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Saturday Notes – December 5, 2015

by - Published December 6, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

College football took center stage on Saturday with championship games, but college basketball gave us plenty as well. We had great rivalry games, many intriguing matchups, and some other results of note from a busy day full of games. It was a good taste of what Saturdays will be like most of the time from here until March.

With that in mind, here are some quick thoughts on some of the day’s games.

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Providence-Rhode Island game will be even more memorable later

by - Published December 6, 2015 in Columns

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – While it’s always been one to watch if you’re a New Englander, the annual meeting between Providence and Rhode Island is one that has ebbed and flowed a bit. For a few years when the Rams struggled over a decade ago, it wasn’t as big a game. But as both teams have been better of late, especially this season, the game has been bigger and better. And with apologies to Providence head coach Ed Cooley, it’s a rivalry game, one that on Saturday night delivered everything you could want unless you were a Rhode Island fan.

And it’s a game that will be a little more memorable when we see these teams later in the season.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 5, 2015

by - Published December 5, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Talent alone won’t always win you basketball games. Team chemistry is huge, and it goes much deeper than the notion many have of whether or not players like each other. When team chemistry is volatile, underachieving is almost inevitable. Then the only solution is often a housecleaning.

Enter the 2015-16 Kansas State Wildcats, who are now 6-1 after eking out a 68-66 win at Georgia on Friday night and have as many true road wins this season as they had all of last season.

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UCLA shows it has a high ceiling

by - Published December 5, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

It’s easy to look at UCLA’s win over Kentucky as a big win that will boost the team. When you factor in the slow start the Bruins have, that’s an even more tempting angle to take. There’s no question this win can be just that. The biggest determinant of that, however, will be what UCLA does from here, because success will make this win worth something. What is clear, however, is that this win shows that UCLA has quite a high ceiling.

The jury has been out on the Bruins even before they opened the season with an 84-81 overtime loss to Monmouth. While we have found out since then that Monmouth is perhaps a little better than many thought, it was still a home game. They went 1-2 in Maui, and while there’s no shame in losing to Kansas, they lost to Wake Forest and barely knocked off UNLV. So we don’t know just how good this team is or can be, even allowing for teams to be finding themselves a bit early in the season.

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The Morning Dish – Monday, November 30, 2015

by - Published November 30, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Last year, Tom Izzo’s team made a surprise run in the month of March. It was the most unlikely of Final Fours for a coach who has been to a few in his time – in fact, until a year earlier, every four-year player for him made it to at least one Final Four, a remarkable fact. If Michigan State is one of the last four teams this season, there’s no reason to be surprised. The Spartans just closed out a great month of November.

Michigan State beat Providence 77-64 to take home the Wooden Legacy Classic title, pulling away late in what was a tight game throughout. A team that has been led by Denzel Valentine got a nice game from Bryn Forbes and Devonta Davis to support the star senior, who was good but not as stellar as he’s been – and that’s okay. Valentine might win Player of the Year if the award were given out right now, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be other-worldly every night out – just most of them.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 28, 2015

by - Published November 28, 2015 in The Morning Dish

When the current ACC configuration came into being, there were lofty expectations. Indeed, the idea was that it would be out of this world. It would have a firing squad of elite programs – Duke and North Carolina joined by the likes of Louisville and Syracuse – along with many programs just a notch below them. The more recent Big East – the one that one year sent 11 of its 16 teams to the NCAA Tournament – would have nothing on this ACC.

But those expectations were slow to materialize. The conference’s first two years with this look has produced good, not great results. There have been unforgettable games, like both of the Duke-Syracuse games in the first year, and the talent has been undeniable. Still, the ACC hasn’t looked like the clear class of college basketball. The Big 12 and Big Ten have shined more brightly thus far.

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The Morning Dish – Sunday, November 22, 2015

by - Published November 22, 2015 in The Morning Dish

The Missouri Valley Conference almost had a perfect day – almost. Still, it had a taste of history to lead what was a pretty good day.

Seven Valley teams were in action on Saturday, and six of them won. The seventh – Drake – led UMKC by four at the half, but UMKC opened the second half on an 8-1 run to take the lead, then Drake led again before a 17-6 run put the Kangaroos ahead to stay in a 79-73 win in Kansas City.

That would be the only blemish of any sort on the day.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 21, 2015

by - Published November 21, 2015 in The Morning Dish

One of the fun parts of the first few weeks of the season is the wave of tournaments that give us an early feel for some of the teams. Some do this better than others based on the field and how the games go, as sometimes a semifinal game doesn’t go quite the way some might expect and affects matchups the rest of the way.

By now, we know the championship matchups for several early ones. They came as a result of several Friday semifinals, and there will be some interesting ones among them.

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The Morning Dish – Monday, November 16, 2015

by - Published November 16, 2015 in The Morning Dish

As we gear up for the first of two weeks full of early season tournaments, Sunday was a decidedly ho-hum day on the bottom line. We didn’t have some of the surprise results we had the first couple of days, while all of the ranked teams in action won by more than 20 points. What we did have was a rivalry game late in the day that lived up to its billing, but also had a scary moment.

New Mexico traveled to Las Cruces to take on arch-rival New Mexico State in the Rio Grande Rivalry. Behind 31 points from Elijah Brown, the son of former NBA coach Mike Brown, they won 83-74. The Lobos continued their recent dominance in the rivalry, as they have won 14 of 17, including nine straight in Las Cruces. It was a close game well into the second half, before the Lobos eventually opened up a double-digit lead. … Continue Reading

2015-16 CAA Preview

by - Published November 15, 2015 in Columns, Conference Notes

In a conference that has seen lots of changes recently, the CAA got news of one more big one this past off-season. Tom Yeager, the only commissioner the conference has known, will retire at the end of the academic year. There is a time and place for reflection on what he has built, along with his place as a well-respected influencer in college basketball, and that will come. A more pressing question is: what kind of conference will he leave behind?

An unfortunate part of his legacy will be that the CAA was hit hard by conference realignment more than once, and that can’t be pinned on him. The first time, just after the new century, put the conference in danger, but it survived and subsequently thrived after adding strong members from another conference. More recently, however, the conference was among the hardest hit, watching signature programs George Mason, Old Dominion and VCU leave along with Georgia State, who had just turned a corner after an otherwise uninspiring tenure in the conference. Two of those four left to play Division I-A football.

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