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Missouri Valley Conference Notebook – November 18, 2011

by - Published November 18, 2011 in Conference Notes

Ranking the MVC through Week 1 (Games through Nov. 17)

 

  1. Creighton Bluejays (3-0)

On the surface, the Bluejays are cruising, nearly hitting the century mark in scoring the first two games and winning easily on the road in game three. Sophomore Doug McDermott is also just warming up, increasing his point totals from 13 to 21 to 27. The Bluejays will experience some close, heartbreaking losses this season though if they continue to shoot poorly at the free-throw line – a total of 44-for-66 through three games. Creighton will face a stronger test when traveling to play Iowa on Sunday afternoon.

 

… Continue Reading

Around the Horizon League: Week 1

by - Published November 17, 2011 in Conference Notes

Butler Bulldogs (1-1): The Bulldogs lost their regular-season opener in overtime against Evansville by a score of 80-77. Andrew Smith missed two free throws that could have won the game at the end of regulation. Butler rebounded Tuesday night to defeat Chattanooga by a score of 57-46. This Saturday, the Bulldogs will battle the Louisville Cardinals at home in a highly anticipated nonconference matchup.

Cleveland State Vikings (2-0): The Vikings shocked the nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores on Sunday by a score of 71-58. On Tuesday, the Vikings knocked off the Rio Grande Red Storm, an NAIA school, by a score of 86-57. Cleveland State will face another test on Friday evening at home when they square off against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Senior center Aaron Pogue missed Tuesday night’s match up with an undisclosed illness, and his availability for this important game is unknown. … Continue Reading

Hokies hope Green gets plenty of rest before clash with the Cuse

by - Published November 16, 2011 in Conference Notes

Virginia Tech beat back Isiah Thomas’ Florida International team with ease Nov. 15, despite losing Erick Green midway through the game.

The junior guard aggravated an Achilles’ tendon that forced him to miss Virginia Tech’s first game of the season, a 64-53 win against East Tennessee State Nov. 12. Green told the Washington Post’s Mark Giannotto after the Florida International game that he would be fine by the time Virginia Tech travels to New York next Wednesday to face Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals.

The Hokies will need Green to be at full strength because he’s been hot from long range to start this season, making 4-of-5 3-pointers. Virginia Tech has shot 22-of-52 from deep range as a team this season, and the Hokies will need that sharpshooting to continue to stretch out Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. That would create more room for Dorenzo Hudson to operate off the ball and slash to the hoop. Green would be important in getting Hudson some good looks because he has five assists in 48 minutes.

In addition to Hudson, the Hokies will need Dorian Finney-Smith to continue playing like the ACC’s rookie of the year. The highly touted recruit has been a monster in his first three games, averaging about eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game.

Big Sky news and notes

by - Published November 16, 2011 in Conference Notes

We’ll start with simplicity: Sacramento State’s Joe Eberhard has been selected as the first Big Sky Conference men’s basketball Player of the Week. And here’s the weekly news and notes that come out each Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, it doesn’t include Weber State’s 73-63 win over Utah State. Junior shooting guard Scott Bamforth scored a career-high 28 points on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. His performance, and that of his team (12-of-23) brings the season total to 29-of-52 (.558), which is emblematic of an opening-week trend in the conference. The Wildcats (2-0) and Eastern Washington Eagles (1-1, 24-59, .407) have used the long-range bomb to score close to half their total baskets made (29-of-57, .508, Weber; 24-of-50 .480, EWU), and six teams have already sunk 10 or more 3-pointers just a couple games into the campaign. With five straight days of games opening today, it will be interesting to see how this early trend plays out.

There’s not much else to discuss aside from a handful of blowouts over cupcakes and “moral victories” as Montana State came back from a 12-point halftime deficit before falling by six at Arizona State; Oklahoma dispatched Idaho State but just by four points; and Eastern Washington held a 64-62 lead at Gonzaga before the West Coast Conference powerhouse turned it around for an eight-point win. It did produce one of the better quotes I’ve read in a while.

“I am pleased with our effort,” Idaho State coach Joe O’Brien told isubengals.com. “I would have loved to win the game, but when you have 21 turnovers on the road, you don’t win. You can stay close and some people can call it a moral victory, but I am too old for moral victories. I am greedy. I want to win.”

We’ll have a more complete weekend wrap on Sunday — though there will be games Sunday and Monday — and then get into a regular news & notes blog for Wednesday mornings.

Cleveland State pulls away in second half to beat Rio Grande

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Conference Notes

After its upset victory over the nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores Sunday afternoon, Cleveland State could easily have been expected to face a bit of a letdown Tuesday night when the Vikings squared off against the Rio Grande Red Storm in their home opener at the Wolstein Center. Rio Grande is an NAIA school from southern Ohio, and some fans may have even expected the Vikings to overlook the Red Storm in their anticipation of Friday night’s matchup against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.

As the Vikings headed onto the floor, the Wolstein Center crowd’s excitement about the home opener was tempered by the fact that senior center Aaron Pogue was not in uniform. Pogue later joined the team in street clothes on the bench to scattered applause with 2:25 left in the first half but did not play in Tuesday’s victory. Sophomore forward Ludovic Ndaye started in his place and scored seven points and pulled down seven rebounds. After the game, Vikings coach Gary Waters said Pogue’s lack of playing time was injury related and not a disciplinary matter.

Showing no signs of a letdown, the Vikings jumped out to a 14-6 lead. The Red Storm tied the game at 17-17 with 9:27 left in the first half. However, the Vikings proceeded to rip off a 9-0 run and grew their lead to 26-17 with 5:45 remaining in the first half. Fueled by their relentless full-court pressure, which forced eight first-half turnovers, the Vikings slowly extended their lead during the remainder of the first half. Notably, senior guard Jeremy Montgomery had a special moment as he surpassed 1,000 points in his Cleveland State career with a basket during the first half.

Following an acrobatic turnaround jumper at the buzzer by senior forward D’Aundray Brown, the Vikings headed into halftime with a 40-27 lead. Brown led all scorers in the first half with 13 points and has shown no signs of rust in the first two games after missing last season due to a finger injury.

In the second half, the Vikings opened with a 13-6 run in the first five minutes to extend their lead to 53-33. Jermaine Warmack, who came off the bench to score 24 points for the Red Storm, single-handedly kept the Vikings’ lead to around 20 for much of the second half.

However, the Vikings steadily expanded their lead throughout the course of the second half and led by 80-52 with 3:57 left in the second half after a spectacular three-point play by Brown.

The Vikings’ bench again played a key role in the victory. After a foul-plagued first half, freshman forward Anton Grady rebounded in the second half with 12 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks, many of which sent the Wolstein Center crowd to their feet in appreciation. In his postgame comments, Waters said he hopes to limit the starters’ minutes throughout the season and that the starters will receive further bench support when freshman Ike Nwamu, who has missed the Vikings’ first two games with a concussion, is cleared for play. However, Vikings fans shouldn’t count on seeing Marlin Mason in action this season, as Waters said he hopes to redshirt Mason this season to develop his ability to play the small forward position.

The Vikings’ next game will be this Friday at home against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, which Waters as “a very big team” with a future high NBA draft pick in the frontcourt.

Memphis Tigers’ Big 3 put in work against Belmont

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Conference Notes

Memphis topped a Belmont team that lost to Duke at Cameron Indoor by one point four days earlier. The final seconds were not as tense for Memphis, as they won 97-81. The victory was due in large part to three players: Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon and Joe Jackson. The three combined for 65 points.

Barton was the leading scorer for Memphis with 23 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists. He did force the issue at times, going 7-of-12 from the field and 0-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. Still, it’s hard to deny his talent. Barton can make shots that seem to have no chance of going in.

Witherspoon put his versatility on display against Belmont. He was the second-leading scorer with 22 points, tied for most rebounds with five and had two steals. His shot selection was superb. Witherspoon made 8-of-8 field goals, including 3-of-3 3-pointers. The only thing he did poorly was shoot free throws and a grab a poorly timed flagrant foul.

Jackson looked much better than he did most of last season. He had 20 points, four rebounds, seven assists and only two turnovers. He can blow by defenders at will, and he seems to have figured out what to do once he gets past them.

Barton has always been a good player, albeit a bit too flashy at times. If Witherspoon and Jackson can continue to play like they did against Belmont, Memphis will stay in the Top 10 all year.

No Norris Cole? No problem. Cleveland State Vikings shock Vanderbilt Commodores

by - Published November 14, 2011 in Conference Notes

Most coaches would be thrilled if they had four-fifths of their starting lineup returning after a successful season in which their team tied for the conference title, qualified for the NIT, and had a hard-nosed senior defender returning after missing the past season with a finger injury.

However, when the one-fifth that is not returning is Norris Cole, the point guard who rewrote Cleveland State’s record books and played a pivotal role in helping the Vikings advance to the postseason two times in four years on his way to being drafted in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, many coaches would be tempted to load their nonconference schedule with easy teams and drastically lower their expectations for the season.

Not Gary Waters. While some coaches may have viewed scheduling the nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores as a risky move as a regular-season opener and even point to Cleveland State’s major stumbles against top-ranked nonconference opponents during the 2009-10 season as evidence for their view, Waters penciled in a match up against a team whom many expect to be a major contender in the SEC.

Today, Waters looks like a genius as the Vikings upset the Commodores on their home floor on Sunday afternoon, 71-58.

Admittedly, the Commodores did not head into Sunday’s game at full strength. The Commodores were without star center Festus Ezeli, who was suspended for the first six games of the season after taking improper benefits from a booster and later injured his MCL in his knee. Additionally, coach Kevin Stallings’ squad also played a late game on Friday night against Oregon and appeared to be slow, tired and a step behind the hard-charging Vikings.

Nevertheless, the Vikings’ overwhelming dominance from start to finish shows that Cleveland State is indeed a team to be reckoned with this season and that Vanderbilt must realize that they need to work hard to fulfill the praises and potential heaped upon them in the media. The Vikings never trailed after taking a 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by senior guard Trevon Harmon in the first minute of the game and led by as many as 15 points on the way to a win that captured the nation’s attention.

One of the brightest spots for the Vikings was the return of D’Aundray Brown, who returned after missing last season with a finger injury. Brown contributed 18 points, eight rebounds, and seven steals in his first regular season game since March 2010. The Vikings will lean heavily on Brown’s defense and experience this season.

Another bright spot for the Vikings was their bench play. Last season, the Vikings received inconsistent play from their bench all season long, and the starters were forced to play major minutes every game. While this did not hinder the Vikings at first as they jumped out to a 21-3 start to the season, the heavy minutes logged by the starting unit eventually took their toll toward the end of the season as the Vikings slogged through much of their conference schedule and lost in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals. On Sunday, the Vikings received 22 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists from their bench. Freshman forward Anton Grady, a local product from Cleveland Central Catholic High School, made an impact in his regular-season debut with seven points, four rebounds, and four blocks in 22 minutes of action. Furthermore, no Vikings starter played more than 33 minutes.

Of course, it is far too early in the season for the Vikings to start printing NCAA Tournament commemorative hats and for fans to begin making travel plans to watch the Vikings in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Injuries, surprise NCAA violations, and the grind of the regular-season schedule can take down even the most talented team, and the Vikings have a long road ahead of them. Nevertheless, Sunday’s win gives Vikings fans much to celebrate and shows that the team will still be very competitive this season despite the loss of Norris Cole.

The Vikings will play their regular season home opener against the Rio Grande Redmen at 7:00 P.M. at the Wolstein Center.

Long night for UCF

by - Published November 12, 2011 in Conference Notes

The NCAA has made major allegations about the athletic department of Central Florida. According to ESPN, Ken Caldwell, who is identified by the NCAA as “a recruiter for a professional sports agency” and his associate Brandon Bender were said to have given improper benefits to players and recruits, as well as having illegal contact with recruits.

According to the allegations, Caldwell and Bender helped to recruit six men’s basketball players and five football prospects. Central Florida’s Athletic Director Keith Tribble, as well as football coach David Kelly and men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones, were aware of this contact, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA also claims that Caldwell and Bender paid the tuition and fees for Central Florida’s men’s basketball players, provided funding for transportation of men’s basketball recruits, and provided a laptop to a football recruit.

Amid these allegations, Tribble and Kelly have both resigned. Jones is suspended for three conference games without pay.

The NCAA has recently cleared Jeff Jordan to play, but A.J. Rompza is still sitting out as his eligibility has yet to be determined. Marcus Jordan, P.J. Gaynor, and Josh Crittle are also not playing due to an unspecified violation of team rules. The have no timetable for return.

The loss of these players is a major hit to UCF’s mens basketball team. They were poised to have a breakout season. Last year, they spent some time in the top 25, going undefeated before conference play. As conference play hit, injuries contributed to their collapse.

Henson sets the tone for Tar Heels

by - Published November 12, 2011 in Conference Notes

Unlike the North Carolina championship teams of the past decade, this Tar Heel squad’s calling card is defense. And John Henson is smack in the middle of that.

Against Michigan State, the Tar Heels started hot, then fell behind as the offense fell into a funk as night fell on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. Blame the offensive woes on the players adjusting to darkness during a game played outdoors if you’d like. But really, this is what the Tar Heels do.

After the Spartans established a lead midway through the first half, North Carolina jacked up the defensive pressure, with Henson and Tyler Zeller daring anyone to attack the rim. Henson finished with nine blocks, and at times, he looked intent on swatting the ball into the Pacific Ocean. With the post on lockdown, Michigan State turned to the perimeter, where the Spartans made only two 3-points out of 20 attempts. Despite the strong effort against Michigan State’s initial attacks, the Tar Heels played a little soft on the boards, allowing the Spartans to grab 19 offensive rebounds, or 38 percent of their missed shots. The 67-55 final would have been a much bigger blowout if North Carolina had done a better job boxing out Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson.

The scoring stats won’t always reveal the game changers for North Carolina in 2011-12. The 2005 and 2009 championship teams used a high-octane offense to mask some defensive flaws, especially when teams forced North Carolina to play a primarily half-court game. This year’s team can play defense with the best of them, regardless whether the game flow is sprinting up and down the court or methodically working through half-court sets. As usual, the Tar Heels’ offense is at its best when the team is running and Kendall Marshall has an opportunity to slice and dice opponents with laser-guided passes.

But it will start and end with the defense, led by Henson. Against the Spartans, Harrison Barnes led the team with 17 points and five rebounds. That line is respectable, but was a little less impressive than Henson’s, despite the higher points total. Like Barnes, Henson logged 31 minutes, and in that time, he filled his stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, nine blocks and two assists. Turning to the Total Impact Quotient rating system, Barnes had a Real TIQ of 19.6 points for the game compared to 22.3 points for Henson. By isolating the defensive side of that formula, Henson’s work on that end prevented 12.3 points, while Barnes’ defensive effort saved 4.3 points. Yep, that’s what Henson does.

Cincinnati Bearcats 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

Cincinnati Bearcats

 

Last Year:

26-9 overall, 11-7 Big East (T-6th)

Coach:

Mick Cronin (6th season, 87-77)

Projected starting five:

G: Cashmere Wright, Jr.
G: Dion Dixon, Jr.
G: Sean Kilpatrick, So.
F: Justin Jackson, So.
C: Yancy Gates, Sr.

Important departures:

Rashad Bishop 8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Ibrahima Thomas 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Inside the numbers:

66 percent scoring returning
64 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

F: Shaquille Thomas, 6’6”, 165 – Rivals #81
F: Jermaine Sanders 6’4”, 205 – Rivals #131
G: Jeremiah Davis, 6’3”, 195 – ESPNU Pos. #43

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/10 at (15) Xavier
Toughest in-conference stretch: 1/18 – 1/23 at (4) Connecticut, at West Virginia, at (5) Syracuse

Prediction:

5th in BE; 25+ wins; Second weekend of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

A lot of how the Bearcats do this year is dependent on Yancy Gates and his “want-to.” Gates has been hit-or-miss in his time in Cincinnati, playing up to his potential at the end of last season, which has given Bearcat fans the hope that he will continue his upward trend. However, Gates’ midseason dismissal for lack of effort looms in the back of the minds of Cincinnati fans.

Returning four starters from last year should help the Bearcats continue their trend of regaining national prominence. Sean Kilpatrick has a lot of expectations to fulfill this year. The sophomore is touted as UC’s microwave, giving Cincinnati an outside threat to balance Gates on the inside.

Coach Mick Cronin has handled predicament well over the past six years at the helm. Taking some hits along the way, the Cincinnati native has once again brought the Bearcats into the preseason rankings with the belief that 22nd is the lowest they will be ranked all year. A solid starting five and a talented young bench should help the Bearcats build on their second-round dismissal from the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

Next: Connecticut Huskies

Back to Big East preview

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