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Todd Lickliter reflects on Iowa, working for Charlie Coles

by - Published March 7, 2012 in Columns
author_kintner

OXFORD, Ohio – Former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter is in his first year as a member of Charlie Coles’ coaching staff at Miami (Ohio). They have know each other since their days coaching together at the Five Star Camps. Todd really became a coaching superstar at Butler, where he was selected as the NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 2007.

Today we meet in Todd’s office located in Millett Hall and we do the interview just before practice. I stayed and watched about 30 minutes of practice and all the coaches divided equally the coaching duties. Todd seems to be enjoying his new role as an assistant after nine years as a head coach.

… Continue Reading

The top 10 arenas built in the last 15 years

by - Published March 23, 2011 in Columns

I have written extensively about the old arenas, the history and when watching a game the sense of being taken back to a different era. But how about the new venues?

Let’s take a look at the best newer arenas for fans to watch a college basketball. The new arenas have seating bowls with wide seats, cup holders, huge video score boards, stat boards, wide concourses, all kinds of good food and of course, passionate fans.

This is my top 10 college basketball arenas built in the last 15 years. The two main criteria are the facility and the atmosphere. Louisville, Auburn and Oregon opened new arenas this season. I am not including them in this ranking because they are too new to get an accurate reading of the atmosphere. I will evaluate those venues next year after the newness factor wears off a little. … Continue Reading

McDermott Returns to The Valley at Creighton

by - Published December 26, 2010 in Conference Notes

OMAHA – Creighton coach Greg McDemott calmly crosses his arms and watches his team run their offense. Occasionally he squats down like a catcher, then he pops back up to call out instructions to his players. He may pace down the sidelines in front of his bench, but he never seems to get too excited.

Tonight the Bluejays are off to an ice-cold start against the Samford Bulldogs of the Southern Conference. After the Bulldogs go up 7-0 on a three-pointer by Josh Davis, McDermott calls a play by raising his right fist, Antoine Young come off a screen, pops in an 18-foot jumper and at the 13:07 mark in the first half, Creighton has finally scored their first basket.

What does McDermott do? Claps his hands twice and watches him team get back on defense. That’s it, no big display of emotion, just calm, cool and collected. That’s the way he handles things. When things go well or when things fall apart he is still the calm, measured, coach of Creighton basketball.

Tonight he coached his team to a 58-40 win over their out-gunned opponent.

In less than eight months at the helm of the Bluejays, McDermott has his team starting to win, the fans coming out to games and he even has fans around Omaha talking about college basketball, which is not that easy in this football crazy state.

McDermott was named the 16th head coach in Creighton’s history on April 27, 2010. He spent the previous four seasons as head coach at Iowa State and replaced Dana Altman, who was hired as the coach at Oregon. While at Iowa State, he won 59 games where his teams were usually ranked near the top in scoring defense, but they just didn’t have enough offensive firepower to finish above .500. Going into the critical fifth year of his contract things were looking shaky for his future as a coach at Iowa State, so when the Creighton job became open, McDermott jumped at the chance to get back into the Missouri Valley Conference, where he coached Northern Iowa to three NCAA Tournament appearances in five years and won 90 games.

It is not very often that a coach leaves a BCS school to coach at a non-BCS school, but Creighton is not your average upper mid-major program. They average 15,000 fans a game, they have gone to the NCAA Tournament six times since 2000 and regularly contend for the MVC title.

So there are also pretty hefty expectations for the Creighton coach.

So far this year with the non-conference part of the schedule completed, McDermott has guided the Bluejays to an 8-4 record which includes wins over LSU and Saint Joseph’s, as well as heart-breaking road loses to Iowa State and Nebraska.

The defense is showing steady improvement as evidenced by holding three of the last four opponents to 60 or fewer points. In fact, tonight’s 58-40 win over Samford set the Qwest Center record for fewest points allowed, as well as biggest rebounding margin (45-19) for a team in the Qwest Center.

“We’ve made great strides defensively and we are still a work in progress, offensively,” said McDermott. “We have shortcomings, with our ability to pass it and our ability to shoot it, at times, but our decision-making as to what is a good pass and what is a good shot is improving. That is something that will be real important as we move forward in conference play.”

McDermott’s ability to move this team forward was developed in five years as an assistant at North Dakota State, followed by six successful years as head coach at Division II Wayne State College (NE).

But his meteoric rise in the head coaching ranks occurred in those five seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Northern Iowa. He took over a program that had not had a winning season in four years. In just his third year, he won 21 games, followed that with another 21 wins and then his team won 23 wins.

So when Creighton AD director, Bruce Rasmussen needed a coach, he didn’t have to look far. McDermott was already a well-known quantity in the MVC.

Rasmussen said he wanted a coach with documented success, a coach with passion for the game, someone that understood Creighton and the MVC, a great family man and teacher. He got all of that with McDermott, along with that calm sideline demeanor.

McDermott keeps his emotions in check on the sideline because he wants his players to play under control and with poise during tough situations.

“If you want your players to handle adverse situations in the right way, you as a coach need to emulate that. I try not to get too high with the winds on the good plays and I try not to get too low when things are not going right, “explained McDermott. “I think there needs to be a calming effect from the sidelines for the players. These guys are young and emotional. It has always been my feeling to try to stay even-keeled.”

It is probably easier to stay even-keeled with this team than with Iowa State because this is a solid program. McDermott didn’t really need to fix a lot when he arrived; he just needed to get his players to buy into his way of doing things.

He credits the previous coach with leaving this program is good shape. “Obviously Coach Altman did a terrific job in his tenure here. It was just a matter of instituting my own things. The players have embraced that and I couldn’t be happier with how the community has embraced both myself and our family.”

He sees his team being right in the thick of things with Wichita State, Missouri State, Illinois State and Northern Iowa by the time the conference tournament rolls around in March and based upon his previous record in the MVC, McDermott has pretty good eye sight.

Why I Gave Up Bracketmania

by - Published March 16, 2010 in Columns

It is that time of the year when my e-mail inbox and Facebook inbox are loaded with offers to get in NCAA Bracket Challenges and office pools. Some are for fun and some are for money, but all of them offer heartbreak and frustration.

So two years ago I decided to not enter any office pools. Heck, I didn’t even fill out a bracket for my own use.

It felt liberating and gave me a peace-of-mind as I watched games. I actually rooted only for teams I really wanted to win as I stuffed my face with cheese fries, potato skins, steak sandwiches and cheeseburgers, as opposed to rooting for the teams I think should win. It actually allowed me to kick back and really enjoy my cigars as I watched four games at a time at a sports bar in northern Kentucky.

All around me were people with their brackets laid put in front of them screaming at the TV screens. A lot of people had multiple brackets, all marked up with their picks and their corrections to their picks in front of them.

I have to admit the idea to skip doing brackets was not mine, although I wish it was my idea. A few years ago, Kyle Whelliston wrote a column about why you shouldn’t enter your office pool that was published on Midmajority.com.

Whelliston describes how he would fill in the all the pairings as a kid when they were announced and then over the weeks fill in the winners. If a team he liked (always a mid-major) won, he would fill them in with bold letters, with all caps and maybe even underline it. If a BCS team advanced he would write them down maybe using a pencil in real small letters, hoping they might disappear.

“Each naked tree branch on my bracket was a place where new spring leaves soon sprout and unfurl,” wrote Whelliston. “When the champion was crowned, I could look back on my bracket and recall all the emotions I felt with each game. I still have most of my brackets from the eighties; each one is a map to my NCAA memories.”

When I read that it really struck a chord with me. Whelliston’s poetic way of describing a better way to enjoy the greatest sporting event in the world had to be better than the frustration of watching my predictions go further down the toilet with each round.

It can be absolutely maddening to watch a 20-year-old player miss a buzzer-beater or commit an untimely turnover or foul in the closing seconds of a tight game. Then when that player is playing for a team I really don’t want to win, but one I picked in my brackets, I was obligated to root for them.

Now for those of you not familiar with Whelliston, he is the mid-major king. He eats, sleeps and writes about everything mid-major and he has no time to waste on Duke, Pittsburgh, Kentucky or any school above the “Red Line”, which is his way of separating the big boys and the so-called mid-majors in the world of college basketball. He bases his Red Line on how much money schools spend on college sports.

Many years ago I began to think something was wrong. I would study college basketball, more than most people I know, but when the NCAA National Championship game was concluded I found that I lost in my office pool to people that knew a lot less than I did.

To make losing even worse, I seemed too often lose to the office receptionist or bookkeeper that picked the winner based how their uniforms looked or what mascots represented the schools.

The difference between the office pool brackets and the ones that played out on the court were monumental. Watching the NCAA Tournament, especially in the latter rounds, was pure torture.

About four years ago I was sitting around a table with a sports talk-show host in Cincinnati, a newspaper sports writer and Division I coach. It was a round table discussion about college hoops at a northern Kentucky sports bar. We had the cigars going, beer flowing and good food everywhere. It was quite an assortment of basketball knowledge.

About 30 minutes into it, I asked if anyone had ever won an office pool. As we went around the table, it was nope, nope, not even close and nada.

It became evident that if that group can’t accurately predict a sport they are heavily involved with on a regular basis, then there is no reason to enter the office pool with an expectation of winning. Trying to predict random events on a basketball court is about the same as going to a casino and playing a slot machine.

I know there is probably a guy in your office that is the office sports nut. He always has two screens active on his computer at any given time. He has his work on one screen and a sports web page going on another, that he can minimize when the boss comes by. He will come by and solicit you to join the office pool. It will be tempting because all the cool people in the office will be playing.

But this year, tell him no. Tell him you want to enjoy the tournament this year and root for the teams that you really want to win. Maybe even do what Kyle suggests: fill out your brackets as the tournament progresses, printing the teams that you really like in big bold, colorful letters and the ones you do not like in a small dull number two pencil creatively misspelling them.

Leave the office pool to all the people that don’t pay much attention to college basketball until the tournament. After all, they usually win the office pool anyway.

Try it. I did and it made watching the tournament a lot more fun the last two years and you may just get them all right this year.

Butler Rolls in Horizon League Championship

by - Published March 9, 2010 in Columns

INDIANAPOLIS – Here are the key numbers to this game: 66.7 percent, 61.5 percent and 100 percent.

Those are Butler’s first half numbers from the field (14-21), from beyond the three-point line (8-13) and from the foul line (6-6) in their 70-45 victory over Wright State in the Horizon League Championship Game.

Butler’s Shelvin Mack hit a 3-pointer at the 18:56 mark to put Butler up 3-0 and the Bulldogs never trailed in the game.

A three-pointer by N’gai Evans for Wright State pulled the Raiders within one at 6-5 with 17:18 left in the first half, but after that Butler (28-4) just kept building their lead.  The Bulldogs hit double figures for good at the 4:26 mark when Ronald Nored made two fouls shots to make it 32-21 after being fouled by Ronnie Thomas.

By halftime it was 42-28, and that 14 point spread was a close as Wright State (20-12) would get the rest of the game.

Wright State went to a zone early in an attempt to stop Butler from cutting and driving the lane as they did in the prior game they played.  However, that opened up the outside and Butler lit it up from three-point land. Mack was 4-6, Zach Hahn went 2-2, Nored went 1-1 and Willie Veasley went 1-2.

“We’re a little thin inside with some injuries and we were hoping we might slow his (Howard) game down and force Butler to make some outside shots.  The last time we played, we opened up too many driving lanes and they go to the basket and finished,” explained Wright State coach Brad Brownell.  “Tonight they made threes.  When they see the ball go in early like that, then you know it’s going to be tough.”

Butler coach Brad Stevens thought that the hot start his team had coupled with some shots Wright State missed set the stage for his team’s runaway.

“When one team shoots it great and the other team misses a few sometimes you feel a lot better,” Stevens said.  “That was the case tonight. I thought our perimeter defense was really good in the first 30 minutes and then they missed a few they usually make, coupled together you have the final score.”

In the second half Butler just kept expanding their lead until it hit 30 points at the 2:39 mark.  When Butler and Wright State emptied the benches, the Raiders closed the gap back down to 25 points.

Butler’s three victories over Wright State may have been their three best played games this year.  Stevens said it came down to respect for Wright State that drives them to prepare so well for playing the Raiders.

He said, “It begins with a great deal of respect for their program.  Our staff and players have a great deal of respect for their staff. Brad (Brownell) and their players are really good.  Every time we play them we better bring our “A” game or we’re going to get beat, we know that.”

Wright State guard Vaughn Duggins thought that Butler was well-prepared and that was key to their dominating win, along with his Raiders missing shots.

“Butler was well-prepared.  They obviously scouted our motion offense and some of our tendencies we have,” he explained.  “They were on us like glue and they’re hard to shake free.  The times we were able to shake free and get shots, we didn’t make them and that’s the more frustrating part, when you get open and can’t knock down a shot.”

One play that stand out late in the game was at the about the 9:38 mark and Butler leading by 25 points at 59-34, Howard dove into the front row of seats to save the ball, which was grabbed by Shawn Vanzant and passed to Veasley for a layup.

Stevens pointed that play out as an important indicator of how hard Butler plays no matter what the score.

“That play will be shown for the next 20 years and the teaching point is that we’re up 20 points and he plays the right way to win the possession,” said Stevens.  “I think that speaks to who he is, but it also peaks to who we all want to be everyday.”

Notes

-Butler is 43-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens.

-This is the 5th straight year for Butler and 4th straight year for Wright State that they have achieved 20 wins.

-Butler is ranked #12 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today “Top 25.”  They have been ranked each year since 2006-07.

-Former college coach Pete Gillen got here early tonight and held court at the scorer’s desk about 90 minutes before game time.  It seemed like almost everyone stopped by to talk with him.  He did the game for Westwood One Radio Network.

-Brad Brownell is 15-4 all-time in conference tournament games and 5-2 at Wright State.

-The Butler ROTC color guard had four big guys that looked like they could actually defend the country as opposed to a bunch of puny guys and little girls that you see at a lot of schools.

-Wright State had a large crowd there of well over 1,000 people.

-Wright State’s three worst losses were to Butler, with margins of 12 points, 12 points and 25 points.

-Quote of the night:  “I apologize that we didn’t play better.  We’re a better team than we showed tonight, but certainly Butler was playing at a high level.”  -Wright State head coach Brad Brownell

Wright State, Butler Advance to Finals Once Again

by - Published March 7, 2010 in Columns

INDIANAPOLIS – When a team makes nine three-pointers in the first half, that generally means they are in a great position to win the game.  When they also hold that team to just 18 points in the first half, that usually points to a win.

Wright State did all that and rolled over Detroit 69-50 in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship.

Led by 6′ 9″ center Ronnie Thomas’ four three-pointers in four tries, the Raiders led 39-18 at the half.   The Titans shot just 38.1 percent (8-21) including 1-6 from 3-point land.

Wright State (20-11) didn’t set out in their game plan to set Thomas up to shoot three-pointers, that is just what the Detroit defense allowed the Raiders to do.

Detroit coach Ray McCallum’s game plan included packing it in around the basket to stop the easy shots, which opened things up for Raiders on the outside where they were 9-14 (52.2 percent).

“We knew they were an excellent three-point shooting team, but we wanted to take away layups.  We didn’t guard the three with our capability,” explained McCallum.  “We knew the shooters, we had them identified.  It was a quick turn around for our guys, we weren’t able to play Detroit basketball today.”

On the flip side Wright State coach Brad Brownell didn’t draw up any plays to get Thomas shots.

He said, “We didn’t try to have him be our game plan, but Ronnie has shot shots, and had some games where he made more than others.  It’s not like we told Ronnie not to shoot.  Most teams guard him out there a little differently, and if you leave him open, he’s going to make some shots.”

The game started off just fine for Detroit (20-14) when Thomas Kennedy hit a jumper to put them up 2-0.  By the 17:26 mark Kennedy hit a 3-pointer to put the Titans up by four at 7-3.  That was the biggest lead they would enjoy in the game.

Thomas hit a three-pointer at the 16:32 mark to get the Raiders within one at 7-6 and then Troy Tabler hit another to put Wright State up for good at 9-7.

Wright State got the lead up to 23 points at 36-13 with 3:03 to go in the first half.   When the teams headed to the locker room Wright State led 39-18.

In the second half Wright State expanded its lead to 25 three times, the last coming at the 6:06 mark when Scott Grote made a jumper to make the score 63-38.  After that Detroit went on a small 13-6 run to close the final point gap to 19 points.

Tabler, with 16 points in the game, felt that his team used the week off to their advantage, which helped them win tonight.

“It helped getting a week with no games, so we can focus our self in practice rather than focus on a game. This week we were able to get better as a team.”

Thomas led all scorers with 18 points, Eli Homan led Detroit with 12 points.

Butler Stops Milwaukee to Advance

For Butler, it came down to getting stops on defense, which finally caused Milwaukee to fall in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship 68-59.

Down 29-28 at the half, Butler came out and took the lead when Matt Howard made a jump shot at the 19:22 mark.  Milwaukee’s Anthony Hill made a layup to put the Panthers ahead at 31-30.  Another Jumper by Howard at the 18:41 mark put Butler ahead 32-31, and they never trailed again in the game.

When Butler’s Shelvin Mack made a layup with 11:56 left it stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to nine at 44-35.

But Milwaukee (20-14) wasn’t giving up.  By the time Ricky Franklin hit a three-pointer with 6:22 left, the Panthers were within a point at 50-49.

As the Butler fans got a little anxious, Butler coach Brad Stevens had faith in his players, so rather than call a timeout he let them play.

A couple of free throws by Howard, a lay up by Ronald Nored, then a free throw to complete the three-point play after a foul by Milwaukee’s Ja’Rob McCallum at the 5:20 mark and Butler had some breathing room with a 55-49 lead.

Over the last five minutes, Butler (27-4) worked its lead up to double digits, then as time ran tout Milwaukee’s Burleigh Porte hit a jumper to give Butler the nine-point win.

“It was a tough game, they are a very physical team.  I give those guys a lot of credit, third game in five days,” said Stevens.  “I thought they played with outstanding effort and they didn’t get tired.”

Hill led Milwaukee with 15 points.

Matt Howard led all scorers with 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half.

“They were giving me the ball in good spots.  I was trying to attack and get the ball up on the rim, it was working today,” explained Howard.

Butler’s Gordon Hayward had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The tough Butler defense had Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter saying that Butler was able to play their style, while forcing his team out of how they wanted to play and that was a big factor in his team’s loss.

“We got to this point by playing a certain style, and it was too bad we didn’t get a chance to finish that style out,” Jeter said.

Notes

  • Detroit is the first team to post two upsets (by seed) in the tournament since the Titans did it in 1996.
  • Former Wright State great Mike Grote and his brother former Michigan State player Steve Grote were in attendance tonight, along with Bob Grote, a former Raider great and father of Wright player Scott Grote.  Mike Grote played on the Raiders’ national championship team.  Those three are some very knowledgeable fans.
  • Not to be outdone, Mike Nienabor, coach at Christian Brothers University, Kirk Nienabor, the all-time assists leader at Bethel University when he graduated and Mike Price, the coach of Cincinnati Oak Hills High School, were also on hand for the game.
  • Wright State is in the Horizon League semifinal game for third time in the last four years.
  • Wright State’s baseball team yesterday beat the number one ranked team in the country, University of Virginia 2-1.
  • Wright State fans outnumbered Detroit fans about 10 to 1.   There were almost 1,000 Raider fans in attendance.
  • Wright State has reached the 20-win mark for the fourth year in a row under coach Brad Brownell.
  • Wright State leads the overall series with Detroit 20-19.
  • Milwaukee is making their first appearance in the semifinals since they won the 2006 championship.
  • Butler’s 19-game winning streak is the longest in the country.
  • Butler won their fourth straight league title this season and is hosting the tournament for the third straight year.
  • Butler is 13-0 at home and 42-3 in the last three years.
  • Butler leads the all-time series with Milwaukee 30-10.
  • Butler is in the Horizon League Championship game for the fifth year in a row, but lost three of the last four finals, including in 2007 against Wright State.  In the HL/MCC only Xavier had a longer run of final game appearances.
  • With Wright State’s win tonight the Horizon League has five 20-win teams for the first time in conference history.  Only five other leagues/conferences have as many 20-game teams this season: Big East (8), Big 12 (7), SEC (6), ACC (5) and Atlantic 10 (5).  All of those conferences have more teams than the Horizon League.

Wright State and Butler play Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Horizon League Quarterfinals – Detroit Frustrates Green Bay, Milwaukee Takes Down Cleveland State

by - Published March 6, 2010 in Conference Notes

Detroit Frustrates Green Bay

INDIANAPOLIS – For Detroit it was part big man in the middle and part penetrating guards and part taking Green Bay’s leading scorer out of his game. All of this added up to a 62-53 win for the Titans in the Horizon League Championship quarter-final game.

Green Bay’s Rahmon Fletcher came in averaging 17.1 ppg and when the buzzer sounded he had just three points going 1-10 from the field.

The big man part for Detroit was 6’ 10” Eli Holman. He muscled in 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Detroit’s penetrating guards were Woody Payne and Chase Simon. Payne scored seven points and registered five assists. For Simon it was five points and three assists.

Part I, holding Fletcher’s scoring down was what Detroit coach Ray McCallum thought was the key to their win.

“Or focus was on him. Paying attention to Fletcher and slowing him down.”

The scoring started for Detroit (20-13) when Holman slammed home a dunk at the 18:37 mark and from that 2-0 lead the Titans never trailed in the game.

“One thing our coach preached to us, was going to the glass and I know I’m good at that, going to the glass,” said Holman.

The Phoenix got the score down to one point twice in the first half the last time on a 3-pointer by Troy Cotton with 13:52 left.

The Titans did get the lead up as high as eight points at 24-16 with 6:30 left, but Green Bay (21-12) kept fighting and when Seth Evans hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left they briefly got it two within two points at 28-26 before Thomas Kennedy hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to push their halftime to five at 31-26.

In the second half Green Bay never got closer than five points.

“Without a question, a disappointing and frustrating loss. The key word is frustrating. Give Detroit credit for that, they took us out of what we wanted to do offensively and we got frustrated,” said Kowalczyk.

Milwaukee Takes Down Cleveland State

INDIANAPOLIS – The nightcap was similar to the first game only this time it was Milwaukee scoring the first basketball and going wire-to-wire to win 82-75 over Cleveland State.

The Panthers spread their scoring around with six players scoring in double digits.

It did get a little exciting in the second half. With Milwaukee leading by 20 points at 62-42, Cleveland State’s Norris Cole drove down the lane and made a layup. That led to 13 straight points by the Vikings to make it 64-55 with 5:58 left in the game.

Finally a layup by Milwaukee’s Anthony Hill at the 4:46 mark got the score back up to double figures at 66-55. Cleveland State (16-17) spent the rest of the game whittling the score down to the final deficit of seven.

“We responded, our guys responded with layups to break the pressure,” said Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter.

Panther player Ja’Rob McCallum also pointed out that they also kicked the ball out when pressured.

“We usually have a guy on the baseline and our bigs are in and out flashing high post.”

Cleveland State’s coach Gary Water agreed that going inside was the difference in this game.

“They could go inside anytime they wanted and get a basket,” Waters explained. “Anytime we made a run and went at them, they would go right to the heart of our defense.”

The first half saw Milwaukee (20-13) go up by as many as 11 points before ending the half up by eight points at 32-24.

Milwaukee’s balances scoring was led by Hill and McCallum with 14 points. Ricky Franklin had 13 points, Ryan Haggerty had 12 points, James Eayers had 11 points, with seven rebounds and Jason Everkamp pitched in 10 points.

Cleveland State’s Tim Kamczyc led all scorers with 20 points, Cole had 16 points, Jeremy Montgomery had 15 points and Lance James had 13 points.

Quarterfinal Notes

  • Wright State coach Brad Brownell had his team practice on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was an off day, then they practiced Thursday in Dayton and Friday for 90 minutes at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Brownell wasn’t sure if having a week off was a good thing or not. No games for a week, is good for his team, which is down two players due to injuries, so his team will be well rested. But playing either Detroit or Green Bay after they played two games might have them in a flow and his team a little rusty. The Raiders worked on things for each team. Today Wright State spent the bulk of their practice today working on their half court offense.
  • Butler coach Brad Stevens had the same practice schedule as Wright State going on Monday and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday off. Stevens spent this week watching game films against his possible opponents, Milwaukee and Cleveland State. He also watched some film of them playing teams that he thought might be similar to Butler’s style of play. Stevens didn’t reveal anything different his team was doing before their semi-final game.
  • This is Detroit’s first winning season in six years (18-13, 2003-04) and they reached 20 wins for the first time since going 25-12 in2000-01.
  • Detroit leads the overall series with Green Bay 20-19.
  • UWM-holds a 20-14 lead in the overall series with Cleveland State.
  • Milwaukee advanced to the league championship game the last four times it reached the semifinals.
  • Detroit plays Wright State Saturday at 5:15 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPNU on tape-delay at 10 p.m. EST that night.
  • Milwaukee plays Butler at 8:00 p.m. The game in on ESPNU.

Big Quote:

“I can tell you we’re going to be in a post-season tournament. We are going to play in the post-season and we’re excited to play in the post-season.” Ted Kowalczy

Bracketbusters 2010 in Omaha

by - Published February 21, 2010 in Columns

OMAHA – It is Bracketbusters Saturday and time for some of the better mid-major teams to step outside conference play and maybe impress some of the members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

But for Creighton and Loyola (Ill.), there was no TV for their Bracketbusters game tonight, so they were both trying to get back on track after suffering losses in last games in conference play.

As it worked out, Creighton broke their two-game losing streak with a convincing 78-58 win over their Horizon League foe, but it took a second half spurt to put away the Ramblers after they pulled to within one at 34-33 on a jumper by Andy Polka with four seconds left in the first half.

In the first half Loyola got their largest lead of the game at the 17:31 mark on a jumper by Ben Averkamp to make it 10-5. Then Creighton (14-14) went on a 27-10 run to take a 12-point lead at 32-20 with 4:45 left in the first half.

But just when it looked like the Bluejays were going to put this game away, the Ramblers got back into the game on two free throws and a layup by Walt Gibler, four free throws by Geoff McCammon, a three-pointer by Terrance Hill and the aforementioned jumper by Polka.

Loyola (14-13) seemed to be in good shape coming out in the second half and then in just over four minutes the Bluejays had another 12-point lead at 47-35.

Creighton’s second half lead stayed at around 10 points until just under five minutes remained. A couple free throws by Antoine Young got the Bluejays to finish out on a 15-6 run with six different players scoring multiple points close out the game.

In the first seven or eight minutes Creighton got up in us and we just didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t get any in and out. We just didn’t have many quality processions when they went on their run to start the second half,” said Loyola coach Jim Whitesell. “It is execution where we need to improve, but give Creighton credit, they had only 10 turnovers and six more possessions than we had and we need every possession possible.”

Creighton’s coach Dana Altman thought their second half run was triggered by good defense.

Defensively, I think we were better. We got a lot of points on turnovers. Then Casey (Harriman) hit a big three and Kaleb (Korver) hit a big three and they had been struggling. So that helped us open up a lead,” explained Altman.

Creighton’s Kenny Lawson had a double-double with 19 points to lead all scorers and 10 rebounds. Cavel Witter also scored 12 points for the Bluejays.

For Loyola, Walt Gibbler had 15 points, Terrance Hill had 12 points and McCammon had 11 points. Polka had 10 rebounds.

Whenever a team interrupts conference play to play a non-conference game there is always the possibility in some players’ minds that this type of game can be a distraction or maybe break up the rhythm they are in playing conference games. That line of thought was not shared by the Creighton’s Justin Carter, who thought it was an opportunity to get on the winning track.

It was great stepping out of conference play when we could see someone new and try to get something going,” Carter said.

Notes

  • This series dates back to 1926 and Loyola leads the series 11-6.
  • Dana Altman is the dean of Missouri Valley coaches in his 16th year with a 322-174 (.649) record.
  • This is just the second time in eight years that Creighton’s Bracketbusters game did not air on national television.
  • Loyola’s trainer Dr. Ton Hitcho has worked 952 consecutive Loyola basketball games. Since joining the staff in 1977-78 he has witnessed 445 Rambler victories.
  • Creighton draws 14,093 during the last six years, but during the four Bracketbusters games held here at the Qwest Center the Bluejays have averaged a little over 17,300 per game.
  • During the National Anthem every Creighton player and coach put their hands on their heart. Not many teams do that anymore. In fact, the vast majority of the crowd did that too.
  • Tonight’s match-up is part of the nationwide Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project, using Jesuit basketball to raise awareness of Jesuit education. They highlight games between the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities.
  • Creighton’s next game is Tuesday at Southern Illinois at 8:05 EST.
  • Loyola’s next game is at home against Milwaukee Thursday at 8:00 EST.

Butler Knocks Off Xavier in Dramatic Fashion

by - Published December 19, 2009 in Columns

INDIANAPOLIS – The key numbers for Saturday’s game between Xavier and Butler are 1.2, 1.3 and 1.8.

With 1.8 seconds left in the game, Butler’s Gordon Hayward grabbed a loose ball and shot a layup.  The ball went through the net with 1.2 seconds to go to put Butler up 69-68.  The officials stopped play to check the instant replay to figure what most people in attendance thought they would: how much time there should be on the clock for Xavier to make one last desperation play to go for the win.

After about five minutes it became evident they were looking at a possible clock malfunction that caused the clock to not tick off enough time prior to Haywood’s layup.  After 11 minutes the officials declared the game over with Butler winning 69-68.

Apparently the clock erroneously stopped at the 14.7 mark.  The officials put a stopwatch to it and determined that 1.3 seconds had elapsed.   That was deducted from the 1.2 seconds left, so the game was over.

The last procession of the game, which lasted 36 seconds, started when Xavier’s Mark Lyons got tied up for a held ball.  Then the possession took what seemed like an eternity to complete, as it included two missed 3-pointers by Butler, two offensive rebounds, a mad scramble for the ball and finally Hayward’s layup.

Xavier’s coach Chris Mack, when informed the game was over, raced over to the officials to plead his case, then threw his hands up in disgust as the officials hustled off the court.

After the game Mack was still skeptical of the call, but didn’t say they blew it.

“I know when I go back and I have a chance to watch it on film, I really hope for everybody’s sake they got it right,” said Mack.

But it was Saturday afternoon and there was no better place to be than at Butler’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to watch college basketball.

This game matched two teams that share a history together, both as former members of the Midwest Collegiate Conference (which later became the Horizon League) and two private non-top six conference basketball schools that have been constantly ranked in the Top 25.  They are two of the best non-BCS schools in the country.

Until last year, when Butler beat No. 14 Xavier in Cincinnati 74-65, the two schools had not played since 1998 when Xavier won 73-66.  Xavier leads the all-time series 28-15, including seven straight at Hinkle Fieldhouse coming in.

But that is before Butler started its run of ranked teams.  This year Butler is ranked at number 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll and 21 in the AP Poll.

It is amazing that these two small private schools have become basketball powers on the national scene.

Xavier has become a basketball factory producing good players, great teams and lot of recognition for the school, without sacrificing their academic integrity.  The Musketeers play in the beautiful 10,250-seat Cintas Center, where they average close to 10,000 fans a game.  At the same time Xavier has figured a way to maximize their basketball revenue stream so much that Forbes magazine named them one of the 20 most valuable college basketball programs in the country for the second year in a row, generating $7.9 million in operating income last year.  That put them 17th out of over 300 Division I basketball programs.   They fly to their away game in a chartered jet, just like the big boys do.

As for Butler, they have turned their success into invitations to play in some of the top preseason tournaments and regular appearances on national TV.  Their success has allowed them to play home games against not only Xavier, but teams like Northwestern and Ohio State.  Unlike Xavier, the usually fly commercial and they average around 6,000 fans per game, although this year they are averaging close to 7,500 fans per game.  It appears they are growing and creating new fans in Central Indiana.  It wasn’t much more than 15 years ago that Xavier was averaging 7,500 fans per game.

The game started out with a three-pointer by Hayward and Butler led the entire first half, pushing the lead up as high as 15 points before Xavier whittled it down to 39-32 at the half.

In the second half the Musketeers scored the first 11 points and went ahead for the first time when Jordon Crawford made a three-pointer to make it 41-39 with 17:39 to go.

Xavier held their lead in the second half until Lyons fouled Ronald Norad, who promptly made both free throws to tie the score at 60 with 4:07 left.

The Musketeers got the lead back when Jason Love hit a baseline jumper to make it 66-65 with just 1:32 left.  Crawford then hit a jump shot with 46.7 seconds left to push the lead to three points.   Butler’s Shelvin Mack got fouled by Terrell Holloway with 39 seconds left, making both foul shots to get Butler within 68-67.  The only thing that remained at this point was the one last sequence that ended with Haywood’s game-winning layup.

Butler’s Brad Stevens, always the even-keeled coach, said that during the time it took to sort out the ending for the game he told his players, “If the call doesn’t go our way or we a worse team?  If it goes our way are we a better team?”

It was a shame that such a great basketball game by these two good teams on a glorious winter day in America’s basketball state had to end by a decision by the officials rather than a great shot or great block.

The Bobby Knight watch: He was sitting courtside doing the game for ESPN2.  There were two uniformed policemen and two Hinkle security guys standing near or seated by the famous coach.  At one point near the end of the first half a group of students started chanting his name, eventually joined by some other fans and he waved to them, which got an even louder cheer by the fans.  After the game he signed autographs for fans.

Why Bracket-Mania Is Not For Me

by - Published March 17, 2009 in Columns

It is that time of the year when my e-mail inbox and Facebook inbox are loaded with offers to get in NCAA Bracket Challenges and office pools.  Some are for fun and some are for money, but all of them offer heartbreak and frustration.

Last year for the first time in years I did not fill out a NCAA Tournament Bracket ahead of the actual tournament.

If felt liberating, it gave me a peace-of-mind as I watched games.  I actually rooted only for teams I really wanted to win as I stuffed my face with cheese fries, potato skins, steak sandwiches and cheeseburgers, as opposed to rooting for the teams I think should win.   It actually allowed me to kick back and really enjoy my cigars as I watched four games at a time at Ticket’s Sports Bar in Northern Kentucky.

All around me were people with their brackets laid out in front of them screaming at the TV screens.  A lot of people had multiple brackets; all market up in front of them.

I have to admit the idea to skip doing brackets was not mine, although I wish it was my idea.  Last year Kyle Whelliston wrote a column about why you shouldn’t enter your office pool that was published on Midmajority.com.

Whelliston describes how he would fill in the all the pairings as a kid when they were announced and then over the weeks fill in the winners.  If a team he liked (always a mid-major) won he would fill them in with bold letters, with all caps and maybe even underline it.  If a BCS team advanced he would write them down maybe using a pencil in real small letters, hoping they might disappear.

“Each naked tree branch on my bracket was a place where new spring leaves soon sprout and unfurl,” wrote Whelliston.  “When the champion was crowned, I could look back on my bracket and recall all the emotions I felt with each game.  I still have most of my brackets from the eighties; each one is a map to my NCAA memories.”

When I read that last year it really struck a chord with me.  Whelliston’s poetic way of describing a better way to enjoy the greatest sporting event in the world had to be better than the frustration of watching my predictions go further down the toilet with each round.

It can be absolutely maddening to watch as a 20 year old player miss a buzzer-beater, or commit an untimely turnover or foul, in the closing seconds of a tight game playing for a team I really don’t want to win, but since I picked them in my brackets, I was obligated to root for them.

Now for those of you not familiar with Welliston, he is the mid-major king.  He eats, sleeps and writes about everything mid-major and he has no time to waste on Duke, Pittsburgh, Texas or any school above the redline, which is his way of separating the big boys and the so-called mid-majors in the world of college basketball.  He bases his redline on how much money schools spend on college sports.

Years ago I began to think something was wrong.  I would study college basketball, more than most people I know, but when the NCAA National Championship game was concluded I found that I lost in my office pool to people that knew a lot less than I did.

The difference between the office pool brackets and the ones that played out on the court were monumental.  Watching the NCAA Tournament especially in the latter rounds was pure torture.

About four years ago I was sitting around a table with Lance McAlister, a popular sports talk-show host in Cincinnati, Richard Skinner, who used to be the Cincinnati Post’s UK beat writer and Dan Peters, the associate head coach at Ohio State.   It was a round table discussion about college hoops at a Northern Kentucky sports bar.  We had the cigars going, beer flowing and good food everywhere.  It was quite an assortment of basketball knowledge.

About 30 minutes into it, I asked if anyone had ever won an office pool.  As we went around the table, it was nope, nope, not even close and nada.

It became evident that if that group can’t accurately predict a sport they are heavily involved with on a regular basis, then there is no reason to enter the office poor with an expectation of winning.

Trying to predict random events on a basketball court is about the same as going to a casino and playing a slot machine.

I know there is probably a guy in your office that is the office sports nut.  He always has two screens active on his computer at any given time.  He has his work on one screen and a sports web page going on another, that he can minimize when the boss comes by.

He will come by and solicit you to join the office pool.  It will be tempting because all the cool people in the office will be playing.

But this year, tell him no.  Tell him, you want to enjoy the tournament this year and root for the teams that you really want to win.  Maybe even do what Kyle suggests, fill out your brackets as the tournament progresses, printing the teams that you really like in big bold, colorful letters and the ones you do not like in a small dull number two pencil creatively misspelling them.

Leave the office pool to all the people that don’t pay much attention to college basketball until the tournament.  After all, they usually win the office pool anyway.

Try it, I did and it made watching the tournament a lot more fun and you may just get them all right this year.

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
Sept. 17: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 23: New Hampton School
Sept. 24: Brimmer and May
Sept. 25: Proctor Academy
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
Oct. 13: Tabor Academy
Oct. 15: Brooks School

Hoopville Archives

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Cesar Fulcar commits to Wentworth

The senior guard led Watertown to the state semifinal this past season

Travel team profile: Bay State Magic

Bay State Magic doesn’t have much size on their junior team this season, so they’ll have to win with execution and intangibles

Travel team profile: Mass Elite

Mass Elite is one of the largest travel teams in the state despite being relatively new

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

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

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

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter