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UNH’s win over Marist just what they needed coming out of finals

by - Published December 18, 2011 in Columns
newhampshire

DURHAM, N.H. – Saturday’s 73-56 win over Marist was just what New Hampshire needed in several ways. The Wildcats did it with their offense helping their defense, for one, as that’s been an area where they haven’t always played well. They also got a very balanced effort all the way around. It also came after a break for final exams, and one never knows what a team will be like in that first game after it. And there’s also something that jumped out at the eldest Wildcat.

 

“We never win games decisively like that,” said senior guard Alvin Abreu. “It feels good to get a win like that.”

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Boston College more confident as finals come to a close

by - Published December 17, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
bostoncollege

It hasn’t been a banner season for Boston College if you look solely at the bottom line. Even after last Sunday’s 66-51 win over Stony Brook, the Eagles are 3-7 after breaking a four-game losing streak. The bottom line doesn’t reflect it, but there’s a feeling that this team is growing and it seemed evident on Sunday while the bottom line did reflect it this time around.

 

BC head coach Steve Donahue admits he’s been preaching to his team about winning four-minute stretches – covering the time between media timeouts in a game. Sometimes that’s what you have to do when wins are hard to come by, and it’s been known for a while that they were not likely to be plentiful for this team. Freshman forward Ryan Anderson talked about this a little more, noting that even though they’re competitors and thus don’t like losing, they are looking away from the bottom line when evaluating where they are.

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Stepping back to look beyond basketball

by - Published December 13, 2011 in Full Court Sprints
hoopguy-orange

This past weekend has reminded us that there are bigger things than basketball. Most teams are off for final exams for some/all of this week, and a major brawl on Saturday also brought out that sentiment. While we’ll have more on the brawl later, right now there’s something else to think about in keeping with the theme.

I’m sure others have said it, but I remember ESPN’s Buster Olney once remarking that when you’re in the media, you become a fan of the game instead of a particular team. It’s very true, and part of that is being a fan of the people involved in the game. This is a people business in every respect, and those who succeed the most in this industry, no matter what capacity they are in, know how to deal with people.

To that end, I give you Ken Dempsey, the associate head coach at New Hampshire. Tuesday is an important day for him.

Dempsey recently shared on the National Coaches’ Diary Series on College Chalktalk that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. On Tuesday, he goes for surgery to address it, and will take an undetermined leave of absence from the basketball team. He is not the first and won’t be the last college coach to have to deal with this dreaded disease, but fortunately the outlook is good and there’s some personal significance.

We all have people who have helped us get where we are. Dempsey has helped many people in that respect in 25 years of coaching at several Division I schools, but it isn’t just players who have benefited from knowing him. I have no better friend in basketball than Ken Dempsey.

When I was an undergraduate at Northeastern, Dempsey joined the basketball staff when Dave Leitao took over as the head coach my freshman year. Dempsey was the first coach I met, and after a badly failed attempt to walk on to the team, he didn’t forget me. I would see him around the gym (back then, Cabot Gym was not only where the team practiced, but also the student recreational facility), especially if I was playing basketball before the team came to practice. He sensed that I liked the game, and encouraged me to join them as a manager. I would stop by the office and have conversations with him and Darryl Hilliard, also an assistant there at the time, and the relationship grew from there.

The next year, I became a manager. My experience in doing that was tremendous for a lot of reasons, from being so close to the game that I love to traveling to places I had never been to understanding what goes into a team’s season. There is not enough space to share how much that helped me to get where I am today, and that’s before I mention some of the things external to my role as a manager. Dempsey gave me access to recruiting reports so I could see what they looked like and start having a feel for the next college stars, and introduced me to Bob Gibbons when he visited Northeastern one time. This was back when there weren’t nearly as many people covering recruiting as there are now, as the Internet was still in its infancy in terms of its effects on athletic media.

That was only the beginning. When Dempsey left Northeastern just before I graduated, we made sure to stay in touch, and have done that. After some time away from the northeast, he’s been back for several years now. Interestingly, I covered what proved to be his last game as an assistant coach at UMKC before coming to New Hampshire – a tough loss in the then-Mid-Continent Conference (now the Summit League) Tournament in Tulsa.

Dempsey is optimistic that his leave from the team will be on the order of weeks. He is well-connected and has been in contact with some people who have dealt with this to learn from their experiences, and has had great support from everyone in Durham. And as he goes in for surgery on Tuesday to start the battle against prostate cancer, I know I am one of many people who is praying for a positive result at the end of all of this.

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

  • About that brawl: Cincinnati and Xavier each suspended four players for their roles in the well-chronicled brawl at the end of Saturday’s meeting between the two teams. Cincinnati suspended Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis for six games each and Ge’Lawn Guyn for one game, while Xavier suspended Dez Wells and Landen Amos for four games each, Mark Lyons for two and Tu Holloway for one.
  • Indiana scored a dramatic win over Kentucky with a buzzer-beater on Saturday. It’s the biggest win for the Hoosiers under Tom Crean.
  • Murray State knocked off Memphis on Sunday night, which improves the Racers to 10-0. But what has unfortunately received a little more buzz from that game than how good the Racers look is Memphis’ public address announcer announcing John Calipari as the Tigers’ head coach, which was greeted with a round of boos.
  • It’s a light week of game action, and Monday night was no exception as the most notable game was probably Oregon’s 79-70 win over Portland State.

 

Games to watch on Tuesday

  • Wisconsin at Milwaukee, 8 pm EST
  • Belmont at Middle Tennessee, 8 pm EST

Fairfield fulfills missions in Springfield and gets better

by - Published December 10, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
fairfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Like fellow MAAC counterpart Siena, Fairfield looks like they got better in their trip to Springfield for the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase on Friday. The Stags have had some ups and downs in non-conference play, but one of the MAAC favorites looks to be improving as final exams near and showed it in their 59-51 win over Old Dominion on Friday.

 

Friday’s game was far from a thing of beauty, especially in the second half as it was tightly called and neither team shot well. Fairfield won despite shooting just 37.3 percent for the game, but the bright side along with the win was that they won the rebounding battle 41-40 and got just about every loose ball.

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Siena keeps battling but could use a win

by - Published December 10, 2011 in Columns
siena

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Siena could have used a win on Friday night for clear reasons. It’s been a rough go for the Saints thus far, both on and off the court, and while they continue to battle, they’re 3-6 after dropping a tough 82-78 decision to UMass on Friday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.

 

It was another close loss for the Saints, who have suffered a few of those to this point. In a five-game losing streak they snapped in their prior game, four were by seven points or less. Friday’s loss was by four, and one where they had the lead on several occasions and showed the kind of fight they have shown through a lot of adversity thus far this season.

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Injuries, eligibility issues hurt Brown out of the gates

by - Published December 8, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
brown

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The 2011-12 season hasn’t exactly gone the way Brown drew it up thus far. The Bears come up on their last game before a break for final exams with a 4-7 mark, but more than that, not playing well. They were annihilated at cross-town rival Providence on Monday, then lost to New Hampshire on Wednesday.

 

Brown has been hit hard in the personnel department since school began. Rafael Maia, who figured to change the frontcourt lineup by giving the Bears a better big man, was declared ineligible for the season by the NCAA. Joe Sharkey, who figured to give them some backcourt depth, injured his hip and will redshirt, with surgery coming near the end of this month. Tucker Halpern, who was ready to blossom further now that he would be able to play his natural small forward position more, caught a bad case of mono and is going to redshirt as well, as he’s not improving much. And Dockery Walker, another who figured to contribute up front, is on the shelf.

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First road win may help New Hampshire get going

by - Published December 8, 2011 in Columns
newhampshire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – New Hampshire hasn’t played as many games as a lot of Division I teams. Their sixth game of the season was played on Wednesday, and at times this looks like a team that hasn’t played together much. In knocking off Brown 69-56, the Wildcats picked up a road win after their coach had challenged them to do just that.

 

“The challenge that we’ve been handing to our guys is, can we go on the road now and win a game?” said head coach Bill Herrion.

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Holy Cross may be turning a corner after pulling out a close one

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
holycross

WORCESTER, Mass. – Holy Cross may have conquered a demon in Saturday night’s 62-57 win over New Hampshire. The Crusaders appeared to have the game locked up in the final minute, leading by ten, but they allowed the Wildcats a couple of extra chances that suddenly made it a ballgame. A year ago, they might have ultimately blown this game, but the Crusaders pulled it out by doing just enough late.

 

The Crusaders led 60-50 with 38 seconds left after two free throws by Justin Burrell. The game was all but in hand at that point, especially since the Crusaders fought back rallies all night long. Then two missed free throws and two missed turnovers, one in their own end, helped New Hampshire suddenly get within 60-57. Burrell then sank two more free throws to finally seal the game and get the Crusaders over the hump.

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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.

… Continue Reading

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

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2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

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2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

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2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

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When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.

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