Notes on Army-Navy

by - Published February 25, 2002 in Columns



The Safest (If Not Silliest) Game of the Week

by Adam Shandler

My friends and I had a pleasant drive up the Palisades Parkway to West Point. We were cruising – no flying – until we got to the first checkpoint. We encountered our first stoppage. “DoD stickered cars to left, non-stickered cars to the right,” read the sign, accompanied by an armed sentry at the gate. We steered into the appropriate corrale and assumed that that would be the extent of USMA’s post-9/11 security upgrade. Nope. In line another ten minutes at a new checkpoint, we watched as burly camouflaged men with M-16s checked cars in both hood and trunk for suspicious materials. Then came our turn, and we were excited. Yes, we were being detained, and we were thrilled about it.

My buds and I entered Christl Arena just as the National Anthem was being sung. The color guard was in full regalia, holding high the banner of our country, as well as the totems of the state of New York and the four major branches of military service. Everyone — cadets, midshipmen, officals, scoreboard operator – stood rock-still. Other than the Star Spangled Banner itself, you couldn’t even hear a whistle from a stuffed-up nostril in the last seat of the last row. It was the first time in a long time that I did not hear some beer-swigging yahoo in the bleachers make a cymbal-crashing sound after “rockets red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”.

The patriotism, the security, the pomp and circumstance – we expected all that from an Army-Navy sporting event. Every year, I try to make a point of watching the annual football game, played at a neutral sight. Each school’s units march out in block formation and athletic alums are paraded out to further complement the rich but mystical rivalry between the two acadamies. However, there were some things that I did not expect from Army-Navy basketball; things that I saw that afternoon that completely contradicted the sanctity of arguably the greatest rivalry in college sports.

Upon walking into the gymnasium, my friends and I were greeted by Army’s mascot, a torked-off looking mule with a long neck and pleather hooves for hands. I got my picture taken with him as a souvenir of my visit. Then, after finding my place along press row, I met the acquaintance of Army Man, West Point’s unofficial superhero, and took a picture with him. I asked Army Man, who is built like The Rock and carries a small black billy club, his secret identity. In true superhero fashion, he did not reveal it. Okay, two mascots. One traditional, one…not-so-much. Made sense. Even at West Point, you’ve gotta keep with the changin’ times.

My mascot safari did not end there.

During a time out, I turned back and looked up into the stands. There was a massive sea of cadet gray, accented by rows and rows of short-cropped heads. Then I did a double take. I saw a pig. I swear I did. A big, fat, pink, smiling pig. Then I panned down another row. This time I saw an eagle. Then a frog. Then Elvis. Taz. Snoopy. A Spartan soldier. Larry Storch’s character on F-Troop. They were dotted throughout the auditorium like characters waiting to be found in a Where’s Waldo puzzle. I was confused…but still entertained.

Turns out, this little muppet convention makes more sense than it sounds. From what I learned from the F-Troop guy, each company at USMA has its own mascot – much in the same way fraternities and sororities use characters to represent themselves at civilian colleges. But at Army, those characters jump right off the t-shirts and into the stands at Christl.

At halftime, all 22-or-so mascots faced off in a special basketball game. It looked more like a rugby match at Sesame Place. I don’t remember what the final score was. I think it was a 2-2 tie. It should have been 4-2, but the gorilla tackled the Roman soldier after receiving a pass from Goofy. No intentional foul was called, and that got D company all in a huff.

The real, and less colorful game, was won by Army, 73-63. Chris Spatola had 15 points, 5 rebounds, to punctuate an admirable career as one of West Point’s more reliable point guards. Chris’s brother, J.P., a sopomore, had 19 points, 6 assists. With the victory, the Cadets were awarded the Alumni Trophy, a brilliant piece of hardware given to the winner of one of the season’s Army-Navy b-ball games. The “trophy game” is designated at the beginning of the season.

Razzing between the schools, another time-honored tradition, was in full effect on gameday. But when the smoke cleared and the mascots removed their heads, the two venerable alma maters were played. After 40 minutes of bitter feuding on the court, that mutual respect between the two schools had been restored. I don’t even know the title of my college alma mater. At West Point and Annapolis, the cadets and mids know the titles, the lyrics, the composers, the time signatures and the dates the tunes were penned. And they do it with pride. There is nothing like an Army-Navy postgame.

Even the frog had tears in his eyes.

     

Roundup

by - Published February 25, 2002 in Columns


Women’s Hoops Roundup

by Tracy Granzyk

Money Talks
One of the biggest challenges in women’s NCAA hoops is how to turn a profit. Of immediate significance is having enough ticket-buying fans to move the first round of post season play to neutral, big-city sites, similar to the men’s March Madness format where bigger cities equal bigger profits. Currently the women play first and second round games on the campuses of the respective teams in smaller towns, while the men play in major markets that are most often sold out long before tip-off. The uncertainty remains as to whether or not the women’s game can financially support the displacement of home court advantage.

With record-breaking attendance occurring across the nation, it seems only appropriate to pose this question and face the growing pains head on. But is it time to test the still forming foundation of interest in the women’s game? At first glance, this is sounding a little like trying to have a WNBA and an ABL launch at the same time. Many a fan waited with the fear that one or both would suffer the same ruin as the long defunct WBL. Get one league going and profitable, have people buying standing room only tickets, then expand. Slightly fiscally-conservative perhaps, but the same logic applies to moving the women’s NCAA first round games. Until we’re filling the hometown stands, how can we expect to fill the stands of strangers?

So let’s keep the foundation gelling for awhile. Let’s see other schools follow in the footsteps of the marketing sages at Tennessee and Connecticut, where profitable women’s basketball programs have emerged. They believe in add-ons like the dizzy bat contest to draw fans and amuse them too. While I’m sure no one believes that halftime highjinxs alone will entice a fan to spend $150 on a post-season ticket, it’s a step in a more imaginative direction. Build the intrigue locally and fill the hometown stadiums. Let people see how athletically gifted these women are, and the tickets will sell themselves, no matter where the games are held.

Top 25 Instant Replays
Johnny Mosley may have the dinner roll in Salt Lake, but in Texas, the Lady Longhorns are perfecting the upset roll. The No. 15 Longhorns beat forth-ranked Tennessee earlier this month, and moved on to defeat No. 3 Oklahoma 68-62, Tuesday night. With seven of the AP Top 25 teams calling the Big 12 home, Texas is easily competing in the toughest conference in women’s college hoops. This makes the Longhorns accustomed to the heat in the kitchen, playing against their talented Big 12 colleagues on a regular basis. As almost every conference game is a “big one,” the Longhorns don’t have a chance to let up.

In another Big 12 conference match-up, 11th-ranked Colorado lost 80-69 to No. 9 Baylor in Texas. Baylor’s victory kept them tied for second place with 12th-ranked Kansas State. My capable but struggling alma mater, Colorado, fell into fourth place and will have to face a dangerous K-State team on Saturday night in Boulder. Since anything can happen in this conference of champions, you’ll have to stay tuned until the final regular season buzzer sounds in order to find out how the tournament seedings will play out.

Connecticut used Providence as its post-season warm-up whipping-boy, trouncing them 106-41. UConn had five players in double figures, with Diana Taurasi leading all-scorers with 20 and Swin Cash chipping in 19. With two games left in the regular season, the Huskies remain undefeated. It looks like they will cruise into postseason play as the number one seed in the Eastern Regional. Can they pull out another National Championship? Having already convincingly outlasted Oklahoma and Tennessee, it looks like the Huskies are the team to beat. While Stanford may have only one loss, it came against the Lady Vols in December, their only true test of the season.

Who’s Got Game This Week
As the final regular season games come to a close, tune in to see one of the final Big 12 head-to-head battles, as Colorado is in a must-win situation against Kansas State at home in Boulder. Over in the ACC, 5th-ranked Duke clashes with conference rival No. 19 North Carolina.

     

Ivy League Notebook

by - Published February 22, 2002 in Conference Notes



Ivy League Notebook

Donald Rumsfeld should have a clandestine meeting with Yale coach James Jones. Not that Jones should be leading a black ops team into Kandahar, but his Elis have somehow, someway, climbed into first place in the Ivy League, vitrually unnoticed. Impossible, you say? Go ‘head, check out the standings. I’ll wait. Hey, I’m with you. I picked Yale to finish middle-of-the-pack at best. But Yale has slayed dragons in this topsy-turvy college hoops season to get to where they are.

All I can say is, “It figures.” Defending champ Princeton scheduled Cal, St. Joe’s, Maryland and Kansas, but the beef-up hasn’t really helped the Tigers. They lost to all those impressive programs, plus GW, Penn and the mighty Yalies. (They also fell to Florida International at the beginning of the season, a team often mistaken for a preseason exhibition team.)

Then there’s Penn. The Quakers might be the only team in the history of this league to win 20 games, not win the conference and not make the NCAA’s. Their victories over local bullies Temple, St. Joes’, Villanova and LaSalle are mere morning crust on the eyes of the Quakers puzzling season.

Brown returned the pre-season player of the year in Earl Hunt, as well as inside he-man Alaviaa Nuualiitia, and were poised to make their most prolific run in Glenn Miller’s 3 -year stint as coach. The Bears are currently sitting in fourth place at 6-4 (Ivy) and probably won’t even get a sniff for the NIT.

Harvard has been the warm and fuzzy story this season. The Crimson, who haven’t made it to the dance since the dawn of nuclear power, scored big with early wins over Penn and Brown this year. But the Boys from Cambridge gave a few back to the softies of the league and are currently wincing at the syringe of a 3-game losing streak.

At 17-7 overall and 9-1 in the Ivy, Yale has capitalized on the rest of the league’s undoing. They have no top 25 opponents on their schedule but no pushovers either. They have beaten comparable competition but have not dipped under the .500 mark since November 24. Yale has been steady – not dynamic – but steady, and this year, that’s enough to win a conference with no post-season tournament.

Yale offers no single player that can make a game his own. There are no players on the roster that grace the Top 5 Ivy scoring list and only 4 times has a Yale player scored above 20 points this season. Junior guard Ime Archibong netted a season-high 23…and that was in a loss to Colgate on December 3. What the Elis lack in scoring, however, they make up in rebounding. They are slaugthering Ivy foes with an average of 37 rebounds a game, 4 more than Harvard and 5 more than Brown; two teams that had gotten bigger and stronger in 2001-02. Yale’s Paul Vitelli leads the league in indvidual boards, at 8 a pop.

But Yale shouldn’t be punching their dance card just yet. Jones’s club faces two big tests on the weekend of February 22. On Friday, it’s a showdown at Princeton. The Tigers are only a game out of first, so the Jadwin will be jumpin’. That game could very well decide the Ivy title. Saturday, it’s down to Philly to face Penn, another team desperate for wins and hopeful that they can somehow slide to the top.

Yale beat both Princeton and Penn the weekend of February 7. Those were top secret wins in the circles of NCAA basketball. You probably never heard about them.

Coach Jones, how would your team like a field trip to Central Asia? It’ll be…educational. Oh, and bring that Vitelli kid.

No Comments | Tags:

Big Sky Notebook

by - Published February 22, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big Sky Notebook

Congratulations
As the Big Sky season winds down, it looks like Montana State is going to walk away with the regular season championship. The Bobcats have just three games remaining with a one game lead. None of their remaining three games, however, are against any of the league contenders. Also, the Bobcats only have to play away from home once – at Montana.

Defense, defense, defense
Montana State’s defense has been the key behind the Bobcats first run at the title championship since 1996-97. With no players averaging more than 11 pointes per game, the Bobcats needed their defense to take over. The Bobcats have allowed just 65 points per game in 11 conference games and hold teams to 45 percent shooting.

Conference Player of the Year
As the season winds to an end, it is time to take a look at the conference’s top performers. The Conference Player of the Year race is a tough one to call. The conference’s leading team, the Montana State Bobcats are without a prolific scorer. Aaron Rich, who leads the team in scoring and is third in rebounding, is probably their best candidate. Other top conference performers are Jermain Boyette of Weber State, D’Marr Suggs and Jeremy Brown of Idaho State, and Joe Dawson of Sacramento State. If I had to make a pick, I’d go with Boyette. The junior guard is dangerous as both a scorer and a passer. He is the sole reason the Wildcats are within striking distance.

Big Sky games of the Week
Northern Arizona at Montana State (Friday Feb. 22) – Northern Arizona is still mathematically alive, but desperately need to win this game to have a shot.

Weber State at Eastern Washington (Saturday, Feb. 23) – This is a battle for second place in the conference. The Wildcats are looking for the season sweep.

Big 12 Notebook

by - Published February 22, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big 12 Notebook

The Big Dozen

With Selection Sunday just under 3 weeks away, it is
clear that the Big 12 will be well represented in the
Field of 65, as 5 members (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas,
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech) figure to be amongst
those invited to the Big Dance. Missouri has
some work to do before they can expect to be included
in all of the fun, which would bring the total to 6.
The following will be a breakdown of those schools and
how they are faring as the conclusion of the regular
season rapidly approaches.

Kansas Jayhawks (24-2, 13-0)

With all due respect to Gary Williams and Maryland,
Roy Williams’ Jayhawks are the team to beat, bar none.
The No. 1 team in the nation also happens to be the
highest scoring team in the nation (92.6 ppg) as well
as the best shooting team in the nation (51.8%).
Not convinced? The Jayhawks are in the middle of an eleven-game winning streak and are coming off of a 102-66
dismantling of Iowa State Monday night, giving them at
least a tie for the conference crown.
“They are a real, real solid team and as well coached
as any team that I have seen in a long time,” said
Iowa State’s head coach Larry Eustachy.

The Low Down: Kansas is peaking at the right time of
year, having won on the road and winning ugly when
they had to. They are also making a run at becoming
the first team in Big 12 history to finsh undefeated
in league play. Barring injury, this Jayhawk team is
the stuff Final Four teams are made of.

Key Remaining Game: March 3rd at Missouri. The last time
these two teams faced off (Jan. 28), the Jayhawks ran the
Tigers right out of Allen Fieldhouse 105-73. Perfection will not come easy.

Oklahoma Sooners (20-4, 9-3)

With their 73-62 win over Kansas State, the Sooners
clinched their 5th straight 20-win season. Winners of
5 of their last 6, Oklahoma has been solid all year as
evidenced by their RPI ranking (6) and key
non-conference wins over Maryland and Connecticut.
Led by junior guard Hollis Price (16.5 ppg, 48% FG)
and senior forward Aaron McGhee (15.2 ppg, 7.2 rebs),
the Sooners have a reliable inside-outside tandem.

The Low Down: Despite their solid play, Oklahoma has
gotten into the habit of letting teams get back into
games instead of putting them away. Case in point:
leading 31-24 at the half against Oklahoma State
(without leading scorer Maurice Baker) last Wednesday,
OU failed to seal the deal and lost 79-72 in OT.

“Most of the stuff that’s not going right for us can be
corrected,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson.

Key Remaining Game: Saturday 2/23 vs. Texas. This
game figures to be a slugfest by virtue of their last
meeting, a 85-84 OT thriller won by OU in Austin.

Texas Longhorns (17-8, 8-4)

Speaking of the Longhorns, UT is playing inspired
basketball as of late. Although they are 4-3 over
their last 7 games, they could easily be 7-0 when you
consider that those 3 losses came by a combined 9
points, including 2 heartbreaking overtime losses
against Oklahoma (85-84 on Feb. 2) and Kansas (110-103
Feb. 11) at home.

After star forward Chris Owens went down with a season
ending knee injury on Dec. 29, UT’s salvation has been
it’s backcourt. Super frosh T.J. Ford has stepped into
the leading role and leads the nation in assists (8.8
apg). Ford is coming off one of his best games of the
season when he had 18 points, 12 assists and a
career-high 5 steals in Sunday’s 72-70 win in
Missouri.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the
country,” said head coach Rick Barnes. The emergence
of sophomore guard Brandon Mouton (14.1 ppg, 40 percent 3-pt
FG) has complimented Ford nicely and has helped assume
some of the scoring during Owens’ absence.

The Low Down: As well as Texas has played lately, it
doesn’t get easier for the Longhorns. With an RPI
rating of 23, they look like a lock for the tournament
especially if they can get to 20 wins.

Key Remainng Game(s): vs. Oklahoma State, at
Oklahoma, vs. Texas Tech. Yikes!

Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-6, 7-5)

The trials and tribulations that the OSU basketball
program has gone through the last 12 months has been
well documented. So when the Cowboys raced out to that
13-0 start, it was hard not to root for Eddie Sutton’s
squad.

However, over their last 13 games OSU is just 7-6 in
and have struggled with injuries and inconsistent
play. Things began to go awry when star guard Maurice
Baker tweaked his groin in practice in late December.
And although he would play through that injury, he was
hardly himself.

Things began to look bleak on Feb. 6 vs. Texas Tech
when Baker suffered another injury, this time it was
his right ankle, with about 7 minutes remaining in the
second half and the Cowboys trailing 55-43.
But instead of laying down and playing dead, OSU
circled the wagons and pulled out the gutty 64-62
victory.

“It looked like we were really in trouble,”
said Sutton. “But the press got us back in the game
and we were able to hit some shots.”

Since then the Cowboys have won 3 of their last 4,
without Baker, including another huge 79-72 win in
overtime over intrastate rival Oklahoma last
Wednesday.

The Lowdown: With 20 wins and a RPI rating of 18, not
to mention their valiant play as of late, the Cowboys
are a cinch for the NCAA Tournamemt.

Key Game Remaining: at Missouri February 25th.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (18-6, 7-5)

Eureka! Bobby Knight has struck oil in Lubbock this
year as he has helped resurrect Texas Tech. He has doubled
their win total from last season, and has his team on
the verge of making their first NCAA tournament
appearance since 1996.

After winning 13 out of their first 14 games to start
the season, the Red Raiders have stumbled as of late
going 5-5 over their last 10 contests.
However, Tech has won their last 2 games with the Big
12 Player of the Week, sophomore guard Andre Emmett,
leading the way. Emmett (19.5 ppg, 6.9 rebs)
posted back to back 30-point efforts, including a
career-high 33 points at Colorado last Saturday.
The key to the Red Raiders’ season has been their
ability to pick up Knight’s vaughnted motion offense,
Tech is 7-0 this year when they score 90 points or
higher.

In addition to Emmett, senior center Andy Ellis and
junior forward Kasib Powell have also thrived in
Knight’s system. Ellis is second on the team in
scoring (16.7 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding
(7.1), whereas Powell is third in scoring (15.1 ppg),
third in rebounding (6.4 rpg) and the team leader in
assists (3.9 apg).

The Lowdown: The Red Raiders seem to be gaining steam
as they prepare to close out the season. They should finish with 20
wins and with an RPI
rating of 14, and should be a lock for the Field of 65. With
Emmett, Ellis and Powell, look for the Red Raiders to
make some noise come March.

Key Remaining Game: February 26th at Texas.

Missouri Tigers (18-8, 7-5)

Missouri is known as the Show Me State. Now it is up
to Mizzou’s men’s basketball team to live up to that
credo. After a sparkling 9-0 start, which included
wins against Alabama and on the road at Iowa, the
Tigers seemed well on their way to living up to the
preseason hype.

That was then, this is now. Inconsistency and
selfishness has plagued Mizzou resulting in their 9-8
record over their last 17 games including a critical
81-80 loss at Baylor on Feb. 9 and a heart breaking
72-70 home loss to Texas on Feb. 13. In that game., the team shot 38% from the
field and committed a season-high 22 turnovers against
the Longhorns, and was only their second home loss
of the season.

The Lowdown: The firepower is there with Rush, Gilbert
and Paulding for Mizzou to finish strong. However,
this brutal stretch run will make or break Missouri’s
tournament aspirations. If they can somehow get to 20
wins, they should be in good shape to be the 6th team
in the Big 12 dancing into March.

Key Remaining Game(s): Feb. 25 vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State and
March 3rd vs. No. 1 Kansas. Yikes!

Furious Finish

With 3 teams (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and
Missouri) tied for 4th and a game behind 3rd place
Texas (remember, the top 3 teams at the end of the
season receive a first-round bye in the conference
tournament), this has the makings of a terrific
prelude to the Madness.

Mid-American Notebook

by - Published February 18, 2002 in Conference Notes



Mid-American Notebook

With the remainder of the MAC season rendered more or less anticlimatic thanks to Kent’s complete and utter domination, our thoughts turn to the conference tournament, which should be much more exciting.

Here then are five things to watch for during the remainder of the season:

1. Can Kent roll to a 17-1 conference record?

This question is worded a little poorly. Obviously the Flashes CAN win their remaining four league games and post a remarkable 17-1 mark in the league. It’s incredibly unlikely however that they will. The rest of the league has too much talent to continue to roll over to the Flashes.

Make no mistake – this has been one of the more remarkable MAC seasons of the past 15 years or so. It’s unheard of for a team to run roughshod over the rest of the conference like Kent has. Even Ball State in its Rick Majerus glory days or Gary Trent’s Ohio teams of the mid-1990s never dominated as much as Kent is this season.

What’s probably more remarkable is the lack of respect the Flashes are getting from most of the national media. They haven’t even gotten a whiff of the Top 25 in either poll despite the fact they’ve got a fairly impressive RPI (40th as of Feb. 17) and could be seeded in the 5-to-7 range of the NCAA Tournament if they win the MAC tournament and take an 18-game winning streak into the Big Dance.

To be fair, Kent’s profile is hurt by a lack of impressive wins (St. Bonaventure and UC-Irvine are nice, but…) and a couple of positively head scratching losses to Youngstown State (308 RPI!) and Buffalo (Kent’s only conference loss and by one point).

The mind positively reels at what the Flashes ranking and RPI would look like if they had taken care of business against Youngstown State and Buffalo and managed to beat say….Hofstra?

Still, the last time Kent won by less than 12 points? Jan. 26 at Bowling Green (a three-point win). Not too shabby.

2. How will the MAC’s postseason situation shake out?

Unless Kent completely implodes in its last four games, count Kent in for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if it stumbles during the conference tournament. Ball State is an enigma, but more on that later (see number 4).

Bowling Green probably needs to win the conference tournament, but under the right circumstances could get an at-large bid IF it wins its remaining five conference games and gets to the league title game and plays well on national TV.

Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the third and final first-round bye for the conference tournament either. Both division winners (almost certainly Kent and Ball State) get one, as well as the third-best team in the league. Bowling Green is leading the race for third narrowly with a 9-4 mark, but Ohio is close with a 10-5 record.

Not having to play that extra game on March 5 could make a big difference since no one wants to play four must-win games in five days.

3. Which, if any, of the conference’s team are capable of pulling some upsets in the league tournament?

Miami seems to practically relish the role of coming into the conference tournament unheralded and either winning the whole thing or doing some damage along the way.

Last season, Miami was seeded eighth and knocked off top-seeded Central Michigan in the quarterfinals and made it to the championship game. The RedHawks will be seeded anywhere from fourth-to-seventh this year and they have the potential to win the whole enchilada. They also have the potential to score only 25 points and stink up the Gund Arena in the title game. It’s been that kind of year in Oxford.

Central Michigan has had a disappointing season, but is capable of beating anyone in the league, especially if David Webber gets hot. He could take the team on his back for five days.

Marshall has two NBA prospects in Tamar Slay and JR VanHoose. You’d be silly to overlook a MAC team with such a solid one-two punch in a single-elimination tournament.

4. The Ball State factor.

Everyone is quick to write off the Cardinals’ at-large hopes after their “struggles” in the conference. If you want to call a 10-4 mark and an almost certain Western Division title as struggling.

But look a little closer at the losses and see for yourself if Ball State is truly on the outside looking in.

Eight losses. Duke, Indiana, Oklahoma State, Butler and Kent. There’s five almost certain NCAA Tournament teams right there. The other three conference losses are on the road, none to extreme RPI laggards. If the selection committee does its homework (and it usually does), it will see that Ball State’s record isn’t that bad. There’s not too many teams that have as many “good losses” as the Cardinals.

So the real question is – what does Ball State need to do to get in to the Big Dance?

Winning out in the regular season for a 14-4 conference mark ought to do it if the Cardinals don’t lose their quarterfinal game in the MAC Tournament. If they do, all bets are off. What they can’t afford is that magical 10th loss. Giving a mid-major an at-large bid with 10 losses is a dicey proposition at best.

5. What are the key games leading into the conference tournament?

March 2 – Kent at Miami.
March 2 – Ball State at Central Michigan.
March 2 – Bowling Green at Ohio.

Are you getting the point? The last day of the conference regular season is going to be HUGE for the three current conference leaders, who all face stern road tests – Kent against a schizophrenic, but talented Miami team; Ball State at one of the toughest courts in the conference, Central’s Rose Arena; and Bowling Green, facing a resurgent Bobcat squad which will be gunning for the league’s No. 3 seed and a first-round bye.

All three of those games will have national impact as well, likely helping to determine NCAA and NIT bids.

ACC Notebook

by - Published February 18, 2002 in Conference Notes



ACC in Action

With Selection Sunday just three weeks away, it is quite evident that the Atlantic Coast Conference will send five teams to the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Here is a breakdown of the five teams that, unless something extraordinary happens, will be among the field of 65 in March.

Maryland (21-3, 11-1 in ACC, 2 RPI)
After crushing Duke 87-73 on Sunday, Maryland controls its own ACC destiny. If the Terps win the rest of their conference games, they will win the league and be the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament (played March 7-10 in Charlotte). Gary Williams’ team has played great in the last season of the historic Cole Field House, winning all 13 games at home. In addition to stellar play by seniors Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter, junior guard Steve Blake has done a great job captaining the offense. The Oak Hill graduate has led the team in assists in 22 games this year and is second in the conference with 7.7 apg. If Maryland can keep up its dominating play, then the team from College Park should receive a No. 1 seed in either the South or the East region of the NCAA Tournament.

Duke (23-2, 11-2 in ACC, 3 RPI)
This team is an absolute scoring machine. Three juniors – Jason Williams (1st with 21.3 ppg), Carlos Boozer (3rd with 18.3 ppg) and Mike Dunleavy (5th with 17.8) – rank in the top 5 in scoring in the ACC. Also, the Blue Devils score the most points per conference game (91) and allow the least points per league contest (72). The talent on this team is scary, and after spending much of the season as the top-ranked team in the country, it is almost a lock that Coach K’s team will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South or East region.

Wake Forest (18-8, 8-4 in ACC, 21 RPI)
This team is the unheralded squad of this group. Duke and Maryland are elite national teams, NC State and its fabulous freshmen have been the talk of the league, and Virginia has been ranked in the top 10 for most of the year. So where are the Demon Deacons in all of this ACC chatter? They should be mentioned right after, if not in the same breath, as the Blue Devils and the Terrapins. That is how deep and balanced this team is.

Five different players have led Skip Prosser’s team in scoring, with Josh Howard and Darius Songaila leading the team in eight games apiece. Six different players have led the Deacons in rebounding, with Songaila collecting the most boards in 15 games. Seven different players have led Wake Forest in assists, with Broderick Hicks dishing most often in 11 games. Deep teams like this one are very dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. Also, the veteran players in Winston-Salem are getting more and more comfortable with their new coach’s offensive and defensive systems. If the Demon Deacons get worse than a No. 5 seed, then the committee is making a big mistake.

NC State (19-7, 8-5 in ACC, 27 RPI)
In the last notebook, we focused on the Wolfpack seniors. On the other end of the spectrum, the NC State freshmen – particularly Julius Hodge, Josh Powell and Ilian Evtimov – have really turned around a once-struggling ACC bottom feeder. “We have gotten invaluable contributions from our entire freshmen class,” said NC State coach Herb Sendek. “We knew we would have to rely on them heavily before the season began and they were thrust into important roles and have responded very well.”

The team from Raleigh has started more freshmen than any other school in the conference, with rookies starting 58 games. Freshmen have also accounted for more than 41 percent of the team’s total minutes played. The youth, along with the fact that none of the players on the roster has ever played in the Tournament, may hurt the team once the calendar turns to March. NC State’s consistent play all year long should earn the team a No. 4 or 5 seed in the Big Dance.

Virginia (16-7, 6-6 in ACC, 33 RPI)
Even though the Cavaliers have spent all season in the upper echelon of both top 25 polls, their recent play is jeopardizing their once-guaranteed NCAA Tournament slot. Pete Gillen’s squad has only defeated two ranked teams this year (No. 16 Georgetown and No. 14 Wake Forest) and quite frankly has not warranted being ranked anywhere close to the top 10 at any point during the 2001-2002 season. The team has four remaining conference games – including contests against Duke and at Maryland – and it must improve on its .500 ACC record in order to avoid sweating when the brackets are released on March 10. If Virginia is able to hold on and make the field of 65, it probably will not be seeded better than 6th in a region.

ACC Quote of the Year
“I’m thinking about going to buy a dog so when I go home I can kick it.”

- UNC coach Matt Doherty on how he is handling his team’s consistent losing. This was said during the weekly ACC teleconference on 2/5/02. After getting criticized for his tongue-in-cheek comment, Doherty apologized later in the week.

No Comments | Tags:

Horizon Notebook

by - Published February 18, 2002 in Conference Notes



Horizon League Notebook

Five things to watch before the Horizon League tournament:

1. Can Butler win the rest of its remaining conference games?

Sadly enough, that’s probably what it would take for the Bulldogs to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they stumble in the conference tournament. The conventional wisdom is Butler’s likely RPI of 60-to-70 would be too low if they drop two more games.

Here’s a nightmare scenario for Horizon (and Butler) fans – Butler drops one of its two remaining conference games, gets to the tournament final and loses to a pretty good Wisconsin-Milwaukee or Detroit Mercy team. With a 27-5 record, Butler would quite likely be on the outside looking in to get into the Big Dance.

All this can be rendered more-or-less moot if Butler wins its remaining two conference games. A 26-4 or 27-4 record with some pretty big non-conference wins would be too hard to overlook.

2. Which Detroit Mercy team will show up to the tournament?

The Titans saw their national-best 38-game winning streak fall to the wayside in a loss to lowly Wisconsin-Green Bay.

There’s no telling what the Titans will do in a given game. They dropped five in a row in the non-conference season including some games to some really poor teams and have been up and down throughout the conference season as well. But they’ve defeated every team in the conference except Wisconsin-Milwaukee, whom they’re going to get another shot at in a couple weeks.

Injuries have struck Detroit this season, but the team the Titans put out in the conference tournament should be more or less healthy. A key goal in the remaining conference games will be to ensure the third seed in the tournament, so they can avoid the likely top seed – Butler – until the championship. If nothing else, the additional national television exposure in a loss to the Bulldogs would help recruiting more talent to a young, promising team.

3. Is Wisconsin-Milwaukee for real?

I think they are, but the jury’s still out in some people’s minds. Anyone who watches the Horizon knows the Panthers play some good ball, but the real question is – Will they be able to handle the pressure of three games in five nights, all of them do-or-die. Butler and Detroit have players who have handled that pressure successfully. The Panthers do not.

Like Detroit, seeding will be very important for UWM. The Panthers have three challenging road contests left – Cleveland State, Detroit and archrival Wisconsin-Green Bay. They have an outside shot for the No. 1 seed, but would have to run the aforementioned gauntlet unscathed and hope Butler drops a game.

A No. 2 seed would not be the end of the world, allowing the Panthers to avoid Butler until a potential championship game. A semifinal between likely No. 2 UWM and likely No. 3 Detroit would be excellent viewing.

4. Will any of the other teams in the conference get hot and pull off some shockers?

We haven’t mentioned Wright State, Illinois Chicago or Cleveland State yet, but any of those squads would be capable of pulling off a couple of upsets and getting into the championship game. They need to start setting themselves up now though.

UIC (at Wright State, at Butler) probably has the toughest remaining schedule, but the most talent of the three teams I mentioned. Wright State has two home games against UWM and Wisconsin-Green Bay and could definitely win both those games. Cleveland State is interesting because it won’t have to leave home again this season unless they make the Big Dance.

The remaining two conference games are home and the conference tournament will be contested on the Vikings’ home floor, a considerable advantage. Don’t be shocked if a No. 6 or No. 7 seed ends up in the conference title game against Butler.

5. Who will win conference MVP honors?

It’s still a wide-open race with preseason pick Thomas Jackson of Butler likely the favorite. Jackson hasn’t been as impressive during the conference season as he was earlier however.

David Bailey of Loyola Chicago is scoring 21.5 points per game, but may be hurt by the Ramblers’ struggles after a 5-1 start to the league season. Clay Tucker of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is also in the mix, scoring 17.4 points per game with 6.5 rebounds. He’s also ranked eighth in assists and second in steals (behind Jackson). Tucker could get the nod if the Panthers end up taking the regular-season title.

All three players could swing the race their way with big performances in their final games.

RPI? R.I.P.

by - Published February 17, 2002 in Columns


RPI? More like R.I.P.

by Bill Thayer

The RPI. Three letters that can make any college basketball fan cringe. Three letters we are going to hear over and over again as March approaches. Three letters that can make or break a team’s chances of dancing. Three letters that should no longer be part of basketball lingo.

College basketball fans love to joke about college football’s system of deciding a national champion. While college football doesn’t have a tournament set up, they do have their system decided on the field (somewhat) with a team’s fate resting in the hands of computers. When looked at a little more objectively, college basketball isn’t that different. Any team that makes the field of 65 has the opportunity to make a run at the national championship, no matter how much of a longshot that team is. When the RPI is factored in, a team may be eliminated from tournament contention.

Now I’ve seen the report that is sent out representing the RPI. There are lots of numbers, but what it boils down to are record, schedule strength and opponents strength of schedule (which are, coincidentally or not, the same three factors the BCS uses). Numbers don’t tell the whole story though.

I’ld like to look at three teams.

TEAM A: 8-2 in their last ten games. Wins over: Pepperdine, Texas. Losses: Arizona State, Wyoming, UNLV

TEAM B: 10-0 in their last ten games. Wins over: Indiana, Gonzaga, Dayton, Cincinnati. Losses: Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Charlotte

TEAM C: 8-2 in their last ten games. Wins over: Ball State, Indiana. Losses: Wright St, Detroit, UW-Milwaukee.

Now, think about the order you think those three teams should be in.

Team A is Utah.
Team B is Marquette.
Team C is Butler.

Utah’s RPI is 16.
Marquette’s RPI is 27.
Butler’s RPI is 59.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I notice is that Marquette’s resume is much more impressive than Utah’s. The Golden Eagles should be considered a lock for the Tournament, but until their RPI moves into the top 25, I don’t think they can rest easy. As for Utah and Butler, it doesn’t seem like there is a huge difference between the two teams. The Mountain West’s wins are considered better than those in the Horizon, so Utah’s conference improves.

Therein lies the problem with the RPI. It looks at every game equally. Of Butler’s three losses, one was in double OT (to Wright State), one was a road game in a very hostile environment (to Detroit) and the other was on a miracle shot at the buzzer (to UWM). The easy excuse would be to say that they should win those games, but it’s not that easy. If Selection Sunday was this weekend, I think Butler would get shafted if they didn’t win the Horizon.

Gonzaga is another team that is shorted by the RPI. It’s well known that the Zags are a very good team. They are 21-3, including wins in 16 of their last 17 games but as they continue to win games, their RPI falls. The computer looks at WCC games as being against inferior opponents, so no matter what happens, Mark Few’s bunch takes a hit. For WCC teams, a game against Gonzaga is one of the biggest of the season. The Bulldogs will face their opponents on an emotional high night after night. It doesn’t matter if you’re Duke, Kansas or Gonzaga, that gets draining.

So when Selection Sunday rolls around and you see Southern Illinois, UC Irvine or Butler getting the shaft, just take a look at the four digit number that killed them, the (thumbs toward shoulders) R-P-I.

Assorted Musings

• What a day of basketball Saturday! I don’t know which was the biggest thriller: Notre Dame’s 4 OT win over Georgetown, Cal’s 2 OT upset of Oregon, St. John’s holding off UConn in OT or Baylor defending their homecourt against Missouri. The big winners were the fans who were able to see all four games.

• Speaking of Notre Dame, I love watching Chris Thomas play. He genuinely enjoys the sport, and it shows. It’s easy to root for a player like Thomas, who gives it his all every minute (even if there are 60 of them).

• Gerald Fitch is, pound-for-pound, the best rebounder in the nation.

• Maryland forward Chris Wilcox: “When you dunk, they say it is only two points, but it turns into six points because it gets everybody hyped. I think that helps us out a lot, to have some action and have some fun.” Take note, Dan Hauptman!

• Duke/Maryland II? Yeah, that’ll be fun. But don’t miss Gonzaga/Pepperdine II Friday night.
• Wait, what’s that? Duke/Maryland won’t be seen in the midwest? Hmmm . . .don’t think I can comment on that . . .I think I’m supposed to say something about those lucky folks getting a (ha ha) big-time (ha ha ha) Big Ten (HA HA HA) rivalry (BWAH HA HA HA)

• Forget MedalGate, give me GradeGate! Creighton’s Michael Lindeman was only placed on the MVC’s All-Academic Second-Team despite his 3.98 GPA. The All-Academic teams are selected by a vote of the league’s sports information directors.

• Look out Patriot League, here comes the Colgate Red Raiders. At 6-5, the Red Raiders are tied for third, two games behind league leader American. Defending conference champion Holy Cross sits in second. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Colgate is going to the dance.

     

Big East Notebook

by - Published February 16, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big East Notebook

The Whole F’n Game!
If you haven’t heard about the thrilling Notre Dame-Georgetown game from last Saturday, I’ld like to know what it’s like living under a rock. Notre Dame beat the the Hoyas in DC, despite a 35 point, 20 rebound performance from big man Mike Sweetney (oh, and to go along with that, Sweetney only pitched in six assists and six rebounds). The big story, however was Notre Dame freshman Chris Thomas. Thomas, one of the best freshmen in the nation, had 22 points and 12 assists and played in ALL 60 MINUTES! Three other Irish contributed double-doubles in what has to be considered one of the best games of the year as the Irish and Hoyas combined for a Big East record 227 points.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Boston College Eagles have been sliding, and might not have been in the NCAA Tournament if the selections were made last week. After losing five of seven, Sunday they hosted Miami in what amounted to a must win game. Troy Bell, who carried the Eagles to a Big East title last year, stepped up against the Hurricanes, scoring 24 points and dishing out six assists. Then, on Wednesday, Bell scored 39 points to lead the Eagles to a win against Providence. Bell connected on seven-of-ten from behind the three point arc in the win. BC now hits a very difficult stretch, beginning Saturday as the Eagles will face Connecticut twice in a nine day span, with games against St. John’s and Villanova sandwiched in between.

Orange Crushed
Syracuse looked like a lock for the Tournament back in mid-January. The Orangemen were 16-2 coming off a win against Notre Dame but then things went south (and I’m not only talking about travelling from Syracuse to Knoxville) as Syracuse lost to Tennessee 66-62. Since then, Syracuse has lost five of their last seven games and are finding themselves squarely on the bubble. Syracuse may have hit rock bottom in their home loss on Sunday to Pittsburgh. The Orangemen led by as much as 14 in the second half but could not hold on to the lead. Three of their last five games are on the road, but all are winnable (Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Villanova). With home games remaining against Georgetown and BC, Syracuse may need to take all three road game or find themselves with one more home game – in the NIT.

Tech-nically not a Good Road Team
Congratulations to Virginia Tech, who won their first road game as a member of the Big East on Sunday. Sure, they just beat West Virginia, but a win’s a win. The Hokies have played well at home, defeating Boston College in Blacksburg, and giving scares to Villanova, St. John’s and Connecticut. The Hokies have the chance to play the role of spoiler as they still host Rutgers before the season gets out.

College Basketball Tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, who will be joined by former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on every Sunday from Selection Sunday to the Final Four. You can listen to the show here.

Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

2013 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: St. Andrew's
Sept 10: Tilton
Sept. 11: South Kent School and Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 12: Putnam Science Academy
Sept. 16: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 17: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 23: New Hampton School
Sept. 24: Brimmer and May
Sept. 25: Proctor Academy
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
Oct. 13: Tabor Academy
Oct. 15: Brooks School

Hoopville Archives

City Hoops Recruiting

Make sure you check out City Hoops Recruiting for more coverage of recruiting in the Boston area and all over Massachusetts, including our travel team profiles for the 2014 spring and summer.

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is already moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter