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New-look Old Dominion keeps winning and getting better

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Columns
olddominion

BOSTON – Prior to the season, the Colonial Athletic Association was a hotbed of questions for those who like to predict how a conference will go. Right in the middle of that was the two-time defending champions, as Old Dominion had been picked to win the conference two years in a row and did just that but was picked fifth this time around due to heavy personnel losses. The Monarchs are doing what they have done for a while now: win games. The latest example was Saturday’s 69-59 win at Northeastern that had a lot of positives for this team.

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North Carolina-Kentucky lives up to the hype

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The matchup between North Carolina and Kentucky lived up to its billing. It was a well-played game that came right down to the wire, and was close throughout. The eighth-largest crowd in Rupp Arena history saw it, and even more watched on television. And it’s possible that the game will mirror the teams’ seasons.

Kentucky probably has the most talent of any team in the country, but the Wildcats’ youth hasn’t been hard to see. Their freshmen have had their share of growing pains, from Marquis Teague’s early struggles taking care of the ball to Anthony Davis learning how physical the college game can be. It’s for exactly that reason that senior Darius Miller has never been more valuable than much of the early going this time around.

North Carolina is right up there with the Wildcats, but this is an older and more mature team. Whereas the Wildcats start three freshmen, the Tar Heels only played two freshmen yesterday and both came off the bench. But they start a senior, two juniors and two sophomores, and on the whole this is a team quite a ways from its ceiling just like Kentucky.

In the first half, North Carolina led by as many as nine and was the better team. They were hot from long range, going 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening frame. But Kentucky scored seven in a row at the end of the first and start of the second half, momentarily grabbing the lead and then staying right with the Tar Heels until they took the lead for good on a Davis jumper with less than eight minutes to play.

The Tar Heels had one more chance after Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds left. They got the ball to John Henson, known more for his shot-blocking than scoring, and in a length-versus-length matchup, Davis got a hand on his short jumper and the Wildcats were able to run out the final seconds for a 73-72 victory.

It’s a game that many would love to see a rematch of, and considering that both teams are a ways from their respective ceilings, no one would be surprised if it materialized in the month of March.

While that was the best matchup of the day, there were a few other teams, conferences and player of note.

 

Marquette

Winning at the Kohl Center is hard for visiting teams to do, but Marquette pulled it off on Saturday and did so without their starting point guard. Before the game, the Golden Eagles announced that Junior Cadougan was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. Wisconsin has lost two straight, but neither is a bad loss as they lost to North Carolina earlier in the week. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are 7-0 with a blowout win over Ole Miss and Saturday’s win at Wisconsin.

 

Xavier

Xavier is becoming quite the second-half team. On Monday, they trailed by ten in the second half before rallying to beat Vanderbilt in overtime in Nashville. But yesterday they did themselves one better, as they trailed Purdue by 11 at the half and 19 in the second half before coming back to edge the Boilermakers 66-63. In the last 10:44, Xavier outscored Purdue 30-8.

 

Illinois

It seems like Bruce Weber has been on the hot seat forever in Champaign, but let’s acknowledge not only the job he has done thus far but especially what he is doing this season. After an 82-75 win over Gonzaga on Saturday, the Illini are 8-0 with wins over Richmond and at Maryland as well. Neither of those two is a big NCAA Tournament resume win, but they are worth noting because the Illini haven’t beaten up on a slew of terrible teams and could be 12-0 when they take on Missouri on Dec. 22, though they will have to get by UNLV at home before then. Saturday was the first time all season Gonzaga did not have at least four players score in double figures.

 

Brigham Young

No Jimmer, no problem for Brigham Young. After Saturday’s 79-65 win over Oregon in Salt Lake City, BYU is 6-2 with a win over Nevada included and the only losses being at Utah State and against Wisconsin. Granted, this isn’t the Oregon team we all thought we would see before the season with the departures of Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, but the Ducks aren’t pushovers.

 

Head-scratching in the CAA

A number of conferences have their opening games this weekend before teams resume non-conference play for a little while longer. Perhaps none has had results that might leave one scratching their head as much as the Colonial Athletic Association, where three teams won on the road and preseason favorite Drexel lost to Delaware by 11 (albeit on the road). The Dragons have had a rough go of it thus far, but Chris Fouch is back so they’re closer to having their full team together. Still, Fouch was 0-9 yesterday and the Blue Hens won the battle on the glass by a 40-32 margin over a Drexel team that routinely beats up opponents on the boards.

The one other score that jumps out is Georgia State thumping William & Mary 66-34 in Atlanta. The Tribe didn’t look to be far from being a good team last season, but they’re struggling mightily out of the gates and Saturday may be the low point thus far.

 

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation

  • Ohio State didn’t miss a beat despite Jared Sullinger being out with back spasms.
  • College of Charleston lost a wealth of talent and experience from last season’s team, but the Cougars are 7-1 overall and are one of four teams that went 2-0 in early Southern Conference games this weekend. Chattanooga, who the Cougars beat last night and was picked to win the North Division, is 0-2.
  • Connecticut got a big lift from Ryan Boatright with 23 points and six assists in his home debut.
  • UCLA is now 2-5 after a home loss to Texas that saw them blow an 11-point lead.

 

Some of Sunday’s Key Matchups

Sunday is a day full of interesting matchups of teams that we’re trying to find out something about. None of these are like North Carolina-Kentucky, but they will be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Baylor at Northwestern
  • UNLV at Wichita State
  • California at San Diego State
  • Dayton at Murray State
  • North Carolina State at Stanford
  • Notre Dame at Maryland
  • VCU vs. George Washington (BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center)
  • Kansas State at Virginia Tech

Central Connecticut looks like an NEC contender in manhandling Bryant

by - Published December 2, 2011 in Columns
centralconnecticutstate

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Northeast Conference play opened up on Thursday night, and one team sent notice that a championship is going to have to go through them. Central Connecticut manhandled an improved Bryant team 83-51 in a game that was never competitive, and did so with a complete effort. To boot, it was on the road and with a crowd that was not hostile but certainly up for the game.

 

The fans saw a good game, all right. It just wasn’t by the team they were rooting for.

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Penn State needs consistent help for Frazier

by - Published December 1, 2011 in Columns
pennstate

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – If Penn State ever gets another player or two besides Tim Frazier going, the Nittany Lions just might surprise some people. As it is, they’re 6-2 while being carried by one of the best players in the Big Ten, and Wednesday night’s 62-54 win at Boston College may show what could be possible if this happens.

 

No team can ever rely on one player, and certainly not Penn State. Frazier is a good player, but he’s not exactly at the top of people’s minds as a first team All-American. He’ll do all he can for this team, and he’s certainly done plenty thus far, but the plain fact is that if this team is to be better than one of the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders, other players need to get going on something resembling a consistent basis.

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Cleveland State shows what they are capable of against Rhode Island

by - Published November 28, 2011 in Columns
clevelandstate

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – To listen to Gary Waters after his team’s 67-45 blowout of Rhode Island on Sunday, you would get the sense that it was a picture-perfect game. It fit the way the Cleveland State mentor wants his team to play, from the style of play to what the stat sheet would show to the final result. And while his team is now 6-1 on the young season, Sunday’s game showed some things about this team.

 

“I thought that was one of our better defensive efforts,” Waters said. “We really focused in and defended. I’m still a little perplexed about the rebounding, and I think we can do a much better job there, but I thought our guys did a good job of doing what we do: turning people over and finishing at the other end.”

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Terriers continue to bounce back en route to two wins

by - Published November 28, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
bostonuniversity

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – Boston University is establishing an identity as a resilient team in the early going. Adversity has been present early and often, in the form of deficits in games and tough losses. But new head coach Joe Jones and his team knew it wouldn’t last, and although they had to overcome adversity again this weekend, they did just that in finishing with a 2-1 record in the Legends Classic subregional.

 

The Terriers didn’t exactly start out the weekend on a good note. They lost a heart-breaker to Cleveland State on Friday afternoon, a game that was more than just there for the taking. But they bounced back to take out the host team on Saturday and then pull out a 68-61 decision over Hofstra, and that’s the biggest thing they will take out of this weekend.

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Explorers start rebounding in win over Rider

by - Published November 27, 2011 in Columns
lasalle

PHILADELPHIA – John Giannini had seen his team get beat on the boards enough, especially his big men. So with his team holding a good lead, the La Salle mentor sent them a message at halftime about it.

 

“He just snapped on us, told us he’s tired of us getting out-rebounded,” sophomore point guard Tyreek Duren said. “I think today we had to change that.”

 

Consider the message received. As part of an 82-70 win over Rider in the Philly Hoop Group Classic on Saturday night, the Explorers turned up the effort on the glass in the second half and wound up out-rebounding the Broncs by a 40-33 margin.

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Stanford missed a big opportunity in New York

by - Published November 26, 2011 in Columns
stanford

NEW YORK – Stanford missed an opportunity on Friday. How big it will loom as the season goes along obviously remains to be seen, but the Cardinal missed an opportunity and not just because the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship game was there for the taking and they led for most of it.

 

Certainly, the Cardinal had a chance to win this game, and losing like that always makes it tough to stomach. They had their largest lead at eight with under seven minutes to play and still led by six with 4:10 left. Then the roof caved in, as missed shots and several costly turnovers denied them a chance to get close or tie the game late.

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Despite injuries, Virginia Tech is developing depth

by - Published November 26, 2011 in Columns
virginiatech

NEW YORK – Once again, Virginia Tech has been bit badly by the injury bug this season. It seems to be an annual occurrence, and this season the Hokies have lost Allan Chaney and J.T. Thompson, both frontcourt players. Thompson already missed a season with the same injury – a torn ACL – to his other knee. In other words, it seems like business as usual for a team that seems to be snakebit every season.

 

While depth, especially in the frontcourt, would seem to be a concern as a result, thus far that doesn’t appear to be the case. That was evident in Virginia Tech’s 59-57 win over Oklahoma State on Friday in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game.

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Young Hartford could use some confidence to go with other positives

by - Published November 25, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
hartford

WORCESTER, Mass. – Hartford needs some confidence, and they’re not getting it on the bottom line. An 0-5 start, thanks in large part to a lack of baskets at the offensive end, has made that hard to come by. The latest example was Wednesday’s 80-66 setback at Holy Cross, where the Hawks fell behind in the first half and couldn’t rally enough in the second.

 

The Hawks are shooting just over 34 percent from the field on the season. Wednesday night’s 36.1 percent boosted it by a small amount, but they shot below 30 percent in a first half that saw them fall behind by as many as 18 after Holy Cross ran off 18 unanswered points to take the lead for good. In that run, the Hawks missed seven shots, four of which came from behind the arc.

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Avery Bradley Skills Academy

August 11-13, 2014 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

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2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

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2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

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