Checking In On… the America East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 9th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the  America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets or on Twitter @nybuckets.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Nicks and Bruises: Every team has a few injuries at this time in the season and they’re impacting some rotations. Ben Crenca is out for a few weeks for Vermont and his backup Luke Apfeld also tweaked something. Apfeld, though, returned to play 23 minutes in Vermont’s last game against Saint Louis.
  • Dropping the Albany Cup: Siena and Albany have a great rivalry. Unfortunately, this time the Saints took home the victory, 64-60. O.D. Anosike scored 21 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for Siena in the victory. The Great Danes really struggled, shooting 24-64 (37.5%) from the field.
  • Chris De La Rosa leaves UMBC: De La Rosa was an All-America East Second Team selection last season, but after playing in just one game this season, the Retrievers’ star point guard sent a release out through the school stating that he was leaving the program. The release said that he left for “personal and family-related matters.”

Maine's Justin Edwards May Exude A Quiet Demeanor, But He Lets His Game Do The Talking. (GoBlackBears.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Boston University (4-5) – From November 26 through December 3, the Terriers played the best stretch of basketball of any America East school. Wins over Rhode Island, Hofstra, Delaware and Boston College reasserted Joe Jones’ team as the one to beat in the conference this season. Darryl Partin is shouldering a huge amount of the offensive load and is averaging 23.9 points per game. His sidekick in the backcourt is D.J. Irving, who averages 13.8 points per game.
  2. Vermont (4-5) – The win over Old Dominion is the best by any America East this season. The Catamounts don’t play very pretty basketball, being one of the slowest teams in college basketball, but they’re just good enough at offense and defense to be a contender this season. Brian Voelkel continues to be a beast on the boards averaging 7.8 rebounds per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the America East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets (http://www.nycbuckets.com) or on Twitter @nybuckets.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Close Calls: The teams of America East have found themselves on the wrong end of close scores early in the season. The nine teams are a combined 1-8 in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime. That includes Vermont’s two-point loss against South Florida, which would’ve been a big scalp for the league. The Catamounts also got the league’s first close victory with an overtime defeat of Old Dominion, 77-75 in overtime, on Tuesday.
  • New High Scorers: Two of the leading scorers in America East this season weren’t here in 2010-11. Albany’s Gerardo Suero has given the Great Danes a go-to guy and freshman Justin Edwards is leading the way for Maine. See Albany’s section below for much more about Suero. What’s impressive about Edwards, a Canadian import, is that he’s also leading the conference in steals in the early going with 3.5 per game. Edwards was named the America East Rookie of the Week for his efforts last week.
  • Slow Starts at the Top: Vermont, Boston University and Stony Brook were supposed to be the class of America East coming into this season. The Catamounts won two games they should’ve but lost to Long Island in their final game of Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. The Seawolves suffered a tough loss to Sacred Heart and the Terriers fell to Northeastern and Cornell. Those are the types of 50/50 games that the top third of the league needs to win in order for America East to get some more respect moving forward.

Albany's Gerardo Suero Diced Up Syracuse's Zone, But The Great Danes Came Up Short. (Kevin Rivoli/AP)

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RTC Summer Update: America East

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 13th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our America East correspondent, John Templon. John also writes about New York City basketball at Big Apple Buckets.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • Coaches Moving On Up: Vermont and Boston University lost two very talented coaches this summer. The Catamounts’ Mike Lonergan went back to his Washington, D.C., roots and took the job at George Washington. Lonergan – who won a national title at Division III Catholic University in D.C. and also coached at Maryland – should fit in well at GW. Assistant John Becker replaced Lonergan, so there should be strong continuity. On the other hand, BU had to scramble after Pat Chambers was hired by Penn State to replace Ed DeChellis. The Terriers ended up with former Columbia head coach Joe Jones, who spent last season as an assistant at Boston College.
  • Playing With The (Future) Pros: The 2010-11 America East Player of the Year, Boston University’s John Holland, played in the Portsmouth Invitational. He finished tied for ninth in scoring at 15.0 points per game and 18th in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game. He played with former Florida forward Vernon Macklin and former Villanova guard Corey Fisher on the Portsmouth Sports Club team that finished in fourth place. Holland had workouts with a few NBA teams before signing with Chorale de Roanne of France’s Pro A Division.
  • A World of Experience: America East continues to pick up steam as a worldwide conference. Four players in Maine’s incoming recruiting class aren’t originally from the United States and Albany has two players coming in from Australia and another from the Dominican Republic in its 2011 class. Another Australian, Corban Wroe, will be playing for Hartford in the fall. Many of the incoming recruits have experience playing with their respective international squads and incoming Maine freshman Noam Laish was selected as the captain of Israel’s U-18 squad for the European Championships.

Patrick Chambers parlayed last season's tournament berth with BU into a payday at Penn State, sending BU scrambling (credit: Steve McLaughlin).

Power Rankings

  1. Boston University: After making the NCAA Tournament in 2011, the Terriers return all but one of their linchpins. Of course, that one guy is America East Player of the Year John Holland who averaged 19.2 PPG last season. BU will also be going without head coach Pat Chambers, but he certainly didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Joe Jones. Darryl Partin (14.3 PPG) and Jake O’Brien (10.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG) should provide scoring. Also watch out for sophomore guard D.J. Irving. He averaged 8.0 PPG as a freshman and his workload should only increase in 2011-12. The Terriers have won 21 games in each of the past two seasons and a postseason berth is definitely the expectation. Read the rest of this entry »
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part I

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 2011

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

You know him from his gregarious, affable demeanor as a studio host on ESPN as well as an on-air radio analyst for Sirius and Westwood One, but there’s a lot more to former Vermont head coach and media personality Tom Brennan than a friendly quip and a quick smile.  The personable transplanted Vermonter who has a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named after him coached the game for thirty-five years, taking him from Georgia to Fairleigh Dickinson, Villanova, Seton Hall and William & Mary as an assistant, before elevating to the top position at Yale, then the Universitas Viridis Montis (UVM).  In talking to Brennan, you get a sense that he’s not only a guy you’d want to play ball for, but the kind of person you’d also ask to be the best man in your wedding.  He’s got so many stories, anecdotes and ironic twists from a lifetime of achievement that we decided to break up the interview into two parts.  In today’s Part I, we’ll track Brennan from his early days as a player in the segregated South to his crowning achievement as a three-time champion of the America East Conference at Vermont.  Tomorrow we’ll move into the broadcasting career he never thought he’d have, and talk about how likely it is that one of the neatest guys we’ve come across in this sport ever gets back onto the sidelines.

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

Tom Brennan is as Entertaining as They Come

Rush the Court: Let’s talk a little bit about your career arc.  You’re an east coast guy who grew up in New Jersey.  How did you end up down  in the South in Athens, Georgia, in the early 70s playing ball — what was that like?

Tom Brennan: Segregation.  I can answer you in one word.  Segregation.  Seriously.  I loved going to Georgia, I loved every minute of it.  We had a coach [Ken Rosemond] from North Carolina who was on the ’57 championship team, and he was an assistant — he and Dean Smith were Frank McGuire’s two assistants.  Dean Smith got the Carolina job, and my guy got the Georgia job, and he really felt much like McGuire, that he wanted to get players from the North.  He felt the competition was better and that basketball was more important up this way.  But really, I’m not naive, there’s no way if it was ten years later that I think I would have been recruited to Georgia.  I think I was a Division I player, I mean I played in the SEC, and I would have gone somewhere and I could have gone a lot of other places besides Georgia, but honestly as I look back on it now, had integration been in play, I probably would have gone somewhere in the East.  I loved when I visited there.  He saw me in some all-star game, and I happened to have a good game, and so I just went down to visit and I really liked it.  He was going to get it going, and they had the same building [Stegeman Coliseum], honest to God, in 1967 that they have now.  They still play in it; they’ve upgraded it.  But back then it was like off the hook, it was like from Mars.  We had a lot of northern guys, and I just loved going to school there, made a lot of great friends.  Matter of fact, I just got off the phone with somebody I’m going to go spend some time in Maine with, who was our manager during my time there.  You know, I was the oldest of seven kids and I kinda wanted to get away.  I thought it would be like an adventure, and it kinda turned out to be that way.  I just think, and I don’t say it as a wise guy, I just think if it had been 1977 [rather than 1967], it would have been a lot different.

RTC:  It’s a beautiful campus — the Georgia campus — and I’ve been to the arena you’re talking about.  I’m just wondering, Vandy was one of the first schools in the SEC to integrate in the late 60swere there any other schools at that point that were integrated or was it pretty much still all white?

TB:  It was pretty much all white.  Perry Wallace [the first black SEC basketball player] was it for Vandy, and he was a stud.  He was a really good player, and I mean, you had to be a special guy to do it.  I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.  And then when I got there, the first African-American came to Georgia.  His name was Ronnie Hogue, and it’s a cute story because when I was a senior, he was a sophomore, and I was starting the first couple of games.  And he replaced me and got 43!  [laughter] [Don’t tell Coach B, but Hogue actually scored 46 points!]  And so I became a contributor!  And you know what too is interesting, at that time, my brother who is now a PhD psychologist, was in Vietnam, and we had integrated at Georgia and we had the first African-American player, and I wasn’t even in tune to anything.  I’m thinking now as I look back on Vietnam, I should have written my brother a letter every day.  Every single day.  I just didn’t even think about it.  It was kind of the same way with Hogue.  He was just a good guy, a really good guy, and being from New Jersey, I’m thinking, what is taking so long [with respect to integration]?  How is this even an issue?  When are these people gonna figure out that we all are created equal and if a guy’s good enough to play, it shouldn’t matter what he looks like or what his background is.  I never really took it seriously.  And then I read a book about all the athletes that were the first to integrate, and Ronnie had some interesting comments in there, and there were things that I didn’t think about, but I wasn’t black.  I’m thinking, sh–, I never even thought about that, I never even thought to say to him, are you doing ok?  I was just trying to beat the guy out!  And he was a good kid, it wasn’t like he was a pain in the ass at all.  It wasn’t real prejudice, but he was just a player, and I was a player, and we tried to treat him as well as we could.  It was such a historic thing but I didn’t know it.  I didn’t have any kind of frame of reference about that at all.  It was neat being a part of that.  I’m proud of being a part of the first integrated team at the University of Georgia.  I’m not sure if they had a football guy yet — I think maybe they did.  I’m not 100% sure about that, but I know Ronnie was the first black basketball player. [Georgia had five black football players enroll in the fall of 1971.]  You know, we were boys and we hung out.  The thing is that there was a big black community in Athens, and it wasn’t socially mixed so much, but there was a lot of places he could go and there was a lot of people he could see, and he was really obviously a hero to all those people and I certainly understand that.

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Morning Five: 06.14.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 14th, 2011

  1. In one of the more ridiculous controversies that we can remember the NCAA has apparently notified Kentucky that it was unhappy with the school’s decision to honor John Calipari for winning his 500th game on February 26th after beating Florida. Calling the ceremony “troubling”, “extremely troubling”, and “very troubling” the NCAA asserted that because Calipari’s 1996 NCAA Tournament run with UMass and the entire 2007-2008 Memphis season were vacated he actually has 42 less wins than the school claims he has. The entire debate is sort of boring on its face, but you can be sure that Wildcat fans will use it as ammunition for their claims that the NCAA is out to get their program.
  2. The announcement by NCAA President Mark Emmert that he would be convening a retreat for around 50 college presidents to discuss the current state of the intercollegiate athletics might not generate a lot of buzz right now, but you should definitely keep an eye on it because there is a chance we could have some monumental decisions come out of that meeting. Normally I think these type of retreats are useless and essentially function as a big tax write-off, but in light of some recent proposals (particularly the discussion by the Big Ten to pay some student-athletes) and some major scandals (first at USC and now at Ohio State) the stage is certainly set for the NCAA and the universities to make a stand. Given their track record they probably won’t, but now would be a great time to start.
  3. Dana O’Neil published a piece over the weekend about the lives of NCAA assistant coaches and the sacrifices that they have to make while trying to climb up the coaching ladder. While most of the news about basketball coaches is about the huge contracts or the NCAA violations in reality most of them are working very hard for a lot smaller sums than many would expect even if we wouldn’t claim that they are struggling to survive. It is an interesting look at their day-to-day lives and is definitely worth a read.
  4. One of the reporters from Scout caught up with UNC point guard Kendall Marshall at Chris Paul’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp and got a pretty good interview with the rising sophomore. Outside of the usual stuff (how long it took to get over the UK loss, wanting to win a title, etc) the thing that caught our eye was that Marshall claims that Harrison Barnes has shown the most improvement of any of the UNC players over the offseason. If that is true and Barnes can come close to being as good as he was hyped as being, the Tar Heels could be even more ridiculous than we expect them to being coming into the season.
  5. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the field and game times for its 2011 Tip-Off Tournament that will feature Kentucky, South Florida, Penn State, Old Dominion, Vermont, Long Island, Marist, and Radford. The Tournament features a pretty odd format that is built around a set of games on the weekend of November 19th-20th, but also features games during the week preceding and following that weekend. It all seems very complicated, but let us simplify it for you: Kentucky should crush all of these teams.
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Morning Five: 05.09.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2011

  1. Most of the attention of the college basketball world was focused on the retirement of Gary Williams and who would replace him. Over the weekend quite a few names were thrown around as potential replacements, but it looks like the Maryland athletic department may have a harder time finding a suitable head coach than they expected as their apparent initial targets – Sean Miller, Brad Stevens, and Mike Brey – have all turned down the Terrapins. Miller was able to parlay the offer into a contract extension at Arizona, while Brey is expected to sign one later this month. We doubt that this will turn into a fiasco like what NC State experienced trying to find a coach, but it is worth keeping an eye on the situation if the search drags on as the list of suitable replacements will certainly grow shorter.
  2. While Maryland continues to search for its head coach, another school in the DC area (George Washington) was able to find its guy as they are set to announce Vermont coach Mike Lonergan as its next head coach. Lonergan will replace Karl Hobbs, who struggled to keep the Colonials at the level of excellence they showed between 2004-07 when he led them to the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons. Lonergan may not be as well-known to the casual fan, but he has a solid resume with an excellent career at Catholic University where he won a D3 national championship and then at Vermont where he succeeded Tom Brennan and managed to keep the Catamounts near the top of America East.
  3. In another coaching move that will probably go underreported, former Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel has decided to return to Duke to serve as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the fact that Capel probably would have had to take a mid-major position if he went straight back to the sidelines as a head coach. Now Capel can get back to Cameron on the sidelines with a contingent of other well-known former Blue Devils and hope that he can parlay some of Coach K’s success into another major coaching position. The bigger question for us is whether this potentially puts Capel in position to succeed Krzyzewski when he decides to call it a career (a scary notion for Duke fans?).
  4. Most of the interest in player movement over the weekend was focused on players deciding on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft there was also some major transfer news as Aaric Murray decided to transfer from La Salle to West Virginia and Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk is reportedly considering leaving the Bulldog program. The Murray news isn’t particularly surprising as he had considered joining the Mountaineers coming out of high school, but he should be a major addition for them when he becomes eligible in the 2012-13 season. Olynyk’s potential transfer is more interesting as it raises questions about Mark Few‘s program in that multiple players have transferred from GU in the past few years. We would imagine that Few is working pretty hard to keep Olynyk in the program as the transfers are beginning to pile up and could ultimately affect Gonzaga’s ability to recruit.
  5. As we near the time of year when high school seniors are graduating, it is interesting to look at which players are still available. Skimming through the latest top 100 (feel free to use the rankings of your own preference) there are only a few top guys available with DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ware, Trevor Lacey, and Joseph Uchebo being the biggest. We would expect to see them announcing their decisions in the next few weeks and each of these guys could help round out some school’s class that is missing a crucial piece.
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That’s Debatable: Small Conference Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: Many of the small conferences are starting their tournaments this week.  Which one do you find the most compelling in terms of the possibility of upsets and/or creating chaos for the NCAA Selection Committee in a little over a week?  Also, pick a relatively unknown team that you’d like to see make a run through their conference tourney so that America will get to watch them play on the big stage in March Madness. 

Walker Carey, RTC contributor.

I think the Horizon League Tournament is the small conference tournament that is the most compelling in terms of creating chaos for the NCAA Selection Committee. In my mind, Butler, Cleveland State, and Milwaukee are the only teams that have the capability of winning the tournament. If Butler loses (which is very possible), it will be very interesting to see how the committee will view the Bulldogs’ resume. I tend to believe that Cleveland State will win the Horizon League championship because they have the best player in the league on their team in senior guard Norris Cole. I would enjoy to see the Vikings make a run to the Horizon League championship and shake things up in the tournament like they did when they were a #13 seed and upset #4 seed Wake Forest two seasons ago. With Cole, I think this is very possible for Gary Waters’ Cleveland State squad.

John Stevens, RTC editor.

I’ll take the Colonial. You’ve got six 20-win teams out of twelve, and you’ve got to figure George Mason has a bid locked up with Old Dominion looking good, as well. Let’s say someone like Drexel (a 20-9 team with a resume that includes a win at Louisville, mind you) gets hot and wins this thing. Could we be looking at a four-bid year for the Colonial, with James Madison or VCU sneaking in as a function of the soft bubble this year? And how can you not root for William & Mary, a team that’s never been to the NCAA Tournament, after the fantastic case they made for at-large inclusion last year? As far as a team I’d like to see make a run, I’ll go with Morehead State. It wouldn’t be much of a run, of course, since as a 2-seed they earned that weird double-bye in the OVC Tournament and only need to win two games (same situation as 1-seed Murray State) to claim the title. But the world needs to see Kenneth Faried play at this level one more time. He and the Eagles won a preliminary round game in 2009 before getting cooked by 1-seed Louisville, and two NCAA Tournament games for the Fabulous Faried just doesn’t seem like enough.

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor.

Vermont won the America East Conference by one game and rightfully earned the top seed in the tournament by avoiding slip-ups against the league’s lower-tier teams. You’ll want to keep an eye on this tourney, though, because Vermont hasn’t exactly faired well against the top of the AE.  Second-seeded Boston University swept Vermont this year, including an overtime win Sunday. And the third seed, Maine, routed the Catamounts on their home floor back in January. The Black Bears, a preseason favorite, have since collapsed and lost seven of eight games to finish the season. Regardless, either team could still pose a threat to Vermont’s NCAA tourney hopes at some point during the next week.  For sympathy’s sake, I’d like to see Weber State win the Big Sky this March and pluck a spot in the Big Dance. How can you not feel bad for this program? Two years ago, the Wildcats ripped through the league with a 15-1 record but slipped to the NIT. Last year, Anthony Johnson’s legendary performance helped Montana stun the regular season champs again. Finally, 2010-11 appeared to be “The Year,” with two-time POY Damian Lillard returning for his senior year. Naturally, he broke his foot and played just 10 games this year, and he’ll now wait on the status of a medical redshirt. It’d be nice to see the third-seeded Wildcats win three games for their tragic hero. 

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O26 Primers: America East, Missouri Valley, and Northeast Conference Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 3rd, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences get underway this evening with teams in the America East and NEC all gunning for the coveted automatic-bid to the Tournament, while the Missouri Valley is vying to send two teams to the Dance. Boston University is all of a sudden the favorite to win the America East with the uncertainty of Evan Fjeld‘s ankle, while Missouri State and Long Island are the favorites in their respective leagues. Something tells me though that the Wichita State Shockers will be looking for vengeance following their two losses to the Bears earlier this year.

America East

The Favorite: Vermont appears to be the favorite, but a lot depends on the status of Evan Fjeld’s ankle that he injured in UVM’s final regular season game against Boston University. In what very well could be the America East championship game, BU went on to defeat the Catamounts in overtime. Allison Shepherd told John Fantino of the Burlington Free Press Blog that: “[Fjeld] is receiving daily care and treatment for the injury. We will have a better idea regarding his playing status for the upcoming America East tournament as the weekend approaches.” Something tells me that even if Fjeld and his ‘Stache are able to go, he will not be at 100%. I like Boston University.

Dark Horse: Behind senior Tim Ambrose, Albany is a team that has come on strong as of late and is capable of making a run in the A-East tournament. The Great Danes have won four straight to end the regular season, but getting by Stony Brook will be no easy task in the first round.

Who’s Hot: Boston University has not lost in February and is 8-0 during the month. They defeated Vermont to conclude the regular season and are flying high with John Holland—arguably the league’s best player—leading the way.

Player to Watch: John Holland has been a staple in BU’s rotation since the day he stepped on campus. The senior has averaged double-figures in scoring for all four years, and his 19.2 points a game this year is tops in the league.

First-Round Upset: Hartford over Maine. The Black Bears were an intriguing team and story to follow early on in the season. They beat a solid Penn State team and began league play with an 8-1 record, but since then they have fallen flat on their faces. Although their date with Hartford is technically not in the first round—the America East essentially has a play-in game between the #8 and #9 seeds to begin the tournament—fourth seeded Maine will have their hands full with Hartford who has already beaten them twice.

How’d They Fare? As a 16 seed last year, Vermont could not handle the athleticism or shooting ability of Syracuse as they lost 79-56.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simply one of my favorite NCAA Tournament highlights of all-time:

Easily the best part of the clip is Tom Brennan’s reaction after T.J. Sorrentine swishes home the three from about 35 feet away, and if you look even further past Brennan the reaction of the guys sitting on press row are priceless too. This is what makes March so Mad!

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America East Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2011

Matt McKillip of Purple and Gold Nation is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Postseason Preview

  • Injury Updates: Brenadan Bald and Evan Fjeld were held out of practice for Vermont- if they’re significantly hampered, the Catamounts will need heroic efforts from the rest of their cast. Their body of work has been garnering 14-seeds from bracketologists, but health will be the key factor to weather they will dance.
  • Hot Black: Albany’s Mike Black was the best player in the conference over the past week and if he can keep it up, the Danes will be a tough out.
  • Maine Who?: Maine has been the best in the league– and has also bottomed out with losses to basement dwellers. The talent is there, but can three point threat Gerald McLemore and crew rally to their former selves after losing seven of their last eight games?

Relive last season’s finale between Vermont and BU in the video below:

A Look Back

War of Attrition: Part 2, The Rolling of the Ankles: It has been a rough season for star players in the America East. Pre-season POY candidate Tommy Brenton went down for Stony Brook before the year started, and then New Hampshire lost two leading scorers during the non-conference (Alvin Abreu and Ferg Myrick). In the past week though, a series of sprains have created a lot of uncertainty for the playoff picture. John Holland of Boston University, the league leader in scoring, was kept out of the final regular season game with an ankle Injury, as was one of Vermont’s top scoring threats, Brendan Bald (11.5 PPG). And then in the final game of the year, another POY candidate, Evan Fjeld of Vermont, rolled his ankle and was kept out for the rest of the game. While all are likely to play the entire postseason, it marks a potential weakness for the two top teams in the league.

Conference Player of the Year: John Holland, Boston University. The senior Holland was the presumptive favorite after being showered with post-season recognition accolades during his first three seasons. Despite leading the league in scoring (19.9 PPG) essentially wire to wire, Holland’s year got off to a bumpy start. Holland struggled to assume a leadership role with a young and transfer laden cast- his shot selection especially struggled. But as conference play turned towards the home stretch, Holland led the Terriers to 8 straight victories entering the post-season.

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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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