Sunday, December 30, 2007
A busy day in college hoops, plus a question I need help answering
Yesterday was a very
busy day in college basketball. Seventeen teams in the AP top 25 played, as did Rutgers, which withstood a late comeback and beat Manhattan at the RAC
Rider didn't play, but the Broncs practiced at Alumni Gym, and I went over there and talked to Tommy Dempsey, Jason Thompson, Harris Mansell
and Justin Robinson.
I'll have a story in The Trentonian
next week previewing the Broncs' game against Marist
on Jan. 4 at the Broncs' Zoo.
I'll get to Rider in a few minutes, but first a thoughts on the top 25:
- What's up with Pitt? I had the Panthers pegged as the best team in the Big East after their impressive win over Duke at Madison Square Garden and Georgetown's lackluster performance against Memphis. But losing to Dayton -- by 25? The Flyers are very good -- maybe the best in the Atlantic 10 and a team that could win a few games in the NCAA tournament. But if you're the No. 6 team in the country, you cannot lose to an unranked team by 25, no matter where the game is.
- I don't have an AP ballot, but if I did, I'd have Memphis at No. 1, ahead of North Carolina. The Heels are good -- and seeing them in person earlier this month at the RAC reaffirmed by belief that they're a serious threat to win the national championship. But after drubbing Georgetown, John Calipari's team posted another impressive non-conference win, beating 18th-ranked Arizona by 13.
- Don't get two down on Texas, despite the Longhorns suffering their second loss of the year last night to Wisconsin. It took a miracle 3-pointer by Michael Flowers to win it, and don't forget that the Badgers were briefly ranked No. 1 in the country last year.
- So much for Miami. The Canes feasted on a weak non-conference schedule and got out to a 12-0 start, then lost by six to unranked Winthrop.
And one note on Rutgers: At least the Scarlet Knights finally won a game against the MAAC, finishing 1-2 after losing to Rider and lowly St. Peter's.
Lastly, a few thoughts on Rider:
- Mansell said he thinks the biggest difference between the Broncs this year and the Broncs last year is their defense. I asked Dempsey about that, and he pointed out that they've gone from ninth to first in the MAAC in field goal percentage defense.
- Dempsey told me that although everyone can get better, he thinks you won't find many college big men who can do the things Jason Thompson can do offensively: dominate the low post, clean up the offensive glass, run the floor, handle the ball and pass like a guard.
- Dempsey seems like he's getting sick of all the NBA talk regarding Thompson. He said he's sure he'll play in the NBA and isn't concerned about promoting him to NBA scouts. He also said he thinks Thompson -- much more than some other players with NBA potential -- is concerned about winning. In fact, Dempsey said, he thinks Thompson will think it's his fault if the Broncs don't win a lot this year and contend for an NCAA tournament bid.
- Mansell said that when the Broncs take on the Red Foxes, he'll miss playing against reigning MAAC player of the year Jared Jordan. Mansell said he gets up for games against big-time players, and Jordan was -- at least by mid-major standards -- the definition of a big-time player: He was the first player since Avery Johnson almost 20 years ago to lead the country in assists for two consecutive years.
And here's a question I need help with. I didn't do any research on it, so if anyone wants to do the research for me, I'd be interested to know:
How many MAAC schools have nicknames that no other team in the country has? And is the percentage of those teams the highest of any conference in the country?
Here's a rundown of the nicknames, moving from north to south on the MAAC map:
- Niagara Purple Eagles -- don't know of any other "Purple Eagles"
- Canisius Golden Griffins -- too unique a name for anyone else to have?
- Siena Saints -- can't think of any other "Saints"
- Marist Red Foxes -- pretty sure there aren't any other Foxes of any color
- Fairfield Stags -- as an alumn, I know they're the only Stags
- Iona Gaels -- not the only one; St. Mary's is also the Gaels
- Manhattan Jaspers -- certain they're the only Jaspers
- St. Peter's Peacocks -- any other school weird enough to name itself the Peacocks?
- Rider Broncs -- Boise State is the Broncos, but are there any other Broncs?
- Loyola Greyhounds -- not an incredibly unique name, but I can't think of any others off the top of my head.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Broncs get burned
Tough loss last night for Rider, which blew a 10-point second half lead and lost to Drexel.
Here's a link
to the game story in today's Trentonian. There's also a notebook in the print edition.
Tommy Dempsey said after the game that despite being unhappy about the way the Broncs failed to rebound in the second half, he thought they played well, and that the result was what it was more because Drexel played well than because Rider played poorly.
I think for the most part, he's right. Tramayne Hawthorne and Gerald Colds combined to make two 3-pointers in the first half and seven in the second half. Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said he thought the looks they got were exactly the same in both halves, but that the shots fell in the second half when they didn't in the first.
Flint also said he thinks this year's Rider team is better than the one that beat Drexel last year in Lawrenceville, handing them a loss that may have cost them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
It'll be interesting to see what happens when Rider returns to MAAC play on Jan. 4 against Marist. They then host Canisius -- who they've already beaten this season -- two days later.
Marist, which plays St. John's tonight, isn't nearly the same team it was last year, when MAAC Player of the Year Jared Jordan led it to the MAAC regular season title and a win over Oklahoma State in the first round of the NIT. But the Red Foxes are well-coached and never easy to play.
What do you guys think?
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Broncs vs. Bruiser Ball
Greetings from Deskalakis Arena, where the Broncs are set to tip off against Drexel.
A few things to note:
The Dragons (6-5) don't have a starter who is either taller than 6-9 or averaging more than 13.7 points. Senior center Frank Elegar -- who's being honored on the court for scoring his 1,000th career point, is their leading scorer and rebounder. It'll be interesting to see how he matches up with Jason Thompson, who had a surprisingly quiet day last time out (season-low 12 points) against a pedestrian Rutgers frontcourt.
The Dragons also start two freshmen in the backcourt: Gerland Colds and Jamie Harris, Colds is averaging 10 points -- the team's second highest total.
Drexel is 1-0 against the MAAC, and the one win is an impressive one: 54-52 over Loyola.
We're about to tip. Enjoy the game if you're listening.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Back to the Broncs
Good news and bad news about my schedule:
First the bad news: It took me seven 1/2 hours today to drive from my mom's house in South Hadley, Mass. back to Trenton -- a drive that usually takes no more than four hours. A word to the wise: if your schedule forces you to travel the day after Christmas, leave room for your trip to take at least twice is long as it normally does. That way you won't have to rush and -- unlike me today -- you'll actually get to where you're going on time.
But there's also good news: If all things work out according to plan, I should make it to Philadelphia for tomorrow night's Rider-Drexel game.
It'll be my first time watching a team coached by Bruiser Flint since he coached at UMass in the late 90s. In fact, when I was a slow-footed power forward in sixth through eighth grade, I attended the "Bruiser Ball" summer camp at UMass.
As for the Broncs, they're coming off an impressive -- though not particularly surprising -- win at Rutgers.
It'll be interesting to see how they play against a good Drexel team from a good mid-major conference (the CAA). It's another good tuneup for the bulk of the MAAC schedule, which starts back up again on Jan. 4 against Marist.
And speaking of the Broncs, I didn't recognize ESPN.com's Andy Glockner when he was at the Rider-Monmouth game on Dec. 15, but he was there and wrote a nice feature on Jason Thompson that's currently the lead story on the ESPN college basketball page.
And for the record, I was indeed one of the two reporters who attended the low-profile postgame press conference.
Here's a link.
If things work out with my schedule, I'll check in from Philly and give you a pregame update before we tip off at 7:30.
And please -- bring on the questions and comments!
Monday, December 24, 2007
A little bit of Christmas Eve reading
I've got presents to wrap, and I'm sure you do too. With that said, here's a quick look around college basketball, for your reading pleasure:
In the Big East, Mike Waters writes that Arinze Onuaku is becoming a force
for Syracuse; Mike Anthony writes that UConn is prepared to hit the road
for the first time this year; Ray Fittipaldo has a nice feature on Pitt guard Levance Fields
; and Rick Bozich writes that Rick Pitino has reason to be worried.
And a couple of national stories: Gary Bedore writes that Kansas players better be ready to work hard
during semester break; Dave Dye takes a look back at Michigan State's impressive win over Texas
; and it isn't new, but if you've got an aspiring point guard at home, this New York Times video
is worth checking out and also features former MAAC player of the year Jared Jordan.
I'm off to get some lunch then get caught up on wrapping. The space underneath the tree is pretty empty now, so hopefully I can do something about that.
Enjoy the reading and have a Merry Christmas!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Happy hoops and holidays
Greetings from the Trentonian news room, where I'm finishing up my last pre-Christmas shift on the sports copy desk.
With the college football season wrapping up and the college hoops season now in full swing, this blog will be your home for all things college hoops from now until April.
The blog will be a lot like the Rutgers football blog, which was in full swing during the fall, but have more features and be updated much more frequently.
Since I'm The Trentonian's beat writer for the Rider and Rutgers men's teams, those teams will be featured the most prominently, as will other teams and games in the MAAC and the Big East.
But the blog will also have my weekly top 25 and -- hopefully -- a weekly college hoops podcast.
I think it'll be a big success, especially if you guys chip in with comments and feedback. I'll be happy to answer any questions, so bring bring 'em on!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Stay tuned to www.trentonian.com for our new blog about college basketball.