Posted on: August 15, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:06 pm

A-10 Offseason Report

By Jeff Goodman

A-10 Offseason Report

Charlotte – The 49ers will play against Miami, at Memphis (12-31) and at Arkansas. Gokhan Sirin left the program and DeMario Mayfield is eligible after sitting out last season following a transfer from Georgia.

Dayton – The Flyers are in the midst of a trip overseas to Amsterdam and France. Archie Miller put together a staff of Kevin Kuwik (Ohio State), Allen Griffin (Hofstra), Tom Ostrom (Arkansas) and Bill Comar as the director of operations. The Flyers will play in the Old Spice Classic and also have non-league games vs. Alabama (11-7), vs. Seton Hall (12-21), vs. Mississippi (12-30) and at Miami. Brandon Spearman (Indian Hills) and Juwan Staten (West Virginia) left the program while Vee Sanford (Georgetown) transferred in. Kevin Dillard (Southern Illinois) is eligible this season after sitting out last year.

Duquesne – Ron Everhart’s team is in the tail end of a trip to Canada. Amadou Koundoul replaces Greg Gary, who left to go to Purdue. The Dukes will play in the Coaches vs. Cancer event and also have non-league games against Pittsburgh (11-30), against Penn State (12-10) and at George Mason (12-21). Joel Wright (Blinn JC) left and Rodrigo Peggau graduated early and enrolled at Seton Hall College.

Fordham – Derrick Phelps left his position as the video coordinator to join King Rice’s staff at Monmouth. The Rams will play at Syracuse (11-12), at St. John’s (12-17) and at Georgia Tech (12-29). Brian Freeman, Rayner Moquete and Fahro Alihodzic all transferred out of the program.

George Washington – New coach Mike Lonergan (above) brought Hajj Turner with him from Vermont – and added Pete Strickland (N.C. State) and Kevin Sutton (Montverde Academy) as well as former Maryland video coordinator Matt Lisiewski as his director of basketball operations. He also added former Vermont guard Maurice Joseph as his assistant DOBO. The Colonials will play in the CBE Classic against Cal and also will face VCU in the BT&T Classic (12-4) at the Verizon Center yet. GW will also play at Kansas State (12-1), at Syracuse (12-10), vs. UAB (12-28) and at Harvard (1-14) in the non-conference. Chris Fitzgerald (Columbia) and Tim Johnson both left the program.

La Salle – John Giannini and the Explorers just returned from a trip to Canada. La Salle will play in the Hoop Group Classic (11-25/26) and also has non-league games at Villanova (11-15) and at Pittsburgh (11-22). Aaric Murray (West Virginia) transferred out while Ramon Galloway (South Carolina) came in and will be eligible to play this season after receiving a waiver from the NBA. Taylor Dunn (Winthrop) is also eligible this season after sitting out last year.

Rhode Island – Larry Harris (N.C. State) replaced Kevin Clark (Towson). The Rams will play in the Legends Classic (at Texas on Nov. 15) and also in the UCF Holiday Classic along with James Madison and Stetson. Non-league games include at BC (1-2), at Nebraska (11-20), vs. Virginia Tech (12-7) and vs. Providence (12-23). Akeem Richmond transferred to East Carolina. Billy Baron (Virginia) and Andre Malone (Auburn) are both eligible after the first semester.

Richmond – The Spiders replaced director of basketball operations Marcus Jenkins, who left for Princeton, with Kim Lewis. Chris Mooney’s team will play in the Cancun Challenge and also has non-conference dates at Wake Forest (12-3), at VCU (12-10), at UCLA (12-23) and at home against Old Dominion (12-20).

Saint Louis – Rick Majerus is expected to go with the team from Aug. 19-29 to Canada. Porter Moser took the head job at Loyola-Chicago and Tony Young was promoted. The Billikens will play in the 76 Classic in Anaheim and also have non-conference games against Washington (11-20) and at New Mexico (11-31). Christian Salecich transferred to Missouri Southern while Jake Barnett (Toledo) is eligible this season and Kwamain Mitchell will return to the court after missing last year.

Saint Joseph’s – Phil Martelli’s team will play in the Charleston Classic and also has non-league contests vs. Villanova (12-17), vs. Penn State (11-26), vs. Creighton (12-10) and at Harvard (12-31). Carl Baptiste (Delaware) and Justin Crosgile (Eastern Washington) left while Todd O’Brien graduated early and has enrolled at UAB. Hanil Kanesevic (Hofstra) is eligible and should be an impact player for the Hawks immediately.

St. Bonaventure – Mark Schmidt’s team will play at Virginia Tech (11-27), at Illinois (12-7) and against N.C. State (12-20) in Rochester. Brett Roseboro transferred to UMBC.

Temple – Matt Langel got the head job at Colgate and was replaced by Dwayne Killings (BU). The Owls will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and also have a non-conference slate that includes games at Penn (11-14), vs. Villanova (12-10), at Texas (12-17), vs. Duke (1-4) and vs. Maryland (1-21) at the Palestra. Dalton Pepper transferred in from West Virginia and will sit out this season.

UMass – Derek Kellogg’s team will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The Minutemen will play at BC and against Siena. Chaz Williams is eligible after transferring in from Hofstra a year ago.

Xavier – Chris Mack replaced Pat Kelsey and Brian Thornton with Kareem Richardson (Drake) and Jeremy Growe. The Musketeers will play in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii (12-22/25) and also have a non-league slate that includes home games against Georgia (11-25), Purdue (12-3), Cincinnati (12-10) Gonzaga (12-31) and road contests against Vanderbilt (11-28), Butler (12-7) and Memphis (2-4). Jay Canty (Appalachian State) and Jordan Latham (Loyola) transferred out while Isaiah Philmore (Towson) transferred in. Andree Walker (Vandy) also came in and is eligible for his final year this season. Travis Taylor is also eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from Monmouth. Justin Martin sat out last season due to academics.

Offseason reports: Big 12 Pac-12 | Big Ten | ACC | Big East | SEC

Photo: AP
Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:58 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 10:52 am

Chris Mooney hates the designated hitter

By Gary Parrish

Richmond coach Chris Mooney spent three hours Tuesday as a guest co-host on a radio show in Richmond, and he didn't just spend three hours talking about the Spiders and Justin Harper. He did a real and well-rounded radio show and discussed everything from baseball (he's anti-DH) to the proper age for men to stop coaching ... and he even read the day's top headlines, too.

It was an interesting move for an interesting guy.

Mostly, though, it was just smart.

The men who really understand college basketball these days are the men who recognize the need to promote themselves and their programs by any means possible. Mooney was able to do this for three hours this week and in the process show his personality. That's a win-win. There's no way it can hurt. That means it helped.

(In an unrelated but kinda similar note: Memphis coach Josh Pastner will be guest-hosting my radio show in Memphis on Thursday while I'm in New York for the NBA Draft. Pastner is doing two hours solo. He'll probably be calling recruits during commercial breaks.)
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 13, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 4:39 pm

Recruiting Notebook: Thornwell on the rise

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The class of 2013 is going to be known for its depth at the wing position, and one player making his way up the rankings is Sindarius Thornwell.

Thornwell, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Lancaster (S.C.), makes an immediate impact because of his length and athleticism. He handles the ball and distributes well for someone his size, and is also adept at finishing.

“I’m quick and I can handle the ball,” Thornwell said. “I’m always attacking and I play defense.”

Plenty of colleges have taken notice of the versatile 2013 prospect.

Thornwell currently holds offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee State, Georgia Southern and Charlotte. He also has interest from Louisville, UCF and the entire ACC besides North Carolina and Duke.

Thornwell, who has visited Clemson and South Carolina, knows exactly what he needs in a school.

“I’m looking for playing style, good academics and playing time,” he said. “That’s it.”

2013 big man looking to improve

Most 6-foot-10 sophomores can get by on size and length alone. Andre Walker, on the other hand, is constantly looking to get better.

As it stands, he is a talented but raw big man who can run the floor and finish after he catches it.

“I need to make strong moves and play better defense,” Walker said. “I need to get better, get stronger. I also want to work on my perimeter game. I’m working hard.”

The Clarksburg (Md.) native is hearing from DePaul, Washington State, VCU, Northwestern, George Mason and Maryland.

Whitfield transfers to team with Tyler Lewis

North Carolina is loaded with prospects in the class of 2012. One player flying under the radar is Shane Whitfield, a 6-foot-5 forward.

In an attempt to make a name for himself, Whitfield is transferring next year to Forsyth Country Day School (N.C.). There, he will team up with North Carolina State commit Tyler Lewis in hopes of increasing his recruitment.

“It’s better competition,” Whitfield said. “I want to get better everyday.”

Right now, Whitfield has offers from Delaware, American, Campbell and Holy Cross, with interest from Richmond, Charlotte and East Carolina.

Other notes:

- A Texas team in need of impact players could pick up one this weekend. Recently available Sterling Gibbs and North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow are both visiting Austin this weekend.

- Unsigned 2011 center Daouda Soumaoro is currently on an official visit to Washington. Soumaoro took a trip to St. John’s recently, and said he enjoyed it.

- Top-50 2012 forward Ricardo Gathers is taking an unofficial visit to St. John’s this weekend. The Louisiana native also wants to take a trip to Florida.

Photo: 6manbasketball.com 

Posted on: March 29, 2011 11:21 am

Mooney's UR extension had ripple effect

Everyone's in motion except for Chris Mooney

Posted by Eric Angevine

We spend a lot of time reporting on the men who get on the coaching carousel in late March and early April: Anderson to Arkansas! Painter to Mizzou? Will Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart be lured by big money? You know the drill.

Sometimes, it's the guys who refuse to get on the painted horsie that really make a difference. Chris Mooney signing a ten-year deal at Richmond has been the biggest non-move in the game so far, and it changes the game for several programs currently in the market.

Primary amongst those was Georgia Tech. Mooney has always been refreshingly honest about his suitors, which is rare. Recall Mike Anderson vehemently denying that he had any interest in the Arkansas job he now holds. That's how the game is played. A denial means there's interest. An open flirtation means the coach would rather stay put, but wouldn't mind if his current employer showed him a little more financial love. Whether that was Mooney's intent or not, that's what he got. He acknowledged that the Yellow Jackets were courting him, and he got a deal that should keep him in Richmond for a while - he's got security if his stock never gets any hotter, and if he does become even more desirable in the future, notice has been served that only a dynamite situation will serve to lure him away.

Mooney's extension meant that Tech turned to Dayton's Brian Gregory, a move that puzzled me a bit. There's a pretty big gap between a current Sweet 16 coach and last year's NIT champion.

Richmond, a growing power in the Atlantic 10, has served notice that the private university located on a peaceful, leafy campus in Central Virginia plans to continue to challenge Xavier and Temple for the league lead in years to come. The confluence of personal comfort and professional opportunity worked for both parties in this case.

"In talking to Chris, his perspective is that it’s kind of a double-positive for him," said Richmond AD Jim Miller. "He can have the lifestyle that he likes living here, but he can also be successful and win at the highest level as well."

Miller also pointed out that the University's commitment to basketball, beyond the core matter of keeping Mooney properly compensated, likely played a part in the coach's decision to stay put.

"Chris and I sat down and looked at every component of our basketball program and developed some strategies and thoughts of what we could do to continue to improve, and University leadership bought into that," Miller said. "Staff compensation, the amount of time our PR people and strength coaches can spend with the players, the way our team travels. We looked at budget issues and how we can make our program better."

The key to getting the deal done was a desire by both parties to maintain a marriage that's working, to preempt any temptation that might come along from outside the relationship. "We knew that there were a lot of schools interested in him, but our position was that we didn’t want to get into a situation where we were going to be reactive and trying to outbid people," Miller said.

Richmond hired Mooney after he forged an 18-12 season at Air Force in his single prior season as a head coach. Not exactly an awe-inspiring record, but the University took a chance on the young Princeton graduate that has paid off in a big way. As a former assistant coach at Virginia Military Institute, Miller said he respected Mooney's ability to succeed in the tough environs of a military school, and felt his system would work for UR. Now that he's been proven right, the University leadership has seen fit to place a high reward on something that was once high-risk. This is only proper for a school that has one of the top Business programs in the country.

Odds are, not many schools have the wherewithal to follow in Richmond's footsteps. Sometimes ambition trumps the right fit (see Lickliter, Todd). If Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have the means and the vision to get something like this done, however, it can be a win-win for all concerned.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 28, 2011 3:49 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 8:49 am

Southwest wrap-up: VCU makes history

VCU celebrates a Final Four berth

Posted by Jeff Borzello

SAN ANTONIO – Well, where to start?

How about the most impressive Final Four run in NCAA tournament history?

VCU’s First Four to Final Four story is the first of its kind, and certainly won’t be repeated for a very long time, if not ever. Two weeks ago, the majority of people were saying the Rams didn’t belong in the NCAA tournament. Now, there’s very little room left on the bandwagon. The chances of VCU making the first Final Four in program history after finishing fourth in the CAA were next to nothing; this run is absolutely mind-boggling.

The emergence of Shaka Smart as the hottest name in the coaching world has been a story itself. The affable young coaching whiz has had a weirdly interesting relationship with the media throughout the entire regional. Media members love him, swoon over him, stop at nothing to praise him. At the same time, Smart has played the “nobody believes in us” card every game, using media clips to demonstrate the doubt.

A loose, easygoing group of disrespected kids led by a likeable young coach who feeds into that personality? It’s easy to fall in love with the Rams, and their play on the court has cemented that feeling. They pressure the ball defensively, knock down 3-pointers on the offensive end and get up and down the court in a hurry.

Write off VCU at your own peril. Your words are sure to be repeated over and over, and then rubbed in your face afterwards.

And you’ll still love this team and its leader.

Regional MVP: Jamie Skeen, VCU. Skeen’s performance against Kansas on Sunday was nothing short of extraordinary. Going up against three future first-round picks in the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson, one might think Skeen was at a disadvantage. All he did was go out and finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds, knocking down four 3-pointers in the process. He played 38 minutes and didn’t pick up a single foul.

All-regional team

  • Joey Rodriguez, VCU
  • Bradford Burgess, VCU
  • Jamie Skeen, VCU
  • Brandon Rozzell, VCU
  • Marcus Morris, Kansas

Game to remember: VCU 72, Florida State 71. The only overtime game in the regional, and a welcomed change after four third-round blowouts and a 20-point Kansas-Richmond margin. Florida State overcame a nine-point deficit in the final seven minutes to force overtime, and it looked like VCU’s run might be over. Not with Shaka Smart at the helm. With six seconds left, Smart designed a play that got Bradford Burgess a wide-open layup to give VCU the one-poiint win.

Game to forget: Florida State 71, Notre Dame 57. Blowouts are ugly. Florida State plays ugly. When the Seminoles are on the winning end of a blowout? Hideous. Second-seeded Notre Dame shot 32 percent from the field, and Florida State led by as many as 23 points in the second half. The Seminoles completely dominated the Fighting Irish with their physicality and athleticism.

Biggest disappointment: Everyone. With only three higher-seeded teams advancing out of the round of 64, this region had its share of disappointments. Purdue and Notre Dame were manhandled in the third round and Kansas also fell earlier than expected. When a No. 11 seed wins the region, it’s tough to single out just one disappointment.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. It wasn’t Johnson’s fault that Purdue was blown out by VCU, 94-76. Johnson went for 25 points and 14 rebounds, blocking three shots and shooting 11-for-20 from the field.

Most memorable moments

Team to watch out for next year: Louisville. The Cardinals vastly outperformed expectations this season, despite not having much talent on the roster. Next season, that will change. Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan are McDonald’s All-Americans, and Rakeem Buckeles and Jared Swopshire should finally be healthy. Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric are also primed for breakout seasons.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 3:54 pm

Richmond's journey not over yet

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Richmond is the lowest seed in the Sweet 16, and one of the better stories of the NCAA tournament so far.

Head coach Chris Mooney has put his name on the map, while Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper have cemented themselves as one of the better inside-outside tandems in the country.

Not bad for a team that might not have made the NCAA tournament without a late seven-game winning streak and Atlantic 10 tournament title.

But is the journey over?

Richmond will be overmatched by Kansas’ talent and depth, but that’s not a reason to write off the Spiders.  If games were won on paper, neither the Spiders nor their Richmond, Va. brethren, VCU, would still be around heading into San Antonio.

Chris Mooney’s troops have impressive wins this season, over Vanderbilt, Purdue, Temple and VCU. None of those teams are on the same level as Kansas in terms of talent, but Richmond has proven it can beat good teams.

Harper is one of the toughest matchups in the country, with the ability to score on the block and then step outside and knock down 3-pointers with consistency. He’s efficient offensively and his strength and athleticism makes him tough on the glass.

Anderson is stepping up when it matters, scoring at least 20 points in six of his last eight games, including 25 against Vanderbilt in the second round. He takes care of the ball distributes effectively.

With those two leading the way, Richmond has a chance against anyone. But that’s not all.

Dan Geriot is a big man who can shoot from the perimeter; Darien Brother is an effective scorer; and Kevin Smith is one of the best defenders in the nation. Darius Garrett has proven he can block shots off the bench, Cedrick Lindsay provides scoring punch; and Francis-Cedric Martel put up 12 points and five rebounds off the bench in the round of 64.

Defensively, Richmond stifles opponents. The Spiders guard the perimeter very well and rarely foul. On the other end, they are a highly-effective 3-point shooting team that takes care of the ball and can hurt teams in a variety of ways.

Against Kansas, the key will be Richmond not getting dominated on the glass. Marcus and Markieff Morris are excellent rebounders at both ends, while the Spiders have struggled at times. With Harper and Geriot bringing the twins out to the perimeter, though, Kansas might not control the boards as well as they have all season. When Geriot is hitting his perimeter shots, opposing big men have trouble defending him. Kenneth Faried and company couldn’t guard Harper and Geriot away from the rim.

On the perimeter, Anderson has been taking advantage of matchup problems throughout the NCAA tournament. He dominated Brad Tinsley in the second round, and will have an edge against Tyshawn Taylor. If Anderson can take care of the ball and control tempo by keeping it a half-court game, Richmond will stay in the game.

Kansas has had problems with keeping its emotions in check at times this season. If the game is close near the end of the game and the crowd starts siding with Richmond, the Jayhawks could feel the pressure. Down the stretch, Anderson has proven he can make big shots.

It will take a lot, but don’t count out Richmond just yet. We could be bound for an all-Richmond Elite Eight battle between the Spiders and VCU. Both teams were written off in late February, but could be fighting for a spot in the Final Four just one month later.

Oh, the beauty of the NCAA tournament.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 10:19 pm

16 stories to watch in the Sweet 16

Posted by Matt Jones

1. Ohio State’s quest for dominance
:  College basketball has been decidedly mediocre as a whole this season, with no real difference between most of the teams in the top 25. But all year, Ohio State has seemed to be on a different plane. Its two losses during the regular season were both on the road, against ranked teams in the Top 15. And now in the tournament, as Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, etc have struggled at times in their games, the Buckeyes have rolled and looked absolutely dominant. Now however they are rewarded only with the two winningest programs in college basketball history, Kentucky and North Carolina. Win those two in a convincing manner and they will be cutting the nets down in Houston.

2.  The era of Jorts in full effect:  The most improved player in college basketball is the lone senior on a program known for its freshman, who played 35 total minutes last season. Josh Harrellson is a fan favorite in Lexington, Kentucky, in part because of his Cinderella story and in part because of his unique personality. In addition to becoming a force on the glass down low, Harrellson has embraced the nickname “Jorts,” given to him because he famously wore jean shorts on his campus recruiting visit. The denim legend has a chance to enter UK lore if he can somehow slow down Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and make Kentucky so filled with jean shorts, that it looks like Gainesville on a Saturday college football afternoon.

3.  Buzz Williams’s final audition:  Coach Buzz Williams is absolutely focused on taking Marquette to another Final Four, and to do so, he will have to beat two of the North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky trio. But Williams will also be a hot commodity when the season ends, as he is likely to be pursued by all of the job openings left in college basketball. Marquette is not the most attractive BCS-level job and Williams will have the opportunity to jump ship if he so chooses. Either way, a number of college Athletic Directors will be watching his Golden Eagles play, waiting for a loss and a chance to call his cell phone for a quick inquiry.

4.  Harrison Barnes lives up to the hype:  Thanks in large part to the success of freshman John Wall last season, many in the national media felt the need to crown North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes national preseason player of the year before he had even played a game in Chapel Hill. Early in the year, Barnes did not live up the hype, causing some painful growth and verbal reprimands to the press by coach Roy Williams. But as the year has gone on, Barnes has hit his stride and looks an awful lot like the number one player in America he was coming out of high school. A run to the Final Four and the Harrison Barnes redemption story will be told far and wide, likely followed up with a top 5 pick this spring in the NBA Draft.

5. Duke goes for the repeat:  Only two teams have gone back to back in the NCAA tournament in the last 35 years and both were considered some of the best in the history of college basketball. This year's Duke team has the chance to replicate the accomplishment, but do so in a different manner than the two prior winners. Both the 1992 Duke and 2007 Florida teams were dominant from start to finish, but this year's Duke team has been a notch below Ohio State and Kansas all season. They escaped against Michigan on Sunday and now are four games away from college basketball immortality...even if many of us aren't sure that they are all that good.

6. Arizona announces it is back:  It hasn't been that long since Arizona was the dominant college basketball power on the west coast. But then came the rise of UCLA, the decline of the Lute Olson era, Kevin O'Neill and all of a sudden, Arizona basketball became somewhat of an afterthought. Well regardless of what happens in the Sweet 16 versus Duke, the Wildcats' program under Sean Miller has proven that it is once again a power. Derrick Williams has made some of the most athletic plays of the tournament and Arizona has won two hard-fought battles over Memphis and Texas. With a strong recruiting class coming next season, Arizona basketball is back regardless of if they beat Duke. but if they sneak up and knock out the Blue Devils, well Arizona will announce that it is a top ten program once again, this time to stay.

7. Kemba Walker's time:  There isn't much left for Kemba Walker to accomplish at Connecticut. He has had an amazing season and his run in the Big East tournament ensures that he will be remembered forever around the Huskies' program. But he is two wins away from taking his UCONN team to a Final Four, completing a postseason that will have few equals in recent history. His ability to score and will wins at the end of games is unbelievable to watch and Walker now must do it as an underdog two more times to reach his ultimate goal. In a year where the stars have come out, Kemba still has the chance to be the biggest one yet, with two games in Anaheim to tell the tale.

8. Steve Fisher's redemption:  Everyone thinks Steve Fisher is a bad coach. Regardless of his amazing tournament run to the title in 1989 and his time spent overseeing the Fab Five, the reality is that media and most college basketball fans think Fisher is synonymous with "good recruiter/bad coach." But San Diego State has had a tremendous season in a tough conference and now has a chance to prove its mettle versus arguably one of the two best players in the game (Kemba Walker) and the defending national champions (Duke) over the next five days. Win both of those games and Fisher may not quiet the critics, but they will have much less ammunition than they would prefer.

9. Learn about the Morris twins:  Coming out of high school, most figured the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, to be super talented, but likely headed for a substantial amount of trouble during their time at Kansas. That opinion was bolstered by a stupid moment from Markieff, as he shot a BB gun out of a dorm window and ended up arrested on a battery charge. But since then, the Morris twins have gotten better on and off the basketball court and are the leaders of a Kansas team with a legitimate chance to win a title. Both players are forces on the glass and can score, making them not only a great brother tandem, but a matchup nightmare. In a relatively open bracket, it should be easy pickings for the brothers Morris.

10. Richmond tries to keep going:  Every year a team comes from out of the first weekend as a big underdog, heads into the second weekend with lots of press and excitement, only to fall in their Sweet 16 game to a stronger opponent. Last year that team was Cornell from the Ivy League and this year it is the familiar NCAA tournament success story, the Richmond Spiders. Unlike past heroes of the little guy, Richmond is from a near-major conference (Atlantic 10) and counts some good athletes and one great player, Kevin Anderson. Richmond plays great defense and has the ability to beat anyone in the tournament...except perhaps Kansas, who creates matchup nightmares for the Spiders. This is the spot where teams like Richmond exit stage left. We shall see if the Spiders will follow the script.

11. Could VCU be great?:  No team had a better first weekend than VCU. Who would have ever imagined that the Colonial team would put absolute smackdowns on USC, Georgetown and Purdue, all three in games that were never really all that close. VCU coach Shaka Smart has become the hottest name in the coaching community and our CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel suggested that they might be the most impressive team so far in the tournament. VCU plays a straightforward offensive style, in which every player can score and all on the court have a variety of skills. It makes them tough to prepare for in a given game and nearly impossible to defend when clicking. It is tough to see VCU coming out of this bracket and beating Kansas, but making the Elite Eight and giving the Jayhawks a good game? I would call it likely.

12. Florida State goes for respect:  Every year there is one team like Florida State that makes the Sweet 16. Usually they are from a power conference, were average all year, often underachieving, and then they get the perfect draw and make a run to the tournament's second weekend. The Seminoles were blessed by getting to play the decidedly unathletic and overseeded, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and are now onto play America's new fascination, VCU. When healthy, Chris Singleton is the type of player that can lead FSU over anyone and there will be no team they will see that they can't match up with athletically. But FSU has always been a team that skeptics dismiss and Leonard Hamilton is a coach that usually brings out the eye rolls from those in the college basketball community. This weekend could change that.

13. Brad Stevens tries to do it again:  Butler's move to the championship game last year was remarkable and a testament to the ability of Brad Stevens and a great group of Butler players, led by Gordon Hayward. But this Butler team's set of last-second wins last weekend may have even been more impressive. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are both playing well, there was a time this year that Butler was completely in turmoil, losing to lower level Horizon League teams and looking like a fragment of the team that was a half court shot from cutting down the nets. But Stevens never gave up, the team got better and now two one point wins have put the Bulldogs two victories from the Final Four. The Southeast bracket is wide open and there is no reason that Stevens cannot make magic again.

14. Jordan Taylor will impress:  Jordan Taylor is a phenomenon to watch. While he plays on a painfully boring team that at times can suck the life out of any room it is in, he is an explosive scorer that also has the ability to get his teammates involved and control a game. Taylor will get overshadowed this weekend by Jimmer, Kemba and the rest, but he is as good a player as they are and at the top of his game, potentially a better NBA prospect. Wisconsin is prime to sneak in under the radar and make a trip to the Final Four, because they play great defense and are a style contrast for most teams. Bo Ryan can get it done with this group, but it will be Jordan Taylor who makes it happen.

15. Jimmer: He is the biggest star in college basketball and has become a sports figure so well known, that he can be called only by his first name. Jimmer Fredette draws the highest ratings of the NCAA tournament and is everyone's second favorite player in the nation. But what he doesn't have is a Final Four, an accomplishment that will make him an all-timer in the sport. Florida is a team that BYU beat last year and the Cougars might be favored against either Wisconsin or Butler. Jimmer can do it and if he does, he will become the Tim Tebow of college basketball.  All it takes is two more wins.

16. The under-appreciated Gators: Florida is playing its best basketball of the season and is one of only a few teams left in the tournament that has a scoring threat at every position. This Florida team has generally been overlooked all season and was thought by most to be way overseeded in the No. 2 spot in the Southeast region. But the Gators played two great games in Tampa and come to New Orleans with the most open bracket in the field and are the odds-on favorite to advance. Billy Donovan is extremely overlooked as a coach...three national title games in 11 years and a chance to go to a fourth Final Four this year. Get that done and he has to be considered one of the five best coaches in the game, a group he is rarely placed into.

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 21, 2011 1:34 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 4:11 am

Southwest Regional preview

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Where to start? The San Antonio regional has been dominated by upsets, with five lower-seeded teams advancing to the round of 32 and three double-digit seeds still alive in the Sweet 16. In fact, top-seeded Kansas almost seems like the outcast in a foursome that features the lowest seed remaining in the field and two of the last 10 at-large teams invited on Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks are obviously the heavy favorite, but it’s tough to bet against three teams playing with house money right now.

Three storylines dominating San Antonio

1. Cinderella reigns supreme, with three double-digit seeds still alive.
2. Kansas is the favorite, but not the most impressive team so far.
3. Florida State is rolling despite Chris Singleton being a non-factor due to injury.

How they get to Houston

No. 1 Kansas: Don’t get overconfident. The Jayhawks are clearly the favorite in the Southwest regional, with more talent and depth than any of the other three teams remaining. They have dominant inside players with Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, perimeter shooters in Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar and a playmaker with Tyshawn Taylor. They are also one of the best defensive teams in the country. If Kansas plays to its potential, it should not be tested until the Final Four.

No. 10 Florida State: Defense, defense, defense. The Seminoles are the most efficient defensive team in the country, allowing only 0.86 points per possession. They completely stifled Texas A&M in the second round, then held a high-powered Notre Dame group to 50 points on 31 percent shooting. Florida State is physical and athletic, overcoming a lack of offensive explosiveness with lockdown half-court defense. If Chris Singleton can get healthy, this team can play with anyone.

No. 11 VCU: Pressure in the halfcourt. The Rams pressure the ball as well as anyone in the country, creating turnovers and forcing difficult shots in a half-court setting. USC, Georgetown and Purdue shot a combined 14-for-60 from the 3-point line against VCU in the NCAA tournament, also turning the ball over 39 times in three games. The Rams have been able to overcome their lack of size inside by creating match-up problems at the offensive end.

No. 12 Richmond: Create match-up problems. Richmond won its two NCAA tournament games in different ways. The one constant was taking advantage of individual match-ups. In the round of 64, Richmond used Kevin Anderson constantly down the stretch and also put Justin Harper in areas where he could score. Against Morehead State, Harper and Dan Geriot forced the Eagles to bring their big men out to the perimeter. What can the Spiders do against Kansas?

San Antonio's five best players

1. The Morrii, Kansas: Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris form one of the nation’s top inside tandems. Marcus is better facing up, while Markieff is a load down low.
2. Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper is a legitimate NBA prospect and match-up nightmare with his inside-outside talents.
3. Jamie Skeen, VCU: Skeen has more than held his own against USC, Georgetown and Purdue. Averaging 17.6 points in his last eight games.
4. Kevin Anderson, Richmond: One of the best point guards left in the field, Anderson is averaging 20.4 points in his last eight games.
5. Chris Singleton, Florida State: A healthy Singleton could be the difference between the Seminoles reaching the Final Four or losing on Friday.  

The Kansas Jayhawks are clearly the favorite in the Southwest regional heading into the Sweet 16. The other three teams still alive are nowhere near the Jayhawks in terms of talent and depth, and Kansas is capable of blowing out each opponent. The Jayhawks have not been at their best in the first two rounds, but were still able to win handily. Better starts in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will end any doubt very quickly as to which team is the best in the region. Bill Self and co. march on.

Photo: US Presswire 
More NCAA tournament coverage
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com