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The Morning Dish – Friday, March 27, 2015

by - Published March 27, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

A West Region final rematch is what many have been looking forward to this year, even if they didn’t know it. And a West Region final rematch is what they are getting, and it’s one that will be a historical rarity.

It’s an isolated occurrence for teams to meet in the NCAA Tournament two years in a row at all, and it is flat-out scarce that they square off in the same regional in the same round two years straight. It hasn’t happened since UCLA and San Francisco played in the 1973 and 1974 West regional finals, when the tourney was just 25 teams and placing teams in their home region was a priority and also easy to accommodate with so few teams. It took 41 years, but it will finally happen again on Saturday in the West Region (again) as Wisconsin and Arizona will meet again with a trip to the Final Four on the line after the Badgers defeated North Carolina 79-72 and the Wildcats held off Xavier 68-60 on Thursday.
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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 21, 2014

by - Published December 21, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-yellow

Saturday’s college basketball day had all kind of major storylines featuring many of the sport’s biggest name schools. Kentucky and North Carolina winning big made-for-TV games. A pair of former Big East rivals putting on a show. Louisville, VCU and SMU getting quality road wins. Illinois defeating Missouri at the buzzer in their annual Braggin’ Rights game. And that was just during the daytime.

Would like to take a moment, though, to recognize a league at the other end of the spectrum, maybe as far from the biggies as can be in NCAA Division I. The Southwestern Athletic Conference is frequently a punching bag for schools like the aforementioned, regularly racking up the losses in November and December while playing ridiculous non-conference schedules.

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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 7, 2014

by - Published December 7, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

The independents are dead. Long live the independents.

Whereas once independents were far more than an exception in college basketball, the ranks have dwindled in recent years to near extinction, as well documented for some time.

The lone independent the last couple years has been New Jersey Institute of Technology, New Jersey Tech, NJIT. By any name, it has one of those perfectly obscure independent names, carrying on the tradition of indies of the past like Brooklyn College, Utica and U.S. International. As the lone independent left, though, it’s sometimes hard for the Highlanders to get so much as a mention in preseason annuals, much less a real chance at postseason glory.

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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 4, 2014

by - Published December 4, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

This introduction was going to be about one of the most anticipated games of the year so far, as Duke and Wisconsin squared off in a battle between top 5 teams, Final Four contenders and legendary coaches. That changed after midnight here in the Central time zone after watching Wichita State face Utah in what was maybe the second-most anticipated game-of at least the night, anyway.

The Utes picked up a signature non-conference win, edging the Shockers 69-68 in overtime. It’s a huge win for Utah, but if someone happened to turn this off late in the second half, they should know the win came far tougher for Utah than it may have looked late in regulation.
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The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 22, 2014

by - Published November 22, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

Early season tournaments continue to lead the way, and will for much of the next week. Friday featured plenty of such action leading into the weekend, setting the stage for what’s to come. In one of them, a champion was crowned.

At Madison Square Garden, Texas won the 2K Classic 71-55 over California, frustrating the Golden Bears with their defense all night long, especially the 10 shots they blocked. In the consolation game, Syracuse held off Iowa 66-63 behind a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds from freshman Chris McCullough, who also got the game-sealing steal in the final seconds. More coverage on this is coming soon, so stay tuned.

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2013-14 Mountain West Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
mountainwest

With conference realignment being a headline the last few years, few conferences have escaped unharmed outside of the BCS conferences. The Mountain West is one of them, although they almost lost out big. The end result, as pertains to 2013-14, was another excellent season, led by the program that has become the standard bearer of late.

San Diego State had another big year, winning 31 games, including a 16-2 mark in Mountain West play to pace the conference. The 16 conference wins set a new record. They also reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Arizona.

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BracketBusters takes center stage once again

by - Published February 19, 2012 in Columns
hoopguy-orange

Every year, there is a lot of talk about how to make BracketBusters better, or if it should just go away entirely. While teams have undoubtedly benefited from it over the years of its existence, the feelings on it seem a bit mixed, and it’s debatable whether or not it has been good as a whole. Right now, it’s what we have, and on Saturday it was center stage.

Proponents have talked about teams getting an extra national television appearance for people to see them. They have also cited the chance to get an RPI boost. Certainly, some of the teams that have benefited can look back and argue that they would not have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a win in the BracketBusters, including Final Four teams from George Mason and VCU. … Continue Reading

Three coaching legends lose on the same day

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
hoopguy-orange

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.

Health Comes Before Hoops

by - Published April 18, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

When forward Emmanuel Negedu transferred to New Mexico, he figured he had a fresh start ahead after heart problems at Tennessee. While with the Volunteers, he entered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2009. He had the all-clear to play, barring any more bad news. But more bad news struck in December 2010 when he a bad reading on a defibrillator, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. And that means Negedu’s playing career is through, though he’ll remain on scholarship to complete his degree as a Lobo.

Washington State fans are holding their breath that Klay Thompson won’t follow junior DeAngelo Casto to the NBA after the Cougar forward announced that he’ll enter the draft and hire an agent, according to the Associated Press. Casto was Wazzu’s top big man last season, with 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

In addition to losing Josh Selby and the Morris brothers to the NBA and Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation, Kansas will be without guard Royce Woolridge, who announced he is transferring, according to the Associated Press. Woolridge said he wants more playing time, which he apparently isn’t convinced he’d get in Lawrence despite the roster turnover.

In other transfer news, Loyola Chicago is getting some Big Ten talent in Iowa guard Cully Payne, who will have three years of remaining eligibility, according to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers. And sparingly used forward J.J. Richardson is leaving Pittsburgh in search of a better fit, according to the Associated Press.

On the flip side, the Jayhawks could be on the receiving end of a transfer if La Salle’s Aaric Murray picks Kansas over West Virginia. According to Jon Rothstein, the sophomore big man is leaving the Explorers for one of those destinations after averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Miami’s coaching search continues, writes the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman, as new athletic director Shawn Eichorst talked to Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter about the position. Eichorst has connections to the state after coming to Miami from Wisconsin, where he was an associate athletic director at the school.

Whoever ends up in south Florida as the Hurricanes’ coach might not bring highly regarded recruit Bishop Daniels to Coral Gables. According to Barry Jackson’s “Sports Buzz” blog at Miami Herald.com, Daniels wants a release from his letter of intent so that he can choose Tennessee or Rutgers. Given that the Scarlet Knights are the only team of the three with a returning coaching staff, that could bode well for Mike Rice’s squad.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

You’ve got to feel for New Mexico’s Emmanuel Negedu.

The Lobos sophomore overcame the scare of a cardiac arrest at Tennessee and found a fresh start in Albuquerque. New Mexico is one of the top programs of the Mountain West Conference, especially with BYU bolting for the West Coast Conference.

But it just wasn’t in the cards for Negedu to make an impact on the court. A bad reading on a defibrillator means team doctors won’t clear him to play ever again. It’s just too risky.

Although Negedu must manage his condition carefully, his life is still full of opportunity. The Lobos intend to keep Negedu on scholarship, which will give him the opportunity to earn his degree as a Lobo. And if Negedu has interest in contributing to team activities, the squad should be able to find an off-court role for him.

For players gifted enough to earn a Division I scholarship, the concept of imminent mortality might not be an everyday realization. But Negedu now has a perspective that gives him the opportunity to keep his teammates grounded in the face of adversity and focused on greater goals.

And that’s a perspective that could allow Negedu to make an on-court impact vicariously through the rest of the Lobos.

Bracket Breakdown: How the Mountain West Will Fare

by - Published March 17, 2010 in Columns

The Mountain West Conference demonstrated that it’s a league on the rise as it doubled its number of NCAA Tournament participants from two in 2009 to four this year. But are they ready to dance with the likes of the Big East and SEC?

New Mexico Lobos (29-4, 14-2 MWC)

No. 3 seed, East Region

Regardless of what goes on in the tournament, this will be regarded as the best season in New Mexico’s history. The Lobos won a school-record 29 games — and counting — and claimed the MWC regular-season championship. The only sour note of the year so far was struck by San Diego State, which handed the Lobos half of their losses this season, including one in the tournament semifinals Friday.

The recompense to the Lobos’ exceptional season is a No. 3 seed in the East Region and a game against a I-still-can-not-believe-I-am-here Montana, a team that booked its NCAA Tournament ticket by rallying from 22 points down to win the Big Sky Tournament championship. New Mexico will handle those cats easily and advance to the second round, where Marquette will be waiting.

And although Marquette is a No. 6 seed, this will be where the dream season will come to an end for the Lobos. The Golden Eagles, a Big East team, have been tried repeatedly this season, while New Mexico, part of a far-more-modest conference, has not. It will be close, but Marquette will prevail. Still, the Lobos will go home having won 30 games, an incredible feat.

Brigham Young Cougars (29-5, 13-3)

No. 7 seed, West Region

The Cougars would be considered the best team in this conference hands down if it wasn’t for the simple fact that New Mexico, the actual best team in the MWC, swept them this season. Otherwise, BYU was almost flawless in a season that saw them win a school-record 29 times.

Getting it done both offensively and defensively is what drove the Cougars to this season of distinction. BYU is the second-highest scoring team in the nation at 83.0 points per game. But in the midst of their high-octane offense, they still find time to play defense. The Cougars hold their opposition to 65.2 points per game. That’s a point differential of 17.8 points.

That dangerous combo — along with the brilliance of guard Jimmer Fredette — will make BYU, a No. 7 seed in the West Region, a threat to any team regardless of record or pedigree. The Cougars will make quick work of undeserving No. 10 Florida in the first round and then give Kansas State fits in the second. But the Wildcats and their guard duo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente will put an end to the dream season. BYU will also have to say bye-bye in the second round, having won 30 games.

San Diego State Aztecs (25-8, 11-5)

No. 11 seed, Midwest Region

After a 2008-09 season in which they felt snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs made sure there wouldn’t be a chance for a repeat this season by winning the MWC Tournament title.

San Diego State barely escaped Colorado State in the tournament’s quarterfinals but was more convincing in the semifinals, defeating New Mexico, and the championship game, downing UNLV. That tournament title awarded them a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and a first-round meeting with No. 6 Tennessee.

But will the confidence of a tournament championship and a chip on their shoulder from the 2009 snub be enough to push the Aztecs past a team that’s beaten both No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Kentucky this season? Likely not. The Volunteers happened to have lost their last game in shameful fashion, 74-45 to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday, and they will not overlook the Aztecs in the first round. San Diego State will not be able to surprise Tennessee and will be one-and-out after a great season.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (25-8, 11-5)

No. 9 seed, Midwest Region

On paper, the Rebels have an almost identical NCAA Tournament résumé to that of San Diego State. The only difference for UNLV lies in its 55-45 loss to the Aztecs in the MWC Tournament championship game Saturday. They’re even in the same region, the Midwest.

Despite the tourney loss, UNLV was granted a higher seed over the Aztecs, a No. 8. That’s not necessarily going to help the Rebels stick around any longer than the champs, though. They’ll have to play a No. 9 Northern Iowa that has only lost four games all season long and has an edge on experience. The Panthers bring pretty much their whole team back from last year’s NCAA Tournament run, and, unfortunately for the Rebels, that will doom them and give them yet another likeness to San Diego State: a season-ending first-round loss.

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Here are links to the shows:

March 15, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 22, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

March 29, 2015 - First hour | Second hour

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