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Introducing Cinderella: College of Charleston Cougars

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Conference: Colonial Athletic Association

Coach: Earl Grant

Record: 26-7 (14-4 CAA)

Rankings and Ratings:

Kenpom: 120
RPI: 66
AP/USA TODAY: Not ranked

Seeding: As of right now, the College of Charleston appears headed for a 14-seed. With there being no major wins outside of conference play on their profile, that may be what keeps the Cougars from moving up to a 13 on Selection Sunday.

Names you need to know: The Cougars have three of the Colonial’s best players in guards Joe Chealey and Grant Riller, and forward Jarrell Brantley. Riller led the team in scoring with an average of 18.6 per night, with Chealey not too far off at 18.0 ppg while also dishing out a team-high 3.7 assists per game. As for Brantley, he averaged 16.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game. Earl Grant trusts this trio to lead the way, and more often than not they’ve gotten the job done for the CAA champs.

Stats you need to know: The Cougars’ turnover percentage of 14.6 ranks tenth nationally, which isn’t a surprise when you’ve got guards as good as Riller and Chealey leading the way. They don’t beat themselves, and the rotation as a whole has a good grasp what they need to do (and they accept their roles, as well). Also they rank 327th in the country in adjusted tempo, so while they can take advantage of open floor opportunities this is a half-court team.

Big wins, bad losses: Three of the College of Charleston’s biggest wins came against Northeastern, the last coming in Tuesday’s CAA title game. All five of the Cougars’ Quadrant 1/2 wins came against CAA competition, with the other results being their semifinal win over William & Mary and a win at Hofstra February 3. The Cougars had just two chances for marquee non-conference wins, losing at Wichita State and Rhode Island with the then-injured Brantley missing both of those games.

How’d they get here?: The top seed in the CAA tournament, the College of Charleston beat Drexel, William & Mary and Northeastern to earn the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1999. The final did not lack for drama, as the Cougars trailed Northeastern by as much as 17 early in the second half before rallying to force overtime. In the 83-76 win the trio of Chealey, Riller and Brantley combined to score 70 points, with Chealey dropping 32.

Outlook: Their pace, guard play and lack of turnovers could make the College of Charleston a dangerous team next week. It all depend on the matchup of course, but if they draw a team that struggles defending the perimeter and is also a bit impatient offensively look out.

How do I know you?: For fans who have watched the sport for a while, the name John Kresse should ring a bell. Kresse led the program up to Division I, and during a six-year stretch from 1993 to 1999 his Cougars made four NCAA tournament appearances. And head coach Earl Grant spent time as an assistant working with both Brad Brownell (Clemson) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita State).

Suspected mumps cases force James Madison to postpone 2 games

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Originally scheduled to host UNCW Thursday night and visit Elon on Saturday, it was announced Tuesday afternoon that the James Madison men’s basketball program has postponed both games. The reason: suspected cases of mumps, with there being one probable case of the viral illness among the team’s coaching staff.

Per the program release, there have also been three other suspected cases of mumps within the team with one affecting a player. Later Tuesday afternoon, a school spokesman said that there is one confirmed case of mumps within the program.

In order to prevent the possible spreading of the virus either within the program or to opposing teams, James Madison has decided to postpone both games scheduled for this week.

According to the school all members of the men’s and women’s basketball programs have received MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) booster shots. Dates and times for the rescheduled games have yet to be announced, with James Madison officials currently working in concert with their counterparts at UNCW, Elon and the CAA.

With a 7-18 overall record and a 3-9 record in CAA play, James Madison ended a three-game losing streak with its 79-73 win over Towson last Saturday.

Looking Forward: Here’s what the Atlantic 10 has in store for the 2016-17 season

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the Atlantic 10 over the next six months. 

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

1. Hot coaching names stay put: The A-10 doesn’t lack for quality coaches, with some being discussed for major coaching vacancies on an annual basis. Two that fit the mold are Dayton’s Archie Miller and Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley, with the latter facing some questions in regards to the Rutgers opening earlier this spring. Hurley decided to stay put in Kingston for another season, choosing a talented roster that’s approaching full strength after an injury-riddled 2015-16 instead of taking on a major rebuilding job in his home state. Miller, whose name seemingly comes up regarding every major opening, also has a deep roster to work with next season at Dayton. Unless the opening is a truly elite one, why mess with happiness? VCU’s Will Wade also opted to remain in Richmond. He was targeted by Vanderbilt after Kevin Stallings left for Pitt.

2. The conference’s battle for respect is a continuous one: For those who watch the Atlantic 10 on a consistent basis, there’s no doubt that this is a quality league. But Selection Sunday left a bad taste in the mouths of some, the result of VCU getting a ten-seed or regular season tri-champion St. Bonaventure being left out of the field completely. It would be nice to say that the remedy is to simply win more games, but when it comes to getting teams in the NCAA tournament field who really knows what it takes when discussing a conference like the Atlantic 10 (and the league rated well in out of conference RPI and strength of schedule). The good news for the league is that it has multiple teams capable of playing their way into the national polls and staying there, with Dayton and URI leading the way.

3. Saint Joseph’s getting used to life without top three scorers: Phil Martelli’s Hawks won the Atlantic 10 tournament title and gave top seed Oregon all they wanted in the second round of the NCAA tournament, with DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles leading the way. But those two, along with Aaron Brown, have all moved on meaning that Saint Joseph’s will have to account for the loss of their top three scorers from last season. The positive is that there are options, including guards Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble and forwards James Demery and Pierfrancesco Oliva, to call upon. But making that jump from supplementary piece to key cog in the attack can be a difficult one for some, and how the returning Hawks handle that shift will have a major impact on their season.

4. Incoming transfers will have a significant impact on the conference race: Many Atlantic 10 programs benefitted from the transfer market, whether it was the more conventional transfer (sit out a year before playing) or those of the grad student variety. Dayton (power forward Josh Cunningham) and Rhode Island (shooting guard Stanford Robinson) will both have transfers available, as will teams such as La Salle, George Washington (see below) and Duquesne. Duquesne’s most noteworthy transfer additions are of the grad student variety, with Kale Abrahamson (Drake) and Emile Blackman (Niagara) needing to be key contributors from the start with the Dukes losing the productive tandem of Micah Mason and Derrick Colter. Also adding immediately eligible transfers were George Washington (Patrick Steeves, Harvard) and Fordham (Javontae Hawkins, Eastern Kentucky).

Davidson's Jack Gibbs (12) tries to drive past Iowa's Mike Gesell during the first half of an NCAA tournament college basketball game in the Round of 64 in Seattle, Friday, March 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (12) (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

  • La Salle’s transfers: The Explorers’ lack of depth last season placed too much upon the shoulders of Jordan Price, with the team struggling to get wins in spite of his lofty point totals. Dr. John Giannini won’t lack for option in 2016-17, thanks in large part to the transfers who will be able to take the floor. Pookie Powell, B.J. Johnson and Demetrius Henry will all be eligible after sitting out last season, and Arizona State transfer Savon Goodman is eligible to compete immediately as a graduate student. The question: how well will the pieces mesh together?
  • Jaren Sina, George Washington: Another transfer, the former Seton Hall guard will be a key figure for Mike Lonergan’s Colonials. As a sophomore Sina averaged 7.0 points and 2.3 assists per game, but with Alex Mitola out of eligibility and Paul Jorgensen transferring he’ll be asked to run the show for a team that welcomes back Yuta Watanabe and Tyler Cavanaugh.
  • DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, Massachusetts: The two Louisiana natives wanted to attend college together, and in the end their desire to do so benefitted the Minutemen. Of the two Jarreau may be the more important figure early on, as the four-star guard will be asked to help fill the void left by the departures of Trey Davis and Jabarie Hinds on the perimeter.
  • De’Riante Jenkins, VCU: Will Wade landed a quality four-member freshman class, with the 6-foot-5 Jenkins being the crown jewel. Ranked 60th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, Jenkins is the second-highest ranking incoming freshman in the Atlantic 10 (Jarreau is 39th). And with Melvin Johnson graduating, there’s room for the athletic wing to have an immediate impact at VCU.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • L.G. Gill, Duquesne: Not sure how surprising this move truly is, especially considering the current transfer climate. Gill graduates this spring, and with the rules being what they are he can use his final season of eligibility at another school. But the loss of his team’s leading rebounder from a season ago means that head coach Jim Ferry will have to account for the departure of his top three scorers from last season (Derrick Colter and Micah Mason being the others).
  • Paul Jorgensen, George Washington: With Alex Mitola and Joe McDonald both out of eligibility, it appeared as if “Prince Harry of Harlem” was in line for an increase in playing time (averaging just over 15 mpg as a sophomore) in 2016-17. Instead Jorgensen decided to transfer, as his style didn’t always seem to mesh with what GW wanted to do offensively, and he’ll complete his final two seasons of eligibility elsewhere. The move leaves Mike Longeran’s team with even less experience on the perimeter, with Jaren Sina competing with underclassmen such as sophomore Jordan Roland for the point guard spot.

COACHING CHANGES

  • Travis Ford, Saint Louis: After a busy spring in 2015 the Billikens made the lone coaching change in the Atlantic 10 this spring, with the former Oklahoma State head coach replacing the dismissed Jim Crews. Ford has his work cut out for him too, as SLU’s talent issues that resulted in Crews’ firing won’t be remedied overnight. Of Saint Louis’ top five scorers from a season ago three have moved on, with Mike Crawford (10.3 ppg) and Jermaine Bishop (8.9 ppg) being the leading returning scorers. Ford attracted his fair share of talented recruits while in Stillwater, and the hope at SLU will be that he can do similar things while also developing that talent into a team capable of winning in the Atlantic 10.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

G Jack Gibbs (Davidson) – Player of the Year
G E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island)
G Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
F Charles Cooke III (Dayton)
F Hassan Martin (Rhode Island)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS, IN TWEETS

1. Dayton: The Flyers return most of their key cogs, and a Charles Cooke III withdrawal from the NBA Draft would make them a Top 25 team.
2. Rhode Island: Health issues were the biggest problem for Rhody. With Matthews, Martin and Terrell among those back, URI can make a run at the A-10 crown.
3. VCU: Losing Melvin Johnson hurts, but VCU returns both experience and talent. They’ll be fine.
4. Davidson: Led by one of the nation’s top scorers in Jack Gibbs, the Wildcats return forward Peyton Aldridge as well.
5. Richmond: This is a big year for Chris Mooney, but he’s got some key pieces returning led by T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones.
6. George Washington: The Colonials have some key losses to account for, but returning Watanabe and Cavanaugh will help.
7. St. Bonaventure: Yes they lose Marcus Posley and Dion Wright. But Jaylen Adams returns, and it’s time to stop overlooking the job Mark Schmidt’s done as head coach.
8. Saint Joseph’s: Losing your top three scorers would hurt any team. The good news for SJU is that they’re rising sophomores are pretty good.
9. La Salle: The depth issues of last season have been remedied by the influx of transfers. But will all the pieces fit together?
10. Fordham: Jeff Neubauer has a budding all-conference player in Joseph Chartouny at his disposal, but the loss of Ryan Rhoomes hurts.
11. Massachusetts: The freshman class will help the Minutemen down the line, but this team needs to defend far better than they did a season ago.
12. Duquesne: Abrahamson and Blackman were productive stats-wise at prior stops, but can they help vault Jim Ferry’s team up the A-10 standings?
13. George Mason: Losing Shevon Thompson doesn’t help Dave Paulsen’s rebuilding efforts, but give him time. He’ll get Mason headed in the right direction.
14. Saint Louis: Speaking of needing time, Travis Ford is faced with quite the rebuilding project at SLU given the departures and their recent struggles.

James Madison hires Louis Rowe as head coach

Bowling Green University
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Thursday afternoon James Madison athletic director Jeff Bourne announced that the school has hired Bowling Green assistant Louis Rowe as its new head coach. Rowe, who was a standout as a player at James Madison under then-coach Lefty Driesell from 1993-95, spent five seasons on the JMU coaching staff from 2007-12.

From there he spent time as an assistant at FIU, Rider and Bowling Green before deciding to return to his alma mater as Matt Brady’s replacement. Brady spent eight seasons at the Colonial Athletic Association program, leading the Dukes to the NCAA tournament in 2013.

Brady’s teams won 19 or more games in five of his eight seasons at the helm, including 21 wins this season, but the lack of success in the conference tournament factored into the decision to make a head coaching change. That 2013 CAA tournament title marked the only time during Brady’s tenure in which James Madison managed to reach (at least) the semifinals of the CAA tournament.

Rowe will have to account for the loss of leading scorer Ron Curry, who earned first-team All-CAA honors as a senior.

Reports: Drexel to hire Army West Point’s Zach Spiker as head coach

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After parting ways with Bruiser Flint earlier this month, Drexel athletic director Dr. Eric Zillmer has found the former head coach’s replacement.

Army West Point head coach Zach Spiker has been hired by Drexel, with the news being first reported by the Drexel Triangle (the school’s independent student newspaper). Spiker spent seven seasons at Army West Point, putting together an overall record of 102-112. The Black Knights won 19 games this season despite being hit hard by the injury bug early in Patriot League play.

Only two other coaches in the history of the program have managed to win at least 19 games in a season: Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski.

Spiker’s overall record isn’t overwhelming, but Army made strides during his time at the helm. In three of his final four seasons the Black Knights won at least 15 games, a mark the program reached just once since joining the Patriot League in 1990. And Spiker’s 16-15 campaign in 2012-13 was the program’s first above .500 since Les Wothke led the Black Knights to a 16-13 record in 1984-85.

After winning a total of 50 games in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons Drexel struggled under Flint, posting just one season above .500 in his final four seasons in charge. Drexel went 6-25 this season, which included a 3-15 mark in CAA play. Among the players Spiker and his staff will need to account for the loss of is guard Tavon Allen, who led the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game. Two of Drexel’s top four scorers were seniors, with forward Kazembe Abif being the other.

Marshall Plumlee, No. 4 Duke take care of No. 13 UNCW

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In the days leading into the NCAA tournament, West region No. 13 seed UNCW was one team people labeled as a possibility to pull an upset. Kevin Keatts’ team had depth and a full-court pressure system that could give a Duke team that lacked depth problems. What the Seahawks didn’t have was a big man who could handle senior 7-footer Marshall Plumlee, who rebounded from a subpar first half to help lead the Blue Devils to a 93-85 win in Providence.

Plumlee finished the game with 23 points and eight rebounds, with the point total being a career-high, and he made nine of his ten field goal attempts on the day.

Plumlee was more aggressive in the second half, with the majority of his points coming off of pick and rolls and offensive rebounds. His improved play influenced Duke’s other players as well, as the Blue Devils did a better job of attacking the UNCW pressure. There were more shot attempts around the rim for Mike Krzyzewski’s team, and they attempted 27 free throws in the second half against a team that committed more fouls than any other Division I program this season.

Brandon Ingram, who was a matchup problem for the Seahawks in his own right, finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and Grayson Allen tallied 23 points himself. Duke outscored UNCW 31-14 from the foul line, with Ingram (ten points) and Allen (15) responsible for 25 of those points. UNCW couldn’t turn the Blue Devils over enough, and they struggled with stopping Duke off the dribble as well.

Senior guard Craig Ponder led four Seahawks in double figures with 22 points, with Chris Flemmings adding 18, Denzel Ingram 17 and C.J. Bryce 16.

Next up for Duke, which extended its NCAA tournament win streak to seven with this victory, will be either No. 5 sed Baylor or No. 12 seed Yale on Saturday.