Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 11:25 am
It's been a magical ride thus far for Valparaiso's first-year head coach Bryce Drew. Drew took over for his father, Homer, after last season and the Crusaders were tabbed fifth in the Horizon preseason poll. However, led by league Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, Valpo has a chance to earn an automatic bid Wednesday night at 9 p.m. with a win over third-seeded Detroit.
The Crusaders won the regular-season title and thus, earned the right to have the league tourney championship contest on its campus at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo got 19 points and 16 boards from Boekhoff and dominated on the glass to knock off Brad Stevens and Butler, 65-46. Detroit is the highest-scoring team in the league and is led by its star point guard Ray McCallum (aka Little Ray), who just happens to be the son of the coach.
McCallum was dominant in the semifinals -- with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 63-58 win over Cleveland State. The Titans will try and snap a streak of five consecutive losses over the past two seasons to Valparaiso -- and will also try and earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 1999.
Drew, who made that magical shot as a player for the program back in 1998 to knock off Ole Miss, will try and get Valpo back dancing for the first time since 2004.
-- Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:35 am
Neither VCU or Drexel are a lock for the NCAA tournament. That's why Monday night's CAA tournament championship contest is so important.
The winner gets an automatic bid while the loser will sweat it out Sunday when the NCAA tournament field is unveiled. Drexel comes in as the No. 1 seed and on a school-record 19-game winning streak after taking care of Old Dominion in the semifinals. VCU is the No. 2 seed, but has the luxury of playing in its backyard, the Richmond Coliseum.
The lone time the two teams met this season was in Philadelphia on Jan. 8 and Drexel came away with a 64-58 victory. VCU (27-6) jumped out to an astounding 22-0 start against George Mason in the semis, but the Rams saw the lead whittle down to just a half-dozen points late in the game before holding onto the victory. Senior Bradford Burgess led the Rams with 20 points -- including a 5-of-10 effort from beyond the arc.
A win for VCU would put Shaka Smart, who led the Rams from the First Four to the Final Four a year ago, back in the Big Dance. It would also give the program its fifth CAA tourney crown. Drexel (27-5), which entered the league in 2001, is still looking for its first conference tournament title. The only time the Dragons earned a trip to the championship contest was back in 2003 when they lost to UNC Wilmington.
-- Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:21 am
Conference tournaments have been fairly normal so far. Only a couple of No. 1 seeds were knocked out, but the second seeds in those leagues picked up the slack.
Not in the Sun Belt. Sunday saw both Middle Tennessee and Arkansas-Little Rock – the top two seeds – fall in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Moreover, No. 4 seed Lafayette also lost over the weekend.
Where does that leave things?
No. 3 seed Denver is now the favorite to win the automatic bid, as the Pioneers have won five in a row and are the highest-remaining seed. They draw No. 7 seed Western Kentucky in the semifinals. The Hilltoppers have defeated Middle Tennessee and Arkansas-Little Rock in the past two weeks, so they won’t be an easy out anymore.
An intriguing team could be North Texas. The Mean Green have the league’s most dominant player, freshman forward Tony Mitchell. He is capable of carrying the team at both ends of the floor. Moreover, Mitchell struggled in the quarterfinals, but North Texas still had four players score in double-figures. The Mean Green face No. 9 Arkansas State in the semis on Monday.
-- Jeff Borzello
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:04 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:52 pm
Texas-Arlington went into the weekend’s season finale gunning to finish the Southland’s regular season unbeaten, but Texas-San Antonio had other plans, handing UTA its first loss of the campaign. Will that open the door in the tournament, or is UTA still the favorite?
Texas-Arlington has lost just two games since December 20, road games at Weber State and Texas-San Antonio. The Mavericks love to play up-tempo basketball, forcing turnovers at a very high rate and playing an aggressive brand of attacking basketball. They are long and quick, with multiple offensive options. LaMarcus Reed can fill it up from the perimeter, while Bo Ingram and Kevin Butler also need to be stopped.
Stephen F. Austin won its last five games to end the season, and is the perfect foil to Texas-Arlington. The Lumberjacks control the tempo, preferring a halfcourt game and a slow pace. They play some of the best defense in the league, dominating the glass and contesting everything inside the arc. Big man Jereal Scott is difficult to handle in the paint.
Lamar has one of the best trios in the conference, with Mike James, Anthony Miles and Devon Lamb leading the way. Offensively, the Cardinals are explosive, but when the perimeter players go cold, they are in trouble. Their ceiling is high, though. Despite having the league’s best scorer, McNeese State has lost four in a row.
A team to watch could be Texas-San Antonio, the only team to beat UT-Arlington this season. The Roadrunners play a 1-1-3 trapping zone for 40 minutes, which is difficult for the faster teams to play against. They also shoot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, and have plenty of size and scorers.
With only eight teams making the tournament, it’s going to be ultra-competitive. Can UT-Arlington survive?
Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (3:00 p.m., ET)
Conference RPI: 28
KenPom.com rating: 28
Sagarin rating: 27
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None
Last NCAA Tournament Appearances
- Jeff Borzello
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:51 am
By Matt Norlander
Luke Winn's back on the pod, which means you get a chance to get smarter on a Monday. Yippee! Luke checked in from a hotel in St. Louis after covering the Missouri Valley tournament. If you'd like to read what he wrote while having to endure a couple of days sitting next to Parrish, take a look. And follow the man on Twitter.
Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast -- whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:59 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:42 am
By Matt Norlander
The gun of the future! // Without a doubt the most unbelievable story from the weekend. // This hotel room is a party. // Why going to college doesn't make you a liberal ...
★ Start off your Monday by reading the latest on Pat Summitt, her fight, and whether she will coach next season.
★ Bill Self's run at Kansas the past six years is on the verge of being historic. These numbers are incredible.
★ Stayin on Kansas, the Tyshawn Taylor coverage this year has been really great to read.
★ Jason King compiles a mammoth end-of-year awards piece. This may take awhile to get through.
★ Fantastic, giddy, high-pitched play-by-play call of a high school hoops game ending.
★ Please, please get more of these things at NCAA tournament sites.
★ Learn something new every day. Do you know the last location of the Big East tournament before MSG?
★ Why and how Duke's defense is inevitably going to be responsible for the team's downfall.
★ "One of the best arguments against the idea that the NCAA is operating the NFL and NBA’s developmental leagues is that the NCAA seems wholly uninterested in developing professional athletes"
★ Read up on Drexel only making its second CAA final.
★ How BYU challenges are assumptions about who they are and how white they are.
★ Big East fan bases as Simpsons characters.
★ New Arizona State football coach was in the student section yesterday. No, no body paint.
★ Skip ahead to the :50 mark to see why Stony Brook didn't get upset in the America East semis Sunday.
► Great, frantic buzzer-beater from Saturday. The ones where the ball can't find a pair of hands in the final seconds are the best.
♬ We start the week with TV on the Radio. I find this band to be one of the hardest to describe to friends when recommending. I guess the most supportive thing I could say is, if you consider yourself to have any type of variety in the music you listen to, TVotR almost definitely touches upon something that moves you somewhere in their discography.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:11 am
Back on February 11, Western Carolina was just 10-17 and was suffering through a 4-10 Southern Conference record. Only three weeks later, and the Catamounts will get a chance to play one game for the right to go to the NCAA tournament.
On the other side will be Davidson, the best team in the conference and a squad that dominated its way to a 14-2 league record.
Western Carolina might be the hotter team, winning its last seven games, including three in the past three days. The Catamounts knocked off The Citadel to open the tournament, upset title contender Wofford by 23 and then handled division champion UNC-Greensboro on Sunday evening.
Davidson had far less excitement in its road to the title game, winning its two games by a combined 35 points without much of a sweat.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Davidson rolled to a 19-point win. But Western Carolina is a very different team than it was in mid-January. Against the Wildcats, the Catamounts will go as far as their 3-point shooting takes them. They shot 50 percent from deep in the quarterfinals against Wofford, and knocked down 10 3-pointers in the semis against Greensboro. Davidson is susceptible to prolific shooting teams, but will Western Carolina be able to stop the Wildcats at the other end?
Davidson is a very balanced team with five double-figure scorers and two very tough inside-outside scorers in De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen. Western Carolina only starts one player taller than 6-foot-4; Davidson’s entire lineup is at least 6-foot-3.
Bob McKillop’s team will be the heavy favorite, but Western Carolina has made a living off upsets this week. Can the Catamounts pull off one more?
-- Jeff Borzello
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:41 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:42 am
The Fairfield Stags are why coaches love and hate conference tournaments. Seeded No. 4 in the MAAC, Fairfield underachieved for most of the season. It should have challenged Iona for the league title, but it was clear from about mid-January that Sydney Johnson's team wasn't just playing for second, it would struggle to get third. It wound up getting fourth.
It's a talented team not playing to its advantage in the regular season. Then it finds the switch, flicks it on, and now the NCAAs are a game away. It's a great thing when you're coaching that kind of team, but man do other coaches hate when this happens against them.
The reason the Stags are playing for the league bid to the NCAA tournament is because the team found its groove, relied on its superstar and defeated Iona Sunday afternoon in the MAAC semis. Rakim Sanders, who scored 27 for FU, is now the alpha. There is no question about it, that's why Fairfield's still around. What interesting is the way this happened, how the team came to look to and rely on Sanders. It was an accident. Starting guard Derek Needham was this team's leader in October. But Sanders is the most talented guy on the roster, someone who could be drafted in June. When Needham broke his foot and was ruled out for the season on Feb. 27, rightfully most expected Fairfield to reach the semis of the MAAC, tops, then give way to Iona.
Hasn't happened. Now it looks like the Stags are more focused with one undeniable leader on the floor. They looked like a different team in beating the Gaels the way they did. With this response, they get to face Jimmy Patsos' Loyola Greyhounds, the No. 2 seed. At 13-5, Loyola was one game better than Fairfield in the league. But the team's riding high because it won 20 games this season, and are you ready for this? It was the first time in the more-than-30-year history of Loyola in D-I that the program won 20 games. That's flabbergasting.
Loyola's tough because they're great at offensive rebounds -- and they get to the line a lot. The team doesn't shoot well, but boy do they make up for it. They don't run, and neither does Fairfield. The Stags are a much better defensive team, and it's got the better player. Fairfield should probably win, but Patsos has been brewing magic in Maryland all season long. The teams split the season series. We could get another fantastic MAAC final on ESPN Monday night at 7 ET.