Bracket Prep: Missouri, Colorado, Memphis, Vermont, Norfork State & Lamar

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket. In this post, we have your America East, Conference USA, MEAC, Southland, Big 12 and Pac-12 conference champions. Here’s what you need to know about these recent bid winners.


  • Big 12 Conference Champion (30-4, 17-4)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #11/#8/#7
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +16.0
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

The Big 12 Champions Will Be a Very Tough Out

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. It goes without saying that a 30-win season where Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament is already one of the best years in program history. Whether the Tigers end up as a #1 or #2 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament, the elephant in the room is that despite 24 NCAA appearances and five trips to the Elite Eight (as recently as 2009), Mizzou has never experienced the grandest stage of a Final Four. Whether this is the year that the program finally breaks through depends on a number of factors, but there’s no question that Frank Haith‘s group has tremendous ability, experience and team chemistry. It will take an exceptional opponent to knock this team out of the Dance.
  2. Missouri’s biggest strength is that it owns the most efficient offense in college basketball, scoring over three more points per 100 possessions than the second best team (Kentucky). In playing a solid non-conference and Big 12 schedule, the only team that proved capable of slowing down the Mizzou attack was Kansas State, who beat the Tigers twice by beating them up on every cut, drive and rebound attempt. The Wildcats held the seasoned group of Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon to 11-36 from the field in the first game, and 19-47 in the second game for a total shooting display of 36.1% (they group shoots 47.4% on the season). If Missouri is to be upset in the NCAAs, it will be by a team who plays a similarly bruising, defensive style — trying to run with this oft-spectacular offensive squad will not work.
  3. The Tigers’ weakness is its pedestrian defense (ranked #77 in efficiency), but their offense is so explosive that it rarely faces a situation where it has to make a stop to win the game. You might think that its lack of interior size other than Ricardo Ratliffe is another issue, but that’s not been much of a problem for them this season. Ratliffe only fouled out once all year (against Baylor’s huge front line Saturday, incidentally), and with the exception of those two K-State games, the Tigers’ experience and savvy usually allows them to dictate the style and pace of the game. In order to knock this team out, it’s going to take a tremendous defensive effort that can keep up with all of these talented guards. There are only a handful of teams in the country capable of doing that. As a result, this might finally be the year where Missouri faithful experience the wonders of the Final Four.


  • Pac-12 Conference Champion (23-11, 15-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #70/#81/#83
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14

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America East Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2012

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

Conference Tournament Preview


The top four seeds in the America East have been dominating conference play all season. That’s why they’re expected to meet up in the semifinals. The team that could potentially crash the party is six-seed Hartford, which is playing close to home. If the Hawks get hot from three, there’s always a chance to pull an upset, because they love to shoot the long ball. Also, seven-seed Maine has a ton of talent, but crashed at the end of America East play, losing six of its final seven games. The highest seeded team that survives Hartford is going to get the opportunity every team wants, to host 40 minutes of basketball that will ultimately lead to a berth into the NCAA Tournament. It should make for an exciting, gritty long weekend and championship game.

A Look Back

At the beginning of the season the expectations were that Boston University, Stony Brook, Vermont and Albany would be at the top of the standings. At the end of the season, that’s exactly what we’ve got, except they’re in a slightly different order. An injury to D.J. Irving seemed to throw BU off its rhythm a little bit, but the Terriers still finished 12-4 in conference, including a win over Stony Brook and a sweep of Albany.

Vermont benefited from the continuity of having John Becker take over for Mike Lonergan, but an upset loss to Binghamton, the biggest surprise of the conference season, leaves them slightly behind the eight-ball heading into the conference tournament. But it did save the Bearcats from the indignity of needing to win the play-in game on Thursday to avoid a winless season.

The rest of the bottom of the standings worked out pretty much as expected. None of the other teams has managed to crack the upper echelon of the conference. Hartford, after starting the season 0-13, rebounded to finish 7-9 in conference and qualifies as America East’s biggest surprise.

Gerardo Suero's Quickness And Scoring Ability Caused Headaches Across The Conference.

Conference Accolades

  • Player of the Year: Gerardo Suero, Albany He burst onto the scene this season after a long, circuitous route to upstate New York. On the way, he learned a lot of tricks on offense and it showed, as he was incredibly efficient while using the third most possessions in the nation when he was on the court. Suero averaged 21.7 points per game and also contributed 5.7 boards and 3.0 assists.
  • Coach of the Year: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook Pikiell wins this award because his team finished in first place. It’s tough to deal with expectations and he’s formed a talented rotation into a team that can have a different person beat you on any given night. This is the second time in three seasons that the Seawolves have won the regular season title. This time, Stony Brook needs to finish the deal and qualify for its first ever NCAA Tournament.

All-Conference Team:

  • G Gerardo Suero, Jr. Albany
  • G Darryl Partin, Sr., Boston University This team was supposed to be Partin’s this season, and after a midseason injury to D.J. Irving, it truly was. He did a good job as the go-to guy, holding down the fort and scoring 19.7 points per game until his running mate was ready to go again.
  • G Bryan Dougher, Sr., Stony Brook The designated gunner on the conference’s best team, Dougher shot 37.3% from three and scored 13.4 points per game, the highest of his career, in the fewest minutes per game in his career.
  • F Tommy Brenton, Jr., Stony Brook Brenton isn’t your traditional First Team player, but his defense made him one of the key players in the Seawolves’ rotation. He averaged 7.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 29.4 minutes per game this season.
  • F Brian Voelkel, So., Vermont – Voelkel didn’t score much, averaging just 4.9 points per game, but he was amongst the America East leaders in rebounds at 8.3 per game, and assists at 5.0 per game.

Darryl Partin (far left), Bryan Dougher, Tommy Brenton and Brian Voelkel Rounded Out The America East First Team

Freshman of the Year: Four McGlynn, Vermont McGlynn and his top competition for this award, Maine’s Justin Edwards, look like they’ll be great cornerstones for their respective teams for years to come. McGlynn, though, was more consistent overall this season. He scored 24 points in 27 minutes in a 68-49 win over Stony Brook that was the Catamounts best victory of the season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook At 6’5,” Brenton has the ability to cover anyone in America East. He’s an excellent rebounder and his offense comes from his defense. Always taking on Stony Brook’s toughest assignment, he led a defense that finished first in conference play by allowing 0.91 points per possession.

Reader’s Take


Power Rankings

  1. Stony Brook (20-8, 14-2)– The Seawolves have good wins at home over Cornell, Rider and Columbia, but a victory at Northeastern during BracketBusters was the first road win for SBU outside of conference play. Considering how down America East is in general this season, Stony Brook might end up in the play-in game and they could definitely win it.

    Steve Pikiell and Stony Brook Are The Favorites To Win The America East Tournament (AP)

  2. Vermont (20-11, 12-3) – The Catamounts own the America East’s best win – over Old Dominion in overtime – and its worst loss – at Binghamton. This is a solid team, but it needs every player on its game in order to win the slowdown games Vermont likes to play.
  3. Boston University (16-15, 12-4) – The record isn’t great, but most of it can be traced to losing D.J. Irving right before a key stretch in conference play and a lack of options in the frontcourt. Joe Jones did figure out a way to beat top seed Stony Brook once, at home, but they were swept by Vermont, their likely semifinal opponent. The second one was close, 68-67, and gives the Terriers hope they can repeat as champions.
  4. Albany (18-13, 9-7) – Head coach Will Brown has a contract extension, but the length and terms won’t be announced until after the postseason. That makes it sound like he has a lot of incentive to get the Great Danes some wins. The potential is there with Gerardo Suero, Mike Black and Logan Aronhalt. The problem is up front. UA suffered two losses to Stony Brook by a total of 20 points because there’s no one who can handle SBU’s size.
  5. New Hampshire (13-15, 7-9) – The Wildcats are hot, having won five of their last six games, including the last one Albany and UNH played on February 9. They’ve been winning close games over the elite (Albany, Boston U.) and taking care of business against the bottom. It’s straight to the elite teams on Saturday with Albany.
  6. Hartford (8-21, 7-9) – A number of talented freshmen, including Nate Sikma and Mark Nwakamma, give the Hawks something to build upon. There’s also some positive momentum considering the 8-8 finish to the regular season after the winless streak to start. John Gallagher had to spend a lot of time getting his team ready for this level, but it should pay big dividends in 2012-13.
  7. Maine (12-16, 6-10) – So much talent, so little to show for it. Justin Edwards and Alasdair Fraser are great blocks to build around, but they’re going to need some more help. The departures of Gerald McLemore and Raheem Singleton is going to leave holes in the offense next season. What Ted Woodward really needs is for his team to commit to play defense. Maine has allowed six of its last seven opponents to score at least a point per possession and lost each of those games.
  8. UMBC (4-25, 3-13) – Losing Chris De La Rosa at the beginning of the season basically tanked the Retrievers’ season. Along the way, though, Chase Plummer picked up a lot of the slack and walk-on Ryan Cook became an integral part of the rotation. Both those players will be back next season as UMBC tries to find a new way to hold down opponents after surrendering a conference-worst 1.12 points per possession this season.
  9. Binghamton (1-28, 1-15) – All those losses have exposed the fact that changes still need to be made in upstate New York. The Bearcats have left Mark Macon with an almost impossible situation and while there’s some talent on the roster, Robert Mansell’s knee injury and Ben Dickinson’s immature actions on the court leave questions that need to be answered before next season.
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Checking In On… The America East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Binghamton Breaks Through: The Bearcats sure picked a good time to win their first game of the season. After starting 0-26 they took down Vermont 57-53 and the students rushed the court. Robert Mansell scored 18 and Ben Dickson added 16 for Binghamton. The Bearcats led by as many as 12 points during the game, by far the most this season, and held on for the victory.
  • Albany All Banged Up: Will Brown’s team is hurting. Just seven players got on the court during the Great Danes’ BracketBusters game against Rider, which Albany won. Guys sitting on the bench included Gerardo Suero and Logan Aronhalt – Albany’s top two scorers – and Luke Devlin. Devlin and Aronhalt are battling knee problems, while Suero missed the game against Rider because of a case of shingles. Suero and Aronhalt both returned in a 74-63 win over Binghamton. Suero played 25 minutes and Aronhalt nine. The plus side for Albany is that it will have had more than a week off before the conference quarterfinals for players to rest.
  • Brackets Busted: The America East went a surprising 5-4 during BracketBusters. Stony Brook picked up a nice win over Northeastern, Vermont beat Niagara by 22 and Albany got a win over Rider. Overall, the conference did well and helped itself out by beating two teams from the CAA and three from the MAAC.

An RTC In Binghamton To Snap A 27-Game Losing Streak Proved Cathartic. (Daniel O'Connor/Binghamton Pipe Dream)


Power Rankings

  1. Stony Brook (19-8, 13-2) – The Seawolves have done everything asked of them this season. Their two losses are on the road at the teams sitting in second and third in the power rankings. They’ll almost certainly have the #1 seed, a home championship game, if they make it through two rounds in Hartford, and a top seed in the NIT.
  2. Vermont (19-11, 12-3) – How about we all agree that the Binghamton game didn’t happen? If that’s the case, the Catamounts should certainly be in this spot. Vermont had won 10 games in a row at that point. Odd note about the Catamounts: they have got both the best free throw percentage and free throw percentage against during conference play. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

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

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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Checking In On… the America East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 7th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

  • Walk-on Sensation – With Chase Plummer sidelined due to a concussion against Albany, former walk-on Ryan Cook took over the scoring duties for UMBC and scored a career-high 28 points in an 11-point defeat on the road. In the Retrievers’ next game against Maine, he teamed up with Plummer to help them almost pull the upset, before falling 78-77 in overtime. Cook scored 21 points in that game. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points four times this season after not appearing in a collegiate game until recently.
  • Vermont’s Near-Miss– The Catamounts had a 16-point lead with 3:28 remaining against Boston University, but they almost blew it. BU had two opportunities to hit a three in the final 11 seconds that would’ve sent the game to overtime, but both clanked off the rim. The win put Vermont in sole control of second place in the conference.
  • Binghamton Falling Hard – The Bearcats are currently winless on the season. Even Towson has a victory, but the closest Binghamton has come was six points at Albany and eight points at Maine. I’ll bet Mark Macon wishes his team had gotten the monkey off their back in the opener against Colgate, which the Bearcats lost by four. This lede pretty much sums up where things stand right now.

The Seawolves Are Running Towards A Conference Title.

Power Rankings

  1. Stony Brook (16-7, 11-1) – The Seawolves haven’t gone to Vermont yet, but other than that SBU has passed every test an America East team must face. The defense is top-notch. The offense is unspectacular but Tommy Brenton and Bryan Dougher get the job done. Against New Hampshire, Brenton shot 12 free throws and finished with 14 points.
  2. Vermont (16-10, 10-2) – When the Catamounts lost to Stony Brook in the first game of the season, it looked like maybe John Becker’s crew wasn’t ready, but he’s slowly formed a disciplined offense on the backs of few turnovers and getting to the line often. The Catamounts have shot 78.2% from the line during conference play, best in America East. Read the rest of this entry »
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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. (

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 ( 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

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

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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