A quick refresher, with conference play on the horizon

JERA31S
Bill McKillop and Davidson are class acts coming into the Atlantic 10.

CONFERENCE PLAY begins this afternoon for Villanova (home vs. Butler at 2:30 on FS1) and Temple (at Connecticut, 1 o'clock on ESPN2); Saturday for Saint Joseph's (home vs. George Washington), La Salle (at George Mason) and Drexel (home vs. Elon); and on Jan. 10 for Penn (at Princeton).

Given that conference membership keeps changing, here is a refresher course for the five leagues with the six city teams. The Big East (10 teams) and the Ivy (eight) are unchanged. We get the rare round robin in both leagues, with every team playing every team home and away.

The Atlantic 10 now has 14 members, with Davidson. The American lost Louisville and Rutgers, but got Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane for a total of 11. The Colonial added Elon for 10 teams.

 

The Davidson story

The A-10 made an inspired choice with Davidson, whose coach, Bob McKillop, really wanted it to happen.

"I actually spoke with our president about it," McKillop said. "The CAA came after us. My response internally was 'That's a nice league, but the A-10, with the way the Big East is going, the A-10 might be a possibility.' "

He noticed there was a 14th spot and noted the league had been in Charlotte before. Davidson is 20 minutes from the Charlotte airport. The A-10 obviously is a major step up in class.

"I never believed the A-10 was a midmajor conference," McKillop said. "When we were in the Southern Conference, we hoped we were a midmajor conference."

Davidson has a board for wins against major conferences. The A-10 has always been on the board.

"With 1,800 students, we're a very unique situation, in a small, sleepy Southern town, yet we're playing on a Broadway stage, and that's what this is," McKillop said. "I welcome the challenge. When I was living in South Ozone Park [Queens, N.Y.] or moved to Long Island, I would always look for the best playgrounds and the best parks to play.

"You didn't want to go to the ones where just the local kids went. Winners out, I got next. That's what this is for me. This is a tough competitive environment."

When he was asked what kind of team he was bringing into the league, McKillop said: "A Southern Conference team. We can't trade players, and I wouldn't trade players, but these players were recruited to the Southern Conference."

So far, those players are 9-2, with the only losses to North Carolina and, last night, to unbeaten Virginia.

For a guy who grew up hard by Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, the A-10 is like coming home.

"It's a joy to be back in the neighborhood," McKillop said. "The Philadelphia/New York/Washington area was dear to me as a player growing up . . . We're finding ourselves competing against a higher level of competition in recruiting. We're starting to understand facilities and resources. Practice facility, locker rooms, the strength coach, the nutritionist and the charter flights. We just broke ground on a new practice facility, which never would have happened without the A-10."

McKillop was one of America's great coaches before Steph Curry arrived on campus. Everybody just happened to notice when Davidson nearly made the 2008 Final Four. The man is still one of America's best. The A-10 has added an absolute gem of a school, basketball program and head coach.

 

Nonconference

La Salle, Temple and Drexel are done with noncon games. Saint Joseph's and Villanova have Penn at the Palestra. The Quakers have the two Big 5 games and two more noncon games (at Niagara, home against Monmouth) before they go all Ivy starting on Jan. 30.

Through Sunday, here were the records for the five leagues: Big East (92-29), A-10 (97-57), AAC (81-47), CAA (55-58) and Ivy (49-43).

Interesting to note the records of the teams the City Six has played.

By record, Drexel has played the 22nd-toughest schedule, with its opponents going 64-38. Temple is 29th (80-50), followed by La Salle at 48th (74-51), Villanova 67th (76-56), St. Joe's 167th (51-49) and Penn 344th (32-60).

 

Big boys vs. the others

The only national champions outside the Power 5 or Big East since the 64-team tournament began in 1985 were UNLV (1990) and Connecticut (2014). The Huskies really don't count, as their players were all recruited to the Big East before UConn moved to the AAC. The only other teams from non-power leagues to play for the championship over the last 30 seasons were Utah (1998), Memphis (2008) and Butler (2010, 2011), which confirms what we already know - the late Rick Majerus (Utah), John Calipari (then Memphis) and Brad Stevens (Butler) are among the great college coaches of the modern era.

It is hard to beat the schools and the leagues with the money, power, recruits, budgets, charter flights and so many more advantages, including all those home games in November and December, where they guarantee opponents big paydays and, almost always, a big loss.

So far this season, the big-boy records are: ACC (130-42), Big 12 (94-20), Big Ten (136-44), Pac-12 (101-41) and SEC (109-46).

 

Consider these numbers

I am always skeptical of teams that are imbalanced. Give me teams such as Villanova that are not overly reliant on offense or defense. If the Wildcats have a bad shooting night, they can win anyway with defense. 'Nova is currently seventh in offensive efficiency and 16th in defensive efficiency.

Here are the teams with great offenses and suspect defenses by the kenpom.com rankings: Notre Dame (third in offensive efficiency, 148th in the defensive efficiency), Indiana (10/189), Davidson (13/203) and Arkansas (16/102).

Here are the teams with shaky offenses and really good defenses: St. John's (136/4), San Diego State (160/5), Butler (129/11), South Carolina (109/13), George Washington (123/15), Green Bay (125/20) Harvard (156/19), Iowa (111/22), Rhode Island (133/25), California (174/28) and Cincinnati (131/29).

This and that

* Give the Cornell administration credit for hanging with coach Bill Courtney after a 2-26 season, his fourth at the school. Two of the Big Red’s best players did not play last season. Big man Shonn Miller was out with a shoulder injury, point guard Galal Cancer for personal reasons. Miller is averaging 16.8 points and Cancer 10.0. Cornell is 6-6, has three true road wins, one overtime loss and three others by a combined eight points. Contrast Cornell’s patience with how Boston College dealt with Courtney’s predecessor, Steve Donahue, who was fired after last season and did not get to coach his first BC recruiting class as seniors. If Cornell had acted the same way with Donahue, the school would never have experienced the 2010 Sweet 16, a team recruited and coached by Donahue, who got the time he needed to establish a program.

* Showing how much has changed with so many of the game’s potential stars already in the NBA, there are only two active player with 2,000 career points. They would be BYU’s Tyler Haws (2,251) and Auburn’s Antoine Mason (2,005.) Mason is a transfer from Niagara. There is one junior in the top-50 active scorers. That would be Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter (1,362) He is 44th. The bottom line is that almost any player good enough to score 2,000 points is long gone before his senior year. Where have you gone, Pistol Pete?

 


Email: jerardd@phillynews.com