Big South Notebook

by - Published December 13, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big South Notebook

by Doug McKinney


In quest for recognition, the Big South finds itself above the .500 mark

Slowly but surely, the Big South Conference is trying to make its way up to
getting the national respect they deserve. So far 22-21 in overall play, the
Big South has had some interesting things happen to them on their conquest of
tuning up before conference play. The surprise success of Liberty University,
who is currently 4-2 on the year, has made Big South fans aware that anyone
can win the Big South this year. Another remarkable scenario is the almost
near upsets UNC Asheville and High Point had against three ranked teams.
Winthrop has a .500 record, while Charleston Southern places first in the Big
South. Elon has three wins as well as Coastal Carolina. Radford University,
a very young and small team, is still looking for answers to replace the four
starters they lost last year. As these teams are meshing together trying to
find their identity in the ensuing weeks to conference play, given any
indication on how the season started off, the Big South Conference might turn
a few heads and maybe finally gain some attention while doing so.

Winthrop (4-4)

The Eagles, Hoopville’s preseason No. 1 BSC team, have been plagued by injuries
but still have managed to keep a .500 record. While the Eagles were beaten by
a good Utah team by 30, WU has pulled out wins over Gardner-Webb and at
Montana State. Tyrone Walker has shown he can step in for last year’s BSC
player of the year Greg Lewis, as he has brought down 8.9 boards a game and is
scoring 16.4 points a game. Backing up Walker’s effort is Pierre Wooten who
has 7.3 points a game, a team leading 21 assists, but also leads the team in
turnovers at 24. Up next for the Eagles is a date with ACC foe Clemson on Dec
19. Last year Winthrop stunned Tiger fans with a 66-61 victory and the man
who led the way was none other than Walker who netted 25. If the Eagles could
somehow upset Clemson again, momentum will be on their side, which will be
important for the defending champs when they open up their Big South season at
Radford on Jan 2.

UNC Asheville (2-3)

UNCA has by far the hardest schedule out of all the teams in the Big South.
The Bulldogs have lost three games this year, with two of the losses coming to
ranked teams. UNCA played tough with Michigan State losing by 14, before
coming up just short of a near upset with a 87-81 loss to Minnesota back in
the first week of the season. From then on, the Bulldogs dominated Montreat
winning 102-73, followed by an impressive 77-72 win over Western Carolina.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is senior BSC preseason player of the year,
Andre Smith, who averages 19.6 points per game and has a .533 three point
shooting percentage. Ben McGonagil has also chipped in for the Bulldog
attack, scoring 13.6 points and grabbing 6.8 rebounds a game. Bryan
McCullough has averaged 11.2 points a game. The Bulldogs will have one more
tune up (Sat against Campbell) before heading into the hardest stretch of
their non-conference schedule and before opening up BSC play. UNCA will
travel to Connecticut next Saturday to face a tough Huskie team, play at Holy
Cross the next day, not to mention they have to head down to Oklahoma on Dec
30, before having a date at Kansas on Jan 2. The Big South season starts on
Jan 5, when Liberty comes into town.

Charleston Southern (4-1)

Despite an early season loss to College of Charleston, the Bucs are on top of
the Big South Conference with a 4-1 record. Wins come against Anderson,
Stetson, The Citadel, and most recently Vorhees College. CSU travels to face
a struggling Michigan on Sat, then making stops at Tennessee (Dec 17) and
Florida (Dec 23), before hosting Lefty Driesell’s Georgia State Panthers on
Dec 28. CSU’s Kevin Warzynski leads the team in points (13.2) and rebounds
(8.0) a game. The Bucs have two players tied at averaging 11.4 points a game
in Gene Granger and Charles White. The way the Bucs have been playing, an
upset or two could be in the making in the upcoming weeks.

High Point (2-3)

If the Panthers played the second half the same way they did in the first
against powerhouse Kentucky, one of the biggest upsets in school history
could’ve been possible. HPU was only down 6 to nationally ranked UK at
halftime, but instead, the Panthers allowed a 24-5second half Wildcats run to
fall 84-64. Almost a week before the loss at UK, the Panthers snapped their
two game win streak with a 91-65 loss to Clemson, the beginning of a three
game losing streak. The most recent loss came against the Citadel last
Friday. Despite the losing streak, the biggest story for the Panthers is the
unexpected exceptional play of sophomore transfer Danny Gathings. Gathings, a
transfer from Virginia Tech, averages 16 points a game to go along with 6.2
rebounds a game. Dustin Van Weerdhuizen averages 14.2 points a game, while
BSC 2001 freshmen of the year Joe Knight scores 11.3 points a game. HPU will
travel to Vanderbilt (Dec 15), Campbell (Dec 17), and to Washington State (Dec
21) in the upcoming week.

Coastal Carolina (3-3)

The Chants, led by Torrey Butler’s 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds a game, have
won three games and have improved on their 1-5 start from last year. The
problem is the three losses CCU has suffered this year, have all been
blowouts. With losses to Florida (88-45), Campbell (65-49), and Georgetown
(87-60), the Chants will look to improve on their 3-3 record with home games
against Newberry (Dec 18) and a very tough East Carolina (Dec 23) team and a
game at East Tennessee State (Dec 20). Coach Pete Strickland, the Hoopville
BSC 2002 coach on the hot seat, must find some way to help out this Chants
team, because the talent on his team is much better then the record they are
showing.

Elon (3-1)

The Phoenix have a 3-1 record, but two of the wins come over a Division 3
school (St. Mary’s, MD) and an NAIA school (Bluefield, VA). Elon will have to
travel to UNC Greensboro (Dec 15), Northwestern (Dec 18), Marquette (Dec 21),
and American (Dec 28) in the next two weeks before opening their Big South
season. The leader for the Phoenix has been Gary Marsh who averages 12.5
points a game. Scottie Rice has also had an impressive season, averaging 11.2
points a game and is shooting .500 behind the arc.

Liberty (4-2)

Liberty University has been one of the most surprising stories in the Big
South thus far. Liberty has knocked off Western Carolina and New Hampshire,
split games with VMI, and edged William & Mary. Their other came in overtime
to American. The go to guy for the Flames has been Vincent Okotie, who scores
16 points a game. Also helping out is Gabe Martin, behind his 12 points and
5.2 rebounds a game. The Flames will host McNeese State (Dec 14) and Florida
Atlantic (Dec 20) before traveling to Iowa (Dec 22), Clemson (Dec 28), and
Virginia (Dec 30). At this point of the year last season, Liberty was 1-5.

Radford (2-4)

Coach Byron Samuels doesn’t believe in the term rebuilding, just building on
to what his program already has. So far this season, it doesn’t seem like
much. The Highlanders have gotten off to a 2-4 start and are currently in a
two game losing streak with away games against Marshall (Dec 14), Akron (Dec
21), and Ohio State (Dec 23) coming up. RU has been looking for ways to score
behind Raymond “Peanut” Arrington’s 13 points a game and freshmen Whit Holcomb-
Faye’s 12.8. RU has lost two games this year by more then 40 points and are
getting outscored eighteen points as well as out rebounded by eleven. In the
opening weeks RU looked small and young and must find a way to win some games
if they want to be a competitor in the Big South this year.

Birmingham-Southern sure to be a competitor

The Panthers are just a year away from competing in the Big South but are sure
showing that they belong. Derrick Williams scored 22 points, 12 of them
coming from behind the arc, to lead BSC over Louisiana-Lafayette, 92-86 this
past Sunday. The win marks one of the schools biggest in history. The
Panthers are 4-0 at Bill Battle Coliseum this year, and are 4-2 overall. This
Sunday they will travel to Tallahassee where they’ll face Florida State out of
the ACC.

Early Signings
Radford - Anthony Teague, Reggie McIntyre
Winthrop – Torrell Martin
Charleston Southern - Carter Stiglbauer, Issac Jones, VJ Fails
Liberty – Larry Blair, David Dees
High Point – Jeff Allen, Matt Anderson, Josh Fowler
Elon – Matt Nowlin, Montell Watson, Bryce Husak

New Conference Format

The Big South Conference announced over the summer that Liberty University and
the city of Lynchburg, Va. will be the host for the 2003 Big South Men’s and
Women’s Basketball Championship. The League also announced a change for both
tournaments, with all of the first round action being held at the home sites
of the higher seeds. The semifinals and finals rounds will be held in the
Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University. For the past two seasons,
Radford University and the Roanoke Civic Center have been the hosts for the
tournament.

     

Big East Notebook

by - Published December 13, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big East Notebook

by Kevin Reilly

Lookin’ Good

So far so good as pertains the Big East conference this season. This highly competitive league has once again emerged as one of the nation’s very best. The early returns have been tremendous. Now, I know it is only December but this conference has at least ten teams capable of reaching the postseason.

The secret in South Bend is out of the bag. Mike Brey’s bunch has earned themselves a top twenty ranking by defeating three top-notch squads (Marquette, Maryland and Texas). No cupcakes there, to quote Dick Vitale. The Irish have streaked to an 8-1 mark and are now considered a legit contender.

At last check, all 14 league members have a . 500 or better record. Two of the more significant but less publicized victories have been by two teams not expected to contend for league honors this year. Namely, Boston College defeating Iowa State on the road and West Virginia’s shocking two-point triumph versus nationally ranked Florida.

Miller Time

This guy’s name keeps coming up in my stories and no it’s not my Jersey bias. Danny Miller continues to sparkle for Notre Dame. This week’s Big East Player of the Week had a tremendous two game stretch against Maryland and Texas. He averaged 19ppg and shot 54.5% from three point land. What makes that story sweeter for Miller is that he did it in his old stomping grounds-the Washington, DC area. My Terrapin friends do not think highly of Miller but his success this season stands for itself.

Where’s Willie?

Two seasons ago Willie Shaw arrived on the St.John’s campus and was a smashing success. The 6-6 swingman finished second on the ballclub in scoring as a frosh at 13.8ppg. He scored 25 points versus UConn and Syracuse, quite good numbers for any player, much less a rookie.

Last year his minutes dropped, as well as his average. He was injured and also suspended late in the season. I guess you could call this the “sophomore jinx.”

This year he was not in the lineup the first three years due again to some sort of NCAA suspension. I will be on top of this as the Red Storm’s season unfolds. Is he in the doghouse? Has he been recruited-over? Just interesting how a guy who was such an impressive frosh can fade to the background?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Do you want to know why Pitt is ranked in the Top 5 so far? How about some of these stats. The Panthers are shooting 50.6% from the field while holding their opponents to a mark of only 36.4%

How about Notre Dame shooting threes as a team at 41% with their top gunner Chris Thomas making half of his attempts from behind the arc.

You want some individual numbers? Try UConn’s Emeka Okafor on for size, with his 13.5 boards per game and 5.7 blocks per outing.

Lastly, there is Syracuse’s frosh phenom Carmelo Anthony tallying 25ppg in the early going. It’s an outstanding year for first-year players and this latest in the line of Orange stars would rank near the top of anyone’s list. Let’s hope he sticks around for a while.

     

LaBron James Classic

by - Published December 12, 2002 in Columns


The LeBron James Classic

by Adam Shandler

As if ESPN didn’t have enough to do.

Between college hoops, NBA, NHL Tonight, NHL Tomorrow, NHL Next Thursday, Billiards, Rodeo, the four-hour Heisman preview and World’s Strongest Man (where you can see a 500-pound South African tow a locomotive across town with his teeth), you would think the cable sports leader would be satisfied with the comprehensiveness of its sports coverage this season.

But ESPN, never one to miss out on a chance to capture a classic sports moment, has decided to air the Progressive (Car Insurance) High School Classic.

Actually, the game will air on ESPN 2, known in couch potato slang as “the deuce.”

Classic!

The game features Number 1 St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, battling traditional scholastic powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, the high school sages’ 20th ranked squad in the country.

Classic!

If you follow any kind of basketball then you know that this game is essentially being billed as “Maybe Your Last Chance to Catch LeBron James While He’s Still in High School”. Even ESPN.com is advertising the game as such.

Six-eight, 240 LeBron is the two-time Mr. Basketball of Ohio and, unofficially, Mr. High School Basketball USA. If he decides to choose door number one (that being the NBA) in the “Let’s Make a Deal” version of his career, he could conceivably be the number one pick in next season’s lottery. That decision will trampoline James, naturally, to a sneaker deal, and you’ll be seein’ nothin’ but LeBron during commercial breaks for the NBA and in inserts for sports magazines.

So don’t worry if you haven’t heard of LeBron James yet. He’ll be around.

So why all the hubbub around this game? Why is this pairing better than, let’s say St. Vincent’s-St. Mary versus local rival Our Lady of the Goodyear Tire? Oak Hill, with its legacy for basketball greatness and reputation for as a high school hoops pedigree, will probably offer LeBron (his fellow Irish teammates not withstanding), the greatest challenge of his high school career. If he can do damage against giants Jarvelle Scott and Byron Jones, then we know he’s the real deal.

Classic!

So is this the beginning of a socially debatable trend? Are we going to start seeing more “classic” moments from guys who barely walked out of chem lab and onto the hardwood? Is there truly an audience for these types of games or is it merely a case of sports media banging the drums of hype?

ESPN had experimented with some high school coverage during the college football season when it aired in-game highlights of consequential high school games. But not as much fuss was made about that programming decision. Probably because hoops is a totally different animal. In football, there is more focus on the team game whereas in basketball, one player can be a whole story, no matter how bad the rest of his team might be. Plus, kids develop faster as basketball players than they do as football players, making those who go out for hoops celebrities from the seventh grade.

So is it right for ESPN and other cable networks to push the exploitation lever full-throttle? (FYI, Time Warner and St. Vincent’s-St. Mary have agreed to a Pay-Per-View deal to air all Irish home games in Northeast Ohio. It’s a brilliant business move on the part of both parties, especially SV-SM, which sells out to standing-room-only capacity.) Had the LeBron genie not been let out of the bottle already, I would say, just let the kids be kids. It’s high school basketball. It’s hard enough following over 320 college programs. But let’s get real here.

We’ve been hearing about LeBron James for a while now. We’ve seen him grimace on the covers of magazines. He’s been the subject of hip-hop style basketball shows and the focus of message board banter. The dude is out there, he’s no secret. And neither is Oak Hill Academy. The Mouth-of-Wilson, VA, school has been known for decades as an NCAA/NBA factory, a credit to coach Steve Smith. Former Warriors include Jerry Stackhouse, Ron Mercer, DeSagana Diop, Cory Alexander, Jeff McInnis and Maryland point guard Steve Blake.

So who are we kidding here? ESPN isn’t hurting or exploiting anyone anymore than those magazines that called LeBron the second coming (of Kobe). Sure, the network and the high schools get some serious cash out of it, but the players get more exposure out of this game, something they’ve been looking for anyway.

If you decide to watch, enjoy this “classic” game of young players, and please, email me. Tell me what you think. Do you want to see more high school games featuring big-name talent? Do you think games like this are simply a waste of time? Is LeBron James worth all the hoopla?

If I like your responses, I’ll post them in a follow-up column next week.

     

Morning Dish

by - Published December 12, 2002 in Conference Notes



The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 12th, 2002

by Andrew Flynn


Oh, we could discuss the Kansas-Tulsa game, but that’s not really an entrée. Instead, let’s talk about the Missouri Valley’s Drake Bulldogs, who put up 162 on the board last night, coming within 30 of the all-time scoring record for a team, set by – you guessed it – 1991’s Loyola-Marymount squad, the year after Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. Who was the woe-begotten opponent that received such a smiting? It was Grinnell, of course.

Iowa’s D-III Grinnell Pioneers, who have made a name for themselves this season with their high-scoring, defense-is-not-an-option style of play, had been averaging 140 points up to last night’s contest. However, Drake is not quite the caliber of opponent that they are used to playing, competing mainly with the likes of Ripon, Lake Forest, Beloit, and St. Norbert. Indeed, Grinnell seems to relish in the notoriety of being downed by 52 by their nearby D-1 brethren. Now in the interest of disclosure, I must admit to being a Grinnell fan. They have a great little campus, with a single railroad track running right through the quad. And, I own an Albert Einstein “Grinnell” t-shirt, and a baseball cap as well (though that’s hardly an exclusive club), and my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Don attended and met there during WWII. So it warms my heart to see the Pioneers get this kind of national exposure, even if they did get stomped upon.

So here are the particulars of the game: Drake set some school and conference records for scoring with their output. Not that the Pioneers play much D, but when they tried, they were no match for the better athleticism of the Bulldogs, as Drake scored easily with many uncontested dunks and layups. Drake zoomed past their previous scoring high of 130 from 1971 (against the UMKC Kangaroos), and then passed the Missouri Valley mark of 141 set by then-member Tulsa in 1995 over Prairie View (though not the football team).

Not only was the score a product of the style of offense, but Drake also was assisted by hot shooting, nailing 68% of their field goals (though many were high-percentage shots). The Bulldogs even heated up in the second half, scoring 89 points, and on the night had 41 free throw points, and incredibly, only one three-pointer (out of 4 attempts). Conversely, Grinnell was 23-of-73 from the arc. Eight Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by J.J. Sola’s 36, along with 25 each from Greg Danielson and Quantel Murphy. Drake faces Western Illinois this weekend, while Grinnell gets back to some D-3 opponents and faces Mt. Mercy.

Side Dishes

Back in the Saddle: The No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks are back to their winning ways, downing No. 19 Tulsa Golden Hurricane 89-80 on the road in a physical matchup. Tulsa took the lead at the half with a 15-2 run, but Kansas pulled away at the end with a 10-1 run of their own. Nick Collison notched a 26/12 double-double for Kansas, which helped offset and off-night from teammate Kirk Hinrich, who sputtered on 2-of-11 shooting for a whopping 4 points. Tulsa was led by Kevin Johnson’s 23 points, who was in foul trouble for a good portion of the contest.

Off the Schnide – Part 1: Tommy Amaker and his Michigan Wolverines notched their first win of the season last night, as the Blue downed Bowling Green, 83-57, to avenge last season’s loss to the Falcons. Three Wolverines scored 20 points – freshman guard sensation Daniel Horton (26), LaVell Blanchard (23/10 double), and Bernard Robinson, Jr. (20) – to get Michigan a win in their worst start in school history. Falcon center Kevin Netter notched 20 in the loss, while freshman Ronald Lewis had 14.

Off the Schnide – Part 2: Temple also got their first win of the season last night, as the Owls downed the Nittany Lions of Penn State 65-63 on two final second free throws. Of course, something had to give, as Penn State is now still winless on the season. Temple coach John Chaney wasn’t present for the victory, however, as he was released later from a Philadelphia hospital, where he had been since Sunday with pneumonia. The Owl’s Alex Wesby and David Hawkins led with 19 points each, while Penn State was led by Sharif Chambliss’ 18 points, though he wasn’t able to sink the trey at the end that would have won it for the Lions. Penn State isn’t helped by the announcement that junior forward Jamaal Tate has left the team, taking a leave of absence for health reasons. Tate is the second Penn State forward to depart the squad this season, as Daren Tielsch left just prior to the start of the season due to personal reasons.

Off the Schnide – Part 3: And congratulations to Division-II’s Minnesota-Morris women’s hoops team, who finally won, beating Crown College 56-40. Why is this such a big deal? This is the first win for Cougars since January of 2000 – a span of 72 games. Last Friday the Morris squad set the NCAA all-division futility mark for women with a loss to Central Missouri State. First-year coach Jim Hall’s record improved to 1-6, but he still has some work to do.

Tonight’s Menu

Tonight’s Menu is rather limited. Mostly, it’s geographic rivalries that are in the wind:

• In the closest thing to quasi-ranked action, the undefeated College of Charleston puts their 6-0 record on the line as they face the 4-2 University of Central Florida in Orlando.

• 4-2 Wyoming host Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne, in the only matchup tonight that will require an airplane. The Mastodons are 2-7 on the season.

• In a Big West – Big Sky tilt, the 3-2 Idaho Vandals face the 2-6 Montana Grizzlies. Other road trips include Holy Cross driving down to Hartford, Army cruising over to Stony Brook, Maryland-Eastern Shore taking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Towson, Monmouth hitting the Turnpike to play Seton Hall, and Yale angling up the Merritt Parkway to face Central Connecticut.

That’s it for this Thursday. Enjoy!

Midwestern Rivalry Trifecta

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Columns


A Trifecta of Midwestern Rivalries

by Michael Ermitage

As December rolls towards Christmas and the non-conference portion of the college basketball season begins to wane, many fans begin to lose a little bit of interest. The initial excitement of the first few games has subsided, and the meaningful part of the season is still a couple weeks away. Not to mention that many are busy trying to figure out what to buy the mother-n-law for the Holidays. I always think a nice merlot is thoughtful and classy.

This Saturday offers a nice respite from the mall, however, particularly if you live between the Mississippi and the Appalachians, the Mason-Dixon Line and the Canadian Border. Three fierce rivalries resume in the Midwest when Purdue meets Indiana, Marquette hosts Wisconsin and DePaul travels to Notre Dame.

Indiana and Purdue

Purdue has been playing Indiana since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. I’m fairly certain that the first games in this series still had a peach basket involved. And it was Purdue who was hitting nothing but the bottom of the basket early in the series, dominating the first 35 years of the rivalry. Since the introduction of the NCAA tournament, the much more heralded Hoosiers have a slight advantage.

These two teams have been showing the nation why Indiana hoops is considered among the best long before any Gene Hackman movies. They have a combined 2960 wins and 65% winning percentage. They are the top two teams in the Big Ten in both overall wins and conference championships.

They are meeting this early in the season for a non-conference game, because the evil Big Ten corporate juggernaut instituted a rotating schedule that did not guarantee two games against rivals. Thank you, Penn State. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. EST at the RCA Dome (yes, the game is being held in a Dome, the same Dome that often hosts the Final Four, I told you Indiana hoops was a big deal). While Purdue is technically located in the state of Indiana, it could not be entering a more unfriendly place than the capital city of Indianapolis. If IU makes the Final Four this year, there is no doubt that Mike Davis will be appointed Mayor and anyone caught not wearing red in Indy will be deported to Lubbock, Texas – the place Hoosiers go to die.

In addition to playing a virtual road game, the Boilermakers will be facing one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Hoosiers enter the game 7-0 with wins against Maryland, Virginia and Gonzaga. The flaming-haired guard Tom Coverdale has been spectacular, dropping 30 points on the defending champion Terrapins. He has slightly overshadowed freshman phenom Bracey Wright, who is averaging 19.1 points per game, and was named the Maui Invitational MVP.

Purdue eeked out a win against up-and-coming Louisville, but was handled at Xavier. The Boilermakers enter the contest at 4-1, with a personal four-game losing streak to the Hoosiers. Their hopes rest with guards Kenneth Lowe and Willie Deane, a bench that goes 11 deep, and a fiery Gene Keady.

The stakes are high in this matchup for Purdue. The Boilermakers have virtually fallen completely off the national radar since its Elite Eight loss in 2000. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have launched to the top of the national consciousness with its NCAA Final appearance last season and its subsequent fast start. Furthermore, Purdue has lost four straight in this series, and is flirting with the possibility of IU fans pointing to Kentucky as their most competitive and important rival.

Beyond this season, these two large public schools are playing for top honors in the state. Purdue is scraping for any media attention it can get, as it is badly jealous of the trail of cameras and scribes relentlessly following around Mike Davis’ crew. Indiana needs the game to further distance itself from the Bob Knight fiasco by cementing its claim as the best hoops program in Indiana.

Marquette and Wisconsin

Wisconsin and Marquette have a strange basketball rivalry. While Marquette has unquestionably had more success throughout its program’s history, it still enters this game as the state school’s little brother. There is absolutely no question that Wisconsin at Madison is the beloved team of the Cheese State. At Wisconsin hospitals when your child is born, they cut off the umbilical cord, wipe him/her off and present you with a Badgers sweatshirt.

This particular game pits two teams and programs on the rise. Since Wisconsin made its surprise run to the 2000 Final Four, it has maintained a high-level of play. The Badgers even earned a share of the Big Ten title last season under first-year head coach Bo Ryan. With the majority of that team returning, the Badgers have some large expectations to fill. They started off the season quick, before dropping a game to Wake Forest in Madison in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The Badgers feature a savvy scorer in Kirk Penney and quick guard play with Devin Harris and Freddie Owens.

Marquette is coming off one of its best seasons in more than two decades. The Golden Eagles (or Warriors as many in the student body and alumni base still call them) finished with a 26-7 record last season. The team’s unquestioned star is Dwayne Wade, a scorer with more fast-twitch muscle fiber than Carl Lewis. Marquette has started 5-1 with its lone loss coming on the road to a solid Notre Dame team.

At stake in this game is respect for the Marquette program. The Golden Eagles, despite its good 2001-2002 season, still have not earned the Badgers’ respect. Marquette’s 86-73 loss to Wisconsin last year allowed Badger fans to label the Golden Eagles as just a team rolling up a good record in an inferior conference. And Marquette’s loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament solidified that in many people’s minds. Marquette is out to prove that it’s the best team in the state and worthy of its lofty national ranking.

Furthermore, this rivalry pits public against private. Wisconsin’s student body is predominantly represented by state of Wisconsin residents, while Marquette boasts of a much more nationwide enrollment. The normal stigmas apply, with the Golden Eagles being labeled as the “prissy rich kid” school and the Badgers as the “generic state school.” See That 70’s show reruns for reference.

DePaul and Notre Dame

Notre Dame and DePaul’s basketball rivalry was at its best in the Disco 70s, which makes for some nice highlights of Digger Phelps in lime green suits. Prior to that, neither was considered much of a basketball powerhouse, and truthfully, following Phelps and Ray Meyers’ respective careers, neither school has had much success.

The past two seasons have been good to the Fighting Irish, who have qualified for the NCAA tournament both years. This season is off to an especially good start, with Notre Dame ranked in the Associated Press’ Top 10. Point guard Chris Thomas and Maryland transfer Dan Miller have sparked the Fighting Irish to their 8-1 record. This is a team that can be deadly from the perimeter.

DePaul, meanwhile, had been languishing under the direction of Pat Kennedy, who has since left the school for the greener pastures of Montana. Under Kennedy, the Demons were never short on talent, but lacked everything else, including discipline, a quality game plan and effort. Now, under former Connecticut assistant Dave Leitao, DePaul is off to a 4-0 start, and are displaying much more effort and passion for defense. Junior college transfer Delonte Holland and senior forward Sam Hoskin paces the Blue Demons. Neither player entered DePaul with much fanfare, much different than recent underachieving stars Quentin Richardson, Lance Williams and Paul McPherson. DePaul is more with less this season.

It is easy to dislike Notre Dame, with its plush northwest Indiana campus, its national appeal and its holier-than-thou self-promoting reputation. DePaul, aside from its solid academic reputation, is everything Notre Dame is not. It is located in a major urban area, sports a mostly local enrollment (some of which are commuters), and although private and catholic, does not overtly promote either. If they were two kids in high school, they would not be friends. DePaul is using this game to make its first step towards regaining the national respect it had two decades ago. Notre Dame is doing the same, although winning this game would not vault the Fighting Irish any higher, but losing it may cost them nearly everything they have gained in the eyes of the college basketball public. And you can be sure that DePaul knows that.

This Saturday will be full of face-paint and signs, scribbling local journalists and special TV spots, beer-drinking bar parties and acid-tongued trash talk. This is a rivalry weekend placed amidst the dull light of non-conference basketball action and the bright shine of Holiday cheer. And as any fan of any rivalry knows, there’s nothing better than what is on the line – bragging rights.

     

Early Season Surprises

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Columns



Fantasy Hoops: Early Season Surprises

by Rick Young


Oh, The Agony . . . the early weeks . . .

If you’re like me, you’re in week 3 or 4 of your fantasy college basketball season. Unlike me, I hope you’re not pulling your hair (what little I have to give!) because of all the early season suspensions, injuries, or weather. That being said, it’s been an interesting start to the 2002-2003 season. We’ve seen the freshmen rise to top, it’s not like the “good old days”, when they had to earn their time, now with the dominance of the early-entrees to the NBA draft, it’s exhausted the college ranks to the point of where many teams are starting freshman, and in many cases multiple freshman. I would like to say this is just an early season trend, but I believe we are seeing the future of college basketball. Let’s take a look at some of the early ‘surprises’ in the first few weeks of this season:

Pure Joy!

Carmelo Anthony, freshman forward – Syracuse: Simply the “best” of the best freshmen. He’s a tough guard for a big or small man, with the ability to take you low, or out to the three-point line. He will probably be just a “one – and – done” player, meaning he’ll stay in college one year before bolting for the NBA, but “oh what a year it could be!” He could lead your fantasy team to the title before leaving for greener pastures!

Chris Bosh, freshman forward – Georgia Tech: Very close to Carmelo, both are legit NBA players with major upside. Bosh needs to gain some weight and strength, but even now, he’s a monster on the boards. Another possible “one – and – done” player, but could stay to help the rebuilding of the Yellow Jackets. He’s a fantasy double – double, rebounding and scoring in double figures every game.

Dwyane Wade, guard/forward – Marquette: Great start to his second college season. Hard to handle for any guard inside, but he does need to improve on his outside shooting to be the NBA (and fantasy) player he thinks he is. Fantasy wise, he’s a stud, any guard who can shoot a high percentage and rebound like Wade, makes you a superior team.

Emeka Okafor, forward/center – Connecticut: Shot blocking and rebounding machine for the Huskies. I love this player, he’s got so much potential to be an excellent fantasy player, because at this juncture he’s scoring off the rebounds and dunks he gets from being so mobile, add that to his excellent shot-blocking and you have the makings of a pure fantasy league stud!! Could easily lead your team to a title!

Early Disappointment:

Jason Conley, forward – VMI: For any other player a 23.3 fantasy average would be excellent, but when you are Conley, the NCAA’s scoring leader and fantasy league leader last year, this is so far a dreadful start to his sophomore season. He did break his leg in the off-season, but from all accounts he’s healthy; more than likely his poor performance is due to the attention he’s receiving from the other teams after his ground-breaking 2001-2002 season. I expect him to return to the high 20’s to low 30’s in fantasy scoring soon, when the competition becomes the Southern Conference, but for now, I’m very disappointed in this performance.

Suspensions and Injuries:

Many games have been lost so far from some of the best pre-season fantasy players. Big name centers such as Chris Marcus – Western Kentucky, and Mario Austin – Mississippi State, have yet to play a game this season. Theron Smith, forward Ball State, is redshirting this year due to his knee injury sustained while trying out for the NBA this past summer. These are just a few of the players who’ve lost games due to injuries, suspensions or the weather. Any one of these situations can destroy your weekly plans on victory!

I hope you have the players in the “Pure Joy” category and they are leading your team to victory. Don’t give up too early on your players, early season can be rough on your smaller school players because they are playing the major conference powerhouses, which causes a mismatch for a “one – on – five” game. I believe the rest of the season will be great, with players coming back from suspensions or injuries, and teams getting into their comfort zone playing in conference games.

Wishing you nothing but the best in your fantasy league – keep hooping!

Happy Holidays!

     

SEC Notebook

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Conference Notes



SEC Notebook

by Rainer Sabin

Future opponents of 25th ranked Mississippi State (5-1) let out a collective moan when they learned that Mario Austin was returning to the hardwood. The junior forward and Wooden Award candidate, who had sat on the bench for the Bulldogs’ first six games, was cleared to play by the NCAA Tuesday. Investigators for the collegiate governing board were looking into Austin’s ninth and tenth grade transcripts and Sumter Co. High School in Ala. to see if he completed the required amount of core classes needed to gain freshman eligibility at the college level.

Apparently, he did, which means opposing SEC teams will not get a reprieve this season when they face the Bulldogs. Austin, who averaged 16.1 points and 7.8 rebounds during the 2001-2002 campaign, will make an immediate impact on a team that has been led by the unheralded backcourt duo of Timmy Bowers (18.2 ppg.) and Derrick Zimmerman (10.7 ppg.), as well as forward Michael Ignerski (12 points, 6.5 rebounds).

Mississippi State, which has been on the precipice of falling out of the Top 25 after losing to Louisiana-Lafayette in its first game, will get its first big test against No. 10 Xavier this Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Austin will face highly touted center David West in his first game since the matter with the NCAA was settled. Welcome back.

Clawing Their Way up the Ladder

No controversy. Just winning. That’s the way Kentucky coach Tubby Smith likes it. The 16th ranked Wildcats are off to a 5-1 start and earned a big 98-81 victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill last Saturday, as Gerald Fitch tallied 25 points. For his efforts against the Tar Heels, the junior guard was honored as “SEC Player of the Week.” But Fitch and the Wildcats did not rest on their laurels.

Three days after beating up on North Carolina, they routed Tulane 76-60 in New Orleans, as guard Keith Bogans poured in 21 points. Bogans is leading the team in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game, and has served as a catalyst for the Wildcats, who are each learning and accepting their respective roles-something new for a team that earned the nickname “Team Turmoil” last season.

Bacon Anyone?

Despite a drab 72-60 victory over Louisiana Tech Tuesday night, the Arkansas Razorbacks are off to a miserable start. The Hogs are 2-4 and have lost to non-conference also-rans Oral Roberts and Troy State-the latter of which Arkansas beat by 67 points in 1997. The Razorbacks, which are eight years removed from a national championship, are struggling to find themselves under new coach Stan Heath. The Hogs have been turnover-prone, and their costly mistakes have contributed to close losses against No. 17 Illinois (62-58) and 19th ranked Tulsa (61-60). With games coming up against Sam Houston State and Centenary, it would seem as if Arkansas can even out its record. But, nothing is certain these days in Fayetteville.

Rollin’ Right Along

Six games into the season and the 2002-2003 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0) has already left its mark. After beating St. Bonaventure 77-68 Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama learned Monday that it moved up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll-its highest ranking ever. The Crimson Tide, which was led by Erwin Dudley’s 28 points against the Bonnies, will face Bowling Green and Providence in its next two games-both of which will be played with a week of rest for the Tide in between.

Bulldogs Take Bite out of Bears

Georgia (3-3) got back on track after losing three of its first five games. But it wasn’t easy. The Bulldogs defeated California 78-73 in overtime in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif., as guard Ezra Williams scored 23 points and buried the go-ahead three-pointer in the extra period. Georgia was able to reverse an early season trend, which saw the Bulldogs lose close games away from home. Each of Georgia’s three losses has come on the road by five points or less. While the Bulldogs were able to reap some satisfaction from Saturday’s victory, the joy was tempered by the news they received from reserve guard Mike Dean, who has decided to leave Georgia and transfer to another school. Dean averaged 2.8 points per game this season.

All’s Well Down on the Plains

It may be early, but the Auburn Tigers are enjoying life near the top of SEC West standings with a 5-1 non-conference record. Since losing to Western Kentucky 89-70 Dec. 1, the Tigers have reeled off three straight wins over mediocre competition-the last of which came against Rutgers last Sunday. The Tigers, which have not scored below 70 points this season, lead the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 56.4 % from the floor on average.

Around the Rest of the SEC

No. 12 Florida (6-2) took care of South Florida Sunday, defeating the Bulls 68-52 at home, as another freshman guard stepped up. This time it was Anthony Roberson, not Matt Walsh, who scored 19 points to lead the way . . . Tennessee (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season, as the Volunteers were defeated by Texas A&M 83-66 in College Station, TX Dec. 4. Tennessee is currently enjoying a 11-day break and will resume play Sunday against Georgia Tech at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic . . . Vanderbilt (5-2) lost its second game of the season to No. 6 Indiana 73-56 Monday night in Bloomington. Forward Matt Frieje continued to shine, as he scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Frieje leads the Commodores in scoring, averaging 17.4 points per game . . . South Carolina capped off a bad week last Sunday that started Dec. 5 with a 67-59 loss to Georgetown. The Gamecocks (4-2) dropped their second straight game to border rival North Carolina State 76-64 . . . Ole Miss (3-1) won its third consecutive game Dec. 4 over Austin Peay 74-46 and has not played since. The Rebels’ next game is Saturday against Virginia Commonwealth . . . LSU (4-1) decimated McNeese State 93-72 last Saturday, as JuCo transfer Jaime Lloreda and senior guard Ronald Dupree combined for 55 points.

     

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Big West Notebook

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big West Conference Notebook

by Shaan Hassan

Advantage Aggies

Apparently, Utah State doesn’t need point guard Tony Brown after all. The Aggies have raced out to a 5-1 start in this 2002-03 season. The team has now reached one of their best starts in 33 years-and it’s come quite easily. The Aggies have earned their wins with 15, 34, 3, 12 and 11-point margins. Granted, they have come against teams such as Illinois State and Whitman College, but it’s the good teams that put away the weaker ones. Their upcoming test is Dec. 14 against BYU.

So far thus season, senior forward and conference MVP hopeful Desmond Penigar has led the team with 15.2 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds, good enough for second on the team. Second on the team in scoring is junior guard Mark Brown with 13.8 points per game as he leads with 4.3 assists.

If there is any bad fruit in the garden they’re growing, it’s the fact that Penigar has been too busy shooting the ball and not passing it. He has two total assists in the team’s six games to go with nine turnovers. But as a team, the Aggies have 91 assists and 72 turnovers, which is exceptionally well for a collegiate team. Defensively, Utah State has forced 89 turnovers to just 66 assists.

Clearly, the Aggies are no fluke. They have gotten off to this fast start with solid defense and good ball control. While much of the attention thus far has gone to UC Santa Barbara, the defending conference champions, and UC Irvine, a team trying to cope without Jerry Green, it’s Utah State which has snuck under everyone’s radar to grab first place in the conference.

At this rate, it won’t only be the scores that’ll be a blowout, but also their conference lead. Let me predict it now in December: Utah State upsets UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament-if you would call it an upset.

Big West Going Topsy-Turvy

In the land of the Big “Man” West, it’s the Idaho Vandals who have just three players above 6-5 and were expected to finish in the bottom of the conference, who are currently in fourth place with a 3-2 record. They’re doing it with defense and fitness. The Vandals are allowing 37 percent shooting from their opponents, 25 percent from behind the arc and are getting 6.6 steals per game to go with 4.2 blocks. In addition, when most teams tire in the second half, Idaho turns on their jets and uses their small size and quickness to their advantage, running circles around their opponents to outscore them by 20 points.

I’ve never believed in “expert” analysis, but clearly I’m not even close to being one. Obviously preseason hype is about as useful as a turtleneck to Britney Spears. This Hoopville columnist expected Idaho to finish last of 10 teams (currently in fourth), UC Riverside to finish seventh (now in last), Utah State to end third (they’re clearly number one) and UCSB to complete the season in first (as of now they’re fifth). My disappointing team of the season, CSUN? They’re in second. My surprise team of the season, Fullerton? They’re third to last. The only team to make me seem somewhat intelligent is Pacific who has fallen into that sixth spot I thought they would be in.

The only thing I know right now is that the Aggies are the best team in the conference. I’ll let the other experts figure out the rest in this topsy-turvy conference that would make a drunk on New Year’s Day seem able to walk a tight rope.

Utah State’s Brown Named Conference Player of the Week

There’s still a Brown in Utah that’s leading the Aggies, but it’s not Tony. Junior guard Mark Brown was honored as the Hawai’I-Hilo tournament’s most valuable player, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, and sequentially, was named Big West Conference Player of the Week, Dec. 2. During the tournament, Brown averaged 14.7 points, six assists and nearly two steals per game as the Aggies swept all three games. Brown also shot 48 percent from the field and earned double-doubles in each game in addition to being 4-4 from behind the arc and 14-14 from the free throw line.

     

SWAC Notebook

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Conference Notes



Southwestern Conference Notebook

by Nik Bannister

No “SWAC”tacular starts in the SWAC

Parity describes the play of the Southwestern Athletic Conference in their first week of the 2002-2003 season. Texas Southern has the best start in the conference going for par with two wins and two losses as Prairie View follows close behind with one win and two losses. But it is head coach Ben Jobe’s Southern Jaguars that seem to have become the true surprise in the SWAC.

The Jags finished ninth in the SWAC last season and even though they are a mediocre 1-2, the season can only get better. Despite the loss of sophomore and 2002 SWAC Newcomer of the Year Nick Egland (Achilles injury), the Johnson & Johnson combination (senior forwards Brian and Tim) provide a combined average 33 ppg. and 10 rebounds to keep the Jags afloat and buoyant as they chart their course for Birmingham in March.

The Bad News First
The 0-5 record of Arkansas Pine-Bluff would be enough to make a grown man cry. Although former assistant coach Van Holt is in charge, he still has a courtside seat to the Golden Lions pitfall of pathetic playing. Coaching a team that has lost to teams by no less than 24 (Memphis), and by as much as 53 (Illinois), Holt is in for a long season.

Mississippi Valley State is not far behind. Their 0-4 start places them next to last in the SWAC this week, but the good thing is that there is nowhere to go but up.

The So-so News
Alabama State, Jackson State, Alcorn State, Grambling State, Alabama A&M all have one win apiece. They all also have more than two losses apiece.

Grambling State’s sophomore forward Paul Haynes put up 29 points in their 102-80 win over Wiley College, but is not putting up enough to have the Tigers at .500 as of yet.

The Good – or the Best It’s Going To Get
Texas Southern’s junior guard Ra’kim Hollis is starting off where he left last season. After three games, Hollis leads the SWAC in points per game (23.0) and leads his team in rebounding (7.0). Also, there is a senior guard by the name of Marquel Timmons who is second in the SWAC in assists, averaging 4.2 per game. Although they have won and lost two games, they are still the only team in the conference at .500.

The cross-town transition of former University of Houston assistant basketball coach Jerry Francis to Prairie View seems to have paid off. The Panthers are second in the SWAC with a 1-2 start, but are proving to be a reckoning force. Although they lost to Texas A&M in 83-78 last week, it took two overtimes to do it and junior guard Malachi Thruston put up 24 to take it that far.

The Jags round off the top three in the conference and as aforementioned are quite a surprise in the SWAC. As a matter of fact, the top three teams are quite surprising in their play. But the standout player is 6’9″ sophomore forward Pete Cipriano. The New Jersey product is proving to be the import for Southern needed averaging 10.0 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Game to Watch

Wait until the 17th, when Prairie View faces LSU.

Player of the Week

Senior guard Ra’kim Hollis – The real reason why Texas Southern is atop the SWAC.

     

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Big Sky Notebook

by - Published December 11, 2002 in Conference Notes



Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Hornets and Lumberjacks find success

The Sacramento State Hornets and Northern Arizona Lumberjacks have taken similar journeys so far this season. Both teams were expected to finish near the bottom on the pack in preseason polls. Both teams were spanked by highly-ranked opponents (No. 13 Missouri beat Sac State and No. 1 Arizona beat Northern Arizona) two weeks ago, and both teams rebounded this week with strong performances.

The Hornets (4-3) beat Northern California rivals San Jose State (72-70) and the University of San Francisco (62-57), while snapping a 39-game road losing streak with a win a Cal Poly (73-66). The Hornets were led by junior center Tony Champion and senior point guard Rashaad Hooks. Hooks, 6-foot-3, is able to penetrate opposing defenses and uses his size to finish around the basket. He scored a career-high 19 points against San Jose State on Tuesday. Champion, 6-foot-10, is still inconsistent, but his newfound tenacity will put him right up with Ryan McDade as one of the conference’s top big men.

When shooting guard Brandon Guyton begins to find his range, the Hornets will move into the upper echelon of teams in the Big Sky.

The Lumberjacks (4-2) recorded wins over Northeastern (71-56) and Western State (74-60) this week, increasing their winning streak to three games. McDade averaged 25 points and 13.5 rebounds in the two games, and continues to average a double-double on the season. The 6-foot-7 senior leads an offense which averages 79 points per game.

Freshman Kelly Golob’s remarkable 3-point shooting of weeks past has now come back down to earth. The 6-foot-5 guard made 4-of-12 treys in the two games this week after having made 15-of-22 in the three previous games.

Heath! Give the kid a break

You know that a coach is confident in your abilities when he keeps you in the game during crucial situations. When a coach never takes you out, he is most likely not all that confident with your backup. This is the case with Portland State point guard Jeb Ivey, who has played every minute – all 200 – at the point guard position for first-year coach Heath Shroyer. Ivey currently leads the Vikings in points (14.8) and assists (4.8).

After last year’s starting point guard, Aaron Fitzgerald, transferred to Washington State in the off-season, it was obvious that Ivey would shoulder most of the load this year. But to not take a player out over a five-game stretch is unfathomable. Candidates to give Ivey a rest, may it be only for a minute, are starting shooting guard Troy Devries and guard Kevin Briggs.

The Vikings have also played the last two games without starting power forward Marshal Hartman, who is day-to-day with a knee injury. Junior forward Seamus Boxley has also sat out the first five games due to torn ligaments in his hand. His return is undetermined, and redshirting the season is till a possibility.

In their only game this week, the Vikings fell the Saint Mary’s College (CA), 75-51.

Montana falls in Northwest battles

The Montana Grizzlies came out winless in battles against Gonzaga and Washington State, falling 75-67 to the Bulldogs and 73-61 to the Cougars. Montana sandwiched a 66-52 win over Montana Tech between the losses. Grizzly guard Kevin Criswell exploded for 29 points against Gonzaga, while all-conference guard David Bell was limited to seven, shooting 2-of-14 from the field. Bell is shooting only 34.9 percent from the field so far this season.

Game of the Week

Oregon State will face Sacramento State in 1,200-seat Hornet Gym on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Both teams are riding three-game winning streaks. The Hornets beat Cal Poly by seven on the road, while the Beavers beat them by 21 at home earlier this season. This is the Hornets’ chance to prove that they are for real. Prediction: Oregon State 79, Sac State 66.

Player of the Week

Northern Arizona forward Ryan McDade averaged 24.5 points and 13.5 rebounds as the Lumberjacks went 2-0 this week.

     

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is 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.

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Conference Coverage

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2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

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2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

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The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

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The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year in the MEAC, as the Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of conference.

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

June 30, 2014 by

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When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.

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