Athletic Association this season, considering its level of parity and unpredictability. Currently, four of the league’s 10 teams – William & Mary, Northeastern, UNC Wilmington and James Madison – are tied atop the standings with just two games left on the schedule. And since only two of those squads play each other this week, the CAA’s top seed will likely be decided by tie-breakers. Let’s examine the four teams in contention, several possible scenarios from this week’s action, and why William & Mary is in the best position heading into next week’s conference tournament.

The Top Four

William & Mary has its sights set on the CAA's top seed. (TribeAthletics.com)

William & Mary has its sights set on the CAA’s top seed. (TribeAthletics.com)

  • William & Mary – 17-10 (11-5). The Tribe boasts the league most efficient offense and one of its most lethal offensive players in senior guard Marcus Thornton (19.3 PPG). He, along with do-everything forward Terry Tarpey (11.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG) and a cast of dangerous shooters, should handle both Towson and Drexel at home this week, which – as explained below – will be enough to earn the top seed in Baltimore.
  • Northeastern – 19-10 (11-5). The preseason conference favorite downed William & Mary at home last Wednesday before squeaking by Drexel over the weekend. It lacks depth – ranking 344th nationally in bench minutes – but is balanced offensively and possesses the CAA’s premier big man in Scott Eatherton (14.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG), a 6’8’’ center who has fouled out just once this season. The Huskies get the league’s two bottom units this week – Elon and College of Charleston – but both games are on the road and both opponents have proven peskier than their records show.
  • UNC Wilmington – 16-11 (11-5). First-year coach Kevin Keatts has done a remarkable job in Wilmington, taking the Seahawks from last place a year ago (3-13) to first place this season. All that stands between them and a share of the title is a home game against James Madison tonight and a trip to Elon on Saturday.
  • James Madison – 18-11 (11-5). Since dismissing embattled guard Andre Nation in mid-January, James Madison has gone 9-3 and put itself in contention for a share of the conference crown. Unfortunately, of the four contenders, the Dukes have the most difficult route: an elimination game at UNC Wilmington tonight and a tough home game against Hofstra (18-11 (9-7)) on Saturday.

Tie-Breaking Procedure – William & Mary in Control

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We Salute You: Paying Homage to the Nation’s Winless Teams in League Play

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 4th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court and spent way too much time on these articles.

With the calendar turned to February and the meat of conference play upon us, the most dominant and least effective teams are showing their colors against equal competition. And with the halfway point of conference season rapidly approaching for many – and already here for others – now is a good time to take stock of both teams that are undefeated in conference and those who have yet to win a game. Today’s installment takes a look at the less fortunate teams among us, ranked from least to most likely to not win a game in conference play.

Note: All statistics dutifully harvested from kenpom.com.

Princeton (12-5, 0-3 Ivy League)

T.J. Bray and Princeton winless? Probably not. (AP)

Although things have been a struggle lately for T.J. Bray and Princeton, the chances of the Tigers going winless is zero. (AP)

  • Odds: 0.0 percent chance to go winless
  • Most likely wins: February 8 at home vs. Cornell, 97 percent; March 7 at Cornell, 91 percent
  • Biggest strengths: Top 15 in field-goal shooting, top 10 in defensive rebounding nationally
  • Achilles’ heel: Field-goal defense in bottom 100 nationally
  • Key player: Senior guard T.J. Bray (17.8 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, 55 percent field goal shooting; the nation’s most efficient player to use more than 20 percent of available possessions.)
  • Outlook: Perhaps it’s not fair to start off with an Ivy League team, given that the Tigers are only three games into their conference slate. But few teams have had more surprising collapses than Princeton, which squandered a 9-2 non-conference slate and talk of a possible two-bid Ivy League by losing games against Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth. Here’s the thing: Each game was on the road; Penn is an ancient rival; Harvard has athletes unlike the conference has seen in a generation; and Dartmouth, well, there’s probably not a ready-made excuse for that one, although it did happen in overtime. To get an NCAA Tournament bid now, though, the Tigers have to sweep their next 11 games and hope the Crimson lose twice aside from the teams’ head-to-head February 22 matchup, and then beat them in a one-game neutral-site playoff. That’s a tall order, even for one of the nation’s best offenses, and the one that shoots more three-pointers than any other. But failing to win a game in the Ivy League is not in question here. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Championship Previews: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by CNguon on March 8th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

CAA Tournament Matchups/Predictions

Untitled

QUARTERFINALS

#4 George Mason vs. #5Drexel, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. — If you were to tell me last March that Mason and Drexel would meet in the first round of the CAA tournament, I would have said, “Really? What happened? Did four teams become ineligible for the tournament while the Patriots and Dragons underperformed?” And the March 2012 version of me would have been strangely prescient. But this is a heavyweight bout in Round 1, and the winner could certainly take the whole fruit basket. The teams split two regular season matchups, with each road team winning. Mason blew a 20-point first-half lead in its loss, but for the most part, both games came down to the final eight minutes, when the teams traded leads. This one should also go to the wire —and I’ve got Mason barely holding on in a thrilling opener to the weekend.

Pick: George Mason 62, Drexel 61

#2 Delaware vs. #7 Hofstra, Saturday, 6 p.m. — Hofstra, in this writer’s opinion, is the only team of the seven incapable of winning the tournament. Which means that Delaware, which hasn’t reached the semifinals since 2003, should finally make the final four. The Hens have weapons all over the court, while Hofstra counts on the same few players to log big minutes and try to make something happen. There won’t be many blowouts this weekend, but this game has a chance to be over quickly if Delaware shoots the ball well in the first half. Hofstra’s best gameplan is to limit possessions, remain within striking distance, and catch some second-half breaks. The Pride can hang around, but won’t seriously threaten.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Mid-Season Awards

The CAA schedule is roughly halfway over, so it’s time to see who’s leading the race to rack up hardware.

Coach of the Year

  1. Bill Coen, Northeastern
  2. Pat Skerry, Towson
  3. Matt Brady, JMU

All-Rookie Team:

  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (ROY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jerome Hairston, Towson
  • Chris Dixon, UNC-Wilmingon
  • David Walker, Northeastern

All-CAA Defensive Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon, Towson (DPOY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA First Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon (POY)
  • Sherrod Wright, George Mason
  • Joel Smith, Northeastern
  • Damion Lee, Drexel
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA Second Team:

  • Rayshawn Goins, JMU
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
  • Marcus Thornton, William &  Mary
  • Devon Saddler, Delaware
  • Quincy Ford, Northeastern

All-CAA Third Team:

  • Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Devonta White, Georgia State
  • Frantz Massenat, Drexel

Power Rankings

After his team lost its third straight game last week, Delaware guard Devon Saddler said the Blue Hens needed to go to the movies to grow camaraderie and snap out of the slump. If the Hens did in fact share a movie night, it worked. They beat host Drexel last night on NBC Sports Network, despite nearly blowing a late 15-point lead. Every team in the CAA should pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In this week’s power rankings, I’ll suggest which current flicks each team should visit their nearby Regal to see.

  1. Northeastern (13-7 overall, 8-0 in the CAA): A skilled team of experts taking down targets on a regular basis, the Huskies might as well buy tickets for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Zero, after all, is Northeastern’s total of CAA losses through eight games. The Huskies are just the seventh Colonial team to begin a season 8-0. The last two to do so won the CAA title. Five of the eight wins have been by five or fewer points, but not the most recent one. NU smacked George Mason on Sunday, sweeping the series with a 20-point home win. The televised game was Northeastern’s announcement to the league that it’s the team to beat. Only one school earns a bye in the seven-team CAA tournament this year, and NU is already three games in the loss column ahead of next-best Mason/James Madison. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2013

CIO header

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Caught On Film

The CAA not only made a rare appearance on “SportsCenter,” but it reached the pinnacle of the iconic show’s Top Plays segment. Northeastern sophomore Quincy Ford’s double-clutch three-pointer to tie Drexel with 1.9 seconds remaining was selected the No. 1 play of Tuesday night. (Unfortunately it had no chance of unseating Jadaveon Clowney’s hit in the ongoing “Best of the Best” segment). Northeastern has become Buzzer Beater U. this season, but this is its first time penetrating the national sports scene with a late-game shot.

Check out the play:

And see it on SportsCenter:

 

Power Rankings

Typically, each week of the season brings a dose of clarity: The more available data, the more conclusions we can draw from trends and developments. But this year, in the Bizarro CAA, each week has seemingly brought new information to refute – rather than confirm – something we previously thought. As of Sunday, George Mason was the only Colonial squad ranked in the top 100 (or even the top 145) in terms of RPI, but that comes a day after a loss to UNC-Wilmington, which is treading in the 300s.

Here are this week’s power rankings (subject to change by the hour) along with an observation from this past week that might help to portend future developments. Or, given the way of the Bizarro CAA, may not.

  1. Delaware (8-8 overall, 3-0 in the CAA): Delaware has shot better than 50 percent in each of its two wins last week, and suddenly the Blue Hens look like an offensive juggernaut (by CAA standards), scoring more than a point per possession in each of their last five games. UDel’s 3-0 CAA start has come against teams with a combined 11-36 overall record, so it’s too early to anoint the Hens a head-and-shoulders favorite. But things are looking up in Newark. Devon Saddler is scoring a CAA-best 26.3 points per league game, and shooting a ridiculous 63.4 percent to get there. Fellow guard Jarvis Threatt’s 18.7-point average within CAA play ranks fourth. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Looking Back

  • Earning Their Stripes: The Towson Tigers are quickly becoming the darlings of the CAA. A year after finishing 1-31 and earning national attention for their losing ways, the Tigers have started 2-0 in the CAA, winning both games on the road. Before last week, Towson hadn’t registered a CAA road win since February 2010. Almost overnight, second-year coach Pat Skerry has infused the program with enough talent and attitude to be a legitimate contender in the league… if only the Tigers were eligible. Due to academic issues from before Skerry arrived, Towson cannot compete for a CAA championship or any type of postseason play. Still, this season can go a long way in turning around a historically moribund program.
  • Drexel Misses Record: One of those Towson wins last week was over Drexel, which snapped the Dragons’ 17-game regular-season winning streak within CAA play. Drexel fell one game short of matching George Mason’s 18-game run from January 2011 to January 2012. Ironically, neither last year’s Drexel team (which is responsible for most of that streak) or the previous season’s George Mason team won the CAA tournament title.
  • We Won’t Protect This House!: With so much parity in the CAA, common wisdom said that any game would be a toss-up, and maybe the difference from night to night would be who was at home. Well, Week One of league play certainly didn’t shape up that way. Home teams went 2-7. Or, for a glass half-full look, road teams went 7-2. Those seven road wins included two by Towson and one by Northeastern over George Mason, which had won 18 straight in the Patriot Center.  Delaware, meanwhile, won at Old Dominion for the first time since 2003.
With The CAA Likely To Be A One-Bid League, Jamelle Hagins Has The Conference In His Crosshairs.

With The CAA Likely To Be A One-Bid League, Jamelle Hagins Has The Conference In His Crosshairs.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. George Mason: It seems the Patriots are just looking to give away the top spot in the power poll, but no one is there to seize it. Mason lost its CAA opener at home to Northeastern, a team that had dropped six of its previous seven. The Patriots got back on track with a road victory over William & Mary. Sherrod Wright‘s streak of four straight games with 20-plus points snapped against Northeastern, when he tallied 19. He made up for it with a career-best 28 against W&M. Mason is likely still the favorite to win the CAA, but at this rate, the Patriots (or whoever wins the conference tournament) would probably be a No. 15 or 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The CAA has never sent a team that was slotted as a 16-seed, and none of its entrants have been worse than a 12-seed since 2004.
  2. Northeastern: A true statement victory, Northeastern won its CAA opener at George Mason by outscoring the Patriots 54-37 in the second half. After winning at UNCW, the Huskies made another statement by beating Drexel in Philly. In the win against Mason, one of the league’s top defensive teams, the Huskies shot 53 percent from the field, 56 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free throw line. Those are winning numbers against pretty much anybody. NU had been 4-0 in games in which it averaged more than 1.1 points per possession, but instead got it done on the defensive end against Drexel, limiting the Dragons to 36 percent shooting and 0.85 points per possession. Read the rest of this entry »
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