Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:44 pm

Podcast: Year in Review, Part One

By Matt Norlander

Gonna have today's and Wednesday's podcasts dedicated in part to looking back on the year in college hoops and sharing our favorite memories. So Borzello joins me today to do just that.

We also touch on Washington/Pac-12, underachieving teams with chances to win their leagues, and a whole bunch of Christmas talk that's sure to get you into the spirit, primarily because we discuss Home Alone and Voltron.

The rundown:
  • From the beginning: Pardon Borzello and mine's voices, as we've been clogged up with colds since the weekend.
  • 2:51: Borzello's five favorite memories from college basketball in 2011.
  • 7:49: Three of my five favorites (I'm saving two more for Wednesday's podcast).
  • 13:53: Lots of teams out there with five losses. Good teams, too. We each picked two teams that fit such a description as those we believe will make the NCAA tournament/likely win their conference.
  • 17:57: Whoa, I think that's a shot at Jon Rothstein!
  • 22:15: Christmas talk, OH YEAH! We have passions about our favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. You will surely agree with one of us.
  • 29:13: Wherein we come to the agreement: Home Alone 2 was the last classic Christmas movie.
  • 33:30: Wrapping up the podcast with holiday chatter and cheer.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 8:26 am

The Poll Attacks are back

By Gary Parrish

The Coaches Poll
just got released.

I've looked it over good.

Now it's time to Poll Attack.


Before looking at the poll I knew I'd be OK at the top as long as North Carolina and Kentucky got every first-place vote, and that's exactly what happened. Thirty-one coaches voted. Thirty put UNC No. 1. One put UK No. 1. And I'm cool with that. But a No. 1 vote for any other school would've been silly and an example of a voter being different just for the sake of being different, and I hate voters like that. So I'm glad the Coaches Poll didn't feature any voters like that. That's why I start with praise.

But how did St. John's get 11 votes?

The top eight players from last season's team -- that's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight -- are all gone, leaving Malik Stith as the leading returning scorer. He's a 5-foot-11 guard who averaged 3.3 points in 12.2 minutes per game last season. Meantime, three of the top recruits have been ruled academically ineligible, which leaves St. John's with, I believe, just seven scholarship players. None of the veterans are impact players at the Division I level. None of the newcomers are named Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond. So this is not a team that should be getting votes for the Top 25. It's a team that should instead be picked about 12th in the Big East, which is where Big East coaches placed the Red Storm earlier this week.

And VCU getting four votes doesn't make much sense, either.

Look, nobody loves Shaka Smart more than me.

He's terrific.

But Jamie Skeen is not walking through that door.

And neither is Brandon Rozzell.

Or Joey Rodriguez.

Or Ed Nixon.

That means four of the top five scorers from last season's team are gone, and even that team -- the team with Skeen, Rozzell, Roriguez and Nixon -- finished just fourth in the Colonial ... behind George Mason, Old Dominion and Hofstra. People forget that because of the run to the Final Four. But the truth is that VCU was a bubble team for four months last season, and this team isn't as talented as that team. Perhaps Smart will prove me wrong. God knows he's done it before. But for now the Rams shouldn't be on anybody's Top 25 ballot.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 10:15 am

Shaka Smart celebrates again

By Jeff Goodman

It's been quite a year for Shaka Smart.

"A roller-coaster trip," he told CBSSports.com on Thursday. "An unforgettable year."

First came an improbable Final Four appearance for VCU's 34-year-old head coach and Sunday night came the birth of his first child with his wife, Maya.

Zora Sanae Smart - named after black novelist Zora Neale Hurston, best-known for her 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Smart and his wife kept the pregnancy quiet - until Maya's father became sick in February.

"She wanted to tell him," Smart said.

Weeks later, Smart told his grandfather just prior to his death.

Maya Smart was due on Sept. 14, but didn't deliver her daughter until Sunday - 11 days past the due date.

"She was in labor forever," Smart said. "For two days."

Finally, on 2:17 a.m., Zora was born.

Immediately, it hit Smart when they announced the birth time.

"The basketball junkie in me came out," Smart laughed. "I thought 2:17. that's Michael Jordan's birthday."

Smart said there's no ideal timing to have a child in the world of college basketball, but a little less than three weeks prior to the start of practice was certainly much better than in the middle of the season.

"It's been a very emotional, passion-filled time," Smart said.

Photo via Smart's Twitter account
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 19, 2011 2:02 pm

VCU's SEAL training video

By Matt Norlander

Brought you the story last week of VCU's early-morning, surprise SEAL training sessions in preparation for the new season. Well, now the video's been cooked up and is ready for your digestion. The tug-of-war comes at the 2:45 mark. Crab-walking goes down around five minutes in. The water activity is near the end, at the 7:15 mark.

Pay no mind to the Linkin Park-esque instrumental soundtrack.

This is in complete contrast to my daily morning routine, for the record. But once the season begins I may consider 100 situps before posting The Layup Line.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 14, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 11:12 am

VCU undergoes surprise SEAL training

By Matt Norlander

VCU’s players knew something was big coming this week, but had no idea they’d be enduring Navy SEAL training to kick-start their pre-season until Monday morning came and the vans whisked them away.

The location was tame (Richmond’s Joseph Bryan Park) even if the workout wasn’t. The group assembled outside the team's weight-room facilities at 6 a.m. Monday and Wednesday morning (they have one final grueling set of exercises Friday). They have gone through team-building and personal-challenge training in preparation for a season in which they’ll no doubt have a massive target on their backs.

“I knew there was going to be a ‘hell week’ but I didn’t know we were going to working with a SEALs,” senior Brad Burgess said.

The team gobbled down nutritional and energy bars and soon got to work. Fast. Monday was the team-oriented activities, evidenced by the photos within this post.

The idea for this September sweat session came after Rams strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose did a two-week SEAL training class with John McGuire earlier this summer. McGuire, who was a SEAL for 10 years, has a really popular business all around Virginia; he frequently does solo training sessions, as well as group-oriented classes.

“The people in our program are all taking part,” head coach Shaka Smart said by phone Wednesday morning. That includes everyone from team managers to the SID, Scott Day. Though some guys, like svelte assistant Will Wade, dodged the training, instead hitting the road for more recruiting obligations. (That can be just as grueling.)

“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little sore, but I feel great," Smart said. "To be out there with the guys is such a thrill. You’re in there with them, shoulder to shoulder, in the push-up position. .... Everything’s competitive. Whether you’re an individual or a small group, you’re trying to win and get done before the others.”

Smart has become quite known for his eager and willing physical involvement with his team. During the Final Four open practices, he dove about the floor and took charges during the squad’s “Ironman” drill. On Wednesday, the group had to sprint to a field a half-mile away, then bear crawl — meaning on hands and feet, not hands and knees — the length of the field.

“That field was probably a hundred yards but it felt like a mile long,” Smart said. “But the great, great thing instructor McGuire preached was, when you get done, you don’t stand and rest. You go back to last. You go back to the last guy in line and help him finish.”

The workouts go from 6:30 to 8 a.m., though can feel three times as long. Burgess said at some points it was absolutely brutal, as you’d imagine. I spoke to him early Wednesday morning, and he sounded tired as hell.

“We carried each other, did a lot of push-ups,” Burgess said. There was also ab work, tug-of-war and sled-tugging. Wednesday morning was more individual workouts.  “We had to run, do bear crawls, crab walking. It was a lot of long-distance running. ... He’s trying to get our mental aspects of the game right. He teaches us to battle fatigue just like our coaches have all along."

Smart echoed that sentiment.

 “McGuire keeps telling our guys that you have to get outside yourself, think about the guys next to you,” the coach said. “He couldn’t say anything more fitting about we’re all about and what most teams are about this time of year.”

McGuire doesn’t curse, doesn’t yell, doesn’t repeat himself. With him, it’s all about focus and following instructions. The strength coach, Roose? Yeah — he’s the complete opposite. Burgess said he's an intense guy. It's a balance needed and essential to these sessions.

Friday will be the toughest of the three days. The team will head to the James River to get the most accurate taste of true SEAL training. Will VCU be as good this season as last? Tough to measure and predict right now, but at least they'll be ready and trained in a way no other team is heading into the year.

And, by the way, I have to crowbar this nugget in. Smart has a lot on his plate right now; he's set to become the father of a girl any day. Today is the due date, though it looks like the newborn may show up a little tardy to the party.

Photos via VCU athletics
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 17, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 5:39 pm

CAA Offseason Report

By Jeff Goodman

CAA Offseason Report

Delaware – Phil Martelli Jr. came from Niagara and took the spot opened when R.C. Kehoe left to become the head coach at Holy Family. Delaware will play at Villanova (11-18), at BU (11-30), vs. La Salle (12-19) and vs. Temple (12-30) in the non-conference. Malcolm Hawkins transferred out of the program while Carl Baptiste (St. Joe’s) came in and will sit out this year.

Drexel – The Dragons will play in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands from Nov. 18-21. Bruiser Flint’s team has a non-league schedule that includes games at Rider (11-15), at St. Joe’s (11-30), vs. Bradley (12-17) and vs. Princeton (12-10).

George Mason – New coach Paul Hewitt has put together the following staff: Roland Houston (GW), Mike Wells (NBA), Chris Kreider (Georgia Southern) and retained director of basketball operations Scott Lombardi. The Patriots will play in the Preseason NIT (the Virginia Tech pod) and open against Florida International. Hewitt’s team will also have non-league games at Virginia (12-6), vs. Duquesne (12-21) and at College of Charleston (12-30). Luke Hancock (Louisville) and Rashad Whack (Mount St. Mary’s) left while George Mason added Anali Okoloji (Seton Hall).

Georgia State – Ron Hunter came over from IUPUI and assembled the following staff: Darryl LaBarrie, Everick Sullivan, Claude Pardue and Tony Bollier as the director of basketball operations. The Panthers will play in the Basketball Travelers Invitational at Washington along with Portland and FAU. Georgia State will also play Rhode Island (12-10) in a non-conference contest. Two players transferred out – Javonte Maynor and Harold Doby – while Manny Atkins has come in from Virginia Tech and will sit out this season. Jordan DeMercy will be eligible this year after transferring from Florida State.

Hofstra – Pat Sellars, formerly at UConn, has replaced Allen Griffin (Dayton). The Pride will be in the Legends Classic and also play home non-league games against Long Island (11-13), and Iona. Paul Bilbo (Mercyhurst), Roland Brown and Yves Jules (Fairleigh Dickinson) all transferred out while Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (UConn) and Taran Buie (Penn State) both came in. Stevie Mejia (URI) is also eligible after sitting out last season.

James Madison – Bill Phillips replaced Kevin Hargrove as the director of basketball operations. The Dukes will play in the Hoop Group Classic (11-22/25) and will also be at Central Florida’s Holiday Tournament, along with Rhode Island and Stetson, from 12-29/30. JMU will also play against Kent State (12-6) and at George Washington (12-22) in the non-conference schedule. Chad Jackson transferred to Northern Kentucky while A.J. Davis is eligible this season after transferring from Wyoming a year ago.

Northeastern – Bill Coen’s team will play at St. John’s (11-26), at N.C. State (12-22) and at home against Southern Illinois (11-19) in the non-conference. Alex Harris transferred out while Kashif Edwards, who averaged 12.4 points last season at Niagara, came in as a grad student and is eligible for this season.

Old Dominion – The biggest news of the offseason for the Monarchs is the missing ‘stache. Actually, coach Blaine Taylor got ride of his famous mustache. Drew Williamson replaced Joel Hines as the director of basketball operations and ODU added video coordinator Chris Kovensky. Old Dominion will be in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off (11-19/20) and also have a non-conference slate that includes games vs. Iowa (11-12), vs. Missouri (12-30) in Norfolk, at Richmond (12-20) and at Central Florida (12-17). Donte Hill becomes eligible on Dec. 17 after transferring in from Clemson last year.

Towson – New coach Pat Skerry hired Kevin Clark (Rhode Island), Luke Murray (Wagner), Kenny Johnson and Duane Simpkins as his director of basketball operations. The Tigers will play in the Mainland portion of the Maui Invitational and also have non-league contests at Kansas (11-11), at Michigan (11-14), vs. Oregon State (11-26), at UMass (11-30) and at Virginia (12-30). Isaiah Philmore (Xavier), Braxton Dupree, Dre Conner and Cephas Oglesby all left while Jerrelle Benimon (G’Town) and Mike Burwell (South Fla.) both transferred in.

UNC-Wilmington – Buzz Peterson’s team is currently in the Bahamas. Matt McMahon (Murray State) and Kevin Norris (FGCU) both left; Brooks Lee was promoted to assistant coach, Andre Gray was hired and the director of basketball operations spot remains open. The Seahawks will play at Maryland (11-13), at Dayton (11-19), vs. Marshall (11-22), vs. Davidson (11-26) and at Wake Forest (12-21) in the non-league. Matthew Wallace transferred out of the program.

VCU – Mike Jones (Radford) and Kyle Getter were replaced by Jamion Christian (William & Mary) and new director of basketball operations Mike Morrell (Charleston Southern). The Rams will play in the Charleston Classic and also have a non-league slate that includes games at Alabama (11-27), at Western Kentucky (11-23), vs. South Florida (11-30), at Akron (12-29), vs. UAB (12-20), vs. Richmond (12-10) and against George Washington on Dec. 4 in the BT&T Classic in D.C. Toby Veal left the program.

William & Mary – Kotie Kimble replaced Jamion Christian, who left for VCU. The Tribe will play in the Coaches vs. Cancer event and also have non-conference contests vs. Richmond (11-30), at Missouri (12-18) and vs. Iona (12-21).

Offseason reports: Big 12 Pac-12 | Big Ten | ACC | Big East SEC | A-10
Posted on: August 10, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: August 10, 2011 12:03 pm

Virginia Governor spearheads in-state hoops event

By Jeff Goodman

I guess the Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is a legitimate college hoops fan.

McDonnell spearheaded the Governor Holiday Hoops Classic, a new annual doubleheader which will feature the top teams in the state.

``Virginia teams have appeared in Final Fours, won conference championships and are regularly ranked in national Top 25 polls,” McDonnell said in a statement.  ``Unfortunately, given scheduling constraints and conference affiliations, we too rarely get to witness our in-state teams competing against each other. The “Classic” will change that.”

It’s set in stone for the next two years – and could go beyond. However, McDonnell’s term ends in a couple years – and you can’t serve consecutive terms in the state of Virginia.

In the 2012-13 campaign, Richmond will play George Mason and Virginia will face Old Dominion. The following year Virginia Tech and VCU will play for the first time since 1995 – and James Madison will play Hampton.

The games will be played at the Richmond Coliseum.

``He remembers an old tournament years ago (1976-1991) in the state which was run by the Richmond Times-Dispatch,” VCU athletic director Norwood Teague told CBSSports.com. ``And he wanted to bring something like that back.”

``We’re elated with the event,” Teague added.

My guess is that Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg and Virginia head man Tony Bennett aren’t jumping for joy, though, having to play dangerous mid-majors such as ODU and VCU.

Teague said that McDonnell attended the entire CAA tournament and was also at VCU’s NCAA tournament games en route to the Rams improbable Final Four run.
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2011 3:16 pm

VCU releases its non-conference schedule

By Matt Norlander

We are through some sort of college basketball looking glass when I'm using that headline in hopes it will have some SEO shelf life to it.

So, yeah, on Wednesday VCU released who it'll be playing outside of the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011-12. Have previously wondered who Shaka Smart could get in the non-conference schedule, and how much he'd want to challenge his group, which loses Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen and Brandon Rozzell.

Remember, VCU's Final Four run, while staggering, was unpredictable and outlier in nature. If we played the 2011 NCAA bracket out all over again, there's a distinct possibility the team wouldn't have made it out of Dayton's First Four. Let's not rehash that argument all over again, instead just learn to accept the fact that VCU's five-game winning streak in the tournament was so special because it was so unlikely -- and no one saw it coming. It's why we love the tournament and yada, yada, yada.

Now, the Rams aren't an intimidating (read: a team BCS foes are afraid to face) program, but they are one the casual public recognizes. If it's to suddenly keep footing with other one-time small fries who became big, it'll have to get ambitious -- yet realistic -- in the non-con slate.

This year's menu falls short of that. I can't fault Smart, though. He knows what he has, and the schedule is respectable -- just not inspiring.

"This year's non-conference schedule will be a tremendous challenge for our young team," Smart said in a statement. "We play in a high quality exempt tournament, have road games in hostile environments and welcome some terrific opponents to the Siegel Center. November and December should definitely prepare us for conference play."

Here's how Shaka shook out his school's schedule

  • Nov. 3: (exh.) California University (Pa.)
  • Nov. 11: Saint Francis (Pa.)
  • Nov. 17-20: Charleston Classic; Seton Hall, then possibly Georgia Tech, LSU, Northwestern, St. Joseph's, Tulsa, Western Kentucky.
  • Nov. 23: at Western Kentucky
  • Nov. 27: at Alabama
  • Nov. 30: South Florida
  • Dec. 4: at George Washington
  • Dec. 10: Richmond
  • Dec. 20: UAB
  • Dec. 22.: at UNC-Greensboro
  • Dec. 29: at Akron
  • Mid-February: Bracketbusters game

It's solid, but on the surface, unless VCU rolls through the majority of that non-con schedule, it's not likely those wins will stack up well against other teams' out-of-conference conquests. Still, it's better than what a fellow 2011 Final Four team put together.


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