Sun Belt Notebook

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Conference Notes



Sun Belt Conference Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Despite stars, Indians failing

When a team sports the conference’s top two scorers and top rebounder, it should also be at the top of the conference’s standings, right? Apparently this is not the case in the Sun Belt, as the Arkansas State Indians have dropped three-straight to fall to 11-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play. The problem for Arkansas State? Going on the road.

All three losses have occurred on the road. What makes it so hard to swallow for the Indians is that all three games have been close; they are only losing by an average of eight points and have not been blown out of any conference game. Yet they are simply not making the big plays down the stretch.

J.J. Montgomery, the team’s and conference’s leading scorer at 19.3 points per game, had another outstanding week. He scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, in losses to Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky. His counterpart, Dewarick Spencer, went for 22 against the Blue Raiders but struggled against the Hilltoppers, settling for ten.

Against MTSU, the Indians came back from a fourteen-point halftime deficit to force overtime, only to lose during the extra session. They used a different tactic against Western Kentucky, blowing its own nine-point halftime lead before losing 74-66. The good news for Arkansas State? Its next four games are at home, starting with Denver Friday.

Cajuns cooked late, again

Louisiana Lafayette could very easily be 11-1, own road wins against the likes of then No. 24 Dayton and No. 6 Arizona, along with always tough Xavier and likely be ranked itself. Instead, the Ragin’ Cajuns are at a respectable 7-5 and 2-1 in conference play. But they again lost a close one last week, this time falling on the road to South Alabama, 76-73.

The Cajuns led for nearly the entire second half and held onto a one-point lead and the ball with 30 seconds left, before Antoine Landry had the ball stolen from him, resulting in a Jaguar layup and their first lead since the seventeen-minute mark. Lafayette raced down the court, only to commit another turnover, this time a bad pass by Laurie Bridges with nine seconds remaining, clinched the win for South Alabama.

Landry and company responded with an easy, 85-64 home win against New Orleans. The late turnover against the Jaguars spoiled a good game and hot streak for Landry. During his last five games, Landry is averaging 20.2 points, 3.6 points, 2.2 assists and 4.2 three-pointers per game.

Jaguars doing it with defense

Coming into last week, South Alabama was 0-5 on the road and looking for a big win. They solved both problems, going 2-0 on the road to improve to 8-7 overall and 3-1 in the Sun Belt, good enough for first place. The Jaguars first won at Louisiana Lafayette, 76-73, before traveling to New Mexico State and leaving victorious, 56-46.

Defense was the key for South Alabama during both wins. First, it forced two key turnovers during the final 30 seconds against the Cajuns, resulting in the final four points of the game. It had not led for seventeen minutes before taking the lead with nineteen ticks to go.

South Alabama then shut the Aggies and its star, Duane John, down. New Mexico only hit fifteen field goals and John scored only two points; his previous season-low had been ten. The Jaguars now return home for two games, starting with Middle Tennessee State Thursday.

Player of the week

J.J. Montgomery, Arkansas State

Despite his team’s struggles, Montgomery had another big week, averaging 23.5 points and seven rebounds. He remains the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points per game.

The rest of the Sun Belt

Arkansas Little Rock (9-7, 3-1)

The Trojans split their two games last week, falling for the first time in conference play at Western Kentucky, 86-71, before hanging on for its second Sun Belt road win of the season, 68-66, at Middle Tennessee State. The Hilltoppers’ starting five was completely dominate Thursday, equaling Arkansas Little Rock’s output of 71, as all five scored in double digits. Saturday’s win against the Blue Raiders was a very even match-up, but Middle Tennessee missed two shots during the final six seconds, allowing the Trojans to escape with the win. Jamal Holden led the team Saturday with nineteen points, while Brandon Freeman averaged 16.5 points during the week. Up next – against North Texas, Jan. 22.

Denver (9-6, 1-2)

The Pioneers, as recent as two weeks ago, were ranked in ESPN’s Mid-Major Top 10. Now, Denver has dropped two of three, both losses by slim margins. Last week the Pioneers fell to North Texas on the road, 72-67, before becoming the tenth team in eleven games to hand Florida International a ‘L’, winning 78-44. After trailing by 20 at the half, Denver started the final 20 minutes with a 12-0 run and took a one-point lead with eight minutes remaining. The Mean Green though came back and finished the game on a 10-6 run. Saturday’s game against the Panthers was never really a game. Denver led at the half 48-11, eleven players played eleven minutes or more and eight players scored between seven and eleven points. Up next – at Arkansas State, Jan. 22.

Florida International (3-12, 0-3)

The Golden Panthers only played one game last week, and that’s using the world “played” liberally. Denver whipped the floor with Florida Atlantic, 78-44. The score was not even that close, as the Pioneers led at the half 48-11. After Carlos Morbin hit a three-pointer 1:15 into the game, the Golden Panthers went more than fourteen minutes without a field goal. During that time, Denver went on an absolutely ridiculous 34-1 run. Not much else needs to be said. Up next – at North Texas, Jan. 19.

Middle Tennessee State (9-6, 1-1)

The Blue Raiders started conference play a week later than most and split their first two games and with the state of Arkansas. MTSU knocked off Arkansas State in overtime Thursday, 92-86, before losing a nail-bitter to Arkansas Little Rock, 68-66. After holding a commanding lead during the first half, the Raiders allowed ASU to make a furious second half comeback and send the game to extra minutes. During the extra session though, Mike Dean and company proved to be too much. The junior guard scored a career-high 30 points, missing all six of his two-point shots but going 7-of-12 from deep and 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Saturday, MTSU had two shots during the final six seconds to first tie and then win, but misfired on both attempts. Up next – at South Alabama, Jan. 22.

New Mexico State (7-7, 1-2)

The Aggies had only one home loss coming into last week, but promptly lost two home games last week, 70-59 to New Orleans and 56-46 to South Alabama. Against the Privateers, New Mexico State hung close for the first 25 minutes before giving up an 18-8 run it could not recover from. Second leading scorer and rebounding leader James Moore left the game early with an injured right knee. Moore returned against the Jaguars to score a team-high seventeen points. However, his teammate and Aggie leading scorer Duane John did not show up against South Alabama. John, averaging 16.1 points per game, hit one field goal and finished with two points. His previous season low was ten. Up next – at Louisiana Lafayette, Jan. 22.

New Orleans (8-8, 2-1)

The Privateers were getting so used to close games, they decided to take a break last week and either win or lose by a bunch. The accomplished both, winning at New Mexico State, 70-59, before losing at Louisiana Lafayette, 85-64. Johnell Smith scored a team-high eighteen points and scored eight of it during New Orleans crucial 18-8 run, enabling it to take control against the Aggies. Saturday, the Cajuns’ Antoine Landry put on a show, scoring 21 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dropping five dimes. Sophomore Billy McDade, receiving his most PT of the season, scored a season and game-high fourteen points in the losing cause. Up next – against Western Kentucky, Jan. 22.

North Texas (6-8, 1-1)

The Mean Green was victorious in its only game of the week, a 72-67 triumph against Denver, easily its best win of the season. North Texas surprised the Pioneers during the first half, taking a commanding 46-26 lead into the half. It turned out not to be so commanding, as Denver started the second half on a 12-0 run and claimed a one-point lead halfway through the half. However, the Mean Green stuck around, reclaimed the lead with four minutes to go and closed out the game on a 10-6 run. Shawnson Johnson continued his great senior season, scoring a game-high nineteen points. Up next – against Florida International, Jan. 19.

Western Kentucky (7-8, 2-2)

The Hilltoppers made another stride towards turning their season around last week, winning its first two conference games, both against tough competition. Western Kentucky stayed at home to knock off Arkansas Little Rock, 86-71, then just ten days removed from losing Arkansas State on the road, 79-76; it then repaid the favor with a 74-66 win. The starting five equaled Little Rock’s total of 71 points, as all five reached double figures. Against Arkansas State, junior guard Antonio Haynes was on fire, scoring a season high 26 points. Up next – at New Orleans, Jan. 22.

     

Patriot League Notebook

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Conference Notes



Patriot League Notebook

by Steve Sheridan

Let the Patriot Games Begin

The first weekend of Patriot League action ended with the standings pretty much the same as they were during the majority of the non-league slate. Lafayette and Lehigh continued to keep hold of the first and second place slots, respectively, as both teams went 2-0 in their first two league games. American went 2-0 as well, to keep up with the Leopards and Mountain Hawks. Colgate and Holy Cross are in the middle of the pack early on, as both teams went 1-1 in their two games, with the Raiders defeating the Crusaders on Wednesday night. And as was the case during the non-league schedule, Bucknell, Army and Navy have started off slowly, each losing their first two league games. Of course, the season has just begun, and so there are many more games to be played before a champion can be crowned.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Howard Blue, Colgate

The Colgate senior was named the Player of the Week for the second time for his excellent efforts against Juniata and Lafayette. The center averaged 24 points over the two contests, including a season-high 28-point performance against Lafayette in a league-opening loss. He also averaged 10.5 rebounds in his two games as well, providing a spark under the glass for the Raiders.

Patriot League Freshman of the Week

Carlton Baldwin, Navy

The freshman from Lusby, MD was named the freshman of the week for the second time this season after leading his team in scoring in two games last week. The forward averaged 16.5 points and 5.5 boards per game for the Midshipmen, including an 18-point game against Lehigh in Navy’s league-opener.

Now that the Patriot League season has begun, let’s roll out the recaps…

Lafayette Leopards (11-4 overall, 2-0 PL)

As expected, the Leopards began conference play just as it ended non-conference play, with excellent play and some victories. The team began its league slate by welcoming Colgate to the Kirby Sports Center, posting its highest point total of the season in a 97-86 win. Six Lafayette players scored in double figures on the evening, helping the Leopards to their highest-ever point total against the Raiders in a Patriot League matchup. As usual Justin DeBerry led the team in scoring with 20 points, while Winston Davis scored 17 to lead a well-balanced Lafayette attack.

On Wednesday, the Black Knights of Army came to Easton and left as every team that has ventured to the Leopards home court has done this season – in defeat. Lafayette ran its record to 8-0 at home with a 76-40 beating of Army, as the team followed up its most prolific scoring night with its best defensive effort in 19 years. Davis led the team with 17 points as 15 different Leopards got to see action in this runaway victory. The team held the Blacks Knights to 19.2 percent shooting in the second half, contributing to the lowest point total allowed by a Leopard squad since 1985.

With the two victories, Lafayette has already proved that it is the team to beat in the Patriot League this season, as the team has shown it can win by outscoring the opponent (Colgate) or keeping them from scoring (Army). The team with the target on its back will face another test when it travels to Worcester to take on a young Crusader squad on Saturday.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks (9-6 overall, 2-0 PL)

Another year, another year of surprises for Billy Taylor’s club. The Mountain Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 start after two home wins against Navy and Bucknell. Against the Midshipmen, Austen Rowland began the Patriot League season on the right foot, draining six three-points as part of a career-high 24-point outburst. The team shot a sizzling 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half, opening up an unbeatable 26-point lead at the half in cruising to an 80-61 win. Jose Olivero and Earl Nurse were also in double figures for the Mountain Hawks.

Olivero and Rowland stepped up once again for Lehigh against Bucknell on Wednesday night, as the duo combined for 38 points and 9 assists on the evening in a 75-70 victory. Lehigh continued its hot shooting, again jumping out to an early lead with a 52 percent shooting effort in the first half. Lehigh’s bench helped them to this victory, as the Mountain Hawk reserved out-scored their Bison counterparts by 10 points, aided in large part by Olivero’s 20. The obvious key to Lehigh’s success this season is scoring, as the team has shot right around the 50 percent mark in its first two league contests. The team’s first big test will come this weekend, when it travels to the nation’s capital to face off with fellow undefeated American.

American Eagles (8-8 overall, 2-0 PL)

American is also still a member of the undefeated, surviving a Bucknell stampede that almost dropped the Eagles in their first game. Jernavis Draughn had 10 points and 12 rebounds to help American hang on to defeat Bucknell, 58-55 in overtime. Andre Ingram was the only other Eagle in double figures with a team-high 13 points, but solid bench-work by American was a key in the team’s success. The tough American defense held Kevin Bettencourt, the Bison’s leading scorer, to only 6 points, all coming from the free-throw line.

Against Navy, the story for the Eagles was the play of Andres Rodriguez. The Puerto Rican Rodriguez scored 11 points, grabbed five boards and had five steals, but it was his school and Patriot League-record 19 assists that most led to the American victory. Ingram was the biggest recipient of Rodriguez’ generosity, as the freshman connected on eight three-pointers on his way to a career-high 27 points. Thanks in large part to Ingram, the Eagles shot an excellent 56 percent (14 for 25) from beyond the arc, a statistic that will give most any team the points needed for a W.

As has been the case with most teams so far, hot shooting has been the best weapon so far for American. The team will hope to keep up its momentum and prove to be the superior bird when the Eagles host the Mountain Hawks on Saturday.

Colgate Raiders (8-6 overall, 1-1 PL)

The Raiders escaped the first weekend of Patriot League action with a 1-1 record, after falling to Lafayette and taking down Holy Cross. Against the Leopards, Howard Blue paced the Raiders with a 28-point, 11-rebound effort, while Mark Linebaugh and Alvin Reed both added 19 points for Colgate. However, the Raider bench proved the team’s downfall, as Lafayette outscored the Colgate bench by a score of 24-10. A good sign for coach Emmett Davis was the team’s free-throw shooting, as the team drained 25 of 27 shots from the charity stripe in a losing effort.

The team rebounded to get into the Patriot League win column with a big win against visiting Holy Cross, 71-65 on Wednesday night. The team won for just the fourteenth time in 54 games against the Crusaders, largely on the shoulders of Alvin Reed, whose 19 points and seven assists helped give the Raiders an edge. Colgate’s 9-of-14 shooting from three-point land and 53 percent shooting overall propelled the team to victory, as the Colgate bench combined for 22 points in the win.

The two key areas for Colgate look to be bench production and three-point field goal percentage. If the team is unable to get good production in one or both of those areas (as with Lafayette), the team doesn’t stand much of a chance. The team hopes to continue heading in the right direction with a Saturday trip to Army before a final non-league match up with Dartmouth on Monday.

Holy Cross Crusaders (1-1 overall, 7-8 PL)

The Cross opened up its 2004 Patriot League schedule with an easy 60-32 victory over Army last Saturday. The Crusaders won their fifth straight league opener thanks to a stellar defensive effort, once with led to the fewest points allowed by a Crusader team since 1952. Greg Kinsey and Kevin Hamilton almost topped Army by themselves, as they combined for 29 points, led by Kinsey’s career-best 20. The defense was the big story in this contest, as the Crusaders held Army without a field goal for over 13 minutes after Army took an early 3-0 lead. The Black Knights were held to an anemic 16.7 percent in the first half, leading to the big loss.

The team couldn’t keep up the defensive excellence, however, in a 71-65 loss to Colgate. The Cross shot well on the evening, led by Nate Lufkin’s 17-point performance on 6-for-6 shooting from the field, but the team was unable to overcome the good shooting of the opposition. Holy Cross managed to find four players in double figures, led by Lufkin, but the team was only unable to muster 13 points from the other six players who saw action. The Crusaders did have a 36-22 edge in points in the paint, but in the end it was the Raiders’ three-point shooting that did in the visitors.

As evidenced by the team’s first two league games, Holy Cross is going to have to defend well if it is going to stay in games. The team faces a tough task in its next contest, when Lafayette invades the Hart Center on Saturday to take on the Crusaders.

Bucknell Bison (3-11 overall, 0-2 PL)

Despite an 0-2 record, Bucknell is the one winless team that nobody wants to play at the moment. The Bison lost two games to undefeated American and Lehigh by a combined eight points, never letting the opponents have an easy game. Against the Eagles, Charles Lee scored a career-high 18 points but the Bison couldn’t overcome Kevin Bettencourt’s 0-for-10 shooting night. Bettencourt ended up with six points, all from the free-throw line, which is where American was able to sneak away with the victory. Bucknell also helped by shooting only 31.6 percent from the field for the game.

The Bison fell to 0-2 despite 20-point games from Lee and Donald Brown, as Bucknell’s furious late-game rally fell just short. The Bison were down by as much as 16 in the second half to the Mountain Hawks, but the team couldn’t overtake the solid lead Lehigh has built up in the first half. Lee and Brown combined for 45 points, while Bettencourt and Chris McNaughton both added 10, but it wasn’t enough against the talented Mountain Hawk squad.

Despite the two losses, the Bison are playing pretty good ball at this time, and appear to be on the verge of finally breaking through into the win column. The team will finally get back to Sojka Pavilion after a six-game road trip on Saturday, when they welcome winless Navy.

Army Black Knights (3-11 overall, 0-2 PL)

Army just keeps falling and falling, and at the rate they are going there appears to be no end in sight. The team has now lost nine straight games after losses to Holy Cross and Lafayette to begin the Patriot League campaign. The big problem for the Black Knights continues to be shooting, as the team could only managed 32 points against the Crusaders. The team shot a mere 25.6 percent from the field and turned the ball over 24 times on the evening, contributing to the team’s worst point output since the days of FDR (that’s the 40′s, for all you non-history buffs). Colin Harris led the Black Knight “attack” with six, yes just six points.

Against Lafayette, the Army squad managed to break into the 40′s in scoring (barely), but still ended up losing by 36 points to a superior Leopard team. The Black Knights managed to stay with Lafayette for the first half, but a crushing 30-4 run to start the second half, along with the team’s 19 percent second-half shooting, ended all Army hopes of an upset. Josh Wilson and Sean O’Keefe combined for 29 of Army’s 40 points on the day, each in 27 minutes of action.

As has been painfully obvious to Jim Crews and his crew, Army is going to have to put some points on the board if it is going to have any chance at earning a victory. A chance to put the ball in the net and to end the team’s long losing skid will come on Saturday against Colgate.

Navy Midshipmen (3-12 overall, 0-2 PL)

The Navy ship is also beginning to take on more and more water, as the struggles continue for Don DeVoe and his Middies. Once again, it was a slow start that doomed the Midshipmen on this day, as Lehigh jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Carlton Baldwin led Navy with 18 points and 8 rebounds, helped out by Matt Fannin and Kwame Ofori, both in double digits. Navy actually outscored the Mountain Hawks in the second half, 37-30, but the first half woes prevented the Midshipmen from making a game of it.

The team then struggled against another hot team, falling to American, 80-58. The guard play of Andre Ingram and Andres Rodriguez baffled the Middies in the first half, contributing to a 14-point Navy deficit at the break. David Hooper helped keep Navy somewhat in the game, scoring 21 points as the only Midshipman in double figures. Navy’s main problem in this contest was its inability to keep American off the scoreboard, as it allowed the Eagles to shoot 54.4 percent for the game, including 60 percent in the second half.

This Navy squad has to figure out a way to come out from the starting gate and play well, as the team has had very little chance in many of its games due to slow starts. In a battle of teams starting slow, the winless Midshipmen travel to Lewisburg to take on fellow 0-2 Bucknell on Saturday.

     

Top Recruiting Classes Part 2

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Columns


Top Early Recruiting Classes, No. 6-10

by Keith Irizarry

Last week I broke down the Top 5 recruiting classes for 2004 and there are some amazing players headed into college next season. This week I will round out my top 10 and list some of the big names that have yet to commit. There definitely are some differences between the upper echelon and the “next” groupings. The top 5 has a big name and a bunch of other good guys to fill out a lineup. The next 5, and beyond, seem to have only one established star and a lot of question marks.

6. Arkansas Razorbacks

Recruiting class number 6 hails from the SEC, Arkansas. If you are looking for the best player in the 2004 class, besides Dwight Howard, who will be mentioned later in this column, you should look no further than Al Jefferson. As a junior in High School Al averaged 37 points, 18 rebounds, and 6 blocks! He is a manimal: half man, half animal. At 6-10, 265 pounds, he is a legitimate power forward for the next level. If he honors his commitment to Arkansas, he can single-handedly take them to the promised land. The Hogs class has more giants incoming: 6-11 center, Steven Hill from Missouri and 6-10 center, from Virginia, Darian Townes. 6-7 Charles Thomas from Mississippi and 6-5 wingman Dontell Jefferson of Georgia can both bring something to the table.

7. Memphis Tigers

John Calipari did a fine job at Memphis getting Sean Banks last year, and this year he hauls in a solid point guard in Darius Washington, Jr. from Florida. Darius can score and has been through the battles. He made a name for himself at the 2002 ABCD camp when he and Sebastian Telfair went toe to toe in the Underclass All-Star game (this was an amazing game, an amazing matchup, and the two almost came to blows. I was there for the all-star festivities, it was nuts). Although he lost some of his luster in the 2003 Camp, Washington continues to shine on the High School level and has the tools to star under Calipari’s tutelage. Richard Dorsey is another ABCD stud and another good pull for the Tigers. Hailing from the High School Power Mt. Zion, this Maryland forward has a lot of talent. 7-footer, Kareem Cooper has a lot of work to do. His inside moves are potent, but he is soft around the rim. He has an intangible: you can’t teach height and Cooper has that locked down. Shawne Williams, a 6-8 forward from Tennessee rounds out Memphis’ incoming class.

8. Connecticut Huskies

UConn isn’t bringing in a large quantity of players, but quality is definitely on its way. Maryland forward Rudy Gay starred at Nike camp this past summer. This kid is a stud. Gay has good size (6-8, 215), an excellent basketball mind, not too mention his skills on the court. Rudy will get dirty down low when needed, step outside and knock down a shot, and can even handle the break if it is necessary. Handling the break won’t be necessary much, though, as the Huskies are bringing in point guard AJ Price. Price, from Amityville (same school that Villanova’s Jason Fraser attended) is a quintessential point man. He has decent size at 6-1, 180. His shot is silky smooth and his passing is, dare I say, on point.

9. UCLA Bruins

Ben Howland and the Bruins pull in the 9th best recruiting class. 6-9 center, Lorenzo Mata is built for the college game. He is long, athletic, and makes things happen around the rim. His offensive game is lacking, but his defense alone makes him dangerous. Arron Afflalo is an excellent guard. At 6-5, he is a legit scoring guard. In true Compton fashion, this kid is tough as nails. 6-5 Josh Shipp, from L.A., can play the 2 or the 3. Jordan Farmar, a 6-2 guard was also recruited by Arizona, Gonzaga, and Florida. Farmar has a small frame, weighing barely 170 pounds, but with time could turn out to be a steal for Howland.

10. Florida Gators

Florida finishes up my top 10 classes of 2004. Billy Donavan landed the quickest rising senior in Joakim “Joe” Noah. The son of former tennis star Yannick Noah, blew up this summer at ABCD. He may still be a little rough around the edges, but the sky is the limit for Joe. Noah has all the tools: rebounding, blocking shots, adequate shooting, deft touch, and good footwork on the blocks. Taureen Green may be little (6-0, 165) but his game is big-time. Green has solid bloodlines, as his father, Sidney Green, was a star at UNLV and currently is the head coach at Florida International. Al Horford, a 6-8, 215 pound forward from Florida and 6-7 forward Corey Brewer are two young guys that will be able to contribute in due time.

Now that I’ve finished breaking down the Top 10 recruiting classes of the first half of 2004, it’s time to look at some unsigned players who you surely will be hearing from. Dwight Howard is the consensus number one player in the 2004 class. It is just about a given that he will enter the NBA Draft and most likely will be the number one player taken. Howard, from Georgia, stands 6-10 and weighs in at a muscular 225 pounds. If he were to choose to grace a college with his presence for a year, he is looking at North Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and a few more.

Here is a list of 8 more names, in no particular order that you will be hearing from in the second half signings:

Dupree Fletcher: 5-11, 180, PG (from Wisconsin and looking at Rutgers, Baylor, and Wisconsin-Green Bay)

Jamarcus Ellis: 6-5, 185, G (from Chicago, Ill.)

Shawn Taggart: 6-10, 225, C (from Richmond, VA)

CJ Anderson: 6-5, 205, G/F (from Cincinnati, OH)

Hatila DeSouza: 6-9, 230 F (from Laurinburg, NC)

Earl Risby: 6-2, 180, G (from Washington, DC)

Tello Palacios: 6-8, 225, F (from Centereach, NY)

Jerod Haynes: 6-0, 150, G (from Chicago, Ill)

     

Assistants on the Way Up

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Columns


“March Madness” of a Different Kind

by Jim Woods

Hop On-Board the Coaching Carousel

Friday, December 19th St. John’s University parted ways with Head Coach Mike Jarvis in the first ever in-season firing of a Big East head coach. Many, including myself, were shocked and appalled that a coach could lose his job before his team even entered conference play. However, in the increasingly professional world of college basketball, it was only a matter of time before this occurred. Jarvis’ firing not only acts as an indicator that the “win or else” philosophy is firmly entrenched in the mindsets of upper level administrators, but it is also the official start of Coaching Carousel 2004.

Every spring between 30 and 60 Division I head coaching jobs turnover, and this year figures to be no different. Coaches retire, resign, get fired, move onto the NBA, or make moves to “better” head coaching jobs. It sounds like relatively simple process, but it is much more complex than many would think. Nearly every move that’s made by one coach has a cause and effect that can trickle down to countless other coaches. Perhaps no other aspect of college coaching is as unpredictable and stressful as the Carousel. The ride is about more than the “hot low-major” Coach “A” who leads his team to the tourney and is in demand by Big East programs. It is about his assistants who do not know if they get taken along to that next level, the list of guys who will get an interview for Coach “A’s” job if he can move, the players in Coach “A’s” program, or maybe the two guys who Coach “A” has promised assistant jobs. We will not even begin to talk about the spouses and children who get first class seats on the Carousel. Every March, coaches across the country finish their seasons, put away the game plans and begin to figure out their futures. If you are on the phone, you’re either signing a recruit late or talking to a colleague to get the latest job rumor. You can’t be the one left without a chair when the music stops.

For many, the Carousel is about the opportunity to get their first Division I head coaching job. Will the high-major assistant who has worked for years to get himself in position to take over his own program finally make his dream a reality? These guys will be positioning themselves to get interviews and then trying to knock over AD’s and Presidents with their enthusiasm and vision. Each will make friends with their target schools’ beat reporter or anybody who may have the ear of the selection committee. They all just want the chance to take everything they have learned and call it their own. Here are a few guys who are close to making the first big stop on their Carousel.

Chris Collins, Assistant Coach, Duke University

Family bloodlines and coaching pedigree make the decision to hire Chris Collins a no-brainer. Collins joined the Duke staff in 2000 after a two-year stint at Seton Hall as an assistant to current Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker. He has quickly established himself as one of the finest recruiters in the nation, as he was instrumental in helping the Blue Devils land Luol Deng. As a young former successful collegian player, Collins understands what many of today’s student athletes are going through and can easily relate to them. Obviously working for Coach K does not hurt your chances of getting a job at any level of college basketball. I expect Collins to follow in the Quin Snyder/Tommy Amaker mold and take his first head-coaching job in a high-major conference.

Norm Roberts, Associate Head Coach, University of Kansas

This New York native has been making his mark as an assistant coach in the Midwest. After working for four year under the legendary Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy High School in Jamaica, NY, Roberts moved on to the college level as an assistant coach to Bill Self at Oral Roberts University. He has remained by Self’s side ever since, from Oral Roberts to Illinois and now finally Kansas. This is his second consecutive season as Self’s associate head coach. Roberts is considered by many to be one of the top recruiters in the nation, and in 2002 he helped Illinois put together a consensus Top Ten recruiting class. In addition, he has been a staff member for two Elite Eight teams (2000 Tulsa and 2001 Illinois). Roberts’ strong ties to New York and his Midwest coaching background make him appealing to schools in many different geographic regions.

Fred Hill, Associate Head Coach, Villanova University

Passionate and energetic are two words that best describe New Jersey native Fred Hill. He has been a Division I assistant since 1982 with stints at all levels, and stops include Fairleigh Dickinson, Seton Hall, and now Villanova. At FDU and Seton Hall, Hill tasted the NCAA tournament, and he was responsible for recruiting many of the top players on each of those teams. Twice Hill has been a member of coaching staffs that have landed consensus top five national recruiting classes (2000 Seton Hall and 2002 Villanova). Perhaps no other assistant in the country is as well respected by the top AAU and high school coaches in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. An excellent clinician and teacher, Hill would be a perfect choice for any school, especially one in the Northeast.

Anthony Grant, Associate Head Coach, University of Florida

A Florida native and a former player at the University of Dayton, Grant has been with Billy Donovan since the beginning in Gainesville. He has played large role in the resurgence of Gator basketball. From game plan preparation to recruiting, Grant is involved in all aspects of the program. While on staff at Florida, Grant has been instrumental in recruiting eight McDonald’s All Americans and developing three first round NBA draft picks. Grant’s name was involved with a few jobs this past spring and I anticipate this spring will be no different. Any Florida school or Southeast school in need of a coach would be crazy to not contact Anthony Grant.

Dave Dickerson, Assistant Coach, University of Maryland

Winning is synonymous with Dave Dickerson. In his thirteen seasons as an assistant coach, he has not experienced a losing season. His seven seasons at Maryland have seen the Terps advance to two Final Fours culminating in a National Championship in 2002. Dickerson has been extremely successful as a recruiter, as he was heavily involved with the recruitment of such stars as Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon, and Lonny Baxter. He is extremely well respected amongst his peers, and Dickerson will make an athletic director very happy next season.

Notes From “The Sideline”

• You can agree or disagree with his coaching ability or his tenure at North Carolina, but I really enjoyed listening to Matt Doherty as an analyst on the Pittsburgh-Miami game Saturday. He is insightful, interesting, and does not let a schtick get in the way of calling the game. If he does not resurface on the sideline next season (and I think he will), he has a very good future in television. Now Steve Lavin on the other hand….let’s get him back on the sidelines soon.

• Carl Krauser’s length of the court drive to send Pitt to overtime against Miami was a near carbon copy of the Texas/Providence ending last week. I give great credit to the player getting to the basket that quickly, but the defense has to be questioned. You must make a guy change direction coming up the floor in that situation. As the dribbler gets closer to the rim your big defenders must converge and look to challenge the shot. Players need to remember that in that situation referees like to let players decide the game, and you will likely get away with some contact on a final shot. It seemed both Providence and Miami were overly concerned with fouling.

• Congratulations to Marist College coach Dave Magarity who picked up his 250th win at the school against Holy Cross on January 3. The Red Foxes have been getting consistent play out of freshman point guard Jared Jordan who is already a two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week. By the way, how does the McCann Center at Marist have the backboards that light up and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at Providence does not?

• I am going on record right now and saying that Loyola College will not break the NCAA record for consecutive losses, which is 33 and held by Grambling. I know popular opinion would disagree, but the Greyhounds, who have lost 27 straight, have three of their next six at home and they will get one of them. They grabbed a nine point halftime lead at Marist last Friday evening, but it was not enough as their shooting went cold in the second half and the lead lasted about as long as Britney’s wedding night. If they have a great night shooting in their own building they can win. Best of luck to Scott Hicks and the rest of his staff and players.

• I hope we are not looking at the “Sideline Jinx”, but I hyped Seton Hall in this section last week and they went out and lost to Providence.

• How would you like to be Rick Stansbury today? Your team has a ferocious rally from eighteen down against Kentucky, play outstanding defense in the last minute when you lead by one and you lose. With Kentucky trying to win the game on their last offensive possession, MSU plays great defense forcing a held ball. I have no problem with the possession arrow rule like a certain bald announcer, but it was unfortunate for the Bulldogs that Kentucky had the arrow in their favor. Then they absolutely take Gerald Fitch out of a play that is being run for him (the cross screen, double downscreen “America’s Play” that everybody runs) and force a desperation pass to the rim which they deflect! Too bad it goes right to Erik Daniels for the game winner.

     

Atlantic Sun Notebook

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Conference Notes



Atlantic Sun Conference Notebook

by Jonathan Scherner

The Atlantic Sun is starting to get tight at the top. With Georgia State’s victory over Troy State Tuesday, Central Florida is the only undefeated team left in the conference. Troy State is still second with a record of 6-1, but the Panthers are hot on their trail at 5-2. Now if only someone could do something about the Golden Knights who seem almost unstoppable. Troy State will get their chance to take down Central Florida next Friday. If the Trojans can knock off the Knights, there will be quite the race to finish in the Atlantic Sun.

Golden Knights on a roll

Central Florida just keeps getting hotter as they won their 10th straight game against Florida Atlantic. The Knights dominated Florida Atlantic on the road 70-52 for their longest winning streak since Central Florida joined Division I in 1984.

Dexter Lyons opened the scoring with a three and Central Florida would never trail as they stretched their lead to as many as 25 in the second half. Lyons tied his career high with 25 points, including hitting five from beyond the arc. Roberto Morentin added 17 points and a team-high eight boards.

Player of the Week

Adam Mark: Belmont senior forward

Mark put up career numbers last week as the Bruins split two crucial conference showdowns. Mark averaged 30.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the two games, including a season-high 31 in a win over Stetson. Mark followed up that performance with a career-high 44 minutes in an overtime loss to Troy State. In the loss, Mark scored 30 points and pulled down 16 boards, 10 of which were offensive.

Belmont Bruins (8-4, 3-2)

After quite possibly the biggest victory in school history over Missouri, the Bruins have cooled off slightly in conference play. As has been the case all season, Adam Mark is continuing to be the driving force behind their success. In the Bruins most recent games, Mark is averaging over 30 points and 13 boards a game. A 25-4 run propelled Belmont to 77-58 rout of Stetson, but Mark’s 30 points and 16 boards weren’t enough to pull off another upset as Troy State won 82-80 on a lay in at the buzzer.

Campbell Camels (0-13, 0-6)

If you are a Camels fan, this is becoming an all too familiar refrain: Campbell remained winless on the season. The Camels made a late run at Mercer, but came up short once again. Campbell fought back from a 23 point second half deficit, but it wasn’t enough as Mercer held on for a six point victory. It wasn’t as close against Gardner-Webb as the Bulldogs dominated in a 79-62 win for the first victory of the Atlantic Sun conference season. Campbell looks to break through in the win column Saturday against Jacksonville.

Central Florida Golden Knights (12-2, 7-0)

The Golden Knights just keep getting better. With their 70-52 dominating performance against Florida Atlantic, Central Florida has now won 10 straight and there doesn’t appear to be any let up in the future. Dextor Lyons and Roberto Morentin lead the way for the Knights as they average a combined 30 points a game. Central Florida looks to stay on track at home against Mercer and Lipscomb before a crucial road trip to second place Troy State next Friday.

Florida Atlantic Owls (7-7, 4-3)

After a solid start to the conference season, things have taken a turn for the worse for Florida Atlantic. The Owls jumped out to a 4-1 start, but have fallen on tough times recently as they have now lost two straight, including their first conference home game. Florida Atlantic lost in overtime at Stetson as Anthony Register scored seven of his 18 points in the OT. The Owls followed that loss with a 70-52 loss at home to conference leading Central Florida. The Owls look to get back on track in a crucial home match up with Belmont.

Gardner-Webb Bulldogs (4-11, 1-5)

The Bulldogs finally found their touch as they picked up their first conference win over hapless Campbell. The Bulldogs jumped out quickly with a 20-3 run in the first half that put the game away. Brian Bender scored 21 to lead Gardner-Webb to the 79-62 win. The Bulldogs look to keep the momentum going at home against Stetson Saturday.

Georgia State Panthers (10-4, 5-2)

The Panthers have hit their stride. Georgia State used two free throws from Herman Favors with no time left to upset Troy State and keep the Panthers alive in the race for the conference title. D’Andre McGrew and Nate Williams led the Panthers with 19 points each for their fourth straight victory. Georgia State has another tough conference showdown as they host Mercer Friday night.

Jacksonville Dolphins (6-7, 1-5)

After a good start to the season, the Dolphins have fallen on hard times in the conference season. Jacksonville lost their most recent game to Stetson as a buzzer-beater by Aubrey Conerly came up just short in the two point loss. Conerly took a missed free throw and went the length of the court, but his leaner was just off target. Conerly led Jacksonville with 13 points. The Dolphins should pick up their second conference win when they take on winless Campbell at home Saturday.

Lipscomb Bisons (4-9, 1-4)

The Bisons had a week off to recover from a thumping they took from Troy State. The Trojans knocked down 21 threes on their way to a 100-72 victory. Albert Hacker was the lone bright spot for the Bisons as he got his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 boards. Things aren’t going to get any easier for Lipscomb when travel to Central Florida.

Mercer Bears (7-8, 4-2)

Mercer keeps hanging around the race for the conference crown. The Bears have victories over Stetson and Gardner-Webb in the last week, but their real challenge is still to come as they have showdowns with Georgia State and Troy State in the next week. Scott Emerson has been the key for Mercer this season as he is averaging 19 points and nine boards a game. If the Bears hope to stay in this race, Emerson will have to lead them to a few more important victories.

Stetson Hatters (4-8, 2-4)

In what has been a disappointing season so far, the Hatters picked up a couple of nice wins over Jacksonville and Florida Atlantic, both of which came down to the wire. Stetson survived a last second shot against Jacksonville and had to go to overtime to knock off Florida Atlantic. The Hatters have a good chance of salvaging their season as they have two easy road games at Gardner-Webb and Campbell before returning home to face Mercer.

Troy State Trojans (10-3, 6-1)

The Trojans can’t let their loss to Georgia State knock them off track. Troy State had gotten off to an undefeated start to the conference season before Herman Favors hit two free throws with no time left to give the Trojans their first conference loss at 84-83. Greg Davis is stepping it up in his final season as he is averaging 16 points and nine assists a game. The Trojans don’t have time to think about the Georgia State loss with games against rising Mercer and conference leading Central Florida in the next week.

     

Ohio Valley Notebook

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Conference Notes



Ohio Valley Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

Although the OVC is far from being a power conference, college basketball connoisseurs know that conferences like the OVC often produce an unheralded champion loaded with unappreciated talented that can upset an unsuspecting national powerhouse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Although there is still more than a month left in conference play, the OVC may have already found its NCAA darling – Murray State. The Racers have torn through the early portion of the season, building a 12-3 record, which includes wins over schools from major and mid-major conferences like Conference USA, the Missouri Valley Conference and the Sun Belt Conference. Unlike their peers, the Racers have only one bad loss – an unexplainable let down at home against conference newcomer Samford Thursday night.

But Samford’s upset provides an all-too-easy segue to an update on the OVC’s two new members. Samford and Jacksonville State left the Atlantic Sun conference to join the OVC this season. As of last week, the OVC is ranked 22nd according to conference RPI rankings, while the Atlantic Sun conference is ranked 21st. Only two teams in the OVC are in the top half of the RPI rankings, according to CollegeRPI.com. Samford and Jacksonville State have proven ready to handle their new OVC brethren, combining for a 3-4 conference record thus far.

The story for the remainder of this season, however, will be whether any OVC team can overpass Murray State to become conference champion. The list of contenders is short – Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee Tech appear to have the best chances. Last season’s co-champions Austin Peay and Morehead State have the talent necessary to threaten the Racers, but neither team has played to its full potential yet.

Despite Murray State’s success to date, the truth is that the regular season title is for pride only. The real meal ticket is the conference tournament championship. Win that, go to the Dance.

The top eight teams from the conference will advance to the conference tournament. First-round games will be played at the home court of the team with the better record. So the reward for a strong regular season is a single home game in the conference tournament. The semifinals and conference championship game will be in Nashville, Tenn., March 5 and 6.

As conference play continues, keep in my mind that your favorite OVC team must finish in the top eight to have a chance to dance.

Southern Hospitality

Although Austin Peay may not host powerhouses like Arizona, Connecticut or Duke, the Governors still can brag about their success at home. They have won 19 consecutive games in the Dunn Center and look to stretch the streak to 21 next week. The streak is the eighth longest in the nation.

Austin Peay Governors (7-7, 4-0)

The Governors’ promising season ran into some problems during non-conference play. Austin Peay won only one game over a Division I opponent and lost every possible attempt to show that the Governors are a conference contender, despite having five returning starters. But Austin Peay has fared well so far against OVC opponents, winning the first three four games on the road. Austin Peay is in the midst of an eight-game road trip, which will finally end Jan. 22 when the Governors host Eastern Illinois.

If he were a superhero, senior center Josh Lewis would be The Eraser with the power to annihilate opponents’ shots. He became the fourth OVC player to register 200 career rejections and is fourth in OVC history with 206. Meanwhile, senior swingman Adrian Henning leads the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game, one of only two Governors to average double-figures in scoring.

Austin Peay’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: At Morehead State
Jan. 22: Eastern Illinois
Jan. 24: Southeast Missouri State
Jan. 27: At Tennessee Tech
Jan. 29: At Tennessee State

Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-10, 1-2)

The Panthers are struggling this season, winning only one Division I game so far this season. The victory came against conference-foe Tennessee Tech, 83-70, Jan. 8. The Panthers are 0-6 on the road but hold a respectable 3-4 home record. But their worst home loss was the previous game against Southeast Missouri State, in which the Panthers failed to protect their house, losing 84-64. I bet Eastern Illinois does not have a contract with Under Armor sportswear. Will you protect this house?!?!

Sophomore guard Josh Gomes is the present and the future for Eastern Illinois, leading the team with 11.5 points per game. But when someone averaging only 11.5 points per game leads your team in scoring, you know you lack a dominant player.

Eastern Illinois’ remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: Tennessee State
Jan. 22: At Austin Peay
Jan. 24: At Tennessee Tech
Jan. 29: At Samford
Jan. 31: At Jacksonville State

Eastern Kentucky Colonels (6-8, 1-2)

Despite winning six games so far this season, the Colonels lack any good wins. Eastern Kentucky has started OVC play 1-2, with a victory over Tennessee Martin and losses to Murray State and Austin Peay. The loss to the Racers was Eastern Kentucky’s first loss at home. On the flip side of the schedule, though, the Colonels are still searching for their first road win. With a mascot resembling Colonel Sanders of KFC, Eastern Kentucky is unlikely to strike fear into many opponents’ hearts. But the home cookin’ is finger lickin’ good.

Sophomore guard Matt Witt is the leader of a young Colonels team that has potential for future success. Witt averages 13.6 points and 5.4 assists per game. As a team, the Colonels shoot well, making over 45 percent of the team’s field goal attempts. But the Colonels are abysmal at making the free ones, shooting just 62 percent from the line.

Eastern Kentucky’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: Tennessee Tech
Jan. 22: At Jacksonville State
Jan. 24: At Samford
Jan. 29: At Murray State
Jan. 31: At Tennessee Martin

Jacksonville State Gamecocks (7-7, 1-3)

OVC newcomer Jacksonville State won its first OVC conference game Jan. 15 against Tennessee Martin, winning a rare road game 96-85. The Gamecocks lost the first three OVC games to Austin Peay, Samford and Tennessee State. The Gamecocks have won five of six home games, albeit against three non-Division I schools.

Senior forward Trent Eager is the force behind the Gamecocks’ attack, averaging 13.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. As a team, though, Jacksonville State does not crash the boards well, averaging 33 rebounds per game.

Jacksonville State’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: At Murray State
Jan. 19: Savannah State
Jan. 22: Eastern Kentucky
Jan. 24: Morehead State
Jan. 29: Southeast Missouri State
Jan. 31: Eastern Illinois

Morehead State Eagles (7-7, 2-1)

Like Jacksonville State, the Eagles have a decent record inflated by several victories against non-Division I schools. At home no less. The Eagles have won seven of eight home games, with the only loss coming against Murray State, which is no shame as the Racers look to run away with the conference title. The Eagles can build a decent conference record with a win over Austin Peay to conclude a five-game home stand, which precedes a four-game road trip.

Morehead State’s bid to overtake Murray State took a hit when junior guard Kyle Hankins injured his knee, possibly ending his season. Hankins is the ninth man in an eight-man rotation, so the Eagles’ season certainly is not lost, but they do have less depth than before and cannot afford another major injury.

Senior guard Ricky Minard continues to be a scoring machine for the Eagles, averaging 19.2 points per game. He has moved into second place in school history, behind Herbie Stamper, who scored 2,072 points in his career from 1975-79. As prolific a scorer as Minard is, he does not lead the team in scoring – a claim only senior guard Chez Marks can make. He averages 19.9 points per game.

Morehead State’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: Austin Peay
Jan. 22: At Samford
Jan. 24: At Jacksonville State
Jan. 29: At Tennessee Martin
Jan. 31: At Murray State

Murray State Racers (12-3, 2-1)

The class of the OVC can be found in Murray, Ky., as the Murray State Racers have sprinted to a 12-3 start, which includes good wins against Southern Miss, Southern Illinois, at Western Kentucky and at TCU. The Racers’ only losses have come against No. 9 Louisville, at No. 13 Pittsburgh and at home to Samford. Racer fans must hope the unexpected home breakdown to Samford was an aberration and not an omen of impending difficulties. Despite the strong record, the Racers only path to the NCAA Tournament is through the OVC. Murray State must continue to play well when it counts – in conference play and in the conference tournament. If the Racers get to the NCAA Tournament, they could easily scare a Top 25 team and perhaps walk away with an upset.

There’s no secret that a large portion of the Racers’ success is because senior forward Cuthbert Victor has been unstoppable, averaging 16.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, which is good for second in the nation. His teammates support the scoring attack, as the Racers average 81.6 points per game.

Murray State’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: Jacksonville State
Jan. 20: Tennessee Martin
Jan. 24: At Tennessee State
Jan. 26: At Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Jan. 29: Eastern Kentucky
Jan. 31: Morehead State

Samford Bulldogs (7-7, 2-1)

Samford, which entered the week with the nation’s top 3-point field goal shooting percentage (43.4%), converted just 12-of-43 (27.%) from behind the arc in the two contests.

Another OVC newcomer, Samford has paralleled fellow Atlantic Sun transfer, Jacksonville State, with several non-conference victories against non-Division I schools. The Bulldogs have just three victories against Division I opponents, one of which is a victory against Jacksonville State. But the other is a fantastic victory over OVC powerhouse – definitely a relative term – Murray State on the Racers’ home floor. Samford might like its new digs after all.

Samford is one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the nation, converting 42% of the team’s three-point attempts. Senior center Phillip Ramelli leads the team with 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. And as a big man, he has good range, making 37 percent of three-pointers.

Samford’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: At Tennessee Martin
Jan. 22: Morehead State
Jan. 24: Eastern Kentucky
Jan. 29: Eastern Illinois
Jan. 31: Southeast Missouri State

Southeast Missouri State Indians (9-6, 2-2)

The Indians have played well this season and lost several close games against better teams, such as Southern Illinois, Arkansas and DePaul. All of those games were on the road and the Indians lost each by 13 or less. Southeast Missouri State’s best win this season was a hard-fought victory on the West Coast against Santa Barbara, 77-75. The Indians started conference play slow, dropping the first two games to Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech at home. But they bounced back against Eastern Illinois, winning 84-64 on the road, and at home against Tennessee State, winning 81-75. The Indians appear to be one of the few teams capable of contending with Murray State for the conference title.

Senior center Brandon Griffin is third in the team in scoring with 11.1 points per game, but he does everything else for the Indians, grabbing 7.1 rebounds and dishing 3.3 assists per game. Junior guard Derek Winans leads the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game.

Southeast Missouri State’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 22: At Tennessee Tech
Jan. 24: At Austin Peay
Jan. 29: At Jacksonville State
Jan. 31: At Samford

Tennessee Martin Skyhawks (5-10, 0-3)

The Skyhawks have not had to play many close games this season, as only two games have been decided by less than 10 points. Unfortunately, the Skyhawks lost seven non-conference games in blowouts and can only boast about three blowout wins against Division I opponents. Handling non-Division I opponents, no matter what the margin, is like Shaq and the Los Angeles Lakers taking on a team of Pygmies.

Junior guard Justin Smith leads the Skyhawks with 16.3 points per game and could become the OVC’s best scorer next season. His team averages 75.5 points per game this season, but unfortunately, stop the opposition on defense about as efficiently as a sieve holds water.

Tennessee Martin’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: Samford
Jan. 20: At Murray State
Jan. 22: At Tennessee State
Jan. 29: Morehead State
Jan. 31: Eastern Kentucky

Tennessee State Tigers (3-11, 2-1)

At 2-1, the Tigers sit near the top of the OVC standings. For now. Those two victories are the Tigers’ only Division I wins, and they came at the expense of the OVC’s newest members – Jacksonville State and Samford. And both victories were at home. Although Tennessee State has lost to some good teams like No. 15 Georgia Tech, No. 23 Vanderbilt and Colorado, the Tigers also have lost to Fisk, a non-Division I foe, which is like that team of Pygmies actually beating the Lakers – rather embarrassing.

Junior forward Roshaun Bowens is the most dangerous Tiger on the team, averaging 17.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, the other Tigers attack the glass with aggressiveness of a house cat – Tennessee State manages a meager 29 rebounds per game. And, unfortunately, there are many rebounds to claim because the Tigers also a shoot a frigid 39.6 percent from the field.

Tennessee State’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: At Eastern Illinois
Jan. 22: Tennessee Martin
Jan. 24: Murray State
Jan. 29: Austin Peay
Jan. 31: Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (7-7, 1-2)

The Golden Eagles appear to be a middle-of-the-pack type of team in the OVC this season. They have the potential to upset Murray State, especially at home where they have only lost once all season, which was a game against East Tennessee State, one of the better teams from the mid-major Southern Conference. The only bad loss so far this season was a four-point loss at Jacksonville. The Golden Eagles have lost two of three conference road games, losing at Eastern Illinois and Morehead State and winning at Southeast Missouri State.

Junior forward Willie Jenkins has delighted Golden Eagle fans, scoring 20.2 points per game and guiding Tennessee Tech to a position to become a contender at the top of the OVC. If Jenkins is around next season, the Golden Eagles will have to be considered one of the more dangerous teams in the conference. Again, dangerous being relative to the other OVC teams.

Tennessee Tech’s remaining January schedule:

Jan. 17: At Eastern Kentucky
Jan. 22: Southeast Missouri State
Jan. 24: Eastern Illinois
Jan. 27: Austin Peay
Jan. 31: At Tennessee State

     

Morning Dish

by - Published January 19, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Monday, January 19th

Remembering Dr. King: Today is the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of our nation’s greatest civil rights leaders. With the work inspired by King and others dedicated social equality, college basketball looks different than it did just half of a century ago. The amount of diversity on the court would probably bring a smile to King’s face. But like most other sports in this country, diversity still needs work in power positions such as coaches, athletic directors and university presidents.

Death in the Family: College basketball lost a member of its hard-working officiating crew when referee Tony Herndon collapsed during the Division III game between North Carolina Wesleyan and Shenandoah Saturday night. Herndon collapsed early in the second half, apparently in the midst of a heart attack. He was taken to Winchester Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of Herndon.

Mo’ Money: Memphis coach John Calipari will be seeing green for three extra years because the school extended Calipari’s contract through 2010. Calipari has an 81-35 record in four seasons at Memphis. He has brought in many talented recruits, some of whom have jumped to the NBA before ever arriving on campus. Calipari promises to bring Memphis back to glory, even if it is glory in a talent-depleted Conference USA. As Memphis continues to become a force, look for a major conference to make a play at grabbing Memphis.

Police Report: Louisville assistant coach Kevin Willard apparently celebrated the Cardinals victory over Tulane in excess. Police arrested Willard early yesterday morning and charged him with driving under the influence of alcohol when he failed a sobriety test.

Extra Work: Although there were only nine Division I games yesterday, two went into overtime. Virginia picked up its first ACC victory with a 76-67 win over Florida State. Senior guard Todd Billet led the Cavaliers with 26 points. Meanwhile, junior guard Jerry Johnson scored 35 points to lead Rider over Niagra, 93-90. Johnson made two free throws to put Rider ahead for good in overtime.

King of New York: Manhattan continues to dominate MAAC competition behind senior guard Luis Flores, a transfer Rutgers probably would love to have back. Flores is one of the NCAA’s most unheralded and prolific scorers, averaging 22.4 points per game this year. Flores led Manhattan past Fairfield, 89-69, scoring 27 points. Senior center Rob Thomson led Fairfield with 19 points and 13 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.

Quiet Storm: Villanova continued to play well against the unintimidating St. John’s Red Storm, winning 85-74 as the Wildcats’ starters accounted for all but three points. Freshman guard Michael Nardi scored a game-high 23 points and sophomore guard Allan Ray added 21 points to lead Villanova in the victory. Sophomore guard Darryll Hill led St. John’s with 20 points and seven assists.

Good Thing They Have the Patriots: Because Massachusetts’ men’s basketball program is near the bottom of the barrel in the NCAA’s talent-rich vat of schools. The Minutemen lost to Duquesne 88-62 as sophomore guard Jack Higgins scored a career-high 24 points for Duquesne. Massachusetts has won five games this season, which is 11 fewer than the New England Patriots have won. The Patriots went 14-2 in the NFL’s regular season and won their second playoff game yesterday against the Indianapolis Colts to advance to the Super Bowl. Also, kudos to the Carolina Panthers for using defense to beat the Philadelphia Eagles to reach their first-ever Super Bowl.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The best game of the night has soon-to-be-formerly No. 1 Connecticut looking to hand No. 13 Pittsburgh its first loss of the season and bounce back from the weekend loss at No. 10 North Carolina.

• Atlantic Sun conference fans should note the game between Belmont and Central Florida, two of the better teams in the conference. Meanwhile out west, three great games will determine early positions in the Big XII and Mountain West conferences. No. 12 Oklahoma visits coach Bobby Knight’s No. 21 Texas Tech Red Raiders, as Texas Tech looks to remain undefeated in Big XII play. BYU hosts Wyoming, and Utah plays Colorado State, as the two schools from Utah look to separate themselves from their MWC peers.

Morning Dish

by - Published January 16, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Friday, January 16th

Romero to sit: Diego Romero of Florida State has decided to sit out this season, just days after he was ruled eligible by the NCAA. Romero, a 6-foot-10 star from Argentina, was initially ruled a professional by the NCAA but was reinstated Monday. He could have played immediately, but decided to redshirt because half of the season was already over with. He will have two years of eligibility remaining. Romero missed the first 15 games of the season while his case was being sorted out. The decision to sit out was made after the player consulted with his parents in Argentina and coach Leonard Hamilton. The social studies major said that he would use the rest of the year to concentrate on his class work and work on his basketball skills. Romero will practice and travel with the team for the rest of the year. Romero played two seasons at Lon Morris Junior College in Texas. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds last season.

Gonzaga signs 7-footer: Gonzaga has announced that they have signed Calum MacLeod, a 7-foot center from New Zealand, for next season. MacLeod, who hails from Wellington, New Zealand, arrived in Spokane on Monday night and was in class by Tuesday morning. He will redshirt the reamining of this season and will maintain four years of elibibility. MacLeod has been playing for the New Zealand Junior National Team. The big man got to do not many people get to do – celebrate their birthday twice in one year. Wellington left New Zealand on Jan. 12 and after nearly 30 hours of traveling, he arrived in Spokane on Monday, which was still Jan. 12. MacLeod’s arrival is key as Gonzaga will lose senior centers Cory Violette and Richard Fox to graduation after this season.

Gordon to play: Top-ranked Connecticut will have the services of guard Ben Gordon for their big game against 10th ranked North Carolina. But he will play with a broken nose. Gordon broke his nose when he was hit by an elbow while guarding Gerald Riley midway through the first half of the Huskies’ 94-70 victory over Georgetown on Wednesday. Gordon sat out briefly and finished with 11 points in 35 minutes. Gordon is averaging nearly 19 points and and leads the Huskies with 25 steals.

Watch your mouth: Weber State coach Joe Cravens was suspended one game by the Big Sky Conference for critical comments he made about league officials. Dusty Clements, the Big Sky’s assistant commissioner, said Cravens’ made his comments during a morning radio talk show Wednesday in Salt Lake City. Cravens sat out last night’s game against Montana State, which Montana State won 61-48, questioned the “level of officiating” and suggested some officials can get intimidated by home crowds. “I apologize for the comments on the radio, which were inappropriate,” Cravens told the Ogden Examiner. “I know what a tough job officials have and I in no way meant to criticize how they do their jobs. I was trying to point out how difficult it is, not just for our team, but for any team, to go on the road and play before enthusiastic crowds.”

Louisville knocks off ECU: Taquan Dean and Larry O’Bannon each scored 16 points and Louisville’s swarming defense forced 16 turnovers in a 76-66 victory over the ECU Pirates. The Cardinals won their 12th consecutive game and fifth straight by double digits. Louisville is second nationally in scoring margin at over 23 points per game. Derrick Wiley scored 23 points for East Carolina, which lost its ninth consecutive conference game dating to last season. The Pirates did play without the services of second-leading scorer Gabriel Mikulas, who broke his arm during practice on Wednesday and is out for the remainder of the season. It was the fourth straight loss overall for the Pirates, who have committed 73 turnovers during their losing streak. The Pirates dropped to 3-37 all-time against ranked opponents and 2-2 against the Top Ten.

Bird in the rafters: Larry Bird’s No. 33, which is already retired by the Boston Celtics, will be retired at Indiana State, where he led the Sycamores to the NCAA championship game in 1979 against Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans. No one has worn the number at Indiana State since Bird left, but the university wants to finally make it official, athletic director Andi Myers said. Former player and coach Duane Klueh’s No. 54 jersey will also be retired during a ceremony at halftime of Indiana State’s home finale against Northern Iowa on Feb. 28. Bird, now the Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations, was an All-American and college player of the year in 1979, when he led his team to the nation’s No. 1 ranking. The Sycamores were undefeated until they lost the NCAA tournament championship game to Michigan State. Bird played 13 years with the Celtics and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Klueh played at Indiana State in 1946-49 and was the Helms Foundation player of the year in 1948. He then played in the NBA with Denver and Fort Wayne and returned to Indiana State as a basketball and tennis coach.

Tonight’s menu

• On tap for tonight is one top-25 team, Marquette. The 22nd ranked Golden Eagles will look to rebound from their loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday night, as they are hosted by Southern Miss in Green Bay, Wisconsin, of all places. Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is anticipated to be honored at halftime by Southern Miss, his alum.

College Quotebook 6

by - Published January 15, 2004 in Columns



College Quotebook – January 7th – 14th

by Nicholas Lozito

Leading The Pac

“We’re maturing and learning, and at the same time we’re not losing. A team hits us with something devastating, we don’t panic, we don’t get all bottled up about it. We just come back.”

– UCLA forward T.J. Cummings on his team’s progression from last season. The Bruins are tied with Stanford for first place in the Pac-10 with a 4-0 record.

“I really don’t think that we get a lot of the respect that other teams on the East Coast get. That’s fine. It just makes us more the underdog, so we can come out and prove to people more that we deserve to be with those top teams that they always name.”

– Stanford point guard Chris Hernandez, whose Cardinal are undefeated and ranked No. 2.

“We’ve never been quite as unathletic as people would have you believe. They always say we don’t do this and we don’t do that, and you just kind of chuckle because we’ve averaged 78 points and been at the top of the league in points.”

– Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery

Tough Draw

“We didn’t make the schedule. We’ll just have to go out there and play it.”

– Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson on a stretch where his team plays four teams in eight days with a combined record of 42-11.

Keeping Focus

“We understand that everybody’s saying, `Are we going to get lackadaisical?’ No…. We have to deliver the first blow, second blow, third and fourth.”

– Saint Joseph’s guard Jameer Nelson on how his squad will respond to the hype of an undefeated start and high rankings.

New Atmosphere

“This is what I play the game for. This has to be the craziest (atmosphere). I didn’t think it was going to be as loud as it was. My ears are ringing right now.”

– Oklahoma State guard John Lucas, one of many Baylor transfers, after scoring 22 points in the Cowboys’ win over Oklahoma.

“Where I came from, we didn’t really have very many fans, which is part of the reason I came here.”

– Cowboy center Joey Graham, a transfer from Central Florida, after the game.

Prime Real Estate

“It’s really one of the last places you can put a logo, not unless some company signs a deal with a coach to wear a logo tie.”

– Ron Byerly, vice president of advertising and marketing for O’Reilly Auto Parts, on his purchase of the rights to put the company’s logo on Bobby Knight’s sweater for the next two seasons.

“The promotional opportunities are endless. If Bobby Knight gets tossed from a game, O’Reilly could give fans $10 off a muffler!”

– David Carter, principal of the sports marketing firm The Sports Business Group

Hold Me, Coach!

“It’s like a 50-man marching band comes out on the field, and 49 turn right, and Johnny turns left. And Johnny’s people say, ‘What’s wrong with those other 49?’ And they yell at the band director and say, ‘Keep marching, Johnny! Keep marching!’”

– Memphis coach John Calipari on coddled players these days

Watchu Talkin’ About, Willis?

“The court markings pertaining to the lane have not changed in the last 50 years; players have changed tremendously in the last 50 years. So I think the rules committee will be very careful in terms of looking at what adjustments, if any, should be made.”

– NCAA Executive Committee Men’s Chairman Willis Wilson on proposals to extend the 3-point line and widen the lane in college basketball.

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

“I got lucky.”

– Wildcat forward Erik Daniels on his game-winning basket — made possible by a tipped pass with 2.5 seconds remaining — against No. 20 Mississippi State.

“Sometimes I’d rather be lucky than good. But you have to be good enough to put yourself in position to get those breaks.”

– Kentucky coach Tubby Smith after the 67-66 win.

Come across an interesting quote? You can forward it to College Quotebook by visiting our contact page. Please include the URL of the page the quote appeared on, and the quote itself. Thanks!

     

Checking the Polls

by - Published January 15, 2004 in Columns


Rating the Ratings

by Michael Ermitage

Call me a geek, but I like computers. I’m not into the AGP graphics cards or the Flash SRAM memory. Nor am I into chat rooms and role-playing games. The Internet, though, is a pretty damn cool thing. Heck, without the Internet, you wouldn’t be reading my random thoughts. And I think we’d all agree that the world is a better place now that Ermitage has a column.

While computers have changed the world and how we work (I think I read that in the first sentence of some Computers 101 book), it has also greatly affected college athletics. Most would agree it has ruined college football and enhanced college hoops. Instead of playing the “who-beat-who” game in our living room, we actually can figure it out mathematically and display it worldwide just like Jerry Palm and his collegerpi.com. Or just like Jeff Sagarin and his widely published rankings. These are exciting times. But how do we know which rankings to trust and which to ignore? Let me be your geeky, computer-loving tour guide of the college basketball rankings.

Human Polls – Before I review the computer polls available, let me first turn my attention to the much-beloved AP, ESPN/Coaches and Hoopville polls. Every year I am amazed by how important it is to people that their team is ranked in the human polls. Even in November, there is careful analysis by fans of every team about where they ended up that week. And it isn’t just fans of unheralded teams looking for respect. It’s also the Duke fans of the world fretting over why they’re fourth when they should be second. To me, rankings of all kind are virtually useless before February. I cannot believe the heartache people go through surrounding these early-season popularity contests.

AP poll – The AP poll, to me, is the Don Perignon of human polls. This shouldn’t surprise you seeing as how I’m a journalist. I believe the voters in the AP poll take the job more seriously than the other human polls, and the sheer volume of votes available makes the poll legit. Sure, there are some regional biases. And sportswriters generally only see the team they cover and the teams they play. However, sportswriters are often addicted to sports and I feel that when they’re not covering sports, they’re watching them. God bless their wives.

Coaches poll – Coaches are stubborn people. And loyal people. They’re also busy people. And for these three reasons – they make bad voters. While sportswriters will usually err on the side of pessimism (“this team sucks” and “this conference sucks” or “this catered food is terrible” are things often heard in a press box), coaches will err on the side of optimism (“I think our conference is the best,” or “Our conference leader can play with anybody in the country” are things heard in a basketball office). Therefore, there is a heavy amount of favoritism in the Coaches poll. Not to mention that some of the coaches just pass the thing to a basketball manager to fill out, defeating the purpose of getting the coaches opinion.

Hoopville Top 25 Poll – I honestly think the Hoopville poll is a good one. (Ed: Gee, thanks for the endorsement, Mike!) The writers here are basketball junkies and generally do not play favorites. The only drawback is that Hoopville is not yet large enough to have a credible poll. The whims of 30-plus writers, even the best ones, should not decide who are the best teams.

RPI – The centerpiece of water cooler discussions in March is considered the primary indicator of how the selection committee will seed a team. Its formula is simple – 25% team winning percentage (WP), 50% opponents’ average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage (OOWP). Got that?

The NCAA, of course, maintains that it adds some special quirks to the formula to get the final ratings. There is no real good answer on what the NCAA’s super-special, double-secret probation quirks are – except that they’re designed to further inflate the ego of the NCAA. In addition to the RPI, there’s the adjusted RPI, which removes RPI results that are not significant (namely, wins that decrease a team’s rating and losses that increase the rating). This RPI is designed to show which teams have inflated rankings, and which are potentially better than their current ranking. In my opinion, the RPI rankings are a solid statistical model for ranking the teams. It does have its deficiencies, in that it doesn’t account for where the game is played or for the margin of victory. I do find, however, that as the season wears on that it most accurately reflects the power structure of college basketball. Jerry Palm at www.collegerpi.com runs the best site for this info, while Ken Pomeroy also has a good site.

Pomeroy Rankings – Speaking of Ken Pomeroy, he has his own rankings that he’s modestly named after himself. Unlike the RPI, his rankings take into account the venue in which the game was played and the margin of victory. The purpose of his rankings is to get a predictive score of a potential game, which you can arrive at by taking the ranking of the higher rated team and subtracting the ranking of the lower rated team. Perhaps more useful in gambling than seeding teams, the ratings are interesting, but seem to favor teams that run up big wins against a weak schedule.

Sagarin Rankings – Another predictive ranking system is Jeff Sagarin’s model. Another modest fellow, Sagarin has been posting his rankings in the USA Today since 1985. His rankings, however, seem to put more emphasis on who you’ve played. The Sagarin rakings also take into account the margin of victory and the venue. But he also posts his rankings eliminating those two factors. Again, BCS teams that routinely handle smaller schools are favored here, but it is an informative and polished rating system.

There are certainly other ranking systems out there, including Mike Greenfield’s Team Rankings. It seems that any dude with a theory and a computer can put these things out there. Enter Will O’Hargan, a Ball State student, who put together the ORI rankings, which is a statistical model that just averages the four computer polls (RPI, Sagarin, Pomeroy and Greenfield) with the human polls. My guess is that the NCAA is probably a lot like O’Hargan come selection time, averaging each of these efforts to get an idea of where teams really stand.

Luckily for college basketball fans, it doesn’t matter how many computers you enter into the mix because the championship is always played for on the court. These rankings are like ammunition in your belt when you’re firing away about how great your old alma mater is at hoops. Or maybe they’re just like a microbrew offering at the stadium – a nice but not necessary option that just makes the whole experience better. Fire away and drink up – that’s exactly what college basketball is all about.

     

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.

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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
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Sept. 23: New Hampton School
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Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
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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

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

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