americaeast

America East announces new format for conference tournament

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One of the bigger upsets during conference tournament play last season was Albany’s win over regular season champion Stony Brook in the semifinals of the America East tournament. That contest drew added attention due to the fact that the Great Danes, who went on to represent the league in the NCAA tournament, hosted the first two rounds of the tournament. Even though the setup was known going into the season, the fact that a lower-seeded team could host a tournament game against a higher-seeded team didn’t sit well with many.

On Thursday the conference announced a change in its tournament format for the 2015 and 2016 editions, going to a model in which the higher-seeded team will host each game of the America East tournament. The tournament will also be re-seeded after the quarterfinal round, meaning that the highest remaining seed would host the lowest remaining seed in one semifinal game and the other two semifinalists playing in the other.

The last time the conference used this particular format was back in 1995.

“This is great for our league,” Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said in the release. “We have great home court venues and enthusiastic fan bases across the conference. To be rewarded for a great regular season and have an opportunity to play in front our fans and bring a piece of March Madness to multiple campuses is really exciting.”

While most would prefer a neutral site for conference tournaments, the fact of the matter is that not all leagues can do thanks to issues such as fan attendance. Playing a tournament on campus, in theory, addresses that issue but other problems can arise like the one Stony Brook faced last season. The new format does add weight to the regular season, rewarding the teams that perform well throughout the season with home-court advantage.

“Moving to this high-seed format and re-seeding the bracket enables us to protect our best teams, the teams that have shown their mettle over the course of a 16-game schedule,” Vermont director of athletics Robert Corran noted in the release. “This will put the conference in a better position to send its best representative forward to the NCAA tournament and obtain its best possible seed. We felt that was very important for the health of men’s basketball in our conference both in the short and long term.”

Last season Albany, seeded fourth, became the first team since the 1993 Delaware (now in the CAA) squad to win the league’s automatic bid despite not being one of the top two seeds in the event. Was this enough to change the way in which the conference determines its NCAA tournament representative? Apparently so.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.