Thursday night was another light, finals week-inspired schedule of games. Among the headlines of the night: reserves making their mark.
The independents are dead. Long live the independents.
Whereas once independents were far more than an exception in college basketball, the ranks have dwindled in recent years to near extinction, as well documented for some time.
The lone independent the last couple years has been New Jersey Institute of Technology, New Jersey Tech, NJIT. By any name, it has one of those perfectly obscure independent names, carrying on the tradition of indies of the past like Brooklyn College, Utica and U.S. International. As the lone independent left, though, it’s sometimes hard for the Highlanders to get so much as a mention in preseason annuals, much less a real chance at postseason glory.
The MAAC underwent a membership change in 2013-14, and one that appears to be a net positive. What hasn’t changed, and surely won’t anytime soon, is how fiercely competitive the conference is. That was demonstrated right up to the end this past season.
The conference had several teams right there in the race for the top until late in the season. Iona got hot and pulled away, but even so only three games separated first from fourth place and just two separated fifth from eighth. The real question going forward is if anyone can break into that top group, as Iona and Manhattan seem set to rule the conference for a while, with Quinnipiac having a lot of potential based on its first year in the conference. There are some who could join them, but questions abound in all.
WORCESTER, Mass. – If you know Jim Baron and his sons, you know them to be high-character people. They are model citizens in every sense of the term. They are also nothing if not consistent, and fiercely competitive, even if the sons show it differently than the father does. Talk to younger son Billy, and you get a feeling that Monday night’s 83-73 win at Holy Cross is bigger than it looks to the untrained eye.
“It’s huge because we just came off a loss, and anytime you come off a loss in a game you feel you shouldn’t lose, it’s tough to right the ship,” said Billy Baron. “I felt like you saw the chemistry and the character of the guys on this team. We’re an extremely young team. We bounced back in two days being on the road. Without much practice time in between games, we had to rely on our off-the-court attributes in helping each other come along.”
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – They trailed by two with the clock running down. The ball was brought up the floor as the seconds drained. Finally the guard stopped from beyond the arc, released a shot with an arc bordering on perfection. The shot knew nothing but net as the final horn sounded.
Billy Baron’s game winner, ironically his lone three of the game, gave Canisius an 86-85 victory over Elon at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Tuesday. Baron led the Griffs with 21 points.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Billy Baron was hurting. You could see it from the facial expression, then in his voice as he spoke. Usually full of life and energy, he wasn’t quite that after Canisius’ season ended with a tough 89-85 loss to Iona in the MAAC quarterfinals on Saturday. He was more than a little subdued.
“This is really painful right now,” said the junior guard.
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.
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.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Friday gave an opportunity to see six games at the Times Union Center in Albany. The MAAC Tournament was on the bill and in the conference both the women’s and men’s championships are contested at the same site. The women’s quarterfinals were first and following a ninety-minute break the men’s two first round games followed. It ran from 9:30 a.m. through the stroke of midnight. If you are a fanatic you just can’t beat it.
The Women’s Quarterfinal scores:
Iona 59 Siena 43
Fairfield 70 Loyola 56
Marist 57 Canisius 38
Niagara 66 Manhattan 54
The Men’s First Round:
Manhattan 94 Loyola 79
Canisius 72 Marist 54
A busy Saturday is in the books, and we saw the matchups get better, the results continue to be noteworthy and tell us more, and a couple of the games needed a lot of extra time to decide.
Stony Brook was able to hang with Providence until the roof caved in several minutes into the second half. It’s part of a growing process this team in transition needs, and it continues despite dropping a few games along the way.
Maine has a long road ahead as they rebuild under new head coach Bob Walsh. Amidst the early struggles, the Black Bears have shown some reason for hope going forward.
We look at some notes and evaluations from Sunday’s action at the Scholar Roundball Classic, where the blowouts included some noteworthy performances.
We look back at Sunday’s action in the Hoop Mountain Prep Classic, which included an overtime thriller and a couple of lopsided contests, and some prospects who helped themselves out with their play.
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.
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 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.