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2013-14 Mountain West Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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With conference realignment being a headline the last few years, few conferences have escaped unharmed outside of the BCS conferences. The Mountain West is one of them, although they almost lost out big. The end result, as pertains to 2013-14, was another excellent season, led by the program that has become the standard bearer of late.

San Diego State had another big year, winning 31 games, including a 16-2 mark in Mountain West play to pace the conference. The 16 conference wins set a new record. They also reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Arizona.

… Continue Reading

BracketBusters takes center stage once again

by - Published February 19, 2012 in Columns
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Every year, there is a lot of talk about how to make BracketBusters better, or if it should just go away entirely. While teams have undoubtedly benefited from it over the years of its existence, the feelings on it seem a bit mixed, and it’s debatable whether or not it has been good as a whole. Right now, it’s what we have, and on Saturday it was center stage.

Proponents have talked about teams getting an extra national television appearance for people to see them. They have also cited the chance to get an RPI boost. Certainly, some of the teams that have benefited can look back and argue that they would not have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a win in the BracketBusters, including Final Four teams from George Mason and VCU. … 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

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.

Globetrotters’ Basketball Soul Outshines Rash of Rough News

by - Published April 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.

1. Although Phil Jackson seems pretty convinced that there won’t be a next season for the NBA next season, several college players are gambling that they’ll still be making NBA money within a few months. Here are a few of the players who announced during the past few days that they’ll be entering the NBA Draft.

2. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz breaks down the NCAA Legislative Committee’s proposal to move up the deadline for declaring for the draft. If the Board of Directors approves the measure, players will need to decide by April 10 whether they intend to declare for the draft — and they can’t turn back. It essentially ends the test-the-waters approach, which isn’t good for the kids, Katz writes.

3. One player who won’t be testing the waters this season is Baylor’s Perry Jones, ESPN.com’s Andy Katz writes. Somewhat surprisingly, Jones will return to the Bears, who had a disappointing season but will return a start-studded team, anchored by Jones.

4. Despite the uproar about the early entry deadline, that’s small change compared to the fiasco in San Diego. The Associated Press reported this week that the FBI is investigating former members of the Toreros program for running a sports betting business, and 10 people have been charged in the case, including the team’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson. In addition to Johnson, former player Brandon Dowdy is accused of fixing games.

5. Jorts-mania could be coming to a town near you. Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson will be launching a Jorts Tour — after his now-famous nickname — to sign autographs and hawk his clothing line, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog.

6. As Nebraska prepares to move to the Big 10 next season, the Huskers have reworked coach Doc Sadler’s deal to pay him an extra $100,000 per year, making his salary $900,000 per year through 2015-16, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

7. One of Nebraska’s former Big 12 rivals, Iowa State, is dealing with some drama after police arrested freshman center Jordan Railey for punching a man late Wednesday night along a hot spot for Ames restaurants and bars, according to the Associated Press. Coach Fred Hoiberg has suspended Railey while gathering more information about the incident.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

Man, what a rough week for news in the world of college basketball.

Several players landed in trouble with the law (Nebraska, Florida). An NBA-minded freshman skipped his team’s season-closing banquet to work out in Vegas (Kansas). And speaking of Sin City, the gambling bug apparently migrated south to San Diego, where the very integrity of the game is in question after the FBI unearthed a supposed sports business ring that included former Torero players who are accused of fixing games.

And just to pile on, the NCAA looks pretty selfish and uninterested in the welfare of student-athletes after moving forward with a proposal to give players until about a week after the championship game to decide whether they want to return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Needing only an affirmative vote by the NCAA’s Board of Directors to become official, the proposal applies tortured logic that benefits schools and coaches but not players. And the players already are limited because the NCAA won’t let them profit from their name or likeness in commercial products, such as video games. However, the NCAA is happy to take its cut from those sales.

That’s enough to get you pretty down about the game.

Thankfully, I watched the Harlem Globetrotters play tonight on ESPN. And that evaporated my creeping cynicism. The figure-eight weaves, between-the-legs passes and crowd-pleasing interludes don’t look like traditional basketball. All those fancy moves make for great entertainment, and everyone in the arena is having fun — even the tough-luck Generals.

Basketball is supposed to be fun. Yes, the game can be a means to a career — and a small fortune — for the most talented players. But for the 99 percent of players who don’t come within sniffing distance of an NBA pay check, the game needs to be fun. If it’s not, why play? The Globetrotters take fun to an extreme, but they embody the soul of the game.

Despite the spate of bad news, the game goes on. By November, optimism will be the mood du jour as nearly 350 Division I teams embark on the journey toward a 2012 championship. And with any luck, most of them will have plenty of fun along the way.

Bracket Breakdown: How the Mountain West Will Fare

by - Published March 17, 2010 in Columns

The Mountain West Conference demonstrated that it’s a league on the rise as it doubled its number of NCAA Tournament participants from two in 2009 to four this year. But are they ready to dance with the likes of the Big East and SEC?

New Mexico Lobos (29-4, 14-2 MWC)

No. 3 seed, East Region

Regardless of what goes on in the tournament, this will be regarded as the best season in New Mexico’s history. The Lobos won a school-record 29 games — and counting — and claimed the MWC regular-season championship. The only sour note of the year so far was struck by San Diego State, which handed the Lobos half of their losses this season, including one in the tournament semifinals Friday.

The recompense to the Lobos’ exceptional season is a No. 3 seed in the East Region and a game against a I-still-can-not-believe-I-am-here Montana, a team that booked its NCAA Tournament ticket by rallying from 22 points down to win the Big Sky Tournament championship. New Mexico will handle those cats easily and advance to the second round, where Marquette will be waiting.

And although Marquette is a No. 6 seed, this will be where the dream season will come to an end for the Lobos. The Golden Eagles, a Big East team, have been tried repeatedly this season, while New Mexico, part of a far-more-modest conference, has not. It will be close, but Marquette will prevail. Still, the Lobos will go home having won 30 games, an incredible feat.

Brigham Young Cougars (29-5, 13-3)

No. 7 seed, West Region

The Cougars would be considered the best team in this conference hands down if it wasn’t for the simple fact that New Mexico, the actual best team in the MWC, swept them this season. Otherwise, BYU was almost flawless in a season that saw them win a school-record 29 times.

Getting it done both offensively and defensively is what drove the Cougars to this season of distinction. BYU is the second-highest scoring team in the nation at 83.0 points per game. But in the midst of their high-octane offense, they still find time to play defense. The Cougars hold their opposition to 65.2 points per game. That’s a point differential of 17.8 points.

That dangerous combo — along with the brilliance of guard Jimmer Fredette — will make BYU, a No. 7 seed in the West Region, a threat to any team regardless of record or pedigree. The Cougars will make quick work of undeserving No. 10 Florida in the first round and then give Kansas State fits in the second. But the Wildcats and their guard duo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente will put an end to the dream season. BYU will also have to say bye-bye in the second round, having won 30 games.

San Diego State Aztecs (25-8, 11-5)

No. 11 seed, Midwest Region

After a 2008-09 season in which they felt snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs made sure there wouldn’t be a chance for a repeat this season by winning the MWC Tournament title.

San Diego State barely escaped Colorado State in the tournament’s quarterfinals but was more convincing in the semifinals, defeating New Mexico, and the championship game, downing UNLV. That tournament title awarded them a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and a first-round meeting with No. 6 Tennessee.

But will the confidence of a tournament championship and a chip on their shoulder from the 2009 snub be enough to push the Aztecs past a team that’s beaten both No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Kentucky this season? Likely not. The Volunteers happened to have lost their last game in shameful fashion, 74-45 to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday, and they will not overlook the Aztecs in the first round. San Diego State will not be able to surprise Tennessee and will be one-and-out after a great season.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (25-8, 11-5)

No. 9 seed, Midwest Region

On paper, the Rebels have an almost identical NCAA Tournament résumé to that of San Diego State. The only difference for UNLV lies in its 55-45 loss to the Aztecs in the MWC Tournament championship game Saturday. They’re even in the same region, the Midwest.

Despite the tourney loss, UNLV was granted a higher seed over the Aztecs, a No. 8. That’s not necessarily going to help the Rebels stick around any longer than the champs, though. They’ll have to play a No. 9 Northern Iowa that has only lost four games all season long and has an edge on experience. The Panthers bring pretty much their whole team back from last year’s NCAA Tournament run, and, unfortunately for the Rebels, that will doom them and give them yet another likeness to San Diego State: a season-ending first-round loss.

Bracket Breakdown: Atlantic 10 and Mountain West Get Little Respect

by - Published March 14, 2010 in Columns

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m., March 16, 2010, to indicate that UNLV beat New Mexico once during the regular season.

In the final Mock Tournament this afternoon, four teams from the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West conferences received a No. 5 seed or better: New Mexico, Temple, Richmond and Xavier.

The selection committee only agreed with New Mexico’s position. Even though the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 conferences ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively, in the RPI, they failed to receive much respect in seeding from the committee. Projected to be a No. 5 seed, Richmond fell to No. 7. UNLV also slipped two lines, from No. 6 to No. 8.

Although BYU was only seeded No. 7 by the selection committee, the Cougars might have received the biggest break of any team from the Mountain West or Atlantic 10. They would get to play Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Salt Lake City if they can find a way past No. 10 Florida and probably No. 2 Kansas State. Of course, BYU would have its hands full against the Wildcats in Oklahoma City.

No. 5-seed Temple might feel slighted that power conference teams like Vanderbilt and Maryland received No. 4 seeds even though the Owls have more wins against the RPI top 50 than those teams do. The Owls also won their conference championship, but Vanderbilt and Maryland didn’t make it to their conference championship games.

UNLV’s reward for winning four games against the RPI top 25, including games against No. 3-seed New Mexico and BYU, is a No. 8 seed and has a potential second-round match up against top-seeded Kansas in Oklahoma City. The Mock Tournament projected UNLV to be a No. 6 seed because the Rebels have several quality wins.

Although the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West teams received more difficult draws than the Mock Tournament projected, they can prove their value by knocking off some higher-seeded opponents. Temple matches up well with Wisconsin, and BYU has a real chance to make a deep run in the West region. If the Cougars find a way past Kansas State, they will feed off the home crowd in Salt Lake City against No. 1 Syracuse, No. 3 Pittsburgh or any other highly seeded team that they crosses paths with.

Mountain West Notebook – A So-So Lobo Return

by - Published December 7, 2008 in Conference Notes

The view from the Mountain is about what you would expect at this point in the season. Collectively the Mountain West Conference is 52-20 as of December 7.

BYU has the only untarnished record at 8-0. One could argue that they really haven’t played anyone yet as their RPI is 81 and their strength of schedule is 287. The Cougars won’t get their first true test until Dec. 20 when they take on Arizona State in Tempe.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Colorado State is the only team with a losing record, as they sit at 3-5. But even they look to be an improved team this year. In their toughest contest to date, they lost by just one point to Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers.

San Diego State (7-1) was crowned champions of the Great Alaska Shootout last week and got a big boost with the reinstatement of MWC First Team Player Lorrenzo Wade. A San Diego judge dismissed felony burglary charges against Wade, and he is now practicing with the team. He did not play in SDSU’s victory over cross-town rival USD on Saturday night, but he should see the court against Arizona on Wednesday night.

Wyoming is off to a 6-1 start and may have a more balanced and complete team this year. Last year the focus was all on their two standout guards, Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones. Now that Jones has graduated, Ewing has moved to the point guard position and wants to distribute the ball more and not just be the designated scorer from the two guard spot. It shows as the Cowboys have four players averaging double figures in scoring. With a stronger supporting cast, Ewing may get the opportunity he desires to refine his point guard skills and have a career in the professional ranks once his senior season is over.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels aren’t looking quite as dominant as many expected, and their 7-2 record shows it. They narrowly escaped with a win in their home opener versus the University of San Diego, even though San Diego had three key players on either suspension or out with an injury. After a couple of easy wins, the Rebels thought they were ready for a bigger test, but when the Bears came to town, the Rebels didn’t have an answer. First it was the Cal Bears, who defeated UNLV by 18 points. The next day, the Cincinnati Bearcats completed the sweep with a two-point victory.

The Air Force Falcons have one of the weakest out of conference schedules to date as indicated by their RP1 of 158 and Strength of Schedule at 226. They lost by 19 points to Stanford, the only team of significance on their pre-conference schedule. But at 6-2 and riding a three-game winning streak, they should rack up a few more wins this month and have some confidence going into conference play.

Utah (5-2) is an early season enigma. They have quality wins over Oregon, Missouri State and Mississippi but bad losses against Southwest Baptist on their home court and against Idaho State on the road.

The 6-3 TCU Horned Frogs are on a five-game winning streak and trying to prove that they are more than just a football school. They had a convincing 16-point road victory over Colorado on Saturday but will be further tested this week at home versus Wichita State before traveling to Indiana.

New Mexico (4-4) is still trying to find its rhythm in the absence of J.R. Giddens, who was last year’s MWC co-player of the year and then selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Tony Danridge, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, was expected to re-emerge as the team’s leading scorer and go-to guy. He led the team two years ago but has been inconsistent so far.

All indicators point to this being a better than average year for the Mountain West Conference, and there figures to be a considerable amount of parity. As teams take on a few more tough out of conference opponents in the next couple of weeks, we will start to see who rises to the top and whether they can hold onto that position by winning on the road.

San Diego State Gets Hot in Great Alaska Shootout

by - Published December 2, 2008 in Conference Notes

The Aztecs left sunny San Diego for a real taste of winter in snowy, Anchorage, Alaska to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout. They warmed up Sullivan Arena with three victories in three days to capture the 2008 championship.

The Western Carolina Catamounts had the Aztecs on the ropes on Thursday night, but a solid defensive effort and excellent free throw shooting helped the Aztecs come out on top. The Catamounts turned out to be the surprise team in the tournament as they went on to win their next two games and finish in fifth place.

Kyle Spain continued to lead the Aztecs in scoring in the absence of Lorenzo Wade, who is still waiting for his day in court. Spain hit some late free throws to secure the win in the first game over Western Carolina. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Spain led all scorers with 15 points in just 21 minutes in the second game against Seattle University. He had a solid effort in an easy victory over Hampton in the finale. For his efforts, he was recognized as the MVP of the tournament.

The Aztec big men had a good tournament as well. Senior Ryan Amoroso played well at both ends of the court despite lingering back issues. He is also the only player to have won the tournament more than once. Amoroso was on the Marquette squad that was victorious in 2005. JUCO transfer Mehdi Cheriet is also starting to find his form. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes on Friday against Seattle University for his highest D-1 scoring effort to date. He also had three rebounds and one block on the defensive end.

And let’s not forget San Diego State’s quick guards, who took turns sharing the spotlight. Senior point guard Richie Williams had 15 points and four rebounds against Western Carolina. Against Seattle, Williams was limited to just four points, but distributed eight assists and gave up just one turnover. Sophomore guard D.J. Gay led all scorers with 20 points in the championship game, nailing six three-point shots. Gay was named Player of the Game against Hampton.

The Aztecs will take a detour next week to play at Northern Colorado on December 3. Then it’s back home to play USD in the annual cross-town rivalry game on December 6.

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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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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

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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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