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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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Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

unlv

Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

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Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

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

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Recruiting Coverage

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

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

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

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

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

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.