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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comings and goings on Route 206

As I wrote earlier today on Twitter, Rich Fisher writes that one of the other programs on Route 206 in Lawrenceville -- Notre Dame High School -- filled its coaching vacancy today by hiring former Monroe High coach Bob Turco.

The Irish had a vacancy because Kevin Bannon, the coach who led Rider to its last NCAA tournament appearance but was later fired under a cloud of controversy at Rutgers, resigned after one 9-14 season to take a gig as a part-time color analyst for Rider men's games.

While Bannon is going one way, Todd Shellenberger is going the other way. Shellenberger, the No. 3 assistant at Rider for the past two seasons, is returning to Notre Dame as the director of development. There was some mutual interest in Shellenberger returning to the sidelines at ND, but both sides agreed the development job would be too time-consuming.

The Irish then launched a search that landed them Turco, while Tommy Dempsey promoted director of basketball operations Ben Luber to assistant coach and hired former UMBC point guard Jay Greene to fill the DOBO spot.

As for Bannon, he'll join Daryl Fein on broadcasts for Rider home games. Steve Rudenstein, who had been the full-time color guy -- and who took a full-time job in the Rider development office last year -- will stay on as the color guy for road games.

Bannon, who heads the Mercer County Parks commission and helped set Rider up with hoops and a floor at the Trenton-Mercer Airport last year, is an eye-opening choice as a color analyst.

I KNOW what non-Rider fans will think of the move, given his highly publicized departure at Rutgers. I'm interested to see, though, what Rider fans think of his return and whether they think it's a positive to have a link to that 1994 team associated with the program.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

News, notes and mid-summer musings

Mid-July doesn't typically bring a ton of college basketball news, but there are a few things worth touching on. Since I'm enjoying a day off, I figured it'd be a good time to touch on a few things, starting with ...

Ryan Thompson's play in the NBA summer leagues. After playing with the Celtics in the Orlando league, Thompson made his debut with the Kings Monday night in the Las Vegas league. And as Jason Jones writes in the Sacramento Bee, in scoring 12 points, he drew praise from Kings assistant Mario Ellie, who's running the summer-league ship.

"He's a good glue player out there," Elie told the Bee. "He doesn't demand the ball. You don't notice him out there, but true basketball fans notice what he does out there."

Here's some postgame video from Thompson on the Kings' website:



Meanwhile, the saga of NCAA tournament expansion -- which once threatened to end the world -- finally came to a close, with the tournament opting for a hybrid approach to which teams will play in opening-round games.

Andy Glockner writes that the whole ordeal was more like a Seinfeld episode than a drama. But in the end, it's hard to argue with the result.

While the field of 64 would be more competitive if all four play-in games featured auto-qualifiers -- thus granting admission to more teams capable of pulling off first-round upsets -- the First Four should be intriguing and, hopefully, make for some good basketball with high stakes.

One of the perenially draining aspects of the tournament is listening to coaches and fans from one of the so-called last three or four teams out griping about their team being unjustly denied a spot at the expense of someone with a flimsier resume.

With a 68-team field, fans of the 69th team will complain just as much as fans of the 66th team have done in years past. But the added at-large play-in has the advantage of creating an extra layer of inclusion -- and thus making it harder for teams to cry foul when they're left out.

Coaches will whine if they're left out no matter the circumstances. But those left out of the Field of 68 will find it far harder to argue they're one of the best 64, and those who are legitimately right on the bubble will have an opportunity to play their way in.

***

As if Ed Cooley sticking around and Majok Majok capping an eye-opening recruiting class didn't create enough positive headlines this offseason for Fairfield, Chris Elsberry writes that Greg Nero is healthy and gearing up for a return to the court.

Nero, a fifth-year senior, is the surviving link to my days as a Fairfield student. He gave the team a major spark when, as a freshman, he led the Stags in scoring for the first six games of the 2006-07 season, provoking Jim Calhoun to gush about him after he went toe-to-toe with Hasheem Thabeet during the Hispanic College Fund Classic.

After that, though, he was slowed by a succession of ailments that culminated in the prolonged issue that caused him to miss the entirety of the 2009-10 season.

It'll be fascinating to see how close to 100 percent Nero is by November, and what kind of an impact he can have. If he plays at 80 percent capacity, he'll be a valuable piece off the bench for an already-deep team. If he plays at close to 100 percent, he could help make Fairfield -- already No. 1 in my preseason rankings -- a more clear favorite to win the league.

***

Speaking of which ... a tweet from ESPN Radio's Jon Rothstein Monday afternoon sparked a lively debate on Twitter about the MAAC pecking order. Rothstein pointed out that various people with league ties still consider Siena to be the preseason favorite.

Iona fan -- and blog reader -- GuyFal adamantly claims that with the Big Three and Fran McCaffery gone, the Saints won't even contend.

I'm of the opinion -- along with the Times Union's Pete Iorizzo and many others -- that the combination of Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson and the potential emergence of players such as O.D. Anosike make the Saints serious contenders. With that in mind -- and given my confidence, at least in the short term, in Mitch Buonoguro -- I'm keeping Siena in the 2 spot, with the thought being Derek Needham, Warren Edney, Yorel Hawkins and Co. have earned the label as preseason frontrunners.

***

It used to be that the Journal Register Company -- The Trentonian's parent company -- was to the newspaper world what Rutgers was to the Big East: Bad leadership, bad facilities (or in our case, technology) and a place with an overall crappy environment that doesn't lend itself to success.

Now things have changed to the extent that our new bosses are giving iPhones and other cool toys to me and 17 other people in the company.

That, folks, is what we call change for the better.