RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Southern & Grambling APR Victims.  When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report in May, the SWAC contained two of the five basketball programs facing a postseason ban in 2011-12 as a result of consistently poor scores over several years.  While this news shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the APR since it was implemented several years ago, the teeth of the rule is finally taking hold on individual institutions.  Southern and Grambling probably were not going to be in a competitive position to make the NCAA Tournament this season anyway, but this is something that each school must take seriously in order to secure their D-I existence.  The two institutions submitted APR improvement plans to the NCAA over the summer, and with good reason — without a considerable short-term jump in scores,  the next penalty is restricted membership in Division I.
  • Will the APR Eliminate HBCUs in Division I?  Southern and Grambling’s APR predicament highlights a harrowing situation among the two Division I basketball leagues comprising historically black colleges and universities.  With the APR cut line increasing from 925 to 930 as of next year, and a corresponding postseason penalty for programs failing to make that cut in the future, the SWAC  and MEAC could face an untenable situation where every one of its members is ineligible for postseason play, and ultimately on restricted status.  If the 930 threshold had been in effect last year, for example, only one school — the SWAC’s Alcorn State, with its 4-24 overall record and 944 APR score — would have been eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  The APR has been shown to correlate strongly with African-American enrollment, and at the low-budget HBCUs that comprise the SWAC and the MEAC, this development presents tremendous cause for concern.  Whether this is purposeful or not, we’ll leave for you to decide.
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Behind the Numbers: The Unimportance of Assists?

Posted by KCarpenter on January 19th, 2011

Pittsburgh, as Syracuse most recently learned, is a contender to win the national championship because they do one thing incredibly well and a lot of other things at a pretty high level. The one excellent thing they do is crash the offensive boards. They lead the nation in offensive rebounding rate, which is the driving force behind their current position as the most efficient offense in the country.  The Panthers do a lot of other things well– shooting, defensive rebounding, controlling turnovers– but nothing they do, in terms of advanced stats, really jumped out at me until I noticed that they are second in the nation in assists to field goals made. 69.8% of Pittsburgh’s field goals are assisted. This is interesting and pretty cool, but I began to wonder if it even mattered.

Assists are really weird, because in a way that’s not true of any other individual stat, they don’t really measure individual performance at all. To get a credited assist, the passer’s teammate has to knock down shots. Surround a healthy Kyrie Irving with four clones of someone who shoots as well as I do, and as crisp, creative, and well-timed as his passes are, he is not going to get too many assists, solely because, well, I am a terrible shooter.The box score for this game will show he got no assists. Did Kyrie have a bad game? Were his passes worse than usual?

Jamie Dixon's Team Moves the Ball Well

No, probably not, and that’s a tricky question. From close to the beginning of basketball box scores, assists have been tracked. In fact, in the early days of individual statistics, assists were really about the only thing tracked besides points and rebounds. Why do we even track assists? Maybe just because we always have. On some level, it’s easy to see what assists are supposed to do: assists are supposed to be a measure of play-making through passing. But as I mentioned, assists really aren’t all that great at measuring true ball movement because the statistic is hopelessly tangled up with field goal percentage. A team that makes more shots should generally have more assists. We don’t keep track of who made a great pass that led to a missed shot, and that really throws off our view of skilled passing and playmaking, which, after all, assists are supposed to measure.

There are more problems than that. We largely assume that assists are almost always positive. Passing is good. The problem is that sometimes it isn’t. Let’s suppose that we are on the fast-break, and I have the ball and my man beat. It would be easy for me to hit an uncontested layup. Instead, I drop the ball back to you, and you hit a slightly more difficult uncontested mid-range shot. I decreased the chance of us scoring with that pass, but got credited with the assist. That was a bad assist and these happen all the time. If you don’t believe me, watch Rajon Rondo “gun” for assists the next time you watch the Boston Celtics play.

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ATB: More Pac-10 Foolishness

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010

Your Watercooler Moment.  The Pac-10 is once again finding new ways to embarrass itself.  After what was arguably the league’s worst basketball season in decades in 2009-10, it seemed as if the western teams had perhaps turned a corner with a few more NCAA-caliber teams this year including the mothership program, UCLA.  Coming into Tuesday night, the league had managed to avoid the embarrassingly ugly losses that had plagued it in the pre-conference last year.  Then, Arizona State laid a foul 76-62 egg at the Pit versus New Mexico.  Ok, that’s not terrible — even though ASU is a team that you can reasonably expect Herb Sendek to have competing for an NCAA berth, the Lobos are talented and very tough to beat at home.  But tonight’s games once again exposed just how soft the underbelly of this league may be.  First, USC got obliterated by Rider (yes, Rider) at home, 77-57.  Think about that for a minute and wonder how on earth such a successful athletic program could lose a home basketball game to Rider.  By twenty points!  Then, in a game reminiscent of last year by winner and loser only, Oregon State traveled to Seattle and lost to the Redhawks again, this time 83-80.  At least it wasn’t by 51 points this time around, but a loss to an Independent is still unacceptable for a team in a  league with the resources that the Pac-10 has available.  There will be a point in the very near future where Pac-10 coaches will need to realize that talking about NBA Draft losses in 2008 and 2009 no longer hold water, and that if they want to cease being held up as the national hoops laughingstock, then they need to recruit players who will be leaving early in 2012 and 2013.  The same old excuses for these kinds of non-conference losses are getting tiresome.  (aside: word-up to Cameron Dollar and his Seattle program — considering its lack of league affiliation and transition to D1, he’s doing a great job there).

Approval Rating Also Dropping (S-T/J. Bates)

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Kemba Walker’s 42.  The UConn point guard put his team on his back with 42/8/3 assts in a performance that makes you wonder why he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet in his career.  He blew his old career-high of 29 out of the water, and even hit four threes on the night, a total he’s only reached one other time as a Husky.  It worries us a little bit that Walker seems to be the entire offense, but he might just be good enough to win a few games on his own this year.
  • Tobias Harris.  In a game that UT probably would have lost a week ago, the Vols gutted through a very tough game against Missouri State despite losing the battle of the boards and only hitting 64% from the line.  Tobias Harris is quietly putting together an impressive start to the season, going for 16/7 on 60% shooting in UT’s first three games.  He may not get tested Wednesday night by VCU’s front line in the PNIT semis, but either UCLA (Nelson, Smith, Honeycutt) or Villanova (Yarou, Pena) will be a formidable challenge for the 6’8 rookie.
  • Tim Abromaitis.  The Notre Dame forward had a near triple-double (21/10/7 assts) tonight in a blowout win against Chicago State.  Between he and Ben Hansbrough, the Irish are capable of putting some points on the board.
  • Perfect Game.  Iowa State’s Scott Christopherson put up thirteen shots tonight and all thirteen hit the bottom of the net (11-11 FG, 2-2 FT for 29 pts).  This guy has been all over the place this season.  In his first game, he went 1-10 from the floor for five points; in the next game he was 6-11 for fifteen points; tonight he threw a perfect game.  We’re not sure what he has in mind for the next game, but we’re pretty sure it will be nothing like the previous one.
  • Ole Miss & Nick Williams.  The Indiana transfer dropped 21/6 in his second game back in action against Murray State tonight, but what was more impressive was the relative ease with which the Rebels handled the NCAA-worthy Racers.  Even though the game looked like it was shot in daguerrotype in front of about twelve fans, Ole Miss looked like a much stronger team.

and Misses.

  • Memphis.  Josh Pastner has proven he can recruit with anybody in the game.  The question now is whether he can coach at that same elite level.  As exhibited by the continuing problems and ultimate dismissal of Jelan Kendrick last weekend, coaching talent often has just as much to do with managing egos as it does drawing up plays.  When we hear a player like star freshman Will Barton (22/8/3 stls) say that he relishes “when things are falling apart or we’re losing” so that he can “take over the game,” we wonder if there are more problems on the horizon.  Memphis fell behind to Northwestern State midway through the second half before pulling away and winning 94-79 tonight.
  • The Mountain Broadcast Production Quality for the BYU-Utah State Game.  See TOTD, below.
  • Alcorn State.  Down 42 points at the half (59-17) is just unacceptable, we don’t care who you’re playing.  Purdue is good, but they’re not the Lakers.
  • Letdown, Much? Two days after a program-defining win against local rival Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State turned around and dropped its first game of the season to Chattanooga, 73-69.  Of course, avoiding letdowns like this is part of the maturation process.
  • Air Force.  The Falcons may have hit a new low with its overtime loss tonight to Colorado… College, 60-57.  As in, the Division III team, not the Buffaloes featuring two all-Big 12 players.

Dunk of the Night.  This was the Sportscenter top play of the night, so we were able to find a clip of it…  Marquette’s Darius-Johnson Odom says hello.

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After the Buzzer: Threedonkulous…

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2009

atb

Well, if there’s over 100 games in one night, you’re going to have some interesting storylines through sheer volume, and sure enough, we had a little bit of everything this evening.

Story of the NightArkansas 130, Alcorn State 68Rotnei Clarke reached ‘the zone’ that most of us only dream about tonight in Arkansas’ home opener, as the 6’0 sophomore guard with a career average of 12.1 PPG blew the roof off of Bud Walton Arena for an insane school-record 51 points including THIRTEEN three-pointers in seventeen attempts.  Clarke’s ‘lucky 13′ on Friday the 13th breaks the SEC record for long-range bombs held by former Hawg Al Dillard, who would notoriously pull up from just inside the hash mark during his two years in Fayetteville in the mid-90s (Dillard also had 22 attempts in his record performance).  When you get in this kind of a zone (15-21 FG, 13-17 3FG, 8-9 FT), former gunner-cum-coach John Pelphrey knows that the only thing to do is keep firing, and Clarke was happy to oblige.  At halftime, the score was Clarke 31, Alcorn 26 as the Hawgs ran out to a ridiculous 45-pt lead, and even though he ‘cooled off’ in the second stanza with only four threes and 20 points, Clarke had to know that he was experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime type of night.  Jemal Farmer, a 6’5 junior guard/forward, also had a great night, going for 28/12/6 assts for the Hawgs.  This was a particularly pleasant way for Arkansas to start off its season, as the summer months were not kind to Pelphrey’s team with various off-court incidents and suspensions plaguing the program throughout.  Five players, including starters Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh, were suspended for tonight’s game.  Keep an eye on this Arkansas team this year, as they have enough talent to compete in the SEC West if they can all keep their heads on straight.

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

(photo credit: Michael Woods)

Upset of the Night. Rider 88, #19 Mississippi State 74.  It didn’t take long for the SEC to show that it’s quite possibly overrated again, as  SEC West favorite MSU got thoroughly outplayed at home on the night when it raised its banner for its 2009 SEC title.  So… when will Renardo Sidney be eligible again?  Rider, a darkhorse to win the MAAC this year and featuring one of the best mid-major players in America in 6’6 forward Ryan Thompson, used a balanced attack and very efficient offense (10-16 from three) to stick with the home team and take over the game in the second half.  Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson combined for 42/17 despite having to deal with the nation’s pre-eminent defensive player in the paint, Jarvis Varnado (22/14/7 blks).  But it appears that lackluster play by MSU might be attributable to more than an off night.  One of the more interesting quotes you’ll ever read from a college player came from MSU junior Kodi Augustus, who threw his coach Rick Stansbury under the bus in post-game commentary: “I talked to my dad,” Augustus said. “He said we got outcoached. I don’t know. But I looked at it, I only played 15 minutes the whole game. Yeah, I’m [upset], but like I said, I can’t do nothing about it. I played all those minutes the exhibition games and then you come and play me 15 minutes? Wow!”  Wow, indeed, and it seems that a team who was one of the best defensive squads in America last season has major issues with egos and team chemistry right now, and this is BEFORE John Riek and Renardo Sidney have even suited up!

RTC Live RecapWake Forest 76, Oral Roberts 56. We were in Winston-Salem tonight for RTC Live, and although the game wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, we learned a few things about each team.  Behind 19 points and 9 rebounds from Kevin Ford, ORU made things interesting by pulling within ten late in the 2nd half. That’s when Wake sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 straight points, giving him a total of 25 points and 13 rebounds. Wake looked good inside, outrebounding ORU 51 to 25 including a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. Conversely, the Demon Deacons looked rough on the perimeter, shooting only 29.4% from behind the arc and committing 18 turnovers to only 14 assists (the TO-plagued Ish Smith will start the year with a 4:5 A/TO ratio). Wake fans should be happy that Aminu looks like a lottery pick after the season opener, and freshmen CJ Harris and Ari Stewart looked cool and composed, but the outside shooting and turnover problems that doomed last year’s Wake Forest team to an early exit in the NCAA Tournament still persist.

Let’s Talk Freshmen.  So many good new players, so little November television coverage.  How’d the top freshmen do in their first games tonight?

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After the Buzzer: Opening Night Recaps

Posted by zhayes9 on November 10th, 2009

atb

Welcome back to RTC’s THIRD season covering college basketball with one of our old standbys, the nightly After the Buzzer feature.   If you’re new here, the purpose of these nightly updates is to go a little deeper than game recaps.  We’ll talk about the key games and storylines of each night of the regular season so that you can join the watercooler crew with some knowledge to throw around the next morning.  Tonight we got the season underway with four opening round subregional games in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.  None of the four favorites were every seriously threatened, but there were quite a few good storylines tonight.

Isiah’s debut. #4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72. For a team picked last in their Sun Belt division and has just eight scholarship players on its roster, Isiah Thomas had his Florida International Golden Panthers putting up a respectable fight against the top-five Tar Heels in his much-anticipated coaching debut. The bright spots for the powder blues in the first post-Tyler Hansbrough era contest: Deon Thompson appears to be in for a fine year in the post, totaling 20 points and 10 boards on 7/11 FG while frontcourt mate Ed Davis used a slew of putbacks and easy buckets to complete his own double-double: 13/11/4 blks on 5/8 FG. The other big question mark heading into the season was whether Larry Drew could provide steady point guard play for UNC, and the sophomore put in a solid performance with 6/2 A:TO in 21 minutes, including a Lawson-esque coast-to-coast layup in the first half and a few pretty dishes to Thompson and John Henson for jams. The bad news: Even with the incredible turnover and rustiness of a season opener, Roy Williams cannot be pleased with a 26-turnover performance from his team against a Sun Belt foe (the most in any game coached by Williams at UNC), especially backup point guard Dexter Strickland’s five turnovers in 11 minutes. Also worth noting is Williams opting to go with a more experienced starting five with Thompson, Drew, Davis,  Marcus Ginyard and William Graves getting the nod and Henson, Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins coming off the pine. This group is absurdly deep up front and, due to the high-impact departures, shouldn’t be expected to look like a world-beater in early November.  They don’t.

Boeheim gets win #800. #25 Syracuse 75, Albany 43. Coming off their embarrassing defeat in an exhibition contest at the hands of D2 Le Moyne, Syracuse needed to come out in their first actual game of the 2009-10 season and make a statement. Their 2-3 zone defense confused the Albany Great Danes all night and was the primary factor in garnering a 75-43 victory for Jim Boeheim’s 800th win, putting him on an esteemed list with only two other active coaches — Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun. Syracuse’s defense and superb athleticism forced Albany into 32 turnovers and only 27% shooting in a primarily ugly game that lacked much flow. Syracuse shot just 2/17 from outside themselves including a clunker from three-point specialist Andy Rautins (0/6, 0/4 3pt) who left the game midway through the 2nd half with a sprained ankle (3am update: doesn’t sound too serious, but he was wearing a walking boot after the game). The good: Scoop Jardine coupled a productive preseason into another stellar performance at the point tonight, totaling 12 points and 4 assists on 5/7 shooting with just one turnover while his main competition, Brandon Triche, had some moments but mainly struggled with six turnovers. Syracuse looks extremely athletic with Wes Johnson (who features a sick one-handed posterization on an unsuspecting Great Dane) around the perimeter and Rick Jackson swatting shots down low.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #27 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2009

seasonpreviewJC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the MEAC and SWAC conferences. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Alabama State (20-9)
  2. Jackson State (16-13)
  3. Alabama A&M (15-11)
  4. Prairie View (13-16)
  5. Mississippi Valley State (13-18)
  6. Alcorn State (10-19)
  7. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (10-19)
  8. Texas Southern (9-20)
  9. Grambling State (5-21)
  10. Southern (5-26)

All-Conference Team:

  • Christopher Jones (G) – Prairie View – Purest point guard in the SWAC, but will have to reduce his turnovers for the Panthers to be successful this season.
  • Troy Jackson (G) – Alcorn State – Ruthless scorer who also shot better than 40 percent from the field in 08-09.
  • Grant Maxey (F) – Jackson State – Versatile forward will likely emerge as the 09-10 SWAC Player of the Year
  • Douglas Scott (F) – Southern – Tenacious rebounder, came on late last season with three double-doubles in his last five games.
  • Darnell Hugee (C) – Prairie View – If he stays out of foul trouble, could be one of the best post players in Division I basketball.

6th Man. Deandre Hall (G) – Texas Southern – Turnover prone, but can do damage from interior and perimeter.

swac logo

What You Need to Know.  The SWAC is among the worst conferences in all of Division I basketball. There’s no sugarcoating the lack of talent and the brutal out-of-conference schedules that the SWAC member schools play just to keep their athletic budgets afloat. But what they are lacking in appeal and talent, their upper-echelon teams make up for in competitive drive and great coaching. Alabama State took SEC opponents Auburn and Mississippi to the wire on the road last season before dropping both games by fewer than five points.

Predicted ChampionJackson State (NCAA Seed: #16). Jackson State has played second fiddle to Alabama State in the regular season for two years in a row. But while the Tigers return key seniors Grant Maxey and Garrison Johnson, the Hornets of ASU lost a lot in the departure of PG Brandon Brooks and forward Andrew Hayles. The JSU Tigers will prevail in the conference championship, but not without serious tests from the likes of Prairie View and Alabama State.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Deep South

Posted by zhayes9 on September 29th, 2009

impactplayers

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

It’s time for the fourth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico known as the Deep South region.   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?

Deep South Region (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX)

south_impact

Ed. Note: our assumption is that Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will not be eligible to play this season.

  • Aubrey Coleman – Sr, G – Houston. Young Mr. Coleman was a controversial pick for our panel, to say the least.  There’s no denying his talent, but the 6’4 rock of a player went national (and viral) last season for his footplant on Chase Budinger’s face during a game at Arizona.  Seriously, that thing made what Christian Laettner did to Aminu Timberlake in 1992 look like playtime in the sandbox.  Coleman served his one-game suspension for the ugly incident, and proceeded to take out any residual anger he might have on the rest of Conference USA to the tune of twelve double-doubles and becoming the only player to finish in the top five in both CUSA scoring and rebounding.  Yeah, rebounding.  At 6’4.  Playing guard.  If that doesn’t give you a clue as to Coleman’s toughness (despite his cowardly act against Budinger), we don’t know what will.  Despite his position, Coleman makes it a common practice to regularly venture into the lane for frequent trips to the foul line on offense and for rebounds on defense (ranks #294 in def reb%).  He also ranked in the top 25 nationally in steals, and we should point out that only three guards in the entire country pulled down more boards per game than Coleman.  About the only part of Coleman’s game that isn’t quite honed is his outside shot (21% on threes), but he doesn’t take many, which shows recognition of his strengths and weaknesses.  With two star players (including Kelvin Lewis) returning for their senior seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say that Tom Penders is sitting on an explosive duo who could lead UH to a successful slate in a wide-open CUSA and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly twenty years.
  • Damion James – Sr, F – Texas. Just three days prior to the declaration deadline for the 2009 NBA Draft, Damion James told Texas head coach Rick Barnes that he’d be returning for a final season in Austin, a decision that drastically alters the expectations of a Longhorns team that underachieved a campaign ago. Texas should be a top-five team in 2009-10 due to an influx of talent from all angles: from returnees like Dexter Pittman, to transfers like Jai Lucas, stud freshmen like Avery Bradley and, most importantly, a senior season from Damion James. James has just about as much pure athletic talent as any forward in the nation featuring an NBA-ready body, constant activity on the glass and an ability to run the floor like few other 6’7 forwards. The issue with James has always been complacency and wavering effort. Often James will hang around the perimeter, settle for outside shots, disappear when his team needs him the most or settle for being a secondary figure when a player with the ability of James should always be The Man. When James is motivated, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the Big 12 that can contain him. James finished on the All-Big 12 Second Team his junior season after finishing with 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg a year following a sophomore campaign in which James averaged a double-double. James ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding, tenth in the conference in scoring and totaled double-figures on 31 occasions in 2008-09. A player the caliber of James should be right there with Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins at the top of potential Big 12 POY candidates for the upcoming season. He should be a first round pick and he should average another double-double. One of the reasons I have Texas pegged #2 in the nation preseason is because I trust James to provide that consistent effort for Rick Barnes in search of a very realistic Final Four.
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Checking in on the… SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2008

JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC Conferences.

In case you thought differently, the SWAC is still pulling up the rear in Division I basketball. Just once, you want to associate these hard working teams with other descriptors than “lopsided defeat” or “demoralizing road trip.” But, the SWAC has to make money, and we should all credit them for their hard work in trying to build solid programs.

So let’s take a look at the hardest working conference in America.

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