Archive | February, 2012

March Madness in February-Big South Favorites Bitten

29 Feb

In 2012 we get an extra day in February, but March Madness couldn’t wait. The Big South Tournament has tipped off and the upset bug has bit them in a big way.

In the first game, 2nd seeded Coastal Carolina, one of the 2 teams to beat top-seeded UNC-Asheville in conference, faced off against 7th seeded VMI.  Coastal swept VMI, including a 17-point win on the road just 5 days ago.  So what happened today? VMI pulls the upset of course, not just the upset but a 17-point drubbing of the Chanticleers.  The Keydets had 4 players in double figures led by Keith Gabriel who poured in 20 in the victory. Coastal pulled within a point with 17 minutes to play at 43-42. VMI then proceeded to go on a 25-10 run to push the lead to 68-52 over the next nine minutes.  VMI now faces the winner of the second quarterfinal between #3 Campbell and #6 Winthrop.

The second quarterfinal pitted the third-seeded Campbell Camels and  the 6th seed Winthrop Eagles.  Like the first game, the higher-seeded Camels had swept the Eagles in the regular season, and just like the first game third time was not a charm for the favorite.

Reggie Middleton netted 25 points to lead the Eagles in a game that Winthrop controlled from the moment the ball was jumped. Campbell make the first basket of the game and it was the only time the Camels had the upper hand. Winthrop led 34-26 with under a minute to play in the first half and Campbell would get no closer in the second stanza.

So now either the 8-10 Winthrop Eagles or the 8-10 VMI Keydets will have the opportunity to play for a bid to the NCAA Tournament, it seems as though the waters have parted for top seed UNC-Asheville to take the crown and the conference’s automatic bid.  If the first two quarterfinals are any indication, UNCA best stay on task.

Here is the remaining schedule for the Big South Tournament:

Quarterfinals February 29

6:00PM – #8 High Point vs. #1 UNC Asheville
8:00PM – #4 Charleston Southern vs. #5 Liberty

Semifinals March 1st
6:00PM – #7 VMI vs. #6 Winthrop – ESPNU
8:00PM – Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner – ESPNU

Finals (At highest remaining seed) March 3rd
12:00PM – Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner – ESPN2

College Hoop Haven

Subjectivity Adds to NCAA Allure

28 Feb

If you walk into the wing of the hotel in Indianapolis that houses the NCAA Basketball Men’s Tournament Selection Committee and handed each member of the committee the following list; South Florida, Alabama, Cincinnati, Washington, Texas, Long Beach State, Harvard, BYU and Virginia Commonwealth and tell them they must pick only five teams to get bids to the tournament.  The chances are good that you would get different lists from each committee member, and that would be of the subjectivity involved in the process.

Every February pundits argue about “bubbles”, “must-wins” and “resumes”, what makes them all different is the fact that there are so many different ways to evaluate these fringe teams.  Whether it is a statistical metric such as;RPI, KenPom, Sagarin or ESPN’s new BPI or the “eye test”, does a team look like a tournament team when you watch them? Or “shirts vs. skins” put two teams on the court and which one wins?

It is this cornucopia of options when evaluating teams that gives the NCAA Tournament part of its allure, and adds to its unpredictability.  Every year Greg Shaheen who oversees the tournament helps conduct a mock selection process for members of the media to get a better idea of how conclusions are come to by the committee.

It seems every year we hear some of the same things from those in attendance, “they really don’t pay attention to conference affiliation”, “the RPI is just a tool”, etc.

This year there was something new (at least to me), as Matt Norlander of CBSSPORTS.COM after his experience, “Now, Here’s what I was most surprised about: the short amount of time we paid to seeding and bracketing. Now, here’s what I was most surprised about: the short amount of time we paid to seeding and bracketing. “
The majority of the time spent before the bracket is unveiled to the world is spent on selecting and seeding the 68 teams chosen for participation.  While there is no set-in-stone criteria on what makes one team better than the other, the diversity of opinions involved in making the decisions in Indy do have some ground rules to guide them through the process.  Other than that the committee has free reign to interpret all the information at their disposal in any way they wish.

So while we hear complaints about one team being in over another, one team’s strength of schedule is awful and another one has no top-50 RPI wins, or listening to Andy Glockner and Doug Gottlieb arguing about the awfulness of the PAC-12 on Twitter, remember through all of the belly aching it is all part of the fun that leads to March Madness.

Besides it could be worse, the post-season could be decided by a bunch of HAL2000s spitting out numbers, while we await the most anti-climactic announcement of the results, ever.  Oh, wait sorry that’s that other sport that is driving all of this conference realignment, but I digress that is another debate for another time.

Until then, enjoy the debate, the angst and most of all, the basketball.

College Hoop Haven

Conference Tournament Schedule

26 Feb

Atlantic Sun Feb. 29-March 3

Quarterfinal Round No. 1 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

#8 Jacksonville vs #1 Belmont University Center 2:30 p.m.

#7 Lipscomb at #2 Mercer University Center 8:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal Round No. 2 THURSDAY, MARCH 01, 2012

#5 North Florida vs #4 ETSU University Center 2:30 p.m.

#6 FGCU vs #3 USC Upstate University Center 8:30 p.m.

Semifinal Round FRIDAY, MARCH 02, 2012

Semifinal Game 1 University Center 6:00 p.m.

Semifinal Game 2 University Center 8:30 p.m.

Championship SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012

Championship Game University Center 7:00 p.m.

2012 Men’s Basketball Championship

 2012 Bracket (PDF)

  2012 Big Sky Conference Men’s Basketball Championship

Saturday, March 3

Quarterfinals

No. 5 seed at No. 4 seed

No. 6 Montana State at No. 3 Portland State

Tuesday, March 6

Semifinals

At Regular-Season Champion

5:30 p.m. Mountain – No. 2 seed  vs. Highest Remaining Seed (Altitude)

8 p.m. Mountain – No. 1 seed seed  Lowest Remaining Seed (Altitude)

Wednesday, March 7

Championship

At Regular-Season Champion

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. Mountain (ESPN2)

Big South Feb.27-March 3

First Round – Monday, Feb. 27 (at home sites) – all games available on Big South Network
Game 1: No. 7 VMI hosts No. 10 Radford, 7:00pm
Game 2: No. 8 High Point hosts No. 9 Gardner-Webb, 7:30pm

Quarterfinals – Tuesday, Feb. 29 (at Kimmel Arena, Asheville, N.C.) – all games available on Big South Network
Game 3:  No. 2 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 7/No. 10 winner, 12:00pm ET
Game 4:  No. 3 Campbell vs. No. 6 Winthrop, 2:00pm ET
Game 5:  No. 1 UNC Asheville hosts No. 8/No. 9 winner, 6:00pm ET
Game 6:  No. 4 Charleston Southern vs. No. 5 Liberty, 8:00pm ET

Semifinals – Thursday, March 1 (at Kimmel Arena, Asheville, N.C.)
Game 7:  Semifinals – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6:00pm ET; TV: ESPNU
Game 8:  Semifinals – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 8:00pm ET; TV: ESPNU

Championship – Saturday, March 3 (at highest remaining seed)
Game 9:  Championship – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 12:00pm ET; TV: ESPN2

Horizon League Feb. 28-March 6

First Round – Tuesday, Feb. 28 (campus sites)
Game 1: (10) Loyola at (3) Detroit, 7 p.m. ET
Game 2: (7) Green Bay at (6) Youngstown State, 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 3: (9) UIC at (4) Milwaukee, 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: (8) Wright State at (5) Butler, 7 p.m. ET

Second Round – Friday, March 2 (Valparaiso)
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m. ET (Horizon League Network | ESPN3)
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m. ET (Horizon League Network | ESPN3)

Semifinals – Saturday, March 3 (Valparaiso)
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. (2) Cleveland State, 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU – tape delayed at 10:30 p.m. ET; live on ESPN3)
Game 8: Game 6 winner at (1) Valparaiso, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Championship – Tuesday, March 6 (highest remaining seed)
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner

Missouri Valley March 1-4

Thursday, March 1 — Session I
Game 1 — #8 Indiana State (17-13, 8-10) vs. #9 Southern Illinois (8-22, 5-13), 6 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 2 — #7 Drake (16-14, 9-9) vs. #10 Bradley (7-24, 2-16), 8:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]

Friday, March 2 — Session II
Game 3 — #1 Wichita State (26-4, 16-2) vs. Winner Game 1, noon [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 4 — #4 Illinois State (18-12, 9-9) vs. #5 UNI (19-12, 9-9), 2:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]

Friday, March 2 — Session III
Game 5 — #2 Creighton (25-5, 14-4) vs. Winner of Game 2, 6 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 6 — #3 Evansville (15-14, 9-9) #6 Missouri State (16-15, 9-9), 8:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]

Saturday, March 3 — Session IV
Game 7 — Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 1:30 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]
Game 8 — Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 4 p.m. [MVC TV Network] [WXOS Radio]

Sunday, March 4 — Session V
Championship — Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 1 p.m. [CBS Sports, Westwood One, Sirius XM Radio] [WXOS Radio]

Northeast March 1-7

Quarterfinals
Thursday, March 1

#8 Sacred Heart at #1 Long Island, 7:00 pm
#7 Central Connecticut at #2 Wagner, 7:00 pm
#6 Monmouth at #3 Robert Morris, 7:00 pm
#5 Quinnipiac at #4 St. Francis (NY)., 7:00 pm

Semifinals
Sunday, March 4

Lowest Remaining Seed at Highest Remaining Seed,
12 or 6:00 pm*

3rd Highest Remaining Seed at 2nd Highest Remaining Seed,
12 or 6:00 pm*

* Games to be televised on MSG and Fox College Sports (FCS)

Championship
Wednesday, March 7

7:00 pm on ESPN2

Ohio Valley Feb. 29-March 3

First Round – Wednesday, February 29
Game 1 – #5 Southeast Missouri vs. #8 Eastern Kentucky – 6:00 p.m. (OVCSports.TV)
Game 2 – #6 Austin Peay vs. #7 Jacksonville State – 8:00 p.m. (OVCSports.TV)

Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 1
Game 3 – #4 Tennessee Tech vs. Game 1 Winner – 6:00 p.m. (OVCSports.TV)
Game 4 – #3 Morehead State vs. Game 2 Winner – 8:00 p.m. (OVCSports.TV)

Semifinals – Friday, March 2
Game 5 – #1 Murray State vs. Game 3 winner, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 6 – #2 Tennessee State vs. Game 4 winner, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Championship – Saturday, March 3
Game 7 – Semifinal Winners – 1:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Patriot League Feb. 29-March 7

Feb. 29

Quarterfinals – At Site of Higher Seed

No. 8 Navy at No. 1 Bucknell 7 p.m.

No. 5 Lafayette at No. 4 Holy Cross 7 p.m.

No. 7 Colgate at No. 2 Lehigh 7 p.m.

No. 6 Army at No. 3 American 7:30 p.m.

March 3

Semifinals – At Site of Higher Seed

Navy/Bucknell vs. Lafayette/Holy Cross 2 or 4:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network

Colgate/Lehigh vs. Army/American 2 or 4:30 p.m.CBS Sports Network

March 7

Championship – At Site of Higher Seed

7 p.m. CBS Sports Network

Southern March 2-5

Friday, March 2
Game 1 – (4S) College of Charleston vs. (5N) Appalachian State, 11:30 a.m.
Game 2 – (3N) Western Carolina vs. (6S) The Citadel, 2:00 p.m.
Game 3 – (4N) Samford vs. (5S) Furman, 6:00 p.m.
Game 4 – (3S) Georgia Southern vs. (6N) Chattanooga, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 3
(1N) UNCG vs. Game 1 winner, 12:00 p.m.
(2S) Wofford vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30 p.m.
(1S) Davidson vs. Game 3 winner, 6:00 p.m.
(2N) Elon vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 4
Semifinal 1 – 6:00 p.m.
Semifinal 2 – 8:30 p.m.

Monday, March 5
Championship Game – 9:00 p.m.

Summit League March 3-6

March 3 Quarterfinals
G1: (1) Oral Roberts vs. (8) IPFW, 6 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
G2: (2) South Dakota State vs. (7) IUPUI, 8:30 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
March 4 Quarterfinals
G3: (4) Western Illinois vs. (5) North Dakota State, 6 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
G4: (3) Oakland vs. (6) Southern Utah, 8:30 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
March 5 Semifinals
G5: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 3, 6 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
G6: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4, 8:30 p.m. [TV: Midco Sports Network // Fox College Sports]
March 6 Championship
G7: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 8 p.m. [TV: ESPN2]

Wednesday February 29
  6:00 PM Men’s Game 1: #8 Portland vs. #9 Santa Clara

Thursday March 1 
  6:00 PM Men’s Game 2: #5 San Francisco vs. #8/9 Winner

8:00 PM Men’s Game 3: #6 San Diego vs. #7 Pepperdine

Friday, March 2

6:00 PM Men’s Game 4: #5/8/9 Winner vs. #4 LMU

8:00 PM Men’s Game 5: #3 BYU vs. #6/7 Winner

Saturday, March 3
  6:00 PM Men’s Semi #1: #4/5/8/9 Winner vs. #1 Saint Mary’s ESPN2

8:00 PM Men’s Semi #2: #2 Gonzaga vs. #3/6/7 Winner ESPN2

Monday, March 5
6:00 PM Men’s Championship ESPN

College Hoop Haven

Saturday Snapshot

26 Feb

Saint John’s 61 Notre Dame 58: Mo Harkless had 22 points to lead Saint John’s and that’s freshmen five to an upset win over 16th ranked Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.  Scott Martin and Jack Cooley both had 18 points in the loss for the Irish.  The loss gives Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida a chance at the last double bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament.

Kentucky 83 Vanderbilt 74: The top ranked wildcats got another scare from Vanderbilt but freshman phenom Anthony Davis scored a career-high 28 points and added 11 rebounds and six blocks in the win.  It was the 51st straight win for John Calipari at Rupp Arena.

Duke 70 Virginia Tech 65 OT: Virginia tech dropped to 4-7 in ACC games decided by five points or less.  Austin Rivers in led the Blue Devils with 23 points in the win.  The victory assures Duke of at least a tie for first place going into the last week of ACC play.

Iowa State 65 Kansas State 61: Scott Christopherson scored 29 points and Royce White added 9 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Cyclones to a big win on the road in the Octagon of Doom.  The win keeps Iowa State locked into fourth place in the big 12.  The loss drops the wildcats to 8-8 in the conference.

Arizona 65 UCLA 63: Kyle Fogg poured in 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help lead the Wildcats to a key PAC 12 win over the Bruins.  The win keeps Arizona locked into third place behind Washington and California.

Rhode Island 64 St. Louis 62: Billy Baron scored 13 points, the final two came with just over four seconds to play, giving the rams an upset win over second place St. Louis.  The Bilikens’ at-large hopes took a bit of a hit with a loss to the Atlantic 10’s worst team.

Clemson 72 North Carolina State 69 OT: The Wolfpack may have seen their NCAA tournament hopes vanish at Little John Arena after an overtime loss to Clemson.  The tigers, and more specifically Andre young finished the game on a 6-0 run to finish off NC State.

North Carolina 54 Virginia 51: The Tar Heels got 20 points from Tyler Zeller and 15 points and 11 rebounds for John Henson in holding off the Cavaliers.  The win leaves Carolina in the deadlock tie with Duke for the top spot in the ACC.  The two teams face each other at Cameron Indoor in the regular-season finale, with perhaps both the regular season championship and a number one seed in the NCAA tournament on the line.

Kansas 87 Missouri 86 OT: It is too bad this may have been the last edition of the border war, because these two teams have given us two classics this season.  The Jayhawks once trailed by 19 in the second half and clawed their way back to force overtime.  In the overtime Thomas Robinson (28 points and 12 rebounds) and Tyshawn Taylor (24 points) combined to score all of Kansas’ 12 points in the extra session.  The win gives Kansas the inside track to be number one seed in the St. Louis region of the NCAA tournament.  Marcus Denmon scored 28 and Ricardo Ratliffe added 22 points and 12 rebounds in the loss for Missouri.

Georgia 76 Florida 62: In a game that epitomized the problems with Florida this season the Gators shot 5-23 from 3 point land in the loss to Georgia.  Florida pulled within the five with 1: 17 to play but then proceeded to miss their final five shots to end the game.  The victorious Bulldogs had five scorers in double-figures, led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 18.  Florida, who now find themselves fighting off Vanderbilt for the number two spot in the SEC, travel to Nashville to face the Commodores on Tuesday.  Bradley Beal led the Gators with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.

Memphis 87 Marshall 67: Will Barton scored 24 points to lead the tigers to victory.  The win helps Memphis keep its cushion over Southern Mississippi in Conference USA.

Creighton 61 Indiana State 60: Antoine Young knocked down two late free throws to give the Bluejays the one-point win.

Drexel 73 Old Dominion 72: Kent Bazemore did everything he could try and knock off the top team in the Colonial.  But his 37 points and 12 rebounds weren’t enough as he missed the last of three free throws with a chance to tie the game with 2 seconds left.  Damion Lee had the typical freshman game, he led Drexel with 24 points but also committed the foul on Bazemore to send him to the line.  It was the Dragons’ 17th consecutive win and they head into the CAA tournament as the number one seed.

Belmont 62 Mercer 61: The Bruins now enter the Atlantic Sun tournament as the top seed and winners of 11 in a row.

Rutgers 77 Seton Hall 72 OT: The Pirates picked a bad time to lose any game, never mind to someone at the bottom of the Big East.  Herb Pope (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Jordan Theodore (17 points and nine assists) weren’t enough to overcome the Scarlet Knights.  This game could end up bursting Seton Hall’s tournament bubble, as they now find themselves at 8-9 in the Big East.

Purdue 75 Michigan 61: Robbie Hummel scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Purdue get an important road win over the 13th ranked Wolverines.  Terone Johnson added 22 points in the win.  The Boilermakers now sit just a half game behind Wisconsin for fourth place in the Big 10.

Dayton 76 Massachusetts 43: Dayton held UMass to 25% shooting from the field and Chris Johnson (20 points and 12 rebounds) led five Flyers in double figures as Dayton destroyed the Minutemen in a pivotal Atlantic 10 bubble battle.

Alabama 67 Mississippi State 50: The Crimson Tide got JaMychel Green back from suspension and got a big win over the Bulldogs as both teams head into the SEC tournament.

Virginia Commonwealth 89 George Mason 77: Bradford Burgess had a career-high 31 points to help the Rams exact some revenge over George Mason after they were beat at the buzzer about 10 days ago.  The win helps VCU lock up the second seed in the CAA tournament.

TCU 83 New Mexico 64: Hank Thorns (15 points and 10 rebounds) led six Horned Frogs in double figures as TCU beat down the 21st ranked Lobos. The loss drops New Mexico into a first-place tie with UNLV for the top spot in the Mountain West with 2 games to play.

Penn 55 Harvard 54: The Ivy League gets a little more interesting as the Quakers earn a sweep of Harvard and pull within a half game of the Crimson for the lead in the Ivy.  Zack Rosen, who may be one of the best kept secrets in the country led the Quakers with 20 points.

St. Joseph’s 82 Temple 72: On a day when only one of the top 5 teams in the Atlantic 10 won (St. Bonaventure), the Hawks got 22 points from Langston Galloway and 14 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists from Halil Kanacevic to knock off conference leading Temple.  The Owls were led by Michael Eric who had 14 points and 14 rebounds in defeat.

Washington 59 Washington State 55: Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox combined for 37 points to help the Huskies outlast in state rival Washington State.  With the win Washington stays in a dead heat with California for the top spot in the Pac-12.

Syracuse 71 Connecticut 69: The Orange got a crucial block from Dion Waiters and 21 points from Kris Joseph to survive a furious comeback by UConn and clinch the outright Big East regular season title.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, maybe this is the game that finally gets Connecticut on the right track.  The Huskies got back in this game with their defense, using a 23-9 run to tie the game at 63.  Andre Drummond led the Huskies with 15 and 13 in the loss.

Northwestern 67 Penn State 66: John Shurna knocked down two free throws with 3 seconds to play to give the Wildcats a much needed win if Northwestern is to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.  Shurna’s 23 points were matched by Tim Frazier’s 23 for the Nitany Lions in defeat.

San Diego State 74 Colorado State 66: The Aztecs got 31 points and 16 rebounds from Jamaal Franklin to create a 3-way tie at the top of the Mountain West with UNLV and New Mexico all at 8-4.  This could be a crucial loss for Colorado State in terms of their at-large hopes, the Rams now stand at 6-6, 5th place in the conference and will have to do some damage in the conference tournament in order to keep hope alive.

Nevada 79 Fresno State 76 3OT: The Wolf Pack got double doubles from Olek Czyz (25 points 11 rebounds) and Dario Hunt (20 points 15 rebounds) to escape Fresno with a win and secure at least a share of the WAC regular season title.  Kevin Foster had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort for the Bulldogs.

St. Mary’s 67 San Francisco 60: The Gaels become the first team in what seems like forever to keep the West Coast Conference regular season title away from Gonzaga. Rob Jones led the way with 14 and 14 for the victors.

Other Notables:

Western Kentucky 73 Middle Tennessee State 67: The loss may eliminate the Blue Raiders from any at large consideration.  They may now have to rely on the Sun Belt autobid for an NCAA berth.

Arkansas 77 Auburn 71: This marks the first win on the road all season for the Razorbacks.

Chris Gaston: Had 35 points and 16 rebounds (15 offensive) in Fordham’s 67-62 win over LaSalle.

College Hoop Haven

Could Soft Bubble Lead to Historic Sweet 16?

24 Feb

With the Selection Sunday a little over two weeks away one of the biggest buzz words this season has been the “soft bubble” that is to say that teams under consideration for the at-large pool of the NCAA Tournament have done little to differentiate themselves from each other, and not in a good way.

Every time it seems a team has a big game with a chance to get off the bubble they fall short in a game against a better opponent, Northwestern and Minnesota come to mind this week for their losses to Ohio State and Michigan State respectively.  Or it goes the other way, a team that finds itself on the bubble loses a game to a lesser opponent or a team they are on the bubble with and finds itself on the outside looking in, like Xavier falling to Massachusetts and Central Florida losing to Rice this week.  It seems as though since we turned the calendar to 2012 this song and dance among bubble teams has happened weekly.

As a result after the top 8 or so teams in the country, there is a group of 20-30 teams you could throw on a neutral court and flip a coin as to who could win on any given night.  Even among the top teams  there are some question marks, which Baylor team will show up? Motivated or not?, Can Duke play enough defense when they need to?  What happens to Ohio State and more specifically Jared Sullinger if they get matched up with a physical team?

Its questions like this in addition to the ever growing “soft bubble that leads me to wonder what the tournament will look like after the first weekend.

Since the NCAA Tournament expanded from 48 to 64 (then 65 and 68) teams in 1985, half of the Sweet 16 seeds (#1-#4 in each region) have failed to hold seven times.  Three times (’85,’86 and ’00) nine top-four seeds failed to make it out of the first weekend.   In 2009 just two Sweet 16 seeds, Wake Forest and Washington (both #4’s) failed to win two games.

With such a “weak” bubble and some pretty strong mid-majors as we witnessed on Bracket Buster Saturday, could the 2012 tournament be historic in terms of the number of top seeds that fail to make it to their regional sites?  Like most years, tournament results, at least early on, can be based as much upon the match up as it can the talent on the two teams on the floor.

No matter how weakly perceived the field  is come Selection Sunday, brackets will still be filled out and the NCAA tournament will still be the most watched event on the NCAA calendar.   If you ask basketball fans what they like most about March Madness, upsets and close finishes are always near the top of the list.  The 2012 tournament could see those two things in historic numbers.

College Hoop Haven

Twilight Zone Tuesday for Some

22 Feb

The four-letter network likes to call this week “Judgment Week.”  Usually this week seems to have games galore for bubble teams and the dwindling chances they have to impress of dissuade the Selection Committee heading towards that fateful Sunday March 11th.

Looking at this week however, the schedule seems to be devoid of those type of games.  Perhaps the calm before the storm in the weeks to come.  Even with the lack of sexy games with post-season implications, Tuesday had a bunch of results that would cause some to shake or scratch their heads.

Kansas State 78  Missouri 68:The Wildcats scored a season sweep of Missouri with a win at Mizzou Arena Tuesday night.  The win did a couple of things; 1.) Let’s Frank Martin’s team rest easy on Selection Sunday and amps up their confidence heading into a game with Iowa State and the Big 12 Tournament. 2.) It cost Missouri a chance to win the Big 12 regular season outright when they face Kansas. The game in Lawrence could still decide the #1 seed in the St. Louis region during the NCAA Tournament,  Missouri is about to find out that no matter what the standings say, the road to the Big 12 title still runs through Lawrence, Kansas.

Seton Hall 73 Georgetown 55: The Pirates got a key win for their at-large hopes.  Seton Hall has been playing better of late led by seniors Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore (who had 29 in the win) but not only did the Hall win but they won by 18, a resounding win for a team mentioned in the same breath with Cincinnati, West Virginia and Connecticut in terms of the Big East bubble.  The Pirates have won 4 of their last 5 to give them to get to 8-8 in the Big East.

Massachusetts 80  Xavier 73: A game after Xavier’s Tu Holloway played like himself, perhaps for the first time since the December brawl with Cincinnati in leading his team to an overtime win over Xavier, the Musketeers regressed to their recent play.  The minutemen finished the 1st half on a 25-8 run for a 12-point lead. Xavier made their run in the 2nd half but never got closer than 5. Xavier might be the most intriguing team heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament and beyond.  The question is, are there enough Q-tips in Cincinnati to clean out what is going on between the ears at Xavier.

Miami (OH) 62 Kent State 60: The Redhawks pulled off a little bit of an upset knocking off a   Kent State, tightening up the race and seeding in the Mid-American Conference.   Julian Mavunga and Quinten Rollins combined for 35 points and 13 rebounds for Miami (OH) in the win.  The loss leaves Kent State battling with Buffalo and Ohio for the second seed in the MAC tournament.

Binghamton 57 Vermont 53: In the “HUH?” game of the night, Binghamton who took over the mantle of having the nation’s longest losing streak when Towson got that monkey off their back, knocked off America East co-leader Vermont.  The win by the 0-25 Bearcats not only gets them in the win column but it is a huge blow to Vermont.  The Catamounts are in a tooth-and-nail battle with Stony Brook for the top spot in America East. The loss means Stony Brook can win the America East title and #1 seed in the tournament with a win over Maine in the season finale The problem  for Vermont is, the highest remaining seed gets to host the title game in the conference tournament, a huge advantage when the only NCAA bid  for your conference is up for grabs.

Butler 69 Illinois-Chicago 44 : Don’t look now but the one team you wouldn’t want to get on a roll heading into the Horizon League tournament, it’s the 2-time NCAA runner-up Butler.  The Bulldogs are clicking right now, having won five straight games and are creeping up the standings. With the win Butler is second in the Horizon and are trying to hold off Cleveland State and Detroit for the #2 seed in the Horizon League Tournament.  It’s almost tournament time and Brad Stevens’ squad is rounding into form, that may not be good news for the rest of the Horizon.

Valparaiso 66  Loyola(IL) 62 OT: The Crusaders escaped at home with an overtime win over 1-15 Loyola to stay atop the Horizon.  Kevin Van Wijk returned to the line up and scored 12 points to help Ryan Broehkoff (17 points 11 rebounds) carry Valpo to the victory.

Michigan 67 Northwestern 55 OT: Northwestern is a sentimental favorite to make the NCAA for the first time ever this season.  They are however still on the bubble down the stretch, but had a big chance to get on the right side of said bubble with a win over Michigan at home.  John Shurna and company took the Wolverines to overtime but fell short.  Michigan started the extra session with three consecutive 3-pointers for a quick 9-point lead, en route to a 12-point win.

Creighton 93 Evansville 92 OT: Prior to Bracket Buster Saturday, the Bluejays had hit a road bump in their schedule.  Then they won a thrilling game over a very good Long Beach State team at the buzzer.  Doug McDermott and company then struggled with Evansville on Tuesday before Gregory Echenique tipped in the fourth opportunity as time expired to force overtime.  In the overtime the Bluejays were able to overcome 43 points from Evansville’s Colt Ryan and squeak out a win.

Colorado State 71  New Mexico 63:  New Mexico had arguably the best week of any team in the country last week with a road win over San Diego State and a home blow out of UNLV.  The Lobos found themselves in the top 25 on Monday and proceeded to take a hit at Colorado State, a big win for the Rams resume and at large hopes.  The Lobos still maintain a 1.5 lead over both San Diego State and UNLV.

College Hoop Haven

Summit League has Diamonds in the Rough

20 Feb

Take a poll of casual basketball fans and ask them, “can you name the top 5 scorers in the league?” Undoubtedly the answers would include LeBron, Kobe, Dirk, etc.  In other words, the best players on the best teams.  Ask the same question of college basketball fans and likely get the same answers, players on Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, Ohio State, etc. are sure to be among the responses.

One difference, in college basketball, the best players on the best teams doesn’t necessarily mean being among the leaders in a statistical category.  When people scour the boxscores of any given game their eyes usually gravitate to the points column first.  After all, we want to know how many our favorite players scored the night before.

So who leads the country in scoring this season in college basketball? His name is Reggie Hamilton and he plays at Oakland University averaging 25.1 points per game.  Not exactly a household name.  In fact you would have to get to #7 on the list Terrell Stoglin (21.7) of Maryland to find a school that would resonate with the casual fan.

A closer look at the list does show something expected.  There is a group of players from the same conference among the nation’s elite scorers.  What conference do they play in?  The ACC?  No.  The Big East?  Nope.  The SEC? Try again. Strike three.  Four of the country’s top 12 scorers (as of Feb. 16th) play together in the Summit League. That’s 33%!

The what?  What is a Summit League?

The Summit, as it is referred was originally founded in 1982 as the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (AMCU).  The name was shortened to the Mid-Continent Conference in 1989.  The current name was adopted in 2007 when South Dakota State and Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne joined the conference.

The currently configured 10-member conglomeration with schools spanning the Midwest from Michigan (Oakland University) to Utah (Southern Utah) will drop to nine schools in 2012 with the departures of Southern Utah to the Big Sky Conference and Oral Roberts to the Southland Conference and the addition of Nebraska-Omaha.

In addition to South Dakota State, IPFW, Southern Utah ,Oral Roberts and Oakland the Summit League houses Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI), Missouri-Kansas City, North Dakota State, University of South Dakota and Western Illinois.

None of these schools would likely roll off the tongue of the everyday college basketball fan, but yet the Summit League is home to a third of the country’s top 12 scorers?  Believe it or not, yes it is all true.

Reggie Hamilton, Oakland’s senior guard is the nation’s leader in points, he pours in 25.1 points per contest.  Nate Wolters leads South Dakota State in scoring at 21.8 points per game, putting 6th in the nation.  IUPUI’s Alex Young currently ranks 9th scoring 20.8 a game.  Oral Roberts’ Dominique Morrison is on the cusp of the top 10 scorers at 20.3 placing him 12th.

Yes these four young men are ahead of any member of a current member of the top 25 that plays in a power-6 conference.  To find one of those guys you have to go all the way to 33rd where you will find Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom at 18.4 points per game.

Who are these guys and where did they come from?

Oakland's Reggie Hamilton leads the nation in scoring with 25.1 points per game

Let’s start off in Rochester, Michigan at Oakland University, the home of the country’s second leading scorer Reggie Hamilton.  The native of South Holland, Illinois attended Thornwood High School where he lettered in football as well as basketball.  The 6’1 guard led his team to a 23-7 record averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals a game as a senior.

After high school Hamilton actually began his collegiate career at another Summit League school, Missouri-Kansas City.  In 2007-08 he was named to the Summit League’s All-Newcomer team, the only true freshman to earn the honor.  Hamilton averaged nearly 12 points a game in his first season.

Midway through his Sophomore season Hamilton asked for and was granted his release from UMKC.  He admitted,” Having the point guard role in high school, I was more of a scorer. I didn’t adjust to that role my freshman year.”

He landed at conference foe Oakland, and after sitting out the 2009-2010 season due to NCAA rules regarding transfers, he made an immediate impact for the  Golden Grizzlies in 2010-11 helping lead them to a 25-10 record, a Summit League Championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament before falling to #4 seed Texas 85-81 in the first round. In his first season with Oakland, Hamilton averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.  He led the team in scoring 13 times, including in the loss to Texas where he had 25 points and 5 assists.

Entering his senior season Hamilton found himself unquestionably as the leader of coach Greg Kampe’s squad.  Reggie was the only returning senior on the team it was up to him to guide this young team.

Led he has, in assists with 4.9 a game, in steals with 2.1, in free throw percentage at nearly 90% and in scoring at a clip of 24.8 per game.   Hamilton has led the Golden Grizzlies in scoring in 21 of their 28 games so far this season.  He has eclipsed the 30-point mark a staggering 11 times and surpassed 40 twice, in road wins at Valparaiso (41) and Western Illinois (40).

The senior has stepped on the gas pedal late in the season, averaging over 31 points a game over his last five contests. Helping him climb to the top of ladder among the country’s scoring elite  Look for him to do whatever it takes to help his team be successful in March.  He is, after all their leader.

The only underclassman in the Summit’s four horsemen is South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters.   The St. Cloud, Minnesota native led his high school (St. Cloud Tech) to back-to-back third place finishes in the state tournament and left the school as its all-time leading scorer with 1,767 points.

Nate Wolters hopes to lead the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament

Nate landed at South Dakota State in part because, “I chose SDSU because they were the 1st division one team to offer me a scholarship and wanted me to play pg.”  He said other teams saw him as more of a shooting guard and he wanted to run the point.  In his freshman season he averaged 10.1 points while garnering All-Newcomer honors for his efforts.  Entering his sophomore season Wolters was given the reins to run the team and be its full-time point guard.  He started all 31 games for the Jackrabbits last season and led them in points, 19.5 and assists, 6.1 per game.  He was as consistent as they come in the Summit League last season, scoring double-figures in 29 of his 31 games, knocking in at least 20, nine times and 30 four times.  He earned 1st team All-Summit League honors, the first SDSU player to ever do so and was named to the All-Tournament team at the Summit league tournament where he led the Jackrabbits with 30 points in a quarterfinal win over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, and 23 points in semifinal loss to Reggie Hamilton and Oakland.

Going into his Junior season Nate wants to take the next step with SDSU and win a conference championship and make the NCAA Tournament.  He has done his best so far to make that happen, having scored in double figures in every game, scoring at least 20 in 15 of his 27 games and 30 or more in five of them. His 21.8 scoring average is not only 2nd in the conference but puts him 6th in the entire country.  Wolters is not just a scorer, he also leads the team in assists with 6.0 per game.

He got the season off to a good start scoring 32 and dishing out 11 assists in a win over Western Michigan.  He then recorded his second double-double of the season with 21 points and a career-high 12 assists in a 92-87 loss to Oakland, a game in which Travis Bader hit 10 3-pointers and scored 37 off the bench for Oakland.

Wolters is also 2nd on the team in rebounding at 5.0 a game.  The 6’4 guard is leading head coach Scott Nagy’s troops by example and doing a little bit of everything to help them achieve the ultimate goal.

Wolters drew interest from schools in other conferences but says he enjoys playing in the Summit, “Playing in the Summit League has been a lot of fun, good mid major conference with some great players.” Opined Wolters when asked about his experiences thus far in the Summit League.

While only a junior, Nate has a lot more fun to experience, not only the rest of this season but in his senior year as well.  Perhaps a first-ever trip to the NCAAs will be chief among them for he and his teammates.

Alex Young was named the 2008 Indianapolis City and Indianapolis Public Schools Player of the Year as a senior at Northwest High School. He averaged 18.6 points and 13.7 rebounds in his final season.  The choice of where to go to school was easy for the Indianapolis native.

He chose to attend Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis because he says, “So my family can still come to the games also IUPUI was the school that recruited me the most heavily and also I could play immediately here.”

Alex Young does a little bit of everything for IUPUI

Play immediately he did, seeing action in 30 games (21 starts) in his freshman year which saw him lead all Summit League freshmen in scoring with a 10.8 average.  His sophomore season his production jumped up to 18.3 points per game, but also saw him grab 4.5 rebounds a contest.

What changed for Alex? After his freshman year he, “realized how the college game went, just overall confidence and believing in my ability.”

His junior season saw him earn 1st Team All-Summit honors for the second straight season.  His 19.7 point average led the conference in scoring, his 17 games of scoring 20 or more points also led the conference.  He again increased his contributions on defense his 6.4 rebounds were good enough for 7th in the Summit.  Young registered double figures in scoring in 32 of the 33 games he played and notched three double-doubles.

Young continued to do more than score, while leading the team in scoring he ranked second in rebounding (6.4) and assists (2.4).

His senior campaign started off with a bang before he even took the court, being voted the Summit League’s Preseason Player of the Year by the coaches.  That could be a lot of pressure for a player to live up to.  So far it looks like Alex has been up to the task.

He has averaged 20.9 points per game which puts him currently 9th in the country and 3rd in the Summit.  He has topped 20 points in 17 of his 26 games this season, and 30 points three times including a 43-point 9 rebound game in a win over Western Kentucky.  The 43 points was the most scored by a Jaguars player since becoming a division one program, and he did it while shooting a scorching 14-20 from the field.

The Indianapolis native is hoping to take his hometown school to new heights in the Summit League and beyond.  With an athletic 6’6 scorer to rely on IUPUI will surely be no easy out for other teams in the conference.

Dominique Morrison wasn’t even a top 3 option on his AAU team.  He played for Kansas City’s Pump-n-Run where Marcus Denmon and Steve Moore, both starring at Missouri, and Kansas’ Travis Releford were all starters for that team. The Missouri native led Raytown High School to a 27-1 record as a senior averaging 25.6 points and 6 rebounds.  Being behind those guys didn’t frustrate Morrison, in fact he saw it as a positive.

Dominique Morrison has led Oral Roberts to the Summit League regular season title

“I felt like it helped. Playing with guys that were going to bigger schools just made me want to work harder. Each practice was a chance to get better and improve. We actually came to ORU for a tournament and I liked the school and the gym. I believe it helped in recruitment because a lot of schools did not believe I could play the 3 because of several reasons but ORU believed in me from the beginning.” Said Morrison when I asked him how he felt about his recruitment.

Morrison started all 31 games as a freshman and was named to the Summit League’s All-Newcomer Team in 2008-09.  One of his best games in his first season came in the regular-season finale against North Dakota State where he scored 17 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in a 3-point defeat.

Morrison really took off in his second season, averaging a team-high 15.6 points and 2.6 assists while grabbing 5.1 rebounds.   Morrison also averaged over 35 minutes per game.  Dominique scored in double figures 28 times and saved his best performances for the biggest competition.  He scored 31 points and snatched nine rebounds in a November win over Stanford, Dominique tallied 21 points and 7 boards in a 1-point win over old friends Denmon, Moore and the Missouri Tigers, he also scored 17 points in back-to-back games; a loss to Louisville and a win over New Mexico.

Morrison’s junior campaign was even better than the previous two.  He ended the year with a 19.5 scoring average and found himself on the All-Summit First Team for the second year in a row.   During the year he led the team in scoring in nearly half the games he played (15) and the 6’6 forward led the Golden Eagles in rebounding seven times.   He was even better when playing conference opponents in his junior year, averaging 20.9 points in league contests, including scorching Western Illinois for a career-high 35 on 14-18 from the field.

He was named to the All-Tournament team in March averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds in the 3 games, including a double-double 22 points and 11 boards in the championship loss to Oakland.

Entering his senior season Morrison was looking for Oral Roberts to take that final step and win the Summit League Tournament and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  He has led ORU in a big way averaging 20.1 points per game, good enough for a 12th place tie in the country.  He has had a game high in 17 of 30 games, including a stretch from December 18th-January 12th where he led the team in 8 straight games.  Given his propensity for coming up big in big games, it should come as no surprised he threw down a career-high 38 points in a win over 2nd place South Dakota State.

Through all of the stats, all of the accolades Morrison said in his four years at ORU, “The one thing I’m the most proud of is the way we are playing this year. To have won our first regular season championship in four years is big.”

The Golden Eagles will be the #1 seed in the upcoming Summit League Tournament.

These guys may be among the nation’s elite scorers and play each other twice a year, but do they care?  Do they keep an eye on what the others are doing?

Morrison says, “To be honest, I do look to see what they have done, and to see if they won.”

Wolters enjoys the competition between  the group, “Its awesome being in the same conference as those guys.  They are all great players and love being able to compete against them.”

Alex Young says playing in the same conference with those guys, “allows no room for error, it let’s you not get off your momentum for a while because those guys are so good.  It does keep you on your game.”

All four of these Summit League stars are gearing up for the Summit League Post-Season Tournament which will take place March 3-6 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   Dominique Morrison and Nate Wolters have locked up the top 2 seeds with Oral Roberts and South Dakota State respectively.  Reggie Hamilton’s Oakland Golden Grizzlies are in a battle for the #3 seed with North Dakota State, both teams are 9-7 with 2 games to play.  IUPUI and Alex Young hope to catch Southern Utah for the #6 seed, the Jaguars currently sit 7th at 6-10 in conference.

Keep in mind, even though over the next six weeks or so players, coaches and games from the power-6 conferences will be the ones in bright lights with their names on the marquee,  March 3-6 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will be the only place you will be able to find the highest concentration of national scoring leaders;  4 of the top 12 (through games on February 16), including the co-leader.

They are all in one place—The Summit League.

*All 2012 stats are through games played on February 16th

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