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Tag:Dancing
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:27 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Montana

Wayne Tinkle's Grizzlies took down arguably the nation's top point guard, Weber State's Damian Lillard, to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. 

This Montana-Weber State championship contest wasn't quite as electric as the last time the two teams met with everything on the line, when Montana's Anthony Johnson went for 42 points, but the result was the same. 

Montana is led by junior guard Will Cherry, but Tinkle has plenty of weapons. 

The Grizz had all five starters reach double-figures in the championship game. Sophomore Kareem Jamar and junior Mathias Ward, who each had 18 in the semifinal win, led Montana with 23. Cherry had 13, senior big man Derek Selvig had 16 points and nine boards and Art Stewart finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. 

The Grizzles, who won their first outright regular-season crown since 1991-92, trailed by five at the break -- but outscored Weber State, 54-30, in the second half to blow the game open. 

Player to know: Will Cherry - The 6-foot-1 junior guard leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, but he's versatile and is also one of the nation's top defenders. He’s topped 20 points on 10 separate occasions this season, and has dramatically improved his outside shooting since last season.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-6 overall, 15-1 in Big Sky
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010
  • We’re thinking: 15
  • KenPom ranking: 97
  • Sagarin ranking: 102
  • RPI: 81
  • Best wins: Long Beach State, Weber State
  • Worst losses: North Dakota
  • Notable stat: The Grizzlies enter the game on a school-record 14-game winning streak.  

 -- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:57 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:01 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: LIU-Brooklyn

When LIU-Brooklyn clinched homecourt advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, the Blackbirds became the heavy favorites to win the automatic bid. After all, they have won 27 in a row at the WRAC in Brooklyn. Jim Ferry’s troops followed through, cruising to a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris in Wednesday’s championship game.

C.J. Garner led the way with 21 points, as LIU-Brooklyn will head to its second-straight NCAA tournament. In the second half, the Blackbirds turned an eight-point halftime lead into a run-and-gun show, including a halfcourt alley-oop from Garner to Julian Boyd that gave LIU a 14-point lead.

With Boyd and Jamal Olasawere dominating the paint, and Jason Brickman controlling tempo and making plays for himself and teammates, the Blackbirds won’t be an easy out. They like to get out and push the tempo, and they have plenty of finishers. LIU also has Big Dance experience, losing by 15 in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament to North Carolina.

LIU-Brooklyn is heading to its second straight NCAA tournament after beating Robert Morris in the NEC title game. (AP)

Player to know: Julian Boyd. He was the NEC’s Player of the Year for a reason, and that reason is his dominance at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-7, 230-lb. big man is a load to handle in the paint and on the glass, totaling 14 double-doubles this season. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the championship win, and has finished with 20 or more points in five of his last eight games. Boyd won’t be pushed off the block, as long as he stays on the floor (he’s fouled out five times). 

The Vitals:
Record: 25-8 overall, 16-2 in Northeast Conference
Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, 16 seed, lost to North Carolina
We’re thinking: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 174
Sagarin ranking: 163
RPI: 90
Best wins: vs. Wagner, vs. Vermont
Worst losses: at Hofstra, at Norfolk State, at Monmouth
Notable stat: The Blackbirds don't fly -- they run. The team averages 74.5 possessions per game, third-most in the nation.

-- Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander

Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:08 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Lehigh

A year ago, Lehigh lost on a last-second shot at Bucknell in the semifinals of the conference tournament. This season, the Mountain Hawks got revenge, going into Lewisburg, Pa. and knocking off the top-seeded Bison, 82-77, to win the Patriot League championship and getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Player of the Year C.J. McCollum went for 29 points and five assists, while forward Gabe Knutson had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds. The Mountain Hawks were able to speed up the tempo, and didn’t let Bucknell make it a half-court game.

Lehigh, coached by Brett Reed, has been consistent throughout the season, suffering only bad loss in the non-conference season and losing to no one outside the top four of the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks won their final five games of the regular season, including a road game at Bucknell that gave them confidence heading into the title game.

This team pushes the tempo, but takes care of the ball and has several guys who can knock down 3-pointers. With McCollum leading the way, the Mountain Hawks won’t back down.

Lehigh went onto the homecourt of top-seeded Bucknell and won the Patriot League title game. (US Presswire)

Player to know: C.J. McCollum. A two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3 junior guard is one of the most productive all-around players in the country. He has scored at least 20 points in 11 of his last 12 games, and is also a tremendous rebounder for his size. McCollum also creates for others, too. In games against St. John’s, Iowa State and Michigan State, he averaged 18.0 points per contest. He is capable of carrying the Mountain Hawks.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 26-7 overall, 11-3 in Patriot
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 16 seed, lost to Kansas 90-74 in the first round.
  • We’re thinking: 15 seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 88
  • Sagarin ranking: 97
  • RPI: 101
  • Best wins: Bucknell (2), Wagner
  • Worst losses: Cornell, Holy Cross
  • Notable stat: Lehigh could be tough in a close game. The Mountain Hawks rank second in the country in free-throw percentage, at 77.8 percent.

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:17 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:23 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Detroit

Talk about validation for Little Ray. 

Everyone questioned Ray McCallum's decision to spurn the big boys -- UCLA and Arizona included -- to play for his dad in the Horizon for Detroit. 

However, the father-son duo just got the Titans into the NCAA tournament after an upset over top-seeded Valparaiso in the hostile confines of the 5,000-seat Athletics-Recreation Center. 

The win got Detroit into the Big Dance for the first time since 1999 and also snapped a five-game losing skid against the Crusaders.

McCallum finished with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in the semifinal win over Cleveland State and had 19 in the victory against Valpo. 

But this team has more than just Little Ray. Senior guard Chase Simon helps on the perimeter and the Titans have a couple of legitimate bigs in LaMarcus Lowe and Eli Holman, the Indiana transfer who comes off the bench. 

Ray McCallum and his father led Detroit to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Ray McCallum - Little Ray opted to play for his dad despite having offers from plenty of high-major programs. The sophomore point guard had a terrific season, averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game this season. He's led the team in scoring, assists and steals both years in college. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 22-13 overall, 11-7 in Horizon
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1999
  • We’re thinking: 14
  • KenPom ranking: 131
  • Sagarin ranking: 133
  • RPI: 136
  • Best wins: Cleveland State, Butler (twice)
  • Worst losses: UIC, Youngstown State
  • Notable stat:  Ray McCallum is in his third head coaching gig. He was 126-76 in seven seasons at Ball State, spent four years at Houston (44-73 mark) and is in his fourth season at Detroit. 

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:43 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:43 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Harvard

A year ago, Harvard lost to Princeton on a last-second shot in a one-game playoff. 

It appeared as though the Crimson might again be forced to play a winner-take-all contest, this time against Penn. However, the Quakers lost Tuesday night at Princeton, which meant that Tommy Amaker's team will make its first NCAA appearance since 1946. 

Harvard got an automatic bid rather than having to sweat it out on Sunday. The Crimson went 12-2 in the Ivy and had a couple of impressive wins this season - including a victory over Florida State back in November down in the Bahamas. But there were a pair of league setbacks to Penn and Princeton that put Amaker & Co. on the bubble. 

Now Harvard is able to celebrate -- by studying for mid-terms on Tuesday night. 

The Crimson are a balanced group. 

Kyle Casey leads the team at 11.3 points per game. Senior big man Keith Wright is at 10.7 points and shooter Laurent Rivard is next at 9.7 points. The starting backcourt of Brandyn Curry and Oliver McNally combines to average a shade over 15 points per contest. 

But that's what makes Harvard dangerous. These guys are unselfish, share the basketball and defend. 

After losing in a playoff last season, Tommy Amaker steered Harvard to its first NCAA tournament since 1946. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Kyle Casey - The junior forward led a balanced team in scoring at 11.3 points per game and he's the most talented guy on the team. Athletically, he can match-up against guys from bigger leagues. Casey played much of last season with a broken foot, but he's healthy and finished the season averaging 15.5 points over the final four games. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 26-4 overall, 12-2 in Ivy
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1946
  • We’re thinking: 10 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 37
  • Sagarin ranking: 35
  • RPI: 43
  • Best wins: Florida State, St. Joe's
  • Worst losses: Fordham, Princeton
  • Notable stat:  The Crimson earned its first national ranking in program history this season. Harvard was ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll at one time. 

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:32 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:27 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Western Kentucky

We have our first true Cinderella story of March.

Western Kentucky, which was 5-14 at one point this season, ran through the Sun Belt Conference tournament as the No. 7 seed, beating the Nos. 10, 2, 3 and 5 seeds along the way. It was capped with a come-from-behind 74-70 win over North Texas in the championship game, led by big men George Fant and Teeng Akol combining for 40 points and 11 rebounds.

Head coach Ray Harper took over the program on January 6 after Ken McDonald was fired, going 4-7 over the next 11 games. On February 19, it was announced that Harper had his interim tag removed and therefore became the permanent head coach of the Hilltoppers. Since that announcement, Western Kentucky is 6-0. 

Western Kentucky is a young team, starting three freshmen and two juniors. It’s certainly not the same team that made back-to-back NCAA tournament in 2008 and 2009, winning three postseason games in two years. With that said, the Hilltoppers are miraculously dancing again.

Western Kentucky won four games in four days to get into the NCAA tournament with a 15-18 record. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Derrick Gordon. Playing alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dexter Strickland and Kyrie Irving at St. Patrick (N.J.), Gordon was often overshadowed. He has made sure that didn’t happen in the Sun Belt, entering the league as a freshman and making an impact immediately. Gordon struggled in the semifinals and title game, but he had been on a tear in the previous stretch. The 6-foot-2 guard had 25 points and 15 boards in the upset of No. 2 seed Arkansas-Little Rock. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 15-18 overall, 7-9 in Sun Belt
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2009, No. 12 seed, beat Illinois 76-72 in first round, lost to Gonzaga 83-81 in second round.
  • We’re thinking: 16 seed (play-in game)
  • KenPom ranking: 197
  • Sagarin ranking: 206
  • RPI: 197
  • Best wins: Middle Tennessee, Denver
  • Worst losses: Troy (2), FIU, Furman
  • Notable stat: Western Kentucky gets to the free-throw line with exceptional effectiveness. The Hilltoppers took 118 foul shots in the Sun Belt tournament.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:08 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:20 am
 

Tiny Dancers: Saint Mary's Gaels

For the first time in program history, Saint Mary's takes home the regular-season and postseason championships in the WCC. It was the third WCC title for the Gaels overall, as they won an epic overtime game and WCC final against blood rival Gonzaga Monday night. No matter what happens in the NCAA tournament, this is a huge year -- more than just a double-banner one -- for SMC, which for so long has fought to catch up to Gonzaga. Within the conference, it achieved that with this title. Saint Mary's has traded and landed enough blows to be side by side with Gonzaga in stature for the near-future.

Now it's on to the bracket that matters most, so where can you expect to see the Gaels seeded? A five seems likely, but the team's overall profile actually feels more like a six. While Saint Mary's looked good for most of conference play, the team didn't greatly challenge itself outside of the WCC, and when it did, it lost (72-59 to Baylor; 65-51 at Murray State). It only has four top-100 wins, all coming against Gonzaga and BYU.

It's a very fun team, though. They will be in, from start to finish. whatever game they're slotted with. Remember the 2010 Gaels with Omar Samhan? That team wasn't quite as good as this one, and even if it had more entertainment value, this batch of Gaels comes close. Point guard Matthew Dellavedova, a guy who looks like he wouldn't back down from anyone in a bar fight, is the spark. Rob Jones is pound-for-pound one of the toughest 6-6 guys in the sport. It's a group that doesn't ooze talent but shoves and elbows its way to victories. It truly earned its conference championships this season.

Matthew Dellavedova and his patented massive mouthguard look will be a five or a six seed. (Getty Images)

Player to know: Dellavedova. He's the league's best player, a very creative guy on the court and the one who will be responsible for getting this team to the second weekend -- which could be a challenge. He's a danger whenever he's got the ball because he's liable to shoot it, drop a nasty dime or fool you into a helpless defensive position that allows him to get off a quirky shot. There aren't five players in the country more fun to watch play than Delly.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-5 overall, 14-2 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 10 seed, reached the Sweet 16, where it lost to No. 3 Baylor, 72-49.
  • We’re thinking: 5 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 44
  • Sagarin ranking: 35
  • RPI: 31
  • Best wins: at BYU, vs. Gonzaga
  • Worst losses: vs. Loyola Marymount, at Denver
  • Notable stat: The secret weapon for Saint Mary's is Clint Steindl. The senior forward isn't a focal point of the offense, but he averages more than 1.3 points per possession -- a top five rate in the nation. 
-- Matt Norlander

Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:07 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:11 am
 

Tiny Dancers: Davidson

By Jeff Borzello

For the first time since Stephen Curry was the go-to guy for Davidson, the Wildcats are back in the NCAA tournament.

They survived a double-overtime contest against Western Carolina in the championship game, constantly overcoming clutch shots by the Catamounts. Davidson had five guys score in double-figures in the title game, with three of them playing more than 40 minutes. It was head coach Bob McKillop's sixth conference tournament championship.

Davidson was one of the few regular-season champions to get through the conference tournament unscathed so far this season, winning three in a row after going 14-2 during the campaign. The Wildcats started 9-0 in the league before dropping a three-point game at Samford in late January. During the non-conference season, Davidson knocked off Kansas in Kansas City; this team can play.

Bob McKillop has steered Davidson back to the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

Player to know: De’Mon Brooks. The Southern Conference Player of the Year could have been the hero in the first overtime of the title game, but his leaner rimmed out as time expired. Brooks still managed to finish with 19 points and eight rebounds, staying true to his extremely efficient self. In games against Duke, Vanderbilt and Kansas, Brooks averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-7 overall, 16-2 in SoCon
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2008, No. 10 seed. Beat Gonzaga in first round, beat Georgetown in second round, beat Wisconsin in Sweet 16, lost to Kansas in Elite Eight.
  • We’re thinking: 14 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 58
  • Sagarin ranking: 66
  • RPI: 65
  • Best wins: Kansas, Penn, Richmond
  • Worst losses: Samford, Charlotte
  • Notable stat: Davidson could be tough in a close game. The Wildcats rank ninth in the country in free-throw percentage, shooting 76.6 percent from the foul line.

-- Jeff Borzello

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com