Atlantic 10 Season Recap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2013

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 @vtbnblog.

Tournament Bracket

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Looking Back

Conference Realignment: Who’s Got Next? A non-story for the entire season, the divorce negotiated between the Catholic 7 and the Conference Formerly Known as the Big East was finalized last week, a development guaranteed to kick off another round of musical partners. The Catholic 7 got custody of the last name (Big East) and the house (an older but stately palace in downtown New York), along with a promise to process the paperwork quickly. The new/old conference needs three more members to share the TV money and national exposure they are rumored to have negotiated with Fox Sports. The yearly payout per team, believed to be just under ten times the per-team amount the Atlantic 10 just agreed to with CBS, should draw interest. Butler and Xavier have been at the center of Catholic 7 alignment rumors since last October. Unlike Temple’s announced exit in February of last season, however, neither school has confirmed – or denied – the rumors. Xavier, a member since 1995-96, would be the second flagship program (behind Temple) to exit the conference in that last 13 months. Butler who twice went to the Final Four within the last five years, has barely had time to unpack before moving on. When given the news of Temple’s exit in February of 2012, commissioner Bernadette McGlade took a proactive tack and had two replacements in place eight weeks into the offseason. Expect her to do the same this off season. George Mason and Wichita State are the two mentioned most by fans and conference followers.

The Best Basketball-Centric Conference? Mountain West fans may disagree, but it seems certain that the Atlantic 10 Conference will send at least five members to the NCAA Tournament, equaling the highest ever achieved (1997 and 1998). Saint Louis, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are all but certain to receive bids regardless of what happens this weekend, and prospects for Temple and La Salle remain very strong. On top of that, Massachusetts or Xavier could, with strong conference tournament showings, squeeze out an unprecedented sixth bid for the conference, though it seems unlikely.

Power Rankings

The last week of conference play opens with only three conference tournament spots – all three on the sidelines, determined. Others (that Saint Louis will take the #1 seed, Virginia Commonwealth will take #2 and La Salle most likely the #3) seem nearly certain, but note that seeds #4 through #12 are pretty much up for grabs…at least until Wednesday.

Jim Crews can smirk a little after leading the Billikens from afterthought to league champions. (USATSI)

Jim Crews has the right to smirk a little after leading the Billikens to their first regular season title in 42 years. (USATSI)

  1. Saint Louis (24-6, 13-3; #16 AP; Projected NCAA Seed #5) – The Billikens stumbled in the last week versus Xavier, but locked down the #1 seed in Brooklyn by beating La Salle. Off until Friday, coach Jim Crews’ team will meet the winner of the Richmond/Charlotte game (most likely Richmond), and if seed holds, most likely La Salle Saturday (and Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday). On the radar however is the NCAA tournament (yes the Bills are a lock at this point, win or lose Friday) seed. The consensus today is a #4-#5 seed with little prospect of moving up without a slew of early conference tournament losses elsewhere. RTC’s Dan Evans’ early March bracket matched the #5 Bills against #12 seed OVC Champion Belmont. The Bears run and gun, which would make this an interesting matchup.
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or follow him on Twitter @vtbnblog.

(ed. note – this week’s column does not factor in Wednesday night’s action, which saw Saint Louis beat Saint Joseph’s, Richmond defeat George Washington and Dayton top Charlotte.)

Looking Back

  • Saint Louis Breaks Out – The Billikens evicted Butler and Virginia Commonwealth and decisively took sole possession of the conference penthouse last week. On Tuesday Saint Louis hosted Virginia Commonwealth, the team that paced the conference from virtually the opening week and ranked #24 by the AP the previous Monday. The Bills pummeled the Rams by 14, 76-62, handing coach Shaka Smart’s squad the worst defeat of their season. With barely 48 hours to celebrate, the Billikens packed their bags and traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse to play #15 ranked Butler on Friday night. Saint Louis held on to defeat the Bulldogs by 4, 65-61, and hand Butler only their second defeat at home this season. At 10-2, SLU sits atop the conference with a half-game lead (one fewer loss) over second place Virginia Commonwealth.
  • Conference Difference Margins, Week 8 – The difference margin continues to divide the conference roughly in half; nine teams have positive margins, seven teams have negative margins. The paradox is that the Atlantic 10, much like many conferences in parity, the number of teams with a 0.500 record or better numbers 11 (or 69% of the conference membership). For a power conference this parity (if the top of the conference was strong enough) could, in effect, “pull” a middling team or two into the NCAA tournament. Is the A-10 strength of schedule enough to yield a fifth or sixth bid?

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Reviewing the numbers (from Ken Pomeroy’s kenpom.com site – the conference results through Monday February 25) gives us a few things to consider:

  1. The difference margin adds greater definition to Saint Louis’ breakout last week. At +0.156, the margin is half again larger than that of their nearest rival (Virginia Commonwealth). To this point Saint Louis is in a class by itself. A rocky out of conference run will most likely keep the Bills’ NCAA seed in the #4 to #6 range, probably deceptively low.
  2. The teams are forming a series of well-defined tiers, many of which are consistent with the conference records earned so far. Note the Virginia Commonwealth/Butler grouping, distinct from the Massachusetts/Xavier/Temple tier.
  3. Duquesne and (yet again, unfortunately) Fordham have “lost touch” with the rest of the conference. The difference margins for the two lowest ranked teams suggest they are no longer competitive with their 14 conference mates. Temple’s loss to Duquesne on February 14 becomes all the more puzzling and damaging to the Owls’ post season prospects.
  4. Charlotte’s record says “even”, but the difference margin suggests the 49ers have been susceptible to blowouts. A look at the schedule reveals a tendency to lose big on the road Miami, Richmond, Saint Louis). Not the kind of credential one wants to present to the Selection Committee.
  5. Dayton maintains a positive difference margin (+0.013) widely at variance with their losing record (4-8). A Pythagorean Winning Percentage calculation suggest the Flyers should be closer to a 0.500 record (or 6-6, since they have played 12 games). They are, however, so far underwater that it is likely the Flyers will “run out of games” before they can get to a 0.500 record (8-8 given their 16 game conference schedule).

Reader’s Take

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

First Week: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Charlotte is one of three teams still undefeated in conference play. Neither win was against a conference powerhouse, but both were good signs. Beating La Salle at the Holton suggests they will do well at home, while taking their road game versus Rhode Island was a sign that they should be able to win games there as well.
  • The Bad. Temple’s loss to Xavier will not preclude the Owls from drawing an NCAA bid, but it makes the conference-wide bid picture, expected in the preseason season to be five, possibly very murky. The preseason NCAA short list included Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Butler, VCU, Temple and Saint Louis, but poorer than expected non-conference results for Saint Joseph’s and Xavier seem to have pared that list. Xavier’s win over conference rival Temple may boost morale among the Musketeers’ faithful, but it undercuts the prospects for Temple (who has a very poor outing versus Duke on it’s resume), one of the stronger prospects on conference’s shrinking list.
  • The Ugly: Saint Bonaventure was not expected to perform at the same levels as the Andrew Nicholson-led teams, but the double-figure road loss to rebuilding George Washington lowers the ceiling on the Bonnies’ prospects for this season. That was a game they would have won last year (and the year before). This is a larger-than-expected step back for the program.

Impact Players

CBS Sports named two A-10 players to their mid-season Top 50 Impact players. Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, a senior guard who transferred in from Arkansas and sat last season, was ranked #42 with the comment “Best shooter in the country?” Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth’s sophomore guard, was ranked #45. Recognized as a integral part of VCU’s Havoc defense, Jeff Goodman went on to comment “Makes plays at both ends of the floor.” The list, a collaboration by CBS Sports’ four basketball beat writers — Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello — focused on the 50 players who they felt had the greatest impact on the first two months of the college basketball season.

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Power Rankings

Conference play opened last week with every team playing twice before the end of the first weekend. While the top – and bottom — of the power rankings remains largely unchanged from the end of December, there is some shuffling within the middle eight.

  1. Butler (14-2, 2-0) – A 2-0 start to conference play has extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 11. The run is jeopardized by guard Rotnei Clarke’s neck injury, sustained when the senior was fouled as he completed a layup at the end of a breakout play in Butler’s 79-73 win over Dayton. A day-after MRI showed no spinal fractures (or other damage), but Clarke will be held out of the Bulldogs’ next two games (Richmond on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday), pending a medical review. The Butler team doctor took issue with NBC Sports Network which had a crew covering the Dayton game. The crew overzealously opened a nearby microphone and broadcast the injured player’s conversation with attending medical staff, an act Dr. Thomas Fischer contended that was intrusive and unethical. Dr. Fischer will determine when Clarke can return to play. Richmond, without junior Derrick Williams, will be hard pressed to match the Bulldogs’ front court contingent, but Gonzaga, ranked #8 by the AP, could prove to be a very difficult opponent. Freshman Kellen Dunham, sophomore Alex Barlow and senior Chase Stigall will have to take up Clarke’s scoring contribution for at least the next week. Given Clarke’s contribution is 16.5 per game, that will be a task bigger than the collection can probably handle. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

Rick Majerus, 1948-2012 – Former Saint Louis Billikens head coach Rick Majerus succumbed to his chronic heart condition Saturday in California while undergoing extended treatment. Deteriorating health forced the 25-year veteran to take his first medical leave in 2003-04 when he coached the Utah program. He resigned during the 2004 season. After a three-year hiatus that included a stint behind the microphones at ESPN, the coach returned to the bench at Saint Louis University to begin a rebuilding process that earned the Billikens their first NCAA bid since 2000.

In His Twilight, Rick Majerus Led SLU To A Tournament Upset Over Memphis. (AP)

“The entire Atlantic 10 family is grieving tonight over the loss of coach Majerus. His undeniable knowledge and love of the game was known to all, and he was an excellent teacher committed to the student-athlete. This passion made his impact on A-10 basketball over the past five years immeasurable,” said Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “He will be missed at Saint Louis, within the A-10 and nationally; our prayers and condolences are with coach Majerus’ family and the Saint Louis University community.” said Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade in a press release late Saturday night.

Though he had not been on campus since the end of the 2011-12 season, the first public notice was an announcement in July that he was in California seeking treatment for his heart. St. Louis issued a Friday afternoon announcement in late August that he would take a medical leave for the 2012-13 season, followed by another Friday afternoon press release nine weeks later that heart problems would preclude his return to the Billikens bench at all. Over the course of a head coaching career at four schools (Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis) that dates back to 1983-84 (Marquette), the coach developed a resume that included a 517-216 lifetime record, only one sub-.500 season, 15 20-win seasons, 19 postseason bids (12 NCAA, 6 NIT, 1 CBI) and a Final Four appearance with the Utah Utes in 1998. Those mentored by Majerus over the course of his career include consensus All-Americans Andre Miller (Utah) and Keith Van Horn (Utah), along with Boston Celtic Coach Doc Rivers (Marquette).

Versus Other Conferences – Nearly 60% of the A-10’s non-conference games are in the books and the conference has posted a very power conference-like winning percentage of (about) 63%. The conference’s sluggish start, often recorded on neutral courts in invitational tournaments, appears to be offset by a combination of home court wins and strategic road wins. Current for games through Wednesday December 5, the table below shows how the conference did head-to-head with the other Division I conferences. The summary at the bottom breaks out the A-10’s record versus the six power conferences, versus other non-power conferences with similar profiles (i.e., the Missouri Valley Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the West Coast Conference, Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association) and the other 20 Division I conferences (and independents):

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

  • The (Early Season Invitational) Returns Are In – Thirteen of the conference’s 16 teams are participating in early season invitational tournaments this season. While several tournaments continue play through this week, 11 of the higher-profile tournaments finished play over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Conference teams (see below) took a first-place, three second-places, two fourth-places and two fifth-places. Versus the field in those nine tournaments the conference posted an 18-17 (0.514) record, below their 60% winning percentage overall. Charlotte (Great Alaska Shootout), Butler (Maui Invitational), Saint Joseph’s (Coaches vs. Cancer) and Saint Louis (CBE Classic) reached their respective tournament championship games. Charlotte (see story below) swept the field in Anchorage, Alaska, to take first place and preserve their undefeated record.
  • Pride of the A-10 – Entering their last season of conference play, the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s basketball team seems at last to have caught fire, completing the first fifth of its 2012-13 schedule with a perfect 6-0 record, taking the Great Alaska Shootout title Saturday night with a win 67-59 over Northeastern of the CAA. Since moving over from C-USA, the 49ers have dominated A-10 sports, as 11 of Charlotte’s 16 sports programs have garnered a total of 30 titles — either regular season championships or conference tournament titles – in the school’s eight-year run. The move to the A-10, basketball-driven for the most part, was resisted by more than a few fans (and former men’s basketball coach Bobby Lutz), due largely to the conference’s more northern and eastern focus. That the men’s hoops program, a source of pride for the school, could only muster a mediocre 48-64 (0.429) in conference play has been a huge disappointment, taken by some as a confirmation that the move from the southern and western-centric C-USA was ill-considered. Charlotte’s 6-0 start matches the 1975-76 club’s 6-0 opening of their 24-6 campaign.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

Phil Martelli Sits Atop the Power Rankings at This Early Point of the Season

  1. Saint Joseph’s (3-1) – The Hawks easily handled a Harvard squad that earned an NCAA bid last March 75-66, before breaking for the Thanksgiving Weekend. Junior forward Ronald Roberts was named the Player of the Week for the A-10 Conference for his work at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament over the November 17 weekend. The six man nucleus — Carl Jones, Langston Galloway, Chris Wilson, Ron Roberts, Halil Kanacevic and C. J. Aiken – has done a tremendous job sharing the touches and scoring so far. The squad goes back into action Wednesday when they host American. The Creighton game Saturday should be a featured game next weekend.
  2. Temple (3-0)Scootie Randall continued his comeback by playing 38 minutes as the Owls downed Delaware Saturday 80-75. Randall and backcourt mate Khalif Wyatt chipped in 18 points apiece (45% of the Owl’s total point production), notching an efficient 51% eFG%. Better yet, the two combined for 10 assists to five turnovers, as they helped each other and their front court teammates. Fans who held their breath last season as then-freshman center Anthony Lee stepped in for then injured senior Michael Eric are seeing the benefits now. The sophomore has become a rebounding workhorse, grabbing an astonishing one in three of the opponent misses while he is on the court. Fifth year senior Jake O’Brien has garnered impressive numbers on the Owls’ offensive boards. The next two games, versus Buffalo (Wednesday) and Wagner (Saturday) should bump the win total to five. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2012

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the A-10 Conference. You can follow him on Twitter at @vbtnblog

Top Storylines

  • The Best Basketball (Only) Conference in the NCAA? You Bet– With the departure of Temple (to the Big East) and Charlotte (to CUSA), A-10 fans knew the conference would not “make due” with a 12-team configuration. The question was which candidates would match best with the conference profile and mission and not in the chase for football money? The A-10 could afford to focus on candidates with high quality basketball programs, thereby offering regional rivalries to the Midwestern and Washington D.C. metro area members. Virginia Commonwealth and Butler were the logical choices as both have had recent Final Four appearances, are high quality programs, and boast two of the hottest young coaching names in Division I. Both schools accepted and the existing circumstances of member departures and arrivals means that the A-10, with 16 members and an 18-game conference slate, will have a superconference look and feel this season.

    Veteran St. Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli Has Garnered Plenty Of Media Attention Over The Years. Now Thanks To A New TV Deal, The Entire Atlantic-10 is Going to Get a Dose Of Camera Time (AP)

  • The New TV Deal – The conference announced an eight-year partnership with ESPN, the CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Network, worth an estimated $40 million dollars ($5 million per year) to run from 2013-14 through 2021-22. The three media outlets will televise 64 regular season men’s games (CBS and NBC Sports Network will televise 25 apiece and the ESPN outlets will televise 14). These three outlets will divvy the responsibilities for the conference tournament with NBC televising the men’s (and women’s) quarterfinals, CBS televising the men’s (and women’s) semifinal games, and ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU televising the men’s championship game. Though financial details were not disclosed, the conference’s 14 members are expected to collect about $400,000 apiece each season.
  • Brooklyn, Here We Come – A quiet affirmation that the move to lock up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn came with Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm swamped Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Boardwalk Hall, previous site of the conference’s championship tournament. The Barclays Center has garnered positive reviews for its architecture, facilities and amenities. The brand-new facility will work out the kinks with a number of invitational tournaments (Barclays Center Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, Legends Classic, Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational) and be ready to host the conference tournament next March.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

Signs that the A-10 is in for a wild ride this season are everywhere. CBS Sports’ five basketball experts (Jeff Goodman, Doug Gottlieb, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello) tabbed four different schools (Butler, Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth) to take the regular season crown. The A-10 coaches named a fifth school – Saint Joseph’s – at the conference’s Media Day earlier this month. Note that nobody in that group is named Temple or Xavier – the two schools which have passed the regular season crown back-and-forth for the last five seasons.

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Bracket Prep: Davidson, Harvard, LIU, Lehigh & Montana

Posted by EJacoby on March 8th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. In this post, we have your SoCon, Ivy, NEC, Patriot, and Big Sky conference champions. Here’s what you need to know about these recent bid winners.

Davidson

  • Southern Conference Champion (25-7, 19-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #66/#67/#69
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +8.8
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14

Davidson Is Back in the Dance Looking For More McKillop Magic (AP/B. Leverone)

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. First of all, let’s put this to rest immediately. Although Davidson’s record of 25-7 is nearly the same as it was in 2008 when the Wildcats came within a long three-pointer of the Final Four, this year’s team is not nearly as good as that one, led by a young Stephen Curry. But it wouldn’t be a Bob McKillop-coached team if it wasn’t dangerous, and the Wildcats are certainly that, as their mid-December upset win over likely #1 seed Kansas attests. Led by a group of sophomores and juniors who can score inside and out, Davidson likes to get out in transition and spread the floor in the halfcourt. All five starters are capable of hitting the three-ball (34% to 37%), and although the Wildcats won’t beat you that way, they use the threat of it to find easy looks inside. Whoever draws this team in its first game will have its hands full with the Davidson offense.
  2. McKillop’s defense, however, is a bit of a different story. The Wildcats don’t turn teams over and, at least against good opponents, have a lot of trouble stopping dribble penetration. Duke dropped 82 on the Wildcats as Austin Rivers and Seth Curry had 17 points each; Vanderbilt went for 87 as Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins combined for 52 points; Wichita State had 91 in a win where Joe Ragland dropped 30 and his backcourt mate Toure’ Murray added 16 more. You get the point. Athletic scoring guards are a big problem for the Wildcats.
  3. Given those conditions, Davidson is projected to play a #3 or #4 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Among the teams in that group, there are a few that they absolutely do not want to see under any circumstances. For example, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., would be disastrous. On the other hand, Georgetown’s Jason Clark and Martel Starks would be much more manageable. As the Wildcats have already shown against the Jayhawks once this year, they are a dangerous squad if the conditions are right. We wouldn’t bet on them pulling another first game upset this year, but keep an eye on teams built like them (high offense, no defense) for possible victims.

Harvard

  • Ivy League Champion (26-4, 12-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #36/#38/#43
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +8.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #10-#11

Tommy Amaker Has His Harvard Team Focused on the NCAAs (US Presswire/G. Cooper)

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Harvard basketball has been in the news a lot lately, mostly due to former player Jeremy Lin’s emergence as an NBA star point guard. But when Tommy Amaker and his team watched Penn lose to Princeton on Tuesday night, the Crimson sealed their first NCAA Tournament berth in 66 years. Not once did this team make it during Lin’s tenure, and Harvard is finally back in the Big Dance this year thanks to a terrific defense and overall efficient team. This squad challenged itself in the non-conference and won the Battle for Atlantis Tournament that included a field of Connecticut and Florida State. They also defeated St. Joseph’s and finished with a strong 12-2 record in the Ivy League with only two close losses to top competitors Princeton and Penn. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Northeast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 19th, 2011

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 and final update comes courtesy of our NEC correspondent, Ray Floriani.

Summer Storylines

  • Monmouth Makes Noise - First came the hiring of King Rice to take over for Dave Calloway. Rice promises a significant upgrade, change in culture and return to winning ways for the New Jersey Shore-based school. To beef up its revenue stream, the university recently announced a partnership with New Jersey’s Millennium Radio Group. As part of the deal, all Monmouth games will be aired on WOBM-AM for the next three seasons. Each Monday, the King Rice Show will also be broadcast on the station. Finally, Monmouth accepted a bid to play in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Hawks will face Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the East Regional. Other teams in that group are George Mason and Florida International.
  • Phenomenal Phelan: NEC Hall of Famer Jim Phelan will receive the Lapchick Character Award at Madison Square Garden. The former Mount St. Mary’s mentor joins Hall of Famer Pete Carril and Virginia women’s coach Debbie Ryan in receiving this year’s honor. The trio has enjoyed wonderful and winning careers punctuated with loyalty, longevity and success.
  • Red Flash Commemorates History: St. Francis (PA) looks to improve and be competitive in the NEC, but not without forgetting its past. St. Francis will honor the “Golden” basketball legacy between 1940 and 1970. Players from that area will be nominated and reviewed by a selection committee to be included in an extended wing of the St. Francis Hall of Fame. As 1970 alumnus Bob Moore said, “Small Catholic colleges, particularly in the East, ranked among the nation’s collegiate powers.  To pay tribute to those early players and the teams St. Francis produced is long overdue.”
  • Hurley Hunkers Down: Wagner head coach Danny Hurley is getting his teams exposed to the highest level and toughened up for league play. His Wagner club will visit 2011 NCAA Tournament representatives Princeton, UConn and Pittsburgh on the road.  The Seahawks will also travel to the Cable Car Classic out west in December. Wagner opens that tournament with Air Force before facing Santa Clara or Eastern Michigan in the next round.
  • More of Moore: Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore was awarded a well-deserved extension through the 2015-16 season. Terms of the pact were not disclosed. Moore led Quinnipiac to 23 victories and a NEC regular season title in 2010.

CCSU's Ken Horton Leads The Charge For The Blue Devils. (CCSUBlueDevils.com)

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Checking in on… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2011

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.

Heading into the final third of the NEC race, Long Island is in the lead. Favorite Quinnipiac has hit a few rough spots, but is still in contention. Just ahead of the Bobcats and hot on LIU’s heels are Central Connecticut and Wagner.  It is a cliché that every game matters, but it nevertheless holds true in the NEC. Even the contenders know that teams in the second half having struggles of their own can be dangerous and spring an upset.

Power Rankings

1. LIU (18-5, 10-2) Extended its win streak to four with victories over Sacred Heart (81-69) and Quinnipiac (84-74). The Blackbirds were very consistent on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The efficiency margin against Sacred Heart was +16 (107-91) and +13 (108-95) in the win over Quinnipiac. Jim Ferry also preached a favorable pace; A 75-possession club, LIU’s two games were played at 76 and 78-possession tempos, respectively.

Notable: Jason Brickman was selected as Co-Rookie of the Week for his fine play at the lead guard position. Brickman averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 assists and committed only three turnovers in 52 minutes of action the last two outings.

2. Central Connecticut (16-7, 9-3) So much for the dreaded ‘western’ swing. The Blue Devils swept road games against St. Francis (PA) 86-79 and Robert Morris 80-58. The offensive efficiency marks were 119 and 121m respectively. In the latter game, Central earned a big win at a traditionally tough location by holding Robert Morris to an 88 OE and enjoyed a 53%-39% edge in offensive rebounding percentage.

Notable: Ken Horton earned NEC Player of the Week honors with double-doubles in both games. The 6’6 junior forward averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds on the road kick.

3. Quinnipiac (15-8, 7-5) Split the Brooklyn trip with a conquest of St. Francis (NY) 74-60 before losing at LIU (84-74). Efficiencies give a clear picture of the two games. Against the Terriers, Quinnipiac had a 106-86 edge in offensive efficiency. Two days later, LIU enjoyed the 108-85 advantage. Turnover rate, in this case, did not affect the Bobcats’ OE. Their TO rate was 26% at St. Francis and only 9% at LIU.

Notable: Senior guard James Johnson averaged 20 points and six rebounds on his homecoming swing (Johnson played his high school ball at Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn). Justin Rutty, sidelined seven games with an elbow injury, was back in action. The senior forward averaged 16 points and seven rebounds.

4. Mount St. Mary’s (9-16, 7-5) Earned a two-game homestand sweep over Monmouth (56-54) and Fairleigh Dickinson (70-59). The Mountaineers average 65 possessions per game, though the Monmouth game was a slower 55. The FDU meeting was right on the 65 possession tempo. Both games saw the Mount over 100 in OE while keeping the opposition under 100. The high mark was a 108 OE against FDU. Mount shot only 46% eFG percentage that fame but their TO rate was an outstanding 8%.

Notable: Julian Norfleet, a freshman guard, hit the deciding shot, a three-pointer, with 0.6 seconds remaining to defeat Monmouth. Senior forward Shawn Atupem paced the Mount with 17 points versus FDU on 8-14 shooting from the floor.

5. Wagner (11-11, 7-4) The Seahawks swept home games over New Jersey foes. First, a 61-57 win over FDU, followed by a 63-60 decision against Monmouth. The offense was subpar, but defense did the job against FDU. The efficiency margin was +6, thanks to a defense allowing only an 85 in offensive efficiency. Wagner had only a 12% TO rate while forcing FDU into an extremely high 31% rate. Head coach Danny Hurley and his brother and assistant Bobby were on hand for Bob Hurley Sr.’s 1,000th win at St. Anthony’s on Wednesday.

Notable: Gathering his six Rookie of the Week honor this season was Latif Rivers. The freshman guard actually shared the award by putting together an outstanding two games. Rivers averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

6. St. Francis (NY) (11-12, 6-6) Defeated Sacred Heart, 78-51 after losing to Quinnipiac, 74-60. Terriers had an efficiency margin swing of 50 in those two games. Against Quinnipiac, the margin was -20 (86-106 efficiencies). The Sacred Heart game saw a +40 (115-75) clip. A 56% eFG percentage was largely responsible for the better offensive showing against Sacred Heart.

Notable: Ricky Cadell scored 16 in the win over Quinnipiac. The senior guard reached 1,500 points, the 55th player in the NEC annals to do so. Sophomore guard Travis Nichols added 15 points against the Bobcats, behind 3-4 from beyond the arc.

7. Robert Morris (10-13, 6-6) In one of the most difficult two-game stretches to ponder, the Colonials scored an easy 91-38 win over Bryant, then two days later were dominated 80-58 by Central Connecticut. Both games were at home. The efficiency margin swing in these two games was off the charts at -119. Against Bryant the efficiency margin was +86 (147-61). The CCSU contest saw the Colonials’ efficiency margin at -33 (88-121). Robert Morris had drastic changes in virtually every category over those two games. The eFG percentage, for example, went from 70% against Bryant to 38% in the CCSU meeting.

Notable: Lijah Thompson averaged 13 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot 56% from the field over the two contests. The sophomore forward tallied a career-high 18 points against Bryant.

8. Bryant (8-16, 6-6) The Bulldogs split on their trip to Western Pennsylvania. Bryant was decimated 91-39 (no misprint) at Robert Morris. They bounced back, less than 48 hours later, for a 70-69 win at St. Francis (PA). The Robert Morris game showed the extremes, as Bryant’s OE was 61 and the defense allowed a 147. The Bulldogs converted just ten field goals and shot 27% eFG percentage against the Colonials. At St. Francis (PA), the OE was a more respectable 106, largely due to a healthy 54% eFG showing.

Notable: Frankie Dobbs drove the length of the floor and hit a fade away shot at the buzzer to defeat St. Francis (PA). Earlier this season, the sophomore guard hit the game winning shot in a victory over FDU.

9. St. Francis (PA) (7-16, 5-7) Two home games. Two home losses. The Red Flash were defeated by Central Connecticut (86-79) and Bryant (70-69). Offense was strong, posting efficiencies of 110 and 105. Defense ? Not too strong, allowing marks of 119 and 106. St. Francis was guilty guilty of a 26% TO rate against Bryant, in a 66-possession game.

Notable: Sophomore guard Umar Shannon averaged 21.5 points for the two games on 46% shooting from the floor and a perfect 14-14 from the charity stripe. Shannon hit the go-ahead basket with six seconds to go against Bryant, just prior to Frankie Dobbs’ last second heroics.

10. Sacred Heart (9-14, 4-8) A trip to Brooklyn saw the Pioneers on the short end both times out. Sacred Heart lost at LIU (81-69) and St. Francis (NY) 78-51. Both ends of the floor were problematic on the road. Sacred Heart posted offensive efficiencies of 91 and 75 while giving up over 100 on the defensive end in the two games. St. Francis (NY) was a struggle, as the Pioneers managed only 36% eFG shooting while allowing a 115 efficiency.

Notable: Shane Gibson paced the Pioneers with 18 points at LIU. A sophomore guard, Gibson hit his eight straight double-figure scoring games and has led Sacred Heart in scoring sixteen times this season. Freshman guard Chris Evans continues to impress. Evans had 12 and 17 respectively in the two games in Brooklyn.

11. FDU (4-18, 2-9) The FDU Knights have now dropped three straight. First, they lost to NJIT in overtime, 64-62. Then, they took to the road and were defeated by Wagner (61-57) and Mount St. Mary’s (70-59). FDU held NJIT and Wagner to low offensive efficiencies (83 and 91, respectively). Knights couldn’t hit 90 in either game on their own OE end. The 81 against NJIT was partly due to a porous 33% eFG percentage.

Notable: Terence Grier came off the bench to score a career high 25 points at Wagner. The senior guard tied his personal field goals record (10) set a few days earlier against NJIT. Senior forward Kamil Svrdlik scored a game-high 19 points at Mount St. Mary’s.

12. Monmouth 2-9 (6-17 overall) It is four straight losses for the Hawks following bumps in the road at Mount St. Mary’s (56-54) and Wagner (63-60). Monmouth had a 39-22% OREB percentage edge at the Mount. Still, they came up short, as the Mountaineers posted a 55% eFG percentage. The Hawks average 65 possessions per game, but the contest at the Mount was even slow by Monmouth’s standards as it was a 55-possession affair.

Notable: Hawks received solid frontcourt contributions. Junior forward Mike Myers-Keitt averaged 14.5 points with 5.5 rebounds. Marcus Ware, a sophomore forward, paced Monmouth with 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds for the two game stretch.

A Look Ahead

February 9

  • Bryant at Central Connecticut
  • FDU at Monmouth
  • Wagner at Mount St. Mary’s
  • Sacred heart at Quinnipiac
  • St. Francis(NY) at LIU
  • St. Francis(PA) at Robert Morris

February 12

  • LIU at St. Francis (NY)
  • Monmouth at FDU
  • Central Connecticut at Bryant
  • Mount St. Mary’s at Wagner
  • Robert Morris at St. Francis (PA)

February 14

  • Quinnipiac at Sacred Heart
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Long Island’s Julian Boyd Back From One-In-Million Diagnosis

Posted by jstevrtc on December 20th, 2010

We’re constantly impressed by the fearlessness shown by athletes in coming back from injuries and medical hurdles, playing as if nothing had ever happened, ignoring that the rolled ankle becomes a little less stable every time it happens, that concussions can have an additive effect over time, that blood sugar levels have to be monitored no matter if it’s during study hall or a time out during an overtime. It’s even more amazing when players play with or through medical issues that 18-22 year-olds, quite frankly, shouldn’t have to deal with, espeically those involving the ticker. After nearly dying twice this past summer from cardiac issues, do you think Seton Hall’s Herb Pope won’t enjoy every snowflake this winter or every fruitcake he gets as a Christmas present, let alone the chance to continue playing basketball?

We Say Bravo That Boyd Is Back For the Blackbirds (Photo: LIU)

In that spirit, check out this AP story from the Wall Street Journal today about the return of Long Island University’s Julian Boyd, who has returned to the court this season after taking a year off. After a freshman campaign that earned him the honor of being named the Northeast Conference’s Rookie of the Year after the 2008-09 season, Boyd began to experience symptoms resembling kidney failure. Tests revealed that he had a congenital (meaning it often occurs while you’re in the womb, no matter the cause) heart condition called noncompaction cardiomyopathy, a disorder in which the muscle in your heart stays soft and spongy during its development, causing it to enlarge and not beat as efficiently as it should.

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Checking in on… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.

Close games and dramatic finishes are normally the order in the NEC. The first weekend of conference play provided just that and hinted that the conference race will be an interesting affair.  Quinnipiac rallied from four down in the final minute at home to defeat Mount St.Mary’s. Bobcat junior James Johnson scored eight points in the final minute, including the game winner just before the buzzer.  A few hours later, St. Francis (NY) came from four down to edge defending NEC champion Robert Morris in Brooklyn. Senior guard Akeem Bennett hit two free throws with four seconds left to put the Terriers on top. Bennett then raced down court and blocked a potential game winning three-point attempt to seal the verdict.

It is going to be that type of year….

1. St.Francis (NY): (4-3) (2-0) – The Terriers are off to a fast start in conference play, beating St. Francis (PA) and Robert Morris before capping off the week with a non-conference conquest of Colgate. St. Francis plays at a moderate 65-possession pace, but their defense has managed to force opponents into a 27% TO rate. Overall defensive efficiency is at an impressive 95.

Notable: Akeem Bennett, the Co-Player of the Week in the NEC, averaged 24.6 points and 6.5 rebounds to earn the honors. A senior guard, Bennett was instrumental in conference wins over Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA).

2. Fairleigh Dickinson: (3-4) (2-0): The Knights proved their readiness for conference by toppling Bryant and Central Connecticut at home. They then went on the road, losing at Connecticut, an outcome to be expected. The offense has been the issue with an efficiency of 93 and eFG mark of 43%.

Notable : Junior forward Kamil Svdrlik earned Co-Player of the Week honors averaging 18.9 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Svdrlik has given coach Greg Vetrone the inside presence he needed.

3. Quinnipiac: (6-2) (1-0)– The Bobcats came up just short to UMass, and went on to take it out on Mount St. Mary’s and Lehigh in a pair of wins. A wild team, Quinnipiac went from giving up an efficiency of 97 to the Minutemen to 117 against the Mount. In that latter game, the Bobcats enjoyed a 120 OE of their own to pull off the win. A decisive offensive rebounding core has a major strength.

Notable: junior guard James Johnson had a well rounded week of 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

4. Wagner (4-4) (1-0): The Seahawks sandwiched a win over Sacred Heart in NEC play between losses to St. John’s and Columbia. Defense has been an above average trait for the Seahawks as they hold opposition to 99 OE and force a turnover rate of 21%.  Offensive efficiency of 96 begs for improvement.

Notable: Freshman guard Latif Rivers earned NEC Rookie of the Week honors with a 17.3 points, 4.7 rebound per game week for the Seahawks. Junior guard Tyler Murray continues to do it all for Wagner. He enjoyed another excellent week, with 20 points per game in three games.

5. Long Island (5-3) (1-1): The Blackbirds bean conference play, dropping a tough one to Robert Morris at home before rebounding to defeat St.Francis (PA). LIU then went on the road, losing to Iona, to close out the week. Efficiency was outstanding offensively at 113 in the Robert Morris game. Unfortunately, they gave up a 115 rate to the visiting Colonials. Jim Ferry’s club is playing at a quick 75 possession pace, which is to their advantage.

Notable: Sophomore guard C.J.Garner averaged 17 points 3.5 assists and shot 50% from the floor for the week.

6. Central Connecticut (4-4) (1-1): CCSU had a rough go of it, losing three straight games. The last two, against Fairleigh Dickinson and Dayton, were heartbreakers, with a combined losing margin of four. The Blue Devils sported an outstanding 86 defensive efficiency at FDU, but the offense, struggling of late, produced a paltry 82 rating. Shooting, with an eFG percentage of 47%, is a major culprit.

Notable: Junior forward Ken Horton paced the offense, scoring 12.5 points and adding 6.5 rebounds per game.

7. Robert Morris (3-5) (1-1): RMU salvaged a split in Brooklyn, defeating LIU before dropping a close one to the Terriers. The Colonials were soundly defeated at West Virginia to close out the week 1-2. A defensively stout group, RMU forces a 24% turnover rate, which nets them extra possessions. Robert Morris was without the services of junior forward Lawrence Bridges (concussion) and sophomore guard Karon Abraham (suspension) on the Brooklyn trip.

Notable: Redshirt sophomore forward Russell Johnson averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds on the week.

8. Mount St. Mary’s (3-6) (1-1): Road games saw the Mount win at Sacred Heart before dropping tough ones to Quinnipiac and Penn State. Defense has been acceptable, with a DE mark of 99. Quinnipiac, though, was an aberration as the Mount ‘generously’ gave up a 120 OE to the Bobcats. Cutting down on the TO rate of 22% will raise the Mount’s below par OE of 96.

Notable: Junior guard Lamar Trice averaged an impressive all-around 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

9. Monmouth (3-5) (0-1): Three close calls – The Hawks defeated Eastern Michigan at home and North Dakota on the road. The lone loss was to the Vandals of Idaho, also on the road. The offense enjoyed a breakout 114 offensive efficiency rat at Idaho..

Notable: A pair of juniors, guard Will Campbell and forward Mike Myers-Keitt were named to the Basketball Travelers Classic all-Tournament team. The Hawks went 2-1 in the Idaho-based event.

10. Bryant (0-1) (1-7): Life in D-I is still a challenge. The 102 OE rating at FDU was the second highest of the season. The eight opponents this season have not cracked a 50% eFG percentage, which largely explains Bryant’s outrageously high 113 defensive efficiency.

Notable: Cecil Gresham had an outstanding 28-point, 6-rebound performance in a competitive conference loss at FDU. He shot 9-17 (53%) from the floor, including 6-14 from three-point range.

11. St.Francis (PA) (2-6) (0-2): A tough stretch for the Red Flash included losses at Youngstown State, LIU and St. Francis (NY). Opposing shooters are having a field day with a 51% eFG percentage. Depth is a major concern.

Notable: Sophomore guard Umar Shannon paced the team with 17 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on the week. Shannon led the Red Flash with 15 points at St. Francis (NY) and 19 at LIU.

12. Sacred Heart (2-7) (0-2): Snapped a three-game losing streak with a 56-55 win over Hartford in which they came back from a 51-31 deficit. Offensive efficiency is lacking, and a TO rate of 24% is not helping the cause. Their defensive efficiency of 99 could improve but not bad overall. It’s the offense, over 100 in OE only twice in nine games thus far.

Notable: Redshirt sophomore guard Shane Gibson scored a career high 21 points in the loss to the Mount. Gibson was 8-15 from the field (3 of 6 from three point range).

A Look Ahead:

The NEC takes a load off to attend to final exams, but the conference will hope to make a splash with games against Rhode Island (Quinnipiac), Rutgers (Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth) and Northwestern (St. Francis – NY).

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