Morning Five: 04.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. As expected Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid announced that he will be entering this year’s NBA Draft. In our minds, there was really no question as to Embiid’s decision as he is a guaranteed top-five pick (barring any serious findings during his physicals). Before his back injury we would have said that Embiid might have been the favorite to the #1 overall pick. Now we would only hedge a little bit by saying that he will be a top-five pick because despite his back injury, which can be concerning, he does have a skill set that very few NBA big men have, which makes him an extremely valuable commodity. Embiid’s departure could also open the door for Kansas to land Myles Turner, the #2 overall recruit in the class of 2014 and the lone remaining uncommitted recruit, as Embiid and Turner likely would have been sharing minutes. With Embiid off to the NBA it might lead Turner to head to Lawrence.
  2. Wisconsin-Milwaukee will not be repeating its surprise run to the NCAA Tournament next year. In fact, they won’t even be able to defend their Horizon League Tournament crown after receiving a one-year post-season ban for its low APR score. This clearly is not as high-profile as Connecticut’s one-year ban in 2013 and we don’t expect to see a player (sorry student-athlete) standing next to Rob Jeter talking about being banned, but it is a significant blow to the program. At this point, we have to place blame the program particularly when they have known about these APR guidelines for years.
  3. The big news of the day in the college basketball world was Massachusetts point guard Derrick Gordon announcing that he is gay. There have been countless opinions posted online and spoken over the air so we won’t get into the issue too much other than to applaud Gordon for his decision to make the announcement more for the change it can make for others than anything related to himself although that clearly is a big issue too. We hope that opposing players and fans (particularly the fans) behave appropriately when they play Massachusetts. We also hope that we see the day when this type of announcement not only does not need to be made, but it also is not a news story because society has become so accepting.
  4. It did not take Jim Fox very long to become one of our favorite college basketball coaches. Just one day after taking over at Appalachian State, Fox released Devonte Graham from his previously signed National Letter of Intent. As we mentioned yesterday, Graham had signed before his recruiting stock rose significantly and then wanted to back out. The entire issue had been handled poorly by the previous Appalachian State coaching staff and probably affected their ability to recruit players. In the end, this works out best for both Graham and Appalachian State so we are glad that the new staff was able to take a step back and do what was best for both parties.
  5. Tony Jasick will be introduced as the new coach at Jacksonville later today. Jasick, who led Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to a 25-win season and a win in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament this season, is just 36 years old, but already has three years of head coaching experience compiling a 52-47 record with a significant improvement in the team’s record each season. He recently received the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year as the top Division I mid-major coach in college basketball, which we guess is a big deal even though we have never heard of it. Jasick will be replacing Cliff Warren, the longest tenured coach in the school’s history, but who also finished with three losing seasons.
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O26 Bracketbusting: East and West Regions

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 19th, 2014

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The most joyous time of the year is finally upon us, and I’m not talking about tax season. I’m talking about buzzer-beating threes and scoring sprees, nickel-dimers and Nantz one-liners, back-door cuts and Farokhmanesh guts. I’m talking about the NCAA Tournament. And since O26 squads often make the most magic in March, let’s examine the prospects of each non-power conference unit in the upcoming Dance. Yesterday, Adam Stillman reviewed the South and Midwest Regions. Here, Tommy Lemoine looks at the East and West regions.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a legitimate chance to reach the second weekend, and perhaps even the Final Four.

Can San Diego State generate enough offense to make a deep run? (AP Photo)

Can San Diego State generate enough offense to make a deep run? (AP Photo)

  • San Diego State (#4, West) – This is the fifth straight season San Diego State has reached the NCAA Tournament, but only once in that span has it advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The good news for Aztec fans is that this is the best overall defensive unit – not to mention highest-seeded outfit – since 2011, the year Kawhi Leonard and company made that run to the second weekend. Steve Fisher’s club ranks seventh nationally in defensive efficiency thanks to long-armed perimeter defenders like Winston Shepard (he’s a 6’8’’ two-guard) and interior stalwarts like Skylar Spencer. The Aztecs are aggressive, confusing and energetic on that side of the ball. They draw New Mexico State on Thursday, a sizable and athletic #13 seed that’s both offensively proficient and does a good job defending the paint. But they turn the ball over quite a bit, and there’s a good chance SDSU will seize on that sloppiness, even if they have trouble scoring. In the following round, they would meet either Oklahoma or North Dakota State – two really efficient offensive squads that have both shown weaknesses this season against athletic, pressure defense. Both are beatable for the Aztecs. Finding success in Anaheim, though, might be a different story. The offense will need to be more consistent than it’s been up to this point, especially against a team like Arizona – the nation’s best defensive unit (and most likely Sweet Sixteen opponent). If Mountain West Player of the Year Xavier Thames can play like he did in January and early March – when he put up numerous 20-plus point performances – and complementary pieces like athletic wing Dwayne Polee can make solid contributions, SDSU would have a shot. But if they can’t find buckets with regularity, the Aztecs won’t last long.
  • Gonzaga (#8, West) – It seems like everybody is sleeping on the Zags in favor of the ‘Marcus-Smart-can-make-a-run’ narrative, which is fine, and may very well happen. But do people realize that Mark Few’s bunch is ranked 20th overall in KenPom, with a top-15 defensive efficiency rating and a stellar effective field goal percentage? They might not be vintage Gonzaga, but these Bulldogs can still play. Their opening bout with Oklahoma State will probably be a good one – in fact, it has the highest ‘Thrill Score’ according to KenPom’s FanMatch – and  should be winnable if they can contain Smart and limit turnovers. The experienced backcourt of Kevin Pangos, David Stockton and Gary Bell will help in the latter department. If they manage to get past the Pokes, a match-up with Arizona in the round of 32 would be daunting, of course, but not necessarily insurmountable. Consider this: Three of the Wildcats’ four losses this season came against opponents ranked in the top-30 in effective height. Gonzaga, with 7’1’’ Przemek Karnowski and 6’9’’ Sam Dower in tow, ranks 25th. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon will not be able to simply bully Few’s frontcourt into oblivion. If the big men hold their own and Pangos (41 percent) and Bell (42 percent) get hot from behind the arc, watch out. Admittedly, a deep run into the second weekend or the Final Four seems a bit farfetched for the WCC champions – especially considering their lack of quality wins in 2013-14 – but I’m not willing to completely push aside the possibility of a Sweet Sixteen run.

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The Other 26: Week Eight

Posted by IRenko on January 20th, 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.

TO26 is back after a one-week hiatus, and do we have a doozy of a column for you.  Today we take a look at the race for the top in every single non-power conference.  We categorize each conference based on the number of contenders who have emerged after the first 2-3 weeks of conference play.  Which conference looks like a fight between five legitimate contenders?  Which conferences seem to be just one team’s to lose?

In our breakdown, we focus not just on the top of the W-L standings, but dig into the team’s non-conference performances, their specific results and their remaining schedules to get to a true picture of which teams are likeliest to take home a regular season crown.   (Note that for our purposes, we have ignored the two-division setup in some conferences.)

But first, the updated Top 15.

Now on to our conference reviews …

Five Team Battle Royale

CAA – After a brutal 2-4 start to their season, preseason favorite Drexel (5-2) has turned things around, winning 11 of their last 12.  That includes a home sweep of perennial contenders and recent Cinderellas George Mason (6-1) and VCU (5-2).  Georgia State (5-2) is the conference’s biggest surprise.  After being picked to finish 11th in the preseason poll and starting the year 0-3, the Panthers reeled off 11 straight, including wins over Drexel and VCU, before losing narrowly at George Mason.  After a loss at Northeastern on Wednesday, skeptics may wonder whether they might start to fade, but for now, they should be taken seriously.  Old Dominion (6-1) rounds out the top 5 here, as the Monarchs are tied for first at the moment, but they’ve faced a lighter schedule than the other teams in this group.

Four Team Scrambles

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Kaylon Williams Arrested After Trying To Run From DUI Arrest

Posted by nvr1983 on August 10th, 2011

One of the lessons that most people learn fairly early in life is that sometimes it is just better to take your punishment rather than trying to run from it. It appears that Kaylon Williams, the starting point guard at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has not learned that yet (at least not as of this morning). Williams, a transfer from Evansville, who averaged 8.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 5.4 APG (1st in the conference) in his first season in Milwaukee while leading the Panthers to a three-way split of the Horizon League regular season title and a runner-up appearance in the conference tournament to Butler, was arrested on a drunken driving charge at 1:40 AM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Unfortunately, the UWM administration wishes it was that simple.

Lesson: You can't run from the law

After initially being stopped for not having a front license plate, Williams reportedly drove off swerving in and out of the grass before getting out of the car, which was not put in park, and then tried to run away. Williams was initially able to lose the police, but a K-9 unit dog was able to find Williams and tackle him. Williams, who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.228 (nearly three times the legal limit in Iowa), was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, attempting to elude and interfere with official acts (running from the cops), driving without a valid driver’s license, violating his driver’s permit regulations, and driving without insurance. After he was finally apprehended, Williams was taken to a county jail (no word on what the bail situation is). While Williams has not released a statement, his coach, Rob Jeter, has. In a statement from UWM, Jeter said, “We are aware of the situation involving Kaylon Williams. We are disappointed and will take appropriate action as we gather more information and the legal process runs its course.”

We have seen enough athletes get in trouble with the law to know that this is the standard response from school officials (you could probably find the exact wording in several other recent press releases), but you have to assume that Jeter and the school’s administration will come down pretty hard on Williams. Outside of the obvious embarrassment of the DUI arrest, the way that Williams handled it will make him and the program a joke around basketball circles for at least the next few weeks. Jeter probably will not throw Williams off the team, but at the very least Williams should be looking at a very long suspension along with whatever community service and jail time he has coming.

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Could Miami Hire A Coach Without Contacting Frank Martin?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2011

When Missouri shocked the college basketball world with its announcement that it had selected Frank Haith to replace Mike Anderson most writers believed that the Miami administration would instinctively look to Manhattan, Kansas to find a replacement for Haith in Frank Martin, who grew up in Miami and still has strong ties down there. It was widely expected that the Hurricane administration would make a hard push at bring the Kansas State coach to Coral Gables where he could rejuvenate a program that has had few bright spots in its uninspiring history. Hurricane fans, long a fickle fan base even in football where they had a 20-year run that rivals anything done in that sport, even expressed a modicum of excitement at the possibility that their basketball program could finally become relevant even if it would take some work to catch ACC stalwarts like Duke and UNC. Yet it has been a week since Haith left Miami and according to Martin they have not even contacted him or anybody representing him.

We can't believe Miami hasn't contacted you either, Frank

Much has been made of the fact that Martin reportedly made significantly more than Haith ($1.55 million per year vs $1 million per year for Haith), but according to Martin that figure is if he hits all of his incentives and his actual base salary is “only” $1.1 million per year, which is essentially the same as Haith’s salary. The Miami administration has a well-earned reputation of not being willing to open up their checkbook for big-name coaching hires and the fact that they are without an athletic director at the present time (their prior athletic director Kirby Hocutt left for Texas Tech) may limit their ability to spend a few extra dollars even if they wanted too. In the end, that–either Miami’s incorrect assumption on Martin’s salary or inability to offer up more money without an athletic director–may end up costing the Hurricanes a golden opportunity to become relevant as they reportedly have their sights set on Tommy Amaker and have offered him “roughly $1.1 million for five years”, the same as Martin’s base salary. Amaker is said to be interested in the job, but has some reservations due to the effect it might have on his wife’s career (she is an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School). Amaker has clearly done a good job turning around the Harvard program from 8-22 to 23-7 and brought them to the verge of the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid, but you would have hard time finding someone connected with basketball who would put Amaker at the same level as Martin.

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O26 Primers: Big South and Horizon League Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 1st, 2011

 

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

Being the “Other 26” guy around these parts, I deemed it appropriate to give a quick look into all 25 (the Ivy, of course, has no tournament) of the non-BCS conference tournaments prior to their commencement. I will bring you these previews for each conference on the day their first round games are slated to be played. We kick things off with the Big South and the Horizon League. Both will unquestionably be interesting tournaments as Coastal Carolina’s recent issues and allegations regarding NCAA violations have opened the door for the rest of the conference. Unlike the Big South which was dominated by Coastal for nearly the entire year, the Horizon League had great parity at the top of the conference with six teams reaching ten wins or better.

Big South

The Favorite: Coastal Carolina—dare I say it—no longer the favorite to win the Big South tournament? After coming up just short last year as Winthrop dashed their hopes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, Coastal came out with a vengeance this year to take back what they thought should have been theirs. They won 22 straight games—14 of them coming in the Big South—and appeared untouchable. But, amidst recruiting violations and eligibility issues, Coastal’s chance at advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 has taken a serious hit. Now, the league is wide open with Liberty, and UNC-Asheville also vying for the coveted auto-bid. I like Asheville as they have won three straight heading into the conference tournament with one of the wins coming in dramatic fashion against Coastal at the buzzer.

Dark Horse: They score a whole lot of points, but also give up a ton as well. Clearly, I am referring to the VMI Keydets. The scoring ability of Austin Kenon with his deadly shot is an aspect of VMI’s game that always makes them a threat to win games.

Who’s Hot: VMI happens to be the hottest team entering the tournament having won five of their last six games.

Player to Watch: Now that Coastal Carolina’s Desmond Holloway has been ruled ineligible, there is no other obvious player to keep an eye on. Austin Kenon for VMI is certainly one to keep tabs on as he can light up the gym maybe better than anyone in the conference, but I believe Matt Dickey of UNC-Asheville is poised for a big tournament. If Dickey’s name sounds familiar it is due to his heroics as he miraculously stole Coastal Carolina’s inbounds pass and hit an off-balance three to propel his Bulldogs to a big win.

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The Other 26: Week 14

Posted by KDoyle on February 18th, 2011


Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor

Introduction

If you are a true fan of Mid-Major basketball, then this is the weekend for you. Many fans who find a whole lot of joy in watching teams from the smaller conferences compete, share the common gripe that there is not nearly enough coverage of these teams. Well, at no other point during the season will you see ESPN dedicate an entire Saturday of basketball almost exclusively to the best Mid-Major teams around the nation.

Playing against the same faces within a team’s conference can become monotonous, but the BracketBuster weekend enables 114 teams around the country a brief recess before the final stretch of the regular season and tournament time to play an opponent they would otherwise never play. Although many of these games will have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are a select few that have serious implications as several Mid-Major teams partaking in the BracketBuster weekend sit squarely on the bubble.

Brace yourself for a great day of college hoops on Saturday. With so many of the top Mid-Major teams in the country playing—George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary’s, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Missouri State, and Wichita State—you can bet that at least one of these teams, if not more, will be wearing Cinderella’s slipper come March.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 13

Posted by KDoyle on February 11th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

In last week’s article I touched on the notion of parity and how great it is within the world of sports. After analyzing many of the Other 26 conferences this week, I could not help but notice how in several of the conference there is not one team that has distinguished themselves from the pack yet, and we are already nearing mid-February. In some cases, there are not even two or three teams that are running away with the league. Competitiveness or mediocrity? Well, does it really matter? All this means is that conference tournament week becomes that much more unpredictable and exciting. Here are a few of the conferences that are still completely wide open:

  • Atlantic 10: Four teams—Xavier, Duquesne, Temple, and Richmond—have records between 8-2 and 8-1.
  • CAA: Four teams—George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, and Hofstra—have records between 12-2 and 10-4.
  • The A10 and CAA are both very similar as each have four teams in legitimate contention, and both appear to be two-bid leagues at the moment.
  • Conference USA: Six teams—UTEP, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Memphis, SMU, and Tulsa—have records between 6-2 and 7-3.
  • Horizon League: Five teams—Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Wright State, Butler, and Wisconsin Milwaukee—have records between 10-3 and 9-5.
  • MAC: Eight teams—Kent State, Buffalo, Miami (OH), Bowling Green, Akron, Ohio, Ball State, and Western Michigan—have records between 7-2 and 5-4.
  • Southern Conference: Four teams—Charleston, Furman, Wofford, and Chattanooga—have records between 11-2 and 10-3.
  • Southland Conference: Nine teams—Northwestern State, McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, UTSA, and Texas Arlington—have records between 7-3 and 5-4.

Very elaborate, I know. But, it is pretty remarkable the balance in the leagues. Of these seven conferences, there are a total of 40 teams who can still say they are capable and have a legit shot at winning their conference. What does this all mean? A great week of basketball during the conference tournaments, followed by more weeks of deliciousness during the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by KDoyle on January 28th, 2011

Introduction

We are just about halfway through the conference schedules and the true contenders are beginning to reveal themselves, while the pretenders are wallowing away after deceiving the country for so many weeks. Take a team like Central Florida, for instance. They looked like a legitimate top 25 team and a definite candidate for an at-large berth after breezing through the non-conference with an unblemished record, but their 1-5 record in Conference USA makes that great run in the non-conference all for naught. Conversely, take a gander at Duquesne. The Dukes went a modest 8-5 in the non-conference with losses to Robert Morris and George Mason, but have gone onto take the Atlantic 10 by storm. Suffice to say, it is hard to gauge just how good some teams are based solely on the non-conference. Some coaches will elect to challenge their team by scheduling a tough OOC schedule, while others will stockpile a bunch of cupcakes to pick up easy wins. The distinction between the pretenders and contenders will continue to be illuminated all the way up until the conference tournaments. Up until then, we sit and watch teams rise above expectations heading into conference play and watch others flounder.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 8

Posted by KDoyle on January 7th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

With the non-conference portion of many schedules coming to an end, it is time for schools that comprise some of the smaller Other 26 conferences to retreat to their small gyms and compete against teams on their own level. In a sense, for many of these smaller conference teams, the non-conference schedule is a mere preamble for league play. The leagues I am referring to—NEC, America East, MEAC, Patriot, etc.—are all destined for just one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In most years, there are usually about a dozen conferences that receive multiple bids, thus leaving 20 conferences with just the auto.

Being a keen fan, follower, and observer of Patriot League basketball, I have come to the unfortunate realization that this league—like many others—is destined for one bid to the Dance every year. What irks me more than anything, however, is when I hear the phrase: “Three games in March.” This expression may vary depending upon the league, but it is the one that is used when describing the Patriot League tournament. Because the PL is comprised of eight teams, in order to win the championship and attain the automatic bid a team must win those “three games in March.”

I do not necessarily disagree with this expression—it is the reality of the Patriot League and many other leagues alike—but it is very bothersome when this becomes a mentality for the fanbases of the teams. It becomes acceptable to lose a non-conference game or a regular season game within the league because these games “don’t matter.” Of course, this is not a universal belief, but it is something I have observed within Patriot League fan circles. I will always recall Herman Edwards’ press conference as the head coach of the New York Jets when he repeatedly said in a stern voice: “You play, to win, the GAME!” It is Herm’s mentality, not the “three games in March” business, that I am a fan of.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South and Lower Midwest) are located here.

It’s time for the seventh installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of very cold, very northern states that we’re calling the Upper Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, SD, ND)

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  • Manny Harris – G, Jr – Michigan. The mastermind behind the turnaround of Michigan’s basketball program may be John Beilein and his 1-3-1 zone defense, but the catalyst has to be Beilein’s explosive 6’5 scoring guard/forward, Manny Harris. The lone bright spot in a 10-22 campaign in 2007-08 was the freshman Harris and his 16.1 PPG, strong enough to garner All-Big Ten Second team honors. Much like Beilein’s other reclamation projects, the Wolverines, and Harris, improved drastically in their second season under the former West Virginia head man. While his scoring average didn’t even jump a full point, it was Harris’ all-around production and on-court leadership that propelled Michigan to a 13-3 start, respectable Big Ten record and second-round NCAA tournament appearance, their first in 11 seasons. 6.8 RPG for a 6’5 guard is an accomplishment that cannot be overstated, a mark that tied forward DeShawn Sims for the team lead. Harris led Michigan in assists by a wide margin at 4.4 APG, upped his FG% from 38% to 42% and played nearly 33 MPG to lead the Wolverines. Harris has also become a much more efficient playmaker for Beilein, increasing his assist and scoring rates (even while attempting and making over 20% of Michigan’s shots) while his turnovers have dipped. One area where Harris must improve is outside shooting, which jumped from 32% to 33% behind the arc a year ago. With Harris’ tremendous penetration ability and explosiveness to the rim, making opposing defenses respect his outside shot will only enhance an already lethal game. The All-Big Ten first teamer is the straw that stirs the Michigan drink, having started 67 games in a row for Beilein. Should he improve his defense, Harris’ draft stock will shoot up in a season that could be full of accolades, and, for the first time since the Steve Fisher era of the 90s, a legitimate chance to lead Michigan deep into March.
  • Lazar Hayward – F, Sr – Marquette. Lazar Hayward’s role on this year’s Marquette squad should not be understated. Three guards and team leaders through the Tom Crean and Buzz Williams eras – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – saw their illustrious college careers end in the second round last March, leaving the program in the hands of Williams’ outstanding recruiting efforts off the court and Hayward’s all-around play on the court. The 6’6 multi-dimensional forward is now the face of a proud basketball school that may take a step back this season with the losses of those three guards that starred for four full seasons in Milwaukee. But it’s unlikely that Hayward will take a step back. Often overshadowed and underappreciated, Lazar averaged 16.3 PPG and 8.6 RPG as a junior last season while shooting 36% from three and 82% from the line, offering another outside threat to go along with McNeal and Matthews. In fact, Hayward finished in the top ten in a historic Big East in scoring, rebounding and free throw percentage last year. He even refined his game on an international stage over the summer, averaging 9.3 PPG and 5.6 RPG on the bronze medal-winning USA team at the World University Games. Hayward is now the face of the Marquette program for his senior season. While the Golden Eagles could struggle, Hayward must step into the departed guards’ shoes as team leader for the junior college and freshman influx headed to the Bradley Center in 2009-10, not only to facilitate success this season, but also for the future.

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Checking in on the… Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2009

Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.

  1. Butler (#13/13)        9-0    18-1
  2. Green Bay            8-2    16-6
  3. Milwaukee            8-3    13-8
  4. Wright State            7-3    13-8
  5. Cleveland State        5-5    14-8
  6. Loyola                4-6    12-10
  7. UIC                3-7    10-10
  8. Youngstown State        3-7    6-14
  9. Valparaiso            3-7    6-15
  10. Detroit                0-10    5-15

I’ve used up the majority of this space over the last several weeks explaining why and/or how the Horizon League would be a two-bid league in the NCAA Tournament this year.  Actually, it was more like “explaining why” early in the season because the hopes were so high, then “explaining how” as of late, as the chances became slimmer and slimmer.  That said, let me make something very clear…

The Horizon League will ONLY send 2 teams to the NCAA Tournament if Butler stumbles in the Horizon League Tournament.  Period.

I’m really, really disappointed about this.  The fact that the HL will likely be a one-bid league once again this season isn’t a knock on the overall level of basketball.  It’s simply evidence that, right now, there’s really only one elite team/program in the Horizon League.  That program, of course, is Butler.  Having seen nearly every team play in person (and all of them via TV or Internet), I have a lot of confidence in saying that there truly isn’t much difference between team #2 and team #10.  There may be a wide margin in the wins and losses, but talent-wise and coaching-wise, the gap is much tighter.  To me, the differences between teams 2-thru-5 and teams 6-thru-10 are things like experience, lack of injuries, or mental toughness.  Some teams have better results in these areas, and because of that they’ve risen slightly higher in the league standings.  It’s not because of a disparity in talent.  The only disparity in talent I see is at Butler.  Along with doing the little things right, they have the most talent, and it shows.

No need to go on, and on, about teams that are irrelevant right now, unless I feel like poking a little fun (which I will).  There have been some impressive performances since the last time we checked in, which has prompted a lot of chatter in Horizon League circles about who this season’s “HL Player of the Year” will be, “All-HL 1st Team,” etc.  We’ll dive into that, among other things, right about…now.

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