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Saturday Notes – February 14, 2015

by - Published February 15, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

NBA All-Star weekend may have grabbed a lot of attention in the basketball world, but there was plenty going on in the college game. Saturday featured a few conference showdowns of note, either with first place on the line or between two contending teams. What stood out overall, though, were teams either coming back to life with a big win or teams re-asserting themselves as teams to beat.

A few races, like the Atlantic 10, Big South and Patriot League, remain tight. Saturday didn’t change much there.

With that, here’s a look at notes from some of the day’s games.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 14, 2015

by - Published February 14, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Iona and Manhattan have basically ruled the MAAC the last two years and carried the story. The last two championship games have been close ones between the two, they are nearby rivals, and there is immense respect for one another. In fact, last year, after Manhattan won the championship game, head coach Steve Masiello said he and his staff have tried to model their program after Iona.

Friday night was the latest installment of this rivalry. The two teams are a contrast in styles, with Iona being the team that can light up the scoreboard while Manhattan can slow down and stop a lot of offenses. While Iona shot over 52 percent from the field, including 11-18 from long range, Manhattan was able to hang in by forcing 21 turnovers. The game came down to the end, but it was Iona that escaped with a 70-67 win to remain two games up in the MAAC standings.

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What to make of the Atlantic 10 in the final month?

by - Published February 13, 2015 in Columns

The Atlantic 10 has taken quite a turn in just a couple of weeks. What once looked like it could go comfortably to one team has now become a must-watch race in the final month of the regular season. Additionally, the NCAA Tournament case for each team only gets more difficult to figure all the time.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Dayton came to Amherst and lost to UMass, at that time a team that was a little tough to figure out. That gave VCU a two-game lead in the standings, and with the way the Rams had been playing, you could be forgiven for thinking that the regular season championship going to them was a foregone conclusion.

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Well-balanced Villanova starts a key stretch by continuing solid play

by - Published February 12, 2015 in Columns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Look at Villanova on paper, especially their numbers, and you might not see them as a powerhouse. Watch them play and you get a better idea of why this is the team to beat in the Big East, something they have re-asserted lately. Their 74-68 win at Providence on Wednesday night is the latest example of that.

Villanova doesn’t feature an All-America candidate or even an exceptional aggregate of talent. They aren’t a team full of seniors, though they are an experienced group. What they are is a well-coached group that knows how to play and has an edge. This team plays tough defense and has a well-balanced offense, one that takes what the defense gives them and shows great patience to break down a defense.

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Delaware’s growth portends a bright future

by - Published February 11, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

BOSTON – Monte Ross can surely see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel with his young team. That light may not have been visible early on, but it can’t be missed now. His team is growing too much and doing too much for that not to be the case, all of it evident as they came to Boston and knocked off Northeastern on Saturday.

Delaware has had to bounce back from a lot this year. First it was ten straight losses to open the season, some close, some not so close. It didn’t help that Kyle Anderson, their best returning player, missed the first seven games due to a right hand injury. Later, it’s been some tough losses in CAA play. They have also had to deal with speculation about Ross’ job status given that it’s not exactly a state secret that his contract is up after this season and there has not been an extension despite last year’s conference championship. Through it all, they have grown into a better team, perhaps more than a lot of teams with their experience level might.

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The Morning Dish – Monday, February 9, 2015

by - Published February 9, 2015 in Columns

If you ever go to the Dean Smith Center at the University of North Carolina, a look up in the rafters will give you an idea of why the building is named after the man. It’s an amazing collection of college basketball history.

Smith passed away late Saturday night at age 83. It came late enough in the evening that word did not get out about it until yesterday morning. And so we begin to remember him, including that like so many legends, he was more than just a coach.

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Mount St. Mary’s is full of positives

by - Published February 8, 2015 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – If Mount St. Mary’s seems like a program full of positive energy these days, there are a lot of sources for it. The simplest part of it is the reality that this is a young team, including their head coach, one of the youngest in Division I. While the team tries to grow, keeping those positive vibes will be important, especially as Northeast Conference play rolls on with its two-day turnaround on most weekends.

After Mount St. Mary’s lost a tough game at Bryant on Thursday – the latest dramatic game between these two in Smithfield – naturally the team and the staff knew it was there for the taking. But Jamion Christian, the alum who heads up the program, had lots of energy and can only beam with pride about his team right now.

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Saturday Notes – February 7, 2015

by - Published February 8, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

Saturday was another busy day of basketball, and it featured many big matchups that had the top of a conference on the line. There’s still a month to play, but it’s always better to be on top than playing from behind, and some of these matchups are only the first meeting between two teams.

Saturday also included the first time in ACC history that there were two matchups of teams ranked in the AP top 10 on the same day. Fans got a split out of the deal, as the first one was a dud and the second was a dandy.

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Defense helps Towson as they gain experience

by - Published February 7, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

BOSTON – Pat Skerry’s reaction told it all.

After Northeastern forward Scott Eatherton backed down a Towson defender for a basket and made it look easy, Skerry’s reaction was as if no defensive effort was made. The Tigers are normally a good defensive team, but they struggled there in a loss at Northeastern on Wednesday night, and that put too much pressure on an offense that still has a lot of room to grow right now.

All night long, Northeastern basically got what they wanted at the offensive end against the Tigers. They shot 60 percent from the field, including a 6-8 mark on three-pointers. That also included shooting at a 72.2 percent clip in the first half, when the Tigers dug themselves a hole that left a late rally as being too little, too late.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 7, 2015

by - Published February 7, 2015 in Columns

Friday night in February is usually a relatively idle night in college basketball. This one was a bit different, as it was full of big matchups and games that delivered on their promise. A few stand out enough to warrant a little further look.

Leading the way is the Atlantic 10, where Dayton visited George Washington. The two teams were picked to finish right behind VCU before the season, and have been right there for much of the way. In particular, we’re going to learn something about the Colonials, who are in the midst of a challenging stretch. After two road losses, they came home and nearly lost it in overtime, but Joe McDonald was the hero as put back a blocked shot before the buzzer to give the Colonials a 65-64 win. McDonald finished with a game-high 19 points.

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