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2K Classic: Numbers and notes, a look back

by - Published November 24, 2014 in Columns

NEW YORK – We have a few final notes and numbers from the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

In the first semifinal, for Texas, and Iowa for that matter, it was a classic tale of two halves. Our look at the numbers breaks it down by half, starting with the first half:

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 22, 2014

by - Published November 22, 2014 in The Morning Dish

Early season tournaments continue to lead the way, and will for much of the next week. Friday featured plenty of such action leading into the weekend, setting the stage for what’s to come. In one of them, a champion was crowned.

At Madison Square Garden, Texas won the 2K Classic 71-55 over California, frustrating the Golden Bears with their defense all night long, especially the 10 shots they blocked. In the consolation game, Syracuse held off Iowa 66-63 behind a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds from freshman Chris McCullough, who also got the game-sealing steal in the final seconds. More coverage on this is coming soon, so stay tuned.

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California 73, Syracuse 59: The numbers of note

by - Published November 21, 2014 in Columns

NEW YORK – In the second semifinal game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden, California defeated Syracuse 73-59. The  Golden Bears advanced to play Texas in the championship game, while Syracuse will play Iowa in the consolation game beforehand.

The numbers of note:

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The Morning Dish – Friday, November 21, 2014

by - Published November 21, 2014 in The Morning Dish

Holiday tournament basketball tipped off on Thursday, one of the many things we can give thanks for over the upcoming holiday. Though perhaps not too much thanks.

The proliferation of large, eight-team in-season tourneys has been a boon for teams looking to get in an extra three games each season, but it also has played a part in watering down the importance of such tournaments as a whole.

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2013-14 Pac-12 Post-Mortem

by - Published May 7, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes

For the Pac-12, the 2013-14 season was a rebound from a stretch of so-so seasons. Six teams made the NCAA Tournament, with three reaching the Sweet 16. A record eight teams won at least 20 games. As a whole, the conference was as competitive as it’s ever been, with five teams tying for third place.

And yet, if you think the Pac-12 has entered some new halcyon days, you might want to stop right there. The conference is in a bit of flux right now, especially when you look at the coaching ranks and, correspondingly, how teams are trending.

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BracketBusters takes center stage once again

by - Published February 19, 2012 in Columns

Every year, there is a lot of talk about how to make BracketBusters better, or if it should just go away entirely. While teams have undoubtedly benefited from it over the years of its existence, the feelings on it seem a bit mixed, and it’s debatable whether or not it has been good as a whole. Right now, it’s what we have, and on Saturday it was center stage.

Proponents have talked about teams getting an extra national television appearance for people to see them. They have also cited the chance to get an RPI boost. Certainly, some of the teams that have benefited can look back and argue that they would not have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a win in the BracketBusters, including Final Four teams from George Mason and VCU. … Continue Reading

Quick Hitters – January 21, 2012

by - Published January 21, 2012 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

Quick hitters as we head into a busy Saturday:


  • If there was any doubt as to the value of a point guard, look no further than Boston University and floor leader D.J. Irving. There are a few reasons the Terriers have now won five games in a row and is tied with Stony Brook (who they beat last Saturday) atop the America East Conference, but Irving’s return to health following a concussion last month is chief among them. That was readily apparent to one opposing coach, who thinks he’s the Terriers’ best player.

    “I think they’re at their best when the ball is in his hands and getting guys shots,” said Albany head coach Will Brown.

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CBS’ Doyel has the guts to step back from the controversy trap

by - Published December 20, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Good journalism isn’t easy.

That’s especially true when a juicy story comes along that’s sure to rile up the masses, generating lots of readers and charged opinions. Those stories force editors and reporters to make critical decisions about the validity of sources and effort required to seek comment from an opposing side.

In the emerging brouhaha about the transfer of Todd O’Brien from Saint Joseph’s to UAB, we have an awful lot of information spewing from the O’Brien side and almost nothing from the Hawks’ side.

If you missed the background, Sports Illustrated’s website ran a lengthy column by O’Brien, who outlined his journey through college basketball, which has landed him at UAB as a graduated senior with one remaining year of eligibility. However, before O’Brien can play for the Blazers, Saint Joseph’s must grant him a full release from his scholarship. And supposedly coach Phil Martelli refuses to do so. Without that release, O’Brien won’t play college hoops again.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a legitimate reason for not letting a guy play, especially for a team in a different conference and not on the Hawks’ schedule. But that’s not the point.

As the media outcry has sided with O’Brien — who is seeking legal recourse to force his way onto the court — only a handful of commentators have taken a measured approach to this story. So I tip my hat to CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel, a man with plenty of strong opinions, for leaping into the fray waiving a gigantic caution flag.

While everyone is crying foul, Doyel cried, “Wait!” He rightfully observed that Saint Joseph’s is remaining mum because they are respecting student-athletes’ privacy. The bottom line is we don’t know the Saint Joseph’s side of the story, and we might not for some time. So it’s presumptuous at best and flat-out wrong at worst to side with the supposed victim in this story.

Of course, it’s far less engaging to remain on the fence when others are going all in and calling for Martelli’s ouster. That bloodlust is unhealthy and not reflective of this country’s innocent-until-PROVEN-guilty judicial system. If mob rule dictated justice, we’d have a lot of major mistakes to apologize for whenever we learned the truth — if we ever learned the truth.

A good journalist’s duty is to present clear, accurate and precise information. Commentators who espouse opinions based on incomplete information aren’t doing anyone any good. As unsexy as it may be, we all need to follow Doyel’s lead and wait and see. Let the established rules play out in the NCAA, and if the courts get involved, let the state and local laws as interpreted by the courts decide the matter.

But there’s no need to call for Martelli’s head on a platter until there’s substantiated evidence that he acted like a callous, vindictive control freak.

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

Kentucky had no problems getting past Samford, 82-50, even without Terrence Jones, who missed the game to recuperate from a dislocated pinky, writes the Associated Press’ Colin Fly.

California will be without one its big men this week as sophomore Richard Solomon recovers from a left foot injury, writes Diamond Leung for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. The sophomore forward is one of the team’s best rebounders, averaging 6.9 rpg, and he’ll miss at least the team’s games against UNLV Dec. 23.

Miami will get back DeQuan Jones, who figured to play a bigger role for the Hurricanes this season — if for no other reason than he’s one of the bigger players on the teams. Jones missed the first month and a half of the season because the school suspended him for the season while the NCAA investigated his possible involvement in the recruiting scandal that has rocked the university. However, according to an Associated Press report, the Hurricanes have reversed that decision, and Jones could be back in the lineup as early as this week.

Some tech-savvy pranksters punked Oregon’s website Sunday night and Monday morning, writes the Washington Post’s Steve Yanda, and the hackers posted some disparaging comments about Virginia that were attributed to Oregon coach Dana Altman. The Ducks lost to the Cavaliers 67-54, and the hacker made up comments ranging from Mike Scott’s hair to the Ducks’ pregame meal. Oregon apologized to the Cavaliers for the malfeasance.

New Mexico State is bringing suspended guard Christian Kabongo back into the fold after the sophomore had been suspended for two games for making obscene gestures in a game against UTEP, writes ESPN.com’s Diamond Leung for the “College Basketball Nation” blog.

NCAA Division I programs couldn’t get enough support to overturn a rule that bans universities from hosting high school prep tournaments, according to an Associated Press report.

Houston boosters might have lost as much as 40 percent of their investments in the David Salinas Ponzi scheme affair, according to the Associated Press. Salinas committed suicide last year, a few weeks before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit that detailed the deceptive investments and behavior that swindled a bunch of Division I programs and coaches.

Bracket Breakdown: How the Pac-10 Will Fare

by - Published March 16, 2010 in Columns

The good ol’ days are gone for the Pacific 10 Conference as the league has suffered a plummet in skill level this season that’s gotten them from having six participants in the NCAA Tournament last year to only two in this one: Cal, the regular-season champion, and Washington, the conference tournament champion.

California Golden Bears (23-10, 13-5)

No. 8 seed, South Region

It took 50 years for the Pac-10 to be weak enough for Cal to win a regular-season championship, but it finally happened. Behind the conference Player of the Year, guard Jerome Randle, who averages 18.7 points per game, the Bears are undoubtedly the Pac-10’s cream of the crop. Their reward for being the best of definitely-not-the-best is a game against the South Region’s No. 9 seed, Louisville (20-12, 11-7 Big East).

California knows how to party, and that’s what the eighth-seeded Bears were doing up until running into Washington in the conference tournament final. Winners of nine of its last 10 games coming into the match up against the Huskies, Cal missed on its chance at a first-ever tournament championship in great part due to Randle being in foul trouble. Washington, using surges while Randle was on the bench, won 79-75.

Even with the disappointment of being unable to complete the championship combo, Cal is playing decent enough to give itself a chance against the Cardinals. But this season, in a battle between the Pac-10’s best and the Big East’s sixth-best, one must go with the guys in the proven conference. The Bears will roar loudly at Louisville, but it’s the Cardinals who’ll fly away with the win in crunch time.

Washington Huskies (24-9, 11-7)

There’s two sides to every story, and the Huskies’ side says they would have beaten Cal even if Randle had played all 40 minutes of the tournament final. That may very well be, seeing how Washington had won six games in a row before facing the Bears.

The duo of forward Quincy Pondexter and guard Isaiah Thomas was the Pac-10’s best this season. Thanks to their combined 37 points per game, Washington, seeded No. 11 in the East Region, reached a national-No. 10 ranking at a point. That was before drinking some reality tea and hitting a five-losses-in-seven-games’ stretch. Since, however, the Huskies have been much more respectable, winning 12 of 14 and going from bubble team to the Pac-10’s rightful NCAA Tournament delegate.

On a roll or not, though, Washington will have the same fate as that of its conference comrade, Cal: a first-round loss to a Big Easter, a much-more-tested No. 6 Marquette (22-11, 11-7 Big East). The Pac-10 was just too frail this season, and the NCAA Tournament’s second round is for the big boys.

Better luck next year, Pac-10.

Bracket Breakdown: Cal’s Bid Sets a Dangerous Precedent

by - Published March 14, 2010 in Columns

During the next few days, you’ll likely hear plenty of complaints about the inclusion of California in the NCAA Tournament. There’s good reason to be unhappy with the Golden Bears’ at-large bid because it means that teams don’t actually need to beat their toughest opponents. They just need to schedule enough of them to inflate the RPI and strength of schedule.

California deserves credit for taking on Syracuse, Ohio State, New Mexico, Kansas, Murray State and Santa Barbara, all of which are NCAA Tournament teams. However, the Bears went 2-4 against those teams, with the two wins coming against Murray State and Santa Barbara at home.

NCAA Tournament at-large teams should have to prove that they can beat other tournament teams, especially ones ranked among the top four seeds. Teams need to earn an invitation by winning, not just playing great teams. That’s especially true for teams that hail from conferences that don’t have at least one or two high-quality teams.

The Pac-10 was undoubtedly down this season, with traditional powerhouses like UCLA and Arizona rebuilding. Arizona State and Washington were the toughest teams not named California, and if Washington had not won the conference’s automatic bid, it’s possible that neither of those teams would have joined the Bears in the Big Dance. Based on RPI rankings, the Pac-10 was the No. 8 conference, ranked lower than the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West and just ahead of the Missouri Valley and WAC.

The WAC champion, Utah State, also earned an at-large bid. However, the Aggies were seeded No. 11 compared to the Bears’ No. 8 seed. And Utah State has a marquee win against BYU and 10 wins against the RPI top 100. In contrast, California has no wins against the RPI top 25 and only six wins against the top 100. Why is there such a big difference in the teams’ seeding? Does strength of schedule really matter that much? If so, teams could realistically conclude that they should schedule as many power conference favorites as possible without worrying about winning or losing the games.

If that’s the message that power conference teams interpret from Cal’s inclusion, they likely will seek to schedule more games against one another, which hurts mid-major teams. Despite perennial success, Missouri Valley and CAA teams continue to find it difficult to schedule high-quality opponents from major conferences. They would struggle even more to line up top-notch opponents if the major conference squads want to play only one another.

Let’s hope Cal’s strong strength of schedule doesn’t lead to a caste system in which the top teams don’t want to mingle with mid-major opponents for fear of hurting their computer ratings.


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

Houston is trying to find an identity early on

November 28, 2014 by


Houston went on the road and was soundly defeated by Harvard on Tuesday. It’s a game that Kelvin Sampson hopes to take a lot from early in his tenure with a new-look team as they try to find out who they are.

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by


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


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.

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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

Some notes from the National Prep Showcase

November 28, 2014 by


The busy weekend that just passed also included a few games at the National Prep Showcase. Here are a few notes from some of the action early on Friday and Saturday.

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

November 3, 2014 by


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 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


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


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.