Prior to Sunday’s CIT semifinal game, the Utah State
Aggies were averaging 67 points per game. Facing a
run and gun Grizzlies team, Utah State rang up a
season high in defeating Oakland 105-81. Look for
tonight’s CIT championship game against Mercer to be
in the 60’s or 70’s as both teams led their
respective leagues in scoring defense this season.
“The CIT has been an extremely positive event for
us,” said Utah State Head Coach Stew Morrill.
Morrill has guided the Aggies to 13 straight
postseason appearances, including eight NCAA
tourneys. He has also led Utah State to the fourth
best winning percentage in the nation over those
“It has been interesting to see that our kids really
wanted to continue playing after a tough loss in the
conference tournament. It lets our senior go out on
a positive note and it is a great experience for our
young guys to build on, as we try to make the NCAAA
Tournament next season. It’s been a great experience
for everyone, and it’s been nice to go from 17 to 21
wins,” said Morrill.
Mercer comes into the game at 26-11, following a
64-59 semifinal win over Fairfield.
“They are a good team, finishing right behind
Belmont in the Atlantic Sun and winning 26 games.
They are big, skilled, balanced, and well coached,”
“They have lots of weapons, shooters, bigs, and good
point guard play. Their balance concerns me. That
makes them harder to prepare for,” continued
When asked about the pace of their game against
Oakland, Morrill said, “We often times end up in the
60’s and 70’s, but we always pride ourselves in
being able to play at different paces.”
Sophomore All-WAC selection Preston Medlin has
scored 26 points in back to back CIT games to lead
the Aggies. Medlin also grabbed 10 rebounds and was
one of two Aggies with a double-double on the night,
as forward Morgan Grim recorded 18 points and 10
rebounds. Medlin shoots .435 from behind the arc,
good for 12th in the nation.
This game has all the makings of a tight defensive
battle that will go down to the last possession.
ALOHA - THE WALLACE ALL-AMERICANS
One of the more unique All-America teams is the
Riley Wallace All-America team, which rewards the
four-year player who has made great contributions to
his team's success. Some really good players on this
And if you check out Wednesday night's CIT finale
you will notice the Tournament MVP will be holding
the Riley Wallace Most Valuable Player Award. With
Coach Wallace's heavy involvement, beyond just being
the chair of the selection committee,
CollegeInsider.com named the CIT MVP Award in his
This week, Inside the Mayhem will speak to coaches
around the country to get insight into the matchups
in New Orleans. Who better to start with than Long
Beach State Head Coach Dan Monson. The 49ers played
the toughest non-conference schedule in the country
this year, facing the likes of Louisville, Kansas,
North Carolina, and Xavier. Long Beach State won the
Big West and advanced to the NCAA tourney, losing to
New Mexico in the first round. Last night, Monson
shared his thoughts on the Final Four.
“I think Kentucky has the best players, and a lot of
times, that will bear out, but I’ve been on the Ohio
State bandwagon all week, and I’m not going to get
off now. Kentucky and Louisville will have a very
emotional game on Saturday and that could take a
toll,” said Monson.
Monson of course mentioned the familiar names
Sullenger, Buford, Thomas, and Smith, but he thinks
Ohio State’s point guard play is the key.
“Craft is very aptly named. He may not be the best
point guard in the country, but I think he runs his
team as well as any point guard,” Monson said.
“Louisville and Kansas are the best two defensive
teams we’ve played this year, with Dieng and Withey.
Nobody seems to play their best against them--it’s
hard to beat good defensive teams, but I’m going to
stick with Ohio State. I’m very impressed with the
balance they have on both ends of the court,”
Monson noted that all four teams have a significant
post presence. Asked about the matchup between
Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullenger, Monson said,
“Robinson is more active athletically, and Sullenger
is more of a load. It could be a matter of which
point guard does a better job of getting them the
Monson will be in New Orleans with senior point
guard and All-American candidate Casper Ware, who
will be no doubt be making the rounds at all-star
games and awards receptions.
AGGIES AND BEARS
Utah State beat Oakland at its own Sunday night in
Logan, Utah to advance to the CIT championship game
on Wednesday night against Mercer. The Aggies shot
lights out, shooting 64% from the field, including
12-16 from the beyond the arc in the 105-81 victory.
Oakland shot a dismal 36% from the field. Reggie
Hamilton, the nation’s leading scorer tallied 23
points for the Grizzlies on 6-21 shooting. Oakland
led the Summit League in scoring for the third
straight year, while Utah State led the WAC in
scoring defense. The game marked the first time Utah
State has scored 100 points against a Division I
opponent in Coach Stew Morrill’s 14 years. First
Team All-WAC selection Preston Medlin led the Aggies
with 26 points. Wednesday’s championship game
figures to be a lower scoring affair, as Mercer is
also a defensive minded team, leading the Atlantic
Sun in scoring defense.
We spoke to Akron coach Keith Dambrot to get his
perspective on the Ohio Bobcats’ run from the MAC
championship to the Sweet Sixteen. Dambrot’s Akron
Zips played in their sixth straight MAC title game,
losing to Ohio 64-63, before losing to Northwestern
in the first round of the NIT.
Asked if it is difficult to see Ohio advance,
considering the Zips split with them during the
regular season before the heartbreaking loss in the
MAC championship, Dambrot, said, “I’m happy for
Ohio. John (Groce) has worked hard to make that a
good program. Our league is really good—they
The Zips finished the season 22-12.
In addition to placing four teams in the Sweet 16,
Dambrot noted there were eight Division I schools in
Ohio with at least 20 wins. As he spoke, Dambrot was
busy recruiting some of those Ohio kids at the state
tournament. Dambrot is very excited about the
direction of the MAC.
“Kent has been good for 13 years or so, we have had
a good eight years, and John has done a great job at
Ohio. The league is finally starting to put some
money back into basketball,” said Dambrot.
As they set to tip it off against UNC tonight, the
Ohio Bobcats look to exploit Kendall Marshall’s
Asked about tonight’s matchup for the Bobcats,
Dambrot said, “Marshall being hurt changes things a
lot. With that injury, D.J. Cooper will be the best
point guard on the floor. They’ve played against a
lot of bigger teams. They neutralized our size. I’m
not comparing us to UNC, but Ohio is used to playing
against bigger teams.”
Dambrot had some other observations about the NCAA
“I felt bad for VCU because of Shaka,” said Dambrot.
Shaka Smart is a former Akron assistant.
“It’s also obvious that the mid-major/high major gap
has shrunk. One of these years a mid-major is going
to win it. Teams are flexible and adaptable and are
learning how to beat the big guys. People are
getting better at it,” said Dambrot.
It was quite a contract in games last night.
On the one hand, the Michigan State-Louisville game
included sub-30% shooting from MSU and sub-40% from
Louisville and only 44 points for the Spartans.
Uncharacteristically, the Spartans were
out-rebounded and lost the turnover battle, giving
it away 15 times to 11 for the Cardinals.
The Wisconsin-Syracuse game, on the other hand, was
played at a high level by both teams. Each team
turned the ball over only six times, and grabbed 23
rebounds. Both shot over 50% from three point range.
In the end, Jordan Taylor did not get quite the look
that Wisconsin would have hoped for.
In the end, teams don’t get wins for style. It’s all
about surviving and advancing, however ugly or
pretty the game may be.
Following their fight marred game against Cincinnati
on December 10, the Xavier Musketeers lost five of
six and were on the verge of falling completely off
the radar screen. Obviously, XU has righted the ship
and plays Baylor tomorrow night for a berth in the
Inside the Mayhem caught up to LaSalle Coach John
Giannini to talk A-10 basketball. Following their
first round NIT loss to Minnesota, Giannini was on
the road recruiting when he shared his thoughts with
“They have two guards, Holloway and Lyons who are as
good as any two in the country. They have toughness
and size. They are really physically tough and they
defend and rebound,” said Giannini.
Clearly the Musketeers have recovered and are a
legitimate threat to defeat Baylor and advance.
Giannini also shared his perspective of the A-10.
“There have been years in the past when the top two
teams in the league may have been better when Coach
Calipari and Chaney were here, but rarely is there a
year when a league has 14 teams and they all have
legitimate talent and legitimate wins,” Said
The fourteen-team Atlantic-10 boasted eight teams
with 20 or more wins this year, with all eight
advancing to postseason play.
“The difference in our league is not usually about
talent, but more about experience, chemistry, and
health. The talent level and coaching in our league
is at a very high level,” observed Giannini.
Of his LaSalle Explorers, Giannini said, “This year
was a step in the right direction. We were pleased
to be in the top half of a great league, and we have
a lot of respect for the NIT. It would have been
great to get a home win against Minnesota n the
Giannini had another interesting observation about
“It’s fascinating that we all think that recruiting
is a science and that services and rankings have
merit. That’s completely false, and you see that
when you look at kids like C.J. McCollum (Lehigh)
and Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure. Those
kids were lightly recruited and both have a great
chance to play in the NBA,” noted Giannini.
DOWN TO FOUR
With the semifinals of the CIT set, three teams
possessing strong defensive resumes have advanced in
Utah State, Mercer, and Fairfield. Oakland, on the
other hand, has the nation’s leading scorer in
Reggie Hamilton and led the Summit League in scoring
for the third straight season. It will be
interesting to see if any team can slow down Reggie
Hamilton and the Oakland Grizzlies. Hamilton has
scored 30 or more in nine of his last ten games.
Notes from last night’s CIT games:
• Mercer shot a blistering 57% from the field in the
second half, including 6-13 from behind the arc,
against a normally stingy defense in an impressive
comeback win at Old Dominion. Equally as impressive,
the Bears won the battle of the boards,
out-rebounding the Monarchs 35-32.
• Neither team shot the ball well in Logan Utah, but
Preston Medlin converted 13 of 14 from the line,
tallying 26 points, as Utah State defeated Loyola
Marymount. The Utes also out-rebounded LMU 43-35.
• Fairfield out-shot Robert Morris 51%-35% to defeat
the Colonials 67-61. Rakim Sanders led the way for
the Stags, tallying 14 and 10 for a double-double.
Robert Morris finishes another successful campaign
with a record of 26-11.
Good things come to those who wait.
When Mercer faces Old Dominion in CIT quarterfinal
action tonight in Norfolk, sophomore Jake Gollon
will start for the Bears, and will probably play
every possession as if it could be his last.
Gollon’s approach to the game comes with a story. A
22 year old redshirt sophomore, Gollon played 2
games in 2008-09 and 9 games in 2009-10, and
received NCAA medical redshirt years each season.
Gollon broke his foot playing football during his
senior year of high school and has endured on
again-off again efforts to be cleared to play ever
since, before finally completing a full season last
In Gollon’s words, “I broke it playing football [in
high school] and missed the rest of the season. The
basketball team started 0-8, before I came out. I
came back and then we went on a 15-1 run, but I came
back too early. There is nobody to blame—it’s just
one of those things that happened. I then re-injured
it in the summer before my freshman year. I rehabbed
and got hurt again.”
Through it all, Gollon has endured three surgeries
on his left foot and microfracture surgery on his
right knee. Gollon attributes his knee issues to
compensating for his foot injuries.
Gollon described some of the challenges of being
unable to play for so long.
“Robert Murphy, now the Head Athletic Trainer at NC
State spent a lot of time with me. You feel pretty
isolated, and I became very familiar with crutches.
Coach Hoffman believed in me and saw something in me
that I didn’t know I had.”
Mercer Head Coach Bob Hoffman certainly does see
something in Gollon, as he described, “Jake is one
of those special players who can make all those
around him better and excited about their collective
opportunities. What an amazing leader he has been
for us this year.”
Gollon has not slacked off in the classroom, as he
graduated in December and is preparing to pursue his
Gollon found motivation from his teammates during
his tough times.
“Some of those years—the guys who were here when I
got hurt worked so hard. Seeing that motivated me.
Being by myself made me want it more. I constantly
play with the feeling that it could always be my
last game,” explained Gollon.
Gollon is averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for
As the two-time Patriot League Player of the Year,
Lehigh’s C.J McCollum is certainly well known in
college basketball circles. Scoring 30 points in an
NCAA Tournament upset of Duke, however, brought
things to a new level. McCollum may have approached
“household name” status, at least for a few days
anyway, after his masterful performance against the
Inside the Mayhem caught up to Holy Cross coach
Milan Brown to get some further perspective on the
Asked about the impact of Lehigh’s victory over Duke
and McCollum’s performance, Brown said, “It gives
our league a tremendous boost to show how good our
league is and the kind of players we have. I believe
it may be the first year we have had three 20-win
teams in Lehigh, Bucknell, and American.”
Asked specifically about McCollum, Brown said, “He
is one of the best. He is a really good player for
any level. He’s got a great skill set and attack
mentality. He can dribble, shoot threes, get to the
rack, make free throws, and he’ll rebound and steal
the ball as well.”
“He has a legitimate chance to be wearing a Jerry
West logo on his uniform next year,” said Brown
about McCollum’s chances to play in the NBA.
Are there any holes in McCollum’s game?
“The only thing that people will say is that he has
to get stronger,” explained Brown.
Asked how to slow down McCollum, Brown said, “You
have to make him into a volume shooter. He is going
to get his points, but you just want to force him to
take a lot of shots to get those points. It’s great
to play against guys like that, though. It really
gets your juices flowing.”
With McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala both
juniors, the Patriot League looks to be just as
strong next season. As for Brown’s Holy Cross
Crusaders, following a 15-14 overall season,
including a 9-5 league mark, Brown is pleased with
the direction in which his team is headed. Among
their wins were victories over both Lehigh and
“We are making steady progress. We like the guys
coming back and those that we are bringing in. I
believe we have guys who are ready to step up and
make plays for us,” Brown said.
With Lehigh and Norfolk State eliminated, the Ohio
Bobcats are now the darlings of the NCAA tournament.
The Mid-America Conference (MAC) turned out to be
very strong this year, with Ohio, Akron, Kent State,
and Buffalo all with 20 wins in the East Division.
Prior to the conference tourney, Akron coach Keith
Dambrot noted, “The league, especially the East is
really good. It’s better than it’s been. Nothing is
a lock. Any of five teams could win it--nothing
would surprise me.”
Dambrot may not be surprised that Ohio won the MAC
tournament, but they certainly have surprised on a
national level with their run to the Sweet Sixteen.
Now come the comparisons to Butler, VCU, and George
Prior to their game against South Florida, Oho Coach
John Groce made an observation about Butler.
“...obviously I'm biased because Brad
and I are close and Brad and I worked
together, Brad Stevens, but he did such
a great job getting those guys to play
together as a team and to execute -- we
have a saying, "Individuals play the
game, teams win championships." That's
the point I was trying to make to our
It's not track, a track event, it's not
golf, it's not a wrestling match.
There's some connection there on
dependent relationships between five
players that are out there playing
simultaneously, and I thought Butler
really exemplified that over last couple
I really enjoyed watching them play and
I did allude to them on several
occasions about -- to our guys about
watching them, how well they play
together and as a team and it was about
team. I meant that certainly with all
due respect to Butler.”
Old Dominion is making a push to become the first
two-time CIT champion. The Monarchs finished
yesterday’s game on a 20-11 run to defeat USC
Upstate 65-56 and advance in the 2012 CIT. Blaine
Taylor’s teams are always known for defense and
rebounding, and yesterday was no exception.
The Monarchs harassed A-Sun Player of the Year
Torrey Craig into 1-11 shooting and out-rebounded
the Spartans 49-33 in the victory. ODU shot only
38.5% from the field, but limited USC Upstate to 33%
in a typical “grind it out” victory.
With 11 of 13 players returning, including A-Sun
Rookie of the Year in addition to Craig, the
Spartans may now be known as “USC-Upstart,” as they
look to build on their remarkable turnaround and
make a drive for the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13.
THE BIG DANCE
• Florida slammed the door on the Norfolk State
storybook season with a 25-0 run in the first half.
Nevertheless, doors opened for Spartans’ star, Kyle
O’Quinn. He became the overnight star of the tourney
with his performance in the Spartans first round
upset of Missouri, combined with his charisma with
• The NCAA tourney is starting to look like the NFL
with replay reviews. This weekend, I counted at
least three video reviews of possible flagrant
fouls. I’m not sure whether grazing an opponent’s
chin should be called a flagrant foul or not, but I
am sure the game does not need lengthy replay
reviews to make the determination.
40, 31, 30, 34, 31, 31, 31, 39…
No, those are not the latest Powerball numbers.
Those are Reggie Hamilton’s scoring totals in his
last eight games. Oakland University’s All-America
candidate is not doing this under the bright lights
of the NCAA tourney, but he has been doing it all
year long. The nation’s leading scorer, Hamilton led
the Grizzlies to an 86-69 first round CIT win over
Bowling Green on Wednesday night.
“Offensively, there is not anyone one on one that he
can’t score against,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe.
“He is so good with the basketball. He shoots a ton
of free throws and shoots 88% from the line. He
shoots step back threes, gets to the basket, splits
double teams. He can really, really score. He works
extremely hard—he is in the gym every day at 6 am,”
In the eight game scoring tear, Hamilton is shooting
42-72 from three point range, a 58% clip. In that
same stretch, Hamilton has gotten to the free throw
line over 11 times per game, including 22 times
Hamilton is playing with a high level of confidence
as his college career comes to an end.
“I say he is like Brett Favre,” said Kampe. “He’s a
guy who thinks he can throw a football through the
eye of a needle from 30 yards away. Occasionally it
gets you in trouble because he is so confident, but
the benefits of that confidence are so great.”
Kampe said the Grizzlies have recovered from their
Summit League Tournament loss to Southern Utah.
“We have a statement: ‘If we get knocked down, we
get back up.’ We are excited to be playing in the
CIT. We have really challenged our kids to try to
win this tournament,” explained Kampe.
Oakland hosts Buffalo in the 2nd round of the CIT on
NO SLEEP ‘TILL BROOKLYN
Will a #16 seed ever defeat a #1 in the NCAA
tourney? Probably so. Though it is highly unlikely
to happen tonight, there are two intriguing matchups
LIU returns to the tournament to face Michigan
State. The Blackbirds secured their second straight
NEC title, and have won 20 of 22, entering the
tourney. LIU is third in the country in scoring
(81.9), and brings an experienced, though still
young roster to their first round game.
Additionally, they have one component all teams need
to make a postseason run--a guard who can control
the ball. Sophomore Jason Brickman is 5th in the
country in assists per game (7.3) and has two First
Team All-NEC selections to dish to in juniors Julian
Boyd (17.4/9.5) and Jamal Olasewere (16.8/7.5). LIU
will have their hands full tonight, but they will
not be intimidated. With that trio returning next
year, look for the Blackbirds to make their third
straight trip to the tourney in 2012-13.
In a classic battle of tempo, Vermont tips off
against North Carolina tonight. The Catamounts have
won 15 of 16 and figure to be outmatched. The “game
within the game” tonight will be pace. The likely
scenario has Vermont having success controlling
tempo early with the Tar Heels eventually wearing
Two intriguing 16 vs. 1 games to keep an eye on
Prior to last night’s Buffalo-American CIT matchup
in Washington, D.C., American assistant Eddie
Jackson, commented, “It’s a little bit of a contrast
in styles. Some of our strengths are their
weaknesses and vice versa.”
American was second in the Patriot League in scoring
defense at 61.7 points per game, and Buffalo led the
MAC in scoring at 72.7 and in field goal percentage
defense at .393.
The field goal percentages told the difference, as
the Bulls shot 51.6% from the field, including 43%
from behind the arc, while the Eagles struggled to
put the ball n the basket, shooting 33.8%, as
Buffalo prevailed 78-61.
The Bulls had a potent inside-outside game going, as
MAC Player of the Year Mitchell Watt and All-League
choice Javon McCrea combined for 33 points mostly
around the basket, and marksman Zach Filzen hit six
threes, to finish with 18.
Of the victory, Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon said,
“It means the world. First of all, it gave us the
chance to have back to back 20-win seasons--first
time ever in the history of the school. You’re
coming in and playing a team that’s won 20 games,
they only lost one game at home, so it’s a big time
challenge, and I think our guys responded to it very
The Bulls also enjoyed the chance to visit the
“We had a chance to come to a part of the country
that we hadn’t been to in awhile, and we had pretty
good support. It was a great education for us. Most
of our team had never seen the White House and had
never been to DC, so it was a good trip for us,”
HOUSE OF PAYNE
The last first round CIT game tips off tonight as
USC Upstate hosts Kent State. Fresh off his recent
400th win, USC Upstate Coach Eddie Payne said the
Spartans are ready.
“We are real excited. It’s our first time in
postseason play in Division 1, so we’re very
excited. There’s no down side. We are a young team
and a young fan base, so this helps too, as far as
building our fan base” said Payne.
Payne has done his homework on Kent State.
“They’ve been to postseason play 13 of 14 years.
They are the tenth most experienced team in the
country, and they start four seniors, so they are a
really good, solid team.”
While the Kent Golden Flashes have achieved a long
period of success, the Spartans have shown a
dramatic 15-game improvement over last year. The
future looks bright, as they boast the Atlantic Sun
Player of the Year in sophomore Torrey Craig and the
conference Freshman of the Year in Ty Greene.
First his house caught fire and then his team did,
Speaking from Dayton, Ohio last night, Vermont’s
first year coach John Becker did not even realize
what he had said in describing his roller coaster
first season leading the Catamounts.
The Becker family had a reality check at 6:30 am on
Tuesday, December 27 when a passing construction
worker knocked on the door to alert them that their
house was on fire. As it turns out, smoldering ashes
left on the porch ignited a blaze, which may well
have ended in tragedy, were it not for the passerby
waking the family up in the nick of time.
The Catamounts had just emerged from a five game
losing streak, with wins over Fairleigh Dickinson
and Towson, but would go on to lose their next two,
dropping to 6-9. At this point, perspective was not
a problem, as Becker had a recent reminder that
there are many things in life more important than
Since that time, Vermont is 17-2 and poised for
their First Four matchup with Lamar tonight.
“We were playing alright, but we had a really tough
non-conference schedule,” said Becker, speaking of
Vermont’s start. Their first seven losses and eight
of eleven were to postseason teams.
“After our Stony Brook loss (January 2), we really
buckled down. We started to develop some things
defensively and the guys bought in. We also have
such a young group, and we allowed them to play
through some mistakes. We stuck with ten guys and
developed some depth, and now we are able to wear
some teams down,” said Becker.
Of tonight’s matchup, Becker said, “It’s a little
bit a contrast of styles. They like to run and play
fast and do a lot off the bounce. They are probably
a little more offensive oriented, while we are a
little more defensive oriented.”
If tonight’s First Four matchups are anything like
last night’s we are in for quite a show.
THE LITTLE DANCE
A couple of notes from last night’s first round CIT
• One of the benefits of the CIT is the opportunity
for young players to gain some more valuable
practice and game time. Old Dominion freshman
Richard Ross is now Exhibit A, as he shot 8-9 from
the field and scored a career high 19 points,
helping the Monarchs to grind out a 68-66 victory
over Coastal Carolina.
• Georgia State showed why they led the CAA in field
goal percentage defense, limiting Tennessee Tech to
28% shooting from the field, including 9% from three
point range, as the Panthers ran away from the
Golden Eagles 74-43. Georgia State held OVC leading
scorer Kevin Murphy to seven points on 3-11
• IN a tightly contested battle, All-America
candidate Damian Lillard led Weber State past Utah
Valley 72-69. Lillard had 21 points and 5 assists,
while UVU’s Isiah All-League choice Isiah Williams
scored 26 for the Wolverines. Turnovers were the
difference as Utah Valley turned it over 17 times,
compared to nine for Weber State. The resulting
extra possessions for the Wildcats carried them, as
all other stats were about even.
It’s been a whirlwind at Norfolk State since
Saturday, but Spartans Coach Anthony Evans is not
“It’s been crazy, but it’s a good crazy. I haven’t
slept much,” said Evans, describing his last couple
Norfolk State defeated Bethune-Cookman 73-70
Saturday to earn their first ever MEAC title and an
automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.
Prior to moving to Division I in 1997-98, the
Spartans played in fifteen NCAA Division II
Sunday evening, the Spartans learned they would face
Missouri on Friday in Omaha. Evans and his staff
quickly started gathering information on the Tigers.
“We started putting stuff together,” explained
Evans. “They’re pretty good. They’re 30-4,” said
Evans said he has reached out to some of his friends
in the profession to get their thoughts about
preparing his team for their first-ever tourney
“I’m a little concerned about their reaction when we
get out there, but we are going to try to keep it as
normal as possible,” said Evans.
With the help of MEAC Player of the Year Kyle
O’Quinn, Evans has led the Spartans to their best
four year stretch since entering Division I.
Despite a loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic
Sun semifinals, the Mercer Bears (22-11) still have
a lot to play for. Mercer faces Tennessee State
tonight in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com
Postseason Tournament (CIT). This marks the first
postseason appearance for the Bears in 27 years, and
just the third time in program history.
“We have the chance to tie for the most wins in the
106 years of basketball at Mercer, on top of playing
in the postseason for the first time since 1985”
said Coach Bob Hoffman.
Asked about the after effects of last week’s A-Sun
tourney loss, Hoffman said, “Last week was spring
break, so it was a good time for our kids to have a
few days off. Since then we have had the opportunity
for our young guys to work on some deficiencies.”
Mercer’s opponent, Tennessee State, dealt Murray
State (30-1) their only loss of the season, beating
the Racer 72-68 in February, before losing to them
on the OVC championship game.
Of Tennessee State, Hoffman said, “Everybody I’ve
talked to says we got a tough draw. They are
athletic, they are skilled, and they are
disciplined. They have had a good plan in every game
that I’ve seen them play.”
We hear all the time about the highly valued “double
bye” in the Big East Tournament. How about the
“triple bye?” That is what Akron and Buffalo earned
by gaining the top two seeds in the MAC Tournament
The Zips (21-10/13-3) open tourney play tonight in
the MAC Semifinals against #4 seed Kent State. Akron
is on quite a run, with seven consecutive 20-win
“We are a very young team, trying to get better,”
said Coach Keith Dambrot.
“We try to do it in a way that we can sustain peaks
and valleys. That’s why we take a lot of four-year
guys. It’s hard to make this kind of a run. You need
stability and we’ve been able to keep our staff
together and get high character guys,” continued
Dambrot, in his eighth season at the helm.
Due to the bye, the Zips have not played in a week.
“I’m a little nervous with the bye, but we just have
to relax and play our game,” said Dambrot.
CAN SEAWOLVES DANCE?
Stony Brook faces Vermont in their second
consecutive America East championship game on
“There is such a buzz on campus. There are lines
outside right now for tickets. It’s been crazy. It’s
great for our community, especially since we’ve only
been in Division I for twelve years,” said Stony
Brook Coach Steve Pikiell.
“We came up two points short last year, so I’m
really happy for my guys to get back there. Every
guy who will check into the game for us on Saturday
has been there before, so I’m hopeful that they will
benefit from that experience,” said Pikiell.
Pikiell, who was named America East Coach of the
Year, has a lot of respect for Vermont.
“They’ve been good for ten years. We’re going to
have to play very well to win. Sometimes it comes
down to making shots. We were 0-15 from three point
range up there. We also have to slow down Four
McGlynn this time. He’s the Rookie of the Year in
our league and had 25 against us up there,” said
Pikiell, also citing Vermont All-League selection
Matt Glass, saying, “He has had his best year.”
The Seawolves and Catamounts split during the
regular season, each winning on their home floor.
Stony Brook also earned their share of regular
season honors. In addition to Pikiell’s accolades,
Tommy Brenton and Bryan Dougher each earned First
Team All-America East honors, while Brenton was also
selected America East Defensive Player of the Year.
THE WAITING GAME
It’s “sit and wait time” for Drexel and Bruiser
“It is what it is,” said Flint. “I told our kids not
to get all wrapped up in it. We’ll be playing
somewhere next week.”
The Dragons 19 game winning streak came to an end on
Monday night in the CAA final in Richmond, as VCU
defeated Drexel 59-56.
Flint points to defense and rebounding as keys to
the Dragons’ success this year.
“We defend and rebound every night. We’ve been very
consistent, and our focus all year has been
unbelievable,” noted Flint.
For now, the Dragons will get together for practice
today, after taking a few days off. Flint and his
players plan to spend Sunday by themselves, watching
the selection show, hoping to hear their name.
When reached by phone late Wednesday afternoon,
South Dakota State Coach Scott Nagy sounded
physically and emotionally drained. He admitted to
surviving on very little sleep over the last several
days, as the Jackrabbits advanced to the NCAA
tournament by winning the Summit League
championship. SDSU defeated Western Illinois 52-50
in overtime on Tuesday night, advancing to the dance
for the first time since transitioning from Division
II to Division I.
The championship was the culmination of years of
hard work and persistence during the transition to
Division I. Prior to their entry into Division I in
2004-05, the Jackrabbits qualified for the NCAA
tournament 24 times. Their first bid to the Division
I tourney means a lot.
“On a personal level, the transition has been hard.
We won so much at the D-II level, and then we lost
some players, but the tough years were good for me
as a coach. I learned to persevere and I appreciate
winning more,” said Nagy.
Of the immediate benefits, Nagy said, “It should
help with recruiting, and it’s a great day for our
university and our state. Our women’s team has made
it for the 4th time, and now we’ve made it too, so
it’s really big.”
Last week, Nagy told Inside the Mayhem, “If we
defend and rebound, we’ll have a chance.”
Defend and rebound they did, as SDSU held Western
Illinois to 16 points in the 2nd half of regulation
time, while outrebounding the Leathernecks 38-32.
It’s a good thing they did defend and rebound, as
Nagy observed, “We were at our worst offensively.
Western Illinois had a lot to do with that, but we
were not real good offensively.”
Nagy and his team are trying to enjoy the moment.
“It’s so emotional because of where we’ve been. We
are trying not to look ahead. We are taking a couple
of days off and then we’ll get back to work, and
we’ll have a big event on Sunday,” explained Nagy.
HENSON NOMINEES SHINE
The stars came out in the Patriot League last night.
Lou Henson Award nominees did not disappoint in the
Patriot League championship, as Lehigh defeated
Bucknell 82-77. Patriot League Player of the Year
C.J. McCollum led the way for Lehigh with 29 points
and 5 assists, while Bucknell’s All-Patriot League
player, Mike Muscala also had a monster game with 30
points and 14 rebounds.
“Offense Wins Championships?”
Montana and LIU players showed why they are
starters. In LIU’s 90-73 NEC Championship win over
Robert Morris, all five starters scored, combining
for 80 points, led by C.J. Garner’s 21. The
Blackbirds won their second consecutive NEC
Likewise, in the Big Sky title game, Montana’s
starters scored all 85 points and played all but
nine minutes as they Grizzlies ran away from Weber
State 85-66. Weber State’s Henson nominee and Big
Sky Player of the Year, Damian Lillard went out in
style, with 29 points, 10 boards, and 7 assists.
Texas Arlington (23-7/15-1) opens the Southland
Conference tournament tonight against Nicholls State
in Katy, Texas, but the Mavericks success started
far to the north.
“It all started in Vancouver,” said Southland
Conference Coach of the Year Scott Cross, speaking
of the Mavericks’ August trip to Canada.
“It was an unbelievable experience of team bonding,
where we really grew closer as a team. We won five
games by 30-40 points. Last year, we were the 2nd
youngest team in the country, so we really
benefitted from the trip,” explained Cross.
The Mavs took early non-conference losses to Baylor,
Texas, Tulsa, and Utah State, but rebounded to
defeat Kent State before winning 15 consecutive
Southland games. The Mavs have won 19 of 21, with
the losses being by two to Weber State and by 9 to
Texas San Antonio, spoiling UTA’s bid for a perfect
Cross points to field goal percentage defense as a
key stat for the Mavericks.
“That’s been our strength all year. In our last five
games, we slipped a little, but we had an
unbelievable practice today (Monday). If we win the
war on the boards and hold teams under 40% field
goal percentage, we are in good shape,” said Cross.
Senior guard LaMarcus Reed, an All-Southland
selection, leads the Mavs.
“He’s a fifth year senior and really does an
outstanding job. He steps up with the game on the
line” said Cross.
Among other Mavs, Cross mentioned 6’10 junior Jordan
“He has improved as much as any post player I’ve
ever coached,” said Cross.
IN OR OUT?
• Wichita State, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts, and
Iona, are the four most surprising early exits of
the last week, with more to come. Of the four,
Wichita State is the only NCAA lock, with the others
hanging on by a thread. Their fate can change by the
hour in what has to be the longest week of their
lives. They all seem assured of postseason play, but
they will have to wait until Sunday to learn which
invite comes their way.
• The other side of the coin: The list of surprise
winners has to start with Western Kentucky, as the
Hilltoppers won their final six games to get to
15-18, winning the Sun Belt Championship, earning an
automatic bid. Add South Dakota State (27-7) and
Harvard (26-4) to the list of feel good stories, as
the Jackrabbits make their first ever NCAA
appearance and the Crimson dance for the first time
• Look for a great matchup in the Patriot League
championship tonight as top seed Bucknell hosts
second seeded Lehigh. The teams split in the regular
season and boast two of the top mid-major players in
the country in Lehigh’s two-time Patriot League
Player of the Year C.J. McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike
Muscala. Both players are candidates for
CollegeInsider.com’s Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of
the Year Award.
In the end, Drexel gets to sit and wait much like
VCU did last year, after losing last night’s CAA
title game. Before a raucous crowd on a “neutral”
court, VCU’s defensive pressure was relentless in
the first half and the Rams withstood a Dragons
second half comeback to earn the automatic bid to
the NCAA tourney.
It was a tale of two halves in Richmond. VCU put up
35 points in the first half and had their pressure
defense in full throttle. The Dragons were able to
get stops and slow down the Rams’ press in the
second half, outscoring VCU 37-24, but it was too
little, too late, as VCU prevailed 59-56.
Remembering the anxious days leading up to Selection
Sunday last year, VCU Coach Shaka Smart told the
crowd, “You can relax for six days, because we are
in the tournament!”
The environment was electric in Richmond as the
tourney had three consecutive sellouts and set an
attendance record. When asked about the neutral
court after the game, Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint
commented, “It is what it is. Of course the coaches
would like to move it around. I would like to play
it at Drexel (laughter). It is what it is. It’s
always been down here. The thing that makes it tough
is that they’re really good...It looks good, because
if they make the championship game, you’re gonna to
get this kind of atmosphere. You look at a lot of
championship games, and they don’t have this kind of
atmosphere. But it is what it is, and you’ve gotta
deal with it.”
Now it’s Drexel’s turn to sit and wait for six days
to learn their postseason fate. If it works out the
same way it did for VCU last year, the wait will be
BIG SKY COUNTRY
Two time Big Sky MVP, Damian Lillard leads Weber
State into the tourney semifinals tonight against
The Wildcats lost to conference leader Montana in
their final regular season game, but Weber State
Coach Randy Rahe is confident that his team is
“That last game was not what we wanted it to be. We
kind of got out of character and out of whack, but
the last few days of practice have been very good.
We’ve gotten back to moving the ball and trusting
each other. This is a great group, and they are very
resilient,” said Rahe.
Of his matchup with Portland State, Rahe said,
“They’ve got two First Team All-Conference players
(Charles Odom and Chehales Tapscott) and they can
really score the ball. We had two really different
games with them. We really have to try to slow them
down. To try to beat them three times is tough.”
Rahe’s MVP Lillard, however, gives him some
confidence. Lillard comes into tonight’s game
averaging 24.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
“He’s had a great year. He’s really elevated
himself. After last year was cut short by injury, he
got in the weight room and changed his body. He is
the hardest working kid I’ve had in 22 years. He is
a great player and an even better kid” said Rahe.
Rahe admitted the NBA may come calling, so Lillard’s
junior season could be his last.
He realizes, however, that the Wildcats cannot be
“When we are at our best, we have two or three
others in double figures.
March certainly provides much drama and many
powerful memories for basketball families.
Let’s take a look at two such stories.
In St. Louis yesterday, Creighton Head Coach Greg
McDermott had the privilege of watching his son Doug
score 33 points in leading the BlueJays to the
Missouri Valley Conference title with an 83-79
overtime victory over Illinois State. The younger
McDermott was crowned the MVC Player of the Year
last week, and has emerged this year as an
All-America candidate and one of the top players in
the country. In the postgame presser, the younger
McDermott said, “ I remember like yesterday as a 4th
grade kid up there on the stage with my dad’s team
(Northern Iowa)...This is what we all dream of--to
play on national television for a championship.”
Indeed a proud moment for father and son.
Meanwhile, the other part of March was playing out
for the Baron family in Kingston, Rhode Island.
Following a 7-24 season, Coach Jim Baron was
released from his contract at the University of
Rhode Island, after 11 seasons. Baron finishes with
a 186-124 (.526) overall record and three A-10 Coach
of the Year honors (2003, 2007, 2009). In a press
release issued by the university, Baron said, “I
would like to thank the University of Rhode Island
and the people of the state of Rhode Island for the
opportunity to have served as head coach for 11
years. My entire family has received support,
friendship, and love from so many people. We will
rely on those friends, and also our faith, in this
period of transition."
"I am comfortable with everything I was able to give
to the program and to coach some fine young men. I
wish nothing but the best for the program and the
University of Rhode Island," Baron added.
One of those fine young men whom Baron coached on
this year’s team was none other than his son, Billy
Baron, a sophomore transfer from Virginia. Coach
Baron’s older son, Jimmy, also played for his father
at Rhode Island from 2005-2009.
Two powerful, yet starkly different March memories
for two great basketball families...
REACHING THE SUMMIT
With their 77-56 victory over IUPUI on Saturday,
South Dakota State advanced to tonight’s Summit
League semifinal against Southern Utah, an upset
winner over Oakland. The Jackrabbits (25-7) have won
six in a row and nine of ten, and dodged a rematch
with Oakland, a team that beat them at the end of
January. In avoiding Oakland, South Dakota State
does not have to face Grizzlies guard Reggie
Hamilton, who averages 26 points per game and
tallied 31 in their semifinals loss.
South Dakota State is led by junior All-Summit
guard, Nate Wolters. Of Wolters, Jackrabbits Head
Coach Scott Nagy said, “He is a great guard, and we
kind of get used to his performances. He averages
over 20 points, six assists, and five rebounds per
game. People have tried everything on him. It’s a
pretty good season to average 20 points and to lead
the league in assists.”
Of the prolific individual scorers in the Summit
this year, Nagy said, “It’s unbelievable to have
five guys averaging over 20 points per game.”
In addition to Wolters and Hamilton, Player of the
Year Dominique Morrison (Oral Roberts), Frank Gaines
(IPFW), and Alex Young (IUPUI) also dropped more
than 20 per night this year.
Nagy understands the only sure way to win an NCAA
tourney bid is to win the Summit tournament. In a
league of high scorers, defense might play a big
“We have to defend and rebound. If we defend and
rebound, we will have a chance,” said Nagy.
LETS DO THIS
Tonight’s CAA Championship matchup between VCU and
Drexel will be a great battle of tempo, with VCU
wanting to get up and down, and Drexel being more
comfortable in the half court. It will be
interesting to see how VCU responds after such a
crazy game last night. After building a first half
lead of 32-4, the Rams hung on as George Mason
mounted a furious comeback, eventually defeating the
Patriots 74-64. VCU will have their hands full with
a Drexel team that has won 19 straight and 25 of 26,
after starting the season 2-4. A big question
remains. Is the CAA a one or two bid league this
year? Most likely, if VCU wins tonight, Drexel will
secure an at-large bid. The big question is what
happens if Drexel wins. VCU is in familiar
territory, feeling as if they need a win tonight to
cement an invite to the dance. Last year, they felt
the same way, and we all know how that turned out.
Inside the Mayhem will be at the game tonight in
Richmond to see it unfold.
With the Sun Belt Tournament set to start on
Saturday, Arkansas-Little Rock Coach Steve Shields
has to be happy with the way his Trojans have
performed in the second half of the season. After
beginning the year 3-10, UALR has gone 12-5, to even
up their record at 15-15. The 3-10 start was not as
bad as it might have looked to outsiders.
“We lost our top three scorers and five seniors from
a team that made a run to the conference
championship. We had a new team,” said Shields.
“Our non-conference strength of schedule was 50th in
the country this year and including freshmen,
redshirts and walk-ons, we had nine new guys total.
Between our tough non-conference schedule and having
a different team, those factors contributed to our
start. You have to dissect those thirteen games,
though. In a lot of those games, we led late, but
didn’t know how to finish,” explained Shields.
“We were up late against both Oral Roberts and SMU,
but we were shooting ourselves in the foot. We were
playing much better than our record indicated. The
big positive is that we continued to have good
practices, full of energy, enthusiasm, and attention
to detail,” noted Shields.
Leading the way for the Trojans have been senior
captains Courtney Jackson and D’Andre Williams.
Shields can’t say enough about his captains.
“We vote for captains at the beginning of the year,
and those guys were on all 15 ballots. There is a
reason. Courtney did not finish last year due to a
torn meniscus, but he is playing with the utmost
confidence. D’Andre really values the basketball. We
only average 11 turnovers a game--he’s been our
point guard for two years. Neither guy is a big
talker, but they lead by example and do it in a
quiet way. I love those guys. They are really
special,” said Shields.
Of the Sun Belt tourney, Shields said, “It is wide
open. Middle Tennessee has established themselves as
the best team in the league, but any number of teams
are capable of making a run.”
Shields pointed to rebounding as one of the keys for
the Trojans to make a run.
Asked to identify mid-major teams capable of making
a postseason run, in addition to naming Middle
Tennessee, Shields identified Oral Roberts from the
In the best month of the year, let’s take a look
around the college basketball landscape at some
other story lines:
• How about Virginia and Virginia Tech? Unlike past
years, the Hokies are not on the bubble, but they
certainly have encountered some tough luck recently.
Tech has lost four of five. Those four losses are by
1 to Florida State, by 2 to Virginia, by 5 to Duke
in overtime, and by 2 to Clemson. Their lone victory
is by 1 over Georgia Tech in overtime. Virginia,
despite a tough loss to Florida State last night,
still has a strong resume in my mind. Aside from two
double digit losses in February to Carolina and
Clemson, the other blemishes on the Cavaliers record
are two point losses to Virginia Tech and TCU and
three point defeats to Duke, Florida State,
Carolina, and again Florida State. I still look for
the Cavaliers to make some noise.
• You’ve got to love the Patriot league format of
tourney games being hosted by the higher seed. If
you want to see a great tourney environment, look no
further than the Patriot League. The regular season
brings on even greater meaning, when teams are
battling to host playoff games.
• If the Atlantic Sun Tournament holds true to form,
look for a great championship game battle between
Belmont and Mercer.
• A playoff is still possible in the Ivy League,
with Harvard at 10-2 and Penn at 9-2. The Crimson
still play Columbia and Cornell. Penn plays Brown
tonight, followed by games with Yale and Princeton.
The milestones and honors are already piling up for
the South Carolina Upstate Spartans. Last Saturday’s
90-72 victory over Stetson was not only Coach Eddie
Payne’s 400th career win, but it was also win number
20 for a team that totaled 20 wins in the three
previous seasons combined.
Payne was much more excited about the 20 wins than
“My milestone was going to happen sooner or later.
It’s significant for these kids to get 20 wins in
their first season of eligibility,” commented Payne.
USC Upstate is postseason eligible in Division I
this year, after transitioning from Division II.
Monday afternoon, the accolades continued, as Payne
was named Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, Torrey
Craig, Player of the Year, and Ty Greene, Freshman
of the Year.
With a roster of almost all freshmen and sophomores,
the future looks bright for the Spartans, but Payne
is focused on the Atlantic Sun tourney.
“I am proud of our kids and team, but in one-bid
leagues, the tourneys are always tense and tough,”
noted Payne, in his 10th year at Upstate.
Payne is pleased with the performance of the
Atlantic Sun this year. Belmont is well respected
nationally, and Mercer has had an outstanding
“In the latest Sagarin ratings, we are 15th, 8 spots
higher than the Southern Conference and 9 spots
higher than the Big South. This is the best the
league has been since I’ve been here,” observed
While the individual honors are nice, Payne is much
more focused on his team’s accomplishments.
“The honors are the ultimate validation of our
team,” said Payne. “It’s the ability of those guys
to integrate their talents and perform within what
the team is trying to do that is special.”
Of his sophomore Craig, Payne noted, “He is 6’6 with
range. He can rebound and block shots. He does a lot
of different things for us. Last year, his numbers
were similar, but we only won five games. It’s very
Payne sees two keys to continuing into March. “Our
half court defense has been more consistent. We
played more full court trapping earlier, but teams
in our league know us better, so we don’t do as much
of that now. Our half court defense has been good.
We have also been more efficient offensively. Those
two things are big.”
Asked if he has had time to enjoy all of the recent
accomplishments, Payne remained focused on the
future, saying, “We will purposely wait to enjoy the
honors, because we know they would pale in
comparison to winning the tournament.”
Notre Dame’s 4-27 three-point shooting did them in
on Saturday, ending their nine game winning streak,
but they still appear to be playing their best
basketball heading into March.
“Everybody wants a secret formula for why we are
playing well, but from mid-December on, we knew who
we would have available, and we had a good month to
practice together,” explained Mike Brey.
The Irish lost fifth year senior Tim Abromaitis to a
torn ACL in late November.
“Beating Pitt in late December and then Louisville
gave us confidence, and then beating Syracuse
(January 21) was the ultimate. Our guys have handled
it maturely. They’ve gotten hungrier,” continued
Defense and rebounding has been a staple for the
“There is no question that we allow fewer
possessions because of our tempo, but our defense on
those possessions has been good. We have been really
good defending the arc with Eric Atkins and Jerian
Grant,” said Brey.
Of this year’s Big East, Brey said, “You have to
keep your seatbelts on, because it is as
unpredictable as ever both on and off the court.
Collectively, we understand that we can get better.
Last year, we were a finished product by around
Christmas, which was okay, because we were a pretty
good product. This year, we feel like we can still
get better by New York City.”
Regarding the future, Brey expressed his thoughts on
“It’s disappointing. I love our identity and what
we’ve had. Syracuse and Pitt are great and sexy
basketball programs. The addition of Memphis will be
good and so would Temple,” said Brey.
Following two consecutive National Championship game
appearances, the Butler Bulldogs embarked on a
different journey this year. With three freshmen and
six sophomores on the roster, Butler is 17-12
overall and 10-6 in the competitive Horizon League.
I recently had an opportunity to catch up with
Butler mentor Brad Stevens to get his perspective on
coaching a younger team this year, after back to
back NCAA final appearances.
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: What is this year like, coaching
a less experienced team after playing in two
consecutive championship games? How do you and your
staff approach coaching this team, compared to a
team contending for a national championship?
Brad Stevens: Every team that you coach has its own
unique set of challenges. As a coach, you keep
teaching, you keep working, and you give that group
everything you have, regardless of where you stand
in relation to the opposition.
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: With six freshmen and three
sophomores, can you comment on the development of
your young players? Does anyone in particular stand
out as making great progress this year?
Brad Stevens: I think that all 9 have made strides.
If we’re going to make a run in our conference
tournament, a few of those guys will have to play at
a very high level.
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: How has the leadership been this
year from your experienced players who have played
in national championship games? What kind of impact
have they had on your younger players?
Brad Stevens: Ronald Nored and Garrett butcher have
done a great job leading this group—most importantly
stressing the right things and maintaining a
positive attitude and approach.
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: What do you see down the stretch
and in the future for your program?
Brad Stevens: Our program for the long-term is in a
very “healthy” position. Next year, we’ll have great
depth n a lot of areas and a better mix of old and
young. This year, we need to go after and value
every opportunity and see if we can be playing our
best basketball at the end of this month.
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: How about your league this year?
Brad Stevens: It’s a very good league. Has been for
all 12 years that I’ve been here. The problem has
never been the reality; the problem has been the
INSIDE THE MAYHEM: On the national level, who has
made an impression on you?
Brad Stevens: I was very impressed with Gonzaga when
we played them in December. I think that they have
all the tools to make a run.
In their inaugural season in the MEAC, the Savannah
State Tigers were picked eleventh in the
“I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Tigers’
coach Horace Broadnax. “It’s hard to predict the
future. If you had told me that I would be a head
basketball coach in Division I and have a law
degree, I am not sure I would have believed it,
The Tigers have made believers out of the
prognosticators, as they are 8-2 in league play and
15-10 overall, good for second in the MEAC. They are
in the midst of a six game winning streak and have
won nine of ten.
Broadnax points to a January 3 loss at Arkansas as a
turning point. After a 1-5 start, SSU was 5-8 going
into the Arkansas game. It should be noted that the
Tigers were not playing a soft schedule, having
faced Georgetown, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Georgia
“We had a lot of time to prepare for Arkansas,”
recalled Broadnax. “We pressed for about twelve
minutes in that game to get back into it, and we cut
their lead to six. We held them scoreless for a long
stretch. Since then we’ve been playing with a lot of
energy on both ends of the court. We’re really
getting after it and trying to wear teams down. That
game was a springboard, in that we began playing
with a lot of energy and passion, so I said, ‘let’s
rock and roll with it.’”
Of their recent success, Broadnax cautions, “We need
to guard against being content and happy. We need to
maintain our enthusiasm and energy level.”
The top three finishers in the MEAC earn first round
byes. Those coveted byes will be up for grabs down
the stretch. In Broadnax’s words, “The followers
could be leaders and the leaders could be
If the Tigers expect to contend, they will lean on
junior forwards Rashad Hassan and Arnold Louis.
After sitting out last year, those two were supposed
to lead the Tigers in their first MEAC season in
hopes of making a push next year. Hassan and Louis,
however, were not willing to wait until next year,
instead leading SSU into contention this year. JUCO
transfer Deric Rudolph has stretched defenses,
hitting over 70 threes, and point guard Preston
Blackman has been an effective quarterback. The rest
of the Tigers are in Broadnax’s words, a “committee
of energy, excitement, and passion.”
While the MEAC winner remains to be crowned, SSU has
certainly exceeded preseason expectations, and is
well positioned to make a push for postseason play
this year and contend again next year.
Pat Skerry and his staff come into Towson with their
eyes wide open, knowing the rebuilding process that
lay ahead of them. Despite this year’s well
documented 22-game slide to start the season, Skerry
and the Tigers remain resolute in their efforts to
build a winning program in one of the premier
mid-major leagues in the country.
“We knew there would be challenges, but I have a
great staff, and we are getting better every day,”
said Skerry. “We try to deal in reality,” continued
Skerry. “We try to emphasize getting tougher
physically and mentally. Winning programs do what
they do every day. We really try to focus on now.”
Skerry knows a bit about winning programs, having
spent time in the Big East at both Pitt and
Providence, but he is realistic about his current
“We really want to build this on defensive
rebounding, but we have some deficiencies
offensively. Dribbling, passing, and catching is
sometimes an adventure for us,” explained Skerry.
Reinforcements are on the way, with Big East
transfers Jerelle Benimon and Mike Burwell becoming
eligible next season and a strong recruiting class
coming in. A new on-campus arena will open in
2013-14, which Skerry said will be the “crown jewel
of our league.”
Skerry is impressed with the CAA and is looking
forward to continuing the building process.
“It’s a great league. Right now, there are four
teams and then everyone else. The top four of Mason,
VCU, ODU, and Drexel are all postseason teams, and
I’m really impressed with what Northeastern has done
this year, too. We knew the league was good, and we
are looking forward to climbing. Our university is
in a great area, and we have everything in place to
build a contender,” said Skerry.
Three guesses: Who is tied with Kentucky for the
third longest win streak in the country behind
Murray State and Nevada? In America’s Heartland,
you’ll find the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles with an
overall record of 20-4 and a 12-0 league record to
go with their thirteen game winning streak.
Asked the key to his team’s success this season, ORU
Coach Scott Sutton immediately laughed and answered,
“We have experience. We have all been here through
rough games, we’ve been on the road, and we’ve had
success with this group,” explained Sutton.
One of those good players Sutton referred to might
actually be called a great player.
Dominique Morrison is a 6’6 senior, averaging 20
points and 4 rebounds, while shooting 51% from the
field, including 48% from three point range.
Of Morrison, Sutton said, “In the last ten games, he
has played as well as anyone in the country. He is
Morrison is coming off a 28-point effort in Saturday
night’s win over UMKC, but his effort in the
previous game against South Dakota spoke volumes as
well. South Dakota played a triangle and two against
Morrison and teammate Warren Niles, and those two
willingly sacrificed their shots for teammate Mikey
Manghum, who benefitted, with a career high 18
points on six three pointers.
Such unselfish play is not going unnoticed by
“This is the most unselfish group I’ve had. We
really talked a lot in the preseason about being
selfless. We are talented, too. We had five guys
picked preseason all-league, either first or second
team,” explained Sutton.
Like most coaches, Sutton sees plenty of room for
“We need to improve defensively,” said Sutton. “We
have a lot of big scorers in our league. To win in
March, we have to get better defensively.”
In a league often dominated by Rick Byrd’s Belmont
Bruins, the Mercer Bears are making some noise.
After Monday’s night’s win over Jacksonville, Mercer
has won seven of eight and is tied for first place
in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Mercer Coach Bob
Hoffman quickly identified the keys to Mercer’s
“We are playing really good defensively,” said
Hoffman. “We are really playing team defense. We are
really connected and communicating at a high level.
We understand why defense is important,” explained
With a team that has eleven freshmen and sophomores,
Hoffman observed, “We have really grown up after
last year. I think we have high character guys who
While Belmont gets much of the attention in the
league, Hoffman sees good things throughout the
“It is a really underrated league. We have good
players and great coaches. The new coaches in our
league have brought great energy. I’ve had the
opportunity to coach at a lot of different levels in
my career, and I’m really impressed with what I see
in this league,” noted Hoffman.
With six players averaging at least eight points per
game, the Bears have shown great balance.
“The last few years, we have had a dominant scorer.
This year, we have different guys each night. We are
really diversified, and that has grown our
confidence. [Leading scorer] Justin Cecil has had
big time games for us this season. He has hit shot
after shot, but he has really improved defensively.
He’s grown into our program defensively.”
Going forward, Hoffman mentions East Tennessee
State’s Adam Sollazo as a player to watch in the
“He is almost unguardable as a 6’6 point guard. He
makes plays all over the place. I’m not sure there
is another player like him in the country,” said
Mercer looks to continue their winning ways with a
two game set in Florida visiting Stetson on Saturday
and Florida Gulf Coast on Monday.
Over the past couple of season, Inside the Mayhem
has had the opportunity to veer off the beaten path
of Division I basketball looking at both Division
III and JUCO hoops. Recently, we had the chance to
take a look at one of the most storied programs in
the Division II ranks.
James Wilhelmi is in his first year as Associate
Head Coach at Winston-Salem, assisting Head Coach
Bobby Collins. Wilhelmi has vast experience, having
coached at both the Division III and Division I
levels, prior to joining the d-II ranks last year at
North Alabama and this year at Winston-Salem.
The Rams are off to a great start at 13-2,
especially considering that they lost their best
player, senior guard Lamar Monger to a torn ACL in
the Rams’ January 7 game against Virginia Union.
Wilhelmi describes Monger as “the toughest guy I’ve
In Monger’s place, freshman WyKevin Bazemore has
picked up the slack. The younger brother of Old
Dominion star Kent Bazemore, WyKevin Bazemore came
off the bench the night of Monger’s injury and
exploded for 24 points and 17 rebounds. On the
season, Bazemore is averaging 11 points and 8
As a coaching veteran of all levels, Wilhelmi has an
interesting perspective on Division II basketball,
especially in the always competitive CIAA.
“This level is as good as a lot of low level and
mid-major D-I programs,” said Wilhelmi. “We get a
lot of Division I transfers and JUCO players and
guys who are just hard workers and really develop,”
Of his experience at Winston-Salem, Wilhelmi said,
“There are two states that people always say are
passionate about basketball, and they are Indiana
and North Carolina. They love their Ram basketball
The CIAA celebrates its 100th birthday this year,
and it figures to be a good one. Shaw University is
on the heels of Winston-Salem, with an identical
Of the league, Wilhelmi said, “It’s a dogfight. We
swept the Northern Division, but all of the games
were close. This is one of the premier leagues in
The CIAA Tournament is one of the most highly
attended tournaments at any level in the country and
the atmosphere of CIAA basketball has made a strong
impression on Wilhelmi.
“It’s a special environment,” described Wilhelmi. “I
have a friend who is a video coordinator on the
Division I level. He came to watch one of our games
and he went back and showed clips of the game to his
staff so they could see the atmosphere at the game.
It’s really a special atmosphere.”
A tough non-conference schedule is paying dividends
for Norfolk State of the MEAC. The non-conference
battles included two losses against Marquette
including a 59-57 loss in the Paradise Jam. The
Spartans also lost to Virginia Tech and Illinois
State, while defeating Drexel, TCU, Eastern
Kentucky, and Long Island, among others. The
Spartans are battle-tested and show it with a 4-0
MEAC mark. Of the non-conference schedule, Spartans
coach Anthony Evans said, “It’s always something
we’ve tried to do. This year we tried to get some
home games, and we were also tested in the Paradise
Of their strong start, Evans observed, “We have been
consistent on the defensive end and that showed in
our play at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
against Drexel, TCU, and Marquette.” NSU gave up 56,
53, and 59 points in the three game Paradise Jam,
culminating with the two point loss to Marquette. A
week prior to the Paradise Jam, Marquette had
defeated Norfolk State 99-68 in Milwaukee.
Evans is a native of Brooklyn, NY, and his roots
show, as the Spartans roster includes eight New York
products. “My assistant Rob Jones and I are both
from New York. New York has been good to us and is
known for producing good players,” said Evans.
The Spartans are led by 6’10 senior Kyle O’Quinn.
The preseason mid-major All-American is averaging 14
and 10, as he rounds out a stellar career in
“He had some struggles early,” observed Evans, “but
he has started to find his rhythm. He can step out
and hit the three, rebound, block shots. He has done
everything we have asked.”
Looking ahead, Evans said, “The league is as tough
as it’s been. There are no pushovers.”
Evans’ team continues to grab votes each week in the
Mid-Major Top 25. At 13-5 the Spartans are currently
among ‘other’s receiving votes’ and with 31 points
they sit at No. 28.
With no seniors on the roster, the St. Joe’s Hawks
are not as inexperienced as one would think.
“We are young, but not as inexperienced as you would
think,” said St. Joe’s Coach Phil Martelli, now in
his 17th year at the helm.
“Ronald Roberts played meaningful minutes and
started at the end of last year, and C.J. Aiken and
Carl Jones both started, while (Halil) Kanacevic
played a lot at Hofstra before transferring,” noted
Martelli is hoping last year’s meaningful minutes
will pay off for this year’s Hawk squad. “They had a
taste of what last year was like, and they don’t
want to repeat that,” Martelli said, referring to
the 11-22 record of a year ago.
At 11-5, it appears the Hawks did not like how last
season tasted, as they have already equaled their
win total from a year ago.
Youth is not an excuse in Martelli’s mind. After the
Hawks’ close loss to Harvard on New Year’s Eve,
Martelli explained, “If we lose a game this year,
it’s not because we are young, it’s because we are
not good enough.”
St. Joe’s led at both Harvard and Iona for 35
minutes. “We have proved we can play at home,” said
Martelli. “What we do have to do is to improve our
The Hawks followed up the loss to Harvard with an
overtime victory over Duquesne and a five point loss
to Charlotte. Close games will be the rule in the
A-10 this year, as nine teams already boast double
figure victory totals.
Martelli is impressed with the level of play in the
league this year.
“I’m delighted for our league. Our administrators
have allowed us to schedule properly and have
prepared teams to help themselves in February and
March,” noted Martelli.
Martelli has the Hawks positioned to be in the mix
for postseason play.
“These guys have the intangibles,” said Martelli.
“They allow us to coach them, and they have a real
ability to look at yesterday and say ‘it was
yesterday, and today is today.’ We have to take the
next 70 days and value each one.”
In a league long dominated by mid-major powers
George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, and Old
Dominion, Georgia State is making a move
under first year Head Coach Ron Hunter. The
Panthers have won 11 straight after Wednesday
night’s 55-53 victory at VCU. GSU visits George
Mason on Saturday night, with an opportunity to get
an early hold on the top spot in the CAA.
Ron Hunter is still adjusting to his new
surroundings after being at IUPUI for seventeen
“We completely stripped the program down,” said
Hunter. “We did not inherit a bad team, but rather
one that had been losing. I give all the credit to
our players. They have bought in and have a swagger,
but are not cocky. All I care about is that these
seniors can hold their heads high.”
Of the current road trip into Virginia, Hunter said,
“We only worry about Georgia State and what we do.
We have all the respect in the world for VCU and
George Mason, but we try to be the best Georgia
State that we can be today. We will press and
defend, and we will play how we play. If we are good
at what we do, the wins will take care of
themselves. We really want to play in meaningful
Hunter singled out James Fields as one of the
keys to the Panthers win. Fields missed the first
nine games with injury.
“I call him our Tim Tebow. All he does is help us
win. He’s not pretty, but he does all the things
that help us win and he calls our defenses,” said
Jan. 2, 2012
The year ended with a couple of noteworthy matchups
on the mid-major level as Creighton defeated
Wichita State in Wichita and Harvard defeated
St. Joe’s, coming back from an 11 point deficit in
Boston. As conference play is set to heat up with
the New Year, Inside the Mayhem has a few “out-on-a
limb” predictions for the New Year. We will revisit
in March to see how our predictions turn out.
• In the Missouri Valley, four teams will
earn bids to the NCAA tournament, with Creighton,
Wichita State, Northern Iowa, and Indiana State the
• With their Big Three of Scott Machado, Michael
Glover, and Momo Jones leading the way, Iona
will not only win the MAAC, but will also win a
first round NCAA tourney game.
• Off to a great start, The Atlantic 10 will
earn more bids to the NCAA tourney than the ACC.
• After buying into Coach Tony Bennett’s
defense-first philosophy, and also getting off to a
great start, Virginia will split with North
Carolina and play in the ACC Tournament championship
game, advancing to the NCAA tourney.
• Once again players from Mid-Major programs
will make some of the various All-America teams:
Michael Glover (Iona), Orlando Johnson (UCSB), Scott
Machado (Iona), C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), Doug
McDermott (Creighton), Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State),
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)
• The Northeast Conference and the Summit
League will put 4 teams into postseason.
Remember it's not just the NCAA and the NIT.
• Northwestern will go to the NCAA for the
first time ever.
• Maine, Norfolk State and
Youngstown State will play postseason basketball
for the first time in school history.
• Just when you thought the run may be over,
Gonzaga will once again win the West Coast
Conference regular season championship.
Of course, one of the great attractions of college
basketball is its unpredictability, so I realize
there is a reasonable chance I could drop the ball
on all these predictions, but we’ll see how it turns
We’ll catch up to some more coaches in the days to
come, as we have plans to take a look at St. Joe’s,
with one of the best young teams in the country, CAA
upstart Georgia State, led by former IUPUI coach Ron
Hunter, and MEAC contender Norfolk State.
Happy New Year!
Dec. 21, 2011
As the Long Beach State 49ers spend Christmas
in Hawaii, they do so as perhaps the most intriguing
.500 team in the country. The 49ers rank 1st
nationally in strength of schedule, having faced
Pitt, Louisville, Kansas and
North Carolina, heading into Thursday night’s
matchup with 15th ranked Xavier. A tough schedule is
nothing new to Long Beach and Head Coach Dan
“This is not the first year we’ve done this. It’s
the 3rd year in a row, that on January 1, we are
ranked first in strength of schedule,” said Monson.
“This year, however, we really expect to compete
with that schedule,” continued Monson, continuing,
“By and large, we’ve done that. We had slow starts
against both Louisville and Kansas, but we’ve
competed against all of these teams. One of our
goals was to get in the conversation about an at
large bid. We lost in our league championship game
the last two years, so if we want to compete for an
at large bid, we want to play those teams, and it
certainly helps with recruiting as well.”
The 49ers have followed a solid blueprint for
mid-major success. They have an outstanding point
guard and a highly experienced group to go along
with their tough schedule.
“You don’t compete with Carolina and Kansas and the
others without the experience that we have,” noted
Of his senior point guard Casper Ware, Monson
said, “With a kid like Casper, you are going into
those games with a kid who’s been through the wars.
He is the first kid in our league to be both the
Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the
Year. He is the prototypical mid-major kid, who can
now play anywhere. He has gotten better every year.
When he got here, we had won six games the previous
year. He started the first game of his college
career. He is a classic gym rat and has shot it
better and made better decisions every year. I would
not trade him for any point guard in the country,”
Of their trip to Hawaii, Monson said, “Our kids are
excited to play some of these teams on a neutral
floor. It is more of a level playing field. We have
a chance to put a nice stamp on our season.”
Dec. 16, 2011
When you talk Ivy League basketball, Princeton and
Penn come to mind for their long tradition of hoops
excellence. Harvard is in the national conversation
coming off their success of last year, as they are
on the verge of entering the Top 25. The Crimson
currently rank third in the latest
CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. One team not
getting too much attention, however, is Yale.
The Bulldogs, in the midst of their eleven day exam
break, are off to a 7-2 start. The Bulldogs will
learn a lot when they return to game action, as they
travel to Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Florida, to
wind up December.
Of the imposing schedule, Yale Coach James Jones,
said, “It will be a great barometer for us, and our
guys look forward to the challenge.”
Common sense says the Bulldogs will have a tough
time at Wake and Florida, while Rhode Island is off
to a rough start. The emphasis may be on how the
Bulldogs play on the road, as opposed to whether
they win. If they can be battle tested when they
start league play, they hope to contend for an Ivy
Jones is not ready to concede the league title to
“Harvard is off to a great start, but there are a
lot of people fighting for a championship in this
league. Penn has had a tough schedule, Princeton has
a new coach; the league is very competitive,” said
6’10 senior Greg Mangano is leading Yale,
with 17 points and 9 boards a night, but Jones
continues to push.
“He has done a really great job, but he had 21 and 9
against Bryant, and I was mad at him,” laughed
Junior guard Austin Morgan shoots it and does
the dirty work for the Bulldogs, and Jones mentioned
senior Reggie Willhite as a key contributor
Dec. 11, 2011
Iona appears poised to make the jump to the nation’s
mid-major elite teams. Just a one point loss to
Purdue stand between the Gaels and an 8-0 start.
Iona is in the midst of a six week road trip. If
they weather that storm, they will be ready to push
for a MAAC title. Iona finished 25-12 last year,
losing to Santa Clara in the finals of the third
annual CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Second year coach Tim Cluess and his squad
have picked up right where they left off.
“Our tournament experience last year was very
helpful, making it to the championship game of the
Top billing for the Gaels usually goes to All-MAAC
selection Michael Glover and Arizona transfer
Lamont “Momo” Jones. The key cog to the
engine, however, might be fellow All-MAAC choice,
6’1 senior guard, Scott Machado. Machado is
averaging 16 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 11 assists.
In a 104-99 double overtime victory over St. Joe’s,
Machado had 33 points and 10 assists to go along
with Glover’s 34 points and 10 rebounds. Machado is
emerging as one of the top point guards in the
Cluess agreed, “He is playing great right now--he’s
on top of his game.”
Glover is receiving plenty of attention after his
monster season last year, including a spot on the
preseason Lute Olson All-America team.
“Teams are paying more attention to him now, and
double teaming him,” said Cluess, “He’s got to
adjust to that.”
Cluess and the Gaels received a nice pre-season gift
from the NCAA in October, when Jones was cleared to
play immediately. Adding a player of his stature to
a team already picked to win the MAAC heightened
expectations for the 2011-12 season.
“He brings big-game experience, and he can handle it
and score. It’s also great to have a local kid come
home,” said Cluess.
Dec. 6, 2011
After taking a look at the Vermont Catamounts last
week, we had a chance to speak to former Vermont
coach Mike Lonergan, now the head coach at George
Washington University. The Colonials are off to a
4-3 start, with a challenging early season schedule.
Their three losses are at California, at Kansas
State, and to Virginia Commonwealth in the BB&T
Classic in Washington. The schedule does not get any
easier, as GW faces off against Loyola on Wednesday.
The Greyhounds have reeled off six consecutive wins,
following an opening loss to Wake Forest.
Of his move to GW, Lonergan said, “It’s been smooth.
It’s all of the off-court things that take a lot of
time -- selling and buying a house, moving your
family, recruiting, meeting alumni, raising money.”
On the court, senior guard Tony Taylor leads GW at
15 points per game. “We knew he was a good player,
but he’s been even better than we thought,” said
Lonergan. “He is really shooting the ball well.”
Taylor is off to a sizzling start, shooting 56% from
three point range.
Lonergan and the Colonials square off against his
long time friend Jimmy Patsos and Loyola on
Wednesday night. The career record between the two
coaches is 2-2, so this game will be the
Loyola is off to a great start and Patsos and his
kids are looking forward to the matchup against the
“It’s a little more like postseason for us. It’s an
A-10 school on their court with their officials, and
it’s on TV. We also have a bunch of DC area kids on
our team, so they are looking forward to it,” said
Patsos is pleased with his team chemistry this year.
“The kids don’t really care about scoring—they just
want to win.”
Patsos singled out junior Erik Etherly in
particular. “He has been our best player through the
first seven games,” said Patsos. The 6’7 Etherly,
who spent a season at Northeastern, is scoring 15
and grabbing 8 boards a game for the Greyhounds. 6’2
sophomore guard Dylon Cormier leads Loyola with 17
points per game.
Dec. 2, 2011
With December here and conference play approaching,
we launch our third year of Inside the Mayhem. We
will once again try to jump around the country and
take a look behind the scenes of college basketball
as we build towards March.
Vermont is off to a 4-3 start after
Thursday’s night’s home 55-48 loss to highly
regarded Harvard. The Catamounts have a strong
non-conference win over Old Dominion to go along
with victories over Siena, Dartmouth, and Marist.
The road gets tougher in the coming weeks, as
Vermont squares off against St. Louis and Iona,
First year mentor John Becker is getting his
When asked about the transition to the first seat,
Becker said, “So far, so good. Having been in the
program for five years and having recruited these
kids has made the transition smooth. The off the
court stuff is the biggest adjustment—being pulled
in so many different directions. The on-court part,
once practice starts, it feels natural.”
Becker has noted a difference in games as well. “The
game moves a lot faster as a head coach, but I have
a great staff, so that has made it easier.”
Of the upcoming stretch, Becker said, “We have a
tough stretch here. We are playing four or five of
the hottest mid-majors in the country, but we wanted
to play a tough non-conference schedule to prepare
us for our league schedule.”
Vermont has shown great balance. “We knew coming in
that we did not have a marquee guy, so we have gone
to a more balanced attack. We have maybe eight guys
who have scored in double figures already, and we
are shooting a high percentage.”
Despite a subpar game against Harvard, 6’6 sophomore
Brian Voelkel is one to watch. “He led the
league in rebounds and assists last year,” said
Becker. “He is a monster. He is old school in that
he just out works people. He is one of the most
entertaining players in the country. He’s very
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