Category Archives: Atlantic 10 Conference

A bunch of summer basketball stuff

Before we go into full football mode, a few leftover basketball notes…

*Earlier this week I wrote about Quincy Diggs and his return from a year’s suspension to the University of Akron basketball team.

You can read that story here.

If you want to see highlights from Diggs in the Cleveland-Akron Summer Pro Am at Walsh University, the guys at 3rd Coast Hoops have put this together. Diggs looks like a guy who can play point guard if Akron ends up needing him to, right?

The guys at 3rd Coast Hoops do an outstanding job covering basketball in Northeast Ohio and sharing highlights online. If you want to burn a couple hours, their site is a great place is a start.

*3rd Coast Hoops has landed highlights on major networks and websites all summer, and their timing is right with a bunch of talented prospects coming through the high school ranks in Ohio right now. During major shoe-company showcase events last week, Franklin’s Luke Kennard added offers from Kentucky and Michigan State, while Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph’s Carlton Bragg added offers from UCLA and Georgetown to what was already an impressive list. Bragg and Kennard are Ohio’s top two prospects in the class of 2015.

Those who know say the class of 2016 could be the best basketball class Ohio has produced in years. That group is headlined by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s VJ King.

*Speaking of Diggs and Akron, the Zips are headed to Hawaii at Christmas for the Diamond Head Classic. Dayton is going a month earlier for the Maui Invitational, and the Flyers will play a marquee first-round game there against Gonzaga.

Dayton won the Maui Invitational in 2003; Gonzaga won it in 2009. The Maui Invitational is one of the best early-season tournaments every year, and this year should be no different with Syracuse, Minnesota and Baylor also in the field.

The Dayton-Gonzaga game is Monday Nov. 25 and the Maui championship game is in its traditional spot two nights later on the night before Thanksgiving.

Akron opens its tournament against Oregon State. Iowa State, Boise State, George Mason, South Carolina, Hawaii and St. Mary’s are also in the field.

*Things didn’t go as planned for Team USA at the World University Games in Russia earlier this month as the Americans went 6-2 but did not medal.

Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick averaged 7.5 points per game off the bench but shot just 32 percent. Iowa’s Aaron White, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne started three games and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.

*Xavier sophomore guard Semaj Christon has accepted an invitation to the exclusive Chris Paul Elite Camp next month in the Clippers’ point guard’s hometown of Winston-Salem N.C.

At least two other Ohio players have been contacted by the camp but their attendance hasn’t yet been confirmed.

Xavier’s basketball future looking bright

Indiana transfer Remy Abell has announced he’ll transfer to Xavier, continuing a strong run of commitments for coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers as they prepare to move to the Big East.

Abell, a 6’4 guard out of Louisville, Ky., played two seasons at Indiana and will have two more at Xavier after sitting out the 2013-14 season.

Also on Friday the school announced the addition of 6’8 Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, who’s played for his country’s junior national team and as an amateur in a Greek pro league. The 17-year old Venenkov is eligible to play next season.

With essentially a whole lineup of five players either concentrating on academics or playing elsewhere last season, a relatively young Xavier team took its lumps and missed the postseason but still finished 17-14. If Jalen Reynolds and Miles Davis get eligible and are ready to contribute for this season, the Musketeers will be in position to take a leap.

Joining Vezenkov in this summer’s incoming freshman class are 6’5 forward Kamall Richards and point guard Brandon Randolph,a  four-star prospect by rated as the nation’s 15th best point guard prospect. Big man transfer Matt Strainbook (Cleveland/Western Michigan) will also be eligible this season.

Xavier already has two commits in the class of 2014, from four-star power forward Melvin Swift of Houston and three-star guard Edmond Sumner of Detroit. With Semaj Christon as the likely centerpiece for the next three years, the future for Xavier could be very bright.

NCAA tournament glory is fleeting

Remember last year at this time, when there were four Ohio teams in the Sweet 16?

Yeah, that was fun. Truthfully, though, it’s hard to remember last week at this time, when all seemed right in the college basketball world for 68 teams and probably 65 of those teams had at least some reason for optimism.

The one thing visiting two different NCAA tournament sites on the tournament’s first weekend reminded me of is how quickly it all ends.

The first thing I saw in Auburn Hills last Thursday was a dejected Saint Mary’s team walking to its bus.

On Sunday, I saw Iowa State making the same walk in Dayton. It was snowy and windy and miserable. Fittingly miserable.

Man, it stings. Especially for the seniors. Especially when the games are so close. We live for the madness, the magic and the one shining moment that happens when Aaron Craft beats the buzzer and Florida Gulf Coast dances to the Sweet 16.

Enjoy the hell out of it, FGCU. It probably ends with a beatdown this Friday. It ends for 67 teams at least a little too soon.

Whatever happens, FGCU made it a lot longer than over half the field. Thinking about makes Ohio State’s run of four straight Sweet 16s that much more impressive, really.

Last Thursday night I saw the three VCU players being escorted to the media area after their rout of Akron laughing. How could you blame them?

About 40 minutes later, I saw VCU coach Shaka Smart leading a pack of VCU employees of some sort (I’m guessing) turn a corner on his way out of that media area, unaware that Akron coach Keith Dambrot and some of his assistants were just to his left as he turned right.

Smart gave a quick wave as he turned right. It was a little awkward, to say the least, after Smart and Dambrot talked last  week about being best friends and then VCU beat Akron past submission, 88-42. What Dambrot and the Akron contingent were thinking at that point, I really don’t know. I can guess that the jubilant Akron show selection party four nights earlier felt like it had been 40 nights earlier.

I know, at the point of that awkward wave, that Smart was already thinking about Michigan.

Exactly 36 hours later, Michigan ran VCU off the floor and ran VCU out of the tournament.

Ran ‘em right back to the bus. It was probably cold, windy and miserable. I don’t know for sure because I was in Dayton, wondering how in 2013 the NCAA could play a first weekend at a place that doesn’t have a single restaurant or bar within a 20-minute walk of the arena.

It’s the walks these players and coaches make out of the arena that provide some of the most powerful images I remember in every tournament. It’s gone in a flash; it’s great while it lasts.

Is it Thursday yet? I’m ready for some more win or go home basketball.

Mark Lyons makes unique Sweet 16 history

DAYTON, Ohio – Ohio State’s next stop is Los Angeles, where the Buckeyes will play Arizona on Thursday in the Sweet 16 at the

Staples Center.

Ohio State Coach Thad Matta and Arizona coach Sean Miller are close from Miller’s time as a Xavier assistant under Matta (before Miller became Xavier head coach), and there’s also another Xavier connection and storyline in Thursday’s game.

Mark Lyons scored 27 points in Arizona’s win over Harvard on Saturday and becomes the first player to play in the Sweet 16 with different teams in back-to-back years. Lyons reunited with Miller this year for his senior season after departing Xavier last spring.

It will be the third Sweet 16 in which Lyons has played. Xavier also made the Sweet 16 in 2008-09, when he was a partial qualifier.

Lyons is averaging 15.4 points per game this season, a career high. He also had 23 points in Arizona’s win over Belmont in Thursday’s first round.

Lyons had a productive — and interesting — career at Xavier. In a statement last April announcing his departure, Xavier coach Chris Mack said: “After our end of the season meeting with Mark it became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward. During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement. Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest. I wish Mark well.”

For those planning ahead, the East regional games (Indiana-Syracuse and Marquette vs. Miami or Illinois) will also be played on Thursday. The South and West regions will play Friday and Sunday.

Thoughts on Saturday’s NCAA games

DAYTON, Ohio – Just some thoughts on today’s NCAA tournament games below.

I actually didn’t do terribly in trying to help with my analysis earlier this week. On my “official” bracket I guessed correctly on 23 of 32 first-round games, and considering the number of upsets, I’m patting myself on the back.

I generally do. Here goes…

Michigan – VCU: To me, it’s the must-see game of the day, though there certainly will be good games at night. VCU probably isn’t as great as it looked against Akron, but Michigan has been trending in the wrong direction for a month now. Trey Burke will create scoring opportunities by beating VCU’s pressure, but Michigan’s inside struggles and inconsistent shooting are of major concern. VCU’s Troy Daniels is locked in, and I think the Rams win another one

VCU 68, Michigan 66

Michigan State – Memphis: The Spartans have a lot going for them, including an advantage inside with Derrick Nix and the home-crowd advantage in Auburn Hills. They’ll be a tough out for a gifted Memphis team that played a smart, steady game in holding off Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Expect a close one throughout, but wait ’til later for a true upset

Michigan State 65, Memphis 58

Colorado State – Louisville: Strange things happen in March, but not in this game.

Louisville 72, Colorado State 52

Harvard – Arizona: The wide-open West region gives us another intriguing pairing. Harvard comes in off a huge upset of New Mexico and won’t be intimidated on this stage. Arizona has the talent to make a deep run and should see the door open here, but don’t expect it to be easy. Maybe Mark Lyons vs. Ohio State next Thursday?

Arizona 67, Harvard 65

Oregon – Saint Louis: The Ducks aren’t your typical 12 seed and are playing their best basketball right now. So are the Billikens, who can play with anybody. Unfortunately, Louisville is probably next, but this will be an outstanding game.

Saint Louis 58, Oregon 55

Butler – Marquette: I’m not sure if anybody knows just how Marquette managed to win that game Thursday against Davidson. I am sure nobody wants to see Butler in a tournament setting. The longer the Bulldogs hang around, the more dangerous they become.

Butler 65, Marquette 60

Wichita State – Gonzaga: Not your typical No. 1 seed vs. No. 9 matchup, especially when compared to Louisville-Colorado State. Wichita State has guards, experience and won’t be rattled. Gonzaga seems to be playing a little burdened, and though I expect the Zags to be better than they were against Southern, I don’t think they’ll be good enough.

Wichita 63, Gonzaga 60

Cal – Syracuse: The Orange cruised over Montana by 47 in the first round and Cal showed it’s also not your typical 12 seed by running past UNLV. Cal has the guards (as previously advertised) to take on the Syracuse zone, and I’d expect the Bears to be right in it all the way. Upset Saturday? Yes, why not? Upset Saturday it is.

Cal 68, Syracuse 67

Postgame: VCU 88, Akron 42

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – So, Akron played VCU Thursday night in the NCAA tournament, and you probably are aware what happened.

Here’s what I wrote about it, the first version anyway. That doesn’t do it justice. The scoreboard, even when the deficit was 48, didn’t really do it justice.

VCU is really good, really relentless (obviously) and sensed blood in the water. Akron was in no condition – physically or mentally – to stop it.

Besides filing that story, I’ve got a bunch of other things to do — sleeping, driving and more writing, and those are in no particular order. So below is Akron’s postgame press conference.

Office pool insights: East Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

East Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles hung near the top of the Big East throughout conference season but just seem to be a step behind the other top seeds across the board. They got a tough draw, too, with an experienced Davidson team first and then the Butler-Bucknell winner looming if Marquette can win. Buzz Williams’ team is deep and has a unique player inside in 6’8, 290-pound Davante Gardner

UNDERSEEDED: No. 12 Cal. The Bears stumbled a bit down the stretch, getting eliminated in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals  by Utah and a miracle shot that sent the game to overtime. But Cal has the kind of talented backcourt that’s capable of making a run through the first weekend of the tournament and a go-to star in Allen Crabbe who could be a household name by next week. The first-round matchup with UNLV won’t be easy, but a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 almost every year and Cal has the pieces to be the one to do it this year.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 14 Davidson. The experienced Wildcats come in riding the nation’s longest win streak at 17, are the best free-throw shooting team in the NCAA tournament at 80 percent and have five players who shoot 37 percent or better on 3-point tries. Looking at the Butler-Bucknell/Marquette-Davidson pod, if you ask four people who comes out of that to the Sweet 16, you might get four different answers. Choose wisely.

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Syracuse. The Orange finished the regular season with a 1-3 stretch. They flipped that by going 3-1 in the Big East tournament — and looking more like the team they’re capable of being — but spent a lot of energy in doing that, and the inconsistencies and cold-stretches that have haunted this team since late January could end their season sooner rather than later.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: Butler vs. Bucknell. The team nobody wants to play in March against another off-the-radar team that’s suddenly a trendy upset pick. Points should be at a premium in this one.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Syracuse vs. UNLV or Cal this weekend, Miami vs. Butler in the Sweet 16, Miami vs. Indiana in the Elite Eight.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Shane Larkin, Miami. He’s played this season like he wants to be known for more than being Barry’s son, and he’s done a more than admirable job in that regard. Larkin has made big shots in big moments throughout the season, and he could be a few big ones away from being a prized NBA prospect.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Cal and Davidson to make mini-runs; Butler to be Butler for at least two games; Miami to not survive the first weekend — yet Miami to the Final Four isn’t crazy, either. Tough stuff, this bracket business.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: Indiana to play in the Elite Eight.

Office pool insights: South Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

South Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 5 VCU. The Rams went to the Final Four from the First Four two years ago and won a game last year as a No. 12 seed, and it seems like that reputation helped their seeding this year. They’re still dangerous with Shaka Smart on the sideline, an experienced roster and a first-round matchup against an Akron team without its point guard, but VCU doesn’t have much inside presence and has struggled to score when its defense doesn’t create a bunch of easy baskets.

UNDERSEEDED: No. 8 North Carolina. Six weeks ago, the Tar Heels looked like an NIT team. Then, something clicked. They’re scoring a bunch of points, sharing the scoring wealth and haven’t lost to anybody but Duke or Miami (Fla.) since late January. They have a very winnable first-round game with Villanova, then should give Kansas everything it can handle this weekend.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 1 Kansas. This team was under the radar early in the year despite being the national runner-up last season. The conference season brought some head-scratchers, though, none more so than a loss to TCU. Yes, Kansas lost at TCU. But the Jayhawks have two very special players in Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey and showed their potential when they hit the gas and cruised to the Big 12 tournament crown last weekend.

<<Podcast: Breaking down the bracket, A to Z style>>

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Michigan. The Wolverines are just 6-6 in their last 12 games, including an inexplicable loss at Penn State and a quick exit from the Big Ten tournament in Chicago last weekend. Michigan is struggling defensively and has a young team that looks tired. The Wolverines earned the right to play in Auburn Hills, Mich., based on what they did in December — and they’ll have to play better than they have recently to earn their way to Dallas.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: VCU-Akron. The Rams want pressure, tempo and a full-court game. Akron wants to win it in the half court. The coaches know each other well. A 14-point VCU victory wouldn’t be a total surprise; neither would an Akron victory.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Michigan-VCU and Kansas-North Carolina this weekend; Georgetown-Florida in the Sweet 16, Florida-Kansas in the regional final.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Otto Porter, Georgetown. He’s done a little of everything this year and now gets the chance to do it on college basketball’s big stage. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the top of this year’s NBA Draft and with so many potential picks having a bunch of, um, potential, Porter can use this tournament to show his polish and make himself some money.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Akron over VCU; San Diego State over Georgetown and into the Sweet 16.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: A Kansas-Florida regional final.

Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler departing

Full text of the Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler leaving for the new Big East…

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade released the following statement on the departure of Xavier University and Butler University.

“I wish Xavier University and Butler University all the best in their new conference. They are two outstanding universities with outstanding people; our partnership has been mutually beneficial and successful. As a longtime strong A-10 member, Xavier’s departure is unfortunate. Butler’s departure is a by-product of the chaotic conference realignment environment. BU’s association with the A-10 has been a fun ride this year; no regrets from the Atlantic 10 for providing a home for them during the 2012-13 season.

“As a conference, we anticipated this move and are prepared to proactively move forward. The A-10 is strong – we have 16 basketball teams participating in the postseason and will focus on them right now. NCAA Postseason is an exciting time not to be overshadowed by conference realignment.

“Lastly I would like to acknowledge both presidents: Rev. Michael Graham and James Danko for their cooperation and professionalism in their management of this issue. It has been an honor to work with and for them.”

What I think the committee is thinking

Posted 1:01 p.m. Updated 4:09 p.m.

I am a committee of one. I know stuff.

If you’ve ever been to this blog, you probably were familiar with that concept.

Today, though, most eyes are on the NCAA tournament selection committee and the final results of that group’s work. Sixty-eight teams are going to be seeded, bracketed and sent to eight sites for games starting on Thursday.

Here’s my best guess at what we’ll see a little after 6 o’clock tonight. Again, this is my guess at what the committee will do, not what I think it should do.

My guess at the No. 1 seeds

Midwest – Louisville (No. 1 overall)
East – Miami
South – Indiana
West – Gonzaga

My guess at the No. 2 seeds

Midwest – Duke
East – Florida
South – Georgetown
West – Kansas

I’m beginning to like the No. 2 seeds better than I like the No. 1 seeds.

I think Ohio State is a 3 seed, Cincinnati is an 11 seed and Akron could be a 12, but probably is a 13. The absence of Alex Abreu certainly affects that and keeps the Zips from being seeded higher.

I think Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Michigan are No. 4 seeds; I think Michigan State and New Mexico are No. 3 seeds. I have other thoughts, too, but there are games to watch.

I don’t think the committee cares much about the currently ongoing Big Ten championship game.

My thoughts on the bubble, on which Ole Miss no longer lives…

Iowa – Out

Boise State – In

Kentucky – Out

Middle Tennessee – In

Saint Mary’s – In

Southern Miss – Out

LaSalle – Out

Temple – In

Tennessee – In

Cal – In

Louisiana Tech – Out

UMass – Out

Villanova – Out

Virginia – Out

I think the toughest, closest calls there are with LaSalle, Tennessee and Villanova. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.