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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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Mississippi State trying to manage through youth and injuries in Ray’s first season

by - Published December 1, 2012 in Columns
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – At times, one must wonder if Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray has asked himself, “What have I gotten myself into?” In fact, he may have had one of those moments about five minutes into the second half of Saturday’s 73-63 loss at Providence, when his team had a 3-on-1 break and ended up with a blocked shot and turnover out of it.

To be fair to the first-year head coach, this isn’t the first time a new head coach has come into an obvious rebuilding situation, and one where the first year isn’t pretty. He will have time to get the program rolling again. But the young season thus far would appear to be more than a little taxing on the soul, although Ray says otherwise.

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Three coaching legends lose on the same day

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s not every day that three of the greatest coaches ever lose a game on the same day. Yet that’s what happened on another Saturday full of noteworthy games, as Syracuse suffered its first loss on the season, Duke lost at home to put an end to a long home winning streak and Connecticut lost as well.

And it all happened, ironically, on the day that a football coaching legend appeared close to losing his life. On Saturday night, there were conflicting reports about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, but we did not learn for sure that he had passed until about 10:30 this morning. We send our condolences to Joe’s family and friends at this time.

The last time Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski lost a game on the same day was January 18, 2003. The three coaches have combined for over 2,600 wins, so they have won a little more than they have lost, and one might even be surprised that this wasn’t the first day all three lost.

It started in the middle of the afternoon, with two of the games. Connecticut took on Tennessee in Knoxville, a return of a game played last year. The Volunteers got a double-double from freshman Jarnell Stokes and fended off a late Husky rally for a 60-57 win. Turning the ball over one time in the second half certainly helped, especially as taking care of the ball had been a problem for Tennessee of late. Connecticut shot just 36.4 percent from the field.

Around that same time, Florida State looked like they had a shot to end Duke’s 45-game home winning streak, as they were right there with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They had leads late in the game as well. And finally, with the game tied at 73 in the final seconds, the Seminoles got the ball up the floor to Michael Snaer in front of his own bench, where he hit a three-pointer just as time expired to give Florida State their second big win in as many Saturdays, a 76-73 decision over Duke.

Not only had Duke not lost at home since North Carolina knocked them off in February 2009, but they also had a longer (64 games) home winning streak against unranked opponents. They had a chance to tie their own ACC record of 46 straight home wins, set between January 13, 1997 and February 9, 2000.

Florida State is now looking more and more like the team some thought they would be this season. In the preseason, a good number of prognosticators thought they might be the third-best team behind Duke and North Carolina. Virginia had emerged as that team, and probably still is, but now the Seminoles look like another formidable team in an ACC that is not looking much better than last year. They are in a three-way tie atop the ACC at 4-1, along with the two teams they have knocked off the past two Saturdays.

By the time the evening came around, one already had a sense that Syracuse could suffer its first loss of the season. The team announced earlier in the day that sophomore center Fab Melo would not make the trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati and that junior forward Mookie Jones had left the school for personal reasons. The Orange are so deep, it would not have been a shocker if they came away with two wins, but if they dropped one it would not have been a surprise. Sure enough, a Notre Dame team that knocked off Louisville a couple of weeks ago beat Syracuse 67-58 in South Bend.

Notre Dame led throughout the game and beat a No. 1 team for the eighth time, which ties for the fourth-highest total. They did it led by junior big man Jack Cooley, who went for 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Fighting Irish out-rebounded Syracuse 38-25. While Melo’s absence hurt there, it wasn’t a big factor in the Orange’s offensive struggles on the night.

 

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

With Syracuse losing, that left just one team undefeated: Murray State. The Racers were 82-65 winners at SIU-Edwardsville to improve to 20-0 on the season.

Missouri got perhaps its most impressive win yesterday, going on the road to beat Baylor. That’s two in a row now for Baylor, and it seems that at the moment, Baylor is close, but not there when it comes to the top of the Big 12.

Georgetown got all they could handle from Rutgers, and needed to score the game’s last seven points to eke out a 52-50 win in the nation’s capital.

Louisville continued Pittsburgh’s misery as they went into the Peterson Events Center and left with a 73-62 win over the Panthers, who are now 0-7 in the Big East and have lost eight straight.

UNLV convincingly won a key matchup with New Mexico, the second straight loss for the Lobos as they took on the two favorites in the conference this past week.

Mississippi State won an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt in a key matchup among teams chasing Kentucky in the SEC.

Todd Bozeman returned to the bench at Morgan State, but his team’s struggles continued as they lost for the fifth time in seven games by dropping a 62-61 decision against visiting North Carolina A&T.

Late Saturday night, Long Beach State picked up a key road win at UC Santa Barbara. That makes the 49ers 7-0 in conference play, a full two games ahead of three teams in the loss column.

Coaches vs. Cancer: A final look

by - Published November 20, 2011 in Columns

NEW YORK – A brief note on the four teams in the recently completed Coaches vs. Cancer classic. The scores:

Semifinals:

Mississippi State 69, Texas A&M 60

Arizona 81, St. John’s 72

 

Consolation:   Texas A&M 58, St. John’s 57

Championship:  Mississippi State 67, Arizona 57

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Breaking the Studious Silence

by - Published December 17, 2010 in Full Court Sprints

FULL COURT SPRINTS

BASELINE TO BASELINE

LAST SHOT

Go coast to coast with our roundup of the nation’s top stories.

  1. Get ready for DeeNardo! Mississippi State will soon have Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney on the court at the same time, which should make the Bulldogs a force in the weak SEC West, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com.
  2. After Montana upset UCLA in early December, Montana coach Wayne Tinkle (hee hee…) wanted to make sure the Grizzlies kept the good times rolling with a home win against Oregon State, writes ESPN.com’s Diamond Leung. Tinkle turned to YouTube to urge Grizzly students to show up for what became the team’s second win against a Pac-10 school this season.
  3. Kansas’ depth has taken a hit with the indefinite suspension of guard Mario Little after he was charged with battery, criminal damage and trespassing as a result of a fight with his girlfriend, according to CBSSports.com. Little contributes more than a little, with 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game
  4. ESPN’s Jay Bilas gives props to several teams and players, especially Butler’s Ronald Nored, who is the scrappy leader of the Bulldogs.
  5. Arizona coach Sean Miller was fired up after his team’s disappointing blowout loss to BYU, and Arizona Daily Star reporter Bruce Pascoe posted Miller’s comments from a press conference on Pascoe’s blog. One nugget: “We shot six airballs against BYU. You can go a season and not shoot six airballs.”
  6. Oklahoma bids adieu to freshman T.J. Taylor, who didn’t log a single minute for the Sooners, according to the Associated Press. Taylor suffered a concussion during the preseason and intended to sit out this season as a medical redshirt.
  7. Mississippi State isn’t the only team adding post-semester firepower. According the Associated Press, Tennessee will now have the services of sophomore forward Jeronne Maymon, who sat out the second semester of 2009-10 and the first semester of this season after transferring from Marquette in 2009.
  8. Kudos to ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for finding this Silent Night phenomenon at Taylor University. Yes, a gym full of silent people — until the home team’s 10th point.
  9. More greatness from YouTube, courtesy of Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg, who finds the wonders of Colorado State’s Blues Brothers wanna-be.
  10. ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that the SEC and Big East are expanding their interconference clash to include all 12 SEC teams. In addition, the games will move from quasi-neutral courts to the hostile confines of teams’ home arenas.
Most of the players throughout Division I were immersed in finals this past week, so we had a relatively light week of action. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have plenty of important games and surprising results. Here’s a sampling, in case you missed it.

  • Louisville 77, UNLV 69
  • Santa Barbara 68, UNLV 62
  • Tennessee 83, Pittsburgh 76
  • Oakland 89, Tennessee 82
  • Michigan State 77, Oakland 76
  • Drexel 52, Louisville 46
  • Coastal Carolina 78, LSU 69 OT
  • UNC Wilmington 81, Wake Forest 69
  • Fordham 84, St. John’s 81
  • Texas A&M 63, Washington 62
  • BYU 87, Arizona 65
  • Villanova 84, La Salle 81
  • Kent State 56, South Florida 51
  • Boston College 79, Maryland 75
  • Wisconsin 69, Marquette 64
  • Richmond 72, VCU 60
  • Florida State 75, Clemson 69
  • Virginia Tech 79, Penn State 69

STUDY SESSION

OPENING TIP

Ray Floriani picks the five lessons you needed to learn from the Jimmy V Classic, with an emphasis on the color — and team — Orange.

Phil Kasiecki chats with La Salle’s John Giannini, who wants you to know that the Explorers aren’t a surprisingly good team, they’re an expectedly good team.

Michael Protos serves up a buffet of articles on rankings, including Big 12 and SEC rankings and analysis of Vanderbilt’s wonder reserve. He also delivers a quick recap of the Big South season thus far.

The holiday season gives us a handful of wonderful gifts this week, with exciting match ups of elite teams, like Kansas State vs. Florida and Texas vs. North Carolina. Here are some more great games to look forward to this week.

12/18:

  • South Carolina at Ohio State
  • Kansas State vs. Florida
  • Gonzaga vs. Baylor
  • Texas vs. North Carolina
  • Central Florida vs. Miami
  • Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
  • Western Kentucky at Murray State

12/21:

  • UNLV at Kansas State
  • BYU at Weber State
  • IPFW at Purdue
  • VCU at UAB
  • Morehead State at Austin Peay

12/22:

  • Missouri at Illinois
  • Texas at Michigan State
  • Harvard at Connecticut
  • Drexel at Syracuse
  • Xavier at Gonzaga
  • Washington State vs. Mississippi State

12/23:

  • Georgetown at Memphis
  • UTEP at BYU

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

It’s finals season for college students from Maine to San Diego State, which makes it an appropriate time to remind ourselves that our favorite players are also student-athletes.

It’s no easy task to balance the rigors of a season that starts with practices in mid-October and, for the best teams, runs through the first weekend of April. That’s just about the entire academic year. So schools must do their best to provide these students with the resources and time necessary to hone their academic skills and perform at the highest level in the classroom in addition to on the court.

And if they don’t, there will be consequences.

The NCAA’s Academic Progress Report is not a perfect tool for measuring academic standards at athletic programs, but it’s a good start. As the first semester ends, now is a good time to take a peak at the APRs of the 26 teams in the AP or coaches top 25 polls — the coaches like Florida while the writers prefer Texas A&M.

Of those 26 teams, nearly half have APRs north of the average for all Division I sports: 967. Kansas, Michigan State and Texas lead the way with a perfect 1,000. Congratulations to Bill Self, Tom Izzo and Rick Barnes for keeping academics at the forefront of perennially successful programs.

Ten other teams fall below the Division I average but still have acceptable rankings, north of 925. Below that, the NCAA will be watching closely. So four teams — Kansas State, San Diego State, Purdue and Syracuse — had better start making academics a bigger priority. Syracuse already has faced a scholarship reduction because of its inability to meet NCAA academic standards.

It’s no easy task to keep students focused on academics when they routinely face physically exhausting games and practices. But it’s critically important to do so, especially because the vast majority of Division I players won’t be taking those skills beyond college.

MIssissippi State: Bulldogs Deliver More Late-Season Heroics

by - Published March 13, 2010 in Conference Notes

When Mississippi State’s season started Nov. 13, Bulldog fans had reason for concern.

The Bulldogs dropped the season opener at home to Rider 88-74. The team’s top recruit, Renardo Sidney, was stuck in eligibility purgatory. With the demise of UCLA, the team lacked any tough non-conference opponents that would give the Bulldogs a signature victory.

Back-to-back losses in early February dropped Mississippi State to 4-4 in the SEC and seemed to knock the Bulldogs off the bubble. Even though the Bulldogs immediately came home to complete a regular-season sweep of in-state rival Mississippi, they lacked any marquee wins. Luckily, an early season win against Old Dominion turns out to be a strong, résumé-building victory.

So as Mississippi State entered the SEC tournament this week, the Bulldogs were in a familiar position.

Last season, the Bulldogs had no chance to receive an at-large bid with a 19-12 record in a relatively weak SEC. But in 2009, Mississippi State caught fire and stormed through four teams in four days, including the only two other SEC teams to make the NCAA Tournament,  to win the conference’s automatic bid.

The SEC is stronger this season, so a 9-7 finish — identical to last season’s conference record — is more respectable. But Mississippi State still came into the SEC tournament needing to make a deep run to reach the NCAA Tournament. And somehow, the Bulldogs have found a way to make an encore appearance in the SEC championship game.

Mississippi State started this year’s run with a big win against bubble mate Florida in the quarterfinals. That win kept Mississippi State relevant in the at-large discussion but did little to propel them past the likes of Virginia Tech, Rhode Island or Dayton. The Hokies and Flyers each had two more wins against the RPI top 25 at the end of Friday, and the Rams have a better strength of schedule and fewer bad losses.

Today’s win against Vanderbilt might be the victory that propels Mississippi State into the NCAA Tournament, though. When comparing the Bulldogs’ profile to rival Mississippi’s, the most noteworthy difference was Mississippi State’s lack of a win against an elite team. The Rebels knocked off Kansas State in November, which remains a fantastic win. The Rebels also have a win against UTEP, which almost certainly will be in the NCAA Tournament. For Mississippi State to surpass their in-state rival and other bubble teams, the Bulldogs needed to notch a marquee win. And beating the Commodores might do it.

Ranked No. 20 in the RPI, Vanderbilt is a great scalp for the Bulldogs to claim. If Mississippi State can remain competitive against Kentucky in the SEC championship game, the Bulldogs have a great shot at receiving an at-large bid even with a loss. If they lose badly, they could be in danger of slipping out of the field.

Of course, the easiest path to making the NCAA Tournament for Mississippi State is to complete the encore performance by defending the team’s SEC title.

Mississippi State: Difference-Maker Can’t Make a Difference for Dogs’ Tourney Hopes

by - Published March 8, 2010 in Conference Notes

Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney didn’t know how to help. That’s been the theme the whole year as the NCAA went through an investigation that will result in the talented forward missing his entire freshman season plus the first nine games of next season because he’s suspended for receiving improper benefits in high school.

Unable to make a basketball play, Sidney apparently deemed it necessary to let everyone know he’s still around by getting into a verbal confrontation with No. 13 Tennessee’s big man Wayne Chism after the Volunteers had kicked the Bulldogs’ behinds all around Humphrey Coliseum Saturday night.

“I can go to sleep knowing I can play next year,” Sidney said upon learning of the NCAA ruling, a day before his team’s disheartening 75-59 loss.

Will Sidney’s absence have the Bulldogs (21-10, 9-7 SEC) in next-year mode as well following the defeat? Smack talk or not, Chism’s Volunteers (23-7, 11-5) might have just slammed the door in the face of Mississippi State’s hopes to make the NCAA Tournament.  The Bulldogs finished the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the SEC West, but their conference tournament chances look dim with  No. 3 Kentucky, No. 19 Vanderbilt and Tennessee itself representing the East in the competition.

Outstanding as it’s been while playing in the daunting SEC, Mississippi State could have been that much better with an in-uniform Sidney, who averaged 26.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a senior at Fairfax High School of Los Angeles. At the very least, the 6-10, 260-pounder could have been a deluxe complement to team leading-scorer and rebounder, senior forward Jarvis Varnado (13.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game).

Mississippi State relied heavily on its home court advantage and burst out to a 12-2 record early in the season. The win total slowed as expected once the Bulldogs hit the conference schedule, but the home wins continued. They were 12-1 at the Hump by the time Kentucky came to visit Feb. 16. The Bulldogs led the Wildcats by five with less than four minutes remaining in regulation but faltered in overtime, losing 81-76.

But the feared edge that had the third best team in the nation on the ropes at one time was nowhere to be found Saturday. Tennessee shot out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back, sending the Bulldogs to their third home loss and deflating their bubble.

Sidney exchanged words with Chism, who averages 12.4 points per game but scored only one on the night, thinking of what it could have been. Chism will graduate after this season, so Sidney won’t get a chance to confront him on the court — not him, nor South Carolina’s Devan Downey or any of the other outstanding SEC seniors. Sidney will wait a year and then some to make his mark. This year, though, his Bulldogs are in — a difficult — position to make the NCAA Tournament. They probably don’t need to repeat as conference tournament champions to get an NCAA Tournament invitation, but they need an upset, which likely means they need to at least make it back to the championship game.

That’s a daunting task — Sidney or no Sidney.

Strong Panthers Win Legends Classic

by - Published December 3, 2008 in Columns

NEWARK, N.J. – Over the years I have maintained an interest in the statistical analysis of basketball. Today the term “tempo-free stats” is the hot terminology used by those breaking down numbers. Tempo-free is self-explanatory. It provides a number that can assess a team or performer whether said team walks the ball up the floor or pushes it to a track meet pace.

Points per possession – simply, points divided by possessions – gives us a good read on a team. For instance, a team giving up 60 points per game may or may not be a great defensive team, but one playing a “shorter” game with fewer possessions so the point totals will be lower.

Today we multiply the points per possession by 100 to give us a workable number called efficiency. Outside of efficiency, possessions or their number tell us something about a team. And a possession is defined as what you do until you lose the ball. Shoot, miss and get your rebound and you are on the same possession.

All of this brings us to the Legends Classic and its champion, Pittsburgh. Their performance over the two-day event at the Prudential Center is a perfect background in discussing tempo-free statistics.

Pitt captured the Legends Classic by defeating Texas Tech in the semifinal and Washington State in the championship. The tournament, played at the Prudential Center, not only gave the Panthers another trophy and legitimized their ranking, but drove home a crucial point: they can beat you at your pace or theirs.

Before moving on let’s look at the basic formula:

Possessions = Field Goals Attempted + (Free Throws Attempted * .475) – Offensive rebounds + Turnovers

(The .475 multiplier was derived through research by Ken Pomeroy. This allows for possessions that end with one free throw taken on a one and one and is well over 90% accurate.)

Points/Possession = PPP. Multiply this figure by 100 to arrive at efficiency.

Facing Texas Tech, Jamie Dixon’s club went up against a team that pushed the ball and had the green light on three-point attempts. Washington State, on the other hand, favors a slower half-court pace and is much more methodical. Pitt handled both challenges in impressive fashion. A tempo-free look at both contests:

Semifinal     Score     Efficiency
Pitt     80     105
Texas Tech     67     88

(76 possessions)

Final     Score     Efficiency
Pitt     57     97
Washington State     43     73

(59 possessions)

The tempo free breakdown gives a graphic illustration of the difference of Pitt’s opposition game plans in the two games. A 76-possession game is quite fast. On the other hand the 59 possession contest is more on the pedestrian side. One thing that was consistent was the Panther defense. Holding an opponent under 100 is good, under 90 is outstanding.

Another point to consider is Pitt faced quality teams on both nights. As Jamie Dixon said after the final, “I would be really surprised if any of these teams were not playing in the NCAA tournament in March.”

Semifinals
Washington State 63, Mississippi State 52
Pitt 80, Texas Tech 67

Consolation
TexasTech 77, Mississippi State 73

Final:
Pitt 57, Washington State 43

Mississippi State finished 0-2 dropping decisions to Washington State in the semis and Texas Tech in the consolation. The trip, though, was not without reward. “We played two very good teams these two days,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. “We grew up a bit in a lot of areas. With time and experience we will get better but we definitely took a lot of positives from this tournament.”

One area where Stansbury wants improvement is on the free throw line. “We shot 17 of 31 in the Texas Tech game,” he said. “You just cannot shoot like that and hope to beat a good team.” Another area was the broken plays. “We just had too many possessions on defense where they (Texas Tech) used up a lot of the shot clock,” he said, “and right at the end we fouled and bailed them out.”

Texas Tech coach Pat Knight was pleased after the consolation. Not just in getting the W, but in his team’s confidence. “I was worried coming into the tournament,” he said. “Last year we got down at Texas A&M and Kansas and our pride was challenged we gave up. We got absolutely drilled. This time if we got down we responded. We proved over these two days that we can compete with anybody.”

Knight noted that the morning after the Pitt game the Tech trainer was busy tending to bruises and minor injuries. “That’s good, I told my kids,” Knight said. “Pitt is tough and coming out a little banged up shows we competed.”

Pitt mentor Jamie Dixon took time to comment on MVP Sam Young following the championship. The versatile Pitt senior was lethal from the perimeter or going to the basket. “He was a late bloomer in basketball,” Dixon said of Young. “He looked at the NBA draft last spring and decided to stay. He’s even a better player than last year. He came to us at Pitt as a five (center) and just worked on his game. He literally sleeps in the gym.”

Washington State coach Tony Bennett said Pitt reminds him of a team he sees at least twice a year, the UCLA Bruins. Shouldn’t be a surprise as Ben Howland put his mark on the Panther program before doing the same in Westwood. “Pitt , like UCLA , has size is very physical and protects the paint.” In fact Bennett sees a shift taking place in the Pac 10. “You have guys like (Ben) Howland, Tim Floyd at USC, now Mike Montgomery in at Cal, Herb Sendek at Arizona State all come in and start to turn this into more of a half court league. There’s talent but the league is more suited to tournament basketball. If you can execute half court you have a better chance of succeeding in (post season) tournament play.”

Final quote: “Pitt does not give up easy stuff. I say our kids reached a new level of fatigue tonight.” – WSU coach Tony Bennett

Tournament MVP: Sam Young, Pitt – 24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists in championship.

All-Tournament:
Trevor Cook, Texas Tech – 24 in semifinal vs. Pitt
Kodi Augustus, Mississippi State – Double-digit scoring both nights.
Klay Thompson, Washington State – 19 pts in semifinal win.
DeJuan Blair, Pitt – 15 points, 11 boards in semis

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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Conference Coverage

2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

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2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

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2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

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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

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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

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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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