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UMass, Rhode Island Result Mirrors Teams’ Current Directions

by - Published January 31, 2011 in Columns, Conference Notes

AMHERST, Mass. – Sunday’s matchup of New England Atlantic 10 rivals was one of two teams seemingly going in opposite directions. One might not have figured as much when noticing that both entered the game with identical 4-2 records in Atlantic 10 play, but the end result – a UMass win over Rhode Island – reflected where the teams were headed at that moment.

UMass is moving forward and in a tie for third in the conference with its 5-2 mark as they enter a week with two road games. After a slip in play during December, they are playing well again with four wins in their last five outings. Opponents are shooting around 39 percent from the field against the Minutemen in Atlantic 10 play, and that’s where it has all started. … Continue Reading

Missouri Valley Notebook – January 17, 2011

by - Published January 17, 2011 in Conference Notes

A surprising new team can crash the party this week in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). The Indiana State Sycamores – off to their best conference start in 11 seasons – are riding a five-game winning streak as Missouri State visits Terre Haute, Ind., on Wednesday. It would be an understatement to call this the biggest week of the season for the Sycamores, but victories over Missouri State and Wichita State would put Indiana State in the driver’s seat to chase the conference title.

After losing three starters from last season’s postseason squad – Indiana State’s first postseason since 2001 – the majority had the Sycamores slotted in the conference’s lower half during the preseason. Now the Sycamores are off to the same start the last time they won the Missouri Valley. Skeptics will point to a soft schedule at the beginning of the conference slate, as Indiana State’s opponents have racked up a combined 13-36 MVC record so far this winter.

It is true the final 11 Valley contests will be a tougher test (six games left against Wichita State, Missouri State, Creighton and Northern Iowa). However, the Sycamores will go into that brutal stretch having already achieved some impressive feats this month. On Jan. 7 they breezed past Northern Iowa by 25 points. If that wasn’t enough of a statement, it was the first time the Northern Iowa defense surrendered 70 points since Jan. 3, 2010 – a span of 37 games. During that stretch, not even the potent UNLV, Kansas or Syracuse offenses were able to have as much success against Northern Iowa.

Indiana State has been able to rack up five straight wins without team scoring leader Dwayne Lathan for three of them. The junior guard returned with limited playing time against Creighton on Sunday – a 61-59 comeback win for the Sycamores.

The contests this week will create some interesting matchups, as Wichita State and Missouri State are first and third in the MVC for three-pointers per game. Meanwhile, Indiana State is first in the Valley for offensive and defensive three-point percentage. Victors will probably go to the team that can gain control of the perimeter that night.

Team that helped itself the most last week: Northern Iowa

The Panthers started the week struggling to get a 46-44 home win over Valley cellar dweller Illinois State, but it was an important start to a 2-0 week for Northern Iowa. The close victory was followed by a 72-52 triumph over Southern Illinois, as the Panthers avenged a loss to SIU on New Year’s Day. Senior Lucas O’Rear pitched in one of his top performances of the season with a double-double, contributing to a 21-point effort from Kwadzo Ahelegbe. Northern Iowa will ride its three-game winning streak to Wichita State on Wednesday, where the Panthers lost 60-51 last season.

Team that has trouble brewing after last week: Creighton

A buzzer-beating loss at Indiana State on Sunday spoiled an opportunity for the Bluejays to keep pace in the conference race. Instead, Creighton sits three games back from the lead as Bradley (6-12, 0-7 MVC) visits on Wednesday. It’s a must-win game, as the Bluejays travel to Missouri State on Saturday.

Hoopville Player of the Week: Aaron Carter, Indiana State

The senior guard helped propel the Sycamores into Wednesday’s showdown by sinking 20 points, including six treys, against Creighton. Carter’s 14 points last Wednesday also helped Indiana State squeeze out a victory at Bradley.

Valley games to watch this week: A lot of the teams in the upper half of the standings will face off this week. Here are a few to keep an eye on:

Wednesday, Jan. 19: Missouri State (15-3, 7-0 MVC) at Indiana State (11-7, 6-1 MVC)

The league’s two longest winning streaks will go against each other in a battle for first. Missouri State brings in a nine-game win streak to Terre Haute and has already notched road wins at Northern Iowa, Creighton and Wichita State.

Wednesday, Jan. 19: Northern Iowa (13-6, 4-3 MVC) at Wichita State (15-3, 6-1 MVC)

The margin of error is slim to none for Northern Iowa, as it already sits three games back from the conference lead. Whether the game is a barn burner or a blowout will depend which Panther offense steps on the floor. In its past four games, Northern Iowa has been sporadic with 45, 83, 46 and 72 points.

Saturday, Jan. 22: Creighton (12-7, 4-3 MVC) at Missouri State (15-3, 7-0 MVC)

After a rough week, another team that can’t afford many more losses also has a tough road contest. The Bluejays will aim for revenge after Missouri State snatched a road victory against them two weeks ago.

Saturday, Jan. 22: Indiana State (11-6, 6-1 MVC) at Wichita State (15-3, 6-1 MVC)

Wichita State has won the past four meetings in this series, but there wouldn’t be any better time for the Sycamores to snap that. Indiana State faces its first big road test of the season, after recent solid home victories against Northern Iowa and Creighton.

What’s Wrong With Kansas State?

by - Published January 17, 2011 in Conference Notes

With all due respect to Denis Clemente, his absence isn’t important enough to Kansas State to drive the preseason No. 3 team into a tailspin.

Rather, the cause of Kansas State’s pain this season is almost entirely related to the team’s lack of charity work — a flat-out awful 58.7 percent free throw shooting rate.

Plenty of analysts are blaming the quick decline of the Wildcats on the graduation of Clemente in May. Yes, the team’s starting point guard helped keep the offense on pace throughout last season as he led the team with 4.2 assists per game. But Clemente was a poor — and frequent — shooter on a team with reliable options in other spots. … Continue Reading

For St. Peter’s Women, the Struggle Continues

by - Published January 12, 2011 in Conference Notes

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – On Monday evening the St. Peter’s women hosted Manhattan College at Yanitelli Center in Jersey City. The effort was there, the result a too familiar 58-44 loss. Coach Stephanie DeWolfe has St. Peter’s working hard and hustling, no small feat for a team that dropped to 1-14 on the season.

In a game that was basically a two-possession affair until the latter minutes, turnovers continued to be a problem for St. Peter’s. They committed 23 on the game. Given a 60-possession game, the St. Peter’s turnover rate was an astounding 38 percent. That is nearly four of every ten possessions wasted without a viable field goal attempt. Junior forward Jynae Judson gave St. Peter’s a nice eight-point, 10-rebound effort. But she added seven turnovers. … Continue Reading

CAA-Leading Hofstra Keeps Overcoming Adversity

by - Published January 9, 2011 in Conference Notes

BOSTON – Hofstra has become quite adept at making lemonade out of lemons. There’s a simple reason why: for most of the past nine and a half months, they’ve been handed lemons quite often, including en route to their 4-0 start in Colonial Athletic Association play.

The Cliff Notes version is that Tom Pecora left to take the head coaching job at Fordham in late March, ultimately succeeded by former Providence head coach Tim Welsh. In early May, Welsh resigned and Mo Cassara, who joined the staff after former boss Al Skinner was fired from Boston College, took over. Along the way, a starter and key reserve from last season’s team transferred as well. … Continue Reading

Unselfishness, Road Success Make Long Island a Contender

by - Published January 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Long Island might seem like an unlikely team to contend for the Northeast Conference title at first glance. Although they were picked third in the conference’s preseason poll and got a first-place vote, it’s a team with six sophomores and five upperclassmen, so it’s not the kind of very experienced team that tends to win a conference like the Northeast. And while leadership can be a concern, the Blackbirds are off to a 10-4 start, including 2-1 in the conference, and have the look of a team that can contend. … Continue Reading

Missouri Valley Notebook – January 6, 2011

by - Published January 6, 2011 in Conference Notes

Two surprises near bottom after Week 1

As anticipated, Wichita State leads the pack after the first week of play in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). The Shockers have used their experience and very deep bench to cruise to a 3-0 mark. They’re joined by Missouri State (11-3, 3-0 MVC), who mounted second-half comebacks to win at Northern Iowa and Creighton.

On the opposite end, a pair of buzzer-beating losses has Northern Iowa scrambling. After their first 0-2 conference start in 10 seasons, the Panthers avoided catastrophe and finally closed out a win against Evansville on Tuesday. Another team predicted for an upper-half finish has struggled, as Bradley dropped its first three MVC games.

Hoopville MVC Player of the Week: Doug McDermott, Creighton

The freshman forward shined during his first week of play in the MVC, with 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. His highlight of the week included a 28-point effort in a win against Drake.

Other top performers: Bradley’s Andrew Warren, who leads the league with 19.3 points during conference play and snatched 6.3 rebounds per game. Creighton junior guard, Antoine Young, was also instrumental in two victories, piling up 16.7 points per contest.

Games to watch this weekend

Friday, Jan. 7: Creighton (10-5, 2-1 MVC) at Southern Illinois (8-6, 2-1 MVC): Just like the old days, the Bluejays and Salukis will play for position at the top. With a couple of down years from both teams, it has been awhile since this once fierce rivalry has had a meaningful game in the conference race.

Sunday, Jan. 9: Missouri State (11-3, 3-0 MVC) at Wichita State (12-2, 3-0 MVC): Take a couple hours and step away from the NFL playoffs. This game will be worth it. Both teams have been playing their best basketball in the second half, and in the six conference victories between the two squads, five have been by double figures. Something has to give. An MSU win will give the Bears three road wins in the first four conference games at arguably three of the toughest places to play in the Valley (Northern Iowa, Creighton and Wichita State).

Reasons to worry

There are still 15 chances to turn it around, but here are some teams who need to find answers quickly (in order of who should be sweating the most):

Bradley (6-8, 0-3 MVC): Once expected to compete for the title, the Braves now find themselves three games back after three MVC games. And the tiebreaker still goes to Wichita State at the moment, as they knocked down Bradley in Peoria, Ill., 79-63. Getting the first win on the board won’t be easy this weekend, as Bradley will be on the road at Drake and Northern Iowa.

Illinois State (8-6, 0-3 MVC): After losing their first three by an average of 12, the Redbirds also face an unfavorable schedule as they search for conference victory No. 1. Wichita State comes into town on Friday, and then a road trip to Southern Illinois looms on Sunday.

Evansville (7-6, 1-2 MVC): The Aces didn’t fare as well against Wichita State and Northern Iowa as they did late last season, losing by double digits in both this week. One of the most brutal early conference schedules of any team in the Valley continues with a trip to Missouri State on Friday and a contest against Creighton (10-5, 2-1 MVC) on Sunday.

Northern Iowa (10-5, 1-2 MVC): If games were about 30 seconds shorter, Northern Iowa would be sitting at the top of the conference with little to worry about at the moment. Instead, last-second losses against Missouri State and at Southern Illinois sank the Panthers to their first 0-2 league start since the 2000-01 campaign. Although their season average of 62 points per game is last in the MVC, the Panthers may be fine if they can hit that magic number each game. Their defense is allowing just 55.9 points per game as of Wednesday – sixth in the nation.

Don’t get too comfortable

Both teams at the top of the standings had a trend of pulling away in the second half after a close game in the first 20 minutes. Although Wichita State’s smallest margin of victory so far is 16 points, the Shockers had two games head into the break with one- and four-point leads. The only comfortable lead was a 13-point advantage against Evansville (which ended as a 34-point win).

Missouri State made its contests a little more interesting when it trailed by six at Northern Iowa, led Illinois State by just two and trailed at Creighton by nine at the break. Two of those games ended as double-digit wins for MSU, with the lone thriller happening when Kyle Weems sank a 3-pointer to propel the Bears over Northern Iowa, 58-57.

Experience only goes so far

Wichita State returned four starters from last season’s 25-win team, but they’re not the ones causing the most trouble so far in the MVC race. The WSU bench is annihilating opponents, as the Shockers backups have outscored their competition by a total of 137-50 in three games.

How Much Will the Huskies Miss Gaddy?

by - Published January 5, 2011 in Conference Notes

Washington figures to compete for a Pac-10 title this season, and the Huskies will do so without one of the best guards in the conference for the rest of the season.

Sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy went down with a torn ACL in practice Jan. 4, and his loss will force the Huskies to adjust, which Washington is equipped to do. According to Hoopville’s Total Impact Quotient, Gaddy is the No. 8 guard in the Pac-10, with a TIQ of 10.3 points. (What is the TIQ, you ask? Check out a complete introduction.)

Gaddy is valuable for many reasons, starting with his ability to take and make good shots in addition to setting up his teammates. Gaddy shoots 50 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three-point range. He’s also an 82 percent shooter from the free throw line. But Gaddy doesn’t hog the ball or force shots — he’s fourth on the team in shots attempted and minutes played, so he’s contributing an even amount on offense. However, he’s one of the team leaders in assists, with 3.8 per game. … Continue Reading

Tar Heels and Hokies Gear Up for Conference Action

by - Published January 3, 2011 in Conference Notes

ACC play begins in earnest this coming weekend, and a pair of pre-season favorites could be playing their best basketball of the season after dismantling two overwhelmed visitors.

North Carolina and Virginia Tech have had inconsistent starts to the season with few quality wins and several close losses. Both teams play solid defense but occasionally struggle at the offensive end. The Tar Heels and Hokies were firing on all cylinders Jan. 2 as North Carolina ripped St. Francis, Pa., 103-54 and Virginia Tech slaughtered Mount St. Mary’s 99-34.

In Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels’ defense smothered the Red Flash, holding them to 32.8 percent shooting. Sophomore forward John Henson set the pace with six blocks in 22 minutes. After the game, coach Roy Williams said the team was poised for a breakout on defense. … Continue Reading

It’s All About the Patriot League for Holy Cross

by - Published January 1, 2011 in Conference Notes, Your Phil of Hoops

WASHINGTON – Holy Cross is putting all its hopes on the Patriot League. That might not seem surprising even if you knew nothing about their record, considering Patriot League teams rarely have a non-conference resume with the kind of wins that put them in the discussion for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But that has taken on new meaning as league play approaches.

In the Crusaders’ 58-57 loss at George Washington, they were more short-handed than they have been at other times this season. R.J. Evans missed his fourth straight game with a sports hernia, and may be out a while longer since he can’t do anything physical, including conditioning. Phil Beans has been out for the same amount of time with a foot injury. Now, Andrew Keister has joined the walking wounded with an Achilles injury that they have to be careful with. … Continue Reading

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

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Conference Coverage

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2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

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The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

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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