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Which teams have the most work to do in conference play?

by - Published January 7, 2016 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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January means conference play gets going, leaving non-conference play in the past. Nothing happens in a vacuum, however, and the ways teams played before conference opponents shapes them now. It also has a big role in their NCAA Tournament hopes, for some teams more than others.

Scheduling is certainly an art form and not a science, because one never knows just how good many teams will be. Still, many go into the season with some clear signature win opportunities, where a win would have shelf life all season. Others have very few and need to make the most of them, or might not have any. Quality wins not only help a team reach the NCAA Tournament, but more of them leaves room for error to cover up a bad loss or two.

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Saturday Notes – January 2, 2016

by - Published January 3, 2016 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
author_kasiecki

Conference play is in full swing now all across the country, and Saturday gave us a big taste. It was a slate with mostly conference games, and some dandies among them. It’s too early to make much of the first conference game for anyone, but it can go with or against the impression the non-conference showing of many teams left on us.

There’s a lot of basketball left to play, obviously, but we’ve gotten off to a good start. Here are some notes from many of the day’s games.

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Saturday Notes – December 19, 2015

by - Published December 20, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
author_kasiecki

With final exams in the books, Saturday represented a return to the busy Saturdays that we will see for most of the remainder of the season. It was also a day with a number of great matchups and some very significant outcomes. We saw the Crossroads Classic produce a couple of good ones as usual, as well as a few big ones in New York, and a few more teams appear to be gaining confidence with the wins continuing to pile up.

With that, here are notes from many of the day’s games.

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Saturday Notes – December 12, 2015

by - Published December 13, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
author_kasiecki

College basketball is starting to take center stage on Saturdays, as this one was full of TV games, and many of them good ones. A few teams scored important wins, but most of all, the games generally lived up to their billing. This is something college basketball needs at a time when college football is otherwise fading from the spotlight for a bit with the time in between the end of the regular season and bowl games.

Here are notes from a number of those games on the day, including some rivalry games.

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Saturday Notes – December 5, 2015

by - Published December 6, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
author_kasiecki

College football took center stage on Saturday with championship games, but college basketball gave us plenty as well. We had great rivalry games, many intriguing matchups, and some other results of note from a busy day full of games. It was a good taste of what Saturdays will be like most of the time from here until March.

With that in mind, here are some quick thoughts on some of the day’s games.

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UCLA shows it has a high ceiling

by - Published December 5, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
ucla

It’s easy to look at UCLA’s win over Kentucky as a big win that will boost the team. When you factor in the slow start the Bruins have, that’s an even more tempting angle to take. There’s no question this win can be just that. The biggest determinant of that, however, will be what UCLA does from here, because success will make this win worth something. What is clear, however, is that this win shows that UCLA has quite a high ceiling.

The jury has been out on the Bruins even before they opened the season with an 84-81 overtime loss to Monmouth. While we have found out since then that Monmouth is perhaps a little better than many thought, it was still a home game. They went 1-2 in Maui, and while there’s no shame in losing to Kansas, they lost to Wake Forest and barely knocked off UNLV. So we don’t know just how good this team is or can be, even allowing for teams to be finding themselves a bit early in the season.

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Big East looks the same in some ways and quite different in other ways

by - Published November 13, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
bigeast

The Big East still has its name and logo. It has several brand-name programs from its history, like Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Villanova. It has a Thompson coaching at Georgetown, and a legend from St. John’s is now coaching them. The tournament is still at Madison Square Garden, as if it could ever be anywhere else.

It sounds like little has changed. But something is missing as the third year of the current alignment tips off.

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Though a contender, Purdue will need to earn more relevance

by - Published October 15, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
purdue

In a Big Ten Conference full of interesting teams for one reason or another, Purdue isn’t getting as much mention as one might expect given the team’s makeup and how they did last season. There are high expectations for the Boilermakers for obvious reasons, but they’ll have to earn their way to more relevance.

Last season, the Boilermakers were thought to be an also-ran in the Big Ten, a good team hidden by a number of very good teams in the conference and maybe a year away from a big year. That team had no seniors and five freshmen a year after going 15-17. There was potential, to be sure – big man A.J. Hammons was dripping with it, and a couple of others had shown some promise – but we’ve long established what a loaded word “potential” is. Instead of having growing pains, they tied for third in the Big Ten at 12-6, overcoming some non-conference adversity along the way. They made it to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Cincinnati.

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New challenge ahead for Harvard

by - Published October 6, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
harvard

Under Tommy Amaker, Harvard has had an unprecedented run of success in recent years. A program that had never been to the NCAA Tournament before Amaker’s arrival in Cambridge, Harvard is now looked at as a perennial favorite in the Ivy League. The past two NCAA Tournaments, they were a trendy upset pick, making good in 2014 with a win over Cincinnati (one that probably should be thought of as an upset in name only) before a tough loss to North Carolina last season. Before that, they beat New Mexico in 2013.

This time around, however, the Crimson will have a much bigger challenge to keep that run going.

The Ivy League has been on a big upswing in recent years, and Harvard has been no small part of that. Not only have they had the aforementioned success, but others have done their best to stay with them, much like others did with Penn and Princeton for years. The league has a lot of good teams now, as well as coaching stability at every school. Should Harvard falter, there are plenty of suitable candidates to carry the flag for the league.

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Can this be the Army team that finally wins a Patriot League title?

by - Published September 24, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
army

It’s been a long struggle in the Patriot League for Army. The Black Knights are the only program in the league aside from relative newcomers Boston University and Loyola (Md.) to never win a league title, and join the Greyhounds in having never even reached the title game. In fact, they have finished in the first division of the league just twice, never higher than fourth.

That gives you an idea of the gargantuan task that was in front of head coach Zach Spiker when he took over after the sudden ouster of Jim Crews in 2009. And while there are bigger missions at the service academy than basketball, it is nonetheless part of life for some at the academy. Still, he has brought the program to new heights by recent measures, and now the hope is that he can take them just a bit higher in what should be “the year.”

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