ATB: NPOY Race Dead Even, Border War Showcases College Hoops, and OSU/Michigan Blow Big Ten…

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. It was a wild and wonderful college basketball weekend filled with bubble teams fighting for their lives and others maneuvering for seed position. In many of the smaller conferences, the regular season ended and schools are now preparing to begin conference tournament play this week (egads, the Big South begins Monday night!). For most of the power conference teams, though, each game carries more weight than those that came before it, and perhaps nowhere was that more true than in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday afternoon. Let’s jump into that game and everything else that went down this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson — Who Ya Got?

T-Rob Won the Weekend, But Will He Win the NPOY? (Topeka CJ/M. Gunnoe)

The National Player of the Year race got even more compelling on Saturday afternoon as the two leading candidates, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, each made his case through dominant performances in key rivalry games in front of a CBS national television audience. Davis started the day with a near-perfect 10-11 shooting performance against Vanderbilt that included 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks to highlight his candidacy as the most valuable player in America. Robinson finished it with a 28-point, 12-rebound masterpiece of his own that lacked in Davis’ near-perfection (T-Rob shot 10-21 from the field), but more than compensated for it with his timeliness. It was Robinson’s layup (and-one) with 16 seconds left that tied the game with arch-rival Missouri at 75-all, and it was his subsequent rejection of Phil Pressey’s driving shot attempt that sent the game into overtime, where KU outlasted the Tigers, 87-86. Because of Davis and Robinson, both Kentucky and Kansas clinched regular season conference championships, the incredible eighth Big 12 title in a row for the Jayhawks and the 45th SEC title in history for the Wildcats.

We did some crowd-sourcing on Twitter yesterday over this very question and it’s clear that there is no consensus on who the NPOY should be. A common refrain that we heard was that Davis is more valuable defensively than Robinson (probably true) and that should therefore make the difference; conversely, Kansas without Robinson in its lineup may look a lot worse than Kentucky would without Davis on its front line (also probably true). Each player is a certain First Team All-American, but the duo will each have two more games over the next seven days to make their final cases to America — UK vs. Georgia and at Florida, and KU at Oklahoma State and vs. Texas. In a too-close-to-call competition, one particularly good or bad game relative to each other could make all the difference.

Top Storyline. The Border War Showcases College Hoops At Its Best. Given everything that was at stake locally, regionally and nationally in Saturday’s Border War showdown between Missouri and Kansas, the basketball gods cast a fitting tribute to a series that does not deserve to end. The game had just about everything you could ask for except a buzzer-beating game-winner (and let the record reflect that Marcus Denmon’s shot just after the final horn fell into the hole), including All-America performances from players sure to soon be on those lists, a fan environment perhaps unparalleled anywhere else in the sport, and an epic comeback that will no doubt cause glee or consternation for years depending on which side of the Missour/Kansas border you live on. It was just a superb game for any college basketball fan to enjoy, and if Saturday’s masterpiece was indeed the end of the series for a while, it will have to live on through repeated showings of clips such as this one. (note: of course, these games don’t matter)

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the WCC correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take

 

The Final Week

It all comes down to this week, WCC fans: Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU and Loyola Marymount all have legitimate shots at the conference title and the one and two seeds for next week’s WCC Tournament. In an age where parity is the Holy Grail of organized sports, the WCC has it going on. And, although this season’s nine-team schedule caused some distortions in the first half of the season, no one could have planned a more compelling finale.

Consider:

  • Saint Mary’s can seize the regular season championship and a number one tournament seed by beating Portland tonight in Portland and San Francisco on Saturday in San Francisco. By beating Portland, the Gaels will guarantee at least their second consecutive share of the title. But there has to be a series of asterisks next to that hypothetical, as the Gaels are bucking several negative trends: they have lost at Portland for the last three years and they appear to stumbling toward the finish line as they did last year when they lost an unexpected league game (San Diego in San Diego), a home BracketBuster game against Utah State, then another home game against Gonzaga, before pulling out a season-ending victory over Portland to earn a share of the conference title.

    Despite Recent Struggles, Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary's Still Control Its Own Destiny (AP)

  • Last week the Gaels lost an unexpected home game to Loyola Marymount, 75-60, lost to Murray State on the road, 65-51, in another BracketBuster contest, and now face a young, talented Portland team with nothing to lose on its home court tonight. Combined with injuries to starting two-guard Stephen Holt, out indefinitely with a torn meniscus suffered in the LMU loss, starting post man Brad Waldow, nursing bruised ribs, and team leader Matthew Dellavedova, who turned his ankle in the LMU game, the Gaels are wobbling into Portland.
  • Gonzaga and BYU square off tonight in a monumental battle (ESPN2, 8:00 PM Pacific) that could vault either of them into a tie with Saint Mary’s for first or, if the Gaels win, eliminate one of them from title contention heading into Saturday’s final games. LMU, which is smoking hot coming off its blistering of Saint Mary’s in Moraga, sits at home for very winnable games against San Diego tonight and Santa Clara on Saturday. With just a minimal effort, the Lions could finish with four losses and cash in on whatever misfortunes befall the three teams ahead of them.
  • Not to be overlooked, San Francisco hopes to take continuing advantage of a scheduling gift that brought BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s onto its home court in successive weeks. The Dons battled BYU right down to a potential game-winning three-point attempt by Angelo Coloiaro that rimmed out at the buzzer for a heart-breaking 85-84 loss last Thursday. Rather than be deflated, the Dons battled Gonzaga equally hard on Saturday, and triumphed 65-64 on a last-second runner in the lane by Rashad Green. The Dons are off tonight and can devote maximum preparation to ruining Saint Mary’s season on Saturday.

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (23-5, 12-2) might seem surprised to find itself still in first place considering the confidence-shattering losses to LMU and Murray State, which knocked it out of “lock” status for a favorable seeding in the NCAA tournament and leaves the Gaels needing a win tonight or Saturday to keep its NCAA hopes alive. Randy Bennett’s troops are wounded and have to be wondering why they continue to struggle late in the season. Even with these concerns, the Gaels still control their own fate. Read the rest of this entry »
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St. Mary’s Is in a Familiar Mid-January Position: Will It Hold Up?

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2012

WCC fans: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. It’s mid-January, and St. Mary’s is surging. Coming off a pair of weekend victories that included a blowout over bitter rival Gonzaga and a tough-but-expected win over pesky Portland, the Gaels currently sit at 17-2 overall and a pristine 6-0 in the WCC. The national media has taken notice, serving up Randy Bennett‘s team as the #24 team this week in the AP poll and #23 in the Coaches Poll. (Incidentally, SMC is #17 in this week’s RTC rankings.) Once again, things are looking up in Moraga as fans of the tiny East Bay school dream of an elusive WCC championship and, harking back to 2010, perhaps another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The question on everyone’s minds around the WCC, though, is whether this year’s SMC team is for real or another mirage in a basketball desert full of them. Consider the table below, showing St. Mary’s fortunes both before and after this point in the season over the last five years.

It’s not difficult to discern from the table that St. Mary’s tends to get off to a hot start each and every year. Somewhat peculiarly, the Gaels’ best team — the 2009-10 Sweet Sixteen bunch led by Omar Samhan — had the most losses of any team during this five-year window at this point in the season (three). But unlike that team, Randy Bennett’s other squads have largely faded down the stretch. The 2007-08 team lost four of its last six games to finish the season, while the 2008-09 squad crashed so badly after Patty Mills broke his hand that the Gaels were left out of what seemed to be a surefire NCAA Tournament bid that year. Last year’s squad was also nationally ranked at this mid-January juncture, having gotten off to yet another sizzling start. Three straight late February losses, though, allowed Gonzaga to keep its stranglehold on a share of the WCC regular season title, while a confounding road defeat to a horrible San Diego team likely relegated the Gaels to the NIT for the second time in three seasons.

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That’s Debatable: Most Exciting Conference Race

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012

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 rest of the season.  Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: With conference play heating up, what conference race are you most excited about this year and why?

Danny Spewak, Big 12 Microsite Correspondent

A one-bid conference since 2007, the Missouri Valley may finally regain its status this winter as college basketball’s premiere non-BCS league. And that’s not just because of Doug McDermott and his ranked Creighton Bluejays. This league has more substance than that. Only 0-5 Bradley is more than two games out of first place right now, where Wichita State, Missouri State and Creighton each sit at 4-1. Indiana State, which won at Vanderbilt earlier this season and represented the MVC in the NCAAs a year ago, will also surely recover from a disappointing 2-3 start in conference play. Same goes for Northern Iowa, which rolled through its non-conference schedule before losing four of its last six. That’s five teams right there with a shot to win this whole thing, and Evansville, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Drake aren’t going away without a fight either. If you’re still not convinced that somebody could knock off CU, consider that reigning POY Kyle Weems already outplayed McDermott in Omaha in a 77-65 victory on December 28. And you wonder why we’re all so fascinated by the Missouri Valley Conference on a yearly basis.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

When I first thought about this question, the Big 12, Pac-12 and Missouri Valley came to mind. Then I took a closer look at the Big Ten. Preseason favorite Ohio State has two losses already and Michigan State sits atop the league at 4-0. That two game lead over the Buckeyes in the loss column is significant and Ohio State’s loss at Illinois on Tuesday night officially opened the door. The Big Ten has five teams that can contend (six if you include a good Purdue team). With home court advantage being historically more significant in this league than others, anything can happen. There seems to be something missing from this Ohio State team. The easy answer is it doesn’t have Jon Diebler anymore but there may be something deeper. With the Buckeyes losing two of their first five league games, this conference is up for grabs and may be the best race.

I. Renko, Columnist

West Coast Conference — Gonzaga and St. Mary’s now have some company atop the WCC, with BYU having joined the conference and showing very little letdown after the departure of The Jimmer.  All three teams are in the Pomeroy top 25, and a true round-robin schedule — something only one power conference can boast — ensures that they play each other twice, home and away.  Four of those five remaining games are on ESPN2 on late night Thursdays, where they will have little competition for the eyeballs of college hoops fans.  While there isn’t the star power of an Adam Morrison, Patty Mills, or Jimmer Fredette, it’s fun to watch each team work to be more than the sums of their parts. Plus, there’s just enough depth in this league for one of the big three to suffer an upset loss and add more intrigue to the race for the top.

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Don’t Sleep On Saint Mary’s in the WCC

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He filed this report from Saturday’s game between Saint Mary’s and Pepperdine.

When you talk about the West Coast Conference, generally the beginning, middle and end of the conversation revolves around Gonzaga – and rightfully so, as the Bulldogs have now won at least a share of 11 straight conference titles. And with the addition of BYU to the WCC this offseason, the Cougars jumped right to the top of the list of the biggest challengers to the Zags’ throne. But there’s that little school in Moraga, you know, Saint Mary’s, the one that most recently made a Sweet Sixteen run itself in 2010, and this week served notice that they’re a force to be reckoned with and every bit as likely to win the conference title as their other two, more famous, competitors.

Jorden Page, Saint Mary's

Jorgen Page Has Taken Advantage Of Some Newfound Playing Time To Make A Case For A Larger Role (photo credit: Tod Fierner)

Thursday night, BYU kicked off its stay in the WCC by traveling to McKeon Pavilion and promptly getting taken apart by the Gaels. While the Cougs’ talented forward Brandon Davies took advantage of the SMC frontline to the tune of 28 points on 18 field goal attempts, Gael senior forward Rob Jones went a long way toward counteracting Davies’ performance, tossing in 24 points of his own while grabbing 15 rebounds and handing out four assists. But it was the Gael backcourt that shone the brightest this weekend, not only in the win Thursday, but in their 29-point takedown of Pepperdine in Malibu on Saturday. Against BYU, the three-man backcourt of junior Matthew Dellavedova and sophomores Stephen Holt and Jorden Page combined for 52 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds, while hitting 9-of-17 from deep. On Saturday it was 44 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds on 7-of-14 from three. Given that the trio of guards are really the only guards on the Gaels’ 11-man roster, head coach Randy Bennett needs to make sure he can get consistent production out of those three. And so far he has.

Page got his first chance to start for the Gaels this week, as senior forward Clint Steindl injured an ankle against Missouri State just before Christmas and remains out, but the Gaels didn’t skip a beat. Page was impressive throughout the weekend, but especially against Pepperdine he provided an early spark for the team, hitting two threes on the Gaels first four possessions and never looking back from there. Not only can he knock down the long balls, but he is terrific off the dribble, either creating for himself or finding his teammates spotting up. “He’s just touching the surface of what he can do,” Bennett said after the game Saturday. “We see him in practice, so we know what he can do, but he’s a guy that needs minutes. He’s at his best when he can get loose a little bit, make shots, and have some freedom. And with Clint out, he’s been able to do that.”

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The Other 26: Week Six

Posted by IRenko on December 31st, 2011

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.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t expect St. Mary’s to be very good this year.  Last year, they lost five of their last eight games, including a lackluster home loss to Kent State in the NIT first round.  Over the offseason, they said goodbye to their unquestioned leader and star, Mickey McConnell.  Although they started the season with a win over Northern Iowa at home, they followed that with a 12-point loss at Denver.  Then came a string of victories against middling competition at best and a 13-point loss to Baylor.  So coming into this past week, St. Mary’s had a lot to prove, as far as I was concerned.  And, well, at a minimum they proved me wrong.

Randy Bennett Contemplates Whether to Accept I. Renko's Apology

First was last Friday’s neutral floor matchup against Missouri State, a strong if not outstanding team (more on them down below).  The Gaels handed them a decisive 77-61 defeat.  So far, so good.  But still, how would St. Mary’s fare against their prominent conference foes — BYU and Gonzaga — once the WCC season kicked off?  Could they register a win against a top 30 team?  Well the Gaels answered that question with authority Thursday night, posting their second straight 16-point win.

Mea culpa.  St. Mary’s is, indeed, a very good team that has a chance to make some noise in March, as it did two years ago.  But I owe them a bit more introspection than that.  How, exactly, have the Gaels built their 12-2 record and top 25 Pomeroy rating?

  • Stat sheet stuffers —  Fifth-year senior forward Rob Jones and junior guard Matthew Dellavedova lead the team in scoring, but they do much more than that.  Jones is an excellent rebounder who averages a double-double.  Witness his 24 points and 15 boards against BYU.  Dellavedova, meanwhile, is averaging 6.7 assists per game.  Against Missouri State, he finished with 17 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.  And against BYU, he 18 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, and four steals.  Complete play from your best players helps stitch the fabric of a well-rounded team that is more than the sum of its parts.
  • Offensive rebounding — In whipping up on Missouri State, St. Mary’s showed off an underrated asset — the ability to dominate a team on the glass.  They hauled down approximately 90% of Missouri State’s missed shots and 30% of their own.  The difference in offensive rebounding allowed them to take 12 more shots and cruise to victory.  The Gaels didn’t let up against BYU.  Although the Cougars are a very strong defensive rebounding team, St. Mary’s pulled down almost 40% of their own missed shots and 67% of BYU’s.  On the season, the Gaels’ offensive rebounding percentage is 12 percent higher than their opponents’.
  • Balanced production – The departure of McConnell may have produced a team that is more offensively balanced, but just as efficient, as last year’s team.  In both of their wins this past week, four players finished in double figures.  And that was without Clint Steindl, who averages nine points per game, but was out with injuries.  Against BYU, Jones paced the team with 24 points, but Stephen Holt added 21 and Dellavedova 18.  By contrast, in their loss to Denver, Jones and Dellavedova scored 21 and 20 each, but no one else posted more than six points.
  • Improved defense — The Gaels’ shot-stopping ability has improved this year, as they have a much better defensive FG%.  They didn’t show that as much against Missouri State and BYU, both of whom shot the ball at a reasonable clip.  That makes one wonder whether this newfound defensive strength is sustainable against high-quality opponents, but it’s at least a start to build on.

After the updated Top 15, we recap the wild start to the MVC season, preview a New Year’s Eve feast, and delve into much more in the week that was and the week that will be.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2011

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Reader’s Take


Looking Back

Kevin Pangos and the Zags Are Ready to Pursue #12

  1. Gonzaga (9-2) completed its pre-WCC season out of conference schedule (still a December 31 game against Xavier in Cincinnati to go) on a roll, dispatching Oral Roberts (67-61), Arizona (71-60), Butler (71-55) and Air Force (70-60) at home, to get ready for an attempt at a 12th straight WCC title beginning on Wednesday against struggling Portland. The Zags have apparently settled on an all-freshman starting backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr., and why shouldn’t they considering how the newcomers have performed so far? Pangos capped off his initial slate of college games by dropping 23 points on Air Force. With a solid rotation, a consistent front line and new energy in the back court, the Zags are ready.
  2. BYU (10-3) barely lost its chance to post a big upset against 6th/7th-ranked Baylor, losing 86-83 after a spirited game marked by the debut of guard Matt Carlino. Carlino, sitting out an imposed benching following his transfer from UCLA, scored 18 points against Baylor in 22 minutes of action, then followed up with 10 points in a Cougar win over Buffalo (93-78), and 22 points in an 89-75 rout of UC Santa Barbara. A mostly-veteran team like Gonzaga, BYU is ready for its initial WCC season with its rotation solidified and only one injured player, 6’8″ junior forward Stephen Rogers, who hurt his knee in practice before the Baylor game.
  3. Saint Mary’s (11-2) missed a chance to garner a signature win when it, too, fell to Baylor 72-59 on a neutral court in Las Vegas. The Gaels bounced back on the next night, however, dispatching Missouri Valley Conference contender Missouri State 77-61 behind emerging post man Brad Waldow (17 points). Coach Randy Bennett’s goal in the preseason was to settle on the center position, and he seems to have done that with Waldow’s performance in the Las Vegas Classic tournament, for which he was named to the all-tournament team. Waldow will alternate in the post with junior Mitchell Young and senior Kenton Walker II, but all other Gael positions are set with veterans. Senior forward Clint Steindl rolled an ankle in the Missouri State game, and it is not known how long he will be sidelined.
  4. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

  1. Three games in the conference last night, none all that interesting, although I suppose it is worth noting these days when the Pac-12 gets through a weeknight without sustaining any more losses. Arizona faced the toughest competition when they hosted Oakland and their talented and prolific senior point guard Reggie Hamilton, but the ‘Cats survived as they “held” him to 31 often spectacular points. Solomon Hill played just about as well as he’s ever played, scoring 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, handing out three assists and refusing to let the Wildcats lose. Elsewhere, freshman Norman Powell had a career-high 19 points as UCLA won its fourth straight and stuck its head over .500 for the first time this year by knocking off UC Irvine by 29. And Oregon used a 19-3 run in the middle of the second half to break open a tie-game against North Carolina Central and escape despite a sluggish performance.
  2. Arizona State junior center Ruslan Pateev was suspended for one game by the NCAA on Tuesday following an altercation (jump to the 30 second mark here) during the Sun Devils’ game Monday night in which he took a swing and connected to the back of the head of Southern Mississippi’s Torye Pelham following a little scuffle under the basket. Pateev was ejected from that game after being given a Flagrant 2 foul, and if he receives another foul of that degree this season he will be suspended the remainder of the year.
  3. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar is trying to right the ship in Seattle and think he has narrowed down the Huskies’ problems to three areas: 1) defense, 2) ball movement, and, the big one, 3) chemistry. Thing one and thing two can be fixed either through effort or game-planning, but with a ton of scorers who like to have the ball in their hands coupled with a play-making point guard like Abdul Gaddy who needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective, there have been some problems figuring out everybody’s roles. And with Tony Wroten now taking a larger part of the offense, and often doing so by creating for himself off the dribble, guys like Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox have seen their shot attempts diminish. Ross and Wilcox both averaged over 13 field goal attempts per game in the first eight games, but since Wroten entered the starting lineup, Ross has averaged just eight while Wilcox has averaged 10. Wroten, meanwhile, has taken 38 shots from the field in those two games, and although he did so very effectively (scoring 50 points on those shots), a bigger concern is his ability to create for his teammates, having dished out just four assists in 68 minutes.
  4. Across the state, Washington State is back to full strength for the first time this season, as senior captain Abe Lodwick played for the first time, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd returned from injuries in the Cougars’ last game against Western Oregon. In their absence, senior Charlie Enquist stepped up with by far the best stretch of his career, while freshmen DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew saw dramatic increases in their playing time. Given the fact that the Cougs have now won their last five after starting the season 2-4, head coach Ken Bone has a chemistry test of his own coming up in the future. The players who helped WSU win those five straight have earned the right to continue getting minutes, while the returnees are certainly among the most talented Cougs. It will be interesting to see how those precious minutes get divided up in Pullman over the coming weeks. WSU has just one remaining non-conference game before they host the Oregon schools to open conference play, a week from tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, Lost Lettermen asks the question, is the West Coast Conference better than the Pac-12? Jim Weber says yes, if only for one season, pointing to Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU as the standard bearers. Anthony Olivieri takes the negative (rightly), pointing out that Cal and Stanford appear to be as good as the top of the WCC, while a team like Washington (and I would include Arizona) still has plenty of upside. And as bad as the bottom of the Pac-12 is this season, remember that Utah just beat Portland last night, and Portland (who has struggled through an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule) isn’t anywhere near the worst team in the WCC. Certainly the Zags, Gaels and Cougars are all solid programs, but even with the Pac-12 at its nadir, it is still better than the WCC. If you don’t just believe me, ask Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin and the RPI.
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WCC Embraces New Media As Its Basketball Profile Rises

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

When you’re smaller and lesser-known than the competition you’ve got to do things differently from them – and preferably smarter.

That’s been the operating philosophy of Jamie Zaninovich in his four years as commissioner of the West Coast Conference, a basketball-first league of faith-based institutions with no pretense of BCS connections. It showed in the contract Zaninovich negotiated with ESPN in one of his first acts as commissioner to bring WCC games to a wider audience than the mighty Pac-12.  It worked last August when Zaninovich snuck in under the radar and convinced Brigham Young University to leave the Mountain West Conference and play all sports outside of football in the WCC. (Granted, BYU’s inclusion in the WCC might be short-lived as the Cougars’ infatuation with membership in the Big 12 continues even though the Big 12 apparently doesn’t return the affection. For now, though, Zaninovich has seen his conference rise to seventh place among Division I basketball leagues according to CBSSports.com analyst Jeff Goodman.)

Jamie Zaninovich's Progressive Ideas Are Pushing the WCC to New Heights

Zaninovich’s flair for innovation manifested itself again last week when the WCC held a groundbreaking Media Day. Rather than the dreary non-event most conferences schedule once a year to allow coaches to make their pre-season predictions, the WCC’s event was all about new media and new ways to reach the public. For starters, the conference took advantage of its high-tech neighborhood and staged the event at the headquarters of growing media giant YouTube, which counts some 450 million monthly viewers. Chew over that figure a second and then compare it with the few millions that the biggest traditional media outlets brag about.

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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – WCC

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2011

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

No. 1. The West Coast Conference has a ready-made top storyline for 2011-12: the addition (and possible subtraction) of Brigham Young University to the league. Initially seen as a coup for highly-regarded WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, BYU’s status as a WCC member got caught up in the latest craziness involving BCS football conferences. With some sources insisting the Cougars were just waiting for an opportune moment (or invitation) to bolt to the Big 12, much criticism has come down upon the institution for flirting with WCC membership while seeking greater opportunities elsewhere. Sadly, as in all the BCS conference upheavals, the uncertainty is driven by football and possible revenues therefrom. BYU officials have done little to reassure WCC members that they’re in it for the long run, so fans will just have to watch and wait to see what happens. Regardless of long-term prospects, however, the Cougars are competing in the WCC for the 2011-12 season and that is the top storyline.

BYU is a Member of the WCC, But For How Long?

BYU’s inclusion brings a perennial top 25 team into a league that was already on the upswing with the continued success of Gonzaga, the emergence of Saint Mary’s as a postseason regular and the upsurge in other programs such as Portland, San Francisco and Santa Clara. Expectations that the WCC might become a consistent three-bid NCAA conference have fueled excitement for the coming season, and sparked hot stove league discussions over which of the conference’s consensus top three programs will emerge as the champion and recipient of an automatic NCAA Tournament invitation. Strong arguments can be made for BYU, Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s capturing that prize, and strong arguments are what fuels fan interest.

No. 2.  Will Elias Harris have a break-out season in 2011-12 and carry Gonzaga past the early-round NCAA departures (GU’s last Sweet Sixteen appearance was in 2009) that have haunted the Zags the last two years? It is hard to pinpoint where this surge in Harris excitement comes from – certainly not the tight-lipped Gonzaga basketball program under non-boaster Mark Few – but it has been repeated enough to take on a life of its own. It seems to be based on the fact that he burst on the scene as an explosive scorer and rebounder as a 20-year-old freshman from Germany, posting 15/7 scoring and rebounding averages. He fizzled somewhat last season, at least partially stemming from shoulder and Achilles injuries, and so the stage is set for a comeback. What Harris boosters don’t take into account is that the league may have found ways to defend him based on his weaknesses in putting the ball on the floor, a sameness in his offensive moves (you can only make that power spin move so often) and his penchant for giving up the ball when pressured. Whether it’s a break-out or something less, Harris’ junior season will establish whether he is a superstar or just a good small forward.

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$2,000 Stipend: Is the NCAA on the Verge of Allowing Payments to Players?

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2011

Perhaps the winds of change are in the air after all.  Not a month after Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic excoriated the NCAA for its stubborn adhesion to the twin tenets of amateurism and the “student-athlete,” and not five months after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney floated an idea to provide a “full cost of attendance” stipend to its players, the NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, appears to be on board. Emmert told the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Monday that he feels the time is ripe for addressing such an inequity for the first time in a couple of generations.  What does the NCAA say the gap between the value of tuition, fees, room, board, and books versus the full cost of attendance amounts to?  Try $2,000 per year.

Emmert Appears Willing to Open the Floodgates

This week, I’ll be asking the board to support a proposal to allow conferences — not mandate anyone, but allow conferences, not individual institutions — to increase the value of an athletic grant in aid to more closely approach the full cost of attendance. […] We are going to create a model that would allow — probably… up to $2,000 in addition to tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies.

Interesting.  A couple of grand may not seem like much considering the astronomical dollar figures that schools make on the backs of these players, but it’s not insignificant either.  A two-semester school year encompasses roughly nine months for an athlete: dividing that figure by 39 weeks results in an allowance of roughly $51 per week. What college student couldn’t use a little shy of ten bucks a day to buy pizza, fill up his gas tank and occasionally join his buddies for an evening out to the movies and some greasy spoon afterward?  It seems a pittance given the figures going into the coffers of the power conference schools, right?  But therein lies the problem.

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Morning Five: 09.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 8th, 2011

  1. This Texas A&M to the SEC thing has certainly gotten interesting.  Despite previous assurances from the Big 12 that none of its ten institutions would create a legal barrier to TAMU leaving the conference, Baylor, perhaps seeing the CUSA or WAC writing on the wall, has other thoughts in mind.  Mike DeCourcy is correct in writing that Big 12 schools (and really, all of the schools around the country) are being extremely shortsighted in their our-time, right-now mentality, but the SEC has been clear in that it will only take a school into its league if it is free and clear of any legal liabilities.  Texas A&M was all set to join the SEC on Wednesday, but Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe stated in an email to the SEC on Tuesday night that previous conversations in fact only referred to conference obligations, and that individual schools would still need to waive their rights in order for A&M to move to the new league. Apparently eight of the nine remaining conference members, with Oklahoma as the lone exception, are currently unwilling to waive their rights. “We are being held hostage right now,” TAMU president R. Bowen Loftin said on Wednesday.  So what next?  Our best guess is that Texas A&M will negotiate some kind of settlement agreement with Baylor that will ultimately destroy the Big 12, but the truth is that nobody really knows at that point.
  2. Washington announced that its junior point guard and former McDonald’s All-American, Abdul Gaddy, has been cleared by his doctors to go 100% back on the court in practices.  The much-maligned player tore his ACL on January 4 last season during a Husky practice, and after 13 games at 21 MPG, he appeared to be slowly adjusting to his role as a pass-first point guard on a deep and athletic Washington team.  His 3.1 assist to one turnover ratio was very promising, though, on the heels of a freshman season where it was much closer to even (1.3 to 1).  Lorenzo Romar’s team lost a huge amount of its production from last season’s NCAA Third Round squad, but big things are expected from sophomores CJ Wilcox and Terrence Ross so the Huskies will need Gaddy at full strength to get them the ball on the wings in the right spots.  Most every analyst believes that the 19-year old Gaddy has some talent, his problem has been simply a matter of harnessing it.
  3. Yesterday Luke Winn brought us a list of the top ten most efficient guards of the so-called ‘efficiency era.’  Today he moves on to the wings.  If you are in the business of guessing who the top players are in the last decade from an efficiency standpoint, you probably won’t do a lot better than JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy in 2005-06 season.  These three players in that single year represent three of the top five seasons from the wing in the last ten years — perhaps you’re not surprised by Redick and Morrison as a college hoops fan, but Roy’s 2006-07 NBA ROY season perhaps was a clue to just how good he was in college too.
  4. Unfortunate news from the WCC, but Santa Clara senior star Marc Trasolini will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL in an exhibition game in his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday night.  He came down awkwardly just a mere two minutes into the game and doctors diagnosed his injury soon thereafter.  Trasolini was the second leading returning scorer for the Broncos at 13/6 and his absence in 2011-12 definitely puts a crimp in plans for Kerry Keating’s team to make a run at Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the league next season.
  5. There’s been a lot of discussion about how schools might try to game the APR/930 system now that they can actually lose scholarships, and eventually, postseason opportunities, as a result.  This article from the off-the-beaten-path of the Dakotas suggests that even at that level, schools might use their last few scholarships to load up on high GPA students in order to make sure they reach the written threshold.  As South Dakota head coach Dave Boots states, “all three of the [international] kids that we signed are really good students.”   Mid-major games but big-time grades — is that what we’re heading toward?  Rest assured that if a marginal couple of D-I schools like South Dakota and South Dakota State are already doing this, the power conference schools have institutionalized it.  As we wrote several weeks ago, this is not a good thing.
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