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Saturday Notes – January 10, 2015

by - Published January 11, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

As conference play is now in full swing, Saturday offered an early referendum on a number of teams. While the day wasn’t full of shockers, there were plenty of noteworthy games. 11 games went to overtime, with three needing a second extra set of five minutes to decide. And if there’s one conference that stood out, it was the Big 12.

Simply put, the Big 12 is reinforcing the idea that it is the strongest conference from top to bottom this season. There’s no one that appears poised to run away with the conference, and the regular season champion might well have at least four or five losses. Kansas and Iowa State are 2-0, four other teams are 2-1, and Baylor and Texas are hardly stiffs even with their early 1-2 marks, though Texas ended a rough week on Saturday. The only two teams you might rule out of the race are Texas Tech and TCU.

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 10, 2015

by - Published January 10, 2015 in The Morning Dish

On a Friday that had limited game action – just four games were on tap – there were a few possible stories to lead us off. We’ll take the one that should be the most positive, although the news itself was not, in a sense anyway. Utah State head coach Stew Morrill will retire at the end of the season, ending a terrific career, especially with his great run at the school. College basketball will be a bit poorer without him running a program.

There aren’t many coaches who have done a better job under the radar than Morrill did. He will be very tough to replace, and it helps that he’s been a great fit. There have been opportunities to take other jobs, but Morrill, a native Utahan, has stayed put.

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Finding a way to win at BC may be just what Pittsburgh needs

by - Published January 8, 2015 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Sometimes you need to win a game you seemingly have no business winning based on how you play. When that happens, it can be a big boost, and for Pittsburgh, that boost may come at the right time from Tuesday’s 61-60 overtime win at Boston College.

Normally, eking out a win over a so-so Boston College team, even on the road, isn’t a big one for a team. That’s especially true for a team like Pittsburgh, which has been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament for over a decade. When you’re coming off a game where the offense was as bad as it’s been all year, though, and struggle again for most of the night and don’t play well enough to win all along, the story changes.

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Keatts tries to get UNCW to play to their strength

by - Published January 8, 2015 in Columns

BOSTON – Talent and depth are great things to have at any time. No coach will say otherwise, and certainly not Kevin Keatts, considering the talent he has had at his disposal at times in his career. No matter how much of each you have, however, it helps to know what you are good at. For Keatts and UNCW, that can make a big difference.

“I felt like we just had to play to our strength,” said the first-year head coach after the Seahawks beat Northeastern 75-68 on Monday night. “I just thought tonight, our guys were able to get into the paint and finish.”

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Streaky Lehigh has hit a rough patch

by - Published January 7, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

BOSTON – Saturday’s 75-56 loss at Boston University wasn’t that close for Lehigh. In fact, they scored the game’s last 17 points, so the final score is a little more respectable and quite deceptively so. But more important than the score is where this team is trending, and while it looks to be downward to the untrained eye, that may not be the case. Make no mistake: the Mountain Hawks have areas of real concern, as you might imagine.

“We definitely need to improve,” said head coach Brett Reed. “We have to defend the three-point line, it’s a basic element of today’s game in college basketball.”

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Boston University gets better but still has challenges

by - Published January 7, 2015 in Columns

BOSTON – About a month ago, it was hard to imagine Boston University being 2-0 in Patriot League play and with the wins they have – at Holy Cross and a convincing win over Lehigh – to get there. But that’s where the Terriers stand now, and more importantly, they appear to be in a better place.

Even so, there isn’t going to be any rest. This team still has plenty of flaws and plenty of room to improve.

“It’s so early, you really have to keep trying to get better,” said head coach Joe Jones.

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Improving Dartmouth tries to keep building as Ivy play approaches

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

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Naturally, expectations in recent years for Dartmouth have been raised. That happens when you put together a couple of good recruiting classes like the Big Green has done in recent years. And when you consider that the program struggled for a while before Paul Cormier took over for a second stint, part of expectations rising comes from them having nowhere to go but up. All the while, Cormier is taking a measured approach to what he and his staff are doing in Hanover these days.

“It’s basically developing a program,” Cormier said when asked if this is an important year for the program’s core group. “The two (seniors) that are remaining, John (Golden) and Gabas (Maldunas), have gone through some tough times, and it’s nice to see them now being able to be in a competitive situation every game, game in and game out.”

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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 5, 2015

by - Published January 5, 2015 in The Morning Dish

On Sunday morning, basketball didn’t feel so important. Deep down, I knew this could come any day, as he had fought a courageous battle with cancer for several years, but waking up to find out that Stuart Scott had passed away still stunk. It was still hard to take. And watching the nearly 15-minute video that ESPN put together about his life – with Robin Roberts narrating – as well as his speech at the ESPYs last year didn’t make it any better.

It all just drove home how he touched so many of us and how much he’ll be missed. Even my wife, who is not nearly as sports-oriented as yours truly, was touched by it all.

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Saturday Notes – January 3, 2015

by - Published January 4, 2015 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

Conference play is just about in full swing by now as Saturday was the opening day of conference play for several. The Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 all got the jump on things earlier in the week among major conferences.

Also getting the jump on things are a few surprising teams – those of the 2-0 starts. One noticeable theme on Saturday was several teams winning to go to 2-0, teams that not many have projected to contend. There is a reason why we play the games, sure, but this is significant in another respect: while it’s early, being 2-0 is far better than being 0-2. A team starting 2-0 has more confidence and isn’t fighting an uphill battle in the standings, which at times can make teams put more pressure on themselves to win games.

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Bryant needs a second scorer alongside Starks

by - Published January 3, 2015 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – This isn’t the Bryant of the past couple of seasons. While that may be obvious, and even expected given that everyone knew they would be losing key players after last season, the reality of it is starting to become clearer as Northeast Conference play approaches. The most glaring issue is at the point of strength in recent years: the offense.

Head coach Tim O’Shea rightly notes that a team’s overall shooting number might be deceptive, especially for a team like his. The Bulldogs, after all, play against some high-major teams that are much more physically gifted than they are, and a game or two with a low percentage can skew statistics a little deceptively for either team. Still, that the Bulldogs are shooting over 38 percent from the field on the season is a bit surprising and troubling.

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We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

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