Archive | February, 2016

Tuesday’s Tournament Schedule

29 Feb

Atlantic Sun
Quarterfinals: March 1
Game 1: No. 8 USC Upstate Spartans at No. 1 North Florida Ospreys, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: No. 5 Kennesaw State Fighting Owls at No. 4 Fla Gulf Coast Ealges, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3: No. 6 Lipscomb Bisons at No. 3 Jacksonville Dolphins, 7 p.m.
Game 4: No. 7 Stetson Hatters at No. 2 NJIT Highlanders, 7:30 p.m.

Patriot League
Opening Round: March 1
Game 1: No. 9 Holy Cross Crusaders at No. 8 Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 Lafayette Leopards at No. 7 Navy Midshipmen, 7 p.m.

Conference Tournament Storylines

28 Feb

These will be updated as brackets become finalized

***Updated through 3/6***

America East-Can Stony Brook climb the mountain and finally make the NCAA Tournament?

American-The American is up in the air, close your eyes and throw the dart.  Temple? UConn? Cincinnati? Tulsa? Houston?

Atlantic 10-Dayton has slipped some as the season closes, can VCU earn another bid or will St. Bonaventure or Saint Joseph’s take the bid.

Atlantic Sun-It is New Jersey Institute of Technology’s first year in the league.  Can they knock off defending champ North Florida and earn their first bid.

Big 12-Can anyone knock off Kansas?

Big East-Villanova is the Best team but the competition is stiff, Xavier, Butler, Providence and Seton Hall.

Big Sky-This should be a battle between Montana and Weber State.

Big South-The top 4 teams in the league separated by one game, Myrtle Beach Madness anyone?

Big Ten-Indiana got the top seed but can we really bet against Tom Izzo in March?  Which Iowa team will show up? What do we make of Maryland and Purdue?

Big West-Is Hawaii the best team or will it prove to be UC-Irvine or Long Beach State?

Colonial-Hofstra and UNC-Wilmington finished tied for 1st but four teams finished with 20+ wins (William & Mary had 19)

Conference USA-Can UAB defend their title?

Horizon-Does Valparaiso have any at-large hopes if they fall in the conference tournament?

Metro Atlantic-Can anyone beat Monmouth, and if that happens will it cost the Hawks a bid?

Mid-American-Top 4 in the East finished with a record equal to or better than the West leader.  Will Akron, Kent State, Ohio or Buffalo take the title or will the West be heard from?

Mid-Eastern Athletic-The MEAC has 3 upsets as a 15-seed, Will Hampton get that chance again?

Missouri Valley-Can Northern Iowa, Evansville or anyone else turn the MVC into a two-bid league by beating Wichita State?

Mountain West-The league has been severely all year, San Diego State has been the team but almost anyone can win it.

Northeast-Wagner dominated the league but can they finish it by winning the tournament?

Ohio Valley-Top four teams in the Eastern Division were separated by one game, can anyone derail Belmont who won their 3rd regular-season title in 4 years.

Pac-12-This league has been hard to figure out all year.  Oregon won the regular season but Arizona, Cal and Utah are also strong.

Patriot-Top 7 teams finished at or above .500. Can Bucknell hold off all the challengers?

SEC- Kentucky and Texas A&M finished tied for first while the rest of the league drifted into mediocrity.

Southern-Does Chattanooga hold off East Tennessee State or does someone like Furman or defending champ Wofford steal the crown?

Southland-Can anyone stop the Southland buzzsaw that is Stephen F Austin after they finished 17-0?

Southwestern Athletic-Will Texas Southern repeat?

Summit-Can top seed Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne beat perennial favorite South Dakota State? Or does a team like Omaha surprise them both?

Sun Belt-Arkansas-Little Rock may have the best shot at an at-large as a mid-major, but can they risk it?

West Coast-This will be another Gonzaga-St. Mary’s battle, but the WCC will be just a one bid league.

Western Athletic-New Mexico State won the league, their only competition should be Cal-State Bakersfield with Grand Canyon not yet eligible for post-season play.

Atlantic Sun Tournament Preview

26 Feb

#1 North Florida (21-10,10-4) vs #8 South Carolina-Upstate (10-21,4-10)

Season series: North Florida 1-0 (78-62)

The high octane Ospreys are looking to repeat as Atlantic Sun tournament champs.  The top seed puts up over 85 points per game and dishes out over 16 assists per game.  Their rotation is just seven deep but five of those players average double figures, led by junior Dallas Moore and his 19.7 points and 6.1 assists.  They started the year by beating Illinois and began conference play by winning seven straight before losing their four conference games in succession with three of them being on the road.  They finished the regular season with three straight wins including an 81-80 win over Jacksonville to secure the #1 seed.

The Spartans struggled all year long.  They didn’t get a win over a division 1 team until December 14 over Navy.  They won just four games in conference and those wins were by a total of six points.  Deion Holmes (12.2) and Michael Buchanan (11.6) are the only players in double figures in scoring but for a team that ranks 300th in points allowed North Florida is a less than optimal opponent.

#4 Florida Gulf Coast (17-13, 8-6) vs #5 Kennesaw State (11-19, 7-7)

Season series: FGCU swept (79-74,68-63)

They may not be the Dunk City Florida Gulf Coast Eagles of the past but they still put up 76.6 points per game and are led by junior forward Marc Eddy Norelia and his 17.1 points and nine rebounds for the team that ranks 35th in rebounds per game .

The numbers may not be all that impressive for Al Skinner’s Owls but they finished .500 in conference for the first time in their history and finished the year winning six of their last eight including wins over Jacksonville and North Florida.  The Owls do have two prolific scorers with their starting backcourt of Kendrick Ray and Yonel Brown combine for 37.5 of the team’s 72.5 points per game.

#3 Jacksonville (16-15,8-6) vs #6 Lipscomb (11-20,7-7)

Season series: Split (Jacksonville 76-73, Lipscomb 93-91)

The Dolphins limp their way into the A-Sun tournament.  After beginning conference play 7-2 but enter post-season play losers of four of their last five.  Kori Babineaux and Marcel White lead Jacksonville offensively with 34.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

The Lipscomb Bison may have won just two games over division 1 teams during their non-conference schedule, but once familiar foes rolled around, wins came at a faster clip including season splits with the league’s top four teams.  Offensively the Bison are solid putting up over 78 points per game led by J.C. Hampton’s 15.5 the issue is on the defensive end where they give up a near-the-bottom 80.8 points per contest.

#2 New Jersey Institute of Technology (17-13,8-6) vs #7 Stetson (10-21,4-10)

Season series: NJIT swept (71-59, 74-70)

This is an interesting matchup with first-year conference member NJIT facing a Stetson squad that is ineligible for post-season play due to poor academics.  Damon Lynn leads the Highlanders with 18.1 points.

The Hatters finished with just four conference wins but two of them came over North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.  Much like Lipscomb, Stetson can score, their 79.8 points are 33rd best in the country but give up nearly 84 points on defense.  They are led offensively by freshman Derrick Newton’s 15.4 points and Brian Pegg’s double-double; 12.6 points and 10 rebounds.

Yale and Texas Tech Could Pose First Weekend Problems

25 Feb

At first glance neither team seems all that impressive.  The numbers may not wow you but Yale and Texas Tech are two teams that could surprise someone during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Yale has not been to the Big Dance in 54 years.   They currently hold a slim half game lead over Princeton and Columbia is lurking just a game back.  At 18-6 and 9-1 in the Ivy and such a slim lead the Bulldogs don’t seem to raise many eyebrows.  A closer inspection of Coach James Jones’ squad reveals how and why they have climbed to the top of the Ivy.

The highlight of the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule may have been a win over Vermont and a two-point loss at SMU.  Statistically they have just three players in double figures in scoring, led by senior Justin Sears (17.0) and sophomore Makai Mason’s 15.7.  Sears is also tied for the team lead in rebounding at 7.1.

It is the team statistics that tell the bigger story.  On the defensive end is where they really excel, ranking in the top 75 in seven key categories.  They are 15th in the country in scoring defense allowing just 63.7 points per game.  As a result Yale also ranks 22nd in scoring margin at a +11.8 points.  When it comes to rebounding the Elis are 19th in rebounds per game with 40.71 and are 16th in offensive rebounds per game with 13.79 which for a team that ranks 41st in field goal percentage (47.0) means when they do miss they are pretty good at getting second chances.  Their rebounding prowess has led Yale to the 3rd best rebounding margin in the country at 10.9 which is another positive for a team 45th in field goal percentage defense 40.4% and 64th in defending the 3 pointer at 32%.

Although they have few eye-popping numbers Yale is the type of team that can get you thanks to the team game they play.

Texas Tech’s NCAA Tournament drought isn’t nearly as long as Yale’s, having last made an appearance in 2007 but they also have the potential to trip up a favorite in the first (or second) round.    The job Tubby Smith has done in Lubbock has been remarkable and much like Yale the numbers don’t scream “this team is dangerous” the rigors of the Big 12 have the Red Raiders prepared for anything.

At 18-9 and just 8-7 and a non-conference win over a previously unbeaten Arkansas-Little Rock doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, but they are gelling at the right time.  After defeating Texas to open conference play they proceeded to go 2-7 before reeling off five wins including wins over Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Smith’s team has four players in double figures all averaging between 10.9 and 10.3 points per game but statistically the Red Raiders don’t seem like the team one should worry too much about should they make the NCAA Tournament but Tubby has been through the wringer of the tournament at an elite level and with games against Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State they can come together even more and climb higher in the standings before the Big 12 tournament.

Unpredictable NCAA Tournament Needs (in part) Predictable Conference Tournaments

9 Feb

During the NCAA Tournament everybody loves the Cinderella and the unpredictability of the event.  There are a bunch of different factors that add to that unpredictability, a couple of which are; parity, that is to say no dominant team in the game (definitely something we have this year) and predictability of some of the conference tournaments of perceived one-bid leagues resulting in those leagues sending their best teams to the tournament.  Here is a look at five of those teams we should be hoping win their tournaments because they would make the NCAA Tournament even more crazy.

Arkansas-Little Rock 21-2, 11-1 in Sun Belt:   The Trojans began the year 10-0 before falling at Texas Tech.  Chris Beard’s squad then reeled off six straight wins before they were bitten on the road by Arkansas State 76-73, six more wins later and the Trojans find themselves with a two-game lead over Louisiana-Lafayette in the conference.  During their undefeated start UALR won at San Diego State, Tulsa and DePaul and although they only average 10.4 points per game the nation’s best 57.2 points allowed per game and allowing only 37% shooting are their calling cards and keeps them in games.

Chattanooga 22-3, 11-1 in Southern:  The Mocs began the year with wins over Georgia and Illinois and were only defeated in the non-conference by Iowa State and Louisiana-Monroe.  Since losing to the Warhawks on Nov. 30 the league leaders have rattled off 17 wins in their last 18 contests and have a 2.5 game lead over East Tennessee State.  Chattanooga averages over 77 points per game and is led by senior guard Casey Jones and his 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

Monmouth 19-5, 11-2 in Metro Atlantic:  In the first couple of months of the season one the bigger stories was the antics of the Hawks bench, seriously check them out on YouTube.  Lost in the bench hysteria is the fact that Monmouth is having a really good basketball season.  Before conference play began Monmouth had wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Georgetown and Rutgers in their back pocket.   That performance has earned them a very respectable RPI rank of 30 and their nearly 81 points per game has them 31st in the country.  For a team that averages that many points they only have three players averaging in double figures;  junior Justin Robinson 20.5, freshman Micah Seaborn 11.8 and senior Deon Jones 10.3.

Stephen F. Austin 17-5, 10-0 in Southland: Over the past three seasons Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have averaged 29 wins and have made the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and have a win over VCU.  They are led by five seniors and their star is Thomas Walkup who leads the team in points (17.9), rebounds (6.5), assists (4.2) and steals (1.7).  The team ranks 3rd in the country in assists per game at 19 and senior guard Trey Pinkney leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.43.

Valparaiso 20-4, 10-1 in Horizon: It has been 18 years now since Bryce Drew arrived on the NCAA scene with a game winning shot against Mississippi, Now he’s the head man at his alma mater and leading the Crusaders towards another NCAA Tournament bid.  Valpo is a deep team that uses a 9-man rotation most nights but with just two players averaging double figures led by junior big man Alec Peters and his 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game but it’s the Crusaders’ work on the defensive end that has them where they are.  Their 59.8 points allowed per game is 3rd best in the country and they are 6th in the country with 42.6 rebounds per game and their 29.92 defensive rebounds per contest is 5th best, add that to the 36.9% field goal percentage defense (3rd best in the country) and you have the recipe for a March nightmare.

If you look forward to an NCAA Tournament that is full of the unexpected, these are five teams you need to be rooting for to win their respective conference tournaments.

It was a Crazy Week in the Top 25

8 Feb

It’s Monday which means it’s time for the new college basketball polls to come out.  After another tumultuous week for ranked teams Villanova finds itself in the cat bird’s seat for the first time in school history and a total of eight different teams received first-place votes in the AP and Coaches Poll.

We are four weeks away from the beginning of conference tournaments and over the past week nearly half of the top 25 suffered losses including two by #2 North Carolina, #8 Texas A&M and #15 Baylor.

#1 Oklahoma was defeated by Kansas State and #2 North Carolina fell at the hands of #19 Louisville and Notre Dame to finish a shakeup in the top two.

Maryland also took out #18 Purdue on the road while once top ten team Providence went winless thanks to a bad loss at DePaul and falling to Villanova.   #13 Iowa State was taken down by #14 West Virginia who is now the leader in the Big 12.

#12 SMU suffered its second loss of the year at Houston while Baylor felt the wrath of West Virginia and the coming on strong Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns.

In the back part of the poll Kentucky was taken out by Tennessee, Wichita State took a hit at Illinois State.  Indiana suffered a bad loss at Penn State and South Carolina suffered one at the hands of Georgia.

This past week was a microcosm of what this season has been so far; a perfect balance of crazy, unpredictable and fun and it’s only February.

As Conference Tourneys Approach,the Bubble Picture is Far From Clear

5 Feb

Even before the season started people were talking about how there could be no dominant team this season resulting in a very unpredictable year.  We are less than four weeks away from the beginning of conference tournaments and it looks like that prediction is coming true.

Top ten upsets seem like a nightly occurrence and the weekly rankings have become a game of musical chairs and noted bracketologists who are updating their projections at a faster rate are having a harder time than usual sifting through the pool of eligible teams.

Over the next month or so the fog may clear and teams may separate themselves from the pack but right now the difference between some of these teams is razor thin.  To illustrate this point here is a pair of blind resumes where one team is firmly in the field of three noted bracketologists; Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Shelby Mast of USA Today and the other is on the outside looking in.

Example 1:

Team A: 19-4 (7-3 in conference), RPI Rank 22 (non-conference RPI: 18), Strength of Schedule 82 (non-conference SoS: 107), Record vs. RPI top 50 3-2, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 13-1 vs. the rest.

Team B: 13-8 (2-6 in conference), RPI Rank 47 (non-conference RPI: 23), Strength of Schedule 7 (non-conference SoS 49), Record vs. RPI Top 50 2-6, Record vs. RPI top 100 1-2, 10-0 vs. the rest.

Team A has a better record and RPI but does have one bad loss, something team B has avoided.  Team B has played a much tougher schedule.

Team A is Purdue who is currently listed as a 4 and 5 seed by the three bracketologists.

Team B is Texas Tech who is currently on the wrong side of the bubble.

Example 2:

Team A:  18-4 (7-2 in conference), RPI Rank 19 (non-conference RPI: 49), Strength of Schedule 60 (non-conference SoS: 205), Record vs. RPI top 50 3-3, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 12-0 vs. the rest.

Team B: 15-7 (4-6 in conference), RPI Rank 62 (non-conference RPI: 30), Strength of Schedule 74 (non-conference SoS: 184), Record vs. RPI top 50 1-5, Record vs. RPI top 100 3-1, 11-1 vs. the rest.

Team A has a slightly better record and performed better during conference play.  They also have a better RPI but that is mostly due to conference play.  Team B has a better non-conference RPI but has failed miserably against the RPI top 50.

Team A is Louisville who is seen as a 4 and 5 seed by the bracketologists.

Team B is Butler who is not a tournament team according to 2 of the 3 bracketologists and is one of the last 4 in according to the other.

***Note*** Louisville announced this afternoon that they will self-impose a post-season ban this season due to NCAA violations.

This last example is two teams currently in the field, one is an 11 seed the other a 5 or 6.  Can you guess which one is which?

Team A:  17-5 (6-3 in conference), RPI Rank 18 (non-conference RPI: 29), Strength of Schedule 44 (non-conference SoS: 78), Record vs. RPI top 50 4-4, Record vs. RPI top 100 4-1, 9-0 vs. the rest.

Team B:  18-5 (10-2 in conference), RPI Rank 28 (non-conference RPI: 8), Strength of Schedule 121 (non-conference SoS: 20), Record vs. RPI top 50 2-2, Record vs. RPI top 100 4-0, 9-3 vs. the rest.

Team A has a better overall RPI and strength of schedule but team B clearly challenged themselves more outside of their conference.  Team B has also performed slightly better against the RPI top 100 winning six of eight (one being against team A), while team A has won eight of 13.  One thing that knocks team B down is the three losses to with an RPI of 201 or worse.

Team A is Southern California who is either a 5 or 6 seed.

Team B is Monmouth who is an 11 seed.

These are just a few examples of how close the difference is between being safely in the field and on the fringe or even being left out of the Big Dance.

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