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2013-14 SEC Post-Mortem

by - Published June 12, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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What does the SEC – the football juggernaut – have beyond Florida and Kentucky on the hardwood?

That’s the big question this off-season. It was already a discussion point during the season and postseason, and it’s not going to end now. The SEC had a 12-3 record in the NCAA Tournament, but Kentucky and Florida combined for 10 of those wins and thus carried them to that mark.

When it was all said and done, the SEC ended up with three teams in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee was the only team besides Florida and Kentucky to make it. The conference had four teams in the NIT, with LSU and Arkansas each winning a game before getting bounced without a chance to go to New York.

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2014 NCAA Tournament: Early thoughts

by - Published March 17, 2014 in Columns
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The NCAA Tournament selection committee has spoken. The 68 teams are set to begin the tournament on Tuesday with two of the First Four games. With that, the fun is about to begin.

Before that, here are some random thoughts on the selection, seeding and potential matchups, as well as reaction to some early chatter about the field.

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Quick Hitters – September 29, 2013

by - Published September 29, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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It’s a great time of the year. Prep school visits are winding down and college teams have started practice, signs that the season isn’t far away. Also, college schedules are finally coming out, with a few more game times to be determined due to television.

Before getting back to some of the final prep school visits, here are some quick hitters from around college basketball.

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It’s time to recognize John Calipari’s coaching

by - Published April 5, 2012 in Columns
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Let’s give John Calipari his due as a coach. This would be needed even if Kentucky lost on Monday night, but now that they have done what a team with that talent should do by winning the national championship, we need to give him his due and put an end to all the things that have been said about him to dismiss his coaching ability. It’s time we stopped saying the common lines that have been uttered about him that stop short of giving him credit as a coach.

Let’s stop saying he’s just a great recruiter.

… Continue Reading

Kentucky, SEC shatter statistical expectations; ACC underwhelms

by - Published April 4, 2012 in Columns
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It’s good to be an SEC fan.

On Monday night, Kentucky completed its return to national supremacy by winning the program’s first championship since 1998. The title run marked the Wildcats’ second consecutive Final Four under coach John Calipari, who figures to make Kentucky a national championship contender pretty much every season that he’s on the sidelines.

Even though many people figured the Wildcats would cut down the nets in New Orleans, Kentucky exceeded expectations from a statistical perspective as soon as the Wildcats beat Baylor to reach the Final Four. Based on seed expectations, the typical No. 1 seed wins 3.32 games. So reaching the Elite Eight isn’t much to crow about for No. 1 seeds. … Continue Reading

Baylor is clearly third in the Big 12

by - Published February 12, 2012 in Columns
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At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.

Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.

Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading

Round 233: UNC vs. Duke tips off with more than pride at stake

by - Published February 8, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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The first of two regular-season meetings between two of the most hate-filled rivals in American sports goes down tonight when Duke makes the short trip to the Dean Dome to visit North Carolina.

As is usually the case in recent years, this game has significant importance in the standings, with both teams jockeying with Florida State for the top spot in the ACC. North Carolina enters the game at 7-1 in conference action, while Duke slipped to 6-2 after losing to Miami. Duke can ill-afford another loss, especially because the Seminoles and Tar Heels will not meet again this regular season.

Besides the usual hostility generated by one of the most intense rivalries in the game, the 233rd match up between these teams — UNC leads the all-time series 131-101 — is critical for both teams. Duke is facing more than its fair share of critics after a lackluster performance against the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, North Carolina needs to prove it can beat an elite team, sometime the Heels haven’t done in a few months.

For the Blue Devils, coach Mike Krzyzewski will be looking for renewed passion from his team after calling them out for lacking the energy to compete with the Hurricanes in the overtime loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Expect his team to rally around his battle cry, especially on the road surrounded by the Enemy in Powder Blue. To win, Duke will need to play smart defense, something the Blue Devils haven’t done consistently this season.

On the other hand, North Carolina seems to be on the rise, especially after a gutsy win in College Park last weekend in which Maryland tried to beat up the Tar Heels. Unlike the game in Tallahassee in which Florida State annihilated UNC, the Tar Heels responded after getting hit in the mouth and clamped down in the second half to erase a nine-point deficit to win by nine. However, the Tar Heels haven’t beaten a team guaranteed to be in the NCAA Tournament since they knocked off Wisconsin in Chapel Hill Nov. 30. North Carolina needs a win at home against the team’s arch rival to validate the argument that this team should be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That adds a lot of pressure to both teams, and that might favor North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a roster full of players who have been through this rivalry at least three times after last season. Duke has struggled with leadership on the court, and the Blue Devils must get someone to step up or else things could ugly for Duke pretty quickly.

Let the battle begin.

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

Louisville coach Rick Pitino got his wish with Memphis, as the Tigers will be joining the Big East starting in 2013-14, according an ESPN.com news services report. Pitino had lobbied for the Conference USA’s Tigers to join the Big East to help replace the power that will be departing with West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in coming years.

Florida coach Billy Donovan tried to preach that Kentucky faced all the pressure entering the Gators/Wildcats clash Tuesday night, with the home team trying to extend a 15-game winning streak and 48-game undefeated streak at Rupp Arena, according to the Associated Press. That psyche-out didn’t seem to work as the Wildcats clobbered Florida 78-58.

If Connecticut can rally around the toughness of coach Jim Calhoun, the Huskies won’t be out of the picture despite a bleak couple of weeks, including a horrid loss Monday night at Louisville. Calhoun told ESPN’s Andy Katz that he doesn’t plan to let spinal stenosis to force him into retirement, and the coach could return to the sidelines sometime this season if the pain in his legs and back subsides.

There’s also health concerns for another coach: College of Charleston’s Bobby Cremins. The 64-year-old Cougar coach took a leave of absence Jan. 27, and he told people that he’s just taking a break to recuperate from a lack of energy, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

Alabama’s tournament chances could be in some jeopardy after the team indefinitely suspended junior Tony Mitchell for misconduct, writes TideNation’s Alex Scarborough. The junior forward averages 13.1 ppg and 7.0 rpg in more than 30 minutes per game for the Crimson Tide.

Notre Dame reminds us that we don’t play the games on paper

by - Published February 5, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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We always talk about how the games aren’t played on paper when looking at teams that don’t do what we expect. It’s a cliché, and it sticks around because everyone loves to predict how things will turn out in sports, no matter how wrong we could wind up being. All the while, the teams that end up better than we project can just laugh at us all they want.

Enter the 2011-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame lost a great deal from last season’s team that entered the month of March playing about as well as any team in the country. Gone from that team are Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough and important role players Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott, the latter a big defensive leader for that team and a surprise early defection. Already, projections for this team were going to be that they were unlikely to contend for the top of the Big East. When they went 0-2 in Kansas City, including an 87-58 thrashing at the hands of Missouri, it looked like they would be who many thought they would be.

That wasn’t all. The Fighting Irish were not certain to have Tim Abromaitis back, as he played in two exhibition games in the 2008-09 season where he redshirted. But the NCAA granted him this year, so that helped as he was an experienced player and was second on the team in scoring last season. Then in late November, he tore the ACL in his right knee in practice, putting him out for the season.

At that point, the outlook was decidedly not good. But no one told head coach Mike Brey and his team that, and after Saturday’s convincing 76-59 win over Marquette, the Fighting Irish are alone in fourth place in the Big East.

“From the start of the season, no one thought we would be here,” said sophomore point guard Eric Atkins.

Notre Dame hasn’t compiled its record by beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference. Along the way, they have knocked off Louisville, Seton Hall and Connecticut on the road, and now Syracuse and Marquette at home.

“I am very proud of my group,” said Brey, who at this point looks like the runaway Coach of the Year in the Big East, if not nationally. “I told them in one of the final media timeouts that I felt like I was coaching men today. Last year’s team was men. That had a look of more than one fifth year senior on the court. I am thrilled where we are.”

Notre Dame can only get better given that this is a young team with a lot of players who are just finding themselves. Scott Martin is the only other senior besides Abromaitis on the team, while the emerging perimeter unit of Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are sophomore, sophomore and freshman respectively. Connaughton wasn’t expected to play much, but he scored 21 points on Saturday and now starts on the hardwood as well as the mound (the San Diego Padres drafted him last year).

“Right now, we’re really confident that we can beat any team – we can play with any team,” said Grant. “Our team confidence is really high right now, and I’d like to keep it that way because we are playing really well.”

That’s one thing no one can doubt at this point. The Irish have proven that to this point, and as a more confident team they will be even tougher to beat.

 

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

Arizona had a big weekend, sweeping their trip to northern California after a 56-43 win at Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats may be starting to come alive at a good time.

Syracuse got Fab Melo back for Saturday’s game, and they rolled to a 95-70 blowout win at St. John’s. The win was the 879th in Jim Boeheim’s career, tying him with Dean Smith for third on the all-time list.

Seton Hall’s struggles continued as Connecticut annihilated them 69-46 in Hartford.

Kentucky had an easy time at South Carolina, committing just three turnovers in their blowout win.

The Big 12 gets a little more interesting at Missouri rallied to knock off Kansas in a big rivalry showdown. Both teams are now 8-2 in conference play.

Who’s on top of the ACC? No, not Duke, although the Blue Devils will be tied if they beat Miami on Sunday. North Carolina is in a tie after a big 83-74 win at Maryland to move into a tie for that spot. The team they are tied with is Florida State, as the Seminoles are 7-1 after a 58-55 win over Virginia.

Temple is now alone in first place in the Atlantic 10 after a 73-56 win at Rhode Island, combined with Saint Joseph’s knocking off La Salle earlier in the day. Temple’s perimeter trio continues to be the driving force for this team.

Wyoming knocked off road-weary UNLV in a close one after the Runnin’ Rebels ran into snow-related travel delays en route to Laramie.

Northern Iowa beat Creighton on a buzzer-beater, right after Creighton had tied it on a big shot.

Iona won a big showdown against Manhattan for the lead in the MAAC.

George Mason grabbed a share of the lead in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion in a first-place showdown. The Patriots are joined by VCU, 59-56 winners over Northeastern, and Drexel, 65-57 winners at Towson, at 11-2 in the conference.

Mississippi Valley State is now 10-0 in the SWAC and two games ahead in the standings, after knocking off Alabama State.

 

Sunday’s key matchups:

  • Michigan at Michigan State
  • Miami at Duke
  • Northwestern at Illinois
  • Stephen F. Austin at McNeese State
  • The biggest one of all: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

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.

North Carolina-Kentucky lives up to the hype

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The matchup between North Carolina and Kentucky lived up to its billing. It was a well-played game that came right down to the wire, and was close throughout. The eighth-largest crowd in Rupp Arena history saw it, and even more watched on television. And it’s possible that the game will mirror the teams’ seasons.

Kentucky probably has the most talent of any team in the country, but the Wildcats’ youth hasn’t been hard to see. Their freshmen have had their share of growing pains, from Marquis Teague’s early struggles taking care of the ball to Anthony Davis learning how physical the college game can be. It’s for exactly that reason that senior Darius Miller has never been more valuable than much of the early going this time around.

North Carolina is right up there with the Wildcats, but this is an older and more mature team. Whereas the Wildcats start three freshmen, the Tar Heels only played two freshmen yesterday and both came off the bench. But they start a senior, two juniors and two sophomores, and on the whole this is a team quite a ways from its ceiling just like Kentucky.

In the first half, North Carolina led by as many as nine and was the better team. They were hot from long range, going 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening frame. But Kentucky scored seven in a row at the end of the first and start of the second half, momentarily grabbing the lead and then staying right with the Tar Heels until they took the lead for good on a Davis jumper with less than eight minutes to play.

The Tar Heels had one more chance after Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds left. They got the ball to John Henson, known more for his shot-blocking than scoring, and in a length-versus-length matchup, Davis got a hand on his short jumper and the Wildcats were able to run out the final seconds for a 73-72 victory.

It’s a game that many would love to see a rematch of, and considering that both teams are a ways from their respective ceilings, no one would be surprised if it materialized in the month of March.

While that was the best matchup of the day, there were a few other teams, conferences and player of note.

 

Marquette

Winning at the Kohl Center is hard for visiting teams to do, but Marquette pulled it off on Saturday and did so without their starting point guard. Before the game, the Golden Eagles announced that Junior Cadougan was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. Wisconsin has lost two straight, but neither is a bad loss as they lost to North Carolina earlier in the week. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are 7-0 with a blowout win over Ole Miss and Saturday’s win at Wisconsin.

 

Xavier

Xavier is becoming quite the second-half team. On Monday, they trailed by ten in the second half before rallying to beat Vanderbilt in overtime in Nashville. But yesterday they did themselves one better, as they trailed Purdue by 11 at the half and 19 in the second half before coming back to edge the Boilermakers 66-63. In the last 10:44, Xavier outscored Purdue 30-8.

 

Illinois

It seems like Bruce Weber has been on the hot seat forever in Champaign, but let’s acknowledge not only the job he has done thus far but especially what he is doing this season. After an 82-75 win over Gonzaga on Saturday, the Illini are 8-0 with wins over Richmond and at Maryland as well. Neither of those two is a big NCAA Tournament resume win, but they are worth noting because the Illini haven’t beaten up on a slew of terrible teams and could be 12-0 when they take on Missouri on Dec. 22, though they will have to get by UNLV at home before then. Saturday was the first time all season Gonzaga did not have at least four players score in double figures.

 

Brigham Young

No Jimmer, no problem for Brigham Young. After Saturday’s 79-65 win over Oregon in Salt Lake City, BYU is 6-2 with a win over Nevada included and the only losses being at Utah State and against Wisconsin. Granted, this isn’t the Oregon team we all thought we would see before the season with the departures of Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, but the Ducks aren’t pushovers.

 

Head-scratching in the CAA

A number of conferences have their opening games this weekend before teams resume non-conference play for a little while longer. Perhaps none has had results that might leave one scratching their head as much as the Colonial Athletic Association, where three teams won on the road and preseason favorite Drexel lost to Delaware by 11 (albeit on the road). The Dragons have had a rough go of it thus far, but Chris Fouch is back so they’re closer to having their full team together. Still, Fouch was 0-9 yesterday and the Blue Hens won the battle on the glass by a 40-32 margin over a Drexel team that routinely beats up opponents on the boards.

The one other score that jumps out is Georgia State thumping William & Mary 66-34 in Atlanta. The Tribe didn’t look to be far from being a good team last season, but they’re struggling mightily out of the gates and Saturday may be the low point thus far.

 

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation

  • Ohio State didn’t miss a beat despite Jared Sullinger being out with back spasms.
  • College of Charleston lost a wealth of talent and experience from last season’s team, but the Cougars are 7-1 overall and are one of four teams that went 2-0 in early Southern Conference games this weekend. Chattanooga, who the Cougars beat last night and was picked to win the North Division, is 0-2.
  • Connecticut got a big lift from Ryan Boatright with 23 points and six assists in his home debut.
  • UCLA is now 2-5 after a home loss to Texas that saw them blow an 11-point lead.

 

Some of Sunday’s Key Matchups

Sunday is a day full of interesting matchups of teams that we’re trying to find out something about. None of these are like North Carolina-Kentucky, but they will be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Baylor at Northwestern
  • UNLV at Wichita State
  • California at San Diego State
  • Dayton at Murray State
  • North Carolina State at Stanford
  • Notre Dame at Maryland
  • VCU vs. George Washington (BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center)
  • Kansas State at Virginia Tech

Avery Bradley Skills Academy

August 11-13, 2014 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

More information is available by clicking here.

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.

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bostonuniversity

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Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

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Travel team profile: All For One

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Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

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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.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter