March Madness 2014. News and Picks.

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The Brackets are out there already for you to start filling them up, and hurry up, because you have only 1 day, 20 hours 25 minutes and 00 seconds to have the change to make your picks and enjoy the action this brackets are going to bring you over the next weeks for the NCAA March Madness in the battle for the National Championship 2014. Continue reading

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Nets to Acquire Deron Williams From Jazz

Utah JazzA superstar arms race has broken out on both sides of the Hudson River.

A day after the Knicks completed a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Nets responded by acquiring Deron Williams — one of the N.B.A.’s top point guards — from the Utah Jazz.

A player agent on Wednesday confirmed multiple reports in the news media that the Nets would acquire Williams, 26, in exchange for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks — a package similar to what the Nets had offered Denver for Anthony.

The trade is a huge boost for the Nets, who need a franchise star to build around as they prepare to move to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season. Continue reading

WNBA Betting Preview

Two WNBA teams that have been cashing for bettors collide in Connecticut Tuesday when the New York Liberty meet the Sun in a contest televised on ESPN2.

WnbaThe Connecticut Sun have a 3-0 spread record in their last three games, including a 2-0 SU run since the WNBA’s All-Star Break.  Mike Thibault’s crew puts its winning streak on the line in a Tuesday night tip against the New York Liberty, who are 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight.

Sports books opened the Sun as seven-point home favorites, while first setting the WNBA betting ‘total’ at 155 ½.  Early action on the Liberty and ‘over’ pushed the numbers to 6 ½ and 157, respectively.

Connecticut overcame an early 10-point deficit in Saturday’s 96-80 win as six-point ‘chalk’ against the Atlanta Dream, who ran out of gas in the second night of a back-to-back.  The Sun entered the fourth quarter with a three-point lead and out-scored the Dream, 31-18, in the final period.

Sign up to win prizes in SBR Contests! Continue reading

Five Months to March

Sports Central | Seth Doria ( Sports Central | Thursday, November 1st, 2007 )

When you look at the Missouri Valley Conference going into the 2007-08 season, it’s tempting to focus only on all the talent that’s gone.

Of the 10 teams combined, only 24 starters return. The losses include Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver of Creighton, Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young of Southern Illinois, Blake Ahearn of Missouri State, Will Franklin and Zach Andrews of Bradley, Grant Stout and Brooks McKowen of Northern Iowa, Ajay Calvin of Drake, Matt Webster of Evansville, and Kyle Wilson and Sean Ogirri of Wichita State.

That’s eight of the conference’s top 10 scorers, three of the top five rebounders, two of the top three shot blockers and the assists leader from last year.

And not a single Top-150 recruit to replace them according to the people who judge such things at ESPN.

And five new coaches, the single largest year-over-year turnover in the league since 1978-79.

Doom and gloom, right?

Not quite.

While most of the faces are new, the Valley is in a much better place than when the aforementioned group of seniors made their unceremonious debuts four or five years ago. (Of Rivals’ top 150 lists in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Missouri State’s Drew Richards received the highest ranking at 110.)

Five reasons why you should not expect a major drop-off in Valley production:

5. Not only has the Valley’s conference tournament (Arch Madness) become one of the most well-attended in the country, commissioner Doug Elgin’s tireless work in partnership with ESPN has made the Valley the flagship conference of the annual Bracketbusters series in February.

Last year, the Valley appeared on national TV 61 times, and it’s expected to eclipse that number this year, with College GameDay even covering the Creighton/SIU game from Carbondale on January 26. The other games the Gameday crew will attend are Kentucky/Florida, Arizona/UCLA, Georgetown/Louisville, Michigan State/Indiana, Tennessee/Memphis, Kansas State/Kansas, and North Carolina/Duke, so this is a major “welcome to the club” moment for Elgin.

Also, it means money. At Monday’s Media Day, Elgin said the Valley will make the largest average institutional distribution in November in his 20 years “by far.” And it’s also how the Valley will fund its planned new headquarters next to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis (ground breaking scheduled for next year).

Note: This may be the last year of Arch Madness. The Valley sent out requests for proposals (RFPs) from Chicago, Des Moines, Kansas City, and Omaha, in addition to St. Louis. Chicago didn’t reply, so it’s down to the other four, with an announcement expected in mid-November. (They’d be absolutely crazy to leave St. Louis, which has an excellent track record hosting NCAA events.)

Women’s Note: The women’s side of the Valley has finally moved their conference tournament from a host school to a neutral site to a suburb outside St. Louis. For those of you who follow the women’s game, you know this is a major move forward for the league. And it was the first thing out of every coach’s mouth at Media Day.

4. A lot of times, a major turnover in coaching would indicate a weakness in the overall conference profile. But that’s not the case with this group of new coaches.

The changes listed below were a direct result of the athletic departments at Wichita State, Indiana State, Illinois State, Evansville, and Drake knowing they had to step it up to compete in the Valley. And, in most cases, they are upgrades from the men who previously held the positions (no disrespect intended).

The new guys:

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: In nine years at Winthrop, Marshall’s teams went 194-83 overall (104-24 Big South) and made NCAA Tournament appearances in each of the past three years (almost beating Tennessee in 2006 as a 15 seed and knocking out Notre Dame last year as an 11 seed). His team last year not only went 29-5 and 14-0 in conference, they won at Missouri State in the Bracketbusters series to essentially seal the NIT fate of the Bears.

An interesting note: When Elgin found out former Shockers coach Mark Turgeon was leaving for Texas A&M, he personally helped in the recruiting of Marshall to Wichita, calling him up and extolling the virtues of the Valley. And that’s why Elgin is one of the best commissioners in the country, college or pro.

Kevin McKenna, Indiana State: McKenna brings the best of both worlds with extensive Valley experience as an assistant to Dana Altman at Creighton (where he also played from 1977 to 1981) and a successful four-year stint as head coach at Division II Nebraska-Omaha (89-33, consecutive North Central Conference Coach of the Year awards in ’04 and ’05). As a piece of trivia, McKenna is the only person in MVC history to win a MVC regular-season title, MVC tournament title, NBA championship (1972 Lakers), and CBA title (La Crosse Catbirds in 1990 as a player/assistant coach).

Tim Jankovich, Illinois State: If ever there was an assistant coach with pedigree, it’s Jankovich after five years as an assistant to Bill Self at Kansas and Illinois. Among his other stops at Vanderbilt, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Colorado, Jankovich has also learned at the sides of Eddie Sutton, Lon Kruger, Gene Iba, and Kevin Stallings. Jankovich has had two prior jobs as the head man, going 53-57 in four seasons at North Texas and 50-12 at Hutchinson Community College (Kan.). Do not be surprised to see Illinois State make a major move toward the top of the conference in a very short amount of time.

(Jankovich also has a great sense of humor, saying yesterday he wants to redshirt the entire season and that he’s not going to be friends with Missouri State coach Barry Hinson any more. It was a lot funnier when he said it.)

Marty Simmons, Evansville: Simmons is an Evansville alum and one of the most prolific scorers in program history (24.3 ppg over his last two years after transferring from Indiana), as well as serving as an assistant when the Purple Aces made the NCAA tournament in 1992, 1993, and 1999 (with an NIT appearance in 1994). He also has experience turning around a dormant program, taking a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville program that hadn’t won 10 games in a season since 1999 and putting up four consecutive winning seasons, including 23 in ’04-’05 and 25 in ’05-’06.

Keno Davis, Drake: Davis takes over for his father, Tom Davis, so you can expect much of the same high-flying style that made the Bulldogs lead the Valley in points per game (74.9) and finish last in points per game allowed (74.2) last season. With that said, we saw last year at Washington State (Tony Bennett taking over for dad Dick) that sometimes the son’s tweaks on the father’s style can produce amazing results. (The younger Davis was also a Bruce Pearl assistant at Southern Indiana, so that adds to his frenetic upbringing.)

3. There’s nothing “mid” about the Valley’s non-conference schedules (except for Drake and Evansville, who need to do better).

The top non-conference games for each Valley school (in addition to one as-yet un-announced Bracketbusters game):

Bradley: Iowa State (home; 11/14), Iowa (neutral; 11/23), Vanderbilt/Utah State (neutral; 11/24), Michigan State (home; 12/4), Wright State (road; 12/11), Butler (road; 12/19), Virginia Commonwealth (home; 12/22)

Creighton: DePaul (home; 11/9), Nebraska (home; 11/24), Drexel (road; 12/1), Xavier (road; 12/5), St. Joseph’s (home; 12/9)

Drake: Saint Mary’s (road; 11/10), Iowa State (home; 12/5), Iowa (road; 12/14)

Evansville: Butler (home; 11/17)

Illinois State: Indiana (neutral; 11/23), Xavier/Kent (neutral; 11/24), Cincinnati (home; 12/8)

Indiana State: Butler (road; 11/14), Purdue (road; 12/1)

Missouri State: St. Louis (home; 11/21), Winthrop (road; 11/25), Arkansas (road; 12/3), Utah (road; 12/15), Alabama (neutral; 12/22), Purdue/Iowa State (neutral; 12/23)

Northern Iowa: Massachusetts (home; 11/11), Iowa State (road; 11/27), Iowa (home; 12/5), Nevada (home; 12/22)

Southern Illinois: Anaheim Classic (field includes Southern California and Mississippi State among others; 11/22-11/25); Indiana (home; 12/1), Charlotte (road; 12/8), St. Mary’s (home; 12/11); St. Louis (road; 12/15), Butler (home; 12/28; Elgin said expansion isn’t “anywhere on our radar,” but it sure seems like Butler is trying to schedule their way into the MVC.)

Wichita State: Baylor (neutral; 11/16), Notre Dame/Monmouth (neutral; 11/17 or 11/18), Georgia Tech/Charlotte/Illinois-Chicago/Winthrop (neutral; 11/19), Appalachian State (road; 11/29), LSU (home; 12/19), Alabama-Birmingham (home; 12/22)

2. The newcomers may not be getting illegal phone calls from Kelvin Sampson, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play. Some of the names you should learn:

Lamont Austin, 5-11 G, and Kyle Weems, 6-6 F, Missouri State: The high school teammates at Topeka Highland Park High in Kansas finished off their high school careers with a perfect 25-0 record and the Kansas Class 5A state championship. Hinson expects Austin to contribute immediately at the point.

Brent Barz, 6-10 F, Northern Iowa: The player of the year in Iowa as a senior, Barz averaged 19.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last year. He could slide right in to Grant Stout’s position next to Preseason All-MVC forward Eric Coleman. All you need to do is read a Panthers message board to see how exited their fans are about Barz.

Carlton Fay, 6-8 F, Southern Illinois: From the press release announcing his signing: “He’s that blue-chip recruit that you need in each class to continue your success,” said SIU head coach Chris Lowery. “He comes in ready to play, physically, mentally, and skill-wise … He’s ready to play as an incoming freshman.”

Theron Wilson, 6-5 G/F, Bradley: Transfer from Seward County (Kan.) Community College. Led Seward County in four major statistical categories last season: scoring (19.4 ppg), rebounding (10.8 rpg), steals (74, 2.4 spg), and blocked shots (45, 1.5 bpg).

P’Allen Stinnett, 6-3 SG, Creighton: Two-time all-state selection in Nevada before playing one year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, ranked fifth nationally among prep schools. Averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals per game as a junior.

Nate Garner, 6-5 F, Evansville: Transfer from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Averaged 14 ppg and 8 rpg while shooting 62 percent from the floor. Put up eight double-doubles last year, and scored 30 in a game twice.

Aaron Ellis, 6-7 F, Wichita State: With seven freshmen on the roster, it’s hard to tell exactly who will emerge in the Shockers’ rotation. But Ellis was the most sought after on the recruiting trail, and Marshall’s teams at Winthrop loved to shoot the three — one of Ellis’ strong suits.

1. A lot of proven talent may have gone, but a lot of proven talent remains.

Randal Falker is the preseason pick as conference player of the year at SIU, and will have more than enough help from fellow senior Matt Shaw and junior Bryan Mullins (which is why SIU was unanimously chosen to win the conference).

Bradley has the top two returning scorers in the Valley with guards Daniel Ruffin (preseason all-conference team) and Jeremy Crouch. Both averaged 13.8 ppg last year and Ruffin is the nation’s active assist leader (475).

Missouri State’s Deven Mitchell has gone from Sixth Man of the Year to a spot on the preseason all-conference team, and has fellow seniors Spencer Laurie and Drew Richards to lean on (along with junior Shane Laurie).

Northern Iowa has pre-season All MVC forward Eric Coleman on the inside and two of the best long-range shooters in the conference in Jared Josten and Adam Viet on the outside.

Wichita State has P.J. Cousinard (preseason All-MVC). Indiana State has Gabe Moore (led the team in minutes and scoring last year). Evansville has Jason Holsinger (fourth in the league with 5.06 apg last year). Drake has Al Stewart (second in assists at 5.44). Creighton has Dane Watts (fourth on the team last year in scoring, second in rebounding).

And Illinois State, the sleeper of all sleepers, has back four starters and their top four scorers in Levi Dyer, Boo Richardson, Osiris Eldridge, and Anthony Slack. Those last three were all members of the Valley’s All-Newcomer team last year.

***

So now that I’ve done my best MVC infomercial (thanks for the free lunch, guys), let’s get down to the only thing that really matters: NCAA tournament bids. The Valley has long since passed up one-and-done territory. There will be at least two bids, and Southern Illinois is going to be one of them.

You could usually depend on Creighton, but the losses of Funk and Tolliver figure to be too much to bear (which must be why Altman looked positively depressed when discussing his team). Marshall is going to have the Shockers in the tournament regularly, but not in year one. The combination of a new system and so many freshman just doesn’t bode well in a deep conference. Drake, Evansville, and Indiana State have too far to go.

That leaves Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, and Bradley battling for one or two spots max (four bids is a such a long-shot at this point, it’s not really on the table).

I actually like Missouri State better this year than I did the past two years, when it seems they just waited for Ahearn to bail them out of a tight spot at the end of the game. I can see Austin winning the Newcomer of the Year award. But there’s still a coaching issue. Though he’s a great speaker and very amicable guy, Hinson has not shown himself to be a coach who can get his team over the hump. I’m going to have to see it before I pick them any higher than fourth.

Northern Iowa is a tough team, and they have a tremendous home-court advantage at the McLeod Center. But they lost their point guard, and that’s a big loss. Plus, without Stout to pair up with down low, Coleman might find himself under constant double-teaming.

I’ve got a feeling about the Redbirds. They’re going to upset some people along the way and be right smack on the bubble come Selection Sunday. If they can pull off the W against Indiana and get lucky with the Bracketbusters draw, they could be the third team in.

Bradley has a lot going for it with Ruffin and Crouch, plus one of the most underrated coaches in the country in Jim Les. They do have some weakness on the inside, but they have the shooters and slashers to make up for it. In the end, it’ll come down to how they handle the Michigan State/Wright State/Butler/VCU stretch to finish out the non-conference schedule. If they can get three of four there and put up a wining record in the Valley, they’re in the field.

Final projection:

Southern Illinois (NCAA)

Bradley (NCAA)

Illinois State (NCAA)

Northern Iowa (NIT)

Missouri State (NIT)

Wichita State (NIT)

Creighton

Drake

Evansville

Indiana State

Sports Central