O26 Storylines: Regular Season Champs and Potential Cinderellas

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 11th, 2014

Championship Week is in full swing. For the O26 conferences, it’s more than halfway over. Eight automatic bids have already been handed out as of Monday night. Let’s take a look at this week’s storylines before Sunday’s Selection Show.

Belmont is just one of many regular-season champions that will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. (GASTON GAZETTE)

Belmont is just one of many regular-season champions that will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. (GASTON GAZETTE)

Should one-bid leagues send their regular-season champion to the NCAA Tournament?

It’s in the best interest of one-bid leagues to send their best team to the Big Dance. That increases the likelihood of an upset, and thus more exposure for the school. We’ve already seen seven teams that won their respective conference’s regular-season title fall in the conference tournament. Enjoy the NIT, fellas. Belmont (Ohio Valley), Davidson (Southern), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Green Bay (Horizon), High Point (Big South), Iona (Metro Atlantic) and Vermont (America East) all were #1 seeds in their conference tournaments, and all probably were legitimate threats to win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, those leagues will be represented by weaker teams that don’t have much upset potential. Those top seeds aren’t rewarded for season-long excellence. Instead, they’re being punished for one slip-up. It won’t change because there’s no way any league’s going to want to lose the exposure that comes along with their tournament title game being broadcast on ESPN. It’s just a shame we won’t get to see those teams dancing, and as a result, we have a watered down NCAA Tournament field. Matt Norlander made an interesting argument here.

Which one-bid leagues boast NCAA Tournament representatives that could pull upsets?

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Conference Tournament Primer: America East

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 8th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with yet two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week-plus of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the America East and the Summit get started.

Dates: March 8, 9, 15
Site: Quarterfinals and Semifinals: SEFCU Arena (Albany, NY); Championship: Campus site (higher-seeded team hosts)

ameast1

What to expect: After suffering its only conference defeat in late January, Vermont thoroughly dominated the America East over the remaining five weeks of the regular season. Throughout the month of February, the team steamrolled opponents, winning ten straight games by an average of 21.3 points per contest and capturing the league’s top seed in the process. Their KenPom ranking has skyrocketed from 169 to 62 since the New Year, a byproduct of the numerous beatdowns in that span. Stony Brook has talent – 6’8’’ forward Jameel Warney is a load underneath – and should present the most substantial threat in this tournament. There could be some level of drama if they meet up in the title game, but either way, expect the senior-laden Catamounts to go dancing for the third time in five years.

Favorites: Vermont. The Catamounts nearly upset Duke back in November, yet they might be a better team now than they were then. Five of their six top-scorers are seniors, and each of them probably remembers the sting of last year’s home loss to Albany in the conference championship game. Focus will not be an issue for Vermont.

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O26 Storylines: Saint Louis, Gonzaga, Vermont and More…

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 28th, 2014

Selection Sunday is right around the corner. Conference tournaments begin in just three days. Let’s take a look at the storylines surrounding the O26 conferences as we head into the stretch run of the regular season.

Was Saint Louis Exposed on Thursday night?

Is SLU really all that good? (Photo courtesy of foxpsports.com)

Is SLU really all that good? (Getty)

The Billikens have been playing with fire for far too long. They were finally burned on Thursday night, dropping a shocking home game against Atlantic 10 cellar-dweller Duquesne. Saint Louis won its previous six games by single digits, with two coming by one possession and two more coming in overtime to George Mason. Saint Louis is still in prime position to win the A-10, needing only a single win in its last three games — at VCU, vs. Dayton, at Massachusetts — to secure the top seed in the A-10 Tournament. But Thursday’s result is certainly worrisome. SLU’s best wins are against VCU, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. Those three teams might be NCAA Tournament teams, but the rest of its resume is hardly impressive. The Bills still have the fourth-ranked defense, according to Ken Pomeroy, allowing just 89.5 points per 100 possessions. But their offense is a huge concern, coming in at 169th at 105 points per 100 possessions. Jim Crews’ team still has three tough games remaining, and it could see its #10 national ranking and possible #4/#5 seed turn into a date in the #8/#9 game if it’s not careful. Read the rest of this entry »

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O26 Game of the Week: Saint Louis-VCU Pt. II, Iona-Manhattan & More…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 27th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Saint Louis (25-2) at Virginia Commonwealth (20-7) – 6:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Saturday. Yes, this was our Game of the Week just two short weeks ago and yes, the Billikens all-but-clinched the Atlantic 10 crown by winning on their home floor. So why does the second iteration once again headline the week? Well, for one thing, it was a really good basketball game the first time around. Saint Louis held serve in Chaifetz Arena, sure, but not before VCU forced 17 turnovers and battled back from a double-figure deficit to make the final two minutes thrilling — it took a Rob Loe three-pointer with around 30 seconds left to ice it for the home team. And the defenses lived-up to their dominant billing, each limiting the opposing offense to well-under one point per possession on the afternoon. Even if you had tuned in for just five minutes of action, the high level of play and serious potential of both teams would have become quickly evident.

The Billikens and Rams will battle in Richmond this time around. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee)

The Billikens and Rams will battle in Richmond this time around. (Chris Lee, AP)

And that’s the overarching reason why Saturday’s tilt — this time in Richmond — is the main event in an already-loaded week; Saint Louis-VCU isn’t merely a marquee A-10 match-up, it’s a marquee national match-up. Everything at stake in a high-profile power-conference game is also at stake here: perception, NCAA Tournament profile, late-season momentum, bragging rights, and in the case of the Billikens, a very long winning streak. Jim Crews’ bunch has reeled off 19 straight victories over the course of three full months, last losing way back on December 1 to still-undefeated Wichita State. Shaka Smart’s group, meanwhile — fresh off a painfully-close road loss to UMass last Friday — has not dropped a home game in more than a year, obliterating visiting opponents this season by nearly 17 points per contest. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object in Verizon Wireless Arena, and the basketball-watching public will be the beneficiary. KenPom has the home squad pegged as 62 percent favorites, which is to say, it’s more or less a toss-up. Tune in on Saturday — Round II should be great.

Four More to Watch

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In America East Race, Vermont vs. Stony Brook Looms Large

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 24th, 2014

Stony Brook entered 2013-14 with a combined 49-15 record in conference play over the previous four seasons, a stretch which included three regular season titles and a few trips to the NIT — a categorical success by most measures. But for Steve Pikiell and the Seawolves, there’s one ever-important goal that has continuously eluded them despite all that winning, often in heartbreaking fashion: a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Odd things tend to happen in a league that rewards the highest remaining seed in its conference championship game home court advantage. And that is why Stony Brook’s tilt against fellow-undefeated Vermont tonight looms large in the team’s quest to go Dancing — the top seed matters in the America East.

Jameel Warney and the Seawolves look to take control of the America East tonight. (Ryan Restivo/Big Apple Buckets)

Jameel Warney and the Seawolves look to take control of the America East tonight. (Ryan Restivo/Big Apple Buckets)

Based on tangibles alone, the Seawolves are probably the most talented team in the conference, featuring a stable of excellent guards and one supremely skilled, load of a big man in sophomore Jameel Warney. The 6’8’’, 280-pound center is almost unguardable when he gets the ball on the low block, either using his size to back down defenders or finding buckets by utilizing his wide range of post moves, the soft-touch baby hook being among his favorites. With any one of team’s backcourt studs able to attack the basket — Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson the senior leaders, Carson Puriefoy the breakout sophomore — or run the pick-and-roll with Warney (who also possesses great hands, mind you), Stony Brook has a clear personnel advantage over just about every other league opponent. Indeed, Pikiell’s group would probably be the standalone favorite this season if it weren’t for one area where it might have a meaningful disadvantage, especially against Vermont: experience.

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Has Duke Found the Answer on Defense?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 28th, 2013

Back in late November we wrote about Duke’s historically bad defense. At the time, the Blue Devils were coming off their worst defensive effort of the last 12 years, having given up 90 points on 1.38 points per possession in their home squeaker against Vermont. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski was extremely upset and vowed that great improvement must be made on the defensive end of the floor. Five games later, it’s now a good time to see how much progress Duke’s defense has made in the intervening month of action.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke's Defense In Win Over UCLA (Photo: Mark Dolejs - USA TODAY Sports)

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Was Pleased With Duke’s Defense In Their Win Over UCLA
(Photo: Mark Dolejs – USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s take a more detailed look at the team’s defensive numbers from the first six Duke games through that dreadful Vermont performance on November 24. Then we will compare those statistics to what the Blue Devils have done in their last five games heading into the Christmas break. Here are the key defensive statistics from the first six games:

  • 1.07 - Opponents’ Avg Points Per Possession for All Games
  • 1.08 – Opponents’ Points Per Possession vs. Duke

By applying Ken Pomeroy’s principle of adjusting for competition, we come up with an Adjusted Defensive Rating of 1.05 PPP for Duke’s first six games. That number would currently put Duke’s defense at around #200 in the nation in Pomeroy’s ratings – lousy defense indeed. Now that’s look at the same metric for Duke’s last five games:

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Heading to New York, Duke Looking for Answers on Defense

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 27th, 2013

Duke’s 91-90 victory over Vermont Sunday night may be the most disappointing win Mike Krzyzewski has ever had during his long tenure patrolling the sidelines in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It wasn’t so much that the underdog Catamounts almost pulled off the biggest upset in over 30 years in Cameron, but it was how easily the Blue Devils made it for them to do so. To say Duke’s defense was bad is an understatement. It was historically bad.

Coach K Critical of Team's Defensive Effort vs Vermont (Photo:cbssports.com)

Coach K Critical of Team’s Defensive Effort vs Vermont.
(cbssports.com)

Going back to 2003, when Ken Pomeroy began tracking advanced statistics, only twice before has a visiting team come in to Durham and posted an offensive efficiency of over 1.25 points per possession. The 2009 eventual national champion North Carolina squad posted a 1.28 PPP in a 101-87 UNC win. Then in 2012, the Tar Heels did it again, beating Duke 88-70 while scoring 1.26 points per trip. While Vermont is never going to be confused with either of those North Carolina teams that were #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the Catamounts blew those numbers away. Unbelievably, Vermont shredded Duke for 90 points in a 65-possession game. That works out to an astounding 1.39 points per possession. Not only is that the highest allowed in Cameron in the last 12 years, it’s the highest number against Duke anywhere during that time. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 26th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: So remember when everyone said Duke is the clear front-runner to win the ACC? Yeah, me neither. Coach K definitely doesn’t based on his postgame quotes from its Sunday night victory over Vermont. I don’t know if Duke’s problems are fixable (without someone stepping up on the front line, this team may just be a bad defensive team). The good news is that everyone was right that the Blue Devils can score like nobody’s business. Krzyzewski mentioned effort or mindset, which certainly may have played a role, but the other questions are whether this team can either stay in front of fast perimeter players and whether they can effectively rebound out of the current defense. Krzyzewski needs this year’s Brian Zoubek to materialize (along with a lockdown on-ball defender not named Tyler Thornton) because giving up 1.41 points per possession to a bad Vermont team at home is nowhere near the sign of a contender.
  2. Rant Sports: Florida State looks like a whole new team this year, and you should pay attention to Montay Brandon. He has undergone an unbelievable sophomore leap, upping his possession percentage a full three percent while improving his offensive rating an unfathomable 42 points per 100 possessions. Now the sample size is small and has partially come against cupcakes, but that’s a dramatic improvement. He has cut his turnover percentage by more than half, and marginally increased his field goal percentage (although shooting threes is still a struggle). He has also doubled his rebounding percentage on both ends of the floor. So far this has been nothing short of an unbelievable turnaround.
  3. CBS Sports: With Duke falling precipitously through Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Pittsburgh has assumed the top spot in the ACC (I fully admit I never saw this coming and still don’t really believe it). Jeff Borzello does a good job reporting on the team’s defense from a player perspective (which interestingly focuses on the physicality of the team’s defense). Surprisingly, Jamie Dixon’s defense is so good in part because it isn’t called for excessive numbers of fouls. The big question going forward is whether the Panthers will have the same success they’ve had in crashing the offensive boards against more talented teams. Speaking of their offensive rebounding prowess, now is probably a good time to remind you that the Panthers only play Duke once at home this season. That game could get ugly if the Blue Devils don’t figure things out some defensive tenets in short order.
  4. Beach Carolina Magazine: Clemson is a pleasant surprise this year. The Tigers aren’t world-beaters, but Brad Brownell‘s team looked very good in the Charleston Classic. Most notably, they absolutely manhandled a decent Davidson team. The team’s defense is tremendous but things look somewhat streaky on the offensive end. Clemson’s backcourt needs to work on drawing fouls when shots aren’t falling, which is likely to be regularly. There are still plenty of reasons to question whether Brownell can recruit enough talent to keep Clemson competitive in the ACC, but this start makes me think his teams will never be awful. He’s sort of the bizarro-Steve Donahue with his always elite defense and equally forgettable offense.
  5. Gobbler Country: Small sample size alert! Apparently Virginia Tech struggles in close non-conference games. And with some creative accounting, they struggle in close ACC games too! Part of this is because the better team generally wins close games (as it also wins the majority of games, but that’s beside the point), but I wouldn’t be too quick to draw inferences from small, biased data sets. One thing I do agree with is that Cadarian Raines needs more touches, but he’s part of the problem. It’s not like Raines is wide open on the block all of the time standing solo while Jarell Eddie fires off a long two. Raines needs to focus on getting position, and James Johnson needs to make him more of a focal point of the offense. The Hokies’ three-point shooting should open the paint up for him to work, but, then again, his high turnover rate is terrifying.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 25th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. teams playing havoc with the minds and emotions of AP Poll voters. Perfect example this week – North Carolina. After laying a giant stink bomb at home against Belmont and making everyone wonder exactly how much of a difference P.J. Hairston will make even when he’s back, those same short-handed Heels went out and took it straight to the defending champs during Sunday’s convincing win over Louisville. So which is the real Carolina? Hard to say at this point, but yet another reminder that this is a year where almost any team can put up a W.

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

I LOVED…. efficient scorers. Marcus Paige‘s 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting brought to my attention that we do have a number of examples this year of quantity scorers who are putting up their numbers without dominating the ball — not the most common find with today’s shoot-first mentality. The two names that immediately come to mind are Duke’s Jabari Parker (after two weeks, still for real) and UK’s Julius Randle. Parker is now shooting almost 56 percent for the year (65 percent from three) and has only been under 50 percent shooting once all year, while Randle has never been below that mark. Meanwhile, both are still putting up over 20 points per game. It’s hard to not love a teammate who can fill it up while still leaving shots for the other guys on the floor.

I LOVED…. Russ Smith‘s ability to slice the double team. I’ll harp on his decision-making when appropriate, but there is no one better in the college game about sizing up two defenders at the top of the key, hesitating momentarily to draw them closer and then knifing through to create an instantaneous 5-on-3 situation in the lane that usually results in a layup. He’s a fun talent to see up close.

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The Other 26: It’s Nate Wolters’ World, and We’re Just Living In It

Posted by IRenko on February 9th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were musing in this space about whether an early December ankle injury was hindering Nate Wolters’ performance. After missing two games, Wolters registered three straight games with a sub-100 offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy), decidedly mediocre performances by Wolters’ high standards. But those would be the only three games this year where Wolters fell below that mark, as he emerged from his funk with a 28-point performance in a big win over New Mexico. Since then, Wolters has been as productive as ever. But none of us could have expected what happened on Thursday night. Wolters exploded for an incredible 53-point performance.

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Wolters shot 17-of-28 from the floor, including 9-of-14 from three-point range. He added 10 points from the free throw line. He outscored the entire opposing team, IPFW, in the second half, 38-37. He scored in every which way — step back threes, drives through the lane, catch-and-shoot threes, drives along the baseline, threes off ball screens, pull-up jumpers … you name it, he did it.

Wolters is now averaging 22.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He commits just 2.3 turnovers a game despite using more than 30 percent of the Jackrabbits’ possessions. He shoots over 80 percent from the free throw line and over 40 percent from the three-point line. And perhaps most important of all, he has led his team on an eight-game winning streak that has buried an uneven start to the conference season and put the Jackrabbits in a first-place tie with Western Illinois. If you’ve yet to catch the Wolters show, fret not as there are some high-profile opportunities in the coming weeks. Next Saturday, the Jackrabbits welcome Western Illinois to Brookings, and you can bet that the joint will be jumping. And a week later, Wolters will take his talents to Murray, Kentucky to square off against Isaiah Canaan and the Racers in a premier Bracketbuster matchup.

On to this week’s Top 10, our Honor Roll, and the games to watch this week …

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: America East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 22nd, 2012

Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets is the RTC correspondent for the America East conference. You can follow him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • League On The Rebound - After suffering though one of the worst collective seasons in conference history, several top teams of the America East saw much of their talent defect via graduation and/or transfer. With 60% of the all-conference players from last season now gone, can the top America East programs replenish their talent and improve the overall performance of the conference?
  • Can The Seawolves Break Through? Stony Brook, winners of two America East regular season championships in the past three seasons, has come up short in the postseason tournament, falling each time in the conference finals. Now in his eighth season, is this the year Steve Pikiell finally has his Seawolves dancing come March?

Is This The Year Stony Brook Breaks Through And Goes Dancing? (AP)

  • Movers and Shakers - The 2012-13 season marks the last one that Boston University will call the America East home before heading off to the Patriot League. With an America East postseason ban in place, can Joe Jones keep his players motivated and overcome the transfer of big man Jake O’Brien to win the America East regular season championship?
  • UMBC In A Bind - Two days before Midnight Madness, eighth-year head coach Randy Monroe unexpectedly resigned at UMBC. Monroe led the Retrievers to their only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007, yet only won 13 games in his final three seasons at the helm. Will interim coach Aki Thomas provide a much needed spark for the hapless Retrievers?

Reader’s Take I

 

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Stony Brook (12-4)
  2. Vermont (12-4)
  3. Boston University (11-5)
  4. Hartford (9-7)
  5. Albany (8-8)
  6. Maine (8-8)
  7. New Hampshire (6-10)
  8. UMBC (4-12)
  9. Binghamton (2-14)

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Morning Five: 06.18.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 18th, 2012

  1. They may never be the team they were in the late 80s and early 90s, but UNLV is making a big push at becoming a legitimate national power as they continue to add pieces to what was already a strong team. Over the weekend, they added Savon Goodman, who was one of the top remaining players in the class of 2012. With the exception of a very small group of schools a player of Goodman’s caliber (a Parade All-American) would be almost assured playing time right away, but UNLV is so deep this coming season that Goodman might redshirt if Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith is granted a waiver and allowed to compete for the school without having to sit out a year. Regardless of the outcome, the Rebels are piling up a very impressive roster for the next few years.
  2. Friday’s move by Boston University from the America East to the Patriot League will not generate the national interest that some other moves have generated, but this single move could have a bigger impact on the conference that lost a school than any of those other moves. The departure leave the America East with only eight schools and takes away its biggest school and the one located in the biggest city so even though the Terriers were by no means a basketball power even in a weak conference it is a big blow for the conference that will most likely have to turn to a much lower profile programs to fill the void.
  3. Last year we had one game on a naval carrier that was almost universally lauded as being special. Next season we will have three games (and possibly more) as Florida and Georgetown have agreed to play on November 9 on an as yet unnamed naval ship in Jacksonville, Florida. The game, which will also serve as a homecoming for Patric Young, should be entertaining, but you have probably already heard rumblings from some media members about this trend already starting to jump the shark. However, given the lack of an actual opening event for college basketball anything that generates interest from the casual fan for any part of the season outside of the NCAA Tournament when most people care more about their bracket than the actual game seems like a good thing.
  4. It might not rate on the same scale as losing the biggest school in your conference, but Vermont made some news on Friday too when it agreed to release America East Rookie of the Year Four McGlynn, who appears to be headed to Towson. McGlynn asked for a release from Vermont earlier this month citing family reasons and for a reason that is unclear to us is expected to have to sit out the typical one-year waiting period. The exact family reason has not been released, but apparently it does not meet the other standard reasons (illness, father getting fired, etc). The arrival of McGlynn, who averaged 12 points per game last season, should undoubtedly help a Towson team that went 1-31 last season as there really is not anywhere to go except up from that.
  5. Despite having a fairly unimpressive season last year, Sean Miller was able to get a contract extension likely on the strength of his recent recruiting efforts landing one of the top incoming classes in the country for this coming season. Following up an Elite 8 appearance in 2011 (on the back of Derrick Williams), Arizona was only able to make it to the NIT, but apparently it was good enough to get Miller an additional year on his contract that will keep him at the school through the 2016-17 season. Miller is scheduled to make $2.2 million plus incentives next season with a gradual increase to $2.7 million plus incentives in the last year of the contract. In addition, Miller’s contract also includes a $500,000 buyout that was not present at the original time of his signing as the program was dealing with NCAA violations originating before his time with the school.
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