Tag:Sweet 16
Posted on: March 29, 2011 11:21 am

Mooney's UR extension had ripple effect

Everyone's in motion except for Chris Mooney

Posted by Eric Angevine

We spend a lot of time reporting on the men who get on the coaching carousel in late March and early April: Anderson to Arkansas! Painter to Mizzou? Will Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart be lured by big money? You know the drill.

Sometimes, it's the guys who refuse to get on the painted horsie that really make a difference. Chris Mooney signing a ten-year deal at Richmond has been the biggest non-move in the game so far, and it changes the game for several programs currently in the market.

Primary amongst those was Georgia Tech. Mooney has always been refreshingly honest about his suitors, which is rare. Recall Mike Anderson vehemently denying that he had any interest in the Arkansas job he now holds. That's how the game is played. A denial means there's interest. An open flirtation means the coach would rather stay put, but wouldn't mind if his current employer showed him a little more financial love. Whether that was Mooney's intent or not, that's what he got. He acknowledged that the Yellow Jackets were courting him, and he got a deal that should keep him in Richmond for a while - he's got security if his stock never gets any hotter, and if he does become even more desirable in the future, notice has been served that only a dynamite situation will serve to lure him away.

Mooney's extension meant that Tech turned to Dayton's Brian Gregory, a move that puzzled me a bit. There's a pretty big gap between a current Sweet 16 coach and last year's NIT champion.

Richmond, a growing power in the Atlantic 10, has served notice that the private university located on a peaceful, leafy campus in Central Virginia plans to continue to challenge Xavier and Temple for the league lead in years to come. The confluence of personal comfort and professional opportunity worked for both parties in this case.

"In talking to Chris, his perspective is that it’s kind of a double-positive for him," said Richmond AD Jim Miller. "He can have the lifestyle that he likes living here, but he can also be successful and win at the highest level as well."

Miller also pointed out that the University's commitment to basketball, beyond the core matter of keeping Mooney properly compensated, likely played a part in the coach's decision to stay put.

"Chris and I sat down and looked at every component of our basketball program and developed some strategies and thoughts of what we could do to continue to improve, and University leadership bought into that," Miller said. "Staff compensation, the amount of time our PR people and strength coaches can spend with the players, the way our team travels. We looked at budget issues and how we can make our program better."

The key to getting the deal done was a desire by both parties to maintain a marriage that's working, to preempt any temptation that might come along from outside the relationship. "We knew that there were a lot of schools interested in him, but our position was that we didn’t want to get into a situation where we were going to be reactive and trying to outbid people," Miller said.

Richmond hired Mooney after he forged an 18-12 season at Air Force in his single prior season as a head coach. Not exactly an awe-inspiring record, but the University took a chance on the young Princeton graduate that has paid off in a big way. As a former assistant coach at Virginia Military Institute, Miller said he respected Mooney's ability to succeed in the tough environs of a military school, and felt his system would work for UR. Now that he's been proven right, the University leadership has seen fit to place a high reward on something that was once high-risk. This is only proper for a school that has one of the top Business programs in the country.

Odds are, not many schools have the wherewithal to follow in Richmond's footsteps. Sometimes ambition trumps the right fit (see Lickliter, Todd). If Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have the means and the vision to get something like this done, however, it can be a win-win for all concerned.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 8:41 pm

SDSU takes on Kemba. Been there, done that?

If this guy can't guard Kemba, what chance do the rest of us have?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Anaheim -- On Thursday, March 24 the San Diego State Aztecs will face a Player of the Year candidate in a huge game. This single player can score at will, and makes his team a threat to beat anyone, any time by his mere presence on the floor. Kemba Walker is the man they'll have to stop to have any chance of making the Elite Eight.

For most teams, this would be a daunting experience. For the Aztecs, this is the fourth time this season they've had to prepare for something like this.

That's because the Aztecs play in the Mountain West conference, where Jimmer Fredette plies his trade. SDSU was swept by The Jimmer in two regular-season meetings, but gained a measure of revenge on the third try, beating their arch-nemesis to win the MVC tournament crown.

Asked to compare Walker and Fredette, San Diego State's underrated point guard D.J. Gay pointed out that the two players differ quite a bit when one goes past the surface comparison of volume scoring.

"I think the difference is that Jimmer is more of a 3-point threat," Gay said. "As for Kemba, he gets to the basket at will and his mid-range game is close to perfect. Both are very hard guards to play against, both very good scorers, but one, you're picking up at the half-court line and the other one you constantly need help within that 3-point range."

That actually makes it sound easier for the Aztecs, right? If there's one area they dominate, it's inside. If Kemba wants to test out his drives and mid-range jumpers against San Diego State in Anaheim, that's good, right?

Not so fast, says Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher.

"You can't foul him," Fisher said. "He's a deadly free-throw shooter and I believe he's gotten 76 free throws in his last seven games. You've got to keep him off the line. He knows how to draw fouls. He's lightning quick with the ball."

Oh. So, there is a plan, right?

"Well, he scores 35, 40% of their points and takes about that many of their shots, so we better have a plan in terms of what we want to try to do," said the veteran head coach. "We've got to keep him on the outside, challenge his perimeter shot, minimize the number of free throws and layups he gets. It's easy to say, hard to do. He's not scoring 26, 28 points a game for nothing."

It's worth noting that San Diego State got off the schneid against Brigham Young only after Brandon Davies was suspended, suggesting that there may be more to all this than just watching out for one superstar player. In the UConn frontcourt, Alex Oriakhi plays something close to the Brandon Davies role. He obviously won't be suspended like Davies was, but the SDSU big men might find it easier to limit Oriakhi if their assessment of Walker's three-point effectiveness is accurate.

Now that we have some idea what the game plan will be, it will be very interesting to see if the Aztecs can implement it tomorrow. If they finally succeed in shutting down Walker, they'll have done something nobody else has done this postseason.

Maybe that early dose of Jimmer was just what the Aztecs needed to prepare for the Sweet 16.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 10:51 pm

West Regional preview

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Anaheim Regional is the chalk champion this year. The 1, 2 and 3 seeds made it through, and No. 5 Arizona over No. 4 Texas wasn't much of an upset by seed. So, what we have here is nothing but the game's best active coach (Coach K at Duke), A Player of the Year candidate (Kemba Walker at UConn), A likely top-5 NBA draft pick (Derrick Williams at Arizona), and a first-time program with arguably the nation's most potent frontcourt (San Diego State). Meh. Chalk. How boring.

Three storylines dominating Anaheim

1. Coach K goes for 902 wins and yet another Final Four trip. 
2. Derrick Williams is coming home to L.A. 
3. Kemba Walker attempts to keep his postseason win streak intact.

How They Get to Houston

No. 1 Duke: The key word for the Blue Devils is 'maintain'. The backcourt rotation has become truly formidable with the return of Kyrie Irving. When he plays alongside Nolan Smith and Seth Curry, Duke has so many ways to destroy a team. Kyle Singler will continue to overwork opposing defenses with his ability to drive inside or step back and drill a jumper. Duke's inside players simply need to play their roles as they have all season. Two wins, and Duke fans get to celebrate a Final Four and Coach K becoming tied with Bob Knight as the winningest coach in D-I.

No. 2 San Diego State: Get the ball inside. The Aztecs entered the season with one of the nation's top frontcourts, and nothing has changed on that score. Kawhi Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas are good for roughly 48 percent of the team's points scored this season. Chase Tapley is the jump shooter any big lineup needs to keep defenders honest, and D.J. Gay is the distributor who feeds the machine. If those five players do their jobs, and Steve Fisher doesn't have to go to the bench too terribly often, the Aztecs can get to the Lone Star state.

No. 3 Connecticut: Kemba. Kemba, Kemba Kemba Kemba. Kemba? Kemba. OK, seriously. Kemba Walker continuing to play like he's got JRR Tolkien-style Elf blood in his veins is the key to everything UConn has done and hopes to do this season. Alex Oriakhi is the key rebounder, and Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are the helpful apprentice scorers. There is no longer room for doubt: Kemba Walker can do anything he wants to do on the basketball court.

No. 5 Arizona: The Wildcats are really an unusual team to see at this stage. Sophomore Derrick Williams scores a full 25 percent of his team's points. One quarter! Momo Jones is the only other Arizona player who even comes close to double figures in scoring, and he averages 9.8 per game. The youth movement worked against Texas, and could be a harbinger of things to come. Freshman Jordin Mayes and sophomore Solomon Hill each played well to get the 'Cats to the Sweet 16. The key is to have a one possession game and let Williams take over. It's worked thus far.

Anaheim's five best players

1. Nolan Smith: Duke's leader can stroke a jumper or drive the lane with ease. He averages 20.9 points and 5.3 assists per game.
2. Kemba Walker: Quite simply college basketball's Superman this season. 23.6 ppg and 4.5 apg.
3. Derrick Williams: A sophomore who almost single-handedly put his team in the Sweet 16. 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Shoots 61% from deep.
4. Kawhi Leonard: If you needed a rebound to save your life, and Kenneth Faried wasn't available (well, he isn't), you'd want Leonard to be your guy. 15.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg.
5. Kyrie Irving: With so many other choices, it's tough to go here, but Irving is the piece that makes a good Duke team great.

The Duke Blue Devils will cut down the nets, because college basketball is a guard's game, and the Devils are hoarding at least four good to exceptional ones. Kyle Singler is an NBA talent in the frontcourt, and the trio of big men can, together, play the role that Brian Zoubek played for the defending national champs last season. They're not quite as complete as Ohio State, but that's a concern for another day.

Photo: US Presswire

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