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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 21, 2014

by - Published December 21, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-yellow

Saturday’s college basketball day had all kind of major storylines featuring many of the sport’s biggest name schools. Kentucky and North Carolina winning big made-for-TV games. A pair of former Big East rivals putting on a show. Louisville, VCU and SMU getting quality road wins. Illinois defeating Missouri at the buzzer in their annual Braggin’ Rights game. And that was just during the daytime.

Would like to take a moment, though, to recognize a league at the other end of the spectrum, maybe as far from the biggies as can be in NCAA Division I. The Southwestern Athletic Conference is frequently a punching bag for schools like the aforementioned, regularly racking up the losses in November and December while playing ridiculous non-conference schedules.

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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 12, 2014

by - Published December 11, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

“Anybody can beat anybody” is a cliché. It’s also being proven on a regular basis early in this college basketball season.

The upsets keep coming this year, and if there’s one thing we’re learning early this college basketball season, it is that you cannot take anyone lightly. That seems to go especially for NCAA Division I newcomers and transitional members.
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Scanning the Nation Notebook – Dec. 10

by - Published December 10, 2014 in Columns
glatczak

Some weekly thoughts, from watching and reading and generally spending too much time following college basketball:

  • CBS’s Jon Rothstein beat us to mentioning him today in his Observations column, but we’ll add on: Dylan Ennis has been a real difference-maker for Villanova. The junior averaged just 5.1 points per game last year but this year has stepped up his scoring, averaging nearly 13 points per game, including 18 Tuesday night in the Wildcats’ win over Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic. As if Nova’s offense needed another perimeter threat, it now has one as Ennis is shooting 46% from three (20 of 43) and has almost already matched his entire season total of 25 triples made last year. He helped keep the Wildcats going early this season in tougher-than-expected wins over Lehigh and Bucknell when the rest of the team was struggling from deep, and Ennis is now the leading scorer as Villanova has seven players averaging between 7.4 and 12.9 points per game.

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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 7, 2014

by - Published December 7, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

The independents are dead. Long live the independents.

Whereas once independents were far more than an exception in college basketball, the ranks have dwindled in recent years to near extinction, as well documented for some time.

The lone independent the last couple years has been New Jersey Institute of Technology, New Jersey Tech, NJIT. By any name, it has one of those perfectly obscure independent names, carrying on the tradition of indies of the past like Brooklyn College, Utica and U.S. International. As the lone independent left, though, it’s sometimes hard for the Highlanders to get so much as a mention in preseason annuals, much less a real chance at postseason glory.

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2013-14 Atlantic Sun Post-Mortem

by - Published June 17, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
atlanticsun

The Atlantic Sun doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity over the course of the season. But when the postseason comes around, beware. Atlantic Sun teams have won a game each of the past two NCAA Tournaments. And that’s just the beginning.

Atlantic Sun teams have won 14 postseason games over the past four years, and have won at least one game every year since 2009. The conference has continued to perform well in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, where they placed two teams this season.

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USC Upstate Goes to Great Lengths in Transition

by - Published December 15, 2008 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – The transition up to Division I isn’t easy. It usually involves a lot of time on the road, a lot of guarantee games that often include blowout losses, and some changes in evaluating a team.

Most of that is the same with USC Upstate, which is currently in its second season of Division I play. Like a number of teams making the transition, the program had some good years leading up to the jump, including back-to-back seasons with over 20 wins in 2004-05 and 2005-06. They even went 17-11 in their final season of Division II.

Where things look a little different is with regard to who they play in those road games. Many teams new to Division I, if they play a full Division I schedule, will play games against a lot of teams in their geographic area. It would make sense from the standpoint that the travel expenses would likely be lower than if they have to go far away, making the guarantee check ultimately worth a little more.

For USC Upstate, that would mean a lot of the guarantee games would come against ACC and SEC schools. But that hasn’t been the case at all. After Sunday’s game at Boston College, the Spartans have played two ACC and two SEC teams in their season-plus of Division I competition. Instead, they have played all over.

Last season, the Spartans played schools from ten different conferences in their non-conference slate. Only two conferences, the MAC and Conference USA, were home to multiple teams. This season, the Atlantic 10 will be the only conference with two opponents on their schedule, as their ten non-conference games will represent nine conferences.

“We do that from a recruiting perspective,” said head coach Eddie Payne. “We know we have to do that because we have to make money in our second year of Division I. We structure that so we go to good places and do good things.”

Payne, who has previously held the head coach position at East Carolina and Oregon State in the Division I ranks, is in his seventh season leading the program. He’s coached at all levels and is well-suited to lead a program into a transition like this. The prior four years, his son Luke was one of the best players and graduated ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list. Now he’s working with a younger bunch.

In the trip to the Boston area, Payne sprinkled in a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. Another reason he has scheduled games all over is to give his kids a variety of experiences off the court. And while the players look at these as business trips, there is an undeniable liking for being able to get another educational part like going to the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a business trip, but at the same time we try to have fun,” said senior forward Bobby Davis, the team’s best player as he leads them in scoring and rebounding after posting a double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) against the Eagles.

Not only is the program making a jump up, but this team is also inexperienced. Davis is one of just four upperclassmen who play significant minutes. Three underclassmen start, and the top reserve is a freshman, talented but erratic guard De’Marion Gordon, who looks like he can provide instant offense off the bench.

All of it makes for another challenge: evaluating the team. Sports are a bottom-line business as much as any other, and college basketball is no different. While a team transitioning to Division I might have a little more room for struggle allowed than, say, an ACC school, wins and losses are still there and still impact teams since they are made up of human beings. And while wins and losses are the usual measuring sticks, a situation like this calls for a change in that.

“You have to measure success in different ways,” said Payne. “You have to, from game to game, change what you call success.”

Sometimes that comes from how well they play in a half. Sometimes that means looking at whether or not they are in a game. It sounds like talk of moral victories, but that’s the nature of the beast for a program in this kind of transition.

“We’re just making it as best we can. I’m an old fart, so I think I can handle it,” Payne joked. “I know I can handle it, I can help these guys get through it, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy when you’re playing games that, theoretically, on paper, you don’t have a chance to win.”

Payne says his holdover players look more prepared now that they have a year of Division I under their belt. They are used to playing on the road, used to playing a difficult schedule, and have a feel for what competition is like at this level as opposed to Division II. Also helping is that they are playing teams that play some different styles. While they won’t have everything covered in that respect, and Payne says that wasn’t really the idea, that gives them one more thing to help later on.

“We’ve got a smorgasbord of experiences that can help us in our conference,” Payne reflected.

Payne likes the way his team is coming along, and they’re in a conference where they can win with some good recruiting and improvement before long. The challenges are constantly there for him and his players and not just in winning, but they are literally going to great lengths to try to reach the destination.

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Saturday Notes – December 20, 2014

December 21, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

A busy Saturday is in the books, and we saw the matchups get better, the results continue to be noteworthy and tell us more, and a couple of the games needed a lot of extra time to decide.

Despite a hit on the bottom line, Stony Brook’s transition continues

December 16, 2014 by

stonybrook

Stony Brook was able to hang with Providence until the roof caved in several minutes into the second half. It’s part of a growing process this team in transition needs, and it continues despite dropping a few games along the way.

Amidst Maine’s rebuilding challenge, there is hope

December 12, 2014 by

maine

Maine has a long road ahead as they rebuild under new head coach Bob Walsh. Amidst the early struggles, the Black Bears have shown some reason for hope going forward.

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Recruiting Coverage

2014 Scholar Roundball Classic recap and notes

December 16, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

We look at some notes and evaluations from Sunday’s action at the Scholar Roundball Classic, where the blowouts included some noteworthy performances.

2014 Hoop Mountain Prep Classic – Sunday notes

December 9, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

We look back at Sunday’s action in the Hoop Mountain Prep Classic, which included an overtime thriller and a couple of lopsided contests, and some prospects who helped themselves out with their play.

Some notes from the National Prep Showcase

November 28, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

The busy weekend that just passed also included a few games at the National Prep Showcase. Here are a few notes from some of the action early on Friday and Saturday.

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

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.