Morning Five: 04.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 19th, 2012

  1. The top of the ACC might look a little different next season after C.J. Leslie announced that he would will return for his junior season at North Carolina State. An argument can be made that the return of Leslie, who would have been a borderline first round pick this year, could shift the balance of power in the ACC next season. We will always assume that Duke and North Carolina will be up there too, but both teams lose significant pieces from their teams and frankly Duke overachieved last year. With Leslie returning and a very solid freshman class coming in it does not seem that far-fetched that the Wolfpack could be considered the favorites in the ACC next season, which is something that we have not seen for a very long time.
  2. With most of the top incoming recruits committed the battle for the few remaining top recruits is heated and that certainly is the case for Tony Parker. The 6’9″ 280-pound high school senior has narrowed his list to Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio State, and UCLA. Although reports earlier this week indicated that Parker was headed to UCLA, but Parker’s high school coach denies that anything has been set and will announce his decision on Monday. If Parker is indeed headed to UCLA, it could give the Bruins a legitimate argument for the top class in the country. Of course, it would also lead to plenty of Josh Smith jokes (you can figure those ones out yourself).
  3. For much of the past year we have been keeping an eye on Connecticut‘s 2013 APR ban and their eventual failed appeal. For the most part we ignored the similar plight of Toledo, but now the Rockets will be joining the Huskies on the sideline as they will also be banned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to their low APR scores. Obviously Toledo’s absence will be much less noticeable than Connecticut’s (primarily because they probably would not have made it even if they were eligible). Toledo seems to be holding out hope that the NCAA will allow them to count their 2011-12 APR score which would allow them to sneak over the low threshold. UNC-Wilmington appears to be in a similar situation. Since the NCAA did not grant an exemption to Connecticut we are not sure how the NCAA would let them get away with that now.
  4. With Johnny Jones having left to take over at LSU the administration at North Texas has been looking for his replacement. However, unlike many schools they do not appear to be in a hurry to name his replacement. According to the school’s athletic director they are looking at a variety of potential replacements including a current assistant coach at the school, a few fairly big-name former coaches, and a few other assistants. The school claims that it plans on having made a decision within the next ten days so it should be not too long until they have a coach, but we would not expect anything in the next few days.
  5. Frequent readers of this site are aware that we rarely talk about women’s college basketball and when we do it is for a major issue. This one definitely qualifies. Just a year after she revealed that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Pat Summitt has given up her title as head coach at Tennessee. Summitt will have the title of Head Coach Emeritus that allows her to come to practices and participate in on-campus recruiting, but the team’s actual head coach will be Holly Warlick. We are not a women’s college basketball site or we would have probably devoted the next week to posts about Summitt so we will sum it up with this: 1,098 wins, 38 seasons, 18 Final Fours, and 8 National Championships. Greatest women’s college basketball coach ever.
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Rushed Reaction: #1 Kentucky 81, #16 Western Kentucky 66

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1.  All Business. Kentucky had this one wrapped up and in the mail by halftime. The specific play that did it was at the end of the half when the Wildcats put together an Anthony Davis dunk, a Doron Lamb three, and a block by Davis to lift the lead at 19 and bring the crowd to life. Western Kentucky walked off the floor and, frankly, didn’t provide much resistance upon coming out for the second half.
  2. There Was a Little (One-Sided) Fun, Actually. Watch for two straight Davis alley-oop dunks on your favorite highlight show tonight if you didn’t see them live. He got a technical on the second one…for pulling his KNEES up to the rim. Deserved it for the knee maneuver, and probably would have broken his back if he had let go of the rim, but hey, it looked cool.
  3. How Long Will the Wildcats’ Legs Hold Up? John Calipari has played seven guys, and almost EXCLUSIVELY seven guys, all year long. They’ve played such tough defense and quick, motion offense for a long, hard year. Even with a lead that got up to 30 at one point, Calipari still had his blue-chippers in there with less than ten minutes to go. He didn’t clear his bench until there was less than a minute left. There was a little bit of buzz along press row as to whether Cal’s affinity for leaving his big boys in to close out games even with big leads will eventually cause the legs to fail, given the minutes those seven guys have had to log all season — maybe against, say, a Connecticut or Iowa State? — a buzz not mitigated by the fact that Calipari’s boys let up on defense near the finish line, allowing the ‘Toppers to get the lead down to 15 by the final buzzer.

Star of the Game. Terrence Jones donated 22/10 to the UK cause and was rivaled only by Davis’ 16/9 and seven blocks. Let’s be fair, though. WKU has a couple of ballers, notably freshmen T. J. Price (21/4 on 6-11) and Derrick Gordon (12/5). Once the UK defense decided to take them out of the game (especially Price) at the start of the second half, the matter was decided, but safe to say those gents will have WKU back in the Tournament in short order — and not as a 16-seed.

Quotable. Calipari, who has remarked in the past about how he’s not really a fan of tournament-format basketball: “I’ve told my guys, just forget about the whole tournament. We’re just playing basketball. I told them tonight, I don’t care about offense, let’s just play defense. Let’s show everyone what kind of defensive team we can be.”

Sights & Sounds. Credit to the WKU band for the taunts during Kentucky’s free throws, referencing Davis’ unibrow, questions of Kentucky players’ gender, and other cleverness. They were doing what they could. UK finished 18-25 from the line for 72%.

What’s Next? Everyone knows what’s next. Not many UK fans will leave the KFC Yum! Center until they know who their team is playing on Saturday. There is a palpable fear of Connecticut in this building. UK fans know the Huskies have enough NBA talent on that team to challenge the ‘Cats, and of course UConn disposed of UK last year in the Final Four. A burnt child, indeed, shuns fire.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Western Kentucky – South Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

The Pressure is Squarely on Calipari This Year

It is all gravy from here on out for Ray Harper and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Standing at 9-18 at one point this season, WKU turned things around in a big way as they won the Sun Belt conference tournament to earn the automatic bid to the Big Dance. Trailing Mississippi Valley State by 16 points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, the Hilltoppers ended the game on a 22-5 run to win by one point. Make no mistake about it, Western Kentucky’s magical run will end against Kentucky, but what a run it was. WKU was at their best against Mississippi Valley when they were pressuring the ball and running in transition, but this will simply not work against the Wildcats. It is senseless to breakdown the match ups as Kentucky is staggeringly better at every position, but don’t be surprised if the ‘Toppers keep it close for a good chunk of the first half as they are playing with house money and in their home state.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

#5 Wichita State vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth – South Region Second Round (at Portland, OR) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

One of the most intriguing games in not just the South Region, but the entire second round as a whole, Wichita State and Virginia Commonwealth proved to be two of the top mid-majors throughout the season. Wichita did it with their high-powered and efficient offense, while VCU with their pressure and relentless defense. The victor in this one will most likely be the team that excels in what they do best better than the opposition. If Joe Ragland is hitting shots from the perimeter and Garrett Stutz is his usual force down on the blocks, the Shockers will be in a good position to advance. However, much of the success Wichita has will hinge on whether they can protect the basketball and not let VCU get out in transition as the Rams force more turnovers better than any team in the country. A half court game certainly favors Wichita State, but Bradford Burgess and Darius Theus will look to push the ball every chance they have. In the end, Stutz on the inside and the slew of exceptional shooters Wichita State will throw at VCU proves to be too much for the Rams to overcome.

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ATB: And Then There Were 64 — First Four Breakdown

Posted by EJacoby on March 15th, 2012

The First Round Lede. Debate all you want about the structure of the new NCAA Tournament (since last year) – the First Four format is the new norm, and it must be appreciated because of the momentum it can give to the teams that win these play-in games. Of course, last year VCU began its run to the Final Four from the First Four. Over the past two nights, we saw a couple of really interesting games and a couple of blowouts. We’ll analyze the best moments for you here, as well as preview what’s next to come for the four winners. Here’s your First Round wrap-up…

Your Watercooler Moment. BYU Mounts An Enormous Second Half Comeback

Noah Hartsock Brought Intensity to BYU's Second Half Comeback (AP Photo/S. Peterson)

At the 4:00 mark of the first half of their game against Iona, the BYU Cougars trailed 55-31. Not a single soul watching this game on Tuesday night was thinking about a BYU comeback, and even the announcing crew on truTV was discussing how Iona could pose a serious threat to Marquette in the next round. But Dave Rose was not having it; the BYU coach made the necessary adjustments that included putting his defense into a 2-3 zone that it had hardly used during the season. The result was a complete shift in momentum, and the Cougars continued to convert on the offensive end while holding the Gaels to nothing offensively. Just 16 minutes later, at the 8:00 mark of the second half, Iona’s lead had vanished. BYU controlled the game from there and pulled away with a 78-72 victory, a seemingly impossible result after watching the events of the first half. The upperclassmen forward combo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies was terrific, combining for 41 points and 20 rebounds against the undersized Iona front line. The Cougars will take this momentum into Friday night when they take on Marquette in the Round of 64.

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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, South and West Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 14th, 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.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Joe Ragland Point Guard Play Will be Key to the Shockers' Sweet Sixteen Chances

Wichita State (#5, South) – I’m a great fan of the Shockers, who finished the season atop our TO26 top 15 rankings.  They have a balanced lineup that can do it all.  Inside scoring presence?  Garrett Stutz.  Steady point guard play?  Joe Ragland. Attacking guard?  Toure’ Murry.  Blue-collar enforcer?  Carl Hall.  Three-point marksmen?  Ragland, Ben Smith, and David Kyles.  And they back it up with a solid, steady defense.  If this team has a weakness, it’s the lack of a single go-to player, which can come in handy in crunch time in March.

The key for the Shockers’ getting to the regionals may be slowing their games into halfcourt contests.  They have a tough first-round draw against VCU and its frenetic defensive style.  It will be a challenge to maintain calm amidst the storm that the Rams will bring – Murry in particular can play undisciplined — but if I had to make a call, I’d say that the Shockers will rise to the challenge and get the ball into the lane, where VCU is vulnerable.  In the next round, Wichita State would likely face an Indiana team with a fast-paced offense, but somewhat softer defense that is susceptible to dribble penetration.  Again, if the Shockers can slow things down and turn it into more of a halfcourt game, they could be on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Memphis (#8, West) – No team has a more legitimate grievance about its seed than the Tigers.  They have steadily, but markedly, improved ever since a nearly two-hour closed door team meeting following a loss at Georgetown on December 22.  Few have taken notice because it came mostly against C-USA competition, but during this stretch, the Tigers have gone 19-3, with their three losses coming by a combined total of 6 points.  Oh, and freshman standout Adonis Thomas just returned to the lineup.

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 13th, 2012

No matter whether you feel the First Round of the NCAA Tournament is legitimate or not (and we know at least one person writing Amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on this very issue), it all gets under way at 6:40 PM tonight. From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 Western Kentucky vs. #16 Mississippi Valley State — South Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

It's Still the Big Dance to Big Red

It is hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament officially tips off tonight — it seems like the 24 hours of college basketball marathon on ESPN was just last week — as Western Kentucky will do battle against Mississippi Valley State in the First Round. Things looked bleak for both squads midway through the year as MVSU entered conference play with a 1-11 record, while Western Kentucky stood at 5-14 just six games into league play. In fairness to the Delta Devils, however, they did play one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the nation with virtually all of their contests being so-called “guarantee games.” As for the Hilltoppers, they fired Ken McDonald halfway through the season, and have looked like an entirely different team since. Mississippi Valley is 20-1 since SWAC play began, while Western Kentucky is 10-7 since Ray Harper took over the helm in Bowling Green. Hailing from the weakest conference in America, the Delta Devils will enter the game as slight underdogs, even though they have a much more impressive overall record than their opponent. Western Kentucky is led by freshman Derrick Gordon (11.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG), but junior transfer Teeng Akol — formerly of Oklahoma State — has provided the Hilltoppers with a formidable presence in the frontcourt as of late; Akol scored a career high 23 points in the Sun Belt championship game. Meanwhile for MVSU, it has a balanced approach as five players on the squad average nine points or better. Terrence Joyner is their sharpshooter as he connects on just over two triples a game, while Paul Crosby (13.3 PPG, 7.4 RBG) mans the paint. Despite Sean Woods‘ team losing only one game since the New Year, Western Kentucky is the more talented team and is playing with a real chip on its shoulder.

The RTC Certified Pick: Western Kentucky

#14 BYU vs. #14 Iona — West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by KDoyle on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Kevin Doyle breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Kevin breaking down the South Region here.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC). Shouldn’t really need much of an explanation here. The most talented team in the nation — unquestionably — the Wildcats will be the odds-on favorite to not just emerge from the South Region, but also to cut down the nets in New Orleans. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones spearhead a terrifyingly good starting five.

The Length And Athleticism Of Terrence Jones and Kentucky Are Just One Of Many Issues That Teams Face

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC). Austin Rivers does not play like a typical freshman and while Duke has its flaws on defense (perimeter defense, especially), the Blue Devils are more apt to make a run to the Final Four due to their balance on offense. Rivers and Seth Curry are prolific shooters/scorers in the backcourt, while the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. Much of Duke’s success hinges on junior Ryan Kelly’s health (sprained ankle). Kelly, while not a lockdown defender by any means, is 6’11″ and really helps in defending the three-point line for Duke. Even without a healthy Kelly, Duke still has an easier road to the Sweet Sixteen than other contenders in the South Region.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 Colorado (23-11, 11-7 Pac-12). Clearly, the committee thought higher of the Pac-12 than many others did. First, there was much debate whether this power six conference — far from “powerful” this season — would even receive an at-large bid, but they did in California. Secondly, Colorado was not on anybody’s radar prior to the Pac-12 Tournament as it stood at 19-11 with seven losses in conference play. Yet, winning the conference tournament propelled Colorado to a very respectable seed at #11. Many prognosticators had the Buffaloes at a #13 seed going into Selection Sunday.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 South Dakota State (27-7, 15-3 Summit). It is too big of a stretch to say that South Dakota State is “grossly” underseeded, but I do believe they were worthy of a #13 seed. When comparing the Jackrabbits to the #13 seed in this region, their resume is every bit as good, if not better, than New Mexico State: SDSU has a better overall record, higher RPI, more wins against the Top 100 RPI, and a more challenging non-conference schedule. Not to mention South Dakota State’s thrashing of Washington 92-73, even though the Huskies are not a Tournament team, is very impressive.

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Bracket Prep: St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky, Detroit, and South Dakota State

Posted by EJacoby on March 7th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week (the second half of Championship Fortnight, of course), we’ll continue to bring you these short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. In this post, we’ve got the WCC, Summit, Horizon, and Sun Belt winners from the past two nights…

St. Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova (And His Mouth Guard) Are Dangerous (AP/ Tony Avelar)

  • WCC Champion (27-5, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #25/#43/#35
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +11.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #6-#8

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. St. Mary’s has been a nationally-recognized mid-major for a number of years now, but the Gaels program did something this year that it had never done before, and especially not in the Mark Few/Gonzaga era — win both the outright regular season WCC title and the conference tournament championship. Whether this is a notable achievement en route to a nice run in the NCAA Tournament or something that represents the highlight of the season remains to be seen, but there’s no question that this group has the team chemistry, coaching, and talent to do some damage in the coming week. Two years ago, the Gaels rode a red-hot Omar Samhan past two perimeter-oriented teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and if the matchups break favorably for them again, Randy Bennett‘s team certainly has the capability of breaking through again.
  2. The straw that stirs the Gaels’ drink is WCC Player of the Year, Matthew Dellavedova. The sneaky-quick Australian point guard can score (15.6 PPG), shoot (59 threes, 36.0% 3FG), dish (6.4 APG) and board (3.3 RPG), but more than any of that, it is his ability to successfully run Bennett’s offensive sets that makes him invaluable. St. Mary’s has an elite offense (#20 nationally), which is roughly on par with the Sweet Sixteen team of two seasons ago. Where it struggles, of course, is on the defensive end. As exhibited on nights against athletic teams when the shots aren’t falling, the Gaels have trouble keeping the game close enough to grind out a victory.
  3. As good as Dellavedova and his senior compatriot Rob Jones are (14.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG), the duo struggles against superior athletes. Jones was harassed into a rough outing against the waves of rangy athletes that Murray State threw at the Gaels in their Bracketbuster game last month, while Dellavedova was bumped into a 3-10 shooting performance (1-8 from three) against Baylor earlier in the season. This is why matchups are absolutely key for St. Mary’s next week. If they come up against a first game opponent that can out-run and out-jump them at most positions, they’re probably in big trouble — Connecticut or Mississippi State comes to mind — but if they instead find themselves matched up against a team that plays under the rim like they do — say, Harvard or Purdue — they have a great shot to advance one or two rounds.

Western Kentucky

  • Sun Belt Champion (15-18, 11-9)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #193/#192/#203
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = -2.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16 (First Four)
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Sun Belt Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by CNguon on March 3rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Tournament Preview

Sun Belt Tourney Outlook (by seed)

  1. Middle Tennessee (25-5, 14-2): The heavy favorite to win the tournament, the Blue Raiders have a decent computer profile in case they falter. Still, Kermit Davis won’t want to leave anything to chance.
  2. UALR (15-15, 12-4): The Trojans won the tournament last year out of nowhere. This year, they can’t sneak up on anybody.
  3. Denver (21-8, 11-5): By far the scariest team in the league right now. If you watched them play back in November and December, you probably thought they’d win this league running away. Now, they’re starting to play like that again.
  4. Louisiana (16-14, 10-6): Yes, the ULM loss is ugly, but this team must simply forget about that and move on.
  5. North Texas (16-13, 9-7): The Mean Green are in a different position in the tournament this year as opposed to 2011. Back then, a senior-laden team was on a mission—a mission that fell short in the final seconds thanks to UALR. These young guys are a little more happy-go-lucky, though, which could be to their benefit.
  6. South Alabama (16-11, 8-8): The Jaguars are one of the league’s most surprising teams, finishing .500 despite bringing in an entirely new backcourt. Ronnie Arrow definitely has a major sleeper here.
  7. Western Kentucky (11-18, 7-9): UALR could have a difficult time with WKU in the quarterfinals, especially since the Hilltoppers have nothing to lose and have played well lately.
  8. Florida Atlantic (11-18, 7-9): Despite this season’s disastrous results, four wins in four days are all Mike Jarvis needs to forget all about it.
  9. Arkansas State (12-19, 6-10): The Red Wolves probably aren’t as bad as their record suggests, since they’ve lost a lot of close games and have competed somewhat against the top of the league.
  10. Florida International (8-20, 5-11): In DeJuan Wright’s last stand, maybe his teammates will rally for him.
  11. Troy (10-17, 5-11): The Trojans closed the season with two straight victories. That counts for something.

Reader’s Take


The Year That Was

  • After entering the season in the shadow of East favorite Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee dominated the Sun Belt Conference and ran away with the division.
  • The slumping Owls fell well short of expectations, but Kermit Davis’ team played masterful defense and pounded the ball inside to LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton. This was supposed to be a team with major offensive question marks. And this was supposed to be a program that could never get over the proverbial hump. This season, though, Davis finally elevated the Blue Raiders to the top.

    After Entering The Season In The Shadow Of East Favorite Florida Atlantic, Kermit Davis' Middle Tennessee Crew Dominated the Sun Belt Conference (Getty)

  • No team experienced more turmoil than Western Kentucky, which fired Ken McDonald after a lackluster start. Even with one of the league’s youngest squads, Ken Harper took over and immediately instilled a new confidence in his players. Apparently, he impressed somebody at the top. The school gave Harper the reigns as the full-time head coach after originally tabbing him as an interim replacement. Harper led WKU to three wins in its final four games, including an upset of Middle Tennessee in the season finale.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock lost Sun Belt Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman to graduation, and the 2011-12 season did not begin with much fanfare. UALR struggled through a difficult non-conference schedule and as Denver flew high in November and December, it appeared the reigning Sun Belt tourney champs may fall flat. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The Pioneers used a late surge to finish with 11 conference wins, but UALR edged them for the West title by playing good old-fashioned Steve Shields basketball all winter.
  • We said before the season not to anticipate immediate dominance from Tony Mitchell at North Texas. Again, we couldn’t have been more wrong (that’s a theme here, as you’ve probably noticed). Mitchell averaged a double-double in his first season of collegiate basketball to help keep the Mean Green afloat despite the ineligibility of Chris Jones and Jordan Williams. If Mitchell stays another year, look out.
  • Louisiana-Monroe will not compete in the Sun Belt tourney due to a poor academic rating, but it closed the regular season with one heck of a victory. It’s so significant and shocking, in fact, that it’s worthy of inclusion in this section as a part of the overall landscape of the Sun Belt’s 2011-12 season. It was one of those scores that simply makes you shake your head: ULM 78, Louisiana 60. That happened this weekend. In Lafayette, mind you. And remember, ULM has lost 26 games this season. This is the kind of stuff they make Hollywood movies about. Just consider the storylines: 1) it was a rivalry game 2) Louisiana is one of the league’s better squads 3) ULM’s seniors will never play again and the team cannot compete in the postseason 4) it was on UL’s home floor 5) brothers Steven (ULM) and Darshawn (UL) McClellan were playing against each other 6) ULM won by 18 points and 7) ULM has, um, 26 losses this season! By the way, Steven and Darshawn both scored in double figures. Steven may have won, but Darshawn’s team is playing this weekend, so he’s got bragging rights there.

Tony Mitchell's Outstanding Season Earned Him Player of the Year Honors (Denton Record-Chronicle)

Sun Belt Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Tony Mitchell, North Texas

In some ways, we’re almost hesitant to give this award to a freshman. But Mitchell earned this. He averages a double-double, he’s the best shot-blocker in the league and he changes the game by simply stepping on to the court. Who else in this league can grab 20 rebounds one night, block six shots the next night and then score 30 points the next night? In a league with several terrific stars, Mitchell is an incomparable talent.

Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee

Surprisingly, as much as a slam dunk as this pick may seem, it’s hard to pick against Steve Shields at UALR or Joe Scott at Denver. Still, Davis crafted a team with a lot of new parts into a big winner. He got the most out of Dendy after he transferred from Iowa State and he molded his guards into a really solid unit. In the end, this team played its tail off. It showed.

First-Team All-Conference:

  • D’Andre Williams, UALR, Guard: A quintessential leader, this man was the driving force behind the Trojans’ surprising West title this season. They don’t make them like D’Andre Williams anymore: solid, gritty, defensive-minded and able to make his teammates better in every way.
  • DeJuan Wright, FIU, Guard: The senior may actually be the league’s most underrated player, despite leading the league in scoring. How’s that for bizarre?

    D’Andre Williams (far left), DeJuan Wright, Chris Udofia and LaRon Dendy Rounded Out the Sun Belt First Team

  • Chris Udofia, Denver, Forward: Finally, we got one right—we chose Udofia to break out this season, and he certainly did. But frankly, it wasn’t hard to see this coming. As a sophomore, he simply built on his success as a reserve the year before, and with more consistent playing time he became a stud on both ends of the floor.
  • LaRon Dendy, MTSU, Forward: Chosen by the league as the Player of the Year, Dendy could put a scare into somebody in the NCAA Tournament. He matches up well with any major frontcourt.
  • Tony Mitchell, UNT, Forward: Let’s pray he comes back for another season.
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Checking In On… the Sun Belt Conference

Posted by dnspewak on February 24th, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Surprise, surprise: Middle Tennessee is your East Division champion. Reeling off four straight victories after that lone loss at Denver on national television earlier this month, the Blue Raiders tallied 30 assists in a 94-61 win at Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday night. That’s downright unheard of. They also made 10 three-pointers and allowed 15 players to appear in the game. Kudos to Kermit Davis for sharing the love.

    Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee Are On The Brink Of Joining The NCAA Tourney Party (AP)

  • It’s official: Ray Harper is no longer an interim head coach at Western Kentucky– he got the full-time gig. The move adds a little stability to an increasingly unstable program in Bowling Green after the rocky tenure of previous head coach Ken McDonald. Harper, who served as an assistant on McDonald’s staff, won two national championships as a head coach in the Division II ranks. His team has responded relatively well to him, despite youth and major adversity.

Power Rankings


  1. Middle Tennessee (25-4, 14-1): With a top-40 RPI and a decent computer profile, the Blue Raiders could actually sneak into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. Kermit Davis certainly won’t want to bank on that, though especially since Middle Tennessee lacks that elusive signature victory. As a biased observer of the Sun Belt, it’s clear this team belongs in the Big Dance. Watch these guys play for 10 minutes and you’ll understand that. Unfortunately, the selection committee needs to be able to quantify success, and a few wins over Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Belmont, and Mississippi won’t get the job done. This is all a pointless debate if the Blue Raiders take care of business in Hot Springs though.
  2. South Alabama (16-10, 8-7): Here come the Jaguars: with six victories in their last seven games, they have locked up the two-seed in the East Division. South Alabama completed a sweep of Florida Atlantic by edging the preseason favorites in overtime on Thursday, a symbolic victory in more ways than one. If you are looking for a trendy upset pick in the Sun Belt Tournament, here’s your team. Read the rest of this entry »
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