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Harvard’s path to the elusive NCAA Tournament bid just got tougher

by - Published February 26, 2012 in Columns, Full Court Sprints
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Harvard is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning. Many of the brightest young people grow up dreaming of attending the school, unless you’re like me and dreamed of going to MIT (or Cal Tech) because of engineering. The university has produced a number of high achievers in just about every field imaginable.

On the hardwood, it’s been a different story. Harvard has had seasons of 20 or more wins, and they’ve been to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and NIT the past two seasons. But they have yet to get to the holy grail of college basketball, the NCAA Tournament. That has eluded them, including last year when they went to a one-game playoff against Princeton and lost on a buzzer-beating jumper in New Haven. And after Saturday night, they might be on a path to such a game once more, as Penn came to Lavietes Pavilion and stunned Harvard 55-54 on Senior Night.

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Round 233: UNC vs. Duke tips off with more than pride at stake

by - Published February 8, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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The first of two regular-season meetings between two of the most hate-filled rivals in American sports goes down tonight when Duke makes the short trip to the Dean Dome to visit North Carolina.

As is usually the case in recent years, this game has significant importance in the standings, with both teams jockeying with Florida State for the top spot in the ACC. North Carolina enters the game at 7-1 in conference action, while Duke slipped to 6-2 after losing to Miami. Duke can ill-afford another loss, especially because the Seminoles and Tar Heels will not meet again this regular season.

Besides the usual hostility generated by one of the most intense rivalries in the game, the 233rd match up between these teams — UNC leads the all-time series 131-101 — is critical for both teams. Duke is facing more than its fair share of critics after a lackluster performance against the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, North Carolina needs to prove it can beat an elite team, sometime the Heels haven’t done in a few months.

For the Blue Devils, coach Mike Krzyzewski will be looking for renewed passion from his team after calling them out for lacking the energy to compete with the Hurricanes in the overtime loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Expect his team to rally around his battle cry, especially on the road surrounded by the Enemy in Powder Blue. To win, Duke will need to play smart defense, something the Blue Devils haven’t done consistently this season.

On the other hand, North Carolina seems to be on the rise, especially after a gutsy win in College Park last weekend in which Maryland tried to beat up the Tar Heels. Unlike the game in Tallahassee in which Florida State annihilated UNC, the Tar Heels responded after getting hit in the mouth and clamped down in the second half to erase a nine-point deficit to win by nine. However, the Tar Heels haven’t beaten a team guaranteed to be in the NCAA Tournament since they knocked off Wisconsin in Chapel Hill Nov. 30. North Carolina needs a win at home against the team’s arch rival to validate the argument that this team should be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That adds a lot of pressure to both teams, and that might favor North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a roster full of players who have been through this rivalry at least three times after last season. Duke has struggled with leadership on the court, and the Blue Devils must get someone to step up or else things could ugly for Duke pretty quickly.

Let the battle begin.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino got his wish with Memphis, as the Tigers will be joining the Big East starting in 2013-14, according an ESPN.com news services report. Pitino had lobbied for the Conference USA’s Tigers to join the Big East to help replace the power that will be departing with West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in coming years.

Florida coach Billy Donovan tried to preach that Kentucky faced all the pressure entering the Gators/Wildcats clash Tuesday night, with the home team trying to extend a 15-game winning streak and 48-game undefeated streak at Rupp Arena, according to the Associated Press. That psyche-out didn’t seem to work as the Wildcats clobbered Florida 78-58.

If Connecticut can rally around the toughness of coach Jim Calhoun, the Huskies won’t be out of the picture despite a bleak couple of weeks, including a horrid loss Monday night at Louisville. Calhoun told ESPN’s Andy Katz that he doesn’t plan to let spinal stenosis to force him into retirement, and the coach could return to the sidelines sometime this season if the pain in his legs and back subsides.

There’s also health concerns for another coach: College of Charleston’s Bobby Cremins. The 64-year-old Cougar coach took a leave of absence Jan. 27, and he told people that he’s just taking a break to recuperate from a lack of energy, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

Alabama’s tournament chances could be in some jeopardy after the team indefinitely suspended junior Tony Mitchell for misconduct, writes TideNation’s Alex Scarborough. The junior forward averages 13.1 ppg and 7.0 rpg in more than 30 minutes per game for the Crimson Tide.

Notre Dame reminds us that we don’t play the games on paper

by - Published February 5, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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We always talk about how the games aren’t played on paper when looking at teams that don’t do what we expect. It’s a cliché, and it sticks around because everyone loves to predict how things will turn out in sports, no matter how wrong we could wind up being. All the while, the teams that end up better than we project can just laugh at us all they want.

Enter the 2011-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame lost a great deal from last season’s team that entered the month of March playing about as well as any team in the country. Gone from that team are Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough and important role players Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott, the latter a big defensive leader for that team and a surprise early defection. Already, projections for this team were going to be that they were unlikely to contend for the top of the Big East. When they went 0-2 in Kansas City, including an 87-58 thrashing at the hands of Missouri, it looked like they would be who many thought they would be.

That wasn’t all. The Fighting Irish were not certain to have Tim Abromaitis back, as he played in two exhibition games in the 2008-09 season where he redshirted. But the NCAA granted him this year, so that helped as he was an experienced player and was second on the team in scoring last season. Then in late November, he tore the ACL in his right knee in practice, putting him out for the season.

At that point, the outlook was decidedly not good. But no one told head coach Mike Brey and his team that, and after Saturday’s convincing 76-59 win over Marquette, the Fighting Irish are alone in fourth place in the Big East.

“From the start of the season, no one thought we would be here,” said sophomore point guard Eric Atkins.

Notre Dame hasn’t compiled its record by beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference. Along the way, they have knocked off Louisville, Seton Hall and Connecticut on the road, and now Syracuse and Marquette at home.

“I am very proud of my group,” said Brey, who at this point looks like the runaway Coach of the Year in the Big East, if not nationally. “I told them in one of the final media timeouts that I felt like I was coaching men today. Last year’s team was men. That had a look of more than one fifth year senior on the court. I am thrilled where we are.”

Notre Dame can only get better given that this is a young team with a lot of players who are just finding themselves. Scott Martin is the only other senior besides Abromaitis on the team, while the emerging perimeter unit of Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are sophomore, sophomore and freshman respectively. Connaughton wasn’t expected to play much, but he scored 21 points on Saturday and now starts on the hardwood as well as the mound (the San Diego Padres drafted him last year).

“Right now, we’re really confident that we can beat any team – we can play with any team,” said Grant. “Our team confidence is really high right now, and I’d like to keep it that way because we are playing really well.”

That’s one thing no one can doubt at this point. The Irish have proven that to this point, and as a more confident team they will be even tougher to beat.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Arizona had a big weekend, sweeping their trip to northern California after a 56-43 win at Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats may be starting to come alive at a good time.

Syracuse got Fab Melo back for Saturday’s game, and they rolled to a 95-70 blowout win at St. John’s. The win was the 879th in Jim Boeheim’s career, tying him with Dean Smith for third on the all-time list.

Seton Hall’s struggles continued as Connecticut annihilated them 69-46 in Hartford.

Kentucky had an easy time at South Carolina, committing just three turnovers in their blowout win.

The Big 12 gets a little more interesting at Missouri rallied to knock off Kansas in a big rivalry showdown. Both teams are now 8-2 in conference play.

Who’s on top of the ACC? No, not Duke, although the Blue Devils will be tied if they beat Miami on Sunday. North Carolina is in a tie after a big 83-74 win at Maryland to move into a tie for that spot. The team they are tied with is Florida State, as the Seminoles are 7-1 after a 58-55 win over Virginia.

Temple is now alone in first place in the Atlantic 10 after a 73-56 win at Rhode Island, combined with Saint Joseph’s knocking off La Salle earlier in the day. Temple’s perimeter trio continues to be the driving force for this team.

Wyoming knocked off road-weary UNLV in a close one after the Runnin’ Rebels ran into snow-related travel delays en route to Laramie.

Northern Iowa beat Creighton on a buzzer-beater, right after Creighton had tied it on a big shot.

Iona won a big showdown against Manhattan for the lead in the MAAC.

George Mason grabbed a share of the lead in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion in a first-place showdown. The Patriots are joined by VCU, 59-56 winners over Northeastern, and Drexel, 65-57 winners at Towson, at 11-2 in the conference.

Mississippi Valley State is now 10-0 in the SWAC and two games ahead in the standings, after knocking off Alabama State.

 

Sunday’s key matchups:

  • Michigan at Michigan State
  • Miami at Duke
  • Northwestern at Illinois
  • Stephen F. Austin at McNeese State
  • The biggest one of all: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

Percolating hoops intrigue makes February a fantastic month for sports

by - Published February 1, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s February — one of the most underrated sports months of the year.

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, the biggest event in U.S. sports will command the attention of tens of millions of viewers, generating tens of millions of dollars for everyone associated with the event.

A few weeks later, the NBA All-Star game will show the NFL how exhibition weekends should be run. In my opinion, the NBA All-Star weekend festivities are the best of any pro sport, with baseball coming in a close second. Did anyone actually watch the Pro Bowl last weekend?

We don’t have any winter Olympics this year, but that’s a February event, too.

And then we have college hoops. To casual fans, March is the month of joy. But February is the month that sets the table for March. Dozens of teams are jockeying for position right now, fighting for a better seed and location or merely a bid to the Big Dance.

The schedule-makers know what they’re doing, too. Next Wednesday — just days after the Super Bowl — the top rivalry in college hoops will go down for the first of two meetings in a month when Duke visits North Carolina. That’s a nice way for the NCAA to tell America: “Guess what? Football is over. It’s time to set your sights on the hardwood.”

And of course, as we work through the thick of conference play, we’ll have the rush of bracket projections to feed the hoops addiction. Hoopville will join the fray as usual, starting this Friday. We choose to wait until February because it just feels right. By now, we have a large enough sample size to judge teams’ résumés and make projections that have a good shot of standing up during the final few weeks before Selection Sunday.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Get ready for more technical fouls and a shorter leash on players or coaches who act out. Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog reports that John Adams, the NCAA’s national officiating coordinator, sent a notice to all officials that implored them to clamp down on bad behavior.

Clemson has indefinitely suspended junior Milton Jennings, a former McDonald’s All-American, because of academic reasons, according to the Associated Press. Jennings averages 8.9 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Arizona will finish the season without junior Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in a loss to Washington last weekend, according to a CBS Sports.com report. He averaged 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 1.7 apg this season.

Iona is looking to remain one of the premier programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the university extended the contract of coach Tim Cluess to help make that happen, according to a CBS Sports.com report.

Don’t mess with a player’s routine. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes shared some of the details of his routine with Andrew Jones of Fox Sports to explain why he changed his shoes at halftime of the Tar Heels’ win against Georgia Tech. Like the rest of the team, Barnes started the game with pink shoes to help promote breast cancer awareness. But he went with his usual Kobes in the second half.

VCU coach Shaka Smart stirred some commotion in the commonwealth during a teleconference Monday, writes Myron Medcalf for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Smart asserted that Virginia’s best schools reside in the CAA. He didn’t call out the ACC teams in Blacksburg or Charlottesville by name, but Smart felt compelled to give UVA coach Tony Bennett a call to clarify his comments.

The NCAA won’t be seeking any further action against Connecticut freshman guard Ryan Boatright regarding an investigation into his eligibility because of money and benefits that he and his mother received, according to the Associated Press. But the AP reports that the Boatrights’ lawyer isn’t finished with his actions against the NCAA, lambasting the organization for releasing private information.

The only coach to ever lead Canisius to an NCAA Tournament win died Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Joseph Curran, 89, passed away in Mystic, Conn. He led the Golden Griffins to a 76-66 record in six seasons, which included a shocking four overtime victory against No. 2 North Carolina State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament.

Monson’s 49ers reap the rewards of a tough schedule

by - Published January 24, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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If any team could claim to be battle-tested heading into conference play, it had to be Long Beach State.

The 49ers loaded up their nonconference slate with the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville and Xavier. The team struggled through many of those games, ending up with a 7-6 record heading into Big West play.

But don’t be fooled. The 49ers were more than competitive against the big boys, with single-digit losses on the road at San Diego State, Kansas and North Carolina. Plus, the 49ers beat Pittsburgh, Xavier and Auburn. None of those are particularly outstanding — the Xavier win came during the Musketeers’ tailspin following the brawl against Cincinnati. But in short, Dan Monson’s team learned how to win and how to believe in itself.

This team has taken that lesson and applied it well through the first seven games of Big West play. Long Beach State sits atop the conference standings with a 7-0 record, and only Cal Poly stayed within 10 points of the 49ers.

If Long Beach State can continue to plow through the Big West and claim an automatic to the NCAA Tournament, the 49ers should be a popular first-round upset pick. Their lack of hefty wins will prevent the team from earning a seed much higher than a No. 12 or 13 spot. But that just makes this team a sound pick to upset any No. 4 or 5 seed from a major conference on a neutral court.

The benefits of such a tough schedule might not show up in the win-loss columns immediately. But if Long Beach State goes 1-1 or 2-0 during the first weekend of March, that tournament success will be partially due to the team’s preparation early in the season.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Murray State will get back leading rebounder Ivan Aska, who grabs 6.0 rpg and scores 12.6 ppg, for the team’s game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Michigan could have big Jon Horford back for the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Tuesday, coach John Beilein told Wolverine Nation’s Chantel Jennings for ESPN.com. Horford has been out with a stress fracture since early December.

Arguably the most intense and spite-filled rivalry in the ACC, Maryland and Duke will clash for the first time this season Wednesday night in College Park. And the Terrapins will likely have freshman 7-footer Alex Len, even though he twisted his ankle during the Terps’ loss at Temple last weekend, according to the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to the North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. And this year, coach Roy Williams won’t have his best defender, Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL in the team’s win against Virginia Tech Thursday, according ESPN.com’s Robbi Pickeral.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is considering adding a hometown hero to the Razorbacks squad, according to the Associated Press. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and plans to play for Anderson as a walk-on or scholarship player. He was a star high school basketball player in Arkansas before leaving the state to play for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan railed against the rule that allows graduated players to transfer and play immediately during a news conference Monday, writes Benjamin Worgull for Badger Nation.com.

Three coaching legends lose on the same day

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s not every day that three of the greatest coaches ever lose a game on the same day. Yet that’s what happened on another Saturday full of noteworthy games, as Syracuse suffered its first loss on the season, Duke lost at home to put an end to a long home winning streak and Connecticut lost as well.

And it all happened, ironically, on the day that a football coaching legend appeared close to losing his life. On Saturday night, there were conflicting reports about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, but we did not learn for sure that he had passed until about 10:30 this morning. We send our condolences to Joe’s family and friends at this time.

The last time Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski lost a game on the same day was January 18, 2003. The three coaches have combined for over 2,600 wins, so they have won a little more than they have lost, and one might even be surprised that this wasn’t the first day all three lost.

It started in the middle of the afternoon, with two of the games. Connecticut took on Tennessee in Knoxville, a return of a game played last year. The Volunteers got a double-double from freshman Jarnell Stokes and fended off a late Husky rally for a 60-57 win. Turning the ball over one time in the second half certainly helped, especially as taking care of the ball had been a problem for Tennessee of late. Connecticut shot just 36.4 percent from the field.

Around that same time, Florida State looked like they had a shot to end Duke’s 45-game home winning streak, as they were right there with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They had leads late in the game as well. And finally, with the game tied at 73 in the final seconds, the Seminoles got the ball up the floor to Michael Snaer in front of his own bench, where he hit a three-pointer just as time expired to give Florida State their second big win in as many Saturdays, a 76-73 decision over Duke.

Not only had Duke not lost at home since North Carolina knocked them off in February 2009, but they also had a longer (64 games) home winning streak against unranked opponents. They had a chance to tie their own ACC record of 46 straight home wins, set between January 13, 1997 and February 9, 2000.

Florida State is now looking more and more like the team some thought they would be this season. In the preseason, a good number of prognosticators thought they might be the third-best team behind Duke and North Carolina. Virginia had emerged as that team, and probably still is, but now the Seminoles look like another formidable team in an ACC that is not looking much better than last year. They are in a three-way tie atop the ACC at 4-1, along with the two teams they have knocked off the past two Saturdays.

By the time the evening came around, one already had a sense that Syracuse could suffer its first loss of the season. The team announced earlier in the day that sophomore center Fab Melo would not make the trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati and that junior forward Mookie Jones had left the school for personal reasons. The Orange are so deep, it would not have been a shocker if they came away with two wins, but if they dropped one it would not have been a surprise. Sure enough, a Notre Dame team that knocked off Louisville a couple of weeks ago beat Syracuse 67-58 in South Bend.

Notre Dame led throughout the game and beat a No. 1 team for the eighth time, which ties for the fourth-highest total. They did it led by junior big man Jack Cooley, who went for 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Fighting Irish out-rebounded Syracuse 38-25. While Melo’s absence hurt there, it wasn’t a big factor in the Orange’s offensive struggles on the night.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation

With Syracuse losing, that left just one team undefeated: Murray State. The Racers were 82-65 winners at SIU-Edwardsville to improve to 20-0 on the season.

Missouri got perhaps its most impressive win yesterday, going on the road to beat Baylor. That’s two in a row now for Baylor, and it seems that at the moment, Baylor is close, but not there when it comes to the top of the Big 12.

Georgetown got all they could handle from Rutgers, and needed to score the game’s last seven points to eke out a 52-50 win in the nation’s capital.

Louisville continued Pittsburgh’s misery as they went into the Peterson Events Center and left with a 73-62 win over the Panthers, who are now 0-7 in the Big East and have lost eight straight.

UNLV convincingly won a key matchup with New Mexico, the second straight loss for the Lobos as they took on the two favorites in the conference this past week.

Mississippi State won an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt in a key matchup among teams chasing Kentucky in the SEC.

Todd Bozeman returned to the bench at Morgan State, but his team’s struggles continued as they lost for the fifth time in seven games by dropping a 62-61 decision against visiting North Carolina A&T.

Late Saturday night, Long Beach State picked up a key road win at UC Santa Barbara. That makes the 49ers 7-0 in conference play, a full two games ahead of three teams in the loss column.

Undefeated teams remain focused on the task at hand

by - Published January 20, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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As we approach the end of January, we still have two undefeated teams out there: Syracuse and Murray State.

The Orange and Racers will take their undefeated records on the road this weekend as Syracuse visits Notre Dame and Murray State faces SIU-Edwardsville. In both games, the undefeated squads should win. But that word “should” is a funny thing.

In conference play, you just never know when a rival will step up and pull off a major upset. Look at Florida State, which got amped for the team’s home game against North Carolina last weekend. Given the Seminoles’ defensive prowess, it wouldn’t have been a shock if they kept the game close or even eked out a slim victory. But a 30-point trouncing of a top five team? That’s ridiculous.

So as Syracuse and Murray State continue to plow through their schedules, plenty of onlookers will speculate about whether these teams can finish the regular season with a perfect record. Murray State will get a bunch of speculation because the Racers are head and shoulders above the rest of their Ohio Valley Conference competition. In the Big East, the general consensus is at least one team will knock off the Orange. But in a rebuilding year for many teams in the conference, it’s not unreasonable to think that Syracuse will be a favorite in every game the team plays.

But there we go again with the speculation. I can almost guarantee you that coaches Jim Boeheim and Steve Prohm aren’t looking further than Saturday’s game. And nor should they lest the Fighting Irish or Cougars come up with a big game to protect their home court like the Seminoles did against North Carolina last weekend.

Here are some of the big games on tap for this weekend.

Saturday:

  • Missouri at Baylor
  • Purdue at Michigan State
  • Florida State at Duke
  • Syracuse at Notre Dame
  • Cincinnati at West Virginia
  • Alabama at Kentucky
  • Mississippi State at Vanderbilt
  • Xavier at Dayton
  • Marshall at Southern Miss
  • Kansas at Texas
  • New Mexico at UNLV
  • Murray State at SIU-Edwardsville
  • Rutgers at Georgetown
  • Maryland at Temple
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma State
  • Stanford at Washington
  • Arizona at Colorado
  • Old Dominion at VCU
  • Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara

Sunday:

  • Virginia Tech at Virginia
  • NC State at Miami
  • Wisconsin at Illinois
  • Milwaukee at Cleveland State
  • Boston U. at Hartford

Several teams get much-needed resume wins on Saturday

by - Published January 15, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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Saturday saw a few teams get a victory they needed to jump-start their NCAA Tournament resume. A few others suffered bad losses in games they needed, or missed opportunities, but we’re going to stick with the positive and focus on the teams that got big wins. It’s too early to declare a number of these teams locks after what they did on Saturday, but they are in a better place than they were to start the day.

Let’s start with Florida State, which annihilated North Carolina 90-57 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles had a so-so non-conference run, as they came into Saturday lacking a win against the top 50 in three tries. Beating the Tar Heels is a remedy for that, although they need to make it relevant come March by playing well the rest of ACC play.

Next, we go to Northwestern, a team for whom heartbreak has become a regular occurrence. The Wildcats have had chances to play their way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in recent years, but haven’t been able to pull out the games they needed to. It looked like this year might be another case of that, too, although they did win the Charleston Classic over Seton Hall, a win that is looking better all the time. They won at mediocre Georgia Tech and lost to Baylor, which is hardly a bad loss. But then they lost at Creighton, got hammered at Ohio State and lost tough ones to Illinois and Michigan by a combined three points. And on Saturday, they knocked off Michigan State in Evanston for their best win of the season. Add that to the Seton Hall win and the Wildcats, who don’t have a bad loss and an RPI of 33 at the start of the week, are in a good place for the moment.

Then there is Oklahoma, a team thought to be rebuilding. But the Sooners knocked off Kansas State 82-73 for their second win against a top 50 team. The Sooners are now 1-3 in Big 12 play, so they have a good deal of work to do. But if they get to .500 in conference and win a game or two in the conference tournament, they may have done enough work by then to be in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament team.  It helps that they don’t have a bad loss.

Lastly, San Diego State knocked off UNLV in a thriller, 69-67. The Aztecs were actually in a reasonably good place before Saturday, but perhaps now they can be called an NCAA Tournament lock if they win the games they should the rest of the way. The Mountain West figured to be rebuilding this season, but that hasn’t been the case thus far as both of these teams look like they will be in the field of 68.


We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Pittsburgh lost at Marquette, 62-57, and is now 0-5 in the Big East for the second time in program history and first in 12 years. They have never started 0-6, but they play at Syracuse on Monday.

Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright was suspended by the NCAA and did not play in the Huskies’ 67-53 win at Notre Dame. The NCAA is investigating more eligibility matters with the freshman guard.

Iowa handily took out Michigan 75-59, and continues to be something of a Jekyll and Hyde team.

Jarnell Stokes gave Tennessee a boost in his debut, but Kentucky prevailed in Knoxville 65-62. The thinking is that although it was a loss, Saturday’s game bodes well for the Volunteers.

The Ivy League has started the season a little differently this time around, and Penn has started off 2-0 with wins at Columbia and Cornell. Normally teams play their travel partners over two weeks, save for Penn and Princeton, before the Friday-Saturday weekends start.

No America East team will go undefeated in conference play this season, as Stony Brook had its six-game winning streak end at Boston University, who has won three in a row after losing six straight.

Plenty of great games on tap for this weekend

by - Published January 13, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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We’re entering the second weekend of heavy conference play. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best match ups on the menu, starting with tonight’s action. The NFL playoffs are quite compelling, but be sure to check out some of these games, which promise to be just as entertaining.

Friday:

  • Creighton at Illinois State
  • Cleveland State at Butler
  • Missouri State at Northern Iowa
  • Seton Hall at South Florida

Saturday:

  • UNLV at San Diego State
  • Alabama at Mississippi State
  • New Mexico at Wyoming
  • Kentucky at Tennessee
  • North Carolina at Florida State
  • Rutgers at West Virginia
  • Texas at Missouri
  • Colorado at Stanford
  • St. Bonaventure at Xavier
  • Connecticut at Notre Dame
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma
  • NC State at Wake Forest
  • Oregon at Arizona
  • Ohio at Akron
  • UCF at Marshall
  • La Salle at Dayton

Sunday:

  • Indiana at Ohio State
  • Cleveland State at Valparaiso
  • Youngstown State at Butler
  • Loyola (Md.) at Iona
  • Georgia Tech at Maryland
  • Washington State at Washington

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

In case you missed it earlier this week, Pitt kinda struggled against Rutgers. And by kinda, we mean the Panthers totally stunk. According to ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nationg” blog, the Panthers had their worst home performance in more than 60 years, scoring only 39 points in the 23-point embarrassment against the Scarlet Knights.

Texas Tech’s Terran Petteway will miss tomorrow’s game against Texas A&M because coach Billy Gillispie suspended Petteway for elbowing Kansas’ Connor Teahan, earning himself an ejection, according to an Associated Press report.

Chairs, beware. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he has no regrets for slamming a chair on the court to motivate the Hawkeyes during a 28-point beatdown at Michigan State, according to an Associated Press report.

Fresh off a national championship in football, Alabama fans got to stick it to LSU once again Wednesday night when the Tigers came to Tuscaloosa. One of the more creative Bama fans brought a sign that mocked the Tigers football team’s struggle in getting past midfield in the BCS Championship Game, writes USA Today’s Nicol Auerbach. Check out the Tide fan’s cheeky taunts here.

Former Clemson guard Cory Stanton hopes he’s found a basketball home in Knoxville after walking on to the Volunteers, according to an Associated Press report. Stanton arrives at Tennessee via Lipscomb after playing one season at Clemson.

Will Syracuse’s hot start cool off this winter?

by - Published January 10, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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Syracuse is officially on the clock.

As of Jan. 9, the Orange look an awful lot like the best team in the country. But considering that it’s still early January, that’s not terribly surprising. The question is whether Syracuse will still look like the best team in college hoops in another two months as the NCAA Tournament approaches.

Since the Orange won the championship in 2003, Syracuse has made a habit of starting hot, building a record at least nine games better than .500 each season. In half of those seasons, the Orange have had a record as gaudy as at least 15 games better than .500.

But each season, the team has fallen apart for one reason or another. In some cases, it’s a lack of leadership to handle adversity when the team inevitably drops a tough Big East game or two. In other cases, the downfall has been rifts in team chemistry, sometimes leading to suspensions or poor play. And injuries have factored into a few of the collapses.

In sum, Syracuse has not finished a season better than three games above .500 after the Orange’s struggles creep into the picture. Why would this team be any different?

To start, this team has fantastic depth. Ten players average at least 12 minutes per game. Seven players contribute at least seven ppg, but no one scores more than 14.1 ppg, and that’s senior swingman Kris Joseph. In addition, the Orange have superior height than nearly any other team in Division I, with nine players who stand 6’4” or taller.

Coach Jim Boeheim has helped this team navigate through the tumultuous Bernie Fine affair without any semblance of a disturbance on the court. Compared to the off court drama, Boeheim must be happy dealing with any complaints about playing time that come from his talented players — if there have been any at all. Only two players are averaging more than 25 minutes per game, but as far as we can tell, everyone has embraced his role on the team. And that is leading to win after win.

At some point, the Orange will likely drop a game or two in Big East play. Road games against Cincinnati, St. John’s, Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut are potential land mines. But unlike in recent years, this team seems built to overcome the struggles of one night. Boeheim has the Orange playing their best basketball in eight years, according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency stats. If Syracuse can maintain its 1.202 points per possession on offense and 0.883 points per possession on defense, both those numbers will be the best marks for offensive and defensive efficiency for the years that Pomeroy has data available (since 2003).

In a season filled with talented teams, Syracuse has earned its No. 1 ranking, and the Orange should remain near the top from wire to wire. And for Syracuse fans, a strong finish to bookend a strong start would be a refreshing change of pace.

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman is in the thick of serious allegations after several people at the Bears’ game at South Carolina State said the coach punched Morgan State senior Larry Bastfield during the game, according to ESPN.com news services. The school has indefinitely suspended Bozeman while looking into the accusations. Bozeman and Bastfield say the news is much ado about nothing — with that nothing being an accidental bump during the game, as Bastfield described it.

Xavier coach Chris Mack made his point, then paid the price. Mack missed the past couple of days after tearing a tendon in his left knee while dunking to re-energize the struggling Musketeers, who are 2-5 in the past few weeks, writes USA Today’s Marlen Garcia.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek has accepted the departure of leading scorer Keala King, who left a few days after Sendek suspended him for unacceptable conduct, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. King’s departure is a massive loss for a pretty bad Sun Devils team. King averaged 13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 3.3 apg.

St. John’s scored a talented point guard when former Texas A&M sophomore Jamal Branch decided to transfer to the Red Storm, writes the New York Daily News’ Roger Rubin. Branch averaged 4.2 ppg and 2.5 apg for the Aggies, and he chose St. John’s over several other suitors.

Michael Jordan’s son Jeff has decided to leave Central Florida, according to an Associated Press report. His brother, Marcus, remains with the Golden Knights, as Jeff cited personal reasons for his decision.

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Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

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hofstra

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March 2, 2014 by

cornell

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Hoopville Archives

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

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All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

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Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

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Recruiting Coverage

Holderness has a new coach and some young players with upside

September 22, 2014 by

holdernessschool

The Holderness School has a new head coach, and while the team isn’t loaded with talent, there are some players with clear upside that give this team a chance to compete in time.

2014 Hoop Mountain Fall Classic Showcase Evaluations

September 22, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

Over 200 players competed at the Hoop Mountain Fall Classic Showcase, and we take a look at a few who stood out on the evening.

Brooks School hopes to continue the rise with one more step

September 18, 2014 by

brooksschool

With a less experienced team, the Brooks School got to the NEPSAC Class B finals and won a school-record 21 games last year. Now they hope to take one more step forward.

Phillips Exeter has a team with some upside

September 17, 2014 by

phillipsexeter

Known for academics, Phillips Exeter has won two straight Class A titles. Their quest for a third will involve a team that has some clear upside right now.

Plenty of talent, including a good mix, at Brewster Academy

September 17, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

As one can expect, Brewster Academy is loaded this year. There’s also a good mix of talent, especially on the perimeter, as they try to win a third straight NEPSAC Class AAA title.