Tuesday, June 28, 2011

National Xavier Love

These teams need not apply
Xavier is an emerging national power, I think most of us know that. What we have all been waiting for is the national media to take notice. Yes, the Musketeers are always ranked at the end of the year and yes, they always manage a game or two on an ESPN affiliate. What doesn't seem to happen though, is the constant media hype-stream that follows programs like UK, Duke, UNC, Kansas, and so on. 

That's all beginning to change now though. The first sign of the weather change in coverage is this "must see" non-conference schedule from Jeff Goodman at CBS. (Follow Jeff on Twitter @GoodmanCBS to see his constant back and forth with Coach Mack). Listed amongst games such as Duke at. OSU are no less than four Xavier tilts. This really seems like a step in the right direction. So why am I filled with trepidation?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mega March Madness: The Tournament

The Extremely Little Dance.
Quick, how many of last year's Final Four can you name? I can name them all, because I have spent way too much time looking at postseason basketball for the last month or so. Now, how many of the last four teams in the NIT can you name? Can you name four teams that played in the CBI? Do you know what the CIT is, or when it was held? The point is that there's a lot of postseason college basketball out there, but not all of it is relevant. Heck, the only think I know about the NIT is that Dayton gets to go every year. The point is, college basketball is in danger of slipping into an endless morass of Insight.com Bowl-type Duquesne-v.-Montana matchups that nobody cares about because they have no bearing on the eventual national champion. Until now.

First off, it's everybody in the pool. There are 346 D-1 NCAA teams, and they're all participating. There are several successful tournaments around the world that take this approach, from the Kentucky and Delaware high school basketball tournaments to the FA Cup in English soccer. I see no reason that, properly executed, this couldn't work for the NCAA as well. Obviously, the NIT, CIT, and CBI will all be eliminated. The conference tournaments remain intact, with some scheduling adjustments. I've had to make the start dates on most of the conference tournaments a little earlier, but I took pains to keep the formats intact.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Around the A-10

Harper in his natural habitat.
The NBA Draft - not usually a huge occasion for the conference - has come and gone another year. The most highly rated A-10 player to head for the lockout this year was Justin Harper, Richmond's silky smooth 6'10" forward, who went 32nd to the Cavs before being traded to Orlando. Despite his size and potential as a match-up nightmare, he only ever had one good game in a win against Xavier (20/8 on 6-8/6-6/2-2 as a sophomore), which is probably why I don't remember him with any animosity. That and he was playing next to the loathsome Dan Geriot, the Matt Howard of the A-10.

Harper developed from averaging just over 3 points and 1 rebound per game as a freshman to going for 18/7 in 31.8 MPG as a senior. His shooting touch was on display, with a line of .534/.448/.797. He probably bolstered his draft stock with not only a great senior season but also a Sweet 16 run with Richmond in which he averaged 18 and 6 and went 6 of 6 from behind the arc. Unlike Kevin Anderson - who still hasn't returned Jordan Crawford's A-10 Player of the Year trophy - it's not too difficult to wish Harper all the best in his career as a professional.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Living the Dream Pt. 4

That's still money
The last installment of Living the Dream will be a bit different than the others in that it will focus on the select Xavier players currently playing their trade at the very highest level. No matter what you think of the NBA, and I can't stand it, there is no question that it is the most prestigious and developed basketball league in the world. Even the very best European talent leaves home to come play here, in the United States. Xavier players are scattered the world around, but four remain right here, at the top level.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tu Holloway Tweets his work

Joel's look at the possible upcoming point guard dilemma this morning got me to wondering what Xavier's current point was doing with his summer. Joel mentioned in the Summer Camp series that what Tu needed to work on this summer, if anything, was his jumpshooting. Probably not spurred by our suggestion, Tu has been doing just that. What follows is the summer in workout related Tweets from Tu.

What's in a Point Guard?

Dude looks either bored or angry in every pic I could find.
Word around the scouting world has Xavier in and possibly leading on Brooklyn point guard Kareem Canty. Canty is a former class of 2011 player who reclassified to 2012 so as to accommodate a year at prep school. ESPN.com is impressed with him, rating him a 92 overall, four-star player who is in the top 100 of his class.  Scout.com is similarly flattering to the young man, calling him the 7th best PG in his class. Despite that, I'm not so excited about the idea of Xavier landing him.

Canty has the potential to be a good player; I'm not doubting that. Game reports can be glittering, like this one from the Rumble in the Bronx in June, or this one from the same tournament last year. When things are going well, he is a big-time point who apparently can get the ball to his teammates or score it himself. Kareem also has a body strong enough that it helps him out on the glass and as a defender. He's also reputed not to be afraid of contact in the lane.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mega March Madness: The Approach

There are several hurdles that any tournament expansion plan has to clear before it can be put in place. (It should here be noted that, though I think my plan is amazing, I also recognize that it doesn't stand the slightest hope of being incorporated. Just thought you should know that this was a mental exercise for me, not a proposal that I'm hoping the NCAA will stumble across.) One is of simple logistics. Two teams can't play each other if they are in different gyms. A single team can't play two games at the same time. Playing on consecutive days is eventually going to take a toll on a team and the quality of basketball that they're going to play, and thus should be avoided.

This isn't the answer to anything.
Another is that of the valuation of the regular season. If you've ever talked to someone who is a fan of college football but not of college basketball, you've heard someone go on about how great it is when losing even one game at the very beginning of the year could torpedo the whole thing. While I don't buy into that mindset (get a tournament already, college football), it does bear keeping in mind that a team's accomplishments in the regular slate of games shouldn't just be thrown out once tournament time rolls around.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Vanderbilt

Why is this guy not on their logo?
The ties between Xavier and Wake Forest run deep, thanks in large part to the Skip Prosser coaching tree from which Chris Mack and the dear, departed Pat Kelsey sprung. When Coach Prosser passed away, XU and Wake agreed on a 10-year slate of games to honor his memory. This all makes the fact that Wake couldn't find room in its schedule to honor the commitment this season feel a little more like a shiv to the collective kidneys, especially considering that Xavier has been the more successful of the two programs of late. Despite all that, Mario Mercurio and his staff shrugged off the setback and added a road test against Vanderbilt to the non-conference schedule.

From a basketball perspective, this is a serious upgrade. While Wake was dreadful last year, Vandy was rock solid and made the tourny as a five seed. The Commodores have been working under Coach Kevin Stallings since 1999, he has had them in the tourny as a six seed or better in four of the last five years. Stallings does an admirable job changing his style to fit the personnel rather than trying to fit players into his preconceived plan: in the last five years alone his offense has been anywhere from 66th to 163rd in tempo, 26th to 244th in percentage of shots attempted from three, an 11th to 265th in free throw rate. His changes have been effective though; his team hasn't fallen below 88th in adjusted offense or defense in that time period, and his offense is usually in the top 25.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Living the Dream Pt. 3

In the Living the Dream series so far we've had a look at how some Xavier players overseas have adapted and thrived. Last week we caught up with the members of the 2004 Elite Eight run that are still playing ball professionally. That foray left us with only three guys out there playing somewhere. One of them you'll remember quite well, one is a blast from the past, and the other is a testament to never giving up.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mega March Madness: An Introduction

I'm not a guy who spends a lot of time worrying about how popular he is (because that would be depressing), so it's easy for me to not have to sugar coat ugly truths in fear of hurting people's feelings. For instance, you may not think that sentence is an appropriate opener for any Xavier-related article, but I don't care. For another instance, I'm about to tell you that I'm here to combine a couple of things that very few people enjoy: Mondays and the idea of expanding the NCAA basketball tournament.

Artist's rendition of a person who remembers the original format.
I'm not as old as say, some of you (I'm assuming) or my dad (obviously), so the NCAA tournament has always been a 64-team affair to me. Even with the ridiculous "play-in game" brought about in 2001 and the even more ridiculous "first round" instituted last season, you're not in the real tournament (by my high standards) until you hit that Thursday-Sunday stretch of games. Other people probably have other standards; some might have enjoyed the 32-team format, or even the original 8-team set up. Perhaps you are partial to the 53-squad layout of 1984. It hardly matters. The point is that the NCAA tournament is evolving and expanding inexorably, and it probably always will.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Around the A-10

"Why does no one love me?"
With news that Juwan Staten is heading to join Bob Huggins and Aaric Murray in West Virginia http://wvillustrated.com/wvubasketball/story/id/1093, the book is more or less closed on the Brian Gregory era at Dayton. While complaints against Gregory were plentiful, at least from the Dayton side of things, perhaps the biggest knock on his tenure was his inability to develop talented players. Exhibit A is of Course Chris Wright, who went from averaging 10.4/5.7/0.3 on .602/.200/.804 in 20.6 MPG as a freshman to 12.8/8.5/1.7 on .464/.227/.618 in 28 MPG as a senior.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Xavier Fills Coaching Vacancy

Richardson, no doubt planning something amazing.
Xavier filled the spot vacated by Pat Kelsey's departure today, adding former Drake assistant Kareem Richardson to the staff. Richardson, like Coach Mack, was once a point guard at Evansville, though his playing days came after Mack's had ended. More recently, Richardson has been an assistant at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana State, Wright State, Evansville, and Drake. Richardson served as recruiting coordinator at Drake, and put together the top class in the conference for two of his three years there.

Prior to his time at Drake, Richardson also served as the recruiting coordinator at Evansville. In his four years there, he had three players he recruited make the All-Conference Freshman team. In a 2009 interview with College Insider, Richardson said he advocated up-tempo offense, aggressive, man-to-man defense, and relentless effort on the glass. He also said that he believes recruiting is the life-blood of a program and that he'll "get up the earliest, stay up the latest, and work the hardest" to land the right players. Richardson is noted to have a handle on Chicago and the surrounding regions as a recruiter, which may help X with the likes of highly-rated combo guard Kendrick Nunn and others from that area.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Living the Dream Pt. 2

That's a lot of reps at 185.
In Part One of the Living the Dream series, we looked at some of the better known Xavier players who are now playing abroad. Since then Stanley Burrell has returned to Twitter with an explanation of his absence ("To all of you that have been sending me msgs. I really appreciate it. Me not responding was nothing personal. I just had to really lock-in.") and this video of highlights. Justin Doellman has returned to the states, and we're assuming Josh Duncan has continued being a beast. Next comes a look at the alums of the 2004 team that advanced to the Elite Eight.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Oral Roberts

It looks like a chicken to me.
Welcome back for another rousing go-round of Know Your Non-conference Opponent. Today's subject is the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. Like Orel Hersheiser or any Morehead State athletic team, ORU has the ability to draw giggles from the males 18-35 demographic just via mention of their name. That demographic once included Scott Sutton, who now settles for the distinction of being the Golden Eagles' head coach (that was a brilliant segue; take notes, journalism majors). Sutton took over the post in 1999 after serving as an assistant coach at ORU, and has compiled a respectable 204-138 record in his tenure. He is also the son of coaching legend Eddie Sutton and brother of coaching non-legend Sean Sutton. His other brother, Steve, is a banker in Tulsa.

Oral Roberts will be visiting the Cintas Center this year, probably in an effort to enhance their recruiting footprint in southwestern Ohio. Even though they went down in the first round of the less than illustrious CIT last year, there are some signs that point to the Golden Eagles being something other than an early-season patsy for X. KenPom placed them at a not-too-hateful 130th in the country last season, and that was with the nation's 302nd most experienced squad. Of the top seven offensive players on the team in terms of possessions used, five were sophomores or freshman and all seven of those players are coming back for 2011-2012. In fact, of the 7,050 minutes played by the Golden Eagles last year, 6,892 of them are coming back this season. Considering the fact that there are 200 minutes to be divided in a single game, it's safe to say the ORU didn't lose much this summer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Living the Dream Pt. 1

Playing ball, not arrested
Throughout the summer we'll keep your mind on all things Xavier with a few series about players past and present. From the occasional look back to the lesser lights of Xavier (remember Churchill Odia?), to in depth looks and possibly an interview or two with former players, to a look at our guys still playing abroad, we'll have it covered. Concepts like the Ohio Cup and an NCAA wide tournament will also come and go to keep your mind off the Reds waning playoff hopes.

With the announcement week that CJ Anderson has joined the Dayton Air Strikers of the IBL,it has been confirmed that yet another Xavier Musketeer is now playing his trade as a professional basketball player. While names like James Posey and David West jump immediately to mind when thinking of Musketeers who have gone on to play professionally, the list certainly doesn't end with those in the NBA. Gary Lumpkin, Aaron Williams,and Lenny Brown are among those who continued to play elsewhere.

The recent success of the Xavier program has led to even more of an influx of XU players into leagues around the world. Not all are stars in their respective leagues, not all even play a lot. All of them, though, are still playing basketball for a living. The first part of the series starts with some of the more recognizable names from recent history that didn't make the NBA.