College Basketball Nation: Siena Saints's MAAC preview

October, 15, 2012
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, here is Eamonn Brennan's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all 10 teams in the MAAC:

Niagara InsiderFree
St. Peter's
Player of the Night - Kyle Downey
Less than five minutes into the game, Siena trailed Iona 20-2. But the Saints climbed back in it on the back of Kyle Downey. When Siena went into the break down by 10, Downey had two points, three turnovers and three fouls. The second half was a different story. He scored 14 points on 6-8 from the field. That included seven points in the final five minutes, as Downey put Siena up for good.

Filling Up the Stat Sheet – Thomas Robinson
Robinson had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in Kansas' 64-54 win over Texas A&M. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Robinson’s evening? He went 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Not bad for a player with a career 54.6 free throw percentage. It’s the most makes without a miss by a Jayhawk since Wayne Simien in 2005.

Breakout Performance - D.J. Brown
Brown scored a career-high 33 points (nearly 27 more than his season average) as San Jose State snapped a five-game losing streak with a 78-70 win over Cal State Bakersfield. The performance set a school record for points by a freshman. He came into Monday averaging 6.4 ppg with an ugly 34.3 field goal percentage. But on this night, Brown couldn't miss. He went 9-for-11 from the field, including 6-for-7 from long distance.

Bench Star – Chris Cooper
There are 24 Division I players averaging a double-double. Only one comes off the bench. Old Dominion's Chris Cooper had 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in Monday’s 69-57 win over Northeastern. He’s come off the bench in the last 10 games after starting the first 11 of the season. In the 10 games in which he’s come off the bench, Cooper has five double-doubles. That’s two more than any other bench player this season.

Ugly Stat Line of the Night - Humpty Hitchens
Hitchens went just 6-for-17 from the field and committed 10 turnovers as James Madison fell to Georgia State 74-58. It's just the seventh time this season a player has had double-digit turnovers, and the fifth time one of those players also shot under 40 percent. Hitchens had never had more than seven turnovers in a game.

Thursday recap: The best (and worst)

January, 13, 2012
Player of the Night: Dominique Morrison
Morrison's free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining in double overtime was the difference as Oral Roberts outlasted Western Illinois 71-70. Morrison finished with 27 points in 50 minutes of action.

It's his seventh straight game topping 20 points. Morrison is averaging 27.1 during the stretch, while shooting 60.5 percent from beyond the arc. Currently 16th in the nation in scoring, Morrison is the top scorer over the past three weeks.

Filling the Stat Sheet: Matthew Dellavedova leads rout over Gonzaga
Saint Mary's picked up its second largest win ever against Gonzaga, beating the Bulldogs 83-62 in Moraga. It fell just one point shy of a 22-point win in 1989.

One game after scoring a career-high 27, Dellavedova scored 26 points to go with six assists. He's one of only five Division I players averaging 15 points per game and 6 assists per game. The others: Vincent Council, Zack Rosen, Jordan Theodore and Tim Frazier.

Statistical Oddity: Scott Machado dishes in a loss
Machado handed out 16 assists, but Iona came up short 75-72 against Manhattan. Since 2005, only two players have had 16 assists in a loss: Illinois' Demetri McCamey against Purdue in 2010 and UConn's Marcus Williams against Notre Dame in 2005.

At 10.4 assists per game, he’s on track to be the first player to average double-digit assists since Baylor’s Nelson Haggerty in 1995.

Lofty Historical Comparison: O.D. Anosike = Tim Duncan
Anosike had 23 points and 14 assists in Siena’s 83-79 win over Rider. It’s Anosike’s 12th consecutive double-double. How much longer can Anosike keep this up? In the past 15 seasons, only one player has had at least 15 straight double-doubles: Tim Duncan.

Ugly Stat Line of the Night: Jorge Gutierrez
Gutierrez was just 2-for-17 (11.8 percent) from the field, in California’s 57-50 win over Colorado. That’s the worst shooting performance by a Pac-12 player (min. 15 shots) since Arizona State’s Bryson Krueger went 1-for-15 in 2005.

If you missed it: Thursday's quirky stats

January, 13, 2012
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of fun oddities and standout performances. Here are a few we found from Thursday night:

Chattanooga 51, Wofford 48
Wofford missed 29 3-pointers in the game, the second-most by a Divison I team against another Division I team this season. The Terriers are the third team this season to miss at least 28 3s in a game against a Division I opponent. Somewhat unbelievably, all three have come against Chattanooga.

Manhattan 75, Iona 72
Iona's Scott Machado dished out a career-high 16 assists in the loss, becoming the first player since 1996-97 to record four games of at least 15 assists in the same season. UNC's Kendall Marshall (this season), ESPN's own Doug Gottlieb and TCU’s Prince Fowler (both in 1998-99) are the only other players in the last 15 years to have three such games in a season.

Stanford 68, Utah 65
The teams combined to shoot just 6-of-26 (23 percent) from the foul line, the lowest free throw percentage this season out of the 966 games involving a Big Six school.

Siena 83, Rider 79
Siena forward O.D. Anosike scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to record his 12th consecutive double-double, extending a school record. No other Division I player has a current streak of more than three straight double-doubles.

San Francisco 104, Portland 70
San Francisco shot 13-of-18 on both 3-pointers and free throws. The Dons are the fourth team this season to shoot exactly the same from 3 and from the line in the same game.'s MAAC preview

October, 24, 2011
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, here is Eamonn Brennan's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all 10 teams in the MAAC:

Niagara InsiderFree
St. Peter's

More MAAC content:

NCAA does the right thing in Siena case

September, 13, 2011
Lionel Gomis didn’t choose to skip two years of school after his mother died and he was searching for a stable home in Senegal.

He was 14. The NCAA and college basketball wasn’t even in his mind. Yet those two lost years of schooling were deemed the reason why he was originally given a bizarre penalty from the NCAA. As we reported back on Sept. 2, Gomis was initially told he would have to sit out this season as a freshman at Siena, play one season and then be done.

But on Tuesday, the NCAA’s legislative staff showed it can take new information and have a heart. The Gomis decision was reversed and he will now have three years of eligibility after sitting out the 2011-12 season. Gomis’ classmate, Imoh Silas, has to sit this season as well, but he too will have three seasons of eligibility.

“It means a lot to me knowing I have three years instead of just one year,’’ Gomis told “I am glad they've reversed and comprehend the situation. As for playing this year, I’m still hoping they will give me the reclassification of the year back.’’

Siena athletic director John D’Argenio said the compliance staff did diligent work in providing documents for the NCAA. The NCAA had requested a birth certificate, a death certificate for Gomis’ mother and her work statements from a job that no longer exists. All of these documents were extremely difficult to find thousands of miles away from upstate New York.

The decision was based on a new rule that was adopted in April 2010 and became legislative NCAA law last month. It states that delayed enrollment will result in a loss of year for every season that a student isn’t in school from the time they were supposed to have graduated high school. A student has a five-year window to complete his or her high school core curriculum or the international equivalent. Each country was given a different time period.

“We are happy for Lionel that the NCAA review staff took into consideration the additional documentation that we provided about his hardship and reinstated two years of eligibility,” D’Argenio said in a statement. “These cases are difficult to judge, and there can be extenuating circumstances. That’s why there are multiple steps to the process. We will continue to use all NCAA legislative relief options available to us in pursuing the fourth year of eligibility for both players.”

Siena will appeal the forced redshirt season that came about because both players were reclassified at their respective prep schools: Blair Academy (N.J.) for Gomis and the Holderness School (N.H.) for Silas, who is from Lagos, Nigeria.

“We will continue to seek new information to support a reconsideration of each case,” said associate athletic director Joyce Eggleston, who oversees Siena’s compliance office. “Lionel and Imoh are eligible to practice and will retain their basketball scholarships.”

The numbers you need to know

February, 28, 2011
An inside look at the numbers behind Sunday’s top performances:

1. JaJuan Johnson powered Purdue to a 67-47 win at Michigan State with one of the most impressive stat lines in recent Big Ten history. Johnson already had a double-double at halftime, and finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks. It was the first 20-15-5 game by a power conference player since Syracuse’s Wes Johnson did so last season. The last Big Ten player to do it was Penn State’s Jan Jagla in 2003 against St. Francis (PA). The last in conference play was Minnesota’s Joel Pryzbilla against Iowa back in 2000. Johnson has now scored 20-plus points in his past seven road games. He’s looking to join Evan Turner and Kris Humphries as the only Big Ten players to average 20 ppg and 8 rpg in the past 10 seasons.

2. That 20-point loss for Michigan State was its worst at home since falling to Duke by 22 in 2003. The team’s 47 points were the fewest at home since a 45-34 win over Brown in 2006. But in a loss, the Spartans hadn’t scored this few points at home since 1997 when Minnesota beat them 68-43. Michigan State finished 1-of-11 from 3-point range. At 9.1 percent, it was the program’s worst 3-point performance at home since going 0-for-9 against Illinois in 2008.

3. Deshaun Thomas scored 22 points off the bench as Ohio State cruised to an 82-61 win over Indiana. The freshman had seen his role reduced in recent games, averaging only 8.1 minutes in the past seven games. During that stretch, he scored only 13 total points on 20.0 percent from the field. On Sunday, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball served up his best game of the season. By halftime, he had more points (16) than in his previous seven games combined. The 22 points are the most by a Buckeye bench player in conference play since Ron Lewis scored 26 against Penn State in 2006.

4. As we entered January, Boston University was 10-13 and shooting just 38.6 percent from the field. After Sunday’s 66-64 overtime win at Vermont, the Terriers completed an 8-0 February, and are tied for the fifth-longest winning streak in the nation. Playing without leading scorer John Holland against the Catamounts, the Terriers won despite only one point from their bench. Vermont has now lost two in a row following its 10-game win streak.

5. Ryan Rossiter made his final home game at Siena a memorable one. He led the way with a career-high 34 points and 11 rebounds in an 81-73 win over rival Marist. Rossiter broke a school record for rebounds in a season that was set back in 1950 by Billy Harrell. Rossiter ranks second in at the nation in rebounding (13.4 rpg) behind Kenneth Faried. In February, he averaged 14.8 rpg, the third-highest February average over the past five seasons.

The numbers you need to know

December, 14, 2010
A closer look at the numbers behind Monday night's games:

1. Top 10 without a 3: San Diego State ascended into the top 10 on Monday and celebrated by proving it can win without hitting a 3. In a bizarre 51-45 win over Cal Poly, the Aztecs went 0-for-18 from 3-point range. That ties the most 3s attempted without a make this season. In November, Ohio went 0-for-18 against Kansas. Of course, Ohio also lost that game by 57 points. You have to go back to 2008 to find a similar oh-fer in a win. That’s when Dayton went 0-for-24 from 3-point range in a 60-59 overtime win against Auburn.

2. Thomas steps in: The Aztecs were without leading scorer and rebounder Kawhi Leonard, who was out with an illness. But Malcolm Thomas filled the void nicely, scoring 18 points to go with 15 rebounds, five blocks and three assists. He’s just the third player this season with a 15-15-5 game, joining UCF’s Keith Clanton and Oakland’s Keith Benson.

3. Rossiter tries to be Blake Griffin: Siena snapped a three-game losing streak with a 72-69 win over Florida Atlantic courtesy of another big-time performance by Ryan Rossiter. On a night when the Saints retired the jersey of all-time leading scorer Marc "Showbiz" Brown, the senior big man put up 27 points and 13 rebounds. Rossiter is now averaging 20.3 ppg and 13.3 rpg, making him one of two Division I players averaging 20 and 10 (along with Eastern Michigan’s Brandon Bowdry). His rebounding average is second in the nation behind Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried. Rossiter is looking to be the third player in the past five seasons to average 20 and 13, joining Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Radford’s Art Parakhouski.

4. Mike Holmes’ SEC redemption: It’s almost like Holmes never left the SEC. The former South Carolina starter became eligible for Coastal Carolina on Monday just in time to face LSU. And just like that, the Chanticleers came away with a 78-69 overtime win in Baton Rouge. Ironically, it was their first win over a power conference school since beating South Carolina in 1993. Desmond Holloway (18 points) and Chad Gray (22) led the way offensively, but Holmes’ impact cannot be overlooked. Coming off the bench, he put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Big South Conference is now 2-2 against the SEC this season.

5. Badgers slow it down: In seemingly typical Wisconsin fashion, the Badgers beat Green Bay 70-56 despite only attempting 43 shots. It’s a win that speaks to UW's style of play. According to, Wisconsin averages just 60.7 possessions per 40 minutes, fifth-fewest in D-I. So how are they averaging nearly 17 points per game more than their opponents? The Badgers average 1.17 points per possession, tied for fifth in the nation.

Katz's Feast Week observations

November, 29, 2010

Five observations from the week that was:

1. Old Dominion’s win over Xavier in the Paradise Jam, coupled with VCU’s victory over UCLA, is a strong indicator that the Colonial might end up as a multiple-bid league. Both ODU and VCU play Richmond, which will be another barometer for both squads.

2. On Friday, Siena knocked off Rider on the road in one of the earliest conference games that I can ever remember. The Saints played Minnesota well during a road loss and wilted late against Butler and Princeton, but until proven otherwise, they should be looked at as the favorite again in the MAAC despite a coaching change. Preseason favorite Fairfield is off to a shaky start.

3. This freshman class has looked sensational so far. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones was a beast in Maui, teammate Brandon Knight lit up Washington, Jared Sullinger is dominating in the post for Ohio State and Tobias Harris is proving to be an extremely difficult matchup as a point-forward for Tennessee. Notice none of them are named Harrison Barnes, the preseason AP first-team All-American who continues to struggle in the early going for North Carolina.

4. Credit St. John’s for surviving a brutal travel schedule with only one loss. The Red Storm started the season in California against Saint Mary’s, returned home to New York to play Columbia, and then flew to Anchorage, where they went 3-0 and won the Great Alaska Shootout with a win over Arizona State on Saturday night.

5. Hard to be picky prior to Dec. 1, but I expected to see more wins out of Murray State, Georgia, Butler, Western Kentucky, Colorado, Alabama, Texas Tech and USC at this point in the young season.
Reading the Associated Press' description of the Iowa basketball program under Todd Lickliter, you'd be forgiven for confusing the former Butler coach with the Grinch Who Stole Fun. For example:
[+] EnlargeFran McCaffery
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallFran McCaffery takes over a Hawkeyes program that fans weren't coming to watch this season.
Iowa introduced the 50-year-old [Fran] McCaffery as its new coach Monday, ending a 13-day search to replace the fired Todd Lickliter after one of the most disastrous seasons in the history of the once-proud program. McCaffery said he's up to the challenge. "Our players are going to have fun, they're going to enjoy what they do on the floor," McCaffery said. "This place is going to be rocking again."

... Of course, Iowa is counting on McCaffery to be more than a responsible manager. Lickliter's teams were remarkable only for their predictability. He brought a grinding, plodding offense to Iowa that allowed the shot clock to tick down while players looked for the best shot. Hawkeye fans weren't receptive. [...] Iowa was bad last season, but most disheartening were listless, double-digit losses to rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota. Attendance slumped to just 9,550 per home game. ...

Todd Lickliter wasn't just bad. The former coach's style was apparently so excruciating that he managed to bore Iowans. Think about that. (And yes, as an Iowa native, I'm totally allowed to make that joke. Nice try, angry Midwestern commenter. No East Coast bias here.)

Of course, had Iowa had the same success with that "boring" downtempo grind-it-out style that Brad Stevens and Lickliter's former program is currently having, I doubt Iowa fans would have minded. But there is a tradition, especially among the younger Iowa fan in their 20s and 30s, to feel particularly passionate about uptempo basketball. Dr. Tom Davis, the man who took over three years after the Lute Olson era ended, went to nine NCAA tournaments in his 11 years at Iowa by pressing his opponents for entire games and subbing a flurry of players in and out of the game to maintain a physical advantage. Davis also had fun little quirks in his style, like the fake-shot-alley-oop pass that fooled Iowa's opponents until the very end. (Why did this work? I have no idea. Theoretically, if the defense boxes out on every shot, it shouldn't matter whether the shot was a fake or the real deal. But it always worked.)

In other words, Fran McCaffery is on the right track here. Iowa basketball was interminable these past three years. If McCaffery can appeal to the Iowa fan who grew up in the Tom Davis era and make Iowa hoops fun to watch again, he can count on plenty of support in the Hawkeye State. Even if he doesn't win right away.

Playing the name game at Iowa

March, 28, 2010
Sure, a fat contract from a big six conference is nice. But can the Hawkeyes at least get the name of their new coach correct?

Iowa's media relations department announced the school's hiring of former Siena coach Fran McCaffery this morning; McCaffery will replace the deposed Todd Lickliter as he attempts to restock the relatively bare cupboard left in Iowa City. This blog isn't big on omens, but the McCaffery Era started not with a bang but with a whimper, as Iowa -- get this -- mispelled the coach's name on its Web site Sunday morning. According to Iowa, it had just hired "Fran McCaffrey." Whoops.

The release has since been corrected. And trust me -- this blogger is in no position to make fun of others' typos, misspellings, or miscellaneous errors. (This blogger makes at least one of those a day. For example: Calling Michigan's famous freshman the "Fab Four" Saturday night. Thank goodness for editors.) Mistakes happen. No big deal.

But it is a funny little sidenote to the beginning of McCaffery's time in Iowa. Of course, this lack of respect has a simple solution: If McCaffery wins in Iowa City the way he won at Siena, rest assured Hawks fans will have no problems remembering that "e" comes before the "r."

Previewing Friday in Spokane

March, 19, 2010
SPOKANE -- Does Michigan State have another run in it? Can Purdue go far without Robbie Hummel? Does the nation's leading scorer, Houston's Aubrey Coleman, have enough points in him to shock Maryland and ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez? Will Texas A&M slip because of poor free-throw shooting? Does Siena have another Cinderella win in it? Or is Utah State going to break through?

Those are a few of the many questions that will be settled in Spokane on Friday and Sunday.


No. 4 Purdue (27-5) vs. No. 13 Siena (27-6), 2:30 p.m.

Storyline: Purdue looked like a title contender at one point, but the loss of star Robbie Hummel to a torn ACL has most thinking the Boilermakers won't go far. Siena is dangerous because it's done this before: It's posted first-round upsets the past two tournaments.

What to watch Boilermakers: Will E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, who combine for 31 points per game, give Purdue enough scoring, or will someone else step up? The other three starters combine for just over 14 points per game. Watch out of senior Keaton Grant, who scored in double figures in four of the past eight games.

What to watch Saints: Four players average between 13.6 and 16.3 points per game, topped by Alex Franklin. Ryan Rossiter is the force inside (11.1 rebounds per game), while Ronald Moore is the distributor (7.8 assists per game, which leads the nation). On the downside: They don't consistently hit from 3-point range.

They said it: "The only thing we can do to prove anybody wrong is to win basketball games," Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. "There's a quote that says losers make excuses and winners make it happen. So we just got to go out there and make it happen."

No. 5 Texas A&M (23-9) vs. No. 12 Utah State (27-7), 5 p.m.

Storyline: Texas A&M can't shoot the 3 and struggles at the line, which are both Utah State strengths. Both teams play deliberately, which could mean a low-scoring game. Texas A&M might have noticed that a lot of folks are pegging it for an upset. One thing we know: The Aggies are going to win.

What to watch Texas A&M Aggies: Donald Sloan, a first-team All-Big 12 pick, averages 18.2 points per game. No other player averages in double figures, though though three average nine-plus points. The defense led the Big 12 in scoring (65.8 ppg). The Aggies have shot .475 from the field in their past four games. They are 30-0 under coach Mark Turgeon when they shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

What to watch Utah State Aggies: Point guard Jared Quayle is where Utah State's precise offense starts. He averages 12.5 points, 4.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. Nate Bendall and Tai Wesley are smart, capable post presences. Brian Green is the best 3-point shooter on a very good 3-point shooting team (42 percent).

The said it: "They run a ton of sets, obviously, and run them very well," Turgeon said of Utah State's offense."They have counters to counters to counters. And you've got to pick and choose what you show and how much you show. I have a couple of my seniors and I say, 'Is this a lot?' and they say, 'Yeah, this is a lot, coach'."


No. 5 Michigan State (24-8) vs. No. 12 New Mexico State (22-11), 7:20 p.m.

Storyline: Did New Mexico State's leading scorer Jahmar Young tweak Michigan State's two-time first-team All-Big Ten point guard Kalin Lucas this week by replying, "Who?" when asked about Lucas. Absolutely. But Young clearly was making a statement that he -- and, by extension, his teammates -- aren't afraid of the Spartans.

What to watch for the Spartans: Lucas leads four players who average in double figures. Chris Allen, suspended for the Big Ten tournament, is the Spartans best threat from 3-point range. The Spartans aren't big but Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe sixth man Draymond Green are particularly good at grabbing offensive rebounds.

What to watch for the Aggies: Young and fellow guard Jonathan Gibson combine for 38 points a game, but Wendell McKines, Hamidu Rahman and Troy Gillenwater are physical players who each averages in double-figures. The Aggies like to run-and-gun and try to force turnovers. They are 19-0 this season when they outshoot their opponents.

They said it: "I watched him. He can play. Everyone can play. What am I supposed to do, bow down because of what they say? That's not going to happen, but it's no disrespect to him at all," said Young when told that Lucas has been offended by his comments.

No. 4 Maryland (23-8) vs. No. 13 Houston (19-15), 9:50 p.m.

Storyline: It's ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez (19.5 ppg) vs. the nation's leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman (26.0 ppg). Both teams are hot. The Cougars won four games in four days to win the Conference USA Title. Maryland won nine of 10 to finish the regular season.

What to watch for the Terrapins: The Terrapins averaged 79 points per game, so it's obviously not just Vasquez, but the senior will have the ball in his hands if things are tight late. It's likely Maryland is eager to face a defense that allows foes to hit 46 percent of their shots.

What to watch for the Cougars: The 6-4 Coleman will get his points, but the Cougars upset chances probably require more than a one-man show. Guard Kelvin Lewis, the conference tournament MVP, averages 15.3 points per game and he likely will spend plenty of time guarding Vasquez. He also shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

They said it: "I'm not going to get caught up in trying to go back and forth with him. He's a great player in the ACC. And we know everybody is going against us because we are Conference USA," Coleman said of his matchup with Vasquez. "We don't have nothing to lose."
It hasn't even been 24 hours since we saw the selection committee's 2010 tournament bracket, and already the complaints have codified into consensus. Complaining about the bracket -- about the bubble, especially -- is a yearly tradition in the days after Selection Sunday. Frankly, it gets a little tired.

This year feels different. Because the bubble was so unusually soft this season, the usual gripes about first few teams left out of the tournament are non-starters. Instead, complaints about the makeup of the bracket, from imbalanced regions to mis-seeded teams, are this year's major concerns. Whining about the bubble is so last year. Whining about seeding? Hot and getting hotter!

[+] EnlargeMike Krzyzewski
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMISome say Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils got an easier path to the Final Four than overall No. 1 seed Kansas.
So, in the spirit of Silky Johnston and the great diabolical haters of our time, here's a list of the five things to most disdain about this NCAA tournament. Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate!

1. The South. You too, Duke. Kentucky, Syracuse, and Kansas -- especially Kansas -- can kick off this year's hate-fest for us. All three supposed No. 1 seeds were given more difficult regions than Duke, which should have been the fourth No. 1 seed. Heck, I still think West Virginia deserved that fourth No. 1 after winning the Big East tournament. Instead, No. 1 overall seed Kansas was stuck in a brutal landmine of tourney-proven coaches and elite guard talent. Kentucky got the toughest No. 2 seed in its bracket in West Virginia. Syracuse will likely have to beat a startlingly low-seeded No. 8 Gonzaga team as soon as this weekend. Duke's No. 8 seed, meanwhile, is Cal, a drastically overseeded bunch. Duke's No. 2 is Villanova, an undersized, defensively weak squad that faded down the stretch in the Big East season. The No. 4 seed in Duke's bracket is Purdue, which without Robbie Hummel might not survive its matchup with sexy No. 13 pick Siena.

This is a horrifically imbalanced region, one that makes you wonder if the committee took a moment before finalizing the bracket to step back, look at the big picture, and scratch their heads one final time. Really? You want to make marginal No. 1 Duke's road that easy? Seeding the bracket is tough, but come on. The South reeks of a committee that lost the forest for the trees, and Kentucky, Syracuse and Kansas -- especially Kansas -- will suffer. So much for being the overall No. 1. If we can't reward Kansas for its excellence with something better than this, then the anti-expansion folks' main point is officially moot. The regular season doesn't matter.

2. The greatest 8/9 matchup ever. And by "greatest" I mean "greatest opportunity for a two-hour nap." OK, so 8/9 games aren't exactly the tournament's bread and butter. They usually feature two very average big-six teams. I get that. But No. 8 Texas vs. No. 9 Wake Forest might be the most uninspiring 8/9 game in recent memory. Neither team has beaten anyone worthwhile for months. After going 17-0 and rising to No. 1 overall in the polls, Texas lost nine of its last 16, fell all the way out of the Top 25, and saw its head coach reveal that he really doesn't care all that much about winning national championships. Texas is an inordinately talented team that has managed to do nothing with that talent for the past two months. It's depressing.

Then there's Wake Forest, which lost five of its last six -- including games to NC State, North Carolina and Miami -- and is limping into the tournament as badly as any team in the country. Again: depressing.

Put these two teams together, and you'll get two things. The first: lots of potential NBA players on the court at the same time. The second: some truly uninspired basketball. Thanks, but I'll pass.

3. Splitting sevens and 10s. Last night there was some brief discussion about the selection committee pairing too many non-BCS schools against one another in the first round. I don't think this was a strategy so much as an unlucky consequence of a hastily assembled bracket, but there are at least two games where it seems a fair criticism. Those games: No. 7 Richmond vs. N0. 10 St. Mary's in the South and No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No 10 Georgia Tech in the Midwest. Why not switch the No. 10s there, sending Georgia Tech to Providence and St. Mary's to Milwaukee? This swap would prevent a non-BCS matchup in the first round and cut down on travel for the Gaels without accentuating anyone else's frequent flier miles. Why pit two major conference teams like Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State in the first round when you have two quality non-BCS schools to split between them? Why force non-BCS teams to eliminate one another? I can understand not wanting to swap seeds to fulfill an unofficial tournament consideration like the vague little guy vs. big buy thing, but if the solution is right there in front of you, with the seeds all the same and travel a non-issue ... well, why not?

4. Oh, and those No. 8 seeds. This is partially covered in note No. 1 about the South, but look at these No. 8 seeds: California, Texas, UNLV and ... Gonzaga? One of these things is not like the other. Hint: It's Gonzaga. Sure, the Bulldogs were badly beaten in their conference title game, thus making them an at-large bid at the committee's mercy. Sure, as with the bubble teams left out of the tournament, it's hard to feel too bad for any team that didn't handle its business in the closing stretches of the season. But Gonzaga, with an RPI of 36 and a nonconference record of 12-3 seems insanely underseeded here. That feeling is accentuated when you look at its peers on the No. 8 line. What makes the seeding even worse is that because the committee thought Duke deserved a higher No. 1 seed than Syracuse, the Dukies drew Cal, by far the most overseeded of the No. 8s, while the Cuse will play a talented, deep, athletic Bulldogs team led by an experienced tournament guard in Matt Bouldin. (Not to mention that Kansas might get UNLV and Kentucky could play a lifeless but undeniably talented Texas team.) Ouch.

5. Villanova as a No. 2. I promise, I set out to write this without harping on the South too much -- but I give in. It's impossible. Villanova as a No. 2 seed is questionable, but given the team's entire body of work, not to mention the eye test-friendly nature of any NCAA tournament team led by Scottie Reynolds, I can dig it. What I can't dig on is Villanova being the No. 2 seed in Duke's bracket, while Ohio State and West Virginia were sent to the same region as the top two teams in the committee's bracket, Kansas and Kentucky, respectively.

If the committee wants to argue that Duke is better than Syracuse, fine. Whatever. I disagree, and I think West Virginia deserved Duke's No. 1 seed, but if Jim Boeheim isn't worried about it, I can let it go. But what's mystifying is how you would possibly rank Ohio State and West Virginia -- two candidates for a top seed, both of whom won their conference tournaments to close the season -- lower than Villanova, which can boast neither. The imbalance here is stark. If seeds hold, the two best No. 1 seeds will play the two best No. 2 seeds in the Elite Eight. This is remarkably unfair to Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio State, all of whom won their conference championships and had their very impressive seasons rewarded with brutal paths to the Final Four.

In short, I hate the way the committee seeded the South, and I hate the way those seedings threw the rest of the bracket out of whack. You know, in case that wasn't clear. Yeesh.
To be the the projected favorite to win during the regular season and then again in a three-day haze of a tournament is hardly an easy task.

Yet, Siena and Old Dominion have done what has become expected, but is hardly a free pass.

At home in Albany, Siena rallied from 15 down and went to overtime to beat upstart Fairfield Monday night for the MAAC title.

“This is hard and it’s a different experience for the team,’’ said Siena coach Fran McCaffery by phone. “The journey to get to this point isn’t as fun as it should be. It’s not as appreciated because it’s expected.’’

[+] EnlargeSiena
AP Photo/Tim Roske(From L to R) Edwin Ubiles, Ronald Moore and Alex Franklin will be dancing again for the Saints.
Siena was 17-1 in the MAAC and has won 27 games. The Saints didn’t win the out-of-league games they had to (Georgia Tech, Temple, Northern Iowa or Butler) in order to make Monday night possibly moot, so they "just" had to win the league again -- for a third straight season.

“We go 17-1 and everyone wants to know what happened at Niagara [the one league loss]?” McCaffery said. “Why didn’t you beat Temple or Northern Iowa? We got Butler in the BracketBuster and didn’t win, so the only way to get in was what we did [Monday night]. This is hard. How many teams have been to the conference tournament final four years in a row? Not many.’’

Siena had first-round NCAA tournament wins in each of the last two years, beating Vanderbilt and Ohio State. So now of course the expectation is that since Siena is in, the Saints have to win – again. There are holdovers like Edwin Ubiles, Ryan Rossiter and Ronald Moore. But the team isn't quite as deep as it was a year ago.

“It’s almost like winning is a foregone conclusion and now the goal has to be the Sweet 16, to go further than the last two years,’’ McCaffery said. “But what we just did is really hard. Hopefully we’ll get a decent seed because let’s be honest -- if you get a bad seed, it’s hard.’’

At the same time Siena was rallying in Albany, ODU was in Richmond having to hold off William & Mary in the CAA final -- a Tribe team that had the best nonconference resume of any other league member with wins over Wake Forest, Maryland and Richmond

There was plenty of pressure on the Monarchs, who had to go to overtime to beat hometown VCU in the semifinals Sunday. While ODU had the nonconference win at Georgetown, it didn’t beat Missouri, Mississippi State or Richmond when it had the chance early in the season. The Monarchs also lost at Northern Iowa during BracketBusters. Although there's no way of knowing, Old Dominion might've been playing for its NCAA tournament lives against the Tribe.

“When you’re picked to win it, that’s the double-bullseye and this was the best race this league has had since the mid-1990s,’’ ODU coach Blaine Taylor said by phone. “We weren’t in first place by ourselves until the 18th game.’’

Taylor, who also guided Old Dominion to the NCAAs in 2005 and '07, said playing the BracketBuster game at UNI made them “steely tough,’’ even though the Monarchs lost on the road.

Taylor said he was confident the Monarchs could have received a bid even without a win over the Tribe. But that’s hard to tell. The Monarchs have consistently been on the cusp of a bid, but haven't always been able to close it out.

The difference with this squad is experience, Taylor said.

“This is the third time in six years that we were sitting on an at-large berth,’’ Taylor said. “I would like to think we were going to get something done. But we’re at the mercy of the seeding and the bracket.’’

Like Siena, ODU is confident it can win a first-round game and maybe more. They both were pushed and pressed to win their respective leagues for two months. Now the weight is off. They are free of the burden.

They are in.

Butler comes back, crushes Siena

February, 20, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- More to come later, but a quick, postgame analysis from Butler 70, Siena 53:

  • It's official: The Saints must win the MAAC tournament title to play in the NCAA tournament.
  • Impressive job by Butler winning without injured double-digit scorer and jack-of-all-trades Willie Veasley, and with minimal contribution from No. 3 scorer Matt Howard due to fouls. Gordon Hayward's versatility is very impressive.
  • Siena point guard Ronald Moore came in leading the nation in assists but had a miserable day offensively. He scored just one point, whiffing from the field (0-for-9). Star Edwin Ubiles wasn't much better, going 2-of-11 for four points.