On the Fourth Day of Conference Tourneys, the Buffet gave to me…

On the Fourth Day of Conference Tourneys, the Buffet gave to me…


Spanning the scene

Huge Buffet

Killer Top Seeds

An extra day of conference tourneys…


And, as though it had only been 14 hours, we’re back.  Make this a breakfast buffet. Today, the main line has your America East, CAA, and Summit League previews.  Plus, a new special called “Spanning the Scene.” We here at the Buffet realized that we often preview, sometimes give you a last night in, but often leave the conference tourneys hanging in pursuit of the next tipping tourney, and sometimes, yes sometimes, you want to have another helping of what we made on Thursday.  WANT NO LONGER.  We will take a look at the tournament progression to date and see where we stand.  We’ll also prime you for today’s generous portion of In the Waiting Line.. affairs, and take a look back at the carnage that was Pack of Wolves Wednesday.  As always, please consult the tremendous Daily Viewing Guide to know what’s on, when, and how you can watch it: http://hoopshd.com/2013/03/09/conference-tournament-viewing-guide-march-9-2013/

For now, let’s head to the Northeast for the


March 8-10, SEFCU Arena at the University of Albany, Albany, NY

March 16 @ Highest Remaining Seed

Is this year the year? After their 3rd conference title in 4 years but 0 tournament titles, is Stony Brook ready to break through with their first NCAA tournament appearance in the 14th year participating in Division 1, and if it happens, how embarrassed should Northwestern feel?  After a single game separated the Seawolves and Vermont for their previous regular season titles, Stony Brook cleared the Catamounts and BU by 3 games, as freshman Jameel Warner provided the extra punch SBU needed to really get a stranglehold on the conference (this has been a banner year for Stony Brook athletics, who advanced to the College World Series for the first time last summer (first team ever from the America East and first team from New York in 30 years)).  He’s joined by Do-It-All Tommy Brenton, who won’t light the stat sheet on fire, but just seems to be everywhere, as well as Anthony Jackson & Dave Coley. Stony Brooks comes in ranked tops in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency (31st in the country for that matter) and sit at an impressive 57th overall in the KenPom (www.kenpom.com) rankings.  They come having won six straight, including a 65-48 win over Vermont.  The best part, for them and for us, is coach Steve Pikiell, who has lived through the Div1/AmEast transitional lean years, has stocked the cupboard, as Coley & Jackson are only juniors, and Warney is the next big SBU thing as just a freshman.

Wait, where’s Boston U? Despite tying for second with Vermont, you’ll look endlessly if you try to find their quarterfinal matchup tomorrow.  Apparently announced before transferring conferences was vogue, Boston U will lace them up in the Patriot League next year, and America East, perhaps training at the Phil Martelli school of the code of transferring has banned them from participating in the conference tournament.  Don’t mind that they played an entire conference slate, these aren’t the Terriers you’re looking for…  You know who’s the most psyched about this (even more than the top seeds who now permanently avoid BU), it’s Binghamton, the 1-15, 11th place finisher, would be home planning spring break already, but the ouster of Boston U, means the tournament needs a 10th team, and apparently any will qualify.

Vermont. I mean, would it be an America East preview without Catamount Chat? The AmEast’s second place team won 6 of 7 midseason, and it was believed that it was time, they were going to reassume control of the league and go from there, but from there they only went into a 2 game losing streak, that seemed to have been righted in time for conference tournament play, only to fall to Hartford, at home, on senior night.  But Brian Voekel, Clancy Rugg (all-name candidate), Luke Apfeld, Sando Carissimo and crew still play that suffocating style that always plays well in the tournament (ask Michigan St, Wisconsin or the John Chaney Temple Owls) which means you can’t ignore them, even if they lose to Maine & Rhode Island.

Who Should Win: Time for a new America East coronation, and Stony Brook’s first time eat at the Buffet with the rest of the field of 68.

If not them, who? Can’T ignore Albany, the home standing Great Danes get home cooking until the final, which isn’t a decisive advantage, but you get to a final, win a couple games, and suddenly momentum can be a funny thing.  This team didn’t exactly light the world on fire this year, but they did notch a win in Seattle against Washington, and regardless of Washington’s rough year, that’s still a cross country trip at the beginning of the season, in a sneaky tough place to play (Hec Edmundson gets LOUD, the Buffet has been)… and Mike Black and Jacob Iati can score in the America East as well as anyone…

Hartford. The Hawks come in having won 6 of 8, including an end of regular season road win over Vermont and a 5 point win hosting Stony Brook, so they’ve shown the goods in conference… and we like stars in the tournaments, especially from a below the line sleeper, and Mark Nwakamma is just that, the sophomore averaged 14.7 (up 5 points from his freshman season) and 5.5 rebounds per game this year. Plus, they’ve got Jack Sikma’s son Nate.  No work if he just acts tall and stands behind the 3pt line bombing away or not, but we’d like him too.  Future hopes abound here, as only 1 senior gets meaningful minutes, and even he, John Peterson, doesn’t get 20 per game of those.

Best Non-Conference Win: Albany at Washington, 63-62

It’s a Stony Brook World…

2013 America East Player of the Year: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook

2013 America East Defensive Player of the Year: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook

2013 America East Freshman of the Year: Jameel Warney, Stony Brook

2013 America East Coach of the Year: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook

2012-13 America East First Team:

Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook

Mike Black, Albany

D.J. Irving, Boston U (no, it’s totally cool that a kid this good has to miss a year of being able to make the NCAAs because his school is, gulp, DOING WHAT EVERY OTHER SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY IS DOING)

Mark Nwakamma, Hartford

Brian Voekel, Vermont

America East 2013 Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate:

Jacob Iati, Albany, 84/203, 31 games, 2.7/game, 41%

America East Gregory Douglas Ott Award Candidate:  Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook, 2.3


March 9-12, Sioux Falls Arena, Sioux Falls, ND

Now this one has all the makings of a good one, South Dakota St, the defending conference tournament champion is your top seed, and they feature not-to-be missed star, Nate Wolters.  Then there’s new to the top of the conference scene, Western Illinois, who other than being unable to beat South Dakota St, have a ridiculously great nickname, the Leathernecks, and a playing style that suits it – giving up 52.6 points per game (#2 in the nation!) and slow the game down to a point of suffocation that lulls opponents to sleep long enough for their inept offense to score JUST enough points to win.  The Golden Grizzlies are back, but they are just quit missing something, not quite the offensive showcase they have been with Reggie Hamilton, Keith Benson & Dominique Morrison, but they did take out both Dakota States, so they can’t be simply dismissed.  Then there’s the wildcard as the #3 seed – who have welcomed Taylor Braun back after he missed 10 games with a foot injury, fully loaded, there could be a run in the Bison

So Dakota State – featuring the league’s far and away best player (take a look at the minute by minute in their loss at Murray State after Wolters tweaked his back for evidence), this team ran through the Summit League at 13-3, but we would’ve thought they would have played to an overall profile more Waiting Line-able.  We can forgive the Cal St Bakersfield loss because that’s when Wolters first hurt his back, and that game meant nothing to them at that point, but losses to Hofstra, South Dakota, and blowout defeats at the hands of Minnesota and Belmont (by 27) are less defensible.   But that’s more of a look at the Jackrabbits through an at-large prism, for the purposes of this weekend, this is a squad that lost a few of road games in conference, but otherwise tore through the league, winning games by an average 16.7 points, and there main point of weakness (playing on the road where they went 7-9) is offset a bit by the tournament being housed in Sioux Falls.

No Dakota State – Getting healthy and feeling good. That’s the banner North Dakota State carries into this weekend. Star Taylor Braun is back, and they carry a two game win streak coming in and at full strength, granted that was against Utah Valley & Nebraska-Omaha, but given that they were no better than a .500 team leading into that, it’s a welcome change, and something no doubt will be used by them to signal a sign of things to come.  This was the best team in conference, from the eyeball and KenPom test, with Braun in the lineup (wins over South Dakota St and Oakland provide strong evidence of that), and Braun together with Marshall Bjoklund will make them a force, and the Buffet silently pulling for an All-Dakota State final to give us a battle of Summit heavyweight – it helps greatly that UMKC snagged the 6 seed, which should provide NDSU with a virtual first round bye.

Who Should Win: With two games under his belt, and one more tune up in the first round,  before a semifinal battle with Western Illinois, we see Taylor Braun getting up to speed, and then providing a great star versus star battle in the final with Nate Wolters, but ultimately, it’ll be whether Jordan Dykstra and Chad White can step up more than Marshall Bjorklund, TravVonn Wright and Lawrence Alexander, and that overall team depth and 68% FG percentage for Bjorklund just makes us think it’ll be a Bison Bison world.  It’s a battle of the top offensively efficient versus the top defensively efficient, and we wonder how much that O-efficiency will improve for NDSU with Braun back, and as a solid defensive player in his own right, there shouldn’t be much slippage on that end of the floor either.

If not them, then who: Braun’s injury opened the door for another team to grab the #2 spot, and Leathernecks were that team.  After getting lured into a shootout against Nebraska-Omaha to open the conference season, I mean who doesn’t, WIU settled in. Totals of 112, 92, 83, 85, 119, 113, and 104 were the common theme, and their grind it out, get in your face style can frustrate opponents to the point of submission.  Granted, they went 0-2 versus So Dak St and Oakland (and beat NDSU 50-42 without Braun), but the formula for overcoming talent deficiencies is there and that’s when Terrell Parks (who LOCKS IT DOWN on D) and Ceola Clark III can make just enough shots to do the deed (although keep Parks FAR AWAY from the free throw line, where the Leathernecks leading scorer is hitting on only 44% of his attempts)

Oakland may not be star studded like just a few years back, but that might be because of the team’s lack of top seed Summit status, Travis Bader, perhaps through shot volume, can score (22 ppg) and pretty much shoot anywhere that isn’t a two pointer (89% FT shooter and a 3pt% and FG% that are identical) and they hold wins over all of the top seeds in this tournament. Their odds may be long, but with those wins plus over Horizon League reg season champ Valparaiso, the mettle is there to win 3 in 3.

Best Non-Conference win: South Dakota St. Jackrabbits at New Mexico, 70-65, the infamous “Snowstorm game” – where South Dakota St was forced to take a 1220 mile bus following their game at Belmont because a snow storm.

2013 Summit League Player of the Year: Nate Wolters, South Dakota St

2013 Summit League Defensive Player of the Year: Terrell Parks, Western Illinois

2013 Summit League Newcomer of the Year: Duke Mondy, Oakland

2013 Summit League Coach of the Year: Jim Molinari, Western Illinois

2012-13 Summit League First Team:

Travis Bader, Oakland

Marshall Bjorklund, North Dakota St

Ceola Clark III, Western Illinois

Frank Gaines, IUPU-Fort Wayne

Terrell Parks, Western Illinois

Nate Wolters, So Dakota St

Taylor Braun, No Dakota St* (he actually was voted to the 2nd team, but let’s be real – no injury, we’re talking potential Summit POY tie here)

Summit League 2013 Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate:

Travis Bader, Oakland, get ready for this one…  131/337, 31 games, 4.2/game, 39%

Summit League Gregory Douglas Ott Award Candidate:  Nate Wolter, So Dakota St, 2.5 A/TO


March 9-11, Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA

The Colonial Athletic Association. Or as we like to call it, “The if Virginia fails to earn an at-large bid, the reason why” Conference. Or the “Where is everyone? Where did everybody go” tournament (Arby’s, Roast Beef sale… sadly this is nowhere to be found in land of the interwebs)

Let’s take item two first – yes, you will only find 7 teams in this year’s tournament.  Towson (who finished 2nd) and UNC-Wilmington won’t be competing because their athletes go to class like UConn.  CAA pulled America East petulance on Georgia State and Old Dominion because of the impending conference departures (Ga State to the Sun Belt and ODU to Conference USA) – never mind that they had no problem letting VCU compete in the tournament last year and DEFINITELY no problem letting Georgia State compete in 2006, after their first season in the conference.

And, yes, this season saw Virginia fall to Old Dominion, George Mason, and Delaware .

Ok, enough about teams not in the CAA tournament  – let’s focus on those who are. Northeastern won the regular season title by running out to an 8-0 conference start and then holding on for dear life as a Feb 13 home loss to Delaware brought the teams within 1 game of each other, and wasn’t until Delaware lost to James Madison at home and NE righted the ship for a quick 2 game win streak that regular season CAA things were settled.  NE also owns a non-conference win over Belmont and a some real good shows against UMass, Charlotte and La Salle (all fringe Waiting Line… teams) so there’s something to the Huskies.  They put up the most points in an often scoring starved league, and at 70 per it means they can find the points when others sometimes cannot.  Joel Smith emerged as a top CAA talent, and with Jonathan Lee back from injury and Quincy Ford steadying the unit, this is a team capable of shaking off losing 3 of 5 to finish the season, and be the team that rattled off back to back wins to clinch the crown.

Delaware.  This is arguably the league’s most talented team top to bottom, with Devon Saddler, Jarvis Threatt, Jamele Hagins and even Kyle Anderson all capable CAA performers, Saddler especially is electric, averaging 20 per game,  Delaware showed at-large capable moxie with a win at Virginia early on, and their strong performances vs. Kansas St (3 point loss), La Salle (tight game until a 7 point finish) and Temple (5 point loss) in a pair of road games versus those Atlantic 10 squads.  They come in winning 4 straight and 7 of 8, including wins over conference #2 Towson (in Towson) and at Northeastern.

Who Should Win: We like a Saddler-fueled march for this abbreviated version of the CAA tournament.

If not them, who? With so many teams not included in the tournament, dropping down to the #3 seed would be too easy, so we’ll look at preseason favorite Drexel, who had such a disappointing season but maintains the talent if they could just put together a 40-minute effort.  Drexel is that classic mid-major, a loss to whom looks terrible on the resume from a rata data/advanced statistic point of view, but if you step back and realize who the Dragons should have been, you realize the loss wasn’t AS bad as it looks.  The kind of team who a sleeper run to a tournament championship title would surprise no one here at the Buffet (a first round loss to James Madison would be equally unsurprising).    But, for a refresher, keep  a lookout for Damion Lee, Chris Fouch, and Frantz Massenat.

Best Non-Conference win: Northeastern versus Belmont 74-71

2013 CAA Player of the Year: Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

2013 CAA Defensive Player of the Year: Jamelle Hagins, Delaware

2013 CAA Freshman of the Year: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State

2013 CAA Coach of the Year: Pat Skerry, Towson

2012-13 CAA First Team:

Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

R.J. Hunter, Georgia State

Keith Rendleman, UNCW

Devon Saddler, Delaware

Joel Smith, Northeastern

CAA 2013 Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate:

Marcus Thornton, William & Mary, 90/208, 29 games, 3.1/gm, 43 

CAA Gregory Douglas Ott Award Candidate:  Bryon Allen, George Mason, 2.4 A/TO


March 9: Princeton @ Brown; Harvard v. Cornell; March 12: Princeton @ Penn

If teams are tied: March 16 @ the Palestra, Philadelphia, PA

So here we go, the scenario we as college hoops fans dream of – 1 more championship game combined with forcing the Ivy League into the tournament like atmosphere they so desperately try to avoid, OH THE MISSED CLASSES. You know, if they weren’t so militant about things, maybe this – http://yilb.com/harvards-kyle-casey-and-brandyn-curry-in-a-cheating-scandal – doesn’t happen.  On that, in the landscape of coaching, no one takes it on the chin more than Tommy Amaker, a lot of it is due, but in a small school environment, he has thrived. And, like it or not, this year might be some of his best work yet.  He lost his captains and best player preseason in an embarrassing academic fraud scandal.  Yet, pieced things together for a (to date) 18-9 season and at least a share of Ivy league title, they went to Berkley and beat Cal, went to Moraga and lost to St. Mary’s by a point, and until a disaster of a weekend through the P-schools, had won 14 of 17.  We will stop short of commending him, but we will take a moratorium on picking fun for the rest of the 2012-13 season. Filling in the gaps for the absence of team leader Kyle Casey and the points both he and Curry provided has been Wesley Saunders (So), Syani Chambers (Fr) and the ever steady floor general, Laurent Rivard (Jr).  Which also means, if you notice the class designations, should those three avoid cheating on their exams too, like or not Amaker’s Crimson are poised to stick around.  And that could be next year, as Casey (who, to his credit, well, unless he’s guilty then not so much, has stay silent on the issue while Harvard conducts its investigation) has voluntarily withdrawn from the school to preserve his final year of eligibility, and went to work for a nonprofit foundation conducting afterschool programs for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.  As many as 125 students were potentially involved in the cheating scandal and naturally the star basketball player became the face of the drama – and truthfully, if he participated, we have no remorse for this, he chose to play college basketball and he chose to cheat. Whatever happens, happens.  If he didn’t, or if there’s more to the story, this high road was the best path to take.

Princeton. It’s not always pretty, but with an Ivy league best defense, and a split of matchups with Harvard, the Tigers want back in the tournament.   They had destiny in their grasp, but last night’s loss to Yale was hurtful, putting the onus on them to win tonight and then survive the annual rivalry scrum at Penn on Tuesday night.  They don’t score much, but when they do expect it to come from Ian Hummer and Denton Koooooooooooon.  This team has shown road moxie – winning at Buffalo, Lafayette, Kent State, and Elon, and losing to Akron by only 4 and Wagner but just 6 – no this isn’t building a good tournament case, but it’s results against similar competition we’re interested in, and Princeton has performed.  With a 4 game win streak snapped at Yale last night, it’s time to buck up if you’re a Tiger, and get yourself to an Ivy League playoff next week.

Season results versus remaining schedule:

Harvard: won at Cornell 67-65 on February 8

Princeton:  defeated Brown at home 63-46 on February 8, knocked off Penn 65-63 on January 12.

So, a seemingly winnable game versus Brown, and then each team has a game against a team they only narrowly knocked off the first time around, it’s like Princeton has a play-in game, before a couple of semifinal games… should be fun.

Best Non-conference win between the only two teams with a shot at getting in the Buffet:

This is how amazingly close these two teams are:

Princeton over RPI #53 Bucknell 79-67

Harvard over RPI #49 California (road win)

Ivy League Postseason Awards will be announced after the end of the regular season.

Ivy League 2013 Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate:

Laurent Rivard, Harvard 70/176, 27 games, 2.6/gm, 40%

Ivy League Gregory Douglas Ott Award Candidate:  Brian Barbour, Colgate 3.1 A/TO

Ok Buffet readership… the Waiting Line… and Spanning the Scene will be coming as one of the best days of college hoops unfolds, but we wanted to get your tournament previews as the slate of tournament games gets going.

Preview of Waiting Line… attractions: How Minnesota really must like waiting and not eating, Kentucky striving for a huge post-Nerlens Noel win to get back in line, Syracuse, while in the Buffet, looking more Waiting Line… than Buffet line these days, a scuttling La Salle team trying for an A10 signature, and a pair of tournament finals (one that will be complete by the time Buffet Part II gets to your doors, and looks pretty much over now) plus Blackbirds looking to sing in the dead of the NEC.

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