Sunday, June 30, 2013

Patrick Mitchell's Athletic Career Continues

North Dakota fans will remember Patrick Mitchell, a good forward for them who graduated a couple of years ago. Well, his athletic career may be continuing - in rugby:

THREE American athletes will train with the Sydney Swans over the next two weeks in a bid to win a place on the club's international rookie list.

Jason Holmes, Mark Cisco and Patrick Mitchell – all more than 200cm tall – arrived in Australia last week and will spend the next fortnight working closely with the Swans Academy under premiership coach Paul Roos.
We wish him the best of luck!

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Top 20 Departing #15: Konner Veteto

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

In a conference that doesn't always produce a lot of quality big men, Sacramento State's Konner Veteto looked like he might become one of the best in the Big Sky. At 6'8'', 290 pounds, there was not a lot of guys that could match up with him on the block. He leaves Sac State with a productive two years, but didn't quite become the dominant force that he sometimes threatened to be.

As a senior, he averaged 10.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, as he overcame some of the fouling issues that plagued him throughout his junior season. He jumped from 18.8 minutes to 23.4 minutes per game in his final season. He was one of the best offensive rebounders in the conference, and his 12.6 OR% was second to Joel Bolomboy in the Big Sky. He also had a solid 16.9 DR% (down from 18.7% his junior year). He was very good on the glass throughout his career.

However, he never developed into a truly efficient scorer. He shot 50.3% on twos his junior year, and 49.3% his senior year. Those are not terrible numbers, but not good enough to be dominant down low in comparison to top big men. He was good at drawing fouls and getting to the line, but shot around 60% from the stripe for his career. In short, he was a good scorer, but not great.

He was not a very good passer out of the post, as he had just five assists all of last season. Veteto leaves the Hornets after a stellar two year run - I don't think anyone at Sacramento State is disappointed with what they got out of him. He was a good scorer, and a very good rebounder. He will leave a big void in the middle of the Hornets frontline next season.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Top 20 Departing #16: Paul Garnica

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Here is how things can get tricky when it comes to ranking these players: There is no doubt that Jeff Forbes (who I rated at 17) was more important to Eastern Washington last year than Paul Garnica was to Northern Colorado last year. All you have to do to see that is look at their minutes played per game. Does that mean Forbes is better, or that he played in a system that was better for him on a team that needed him more?

Garnica has frustrated UNC coaches over the past couple years, as he has a penchant for taking quick threes, and for trying to make the spectacular play when a routine play will do, whether it's trying for steals or trying to make passes harder than they need to be. However, he is a talented player that does some things really well.

He takes too many quick threes, but he also shoots a good percentage. As a sophomore, he shot a blistering 48.5% from downtown. Last year, he shot a still-solid 42%. There is nothing wrong with that percentage. As a junior, he also upped his percentages on two-pointers (47% up from 39%), and shot 80% from the charity stripe (albeit in just 25 attempts).

Watching him, it sometimes seems like he turns the ball over too much, but he showed improvement there. His TO Rate dropped from 25.5 his sophomore year down to 19.2 his junior year. That is still not great, but it is at least respectable. Conversely, his Assist Rate went up as well, up to 23.5, which was in the top ten in the Big Sky. He took a lot of chances on steals, which sometimes hurt his defensive positioning, but he did at least turn it into the 5th best steal rate in the Big Sky.

Garnica struggled to get consistent minutes all year, but it's hard not to wonder what might have been had he played consistent minutes and had free reign out there. I am not sure if it would have meant good or bad things for UNC, but we will not be finding out as he has transferred.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Top 20 Departing: #17Jeffrey Forbes

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

In the NBA, guys that can play solid perimeter defense and make threes are paid at a premium right now, because of the way the game is changing. While Jeffrey Forbes was never a true PG or true SG for Eastern Washington, he has been a tough defender and good outside shooter, which made him a valuable rotation piece for the Eagles over his career. He shot 37% from downtown for his career, with the high point being 41% as a sophomore.

When new coach Jim Hayford came in at the start of Forbes’ junior year, Forbes’ role changed but his minutes did not. With more of the offense shifted to the PG, Forbes was more of a role player offensively, as he wasn’t called upon to be a primary ballhandler very often. However, he remained playing a lot of minutes because he was their best perimeter defender, and brought a toughness to a team that sometimes lacked it.

Forbes was also a very good FT shooter, though he didn't get to the line much. He never shot below 80% from the stripe, which helped his efficiency numbers. He also did not turn the ball over a ton - last season his TO Rate was 17.4 (his assist rate was 15.1). He wasn't a guy that was going to get you a ton of assists, but he also took care of the ball.

In conferences like the Big Sky, depth and role players are sometimes hard to find. Forbes was a guy that for four years, did the little things needed to help his team win. His stats don't jump out at you, but he found ways to contribute, which is huge. I will miss watching Forbes, one of my favorite players in the conference over the last couple of seasons.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Top 20 Departing: #18 Michael Harthun

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

When Michael Harthun came to Portland State after starting his career at Washington State, he was billed as being an excellent shooter. To that end, he definitely did not disappoint during his two years as a Viking.

In his junior year, Harthun shot a solid 42.5% from deep, which is good. As a senior, he upped that to 45.2%, which was good for fourth in the Big Sky. He was one of the best shooters in the conference. His efficient offensive play went beyond the three-point shooting, as he also shot 52% on twos, and 83% from the FT line. This game him an ORtg of 117.7, which was sixth in the conference.

His offensive efficiency and ability to space the floor (61.6% TS%) will be missed by the PSU offense.

He took fairly good care of the ball, and his assist rate was pretty average for his position. However, he didn't add much on the glass, with a 2.0 OR% and 7.9 DR%. Like most of the Vikings, defense was not his strong suit either.

However, he makes the cut as one of the best 20 players leaving the conference because he played his role well, as offensive spacer and efficient role player. Every team needs those type of guys, and so Tyler Geving and Portland State has to be happy with the production Harthun gave them the past two seasons.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Top 20 Departing: #19 Xavier Blount

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

It was an interesting career for Xavier Blount at Montana State. He missed the end of his junior year because of an off-court incident, and then saw a ton of roster turnover around him as he headed into his senior year. In his senior year, he never quite became the all-around, big-time talent that some people thought he might be, but he became a good, versatile player that the Bobcats could count on.

As a senior, he averaged 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. He had the ball in his hands a little less than his junior year, as there were a few more ballhandlers around for Brad Huse. He shot 43% from twos, and 32% from threes - just enough to keep defenses honest. He did a fairly good job of getting to the free throw line, and was a better player when he was aggressively going to the hole rather than settling for jumpshots. He had a solid 49.3% FT Rate last year, and shot 72% from the stripe.

Because the ball was in his hands less, his assist rate did go down from a respectable 16.4% to 8.2% last year. You might expect his turnover rate to see a similar decrease, but that stayed relatively constant, and even went up a little bit.

However, for the most part, Blount was a consistent performer for Brad Huse in his two years. He wasn't a guy that could be the centerpiece for the Bobcats, but he became a nice role player for them, a guy that could do a little bit of everything.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top 20 Departing: #20 Justin Crogsile

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Justin Crogsile left Eastern Washington for personal reasons in midseason after playing just 12 games for the Eagles, but he had a big hand in everything they did while he was there. He averaged 36 minutes per game in his 12 games.

He also led the team in scoring with almost 15 points per game, going along with 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He played a lot of minutes, but he also put up a lot of minutes.

Scoring-wise, he was mostly a long-range bomber. He attemped over eight threes per game, shooting 36% from them. That is not a bad percentage, but not great for someone shooting that much. Then again, on far less two-pointers (he took over 40 more threes than twos), he shot the same 36%.

He was a solid passer, and had a good 32.9% ARate, a mark that would have put him second in the Big Sky over the course of the season. This compared to a 21.2% TO Rate, which was a too-high 3.4 turnovers per game.

After sitting out a year after transferring from St. Joe's, I think it is safe to assume that the coaching staff thought and hoped that they would get a full two years out of Crogsile. They didn't, as things just didn't work out. With the big numbers that he put up, it would have been fun to see how Crogsile would have grown and developed, and what type of numbers he would have put up in his last year. Even without it, he ranks #20 on my list of the top players departing the Big Sky.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Top 20 Departing: Honorable Mention

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Today, let's start by looking at the guys that just missed the cut on making the list of the top 20 players departing the Big Sky.

- Collin Chiverton - After last season, it seemed like Chiverton could be primed to lead the conference in scoring, but things just never developed in his senior year. After going through a lot off the court before the year, he struggled (understandably so) last season. He still took a lot of threes, but made only 33% of them, compared to 41% the year before. He did shoot better on two pointers, at 50.6%. However, his turnover rate almost doubled, and he continued to not get any assists or rebounds. He is talented, and I think everyone wishes the senior year would have played out a bit differently.

- Melvin Morgan - After shooting a solid 40% on threes his junior year, that dropped to a dismal 27% last year, but he still kept shooting them at the same rate (over 5 per game). The Bengals didn't always have a lot of offensive options (similar to Gabe Rogers and Northern Arizona), but this type of gunning hurt their offense. He has a decent assist rate, but didn't do a good enough job of taking care of the ball to make the top 20.

- Emmanuel Addo - Addo has transferred to Missouri State, where he will play his senior year. When things are going right, he can be impact player, with a nice outside shot (he was 32/75 career from downtown), and a variety of post moves. However, things didn't go right nearly enough last year, which is why he is moving on. His rebounding dropped to guard-like levels last year, and his offensive efficiency dropped as well. Hopefully he can get his confidence back for his senior year.

- Wade Collie - Collie was average seven points and over three rebounds per game last year for Southern Utah before he was arrested on drug charges and dismissed from the team. He had a ways to go to be an efficient player, but he did create some shot for them, and grabbed 15.2% of available defensive rebounds. He would have been a key contributor for them in his senior year.

Thoughts on any of these guys?

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spencer Coleman Dismissed From Montana

Last month, Montana forward Spencer Coleman was arrested for DUI, which was his second alcohol-related offense within the past four months. I speculated that this probably wouldn't cause him to be dismissed from the team, it would at the very least warrant a lengthy suspension. Apparently, I was wrong - Coleman has been dismissed from the team.

While no reason was given for the dismissal, it seems fairly obvious to be able to read between the lines. The Grizzlies have been getting into an alarming amount of off-court trouble over the past year, and this should send a loud and clear message to the team.
Coleman averaged 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last year, and seemed to get better as the year went along and he got more comfortable. The Grizzlies will be thin in the frontcourt, and no doubt Coleman would have had a major part of the rotation.

There is no doubt that Coleman is a big loss. He was a good offensive player last year - he shot over 56% on two-pointers, and 39% from behind the arc. He was a solid rebounder, with a 15.3 DR%, which was second best on the team among the top eight guys. He was a well regarded junior college recruit heading into the year, and would have been an anchor upfront for the Grizzlies.

However, if I have learned anything covering the Big Sky, it is not to doubt Wayne Tinkle. On paper, it's tough to see how they will replace his production with the guys on the roster. But they always seem to find a way.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big Sky Going to 18 Game Conference Schedule in 2014

Starting in 2014, Idaho will be joining the Big Sky, giving the conference 12 teams for basketball. This led to a couple of obvious questions, which the Big Sky answered in a press release last week:

1) Will they continue the double round robin scheduling?

The answer here is no. Currently, with 11 teams, everyone plays each other twice, leaving everyone with 20 conference games. If they continued this, it would give everyone 22 conference games. However, the conference announced that each team would play 18 conference games. While this could cause some inequality in scheduling, I think that is optimal to playing almost all conference games and minimal non-conference games, which would be the case if they played 22 Big Sky games each. It’s not always easy for teams to schedule good non-conference games, but at least this way there is a chance.

2) Will the conference be split into two divisions?
Once again, the answer is no. From commissioner Fullerton:

“However, our administrators felt like 18 games with no divisions will be a better format for basketball, where it becoming increasingly more difficult to schedule home Division I non-conference games. Playing in one division for basketball allows for a more equitable schedule than an 18-game schedule with two divisions. Our schedule will likely be modeled after the Pac-12’s current model’’

What are your thoughts on the announcements?

(My note: I've been enjoying my summer break so far... both with an actual vacation and relaxing, but things should get back into a better routine around here)

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Portland State Signs Four Players

Last week, Portland State picked up four commitments for their recruiting class this year. Here is a quick rundown for the four, none of which will be freshmen:

- G DeShaun Wiggins - He is a 6'2'' guard who will be a junior, and PSU going the JUCO route is not something anyone should be surprised by. He originally committed to Seton Hall out of high school, but instead spent one year at the College of Eastern Utah (where he averaged 17.8 points) and one year at Howard Junior College (he averaged 8.2 PPG, but for a very good team). "DeShaun is an athletic wing and scorer who really has a knack for putting the ball in the basket," said Geving. "He fits our up-tempo style with the way he gets up and down the court. He is a guy that knows how to score and we need that."

- G Sebastian Suarez - He played the last two seasons at Western Nebraska Community College, and has a nice shooting stroke. As a freshman he averaged over 10 PPG, shooting 36% from downtown. His sophomore year, he played just half the season (because he fractured both wrists early in the year), but averaged 11 PPG and shot 32% from the three-point mark. "With the loss of (three-point specialist) Michael Harthun (to graduation), we felt we needed another shooter. Sebastian is a 6-4 kid that can rise up and knock down jump shots," said Geving. "We thought that was a missing piece that we needed as we move forward. The other thing we like about Sebastian is his athleticism. He can get above the rim and should flourish in our up-tempo style."

- F Tiegbe Bamba - Bamba is originally from France, and he will be a junior as well. He is 6'6'', and will be recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered last year. Before the injury, he averaged 11.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per gamef or Midland College, after averaging 11.5 and 7.1 his freshman year at Snow College in Utah. He is a small power forward with excellent rebounding skills, and that type of players tends to do very well in the Big Sky. "Tiegbe is athletic and really plays above the rim. He is big-time rebounder who is a high-energy, high-motor guy. He can guard a lot of different positions and is a pure athlete. He has length at 6-6, and finding a guy like that at our level, he can be pretty special."

- F Kyle Richardson - Richardson is a transfer from Long Beach State, and he will have one year of eligibility remaining. Last year, he playing in 31 games, starting five, and he averaged 2.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He shot 41% from the field, and had poor rebounding numbers, though he did some some potential as an offensive rebounder in his sophomore year. He is 6'7'', and was high school teammates with Tim Douglas, who plays for the Vikings.

These four are added to recruits Kyle Benton and Zach Gengler.

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