New Orleans Privateers

Mount St. Mary’s wins first game of 2017 NCAA tournament

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Mount St. Mary’s 2017 NCAA tournament win will forever be in the record book, but a late decision by New Orleans will likely haunt the Privateers for a lifetime.

The Mountaineers scored the first win of this year’s Big Dance, 67-66, on Tuesday at the First Four in Dayton to advance to a first-round matchup Thursday with No. 1 overall seed Villanova in Buffalo.

But that’s probably not what most people will remember from this game.

No, instead, it’ll be the strategy New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger and his team employed with the game in the balance.

Privateer senior Nate Frye connected on two free throws with 33 seconds remaining on the clock and his team down by a single point.

Now, conventional wisdom in this situation – down a point with a three-second differential between the game and shot clock – would dictate playing for a steal initially and then fouling to send Mount St. Mary’s to the line and extend the game. If you can’t get the steal, you will still be (overwhelmingly) likely to get the ball back with either a chance to tie or win the game and plenty of time to execute a play.

Pretty simple, straightforward and standard operating procedure, right?

Not for New Orleans, apparently.

The Privateers elected to play the possession out, ultimately getting a stop and a rebound, calling timeout with 3 seconds to play.

So instead of likely having upwards of 20 seconds and a deficit of two or three, New Orleans was down one with the full length of the floor to go.

In their attempt for a Christian Laettner-esque moment, the Privateers couldn’t even complete the inbounds pass, with the heave heading directly to a Mountaineer across halfcourt to end the game.

Oof.

The strategy is difficult to fathom on a number of levels. First, it totally flies in the face of normal game strategy, but second, it puts all of New Orleans’ hopes in a low-percentage possession. If they elected to foul with around 25 seconds left, even if Mount St. Mary’s hits both free throws, the Privateers could still conceivably go for a quick two and play the foul game again, getting the ball with a chance to tie or maybe win with still more than a paltry 3 seconds on the clock. 

It’s hard to fathom how this strategy optimized New Orleans’ chances.

But, in the end, Mount St. Mary’s is moving on after controlling the game from nearly start to finish, and making big plays down the stretch. Junior Robinson scored 23 points and Miles Wilson tallied 17.

Now, the Mountaineers’ reward is a trip to snow-covered Buffalo to face the defending national champions. It’s a tall task, but it certainly beats the alternative, as New Orleans can likely attest.

 

Introducing Cinderella: New Orleans snaps two-decade old tournament drought

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Conference: Southland

Coach: Mark Slessinger

Record: 20-11 (13-5 Southland)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 178
– RPI: 171
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: Only the Big West champion UC Davis and MEAC winner NC Central will have a lower RPI than the Privateers. That likely means they are heading to Dayton. That’s precisely where NBC Sports bracketology has them going.

Names you need to know: Erik Thomas was the Southland Conference Player of the Year after averaging 19.7 points, shooting 60 percent from the field, and 7.9 rebounds per game. The undersized four had 14 points and 11 boards in the conference title game.

Stats you need to know: 17: New Orleans averages slightly less than 17 turnovers per game. Only two teams in the nation turned the ball over more often than the Privateers.

Big wins, bad losses: The only top 200 win New Orleans had was a 16-point win at Washington State. Against NCAA Tournament competition, Oklahoma State hung 117 on them and Northwestern beat them by 34. The Privateers suffered a one-point loss on the road against Northwestern State on Feb. 25. That’s a sub-300 RPI loss.

How’d they get here?: If you want to go back several years, it’s worth noting that the university nearly dropped the men’s basketball program from Division I to Division III due to financial hardships following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

With Brad Underwood done dominating the league, New Orleans won the regular season crown and earned a double-bye with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After defeating Sam Houston State in the semifinals, the Privateers had an instant classic with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the finals. Tevin Broyles scored the last five points in overtime for New Orleans in a stressful final five minutes.

Outlook: Given its backstory, you have to feel happy for this New Orleans program. However, turnovers should be an issue, whether it be in Dayton or against one of the No. 1 seeds.

How do I know you?: New Orleans has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in three different decades. In five appearances, the Privateers are 1-4, picking up a win over BYU as a No. 7 seed in the 1987 NCAA Tournament.

VIDEO: University of New Orleans aids area flood victims

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After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.

I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”

That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.

“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”

The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.

UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.

“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”

2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?

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source: Getty Images
Jacob Parker (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.

That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.

The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.

Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.

The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.

This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).

Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.

It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.

Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.

REALIGNMENT

  • In: None
  • Out: Oral Roberts

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin

The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:

  • Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
  • John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SFA_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Northwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. McNeese State
6. Incarnate Word
7. Southeastern Louisiana
8. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Abilene Christian
11. Houston Baptist
12. Central Arkansas
13. Lamar

Former New Orleans basketball player found dead in Louisiana

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Per a report from the New Orleans Times-Picayune former New Orleans forward Matt Derenbecker was found dead Sunday at a home he was house-sitting in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Derenbecker, who was just 22 years old, was found in the swimming pool at the home he was watching after failing to pick up his girlfriend at Louis Armstrong Airport according to the story.

Derenbecker played parts of three seasons of college basketball, one each at LSU and Dayton before beginning the 2013-14 season as a member of the New Orleans program. Derenbecker would play just eleven games at UNO, leaving the program for what was stated to be an undisclosed medical reason.

“This is a tough day for our program, Matt and his family,” Slessinger said at the time. “We sincerely hope that this time in our program will benefit him positively moving forward.”

Sadly for the New Orleans basketball family, this isn’t the only tragedy they’ve had to deal with this weekend according to the Times-Picayune.

Derenbecker’s death was the second tragedy to hit the UNO men’s basketball program during the weekend. Four members of former UNO forward Cory Dixon’s family, including stepfather Michael Miller, 47, mother Leann Miller, 48, and siblings Zoey Miller, 12, and Miles Miller, 7, were killed in an auto accident on Friday night in New Mexico. The family was returning home to Dallas from vacation.

Dixon, a 6-foot-7 power forward, was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder as a senior in 2013-14.

Report: New Orleans lands graduate transfer Kevin Brown

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After averaging 5.5 points per game on a team that reached the NCAA tournament in 2013-14, Louisiana guard Kevin Brown has reportedly decided to transfer to New Orleans according to a report Monday by Joshua Parrott of Basketball Times. As a result of his having graduated from Louisiana, Brown will be eligible to play immediately for head coach Mark Slessinger.

Joining the New Orleans program means that Brown returns to the city where his college career began, as he played in 18 games as a freshman at Tulane. Prior to last season, in which Brown played in all 35 games (13 starts) for the Ragin’ Cajuns, he played in just eight games due to a broken foot suffered during the 2012-13 season.

Brown’s best outing as a redshirt junior came in Louisiana’s 81-74 loss at South Alabama on January 16, as he scored 14 points (4-for-6 FG) in 24 minutes of action. His arrival gives New Orleans, which finished the 2013-14 season with an 11-15 record (8-10 Southland), some additional perimeter depth with rising sophomores Christavious Gill and Tevin Broyles being their most productive returnees in the backcourt.

Gill averaged 7.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, with Broyles adding 5.6 points and 2.8 rebounds. Heading into 2014-15 the Privateers will have to account for the loss of its top four scorers from last season a group that included forward Cory Dixon (13.5 ppg, team-best 7.7 rpg), and leading assist man Isaac Mack (8.6 ppg, 3.3 apg).