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Sports Then and Now



The Palestra: College Basketball’s Most Beloved Arena 3

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Mike Raffone

The Palestra

As the NCAA basketball season inches towards tournament time, allow me to highlight my favorite place on the planet to watch college hoops.

As Philadelphia’s most revered sports venue, the Palestra is appropriately called the Cathedral of College Basketball.

Recognized as the birthplace of college basketball, this hallowed arena opened its doors on the University of Pennsylvania campus on January 1, 1927. On that seminal day, Ivy League rivals Penn and Yale tipped off in what would become the first of thousands of games held in this building.

Named after an ancient Greek rectangular enclosure, the sparkling new facility was designed to house 8,722 spectators.

However, more than 10,000 excited fans crammed into the Palestra to witness Penn beat Yale 26 – 15 on its opening day.

Since then, the Palestra has hosted more NCAA college basketball games than any other arena in the country.

Beginning 1955, the Palestra has also served as the home court for the round robin of Big 5 college basketball games. Though not an official league or athletic conference, the Big 5 boasts five successful college basketball programs located within a 17 mile radius of center city Philadelphia. Read the rest of this entry →

Best College Shot Blockers of the Past 30 Years 1

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Martin Banks

By taking a look at March Madness and the way college basketball teams advance through the tournament, it’s easy to see how valuable an elite shot blocker can be. Protectors of the rim have always been an important part of the college game and have been some of the best players in the history of the sport. Unfortunately, the blocked shot didn’t become a statistic until the ‘80s, so greats like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain couldn’t leave their mark completely. However, the last 30 years or so have given us plenty of great shot blockers. Here are the best of the best.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon was easily one of the most dominating forces college basketball has ever seen. His defensive prowess led the Houston Cougars to the Final Four in each of his three seasons playing for the school. Had he stayed for a fourth year, Olajuwon would almost certainly be the all-time leader in blocks. He totaled 454 rejections with an average of 6.61 blocks per 40 minutes.

David Robinson

david-robinson-navy

Known as the Admiral, Robinson is one of the best shot blockers of all time, which is all the more impressive considering he didn’t start playing basketball until his final year of high school. Robinson recorded a total of 516 blocks in his four-year college career at Navy, averaging 5.55 blocks per 40 minutes. Robinson is one of only six players to block at least 14 shots in a single game and he holds the record for blocked shots in a season with 207. His knack for rejecting shots earned Robinson both the Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year awards.

Read the rest of this entry →

The History of Wichita St. Basketball 2

Posted on March 11, 2014 by Martin Banks

As one of the stories of the year, the Wichita State Shockers have gone undefeated in the regular season of their college basketball season. After making it to the Final Four the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last year and earning a record of 34-0 this season, the Wichita St. basketball team is now where they have rarely been—in the limelight of sports prominence. For the casual sports fan, the Shockers have not often come to mind when it comes to choosing a winner for their March Madness brackets. However, Wichita St. basketball has come a long way since its beginning, starting under the name Fairmount College.

ws

The Beginning of Shockers Basketball

Under the original name of the “Wheatshockers”, the Fairmount College basketball team competed in its first season in 1906. Head coach Willis Bates and his six players finished the season 2-4. You don’t need medical translation to know that going 2-4 isn’t the best start to a program, but Fairmount College would eventually make strides forward, including the development of the full-court zone press under Coach Gene Johnson.

How Far Will Wichita State Go in the NCAA Tournament?

  • Lose the first weekend (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Winning the NCAA Title (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Lose in the Elite 8 (18%, 2 Votes)
  • Lose in the Round of 16 (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Lose in the Final Four (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Lose the NCAA Championship Game (9%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Start of Success

The Shockers would begin to see success after joining the Missouri Valley Conference, when the school hired Ralph Miller from East High in 1951. Miller convinced his star player in high school, Cleo Littleton, to come with him to the college. Littleton became one of the first African-American players in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was also the first to score 19 points per game as a freshman—a school record that stands today. Under Miller in the 1964, Dave Stallworth would become the Shockers’ first consensus all-American, scoring a career average 24.2 points per game. Miller would later be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after building the Shockers’ basketball program.

Wichita State’s First Great Season

In the season following the school’s induction into the state university system as Wichita State University, the Shockers would go 19-7 and win the Missouri Valley Conference in the 1964-65 season under Gary Thompson. In the NCAA tournament of that season, Wichita St. would defeat SMU and Oklahoma St. in order to earn a berth into the Final Four—an accomplishment tied for the school’s deepest-ever run in the tournament. In their Final Four matchup, Wichita St. would lose to defending national champs UCLA Bruins by a score of 108-89.

One More Run Before Insignificance

11 years after Wichita St.’s greatest season at that point, the Shockers would win their next Missouri Valley Conference title. With one of the school’s best-assembled teams, including freshman-phenom Cheese Johnson, the 1975-76 Shockers returned to the NCAA tournament. A heart-breaking loss by one point to Michigan—the eventual runners-up—in the first game of the tournament would then be followed by the Shockers’ Elite 8 season in 1981 in which Wichita St. defeated Kansas. The Shockers would subsequently go through a period of mediocrity through the 1990s.

Return of the Shockers

Under new Athletic Director Jim Schaus, Wichita St. would begin to see success again in the 2000s. The hiring of coach Mark Turgeon would prove advantageous as he brought the team to three consecutive 20-win seasons and the school’s first conference championship in 23 years. The program has continued to gain momentum as the Shockers won the NIT tournament in 2011 and reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament last season. Now, Wichita St. is poised to make a deep run in the tournament with the likelihood of a one seed and the confidence that only an undefeated season can give you.

3 Best NBA Prospects On The Saint Louis Billikens 3

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Michael Sanduso

St. Louis Billikens

1 –Dwayne Evans

When checking out Lowvig.ag, you will be bombarded with information. Saint Louis bombards its opponents with intelligent and rugged play, epitomized by Evans. Here’s the most likely NBA prospect for Saint Louis. Evans is by far the best player on the Saint Louis roster, not just the team’s primary scoring threat. Evans powered the Billikens to the Atlantic 10 championship last season with his constant energy and his ability to get into the paint on offense. Strong and intelligent, Evans displays a level of poise as a ball-handler which makes up for a deficit in terms of quickness. Evans knows how to maneuver his body through a defense with the ball, and he knows how to get to the rim. When you look at him in game action, you are inclined to think that he’s not fast enough to get to the rim or within five feet of the basket for a floater, but he regularly does precisely that, and defenses just don’t wind up stopping him – it’s strange but undeniable. What might be his best attribute as a player is that Evans is an outstanding defender, averaging over one steal per game and almost one blocked shot per game – this at 6-6 on the wing. Being the leading scoring option on a team would make many players unwilling to make a big investment on defense, but that’s not how Evans rolls. Read the rest of this entry →

Ranking The Six “Power Conferences” in College Basketball 22

Posted on January 23, 2012 by Teddy Bailey

We’ve hit midseason, and College Basketball is in full stride. So why not rank the 6 Power Conferences? Onward…

The Big Ten is the best conference in America as of now.

#6- PAC-12:

When you look at this Conference, your first impression is, “Hmm, mediocre, only three teams under .500.” Then, when you look at who they have beaten, you laugh. No team in the PAC-12 has beaten a Top-25 Team. None. Nada. I don’t know what the deal is with the scheduling, because there is absolutely no chance to grab an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament if you haven’t beaten, or played a ranked opponent. College Fans are starting to dismiss the Big East as a “Power Conference” in College Football. Can you please turn your attention to the “Power Conference” who’s best showing in the RPI is California at 37, and then Colorado at 62! Compare that to the 6 teams the Big East has in the RPI Top 25, and you get an absolutely disgraceful conference. All insults and opinions aside, the Pac-12 is looking at 1 team to make the NCAA Tournament. They have a possibility of having no at-large bids. NONE! Granted, it’s an Off-Year for USC, UCLA and Washington, but the fact that 12 schools are mediocre at best, is hard to imagine.

Regular Season Champion: California (16-5)

Anything can happen in a Conference Tournament, but the regular season title unanimously goes to Cal. They’ve gotten embarrassed by every good team they have played, but they can beat the teams they need to beat to win the regular season crown.

At-Large Bids: None

On The Fence: Stanford, Oregon

#5- SEC:

The SEC has been better than recent years, but still falls into their usual ranking. Get past Kentucky and possibly Florida or Mississippi State, and you get the same thing the Pac-12 has, mediocrity. Granted, the SEC actually has one of the best teams in the country, and Florida and Mississippi State are solid teams, but we thought LSU would be a Top 25 team. We thought Tennessee would be a quality team after the Bruce Pearl era. They both aren’t. However, watch Vanderbilt to make a move at Kentucky and the Top 25, as the Commodores beat Marquette at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Vandy just has to learn how to close out big games, as they have three losses against ranked teams in overtime. A loss to Mississippi State put them back, but that OT loss was only their 1st in SEC Play. We’re looking at 3-5 bids for the Southeastern Conference, but only if Vandy or another un-ranked team can step up late in the season. Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky are all locked in.

Regular Season Champion: Kentucky (19-1)

Is a comment necessary?

At-Large Bids: Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt

On The Fence: Alabama Read the rest of this entry →

2011-2012 Big East Basketball Conference Preview 50

Posted on November 11, 2011 by Teddy Bailey

The Big East will produce at least 6 teams to the NCAA Tournament This Season.

As we near the start of the 2011-2012 College Basketball Season, we look at the unanimous best conference, the Big East:

Prime Timing Sports Preseason Big East Rankings:

*- makes NCAA Tournament

RBEC- Regular Season Big East Champion

BETC- Big East Tournament Champion

#1- Connecticut Huskies*RBEC, BETC

#2- Syracuse Orange*

#3- Pittsburgh Panthers*

#4- Louisville Cardinals*

#5- Cincinnati Bearcats*

#6- Marquette Golden Eagles*

#7- Notre Dame Fighting Irish*

#8- West Virginia Mountaineers*

#9- Villanova Wildcats

#10- St. John’s Red Storm

#11- Georgetown Hoyas

#12- Rutgers Scarlet Knights

#13- Seton Hall Pirates

#14- Providence Friars

#15- Depaul Blue Demons

#16- South Florida Bulls

Prime Timing Sports Preseason Big East All 1st Team:

Ashton Gibbs- Guard- Pitt

Jeremy Lamb- Guard- Forward- Uconn

Kevin Jones- Guard-Forward- WVU

Kris Joseph- Forward- ‘Cuse

Tim Abromaitis- Forward- Notre Dame

Prime Timing Sports 3 Things To Watch:

1. Can Villanova make the field?:

With the Big 3, Pena, Fisher and Stokes all gone, Maalik Wayns will have big shoes to fill. With Isiah Armwood transferring to George Washington, Maurice Sutton and Wayns will be to go to guys, along with Yarou. Villanova Coach Jay Wright always puts a solid team out on the floor, but it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats compete in the competitive Big East Conference. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

      Read more »

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