2008-09 Season Primers: #12 – Colonial

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2008

Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA).

Predicted order of finish:

  1. VCU
  2. Northeastern
  3. George Mason
  4. Old Dominion
  5. Delaware
  6. Georgia State
  7. Hofstra
  8. James Madison
  9. William & Mary
  10. UNC-Wilmington
  11. Towson
  12. Drexel

WYN2K.  Last season was a letdown for the CAA faithful after two seasons of multiple bids and tournament wins over historical powerhouses to becoming a single bid conference with that team losing in a first round rout.  The 2006 and 2007 NCAA tournament victories from George Mason and VCU have set the bar for this conference so that now just getting to the NCAA tournament and avoiding a blowout isn’t the criteria for a successful season anymore.  Last season George Mason looked as if they were riding that magic carpet again, running through the CAA tournament and snagging that automatic bid after a rollercoaster season, only to be sent home early from the Big Dance by the three point onslaught of Notre Dame.  This conference returns 65% of its starters and has some exciting freshmen and transfers entering the mix, but are they poised for another successful March?

Predicted Champion.  VCU (#10 Seed NCAA).  Tough call this season, as always in the competitive CAA, but the pick has to go VCU. Last season the Rams were atop the conference standings all season, only to stumble in the conference tournament. The selection comes mostly because of the experience of head coach Anthony Grant and reigning conference MVP Eric Maynor, whose slaying of Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament might have just been a preview of things to come as he enters his senior year.  Sophomore Larry Sanders is another name to watch for this Rams squad as a defensive force in the front court.  Last season Sanders only started half of the season’s games yet led the team in rebounding (5.2) and blocked shots (3.0).  Speaking of Maynor…

 

Others Considered. Not to be overlooked are the Huskies of Northeastern who return their entire starting lineup and top nine scorers from last season including Matt Janning who could challenge Eric Maynor for conference MVP.  Old Dominion and George Mason have been very successful programs for the conference in recent history as both are well coached and can potentially challenge the likes of VCU and Northeastern.  Make no mistake that this could be another season for the CAA in which an ankle sprain or two in March could determine the conference champion. 

Newcomers.  Last season Delaware was atop the standings for most of the season with the success brought on by transfers Marc Egerson (Georgetown) and Jim Ledsome (Nebraska) becoming eligible.  Look for the same thing to happen at Georgia State this season.  Head coach Rod Barnes (2001 Naismith Coach of the Year), who had to endure a season watching his reserve team of transfer players best his team’s current starters each practice, could be the CAA’s hot new coach this season.  Georgia State returns all-CAA guard Leonard Mendez (16 ppg) who will be surrounded by big school talent with the additions of Trey Hampton and Xavier Hansbro (former player of Barnes at Ole Miss), point guard Joe Dukes (Wake Forest), forward Bernard Rimmer (Mississippi State) and guard Dante Curry (South Florida).  George Mason and UNCW had the best recruiting success this past off-season.  Mason was able to nab point guard Andre Cornelius and forward Ryan Pearson from the lure of the BCS schools while UNCW locked up forward Kevon Moore and guard Jerel Stephson.  All of these are players that could be playing in bigger conferences and are likely the most Division I ready freshmen entering the CAA this year.

Games to Watch. 

  • George Mason at VCU  (01.24.09)
  • Northeastern at VCU  (01.28.09)
  • VCU at Old Dominion  (02.14.09)
  • Northeastern at George Mason  (02.14.09)
  • Old Dominion at Northeastern  (02.28.09)

RPI Booster Games.  The CAA has had success in recent years against out of conferences foes, both mid-major and BCS. This season the conference favorites don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to make a splash early on but their definitely is some winnable games against some notable programs that could start the multiple bid talk early.

  • James Madison at Davidson  (11.17.08)
  • Georgia State at Georgia Tech (12.17.08)
  • VCU at Oklahoma (12.20.08)
  • Winthrop at Old Dominion  (12.20.08)
  • Northeastern at Indiana  (12.22.08)
  • George Mason at Dayton  (12.30.08)
  • Northeastern at Memphis (12.31.08)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  Fairly likely.  VCU has a real chance of winning an at-large bid this season should they not grab the automatic bid from the conference tournament.  Northeastern’s tough schedule could hinder them from a possible at-large birth. Starting at the end of November the Huskies are on the road five of six games before heading into conference play. Ouch.  George Mason and Old Dominion don’t have much on the OOC slate which would mean they don’t have a lot of margin for error in the early part of their schedules.  With the bottom half of the conference steadily improving, the RPI numbers could be good enough to get a team an at-large bid if they have between 14-16 conference wins. 

65 Team Era.  From 1987-2005, the CAA was a one-bid league.  Of course, that changed in a big way in 2006, when two teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament and George Mason became the greatest Cinderella to make the F4 in history.  Two more teams were invited in 2007, and while only George Mason was invited in 2008, there’s no reason to think that the CAA is not a conference generally on the rise.  The CAA is 15-27 (.357) in the era, which definitely ranks it as one of the higher mid-major conferences.  Hey, we gotta throw it in – this never gets old…

Final Thoughts.  Last season proved that the depth of this conference is improving as annual bottom-feeders James Madison, Delaware and William & Mary all made noise at some point in the season. Look for that trend to continue as even the newest CAA members Georgia State and Northeastern could be contending for the top of the standings come March.  That is not to say the big boys of the conference have declined. George Mason, VCU, Old Dominion, and UNCW all bring more talent this season than the conference has ever seen.  The experience of the coaches on the sideline this season is a big asset for this conference and could spell trouble for opposing teams at the Big Dance. The team(s) that make it to the Big Dance this season could be poised for some not-so-much of an upset victories.

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Preseason Polls Released

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2008

Prediction:  by the end of the first week of December, UNC will no longer be #1 in the major media polls.

No way, there’s too much pressure and they have too many good teams to handle before we even get our advent calendars.  Oh, and did you hear, a small piece of their offense will be out for a while with a stress reaction?  Even if this substantial piece never misses a game, which is extremely unlikely, he’s going to miss practice and be out of ‘game shape’ for a while.  And no, we’re not talking about Marcus Ginyard, but his loss hurts too.

Here’s Carolina’s early schedule – you tell us how they’re going to come out of this unscathed…

  • v. Penn  (11.15.08) – easy enough at home, right?
  • v. Kentucky (11.18.08) – this home game suddenly becomes extremely interesting if TH is out or still ailing – Patrick Patterson will wipe up the inside.
  • @ UCSB  (11.21.08) – UNC fans will remember the west coast stopover game before Maui in 2004-05 well.  Trap game.
  • @ Chaminade  (11.24.08) – Maui Invitational first round – easy W.
  • v.  Alabama (probably) (11.25.08) – UNC should be careful to not sleep on an athletic Bama team, but will probably win regardless.
  • v. Notre Dame/Texas (probably) (11.26.08) – either of these teams could defeat a less-than-full-strength UNC in Maui.
  • v. UNC-Asheville  (11.30.08) – easy home win.
  • @ Michigan St. (Detroit) (12.03.08) – 40,000 people could watch this game at Ford Field, and UNC will absolutely need to be at full strength to win this game vs. MSU.

There are at least three opportunities for the major upset here, and if Hansbrough and/or Ginyard are out for any of those games, go ahead and mark it down.  UNC will not enter the second week of December #1 and unbeaten.

Now, on to the polls, where UNC was a unanimous #1 in the AP Poll for the first time EVER (nope, not even 1991 UNLV, 1992 Duke or 2007 Florida), and also unanimous in the Coach’s Poll.  No pressure or anything…  FYI – UNC has been preseason #1 six times in its history (incl. this year) – the results of those seasons are: 1982 (Natl. Champs), 1984 (S16), 1987 (E8), 1994 (R32), 2008 (F4) – all that’s missing is a first-round loss or a title game loss.

Here are the polls.

We plan on doing some broader-based analytics of preseason polls in a general sense next week, but for now, here are a few things that we noticed right away.

  • Biggest jumps from AP to Coaches – Georgetown (+4) and Duke (+3)
  • Biggest drops from AP to Coaches – USC (-3) and Wake Forest (-3)
  • Coaches tend to vote by available talent + belief in other coaches’ abilities – what does this say about Tim Floyd and Dino Gaudio in relation to JT3 and Coach K?
  • Overrated – UConn, Duke, Oklahoma, USC
  • Underrated – Wisconsin, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga
  • All 25 teams in both polls are duplicates, but it’s interesting that Xavier was #26 in the AP vs. #30 in the Coaches.
  • We’re a little surprised to not see St. Mary’s and Baylor ranked over teams like Villanova and Kansas, but whatever, that’s their poll, not ours.
  • Alabama gets 16 AP votes but a donut in the Coaches – Mark Gottfried, much?  And LSU is getting too much love for simply getting a new coach.
  • Conference Breakdown – Big East (7 + 2 others receiving votes); ACC (4), Big 10 (3), Big 12 (3), Pac-10 (3), SEC (2), CUSA (1), SoCon (1), WCC (1).
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10.30.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

What are you going as for Halloween this year?  We hear the Kelvin Sampson costumes are boss in Bloomington…

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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #12 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#12 – Where Coast to Coast Happens

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2008-09 Season Primers: #13 – WAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

Kevin McCarthy from Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. 

Predicted Order of Finish:

(Kevin’s Prediction)

  1. Nevada
  2. Utah State
  3. Louisiana Tech
  4. San Jose State
  5. New Mexico State
  6. Boise State
  7. Hawai’i
  8. Fresno State
  9. Idaho

(Sam’s Prediction)

  1. Nevada
  2. Utah State
  3. New Mexico State
  4. Louisiana Tech
  5. San Jose State
  6. Boise State
  7. Hawai’i
  8. Fresno State
  9. Idaho

WYN2K.  The most unusual aspect about the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in the fast-approaching season is that there is no league favorite. Yes, the usual suspects Nevada, Utah State and possibly New Mexico State could very well finish at or around the top but there’s no bet-the-house team that will run roughshod over the other squads.  Adding some spice to the recipe, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State are now ready to complicate matters and join the big brothers of the league, making it a five-dom vying for the top spot in 2008-2009.  The WAC should be affixed with a ‘high degree of parity’ label but this new season also offers a definite divide: a schism of the five most competitive teams and then the four remaining and re-tooling squads.

Predicted Champion.  The winner can be reached via Highway 80…that’s Nevada (NCAA #12) for the geographically destitute.

Others Considered.  Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and New Mexico State all offer the possibility of taking the league crown.

RPI Booster Games.  If any of these games become victories for The Big Five of the WAC or Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Idaho then it’s a boost to the conference power ranking.

Boise State

  • @ BYU  (10.10.08)
  • @ San Diego (10.22.08)

Fresno State

  • @ St. Mary’s (11.17.08)
  • v. UNLV (12.03.08)

Hawaii

  • @ Illinois  (12.08.08)

Idaho

  • @ Michigan State  (11.16.08) 
  • @ Gonzaga  (11.18.08)
  • @ Washington State  (12.21.08)

Louisiana Tech

  • @ UCLA  (12.28.08)

New Mexico State

  • @ USC  (11.18.08)
  • @ Kansas  (12.03.08)
  • @ New Mexico  (12.23.08)
  • v. New Mexico  (12.30.08)

Nevada

  • @ San Diego  (11.15.08)
  • v. UNLV  (12.06.08)
  • v. North Carolina  (12.31.08)

San Jose State

  • @ San Diego  (11.08.08)
  • @ St. Mary’s  (11.27-28.08)

Utah State

  • @ BYU  (12.06.08)
  • v. Utah  (12.22.08)

The Circular Firing Squad. In 2008-2009, leaving town to play league opponents will not have any WAC teams cheerily singing of yellow brick roads, more a frosty recital wishing for roads less taken.

Multiple NCAA Bids. It won’t happen this season due to multiple poor non-conference schedules and also because of intra-conference battles that will hemorrhage league win-loss records.

Possible NCAA Success. Not likely as Nevada will be a year of experience and another solid frontcourter away from nabbing at least one Big Dance victory.

NIT.  After the WAC champion heads off to the NCAAs, complete with visions of making it to Ford Field dancing in their heads, look for four NIT invites to be extended to Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and New Mexico State respectively. Utah State has a string of nine straight postseason bids while Louisiana Tech and San Jose State will be game to host or head anywhere after the WAC tournament in order to extend their seasons, as will New Mexico State.

The Widest WAC Shoulders aka The MVP.  Luke Babbitt. This Nevada freshman will be THE MAN in the frontcourt for Coach Mark Fox. He needs to be as the Wolf Pack has very little firepower at the one and two positions except for him. So how long will it take Reno-ites to label Babbitt as Hot Hand Luke?

WAC All-Leaguers. Gary Wilkinson - Utah State, Brandon Fields – Nevada, Jonathan Gibson – New Mexico State, Magnum Rolle – Louisiana Tech, Adrian Oliver – San Jose State.

Contenders.  Kyle Gibson, Louisiana Tech, Roderick Flemings – Hawaii, Armon Johnson – Nevada, Sylvester Seay – Fresno State, Jahmar Young – New Mexico State, C.J. Webster – San Jose State, Mac Hopson – Idaho

Questions to be answered.

  • Can Utah State’s 6′ 9″ Gary Wilkinson dominate this season?
  • Who will be the greater contributor for USU, Tai Wesley, Tyler Newbold or will it be equal?
  • Will 6′ 10″ Brandon Webster step forward this season or remain a ‘tease’ for Fresno State?
  • Can Roderick Flemings average a double-double for Hawaii?
  • Will someone step up at the point for Louisiana Tech head coach Kerry Rupp?
  • Can oft-injured Richie Phillips and necomers Dario Hunt and Ahyaro Phillips provide enough help upfront for Luke Babbitt at Nevada?
  • How long will it take for San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver to discard his rustiness from sitting out?
  • Will Johnathan Gibson or Jahmar Young, or both, step up the most for New Mexico State?
  • How will the roster turnover at New Mexico State roster affect the team’s chemistry. Five seniors graduated and underclassmen Herb Pope, Jaydee Luster, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Cole, Paris Carter, Johnnie Higgins left the program in the offseason while Wendell McKines left briefly but came back. The Aggies also added Mick Durham as assistant coach to replace Matt Grady.

Did You Know.  The 2007-08 season saw four teams tie for the regular season title at 12-4 (Nevada, Utah State, Boise State and New Mexico State).

Final Thoughts.  Unlike last season, most of the better talents in the WAC should be returning in 2009-2010 as just Gary Wilkinson among the top players completes his eligibility. This bodes well for multi-Big Dance WAC invites down the road, as the league could be a year away from returning to its perch as one of the premier high mid-major conferences.

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Tyler Hansbrough Out Indefinitely

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

Big breaking news out of Chapel Hill tonight…  The nation’s top returning player on the unanimous #1 team will be out indefinitely with something called a ‘stress reaction‘ of his right shin.  Although the injury isn’t serious as of now, without appropriate rest it could continue to inflame and deteriorate into a much more serious stress fracture of the bone.  From ESPN:

The reigning Associated Press player of the year did not practice Thursday. Instead, he underwent an MRI that revealed the stress reaction, which if not properly treated could lead to a stress fracture, team spokesman Steve Kirschner said.  “He’ll be ok,” Hansbrough’s father, Gene, told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. “His leg’s been bothering him for a couple of weeks. It’s a stress reaction and he needs to rest a bit. He just needs time to let it heal. There is no reason for him to limp through it.”  According to ESPN medical analysist Dr. Michael Kaplan, the MRI likely showed increased uptake in tibia (leg bone) suggesting a stress reaction. An overload or overuse type phenomenon occurs with inflammation and, ultimately, fatigue failure with stress fracture. This is a precursor condition to stress fracture. A period of rest is mandatory for tissues to quiet down or worsening injury will result.

Psycho T Can’t Wear a Mask For His Shin (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The timetable for Hansbrough to return to action is officially “indefinitely” but the realistic timeframe sounds like a month or so, which means the Heels will be without two starters (including Marcus Ginyard, out with – what else – a stress fracture) for their game vs. Kentucky, an away game at UCSB, the Maui Invitatonal games (Notre Dame, Texas, Alabama) as well as the ACC/Big 10 Challenge game against Michigan State at Ford Field.  These weren’t going to be easy games for UNC anyway; assuming Hansbrough is out for all of them, they might just lose several. 

More importantly, UNC fans can’t feel comfortable with this news even if Hansbrough appears to be at full strength by January.  Call us a pessimist, but these are the kinds of nagging injuries that warriors like Hansbrough invariably try to come back from too soon, which end up recurring or at minimum never completely healing throughout the rest of the season.  Stay tuned on this story, because if Psycho-T is out or even at half-speed, the 2008-09 season is wide open…

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A Brief Conference Primer Interlude…

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

We’ve made it through eighteen of our thirty-one season conference primers so far, and our correspondents continue to top each other with their breadth of knowledge and coverage of the one-bid leagues.  So we want to thank them and once again highlight their fantastic work over the past few weeks by anchoring their primers in one post here, so that you (and we) can easily access them.  Going forward, we’ll primarily be dealing with the traditional multiple-bid conferences or conferences that should expect to see multiple bids this season.  Conference #13 will go up tonight, and we’ll be counting down to tipoff on Nov. 10, when the #1 conference primer will be unveiled. 

Also, keep in mind that our correspondents will continue to bring RTC comprehensive coverage of each league throughout the season.  Each of the above leagues will have an update post every two weeks, beginning in mid/late November. 

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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #13 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#13 – Where Hoya Paranoia Happens

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2008-09 Season Primers: #14 – Horizon

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2008

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

Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Wright State  (24-6, 15-3)
  2. Cleveland State  (21-10, 13-5)
  3. Green Bay  (19-12, 11-7)
  4. Butler  (16-13, 11-7)
  5. Loyola  (20-11, 10-8)
  6. UIC  (13-16, 8-10)
  7. Milwaukee  (13-16, 7-11)
  8. Valparaiso  (12-18, 7-11)
  9. Youngstown State  (10-19, 4-14)
  10. Detroit  (7-22, 4-14)

What You Need to Know.  It’s been a slow and steady climb for the Horizon League, but the midwestern ten-member league has built itself into a force to be reckoned with on the mid-major college basketball scene.  The buzz word among Horizon League coaches last season was depth, referring to the overall strength of the league from top to bottom.  Nowhere was that more evident than in the fact that four teams (Butler, Cleveland State, Wright State, Valparaiso) topped the 20-win plateau.  Having four 20-win squads was a first for the Horizon League, and led to three of those four competing in postseason play (Butler – NCAA, Cleveland State – NIT, Valpo – CBI).  While having multiple teams competing in the postseason is nothing new in this league, having multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament isn’t yet the “norm,” but it isn’t completely foreign either (3 times in the last 11 years).  What’s the point, you ask?  This league may be even deeper this season, as seven teams return three or more starters from last season, including front-runners Wright State, Cleveland State, and Green Bay.  Butler, by most accounts, is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes the Horizon League has ever seen to go along with reigning Newcomer of the Year, Matt Howard (12.3ppg, 5.5rpg).  Meanwhile, UIC has a favorite for league POY honors in sharpshooter Josh Mayo (17.1ppg, 47% 3fg%), and one of the few true “bigs” in the entire league in 7-footer, Scott VanderMeer (9.3ppg, 7.5rpg).  This could be another year where the Horizon receives multiple NCAA bids, but for the first time in awhile, that at-large bid isn’t likely to have Butler’s name on it (Butler advanced to the S16 as an at-large NCAA bid in 2003 and 2007).  

Predicted Champion.    Wright State  (#11 seed NCAA).  The Raiders have plenty of talent, and trust me, we’ll get to that in a moment.  But the green-and-gold have the ultimate ace in the hole: head coach Brad Brownell.  Brownell, if he really tried, could probably turn the Oakland Raiders into a winner, all while keeping Al Davis satisfied in the process.  Seriously.  Alright, kidding aside, all Brownell has done is win wherever he’s been (including two NCAA appearances in four seasons at UNC-Wilmington).  He won the Horizon League in his inaugural season two years ago, and followed that up with 21 wins and a 3rd-place regular season finish last year.  Admittedly, his team was lacking athleticism and a go-to scorer, but the “other” school in Dayton got it done with grit and commitment on the defensive end, giving up just 60.4 ppg and notching 13 wins in games decided by 5 points or less.  In a guard-dominated league, Wright State returns its entire backcourt.  Vaughn Duggins (HL 1st Team, 13.8 ppg), Todd Brown (12.7 ppg), and 5th-year senior Will Graham (5.9 ppg, 3.5 apg), will lead the way with a three-headed-monster of Ronnie Thomas, Cooper Land, and Gavin Horne battling for time down low.  Two newcomers are expected to see significant minutes from the start.  Scott Grote, a transfer from Duquesne, (9.9 ppg in 29 games as a freshman) and Cory Cooperwood (two-time JUCO All-American at Wallace State CC, 15.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), will undoubtedly inject energy, electricity, and most importantly, more points into the Wright State attack.  The schedule is solid for a mid-major, but not impressive enough to warrant a single-digit NCAA seed unless the Raiders were to, say, run the table.  

Others Considered.   Cleveland State.  Most prognosticators will likely choose the Vikings as the team to beat this year in the Horizon League, and they may very well be right.  Gary Waters has no doubt turned this program around in just two seasons at the helm, and while his programs have a history of taking major leaps forward in year number three (Kent State, Rutgers), a major leap forward this year will be hard to achieve given the depth in the Horizon League and the Vikings brutal non-conference schedule.  The two unknowns about this squad are: 1) How will they respond to having a target on their back?  And, 2) How will they respond to losses?  After all, they came out of nowhere last year to score 21 wins and finish 2nd in the Horizon League.  But, in late January the Vikes held a two-game lead over Butler in the league standings, only to lose five straight and fall back to the pack.  One thing is for sure, however, J’Nathan Bullock (HL 1st Team, 14.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Cedric Jackson (HL 2nd Team, 13.9 ppg, 4.9 apg) make up the best inside-out combination in the league.  Waters readily admits his team struggled shooting from the perimeter last season (30.2% from 3) and combine that with a trend of using several bodies on the bench — nine players averaged at least 14 mpg and played in at least 33 of 34 games last year — and freshman bombers like Jeremy Montgomery, Josh McCoy, and Charlie Woods could find themselves in crucial roles.  All five starters return in Green Bay, along with coach Tod Kowalczyk’s top two reserves.  Mike Schachtner, Terry Evans, and Rahmon Fletcher each took home Horizon League postseason honors last year.  Senior forward Ryan Tillema is no slouch either.  Battered and bruised, this team struggled to a 15-15 mark last season.  If healthy, the Phoenix will be much improved.  Underachieving again would be a bittersweet way to go out for Schachtner, Evans, and Tillema.  The player to watch at Butler — aside from Matt Howard, whose exploits are well documented (check out #96) — is freshman combo guard, Shelvin Mack.  His maturation process will determine how successful the extremely young Bulldogs will be this season.  Loyola top gun J.R. Blount and the rest of the Ramblers should rebound from a rough season, thanks to a returning core of veterans (four starters).  Valparaiso may be in for a big slide after losing their top two scorers to graduation, and two more major scoring threats in the offseason — Bryan Bouchie and Samuel Haanpaa — who both left the program (Bouchie transfered to Evansville, Haanpaa returned overseas and signed a professional contract).  Here are Butler’s final seconds in last year’s Horizon League championship.

Key Games / RPI Booster Games. 

Cleveland St.:

  • @ Washington — 11.18.08 (…tough)
  • @ West Virginia — 12.6.08 (…tougher)
  • @ Syracuse — 12.15.08 (…toughest) 
  • vs. Kent State — 12.23.08 (…a rivalry game to boot!)

Butler: 

  • @ Ohio State — 12.13.08
  • @ Xavier — 12.23.08 (…a good measuring stick for the Bulldogs)

Green Bay: 

  • vs. UMass — 11.29.08
  • @ Wisconsin — 12.13.08 (…please re-name: “Dick Bennett Classic”)

Wright State: 

  • @ Wake Forest — 12.14.08 (…Wake is rumored to be “back”)
  • vs. Oral Roberts — 12.20.08 
  • vs. Cleveland State — 12.30.08 
  • @ Cleveland State — 1.31.09 

 Loyola: 

  • Pre-Season NIT vs. Georgia — 11.17.08 (…guaranteed 4 decent games)
  • @ UIC — 12.6.08 
  • vs. UIC — 2.27.09 

Valparaiso: 

  • vs. North Carolina — 12.20.08 (…in Chicago @ United Center)
  • @ Purdue — 12.28.08 

*A complete list of Horizon League contests set to be broadcast by the ESPN family of networks can be found here.  All league contests can be viewed online, for free, on the Horizon League Network. 

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  If Cleveland State can get to their  first showdown at Wright State, (12.30.08) sporting a record of 11-3 or better, then the chances of the Horizon League being a two-bid league are very solid.  Only the Vikings boast a non-conference schedule strong enough that, if they can win a couple of the big games, would compensate for a couple of extra losses in league play.  Of course, if Wright State runs away with the regular season title (or anyone for that matter), an upset in the championship game could also result in multiple bids for this league.  

Did You Know.  Following the 1992-1993 season, University of Michigan assistant coach Perry Watson left Ann Arbor to take over as the head coach at Detroit-Mercy.  The spot vacated by Watson at Michigan was initially filled by Ray McCallum, but McCallum never coached a game at Michigan.  Instead, he returned to his alma mater, Ball State, and became the head coach of the Cardinals.  After a successful run in Muncie, IN, McCallum moved on to lead the University of Houston, followed by assistant coaching jobs at Oklahoma and Indiana.  This past spring, McCallum was hired as the head coach at Detroit, once again filling a void left by Watson, who resigned after 15 seasons with the Titans.  Watson guided Detroit to the NCAA second round in 1998 and 1999, and the NIT in 2001 and 2002.  

65 Team Era.   Let’s get this out of the way right now – over the last decade the Horizon has been the most successful mid-major conference in the NCAA Tournament (defining mid-major as normally a one-bid league).  In six of the last eight tournaments, a Horizon team has won at least one game (with an average seed of #11.1).  Three of those years, a Horizon team played itself into the Sweet Sixteen (Butler – 2003, 2007; Milwaukee – 2005).  Additionally, you wanna talk about a tough out – consider the teams that are knocking out these Horizon squads – three #1 seeds, three #2 seeds, two #3 seeds, including both Florida national champions.  Not bad, not bad at all.  The Horizon’s record of 20-32 (.385) over this era matches up even or better than every one of its peers, and there’s no reason to believe it will end soon. 

Final Thoughts.   It’s hard to imagine a program like Valparaiso finishing 8th, but someone has to end up there in this deep, talented league.  Heck, we haven’t even mentioned Milwaukee yet, as scoring machines Ricky Franklin, Avery Smith, and Deonte Roberts are all back.  While programs like Detroit and Youngstown State seem to be a step behind the rest of the league right now, you can bet they’ll be competitive night in and night out.  If you catch a Horizon League game on television, you won’t be “wowed” by superb athletic ability, but what you will find, for the most part, is team-oriented basketball with disciplined student-athletes who are just as comfortable grinding out a 54-52 victory as they are pushing their team’s point total into the 80s.  The players are skilled, the action is rough, and the future is bright.

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10.29.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

The news is coming fast and furious now…

  • More preseason conference predictions, this time from the Big 10 – Purdue, Michigan St., Wisconsin.  Purdue’s Robbie Hummel is POY.  A10 – Xavier, Temple, Dayton. 
  • Indiana continues to clean up things in the wake of the Kelvin Sanctions fiasco, hiring Fred Glass as the new AD.
  • Is Greg Paulus losing his starting PG slot at Duke to Nolan Smith?  Goodman thinks so.  He also thinks that UNC is more vulnerable than people think and Wake has pure talent that is second-to-none.
  • Seth Davis believes that Duke is going to be a lot better this year – we remain skeptical about their prospects in March.
  • Gary Parrish’s top 20 freshmen to watch in 2008-09, and 10 coaches who are on the hot seat.
  • This won’t help recruiting at Quinnapiac in the near future. 
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Sir Charles Not High on the SEC West

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

This is not really college basketball-related, but the Round Mound once played at Auburn (fringe benefits included), so we’ll give ourselves a pass here.  This is from Sir Charles’ recent conversation with CNN’s Campbell Brown about the political climate in this country.  In this clip, Brown asks Barkley about his future political aspirations relating to a run for governor in the state of Alabama.  His response is simply phenomenal. 

Brown: So, you gonna run for governor?

Barkley:  I’m planning on it in 2014.

Brown:  You are?

Barkley:  I am.  I can’t screw up Alabama. 

Brown:  There’s no place to go but up…

Barkley:  We’re number 48 in everything, and Arkansas and Mississippi aren’t going anywhere. 

The Chuck Wagon, always cringe-worthy, and always making friends

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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #14 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#14 – Where Blue Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You Happens

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