Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Like every team that competes, the ultimate goal for the College of Charleston men's basketball team was an opportunity to compete in the 65-team NCAA Tournament. But with nearly 350 schools in Division I, the Cougars are happy that there are a few other dances besides the big one.
Charleston, which lost to Chattanooga in the SoCon Tournament championship game, got word late Sunday that the Cougars' 26-8 record wasn't enough to land them a spot in the National Invitation Tournament. But it was more than enough for a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, a second-year event featuring a 16-team field. The Cougars will travel to play Troy (19-14) of the Sun Belt Conference at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Cougars coach Bobby Cremins is a big advocate of having more teams invited to the NCAA, which in turn would offer more opportunities in the National Invitation Tournament. But right now he's happy for the CBI and the opportunity if affords his team.
"I think these tournaments are great. Until we put more teams in the Big Dance, I'm a big advocate of these tournaments," said Cremins, noting that The Citadel (20-12) also will get a postseason opportunity in the inaugural College-Insider.Com Tournament.
Senior guard Marcus Hammond said the Cougars are excited to still be playing. Hammond said he kept up with the selection process on the computer and by text messages and was happy when the word finally came around 11:30 p.m. "It extends our careers and gives us another opportunity to play and show our value to the program," Hammond said. "I think the CBI is a tournament that will grow. It's not where the NCAA or NIT is, but the tournament will grow. We want to go out and win the tournament and go out as champions.
"We don't have a lot of time to find out about Troy. It's a quick turnaround. We'll give it all we've got. We'll do a lot of studying and then we'll be ready Wednesday."
Fellow senior Jermaine Johnson said he knows the Trojans are members of the Sun Belt Conference, whose champion is Western Kentucky, and that says a lot.
"I'm ready to play," Johnson said. "We've already been off the court too long. This is the most exciting thing ever. I've never been to a postseason tournament. The fact we actually have a chance to do this is a great feeling."
Cremins said prior to the two new tournaments, the only SoCon teams that would be in postseason play would be tournament winner Chattanooga and regular season champion Davidson.
"So this is fun for us," he said. "But we need to take this tournament seriously. We need to go in thinking we want to prove ourselves. I'm going to tell them how fortunate they are to still be practicing. We could be closing shop right now. We have an opportunity to play in a postseason tournament. Let's go out and give it everything we have."
Cremins said the opportunity is a step in the right director for the College of Charleston program.
"You have to remember, we have four sophomores, we have Tony White, who is a junior, and we have these freshmen. The more they play, it might mean something next year," Cremins said.
"I'm happy for the seniors. That was a tough loss for them in Chattanooga. Jermaine, Marcus, Dustin Scott. They really wanted to win that game. Now, they keep playing. Our first choice, obviously, was to beat Chattanooga and go to the Big Dance and get involved with March Madness."
Reach Tommy Braswell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Evening Post Publishing Co..
Photo Credits: BRETT FLASHNICK/AP
Despite disappointment, USC determined to match quality of first-round NIT pairing
By Travis Haney
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
COLUMBIA — Even with an All-American coming for a nationally televised game, you still have to wonder if South Carolina will be up for a postseason tournament it didn't necessarily want to be part of.
It was holding out for the school's first NCAA bid since 2004. Not for the program's fifth NIT appearance since 2001.
The Gamecocks host Stephen Curry and Davidson at 7 p.m. tonight in the opening round of the NIT (TV: ESPN2).
"You'll know in the first five minutes of the game whether we're ready to play or not," USC senior Zam Fredrick said. "I think we'll be ready. ... I know we'll be ready."
Bobby Cremins is a qualified handicapper for the game.
His Charleston team played both teams in the regular season — and beat both of them. Then the Cougars knocked Davidson from the Southern Conference Tournament, ending its NCAA hopes.
From the outside looking in, Cremins says he gives the Gamecocks a slight nod. But says if Curry and Davidson (26-7) are clicking, it wouldn't surprise him to see the Wildcats steal a road win.
An ankle injury now behind him and the team, Curry is averaging 28.6 points a game.
"If we were not playing, I would be headed to Columbia to watch that one," said Cremins, the South Carolina grad whose Charleston team will play at Troy on Wednesday in the College Basketball Invitational. "It should be a heck of a game. It's a heck of an NIT game. The NIT is very fortunate to have these guys playing."
USC's Devan Downey, despite being a half-foot shorter, will guard Curry some during the evening. But USC coach Darrin Horn said the game is transcendent of the one-on-one matchup, specifically.
"I think it's more about two great guards playing in the same game rather than them going at it," Horn said. "Hopefully that's as appealing as the matchup itself."
Cremins said he expects to see the Gamecocks come out "flat" because of their exclusion from the NCAAs. But, to him, it's all about how USC responds throughout 40 minutes.
Cremins said he once coached a team that had to turn down an NIT bid because it was too bummed to continue playing.
"Of course we're disappointed about not getting a bid," Fredrick said. "As a man, as a person, you have to move on."
As it turns out, despite a 21-9 record and 10 SEC wins, the Gamecocks weren't even all that close to the bubble. The selection committee held the SEC in the same esteem as a mid-major.
It took three teams, which would've been two if not for Mississippi State winning the SEC tourney. It made regular season champ LSU an 8 seed, Tennessee a 9 seed and Mississippi State a 13 seed.
That clearly left no room for teams such as South Carolina and Auburn — the first SEC teams to win 10-plus conference games and fail to make the NCAA field.
But a matchup with Curry quickly grabs your attention, Fredrick said.
The junior, and son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, willed the Wildcats to the Elite Eight last season.
There, they lost to eventual national champ Kansas — by two. And they had a shot to win at the buzzer, but Curry was double-teamed and Jason Richards couldn't connect.
Richards is gone, but 6-8 post Andrew Lovelace will provide a physical test for USC forward Mike Holmes.
And then there's Curry.
"I think he's like a lot of really good players we've seen this year," Horn said of Curry. "I don't think you're going to stop a guy that shoots 20-plus times a game or put up 30 all year long. I think the key against someone like him is hopefully you make him work for everything."
Horn said the Gamecocks would treat Curry and Davidson very similarly to how they did Jodie Meeks and Kentucky.
Meeks had three games of 40-plus points and averaged about 25 a game. Both times the Gamecocks held Meeks below his average. And USC won both meetings.
Similarly, Charleston held Curry to 12 of 41 shooting — and 6 of 24 3-point tries — in those two Cougars wins.
To give you an idea of the norm, Curry hit 10 or more field goals in 16 games. That includes a close loss at Oklahoma and a victory against North Carolina State. He had 44 points in each of those games.
"Good players find a way to do what they do, regardless of what the opponent is doing," Horn said. "You just don't want it to be easy. You don't want 25 on a normal night to turn into one of those 40 plus-point nights."
Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Evening Post Publishing Co..
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Stephen McDowell, UTC (MVP)
Tony White Jr., College of Charleston
Stephen Curry, Davidson
Kevin Goffney, UTC
Bryan Friday, Samford
Nicchaeus Doaks, UTC
Dustin Scott, College of Charleston
Donald Sims, Appalachian State
Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston
Jeremy Simmons, College of Charleston