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Weekend notes – December 23, 2013

by - Published December 23, 2013 in Columns

We just got through a busy weekend of college basketball. It wasn’t loaded with headline-grabbing upsets, but it had a lot of good matchups, including later Saturday in New York and Las Vegas. On Sunday, the Diamond Head Classic got going in Hawaii.

Here are notes on some important matchups and results from both days.

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New Hampshire is going through a very challenging time

by - Published December 19, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

DURHAM, N.H. – There are challenges, and then there’s what New Hampshire is going through and has in front of them. Nine straight losses, which is the Wildcats’ current streak after dropping a 62-48 decision to Dartmouth at home on Wednesday, appear to be just the beginning of them.

Can things get worse? They might before they get better largely because of personnel, and it’s not just who they don’t have right now.

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Dartmouth may not be just a young and promising team anymore

by - Published December 19, 2013 in Columns

DURHAM, N.H. – Dartmouth may be ready to turn a corner and not just be a young, promising team anymore. The latest evidence came on Wednesday night, when they lost a lead they held for a while and answered right back with a game-changing 12-0 run to take the lead for good, and then later put away an opponent on the road.

“In the past, when teams would make a run and come back, we would collapse,” said junior forward Gabas Maldunas, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds in their 62-48 win at New Hampshire. “We didn’t have the leadership on the court to help us get through the comeback.”

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Canisius tries to follow the Barons’ lead to success

by - Published December 17, 2013 in Columns

WORCESTER, Mass. – If you know Jim Baron and his sons, you know them to be high-character people. They are model citizens in every sense of the term. They are also nothing if not consistent, and fiercely competitive, even if the sons show it differently than the father does. Talk to younger son Billy, and you get a feeling that Monday night’s 83-73 win at Holy Cross is bigger than it looks to the untrained eye.

“It’s huge because we just came off a loss, and anytime you come off a loss in a game you feel you shouldn’t lose, it’s tough to right the ship,” said Billy Baron. “I felt like you saw the chemistry and the character of the guys on this team. We’re an extremely young team. We bounced back in two days being on the road. Without much practice time in between games, we had to rely on our off-the-court attributes in helping each other come along.”

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A freshman helps Bryant show defensive improvement

by - Published December 16, 2013 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The old saying goes that offense wins games and defense wins championships. If you’re a hard-line believer in that, then you’re not a believer in Bryant’s chances to win a championship as presently constructed. They’re a phenomenal offensive team at the mid-major level, but the defense has left something to be desired. The former shouldn’t change much, but a change in the latter would be big, and there are little signs that could be happening.

Bryant isn’t going to soar to the top of any defensive statistical categories anytime soon. Opponents shoot nearly 45 percent from the field against them, and the Bulldogs are out-rebounded by about four per game. The bright spots are that they force 13 turnovers per game and opponents shoot just over 30 percent from long range against them. It’s not unlike last year, and head coach Tim O’Shea freely admitted his team was not good defensively.

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Navy learns more in a tough loss at Bryant

by - Published December 15, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Ed DeChellis is trying to figure out what he has with his team. That’s normal for non-league play, as well as with the youth on this team, as Navy’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament is in the Patriot League. Non-league play is winding down, and there are still more final exams for his team to come, but he learned more about them in a tough way as they battled back before succumbing to Bryant 90-80 in overtime on Saturday.

With the youth and a need to find some complementary pieces, as well as a lack of practice time lately because of final exams, DeChellis has been giving many players a chance to prove themselves.

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A possible turning point for Maryland

by - Published December 13, 2013 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Maybe this can be a turning point for Maryland.  It might seem like a far-fetched notion given that it’s December and it came after a win against a team that was 3-6 coming into the evening.  But head coach Mark Turgeon didn’t want to understate how important the win is by itself and in light of how the Terrapins’ season has been going.

“I don’t want to understate this: that was a really big win for us,” said Turgeon after the Terrapins’ 88-80 win at Boston College on Thursday night.

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Northeastern having a tough time for a few reasons

by - Published December 10, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

BOSTON – Northeastern wants better results than they have had thus far.  Their 2-7 record isn’t a result of not trying or wanting to win.  Part of it is from playing a very difficult schedule, but part of it is also the reality of trying to find the right personnel with a young team at a challenging time.  It has Bill Coen having to manage the confidence the team as they reach the break for final exams.

Anyone who knew Northeastern’s personnel heading into the season knew that the Huskies were going to be different this season.  Departed guards Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith were more than just the heart and soul of last season’s Huskies, so that was a big void to fill.  Who would emerge was far from a given since depth was a concern behind those two last season.  So it’s not a surprise that part of the challenge has been personnel-related.

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Veteran UAB team is playing like one right now

by - Published December 9, 2013 in Columns

BOSTON – Jerod Haase said he was glad his team had a week before their next game after they scored a big win over North Carolina. It was to be a real test of how his team could respond without a letdown, given that there was time for the win to set in. And while UAB had some tough stretches against Northeastern, they came away with a hard-fought 74-69 win over the Huskies that shows this team to be in a good place right now.

Haase noted the experience level of his team as a big key. His team has just five holdovers from last season, but all five are seniors. His newcomers include a number of junior college players from elite schools. While Division I is a little different, and they are all getting acclimated to a new group of teammates, the experience does manifest itself in some ways. In part, it showed in between the win over North Carolina and Saturday’s win.

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Brigham Young is close, with fewer good opportunities remaining

by - Published December 9, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Dave Rose thinks his ballclub isn’t that far away. They’ve been right there. They have played well and won against some good teams. But as the non-conference slate winds down, his Brigham Young team could still use a signature win. They had such an opportunity in Saturday, but UMass handled them 105-96 and basically beat them at their own game.

Brigham Young plays at a fast pace, and they have done it well all season, including turning the ball over less than 11 times per game on average. They did it well on Saturday at the offensive end, shooting 48.5 percent from the field and handing out 15 assists with 11 turnovers. But UMass did it better, shooting 55.6 percent. UMass also did something unusual: they out-scored the Cougars in the paint, as BYU came into the game on average out-scoring opponents by ten points per game in the paint. The Cougars also lost for the first time all year when they out-rebounded an opponent.

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