Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bruce Pearl's mouth keeps getting him in trouble

I've always liked Bruce Pearl.

He seems like a fun-loving guy, whether he is painting himself Orange and sitting in the student section for a Lady Vol's game or going shirtless and rapping with his players.

He's a fun-loving coach, someone that I would want to play for if I were, you know, good at basketball.

But he doesn't always seems to have the greatest sense of what is right and wrong to say. He's already been punished by the University of Tennessee and the SEC for lying -- and pressuring a recruit's parents to back up his lie -- in regards to recruiting violations, and he still has potential NCAA sanctions to look forward to. So maybe it isn't the best time for Pearl to be making jokes like this:

"I've made mistakes, I clearly did," Pearl said Monday while addressing the Knoxville Quarterback club, "but what I was hoping for was that some other dumbass would get on the front page and take me off the hook.

"I miss Lane Kiffin."
I'm all for being able to laugh at yourself.

There isn't much in this world that should be taken seriously enough so as to lose your sense of humor.

But maybe, just maybe, Pearl wants to at least appear to be taking his actions seriously. The major issue here is that Pearl lied to investigators. That he didn't take their investigation seriously enough to own up to his mistakes.

And now he is making jokes about it? In front of reporters?

Does he realize the NCAA still can hand down a punishment?

This isn't the first time Pearl has created a stir with an ill-conceived joke, either.

I'm all for a good laugh. But there is a time and a place.

And this was neither.
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Tuesday's Pregame Beat: A lot of excitement for a Tuesday

9:00 pm: No. 14 Georgetown vs. No. 8 Missouri in Kansas City (ESPN U): Talk about your intriguing matchup of styles. We get the guard-centric Georgetown Hoyas running John Thompson III's Princeton-style against the Missouri Tigers, who press for 40 minutes. I like this matchup for Georgetown. They have three, experienced back court players that are not going to get rattled against the Missouri press, and Missouri doesn't have the kind of front court that is going to out-muscle Georgetown. The Hoyas are no where near as deep as Missouri is, however. This is quite an obvious statement, but whoever can control the pace of the game will win. And regardless of the pace this game is played at, we should be expecting a dandy. Its too bad that the ACC/Big Ten Challenge banished this game to ESPN U.

7:30 pm: No. 2 Ohio State @ Florida State (ESPN): The Seminoles may just have the best defense in the country. The problem, however, is that they don't necessarily have the most efficient offense, and that is a bit of an understatement. According to Kenpom, they rank 94th in the country in offensive efficiency against mostly cupcakes. They only managed 51 points against a Florida team that allowed 93 points to ... Ohio State. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, have looked as good as anyone in the country. They have a big front line, they have a talented perimeter, and their freshman point guard Aaron Craft seems ready to be an impact player. This game is in Tallahassee, but I have a tough time seeing FSU pulling off the upset.

9:30 pm: UNC @ No. 21 Illinois (ESPN): The biggest weakness in the Illini's attack is their interior defense. Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis aren't exactly the epitome of a power front court. But North Carolina doesn't have any burly post scorers, either. Demetri McCamey has to be put into the conversation for the best point guard in the country, and he is playing some of his best basketball right now. When he is under control, getting his teammates involved early before looking for his own shot -- which he has been able to get almost at will in this young season -- Illinois is tough to beat. For UNC, it will be interesting to see if Roy Williams sticks with Larry Drew at the point. The kid looks like he has completely lost his confidence, and Kendall Marshall may not be ready to handle the point full time just yet. I am excited, however, to get another look at Harrison Barnes -- who has underperformed his expectations -- tonight.

The Rest of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

7:00 pm: Georgia Tech @ Northwestern (ESPN2): The Yellow Jackets have talent on their roster, especially along their perimeter, where Iman Shumpert and Brian Oliver are both scoring well. But Northwestern runs a disciplined system offensively, led by John Shurna, Drew Crawford, and Michael Thompson. Can Tech defend well for long enough stretches to slow down the Wildcats? I don't think they can.

7:00 pm: Iowa @ Wake Forest (ESPN U): The is one of the uglier games of the challenge. Wake Forest has struggled starting the season, and with Tony Chennault and Melvin Tabb are out, the Demon Deacons will rarely be considered a favorite this season. Unless, of course, they are playing Iowa, who has been one of the worst major conference teams the last few seasons.

9:00 pm: Michigan @ Clemson (ESPN 2): Clemson looks like they may be flying a bit under the radar in the ACC. They have a talented back court and a couple of big, athletic kids in the front court. Michigan simply cannot matchup with that talent level. John Beilein teams have never had a ton of talent, however. They win as a result of the system they run. Thus far, however, is doesn't seem like they have pieces that buy into his system.

Other Notable Games:

  • 7:00 pm: Cornell @ No. 7 Syracuse
  • 7:30 pm: New Hampshire @ No. 9 UConn
  • 7:00 pm: Boston U. @ No. 11 Kentucky
  • 7:30 pm: Middle Tennessee @ No. 17 Tennessee
  • 11:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 22 Washington
  • 9:05 pm: Eastern Washington @ No. 24 Gonzaga
  • 7:00 pm: Ole Miss @ Miami FL
  • 7:30 pm: Indiana State @ Notre Dame
  • 8:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ Mississippi State
  • 8:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ Texas Tech
  • 9:00 pm: UTEP @ New Mexico State
  • 10:00 pm: Sacramento State @ Washington State

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Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell is still six weeks away

Seton Hall hasn't exactly had the start that Pirate fans were hoping for.

Last night's 69-49 win over St. Peter's bumped the team's record to 3-3, a long way from being the potential tournament team that some were predicting in the preseason.

One of the issues is that Herb Pope is not yet 100%, which is understandable given what the young man went through this summer. As Kevin Willard put it, "Give him time, he was dead for a while," Willard cracked. "He's a miracle on Earth."

The other issue is Jeremy Hazell.

The Pirates sharp shooting senior broke his wrist against Alabama in the opener of the Paradise Jam. Initial diagnosis put the recovery time at six weeks, but after last night's win over St. Peter's, Willard was less optimistic about Hazell's return time:

Jeremy Hazell, the Pirates' senior shooting guard and first-team All-Big East selection, will see his third hand specialist on Wednesday for his broken wrist and the results of that meeting could go a long way in determining the outcome of Seton Hall's season.

"He might have to have surgery," said first-year Pirates coach Kevin Willard, whose team improved to 3-3. "He might not. The bone's in perfect shape right now. It's actually already healing. You could put a pin in there and it might accelerate it and you could put a pin in and it might not do anything."

Willard said Hazell could return in "six weeks" if he doesn't have surgery. That would mean a debut around Jan. 10.
Without Hazell, Seton Hall has struggled offensively. Those struggles will likely continue as he is one of the most talented pure scorers in the country.

Hazell's initial diagnosis was six weeks when he hurt the wrist two weeks ago. If Seton Hall is still saying it could take six weeks for him to heal, maybe this injury is worse than we originally thought.
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Tuesday's Shootaround: Minnesota comes back to earth; TCU surprises

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Scoreboard:

  • ACC: 1
  • Big Ten: 0
Virginia 87, Minnesota 79: The Golden Gophers looked like they were going to run away with this thing early on. They jumped out to an early 14-5 lead and cruised to a 39-29 advantage at the half. Minnesota seemed to be in firm control, as UVA was only in contention due to an incredible display of shooting -- they were 6-6 from beyond the arc in the first half.

In the second half, however, Minnesota simply could not get a stop. There is not a lot of consistent offensive production in the Gophers lineup -- especially with Al Nolen out -- so when they aren't playing defense like a Tubby Smith team, they aren't going to be winning many games. In the second half tonight, they weren't playing defense like a Tubby Smith team.

One other note: Minnesota with Devoe Joseph in the lineup instead of Nolen is a much different team. He's their best defender on the perimeter, and the guy that orchestrates that offense. Joseph did have 16 points, but their offense did not look as smooth.

TCU 81, USC 69: So TCU found out that they would be joining the Big East today. Everyone proceeded to hate on the TCU basketball program. So what did they do? Go out and knock off a major conference opponent. To be fair, its just USC -- who also lost to Rider at home -- but the irony of this win simply cannot be ignored.

VMI 151, Central Pennsylvania 92: Central Pennsylvania is not a D-I school, but 151 points is 151 points. VMI was 21-48 from three and seven players scored at least 16 points.

Other Notable Scores
  • No. 5 Kansas State 85, Emproia State 61
  • No. 13 Baylor 90, Prarie View A&M 45
  • Seton Hall 69, St. Peter's 49

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Tuesday Morning Dump

- Obviously, the news of the day is that TCU will be joining the Big East, despite having no ties to the east whatsoever. Luke Winn explains why this move won't help college basketball at all. Mike DeCourcy says that adding TCU won't change anything. But isn't that kinda like saying "if it's not broke, don't fix it"? Rick Bozich has an interesting take on the whole situation. It's more football-oriented, but isn't the TCU move football-oriented to begin with? I don't agree with Bozich at all. The type of suggestion he makes is what is wrong with college sports (really all sports in general) today. There is too much off-the-field tinkering. The question people are asking, did Jamie Dixon make this happen?

- The U.S. News and World Report issued a list of the top-10 colleges for college basketball fans

- Prior to the start of the season, many hoops writers and analysts believed the Big East would have a down year. Well, I guess they were wrong, because the Big East is home to six teams that won preseason tournaments

- The ByLawBlog's John Infante takes a look at how changes to facebook could change recruiting rules. Eamonn Brennan responds to it.

- Gary Parrish, as he does every Monday, with his poll attack column

- By helping TCU get an automatic BCS-Bowl bid, the school is essentially throwing the basketball team to the dogs

- Both Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway previewed the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. We did too, but you probably already read that

- Diamond Leung interviewed Oklahoma State's Keaton Page. The under-sized sharp-shooter had 29 points in the Cowboys victory over Murray State. I love watching this kid play. He doesn't have the body of a D-1 player, but the kid can ball.

- Ronald Nored may miss the national championship game rematch.

- Kyle Whelliston of The Mid-Majority recaps the holiday weekend

- According to the KenPom rankings, Duke isn't the number-one team in the country

- A bunch of hoops pundits had Colorado as a sexy pick to make waves in their final season in the Big-12. But apparently Harvard was having none of that

- Sad news out of Lexington today, as Donna Calipari, the mother of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, lost he battle with with cancer. She was diagnosed in May and passed away just six short months later. Our deepest prayers and condolensces go out to the entire Calipari family

- This is obviously not the start Butler coach Brad Stevens predicted his team would have. But what's done is done, and they have to 'right the ship' and move forward

- Kansas defeated Arizona this past weekend in Las Vegas, but despite the loss, Wildcat fans remain optimistic

- If you are a fan of Patriot League hoops, this wasn't the best weekend for you

- Storming the Floor has a new logo for the Big East aka, The Big Eastern-kinda-Southern-sorta-Midwestern-and-now-Southwestern-Conference

- A NBA draft scouting report on two of the better guards in the country: Demetri McCamey and Ashton Gibbs
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday's Pregame Beat: Not a whole lot...

For weary college basketball fans struggling to make it through leftover tryptophan induced slumbers, tonight is your (brief) respite as there is barely a watchable game on TV.

7:00 pm: Virginia @ Minnesota: The Gophers and the 'Hoos kick off the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight. With Minnesota's resurgence and Virginia's, well, tendency to be Virginia, this game doesn't have much intrigue on the surface. But with Al Nolen's injury and Devoe Joseph's status still unclear, there is a chance that this could be semi-interesting.

Other Notable Games

  • 8:00 pm: Emporia State @ No. 5 Kansas State
  • 8:00 pm: Prarie View A&M @ No. 10 Baylor
  • 7:00 pm: St. Peter's @ Seton Hall
  • 8:00 pm: USC @ TCU

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The Emery Board: Week 3

College basketball has not seen a team go undefeated since Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 in 1975-1976. The closest we have seen since then was a Jameer Nelson-led St. Joseph's team that went 27-0 in the 2003-2004 season before losing to Xavier in the Atlantic-10 tournament. Every season a team flirts with the notion of an undefeated season, but every season that notion slowly fades as January turns to February and February turns to March. BYU's senior guard Jackson Emery, has made the bold prediction that his team, a Cougar squad that finished with a 27-4 record last season, will in fact go undefeated this season.

We have decided that, in honor of Emery's swagger, we will keep a watch on the BYU Cougar's schedule, to see if they can walk-the-walk. We will also keep tabs on any other undefeated teams who try to make a run at the perfect season.

Week 3:

The BYU players must not be big fans of The Emery Board, because it seems like just about every one of their games comes down to the wire. The Cougars participated in the South Padre Invitational last week, and both of their games had the fate of the Emery Board on the brink of destruction.

Their first match-up in the Spring break hot-spot was against South Florida, a team not expected to do a whole lot this season. But the Bulls hung close, and even got up as many as nine early in the second half. The Cougars fought back, and with time expiring in the second overtime, Noah Hartsock hit a buzzer-beater to keep Jackson Emery's undefeated season alive.

Jimmer Fredette once again led all scorers with 32 points was 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. Emery tallied 20 points including five 3-pointers.

In the championship game against St. Mary's, Fredette did his best Noah Hartsock impersonation, nailing a go-ahead 3-pointer with ten seconds left to seal the victory over the Gaels, 74-73. For the sixth consecutive game, Fredette led all scorers, this time with 24 points.

Emery added 15 points and five steals. Starting next season, these two teams will face-off twice a year, since BYU will be joining the West Coast Conference.

So after six games, BYU is ranked 21st in the AP Top-25 poll and the streak is still alive.

For now, Emery is still looking like Machiavelli. W will see how long it lasts.

Next Game: 12/1 at Creighton

Next Potential Loss: 12/1 at Creighton or 12/11 vs. Arizona

Other Undefeated Teams
I'd like to point out that "next potential loss" means the opponent on the schedule closest in date to now with the most realistic chance of defeating the unbeaten team. There may be games in between "next game" and "next potential loss" and while it is quite possible a loss would occur during this time, I wouldn't bet on it. Or maybe I would....

UPDATE (11/30): We've lost two members from the ranks of the unbeaten. Minnesota got beat at home by Virginia in the opening game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Gophers were up big at the half, but poor team defense and some hot shooting by the Cavaliers turned the tide in the second half, as the Gophers lost by eight. The Kangaroos of UM-Kansas City got their first W of the season, thanks to an overmatched Wichita State team.

Keep checking in on the Emery Board as the week continues.

#1 Duke: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Michigan State
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 vs. Michigan State

#2 Ohio State: 5-0
Next Game: 11/30 at Florida State
Next Potential Loss: 11/30 at Florida State

#3 Pittsburgh: 7-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Duquesne
Next Potential Loss: 12/11 vs. Tennessee

#4 Kansas: 6-0
Next Game: 12/2 vs. UCLA
Next Potential Loss: 12/7 at Memphis

#7 Connecticut: 5-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. New Hampshire
Next Potential Loss: 12/27 vs. Pittsburgh

#8 Syracuse: 6-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Cornell
Next Potential Loss: 12/7 vs. Michigan State

#9 Missouri: 5-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Georgetown
Next Potential Loss: 11/30 vs. Georgetown

#11 Baylor: 5-0
Next Game: 12/2 vs. Arizona State
Next Potential Loss: 12/2 vs. Arizona State

#13 Tennessee: 5-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Middle Tennessee
Next Potential Loss: 12/11 at Pittsburgh

#14 Memphis: 5-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Arkansas State
Next Potential Loss: 12/7 at Kansas

#16 Georgetown: 6-0
Next Game: 11/30 at Missouri
Next Potential Loss: 11/30 at Missouri

#17 San Diego State: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. St. Mary's
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 vs. St. Mary's

#24 UNLV: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 at Illinois State
Next Potential Loss: 12/11 at Louisville

#25 Notre Dame: 7-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Indiana State
Next Potential Loss: 12/8 at Kentucky

Boise State: 6-0
Next Game: 12/5 vs. Long Beach State
Next Potential Loss: 12/8 at UNLV

Central Florida: 5-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Florida
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 vs. Florida

Cincinnati: 5-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Wright State
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 vs. Wright State

Cleveland State: 8-0
Next Game: 12/29 at UW-Green Bay
Next Potential Loss: 12/4 at UW- Milwaukee

Hawaii: 5-0
Next Game: 12/1 at Cal-Poly
Next Potential Loss: 12/4 at BYU

Indiana: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 at Boston College
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 at Boston College

Iowa State: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 at Northern Iowa
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 at Northern Iowa

Louisville: 4-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Florida International
Next Potential Loss: 12/11 vs. UNLV

Loyola (IL): 7-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Butler
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 vs. Butler

Massachusetts: 6-0
Next Game: 12/1 at Quinnipiac
Next Potential Loss: 12/1 at Quinnipiac

Mississippi State: 4-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Florida Atlantic
Next Potential Loss: 12/13 vs. Nichols State

Northwestern: 4-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Georgia Tech
Next Potential Loss: 11/30 vs. Georgia Tech

South Dakota State: 4-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Nevada
Next Potential Loss: 12/4 vs. North Dakota State

Southern Mississippi: 4-0
Next Game: 12/1 vs. Alcorn State
Next Potential Loss: 12/4 at Ole Miss

Washington State: 4-0
Next Game: 11/30 vs. Sacramento State
Next Potential Loss: 12/3 vs. Kansas State

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Derrick Nix returns to the Spartans

Derrick Nix, a top 100 recruit in the class of 2009, appeared to be on his way out the door of the Michigan State basketball program.

Nix didn't travel with the team to Maui, citing personal reasons. Head coach Tom Izzo said it was a "mutual decision" for Nix not to travel with the team. It wasn't hard to decipher why Nix was unhappy. He had played just 19 minutes in the Spartans first two games, much less than fellow sophomore Garrick Sherman or freshman Adreian Payne.

Many believed a transfer was coming.

But Nix threw the Spartans a curve ball when they returned from Maui -- he wanted back in:

Derrick Nix sat in East Lansing on Tuesday night, watching the rest of the Michigan State men's basketball team lose to Connecticut in Maui.

Then the result of his actions finally hit him.

"I felt stupid," Nix said. "Like, 'Dang, I should be there.'"

After leaving the team Nov. 28 citing to personal reasons, Nix made his return to the court Sunday, going scoreless in five minutes of action in No. 2 MSU's 73-55 win over Tennessee Tech at Breslin Center.

Nix didn't shed any light on why he didn't make the trip to Maui, but did show remorse.

"All I can say is I let my team down in a big way," Nix said.
Nix played five minutes against Tennessee Tech on Sunday.

Who knows what kind of effect this will have on Michigan State. Nix, after all, appears to be buried on the Spartan bench. When you are playing five minutes against Tennessee Tech in a blow out win, odds are good that those minutes shrink -- not expand -- once conference play comes around.

But Nix is a talented kid. He's 6'9", 275 lb. And while his career 26% free throw shooting means he likely won't be spotting up for threes this season, at the very least he is five more fouls to throw at a guy like Jared Sullinger or Jon Leuer.

This isn't the first time Nix's emotions have helped him make headlines. At the vigil held in East Lansing to try and convince Tom Izzo to remain a Spartan, Nix was the player that was spotted tearing up.
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Feast Week Awards!

This post can also be found at Beyond the Arc.

The Award for the Most Valuable Player goes to: Kemba Walker, UConn

Do I really need to explain this to you? Yes? Ok, well the Huskies, who were picked 10 in the Big East, got 30.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 2.7 spg from Walker (who also shot an absurd 28-52 [53.8%] from the floor, 26-28 [92.9%] from the line, and 8-19 [42.5%] from three) en route to a Maui Invitational title, which included wins over top ten teams Michigan State and Kentucky. Good enough? For the record, we want to avoid making this a completely Husky-centric post, so consider them out of the running for any other award.

The Award for the Least Valuable Player goes to: JaMychal Green, Alabama

Green was a McDonald's all-american coming out of high school. Many were hoping that he could be the guy that turned around the Crimson Tide's struggling program. Things looked promising, as he averaged 14 points and 7 boards as a sophomore, but his junior year as started off anything but well. Alabama went 0-3 in the Paradise Jam, which included a 50-49 loss to a St. Peter's team that was missing star Wesley Jenkins. Green averaged a paltry 11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg (just two defensive rebounds in the three games), and had as many turnovers (8) as he did blocks, steals, and assists combined.

The Award for the Biggest Surprise goes to: Minnesota

There were a few people that were tooting the Gopher horn before the season started, but I doubt that any of them could have predicted this. Minnesota jumped out to a 6-0 start to the season, a stretch headlined by their title in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. They knocked off Western Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia while getting stellar play out of transfer Trevor Mbakwe, who is finally playing after sitting out last season with legal issues. Now, just imagine their front line if Royce White was still around.

The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Temple

You're right. This is an upset. UNC probably should have one this award, but since the committee (aka just me, baby!) is sick of hearing about the Tar Heels, they went another direction. The Owls headed into the Old Spice Classic with a top 20 ranking as the flag bearer of a somewhat underwhelming Atlantic 10 conference. When they left, the A-10 looked weaker than ever, as Temple sandwiched a mediocre win over Georgia with losses to Cal and Texas A&M. Temple could not get anything going offensively against Texas A&M, and looked disinterested in their opener against Cal. Juan Fernandez was particularly bad, averaging 8.7 ppg and 1.7 apg while shooting 7-32 from the floor, 2-16 from three, and committing 9 turnovers.

The Award for Most Impressive Team goes to: TIE -- Notre Dame and UNLV

Notre Dame and UNLV won the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, respectively. Notre Dame had the more impressive wins (Georgia, Cal, Wisconsin), but UNLV did it in more impressive fashion. There are a couple of reasons I really like this Irish team. For starters, they are playing as much defense as they ever have this year. They held Cal to five points in the first half on Friday, then used their defense to spur a game-clinching, 26-8 surge in the final seven minutes. The second reason is that with Carleton Scott, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, and Jack Cooley on their roster, the Irish are capable of throwing out a number of different looks. They closed out the Badgers with Scott at center and Martin at the four, essentially playing a five-out offense. Lastly, Eric Atkins looks like he will be an impact player as a freshman. That addition is going to allow Ben Hansbrough time playing off the ball.

For UNLV, I was more impressed with how this team looked than any other team in the country during Feast Week (well, save Duke and the UConn Kemba Walkers). They have a lot of really talented back court players that are strong, athletic, and love to defend. Their press is going to give a lot of team fits this season. I love Chace Stanback at the four. He creates a real mismatch problem for opponents, as he is essentially a 6'8" two guard. The best part? They probably have only gotten 70-75% of the real Tre'Von Willis. There are a lot of interchangeable weapons on this team.

The Award for the Least Impressive Team goes to: Washington

Maybe this is because I am basing this off of the impression I got from this team in their 43 point win over Virginia, but I was dreadfully disappointed in the performance from the Huskies in Maui. They looked horrid offensively against Kentucky, as Isaiah Thomas choked down the stretch and their guards made bad decision after bad decision. Against Michigan State, it was more of the same. Washington, right now, has the talent to be a top 10 team, probably higher. They have the pieces. This team just doesn't seem to understand how to play basketball and what Lorenzo Romar wants them to do. If you couldn't figure it out, that is a bad thing.

The Award for the Best Game goes to: BYU 77, South Florida 75 2OT

The Bulls opened a lead as big as ten in the second half of this South Padre Island Invitational semifinal, but BYU battled back. They tied the game at 58, but with under a minute left USF's Jowanza Poland hit a three for a 61-58 lead. At the other end, Charles Abouo answered with a three of his own to force overtime. In the first extra frame, Fredette missed a leaner at the buzzer, which forced a second overtime. In the second extra period, a three from Jimmer gave BYU a 75-72 lead, but a bucket by Gus Gilchrist, a USF stop, and a free throw from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick tied the game. It set up this final possession:

The Award for the Weirdest Finish goes to: Weber State 82, Drake 81

Drake freshman Rayvonte Rice scored a layup with 20 seconds left to give the Bulldogs an 81-80 lead. At the other end, Damian Lillard drove to the rim to try and win the game, but he was called for a charge. But Aaron Hawley of Drake was given a technical foul for spiking the ball in celebration. Lillard knocked down two free throws for an 82-81 lead, which capped a 13 point second half comeback, and Drake missed two shots in the final seconds.
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11/29 - College Hoops Week in Review: The A-10 struggles and the Big East rolls

This post can also be found at Beyond the Arc.

Game of the Week: Xavier 94, Wofford 90 3OT

This was far from the only exciting overtime game this week (and it wasn't even the longest -- Skidmore and Southern Vermont dueled for seven overtimes), but this was probably the best. Xavier was up 44-33 in the second half, but a 25-6 Terrier run left the Muskies down 58-50 with just 4:23 left on the clock, Chris Mack called a timeout and challenged his team. "I thought our kids in the huddle challenged one another, took the challenge from the coaching staff, and were able to put consecutive stops out on the defensive side of the floor to eventually get us back in the game," Mack said.

It worked. Xavier got the stops they needed, using a 12-4 push to force OT. After an exciting back and forth that featured missed free throws and clutch buckets by both teams, the Terriers found themselves up three on the final possession. Wofford fouled Xavier's Dante Jackson with 2.2 seconds left on the clock. Jackson made the first, missed the second, and this happened:

In the second overtime, Xavier jumped out to a four point lead, but a basket and a three gave Wofford the lead back. After trading buckets -- and after both teams made 1-2 free throws, the game was tied and Wofford had the ball. Cameron Rundles hit a jumper at the buzzer, but as you can see here, the shot came after the buzzer, forcing a third overtime:

In the third overtime, Wofford scored to tie it up with just over 40 seconds left, but a Tu Holloway floater with 9.7 seconds left gave Xavier the lead. They would get a stop and hit two free throws for the win.

The win was another escape by a Xavier team that has struggled so far thus season. The biggest issue right now appears to be depth. All of Xavier's starters logged at least 40 minutes and the Muskies only got three points from their bench. But, hey, a win is a win, and Xavier improves to 5-1 on the season.

The other good games:

  • BYU had a couple of exciting finishes. Against South Florida, the Cougars needed two overtimes before this buzzer beater by Noah Hartsock won the game:
  • BYU also took on St. Mary's in a game that had another terrific finish. It was this dagger with just 10.26 seconds (I have no idea why the clock went to hundreths of a second) from Jimmer Fredette that won it for the Cougars:
  • Butler led by as much as nine points in the second half against Evansville, but the Purple Aces made a 22-8 run to take a 58-53 lead with just over three minutes left. Butler rallied, tying the game on two Zach Hahn free throws with eight seconds left. In overtime, Denver Holmes hit 1 three with 17.7 seconds left before fouling Shelvin Mack on a three with seven seconds on the clock. Mack missed the second free throw, then missed the third intentionally. After an Evansville free throw, Mack missed a game-tying three pointer for a 71-68 loss.

  • Trey Thompkins tipped in a missed shot with 10.4 seconds left to force the first overtime, then Ben Hansbrough his 1-2 free throws with 4.7 seconds left to force the second overtime. In the second extra frame, Tim Abromaitis and Eric Atkins both hit big jumpers for an 89-83 win.

  • Texas State was down 31 points to Our Lady of the Lake with 8:31 left in the game, but used a 44-13 run to tie the game at 108. In the extra frame OLotL hit a three on their final possession for a 127-126 upset.

  • South Carolina needed a three with 20.7 seconds left to force over time, then a short jumper from Sam Muldrow to force a second OT. In the second extra frame, South Carolina took a two point lead with 4.4 seconds left and Western Kentucky was unable to get shot off and the Gamecocks won 87-85.

  • Boston College went up 66-62 with a minute left in the game, but after a BJ Holmes three and a free throw, the Eagles were up just 67-65. Dash Harris had a layup at the buzzer rim out.

  • Weber State was on opposite ends of great games this weekend. On Friday, after a Damian Lillard jumper gave them a 58-57 lead, Trent Lockett of Arizona State won the game with a jumper of his own the seven seconds left. On Saturday, we had the weirdest finish of the week. Lillard was called for a charge with 5.7 seconds down 81-80, but a Drake player spiked the ball. He was called for a technical, and Lillard hit both free throws for the win.

Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, UConn

This one was easy. Walker scored 29 points in the second half to lead the Huskies to a win over Wichita State, scored 30 in an upset of then No. 2 Michigan State, and went for 29 in UConn's win over then No. 9 Kentucky in the Maui finals. He also averaged 4.0 apg and 2.7 spg while shooting 28-52 (53.8%) from the floor, 26-28 (92.9%) from the line, and 8-19 (42.5%) from three. All in all, I think Walker had a pretty good week.

The All-they-were-good-too team:
  • G: Kevin Anderson, Richmond: Anderson averaged 18.0 ppg on the week, but it was his 28 point performance in the Spider's upset of Purdue on Saturday that earned him a spot on this list.
  • G: Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette led the Cougars to a 3-0 week, averaging 24.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, and 3.0 spg, which included a number of crucial baskets in two close BYU wins.
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse: Joseph shook off some early season struggles. He scored 22 points in a win over Michigan, then went for 16 second half points, finishing with 19, as the Orange beat Georgia Tech in the finals of the Legends Classic.
  • F: Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Kentucky went 2-1 in the Maui, but after their disastrous performance against UConn, some fans left unsatisfied. Jones, however, was terrific, averaging 23.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 3.3 bpg for the tournament.
  • C: Keith Wright, Harvard: Wright averaged 21.5 ppg, 9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.0 bpg in a 2-0 week. Harvard knocked off Colorado this week.
  • Bench: CJ McCollum, Lehigh; Chace Stanback, UNLV; Adrian Oliver, SJSU; Kenneth Faried, Morehead State; Jamie Skeen, VCU

Team of the Week: UNLV Runnin' Rebels

After last season ended, the talk of the MWC was BYU and Jimmer Fredette. Early in the season, the toast of the league has been San Diego State after the Aztecs went into Spokane and beat Gonzaga. And, of course, there was the obligatory "wait until New Mexico gets Drew Gordon" references. UNLV, on the other hand, started the season out without star Tre'Von Willis and was, for the most part, the afterthought when discussing four potential bids for the conference.

But UNLV has put those thoughts on hold. Heading into the 76 Classic in Anaheim coming off of a 68-65 win over Wisconsin, the Rebels had a ton of confidence, and that roll continued with their impressive showing out west. UNLV knocked off Tulsa, Murray State, and Virginia Tech en route to the tournament title. More impressive, they did it with Willis looking slow and out of shape. There are few teams in the country as fu to watch as UNLV. They play with essentially four guards (Chace Stanback gets the majority of his minutes as a power forward) and press for 40 minutes. At every spot on the perimeter, they have athletes that can shoot, penetrate, and pass the ball. This club understands what they want to do on each offensive possession. This could very well be the best team in the MWC, which is saying quite a bit.

The Atlantic 10 could be in trouble this season. We already noted Xavier's troubles early in the season. Temple, the only ranked team in the Old Spice Classic, ended up losing two of their three games, and not in impressive fashion either. They were dropped by Cal in a game the Owls looked largely uninterested in, then they proceeded to lose to a Texas A&M team that lost to Boston College who lost to Yale. Ok, that doesn't mean much, but a 1-2 performance in a tournament with a field that was largely mediocre is not a good sign for a team that was expected to be the best in the Atlantic 10.

And then there is Dayton. If we had an award for worst team of the week, that would go to the Flyers. Dayton lost to Cincinnati 68-34, and it wasn't even that close. At one point in the second half, the score was 56-19. This is the same Cincinnati team that will likely finish well done in the bottom half of the Big East. Charlotte, URI, and St. Louis have all looked unimpressive as well.

If there is any saving grace, its that Richmond went into Chicago and knocked off Purdue. But that same Richmond team also has a double overtime loss to Iona on their resume this season. So there's that.

While the A-10 struggles, the Big East looks like they may have been slept on this season. Seven teams in the conference either won or made the finals of their respective early season tournament:
  • UConn beat Wichita State and upset Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
  • Syracuse beat Michigan and Georgia Tech to win the Legends Classic.
  • Notre Dame notched wins over Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin to with the Old Spice Classic.
  • St. John's beat Arizona State in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.
  • Pitt won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by beating Maryland and Texas in NYC.
  • Georgetown won the Charleston Classic with a win over NC State in the finals.
  • Villanova lost to Tennessee in the finals of the Preseason NIT.
  • West Virginia beat Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off before losing to Minnesota in the finals.
Everyone know about Pitt and Villanova coming into the season. Everyone expected good things from Georgetown, Syracuse, and West Virginia. But with Louisville's impressive start, UConn and Notre Dame's big tournament wins, and Marquette, Seton Hall, and St. John's still waiting in the wings, the Big East looks like they will once again have a deep conference with quite a few tournament teams.

The Old Spice Classic managed to set records on back-to-back days for offensive futility. On Thursday, Wisconsin and Manhattan slogged their way to a 17-10 score at the half. The 27 points were the fewest ever scored in the first half since the advent of the shot clock. The previous record came on January 8th, 2003, when Ole Miss took a 15-13 lead into the break against South Carolina. It got worse the next night, as Notre Dame took a 21-5 lead into the half against Cal. The Bears, who came one point away from the record for the worse half in the shot-clock era (Savannah State scored four points in the second half against Kansas State), were 2-25 from the field and didn't score a point for the last 10:44 of the half. They had twice as many turnovers (11) as points (5), and more than four times as many fouls (9) as field goals (2).

Interestingly enough, its not even the D-I record. North Carolina Central took a 13-5 lead at the break against (guess who!) Savannah State last year. But since NCCU was still a D-I provisional last season, the record isn't officially the "record", which may actually be a positive. That game ended up going to overtime tied at 34, which may also set a record for free basketball that least the number of people wanted to see.

Other Notes from the week that was:
  • Butler is a long way from where they were last season. Evansville is a bottom feeder in the Missouri Valley, and they went into Hinkle Field house and beat the Bulldogs. That is not a good sign, and not having Ronald Nored is not an excuse.
  • I saw Harvard play earlier this year. They were thoroughly beaten by a thoroughly mediocre George Mason team. Colorado just lost to the Crimson by 16 points, dropping the "sleeper" Buffaloes to 2-3 on the season. The worst part? Harvard's best player (Kyle Casey) played 13 minutes off the bench as he tries to come back from a broken bone in his foot.
  • Duke really is that good. Like, seriously. (Post coming on this.)
  • The Pac-10 will get, at best, two teams into the NCAA Tournament. That I am sure of. Well, for now. Washington will be fine once they determine who their late-game scorer is. Arizona, and Derrick Williams, had an impressive showing against Kansas. But Cal? All that good will from beating New Mexico and Temple went out the window with their five point first half performance against Notre Dame and their 22 point whooping at the hands of Boston College. Arizona State? They were manhandled in the paint by Justin Brownlee of Saturday night in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout. And UCLA? I saw them twice this weekend in NYC. They don't have the defense or the point guard to be a tournament team.
Matchups of the Week:
  • The ACC/Big Ten Challenge (see here) headlines the week
  • 11/30 - 9:00 pm: Georgetown vs. Missouri
  • 12/1 - 8:05 pm: BYU @ Creighton
  • 12/1 - 10:30 pm: St. Mary's @ San Diego State
  • 12/2 - 7:00 pm: Arizona State @ Baylor
  • 12/2 - 9:00 pm: UCLA @ Kansas
  • 12/3 - 7:30 pm: St. Joe's @ Villanova
  • 12/3 - 11:00 pm: Kansas State @ Washington State
  • 12/4 - 12:00 pm: Utah State @ Georgetown
  • 12/4 - 12:30 pm: Kentucky @ UNC
  • 12/4 - 3:15 pm: Butler vs. Duke in New Jersey
  • 12/4 - 5:15 pm: NC State @ Syracuse
  • 12/4 - 5:15 pm: Illinois @ Gonzaga
  • 12/4 - 10:05 pm: Wichita State @ San Diego State
  • 12/5 - 2:00 pm: Richmond @ Arizona State
  • 12/5 - 8:00 pm: Temple @ Maryland

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Report: TCU accepts invite to the Big East

News straight from the "you have got to be kidding me department":

Texas Christian University has accepted an invitation to become an all-sports member to the Big East Conference, industry sources told FanHouse. The Horned Frogs will join the league beginning on July 1, 2012 and begin play in the Big East in the 2012-13 school year.

This is not good for us, us being college hoops fans.

I understand why the Big East needs TCU for football, and why TCU joining the Big East is good for them.

But now, not only will the Big East expand to 17 (seven-fucking-teen!!!!) teams for basketball, it further dilutes the bottom of the conference. We already have DePaul, Rutgers, Providence, and company down there and now the Big East is adding a program whose best season in the past decade was an 8-8 finish in the MWC. And that was their best by a long shot. TCU has barely been considered competitive in the conference.

And they are coming to the Big East?

Who will the next addition be? Memphis? Central Florida? Villanova moving their football program up?

Can the Big East even maintain a 17 team basketball league? It is already too big. Another team will just throw off the balance even more.

How long before the conference splits up into football schools and non-football schools? Can teams like Georgetown and Villanova (if their football program doesn't move up) still maintain nationally relevant basketball programs if that does happen?

If this report is true (and I believe it is, Brett McMurphy is a very good reporter -- UPDATE: Jeff Goodman and the NY Post are now confirming the report), its terrible for Big East basketball.

Like I said, Ugh.

I hate the NCAA more and more everyday.
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Monday Morning Dump

- I put together a preview of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for Beyond the Arc. Its the best ACC/Big Ten Challenge preview you will find on these here intrawebs, so I suggest you go read it.

- A few weeks back Jason King ran a Q-and-A with Frank Martin, and yesterday Yahoo! posted his Q-and-A with Tom Izzo. Good stuff, all around.

- Following the 76 Classic out in Anaheim, the general consensus seems to be that UNLV is a team flying under the radar. Couldn't agree more.

- Brandon Knight's struggles are a concern for Kentucky? Yes, because he's not a pure point guard ... yet.

- We knew that Al Nolen's foot was injured, but this is the first time we have seen a time attached to the injury: two weeks.

- The Big Ten Network is archiving some of Gus Johnson's best calls on their website. Slow down though, kiddies. Its no where near as awesome as it sounds.

- Jeremy Green collapsed yesterday after Stanford's overtime win against DePaul. It appears as if he will be fine.

- Terrence Jone shows why many believe Lorenzo Romar to be one of the few good guys left coaching college hoops.

- Derrick Nix changed his mind. After skipping the team's trip to Maui, the Spartan center has decided not to transfer out of the program.

- Rush the Court on why self-reported violations aren't always what they seem.

Its tough to see on this video, but Brady Morningstar threw a lob-pass that went in. I guess that works too:

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Preview

This post can also be found at Beyond the Arc and features my blogging brethren Mike Miller.

I've always loved the concept of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Two of the best conferences in the country teeing off against one another for bragging rights over a two day span. When it comes to college hoops in December, it doesn't get much better than that.

I've said this before, and I will say it again, but the ACC and the Big Ten have gotten this thing down to perfection. The games are played over the course of three days, with ten of those games taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Big XII and the PAC-10 tried a similar arrangement, but their "challenge" took place over the span of a month and couldn't be found on TV anywhere. Essentially, it was a bunch of relatively meaningless non-conference games.

The SEC and the Big East tried their hand at a conference competition. But they only hold four games, and usually half of the teams involved come from the bottom of their respective leagues.

If there is one thing you are going to take out of the 2010 its that there really are not all that many great matchups. A couple of the games will be downright unwatchable.

That said, we do get to see some good measuring stick games, if you will. Duke goes up against another top five opponent, Purdue gets a shot at bouncing back from a weekend loss, while UNC, NC State, and Florida State all get a chance to prove themselves, and the ACC, a worthy conference on a national stage.

Courtesy of your favorite college basketball blogsquad, here is a completely, unnecessarily in depth preview of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:

Monday, Nov. 29th

7:00 pm: Virginia (3-3) @ No. 17 Minnesota (6-0) (ESPN 2): UVa started the season out with a couple of promising victories in a row, but then proceeded to get drubbed by Stanford and Washington before losing to Wichita State in the 5th place game of the Maui Invitational. Minnesota, on the other hand, is playing as well as anyone in the country after rolling through the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. If the Cavs are going to have a chance, it will be because the Gophers may be without two starters on Monday. Al Nolen is battling a foot injury and there is no word yet on whether Devoe Joseph, who was suspended for the Puerto Rico trip, will be playing.

Rob's Prediction: Minnesota has a front line that is as big and talented as any in the Big Ten, if not the country. Mike Scott is a good player, but he doesn't have a shot when against the likes of Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson, and Colton Iverson. Minnesota 75, Virginia 49.

Mike's Prediction: Few teams are off to better starts than the Gophers, who’ve beaten UNC, West Virginia and mid-majors powers Wofford and Siena. There’s no reason to think Tubby Smith’s team stumbles at home against a re-building Cavalier squad, who can’t match the Gophers’ frontline of Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. Minnesota, 73, Virginia 57.

Tuesday, Nov. 30th

7:00 pm: Georgia Tech @ Northwestern (ESPN 2): The Yellowjackets come into this game looking like they've righted the ship after an embarrassing road loss to Kennesaw State. They knocked off UTEP in the Legends Classic before playing Syracuse, who is ranked tenth in the country but has been struggling a bit themselves, to an 80-76 loss. Brian Oliver and Iman Shumpert form a talented, athletic back court for Paul Hewitt. Having said that, the Jackets aren't exactly the best defensive team in the country, and patient defense is what is going to beat Northwestern. The Wildcats, led by John Shurna, Drew Crawford, and Michael Thompson, play an efficient, Princeton-style offense. While NU is undefeated coming in, their only credible win is against Creighton.

Rob's Prediction: I am envisioning endless back door cuts and down screens for threes. Tech is talented, but they aren't disciplined. Northwestern 71, Georgia Tech 65.

Mike's Prediction: The Wildcats feature one of the nation’s most efficient scoring offenses, while Tech has a fairly solid defense. The key words being “fairly solid.” Northwestern hasn’t lost in this event since 2008, and isn’t about to start. Northwestern 66, Georgia Tech 58.

7:00 pm: Iowa @ Wake Forest (ESPN U): Yuck, yuck, and more yuck. Wake Forest has been abysmal early in the season, losing to Stetson, Winthrop, and VCU by 21. And they are now playing without Melvin Tabb or Tony Chennault. Iowa hasn't been much better, as they have lost to South Dakota State, Xavier, and Long Beach State. You may be glad you don't have ESPNU for this one.

Rob's Prediction: That I won't be watching a second of this game. I have a feeling this will come to fruition. Iowa 75, Wake Forest 71.

Mike's Prediction: The winner? Eh. I know who’ll lose – anyone who watches. It’s fitting that that ACC’s worst team plays host to the Big Ten’s cellar dweller from the last few years. Now we’ll learn just who really stinks. Guess I’ll take the Hawkeyes. Wake’s already lost to Stetson, VCU and Winthrop at home. Iowa’s about that good. One redeeming factor? Both teams like to run when possible, so we’ll avoid a slugfest. Iowa 70, Wake Forest 67.

7:30 pm: No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) @ Florida State (5-1) (ESPN): The Seminoles have arguably the best defensive player in the country on their roster in Chris Singleton. The problem? Singleton can't score, and neither can the rest of the Seminoles roster. The Florida team that Ohio State put 93 points on in an 18 point win? The Seminoles managed 51 points and 14 turnovers. The Buckeyes look like one of the few teams that will be dominant throughout the season. Jared Sullinger is a load on the block, and he may not even be their best front court scorer. Fellow freshman DeShaun Thomas has really been playing well early in the season. With the perimeter talent that the Buckeyes boast, and if Aaron Craft is really as good at the point as he has seemed early in the season, this will be a tough matchup for the 'Noles to win.

Rob's Prediction: Ohio State is too good this year. They have too much inside, they have too much talent on their perimeter, and they actually seem to have a point guard this year. Florida State is really good defensively, but if Singleton is the guy that shot 2-12 against Florida and not the guy that was averaging 17.4 ppg before that, the Noles will be in trouble. Ohio State 70, Florida State 58.

Mike's Prediction: Few teams feature a more intimidating defense than FSU, which has the athletes to pressure Ohio State’s deep, balanced roster and make life miserable for freshman center Jared Sullinger. But scoring’s an issue, as shown during Sunday’s 55-51 loss to Florida. Then there’s this nugget: The Buckeyes drilled Florida on Nov. 16. Ohio State 69, Florida State 61

9:00 pm: Michigan (3-2) @ Clemson (5-1) (ESPN 2): We all predicted that it would be a long season in Ann Arbor, and after Michigan's 0-2 performance at the Legends Classic, it looks like that prediction may come to fruition. The Wolverines have not developed the way most John Beilein teams do and while they have a talented scorer in Darius Morris, its about time that Morris began passing the ball; he's had a bad habit of dribbling the air out of it. Clemson, on the other hand, is a team that looks like it has some promise. They have an underrated back court in Demontez Stitt, Andre Young, Tanner Smith, and Noel Johnson to go with the expected big, athletic front court players. This Tigers beat Wofford and Seton Hall, but their most impressive performance of the season may actually be their one point loss to Old Dominion.

Rob's Prediction: While its difficult to put a ton of faith into a team with a first year head coach like Clemson and Brad Brownell, its even more difficult to bet on this Michigan team. Clemson 75, Michigan 63.

Mike's Prediction: The Tigers’ lone loss is to Old Dominion, a far tougher foe than the in-transition Wolverines, who are coming off back-to-back losses. Make it three in a row. Clemson 70, Michigan 64.

9:30 pm: No. 25 UNC (4-2) @ No. 19 Illinois (6-1) (ESPN): Illinois has flown a bit under the radar this season. They did lose to Pitt in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but they also beat a better-than-advertised Maryland team. Their issue isn't on the perimeter, where Demetri McCamey heads up a talented group. Its in the front court, as Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis don't exactly provide a ton of muscle. Good thing for the Illini that UNC doesn't have much beef up front either. For the Heels, this is going to be another chance to prove their mettle. UNC once again started the season off poorly, with losses to Vanderbilt and Minnesota in Puerto Rico. Is Harrison Barnes as good as he was supposed to be? Can Larry Drew or Kendall Marshall step up and be a point guard?

Rob's Prediction: As much as I want to see this UNC team succeed, I just don't think they have it in them -- yet. Larry Drew's line against the College of Charleston on Sunday was 1 point, 1 assists, 1 turnover, and 27 minutes. Illinois 79, UNC 70.

Mike's Prediction: The Tar Heels avoided a .500 record thanks to a late run against College of Charleston Sunday night. They won’t have any such wiggle room against the Illini, who’ll be able to out-run and out-gun UNC. Two things to watch: Illinois should make UNC’s guard uneasy (the Orange Krush should be a big help) because the Heels have turnover issues; and see if Carolina can force Illinois into settling for taking jump shots. The Illini’s frontcourt is soft and if the shots aren’t falling, it could stay close. Illinois 79, North Carolina 68.

Wednesday, Dec. 1st

7:15 pm: Indiana (6-0) @ Boston College (4-2) (ESPN U): Indiana hasn't played anyone this season, but the Hoosiers are 6-0, which is a good sign considering the kind of issues this program has had recently. Christian Watford has looked impressive on the block early on and while Mo Creek still isn't quite 100% coming off of a knee injury last season, Verdell Jones has upped his scoring (as well as his turnovers) in Creek's absence. BC has been all over the map early in the season. They lost to Yale, then bounced back to beat both Texas A&M and Cal -- who both beat Temple -- in the Old Spice Classic. Reggie Jackson is one of the best guards in the ACC, and when he has production around him, the Eagles look like they can be pretty good.

Rob's Prediction: This is one of the tougher games to pick. I actually kind of like both teams, as weird as that sounds. I think Indiana wins this, however. Christian Watford is a load on the block, and unlike Reggie Jackson, he has a supporting cast. Indiana 71, Boston College 68.

Mike's Predicition: The Hoosiers’ perfect start came against cupcakes. That’s not B.C., which is taking care of the ball and making a ton of its twos. Still, the Eagles are perplexing. They’ve beaten Texas A&M and Cal, but lost to Yale. At home. Indiana would be smart to feed Christian Watford, stretch the defense and hope for a fairly fast game. Indiana 78, Boston College, 76.

7:15 pm: NC State (4-1) @ Wisconsin (4-2) (ESPN 2): The obvious question mark in this game is going to be Tracy Smith, who injured his knee in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. If Smith is ready to go, the Wolfpack might have a shot in this game. He provides a legitimate low post scoring threat, and is one of the only guys on Sidney Lowe's roster that can create a shot for himself. If not, its tough to see NC State having the patience and the discipline to score on a very good defensive team like Wisconsin. For the Badgers, we all know about Jon Leuer, but make sure you keep an eye on their back court of Jordan Taylor and John Gasser.

Rob's Prediction: NC State might actually have a shot of knocking off Wisconsin in the Kohl Center if they had Tracy Smith. The Badgers have been beatable this year, but the Wolfpack, coming in with a bunch of freshmen and unproven upperclassmen, don't have a shot without their best player. Wisconsin 59, NC State 49.

Mike's Prediction: There’s only one thing to know about this game: The Badgers are at home, where they win more than 90 percent of their games under coach Bo Ryan, including a victory against Duke last season. Bo don’t lose at home. (Also, it helps to have Jon Leuer ‘cause he’s pretty good.) Wisconsin 65, N.C. State 60.

7:30 pm: No. 8 Purdue (5-1) @ Virginia Tech (4-1): This game had a lot more intrigue when the schedule for the Challenge was announced. Now, with Robbie Hummel out for the season, Virginia Tech looking very average, and the Boilermakers coming off of a loss to a Richmond team that was beaten by Iona, this looks like a potential 8-9 matchup instead of a potential Sweet 16 matchup. This game will be won by the team that can stop their opponent's star. Kevin Anderson lit Purdue up for 28 points in the Spider's win, and Virginia Tech has a better lead guard in Malcolm Delaney. Similarly, Tech lacks muscle inside, and Purdue has one of the best big men in the country in JaJuan Johnson.

Rob's Prediction: The Boilermakers may not have a third scoring option right now, but that doesn't change what they can do defensively. Virginia Tech has looked far from impressive on the offensive end of the floor this season. I can't see them figuring out the Boilermakers. Purdue 57, Virginia Tech 53.

Mike's Prediction: Here’s one for you defense fans. Two of the nation’s most efficient – and physical – defenses meet in Blacksburg. The Boilermakers are coming off their first loss (a 65-54 setback to Richmond), while the Hokies struggled against UNLV on Sunday. I don’t expect this to be pretty. First one to 62 wins. Virginia Tech 62, Purdue 61.

9:15 pm: Maryland @ Penn State (ESPN 2): The Terps may be coming off of an 0-2 trip to NYC for the Coaches vs. Cancer, but they looked much better than that against Pitt and Illinois. Jordan Williams is a hoss on the block, Cliff Tucker is emerging as a star on the perimeter, and the law of averages says that one of Terrell Stoglin, Pe'Shon Howard, and Adrian Bowie will play well. For Penn State, it is a one man show with Talor Battle. If his teammates step up around him -- Jeff Brooks, David Jackson, and company -- the Nittany Lions have a shot at this thing. The key for PSU will be handling Maryland's pressure, which has been effective against some good competition this season.

Rob's Prediction: Mike will tell you that Penn State has the best player in this game, and I will call his bluff and reraise all-in with Jordan Williams. The Maryland big man is a beast in the paint, rebounding the ball with the best of them and showing a solid repertoire of post moves. Maryland 81, Penn State 68.

Mike's Prediction: The Nittany Lions have the matchup’s best player (Talor Battle) and the home court edge. But I like the Terps, who’ve already hung with Pitt and Illinois. Plus, Maryland's usually good for a win in this event. Not that it matters for the ACC, who;ll lose the overall "title" for the second straight year. Maryland 75, Penn State 71.

9:30 pm: No. 2 Michigan State @ No. 1 Duke: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Main Event. (Read that line as if it was said by Michael Buffer.) Duke, as well all know by now, is loaded. They have talent up and down their lineup, enough that their second five could probably win a handful of games in the ACC. The Spartans were considered by many to be the second best team in the country during the preseason, but after the typical Michigan State slow start -- struggling against South Carolina and Chaminade before losing to UConn -- many have questioned whether or not the Spartans were overrated coming into the season. In my opinion? No, they were not. Michigan State made uncharacteristic mistakes down the stretch in their loss to UConn and Chaminade beat Oklahoma. Kalin Lucas looked terrific against Washington, Draymond Green is Draymond Green, and Durrell Summers was impressive in shaking off a bad night to knock down two huge threes late in a win over Washington. Regardless, this game should be expected to live up to its billing.

Rob's Prediction: Until further notice, I'm picking Duke to win every game they play. Simple as that. Duke 84, Michigan State 79.

Mike's Prediction: I fawned over the Devils’ performance against K-State last week (yes, I was one of those guys), and with good reason. They shot well, forced a ton of turnovers, got to the boards and Kyrie Irving was unguardable. That last part’s key, given how UConn’s Kemba Walker sliced and diced the Spartans at the Maui Invitational. Michigan State will likely fare better against the freshman Irving, but the Devils are in midseason form and MSU isn’t. Duke 78, Michigan State 68.
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Stanford's Jeremy Green collapsed after a win over DePaul

Stanford's leading scorer Jeremy Green collapsed after the Cardinal's overtime win against DePaul in the 76 Classic.

He apparently collapsed near a doorway exiting the arena floor and lay on the ground as Stanford coaches and medical staff hovered around him. He was taken to a hospital.

Green, who played 39 minutes this afternoon, has apparently been fighting illness all week. One writer for Rush The Court who is covering the games in Anaheim tweeted that the Stanford SID said that Green fainted.

We will update this post as news comes in.

UPDATE: It looks like Green is going to be fine. He reportedly was suffering from a stomach virus all week and could not keep any food down.

"As Jeremy was leaving the court following the game, he began to experience some dizziness and stomach pain due to exhaustion," Stanford's sports information department said in statement. "After receiving treatment at the arena, Jeremy was then transported to a local hospital for further treatment. Jeremy is currently in stable condition, and expected to travel back with the team later tonight."

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Weekend Dump

- I've been waiting for a "UConn isn't as good as we think they are" post. Nick Fasulo explains why. (My favorite line? "Walker is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, and the Huskies are the 2010 Wolverines football team." That's what we call "having some brass, son".) TheUConnBlog put together an impressive counter argument, however. BLOGGER FIGHT!!

- Luke Winn learned three things from the N.I.T. Season Tip-Off and they all involve the Tennessee victory over Villanova.

- Mike DeCourcy explains why despite the hot start, Iowa State and new coach Fred Hoiberg still have a lot of work to do

- Gary Parrish wrote a terrific article on Wisconsin freshman Josh Gasser, who has gone from walk-on to starter in just a few short months

- Washington emerged from Maui with a 1-2 record and a handful of problems. Mike Miller explains why The Huskies are lacking a big-time shooter

- Butler's Ronald Nored had titanium rods inserted into his legs to avoid reoccurring stress fracture. The new "bionic man" is pain-free and ready to roll

- Duquesne donates shoes yet self-reports NCAA violations

- This time last year, UCLA was in the midst of a season-ending meltdown that saw them lose to Cal State-Fullerton at home and go winless in the Anaheim 76 Classic. The Bruins have improved since then and can credit it to "addition from subtraction"

- A potential NBA lockout could keep some college stars in school longer than they want. You have to imagine that a school like Kentucky would be most affected by this

- A breakdown of the potential NBA prospects who took part in the Maui Invitational

- Let's give some dap to the Matadors of Cal-State Northridge. They defeated DePaul by 22 points, thanks to a career day from forward Lenny Daniel

- Notre Dame defeated California 57-44 to advance to the Old Spice Classic title game against Wisconsin. Notre Dame held Cal to just 5 points in the first half. Yeah, you read correctly. Five points. That's awful. It may just be the worst half ever in the shot-clock era

- Duke-bound Austin Rivers scored 46 points on Friday night and surpassed the 2,000-point milestone

- Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell will not get surgery as of now to repair a broken wrist. Hazell, the Pirates leading scorer, injured his wrist on November 19th in Seton Hall's 83-78 victory over Alabama in the Paradise Jam tournament

- A video analysis of Butler's missed free throw that cost them the game against Evansville

- After dropping an ugly game to Cal, Temple rebounded with a solid victory over Georgia

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

POSTERIZED: LeBryan Nash decapitates Justin Bieber

I'm not huge into recruiting. I follow it, and I'll write about it when someone makes a decision on a school, but I am not one of those folks that gets excited about a 15 year old cutting his list to seven schools.

That said, I have a ton of respect for the guys on the recruiting beat. Its why I follow them on twitter. They work hard and are a fountain of information when it comes to the skills that an incoming freshmen possesses.

Last night around midnight, tweets like these, the first two from Eric Bossi and the third from Evan Daniels, started to pop up on my timeline:

Going to be damn near impossible to top what LB Nash just did to a dude for dunk of the year. Plus one!!!! #thanksgivinghoopfest.
"I was about to windmill it and he got in my way so he had to pay the price." LB Nash on his big dunk.
LEBRYAN NASH! WOW. Just jumped over a dude for a one handed slam. WOW!!!!!!!
Makes you want to see video, right? Here:

And off course, since it is a big high school event, you know there are going to be plenty of cameras in place. That wasn't even the best view:

I blame youtube and the proliferation of dunks like that for single handedly ruining our nation's ability to play help side defense. After watching that video, would you try to draw a charge on LeBryan Nash?

Was this as good as the rest of the dunks for 2010-2011?

POSTERIZED - Rodney Williams, Minnesota
POSTERIZED - Travis Leslie, Georgia
POSTERIZED - Terrence Jones, Kentucky
POSTERIZED - Marcus Jordan, Central Florida
POSTERIZED - Lorenzo Brown, NC State
POSTERIZED - Tai Wesley, Utah State
POSTERIZED - Trent Lockett, Arizona State, and Derrick Williams, Arizona
POSTERIZED - Brandon Paul, Illinois
POSTERIZED - Jordan Hamilton, Texas
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Scotty Hopson needs to be the star for Tennessee

NEW YORK - With all due respect to Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson was the most important recruit that Bruce Pearl has landed at Tennessee.

Hopson was a top 10 player in the class of 2008. He was a McDonald's all-american. He grew up in Kentucky. Every coach in the country wants a player like that.

And he ended up with Bruce Pearl in Knoxville, an up-and-coming coach at an up-and-coming program. Hopson's signing legitimized Pearl's ability as a recruiter. We had already known his ability as a coach, but being a great coach will only get you so far. Great coaches that coach the most talented players are the ones that hang banners.

On Friday night, Tennessee hung their first banner under Bruce Pearl. The Volunteers used a suffocating defense and a balanced offensive attack to knock off Villanova 78-68 in the finals of the Preseason NIT.

The win was a team effort, but the star was none other than Hopson.

The 6'6" wing finished with 18 points for the second straight night, adding three assists and playing a huge role in the struggles of the vaunted Villanova back court.

"I thought Scotty did a great job on Corey Fisher," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said after the game. "Scotty's length bothered Corey. And Scotty stayed down and Corey wasn't getting some of the shots he had been getting, he wasn't getting to the rim."

This came a night after Hopson posted a double-double, going for 18 points and 11 rebounds, in a 77-72 win over VCU.

It was enough to earn Hopson Most Outstanding Player for the tournament.

Its been a long time coming for Hopson. The last two seasons, the uber-talented junior has been forced to play what amounted to a supporting role. As a freshman, it was Tyler Smith's team. As a sophomore, Smith's midseason dismissal provided an avenue for Wayne Chism to take over. As a result, Hopson is now the only member of the class of 2008's top ten recruits still in college.

"I haven't had one of these since high school," Hopson said of the MVP award. "I'm definitely feeling good right now. But I have to put this behind me, go on to the next day, and play basketball."

The knock on Hopson throughout his career has almost always been his passiveness. He was too willing to let the game come to him, too willing to settle for a jumper, too willing to allow others to take the big shot or carry the team through a tough stretch. He had his moments, but the general consensus coming into the season was that Hopson had lottery pick potential but the aggressiveness of a three point specialist.

More than anything, this week helped to change that belief.

Its obvious in talking to him that Hopson has had it drilled into his head that this is his team, that he needs to be a leader. And its starting to show through on the court.

"That is what they expect from me," Hopson said of his teammates after the game. "Coach wants me to attack. I can't be nonchalant. Stay in attack mode all the time. I had a couple of opportunities and I wanted to take advantage and be aggressive."

"That's my game," he continued. "I'm a slasher. I get to the basket. I just have the ability to shoot it."

Against VCU, the Volunteers were getting killed on the glass in the first half. So Hopson attacked the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds. It was his aggressiveness off the dribble and three straight buckets to open the second half that allowed Tennessee to build a double digit cushion. It was his driving layup with five minutes left that countered a VCU run that had cut the Vol lead to two points.

On Friday, Tennessee had built their lead to as much as ten in the first half, but an early second half run by Villanova gave the Wildcats the lead back. Hopson, who was once again quiet in the first half, was the guy that gave the Volunteers to momentum back. He drove to the rim and scored – not settling for jumpers like he did in the first half – or penetrated and found an open teammate when he drew an extra defender.

He did this while playing aggressive, fundamental defense in both games.

"Last night, [Scotty] had 11 rebounds," Pearl said. "Tonight he didn't rebound but he had three assists and one turnover and he played great defense against one of the best guards in the country."

The biggest question mark for Tennessee coming into the season was whether or not Hopson could become a go to scorer. Size was never an issue – between Brian Williams, Tobias Harris, and John Fields, Tennessee has as good of a front line as you will find in the SEC.

Melvin Goins has proved to be a terrific defensive point guard and a solid senior facilitator while Trae Golden has provided a nice change of pace as a player maker.

On the perimeter, Cameron Tatum, Skyler McBee, and Jordan McRae provide a nice blend of youth, experience, athleticism, and shooting. On the defensive end, this team has held every opponent to less than 36% shooting.

And while four starters from last season are gone, there is still plenty of experience on this roster.

"We're not a young team, we're a new team," Pearl said. "I've learned as much about this team in the last five games as any. Four starters. I have some senior guys that were back ups."

"Those guys are all starters now."

The only thing that was missing was a go to scorer, a guy that Bruce Pearl can rely upon when his team desperately needs a bucket. A guy that is willing and capable of scoring when isolated.

Right now, it looks like Hopson is that guy.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Corey Fisher has to want to be the guy to replace Scottie Reynolds

NEW YORK - For the past four years, the name associated with Villanova basketball was Scottie Reynolds.

Starting with a 40 point outburst at UConn as a freshman, continuing with a coast-to-coast game winner to send the Wildcats to the Final Four as junior, and culminating with an all-american season as a senior, Reynolds will go down as one of the best guards in the history of one of a program known for producing back court players.

I don't envy the guy that has to replace a Scottie Reynolds.

For Villanova, that guy is expected to be Corey Fisher.

"He's always concerned about everybody else, wanting to keep everybody happy," Jay Wright told John Branch of the New York Times on Wednesday. "But he's got the ability to dominate. So finally this year he's starting to understand that's what he's got to do for this team."

Part of dominating, part of being a leader, is putting your team on your back when need be. If you want an example, all you have to do is look at Scotty Hopson. In both games this week -- including Tennessee's 78-68 win tonight -- Hopson started to take over down the stretch. He attacked the rim, drew fouls, and was as influential as anyone on this team in getting the Vol's the Preseason NIT title. Its why he was named the tournament's MVP.

And there is no question that is what Wright and company want out of Fisher.

"We chart in practice now, the first time we've done this, how many shots he takes in relation to his team's shots, every day," Wright said in that same New York Times article. "Whatever drills we did that day, if there were 40 shot attempts by his team in the 5-on-5 competition, we want him to have 18 or 20 of them. We want him to have close to half, in practice. I know in a game people aren't going to make it that easy on him."

After tonight, the question many will be asking is if Fisher is up for the challenge.

Because, as Wright said, teams like Tennessee are not going to make it easy for him.

Fisher struggled in the first half tonight. He shot 1-6 from the floor. He turned the ball over four times -- he had four turnovers all season coming into tonight. He was dribbling into traffic and forcing it up against Tennessee's stable of big men. Simply put, he wasn't himself. In all reality, he hasn't been himself all season. Coming into tonight, Fisher was averaging 18.4 ppg, but he was shooting just 39% from the floor and 24% from three. After tonight, those numbers fall to 15.8 ppg, 35% FG, and 21% 3PT.

Much of tonight's performance was due to the defense he faced against Tennessee.

Melvin Goins is a terrific defender. He's listed at 5'11", 180 lb but he looks closer to 210 lb. He's a brick wall with long arms, broad shoulders, and the athleticism that would have made him a D-I cornerback had be played football. Scotty Hopson is 6'6" with long arms which makes it difficult for a smaller guard to shoot over him. He's also quick enough that he can stay in front of some of the best guards in the country.

Those were the two players that defended Fisher all night.

"I just think it was one of those night," Wright told reporters after the game. "On ball screens the bigs help. [Brian] Williams can get out there and move his feet."

"They're a very good defensive team. They didn't give Fish many 1-on-1 opportunities."

Fisher wasn't alone. Maalik Wayns, Villanova's touted sophomore point guard, was just 3-11 for the game, shooting 0-4 from three and turning the ball over five times. Corey Stokes went just 3-9 from the floor. All three -- Fisher, Wayns, and Stokes -- were in foul trouble throughout the game and eventually fouled out.

But this is supposed to be Fisher's team.

When the rest of his team is struggling, he is supposed to be the guy that rises to the occasion and pulls them out of a slump. He's supposed to be the guy that carries them to a win in a game they get outplayed. He's supposed their leader.

What was more worrisome for me than Fisher's struggles was that he seemed to shy away from the ball late in the game.

Everyone has an off-night. Its part of being human. But when the best are having an off night shooting the ball, they attack the basket and get to the foul line. They draw a defender and find an open teammate. They do something else -- anything else -- to try and carry their team to a win.

Fisher disappeared in the second half.

He took just four shots from the field, missing all four. He didn't get to the foul line. He had just one assist, compared to two turnovers.

The best rise to a challenge.

Fisher seemed to shy away tonight.

There will be plenty of challenges of this caliber for Fisher come Big East play. If Villanova wants to be a team that competes for the Big East title and the Final Four, they are going to need Fisher to want to be the leader.

Because he's talented enough to do it.
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