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The most important players in America – 2014-15

by - Published November 12, 2014 in Columns
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Every team has a player or two whose performance is a barometer for how the team does – as he goes, they go. It’s not necessarily their best player, although it can be; rather, it’s often someone either playing a key position or having to take over for a departed star at a position. In some cases, it’s a player who seems most likely to step into a larger role.

Certainly, the best players are important ones. If they fall short of what they have done in the past or are expected to do based on their past performance, other players must do more.

… Continue Reading

2013-14 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 27, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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With Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse entering, much was expected of the ACC this year. The end result? Well, the ACC was still pretty good, but it wasn’t exactly the super conference some expected it to be. In fact, even before the NCAA Tournament came and went with just one team making the Sweet 16 and going no further, it seemed clear that the conference underachieved relative to expectations this season.

The truth, as is often the case, is a bit more complicated than that. That’s especially true when you realize that ACC teams won five in-season tournaments in non-conference play. It was also a nice year for the conference in terms of individual talents.

… Continue Reading

A possible turning point for Maryland

by - Published December 13, 2013 in Columns
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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Maybe this can be a turning point for Maryland.  It might seem like a far-fetched notion given that it’s December and it came after a win against a team that was 3-6 coming into the evening.  But head coach Mark Turgeon didn’t want to understate how important the win is by itself and in light of how the Terrapins’ season has been going.

“I don’t want to understate this: that was a really big win for us,” said Turgeon after the Terrapins’ 88-80 win at Boston College on Thursday night.

… Continue Reading

Maryland just can’t keep momentum from the win over Duke

by - Published February 20, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Just as quickly as Maryland’s win over Duke on Saturday night vaulted them into the NCAA Tournament conversation, the Terrapins may have moved right back outside of it.  A lackluster effort on Tuesday night culminated in a 69-58 loss that can undo a lot of what Saturday’s win did for them.

“I just don’t get it,” said head coach Mark Turgeon.  “I just don’t understand – right here, it’s a big game, it’s not a hostile environment.  You’ve just got to want it.  It just seemed like we were standing in quicksand all night, standing and watching.”

… Continue Reading

2011-12 ACC Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Kendall Marshall, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland.

Those three Tar Heels were supposed to anchor the North Carolina backcourt entering the 2011-12 season. With Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels figured to have one of the deepest set of guards in the country to pair with a great front line led by Tyler Zeller and John Henson. And that’s before accounting for Harrison Barnes, projected to be one of the best wing players in the country.

But injuries decimated North Carolina’s backcourt, forcing coach Roy Williams to run with little-used freshman Stilman White and jack-of-all-trades Justin Watts in the team’s most important game of the season, an Elite Eight clash with Williams’ old squad, the Kansas Jawhawks, in St. Louis. … Continue Reading

2012 ACC Tournament – First Round Notes

by - Published March 9, 2012 in Columns
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ATLANTA – The first day of the ACC Tournament is in the books. The seeds held to form in the afternoon with a pair of double-digit games, then we had the first upset right away in the evening as Virginia Tech held off Clemson after breaking a 52-52 tie with nine unanswered points.  Miami finished the night by knocking off Georgia Tech.

We’ve got more coming on a few of the teams. For now, some quick hitters on the day. … Continue Reading

Plenty of teams prepare to jockey for seeding, selection tonight

by - Published February 21, 2012 in Columns
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In the immortal words of the Black Eyed peas, tonight’s gonna be a good night.

There are 40 teams in action tonight, and more than half of them are likely to appear in the NCAA Tournament or seriously challenge for their conference’s automatic bid. We’ve got elite powers like Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio State in addition to upstarts that could make life miserable for those powerhouses, such as Vermont, Valparaiso and Cleveland State.

Here’s some of the top games to track tonight. … Continue Reading

Monson’s 49ers reap the rewards of a tough schedule

by - Published January 24, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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If any team could claim to be battle-tested heading into conference play, it had to be Long Beach State.

The 49ers loaded up their nonconference slate with the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville and Xavier. The team struggled through many of those games, ending up with a 7-6 record heading into Big West play.

But don’t be fooled. The 49ers were more than competitive against the big boys, with single-digit losses on the road at San Diego State, Kansas and North Carolina. Plus, the 49ers beat Pittsburgh, Xavier and Auburn. None of those are particularly outstanding — the Xavier win came during the Musketeers’ tailspin following the brawl against Cincinnati. But in short, Dan Monson’s team learned how to win and how to believe in itself.

This team has taken that lesson and applied it well through the first seven games of Big West play. Long Beach State sits atop the conference standings with a 7-0 record, and only Cal Poly stayed within 10 points of the 49ers.

If Long Beach State can continue to plow through the Big West and claim an automatic to the NCAA Tournament, the 49ers should be a popular first-round upset pick. Their lack of hefty wins will prevent the team from earning a seed much higher than a No. 12 or 13 spot. But that just makes this team a sound pick to upset any No. 4 or 5 seed from a major conference on a neutral court.

The benefits of such a tough schedule might not show up in the win-loss columns immediately. But if Long Beach State goes 1-1 or 2-0 during the first weekend of March, that tournament success will be partially due to the team’s preparation early in the season.

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

Murray State will get back leading rebounder Ivan Aska, who grabs 6.0 rpg and scores 12.6 ppg, for the team’s game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Michigan could have big Jon Horford back for the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Tuesday, coach John Beilein told Wolverine Nation’s Chantel Jennings for ESPN.com. Horford has been out with a stress fracture since early December.

Arguably the most intense and spite-filled rivalry in the ACC, Maryland and Duke will clash for the first time this season Wednesday night in College Park. And the Terrapins will likely have freshman 7-footer Alex Len, even though he twisted his ankle during the Terps’ loss at Temple last weekend, according to the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to the North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. And this year, coach Roy Williams won’t have his best defender, Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL in the team’s win against Virginia Tech Thursday, according ESPN.com’s Robbi Pickeral.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is considering adding a hometown hero to the Razorbacks squad, according to the Associated Press. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and plans to play for Anderson as a walk-on or scholarship player. He was a star high school basketball player in Arkansas before leaving the state to play for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan railed against the rule that allows graduated players to transfer and play immediately during a news conference Monday, writes Benjamin Worgull for Badger Nation.com.

New year, higher stakes with conference play intensifying

by - Published December 29, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

With the new year arriving in a few days, we’re about to bite into the meat of conference schedules.

Already, about half of Division I conferences have played at least one conference game. The Summit League’s South Dakota State sits at 3-0, giving the Jackrabbits the most conference wins of any team in the country. There’s a random fact for you.

In many ways, it feels like the season starts anew when conference play begins in earnest when the calendar turns to a new year. Yes, there are plenty of fantastic nonconference games throughout the season, and some of the best rivalries involve teams from different conferences, such as this weekend’s bout featuring Louisville and Kentucky. However, no matter how intense those rivalries might be, the stakes just aren’t as high when the winner doesn’t gain ground in the win-loss column of its conference standings.

I like to view the nonconference schedule as a time for growth. Teams get two months to adjust to new arrivals — on the roster or coaching staff — while playing only a few games conference games. That gives the coaching staff a chance to settle on an effective rotation and integrate any late additions because of transfer rules or early season suspensions.

In addition to growth as a team, the nonconference slate gives teams a chance to build their résumé for the NCAA Tournament. For the vast majority of D-1 programs, the only route to an NCAA Tournament is the automatic bid awarded with a conference tournament championship. However, for a bunch of teams, November and December help set expectations for conference play. Just look at Indiana, which entered the season unranked. The Hoosiers beat up some overwhelmed competition, which wouldn’t do Indiana any good in the eyes of the selection committee members come March. Then the Hoosiers went out and beat Kentucky. That’s a massive win that will help solidify Indiana’s NCAA Tournament status, even if the Hoosiers scuffle a bit in Big Ten play, finishing with only a .500 Big Ten record.

On the other hand, teams like Vanderbilt enter conference play knowing they have some work to do. The Commodores started the season as a top 10 team, but they have dropped games to Cleveland State, Xavier, Louisville and Indiana State. A couple of those losses are surprising while a couple are missed opportunities. Right now, the Commodores’ best wins are against Oregon, Oregon State and North Carolina State. None of those teams is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. So Vanderbilt must make hay in the SEC, especially against Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi State. The Commodores get those teams six times, and Vanderbilt probably needs to win at least three — preferably one on the road — to feel secure about an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

And that just spices up already-compelling conference slugfests.

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

We’ll have at least two undefeated teams heading into 2012, as Baylor and Syracuse don’t play again in 2011 after winning last night. And that’s more than previously unbeaten Indiana and Louisville can say after dropping their first game of the season last night. Missouri plays Old Dominion Friday, and fellow unbeaten Murray State will also be in action Friday, against Eastern Illinois.

Connecticut might not be undefeated, but the Huskies are 1-0 without Jim Calhoun on the sidelines this season, CBS Sports.com reports. The Huskies beat South Florida last night, the first game of Calhoun’s three-game suspension, which is his punishment from a recruiting scandal in which he was cited for creating an atmosphere of compliance in Storrs.

Rhode Island is 1-11 this season, and that’s with senior guard Jamal Wilson in the lineup for 11 of those games. Life won’t be any easier for coach Jim Baron after he suspended the team’s leading scorer for breaking team rules, according to an Associated Press report. Wilson is averaging 17.5 ppg for the struggling Rams.

One of the complaints about conference expansion/realignment/destruction is the loss of rivalries that get the fans going. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are looking to avoid those situations via a strategic partnership that will allow the conferences to schedule multiple games between its members to encourage compelling match ups, which could include rivalry games, according to an ESPN.com report.

Maryland had to wait 10 games to get Ukrainian big man Alex Len on the court, writes Eamonn Brennan for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. However, he could become a critical player quickly, as evidenced by his 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in his first game Wednesday against Albany.

In case you missed the big news of yesterday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino announced that he intends to call it a career when his contract expires in 2017, according to the Associated Press. At 59, Pitino is already looking ahead to the end of his coaching run, which includes trips to the Final Four with three different teams (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville).

ACC’s hot start could be a harbinger of better times ahead

by - Published November 17, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

After six full days into the regular season, the ACC is the only undefeated conference remaining. And that pretty much guarantees that Maryland will lose to Alabama Thursday night or Georgia Tech will fall against Saint Joseph’s.

No one really keeps track of which conferences go the longest without a loss, but hoops pundits love to banter about which conference is tops in the game. The ACC hasn’t been part of that conversation for a few years now, despite claiming two of the past three champions and a contender or two for this year’s title.

As of this week, the ACC has North Carolina, Duke and Florida State in the top 25. No other team even received a vote from the pollsters. As Rodney Dangerfield often lamented, this conference doesn’t get any respect these days, with everyone focusing on Tobacco Road and ignoring most of the rest of the conference. That would be a mistake this season.

Already, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Virginia have flashed plenty of promise. They’ll need to bring down some of the big boys from conferences like the Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten before they rise into the public spotlight. That’s probably going to start happening in the next couple of weeks as the early season tournaments gain steam and more power conference squads go head to head.

When it’s all said and done this season, don’t be surprised if at least five different ACC teams spend some quality time in the top 25, and the conference once again joins the discussion as tops in the land.

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

  • New Providence coach Ed Cooley and the Friars returned to his former employers at Fairfield Monday, and Providence escaped with a hard-fought 80-72 win, according to a CBS Sports.com report. The Friars’ head honcho had plenty of reason to feel emotionally torn after enjoying success in the MAAC in his first coaching gig and building strong relationships with players such as Rakim Sanders, writes Matt Norlander.
  • UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson for bad behavior after the junior forward blew off a practice Monday and looked selfishly frustrated in the Bruins’ opening loss to Loyola Marymount, writes Peter Yoon for ESPN Los Angeles. The Bruins dropped their second consecutive game Tuesday when Middle Tennessee State handled the Nelson-less squad.
  • After an 0-2 start, UCLA fans must be yearning for the golden age led by the legendary John Wooden. Those days are long gone, but Wooden — or at least a statue bearing his resemblance — will greet every player and fan entering the renovated Pauley Pavilion, Peter Yoon writes on ESPN.com.
  • St. Bonaventure will play the rest of the season without forward Marquise Simmons, who tore his Achilles tendon against Cornell, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. The junior provided solid depth for St. Bonaventure, averaging about four points and rebounds per game last season.
  • If “best” refers to most talented, CBS Sports.com’s Jeff Goodman explains why Kentucky, not North Carolina, is the best team in the country this season.
  • No sleep till Brooklyn! The Beastie Boys can lend that motto to Kentucky and Maryland next year when the Wildcats and Terrapins meet in the first-ever Barclays Center Classic, to be held at the new arena under construction in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to the Associated Press.

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Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

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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.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

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Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

New season, same challenge for New Hampshire

November 15, 2014 by

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It’s a new season at New Hampshire, and while the Wildcats look like they will defend, they also appear to have the same challenge they have had for a long time now: scoring.

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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

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

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

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

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.