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For Iowa: The NIT was a valuable experience

by - Published April 8, 2013 in Columns
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NEW YORK – They came into the game expecting a hard-fought contest – and one they could pull out. They were on a roll. After playing a less than spectacular first half they still were in a two-possession game. They got the deficit to 29-28 early in the second half.

Then the opposition went on a run never looking back.

For Iowa the 74-54 defeat in the NIT final was bitter. Because they had been playing well adding to it was the fact Baylor ran away and turned an expected close contest into a rout.

… Continue Reading

The countdown to Selection Sunday starts — less than a month to go

by - Published February 14, 2012 in Columns
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It’s hard to believe, but Selection Sunday is officially less than a month away — 26 days to be precise.

That means it’s separation time. The best teams throughout the nation need to raise the bar to claim a regular-season conference championship and jockey for NCAA Tournament seeding.

For the vast majority of the 31 conferences that receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, winning a regular-season conference title is about more than bragging rights. In many conference tournament formats, the regular-season winner gets a bye or home court advantage — sometimes both — at some point in the upcoming conference tourneys. Teams like the America East’s Stony Brook, Big Sky’s Weber State, and SWAC’s Mississippi Valley State won’t be getting at-large bids to the Big Dance if they don’t capture a conference championship in the tournaments. So they’ll take any advantage they can get. … Continue Reading

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.

A Surprising End to Siena’s Win over Holy Cross

by - Published December 31, 2008 in Columns

WORCESTER, Mass. – It was a surprising scene to end the game.  That’s the case not only because it happens so rarely, but also because of who was involved.

As the final seconds of Siena’s 83-71 win at Holy Cross ticked off the clock, Siena head coach Fran McCaffery motioned to all five of his players on the floor toward the exit.  At first glance, it might have looked like he was motioning to get the ball across mid-court to avoid a ten-second violation before dribbling out the final seconds, but once the buzzer sounded it was clear that wasn’t the case.  The Saints walked right out of the gym without shaking hands with the Holy Cross players and coaches.

Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard, who did not comment on it after the game, stopped walking towards the bench once the Saints were walking away and looked as dumbfounded as just about everyone else in the gym.  McCaffery, who is well-respected among his peers for far more than just his winning ways as a head coach, made it clear why he did that.  Like everything else in life, it didn’t happen in a vacuum.

“I was upset at how our guys were being fouled,” McCaffery said.  “I’ve got guys bloodied, I’ve got guys with black eyes, I’ve got guys needing stitches.  That’s not how the game’s supposed to be played.”

McCaffery noted that last year’s game in Loudonville was similar to this.  Alex Franklin missed five games with a back injury after the meeting.  Asked if he thought the officiating, which did leave something to be desired, contributed to it, McCaffery said, alluding to Holy Cross, “I think it’s a result of how they play.”

In fact, McCaffery had no real issue with the officials, even though at times he appeared to get a little heated with them, as did Willard.  46 fouls were called in the game, with the Saints whistled for two more than the Crusaders, so the stat sheet alone won’t explain everything.  The Saints made three more free throws (25) than Holy Cross attempted (22).

While any tension that was mounting between the teams wasn’t obvious, anytime a game gets as physical as this one was, things can escalate between the teams.  That led McCaffery to approach getting help from the officials in a different way.

“I said, ‘what do you want me to do now?  What am I supposed to do?’  Because you really don’t want that, you don’t want me to ‘send in a goon’ and all of a sudden there’s a melee,” said McCaffery, who said he had no intention of doing such a thing.  “That’s not what we want.  But I’d like to know what recourse we had.”

The game was the fourth in a home-and-home series between the two schools.  One might first think that this will be it for a while, and the Siena game notes suggest as much since they said that this is the final game of a four-year series.  But a Holy Cross source said that the schools have a six-year series and are scheduled to meet next December in Loudonville for the fifth game.  It is not known how easily the Saints could get out of the final two games if they desire to, although the schools could agree to put off the next meeting by a year or two.

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Conference Coverage

2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

July 8, 2014 by

bigten

The Big Ten had some teams slip as the season went on, but plenty of others picked up the slack in another good year for the conference.

2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

July 7, 2014 by

sunbelt

Membership changes have been happening at quite a pace of late in the Sun Belt, and it was a new member that stole the show for much of this past season and seems poised to lead the way in the future.

2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

bigsky

The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

meac

The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year in the MEAC, as the Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of conference.

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

June 30, 2014 by

big12

When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.

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