Game #9-211: North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks at Davidson WildcatsDecember 15, 2012 7:00 pm
UNC Wilmington not too long ago was the pride of the Colonial. The Seahawks in the early 2000s made the NCAA Tournament multiple times, winning four CAA Tournaments in seven years under coaches Jerry Wainwright and Brad Brownell. In Wainwright's last season in 2002, UNCW won its only NCAA Tournament game in its history be beating Southern Cal. In Brownell's first season the following year, the Seahawks nearly won another game with star Brett Blizzard before losing at the buzzer to defending champion Maryland in one of the most classic ARRRGH!!!s of all time. But like is too often the case below the Red Line, success does not last after successful coaches leave. After the 2002 NCAA Tournament win, Wainwright left for Richmond and later DePaul. Brownell left after the 2006 season for Wright State and is now at Clemson. Coincidentally, Brownell's current position became open after DePaul hired Oliver Purnell from Clemson after the Blue Demons had fired Wainwright. This pattern in coaching changes often happens to many former mid-major coaches who get too adventurous
. But as for UNCW, the Seahawks suffered under Brownell's replacement in Benny Moss. Moss in his four seasons had single digit win totals in three of four seasons, and in that fourth season he was fired midway through conference play. More importantly, the teams of Moss failed to live up to the standards of the Academic Progress Rate recorded by the NCAA. The teams of Moss had failed both on and off the court. The Seahawks brought in journeyman coach Buzz Peterson, a former coach at Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State and not known to stick around at one job for very long. But this offseason, Peterson and UNCW received not so unexpected news in that the poor APR reports under Moss had accumulated to the point to where UNCW was barred from all postseason events for this season. It always ends in a loss, and it ended in a loss before it even began for the 2012-13 UNC Wilmington Seahawks.
To have your goals for the season crushed before it starts is devastating. I remember Kyle referring to Hoops Nation one time as a place "where APR matters". This is in reference to the problems above the Red Line where schools often neglect academics for the benefit of the athletic teams. But if you look where the APR has been enforced so far, Hoops Nation has taken a bigger hit than the big boys across the Red Line from us. There are multiple reasons for this. We are often recruiting from the same pool of athletes (albeit the lower end of the pool) as the teams above the Red Line, all seeking hoops glory at the price of academics. But the players above the Red Line will have the players who will be leaving school early to play professionally and will get exempted for that. On the flip side, some of our players will lose interest in college if their career path in basketball is not going well and will choose to drop out. Our players are more likely to transfer or drop out if they are struggling since we provide less glory for them to seek. That will then hurt our APR scores. The bigger and wealthier schools can also account more easily for these players who leave prior to graduating. These schools are also more likely to have resources to get struggling student-athletes back on track in the classroom. There have been exceptions in how the APR has been enforced, most notably UConn who is also ineligible for postseason play this season. But for the large part, it has been schools like UNC Wilmington who get punished and not schools like UNC Chapel Hill. When the APR first was released, the two teams at High Point who fared the worst were the women's tennis and women's golf teams. And these were the two teams that proportionally produced the most Millis Scholar Athletes at HPU! The reason I figured for this is that both these teams tend to recruit largely European athletes. Many players choose to finish school back home or take some other career path when they are finished playing in the United States. The NCAA has gotten better at accounting for this, but that shows that there are some flaws in the APR reports. I do not know if UNC Wilmington's teams under Moss were struggling academically or had problems with how the annual scores were calculated. We do need better standards for athletic teams who use college sports to make money at the expense of the academics that should be the priority of their schools. The APR has good intentions behind it from the NCAA. But quantifying academic success is a tricky proposition.
I also generally dislike postseason bans for schools as well. Peterson for the most part had little to do with the poor APR performance of UNCW. The same is true for the UNC Wilmington players on this year's team. But it will be this year's Seahawks who pay the price for the shortcomings of the prior Seahawks. Benny Moss, the coach for most of the seasons in the APR's timetable, is now an assistant coach under Cliff Ellis at Coastal Carolina. But Moss will have the chance to coach in the postseason at Coastal, albeit not as a head coach like he was in Wilmington. The college basketball fans in Wilmington will also not have a team to follow in the CAA Tournament either. Postseason bans are common practice for major violations. Even before the APR was introduced, teams had received postseason bans before, mostly for recruiting violations. My preference would be to see an expansion of individual penalties and lessen institutional penalties. We already have academic eligibility rules for student-athletes. It would be nice to see an expansion of show-cause penalties for coaches and administrators who failed in upholding NCAA standards. An idea would be to ban individual coaches and administrators from postseason play. If you want to be in the postseason, then you must not hire a particular coach. The problem with enforcing the APR is that it can be hard to find who to blame for poor graduation rates. It is quite possible that athletic department officials were more to blame than Moss for the failure to graduate players. Maybe nobody was to blame, and UNC Wilmington just had bad luck in recruiting players who could not pan out academically just like coaches can have bad luck in recruiting players who do not pan out athletically. And perhaps the scores did not reflect the academic standing of UNCW either, which also leaves nobody to blame. I do know who cannot be blamed however: this current Seahawk team and their supporters. But they will serve the punishment for the (potential) crimes of others, and will play every regular season game as ghosts like the teams in non-NCAA Tournament post-conference tournament events. Ask Presbyterian how much fan that was.
UNC Wilmington was playing at Davidson, who in recent years has had stable success under legendary coach Bob McKillop. Davidson is not what they were under Stephen Curry, but they are still a SoCon power. And Davidson also has less to worry about academically as well. Davidson for all of its students places higher academic standards, which means that the Wildcats are less likely to recruit players who are not interested in academics. A player who was marginal as a student in high school is not likely to be recruited and admitted to the school in the first place. Davidson is a model for other small colleges in being able to be exceptional both on the court an in the classroom. Davidson has had its ups and downs so far in a .500 season, coming back from its loss against Charlotte
with a win against Wofford
. The Wildcats came in looking to build on that momentum going into SoCon play. The team has been off with finals over the past week, but with a few exams still left early the coming week. The campus was still active when I arrived, and the students made their way into Belk Arena slowly in taking a break from their studies. The D-Block arrived only about 15 minutes before tip-off, in stark contrast with other schools where students rush to get to the best seats when the arena opens. The Wildcat fans were there with hopes of getting a win that could be beneficial in March if Davidson wins another SoCon title. There was a lot to play for if you were a Davidson fans. In addition to the Davidson fans, there were spots of UNCW supporters in teal. With a win, the Seahawks would get... a win. A win would perhaps provide hope for the future, and send a message to future prospective recruits that UNCW basketball is not dead if they could topple a quality mid-major on the road. But as far as how this season goes, only one team in the game had something meaningful to play for. And that takes away from the little pieces that make each game and season beautiful.
The game started sluggishly, and the Seahawks got the early lead as the Wildcat offense struggled. But once Davidson's offense woke up and took the lead five minutes in, UNCW would have to play catch-up for the rest of the game. As the Davidson offense went, so did the game. The Wilmington offense remained for the most part flat, dependent on what star forward Keith Rendleman could do. Davidson also relied on their frontcourt, and struggled from outside much of the game. But when a Wildcat guard could step up and knock down some shots from outside, Davidson took off and extended their lead. Davidson got out to a 12 point halftime lead. It was not a blowout, but it was not an exciting game either. Much of the first half I spent playing games with the replacement camera I had gotten earlier in the day while doing Christmas shopping with my family. One game I played was "How far can I zoom in on Bob McKillop's face from near the top of the arena?" This was as entertaining as anything going on during the game.
The second half started promising. UNCW rallied by finally catching fire on offense, as Rendleman got help in making plays. UNCW cut the Wildcat lead to one possession going into the first media timeout of the second half. But soon afterwards Davidson would regain control. While Rendleman (heckled by the D-Block for looking like Baylor women's star Brittney Griner) is a quality forward, Davidson has two in De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen. Cohen in the second half proved his value to Davidson by outscoring Rendleman. Even Rendleman struggled in getting to the line and making shots from the stripe when he did. The Wildcats made 16 free throws compared to the four made by the Seahawks. There was no way UNCW could overcome this, and Davidson would lead by double digits again for the final ten minutes of the game. If not for a pair of garbage time baskets, Davidson could have ended up with a 20 point win despite not having been that dominant for much of the game. But the 77-61 final score was indeed a convincing win for Davidson.
After the game, I got to meet again with TMM legend Gary Moore
(yes Ray, this adds to the record of Gary Moore references on this site
). During last season, Gary was on Long Island working at Hofstra and was able to get to tons of games from living in the New York metro area. Living down here, I never crossed paths before with Gary like I did with Matt Cayuela
, the other TMM writer who posted more 800 Games Project recaps than I did. But Gary has taken a similar path in his professional career that I took with my academic career, going from a mid-major to above the Red Line at the University of South Carolina
. For this game, Gary had to drive over 90 minutes from Columbia to Davidson, a drive longer than most in the northeast. I wish him well in trying to make this transition. We also agreed to make plans to attend the South Carolina-Appalachian State game later that week in Columbia.
Davidson got the win, and it was a big win for them. For UNC Wilmington, it was another loss. The result of the game ultimately mattered for only one team, and that team won. I really hope UNCW can overcome this struggle. The odds are against them in the changing CAA, as their athletic budget is below par for the conference. But the Seahawks have a tradition of success in basketball, and it would be nice to see another successful mid-major in the Carolinas. It will be a tough road for their fans, and hopefully they can remain loyal to UNCW. Rendleman is certainly a loyal Seahawk, as the APR ban made him eligible to transfer to another school without penalty for his senior year. But Rendleman has stayed and will play in a season where his college career will end not in the CAA or NCAA Tournament, but with a regular season game at Drexel. Rendleman and his teammates deserve better. Hopefully karma will be more fortunate to them as they go forward in life, and UNCW basketball can improve both athetically and academically.
at DAVIDSON 77, NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 61
NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 4-6 (0-0) -- K. Rendleman 9-16 2-6 20; T. Milson 4-10 0-0 10; C. Ponder 3-8 0-0 6; C. Dixon 2-8 0-0 5; C. Williams 3-4 0-0 6; F. Jackson 4-7 1-2 9; L. Hager 1-2 1-2 3; T. Graham 1-2 0-0 2; M. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0; D. Sherwood 0-0 0-0 0; N. Anderson 0-0 0-0 0; S. Reybold 0-0 0-0 0; A. Kilmartin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-57 4-10 61.
DAVIDSON 6-4 (2-0) -- N. Cochran 2-6 3-3 7; J. Kuhlman 1-5 1-2 3; D. Brooks 6-11 2-4 14; C. Czerapowicz 5-9 0-0 14; J. Cohen 5-8 8-8 21; T. Kalinoski 1-3 0-0 3; C. Mann 5-9 2-3 13; T. Droney 0-0 0-0 0; M. Archie II 0-1 0-0 0; J. Barham 1-1 0-0 2; J. Belford 0-0 0-0 0; A. Mackay 0-0 0-0 0; Y. Mejri 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-53 16-20 77.
Three-point goals: UNCW 3-7 (C. Dixon 1-3; T. Milson 2-3; C. Ponder 0-1), DAV 9-22 (C. Mann 1-1; J. Kuhlman 0-3; N. Cochran 0-3; J. Cohen 3-6; D. Brooks 0-1; C. Czerapowicz 4-6; T. Kalinoski 1-2); Rebounds: UNCW 25 (K. Rendleman 9), DAV 34 (D. Brooks 12); Assists: UNCW 6 (T. Milson 2), DAV 12 (N. Cochran 4); Total Fouls -- UNCW 18, DAV 10; Fouled Out: UNCW-None; DAV-None.