Introducing 32 Conferences, 32 Previews, 32 Days

By Kevin Sweeney

Great news!

You all have made it!

Practices for most Division 1 teams begin in the coming days or have already begun.  This means that the 2016-17 season is officially underway.

With that, I am pleased to announce the launch of “32 Conferences, 32 Previews, 32 Days”, CBB Central’s comprehensive preview of the upcoming college basketball season.  Each day, a different conference will be previewed, with my take on teams and players to watch for the conference.

The previews will begin on Saturday, October 1 and run through November 1. Be sure to share your takes on each league with in the comments of each post or on Twitter: @cbb_central. I look forward to providing all of you with the best insight into the coming season!

George Washington Fires Mike Lonergan

By Kevin Sweeney

In a shocking move, George Washington has reportedly fired head coach Mike Lonergan, according to USA Today Sports. The firing comes after Lonergan was accused of verbally abusing his players in July in an article published in the Washington Post. 

The accusations against Lonergan state that he created an “intolerable atmosphere” and said things such as telling a player to go play in a “transgender league”. At the time of the article, which occurred after a former player’s Title IX complaint was not handled properly, the school stated that they were investigating the matter, while Lonergan stated that the accusations were “unfounded”. 

Now, it appears that the investigation is complete, and the Colonials are left in shambles as the season nears. George Washington returns 2 starters, including leading scorer Tyler Cavanaugh, from last season’s team, which won the NIT. It will be interesting to see if George Washington hires immediately from within the program or opts to look for an external candidate to fill the opening. 

Lonergan finishes his time the Colonials with a 97-70 record, including 3 straight postseason appearances.  

The Anatomy of a Comeback

By Kevin Sweeney

Fans, you’ve all been here before.  Your team is trailing by 10 with 5 minutes left.  You still have life, but it doesn’t look good.  In fact, based on a Ken Pomeroy simulation in 2010, in a game between 2 even teams on a neutral court, a team trailing by 10 with 5 minutes to play has just a 5.8% of winning.  You think back to that impossible comeback you saw last week and say, “if they can do it, so can we.”  So how does your team turn it around?

Pick up the Pace- This is the most obvious one on the list.  Simply, more possessions gives you a better chance of winning.   Opening the game up can leave a team vulnerable to being blown out, but at some point, you’d rather lose by 20 by giving yourself a chance than pack it in and leave yourself no chance.  Also, speeding the game up can help force turnovers on defense.

Dominate the Glass- In order to make a big comeback, you HAVE to dominate on the boards.  Holding up on defense for the entire shot clock only to give the ball right back on an offensive rebound.  Plays like that are demoralizing  and take a huge chunk out of the clock.  And the defensive glass isn’t the only important spot.  A few offensive rebounds give your team new life and often provide easy baskets.

Use Time-Outs Wisely- As the clock ticks lower and lower, time-outs become a team’s lifeline.  After a made basket, a time-out is a smart move by the shot-makers in order to set up the press.  Therefore, the trailing team can’t afford to make mistakes that would lead to wasted time-outs, such as having trouble getting the ball inbounds.  Wasting timeouts makes it so much more difficult to complete a comeback.

Let Stars Lead the Way- Your team’s star is the key to a comeback.  Whether or not they have struggled during the rest of the game, they have the ability to change the game quicker than anyone else on the floor.  Most stars pick it up the most when the lights are brightest, so trust that your guy can put the team on his back and lead the way to victory.

Hope For Some Luck- Basketball is a game of inches.  One bounce of the ball can completely change the complexion of the game.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how great a play your team drew up for the buzzer-beater if the ball falls off the rim.  Sometimes, you just have to put yourself in the best position to succeed in the closing moments and hope the ball bounces your way.

 

Ivy League Looking Stronger Than Ever Before

By Kevin Sweeney

There was a long period of time in college basketball that the Ivy League wasn’t nationally relevant.  Teams from the Ivy rarely knocked off big time teams in the NCAA Tournament, nor did they compete for upper echelon recruits.

Those times are over.

Thanks to the successes of Harvard and Yale, who have combined to win 3 NCAA Tournament games in the last 4 years, the Ivy League is back on the map.  And with a conference tournament for the first time this season, the Ivy should be as wide-open as ever before.  For the first time in recent memory, the Ivy League has a realistic shot at receiving 2 NCAA Tournament bids.

After a down year last year, Harvard should once again be among the favorites in the Ivy League.  They return star point guard Siyani Chambers, who sat out last season due to a knee injury, and Zena Edosomwan, who averaged 13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season.  They also bring in one of the best freshman classes in mid-major basketball history, featuring 4 players who received 4 star ratings from ESPN.  This unprecedented class is thanks largely to head coach Tommy Amaker, who has turned Harvard into a destination worth choosing over high-major powers.  This group of 4-stars received offers from places such as Michigan, Auburn, Florida, Miami, and Indiana, yet chose Harvard.

Princeton should also be a force to be reckoned with this season.  While they may not have cashed in recruiting the way that Harvard has,  the Tigers boast an experienced roster that returns the majority of its team from last year, which was ranked in the top 50 of the RPI. If sophomore Devin Cannady builds on his outstanding rookie campaign, the Tigers will be as good as any team in the Ivy League.

Defending champs Yale will look to reload around star point guard Makai Mason.  After Yale’s frontcourt punished opponents all season, Mason stepped up in a huge way in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 31 points in the Bulldogs’s upset win over Baylor.  Now, it is Mason’s team, and Yale will need him if they have hopes of making a repeat run to the Big Dance.

However, the presence of the new 4-team conference tournament means that the regular season title no longer earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  That leaves room for a sleeper, and I think Cornell may be that team.  While they struggled mightily last season, winning just 1o games, they have a new coach in Brian Earl, who knows how to win in the Ivy League, and one of the best guard duos in the country in Matt Morgan and Robert Hatter. The duo averaged over 36 points per game combined last season.  A high-scoring duo like that can always pull upsets in March.

Overall, we are likely to see one of the most exciting seasons in Ivy League history.