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A busy and exciting week in the Big Sky

by - Published December 13, 2011 in Conference Notes
bigsky

There has been a lot to discuss since last week. Let’s go down the line, team by team.

WEBER STATE

Weber State lost a crucial element to its success, but went 1-1 after Damian Lillard, whose shoulder has to be hurting, carried his team again and was named Big Sky Player of the Week for the second consecutive week (23 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg; 31 pts & personal-best 9 dimes against Southern Utah). Scott Bamforth has expressed recently through social media he’s unhappy with how he’s played the past couple weeks, though he’s still second on the team in scoring. Question is, can anybody stop Lillard and/or will he break down eventually trying to be Jordan/Kobe/the team’s superstar?

PORTLAND STATE

The Vikings have shown great improvement under Tyler Geving and stayed with Oregon most of the night before falling. Charles Odum and Chehales Tapscott have taken over as the leaders of this team and Renado Parker has come on strong after becoming eligible.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

The Eagles play at UCLA tomorrow night and have been in a little bit of tailspin against D-I teams. The 3 C’s (Collin Chiverton, Cliff Colimon and Cliff Ederaine) head the Eagles’ effort

MONTANA STATE

A very strange game played out in a loss for the Bobcats despite a team-record FTs made. Xavier Blount is emerging as a bona fide option on offense and settling into the No. 2 scorer’s role.

MONTANA

Montana lost the MWC-Big Sky crossover to fall to 5-5. Guards Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar lead the team, while Derek Selvig seems to be struggling as he returns from a foot injury.

SACRAMENTO STATE

The Hornets beat up on some non D-I school and Dylan Garrity has started to come back to earth after starting the season with 31 assists and six turnovers in four games. He’s still good, better than projected, but conference season will tell a lot about development.

NORTHERN COLORADO

The Bears host Denver tonight and are struggling relative to the competition, even in wins. Plus that lost to Westminster is an albatross.

NORTHERN ARIZONA

Yes, the Lumberjacks won in Dave Brown’s debut. No, not many think this is the start of a turnaround. NAU is still struggling.

IDAHO STATE

The Bengals lost in OT and seem to be falling apart. Melvin Morgan and Chase Grabau must feel like they’re on an island alone most nights.

**UPDATE**
The weekly Big Sky notes

Oklahoma has the best Big 12 player you don’t know

by - Published December 12, 2011 in Conference Notes
oklahoma

The most improved player in the Big 12 has to be a member of one of the conference’s undefeated teams, Missouri or Baylor, right?

We’re talking about two top 10 teams there, with NBA-caliber talent on the roster. The Bears’ Perry Jones III has been a beast since becoming eligible, and the Tigers’ Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe are playing out of their minds.

That’s all true, but we’re going in a different direction: Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger.

Really?

The stats don’t lie for Lon Kruger’s top player, who has helped the Sooners get out to a 7-1 start. That includes some decent wins against Arkansas and Washington State. I love Missouri and think the Tigers are a Final Four-caliber squad, but they need to prove it against teams better than Navy, Binghamton and Niagara. Yes, they have respectable wins against Villanova and California, but overall, the strength of schedule is abysmal. Plus a team filled with talent can cause all sorts of match up problems, which benefits everyone on the roster. Oklahoma has far fewer options, yet Pledger remains ridiculously productive. Let’s take a closer look.

Based on Hoopville’s Total Impact Quotient player rating system, Pledger had a mediocre TIQ of 18.1 points per 40 minutes last season. The junior guard has nearly doubled that to 34.7 points per 40 minutes this season despite playing nearly an identical number of minutes per game.

For Pledger, it starts behind the arc, where he’s shooting a phenomenal 17-of-36, or 47.2 percent. That’s in comparison to a pedestrian 35.0 percent last season. But Pledger didn’t stop his improvement there. He’s shooting an amazing 57.7 percent from the field overall, 66.7 percent inside the arc. For a guy that shot worse than 40 percent from the field in his first two seasons, that improvement is utterly astounding.

We’ll see if Pledger can maintain this shooting streak, especially when the Sooners open the Big 12 schedule with back-to-back games against Missouri and Kansas. But he’s doing more than just scoring for Kruger. Pledger also averages 3.0 rpg and 2.1 apg. His defense is also significantly better, with 11 steals on the season. He only got 11 steals in his entire freshman season.

Several other Big 12 players have made significant strides since last season.

  • Baylor’s Perry Jones III: 35.9 TIQ this season; 24.4 TIQ last season (+11.5)
  • Missouri’s Marcus Denmon: 37.1 TIQ this season; 27.8 TIQ last season (+9.3)
  • Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark: 26.2 TIQ this season; 17.1 TIQ last season (+9.1)
  • Texas A&M’s Ray Turner: 30.1 TIQ this season; 21.1 TIQ last season (+9.0)
  • Oklahoma’s C.J. Washington: 27.3 TIQ this season; 18.4 TIQ last season (+8.9)
  • Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe: 35.1 TIQ this season; 26.8 TIQ last season (+8.3)
  • Iowa State’s Bubu Palo: 25.1 TIQ this season; 17.1 TIQ last season (+8.0)
  • Texas’ J’Covan Brown: 35.7 TIQ this season; 27.8 TIQ last season (+7.7)

Vikings pull out dramatic victory over Akron

by - Published December 10, 2011 in Conference Notes
clevelandstate

Longtime Cleveland sports fans are familiar with the “Kardiac Kids,” which was the nickname bestowed on the 1980 Cleveland Browns team that won multiple games in the waning seconds of the game.

Although the 2011-12 college basketball season is still somewhat young, the Cleveland State Vikings have already given that famous Browns squad a serious challenge for this nickname. For the second time in less than a month, the Vikings won a game with a 3-pointer against a quality opponent in the final seconds as they defeated the Akron Zips by a score of 69-66.

Playing its second game in less than 48 hours, the Vikings hosted the Zips in a game billed as the “Backyard Battle” on Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd at the Wolstein Center. Saturday’s match up was the Vikings’ first home game since their thrilling contest against St. Bonaventure Nov. 18, and a crowd filled with both Vikings and Zips fans from nearby Akron were eager for a contest between two strong mid-major programs.

As might have been expected after Thursday night’s hard-fought contest against Robert Morris, the Vikings came out a bit flat against the well-rested Zips, who last played Dec. 4 against Middle Tennessee State. After scoring the first points of the game, the Vikings eventually fell behind by a score of 15-9 with 13:27 remaining in the first half. Initially, the Vikings struggled to contain Zeke Marshall, the Zips’ talented junior center who dominated on both sides of the court. Eventually, the Vikings managed to slow him down with near-constant double teaming. The Vikings rallied with a 16-4 run that ended with a thundering block by senior center Aaron Pogue leading to a 3-pointer by freshman Ike Nwamu in transition that gave the Vikings a 25-19 lead with slightly over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
At halftime, the Vikings headed into the locker room with a 35-30 lead.

In the second half, the Vikings came out hot and extended their lead to 42-33. By the time the Vikings stretched their lead to 13 with 13 minutes left in the game, some fans may have expected Cleveland State’s intense pressure defense to clamp down on the visiting Zips and to take away any remaining chance they had of winning the game.

Instead, Cleveland State’s sloppiness nearly stripped them of a chance to win the game.

Multiple turnovers and missed shots by Cleveland State allowed Akron to rally and take a 65-64 lead on a layup by Chauncey Gilliam with 3:31 remaining in the second half. A foul shot by Demetrius Treadwell extended the Zips’ lead to 66-64 with 1:48 left.

However, those were the Zips’ last points of the game, and they could do nothing but watch as Cleveland State’s Jeremy Montgomery proceeded to single-handedly lead the Vikings’ tenth victory of the season.

After being fouled by Akron’s Alex Abreu, Montgomery sank two free throws to tie the game at 66-66. Following an Akron turnover, the Vikings regained possession with a chance to take the lead. After the Vikings missed two shots, Montgomery took a pass from Tim Kamczyc and hoisted up a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining that hit nothing but net and gave the Vikings at 69-66 lead.

Akron had one last chance to tie the game, but Demetrius Treadwell’s 3-point attempt was short and the Zips could not stop the clock with a foul before time expired.

With today’s win, the Vikings’ record improved to 10-1 and they currently have a firm grip on first place in the Horizon League. Before the game, Cleveland State honored the accomplishments of last season’s squad, who advanced to the second round of the NIT and won the school’s first regular-season Horizon League men’s basketball championship. Based on the Vikings’ current progress this season, their potential for improvement, and ability to close out close games, they have the potential to exceed the accomplishments of last year’s storied squad.

The Vikings will have over a week off to take finals before taking their talents to South Florida for a road game on December 19th.

Cleveland State Vikings Defeat Detroit Titans 66-61

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Conference Notes
clevelandstate

When the Horizon League conference schedule was first announced earlier in the year, Saturday’s match up between the Cleveland State Vikings and Detroit Titans looked to be one of the more intriguing early -season match ups on the schedule.

Although the Vikings were losing talented senior guard Norris Cole to the NBA, Cleveland State coach Gary Waters’ senior-laden squad still returned four starters from last year’s team and would be replacing Cole with the experienced D’Aundray Brown. The Titans, who also returned an impressive corps of players, were picked by some national analysts to be the team that would knock Butler off of its perch atop the Horizon League.

In the meantime, however, a series of events have transpired that have combined to create a perfect storm of turmoil for the Titans. Prior to the season, center Eli Holman was involved with a physical altercation at a fraternity house that led the Titans to place him on an indefinite leave of absence. Although Holman has recently returned to team activities, the Titans have already lost several games without him. Additionally, starting forward Nick Minnerath suffered a knee injury and will miss the remainder of the season.

In contrast, the Vikings have not missed a beat since last season’s successful campaign. After upsetting nationally ranked Vanderbilt to start the season, the Vikings have won three games in the final seconds and defeated a variety of quality opponents on their way to an 8-1 start to the season. The Vikings’ debilitating pressure defense has helped them rack up a Horizon League-leading 10.2 steals per game and make it difficult for opponents to get the ball across the halfcourt line. Bolstered by strong bench play and dramatically improved play by senior center Aaron Pogue, the Vikings appear to be a strong contender for the Horizon League title this season.

Despite their struggles, the Titans took their home floor ready to play on Saturday afternoon against the visiting Vikings. Although they came up on the losing end of a 61-66 decision, the Titans showed that they still have a great deal of fight left in them and that the disappointments of this season have not killed their desire to compete.

Although the Vikings jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, the Titans retaliated with a 14-2 run to take a 14-12 lead with 11:32 remaining in the first half. The score was relatively close for much of the first half until a late Vikings run sent Cleveland State into the locker room with a 37-31 lead. With multiple starters plagued with foul trouble, the Vikings’ quality bench play helped them take the lead against a Titans squad that still boasts a significant number of talented players, such as guards Ray McCallum, Jr. and Chase Simon.

In the second half, the Titans hung tough and were able to pull within three points with slightly more than two minutes left in the game. However, a three-pointer from senior guard Jeremy Montgomery extended the Vikings’ lead to six points and the Titans could only whittle their deficit down to five points during the remainder of the game before heading to the locker room with their sixth loss of the season.

The Vikings will continue their long stretch of road games as they travel to Pittsburgh to square off against the Robert Morris Colonials on Thursday. The Titans will remain at home for a matchup against St. John’s in a game that will celebrate the dedication of their new home floor to famous ESPN broadcaster and former Titans head coach Dick Vitale.

No cause for alarm in the Big East

by - Published November 29, 2011 in Conference Notes
bigeast

One of the best parts of the early college basketball season is that, year after year, the big-time programs of the BCS conferences (mostly) load up on cupcake teams from lesser-known conferences to begin their campaigns — and those teams prove to be more substance than fluff.

More often than not, those cupcakes turn out to give some of the more talented squads from conferences such as the Big East a run for their money, even knocking off a few of them along the way.

The Big East has had its fair share of losses in the early going as some of the teams we picked to be contenders for the conference championships are dealing with some early season growing pains. … Continue Reading

Around the Horizon League: Weeks 2 and 3

by - Published November 29, 2011 in Conference Notes
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Butler Bulldogs (4-3): Butler’s 3-3 start to the season is a bit deceiving, as two of their losses have been to teams from major conferences. The Bulldogs lost to the Louisville Cardinals by a score of 69-53 in a game in which the Bulldogs actually led in the second half. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, a very poor shooting night led to their downfall. The Bulldogs rebounded with a 57-42 victory over Savannah State and a 68-66 victory over Gardner-Webb. On Sunday, the Bulldogs dropped a 75-59 decision to the Indiana Hoosiers in which bad shooting yet again led to their downfall. The Bulldogs continued their up-and-down season with a 98-53 victory over Oakland City at home. On Saturday, the Bulldogs will take the court in their first Horizon League conference matchup at home against Valparaiso.

Cleveland State Vikings (6-1): The Vikings used a last-second shot by senior guard Trevon Harmon to defeat the St. Bonaventure Bonnies by a score of 67-64 in a very physical and hard-fought game. After this game, the Vikings headed off on a long series of road match ups. The Vikings began with a contest against the Kent State Golden Flashes, an in-state foe. The Vikings defeated the Golden Flashes, one of the best teams in the MAC, by a score of 57-53. The Vikings then headed east to Rhode Island to play three games in the Ticket City Legends Classic. Cleveland State began by defeating Boston University by a score of 63-62 in a game in which the Vikings came back from a 10-point deficit in the second half. The next day, the Vikings lost their first game of the season against the Hofstra Pride by a score of 63-53. On Sunday, the Vikings rebounded to defeat the Rhode Island Rams by a score of 67-45. The Vikings will have three days off before their first Horizon League match up on the road against the Wright State Raiders on Thursday.

Detroit Titans (3-4): This season is quickly becoming a nightmare season for the Titans, who began the season with hopes of knocking the Butler Bulldogs from their perch atop the Horizon League. At this point, the Titans do not have enough active scholarship players to conduct a 5-on-5 scrimmage during practice. Eli Holman remains on a leave of absence as he deals with an assault charge incurred at a fraternity house, and no updates have been given on his status. Senior forward Nick Minnerath recently suffered a season-ending ACL injury. John Hoskins left the team and guards Chris Blake and Brandon Romain are academically ineligible for the fall semester. Although the Titans were able to wallop Concordia (Mich.) by a score of 113-68, the Titans proceeded to lose two of their next three games in the CBE Classic in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Titans lost to the George Washington Colonials in the first game. In the second game, the Titans lost 67-61 to the Bowling Green Falcons. The Titans eked out a narrow overtime victory against Austin Peay in the final game by a score of 94-93. Playing their fourth straight game in Ohio this past Friday, the Titans lost 81-63 to a talented Akron Zips team. The Titans will return to action Thursday night in their first Horizon League match up against the Youngstown State Penguins.

Green Bay Phoenix (2-4): The Phoenix won a home game against Wyoming by the score of 52-44. The Phoenix then took their talents to Indiana to play Indiana State. Despite the offensive struggles of standout center Alec Brown, the bench helped the Phoenix stay in the game. However, the Phoenix eventually lost in the final seconds to the Sycamores by the score of 57-56 on a late 3-pointer. The Phoenix suffered another loss two days later on the road to the Virginia Cavaliers by a score of 68-42. On Thursday, the Phoenix will begin Horizon League play with a match up at home against the UIC Flames.

Loyola Ramblers (1-4): Despite having three players score in double figures, the Ramblers lost 63-51 on the road at Furman. Rookie head coach Porter Moser finally secured his first win as Loyola’s head coach with a 64-50 victory over Fordham in the Ramblers’ first game in renovated Gentile Arena. The Ramblers begin Horizon League play on Thursday with a road match up against the Milwaukee Panthers.

Milwaukee Panthers (5-1): The Panthers continued their strong start to the reason, which is impressive in light of the fact that star player Tony Meier has not played at all this season as a result of a lingering calf injury. After two impressive home victories over IUPUI and Texas Southern, the Panthers traveled to Michigan State for a road match up against the Spartans. Although the game was close at halftime, the Spartans pulled away in the second half for a 68-55 victory. The Panthers rebounded by defeating Arkansas-Little Rock by a score of 59-54. Kaylon Williams currently leads the Horizon League with an average of 6.0 assists per game. On Thursday, the Panthers will begin Horizon League play with a home match up against the Loyola Ramblers.

UIC Flames (2-3): The Flames dropped a 65-61 decision to Division II Quincy University but followed up with a 79-75 victory over Evansville. The Flames then lost to the Toledo Rockets by a score of 82-67 in a game in which a furious second-half comeback attempt could not overcome a large first-half deficit. The Flames will return to action on Thursday in their Horizon League opener on the road against the Green Bay Phoenix.

Valparaiso Crusaders (5-2): The Crusaders continued their impressive start to the season with three wins in the 2K Sports Classic. Their first victory was a 62-59 triumph over the talented Akron Zips. The next day, the Crusaders pounded IU Kokomo by a score of 79-48. Playing their third game in three days, the Crusaders defeated the Duquesne Dukes by a score of 84-68. After a four-day layoff, the Crusaders traveled to Columbus to play the nationally ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Although the Crusaders were only down by four points at halftime, the Buckeyes’ impressive shooting and the Crusaders’ abysmal shooting combined to produce a lopsided second half that resulted in an 80-47 victory for the Buckeyes. Ryan Broekhoff is currently tied for the Horizon League lead in rebounding with 9.3 points per game. The Crusaders will open Horizon League play with a match up against Butler on Saturday.

Wright State Raiders (2-4): The Raiders’ inexperience caught up to them during the second week of the season, as the Raiders dropped three straight games. The Raiders dropped a 78-65 decision to the Florida Gators. Two days later, the Raiders lost to North Florida by a score of 69-52. The friendly confines of the Nutter Center did not help the Raiders as they lost a close game to the Charlotte 49ers by a score of 70-66. The Raiders’ schedule will not get any easier as they begin Horizon League play on Thursday with a tough home matchup against the Cleveland State Vikings.

Youngstown State Penguins (4-1): The Penguins have continued their turnaround from last season’s disappointing campaign. Sophomore Kendrick Perry currently leads the Horizon League in scoring with 18.2 points per game and the team as a whole is dramatically improved. After a hard-fought defensive struggle against UC Riverside that ended in a 53-49 overtime victory, the Penguins headed to State College to face the Penn State Nittany Lions. Despite once again making a school-record 14 3-pointers, the Penguins fell behind early and lost to the Nittany Lions by a score of 82-71. The Penguins battled yet another Pennsylvania foe three days later when they battled the St. Francis Red Storm on the road. This time, the Penguins came away victorious by a score of 60-59 when senior DuShawn Brooks blocked a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. The Penguins will travel to Detroit in their Horizon League opener to battle the Titans on Thursday.

Grizzlies bow up, take down national mid-major favorite sleeper

by - Published November 27, 2011 in Conference Notes
montana

Long title, kind of confusing. What isn’t confusing is this: Montana said “not so fast” to all those who have been riding the Weber State bandwagon since the start of the 2011-12 season.

On Saturday in front of 3,500-plus in Missoula, the Grizzlies took down the Long Beach State 49ers by a basket, 73-71. LBSU was ranked No. 8 in the weekly mid-major top 25 poll as of Nov. 21.
Rather, it was two free throws by senior forward Derek Selvig that eventually did in Dan Monson’s team with eight seconds left.

In a back-and-forth affair that saw eight tie and, subsequently, eight lead changes, Montana took its final lead on a jumper by Will Cherry with 38 seconds to play. Cherry added two freebies to put Montana up three, then Selvig’s charity-stripe tosses increased the advantage to 73-68. LBSU’s Larry Anderson nailed a 3-pointer with three ticks on the game clock, but it was too little, too late.

Important to note was how fortunate, or lucky depending on whom you ask, Montana was throughout the contest. UM was down 11 at one point in the first half and scuttled away leads of up to seven points (64-57) as the game wound down. In addition, the Griz won as LBSU, in the final 38 seconds, went 1-of-2 from the field and 0-of-2 from the free throw line. The free throw misses wasted an offensive rebound and a chance to take a 70-69 lead.
In other Big Sky action Saturday:

Montana State fell to former Big Sky member Idaho after shooting dismally in the first half.

Four in double figures wasn’t enough as Idaho State fell to Utah State.

Portland State outlasted Louisiana Tech in Wyoming.

Sacramento State gave away a 17-point lead in a loss to McNeese State.

Northern Arizona fell in California.

Northern Colorado got its second win in as many days and left South Padre Island with a .500 tournament record.

On Sunday, Portland State ended the Wyoming Jim Thorpe Classic with a 2-1 record and Jim Hayford is now 3-2 as a Division I coach.

UCF tops No. 4 UConn

by - Published November 27, 2011 in Conference Notes

Central Florida upset No. 4 Connecticut, 68-62, as Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton had 20 points each for the Knights. Jordan also had seven assists and seven rebounds.

UCF shot the ball well, hitting 41.2 percent from behind the arc, while UConn shot just 11.1 percent. Still, UConn was able to lead for most of the game. UCF pulled ahead on a pair of free throws from Marcus Jordan. It was a fitting way to win for a team that made 81 percent of its free throws throughout the game.

This win goes to show that Donnie Jones can do great things for the Knights. He got several marquee wins last year, as well. If this team can stay healthy, look for them to do damage in C-USA.

Big Sky news & notes

by - Published November 23, 2011 in Conference Notes

This came out Tuesday morning. So did this. And then this happened at night: MSU got beaten up at home; Eastern Washington went to the islands and won; Northern Arizona beat a popular NAIA whipping boy for the Big Sky; Northern Colorado lost to Iowa State; and Sacramento State overcame a deficit to win. Freshman PG Dylan Garrity has a 31-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, though they’ve faced only one credible team (Washington State: 2 assists, 4 turnovers).
That is all – two games Wednesday, two Friday and a full slate on Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving.

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