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The Morning Dish – Sunday, November 9, 2014

by - Published November 9, 2014 in The Morning Dish
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More conference quick looks as we near the start of the college basketball season…

The Big Sky has typically been the domain of Weber State and Montana in recent years, and it may be again-Weber State in particular looks capable of continuing its excellence. But watch for Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. The Eagles return four starters, including high-scoring Tyler Harvey, while Sac State looks to have its best team in more than 20 years in Division I.

Coastal Carolina is a relatively big favorite in the Big South, and with good reason-the Chanticleers feature a high-quality backcourt (Josh Cameron, Warren Gillis, Elijah Wilson) that gets even better with Mount St. Mary’s transfer Shivaughn Wiggins. The Chants also have some nice size up front, but this still should be a good conference race. Radford returns everyone, Winthrop has become a tough out under Pat Kelsey, and High Point is the conference’s defending champion and has its best player in John Brown.

… Continue Reading

Percolating hoops intrigue makes February a fantastic month for sports

by - Published February 1, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s February — one of the most underrated sports months of the year.

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, the biggest event in U.S. sports will command the attention of tens of millions of viewers, generating tens of millions of dollars for everyone associated with the event.

A few weeks later, the NBA All-Star game will show the NFL how exhibition weekends should be run. In my opinion, the NBA All-Star weekend festivities are the best of any pro sport, with baseball coming in a close second. Did anyone actually watch the Pro Bowl last weekend?

We don’t have any winter Olympics this year, but that’s a February event, too.

And then we have college hoops. To casual fans, March is the month of joy. But February is the month that sets the table for March. Dozens of teams are jockeying for position right now, fighting for a better seed and location or merely a bid to the Big Dance.

The schedule-makers know what they’re doing, too. Next Wednesday — just days after the Super Bowl — the top rivalry in college hoops will go down for the first of two meetings in a month when Duke visits North Carolina. That’s a nice way for the NCAA to tell America: “Guess what? Football is over. It’s time to set your sights on the hardwood.”

And of course, as we work through the thick of conference play, we’ll have the rush of bracket projections to feed the hoops addiction. Hoopville will join the fray as usual, starting this Friday. We choose to wait until February because it just feels right. By now, we have a large enough sample size to judge teams’ résumés and make projections that have a good shot of standing up during the final few weeks before Selection Sunday.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Get ready for more technical fouls and a shorter leash on players or coaches who act out. Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog reports that John Adams, the NCAA’s national officiating coordinator, sent a notice to all officials that implored them to clamp down on bad behavior.

Clemson has indefinitely suspended junior Milton Jennings, a former McDonald’s All-American, because of academic reasons, according to the Associated Press. Jennings averages 8.9 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Arizona will finish the season without junior Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in a loss to Washington last weekend, according to a CBS Sports.com report. He averaged 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 1.7 apg this season.

Iona is looking to remain one of the premier programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the university extended the contract of coach Tim Cluess to help make that happen, according to a CBS Sports.com report.

Don’t mess with a player’s routine. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes shared some of the details of his routine with Andrew Jones of Fox Sports to explain why he changed his shoes at halftime of the Tar Heels’ win against Georgia Tech. Like the rest of the team, Barnes started the game with pink shoes to help promote breast cancer awareness. But he went with his usual Kobes in the second half.

VCU coach Shaka Smart stirred some commotion in the commonwealth during a teleconference Monday, writes Myron Medcalf for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Smart asserted that Virginia’s best schools reside in the CAA. He didn’t call out the ACC teams in Blacksburg or Charlottesville by name, but Smart felt compelled to give UVA coach Tony Bennett a call to clarify his comments.

The NCAA won’t be seeking any further action against Connecticut freshman guard Ryan Boatright regarding an investigation into his eligibility because of money and benefits that he and his mother received, according to the Associated Press. But the AP reports that the Boatrights’ lawyer isn’t finished with his actions against the NCAA, lambasting the organization for releasing private information.

The only coach to ever lead Canisius to an NCAA Tournament win died Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Joseph Curran, 89, passed away in Mystic, Conn. He led the Golden Griffins to a 76-66 record in six seasons, which included a shocking four overtime victory against No. 2 North Carolina State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament.

Picking out some early season turkeys – and sweet performances

by - Published November 23, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and that means we’re cooking up something for the holiday.

For the main course, we’re serving a few turkeys that have crept up in the college basketball nation. These conferences, teams, players and — in one case — an entire city’s judicial/law enforcement institution just aren’t getting the job done for one reason or another.

Some of these look tastier than others, but all will be heading to the chopping block if they don’t shape up soon. Some much-needed improvement could save these proverbial turkeys from the fate awaiting their avian namesakes across the country.

After the entrees, we’ve got a delicious spread of all-American winners that are worth saving room for — just like that pumpkin or apple pie. In the Protos household, my mother has added a German chocolate pie to the mix that is as mouth-watering as its more traditionally American pastries. Perhaps we need a new name for the pie. Or maybe not, as one of the coaches that we name has a distinctly Central European flavor.

Let’s get to the tryptophan-inducers first.

J’Covan Brown

How can someone putting up more than 26 ppg be on a list of turkeys? Well, when you get kicked out of a game for swearing and your young teammates subsequently choke up a double-digit lead in a few minutes, you become a turkey. Brown is absolutely essentially to a Longhorns team dominated by freshmen. After picking up a fourth foul midway through the second half against NC State, Brown protested the call with a vulgarity en route to his bench during a timeout. The referee took offense and gave Brown at technical and fifth personal, thus ending his night and beginning the Wolfpack’s comeback.

Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA isn’t exactly off to a great start, just months removed from sending VCU to the Final Four. The conference’s preseason favorite, Drexel, dropped a game to Norfolk State and then scored only 35 points in a loss to Virginia. George Mason has two overtime losses already, to Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Every team except Northeastern has at least two losses already, and five teams haven’t won more than one game.

UCLA

It’s messy out in Westwood. Heading into tonight’s game against Michigan, the Bruins are still looking for their first win against a Division I team after losing to Kansas in Maui and Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State — by 20 — at home. The team can’t hit anything right now, and Reeves Nelson earned a suspension for sulking during the team’s opening loss to Loyola Marymount. There’s time to turn it around, but if they don’t, Howland might take much of the blame for this sloppiness.

The Syracuse edition of law & order

There’s no bigger turkey in college basketball right now than the attorneys and police officials in Syracuse, N.Y. They’re not even related to Orange basketball, but they have been thrust into the spotlight by accusations that Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two ball boys over a span of more than a decade. The sordid story has devolved into people calling one another liars, and we need a functional investigation to get even close to realizing justice and revealing the truth. But the Syracuse district attorney’s office and police chief are too busy blaming each other for bungling the original investigation last decade. The DA has accused the police chief of hiding information while the police officers are calling the attorneys incompetent and unresponsive.

And now let’s enjoy some good stuff.

Coastal Carolina

The Chanticleers are back in business after injuries and suspensions derailed a promising season last February. Coastal Carolina already has knocked off power conferences foes LSU and Clemson — with the victory against the Tigers coming on the road. Besides a road game at East Carolina and a home date with Charleston, the Chanticleers look setup to post another gaudy record, which could earn this team an at-large bid if needed. That’d be a major accomplishment for the Big South.

Cleveland State

It’s certainly far more common for the Horizon League to get some extra love in the NCAA Tournament than the Big South, and the conference is certainly on the basketball nation’s radar after Butler made two consecutive trips to the title game. But with Norris Cole gone this season, the Vikings didn’t appear to be the team to beat in the conference. They certainly are playing the part after taking out Vanderbilt and Kent State on the road and a strong St. Bonaventure team at home by Lake Erie.

The cream of the crop

The top teams in the country have looked strong thus far, as North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke have performed well against some stiff competition. As mentioned plenty of times, the top teams are returning an unusual amount of top talent, thanks in large part to the NBA lockout. We should be in store for a fantastic season with plenty of epic match ups, especially come March and April.

Coach K

Speaking of Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski notched one of the sweetest accomplishments in sports in 2011 by surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA coaching history. Coach K has Duke in contention for ACC and NCAA titles nearly every season, a testament to his ability to adapt to a changing game and remain in the forefront for multiple generations of ballers.

Missouri Valley

The MVC might be the new CAA, which had been the new MVC anyways. Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and even Missouri State look like they could be in NCAA Tournament contention by the end of the regular season. Creighton annihilated Iowa on in Des Moines, while Wichita State dispatched Colorado and looked strong against Alabama and Temple.

Norfolk State

A week after losing to Marquette by 31 points, the Spartans regrouped to win three straight — including games against Drexel and TCU — before taking Marquette to the final possession in a rematch in the Paradise Jam title game in the Virgin Islands.

2011-12 CAA Preview

by - Published November 9, 2011 in Columns

Simply put, 2010-11 was the greatest season in CAA history to date. For the first time, the conference had three teams reach the NCAA Tournament, then saw George Mason win a game, Old Dominion nearly knock off national runner-up Butler, and of course VCU knock off a string of good teams en route to the Final Four. Two more teams reached postseason play in the College Basketball Invitational. That’s not all: six teams recorded at least 21 wins for the first time ever and the conference had its best nonconference record ever at 90-63.

How do they follow that up? With a lot of question marks at first glance, though the feeling around the conference is, naturally, an optimistic one. … Continue Reading

Welcome back, hoops!

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The 2011 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic kicks off the games that count in the standings tonight.

We have three games on tap tonight, two of which you can find on ESPNU if you’d like a change of pace from the Eagles and Bears on Monday Night Football. Here’s who’s in action tonight.

  • William & Mary at St. John’s, 7 pm ET
  • Eastern Kentucky at Mississippi State, 8 pm ET
  • Valparaiso at Arizona, 9 pm ET

The finals of the tournament will feature those three major conference teams plus Texas A&M in New York’s Madison Square Garden Nov. 17-18. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one of those teams drop a game in the early rounds before reaching the Big Apple. In fact, the Big Apple’s own St. John’s could be in danger tonight, as the Red Storm start 2011-12 with nearly a complete roster makeover while the Tribe return almost all of last season’s team.

We’ve got an upset watch on opening night!

Selfish NCAA Rule Betrays Mission to Student-Athletes

by - Published May 2, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

  1. Starting next season, players will no longer be able to test the NBA Draft waters. According to the Associated Press, the NCAA approved a rules change that forces players to decide whether they wish to remain eligible for the NBA Draft by the first day of the spring signing period for recruits. This move helps college coaches replace departing players. But it kills players’ opportunity to gauge their draft stock as few NBA teams are prepared to provide full predictions by mid-April.
  2. George Mason wasted no time in finding a new coach. According to the Associated Press, the Colonials picked former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who was fired at Georgia Tech this past season after 11 years and a 190-162 record. In more than a decade with the Yellow Jackets, Hewitt established a reputation for recruiting top-notch talent, but he only made one deep run in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Connecticut in the 2004 championship game. He replaces Jim Larranaga, who left the school to coach Miami.
  3. Nearby, in Washington, D.C., George Washington will be in search of a new coach after firing Karl Hobbs, according to the Associated Press. Hobbs led the Colonials for 10 years, including a great 2005-06 season in which George Washington finished 27-3 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. And in Atlanta, Georgia Tech replaced Paul Hewitt with Brian Gregory, choosing Dayton’s coach over several other candidates, including a 15-year-old from Connecticut. Wha?! According to the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, Ethan Peikes sent Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich a letter containing a cogent argument for why Peikes should become the Yellow Jackets’ next coach.
  5. Colgate presumably didn’t get any applications from 15-year-olds, but the school did find its coach from a relatively young member of the coaching ranks. According to the Associated Press, Colgate hired 33-year-old Temple assistant Matt Langel to replace Emmett Davis, who was dismissed after 13 seasons and a 165-212 record.
  6. Wisconsin extended the contract of coach Bo Ryan through 2015-16, ensuring stability for one of the best programs in the Big Ten, according to the Associated Press. Ryan has a 242-91 record in 10 seasons in Madison, and his teams regularly excel in the NCAA Tournament and enjoy one of the toughest home court advantages in basketball.
  7. Likewise, in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Fox received an extension with Georgia. The Bulldogs will keep Fox through 2015-16 and increase his pay to $1.7 million per year, according to the Associated Press.
  8. Amid coaching changes, some players decide it’s time for a fresh start, especially if a new coach has a significantly different system. That looks to be the case at North Carolina State, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Freshman point guard Ryan Harrow will leave the Wolfpack to look for a fresh start rather than play for new coach Mark Gottfried.
  9. Give coach Bill Self credit. Even though Kansas is losing plenty of firepower this off-season, the Jayhawks will face a brutal schedule next season, with Kentucky and Ohio State definitely on the horizon, according to the Associated Press. Kansas also will be in the Maui Invitational with Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee and Michigan.
  10. And Kansas might find some tougher competition out of Oklahoma in the Big 12 than originally expected. New Sooners coach Lon Kruger has added two Juco players recently to help hasten the rebuilding of the Oklahoma program, according to Sports Illustrated’s “Fan Nation” blog.
  11. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has completed a major overhaul of his staff, according to the Associated Press. Pitino added Kevin Keatts as an assistant coach. Keatts arrives at Louisville after coaching Hargrave Military Academy for 10 seasons and winning two national prep championships. Keatts joins Wyking Jones and Pitino’s son Richard on the staff.
  12. Quick hits from the NCAA’s attendance report, via ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for the “College Basketball Nation” blog: total number of people attending games is up compared with 2009-10, average per Division I game is down a tad (because of more Division I schools), and average NCAA Tournament attendance is down slightly.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

The general consensus is that the NCAA is being selfish in its decision to change the rules on players testing the NBA Draft as early entrants. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, though the NCAA has an opportunity to do right by student-athletes.

The NCAA is responsible for guiding student-athletes through the collegiate educational experience. That’s not my take; it’s theirs. From the NCAA’s website:

The NCAA’s core purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.

By shifting the deadline for players to decide whether they will remain in the NBA Draft or return to school to mid-April, the NCAA is robbing student-athletes of a chance to maximize their educational experience. To borrow a Texas Hold ‘Em poker analogy, the NCAA will be forcing players to go all-in or fold before the flop while letting them see only one card.

In recent years, players have been able to figure out the strength of their draft hand — to see that other card — by receiving evaluations from NBA scouts during late April and May. A few years ago, players had until June to decide whether they’d remain in the draft or return to school. NCAA coaches hated that because they didn’t know what their roster would like and how they should adjust their recruiting strategy in the spring.

The first step in this anti-player direction was a change to the players’ decision deadline to early May. That prevents players from receiving much information, but they can at least make an educated decision about the likelihood that a team will pick them in the first round.

To clarify what’s at stake, the NBA only guarantees contracts to first-round picks. If you’re No. 31, you have to compete with every other unrestricted free agent, NBA Developmental League player and international walk-on who wants a shot at an NBA contract. Good luck. Oh, and you can’t go back to your college team. When early entrants remain in the draft, they’re no longer eligible. You don’t hear of too many players who pay to earn a degree without a scholarship from a school if they fall out of the first round and don’t receive a contract.

For NCAA early entrants, the NBA Draft can be a life-altering decision. Because the NCAA will restrict the relevant information that student-athletes can gather by the mid-April deadline, the NCAA has the responsibility to fulfill its core purpose: ensure that the educational experience is paramount. And that experience is paramount to the self-centered interests of coaches who fear they’ll lose their jobs without NBA-caliber players on their roster instead of leftover recruits.

For the NCAA to fulfill that purpose, it needs to create a method for student-athletes to receive NBA evaluations throughout the season. Perhaps the NCAA should form a consortium of current or former NBA scouts who provide monthly ratings or reviews, citing comments from NBA executives. If the NCAA wants to follow the money, it would need to wade into the world of sports agents, who are perhaps most motivated to gauge players’ value and translate that into NBA dollars. An objective sports agent might not exist, but that’s for the NCAA to figure out.

As the rules stand now, the NCAA is failing its student-athletes. A failed system is bound too fall apart as soon as a better alternative presents itself. And that could quickly emerge from the heavily financed underworld of unscrupulous sports agencies and self-employed talent consultants, who might take an even more aggressive stance and try to fill a need in this evaluation process — if the NCAA doesn’t step up to fully educate its players.

Bracket Breakdown: Math Behind VCU’s Run Is Unbelievable

by - Published April 2, 2011 in Columns

You don’t need me to tell you that VCU’s run to the Final Four was improbable. But let’s take a look at just how unforeseeable it really has been.

During the NCAA Tournament , the Rams have improved their offensive and defensive efficiency by more than twice as much as any team did in last season’s tournament. The change is so dramatic that you’d think that we’re dealing with an invasion of the body snatchers. Would whoever kidnapped the average three point-shooting, defensively suspect Rams please return them to Earth?

It’s that remarkable. … Continue Reading

Bracket Breakdown: History Beckons for Butler, VCU

by - Published April 2, 2011 in Columns

This weekend promises to be historic.

For just the fifth time since UCLA completed its run of dominance in the 1970s, we will have a mid-major program playing for the national championship. And based on the torrid play of VCU and Butler, there’s no reason to think the Rams or Bulldogs can’t knock off Connecticut or Kentucky to claim the first title for a non-power conference team since UNLV demolished Duke in 1990.

For a quick history lesson, here’s a rundown of championship game participants from conferences not named the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 or SEC since 1975. … Continue Reading

Bracket Breakdown: Critical Questions for the Elite Eight – Part 2

by - Published March 26, 2011 in Columns

(11) VCU 71 (1) Kansas61

Will Cinderella’s slipper fit on VCU? At this point, the better question might be: Why wouldn’t it?

Led by coach Shaka Smart and point guard Joey Rodriguez, the Rams have burned through USC, Georgetown, Purdue and Florida State to move within one game of going from the First Four to the Final Four. If they make it happen, the run will look awfully familiar.

Five years ago, George Mason captured the country’s attention by receiving a controversial at-large bid as a No. 11 seed, then tore through Michigan State, North Carolina and Wichita State to set up a meeting with tournament-favorite Connecticut. The Colonials shocked the world with an overtime upset of the Huskies. … Continue Reading

Bracket Breakdown: Best Conferences Thus Far Come as a Surprise

by - Published March 21, 2011 in Columns

Surprise! After the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the two conferences performing the best are the ACC and CAA.

I don’t think many people saw that coming. But those two conferences account for a quarter of the Sweet 16 teams and have more teams advancing to the second weekend than the Big East and Big 12 combined. That’s even more impressive when you consider the latter two conferences fielded 16 teams to the seven from the ACC and CAA. In addition, 12 of the Big East/Big 12 teams had seeds of No. 6 or better, while only two of seven ACC/CAA teams could say that. … Continue Reading

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Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

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

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Your Phil of Hoops

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

unlv

Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

syracuse

Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

brown

Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

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2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.