Tag:C-USA
Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Power Pyramid, Week 6: No resolutions required



By Matt Norlander

Hope your Holiday season continues to go well — this week in between Christmas and New Year’s is always odd in that so many get the week off, but there’s still plenty goings on going on. We won’t slow here with a lot of basketball ahead. I did this week’s Pyramid today, Dec. 26, at Mom and Dad’s house, gifts still under the tree and dogs tearing apart at opened boxes.

I’m loving that nearly everyone’s got two games awaiting them this week, as the pace of conference season takes hold of the sport. I do still have Xavier ranked, because I think X is one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball. The rules of the polls don’t apply here. This is more about a general acknowledgment of a team’s ability with some credence to opponents played and beaten than just a move up/move down if you win or lose. That said, continuing to win almost always helps a cause.

Top Tier

1. Iona (10-2). A Sentence: I’ve been driving the Iona bus for about a month now, and you’re all welcome to take a seat. A Statistic: With 2.42 years of experience, no Pyramid team is older than Iona. The Schedule: at Hofstra Thursday.

2. UNLV (13-2). A Sentence: Enjoying UNLV’s run because now it’s starting to look like this team can realistically snag a 5 or 4 seed. A Statistic: Further testament to why Vegas should be ranked this high, look at the games played. Fifteen is more than anyone in the Pyramid. The Schedule: vs. Central Arkansas Wednesday; at Hawaii Saturday.

3. Harvard (10-1). A Sentence: Well, well … lookie there at that big game coming up this week, meaning there’s potential for serious Pyramid swappage. A Statistic: How often does a bench player get involved in more than 28 percent of a team’s action? Quite rare, but the Crimson’s Jonah Travis, a freshman, is plenty involved when his name gets called. The Schedule: at Boston College Thursday; vs. Saint Joseph’s Saturady.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. Creighton (10-1). A Sentence: You’ll see this line in my Valley primer this week: If his name was Jimmer McDermott, a lot more people would be talking about his remarkable season. A Statistic: The past four seasons, the Valley’s only had one tournament team. Creighton will lead the way in getting the MVC at least three bids this year. The Schedule: vs. Missouri State Wednesday; at Wichita State Saturday.

5. Saint Louis (11-1). A Sentence: Now’s the time, the next 16 days, for SLU to definitively make its statement on being a no-questions-asked at-large team. A Statistic: Billikens are beating teams by an average of 70-53 right now. The Schedule: vs. Texas Southern Tuesday; at New Mexico Saturday.

6. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Could/should be punished for playing such terrible teams at this point in the season. A Statistic: With a healthy assist rate of 58.9 percent and 5.4 assists per game, sophomore Xavier Thames is the Mountain West’s best point guard right now. The Schedule: vs. D-III Redlands Friday.

7. Murray State (13-0). A Sentence: Either no Murray State fans are reading the slave labor I put into the Pyramid each week (because I haven’t gotten any complaints about where the MSU placed), or Racers fans are incredibly well-reasoned. A Statistic: The Racers have three players averaging more than 1.2 points per possession. That’s hard-to-find formula for big success. The Schedule: at Eastern Illinois Friday.

8. Gonzaga (9-2). A Sentence: It’s nearly reaching the point where Gonzaga is underrated, but that will soon pass if it beats Xavier this week and beeps loud and clear onto the radar. A Statistic: It’s not often a freshman leads Gonzaga in scoring, but 6-1 Kevin Pangos, at 14.5 PPG, is doing it. The Schedule: vs. Portland Wednesday; at Xavier Saturday.

9. New Mexico (10-2). A Sentence: No ranked team here has a tougher week ahead than New Mexico, which I think I’ll have to slot around fifth if it goes 2-0. A Statistic: The 50th-tallest team has the fourth-best block rate (5 percent). The Schedule: at New Mexico State Wednesday; vs. Saint Louis Saturday.

10. Wichita State (9-2). A Sentence: I maintain we’ve yet to see the best of this team. A Statistic: You saw the Iona stat above — Witchy State is second-oldest in the Pyramid at 2.38 years of experience. The Schedule: at Bradley Wednesday; vs. Creighton Saturday.

Base Blocks

11. St. Joseph’s (9-3). A Sentence: It’s a pleasure to research and read up on this team in purely a basketball sense. A Statistic: Few teams work players as much as the Hawks use Carl Jones, who takes up 91.6 percent of available minutes. The Schedule: vs. Morgan State Wednesday; at Harvard Saturday.

12. Temple (7-3). A Sentence: With Juan Fernandez not playing up to his skill level, it’s now official: Outside of Temple fans, Ramone Moore is the most undervalued player in the country. A Statistic: The Owls have the second-best 3-point defense in the country, allowing 23.3 percent of bombs to fall. The Schedule: vs. Buffalo Wednesday; at Delaware Friday .

13. Ohio (11-1). A Sentence: Have been waiting for the chance to include Ohio for a while; it’s worthy. A Statistic: The Bobcats are 11-1 for the first time in 70 years. The Schedule: vs. Kennesaw State Friday.

14. Northern Iowa (10-2). A Sentence: Falling 76-59 to the Bobcats last week only means UNI does a tumble and allows Ohio to pop into the picture. A Statistic: Anthony James is taking great care of the ball, only turning it over 8 percent of the time, which is No. 21 in the nation, per KenPom. The Schedule: at Illinois State Thursday; vs. Evansville Sunday.

15. Xavier (9-3): A Sentence: The Pyramid doesn’t run its rules the way the polls do, so it’s simple: Beating Gonzaga Saturday clearly means X should stay, and if it loses, then see ya. A Statistic: The team is no longer shooting well, falling below the 50-percent mark in effective field goal shooting last week. The Schedule: vs. Gonzaga Saturday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Cleveland State. In: Ohio.
♦ Saint Mary’s and BYU are going to have to prove it in conference play. Schedules too weak and both lost to Baylor last week. Can’t get them in.
♦ This will be the last week where you see a lot of consistencies between each week in the Pyramid, I think. Conference play and intra-Pyramid matchups will mandate some shifting and moving a lot going forward.

Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Podcast: Todd O'Brien speaks about Phil Martelli

By Matt Norlander

Todd O'Brien's story has created quite a stir, and rightfully so. His SI.com piece had more than ripple effects; it's created waves in the college sports community.

O'Brien wrote eloquently on his situation, but we wanted to hear more, so we were able to get him on today's podcast, his first interview (of what will be many; O'Brien's about ot do a media tour de force) since the piece went live. I ask him about his relationship with Phil Martelli, why he decided to leave, when he decided to leave, the laptop-theft issue from last February, and if that has any connection to the situation he finds himself in now.

And to be clear here: Martelli has, for perhaps the first time in his career, been muzzled on this issue. I'd be eager, willing and anxious to have him on the podcast if he so pleases.

What to hear where:
  • From the beginning: A reset and introduction to O'Brien's situation, for those not fully understanding the rare circumstances he's involved in right now.
  • 2:45: O'Brien explains when and why he approached Martelli about leaving.
  • 6:23: Who is Phil Martelli, and did the relationship between he and O'Brien sour quickly?
  • 10:18: O'Brien details when and why he last spoke to Martelli. And the discussion was much more positive then. "Seemingly a good talk," O'Brien said.
  • 12:40: How O'Brien's involvement (minimal or otherwise) in a laptop-theft incident from February plays into his leaving the school and his fractured relationship with Martelli.
  • 17:51: Why should we believe this isn't about athletics and O'Brien being frustrated over a depletion of playing time? He states his case, and admits the lack of playing time did give him incentive.
  • 20:18: Why UAB? O'Brien is from Pennsylvania, and attended Bucknell and St. Joe's, after all.
  • 23:25: Why won't Martelli let this happen? That's the crux of the issue. What's O'Brien's perspective on this?
  • 26:20: We know O'Brien hopes he'll play again, but does he believe Martelli will actually go back on his word?

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: December 19, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:41 am
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 5, Festivus Edition


By Matt Norlander

I just couldn’t help myself. I had to really hideous that thing up, go full-on Clark Griswold with the thing. Festivus is in four days, folks, so get your grievances ready, starting prepping for the feats of strength and if you’d like to say your grievances about anything I’ve done, you know this is the place.

As for the teams below, last week provided another tough gauge, as a lot of teams either didn’t play or went up against garbage. Ranking Xavier was the toughest, because I don’t treat the Pyramid like the polls system. If you win it doesn’t automatically mean you move up and if you lose it doesn’t automatically mean you move down. The rankings are a blend of who you play, who you’ve beat, the general state of your team and what promise it has. It’s subjective in that way, but it’s not a complete prisoner of the moment like the polls. Hey, these are my rankings.

And if you've got a problem with that, the feats of strength CAN START RIGHT NOW.

I still think Xavier’s the best non-BCS team, but without their guards they’re not, so they get docked, but not too harshly. OK, no more blabbing. Let’s get to listing, then Frank Costanza’s gonna kick everyone’s rear.

Frank Costanza’s Favorites

1. Iona (9-2). A Sentence: No possible/probable/surefire tournament team has tested itself away from home as much as the Gaels, who now benefit from Xavier’s horrible loss to Oral Roberts. A Statistic: Nine players on this team have a KenPom offensive rating of greater than 100. That’s just stupid good. Syracuse matches Iona, but Kentucky and UNC? Seven apiece. The Schedule: at William & Mary Wednesday.

2. UNLV (11-2). A Sentence: If you missed UNLV’s win over Illinois at the United Center, it was one of the more impressive takedowns by a Power Pyramid team this season, which is saying something considering the Rebels also beat UNC in November. A Statistic: Despite grabbing 15 percent of his team’s offensive rebound chances, Mike Moser's O rating is just 104.5, which is good, but you’d think it’d be closer to 110 with so much work around the tin. The Schedule: vs. Louisiana Monroe Monday; vs. California Friday.

3. Harvard (9-1). A Sentence: I’d like to see Keith Wright get a little more involved and turn Harvard into an unquestionable top-three team in Ivy history. A Statistic: With 15.9 hacks per game, Harvard’s among the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to fouling. The Schedule: vs. Florida Atlantic Thursday.

On Santa’s Good List

4. Xavier (8-1): A Sentence: The loss was so bad, and the team is without its backcourt players right now, that this feels like a good compromise of what/where X really is and how it needed to tumble. A Statistic: Without Tu Holloway, Dezmine Wells and Mark Lyons, Xavier had its worst game points-wise, in 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, field goals made, free throws made, steals and rebounds vs Oral Roberts. The Schedule: vs. Long Beach State Thursday.

5. Creighton (8-1). A Sentence: Doug McDermott stands a chance at becoming a First Team All-America. A Statistic: The Bluejays’ schedule ranks 321 on KenPom right now. Fun team, going to threaten to win the Valley, but the tougher portion of the slate lies ahead. The Schedule: at Tulsa Monday; vs. Northwestern Thursday.

6. Saint Louis (10-1). A Sentence: Rick Majerus seems like a guy who absolutely would lend himself to a feats of strength battle. A Statistic: SLU is beating opponents by a 16.5 points per game average. The Schedule: vs. Arkansas State Thursday.

7. San Diego State (9-2). A Sentence: Aztecs are one of many teams in the Pyramid amid really putrid schedule runs right now. A Statistic: The Aztecs are in the midst of a 38-day stretch between playing respectable/NCAA tournament-team opponents. UNLV on Jan. 14 is the next chance for SDSU to impress. The Schedule: vs. UC Riverside Monday; vs. Elon Thursday.

8. Murray State (12-0). A Sentence:  How about many sentences on a team I like but don’t yet love. A Statistic: You want stats? How about I again direct you to this. The Schedule: vs. Tennessee Martin Wednesday.

9. Gonzaga (7-2). A Sentence: I think Gonzaga will violently bounce around within the walls this year, but doubt it ever falls out (then again, I said that about Belmont). A Statistic: Elias Harris’ (right) 25 and 8 against Arizona deserves another mention two days later. Zags need about 10 of those games from Harris this season to be a universally perceived threat. The Schedule: vs. Butler Tuesday; vs. Air Force Thursday.

10. New Mexico (8-2). A Sentence: Only because I don’t want to punish other teams’ mandatory bad scheduling in finals week—that’s the only reason why the Lobos aren’t higher. A Statistic: UNM is getting an assist on 69.5 percent of its possessions, a great trend and fourth-best in the country. The Schedule: vs. Montana State Tuesday; vs. Missouri-Kansas City Thursday.

Bottom of the Feats of Strengths Pile

11. Northern Iowa (9-1). A Sentence: They Valley presence remains strong, consistent in the Pyramid. A Statistic: Respect what this team’s done, but it’s No. 3 in the RPI as of now. Thus commences your reminder that the RPI is worse than spoiled egg nog. The Schedule: vs. D-III Loras College Monday; vs. Ohio Tuesday.

12. Wichita State (8-2). A Sentence: Taking all my power to resist as many Seinfeld jokes as possible with who the Shockers have tonight. A Statistic: Shockers nabbing punks to the tune of 20 points per game, in victory. The Schedule: vs. D-II Newman University Monday.

13. St. Joseph’s (8-3). A Sentence: There’s something so charming about the Hawks when they’re good, and they appear to finally be good again. A Statistic: C.J. Aiken blocking 14 percent of opponents’ possessions, making St. Joe’s play so much taller than they are. The Schedule: vs. Coppin State Wednesday.

14. Temple (6-3). A Sentence: Stubbornly won’t quit yet, because I believe the Owls are still one of the 15 best non-BCS teams in the country. A Statistic: Temple’s still plenty high inside the Pyramid if it doesn’t allow Texas to grab 45.2 percent of offensive-rebound chances Saturday. The Schedule: at Rice Monday.

15. Cleveland State (10-1). A Sentence: Vikings had a week off to prepare for a BCS team tonight. A Statistic: Nobody’s forcing turnovers more frequently than CSU, swiping it 29.8 percent of the time. Great rate. The Schedule: at South Florida Monday; vs. Sam Houston State Thursday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦ Out this week: Belmont. In: St. Joseph’s.
♦ Love what Nate Wolters and South Dakota State did to Washington Sunday, but that team wouldn’t make a top 20 non-BCS list just yet.
♦ Saint Mary’s gets to prove itself this week. Baylor Thursday, Missouri State Friday.
♦ Southern Miss is another team I’m keeping an eye on.
♦ OK, time for the airing of grievances. Let’s have it.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 3

By Matt Norlander

Every Monday, we’re going to be giving you readers and fans and coaches more and more reason to hate us. How can we do this outside of just being our natural, irritating selves? By ranking as many teams in as many ways as possible, of course. And we won’t reserve our judgment for your scorn in big-boy country. No, we’d like to alienate ourselves to the fan bases around the nation, mid-major schools included.

This feature serves as a complement to the weekly Top 25 and One, which you can read right here.

No more ado — here’s how we see it, the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball as of Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m ET.

Top Tier

1. Xavier (6-0). A Sentence: There’s a considerable difference between X and everyone else, when you take into account the Muskies’ wins over Vandy on the road and the comeback W against Purdue last week. A Statistic: The only major flaw with Chris Mack’s team right now is the free-throw shooting. X is under 60 percent as a team. Will get them eventually. The Schedule: at Butler Wednesday; vs. Cincinnati Saturday.

2. Iona (6-1). A Sentence: Saw this team in person a week ago, and no joke, they look incredibly dangerous for pretty much any team outside of the top five right now. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.14 points per possession, which is definitely good, but a little less than I expected from the highest-scoring and highest assisting team in the country. The Schedule: at Denver Wednesday; at Marshall Sunday.

3. Harvard (8-0). A Sentence: I’d love for Harvard to justify me putting them this high with a win Thursday, but they merely need to keep it compelling. A Statistic: The Crimson have been helped by a “defensive” stat they have such little control over: free throw defense. Opponents are shooting an NCAA-worst 54 percent from the line against them. The Schedule: at Connecticut Thursday; at Boston University Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. UNLV (8-1): A Sentence: Beating North Carolina, then losing on the road at a Power Pyramid Wichita State team equates to a UNLV team smelling the Pyramid’s ceiling. A Statistic: 52.2 was the percentage from 3-point range the Shockers put up against UNLV over the weekend. It was the first time this season Vegas has had a team shoot better than 50 percent against them from downtown. The Schedule: vs. NAIA Cal State San Marcos Wednesday; at Wisconsin Saturday.

5. Creighton (7-0). A Sentence: Greg McDermott’s team is playing so well because his son is on his way to an Adam Morrison-like year in terms of offense. A Statistic: Remarkably, the Jay’s effective field goal percentage has rise, up to a still-tops-in-the-U.S. 60.9 clip. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s Saturday.


6. Gonzaga (5-1). A Sentence: I’m not quite sure what Gonzaga will become, but I do know they’ve got plenty of chances, plenty of talent, and believe they’d beat everyone below them here on a neutral floor more times than not (as of today). A Statistic: The game, and loss, to Illinois was the first road game of Gonzaga’s season. Last year, the team was 7-5 on the road, and didn’t get above .500 in that category until the end of the year. More road woes coming this year?. The Schedule: vs. Michigan State Saturday.

7. Saint Louis (7-1). A Sentence: Have been impressed with Saint Louis so far, but for reasons I won’t expound upon here and now, I still remain wary. A Statistic: Saint Louis is in the shorter half of D-I teams, and they’re rebounding like it. The 24.2 offensive rebounding percentage will eventually need to come up, unless the team’s able to keep the eFG% above 58 (which it is now). The Schedule: vs. Vermont Wednesday; vs. D-II Illinois Springfield Saturday.

8. San Diego State (8-2). A Sentence: Interesting about this team right now: the numbers don’t love it, but boy have I and so many others been impressed. A Statistic: Despite the strong start, Aztecs are 58 in KenPom. Where’s the love? BYU is 21! The Schedule: at San Diego Wednesday.

9. Memphis (4-2). A Sentence: Tigers had a couple of patsies last weeks, so they fall slightly be default. A Statistic: Just take notice of the team above and the team right here. One’s played 10 games, the other six. There is a lot of room to flex between groups right now; we’ll have a better sense of the Pyramid’s hierarchy in about three weeks. The Schedule: at Miami Tuesday; vs. Murray State Sunday.

10. Belmont (5-2). A Sentence: I’ll take this moment this week to say: Unless Belmont starts ripping up opponents by 20-plus on the regular, they’re just going to be a really good, nondescript team off most non-Pyramid radars until late February. A Statistic: Last year, Belmont was one of the best teams in the country at turning you over. This year, it’s the opposite. The 14.1 offensive turnover rate is third-best nationally. The Schedulevs. Tennessee State Tuesday.

Base Blocks

11. Northern Iowa (7-1). A Sentence: The Valley is going to be a multi-bid league this year, and UNI will be making the NCAAs — yes, I’m saying that on Dec. 5. A Statistic: The Panthers’ D, giving up .93 points per possession, hasn’t been given enough love so far. Let’s see if this team can become as good on the D end as the 2009-10 group. The Schedule: vs. Iowa Tuesday; vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday.

12. Temple (4-2). A Sentence: Pretty sure Owls are in a tough spot this week; they’ll most definitely need to go 2-0 to remain inside the Pyramid’s walls on Dec. 12. A Statistic: Owls senior Michael Eric is currently taking more of your misses than anyone else. He possess a 34.6 success rate at grabbing defensive boards. The Schedule: at Toledo Wednesday; vs. Villanova Saturday.

13. New Mexico (6-2). A Sentence: Sophomore guard Kendall Williams has turned into a better player than I’d expected and is the reason UNM keeps a logo on this graphic. A Statistic: 23-4. That was the opening run to start Saturday’s game against Missouri State, which was in the Power Pyramid last Monday. The Schedule: at USC Saturday.

14. Wichita State (5-2). A Sentence: Valley swaps one team for another, as the Shockers replace Missouri State this week, keeping three teams in the rankings. A Statistic: In the out-of-nowhere performance to date this season, senior Joe Ragland scored 31 in the 89-70 WSU W over UNLV, thanks to eight 3s. Ragland boosted his PPG average to 11.9. The Schedule: at Tulsa Wednesday; vs. Utah State Saturday.

15. Murray State (9-0). A Sentence: Small surprise of the season: Billy Kennedy’s former team has started out terrifically without him. A Statistic: Three of the nine wins have been against foes outside of D-I, so that’s a big caveat. Wins over So. Miss and Dayton were convincing, though, so I’ve got the heart to put them in, just ahead of Tulane and College of Charleston. The Schedule: at Memphis Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Missouri State, Marshall. In: Murray State, Wichita State.
♦  Marshall gets its chance to get back into the Pyramid if it beats Syracuse this week, and I think Murray State’s visit could be short-lived due to the Memphis matchup forthcoming.
♦  I know you’re unbeaten, Tulane. If you get through next Sunday with wins over Wofford and Jacksonville State — even though those aren’t great wins — I’ll get you in with an 11-0 D-I record.
♦ Brigham Young is the only highly ranked KenPom team not to make the Pyramid. Let’s see what happens Dec. 17 against Baylor and then we’ll assess.
♦ I considered ranking Northwestern until it got mollywhopped by Baylor. (I keed!)

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:38 pm
 

Podcast: Does/should Boeheim keep his job?

By Matt Norlander

The Syracuse/Bernie Fine/Jim Boeheim story is the biggest story in college basketball right now; just how it is. There are a lot of nuanced elements to it -- then there is what people are naturally gravitating toward: Should Jim Boeheim keep his job?

A fair question. It deserves a conversation on our podcast, so Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman discuss it with me today. We do talk plenty of basketball as well, though, so if the Syracuse topic is starting to become white noise to you, feel free to just skip ahead to the Duke bashing! (Kidding -- but we do talk Duke, Ohio State and more.)

The rundown:
  • From the beginning: Syracuse, Boeheim, Fine, job security, ESPN's responsibility.
  • 13:20: Parrish was at Duke-Ohio State. Takeaways from him on the game, from Goodman on what Duke is lacking.
  • 19:08: Looking ahead to Wisconsin-North Carolina. "They are not going to win tonight," Goodman says. Parrish wholeheartedly agrees.
  • 21:23: How good is the Big Ten, because that 2-7 race is probably going to be riveting. (Hey, I mean it!)
  • 23:12: Xavier is just plain nice.
  • 26:21: How brilliant was Roy Williams to change the conversation after his team lost to UNLV? He made it about the fans.
  • 29:35: Our typical babbling BS to wrap it up. Always the the fun part.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.

Posted on: November 25, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Central Florida pulls huge upset over UConn



By Jeff Goodman


“Whoever you bring, I like sexy names. So what names? Central Florida would be kind of good but it’s not a sexy name right now." - Jim Calhoun

That was a quote from UConn's head coach a few months back -- when Central Florida was mentioned as a possibility to land in the Big East.

Well, the Knights, who could still be headed to the Big East in the future, looked far sexier on Friday afternoon after storming back from a 17-point second half deficit to pull off arguably the upset of the young season, a 68-63 victory over No. 4 UConn.

Donnie Jones' game plan worked to perfection down the stretch, mixing between man-to-man defense after misses and zone defense following made baskets. He said that key to the game was trying to slow down UConn point guard Shabazz Napier - and that's exactly what he did after the first few minutes of the contest.

"He makes them go," Jones said of Napier. "He's the head of the team and we had to control him. He makes everyone else go."

Central Florida got out of the gates quickly a year ago before struggling in league play, but Jones said that this team is different.

"We've got experience," Jones said. "Our two best players (Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan) are juniors and our guys now the system now. Last year they were still getting used to it."

Without starting point guard A.J. Rompza, who is serving a suspension as the school is in the midst of an NCAA investigation, Marcus Jordan was forced to play point guard for much of the time. However, he spent most of the stretch off the ball - and was clutch in the final minutes of the game.

Both Jordan and Clanton finished with 20 points in the upset.

"The bigger the stage, the harder he plays," Jones said of Jordan. "He's so competitive."

The win puts UCF at 4-1 with a matchup against Harvard Saturday in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. It was also just the third time that the program has knocked off a ranked opponent. A year ago, Central Florida beat Florida. The Knights also beat College of Charleston in 2002.

Jones' team came back from a late seven-point deficit the day before in a victory over College of Charleston.

"I love the fact that we didn't live in the last victory against Charleston," Jones said. "And that we came back again."

They delivered UConn its first loss since the start of the Big East tournament last March and in the process, may have changed Calhoun's perception of the basketball program a bit.

Photo: UCF athletics

Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Marshall a safe haven for second-chance players



By
Jeff Borzello

Looking up and down the Marshall roster, one notices that the Thundering Herd might not have been the first choice for most of the players.

Justin Coleman originally committed to Louisville before being ruled a non-qualifier; DeAndre Kane (partial qualifier) and Jamir Hanner (prep school) were once pledged to Seton Hall; Robert Goff was an Oklahoma commit before heading to junior college; J.P. Kambola was a non-qualifier; and Yous Mbao is a Marquette transfer.

Head coach Tom Herrion doesn’t mind being something of a second-chance opportunity for his players.

“Not every place is the perfect place for a kid,” Herrion said by phone. “I think there’s an indictment or a stigma that kids who are partial or non-qualifiers have baggage. I don’t think that’s fair.”

If everything comes together this season for Herrion and his team, Marshall could be a Conference-USA contender and an NCAA tournament team. There’s talent across the board; it’s just a matter of everyone playing to their collective potential.

While there might be some rust due to some of the players sitting out, Herrion expects his players to be motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

“There’s no doubt,” he said. “You’re truly taking away the game from those young men for a year. It makes them humble, hungrier. And we want them to be hungrier.”

Marshall returns its top two scorers from last season, in Kane (15.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.4 apg) and senior Damier Pitts (16.2, 4.7 apg). Senior guards Shaquille Johnson (8.7) and Dago Pena (7.2) are also back on the perimeter. Fourth-year junior Nigel Spikes (5.1, 5.9) will attempt to anchor the frontline.

What has everyone excited, though, is the influx of newcomers Herrion is welcoming into the fold. Chief among them is Coleman, a five-star recruit out of high school who didn’t qualify at Louisville and sat out last season. Mbao and Goff are expected to split time at center, while junior college transfer Dennis Tinnon is a big-time rebounder who should make an impact. Four other freshmen are also going to contribute.

With experienced veterans returning and loads of firepower coming in, Herrion will have to handle playing time problems as they come along.

“You coach attitude and chemistry everyday,” he said. “We have improved our talent level from top to bottom in a very short time, and these kids have thrived in this environment. I like where we are and where I think we can go. Roles will continue to shake out. You’ll have guys that have to figure it out. Guys will make the decisions for you.”

The perimeter trio of Kane, Coleman and Pitts could be one of the most explosive in college basketball – if everyone’s personalities mesh well. Kane is known for playing too emotional at times, while Pitts missed the first exhibition game due to coach’s decision.

Herrion said Kane is maturing and embracing being a leader, while Pitts is adjusting to potentially not being the leading scorer for the Herd. Coleman was ranked on our top 30 freshmen list, checking in at No. 23. He could be the key to Marshall’s success.

“He’s inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound, as talented a guy as I’ve been around,” Herrion said. “He’s a 6-foot-5 athletic stud. As he continues to figure it all out, his God-given ability will come out.”

Herrion has his work cut out for him – but it’s problems most coaches would like to have: a huge influx of talent mixed with several top returnees, leading to questions about playing time. With games on the docket against Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia, Iona and Belmont (twice), the Thundering Herd will get a chance to make some noise immediately.

“We’re going to be tested from the tap,” Herrion said. “We want to put ourselves in position. We haven’t done a whole lot, but there’s been talk about us. It’s a long road, and we have things to prove.”

Fortunately for Herrion, he has loads of talent to help him change the culture -- even if they are "second-chance" players. 

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:31 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 10:19 am
 

Memphians targeting D-Rose is dumb, shortsighted

By Gary Parrish

Three Memphis-area attorneys who double as University of Memphis boosters got so angry about John Calipari leaving their basketball program on probation that they last year threatened to sue Calipari, one-and-done star Derrick Rose and athletic director R.C. Johnson on behalf of unnamed season-ticket holders, according to reports late Thursday from The Commercial Appeal's Kyle Veazey and Geoff Calkins.

Nevermind that, according to university counsel Sheri Lipman, the complaint “had all sorts of holes in it." And nevermind that, according to common sense, any lawsuit would've almost certainly been dismissed. Calipari, Rose and Johnson still each opted to settle out of court. Calipari and Rose agreed to pay the attorneys a total of $100,000, and Calipari also agreed to donate the bonus he received for taking Memphis to the title game of the 2008 NCAA Tournament back to the school's Tiger Scholarship Fund. Johnson agreed to return the bonus he received that year, too.

Calipari's donation is estimated at $232,000 while Johnson is expected to repay a little more than $71,000.

So it's a victory for Memphis fans, I guess.

Season tips Nov. 7
They hit Calipari in the pocketbook.

That must've been fun.

But why did these attorneys think it was wise to threaten to sue the school's most famous alum?

Because that's not wise.

That's just stupid.

Say what you want about Rose, but he's merely a pawn in this game, a product of the system, a kid most believe only played at Memphis because somebody else took his SAT, a kid I believe should've never been essentially forced to play college basketball in the first place. Let's be honest: Rose didn't belong at a university any more than I belong in the NBA, and I mean that in the most respectful of ways. He's a basketball player, plain and simple, and it was pretty clear for years before Rose ever enrolled at Memphis that he'd eventually make millions of dollars slashing to the rim.

And it was very clear in March 2010 when three attorneys threatened to sue him.

So, again, who thought it was wise to do that?

Rose, the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player, will make hundreds of millions of dollars in his career, and all Memphis had to do to benefit from that was stay on good terms with the Chicago Bulls point guard. Remember how Carmelo Anthony donated $3 million to Syracuse to help build a practice facility named in his honor? It's reasonable to think Rose, whose next contract will likely be worth more than he could ever spend, might've done something similar for Memphis someday. But why would he now? Why would he donate big money to Memphis after Martin Zummach, a past president of the Memphis alumni association, threatened to sue him during his second season in the NBA?

Answer: I have no idea.

So congratulations, Memphis attorneys/boosters.

You made your threats and got some money, and I suppose that's good on some level. But including Rose in all this was silly and shortsighted. Yes, I realize he's now obligated to "consider … making a suitable donation” to the Tiger Scholarship Fund sometime before 2015, according to the agreement he signed. But if I were Rose I'd consider it only for a second, then simply decide I'd rather not.
 
 
 
 
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