Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter.
We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.
Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)
The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.
We hope all of you had a Merry Christmas or are enjoying whatever holiday celebration you partake in and if you don’t celebrate any we hope you had a good weekend anyways. If you were one of those attempting to get a last-minute holiday gift over the weekend, we hope you were not trying to get the Air Jordan Retro 11 Concords because apparently they were a very hot ticket item over the weekend with hundreds of people and in some cases over a thousand people lining up at some stores to buy the shoes. Unfortunately, demand appeared to exceed supply as some consumers ended up fighting leading to a handful of arrests across the country. Some readers, who may remember reports of violence associated with the shoes in the 1990s, may have heard about a reported murder with this release of the shoes, which fortunately appears to be false. The shoes, which sold for $180 at stores, appear to be going for 2-3 times as much as that on eBay today. While they are more expensive to purchase online you get to avoid the potential violence. Or you could just wait a week for the next shipment of the shoes to come in.
While Virginia is off to its best start since the 2000-01 season at 10-1, it appears that not everyone on the team was happy as redshirt freshman James Johnson and sophomore KT Harrell have both decided to transfer. The school has not released any information as to why the players are leaving or where they are looking at going, but it is interesting to see that two more members of Tony Bennett‘s first class at Virginia leaving. To date, four of the six members of his inaugural class have left the program. We are not sure if this is a reflection on Bennett’s style of coaching or on the players in that class, but it is something worth watching going forward for the program.
Former Seton Hall player Robert Mitchell sentenced to five years of probation for his role in robbing eight students at gunpoint on March 15, 2010. Mitchell, who has already served a seven-month jail sentence, claimed that he was unaware of the initial intentions of Kelly Whitney, another former Seton Hall player, when the incident took place. Mitchell testified against Whitney earlier this year and although the victims recounted both former players as active participants it was Whitney who was sentenced to a three-year prison term, which he is currently serving, while Mitchell was given the seven months in jail and the aforementioned probation. Whitney, who eventually pleaded guilty, is eligible for parole next fall.
Coming into the season the Big 12 was considered as wide open as it had been in years particularly with seemingly perennial champion Kansas having a down year, but one team that nearly every analyst left out of the conversation was Kansas State. While we are not ready to call them the favorites or even legitimate contenders yet, the Wildcats certainly appear to be better than the sixth best team in the Big 12 as they were rated in the conference’s preseason poll. The Wildcats may not be ready to contend with the big boys (Baylor, Missouri, and Kansas) in the conference yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they stay in the top 4 and maybe a bit higher if one of the aforementioned three teams slip a little. In any case, after winning the Diamond Head Classic the Wildcats should be getting serious consideration in top 25 polls.
Xavier put a temporary halt to their post-brawl freefall when they beat Southern Illinois in the 7th place game of the Diamond Head Classic. The fact that Xavier went from being #8 team in the country a few weeks ago to finishing 7th in a very mediocre tournament should tell you plenty about how hard they have fallen. While some of their recent struggles can be attributed to the immediate loss of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, and Dezmine Wells (for varying time frames) it also appears like they may be struggling to find their identity and edge after being ripped apart by the media and the public following their fight with Cincinnati and more specifically the post-game comments of Holloway and Lyons. Fortunately, they have plenty of time to right the ship before their season is lost and with Gonzaga coming to town on New Year’s Eve they will have a chance very shortly to reestablish themselves with their entire team back from suspension for the first time since the fight.
Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)
The Week That Was
Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.
Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games. Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.
The Week That Was
Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.
To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)
West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March. Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
Big East Continues to Disappoint: It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
It is never a dull weekend in the Big East. Only this season, the basketball has been taking a backseat. At this point, even if you don’t follow college basketball, you have some idea what went on between Cincinnati and Xavier Saturday. Yesterday, both teams announced the suspensions that were a result of one of the nastier brawls in recent college basketball history. As always, the blogosphere reacted nearly immediately, and most of it was negative. It might be redundant but the national site here at RTC had an excellent take on hollow talk in press conferences that many have accused Mick Cronin of in the wake of yesterday. Bearcats Blog actually did a frame-by-frame breakdown of the actual brawl and we used it to weigh in on the penalties. So we broke it down by each player’s punishment and called it an excuse for a Morning Five.
As the person who did the most real damage Saturday, it’s stunning that Yancy Gates only got six games, including just one conference game. It was in the heat of the moment and both teams were mixing it up, but whether it’s a public sidewalk or a basketball court, you can’t be allowed to sucker-punch someone in the face. Everyone saw that punch in slow motion. It was brutal, it was malicious, it was flush in the face, and it came from a man who stands 6’9” and is a chiseled 250 pounds. I am surprised he will get to play again this season.
I think Cheik Mbodj deserves a little bit more sympathy and only a little bit. There is nothing more cowardly then trying to stomp on a man while he is down and then fade into the background like Mbodj did. But if you watch closely, his kick is pretty cowardly as well. It didn’t look like much. If anything, Mbodj should feel embarrassed watching himself in that video, because he did nothing until Kenny Frease was already on the ground. It was pathetic, but it didn’t seem to do any damage. It probably deserved at least ten games and the sincere public apology that Cronin is promising.
Octavius Ellis is the winner of ignominious “only Bearcat player involved that no one bothered to identify yesterday” award, but he might have played a bigger role than most realize. It was Ellis that ended the first half jawing with Xavier’s Mark Lyons and those two tangled again at the end of the game with Ellis instigating. Which brings us to the real crux of this paragraph, which is, how in the world did Ellis get involved with Lyons in the first place? Cronin said the Musketeers were talking trash to the Cincinnati bench, but either Ellis has a quick temper or Lyons was going after him directly. I could be wrong, but I have never seen anyone that angry over trash-talk. He probably deserved ten games as well given how many punches he threw and perhaps an explanation we definitely won’t get.
The only punishment that seems reasonable… almost, was the one given to Ge’Lawn Guyn. He was definitely provoked by Tu Holloway into the staredown that started the fracas, but it seemed non-physical until Dez Wells decked him. If Guyn had done nothing else, he might have escaped without a suspension. But he was so incensed at being blindsided he lost control. If you watch closely he is in the back being held by a coach, then he breaks free and at 21 seconds, he attacks Brad Redford who is literally the last man off the Xavier bench. He seems to keep looking for a fight and even breaks free again to aid Ellis. He got pushed, but that doesn’t mean he gets to run around picking fights with anyone in the opposing uniform. Give him two games.
We want athletics to be our battleground: My team versus your team, my color better than yours. Local foes — the enemy you know best — often extract the most passion. The one game of the year that secures bragging rights. It’s definitely more than just a game for the players, coaches and fans. Xavier’s 76-53 victory against Cincinnati in today’s Crosstown Shootout, like most deep-seated rivalries, brought out the best and the worst of everyone involved. Yet somehow we’re all supposed to act outraged when the passion becomes overwhelming.
Dezmine Wells got overwhelmed. He saw Ge’Lawn Guyn put his hands on Tu Holloway. Wells, in his first Crosstown Shootout, snapped and shoved Guyn. The frustrated Bearcats — and their especially-animated coach Mick Cronin — snapped. Xavier snapped back. The whole arena of fans snapped. For close to a minute of real time, shades of the Malice in the Palace were exhibited in a corner of the Cintas Center with pushes, punches, haymakers, stomps, shoves and general mayhem involved. Order was finally restored short of a complete chaos, and with 9.6 seconds left, the refs called the game over. The pressure had been building all game. The Xavier home crowd was especially livid; they knew what was said about Tu Holloway by Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick. Student’s chanted “Tu’s your daddy!” when Kilpatrick and others took free throws.
At the end of the first half, the teams met at half court with just a smidge of bumping. The refs took a look at the tape and decided to warn the coaches of the players who were mouthing. The mouthing didn’t stop: Musketeer Mark Lyons and Kilpatrick mouthed at each other off-and-on through the latter half. Posing and three-goggles were busted out.
Tonight’s Lede. On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s only fitting that tonight’s slate of games was filled with the element of surprise. Astonishment at the ending of regulation in Florida versus Arizona; marvel at Vandy’s big man returning to the floor several weeks early; shock at just how far Utah basketball has fallen since its run to the finals in 1998; wonder that Badger fans didn’t pack the place tonight. There’s plenty to discuss on a busy Wednesday night in college basketball, so let’s jump to it.
Your Watercooler Moment. Florida’s Decision to Foul Arizona.
Donovan Could Not Believe That Prather Was Called For a Foul In the Late-Game Situation (AP)
Clearly Florida’s plan with five seconds to go and leading Arizona by three was to quickly foul the Wildcats to send them to the line. We’ve discussed the merits (and demerits) of this strategy in this space and on Twitter many times before, but it always creates an additional element of intrigue when a coach chooses to employ it. According to HSAC, teams only chose this strategy 12% of the time in 2009-10, and there was no discernible advantage in terms of the final outcome of the game (meaning teams won and lost at a statistically equal rates regardless of strategy). In tonight’s game, Florida’s decision for Casey Prather to immediately reach in and foul Solomon Hill on the inbounds play with five seconds remaining backfired in that the nearby referee rewarded Hill for throwing his arms into a shooting motion immediately after the catch. Three foul shot makes and a missed Florida prayer later, the game was headed to overtime. Florida ended up winning in the extra period, 78-72, but Donovan’s decision to have his player foul in that situation shows exactly why it terrifies coaches to employ the strategy. Even if it were statistically sound (and that’s not yet been proven, as far as we know), no coach wants to hear all the second-guessing that comes with such a decision when it backfires, as it very nearly did for the Gators tonight. More on the Arizona-Florida game below.
Dunkdafied. When Xavier’s Dezmine Wells dunks the ball, he shoots it down the rim like it’s a nerf ball coming out of his hand. As for Illinois’ Brandon Paul, he just takes everyone within a five-foot radius with him.
Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)
The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.
Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.
Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.
The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.
Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.
Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)
After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.
The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.
1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.
Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.
2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.
Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors
A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.
Reader’s Take I
Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
The Coaching Carousel: The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, MikeLonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at email@example.com.
Throughout the past week, there have been many great performances and match-ups at high school events such as Austin Rivers (#1 – Duke) and Bradley Beal (#6 – Florida) at the Jordan Brand Classic; there have been numerous developing stories such as where Oklahoma is on Perry Ellis’ (#20) list and what Greg Whittington’s (Georgetown) impact on Otto Porter’s (Georgetown) commitment to Georgetown will be; there’s been a key commitment which will make a big impact on the ACC; the New York Times did an interesting article linking Facebook and recruiting; a West Virginia commit joined the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard; and much more.
Austin Rivers (#1 – Duke) and Bradley Beal (#6 – Florida) fought for the #1 spot at shooting guard in the Jordan Brand Classic. (Credit: ESPN)
What We Learned
The Best SG in the Class of 2011. Going into the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night you knew that the battle between Rivers and Beal would be the primary match-up to watch. Both of these guys are great scorers and can hit shots from anywhere on the floor. They also have excellent three-point range and finish well above the rim. In this game, Rivers got the best of Beal as he finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four steals (the steals being very impessive due to the lack of defense in all-star games) whereas Beal had 15 points and eight rebounds. Neither player shot the ball very well, combining for 11-32 shooting from the field and 1-8 shooting from the three-point line. However, the bad three-point percentage is in large part due to both guys taking very long threes that they wouldn’t normally take in a serious game. Look for these two guys to be two of the best scorers in college basketball starting next season.
Perry Ellis Likely Not Oklahoma-Bound. From what Fonda Ellis, Perry Ellis’ mom, told me (see full quotes from her in the “What They’re Saying” Section, below), it seems as though Oklahoma is losing ground in the Ellis sweepstakes (#20). This loss of interest looks to primarily be a result of the Sooners’ coaching change from Jeff Capel to former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger. Although Kruger said in a phone call to Ellis last week that he was still the Sooners’ top priority and that he wanted him to take an official visit to the OU campus, Ellis will have to get used to an entirely new coaching staff there. Ellis is also considering Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis and Wichita State and told me in an interview last month that he’s looking to “be comfortable, have a good relationship with the coach and be in a system I like.”
Greg Whittington and Otto Porter’s Commitments. According to what Greg Whittington (Georgetown) told me Sunday after The Capital Classic, he is the one who got Otto Porter (#40 – Georgetown) to become a Hoya this past week (see full quotes from Whittington in the “What They’re Saying” Section, below). Whittington was able to convince Porter to commit to Georgetown due to the conference they’ll be in, among many other things. However, one thing that seemed to really help the Hoyas was the coaching change at Missouri since the Tigers were believed to have been the frontrunners. According to an ESPN source, the new staff at Missouri did not even have a chance to meet with Porter and his family before Porter made his decision to attend GU. Porter was a big-time pickup for the Hoyas since he is very long and has one of the best mid-range games in his class. He is a match-up problem for almost everyone he faces due to his height and he rebounds the ball and runs the floor well too. He is also good on the defensive end on the floor and is a solid ball-handler. Porter needs to improve on his strength more than anything else but his all-around game is solid and he should make a positive impact at Georgetown next year.
What You Missed
Anthony Davis (#4 – Kentucky) and James McAdoo (#7 – North Carolina) were the Co-MVPs at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Power Forwards Dominated Jordan Brand Classic. Anthony Davis (#4 – Kentucky) and James McAdoo (#7 – North Carolina) were the co-MVPs in the 10th annual Jordan Brand Classic Saturday with Davis recording 29 points (second highest in event history to LeBron James’ 34 points) on 13-15 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds, and McAdoo tallying 26 points on 10-16 shooting from the field and 14 rebounds. Davis also added four blocks and McAdoo hit the game-clinching free throws with 1.6 seconds left which gave the East a 113-109 victory over the West. Both players ran the floor well and were able to knock down the perimeter shot. Although Davis had the better overall game, McAdoo was more impressive since he showed the ability to not only score in the paint, but he also made several nice mid-range jumpers and multiple three-pointers which showed off his range. Both showed good court vision and passing skills as well as an ability to make the pass in transition or out of the low post when double-teamed. Kyle Wiltjer (#26 – Kentucky) also brought back his sky hook from the McDonald’s game to this event and Johnny O’Bryant (#28 – LSU) consistently knocked down a turn-around jumper that will be deadly if he adds other moves to his arsenal.
The MAAC conference tournament gave us another buzzer-beater last night. Saint Peter’s guard Desi Washington rushed down the court and nailed a trey to eliminate Fairfield 65-62 on Washington’s THIRD game-winning buzzer-beater against the Stags this season.
Clown, thy name is UCSB fan. Although players and coaches alike are expected to behave professionally, fans also have a responsibility to contain themselves. Incidents like last night’s approach by a rabid UCSB fan are dangerous for everyone involved.