Aces release strong men’s soccer schedule

The University of Evansville men’s soccer program released an ambitious 2014 schedule on Wednesday, highlighted by nonconference home matches in October against Indiana University and the University of Kentucky.

The Aces will play five matches against teams that participated in last year’s NCAA tournament, three against teams that finished in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and nine against teams that finished in the top 100 of the RPI.

“We always pride ourselves in looking to test our team against the top teams in the nation, and we believe our 2014 schedule will do so,” head coach Mike Jacobs said in a press release.

Evansville will host Division II Bellarmine on Aug. 18 in its first exhibition match. The Aces will also play Cincinnati and Indianapolis in preseason matchups at Arad McCutchan Stadium.

Here are all the Aces’ home matches this season:

Fri., Sept. 5                 vs. Belmont

Sun., Sept. 7               vs. Lipscomb

Fri., Sept. 19               vs. Mercer

Sun., Sept. 21             vs. Marshall

Mon., Sept. 29           vs. SIU Edwardsville

Sat., Oct. 4                  vs. Central Arkansas

Wed., Oct. 15              vs. Kentucky

Wed., Oct. 29              vs. Indiana

Sat., Nov. 1                 vs. Loyola

 

 

 

A chat with Marty Simmons

I met University of Evansville men’s basketball coach Marty Simmons Thursday, and it didn’t take long for us to start chatting about next season.

The discussion centered around the Aces’ junior college transfers — 6-foot-1 combo guard Taylor Stafford and 6-7 power forward Willie Wiley — but Simmons also touched on other topics, including how star guard D.J. Balentine informed him that 6-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius has been drilling 3-pointers in workouts. Simmons laughed when he said this, so don’t expect Mackevicius to abandon the low post and start hoisting treys this season.

Anyway, here is what Simmons had to say:

On Wiley: “He’s long and he’s got shot-blocking ability. The neat thing is he has the ability to step out and make perimeter jump shots, but we think one of his greatest assets is the glass. He’s got big hands, he’s long and he’s athletic. He’ll not only help us on the defensive glass, but give us something that we’ve lacked in an offensive rebounding threat.”

On Stafford: “He’s kind of an Energizer bunny. He’s got a high motor and he loves basketball. He can score. He’s a good shooter, elevates on his jumper.”

We talked about how UE brings back everyone who contributed at the end of last season (Ryan Sawvell was a key piece before transferring mid-season), and where the transfers would fit in.

Simmons: “When you have a bunch of guys back, it’s always interesting to see how the new guys (fit). They both have good personalities and are both big team guys. I think they both bring some qualities that maybe we didn’t have.”

“I just think from a depth standpoint, going into it, this is our best group. We feel like we’ve got a lot of versatility, a lot of flexibility. We can play big, we can play small, we’ve got some athletic teams we can put out there, got some guys that can shoot the ball. The neat part’s gonna be the competition — we’re going to have more competition in practice every day than I think we’ve ever had here.”

The players are lifting weights and conditioning this summer in addition to the allotted two hours of individual instruction per week with the coaching staff.

 

 

UE summer baseball assignments

The University of Evansville athletic department released the summer-league destinations of 17 baseball players. The Aces will play in eight different collegiate leagues across the country, from the nearby Dubois County Bombers (Joe Redburn, Eric McKibban) to St. Cloud, Minnesota (Matt Rodgers, Northwoods League), to Marysville, California (Alex Gould, Horizon Air Summer Series).

Here is the complete list of summer assignments for UE players:

PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE
Max Foley Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Alex Gould Marysville Gold Sox Horizon Air Summer Series
Brian Jestice Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Brent Jurceka Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Eric McKibban Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Stewart Nelson DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate League
Jarod Perry Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Kyle Pollock Waterloo Bucks Northwoods League
Jonathan Ramon Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Joe Redburn Dubois County Bombers Ohio Valley League
Matt Rodgers St. Cloud Rox Northwoods League
Patrick Schnieders Richmond RiverRats Prospect League
Shain Showers Sedalia Bombers M.I.N.K League
Tyler Sullivan Northern Ohio Baseball Club Tri-State League
Boomer Synek Mankato MoonDogs Northwoods League
Jimmy Ward Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League
Devin Williams Hamilton Joes Great Lakes League

UE’s Freeland No. 8 pick in Baseball America Mock Draft 3.0

Kyle Freeland, University of Evansville’s left-handed ace, was tabbed as the No. 8 overall pick in the Baseball America Mock Draft 3.0. The projection has the Denver native going to his hometown Colorado Rockies.

Freeland, a junior, had been projected as the No. 4 pick in the Mock Draft 2.0, but struggled in his final start of the season. In the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, he lasted a season-low five innings and allowed five hits, four earned runs and an uncharacteristic four walks. The Aces lost that game 9-1 to Southern Illinois and dropped an 8-6 decision to Wichita State the following day, likely ending their season after winning the program’s second regular-season MVC championship.

The MVC Pitcher of the Year finished the season 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 128 strikeouts and 13 walks in 99 2/3 innings.

It’s difficult to determine whether Freeland’s rocky final outing played a role in sliding a few slots in the Baseball America’s projections, but his overall body of work is expected to keep him in the top 10 overall picks. That means a big payday, as shown by this list of the MLB’s assigned signing bonus values for each draft slot. Each player chosen in the top 10 picks is expected to receive a signing bonus of about $3 million or more.

These draft values are just guidelines; teams and players may agree on signing bonuses higher or lower than the amount shown. Franchises add the assigned values of all of their picks together and draw from that pool to provide bonuses to new draftees. They can surpasses their allotted bonus pool amount, but are penalized if they do so via taxation or — in extreme cases — loss of draft picks.

UE women’s basketball signs left-handed shooting guard

University of Evansville women’s basketball coach Oties Epps announced his sixth offseason signing Thursday in Kenyia Johnson, a 5-foot-8 shooting guard from Fleming Island High School in Orange Park, Florida. The left-handed slasher will join the Aces this fall.

During three years as a varsity starter, Johnson rewrote the Fleming Island record books. She now holds the career records for points (1,206), assists (242), steals (274), blocked shots (140) and rebounds (407).

As a senior, she averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks. She also shot 49.6 percent from the field.

Here are some quotes on Johnson signing with UE. The consensus seems to be that she’s athletic and good at driving to the basket.

Johnson, on why she chose UE: “The coaching staff, they rubbed off really nice. They were really cool people. The team all texted me and congratulated me and was really welcoming. I took a tour of it and I just liked it, the area. It just seemed like the college I wanted to go to.”

Johnson, on her style of play: “I’m a 1, 2 and 3 guard and I usually just play either one of those positions. I’m pretty explosive; I like to play with a lot of energy on the court. I’m a dominant left-hander and I like taking the ball to the basket.”

UE head coach Oties Epps:  “Kenyia is a well-rounded player and is an explosive athlete on both sides of the ball. She excels in the open court and she has the unique ability to get to the rim and finish. We anticipate Kenyia having an immediate impact within our program both on and off the court.”

Her high school head coach, Kim Pereia:She’s a good ballhander. She kind of played the two guard for us because we already had someone at point, but she’s very much a dribble-penetrator.”

“She makes pretty good decisions with the ball and she’s not afraid to take it to the basket. She’s very, very athletic. Physically, she looks good — strong and fast.”

 

 

UE baseball needs some MVC tourney magic for NCAA bid

Considering the Missouri Valley Conference is the sixth-best baseball league in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), one would guess that the outright regular-season champion is a lock for an NCAA tournament bid, right?

Wrong.

The University of Evansville, after dropping a 9-1 decision to No. 8 seed Southern Illinois on Tuesday, is in serious danger of missing the tournament.

Despite beating Indiana State by a game in the MVC, the Aces — who dropped to 34-20 Tuesday — entered the week far behind the Sycamores (35-14) in the RPI. Indiana State was 18th in Monday’s rankings, third-place MVC team Dallas Baptist was 34th and UE was 62nd. Complete RPI rankings can be found here.

Typically, teams need to be in the top 50 of the RPI to have a shot at an at-large bid. I think UE would be in the conversation if it made it to Saturday’s MVC tournament championship game, which would require winning four straight games Wednesday through Friday. Of course, the only way to ensure an NCAA berth is to grab the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.

Freeland up to No. 4 on Baseball America mock draft

University of Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland keeps inching up the mock draft boards.

Baseball America’s Mock Draft 2.0, which was released Friday, has the 6-foot-3 junior from Denver going to the Chicago Cubs with the No. 4 overall pick.

Baseball America’s mock draft also includes a brief analysis section to go along with each pick. A portion of Freeland’s description reads: “The Cubs still prefer a college pitcher, and Evansville’s Kyle Freeland has been burning up boards with his stellar season. The tall lefty is in play this high and won’t get out of the first 10 picks if he doesn’t falter down the stretch.”

In his final regular-season start Thursday, Freeland allowed two hits in seven shutout innings as the Aces beat Missouri State 1-0 and clinched a share of their second Missouri Valley Conference championship. He improved his record to 10-1 and his ERA to 1.64, and has 122 strikeouts compared to nine walks this season.

Freeland was listed as the No. 9 prospect by Baseball America at about the midway point of the season, then moved to No. 7 on an early mock draft, and was listed as the No. 5 draft prospect on Wednesday.

There isn’t much higher for Freeland to go, but whatever the case, it’s safe to predict a multi-million dollar signing bonus June 5.

Aces post solid APR scores

The NCAA released the multi-year Academic Progress Rates (APR) for member institutions on Wednesday, and the University of Evansville is in good standing. UE’s women’s golf, women’s cross country and women’s tennis programs received perfect scores of 1,000 in the APR — a metric that calculates academic progress of each Division I scholarship athlete and counts eligibility, retention and graduation.

Teams must maintain a four-year APR of 930 (or 940 over the previous two years) to remain eligible for postseason competition. The UE men’s soccer team had the lowest APR in the athletic department at 969.

The 930 benchmark is equivalent to a roughly 50 percent graduation rate. In all, 36 Division I teams were ruled ineligible for postseason play in 2014-15, including nine football teams and eight men’s basketball teams. To search the NCAA’s APR database, go here.

Below is each UE sport and its multi-year APR, which is based on the rates from the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.

Women’s tennis 1,000, women’s golf 1,000, women’s cross country 1,000, baseball 976, men’s basketball 979, men’s cross country 982, men’s golf 972, men’s soccer 969, men’s swimming 996, softball 988, women’s basketball 990, women’s soccer 975, women’s swimming 997, women’s volleyball 989.

 

Freeland listed as No. 5 draft prospect by Baseball America

University of Evansville junior Kyle Freeland was ranked No. 5 on Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects for the upcoming MLB draft.

Freeland, who is 9-1 with a 1.75 ERA this season, is the third left-handed pitcher on the list. Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego) is the top prospect and Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State) is No. 3.

Freeland was also named to the 80-player watch list for the Gregg Olson Award, which goes to college baseball’s breakout player of the year. Dallas Baptist’s Brandon Koch, Illinois State’s Paul DeJong and Wichita State’s A.J. Ladwig also made the watch list from the Missouri Valley Conference.

 

UE among three MVC baseball teams in latest NCAA tourney projections

Two of this week’s NCAA baseball bracketology reports have the same three teams from the Missouri Valley Conference making the tournament field: Evansville, Indiana State and Dallas Baptist.

College Sports Madness’ projections list UE in the Nashville Regional along with host Vanderbilt (which UE beat 8-3 on Feb. 26), Liberty and St. Louis. In the College Baseball Daily projections, the Aces are slotted as the No. 4 seed in the University of Texas’ regional. Washington and Texas A&M are also listed in that four-team pod.

While Evansville’s inclusion in these projections is an encouraging sign for Aces fans, it’s important to note what type of bid UE is receiving. Both of these bracketologies have UE pegged as the automatic bid from the MVC, which goes to the winner of next week’s conference tournament in Terre Haute.

If UE — which is leading the MVC with a 14-4 league record — doesn’t win the conference tournament, the Aces could easily end up on the wrong side of the bubble. Despite trailing Evansville in the conference standings, Indiana State (17th in the RPI) and Dallas Baptist (37th in the RPI) are considered the stronger at-large candidates and, therefore, more sure bets to make the NCAA tournament. UE is 56th in the RPI.

The Aces were rained out Tuesday at SIU-Edwardsville in their final nonconference game of the season. They travel to Missouri State for a three-game series Thursday-Saturday.

OTHER UE ATHLETICS NEWS:

—Three UE squads — women’s golf, women’s tennis and women’s cross country — were recognized by the NCAA for strong Academic Progress Rates (APR). The golf and cross country teams were honored for the fifth consecutive year, while the tennis team was recognized for a second straight year.

These teams posted multi-year APRs in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports.

The women’s cross country team finished the year with a 3.573 GPA, tops among all of UE’s 14 sports.

— Eight UE student-athletes received academic excellence awards Saturday from the Missouri Valley Conference Presidents Council.

The athletes, along with the GPAs and sports they compete in, are as follows: Kelby Jenkins (4.0 – Cross Country), Stephanie Thompson (3.993 – Women’s Soccer), Jacqueline Carlson (3.952 – Cross Country), James Kohler (3.941 – Baseball), Daniel Musselwhite (3.932 – Swimming/Diving), Melissa Ball (3.903 – Swimming/Diving), Lauren Seyller (3.827 – Volleyball) and Rachel TenHoor (3.824 – Volleyball).

Analyzing the outlook of UE men’s basketball

At the end of the 2013-14 season, I wrote a season recap with a few graphs outlining the outlook for the UE men’s basketball team next season. I had no idea how much it would change during the offseason.

Three signees and a transfer later, the Aces, on paper, look like a completely different team heading into the 2014-15 season. UE snagged two JUCO All-Americans in Taylor Stafford and Willie Wiley but lost freshman sharpshooter Tyler Ptacek. With Ryan Sawvell’s available scholarship and Ptacek leaving, it seemed like the two scholarships were filled with the JUCO signees.

Until this week.

UE announced yesterday that Rokas Cesnulevicius was granted a medical exemption, which freed up another scholarship. (Medical exemptions allow the player to keep the scholarship, but it does not count against the team scholarship numbers regulated by the NCAA). Most figured Cesnulevicius, who did not play last season due to injury, would be granted a redshirt, so the medical exemption that will end his collegiate career came as a surprise. But that meant another scholarship was available.

Today, the Aces announced a third signee, Sergej Vucetic from Nebraska, filling that third open scholarship.

This last signee seems to be it for this year: three players gained, two lost, and the third done with his collegiate playing career.

Here’s what it will look like class-by-class in 2014-15:

Freshmen: none
Sophomores: Duane Gibson, Jaylon Brown, Christian Benzon, Blake Simmons, David Howard (RS soph), Sergej Vucetic*
Juniors: Taylor Stafford, D.J. Balentine, Adam Wing, Mislav Brzoja, Mike Leazer, Willie Wiley, Egidijus Mockevicius
Senior: Jaylon Moore
*Vucetic will sit out in 2014-15, but will have two years of eligibility left, therefore part of the class of 2017

Now comes the fun part: re-predicting what UE will look like in the upcoming season. Stafford and Wiley will be able to play immediately, which will give the Aces more options, and in two years, the addition of Vucetic (and potentially any incoming 2015 freshmen) will just pad UE’s depth.

Here’s my take on next year’s Aces:

Stafford could possibly grab the starting point guard spot from Duane Gibson. Stafford is undersized, but he’s an excellent outside shooter, something Gibson and Jaylon Brown weren’t able to develop last season. Stafford’s 40.2 3-point percentage is outrageous and was NJCAA’s fourth-leading scorer with 25 points per game. Stafford said he prefers point guard, but he also plays well off the ball (think D.J. Balentine-esque). If Stafford’s experience and scoring trumps Gibson’s ball-handling and decision-making, that makes the point guard spot a three-man rotation with Stafford, Gibson and Brown. Minutes will be competitive in the backcourt.

UE will immediately go big. At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, Wiley is a more athletic and stronger Ryan Sawvell and has comparative size to Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early (Early is 6-foot-7, 207). He’s also more dominant on the boards than Sawvell was, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game last season at Vincennes. Add him to 6-foot-10 Egidijus Mockevicius and the Aces may not have to worry about being outrebounded as much — they lost the rebounding battle 16 times this season.

But the Aces will have ample opportunity to go both big or small. UE can have a tall, rebound-happy frontcourt with Wiley and Mockevicius, but can also go smaller with a combination of David Howard (6-foot-8), Jaylon Moore (6-foot-7), and Blake Simmons (6-foot-5). The Aces don’t have a big backcourt to begin with, but add 6-foot-4 Mislav Brzoja and 6-foot-4 Adam Wing into the mix at the ’3′ and that’s a significantly taller lineup than last year. It’s easy to see UE going small, though: Jaylon Brown is 6-foot-0, Stafford is 6-foot-1, Balentine is 6-foot-2, Duane Gibson is 6-foot-3. Throw three of them in with Simmons and Moore/Wiley and you’ve got a quicker, smaller Aces lineup.

In 2015-16, UE will have even more options. That’s when Vucetic will be eligible and the Aces will lose just Jaylon Moore to graduation, and I think you can see where I’m going with this. The frontcourt will be Vucetic, Mockevicius, Wiley, Howard and the backcourt will be stacked with Stafford, Gibson, Brown, Balentine, Wing, Brzoja, and Christian Benzon. And that’s not even including any 2015 freshmen that UE signs.

The Morning After: Illinois State

Now that we’ve all had 14 hours to digest the game, here we go.

Stories from last night’s OT thriller:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/MOJGQ5
–Bloomington Pantagraph: http://bit.ly/1gv54EC

Some observations:

–An hour or so earlier, Indiana blew an 11-point lead at home to Penn State and lost the game. When Illinois State started creeping back in the game, the thought that UE could collapse like the Hoosiers crossed my mind. After Nick Zeisloft hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to give the Redbirds their first (and eventually only) lead of the night, what impressed me most was how the Aces kept attacking. The refs were calling the game tight all night and D.J. Balentine recognized that, getting to the line twice in the final minute of regulation to give the Aces the lead again. Luckily for the Aces, they didn’t end up like the Hoosiers.

–Speaking of free throws, 56 attempts is ridiculous. The last time UE attempted 50+ free throws was against Norfolk State in 2010. In the four-game slump, head coach Marty Simmons stressed the importance of the team continuing to play aggressively and getting to the basket. That came in flurries last night. Between the 15:39 and 8:15 marks of the second half, 16 of UE’s 20 points came from the foul line. Yes, it makes the game slower but it also puts the other team in foul trouble. Four Illinois State players fouled out, including its three top scorers, thinning the bench and forcing inexperienced players to perform in clutch situations.

–More about free throws: D.J. Balentine and Jaylon Brown. Brown is a 44 percent shot from the foul line on the season and he came up huge for the Aces, hitting all four of his shots to seal the game. Duane Gibson fouled out at the end of regulation, which essentially gave Brown his “time to shine,” and Balentine went 20-for-25, tying the single-game record for most made free throws.

–The first 20ish minutes of the game were exactly how the Aces played at the very beginning of the season. They were confident — surprisingly so, seeing how they played their past four games — aggressive, persistent on the glass. That’s how they started out 5-0, and that’s how Simmons has been urging his team to play the entirety of the MVC season. We saw glimpses of it — at Southern Illinois, against Bradley, at times at Missouri State and Illinois State — and we saw a full half of it last night.

Some quotes:

–Balentine on whether UE was prepared for Illinois State’s switch to man-to-man defense: “Not really. We played against man all the time. But for them, no. They haven’t played man all year in conference, so that’s what coach said at halftime, that we have to be prepared.”

–Balentine on if the 5:05 stretch without a FG was a concern: “Not really. We’re going to have those moments where we can’t hit anything. That’s where we have to attack and get to the FT line. That’s the main thing—if shots arent’ falling, get to the bucket.”

–Simmons’ initial thoughts: “Really proud of our team. There are so many times during the last five minutes and during the overtime where it looked like we were ready to break. Lots of frustration, a lot of disappointment, guys weren’t feeling confident. For them to bond together and to fight through it and make good play after good play to win the game, I’m proud of them. They deserve it.”

And some #statnuggets:

– UE’s 104 points marked the most since scoring 115 at Hawaii-Hilo on Nov. 28, 1998 and was the most versus a Division I opponent since taking a 110-64 win over South Alabama on Dec. 14, 1994.

–It was the most against a conference opponent since taking a 115-104 road win at Loyola on in 1989 and was the highest home conference output since a 109-83 win over Dayton that same season. Of significance in that game was Scott Haffner’s school record of 65 points.

–The most free throw attempts UE had all season prior to last night was 39 against Miami (Ohio).

–The Aces had three players in double figures after just the first half: Balentine, Blake Simmons and Egidijus Mockevicius. At the end of the game, UE still had three players in double figures.