Hoopsville Rant: Ten-second violation comes to women’s basketball

I will freely admit that when collegiate women’s basketball first starting experimenting with the ten-second violation, I was leery. Why would we change what is an interesting quirk in the women’s game? I also contended that if they do add the violation they should consider changing the shot clock to 35-seconds like the men’s game.

However, the more I thought about it and the more I talked to coaches in men’s and women’s basketball the more I realized it was crazy there wasn’t a ten second violation! Women’s college basketball is the only level of basketball that didn’t have the violation. Of course the rule should be implemented! Now others have complained that the ten-second violation would increase the number of turnovers and make games between a superior and inferior teams even more lopsided. I haven’t seen any of that and people seem to forget that women’s basketball players were already playing with the ten-second violation in high school. They don’t have to adjust to anything.

And so it has been done… and they didn’t change the shot clock, either… and I am fine with that. In fact, I think we need to shorten the men’s clock.

Say what?

Yeah. The men’s shot clock is the longest in any level of basketball – NBA, international, high school and now even college. Why are teams being given five more seconds than at most levels to get the ball to the rim? The extra time isn’t needed.

But the best reason may have come from some coaches I talked to in Atlanta last year. At the time the common conversation about the game and its rules was how scoring was way down and had been falling for years. Many suggested changes to improve this including the emphasis on calling hand checking and grabbing by defenders (something I fully support and will rant about in the coming weeks).

However, the shot clock idea really stuck out for me. If we want more scoring on the college level, take five seconds off the clock. That will add a number of additional possessions to most college games at all three divisions. Furthermore, it will reward good defenses by forcing offenses to take shots sooner or get the ball up the court faster.

How can you not be in favor of this? Why should the men’s collegiate game be the slowest on any level? Why can’t we boost scoring by adding more possessions to the game?

Some will argue, as they have prior to the women adding the ten-second violation, that it will only increase turnovers and make the game sloppy. How? These players have come up from the high school level where the shot clock is shorter. The same on the women’s side with the ten-second violation: How will the new violation add to turnovers when the players are already used to the violation in the first place?

So let’s embrace the idea of a ten-second violation in women’s basketball and call for a 30-second shot clock in the men’s game. And while we are at it, why in the world does men’s and women’s basketball have different rules? You know what, let’s save that for another rant.

ODACcess: History in Hampden (ACAC South Region Classic)

HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, Va. — One of the great things about college basketball at any level is the contrast in styles. The long shot clock allows coaches to adapt their pace and tactics to suit their personnel. Teams can slow it down and concentrate on defense, use the drive-and-kick to create open threes, or get it in to a big, athletic body to create points in the paint. Day 2 of the ACAC South Region Classic put a couple of differing ODAC styles on display, to different degrees of success.

One can’t drive from our home base of Charlottesville to Hampden-Sydney without getting a sense of history. The signage reminds you of it constantly: “The Constitution Route”; “The James Madison Highway”; “Lee’s Retreat Trail.” These signs recall the important events that took place in Albemarle, Buckingham, and Prince Edward Counties, and Hampden-Sydney College has been around for all of it. Founded in 1775 and modeled after the institution that would become Princeton University, H-SC has continued its operations ever since. It has not strayed from its original mission to educate young men, remaining one of only three schools in the country to maintain an all-male enrollment. Understandably, it has an athletics history to go with it.

2013-11-23 15.43.38

As we left the car, looking for Kirby Fieldhouse, we could sense the excitement on campus. After the Tigers’ victory last week over their bitter rivals Randolph-Macon (more on that history in a later piece) to clinch the ODAC football championship, they were granted a surprising opportunity to host an NCAA playoff game. We arrived towards the end of the first half, but even as the game progressed across the street, the tailgating parties continued to be raucous. We could only hope those fans brought the same excitement to their Tigers’ basketball game against North Carolina Wesleyan later that afternoon.

Before any of that, though, there was the first game of the day, between Shenandoah and Mary Washington.


Shenandoah basketball has fallen on hard times in the last fifteen years. The Hornets haven’t made an NCAA appearance since 1996, and last year, their first season in the ODAC, they won no conference games (although they have since been awarded one against Bridgewater due to an eligibility controversy). That performance earned them twelfth of twelve in this year’s ODAC preseason poll.

But the Hornets began this season a surprising 3-0, winning their Tip-Off Tournament at home, as well as game one of the South Region Classic against former USA South rival North Carolina Wesleyan (despite a four-hour postponement). Leading the way was senior Avery Green, bouncing back from an early injury last season, averaging 27 points per game, and earning the ODAC’s first 2013-14 Player of the Week honors.

It soon became apparent that the Hornets were going to struggle against the Eagles, who had more talent across the board. This Mary Washington team had hung tough with #14 H-SC the night before and brought the same attitude to this game: trusting their starters to make plays from all spots on the floor. The Eagles’ size and power inside gave them the edge on the boards, and they used that to create second chance opportunities to storm out to an early lead.

Meanwhile, the Hornets seemed to forget their bread and butter early on: let Avery Green drive into the paint and create a play. Instead, the Hornets settled for deep threes and contested jump shots, most of which clanged off the rim and into the hands of the Eagles. It didn’t help matters that Shenandoah’s best rebounder, Xavier Alston, pulled down only one offensive board in the half, and their next best shooter, Jared Carithers, couldn’t buy a bucket. With 6:38 left, they were behind 28-12.

But then the Avery Green show started. The moves he made in the paint during the end of the first half, and the entirety of the second, were nothing short of spectacular. To close out the half, he went on an 11-3 run by himself, finished with 16 first-half points, and almost single-handedly closed the gap to eight. After another slow start to the second half, he burst out again, posting 21 more points in the frame. Unfortunately, the rest of the Shenandoah offense provided little help. Aaron Patterson had a nice day off the bench from beyond the arc, but his 15 minutes of effort weren’t enough. Moreover, the Hornets couldn’t create plays off the pass, finishing with just three assists (a stark contrast to the Eagles’ 15). Green (37 points) made some history of his own, finishing with the 8th-best scoring day in Hornets’ basketball history and making an early case for an All-Conference nod in the process. But man cannot live on Avery Green alone, and the Hornets fell by eight.

Then came the highlight event. By halftime of our undercard, the Tigers’ football team had finished off their playoff opponent–the school’s first-ever playoff victory, speaking of history. It was part of an all-around excellent weekend of athletics south of Farmville. The night prior, the Tigers had won on a miraculous comeback thanks to the efforts of the sharpshooting Greg Lewis, who drained two three-pointers in the final six seconds to erase a five-point deficit and sink Mary Washington. Given the excitement on campus, the crowd arrived loud and lively.

Greg Lewis immediately picked up where he left off the night before, missing his first three, but sinking two more shortly thereafter. The Tigers scored the first 13 points of the game, and never looked back. Their system made for a great counterpoint to SU’s single-player style. The watchword for Dee Vick’s team is balance: by the end of the first-half, the Tigers had no players in double figures, despite scoring 49 points. The drive-and-kick offense was anchored by senior big man and 2013 All-ODAC selection Khobi Williamson and the Tigers’ pair of sharpshooting guards, Mike Murray and the aforementioned Lewis. Together, their ability to make plays (and turn busted plays into second-chance points) overwhelmed the Battling Bishops. By the half, the Tiger faithful had more to celebrate, leading 49-29. The Bishops held tough in the second, with nice play from Fola Branco, but never closed the halftime deficit. H-SC led by at least 16 points throughout the second, and finished off the Tigers’ winning weekend with a 90-73 victory.

Final, Game 1: Mary Washington Eagles 77, Shenandoah Hornets 69
Final, Game 2: #14 Hampden-Sydney Tigers 90, NC Wesleyan Battling Bishops 73
Players of the Day: Avery Green (37 points, 5 steals); Khobi Williamson (14 points, 11 rebounds)
Mileage Tracker: 414 miles
Next Stop: Virginia Wesleyan at Bridgewater, January 8

Acknowledgments: Big thanks to Scott Harris, Assistant SID at Hampden-Sydney, and the entire Tigers Athletics staff for accommodating us in the press area.

Programming note: ODACcess will be on hiatus for the remainder of 2013. As much as we love covering college basketball, in our real lives we are law students, with busy exam schedules and holiday obligations. But don’t worry, folks, we’ll be back, just in time for the conference schedule to heat up in early January. See you then!

ODACcess: Running in the RAD Center (Frostburg State @ Randolph)

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Randolph College, formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, became coeducational in 2007. It began sponsoring men’s basketball the same year. The WildCats won their first game in program history, against Christendom College of the USCAA, and even defeated the significantly more established cross-town Lynchburg Fighting Hornets on their way to a respectable 8-14 inaugural season. In 2007.

That makes this just the seventh year of competitive men’s basketball for the Randolph WildCats. Think about that for a minute. The NCAA has sponsored Division III athletics since 1973; many of the colleges now competing at this level have been fielding teams for far longer than that. Fellow ODACian Hampden-Sydney produced its first basketball All-American way back in 1952.  Heck, this website has been covering D3hoops for 12 years longer than Randolph has been playing it.

Wanda the WildCat welcomes students to the RAD Center

In the context of that (lack of) history—and the school’s enrollment, which barely tops 500 undergrads—it’s pretty impressive that last season the WildCats earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament, grabbing an at-large that surprised even coach Clay Nunley following a 21-6 campaign. Perhaps that can be attributed to the coach’s intensity: one fan called Nunley “the Bobby Knight of D3 basketball” after the game. Nunley’s squad lost their first tournament game on the road to Emory, but one must suspect that their experience was more thrilling than disappointing. One must also suspect that, for his returning players, it made them hungry for more.

The Randolph WildCats' cozy (and loud) Den

One of the peculiar things about basketball is the run. It’s a well-known maxim that, in the absence of an extreme mismatch, every team makes a run; every team finds its groove for at least a few minutes a game. Teams down by double-digits erase those deficits so quickly and so often that it’s hard to listen to a game without hearing “and they’ve closed the gap!” at least once. The frequency with which teams beat the statistical odds, only to regress back to the norm a few minutes later, is one of the most exciting anomalies of this sport.

The run can also be misleading. When a team finds that groove out of the gate, as Randolph did on Monday—scoring the first nine points and jumping out to a 12-2 lead—one can think this statistical improbability is in fact the true nature of the contest. Frostburg State seemed so outmatched, so overpowered by WildCats driving the lane for an easy layup or kicking out for a wide-open three, it was easy to believe we had a blowout on our hands when the Bobcats took a timeout just four minutes into the game. The dismantling was so bad, even the home crowd tuned out for awhile; why cheer for every basket if the game isn’t competitive?

Alas, every team makes a run, and soon it was the visitors’ turn. Randolph’s three-point attempts started clanking off the rim and its backcourt fell prey to FSU’s full-court press, Frostburg’s bench erupted for 22 points, and the first half came to a close with the WildCats clinging to a 33-27 lead.

The bleachers of the Den empty out after the WildCats' victory.

The Randolph Athletic and Dance (RAD) Center is aptly named. In addition to its court—The Den—it features a pool, a dance center, and a relaxation area with a big-screen TV and pretty rad couches.

The RAD Center's pool...

...and the (sign for the) dance studio.

It’s also tiny. Very, very tiny. But in this context, tiny can be a good thing. Randolph calls The Den “one of the loudest venues in the conference,” and that may be an understatement. When the referees awarded an extra free-throw to Frostburg State following an officiating error (the first FT was declared null, but it had been missed), one fan’s admonishment that “you can’t let your screw-ups screw us!” boomed across the arena. When the next free-throw was missed, his sarcastic “Give him two more!” made the entire crowd burst out laughing. And those excellent acoustics aren’t limited to the bleachers: as it echoed down to the court, I’m fairly certain even FSU coach Webb Hatch cracked a smile.

The Bobcats refused to go away in the second half. When Randolph scored eight of the half’s first 11 points, they responded with 11 of the next 14. When they failed to take their first lead of the game after pulling within one, at 46-45, they kept battling, until finally they broke through. Aaron Bellamy and Kurt Gangler knocked down back-to-back treys with under four minutes on the clock to put the visitors up, 58-56.

Following a pair of Randolph free-throws, the Bobcats’ Nick Smoot drilled a long two to reestablish the two-point lead with a minute to play. It was a huge shot and he knew it, throwing one arm in the air and pumping his chest with the other as he ran back on defense. Bellamy came down with a rebound on that Randolph possession, and Smoot had a chance to put away the home side for good, but he missed the jumper this time, and WildCat senior Mike Ehilegbu pulled down the board.

Nunley put the ball in the hands of Zach Desgain out of the timeout with under 11 seconds to make something happen. He delivered. Fouled hard on the dribble-drive, Desgain hopped right up and drained both from the line. Overtime.

Perhaps exhausted from 30 minutes of full-court pressing, perhaps deflated from failing to hold onto the lead they spend so long acquiring, Frostburg had nothing in the tank in OT. Randolph scored seven of the first nine, Desgain hit a dagger of a triple for a six point lead at 1:07, and Ehilegbu bookended that trey with a layup and two from the line to finish off the Bobcats.

Final: Randolph 75, Frostburg State 64 (OT)

Final: Randolph WildCats 75, Frostburg State Bobcats 64 (OT)
Photos: Frostburg State @ Randolph
Player of the Game: Mike Ehilegbu (16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals)
Mileage Tracker: 275 miles
Next Stop: ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center South Region Classic, November 23 (Hampden-Sydney, VA)

Last time I talk about Grinnell unless…

I am done. I have had enough.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote an op-ed on Jack Taylor’s 138-point “performance” in the opening week of the season. I indicated I didn’t understand the point of the effort, it made me sick to my stomach and it flew in the face of everything I know to be the true spirit of sportsmanship. I also pointed out that a school of Grinnell’s stature probably shouldn’t be exploiting the accomplishment. Did I expect anyone at Grinnell to read the rant and change their tactic? Certainly not. However, I did think that since the record had been shattered and the attention had been garnered, they would shy away from their 15-minutes of fame.

I could not have been more wrong.

My first clue something was amiss was Friday night. As I arrived for the first game of the 2013-14 season and my 19th season as the public address announcer for Goucher College basketball, I read a retweet from D3hoops:

I have been around basketball long enough and I know the Grinnell system well enough to read into that very quickly. Taylor had 17 of the team’s first 20 points. Anyone who knows the system knows that means they are just feeding the ball to Taylor. Usually the offense Grinnell utilizes, The System, would have plenty of players scoring and most likely you wouldn’t have anyone with more than maybe eight or so points in the first 5:38 of the game. But Taylor had 14 of 20. Then at halftime:

Yep… 42 points of 70. He had cooled off, but he had clearly played nearly the entire half which is another example of Grinnell getting out of its offense because usually players don’t tend to play much more than 15 to 20 minutes in an entire game as they rotate three sets of five players in and out of the game. Taylor finished with 71 and I figured that would be the end of it.

Boy, was I wrong, again.

Now the national media is flying around the story like flies on a piece of fruit in the hot sun. However, this time I am hearing more voices being critical. Deadspin resurrected their criticism from a year ago, though I disagreed with how they portrayed The System, an offensive scheme I actually have no problems with. My problem is how Grinnell gets out of their offense just to try and break a record while embarrassing their opponent in the meantime. To compound the problem this year… they tried to do this a second time after clearly Friday’s attempt didn’t work.

As I mentioned, more voices are being critical and one of the best articles I have read so far is from CBS Sports’ Greg Doyel who did a lot more digging then many national media types did last year or have done since. He found some rather fascinating facts behind the recent record breaking attempt and alludes to some of the reasons probably behind these national headlines.

I have always wondered what was behind these record attempt plans and I can never get the answer from anyone at Grinnell (fans included) that adds up with reality. The usual explanation given to me on Hoopsville or off the air is that the record attempt isn’t considered until halftime. As I did last year, I call BS. By getting out of the normal flow of substitution, equal distribution of the basketball and easy shots after attempted three-pointers, coach David Arseneault is actually stepping away from the tenants of The System he writes in books. Also, consider that last year the video commentators stated they knew a record was going to be broken that night. There are rumblings even the PA announcer has told the crowd of said efforts. Sorry, but the explanation the decision to go for the record was only made at halftime after looking at the box score is hogwash. Then it hit me… is he trying to sell books? Doyel makes the exact same conclusion, but he points a timeline on the fact. We didn’t see these record attempts until books were being considered and published.

I also jokingly said to some that maybe Grinnell is paying teams to come to their gym to be a patsy, whether they knew it or not. Doyel tackles that as well and as a surprising answer: yes, in a way. Crossroads, the latest victim, was offered and paid $1,400 to come to Grinnell on the opening weekend of the season. They didn’t know why, but they accepted because they needed the money. Then they saw last year’s 138-point outbreak and got worried. However, they still needed the money.

This time of year, schools do pay teams to come to their gyms for games. But those games are for tournaments where the schools are enticing teams to take part in their event and help with the costs of hotels and transportation. In Division I, they pay lower-end Division I, Division II and Division III teams to play all the time, however have you ever seen a Division I team decide that their game against a Division III team is the perfect excuse to break a record? Not once.

Grinnell paid Crossroads to be a patsy. They paid Crossroads to come to their gym and ultimately humiliate them. Many Grinnell supporters indicate that the players and the opposing teams don’t mind or don’t care, but that isn’t true. In Doyel’s story, he talked to a Crossroads player who said they couldn’t stop Taylor because the refs were being tight with their calls and they were worried about finishing the game with just four guys on the floor (they arrived with nine). In other words, they were trying to stop Taylor but short of actually taking him out and sending a message, they couldn’t.

So I stand by everything I said in last year’s rant and I applaud those like Greg Doyel who have clearly figured out this is a sham. And with that I tell you this… I have had enough. I am done talking about Grinnell. I am moving on the rest of the season and seasons to come and I won’t mention them again. That’s right… I won’t talk about Grinnell online, in social media or on Hoopsville. They don’t deserve the attention or the spotlight. I am also tired of giving a program that seems to think sportsmanship isn’t a value worth respecting and upholding to its highest values attention.

But as the title indicates, there is an “unless.” I will talk about Grinnell should they win their conference tournament and we are talking about their first-round game in the NCAA tournament. Then we will know they deserve the national attention. They have earned it in their conference and won the right to be recognized. Until then… no more talk. I won’t even utter the school name.

I am doing what other teams for whatever reason can’t… I saying I am done with…

ODACcess: Lessons from a Near-Miss (Randolph @ Liberty)

As we embarked on our drive to Lynchburg last night, we knew we were off to see an exhibition game. And to some degree, this was an exhibition for us as well: preparation for the real work ahead. Luckily, aside from a lack of foresight regarding parking at the Vines Center—who knew that 7,000 people would show up?—it went well for us and for the team we were there to see.

This experience, as fans and as writers, was far different from what we expect to encounter as the project continues. This was our one encounter with the world of D-I sports for the duration of the project and we went in understanding a few things. First, the Wildcats would be at a clear physical disadvantage. Second, the Vines Center would be the largest venue we would visit by a long shot. Third, this would be our biggest chance to root wholeheartedly for one of our teams, along with the few Randolph faithful who traveled across town to root for their Cats.

Randolph fans

What we didn’t expect was all the distractions from the game: the television feed on the massive over-the-court scoreboard; the literal flamethrowers which briefly lit up the arena for every Liberty three-pointer, dunk, and free-throw (yes, even free-throws); the variety of media timeout entertainment activities; the seemingly omnipresent t-shirt cannons; even the (admittedly awesome) trampoline dunk team during halftime.


Those distractions, though, were far less interesting than the surprisingly competitive game going on in between the timeouts.

Liberty had a substantial size advantage on paper; the Flames average almost three full inches over their Wildcat counterparts, and that translated into a 37-to-22 edge on the boards and eight blocks by the final buzzer. It seemed throughout the game that every time the Cats tried to engineer something in the paint, there was a larger Flame there to break it up. Drives inside, post-up moves, and even fast-break layups were struggles for the Cats, who managed only 26 points in the paint.

And yet for the first 30 minutes or so, it was a hard-fought matchup. Hot perimeter shooting from sophomores Jason Eddie and Zach Desgain, who together went 7-for-8 from the field and accounted for more half of the Cats’ scoring in the first half, mitigated LU’s advantage inside the arc. As good as the Liberty interior defense was, Randolph countered with effective ball movement. The Flames’ 2-3 zone failed to adequately contest mid- and long-range jump shots for most of the game, and the Cats rode the hot hand to stay within single-digits at the break.

It seemed reasonable to assume Liberty head coach Dale Layer would institute some adjustments and put the Cats away. Instead, his guys were plagued by sloppy play for the first five minutes out of the break. However, Randolph failed to capitalize effectively, turning Liberty’s five turnovers into just three points. And yet, with 14:46 left, it looked as if Randolph might be poised for the upset, down only four. That’s when Liberty buckled down and the Cats’ shooters cooled off. Six turnovers fueled a 19-3 Liberty run. By the third media timeout of the half, it was all but over.

A loss was to be expected. To the best of our knowledge, no D3 team upset a D1 opponent last year. Just yesterday, Manchester was handed a 101-49 defeat. The competitiveness of this game should give Randolph coach Clay Nunley hope that, despite the loss of first-team All-American and Jostens Trophy recipient Colton Hunt, his reloaded Wildcats team will be able to compete in this conference. We’ll get an opportunity to find out when the regular season begins next week.

Vines Center

Final: Liberty Flames 74, Randolph Wildcats 53.
Photos: Randolph @ Liberty
Player of the Game: Zach Desgain (14 points, 2:1 assist/turnover ratio)
Mileage Tracker: 141 miles
Next Stop: The W&L Tip-Off Tournament, November 19 (Lexington, VA)