Archive | August, 2013

The Marathon Morphs into an Ironman

30 Aug

When ESPN started their tip-off marathon six years ago it was touted as 24 hours of wall-to-wall hoops for the college basketball junkie.  Since then it has evolved into the “unofficial official” start of the college basketball season.

This year however the marathon has become more of an Ironman for those that want to caffeine load and attempt to catch all of Hooptopia.  With the addition of two opening acts the 24 hours is now 29 hours of hoops heaven.

The fun begins at 7pm on November 11 when Kent State travels to Philadelphia to battle Temple and finishes with the Champions Classic doubleheader with Kentucky/Michigan State and Duke/Kansas facing off beginning at 7:30pm on November 12.

In between we have games involving teams at various stages of rebuilding, possible NCAA bubble teams with marathon tilts that could become very important come March.  Here is a rundown of what is in store.

Kent State at Temple (7 p.m. EST on Nov. 11)

Despite losing Khalif Wyatt among others, Fran Dunphy’s Owls are looking to get off to a good start as they join the American Athletic Conference with other stalwarts Memphis, UConn, Cincinnati and defending champ Louisville.  Kent State is looking for revenge after Scootie Randall dropped 31 on the Golden Flashes last season.

Colorado State at Gonzaga (9 p.m. EST)

This is a game between a couple of rebuilding squads as Colorado State lost all five starters from last season’s NCAA team and Gonzaga finds itself in transition back to a perimeter oriented squad with the departures of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.

BYU at Stanford (11 p.m. EST on Nov. 11)

Here is your first bubble battle of the season.  Both BYU and Stanford were knocking on the door of the NCAA tournament at times last season.  This year they both look to take that next step.  The Cougars are led by Tyler Haws and junior Matt Carlino and the Cardinal boast guard Chasson Randle and forward Josh Huestis.

Western Kentucky at Wichita State (1 a.m. EST)

While Western Kentucky has conquered the Sun Belt a couple of times recently, this game is all about last year’s Final Four participant, Wichita State.  Cleanthony Early will now lead Gregg Marshall’s Shockers as the new top dog in the Missouri Valley with Creighton off to the Big East.

Akron at Saint Mary’s (3 a.m. EST)

Here is another game between two teams that will be learning to play without their stars.  Akron is now without big man Zeke Marshall and St. Mary’s begins life AD, after Dellavedova, Matthew Dellavedova.

New Mexico State at Hawaii (5 a.m. EST)

Hawaii in its typical 5am timeslot and the most intriguing aspect of this game is being able to watch New Mexico State’s 7-5 center Sim Bhullar.

Hartford at Florida Gulf Coast (7 a.m. EST)

Hartford travels to sunny Florida for an early morning tip against the darlings of last March, Florida Gulf Coast.  The Eagles may have a different coach in Joe Dooley after Andy Enfield took Dunk City to USC.  But FGCU returns the core of its team that captured the attention of the country including playmaker Brett Comer.

Quinnipiac at La Salle (9 a.m. EST)

Quinnipiac leaves the Northeast Conference for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and are looking to continue the growth they experienced in the NEC.  La Salle had a revitalization last season that ended with a surprise trip to the Sweet 16.  With most of the same crew returning could expectations be even higher for the Explorers?

LSU at UMass (11 a.m. EST)

This is another game with probable March implications.  LSU has slowly been improving in the SEC and this season has NCAA aspirations.  UMass has been in the same boat seeing their tournament bubble burst one or two wins shy of receiving a bid.  If they want to make the tournament this is a game that could help boost their resume.

West Virginia at Virginia Tech (1 p.m. EST)

This is the 2-hour block where you might want to catch some Z’s if you want.  A young Virginia Tech team doesn’t have the leadership and scoring of Erick Green and Bob Huggins hopes to have better success with the Mountaineers after jettisoning the enigma that was Aaric Murray.

South Carolina at Baylor (3 p.m. EST)

This is another game between two rebuilding squads, but at different stages of their rebuild.  Frank Martin and South Carolina are still looking to find their way in the SEC while Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears still has plenty of talent to overcome the loss of point guard Pierre Jackson.

NC State at Cincinnati (5 p.m. EST)

In a game between NCAA Tournament teams, Cincinnati’s senior guard Sean Kilpatrick has an early showcase to prove he can lead the Bearcats back to the dance.

VCU at Virginia (7 p.m. EST)

An in-state battle in the commonwealth with a great contrast in styles.  The methodical paces of Joe Harris and the Virginia Cavaliers go head-to-head with Shaka Smart’s VCU and their havoc style of defense.  For hoop fans this will be a fun match up to watch.

Champions Classic: Kentucky vs. Michigan State followed by Kansas-Duke (7:30 p.m. EST start)

What doesn’t this doubleheader have?  Four of the most rabid fan bases in the country, four NCAA basketball bluebloods, four of the greatest coaches the college game has ever seen and oh yeah; Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, and Andrew Wiggins.

Florida at Wisconsin (9 p.m. EST)

Here the Gators, who should still be a contender in the SEC despite losses to graduation enter the Kohl Center where the always tough Bo Ryan Badgers rarely lose.


There you have it, this year’s version of the ESPN Ironman.  If you are able to complete it consider yourself a hoop junkie of the highest order (and crazy).  The menu does offer something for everyone and yet again a good platform for people to get a look at a lot of different teams.


NCAA Tweaks Bracketing Procedures for the Upcoming Season

27 Aug

The casual basketball fan may have missed some news this summer that hoop heads scrutinized for days on sites, in blogs and on social media.  The NCAA announced some tweaking to their bracketing procedures for the basketball tournament that will now be in place beginning with this spring’s event.

For the most part there were three significant changes made.

The first involves the rule that the committee tried to avoid rematches of regular season games between conference rivals until the regional semifinals if possible.  This rule is no longer, the rematch restrictions are now dependent on how often the teams have met before the NCAA Tournament.   If two teams have played just once they can now meet as soon as the round of 32, if they have had two meetings they can’t meet in the tournament until the Sweet 16 and if they have had three regular season games they are not allowed to meet until the regional finals.

The second change again involves teams from the same conference.  In the past there was a rule that stated the top three seeded teams from a given conference should be placed in different regions.  This rule too has gone by the wayside.  The new rule says that the top four seeded teams in a conference will each be put in a different region only if they all fall within the top four seed lines.  That means for example if say the Big Ten receives seven bids, the top four seeded teams will be put in different regions only if they all receive a top four seed.

The biggest reason for these two changes is the fact that after the first four lines are seeded the committee wants to remain as true to seeds as possible, keeping the integrity of the bracket as a whole intact.

The final major rule change involves non-conference regular season games.  The committee will avoid regular season match ups in the “First Four” and Round of 64 if possible.  If two teams from the same conference are in the “First Four” the rules can be relaxed to accommodate them.  This change probably comes a year too late for UNLV who as a 5-seed were forced to play their first game against #12 Cal (who they beat in December) is San Jose.

With so many rules to follow”one-bid” and mid-major leagues were play and plug pawns filling out the bracket after the multi-bid leagues had all the rules that effected them adhered to.  With these changes allowing the committee to be less stringent, this spring we should see a tournament that more truly reflects the 1-68 seed list and an even better event.

College Hoops Haven is Back: First Thing’s First, A Realignment Run Down

27 Aug

As August draws to a close that means coaches and their teams will soon be hitting the floor for another season.  However gone are the days when the most important part of the off season for a college basketball fan was the team and conference previews and coaching changes that took place since the nets were cut down.

We find ourselves in a period where the fans first must figure out which teams are playing where in the upcoming season.  Much like last season this season’s realignment changes has the look of a road map that would give Rand McNally a popsicle headache.

Here is a rundown of who is where for the 2013-14 season:

ACC: The ACC welcomes a trio of former Big East teams; Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame for the upcoming season before defending National Champ Louisville joins next year replacing Maryland who will leave for the Big Ten.

AMERICA EAST: The small conference loses long-time contender Boston University but adds UMass-Lowell from Division 2.  The Riverhawks are beginning the process of transitioning to division 1.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: This is the new conference that formed when the Catholic 7 split away and took the Big East name with them.  Big East castoffs UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida will be joined by a mish mash of teams.  Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU all join from Conference USA. Temple jumps ranks from the Atlantic 10, while Louisville and Rutgers are the equivalent of lame duck coaches having already accepted invitations to the ACC and Big Ten respectively.  Replacing them in the AAC will be Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina in 2014.

ATLANTIC 10: The A-10 was one of the hardest hit conferences in the country with realignment defections.  Temple bolted for the AAC, Butler and Xavier join the newly formed Big East and Charlotte goes to Conference USA.  Former Colonial Athletic Association stalwart George Mason joins the league and another mid major boulder, Davidson will do so in 2014-15.

BIG EAST: While it may not be the same conference we all grew so fond of in the 1980s and 90s, the new version should still have some darn good basketball.  The Catholic 7 DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova are joined by Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 and Creighton from the Missouri Valley.


COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: In addition to losing George Mason to the A-10 and Old Dominion to Conference USA they also lose Georgia State to the Sun Belt while welcoming the College of Charleston from the Southern Conference.

CONFERENCE USA: Bare with me this one may take a while.  Teams still in the conference include; Alabama-Birmingham, Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane (with the last 3 leaving for the AAC in 2014.)

Memphis, SMU and Central Florida all leave for the AAC this season but are replaced by eight teams from all over; Charlotte (A-10), Old Dominion (Colonial), Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio (WAC) and Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas all from the Sun Belt.

HORIZON LEAGUE: Lost Loyola-Chicago to the Missouri Valley and replaces them with the Summit League’s Oakland Grizzlies.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: They lose Loyola (MD) to the Patriot League but add Monmouth and Quinnipiac from the Northeast Conference.

MISSOURI VALLEY: The MVC loses its marquee program in Creighton to the Big East but was able to grab Loyola-Chicago from the Horizon to replace them.

MOUNTAIN WEST: For most of the early summer it seemed as though the MWC would lose Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East, and then the split happened and the two programs decided to stay.  Then the conference went out and added Stew Morril’s Utah State and San Jose State from the WAC.

PATRIOT LEAGUE: Adds two more strong program to their conference, Boston University (America East) and Loyola (MD) (MAAC).

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE: In the next couple of years the conference will be losing its top two schools College of Charleston to the CAA this year and Davidson to the A-10 next season. East Tennessee State, Mercer and VMI will be joining the ranks for the 2014 season.

SOUTHLAND: The Southland has added a quartet of teams for the upcoming season, Houston Baptist from the Great West, New Orleans who competed last year as an independent and a couple of schools making the move to Division 1 Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian.

SUMMIT LEAGUE: The Summit loses Oakland to the Horizon and Missouri-Kansas City to the WAC while taking Denver away from the WAC.

SUN BELT: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas have all bolted for Conference USA.  Georgia State, Texas-Arlington and Texas State all enter as replacements.

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: By far the conference hardest hit by realignment has been the WAC.  Only New Mexico State, Seattle and Idaho (who leaves for the Big Sky next year) remain.  Saving the nearly defunct hoops conference will be Utah Valley, Texas-Pan American and Chicago State from the now extinct Great West. Missouri-Kansas City joins from the Summit as well as Cal-State Bakersfield who was an independent last season and Grand Canyon University up from the Division 2 ranks.

WEST COAST: The WCC will add Pacific from the Big West this season.

NOTE: New Jersey Institute of Technology who played in the Great West last season was unable to find a home and will compete as the country’s lone independent this season.

There you have it, 19 conferences and 49 teams and we haven’t even begun to talk about players, coaches or what to expect in the upcoming season.  Buckle Up!

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