Welcome back to the Morning Dish for the 2016-17 season. Opening night is just eight days away, and as we get closer to the first counting games we continue Hoopville’s brief conference looks entering the season.
Few leagues were more balanced last year than the Atlantic Sun, where all eight teams were plenty capable of beating each other, evidenced by the conference’s cellar-sharing teams (Stetson and USC Upstate) winning a combined four times against the teams seeded first and second in the conference tourney. North Florida won the regular season crown a year ago but was blitzed in the league tourney semis by Florida Gulf Coast, and the Eagles are the prohibitive favorite entering this year. Marc-Eddy Norelia should be the most dominant player in the league and FGCU has enough size, experience and talent to make some noise out of conference, too.
The Big Sky puts out a good basketball product, at least from a competitive standpoint. Of all the mid-majors, this one might be hidden the most in terms of having so much working against it. The footprint is in the two western-most time zones and largely overshadowed not only by the Pac-12, but also the Mountain West and West Coast Conference. It has produced a few splashes over the years and little more, but within its own little world is a good product.
As tends to happen, some familiar faces were among those at the top. Weber State and Montana continue to be mainstays, as they are the two programs with the all-time best records both overall and in conference play among current members. In fact, they are the only current members whose Big Sky records are over .500 all-time. Save for 2014-15, when Weber State finished a surprising sixth, both teams have finished in the top three in the conference every year since 2008-09. The two have also combined for 19 conference titles, with no one else having more than four.
Championship Week has given us so many great stories. There are plenty more still to be written today alone, as Championship Saturday is the biggest one of them all. Friday night paved the way for it beautifully.
There was the Big East Tournament, where Seton Hall advanced to continue a great story for them. A year ago, the Pirates’ season ended in discord; they were in a bad place, and there was plenty of talk about who might not return this season, from underclassmen who might leave to the coach. Kevin Willard had a fairly prohibitive contract for the school, but the talk was there all the same. A year later, the Pirates once again started out with promise, but this time they have persisted through the ups and downs that come with a season. They will take on Villanova, who beat Providence earlier in the evening. This is a more mature team, and one that we’ll see playing later in the month.
Not only are we in the midst of the holidays, but conference play beckons if it hasn’t already started. Non-conference play is almost complete, and teams form impressions during this time of how they will be in conference play. Even so, as is always the case this is imperfect. Conference play is a different animal, as teams are more familiar with each other from having played each other every year. That’s why we see some teams even in mid-majors get nice wins in non-conference play, but then lose games in conference play that strike the untrained eye as head-scratchers.
It is with that in mind that we take a look at how all 31 conferences shape up based on non-conference play thus far.
A number of stories in the college basketball preseason talked about teams and their goal to “play faster” this year. They wanted to pick up the pace. Run run run.
San Diego State was one of those teams, and while we hear teams talk of this every year, at first it looked promising that in this case it was real. The Aztecs scored 86 in an exhibition. They got up and down the court against Illinois State, scoring 71 against a good defensive team. They scored 76 in a fast-paced game that wound up a loss at Utah.
Then, SDSU scored 71 in a closer-than-expected win over San Diego Christian, an NAIA school that lost to Pepperdine 91-46 two nights earlier.
Three days later, the Aztecs lost to Arkansas-Little Rock 49-43.
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With opening day now just three days away, we continue our quick glance look at all 32 NCAA Division I conferences with six more today.
The Big East will again be one of the best conferences top-to-bottom in the country and certainly the best secret among the biggies. That says more about viewers still adjusting to national sports network options than the league, which if one is watching they’ll see it still retains a good share of the charm from its golden days. Villanova is the favorite for another league title, but Georgetown and Butler are capable of wresting it away. Xavier will remain good, and watch out for Marquette with a talented freshman class, including McDonald’s All-American Henry Ellenson. Unfortunately for the league, it’s still quite conceivable that there once again are a lot of very good teams and no great ones, which would lead to questions after the NCAA Tournament once again.
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Today we bring you a special NBA Draft edition of The Morning Dish:
While a number of recent college stars received their first assignments in their careers as professionals, last night’s NBA Draft also was good for taking us back a couple months and reminding us just what we had in college basketball this past season.
It wasn’t necessarily a prevailing storyline during the Final Four-and there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way-but this year’s Final Four was loaded with future NBA talent. Loaded. And it wasn’t all just at Kentucky, or even Duke, as this year’s NCAA semifinals included eight first round draft picks and a total of 11 draftees just this year, nearly 20% of the entire draft.
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Unwatchable? In a state of crisis? We challenge anyone who watched even a little bit of the college basketball action on Saturday to come to those conclusions about this sport.
While college basketball certainly has areas with room for improvement-and indeed, sometimes is not pretty-the fact is the product still provides consistent drama-and we haven’t even started the NCAA Tournament. Contrary to some of what you hear, the sport is not dying. College basketball still delivers, over and over.
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March is always a magical month, where so many things happen that seemingly defy logical explanation. The way games end falls into that category as much as anything else, and Friday showed that again.
We start in Brooklyn at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, where Davidson trailed for most of the game, but rallied. Still down by one, they had a play in the final seconds to win it, and Tyler Kalinoski put it up near the basket and got it to drop as time expired. Ray Floriani has more on this.
In our latest podcast, we touch on a number of issues affecting conferences like Conference USA, as well as a big loss for Creighton, less mystery in Arizona, and more on the ACC as we look forward to the weekend.
In our latest podcast, we talk about a short stint in the top spot of the polls, some developments in the Mountain West Conference, and more of the ACC before closing with the Big East and Atlantic 10.
In our latest podcast, we talk about the great games Kentucky has been a part of lately. We go on to other ACC matters involving arch rivals, as well as some quick hits and a conference race that should be as good as expected.
In our latest podcast, we talk about a coaching legend reaching a milestone, the defending champs looking very good and continuing their winning ways close to home, and some off-court news during a light week of game action.
Early season tournaments are the focus in this episode, with a look at how strong a few Big East teams are out of the gate and how strong the ACC could be. Plus one SEC team had a big week outside the scope of tournaments.
We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.
We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.
We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.
Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout
The Boston Back to School Showcase gave high school teams from three states and north of the border a chance for a couple of early games. We take a look back at the day and a few who stood out.