Mountain West Notebook

by - Published December 15, 2003 in Conference Notes



Mountain West Notebook

by Bob Thurman

The Cougars Are Climbing

With two blowout victories this past week, BYU is quickly becoming the most dangerous team in the Mountain West Conference. Buoyed by their big win over Oklahoma State the week before, the Cougs’ confidence shone through in their 92-56 manhandling of Western Oregon. BYU had five players in double figures, shot 54% from the field, and out-rebounded the Wolves 43-21.

On Saturday, BYU hosted a talented yet underachieving USC team. Both teams shot the ball extremely well in the first half, but the Cougars were able to hit 8 of 14 three pointers to take a double digit lead into halftime. In the second half, Brigham Young’s defense shut down the Trojans offense, and cruised to an 85-61 victory. USC committed 19 turnovers, shot only 25% from beyond the arc, and only 29% from the line. Meanwhile, the Cougs shot 53% from the field, including 12-24 from three. Center Rafael Araujo dominated the Trojan frontline by scoring 28 points and hauling down 11 rebounds. It was the big Brazilian’s fifth consecutive double-double. Swingman Mark Bigelow showed he’s out of his early season shooting slump by tossing in 17 points, while Luiz Lemes added 8 assists and 8 rebounds.

BYU’s early season success can be attributed to its pair of Brazilian imports. Last season, opposing teams could count on center Rafael Araujo spending plenty of time on the bench due to fatigue or foul trouble. This season, he’s cut down on his fouls and is in his best shape ever, allowing him to tear up opposing frontlines. He’s doing such a good job at it, that Coach Cleveland has basically been starting four guards with the big guy the past few games.

Araujo’s improvement can also be attributed to the solid play of senior point guard Luiz Lemes. Buried on the bench last season, the fellow Brazilian has taken over the point duties and has brought stability to the Cougars’ backcourt. Despite his limited scoring ability, Lemes is dishing out over 5 assists per game along with 3.5 rebounds per game. His emergence, along with former junior college All-American Mike Hall and sweet shooting freshman Mike Rose, has turned a questionable backcourt into one of the league’s best.

The Rams Are Falling

After a nice run last March, Colorado State was a popular pick to be in the upper echelon of the conference this season. Yet the Rams have struggled early on, winning only half of their first eight games. Coach Layer improved the non-conference schedule this season, including games at Auburn and Oklahoma State. However, both games turned into 30+ point blowouts that may have killed the Rams’ confidence. It was evident by their two disappointing losses this past week.

In-state rival Colorado rode into Fort Collins after whipping Cal a few days earlier. CSU played well most of the first half, until the Buffs went on a 9-0 run to take a 42-38 lead at the half. Colorado extended their run to open the second half by scoring the first 7 points. The Rams never were able to cut it closer than the final 84-78 tally. Matt Williams led the Rams with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

After a good performance at home, the wheels fell off in the state capital on Saturday. CSU played a solid first half against the University of Denver, charging to a 41-32 halftime lead. Things turned ugly in the second half, as Denver went on a 17-0 run to take the lead, one which it never relinquished. The Pioneers doubled up the Rams 52-26 in the second half, cruising to an 84-67 upset victory.

Colorado State is struggling to adapt after steady seniors Brian Greene and Andy Birley graduated. The young Rams have been extremely sloppy with the ball, committing an astonishing 20 turnovers per game. Center Matt Nelson has not played up to his potential, while the backcourt has been inconsistent at best; erratic at worst. With their only significant win this season being at Drake, Coach Layer has to wonder what needs to be done to get the magic back. The weeks ahead may answer his question, as CSU travels to Stetson and South Florida, before hosting #17 Purdue.

Mascot Update

The students and alumni of San Diego State University overwhelmingly approved the proposed Aztec Warrior as their new mascot this past week. It’s unknown when Monty’s heir will make his debut, but the hope is to have him roaming the stands sometime in the spring semester of 2004.

Inside the Mountain West

The league had a quiet week for the most part, but Wyoming squeezed in two games against western rivals. Earlier in the week, the Cowboys took on an inconsistent Cal squad, one that has beaten BYU but lost to UNLV. Wyoming hung tough the first half, before the Bears blew it open in the second half as they won going away, 80-55. Cal’s fine freshmen trio of Powe, Kately and Ubaka combined for half of their points.

Saturday, the Pokes went to Casper to play a tough Montana State team in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Wyoming Shootout. Senior guard David Adams filled in for injured Dion Sherrell and poured in 20 points to lead Wyoming to a 63-55 victory. Sherrell’s status is still uncertain.

The rest of the teams only had one game apiece this week. The biggest amongst them was UNLV hitting the road to face #12 Stanford. The Cardinal dominated inside against the smaller Rebels, out-rebounding them 36-16. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but Stanford seemed to out-hustle Vegas to every loose ball in their 86-71 victory.

It was San Diego State’s turn to try to defeat Bobby Knight and his Texas Tech squad, something two other MWC teams have failed to do. The Aztecs’ star freshman Brandon Heath kept the game close, pouring in 30 points. However, as in previous games, the Red Raiders kept their cool at the end, pulling away for a 78-68 win. Andre Emmett led five players in double figures with 19 points.

The other three MWC teams had better success in their only outings of the week. Utah had no problem with Savannah State, beating them 87-39. New Mexico edged out Sacramento State, 77-63. Javin Tindall and Dave Chiotti combined for 46 points in the win. Lastly, Air Force held off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 56-53. The win pulled the Falcons back above .500 for the season to 3-2.

     

Big 12 Notebook

by - Published December 15, 2003 in Columns



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

Ah, the holiday season. For the Big 12 that means big wins, bad losses and … phone recordings from jail? Gather ’round the tree, and I’ll tell you all about it.

Clemons saga approaches climax

Things keep getting more and more complicated for No. 3 Missouri in the Ricky Clemons story. Late Tuesday evening, the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch released information from tapes of Clemons’ phone conversations while he was in Boone County Jail this summer. The former Tiger point guard was serving time for second-degree assault and false imprisonment after choking his girlfriend in January.

The tapes revealed Clemons telling the wives of the university president and associate athletic director that assistant coaches had given him money and clothing while he played last year. He also hinted that Tiger stars Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson received cash. These stories are similar to those his ex-girlfriend told the press in August, but they differ on several key points. For instance, Clemons never mentions any illegal academic aid like his ex-girlfriend did. Clemons also has lied about several things according to the Post-Dispatch, including that he said his mother was dead (she lives in North Carolina) and that he saw a moose on an Alaskan trip he never took.

Paulding and Johnson issued denials to Clemons’ allegations earlier this week, and coach Quin Snyder said he could not comment. The university president, Elson Floyd, was embarrassed by his wife’s involvement but decided not to resign his position Thursday.

Meanwhile, several sources have attempted to determine when the NCAA might be done with its investigation in to Missouri’s program.

As for the verdict? It could come anytime from later this week to the middle of January. A big factor in Mizzou’s future will be if the NCAA decides Clemons, who has publicly lied about several things, is a credible source.

A not-so-rebuilding year for the Sooners

When Oklahoma stars Hollis Price, Quannas White and Ebi Ere graduated last year, it appeared the quality of OU basketball might be down. Not so fast.

The No. 10 Sooners handed Purdue its first loss of the season Thursday and backed it up with an 83-56 thrashing of Prairie View on Saturday. Oklahoma has ran its record to 7-0 and has been led by a stellar defense, which held the Boilermakers to 30 percent shooting, and 5-6 freshman point guard Drew Lavender, who beat Purdue with a driving shot with 1.1 seconds remaining. He averaged 13.5 points in OU’s two wins this week.

Self will meet with Graves and family about suspension

KU coach Bill Self will meet with senior center Jeff Graves and his family today to determine Graves’ future with the Jayhawk program.

“We’ll sit down and we’ll get a game plan together and if he can live by the game plan, then that’s great,” Self said in a post-game news conference. “If he can’t, we’ll move on.”

Self suspended Graves, who had a double-double in last year’s national championship game, last week for “irresponsible behavior” after the senior had continually been late to practices and meetings. Graves is averaging about four points and four rebounds a game this season, but he adds inside depth and is a solid complement to Wayne Simien for No. 7 Kansas.

Things get ugly in Waco and College Station

Baylor and Texas A&M lost a combined three games this week to in-state rivals in games they had no business losing. The Bears, a shorthanded team that had a somewhat promising start, crashed to Earth this week with close losses to North Texas and Texas-San Antonio.

The Aggies, meanwhile, suffered a third straight loss, this time to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 82-80. If these two teams can’t establish dominance over small schools in their own state, they’ll get blown out every night in Big 12 play.

Inside the Big 12

Baylor Bears (3-4)

Maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on the poor Bears, a sad bunch that held try-outs to complete its roster. Coach Scott Drew is being pretty tough on them, though.

During Saturday’s 53-45 loss to Texas-San Antonio, Drew pulled his entire line-up for walk-ons early in the second half after Baylor fell behind 35-19 to a team that lost to Alaska-Fairbanks. Baylor responded by cutting the lead to 44-42, but they couldn’t finish the job.

Earlier in the week, Baylor fought back from a 14-point deficit to lead 52-50, but gave it up again to lose to North Texas 73-69. Terrance Thomas had 22 and R.T. Guinn 17 in a losing effort for Baylor. They had better get used to the “losing effort” clause in Waco.

This week: Tuesday vs. Northeastern Louisiana, Friday vs. BYU-Hawaii, Saturday at San Jose State

Colorado Buffaloes (5-1)

The Buffs won their fourth straight game in Ft. Collins Wednesday night with an 84-78 win against Colorado State. CSU got out to a quick 18-9 lead, but Colorado fought back to lead 42-38 at halftime and used an 11-4 run to go up 53-42 early in the second. The Rams threatened down the stretch but CU hung on. David Harrison had 19 points and 8 rebounds and Michel Morandais added 17 to overcome 26 points from CSU’s Matt Williams.

This week: Friday vs. Tennessee State

Iowa State Cyclones (5-0)

Surprise, surprise! The Cyclones are now one of only two unbeaten teams in the Big 12 after their 76-58 win against Liberty. Freshman Curtis Stinson had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead ISU. Liberty pulled within 44-38 with 11:49 left, but the Cyclones went on a16-0 run to put the game away. Stinson, Jared Homan and Jake Sullivan each scored 4 during the run.

Yes, Iowa State is still undefeated, but no, it still hasn’t played a road game. That will change this week when the Cyclones visit Drake on Saturday. After that, the schedule gets really tough, with games against Xavier and at Virginia.

This week: Saturday at Drake

Kansas Jayhawks (5-1)

Junior forward Wayne Simien sat out Wednesday’s game against Fort Hays State because of a groin injury. It didn’t matter. No. 7 KU out-rebounded an overmatched FHSU team 58-25 even without Simien and Jeff Graves.

More impressive is that Simien came back Saturday when the Jayhawks played Oregon in Kansas City at what coach Bill Self said was “80 percent” health. He didn’t stop at just getting in the game, though. Simien exploded for 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. After Luke Jackson led Oregon on an 11-0 run to pull within 49-47, Simien and KU responded with a 19-5 spurt to put the game away and eventually won, 77-67.

It’s a safe bet that the Sooners, Longhorns and Tigers in the Big 12 don’t want to see what Simien can do at 100 percent.

This week: Saturday vs. UC-Santa Barbara, Sunday at Nevada

Kansas State Wildcats (5-1)

K-State fought off a tough challenge Wednesday from one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State. The Shockers didn’t go down easily, however. WSU had a 31-21 lead minutes into the second half before the Wildcats responded. Jeremiah Massey carried KSU throughout the game, scoring 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbing 11 boards. The Shockers missed four three-pointers in the game’s final minute down 53-50 before losing 54-50.

This week: Saturday vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Missouri Tigers (3-1)

No. 3 Mizzou compounded a bad week off the court with a loss on the hardwood Saturday in Seattle. After a Rickey Paulding three tied MU with Gonzaga at the end of regulation, the Zags won 87-80 in the extra period when, on successive trips down the floor for the Tigers, Jimmy McKinney was called for a charge, Paulding missed a dunk and Paulding stepped out-of-bounds.

Paulding scored 23 but shot only 8-of-29, and was just 3-of-17 from inside the three-point line. Freshman Linas Kleiza had 16 points and 13 rebounds for MU but fouled out late in regulation. In all, three Tigers fouled out, and their lack of depth allowed Ronny Turiaf to go wild for the No. 16 Bulldogs.

In the Tigers’ next game, however, they get a boost for that depth when point guard Randy Pulley and wing Jason Conley play their first games Sunday.

This week: Sunday vs. UNC-Greensboro

Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-1)

In its first road game of the year on Wednesday, Nebraska traveled only 60 miles east but still lost 61-54 to Creighton. The teams were tied 23-23 with about four minutes to go in the first half, but the Blue Jays went on a 10-0 run to end the half and then held on throughout the second 20 minutes for the victory. Andrew Drevo had 21 points and Jake Muhleisen scored 12 in a losing cause.

While the loss may have brought the previously unbeaten Huskers back to Earth, they responded nicely by handing Tennessee its first loss Saturday, 77-62. NU held the Vols to 17 points in the first half and stretched the lead to 50-28 at one point in the second. Nate Johnson went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line down the stretch and finished with 14 points. Nebraska has been perfect at home, and won’t leave the state until Dec. 29 at Minnesota.

This week: Saturday vs. Bethune-Cookman

Oklahoma Sooners (7-0)

This week was a coming-of-age of sorts for undersized freshman point guard Drew Lavender, who led the No. 10 Sooners to wins over No. 17 Purdue and Prairie View.

First, Thursday, Lavender scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, including a runner in the lane with 1.1 seconds left to help OU beat Purdue 47-45. Then Oklahoma kicked up its offense a bit in an 83-56 win Saturday against Prairie View. Four players scored in double figures for the young Sooners, including Lavender (who also had 7 assists) and sophomore Kevin Bookout. Now, OU should be able to stay unbeaten heading into a Jan. 11 match-up with No. 4 Connecticut on the road.

This week: Saturday vs. Jackson State

Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-1)

The Cowboys didn’t play a game last week, taking time off for finals before two games this week. Saturday’s game versus Arkansas is the last for Oklahoma State against a team from a major conference until Big 12 play begins.

This week: Tuesday vs. Southeast Oklahoma State, Saturday at Arkansas

Texas Longhorns (5-1)

No. 9 Texas finally got a chance to prove to the country that it was for real, but failed it Tuesday night, losing 91-83 to No. 8 Arizona in New York.

The Longhorn defense couldn’t stop the Wildcats on the interior, as center Hassan Adams went for 30 points and 10 boards and forward Andre Iguodala had 13 and 13. Arizona led by as much as 79-60, but Texas cut the lead to 86-80 before succumbing. P.J. Tucker led the Longhorns with an impressive 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Then, Sunday versus New Orleans, Tucker scored 17 more as UT handed New Orleans its first loss of the season 89-55. Another measuring stick awaits Texas next week when they visit Cameron Indoor Arena.

This week: Saturday at No. 6 Duke

Texas A&M Aggies (3-3)

After starting the season 3-0, things have gotten bad for A&M, really bad. The Aggies allowed two Texas A&M-Corpus Christi players to score more than 20 points and trailed the Islanders by 10 before a futile last-minute run. Corpus Christi started the second half on a 16-2 spurt to give them a cushion.

Can things get any worse for A&M? Well, they could finish last in the Big 12 to a Baylor team that’s half walk-ons. Wait a minute, didn’t Baylor beat Corpus Christi?

This week: Thursday at Texas-San Antonio, Sunday vs. Grambling

Texas Tech Red Raiders (8-2)

It was a week of Bob Knight outbursts in Lubbock. First, he chastised his team after a 67-60 win over Texas Christian on Wednesday because only four players scored. That’s right: only four players had any points at all for the Red Raiders, led by Andre Emmett with 27 and Jarrius Jackson with 19.

Then, Saturday, Knight turned his fury on referees and TTU fans. He received his second technical foul as a Red Raider and called it the least-deserved technical he’d ever gotten. He subsequently blasted Texas Tech and the Lubbock area for not attending games: he said that if more than 6,100 fans couldn’t show at Red Raider games, the school should just drop basketball. At least the General got some balanced scoring. Freshman Darryl Dora scored 14 points as TTU beat San Diego State 78-68.

This week: Wednesday vs. Sam Houston State

Big 12 Player of the week

Wayne Simien, Kansas: Simien scored 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in leading the Jayhawks to a big 77-67 win against Oregon. And all this after missing a game and playing at 80 percent health because of a groin injury.

Big 12 Freshman/Newcomer of the week

Drew Lavender, Oklahoma: Lavender scored 12 second-half points against Purdue, including the game-winning bucket. Then he handed out 7 assists as the Sooners blew out Prairie View.

Five games to watch this week

Wednesday: Sam Houston State at Texas Tech: What will Bob Knight have for us this time?

Saturday: Texas at Duke: One of the country’s best games all day

Saturday: Oklahoma State at Arkansas: A measuring stick for the Cowboys

Saturday: Iowa State at Drake: Can the Cyclones keep winning on the road?

Sunday: UNC-Greensboro at Missouri: The debuts of Randy Pulley and Jason Conley

     

Conference USA Notebook

by - Published December 15, 2003 in Conference Notes



Conference USA Notebook

by Zach Van Hart

Showdown Saturday

Saturday pitted some of the best Conference USA has to offer against some of the best the nation has to offer. Four games pitted C-USA teams against Top 15 teams in the country. Only one of those four games resulted in a C-USA victory. That win came against the No. 1 team in the land.

The No. 25 Louisville Cardinals knocked off No. 1 Florida, 73-65, to improve to 4-1 on the season. It was the second loss for the Gators this week after vaulting to the top of the polls, becoming the first team in 15 years to do that. Francisco Garcia scored 21 points to lead the Cards, capping off a tumultuous week for him.

Earlier in the week, Garcia’s lone brother, Hector Lopez, was murdered in New York City. Garcia still played Wednesday against Seton Hall, attended Lopez’s funeral in Bronx Thursday and returned for practice Friday. He wept before practice, then led Louisville against the Gators.

Taquan Dean added fourteen points in the backcourt, while Luke Whitehead and Kendall Dartez took care of the work in the frontcourt. Whitehead finished with nine boards and eight points, while Dartez totaled nine points and seven rebounds. Earlier in the week, the Cardinals defeated Seton Hall, 80-71. After a season-opening loss to Iowa, it appears Louisville is starting to play how they were expected to this season.

A few minutes into the second half, No. 23 Marquette was winning at No. 8 Arizona, 50-35, as the more than fourteen thousand fans in attendance sat in silence. Then the Golden Eagles allowed the Wildcats back into the game and eventually lost in convincing fashion, 85-75. Travis Diener and Scott Novack each scored 21 points, but could not contain Salim Stoudamire or Hassan Adams. Stoudamire finished with 27 points, including hitting a career-high seven three-pointers. Adams scored 20 and made key baskets during the Wildcats decisive run during the second half.

Memphis also started off hot against their opponent, No. 14 Illinois, but could not keep up the pace and lost 64-54. During his first three games as a college player, freshman Richard McBride had netted a total of two points. Against the Tigers, McBride scored 22 points, going 7-of-13 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. James Augustine finished with 21 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Rodney Carney kept Memphis alive with several late treys, he led the team with eighteen points, but his play was not enough for the Tigers.

Saint Louis hung around with No. 11 Georgia Tech on the road for a half before the Yellow Jackets pulled away for a 75-62 win. B.J. Elder scored 17 points and Ismaa’il Muhammad added 16 off the bench to lead Georgia Tech. Josh Fisher lead the Billikens with fourteen points. SLU feel to 3-3 on the season.

The arrival of Iti

Martin Iti was one of the most talked about incoming freshman this season, but prior to Saturday had made very little impact on Charlotte’s season. Iti announced his arrival against Appalachian State, earning his first double-double of his career. Iti went 7-of-10 from the field, scoring fifteen points, while grabbing 10 rebounds.

Iti was one of three players to score fifteen points or more, as Charlotte cruised to a 85-64 win against ASU. The Niners won earlier in the week against Davidson, 76-64, to run their record to 6-2.

Seven-foot tall, Iti has the potential to be a dominant center in C-USA. With Robert Whaley standing 6-8, Scott Merritt 6-9 and Luke Whitehead 6-7, Iti has a decisive height advantage over some of the top centers in C-USA. If Iti continues to play the way he did Saturday, Charlotte will have another weapon to turn to down the road.

Around the rest of C-USA

Cincinnati (4-0)

The Bearcats continued to rest during their current 15-day break from game action. Cincinnati last played Dec. 2, when they defeated Valpo 68-49. Robert Whaley had successful surgery on his left meniscus, but his return date is not known yet. Transfer James White makes his Bearcat debut this week, against Middle Tennessee State Saturday. Up next – against Clemson, Dec. 17.

DePaul (5-2)

The Blue Demons split their games this week, winning on the road at Ohio, 63-60 Tuesday before losing to the Fighting Irish Sunday, 82-69. Delonte Holland continues to shine for DePaul, as he leads C-USA in scoring at a 20.6 points per game clip. Against the Irish, the Blue Demons’ defense did them in, as Notre Dame shot 59 percent from the field. Up next – against Toledo, Dec. 20.

East Carolina (4-1)

The Pirates coasted during its only game of the week, 86-53 against North Carolina State A&T Wednesday night. In one of the most impressive team performances anyone will ever see, ECU had six players finish in double figures. A&T helped out by only shooting 29.3 percent from the field. In other news, sophomore Corey Rouse was suspended indefinitely for violating team policy. Rouse had been averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Up next – against Gardner-Webb, Dec. 19.

Houston (1-3)

Their lone game of the week turned out to be their worst of the season, a 88-61 drubbing by UTEP. The Cougars again could not find any offense, as only Bryan Shelton and Andre Owens were the only two players to do any damage on the offensive end. UTEP out-rebounded Houston by six and doubled up on them dropping dimes, 22-11. Up next – against Bethune Cookman, Dec. 17.

USF (3-3)

After starting the season a promising 3-0, the Bulls lost their third-straight game to Richmond Saturday, 70-58. USF could not stop the Spiders during the second half, giving up 44 points while allowing Richmond to shoot nearly 50 from the field. Mike Skrocki scored fifteen of his game-high 21 points in the second half. Bradley Mosley led the Bulls with sixteen points, while Terrence Leather finished with a double-double in the losing cause. Up next – at No. 20 Michigan State, Dec. 16.

Southern Miss (4-2)

The Golden Eagles played their most disappointing game of the season Saturday, losing on the road 78-71 to Arkansas State. Southern Miss has traveled outside of Hattiesburg twice this season and has lost both times. The Indians controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Eagles 31-21, and connected on 8-of-13 three-pointers. Southern Miss could not overcome a fourteen-point halftime deficit. Up next – against Georgia Southern, Dec. 17.

TCU (3-5)

The only C-USA team to play three games last week, the Horned Frogs went 2-1, knocking off Stephen F. Austin and North Texas while sandwiching in a close 67-60 loss at Texas Tech. Marcus Shropshire had his best week at TCU, averaging 15.3 points per game. Against North Texas, the two teams played neck-and-neck before the Frogs pulled away during the final minutes. Up next – against Arkansas State, Dec. 22.

Tulane (5-1)

The Green Wave won their only game of the week as well, knocking off Northwestern State, 83-66. Tulane continues to get great play from their frontcourt, as all three of the team’s starting big man scored in double figures. The Green Wave collected ten more rebounds and dished out ten more assists than NSU. Up next – against Southeast Louisiana, Dec. 20.

UAB (3-1)

Like Cincinnati, the Blazers had the week off to focus on finals. UAB gets back into the swing this week with three games, including a tough road game against Virginia Commonwealth. Up next – against Western Michigan, Dec. 15.

Player of the Week

Francisco Garcia, Louisville

The grief-stricken star scored 24 points against Seton Hall and then 21 against No. 1 Florida, while mourning the death of his brother earlier in the week. It was probably the best week by any player in the country.

Games to Watch

Cincinnati vs. Clemson, Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The only reason this is a game to watch is it’s the Bearcats’ first game in fifteen days. Their game Saturday may really be the one to watch, as James White plays his first game since transferring from Florida.

UAB at Virginia Commonwealth, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Blazers also took a week off, and after playing Western Michigan only two days prior, they will have to go on the road to face a tough VCU team.

Marquette at Wisconsin, Saturday at 2 p.m.
The battle for Wisconsin is always a tough one. The No. 21 Badgers are 6-1 and looking strong early. It will be a battle in the backcourt to see who will win this interstate rival.

     

Metro Atlantic Notebook

by - Published December 15, 2003 in Conference Notes



Metro Atlantic Conference Notebook

by Stephen Dahl

Conference Player of the Week:

Keydran Clark: St. Peter’s Sophomore Forward.

Clark dropped 32 points in a loss to the Seton Hall Pirates, accounting for more than half of the Peacocks’ 61 points.

Canisius Golden Griffins (5-3, 0-1 MAAC)

The Golden Griffs may not be the poster team for the MAAC, but a 5-3 record isn’t something to be ashamed of. Canisius has picked up a win at St. Bonaventure and lost a heartbreaker in overtime to conference foe Niagara. They’re going to need the wins with the hard part of their schedule coming up. The Griffins play at Marquette on Monday and still have to play at Syracuse to finish out the year.

Fairfield Stags (4-1, 1-0 MAAC)

Fairfield has begun their season quite nicely, picking up a win over the anything but Red Storm of St. John’s as well as a convincing victory to open up their conference season against Marist. Part of the success comes from four of their starters averaging double figures. The Stags will need the scoring as they take on a sneaky good George Washington team at home on the 22nd. After that, they’ll spend a couple of days in Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic.

Iona Gaels (2-4, 1-1 MAAC)

Head Coach Jeff Ruland is not a happy man. The Gaels achieved their first conference win easily over Loyola (MD) and looked like they might break out of their funk. You guessed it, they’re still in the funk. Iona dropped two straight on the road, one to MAAC opponent Rider and the other to St. Bonaventure. Things are not going to get any easier for them either. They’ll continue their tour of the Atlantic 10 with games against Fordham and Rhode Island, as well as a date with UCONN on Dec. 20th.

Loyola-Md Greyhounds (0-8, 0-2 MAAC)

Hello Greyhounds, this is a win calling. I miss you, please acquire one of us soon. You almost had one of me against Mount St. Mary ‘s. In fact, you were mine for 35 minutes and 50 seconds, but the Mountaineers had so much more to offer. I mean, I gave you a 12 point lead on the game, but all you did was show me the back of your hand. Listen, I’ll give you one more chance before the end of 2003 to gain me against Princeton. If we don’t patch things up soon, I may have to take Head Coach Scott Hicks with me in the divorce.

Manhattan Jaspers (3-1, 1-0 MAAC)

The only thing cold so far about the Jaspers this year, was the recent appearance of Luis Flores and Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez on ESPN’s Cold Pizza (sorry that show has no place on any network and I wish that show on no one). Manhattan showed they are the class of the league with a 72-54 victory over Rider. So far the only slip up was against the Wichita State Shockers, but mark my words, Wichita State isn’t an easy team. The Jaspers will prepare for a rematch of their NCAA tournament first round matchup with reigning national champion Syracuse.

Marist Red Foxes (1-5, 1-1 MAAC)

The Red Foxes are enjoying the fact that Loyola is looking just a bit worse than them. If it weren’t for Brandon Ellerbee, they may not have earned a win against Siena. Ellerbee got an uncontested lay-up off of a rebound to give the Foxes the clinching two points in a 67-65 win. It hasn’t been pretty for Marist, losing both games in their own pre-season tournament. Next up for them are games with Northeastern and Vermont before a match-up in Atlanta with Georgia Tech, No. 11 team in the Hoopville top 25.

Niagara Purple Eagles (4-1, 2-0 MAAC)

This year’s motto for the men’s basketball team is, “You roar, we’ll soar.” The folks in Niagara must have some sore throats. After coming out of the gates with four wins, including two quick conference victories at Canisius and Siena, the Purple Eagles suffered a minor setback against the University at Buffalo on Saturday. The Bulls needed a buzzer beater to squeak by Niagara, 81-79. Despite the loss, those violet birds could finish the rest of 2003 undefeated with games against St. Bonaventure, Yale, Central Florida and Central Connecticut St. If they do, that roar may be heard a little further into the nation.

Rider Broncs (5-2, 1-1 MAAC)

Broncs fans love junior Jerry Johnson. Johnson, who is averaging 17 points in their first 7 games, is a big reason why Rider is 5-2. In his last game against Delaware, Johnson had 18 points and 7 assists for a 75-72 win over the Fighting Blue Hens. They’ll need the consistency of his play to get through the year. The Broncs will finish off the calendar year with four straight road games. They’ll take on Drexel and Harvard, before they take on in-state rivals, Farleigh Dickinson and Monmouth.

St. Peters Peacocks (4-2, 1-0 MAAC)

The Peacocks are in better shape than they and the league thought they would be in at this point. They’ve defeated, arguable Ivy league favorite, Yale, as well as registering a notch in the MAAC belt over Loyola (MD). St. Pete’s suffered a bloodbath at the hands of Seton Hall, 91-62. Even with the disappointing performance, the highlight of the team has been sophomore Keydren Clark. Clark, who averages 26 points a game, had 32 in the loss to Seton Hall.

Siena Saints (3-4, 0-2 MAAC)

So far the only thing that the Saints have won in the conference this year is my award for nicest website in the MAAC. Siena, who started the season 3-0 and is now in a four game losing streak, needs to find their rhythm quick. Despite the heartbreaker to Marist, their losses to Niagara and Toledo were anything but good losses. Next up for the Saints is Syracuse, who seemingly has applied for satellite membership of the MAAC. They’ll also have to deal with Providence before the year is out.

     

Morning Dish

by - Published December 15, 2003 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Monday, December 15th

Columbus State Team Captain Dies: Senior guard Jed Bedford of Division II Columbus State (Columbus, Ga.) died of cardiac arrest yesterday after collapsing during practice. Bedford was team captain and a talented shooter. He led Division II last season with 135 three-pointers and averaged 21.4 points per game. Bedford was from Leesburg, Fla. Columbus State’s next game against North Carolina – Central has been postponed and has not been rescheduled. All thoughts and prayers go out to Bedford’s family, friends and teammates.

Golden Eagle Leaves the Nest: Marquette freshman forward James Matthews had been a great recruiting catch for the Golden Eagles. But Matthews could not meet Marquette’s apparently rigorous academic standards. He had been suspended from the team after the season opening game in hopes that focusing more on books than hoops would raise the grades. But the effort could not save Matthews’ abbreviated run with Marquette, and he will transfer to another school. In a world in which Marquette officials easily could have found a way to make Matthews pass by, it’s nice to see a school emphasize and enforce success in the classroom and not just success on the court.

DePaul Honors Former Coach Meyer: During halftime of DePaul’s 82-69 loss to Notre Dame, the Blue Demons dedicated their court to former coach Ray Meyer and his late wife. Meyer served the school for more than 50 years, including 42 years as coach. He compiled a 724-354 record, which included a 1979 run to the Final Four that ended with a loss to Larry Bird’s Indiana State team. Meyer, who is 90, waved to the crowd, which replied with an extended standing ovation. Despite the emotional ceremony, Notre Dame won the game as six players reached double-figures. DePaul could not stop Notre Dame, which finished with 11 three-points and nearly 60 percent shooting from the field. Senior forward Delonte Holland led DePaul with 23 points and eight rebounds.

Raining Three’s in Philly: While the weather outside in Philly was frightful, the No. 13 St. Joseph’s three-pointers were delightful. The Hawks buried Drexel 92-70 behind 13 three-pointers, including a perfect 4-for-4 by sophomore guard Chet Stachitas, who finished with a career-high 14 points. Senior superstar Jameer Nelson led St. Joe’s with 24 points and junior guard Delonte West added 20 points. Junior forward Sean Brooks led Drexel with 22 points and nine rebounds. Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field, but Drexel could not match the Hawks’ long distance sharp-shooting.

Ice Cold in Chapel Hill: No. 2 North Carolina did not play like a team that could be ranked No. 1 in the upcoming poll with the two losses by currently top-ranked Florida. Against Akron, the Tar Heels shot 34 percent from the field and only 24 percent in the second half, which is the worst performance by any Tar Heel squad in a half in more than two decades. But North Carolina grabbed 17 more rebounds than Akron to fuel an ugly 64-53 victory. Sophomore forward Sean May grabbed 21 rebounds, including 10 offensive rebounds to match his 10 points. Sophomore guard Rashad McCants led the Tar Heels in scoring with 14 points. Only three Akron players reached double-figures, led by freshman forward Romeo Travis with 13 points.

Duke Destroys Portland: No. 6 Duke handled Portland in the first half, holding Portland to just 12 points in the half and building a 28-point lead. The Blue Devils then cruised to an 84-43 victory behind freshman forward Luol Deng’s team-high 15 points and nine rebounds. Duke had seven players score at least seven points while only allowing two Portland players to score more than six points. Duke held Portland under 25 percent shooting and won the battle of the boards by eight. Although Portland may not be a fearsome opponent for Duke, the Blue Devils’ defensive effort and balanced offensive attack resemble the type of dominating play that has been lacking from Duke in several games this season.

Longhorns Roll Over Privateers: No. 9 Texas bounced back from a tough loss to No. 8 Arizona by steamrolling New Orleans 89-55. Senior forward Brian Boddicker led Texas’ domination on the glass with 12 rebounds. The Longhorns outrebounded New Orleans at better than a two-to-one pace, finishing with 56 while New Orleans managed only 27. All those rebounds came from New Orleans’ terrible shooting performance. Texas held New Orleans to 29 percent shooting. Freshman forward P.J. Tucker led all scores with 17 points.

Terps Rising: Following a marvelous performance against No. 1 Florida earlier this week, Maryland avoided an emotional letdown at home against Pepperdine, winning 96-72. The Terrapins had career performances by sophomore guard John Gilchrist and freshman guard D.J. Strawberry. With the transfer of junior guard Andre Collins, Strawberry figures to play more minutes this season than coach Gary Williams may have originally planned. But Strawberry’s 17-point performance may be a sign of good times ahead in College Park, Md. With 24 points, five rebounds and seven assists, Gilchrist may be Maryland’s most lethal weapon. Gilchrist and Strawberry needed career performances to counter Pepperdine’s junior forward Glen McGowan, who scored at will against Maryland for a game-high 36 points. Despite McGowan’s dominating performance, Pepperdine managed to shoot just 39 percent, and Maryland outrebounded Pepperdine 40-31.

Eagles Limp Past Sacred Heart: Boston College has played well this season, with only one loss to St. Joseph’s. But the Eagles squandered a 17-point lead against the Pioneers and needed eight points by sophomore forward Craig Smith to deliver in clutch time to win 72-70. Smith finished with 16 points and seven rebounds to bail out Boston College. Senior guard Maurice Bailey nearly single-handedly led the Pioneers to victory with 27 points. Sacred Heart could not find other reliable scorers, however, which allowed Boston College’s more balanced attack to hold on for a tough win.

Rhode Island Not a Flash in the Pan: At 6-2, Rhode Island is quietly flying under the radar of national media but continues to play impressively. Despite shooting only 33 percent, the Rams held Kent State to an equally poor 34 percent but outrebounded the Golden Flashes, which facilitated a 60-49 victory for Rhode Island. Junior guard Dustin Hellenga led Rhode Island with 15 points and five rebounds. Senior center John Edwards, a rare 7-footer in the MAC, led Kent State with 18 points and seven rebounds, but he received no help from his teammates. No other Golden Flash scored more than seven points. Credit Rhode Island with solid defensive pressure and efficient offense during the team’s hot start to this season.

Tonight’s Menu:

• No. 22 Pittsburgh hosts Georgetown. Well, Georgetown, Ky., that is – a non-Division I school. No. 12 Stanford is the highest ranked team in action tonight as the Cardinal hosts Florida A&M. Also, No. 15 Wake Forest visits SMU, and No. 23 Marquette looks to bounce back from a tough loss to Arizona with a win against Canisius.

Conversation with Kenny Adeleke

by - Published December 14, 2003 in Columns



A Conversation with Hofstra’s Kenny Adeleke

by Adam Shandler

Kenny Adeleke, Hofstra’s junior forward from Queens, NY, has endured a problem common among many mid-major stars: Losing seasons, but stupendous personal stats. The Pride, during Adeleke’s freshman and sophomore years, was unremarkable. Prior to his arrival, Hofstra had won back-to-back America East Conference championships and appeared in two NCAA tournaments. But when the former prep standout arrived in Hempstead, he was greeted by a coach other than Jay Wright and his team had moved from the A-East to the Colonial.


Still, the 6-8 forward, who had appeared on Fox Sports’ “Preps” as a high school senior, chalked up fine numbers. Adeleke averaged nine rebounds a game in his first two collegiate seasons and entered 2003-04 second only to UConn’s Emeka Okafor as the top returning rebounder in D-I. While his digits are down in the early going, Adeleke had a breakout game in a recent upset of St. John’s (20 points, 13 rebounds), a momentum-builder for both the junior forward and the 3-3 Pride. His 12 points against Columbia put him 36 points away from the Hofstra 1,000-point club and he’s on pace to become just the third Hofstra Alum to notch 1,000 points and rebounds in his career.

I caught up with Kenny after a 58-55 win at Columbia, a game that featured inspired play by the Lions, a reunion of two former Hofstra assistants and a buzzer-beating trifecta from the Pride’s freshman guard Carlos Rivera.

Adam Shandler: Sheesh, I know you’d like to win ‘em a little easier than that one, but you’ve now strung together a couple of nice wins. Are you guys starting to gel now?

Kenny Adeleke: We’ve definitely had our ups and downs but I think this year is going to be different. We’ve got more talent on this team and we’ve been working really hard in practice every day. Our defense is better and we’ve got a lot of enthusiasm, especially in practice; practice has been like games because we’ve been going so hard. It’s a new Hofstra this year.

We just want to be the best team in New York. We think we can be up there with St. John’s and Manhattan, so in the early part of the season we just want to get some good New York wins.

Shandler: Hofstra didn’t have that really big, eye-popping win in your first two seasons. But you beat St. John’s [earlier this week]. What did the win against the Johnnies do for the mindset of this team?

Adeleke: It was a good win for us cause now we feel we can play against anyone. We lost to a really good Maryland team and a really good Georgia Tech team, but you’ve seen what those teams can do. So to go out and beat St. John’s was huge for us. We’ve got a really tough non-conference schedule and I think that that’s going to help us as we get ready to play teams in the [CAA].

Shandler: I know it’s early, but have you been following some of your CAA counterparts and what they’ve been doing?

Adeleke: Well, Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech; that was a good win for them, a win over a Big East team.

When everyone picked us to finish seventh in the conference, we didn’t buy into it and we went out and beat St. John’s. So when ODU, another team picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference goes out and beats a Big East team like Virginia Tech, you know it’s going to be a good year in the Colonial.

Shandler: You’re close to joining Hofstra’s 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound club. Are you aware of these milestones when you go into a game?

Adeleke: If you tell me before a game how many points I need, then I’ll be aware, but otherwise not really. When I get the 1,000 points I want to do it at home. One of my favorite moments was watching [graduated Hofstra 2-guard] Rick Apodaca get his 1,000-points in front of the home crowd. But it’s going to be a great club to be a part of, 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Shandler: You were recruited by Boston College, New Mexico, UMass, Providence – and you actually signed with Depaul. Why didn’t you stick around at Depaul and how was it that you ended up Hofstra?

Adeleke: It was a tough decision for a couple of reasons. I really didn’t want to leave New York. I’m very close with my family; I have two sisters and a brother and I wanted to be close with them, so that was one part of it.

Depaul had the number one recruiting class in the country. But there were [two players] that weren’t sure if they were going to the NBA or not, and I didn’t want to have a slow start to my college career.

But I really wanted to be in New York. Sometimes players that leave the New York area and go play somewhere else get lost.

Shandler: Who recruited you, [now Villanova coach] Jay Wright or [current Hofstra head coach] Tom Pecora?

Adeleke: Jay Wright did.

Shandler: So even after Coach Wright left for Villanova, you still came to Hofstra.

Adeleke: It was a tough decision, but I really didn’t want to go to a bigger school. I had known Coach Pecora since the 9th grade. We had a good relationship and he had always come by to see me and [good friend and current Hofstra teammate] Danny Walker play in [Robeson] high school. Sometimes, you know what, you just gotta take chance.

Shandler: Coming into this year you were second only to UConn’s Emeka Okafor as the top active rebounder in the country. You’ve only played six games so far, but are you frustrated that you haven’t been putting up the numbers you did last season?

Adeleke: Thing is, teams are playing me a lot tougher this year. They’re double-teaming me and boxing me out better. But we’re winning games. This time last year I’d have been happy to just get the wins. I’ll pick it up though; I’ll get my numbers up and it’ll come along. I just want to get ready for the conference games.

Shandler: You’re an interdisciplinary studies major. What does that mean exactly?

Adeleke: It’s courses in Sociology and Psychology. You learn how other people think and live their lives.

Shandler: Have your studies helped your game?

Adeleke: I’m taking a sports psychology class. I’ve been learning how to relax before a game and how to play my best. It’s been pretty helpful.

Splitting Adams:

December 6th’s Hofstra-Columbia game pit two former Jay Wright assistants against one another: First-year Lions coach Joe Jones, who served under Wright at Hofstra and Villanova, and Tom Pecora, who after Wright left, was promoted to head coach of the Pride.


Said Pecora, “[Columbia] shot 51%, we shot 37%. 90% of what Columbia was doing was effort…We won making plays but they dictated the tempo. I told them to stick together and listen to their coach and they’re gonna be good.”

Jones returned the admiration. “[Pecora's] like my older brother. He taught me the business. I’ll be forever grateful to him. It was great to go out and battle him but they were the better team and they deserved to win.”

Hofstra escaped Dodge Fitness Center, 58-55, on a three-point buzzer beater from freshman guard Carlos Rivera. “There’s a tape of the state [high school] tournament in Miami of him taking the same shot. I told him just do what you did on the tape. I tried to keep him loose,” Pecora recalls of the pre-shot huddle. “Carlos has great poise. He doesn’t look at the clock. He doesn’t play like a freshman.”

Rivera’s heroic bucket made up three of his seven points on the day.

     

Morning Dish

by - Published December 14, 2003 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 14th

All These Fans For a Basketball Game!: A record crowd for a basketball game gathered at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday, as 78,129 showed up for the matchup between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 20 Michigan State. The game, dubbed “BasketBowl” and as much an event as a game, broke the previous record of 75,000 set in 1951 when the Harlem Globetrotters played at Olympic Stadium in Berlin; it broke the previous NCAA basketball record attendance of 68,112 that was set in 1990 at the Louisiana Superdome when Notre Dame played LSU.

As far as the game was concerned, it was a very good one, meaning all those fans certainly got their money’s worth. They didn’t quite get the result most hoped for, as the predominately Michigan State crowd watched Kentucky dominate early, then hold on at the end behind several clutch baskets by senior Gerald Fitch to beat the Spartans by a 79-74 margin.

The Wildcats (5-0), who shot a scorching 64% from the field for the game, once led by 15 in the first half, before the Spartans (3-4) got things in gear offensively and mounted a comeback. In the second half, they got within two on a couple of occasions, then within one at 62-61 before Fitch (25 points) scored five straight points. Then with the Spartans within three, Fitch hit another three-pointer to put the Wildcats up 72-66 with 4:24 left. He later sealed the game with three free throws in the final half minute of play.

Paul Davis led Michigan State with a career-high 24 points, including a perfect 14-14 showing at the free throw line, and added 8 rebounds.

Gators Lose Again: No. 1 Florida headed to Louisville on Saturday for the second annual Billy Minardi Classic, organized by Louisville head coach Rick Pitino in honor of his brother-in-law, who perished in the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center. The Gators ran into a budding star with a heavy heart — Louisville sophomore Francisco Garcia, whose brother was killed earlier this week. Garcia scored 21 points to lead the 25th-ranked Cardinals to a 73-65 win over the Gators, the 400th win of Pitino’s career. The Cardinals (4-1) won despite shooting under 39% from the field, forcing 18 Florida turnovers. David Lee led Florida (5-2) with a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Adding to the heavy hearts within the Louisville basketball family, the father of senior power forward Ellis Myles passed away on Saturday. Myles is redshirting this season and plans to fly to California on Sunday to be with his family.

They Won’t Be No. 1: With Florida losing earlier in the week, then losing again earlier in the day, No. 3 Missouri got to state their case for the top spot as they headed to Seattle to take on No. 16 Gonzaga. It was a well-played game that took overtime, and in the extra session, Gonzaga scored the last 8 points, including six on free throws, to take home an 87-80 win, their seventh straight.

Missouri had the upper hand early, but the Bulldogs (7-1) stayed close throughout and took the lead in the second half. But when Ronny Turiaf (23 points) picked up his fourth foul with 8:22 left to play, the Tigers (3-1) started a 15-5 run to eventually take the lead. But the Bulldogs regained the lead late in regulation, and the Tigers needed a big three-pointer by Rickey Paulding (23 points) with 10.1 seconds left to force overtime. On the ensuing inbound pass, the game clock did not start until a good 2-3 seconds passed, but it made no difference as the Bulldogs turned the ball over and the Tigers ran out the clock.

Foul trouble plagued the Tigers inside, as both Travon Bryant (13 points) and freshman Linas Kleiza (a fine outing with 16 points and 13 rebounds) both fouled out, and Arthur Johnson played with four fouls for much of overtime.

A Little Better This Time Around: No. 7 Kansas hosted Oregon at Kemper Arena on Saturday, the same place where Wayne Simien dislocated his shoulder to effectively end his sophomore season. Things went a little better this time, as Simien had 19 points and a career-high 18 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks to a 77-67 win over Oregon. Simien led the inside attack for Kansas (5-1), which helped open things up for wings J.R. Giddens (18 points) and Keith Langford (15 points). Luke Jackson led Oregon (3-1) with 27 points and 8 rebounds.

Meeting of the Minds: After the game, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that he will meet with suspended center Jeff Graves and his family on Monday to discuss matters. This will go a long way in determining Graves’ future with the program, which Self says is simply a matter of Graves doing what he is supposed to do.

Yellow Jackets Keep Rolling: No. 11 Georgia Tech continued its early season success, improving to 8-0 with a 75-62 win over St. Louis in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta. They shot 48% from the field and forced 18 turnovers, getting 17 points and 4 steals from B.J. Elder to lead the way. Will Bynum, an Arizona transfer, scored 6 points and handed out 3 assists in his first game for Georgia Tech.

Coming From Behind: No. 23 Marquette looked like it could pull off a big upset, as they led No. 8 Arizona by 15 with over 17 minutes left to play in Tucson, and foul trouble was plaguing hot-shooting guard Salim Stoudamire (27 points, including seven three-pointers). But the Wildcats rode a big second half from Hassan Adams (14 of his 20 points) and a solid inside performance from Channing Frye (11 points, 13 rebounds) to come back for an 85-75 win. The Wildcats (4-1) shot 57% from the field to win despite 17 turnovers. Marquette (6-1) was led by Travis Diener (21 points, 10 assists) and Steve Novak (21 points).

Not Even Close: No. 17 Purdue avenged its first loss of the season, crushing Central Michigan 80-39 in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers (7-1) shot nearly 52% from the field and held the Chippewas to an ice cold 22% shooting, getting 13 each from Kenneth Lowe and Brandon McKnight.

Meanwhile, the team that beat Purdue, No. 10 Oklahoma (7-0), continued its winning ways with an 83-56 rout of Prairie View.

We Don’t Need Him Anyway: No. 4 Connecticut took on Quinnipiac with Emeka Okafor sitting out due to chronic back pain, but it didn’t matter. Ben Gordon had 28 points and the Huskies dominated the boards (52-30) and held Quinnipiac under 30% from the field in an 88-55 blowout. Charlie Villanueva continued to show what he can do, scoring 15 points and hauling down 6 boards in 21 minutes for the Huskies (7-1).

Illinois Bounces Back: No. 14 Illinois came back after suffering its first loss of the season and pulled out a 74-64 win over Memphis. The Illini (6-2) got 22 points from freshman Richard McBride and 21 from James Augustine. Rodney Carney had 18 points to lead Memphis (4-2).

National Champs Coast After Layoff: No. 19 Syracuse, playing its first game in ten days, got off to a slow start, but eventually coasted to a 75-54 win over Binghamton. The only player in double figures was Terrence Roberts, who scored 12 points, but the only player not to score for Syracuse (3-1) was walk-on Andrew Kouwe, who was scoreless in the final minute of play.

State School Matchup: No. 21 Wisconsin (6-1) coasted to an 89-71 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as Mike Wilkinson led five players who scored in double figures with 18 points. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but Wisconsin held a 38-25 edge on the boards.

Two More Pick Up Wins: No. 12 Stanford (5-0) got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Justin Davis, along with 17 points and 6 assists from Matt Lottich, in an 86-71 win over UNLV (5-2). Meanwhile, No. 22 Pittsburgh (7-0) remained undefeated with a 57-42 win over visiting Duquesne, shooting nearly 46% from the floor.

Mr. Clutch, and Liking It: Ramod Marshall did it again for No. 24 Dayton on Saturday. This time, the senior guard hit another clutch shot to win a game, this time a floater with 40 seconds left in the Flyers’ 61-59 win over IUPUI. Sean Finn led Dayton (8-0) with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Keith Waleskowski added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Tonight’s Menu

• Several Top 25 teams are in action today, starting with No. 2 North Carolina stating its case for the top spot as they host Akron.

• Just a few miles away, No. 6 Duke hosts Portland.

• No. 9 Texas looks to avenge its loss to Arizona this past week, hosting New Orleans in Austin.

• No. 13 St. Joseph’s takes on Drexel in a Philadelphia Big 5 game.

• Florida State will make its case for the Top 25, traveling south to take on Miami.

• Other matchups to keep an eye on include Rhode Island at Kent State, Notre Dame at DePaul, and Pepperdine at Maryland.

Jameer Nelson

by - Published December 14, 2003 in Columns



Nelson Returns and Will Finish On a High Note

by Phil Kasiecki

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – Phil Martelli can’t say enough good things about Jameer Nelson. The St. Joseph’s media guide has no shortage of ringing endorsements by the head coach of his All-American point guard, and game after game he reiterates it in press conferences.

He’s not alone, either – even opposing coaches like Pennsylvania’s Fran Dunphy have high praise.

“He imposes his will on the game,” said Dunphy on Saturday after the Hawks beat Pennsylvania in the Big 5 Classic. “He just has such great knowledge of the game: his poise, his escapability is ridiculous – he takes it to the basket, there’s five guys flying at him and he sees everywhere.

“He’s terrific. I’m not an NBA guy, but I can’t imagine he can’t make a huge difference on somebody’s team. He’s a good guy, too – I just appreciate playing against him. He’s just a real good basketball player.”

Indeed, Nelson is a real good basketball player – one who changes games. He is also one who’s bound for the NBA, though he could have been there now if he chose.

Scouting Report:
Jameer Nelson
A quick and strong floor leader, Nelson has amazing body control and court knowledge. While many players get in trouble when they leave their feet in penetration to pass the ball, he rarely does, often making passes no one watching the game might think of. While that is how he changes games, it is also where he makes most of his mistakes. He uses his strength and great bounce to go in and get rebounds even at 5’11″, and is generally good on the ball defensively. Offensively, he doesn’t shoot the ball exceedingly well and is more of a scorer than a shooter. His decisions have continued to improve each season, and he plays with great confidence. Scouts have cited concerns about his size, but he more than makes up for that with his leaping ability and knowledge of the game. It’s early to try and project where he will be drafted in 2004, but it’s a fairly safe bet that he will go in the first round and can certainly be a lottery pick when it’s all said and done. – Phil Kasiecki

Nelson declared for the NBA Draft last spring. He knew he was good enough to play in the NBA, but he also knew that didn’t translate into being a first-round draft pick, which was the only scenario under which he would leave. So he didn’t sign with an agent, and along with Martelli – whom he talked to for hours every day during the process, and helped dealing with agents – tried to get a sense of where he would be drafted, worked out and went to the NBA’s Pre-Draft Camp at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Nelson played very well at the camp, running an offense as flawlessly as he usually does with the Hawks. But scouts had some concerns about his height – 5’11″. Nelson never got the guarantee from anyone that they would take him with their first round pick if still available, so on June 19, he returned to school.

It was the biggest day for St. Joseph’s basketball in the 2003-04 season, 4 months before practice even began. For Nelson, preparation began right then and there for this season.

“The first day I knew I was going to come back, I played five-on-five with my team,” Nelson said.

“Right now I am a college player. I have to focus on what I have to do here with my teammates and just try to accomplish things with my team.”

So far, the preparation and focus is paying off. St. Joseph’s is still one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball, as they don’t come up in discussions of the elite teams in the country, but the Hawks are a force to be reckoned with. Nelson leads a tremendous perimeter unit that has classmate Tyrone Barley (a defensive specialist who has suddenly become a three-point marksman as well), budding star Delonte West, and shooters Pat Carroll and Chet Stachitas. The Hawks aren’t deep up front, especially with sophomore Dave Mallon out until January, but Dwayne Jones and Jon Bryant hold down the fort.

The Hawks started off the season with a big win over Gonzaga, another nationally ranked team at Madison Square Garden. Nelson led the way, as he so often does, with 20 points and 10 assists. After the game, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few told him, “You’re what college basketball is all about”, a comment that any observer of college basketball surely echoes upon watching him.

“It made me feel special, because that doesn’t mean, me as a player, it means me as a person,” he said of Few’s words.

Martelli’s compliments about his point guard have no limit. It’s often said that a point guard has to be an extension of the coach on the floor, but he sees Nelson as being even more than that.

“For being so young, he has such great recognition of what needs to be done,” said Martelli.

“He could coach this team. He could flat-out coach this team.”

Amidst all the praise, Nelson likes to think of himself as a regular, fun-loving young man. He will remind you that even on the hardwood, he is still human – even if that may seem hard to believe at times. The sociology major, who isn’t sure what he wants to do after he’s done playing basketball, is humble, gregarious and enjoying the college experience. That, along with his relationship with teammates and Martelli made it easy for him to come back for his senior year. He loves his school as well, even if it’s not thought of in the same light as schools like Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina.

“The atmosphere is great at a St. Joe’s game,” Nelson said. “I think we have the best fans in the country. I wouldn’t want to play in front of any other fans in the country.”

The native of Chester, Pennsylvania also likes the Big 5 and is fond of its tradition, as well as the atmosphere of its games and especially those at the Palestra, where the Hawks also play several home games each year.

“Everybody was just having fun,” Nelson says of the crowds at Big 5 games. “Our crowd was doing our chants, their crowd was doing their chants. It’s just fun.”

He knows he is good enough to play in the NBA, and he will be there soon enough. He knows he made the right decision to go through the process as he did, and that the eventual outcome will bear that out.

“I went through the process like a man, and made a man’s decision,” Nelson said. “A lot of players don’t do that, they just see money signs and they understand they can be rich one day.

“I understand that I can be rich one day, too, but at the same time, I had to do what’s best for me and my future. And I think that coming back was best for my future, as far as school and athletics.”

What is best for Nelson is also what is best for his young son, as he is an eager parent. He looks forward to what is ahead in his young son’s future, and now feels more driven in everything he does because of him.

“I have to be a role model,” said Nelson. “I have to watch what I do, watch what I say, and just be more cautious of what’s going on in my life.”

If he approaches life like he approached the NBA, nothing but success should be in Nelson’s future, and it couldn’t happen to a better young man.

     

Morning Dish

by - Published December 13, 2003 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 13th

Jayhawk Out: Kansas senior forward Jeff Graves has been suspended indefinitely from the Jayhawk basketball team, head coach Bill Self announced on Friday. Self, who did not disclose the specific infraction, said that Graves was suspended for “lack of respect” for the team and “irresponsibility”, and that his status was in question for the remainder of the season. Graves has averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes in each of the Jayhawks first five games. As you’ll recall, Graves is the player who stepped up last season, replacing an injured Wayne Simien, and notched 16 points and 16 rebounds in the NCAA Finals against Syracuse.

Bynum Eligible: And you thought they were pretty good now. Georgia Tech junior guard Will Bynum will be eligible to play for the Yellow Jackets against Saint Louis in today’s Peach Bowl Classic. Bynum, a streaky shooter who transferred from Arizona last season, has now completed his two semesters required by the NCAA for all transfers. Last season, Bynum scored 19 points off the bench against San Diego State, before announcing his decision to transfer after a victory against Boston University.

Williams Out: Illinois sophomore guard Deron Williams underwent successful surgery yesterday for a broken jaw suffered in a collision against Maryland-Eastern Shore Thursday night. Williams, who fractured his jaw in two places, had been averaging 13 points for the Illini. The earliest Williams is expected back is January 3rd against Illinois State.

Bruins Back?: UCLA freshman forward Trevor Ariza has received medical clearance to play as a reserve for the Bruins tonight against Loyola Marymount. Ariza, who had suffered from a collapsed lung in mid-November, is back a week earlier than expected. He’s not out of the woods just yet, however. Ariza will have additional X-rays taken on Monday, and those results with determine whether Ariza will be allowed to participate in full drills in practice. The Bruins also are waiting on some final exam scores for senior forward T.J. Cummings, who was ruled academically ineligible for fall semester, which ended last week. If Cummings passes his classes, he’ll be eligible to return Wednesday against UC-Santa Barbara.

Dakich Apologizes: Bowling Green head coach Dan Dakich has apologized for negative comments he made Wednesday night against the officiating crew in the Falcons’ 81-75 loss to IPFW. Dakich ripped MAC director of officiating Eric Harmon after the game, stating, “Eric Harmon should be ashamed – actually, he should be fired for putting people on the floor who performed the way they did today.” Dakich has since been admonished by the conference on its official website. In a statement, Dakich said, “I don’t think I represented myself or my institution very well. Commenting on officials is not something a coach should ever do. I’ve already personally apologized to Eric Harmon, who has been a friend of mine and whom I still consider to be a close friend. [He] had nothing to do with that situation.”

Tonight’s Menu:

Only 99 games today, so I guess you might want to rent some movies or finish your holiday shopping.

• Hoopville staffer Alan Rubenstein previews today’s BasketBowl, which will see close to 80,000 fans pack Ford Field to seen the battle between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 20 Michigan State:

The bowl season will start a few days early this year when Kentucky and Michigan State meet in the BasketBowl at Ford Field in Detroit. The meeting will break the record of 75,000 set by the Harlem Globetrotters in 1951 in Berlin, Germany. Kentucky and Michigan State both enter the game searching for their identities.

Kentucky has been able to emerge from their opening four games unblemished. At the Wooden Classic, UCLA and the Wildcats spent the afternoon building Brick City. The teams combined to shoot 30.3 percent in a 52-50 Kentucky win.

This is not one of Kentucky’s deepest teams, but the Wildcats have received great balance from their starting five. Gerald Fitch (19.3 PPG) has taken the reigns from Keith Bogans and has provided big blue with a go to player. Erik Daniels has provided a presence on the wing that has the versatility to go inside. Kelenna Azubuike has been a pleasant surprise for the Cats and gives them another active player who can score and hit the boards. Chuck Hayes is the heart and soul of this year’s Big Blue Nation. He embodies Tubby Smith’s attitude and gives Kentucky a needed toughness. The 6’6 junior is undersized in the center position but still putting up a more than respectable 10/10 double/double per game. Cliff Hawkins runs the Kentucky offense with 10.8 PPG and 7.5 assists per night.

Michigan State has slumped against one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. Michigan State also has a very balanced offense, but has had trouble scoring. They seemed to right the ship against Oklahoma. Six Spartans average between 8.3 and 12.7 points per game. Paul Davis should have a huge advantage inside; he has two inch advantage on any of the Kentucky regulars.

Both of these teams mirror their conferences. Kentucky has not changes the strategy much since the days of Rick Pitino; the Cats like to get up and down the floor. The UCLA game was likely an aberration. Michigan State is more likely to want to grind it out and use their advantage of a more experienced and tougher team. This is likely to be Tom Izzo’s most athletic team. Izzo has more a talent and a bit more depth.

Blue nation will likely travel well to Detroit, but the majority of the crowd will be in green and white in a crowd that had difficulty getting tickets (see Wednesday’s Dish). Michigan State has six players with the ability to be “the man” on any given night, while Kentucky has one or two at best.

• In another match between two ranked squads, No. 3 Missouri heads to the Pacific Northwest to face No. 16 Gonzaga. While Mizzou needs a win to potentially grab the new No. 1 ranking next week, they also need to get a week of scandal behind them, as tapes of former guard Ricky Clemons revealed that there were possible infractions in the Missouri program, including alleged payments to current and former players. Gonzaga is playing well after dropping the season opener to No. 13 St. Joseph’s, and looks to be the spoiler with a quality win.

• No. 8 Arizona will host No. 23 Marquette, three days after downing another Final Four team in No. 9 Texas in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. Meanwhile, Marquette is no slouch, having downed then-ranked Notre Dame, and have remained unbeaten, led by Travis Diener, who averages 16 points and 6 assists per game. The schools have split two previous meetings.

• Soon to be deposed No. 1 Florida hits the road to Louisville, for the second-annual Billy Minardi Classic, honoring Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s best friend and brother-in-law, killed on September 11th. Pitino will be vying for his 400th college victory, and he’ll be facing his former player, Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who was a guard on Pitino’s 1987 Final Four Providence squad. Louisville has won five of the six all-time meetings between the schools.

• The majority of the Top 25 is seeing action today, with several local matchups. UConn hosts Quinnipiac, Oklahoma hosts Prairie View A&M, Syracuse hosts Binghamton, Pitt hosts Youngstown State, and Wisconsin hosts UW-Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Purdue is on upset alert against Central Michigan, who knocked off Notre Dame last week, Stanford hosts UNLV, and Dayton hosts IUPUI.

• Higher profile games include the Georgia Tech-Saint Louis matchup mentioned above, along with Oregon at Kansas at Kemper Arena, with the Jayhawks looking for revenge from last year’s defeat at Portland, and the same story happens in Champaign-Urbana, as Illinois tries to exact revenge against Memphis for last year’s defeat.

SEC Notebook

by - Published December 12, 2003 in Conference Notes



SEC Notebook

by Matt Jones

For confirmation of the ever-changing world of college basketball, look no further than the past week’s strange events. In the course of five days, we saw not one, but two No. 1 ranked teams defeated by supposedly inferior teams.

Although we will later deal with No. 1 Florida (school motto: Please don’t ever rank us higher than No. 2), the Stanford-Kansas game showcased how the brave new world of college basketball has changed the game. No. 7 Kansas came in, on paper, with an enormous edge in talent, and No. 12 Stanford’s best player, Josh Childress, did not even play. The Jayhawks were coming off a series of impressive victories, including a win over Michigan State.

Nevertheless, Stanford controlled the play on both ends and proved that the gap between the top teams in college basketball is not what it once was. With the reduction in scholarships and the proliferation of media coverage of the sport, the top schools can no longer horde all of the top talent or claim exclusive rights to national television broadcasts. Thus a kid like Kris Humphries can stay in Minnesota and play for his state school, be on ESPN a number of times and set himself up perfectly to play at the next level. Had he gone to his initial choice, Duke, he might be languishing on the bench or struggling to adjust, like another stud high school recruit, Shavlik Randolph, has at Duke.

As the seasons go on, college basketball parity will continue to increase and the games will become even more difficult to predict. I for one like that and think it makes for greater interest for the sport.

Also before I get into the SEC news, it is imperative that I make clear a comment from last week’s column. It was written here that I hoped that the Florida State basketball players would not “get jiggy with it” on the Ole Miss basketball logo. At the risk of sounding like Charles Barkley and claiming I was misquoted in my own column, I must make it clear that this particular phrase was inserted by my editor. I have not, nor would I ever, seriously use the phrase “getting jiggy with it.” I find Will Smith and his music to be only a half step ahead of Yoko Ono, Bill Walton and Rush Limbaugh in terms of people that annoy me, and I do not want you, my readers thinking otherwise.

Moving forward…

A sad day for college basketball

There was not a great deal of attention paid to the news that former Florida Gators coach Norm Sloan passed away this week. That is a shame, but was representative of a career that was amazingly successful, but often underappreciated. Sloan coached the Gators in the 1980s and was never truly able to build the program into the national powerhouse that it has now become.

However Sloan’s legacy will be as the coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the 1970s, where he won a national championship in 1974. Most people remember that Wolfpack team for the amazing talents of David Thompson, who is arguably one of the five or six best college players of all time, but few even remember that Sloan was the team’s highly regarded leader. Not only did he win the championship that season, but the year before the Pack went an astounding 27-0, but were ineligible to compete for the national championship. That two year run in 1973-74 represents one of the best non-UCLA periods in college basketball history, and Sloan deserves much of the credit.

However coaching in the Triangle always left him in the shadow of Dean Smith in Chapel Hill. When Jim Valvano took over for Sloan in 1980, legend has it that he went to a barber on the NC State campus to get a haircut. While there, the barber said to the new coach, “I hope you will be able to do better than the last guy we had here.” Valvano was a bit surprised by this comment and said, “Well actually, Norm Sloan did pretty well, didn’t he? I mean he won a national championship and went undefeated one year.” The barber huffed and replied, “Yeah, but imagine if Dean Smith had been coaching that team.”

Norm Sloan never received the credit he deserved, but the college basketball world will sorely miss him.

Another ONE bites the dust

Speaking of the Florida Gators, if there is one thing that we can now be sure of, it is that they may be the worst team to play with No. 1 rankings in history. Last year, the Gators were placed at No. 1 in January, only to travel to Lexington, Ky., and get absolutely leveled by the streaking Kentucky Wildcats. However most observers, including this one, had the same belief this week as those who go to see Eddie Murphy movies in the theaters again: It can’t be that bad again.

Well, unfortunately for the Gainesville, Fla., faithful it was. Maryland overcame a sorry shooting second half to pull out the huge upset 69-68 win in overtime. After the game, coach Billy Donovan used the line that has become a virtual requirement for all coaches when they lose, “That is what happens when you are a young team.” Is there any way to stop coaches from saying this? Every team in college basketball is young now, including Maryland which has only one junior or senior among its top eight players.

Maryland won this game with a gritty performance and by showcasing exactly what it takes to beat the current mold of Florida teams – strong half court defense and toughness inside. For all of Florida’s strengths, the team never plays with the reckless abandon of a team coached by Gary Williams or Tubby Smith, and thus they often struggle in these matchups. Donovan’s group has the talent to win a title, but they must overcome their inability to finish against grind-it-out teams, as proven by tournament losses to Michigan State and Temple.

Ashton Kucher move over

If you thought that nothing could top the media’s new love affair with Ashton Kucher and his show, “Punked,” aka “Candid Camera for teenage girls”, then you might be surprised by the continuing rising tide of celebration of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I know when I began writing this column, I did not think that two of my first three entries would deal with the floppy haired boys from Nashville, but they continue to excel.

As Andy Katz, Pat Forde, Clark Kellogg and other media types try not to pull their hamstring jumping onto the Vandy bandwagon, which is driven by yours truly, the Commodores just keep on winning, including an impressive 83-63 win this week over Michigan. Although most believed the game against the Wolverines would provide a true test for senior forward Matt Freije and his band of merrymen, the game was actually almost never in doubt. Vanderbilt took control with the combination of outside jumpers and the inside play of Freije, and rolled over coach Tommy Amaker’s club.

As has been said multiple times in this column, there is a very strong chance that Vanderbilt will begin SEC play undefeated. The only question I have is, when will this national media attention and praise actually lead to Vanderbilt being ranked in one of the polls. They are close to moving into the Hoopville Top 25, and if the attrition that continues to plague the top teams continues, it could be party-time (milk and cookies all around!) in the classrooms, libraries and chemistry labs of Vanderbilt University.

Who’s next, Sonny Smith?

There are lots of groups in America that make their presence felt by grassroots activism and participation. Whether it is the Sierra Club, the Christian Coalition or the Clay Aiken fan club, many segments of the population take their interest and dedication to an issue and transform it into a concerted effort to influence the hearts and minds of others. After the events of last week, the Auburn basketball fans need to be added to that mix as well. Last week in this column, I criticized the Auburn program for its awful non-conference scheduling and its seeming unwillingness to ever play a program of any prominence during the opening months of the season. The Auburn faithful became agitated and upset as if they were President Bush and I had taken away the teleprompter.

I got a host of emails, and I thought it would be good to respond to some of the concerns expressed (at least those that I can print).

Matt wrote:

“Dude you are a moron. The same Miss St. team that you praise for beating Western Kentucky by six, guess what Auburn played and beat them already. Auburn played College of Charleston, another Tourney team from last year and you’d never guess it but they beat them too. Granted its not UNC, Duke or Virginia but come on its easy to slam every team this time of year by picking a few teams from their schedule, but at least be fair and look at the overall before you go off slamming a team you know absolutely nothing about.”

Now Matt does make a couple of good points. I did praise Mississippi State for beating Western Kentucky, but what Matt does not mention is that I thought it was impressive they beat them on the road, ending a 37 game home winning streak. Auburn played them at home. College of Charleston is a good win, but it represents the best of the non-conference home schedule. Charleston is a goodteam on a schedule but should not be the best team for a program that wants to be a top contender.

Blake wrote:

“Your latest article is a glaring display of biased journalism. While I’ll grant your point that Auburn hasn’t played anyone of significance on the road this year, you blast Auburn’s schedule despite the fact that they have now beaten three NCAA tourney teams from last year by an average of 19 ppg. Auburn will be playing UNLV on December 20 in Las Vegas. You can see the game on ESPN2 at 12:30 that night.”

Blake, I will be watching that game, and as a matter of fact, if they win that game, that will be my headline story in the next week’s article. But I will not pronounce the Tigers a quality team until they leave the friendly confines.

Finally, Mal wrote:

“Little Matthew, have you ever worn a jock? Did you ever play basketball past the 6th grade? (if you did I bet it was at an elitist private school).

Mal actually, I am wearing a jock right now. I did play basketball past the 6th grade, but I have to admit when I play against 8th graders now, they are quite good, so I usually stick with the 6th graders.

Thus I do appreciate the fact that Auburn fans seem so passionate. I have always been under the impression that basketball was of no real importance to the Tiger fans, and they have proven me wrong. Now it is up to them to prove me wrong on the court and in the scheduling office. Here is hoping they do both.

BasketBowl 2004

This week brings us one of the most anticipated events of the 2003-’04 season. At Ford’s Field in Detroit, Mich., the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats and the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans will play Dec. 13 in front of an estimated 78,000 people. If the attendance is as expected and breaks the 75,000 barrier, it will be the most watched basketball game in the history of organized athletics.

That is an amazing and somewhat unbelievable statistic. Now for those of you that are history buffs, I am sure that you know that the previous record was set when 75,000 people packed into a stadium in Berlin – Nowitski field? – in 1951 to see the Harlem Globetrotters play. Getting over the amazing fact that the Globetrotters played in Berlin in 1951, it is also quite surprising that no one has attempted to break this record since. LSU and Notre Dame played in 1990 in the Superdome in front of 60,000 folks, but no other two teams have attempted to create the history that will occur this weekend.

After the turnstiles however, it is unclear that the game itself will be all that historic. The Spartans are coming off two difficult defeats, including a humiliating loss to Duke in East Lansing, Mich. Coaches Tom Izzo and Tubby Smith both have a defense-oriented style that tends to produce low scoring games and poor shooting. This should only be magnified if the Wildcats that showed up Dec. 6 in the win over UCLA, with only 27% from the field, take the court this Saturday. With the added factor of a virtual impossible sense of depth perception for the teams shooting in such a cavernous stadium, there is a good chance this could be a “Linda Tripp” special of a game (guess what that means). However, it very well could be record-breaking and for that reason alone, you should watch it instead of Celebrity Poker on Bravo.

The Week Ahead

Due to time constraints, and a lack of interesting games – not counting, of course, Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe – I will not be doing a team by team notebook this week. I will resume this feature next week, but there are a couple of things worth noting.

• Georgia’s loss to Winthrop 80-60 is a real step backward for this team. Coach Dennis Felton knew he would have a mixed bag of a year, but could not have imagined the team would follow up a close overtime loss to Gonzaga by getting blown out at home by the Flying Eagles. It will be interesting to see how they come back against Clemson Dec. 13.

• Things do not get any easier for the traveling boy band from Florida as they have road games coming up with No. 25 Louisville and West Virginia. Louisville is beginning to come around and West Virginia recently defeated Maryland, thus giving Donovan the very real possibility of a three game losing streak.

• Watch out for the now 8-0 South Carolina Gamecocks. They have gone on the road and won a series of games in the past week and play Temple Dec. 15. If they can pull a win off in coach John Chaney’s backyard, they become a team that should be noticed around the country.

• Alabama got a nice win this week over Charlotte and followed that up by beating a decent Austin Peay squad. Their early season loss to Providence looks better now that the Friars have begun to show some muscle. Thus we may have spoken too early when we downplayed the possibility of the Tide making some noise in the SEC West.

Game of the Week

Since I already spoke about the BasketBowl and the two big Florida struggles, I will go out of the way a bit and say Tennessee at Nebraska on Saturday. If the Vols win, they too might go into SEC play undefeated. However I think John Turek and the Cornhuskers will pull out a close one in Lincoln, Neb.

Enjoy the week, and if you get a chance go see Mystic River. Best movie I have seen in a number of years.

     

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