Archive | March, 2013

Florida Gulf Coast, Seattle University, and how mid-major teams can become successful

29 Mar

In one week, Florida Gulf Coast University had the number of hits on their website multiply by a factor of 10.

That’s the kind of recognition making an unlikely Sweet 16 run can bring to a school, and that’s the kind of recognition Seattle University’s basketball program is trying to reach. The value there is obvious.

It’s also proof of how quickly a program can take off. FGCU is in just its second year of NCAA Division-I tournament eligibility – which Seattle U will enter next year.

More inspiring is the level that FGCU was at prior to this year – bad -, making the leap from conference bottom-feeder to nationally-known program seem very doable, if difficult.

The Eagles were 15-17 last year, 10-20 the year before that, and 8-21 the year before THAT. All three seasons took place in the Atlantic Sun conference, although the team only gained postseason eligibility last season.

Their first step was reaching mediocrity. You have to go 15-17 for a season before you can go 26-10, as FGCU has in their dream 2012-13 season. That will be the first step for the Redhawks, who should set a .500 conference record in the WAC as a minimum goal for next season.

The second step? Scheduling aggressively and smartly.

This season, Florida Gulf Coast won a home game against Miami by 12 that turned out to be one of the best mid-major victories in the NCAA all season. They also played top-tier opponents like Duke and VCU, and were competitive in losses against Iowa State and St. Johns.

Those games serve dual purposes – allowing your team to be prepared to compete against anyone, and allowing your RPI to be greatly enhanced. There is virtually no RPI penalty for losing on the road against a great team. And when your team hangs right with NCAA tournament-bound Iowa State in front of 13,000 at Ames Coliseum, you know you can play with anyone.

Mixed in with all those power-6 games were winnable home contests. A lot of them. Those, too, are confidence boosters. Extra home games bring fan interest, they make for more rested players, and they make it easier to win. The more home games, the better, even if some of them end up being against teams like Ave Maria of the NAIA.

Reach mediocrity, then schedule aggressively but smartly. Those two steps can help launch a team like Seattle University on a path toward success, even if that success isn’t a storybook Sweet-16 run. Not yet, anyways.

A Seattle basketball fan’s guide to the 2013 NCAA tournament

21 Mar

Having trouble getting excited for the NCAA tournament this year? I wouldn’t blame you.

With Seattle University long since having crashed out in the first round of the WAC tournament, and the Washington Huskies missing out on the big dance by a big margin, March Madness is a little less exciting.

But it’s still March Madness. It’s still mad. And it’s still awesome.

Here’s five teams to keep an eye on during the NCAA tournament from a Seattle perspective, some obvious and some not-so-obvious.

New Mexico State

Seattle U’s WAC rivals are making their second appearance in as many years in the NCAA tournament. Both times, the Aggies entered the WAC tournament as something less than the favorite, but won three games to take the whole thing.

New Mexico State has a lot of talent, and a lot of promise in players like Bandja Sy and Sim Bhullar. They’ll be the odds-on favorites to win the WAC next year, too.

Louisville

Simply a very good team, the Cardinals are led by Peyton Siva from Seattle’s Franklin High School – the latest in a long line of Seattle-raised guards who will play in the NBA. Louisville might be the best defensive team in the tournament and are certainly one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Gonzaga

The Bulldogs are what the Redhawks would love to be. The #1 team in the country boasts a ferocious frontcourt of Kelly Olynyk and the underrated Elias Harris. They’re for real.

Kentridge graduate Gary Bell Jr. helps lead the guards. Bell was recruited by virtually every Pac-10 school, but chose the mid-major Zags over programs like UCLA, Washington and Cal.

Florida Gulf Coast

After exactly six years in Division I, Florida Gulf Coast has made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time. Having already beaten Miami by 10 points this year, it’s clear they can play with anyone in the country. The #2 seed facing them, Georgetown, had better not look past them.

FGC also shows how a program can go from a lower division to a legitimate threat to win an NCAA tournament game in a short time period – but also, that to expect that type of growth in just one season is a pipe dream.

La Salle

If you want a team that plays Dollarball the way Seattle U would like to, look no further than La Salle. The Atlantic 10 school routinely starts four guards and one post, playing a high-tempo offense with lots of driving to the basket. Having a guard who can lead the team, like Ramon Galloway, always helps.

Preview: Someone’s season will end as Redhawks battle Texas State in WAC tournament

12 Mar

This position, the bottom of the conference, probably is not exactly what Cameron Dollar imagined for his Redhawks at the start of the year.

Seattle U limped to a 3-15 conference record, being competitive in many of the games and winning few. In the last 4 losses of the year, Seattle was outscored by 9 total points. That’s brutal.

One of those games came against Texas State, a 67-65 heartbreaker on the road. The other game against Texas State? A 3-point home loss.

There’s not much else to say. The Redhawks are much better than their 8-21 season record, but have had immense difficulties finishing at the end of games.

The season might be lost, but this program sure isn’t. There’s lots of talent, a growing fan base, an improving coach (albeit one prone to mistakes, as he would surely admit himself), and an absolute hotbed for basketball players. Not to mention an incredible arena to play college basketball in.

Just a win, just one, against Texas State tonight, will help push things in the right direction. It’ll provide a small boost of confidence and optimism going forward. Just to get one more game against Louisiana Tech or Denver, one more shot at slaying a giant of the WAC, will end this season on a positive note, and make it last a couple days longer.

And they can certainly do it. Texas State is not a fantastic team, either, at 10-21. Seattle can play with them.  They can be beaten by crashing the boards, finishing second-chance opportunities and not allowing fast-break baskets.

All of those are easier said than done, of course. But just once, just once this year, the Redhawks need to dig deep in the last 5 or 6 minutes and finish this game off.

This is a game that matters. It’s time to find out who these Redhawks really are.

Preview: Redhawks meet their equals in CSU-Bakersfield

7 Mar

On paper, Seattle and Bakersfield are two of the teams expected to challenge New Mexico State in the WAC next season.

With Grand Canyon University being new to the conference, UT-Pan America and UM-Kansas City deep in rebuilding mode and Chicago State being an underwater train wreck, both the Redhawks and the Roadrunners would be projected to be near the top of the conference in the 2013-14 season.

Both squads are fairly new to Division I, and toiled without a conference for a few years until the WAC came calling. They’re very much part of the same basketball generation.

And the programs are nearly equal in terms of development. They each have a surprise win this year – Seattle’s was at UT-Arlington, CSU-Bakersfield’s came against South Dakota State – and an otherwise mediocre record.

So Bakersfield will provide a nice litmus test for the Redhawks, especially on a neutral court in Kent. (Technically, it’s a home game for Seattle, but… yeah, not really.)

Each school has a fairly large market but minimal positive recent basketball history. Each has big aspirations and a long way to go to reach them. In a lot of ways, CSU-B is the twin brother of this Seattle University program, and that makes for a compelling matchup tonight.

Recap: Defense does job as Seattle stifles UTSA for 3rd WAC win

4 Mar

There has been a definite pattern in the three conference victories the Redhawks have totaled this season: winning with defense.

In those three victories, the opponents have scored under 50 points each time. In fact, in all but two wins this Season, the Redhawks held the other team under 50.

And in none of those games has Seattle lit up the scoreboard themselves. The finals in the three wins have been 61-44, 56-48, and last night against Texas San-Antonio, 53-37.

These Redhawks are proving to be a much better team when they slow down the tempo. It’s a better fit for the game of Chad Rasmussen, who had 19 points entirely on three-point shooting. He gets his looks in the halfcourt set, not running the court.

It’s a better fit for the games of Deshaun Sunderhaus and Clarence Trent, who can use their length on defense instead of trying to keep up in a track meet. And it’s a better fit for Cameron Dollar, because his teams have tended to get out of control and turn the ball over like crazy when they push the tempo like crazy.

Take a note of the 13 turnovers last night. In the first matchup against UTSA, played at a run and gun pace, the Redhawks had 20. And lost.

Another thing worth noting (although not directly attributable to a slow tempo) is how the Redhawks handled UTSA guard Michael Hale III. In the first matchup, he went for 35 points. In the second, he scored 3.

Defense, defense, defense. A slow, grinding defensive approach might not be the sexiest way to play basketball, but at least for the Redhawks this year, it’s the most effective.

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