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2013-14 Pac-12 Post-Mortem

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

… Continue Reading

BracketBusters takes center stage once again

by - Published February 19, 2012 in Columns
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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
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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.

… Continue Reading

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.

Cal: Bears’ At-Large Prospects Remain Endangered

by - Published March 7, 2010 in Conference Notes

As the major conferences tip off the tournaments this week, most RPI top 20 teams are vying for top seeds. But one of those teams, California, is simply trying to play its way into the NCAA Tournament.

If the Golden Bears fail to win the Pac-10 tournament and the conference’s automatic bid, they will become one of the biggest storylines of Selection Sunday — regardless whether the committee extends them an invitation or relegates them to the NIT. Regular-season champs that don’t win their conference’s automatic bid are guaranteed an invite to the NIT, so the Bears know they’ll be playing in some sort of post-season tournament. But they have their sights set on the Big Dance.

However, their hopes rely on a flimsy résumé. The Bears’ strong RPI, No. 19 as of March 7, is the product of a brutal non-conference schedule that included games against Syracuse, Ohio State, New Mexico, Kansas and Murray State, with four of those games played away from Berkeley. Cal played only one non-conference opponent ranked lower than No. 170. Although the Bears took on a great non-conference slate, they failed to produce any big wins, losing every game against a top 50 non-conference opponent.

Entering this past weekend, Cal didn’t have a single win against an RPI top 50 team. After the weekend started, Washington crept into the top 50 — ranked No. 50 — so Cal can claim one win right now. But that’s not exactly the impressive marquee win that selection committee members supposedly treasure. On the flip side, Cal has a couple of bad losses at Oregon State and in Berkeley against UCLA. The team’s loss at USC is the third loss to teams outside the RPI top 100.

If you strip away conference affiliation and strength of schedule, Cal’s profile most closely resembles Siena’s. The 26-6 Saints, of the Metro Atlantic Conference, are ranked No. 38 in the RPI, as of March 7, and have no wins against the RPI top 50, five wins against teams ranked No. 51-100 in the RPI, and two losses to teams outside the RPI top 100. Although Siena has five more wins and one fewer bad loss than Cal, no one seriously considers Siena to be a viable candidate to receive an at-large bid if the Saints don’t capture the MAAC automatic bid.

The Bears would enter unprecedented territory if they remain in the RPI top 20 and fail to receive an at-large bid. In 2006, the Missouri State Bears, ranked No. 21, had their hearts broken when they became the first team ranked in the RPI top 25 to not receive an NCAA Tournament invitation. In the past 16 years, eligible teams in the RPI top 30 have made the tournament in all but three seasons.

Cal’s RPI is over-inflated because of the team’s tough schedule. Although the Bears undoubtedly faced some of the best teams in the country, including four teams likely to receive No. 1, 2 or 3 seeds, they failed to prove that they are capable of beating those teams. The selection committee has plenty of factors to consider when picking at-large teams. But it seems that teams should receive more credit for whom they beat rather than to whom they lose. And based on that criteria, Cal smells more like an NIT team than one of the 34 teams most worthy of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Bracket Breakdown: Pac-10’s Struggles Will Benefit Mountain West, Atlantic 10

by - Published January 30, 2010 in Columns

With the Pac-10 experiencing more upheaval than the conference has had in 20 years, it’s increasingly likely that the Pac-10 won’t field more than one team in the NCAA Tournament if California wins the conference’s automatic bid.

Since 1989, the Pac-10 has had no fewer than three bids in the NCAA Tournament, and that only happened twice. In the past three tournaments, the Pac-10 has placed six teams in the field. With the sudden decline of traditional powerhouses such as Arizona and UCLA, a couple other conferences stand to benefit, specifically the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West.

Entering the final weekend of January, only one Pac-10 team, California, has an RPI better than 50. And Cal’s solid computer profile — an RPI of 18 — largely depends on the second toughest schedule in the country. But the Golden Bears have fared poorly against those tough teams, losing all four games against top 50 opponents. Only half the conference has any wins against teams in the RPI top 50.

Besides California, every other Pac-10 team has significant hurdles to overcome. The second-place team, Arizona, already has nine losses and is only two games better than .500. The Wildcats probably need to win eight or nine of their final 10 conference games to have a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament. Part of the problem is that with so many struggling teams, it’s hard for a team like Arizona to notch any résumé-building victories.

Meanwhile, the Mountain West has four teams in contention for at-large bids. BYU is 20-2 and has an RPI of 22.  The second-place team, New Mexico, is 19-3 and has a higher RPI, at 11. UNLV and San Diego State also are in the top 50 and figure to remain in the at-large discussion until Selection Sunday. In existence since 1999, the conference has never fielded four teams in the NCAA Tournament.

On the East Coast — and Midwest and Southeast — the Atlantic 10 Conference, which has 14 teams, looks ever stronger. The conference’s pre-season favorite, Dayton, sits at seventh place entering the final weekend of January. The Flyers match the Pac-10’s best, California, with a 14-6 record, but Dayton has two wins against teams in the RPI top 50. The team’s non-conference strength of schedule is excellent at No. 20, and the best win is against surging Georgia Tech. No offense to the Ohio Valley Conference’s premier program, but California’s best win is against Murray State on opening day. If you had to pick right now, whom do you want in the NCAA Tournament — California or Dayton?

Besides the Flyers, Temple, Xavier, Charlotte and Rhode Island all have compelling arguments for automatic bids. Temple has the best victory of any team in the Atlantic 10, Mountain West or Pac-10 with an upset of Villanova — the Wildcats’ only loss entering the last weekend of January.

So while the Pac-10 could flirt with one-bid conference status, several strong teams in the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are poised to seize an opportunity to grab more automatic bids for two non-power conferences. Based on the Pac-10’s performance this season, it’s hard to consider it a power conference on par with the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and SEC.

California: Bears Face LA Teams With Less Depth

by - Published January 6, 2010 in Newswire

California sophomore guard Jorge Gutierrez will miss the Golden Bears’ home games against UCLA and USC this week after he sprained his right knee against Stanford, according to an Associated Press report.
Gutierrez averages 5.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for California, which is looking to build an early advantage in the Pac-10 after stomping Stanford 92-66 in the teams’ conference opener last weekend.

Willard Speaks on Siena-Holy Cross Game

by - Published January 7, 2009 in Columns

Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard was hoping to hear from Siena head coach Fran McCaffery to talk about what happened last week when the two teams met and had an ending that surprised just about everyone there. His preference was, understandably, to keep things in-house on the matter.

Since that has not happened, and McCaffery continued to hammer the Crusaders last week in published reports, Willard reluctantly took things to a public forum on his blog. You can read it in its entirety at the link, but here’s one noteworthy excerpt:

“(Fran McCaffery’s) reaction after the game this year shocked me. I have coached over 500 games at the college level, and many more at the high school level, and have never had a coach not have his student athletes shake the hands of an opponent after a game. I knew he had to play Fairfield in less than 48 hrs and had St Peters and Kansas, right after that, and just assumed he was upset about the two injuries happening in a game he probably thought would be a blowout. I saw the game as hard fought, by both teams. I assume, as my mother said, he has a different perspective. That’s fine, and if he wanted to convey that to me that’s fine also. What is not fine is his pronouncements to the media that he knew the intentions of our players, and the characterization of the way we play as being “dirty”, without ever having the professionalism of discussing it with me. The fact that it went on for three days after the game is incredulous to me. I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish, other than justifying his actions.”

Other Notes

As the Patriot League heads into league play this weekend, the Rookie of the Year race looks to be R.J. Evans’ to lose. The Holy Cross guard has been named Rookie of the Week five times, including four of the last five weeks, and leads all freshmen in the league in scoring and steals and is second in rebounding. He figures to continue playing a significant role for the Crusaders the rest of the way.

Santa Clara came to New England for two games and came away with two losses. Both games highlighted issues Kerry Keating has seen with his team all season long: turnovers and defense. The Broncos turned the ball over 39 times in the two games, forced just six Harvard turnovers. They were better at New Hampshire defensively, but the Wildcats were 5-9 from behind the arc in the second half to pull out the win. Their 19 turnovers in the game hurt even more.

“If we don’t turn the ball over, we usually win, and if we do turn the ball over, it makes it very difficult,” said Keating. “That’s indicative of a young team, an inexperienced team that we have right now that needs to understand that little bit better.”

The Broncos are inexperienced in the backcourt, and that’s showing up at both ends of the floor. Perry Petty was a non-factor Sunday, while Kevin Foster continued to show some promise offensively but also some defensive struggles.

The Broncos begin West Coast Conference play with a bang: at Saint Mary’s, home against Gonzaga and at San Diego for their first three games.

Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora didn’t seem overly concerned about his team following Monday night’s 73-50 blowout loss at Northeastern. He gave the sense that his team gets it, understanding that there are plenty of games left and this can be seen as just an aberration.

“The good thing about college basketball, it’s not college football,” said Pecora. “If you lose one game, your season’s not over. You’ve just got to get yourselves right at the right time. I’ve been down this road before, we’ll keep grinding it out, and we’ll fix things.

“I have no doubt that they’ll be able to do it.”

The struggles have been largely with the guards, who still comprise most of the team’s scoring. Charles Jenkins hasn’t been making shots of late, which is also the case with Cornelius Vines. Tony Dennison has seen his minutes take a dip in the last two games after starting the first 11. The bright spot Monday night came from a promising place, as senior point guard Greg Johnson – their only true point guard – showed some good signs.

“I think he did a pretty good job of getting us into our offense tonight and making some plays,” said Pecora.

Who would have imagined that Arkansas would be in the position it’s in right now? When Patrick Beverly left after being declared academically ineligible, the Razorbacks certainly didn’t look like an NCAA Tournament team. But after Tuesday night’s win over a solid Texas team, they’re well-positioned to be just that as SEC play beckons.

And how many thought California would sweep the Arizona schools, albeit at home? Getting back Theo Robertson after he missed all of last season has been a big addition, but Jerome Randle’s play suggests he should be in the discussion for the conference Player of the Year honors when we get to late February and March. He flat-out knows how to play, and not only has he jumped up his scoring, assists and shooting percentages, but he’s also cut down on his turnovers.

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

Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

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Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

Hoopville Archives

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.

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors hold college showcase

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

Massachusetts 11th grade AAU Tournament recap

Teams gathered at Mass Premier Courts to chase the state title in the oldest age group, and one champion was a familiar one.

Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

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.

Tabor Academy looks to have more depth this time around

October 13, 2014 by

taboracademy

Tabor Academy will once again be headlined by a frontcourt player. This time around, though, the Seawolves appear to have a deeper support cast than in recent years.