Realignment Catchup: More changes come on July 1

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July 1, 2013 was a busy day on the college sports landscape, with a “new” league (American Athletic Conference) coming into existence and some 46 schools moving from one conference to another. But while the major shifting took place on that day, today — July 1, 2014 — hasn’t lacked for moves, with the majority of those shifts coming at the mid-major level.

Will this be the end of realignment for the foreseeable future? Or is this all just the tip of the iceberg, with NCAA issues such as the Ed O’Bannon and Sam Keller lawsuits and the threat of unionization possibly changing the structure of intercollegiate athletics? Only time will tell.

Below is a summary of each move that has taken place, with the ACC, American, Big Ten and SoCon among the conferences adding and/or losing members.

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American Athletic Conference: Mike Aresco’s league loses two members in Louisville and Rutgers (Big Ten), but gains three as East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa make the jump from Conference USA. Basketball-wise this is a tough “trade” for one reason: the loss of Louisville. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are off the the ACC, where they’ll be a contender from the start. Of the three basketball programs joining the conference Tulsa’s best positioned for immediate success, with the Golden Hurricane returning the majority of their rotation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Atlantic 10: Last year the A-10 lost programs to the American (Temple), Big East (Butler and Xavier) and Conference USA (Charlotte) while adding one in George Mason, and they’ll add another program this summer with Davidson on board. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats were an excellent program during their time in the Southern Conference, making them a quality addition to the Atlantic 10.

ACC: For the second time in its existence the ACC will be losing a school, with charter member Maryland moving to the Big Ten with economics playing a major role in the decision. In place of the Terrapins will be Louisville, who have experienced greater success on the basketball court in recent years. With a now stable membership, the ACC will look to live up to the “best conference ever” chatter that began with the arrivals of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Atlantic Sun: The A-Sun lost two members on July 1, with East Tennessee State and Mercer both moving to the Southern Conference. Those are big losses, especially when considering just how good Bob Hoffman’s Mercer Bears have been in recent years. Those moves make the A-Sun an eight-team league with FGCU expected to lead the way. And only seven of the eight teams will be eligible for the conference tournament, with Northern Kentucky still a transitional Division I member.

Big Sky: An 11-team league last season, the Big Sky moves to 12 members with the arrival of Idaho. The Vandals, whose football program will be a part of the Sun Belt, took one of the biggest hits in realignment with the Mountain West picking apart their former home (WAC).

Big South: The Big South loses one program, as VMI will join the Southern Conference. The Keydets may not have reached the NCAA tournament in recent years, but Duggar Baucom’s program played an entertaining style of basketball that led to a lot of points being scored.

Big Ten: Jim Delany’s conference doesn’t lose any members but they gain two in Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (American). Maryland will be under some pressure in its first season in the league, with Mark Turgeon yet to lead the program to the NCAA tournament during his tenure in College Park, and they’re talented enough to end that streak. As for Rutgers, year two of the Eddie Jordan rebuilding project looks to be a difficult one. But on the bright side for the conference, adding Rutgers means another state with quality high school programs (New Jersey) is now within the conference’s “footprint.”

Colonial: The CAA was another league hurt by conference realignment, with Old Dominion, VCU and George Mason moving on in recent years. The CAA won’t lose any members this summer but they do gain one, as Elon’s moving in from the Southern Conference. Elon is the second school in as many seasons to move from the SoCon to the CAA, with the College of Charleston doing so last year.

Conference USA: Three more programs are leaving C-USA, with ECU, Tulane and Tulsa all moving on to the American. Conference USA adds one member this summer, with Western Kentucky making the move from the Sun Belt. Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers didn’t reach the NCAA tournament last season but they did in each of the two seasons prior.

Southern: No conference will experience more change on July 1 than the SoCon. Final count: four schools out, and three schools in. While Davidson (A-10) and Elon (CAA) have made their moves for basketball reasons, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will both join the Sun Belt with football being the catalyst. The three entrants are ETSU, Mercer (both from the A-Sun) and VMI (Big South).

Southland: The Southland loses a member this summer, with Oral Roberts moving back to the Summit League after spending two seasons in the Southland.

Summit League: Just two years after beginning play in the Southland Conference, Oral Roberts is headed back to the Summit League. So obviously there will be some familiarity, and the return of ORU gives the Summit League another solid program to compete with the likes of Denver, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

Sun Belt: The Sun Belt loses one member in Western Kentucky but gains two as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern move in from the Southern Conference. Appalachian State will have a new head coach as well, with former Davidson assistant Jim Fox taking over for Jason Capel.

WAC: The WAC loses a member as Idaho’s moved its non-football programs to the Big Sky (football is in the Sun Belt). Grand Canyon remains a transitional Division I member, meaning that the Antelopes won’t be eligible for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15. Seven of the eight remaining members will be able to play in the conference tournament next March.

And here’s the full list of schools changing leagues on July 1:

  • Appalachian State: Southern to Sun Belt
  • Davidson: Southern to Atlantic 10
  • East Carolina: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • Elon: Southern to Colonial
  • East Tennessee State: Atlantic Sun to Southern
  • Georgia Southern: Southern to Sun Belt
  • Idaho: WAC to Big Sky
  • Louisville: American Athletic to ACC
  • Maryland: ACC to Big Ten
  • Mercer: Atlantic Sun to Southern
  • Oral Roberts: Southland to Summit League
  • Rutgers: American Athletic to Big Ten
  • Tulane: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • Tulsa: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • VMI: Big South to Southern
  • Western Kentucky: Sun Belt to Conference USA

Point man: Can Nick Weiler-Babb’s move to PG put Iowa State back in the tourney?

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AMES, Ia. — It was clear Iowa State needed a change. The Cyclones stood 0-2 with an 18-point home loss to Milwaukee already on the resume. It was clear they were due for a reboot this season after losing four starters – including All-American point guard Monte Morris – but getting trounced at Hilton Coliseum by a team picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League constitutes an emergency.

The Cyclones didn’t panic, though. They adjusted. 

After that disastrous start to the season, coach Steve Prohm moved Nick Weiler-Babb from small forward to point guard while slotting the two players who had been manning the point –  sharpshooter Donovan Jackson and five-star freshman Lindell Wigginton – off the ball.

All Iowa State done since is win.

The Cyclones have rattled off seven-straight with Weiler-Babb flirting with triple-doubles, Jackson shooting 41.6 percent from deep and Wigginton looking like a future star.

“Good we moved him over there,” Prohm said.

It certainly has been good for the Cyclones. Iowa State was 9 of 34 (26.5 percent) from 3-point range, shot 38.8 percent overall and failed to reach 60 points in its opening two losses. In the seven games since, they’re converting at a 46.4 percent clip overall, 39.4 percent from distance and averaging 83.6 points per game. They’ve seemingly become a different team with Weiler-Babb at the helm.

“It’s taking a whole new role,” Weiler-Babb said. “Coach just told me whatever I have to do to win, I have to do it. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Take the ball out of the guys’ hands and give it to the scorers.”

The 6-foot-5 junior is averaging 7.9 assists along with 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s become indispensable for the Cyclones a year after being a bit player on the Big 12 tournament championship team.

“He went through some tough times last year,” Prohm said. “But that’s what everybody’s got to understand. Freshmen, sophomore, you’ve got to put your time in a little bit to have success and earn success. He’s doing that.”

The immediate returns have been spectacular for Iowa State, but a question still lingers as they eye Big 12 play later this month.

Is it real?

Or, rather, will it be real against an unforgiving Big 12 schedule? Given Iowa State’s non-conference slate, whether it is or not will determine the postseason fate of a team sitting on a program-best six-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

As good as Weiler-Babb and the Cyclones have been during their seven-game winning streak, the competition can’t be ignored. Iowa State’s best win during this stretch is either Boise State, which only got 8 minutes from Chandler Hutchison after a head injury, or Iowa, which is 5-6 with losses to Louisiana Lafayette and South Dakota State. The wins haven’t all come easy for Iowa State, either. They narrowly defeated Appalachian State and Tulsa while initially struggling against Northern Illinois and Alcorn State before pulling away.

Things have been good for the Cyclones, but they haven’t been perfect.

Iowa State is a mediocre shooting team overall and could have serious spacing issues going forward given the roster forces Prohm to play two non-shooting bigs together for major minutes. Wigginton has been excellent, scoring 20-plus in three of the last four games, but his level of athleticism is something the likes of Western Illinois can’t counter. Texas, Kansas and West Virginia can. Big swaths of the roster, which features eight newcomers, haven’t faced Big 12 caliber competition ever in their careers. Weiler-Babb’s size and skill at the point guard position makes him a major problem for mid-majors, but can he keep up this pace when he faces length and physicality similar to his own?

Those questions, though, have to be welcomed by the Cyclones. If there were answers to them for a team with so much youth and so many unproven players in new positions in mid-December, it probably would register in the negative.

That they’re unknown means there is possibility, opportunity and promise. That exists in no small part because Prohm made Weiler-Babb a point guard.

“The challenge is, what do we really want to be?” Prohm said. “But he spearheads everything we do.”

Texas’ Jones out with a broken wrist

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Texas may be without its leading scorer heading into conference play.

Longhorns coach Shaka Smart announced Monday that sophomore Andrew Jones suffered a hairline fracture in his right wrist and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

“Fortunately it’s not one of those injuries where he should be out for an extended long period of time,” Smart said at his news conference Monday, “but he’s going to miss at least the next few games before Christmas. They decided not to put it in a cast, which is good news.”

Jones suffered the injury last week against VCU when he took a number of tumbles to the floor. He’s averaging 15.3 points while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 43.2 percent from 3-point range.

“It’s a tough injury for us because he’s our leading scorer and has done a phenomenal job for us this year,” Smart said. “We’re going to need everyone on our team, not just guards, but everyone on our team to step up and take a little more responsibility.

“Your margin for error is a little smaller.”

The Longhorns, who are 6-2 with losses to Duke and Gonzaga, face Michigan on Tuesday, Louisiana Tech on Saturday and Alabama next week. Jones is certainly out for those games, and his availability for Texas’ first Big 12 games – Dec. 29 vs. Kansas and Jan. 1 at Iowa State – would seem to be in question.

“We don’t have an exact timeframe,” Smart said. “It’s really good news they didn’t put it in a cast.

“We’re hopeful that we can get him back in three, four weeks, but that’s not a set timetable.”

 

Coaches Poll: Villanova climbs to the No. 1 spot

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The new top 25 coaches poll is out, and the No. 1 team in college basketball is now Villanova.

Michigan State, who received 10 of a possible 32 first-place votes, came in at No. 2 while Duke, last week’s No. 1 team, fell to No. 4 with a loss to Boston College.

After winning at Kansas this week, Arizona State vaulted up to the No. 6 spot, while the Jayhawks fell to No. 12.

Here is the full coaches poll.

1. Villanova (22 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (10)
3. Wichita State
4. Duke
5. Kentucky
6. Arizona State
7. North Carolina
8. Miami
9. Xavier
10. Texas A&M
11. West Virginia
12. Kansas
13. Gonzaga
14. TCU
15. Seton Hall
16. Virginia
17. Purdue
18. Notre Dame
19. Florida State
20. Tennessee
21. Baylor
22. Florida
23. Arizona
24. Oklahoma
25. Creighton

Villanova hops over Michigan State for No. 1 in AP Top 25

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Villanova’s unbeaten start now includes a No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 , while Arizona State is making a rapid rise into the top 10 under third-year coach Bobby Hurley.

After a tumultuous week in which unanimous No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost, the Wildcats (10-0) earned 41 of 65 first-place votes to hop over Michigan State and reach the top for the third straight season.

Villanova and Michigan State were the favorites to take over at the top after the Blue Devils’ weekend loss at Boston College, though there was far less certainty for voters about who was now the nation’s top team. The Spartans (9-1) earned 19 first-place votes to climb from third to second, while the other five first-place votes went to the Sun Devils — who leapt 11 spots to No. 5 after Sunday’s win at Kansas.

Arizona State (9-0) is off to its best start since the 1974-75 season. Now the Sun Devils — who also have a win against Xavier this season — have their highest ranking since reaching third during the 1980-81 season.

Wichita State climbed three spots to No. 3, followed by Duke and Arizona State. Unbeaten Miami climbed four spots to No. 6, followed by North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Xavier to round out the top 10.

Villanova helped itself with an impressive win against No. 12 Gonzaga last week in New York, though the Wildcats had to fight to the final minute Sunday to close out a La Salle team that entered at 5-5.

“It’s always an honor to be ranked No. 1,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “It’s great for the Nova Nation and we appreciate the respect of the writers. We know it’s early, though, and we need to get a lot better.”

KANSAS’ FALL

The Jayhawks (7-2) slid 11 spots to No. 13 after two losses last week, the first coming against Washington in Kansas City, Missouri, before losing to the Sun Devils in Allen Fieldhouse.

SHUFFLE UP

Only two teams — No. 8 Kentucky and No. 12 Gonzaga — stayed in the same spot. Thirteen teams rose in the poll, while four of the seven teams that fell slid at least eight spots.

TOP RISERS

Arizona State’s leap was the biggest, though No. 11 West Virginia (9-1) moved up seven spots after beating then-No. 15 Virginia. No. 14 TCU (10-0) climbed six spots after a win against a then-ranked Nevada team.

Miami, UNC, No. 15 Seton Hall, No. 17 Purdue and No. 20 Tennessee all climbed four spots.

LONGEST SLIDES

While Kansas’ losses stood out, No. 22 Florida had the biggest fall of the week.

The Gators (6-3) slid 17 spots after home losses to Florida State and to Loyola Chicago — a game in which they led for all of 93 seconds. Florida salvaged a win against Cincinnati in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, New Jersey, to avoid a four-game skid.

No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) fell nine spots after an upset loss to Ball State, while the No. 25 Bearcats (7-2) slid eight spots.

NEWCOMERS

There were three newcomers to this week’s poll, though one is more of a welcome back.

The list included No. 19 Florida State (9-0) and No. 24 Texas Tech (7-1), while Arizona returned to the rankings at No. 23.

Arizona’s 0-3 showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas made the Wildcats the first team in three decades to go from No. 2 in the AP Top 25 to unranked in a week. But four straight wins have the preseason Final Four favorite back in the poll.

SLIDING OUT

Minnesota (No. 14 last week), Nevada (No. 22) and Southern California (No. 25) all fell out of the poll.

1. Villanova (41 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Wichita State
4. Duke
5. Arizona State (5)
6. Miami
7. North Carolina
8. Kentucky
9. Texas A&M
10. Xavier
11. West Virginia
12. Gonzaga
13. Kansas
14. TCU
15. Seton Hall
16. Virginia
17. Purdue
18. Notre Dame
19. Florida State
20. Tennessee
21. Baylor
22. Florida
23. Arizona
24. Texas Tech
25. Cincinnati

Expelled Yale captain has enrolled at Belmont University

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former Yale basketball captain Jack Montague, who was expelled from the Ivy League school in 2016 for sexual misconduct, has enrolled at Belmont University in Tennessee.

Montague, who is still suing to be readmitted to Yale, complained in a court deposition last spring that he was unable to apply to other schools. He said Yale would not release his transcript until he paid a disputed tuition bill.

Karen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for Montague, says Yale later released the transcript, allowing Montague to enroll at Belmont this fall. She says not all of his credits transferred and he will need two semesters to graduate.

He exhausted his basketball eligibility at Yale.

Montague denies the sexual misconduct allegations. No criminal charges were ever sought.

Yale’s attorneys have said the school and its officials acted appropriately.

The lawsuit, which also seeks monetary damages, is expected to go to trial next year.