Robert Morris Athletics

2014 NEC Tournament Preview: Can Robert Morris regain control of the league?

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Robert Morris Athletics

It’s been five years since anyone in the NEC other than LIU-Brooklyn or Robert Morris has won the league’s automatic bid. While the Blackbirds have one of the nation’s best point guards in Jason Brickman, they suffered through a down year plagued by injuries and likely won’t extend their reign over the league to a four-peat. Bobby Mo, on the other hand, won the conference by two full games and will head into the conference tournament as the favorite to earn the automatic bid.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 5, 8 and 11

Where: Higher seed hosts every game

Final: March 11, 7:00 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: Robert Morris

The Colonials have had a bit of a tumultuous season, as three of their rotation players have left the program or gotten kicked off the team during the season. But Karvel Anderson is still around, as is Lucky Jones. And remember, Andy Toole’s team isn’t afraid of the spotlight. This is the same program that knocked off Kentucky in the first round of the NIT last season.

And if they lose?: Wagner

The Seahawks are far and away the best defensive team in the conference, according to KenPom. They contest shots on the perimeter and make life a nightmare for anyone trying to finish around the rim. The question is whether or not Bashir Mason’s boys will be able to score enough to win three straight games.

Sleepers:

  • Bryant: The Bulldogs are explosive offensively, as Alex Francis, Dyami Starks, and Corey Maynard make up the best top three in the league.
  • St. Francis (NY): St. Francis won at Miami in overtime this year and nearly knocked off Syracuse at the Carrier Dome two weeks later. They were 9-7 in league play.

Studs:

  • Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris: Anderson is the best player on the best team in the league, carrying a group that lost three rotation players for the season.
  • Jason Brickman, LIU-Brooklyn: Brickman is the only player in the country to average a double-double in points and assists.
  • Alex Francis, Bryant: Tim O’Shea’s best player is third in the conference in scoring (19.0 ppg) and second in rebounding (8.2 rpg).

CBT Prediction: Robert Morris over Bryant

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.