NCAA: NCAA Tweaks Season Format

by - Published April 13, 2006 in Newswire



NCAA Tweaks Season Format: The NCAA Management Council approved a measure that allows teams to compete in one regular-season tournament per year, rather than limiting them to two such tournaments in four seasons, as the rule previously stated. The council also indicated that it’d like to exempt conference tournaments, which count as one game on teams’ schedules. Based on the changes, teams could schedule 27 games and a preseason tournament appearance or 29 regular-season games. The regular season also would start one week earlier in November if the council gets its wish. [4/13/06]

Nevada: Fox Remains Among Wolf Pack

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Newswire



Fox Remains Among Wolf Pack: Nevada coach Mark Fox signed a new five-year contract that will keep him on the Wolf Pack sidelines through 2011. Fox replaced former coach Trent Johnson, who left Nevada to take the Stanford coaching job. Fox’s name was in the mix for the Oklahoma position before Jeff Capel took the post. In two seasons at Nevada, Fox has led the Wolf Pack to a 52-13 record. And next season could be special because the Wolf Pack return four starters from this year’s WAC champion and NCAA Tournament participant. Junior forward Nick Fazekas may return to Nevada, too, if he does not like the results from his NBA Draft exploration. [4/12/06]

Murray State: Racers Pick Kennedy

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Newswire



Racers Pick Kennedy: Murray State officials have hired Miami assistant coach Billy Kennedy to become the Racers’ next head coach, replacing Mick Cronin, who left the school for Cincinnati. Kennedy was an assistant under coach Frank Haith for one season after coaching Southeast Louisiana for six seasons. He compiled an 80-94 record at Southeast Louisiana and led the team to two conference regular-season titles. The Racers are a perennial contender in the Ohio Valley Conference and finished 24-7 this year, including a hard-fought loss to No. 3 North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. [4/12/06]

Cincinnati: Downey Leaves Cincy

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Newswire



Downey Leaves Cincy: Cincinnati freshman point guard Devan Downey will leave the program to transfer to another school. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.3 assists per game for the Bearcats and has a promising future ahead. Recruited by former coach Bob Huggins, Downey wanted interim coach Andy Kennedy to get Cincinnati’s full-time job. But the school chose Murray State’s Mick Cronin, so Downey has decided he’d rather play closer to home, which is in South Carolina. [4/12/06]

Colonial Revolution

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Columns



Colonial Revolution

by Adam Shandler

So get this…

I’m at a wedding on the Sunday evening of the George Mason-UConn Washington regional final game. There is no worse place for a college hoops fan to be on regional final night than a wedding at a locale devoid of televisions. Fortunately, I found a nephew of the groom who brought his laptop to this blessed event. Thank goodness for kids with short attention spans and their tech toys.

I kindly asked the kid if he would stop instant messaging his 15 friends simultaneously just long enough for me to get a score of the game. After a long pre-teen sigh, he relented and we logged on to CBSSportsline.com. You can imagine my dumbfoundedness when I caught the score of the George Mason-UConn game. I blinked hard and looked away from the screen for a moment. Hey, it was dark in that social hall and, after downing a few Cabernets, my eyes weren’t too reliable. I fixed my sights on the screen again. It was then, after much staring and confirming, that I shouted out an expletive prefaced with the word “Holy.”

This was during the best man’s speech. I’ve always had a knack for timing. After retreating to the lobby to call a few contacts to make sure this was not some internet hacker’s practical joke, I caught my breath and changed my thinking. The face of the Final Four would be changed forever. Well, at least until next year.

There is no question that George Mason became the flag bearer for all mid-major teams looking for respect. Because of the Patriots’ unlikely run to the Final Four, superior teams in non-power conferences have something to inspire them when setting preseason goals. But more profoundly, Mason has blazed a trail for its Colonial Athletic Association brethren – a conference that did more than just submit a Cinderella story to the Big Dance.

Was this the year the CAA jumped from mid-major to major? Let’s see:

  • Half of the conference’s 12 teams finished above .500, with four teams participating in postseason play and two teams participating in each of the postseason Final Fours.
  • George Mason, 27-8, made the Final Four, and gave eventual champion Florida one good half of basketball. On their way there, the Patriots shocked tourney juggernauts Michigan State and North Carolina, up-and-comer Wichita State and perennial favorite Connecticut. Answer honestly: did you really have the Patriots getting out of the first round against Michigan State?
  • UNC-Wilmington closed out its season at 25-8, but not after taking George Washington to overtime in a first round loss. The Seahawks have won four of the last seven CAA championships and have established themselves as a mainstay in the NCAA tournament play.
  • Hofstra, a team that many basketball pundits felt got snubbed for an NCAA bid, finished out the season at 26-7, defeating George Mason twice in less than two weeks. During the regular season the Pride knocked off higher RPI teams St. John’s and La Salle on their home floors and proved they were no fluke against Nebraska and Saint Joseph’s in the NIT. Their postseason run ended against conference foe Old Dominion.
  • Old Dominion split with George Mason in 2005-06 and squeaked by UNCW in the teams’ only meeting this year. The Monarchs erased Colorado and Manhattan in the NIT, and their win against Hofstra was the Pride’s only home loss this season, ending a 21-game win streak.

So, based on these accomplishments, has the CAA become at least comparable to the Atlantic 10? Have they become a poor man’s Conference USA? Conventional wisdom asks us to wait till next year because, well, you’re only as good as your last season. But if winning does what it’s supposed to – that being garner greater exposure for a school, help recruit better players and bolster a team’s schedule – then we’ll see more CAA representation in future postseason tournaments.

     

Portsmouth Invitational Notes

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Columns




Portsmouth Invitational Tournament Player Notes

by Phil Kasiecki

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The 2006 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is in the books. The talk was that the players here this year might be the best group the tournament has seen, and the play certainly reflected that as it was at a high level.

Some observations from our scout’s seat on a few players at the tournament:

Akin Akingbala (6’9″ PF, Clemson) is athletic and has a good body for playing inside, and playing on a team with better talent seemed to help him. He should get a long look in Orlando in June.

Rashad Anderson (6’6″ SG, Connecticut) has excellent shot selection. We already know he can shoot it, especially in the clutch, but lost in all of that is his shot selection. That was the prime reason he shot it well here, and he looks like he might be just athletic enough to work his way into the draft and get picked. Regardless, he’ll at least be on someone’s summer league roster with his size and shooting ability.

Jose Juan Barea (5’11″ PG, Northeastern) broke two records for assists at the tournament with 18 in Saturday’s game and 41 in the three games. Surrounded by more talented players, he showed how pass-first he is and committed just five turnovers along the way. He surely opened up some eyes with his play in this tournament.

It was a given that Keydren Clark (5’9″ PG, St. Peter’s) could score, considering he topped 3,000 career points in college. But here, he did it against better competition. That’s a start, but he didn’t rack up the assists, so playing the point might still be a question mark even though he showed some ability at that spot during the tournament.

Torin Francis (6’10″ PF, Notre Dame) is just solid and unspectacular, not standing out. He put in some decent work, but you’d hardly know he’s there. That’s not a knock, but that won’t get a guy noticed much, either.

As we thought before, Mike Hall (6’8″ PF, George Washington) is clearly not a small forward. That was evident as he constantly missed jumpers, though he hit a late three-pointer in one game. He rebounded like he always has, but at his size he’s not likely to be a post player in the NBA and that presents a problem.

Eric Hicks (6’6″, 245, PF, Cincinnati) probably has the liveliest body of any player at the camp. He’s very active on the boards and a great physical specimen, but he’s an undersized power forward.

Solomon Jones (6’10″ PF-C, South Florida) was the most intriguing player. He was very active at both ends of the floor, grabbing his share of rebounds and getting some baskets as well. Without question, playing around better talent helped him out, and if he makes it in the NBA, he’ll have better talent around him, so this might be a better representation of his abilities.

Daniel Kickert (6’10″ PF, St. Mary’s) gave a good accounting of himself, especially in Saturday’s championship game. He showed a good face-up game with range on his jumper to college three-point range, and got a few inside finishes.

Jai Lewis (6’7″, PF, George Mason) was a fan favorite since he played on the team that was the big story of the recently concluded NCAA Tournament. He was efficient on the offensive end and used his big body inside, and when he got position he used his very reliable jump hook successfully on several occasions. A scout from the Green Bay Packers was on hand to see him in addition to the NBA personnel present.

Tim Smith (5’9″ PG, East Tennessee State) had quite a cheering section, but that can’t change the fact that he’ll almost surely go down as a good college player but not NBA material. He’s already small, and though he is quick, he struggled shooting the ball and has a low release point since he barely gets off the ground on his shot. He also seems to play much better when the game is fast than when it’s slow.

C.J. Watson (6’2″ PG-SG, Tennessee) shot the ball well and looked like someone who can really score, but his size is that of a point guard. The weak crop of point guards means he may get a long look, but getting drafted is another matter.

Curtis Withers (6’8″ PF, Charlotte) had his struggles on Friday, but was better in Saturday’s finale. He came up short on some shots en route to missing all seven on Friday and generally played away from the hoop, but was much more assertive on Saturday.

     

Oklahoma: Capel Moves up Sooner Rather Than Later

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Newswire



Capel Moves up Sooner Rather Than Later: At 31, new Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel is one of the fastest rising stars in the profession. Capel comes to the Sooners to replace Kelvin Sampson, who left the school to take the Indiana job. Capel coached Virginia Commonwealth for the past four seasons, leading the Rams to the post-season in two of those years. Capel inherits a squad losing its top three players in Taj Gray, Kevin Bookout and Terrell Everett but importing one of the most highly touted recruiting classes. Capel must convince those recruits to stick to their commitments and come to Norman. With all indications pointing to a bright future for the Sooners under Capel, those recruits could do worse than spend four years under his tutelage. [4/11/06]

Saint Peter’s: Leckie Leaves the Peacocks

by - Published April 12, 2006 in Newswire



Leckie Leaves the Peacocks: Saint Peter’s coach Bob Leckie decided to retire after six seasons as the Peacocks’ head coach. At 58, Leckie decided it was time to move on. He led his alma mater to a 67-107 record in those six seasons, including three consecutive winning seasons with Keydren Clark, one of the most prolific scorers in the country, on the roster. [4/11/06]

Texas: Aldridge Enters NBA Draft

by - Published April 11, 2006 in Newswire



Aldridge Enters NBA Draft: One of the obvious lottery picks in this year’s NBA Draft, Texas sophomore forward LaMarcus Aldridge officially entered the draft yesterday and will hire an agent. That means he cannot return to school if he wanted to change his mind. But that’s not likely to happen for the Big 12′s most dominant player. Aldridge averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this past season. At 6-10, he plays big in the paint, but he can also step out on the perimeter to drain 15-foot jumpers. [4/11/06]

Boston College: Cooley Gets Fairfield’s Top Job

by - Published April 11, 2006 in Newswire



Cooley Gets Fairfield’s Top Job: Fairfield officials have hired Boston College assistant coach Ed Cooley to be the Stags’ next head coach. The school will announce the move this morning during a press conference. Cooley has been an assistant under Eagles coach Al Skinner for the past 10 years, including nine at Boston College. He replaces Tim O’Toole, who compiled a 112-120 record in seven seasons with the Stags. Fairfield finished 9-19 last season. [4/11/06]

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