Feb 5, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT
A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.
Every March there seems to be a mid-major program that goes from being a team heard of by few to being a national darling. Here are five teams, all of whom will likely need to win their respective conference’s automatic bid, to keep an eye on as we get closer to the month of March.
1) Belmont (19-4, 10-0 OVC)
After reaching the NCAA tournament as winners of the Atlantic Sun the Bruins have made themselves right at home in the OVC. Guards Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson are combining to average 32.6 points per game, and senior forward Trevor Noack (12.5 ppg) has raised his scoring average more than ten points from last season.
Rick Byrd’s team, which has wins over Stanford and Middle Tennessee to its credit, isn’t as deep as last season’s outfit but with an eight-man rotation the Bruins are deep enough. Belmont’s an efficient group offensively (ranking 15th nationally in offensive efficiency and 8th in field goal percentage), and when combining this with their experience at key positions this is a team that can win in the NCAA tournament.
2) Akron (17-4, 8-0 MAC)
The nation’s hottest team, the Akron Zips have won 13 straight games and are the lone undefeated team in MAC play. Leading the way are 7-footer Zeke Marshall and 6-7 forward Demetrius Treadwell, with five other players averaging between 5.8 and 9.9 points per game. The Zips are one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, ranking 28th in efficiency according to statsheet.com and that front court tandem of Marshall and Treadwell can give opponents fits in the paint. The key for Akron in March may be point guard Alex Abreu however, because when he’s under control and properly balances getting his own shots with putting teammates in the best position to be effective Akron is a handful.
3) Middle Tennessee (20-4, 12-1 Sun Belt)
Kermit Davis’ Blue Raiders won 25 regular season games last season but a loss in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament resulted in a trip to the NIT. So while their resume this season includes a win over Ole Miss (Middle Tennessee has lost to both Belmont and Akron), that experience and the fact that they have just three RPI Top 100 victories should keep this group motivated to grab the Sun Belt’s automatic bid.
Senior guard Marcos Knight is the lone Blue Raider averaging double figures but five others average between six and nine points per game, and this is a group that gets after it defensively. Middle Tennessee leads the Sun Belt in field goal and three-point percentage defense and they force 16.5 turnovers per game as well. If a team with shaky ball-handling draws the Blue Raiders come March, look out.
4) Bucknell (19-4, 6-1 Patriot)
Dave Paulsen’s Bison are led by one of the best big men in the country in 6-10 senior Mike Muscala, who is currently averaging 19.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game (he leads the team in each category). Muscala is one of four Bucknell starters averaging double figures, and the Bison lead the Patriot League in field goal percentage.
The Bison have also performed well defensively, limiting opponents to 37.4% shooting (ranking 11th nationally), something they accomplish more with positioning as opposed to pressuring opponents into turnovers (opponents are averaging just 9.3 turnovers per game). Bucknell’s lone conference loss came to Lehigh (who won at Bucknell twice last season), so there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the Bison in the NCAA tournament. But if they can make it the Bison are capable of causing some trouble.
5) Montana (16-4, 12-0 Big Sky)
The Grizzlies had to navigate much of their non-conference slate without the services of senior guard Will Cherry due to a broken foot. But with the reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year back in the fold Montana has the best tandem in the conference in Cherry and junior Kareem Jamar. Inside senior Mathias Ward averages a team-high 15.2 points per game, with the versatile Jamar being the team’s best rebounder.
With a two-game lead over Weber State the Grizzlies are in good position to grab home court for the conference tournament, something that served them well in getting to the NCAA tournament last season. With Cherry out other players gained valuable experience, and that could work out in Montana’s favor at the end of the year.
Other teams to consider: Davidson, Detroit, Lehigh, Louisiana Tech, North Dakota State, Valparaiso and Weber State.
May 24, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT
With Javon McCrea and Cameron Downing entering their senior campaign at Buffalo, first-year head coach Bobby Hurley can use some additional front court depth that will benefit the Bulls in 2014. Hurley’s numbers received a boost on Friday afternoon, as it was reported by Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that former Marshall forward Jamir Hanner has…
May 24, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT
According to the Idaho Statesman, Boise State freshman forward Vukasin Vujovic has decided to leave the program. In his one season at Boise State, the native of Serbia saw action in just nine of the Broncos’ 32 games. In those nine games the 6-9 Vujovic averaged just 4.0 minutes and 1.4 points per game. Vujovic’s…
May 24, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT
When it was announced just over a month ago that Central Connecticut State leading scorer Kyle Vinales would look to transfer, the biggest factor in his decision was a desire to reach postseason play. Vinales, who averaged nearly 22 points per game as a sophomore, at one point tweeted his decision to transfer to Toledo only…
May 24, 2013, 4:38 PM EDT
With the recent news that former Purdue forward Sandi Marcius would transfer to DePaul, it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped in this scenario. That would be Donnavan Kirk looking to finish his collegiate career at another institution. On Friday the school announced that it has granted Kirk permission to…
May 24, 2013, 2:37 PM EDT
Last November the organizers of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced its completed eight-team field, with programs such as Florida State, Georgetown and Michigan being confirmed participants. Also among the eight teams: Auburn. But apparently something changed with the Tigers’ schedule, leading to a report from Andy Katz of ESPN.com that Northeastern would be the eighth…
May 24, 2013, 1:40 PM EDT
During the spring multiple allegations surfaced regarding Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle’s treatment of some of his players, and some of the charges went well beyond the use of profane language. In one instance former center Ryan Bross alleged that he was forced to run sprints until ultimately soiling his shorts, despite stating the…
May 24, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT
In an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” this morning, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses topics such as his decision to return as head coach of the US men’s national team for the 2016 Summer Olympics and his future at Duke. Also of note were Krzyzewski’s comments on incoming freshman Jabari Parker, stating that…
May 24, 2013, 11:54 AM EDT
Earlier this week an advertisement for Calhoun’s BBQ done by former Tennessee basketball player Steven Pearl hit the airwaves, and it included a reference to current Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft. But that reference has led to the compliance department at Ohio State getting involved, looking to make sure it’s clear that there was…
May 24, 2013, 10:20 AM EDT
In the aftermath of Sheldon Jeter’s decision to transfer from Vanderbilt it was reported that Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was blocking Pittsburgh as a possible destination. Some assumed that tampering was the reason for the move, but according to a report by Andy Katz of ESPN.com that may not be the case. Regardless of…
May 24, 2013, 8:52 AM EDT
With the graduation of leading scorers Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, there was a chance that 6-6 forward Myke Henry would see more opportunities to produce for Illinois in 2013-14. However it seems as if the Chicago native won’t be around to realize such possibilities, as it was reported by the Champaign News-Gazette that Henry…
May 23, 2013, 10:50 PM EDT
Head coach Alan Major led the Charlotte basketball program to its first 20-win season since 2008 this past year, as the 49ers won 21 games and received a bid to the Postseason NIT. Next up for Major’s program is Conference USA, and the former Ohio State assistant will make the move with a new contract…
May 23, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
While the head coaching carousel is the focus every offseason the many changes within a coaching staff can also have an impact. At Colorado, head coach Tad Boyle is fortunate to have led the same staff for each of his three seasons in Boulder, resulting in the most successful stretch in the history of the…
May 23, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
The eight-team field for the 2013 Cancun Challenge is finally set, with 2013 NCAA tournament participants Saint Louis and Wisconsin headlining the field. The event will feature two four-team fields, with the Billikens and Badgers being joined by Old Dominion and West Virginia in the Riviera Division. The Mayan Division bracket consists of Bowling Green,…
May 23, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
With four departures (Butler, Charlotte, Temple and Xavier) and one arrival (George Mason), the Atlantic 10 Conference will have 13 members for the 2013-14 academic year with Davidson joining in 2014. Those changes have brought about another for the conference: beginning next season, all members will play in the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays…
May 23, 2013, 5:26 PM EDT
While much of this past season was spent lamenting the changing of the Big East, another result of conference realignment was the improvement of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s basketball product. Sure Duke and North Carolina managed to carry their share of the load in the years following the move from nine to 12 schools, but…
May 23, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official on Thursday afternoon: he’ll be coaching Team USA basketball through at least the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. That’s been known for almost a week now. The interesting bit of news that came out of his press conference on Thursday afternoon had nothing to do with…
May 23, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT
I’m not sure there is a coach in the country that is better at developing players in his program than Bill Self at Kansas. Over the years, the best players that have come through Lawrence during his tenure have been moderately recruited — i.e. somewhere around the top 40 or top 50 of most lists…
May 23, 2013, 1:05 PM EDT
Cody Larson’s basketball career never got off the ground in Florida. After redshirting as a freshman, Larson was involved in a bizarre incident along with a team manager and Erik Murphy where he tried to break into a car after sneaking into a bar after closing time to inquire about a lost wallet. After being…
May 23, 2013, 12:02 PM EDT
It’s late May, it’s Thursday, and you don’t want to be paying attention at work when it’s nice out. So take 10 minutes and watch some dunks.
May 23, 2013, 11:13 AM EDT
Vanderbilt has made a change to their coaching staff, as Kevin Stallings went out and plucked Yanni Hufnagel off of Tommy Amaker’s staff at Harvard. “I couldn’t be more excited to join Coach Stallings and the rest of his outstanding staff here at Vanderbilt,” said Hufnagel. “Coach Stallings is not only recognized as one of…
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