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2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
big12

Top to bottom, the Big 12 was the best college basketball conference in the country this year. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

In fact, 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. And as good as those seven teams were, the league’s eighth and ninth teams may have spoken most to the Big 12’s depth.
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Quick hitters from the past weekend of tournaments

by - Published November 27, 2013 in Columns
author_kasiecki

The past weekend was quite a stretch with some early-season tournaments, and now we’re into another week full of them. It’s a fun time of the year as we form some early impressions of many teams and some pick up wins that can have shelf life later in the season.

Here are some quick hitters coming out of the weekend:

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Seton Hall-Oklahoma by the numbers

by - Published November 24, 2013 in Columns
author_floriani

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Give Seton Hall credit. Following a heart breaker of an 86-85  loss to Oklahoma on Friday they defeated Virginia Tech, a night later. The Pirates captured third in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Barclay’s Center.

Some numbers of note:

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Several teams get much-needed resume wins on Saturday

by - Published January 15, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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Saturday saw a few teams get a victory they needed to jump-start their NCAA Tournament resume. A few others suffered bad losses in games they needed, or missed opportunities, but we’re going to stick with the positive and focus on the teams that got big wins. It’s too early to declare a number of these teams locks after what they did on Saturday, but they are in a better place than they were to start the day.

Let’s start with Florida State, which annihilated North Carolina 90-57 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles had a so-so non-conference run, as they came into Saturday lacking a win against the top 50 in three tries. Beating the Tar Heels is a remedy for that, although they need to make it relevant come March by playing well the rest of ACC play.

Next, we go to Northwestern, a team for whom heartbreak has become a regular occurrence. The Wildcats have had chances to play their way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in recent years, but haven’t been able to pull out the games they needed to. It looked like this year might be another case of that, too, although they did win the Charleston Classic over Seton Hall, a win that is looking better all the time. They won at mediocre Georgia Tech and lost to Baylor, which is hardly a bad loss. But then they lost at Creighton, got hammered at Ohio State and lost tough ones to Illinois and Michigan by a combined three points. And on Saturday, they knocked off Michigan State in Evanston for their best win of the season. Add that to the Seton Hall win and the Wildcats, who don’t have a bad loss and an RPI of 33 at the start of the week, are in a good place for the moment.

Then there is Oklahoma, a team thought to be rebuilding. But the Sooners knocked off Kansas State 82-73 for their second win against a top 50 team. The Sooners are now 1-3 in Big 12 play, so they have a good deal of work to do. But if they get to .500 in conference and win a game or two in the conference tournament, they may have done enough work by then to be in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament team.  It helps that they don’t have a bad loss.

Lastly, San Diego State knocked off UNLV in a thriller, 69-67. The Aztecs were actually in a reasonably good place before Saturday, but perhaps now they can be called an NCAA Tournament lock if they win the games they should the rest of the way. The Mountain West figured to be rebuilding this season, but that hasn’t been the case thus far as both of these teams look like they will be in the field of 68.


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

Pittsburgh lost at Marquette, 62-57, and is now 0-5 in the Big East for the second time in program history and first in 12 years. They have never started 0-6, but they play at Syracuse on Monday.

Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright was suspended by the NCAA and did not play in the Huskies’ 67-53 win at Notre Dame. The NCAA is investigating more eligibility matters with the freshman guard.

Iowa handily took out Michigan 75-59, and continues to be something of a Jekyll and Hyde team.

Jarnell Stokes gave Tennessee a boost in his debut, but Kentucky prevailed in Knoxville 65-62. The thinking is that although it was a loss, Saturday’s game bodes well for the Volunteers.

The Ivy League has started the season a little differently this time around, and Penn has started off 2-0 with wins at Columbia and Cornell. Normally teams play their travel partners over two weeks, save for Penn and Princeton, before the Friday-Saturday weekends start.

No America East team will go undefeated in conference play this season, as Stony Brook had its six-game winning streak end at Boston University, who has won three in a row after losing six straight.

Oklahoma has the best Big 12 player you don’t know

by - Published December 12, 2011 in Conference Notes
oklahoma

The most improved player in the Big 12 has to be a member of one of the conference’s undefeated teams, Missouri or Baylor, right?

We’re talking about two top 10 teams there, with NBA-caliber talent on the roster. The Bears’ Perry Jones III has been a beast since becoming eligible, and the Tigers’ Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe are playing out of their minds.

That’s all true, but we’re going in a different direction: Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger.

Really?

The stats don’t lie for Lon Kruger’s top player, who has helped the Sooners get out to a 7-1 start. That includes some decent wins against Arkansas and Washington State. I love Missouri and think the Tigers are a Final Four-caliber squad, but they need to prove it against teams better than Navy, Binghamton and Niagara. Yes, they have respectable wins against Villanova and California, but overall, the strength of schedule is abysmal. Plus a team filled with talent can cause all sorts of match up problems, which benefits everyone on the roster. Oklahoma has far fewer options, yet Pledger remains ridiculously productive. Let’s take a closer look.

Based on Hoopville’s Total Impact Quotient player rating system, Pledger had a mediocre TIQ of 18.1 points per 40 minutes last season. The junior guard has nearly doubled that to 34.7 points per 40 minutes this season despite playing nearly an identical number of minutes per game.

For Pledger, it starts behind the arc, where he’s shooting a phenomenal 17-of-36, or 47.2 percent. That’s in comparison to a pedestrian 35.0 percent last season. But Pledger didn’t stop his improvement there. He’s shooting an amazing 57.7 percent from the field overall, 66.7 percent inside the arc. For a guy that shot worse than 40 percent from the field in his first two seasons, that improvement is utterly astounding.

We’ll see if Pledger can maintain this shooting streak, especially when the Sooners open the Big 12 schedule with back-to-back games against Missouri and Kansas. But he’s doing more than just scoring for Kruger. Pledger also averages 3.0 rpg and 2.1 apg. His defense is also significantly better, with 11 steals on the season. He only got 11 steals in his entire freshman season.

Several other Big 12 players have made significant strides since last season.

  • Baylor’s Perry Jones III: 35.9 TIQ this season; 24.4 TIQ last season (+11.5)
  • Missouri’s Marcus Denmon: 37.1 TIQ this season; 27.8 TIQ last season (+9.3)
  • Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark: 26.2 TIQ this season; 17.1 TIQ last season (+9.1)
  • Texas A&M’s Ray Turner: 30.1 TIQ this season; 21.1 TIQ last season (+9.0)
  • Oklahoma’s C.J. Washington: 27.3 TIQ this season; 18.4 TIQ last season (+8.9)
  • Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe: 35.1 TIQ this season; 26.8 TIQ last season (+8.3)
  • Iowa State’s Bubu Palo: 25.1 TIQ this season; 17.1 TIQ last season (+8.0)
  • Texas’ J’Covan Brown: 35.7 TIQ this season; 27.8 TIQ last season (+7.7)

Updating the NBA Entry List and Honoring a Maryland Legend

by - Published May 9, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

Here’s a quick recap of all the major NBA decisions from the past week. The NCAA’s deadline for early entrants to remain eligible required players to decide by May 8 if they wanted to remain in the NBA Draft or return to school.

Remaining in the draft:

  • Boston College’s Reggie Jackson
  • Butler’s Shelvin Mack
  • Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert
  • Kentucky’s Brandon Knight
  • Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins
  • Louisville’s Terrence Jennings
  • Maryland’s Jordan Williams
  • Michigan’s Darius Morris
  • Stanford’s Jeremy Green
  • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris
  • Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson
  • Texas’ Cory Joseph
  • Texas’ Tristan Thompson

Returning to school:

  • Kentucky’s Terrence Jones
  • Miami’s Reggie Johnson
  • Missouri’s Laurence Bowers
  • Missouri’s Kim English
  • Northwestern’s John Shurna
  • Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs
  • West Virginia’s Kevin Jones
  • Xavier’s Tu Holloway
  1. The biggest news of the past few days is Gary Williams’ retirement at Maryland. The Terrapins’ coach unexpectedly decided to call it a career at age 66 after working at his alma mater since 1989. Maryland moved quickly to court Arizona’s Sean Miller, who passed on the the offer by signing an extension with the Wildcats, according to John Marshall of the Associated Press. That makes Notre Dame’s Mike Brey one of the top choices right now, according to the Washington Post.
  2. In other Washington, D.C., area coaching news, George Washington picked Mike Lonergan to be the Colonials’ next coach, according to the Associated Press. Lonergan comes back to D.C. after working at Vermont for five seasons, compiling a 126-68 record. Lonergan coached Catholic University to a Division III title in 2001 and worked with Gary Williams as an assistant at Maryland for a few years.
  3. Gonzaga needs to find a new starting point guard after Demetri Goodson announced that he’s leaving the team to play football, according to the Associated Press. Goodson averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 assists per game for the Bulldogs this past season.
  4. Michigan State Tom Izzo returned the favor for Spartan fans last week. To help boost student morale during final exams week, Izzo joined other Spartan coaches in serving food at the university’s dining hall, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s ìCollege Basketball Nation.î That’s a nice way to thank the Izzone fans who help give Michigan State one of the toughest home court advantages in the nation.
  5. Speaking of Izzo, the Spartans’ coach might be getting some much-needed backcourt help in Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood, according to the Associated Press.. The Horizon League’s No. 3 scorer is transferring to Michigan State after completing his undergraduate degree. Because of NCAA rules for graduate transfers, Wood might be eligible to play immediately for a team losing Kalin Lucas to graduation.
  6. Jeff Capel has returned to a familiar sideline. The former Oklahoma coach, who was fired after this past season, accepted an offer to become an assistant coach on coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke, according to the Associated Press. Capel played four years in Durham and put up more than 1,600 points.
  7. The Pac-10 can’t complain about an East Coast bias for much longer. The conference soon to be known as the Pac-12 signed an agreement with ESPN and Fox Sports worth $250 million per season, tops in men’s basketball, according to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press.
  8. Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt has recruited his first big name as the Cowboys’ new coach. Larry Nance Jr., son of longtime NBA player Larry Nance, will arrive in Laramie this fall after averaging about a double double as a senior in Ohio this past season.
  9. Looking ahead to 2012, Louisville might not have the services of Rodney Purvis, a top-rated shooting guard in the class of rising high school seniors who reopened his recruitment, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s ìCollege Basketball Nation.î Louisville had received a verbal commitment from Purvis, partially thanks to the hard work of assistant Tom Fuller, who left Pitino’s staff recently to work for Frank Haith at Missouri.
  10. Former Cyclone John Lamb, a walk-on who left Iowa State mid-season, was arrested last week and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and a violation of Drug Tax Stamp Act, according to the Associated Press.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

This section is aptly titled for a Washington, D.C., area writer looking to write a column honoring the importance of recently retired Maryland coach Gary Williams.

In his 22 years at Maryland, Williams helped craft the Terrapins into a perennial ACC contender. His continued success eased the path to the construction of the Comcast Center, which is one of the largest arenas in the conference and has one of the best home court advantages. The 20,000-plus fans who fill the Comcast Center haven’t always approved of the quality of the home team, but they consistently fill the arena with rowdy fans, giving Maryland one of the best home court advantages in the country.

After the turmoil of the late 1980s, it’s amazing that Williams was able to get this program back to the top of the ACC so quickly. Trouble started in 1986 with the death of Terrapin hero Len Bias, who seemed destined to become a national hero as a possible heir apparent to Larry Bird in Boston. However, his cocaine-induced death and the subsequent brouhaha in College Park derailed the program, leading to the ouster of coach Lefty Driesell.

Without Driesell, the team fell into mediocrity — and NCAA violations — during the tenure of Bob Wade. With the program on probation and lackluster performance on the court, Williams returned to his alma mater with a tough task at hand.

It took Williams five seasons, but once he got the Terrapins into the NCAA Tournament, they remained fixtures of March Madness until 2005. That includes a Final Four run in 2001 that ended mercilessly with the team’s fourth loss of the season to eventual national champion Duke. But Williams and Maryland vanquished those demons the next season when the Terrapins won the 2002 title.

The championship title was a turning point for Williams’ tenure at Maryland. Until then, the critics liked to talk about Williams as one of the greatest coaches to have never won a title — a fraternity no coach enjoys being part of. With that monkey off his back, Williams then had to deal with detractors who bemoaned that Williams failed to use the program’s success to attract the top recruits to College Park.

Recruiting is a touchy subject for Maryland fans. On the plus side, no one has even sniffed an NCAA violation during Williams’ years. But on the other hand, Williams drew the ire of many fans because he couldn’t keep a lot of the talented kids in Prince George’s County, Md., and Baltimore in-state. Highly touted recruits like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay, Nolan Smith and seemingly half of Georgetown’s starting lineup each season are all locals. That would be acceptable if Williams had a slew of talented recruits on a conveyor belt to College Park from across the country.

But after three NIT appearances in four seasons, the natives became restless. Williams had the misfortune of dealing with a few disastrous recruits, including the much-maligned post-championship class of Chris McCray, John Gilchrist, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley. That core failed to meet lofty expectations, and the fans nearly revolted at the perceived inability of Williams to coach a great class. But the players just didn’t work out. It happens.

Williams got Maryland back on track with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes. He helped Vasquez mature from a sloppy point guard and nearly out of control hothead to a dominant ACC player who was a threat to post a triple double nearly any night. The Terrapins returned to the NCAA Tournament three out of four seasons but never advanced further than the second round.

Heading into this off-seaosn, Maryland was at a cross-roads as another disappointing recruiting class — Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory — finished their collegiate careers. Jordan Williams, one of the top recruits in recent years to come to Maryland, figured to be the linchpin of next season’s team, but he is heading to the NBA instead.

At age 66, Williams was staring at a complete rebuilding project in an era that makes it increasingly difficult to run a clean and successful program. Williams refused to sacrifice one for the other. That makes now a great time for Williams to step down. To rebuild the Terrapins, Williams would need at least a couple of years to get the right guys around solid building blocks like Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. Williams might be pushing 70 before the Terrapins have another legitimate shot at a deep run.

When I’m pushing 70, I hope have the energy to work more than 60 hours a week recruiting, strategizing and representing a major college program. After such a remarkable, program-defining coaching career, Williams has earned this respite.

Selfish NCAA Rule Betrays Mission to Student-Athletes

by - Published May 2, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

  1. Starting next season, players will no longer be able to test the NBA Draft waters. According to the Associated Press, the NCAA approved a rules change that forces players to decide whether they wish to remain eligible for the NBA Draft by the first day of the spring signing period for recruits. This move helps college coaches replace departing players. But it kills players’ opportunity to gauge their draft stock as few NBA teams are prepared to provide full predictions by mid-April.
  2. George Mason wasted no time in finding a new coach. According to the Associated Press, the Colonials picked former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who was fired at Georgia Tech this past season after 11 years and a 190-162 record. In more than a decade with the Yellow Jackets, Hewitt established a reputation for recruiting top-notch talent, but he only made one deep run in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Connecticut in the 2004 championship game. He replaces Jim Larranaga, who left the school to coach Miami.
  3. Nearby, in Washington, D.C., George Washington will be in search of a new coach after firing Karl Hobbs, according to the Associated Press. Hobbs led the Colonials for 10 years, including a great 2005-06 season in which George Washington finished 27-3 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. And in Atlanta, Georgia Tech replaced Paul Hewitt with Brian Gregory, choosing Dayton’s coach over several other candidates, including a 15-year-old from Connecticut. Wha?! According to the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, Ethan Peikes sent Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich a letter containing a cogent argument for why Peikes should become the Yellow Jackets’ next coach.
  5. Colgate presumably didn’t get any applications from 15-year-olds, but the school did find its coach from a relatively young member of the coaching ranks. According to the Associated Press, Colgate hired 33-year-old Temple assistant Matt Langel to replace Emmett Davis, who was dismissed after 13 seasons and a 165-212 record.
  6. Wisconsin extended the contract of coach Bo Ryan through 2015-16, ensuring stability for one of the best programs in the Big Ten, according to the Associated Press. Ryan has a 242-91 record in 10 seasons in Madison, and his teams regularly excel in the NCAA Tournament and enjoy one of the toughest home court advantages in basketball.
  7. Likewise, in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Fox received an extension with Georgia. The Bulldogs will keep Fox through 2015-16 and increase his pay to $1.7 million per year, according to the Associated Press.
  8. Amid coaching changes, some players decide it’s time for a fresh start, especially if a new coach has a significantly different system. That looks to be the case at North Carolina State, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Freshman point guard Ryan Harrow will leave the Wolfpack to look for a fresh start rather than play for new coach Mark Gottfried.
  9. Give coach Bill Self credit. Even though Kansas is losing plenty of firepower this off-season, the Jayhawks will face a brutal schedule next season, with Kentucky and Ohio State definitely on the horizon, according to the Associated Press. Kansas also will be in the Maui Invitational with Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee and Michigan.
  10. And Kansas might find some tougher competition out of Oklahoma in the Big 12 than originally expected. New Sooners coach Lon Kruger has added two Juco players recently to help hasten the rebuilding of the Oklahoma program, according to Sports Illustrated’s “Fan Nation” blog.
  11. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has completed a major overhaul of his staff, according to the Associated Press. Pitino added Kevin Keatts as an assistant coach. Keatts arrives at Louisville after coaching Hargrave Military Academy for 10 seasons and winning two national prep championships. Keatts joins Wyking Jones and Pitino’s son Richard on the staff.
  12. Quick hits from the NCAA’s attendance report, via ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for the “College Basketball Nation” blog: total number of people attending games is up compared with 2009-10, average per Division I game is down a tad (because of more Division I schools), and average NCAA Tournament attendance is down slightly.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

The general consensus is that the NCAA is being selfish in its decision to change the rules on players testing the NBA Draft as early entrants. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, though the NCAA has an opportunity to do right by student-athletes.

The NCAA is responsible for guiding student-athletes through the collegiate educational experience. That’s not my take; it’s theirs. From the NCAA’s website:

The NCAA’s core purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.

By shifting the deadline for players to decide whether they will remain in the NBA Draft or return to school to mid-April, the NCAA is robbing student-athletes of a chance to maximize their educational experience. To borrow a Texas Hold ‘Em poker analogy, the NCAA will be forcing players to go all-in or fold before the flop while letting them see only one card.

In recent years, players have been able to figure out the strength of their draft hand — to see that other card — by receiving evaluations from NBA scouts during late April and May. A few years ago, players had until June to decide whether they’d remain in the draft or return to school. NCAA coaches hated that because they didn’t know what their roster would like and how they should adjust their recruiting strategy in the spring.

The first step in this anti-player direction was a change to the players’ decision deadline to early May. That prevents players from receiving much information, but they can at least make an educated decision about the likelihood that a team will pick them in the first round.

To clarify what’s at stake, the NBA only guarantees contracts to first-round picks. If you’re No. 31, you have to compete with every other unrestricted free agent, NBA Developmental League player and international walk-on who wants a shot at an NBA contract. Good luck. Oh, and you can’t go back to your college team. When early entrants remain in the draft, they’re no longer eligible. You don’t hear of too many players who pay to earn a degree without a scholarship from a school if they fall out of the first round and don’t receive a contract.

For NCAA early entrants, the NBA Draft can be a life-altering decision. Because the NCAA will restrict the relevant information that student-athletes can gather by the mid-April deadline, the NCAA has the responsibility to fulfill its core purpose: ensure that the educational experience is paramount. And that experience is paramount to the self-centered interests of coaches who fear they’ll lose their jobs without NBA-caliber players on their roster instead of leftover recruits.

For the NCAA to fulfill that purpose, it needs to create a method for student-athletes to receive NBA evaluations throughout the season. Perhaps the NCAA should form a consortium of current or former NBA scouts who provide monthly ratings or reviews, citing comments from NBA executives. If the NCAA wants to follow the money, it would need to wade into the world of sports agents, who are perhaps most motivated to gauge players’ value and translate that into NBA dollars. An objective sports agent might not exist, but that’s for the NCAA to figure out.

As the rules stand now, the NCAA is failing its student-athletes. A failed system is bound too fall apart as soon as a better alternative presents itself. And that could quickly emerge from the heavily financed underworld of unscrupulous sports agencies and self-employed talent consultants, who might take an even more aggressive stance and try to fill a need in this evaluation process — if the NCAA doesn’t step up to fully educate its players.

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.

Oklahoma: Capel Out Sick During Sooners’ Win

by - Published January 5, 2009 in Newswire

Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel missed the Sooners’ 100-64 romp against Maryland-Eastern Shore because he was in the hospital with a stomach virus. Assistant coach Mark Cline led the team in Capel’s absence.

Weekend Tournament Quick Hitters

by - Published December 1, 2008 in Columns

We have some quick hitters from Friday and Saturday at the NIT Season Tip-Off and Philly Hoop Group Classic, respectively.

NIT Season Tip-Off

  • Tyrese Rice didn’t score in the first half of Friday’s win over UAB for Boston College. But he came alive after intermission, scoring all of his 24 points after intermission. While being on the floor was the first part of that, he also got help from his teammates, and not the kind that shows up in the stat sheet. Simply put, the Eagles moved the ball better in the second frame, and that changed everything at the offensive end. “It really started on the defensive end because of the stops, and then the others because our wings consistently ran hard and got up the floor,” said head coach Al Skinner. “And then created some openings, some opportunities for him, and of course, you know, he made some shots.”
  • The Eagles also got a nice effort from improving freshman Reggie Jackson. An exceptional athlete, Jackson looks like the classic athlete who doesn’t know the game yet, but his improvement is noticeable. At times in the first half, he kept the Eagles in the game, setting up their second half run.
  • A questionable call late in the championship game didn’t end with the call itself. Oklahoma was given a timeout after a 50-50 ball was up in the air, at a point where it seemed no one had possession as it came down. From what Purdue head coach Matt Painter shared after the game, the explanation he heard from the official was even more questionable. “You know,” Painter began, “to me sometimes things don’t go your way, but the explanation to me is still baffling. He said to me it was an inadvertent whistle, and so the ball now went to the possession arrow, and then Oklahoma had the possession arrow, so that’s why they had it.”
  • While an obvious bright spot for Purdue was the play of Nemanja Calason off the bench, a more noteworthy one was that of freshman point guard Lewis Jackson, who scored 10 points and handed out four assists in 22 minutes. He showed that he’s capable of really making this team go, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he starts before the season is over.

Philly Hoop Group Classic

  • While NJIT’s losing streak gets plenty of attention, Monmouth also entered Saturday’s game without a win. They were 0-6, albeit against a very difficult schedule, so they were happy to get a win. The least difficult opponent they had played before Saturday is probably FIU, and that was a road game against a team not lacking in talent that has been hit by injuries.
  • The biggest message Hartford head coach Dan Leibovitz gave his players after being thoroughly blown out by Niagara on Saturday is simple.   “They just took our aggressiveness completely away,” Leibovitz remarked after the game.   Not helping was the foul trouble of Michael Turner, their best defender and a real competitor. Turner fouled out early, then picked up a technical foul right after his fifth foul. While his presence alone wasn’t going to reverse a 40-point defeat, Leibovitz summed up his importance very succinctly: “Without Mike, our defense is out the window, plain and simple.”
  • A couple of notes are in order about Niagara’s 103-63 win over Hartford. It is the largest margin of victory in the young Philly Hoop Group Classic’s history, and it also marked the first time they reached 100 points in a game in three years. The night before, they held a team below 50 points for the first time since 2002.
  • While a lack of energy didn’t help, Towson clearly looked like a team trying to integrate four new starters into the lineup on offense on Saturday. The offense seemed to lack direction and the team as a whole looked lost on the court. Symbolic of the game was a play where Tony Durant moved after setting a pick, but didn’t look for a pass as the ball hit him in the back and led to an easy Penn State transition layup.  “With six new guys in the top seven or eight, at times our offense looks like it’s just chugging along, and we are,” head coach Pat Kennedy said. “It’s more of what we’ve got to correct offensively, and keep our defensive intensity up. Once we do, we’ll be in great shape.”
  • Penn State’s backcourt of Talor Battle and Stanley Pringle is better than advertised. But the real key is going to be the play up front, and on Saturday the Nittany Lions got a nice effort from Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks. Jones had eight points and 13 rebounds, while Brooks had six and five in 15 minutes off the bench.
  • While it wasn’t quite the display he put on at Duke, Rhode Island guard Jimmy Baron certainly had fans buzzing with some of the shots he hit in the loss to Villanova. Whether it was a couple of deep threes, or off-balance mid-range shots as the shot clock ran down, fans who had heard about but never saw him were impressed by his 23-point effort on 8-15 shooting.
  • Teams already committed for next year’s event include Delaware, St. John’s, Temple and 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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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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