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The Morning Dish – Thursday, March 17, 2016

by - Published March 17, 2016 in Columns
hoopguy-cyan

Two days into the 2015 NCAA Tournament have felt kind of like trying to start up the family roadster after she’s been sitting idle in the garage for a couple years. It’s taking a little time to get the engine warmed up, but slowly it’s getting back up to speed.

Both games of the First Four Wednesday night were hardly works of art, but both also were close games as Holy Cross edged Southern 59-55 and Michigan squeezed past Tulsa 67-62. In the end, the finishes were pretty good, and all things considered we’ll take it as opposed to the alternative. … Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, December 16, 2015

by - Published December 16, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

UCLA. Notre Dame. USC. Georgetown.

Monmouth.

If you’re looking for a Final Four of all-time college sports royalty, you could do a lot worse than those first four. All four are national brand names. UCLA and Georgetown are two of the signature programs in college basketball over the last 50 years. Notre Dame is by far the biggest name in college football, and USC is easily in the top 10 in that sport.

The term “power” gets thrown around way too freely in college sports in relation to conferences that, frankly, in most cases are carried by a couple athletic programs. Make no mistake, though: all four of these are true “power” programs-UCLA, Notre Dame and USC in all sports, and Georgetown in basketball as a leader in the Big East, the gold standard for NCAA Division I basketball-first leagues.
… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, November 17, 2015

by - Published November 17, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-yellow

Knowing the climate of fandom and the avoidance theory advocated by many for the schools with the biggest budgets, there undoubtedly are some today questioning Virginia coach Tony Bennett for his scheduling a road game against George Washington, wondering why he would play such a “no-win” game.

On every account, they are wrong.

In the best game of Monday night, the Colonials knocked off the 6th-ranked Cavaliers 73-68 at a rocking Charles E. Smith Center on the GW campus. Patricio Garino scored 18 and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh provided a key 18 points, offsetting 28 points by Malcolm Brogdon. George Washington led most of the night, but it was close the entire way with no lead greater than nine points.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Friday, November 13, 2015

by - Published November 13, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

It’s been a long 7+ months-221 days since Duke edged Wisconsin in an exciting 2015 NCAA Tournament finale-but the 2015-16 college basketball season is finally here.

Today the season tips off with 156 Division I games (a number of them against non-Division I schools), starting with Vermont taking on Eastern Michigan at 11 a.m. Eastern time in Ypslanti, Mich. (It’s on ESPN3, if you’re looking to watch) Before the games start, we wrap up our alphabetical order preseason peek at all 32 NCAA Division I conferences with the last seven today.

… Continue Reading

2014-15 SWAC Post-Mortem

by - Published August 21, 2015 in Columns, Conference Notes
swac

The Southwestern Athletic Conference has for some time been devoid of a signature basketball program. It now may have one. Or two.

Last year we documented the SWAC’s search for a true heavyweight program, a team to beat every season. We presented Southern, after the Jaguars had won a conference tourney championship and a regular season title in the previous two years.

We could just as easily now tout Texas Southern to take the Jaguars’ place. The Tigers have now won two straight SWAC tournament titles to make two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. TSU also won the regular season championship this year to sweep both titles and lay its claim as the league’s top program. And the Tigers also have a regular season title from 2012-13, giving them two regular season and two tourney championships in the last three years.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 14, 2015

by - Published March 14, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

March is always a magical month, where so many things happen that seemingly defy logical explanation. The way games end falls into that category as much as anything else, and Friday showed that again.

We start in Brooklyn at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, where Davidson trailed for most of the game, but rallied. Still down by one, they had a play in the final seconds to win it, and Tyler Kalinoski put it up near the basket and got it to drop as time expired. Ray Floriani has more on this.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 6, 2015

by - Published January 6, 2015 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

While they are fun to follow-and yes, they do matter to some extent, even if not necessarily for NCAA Tournament selection-normally we won’t make much note of the release of the weekly top 25 polls on Monday, but this week is an exception.

Old Dominion jumped into the Associated Press Top 25 yesterday for the first time in school history. This was notable for one because it was surprising that ODU has never been in the AP poll before given some of its excellent teams in the past, dating all the way back to some very good years in the then-powerful Sun Belt in the 1980s.

More pertinent to today, it is worth noticing because of what a job Jeff Jones has done in just two years with the program. The Monarchs were a disaster in 2012-13, finishing 5-25 with the departure of head coach Blaine Taylor during the season. The program wasn’t as bad as that overall-Old Dominion lost at the buzzer to eventual national runner-up Butler in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament-but it still wasn’t good.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, November 11, 2014

by - Published November 11, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

On this Veteran’s Day, looking ahead at a couple more conferences as the season is now just three days away:

The Northeast Conference is wide open, with a number of teams sustaining significant player losses. When in doubt, go with Robert Morris, the most consistent program over the last five years. The Colonials have built some toughness, as evidenced by NIT wins over Kentucky and St. John’s the last two years.

Murray State featured maybe the best-kept freshman secret in the country last year in Cameron Payne, a brilliant talent helped Murray State get back near the top of the Ohio Valley. The Racers return Payne and three other starters and are the league favorites, though Steve Prohm’s club will be challenged by fast-improving Morehead State and always tough Belmont.

… Continue Reading

2013-14 SWAC Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
swac

It has been some time since the Southwestern Athletic Conference has had a true heavyweight program, but Southern University may be on the verge of changing that.

Not since Davey Whitney won three regular season titles in four years from 1999-2002 in the second stint of his brilliant career at Alcorn State has the SWAC had a consistent year-in, year-out team to beat. Under coach Roman Banks, though, Southern has won a SWAC tourney title and a regular season title in the last two years. The latter came this season, when the Jaguars won the league by three games despite returning just two starters from the team that nearly shocked Gonzaga in the round of 64 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
… Continue Reading

North Carolina-Kentucky lives up to the hype

by - Published December 4, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The matchup between North Carolina and Kentucky lived up to its billing. It was a well-played game that came right down to the wire, and was close throughout. The eighth-largest crowd in Rupp Arena history saw it, and even more watched on television. And it’s possible that the game will mirror the teams’ seasons.

Kentucky probably has the most talent of any team in the country, but the Wildcats’ youth hasn’t been hard to see. Their freshmen have had their share of growing pains, from Marquis Teague’s early struggles taking care of the ball to Anthony Davis learning how physical the college game can be. It’s for exactly that reason that senior Darius Miller has never been more valuable than much of the early going this time around.

North Carolina is right up there with the Wildcats, but this is an older and more mature team. Whereas the Wildcats start three freshmen, the Tar Heels only played two freshmen yesterday and both came off the bench. But they start a senior, two juniors and two sophomores, and on the whole this is a team quite a ways from its ceiling just like Kentucky.

In the first half, North Carolina led by as many as nine and was the better team. They were hot from long range, going 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening frame. But Kentucky scored seven in a row at the end of the first and start of the second half, momentarily grabbing the lead and then staying right with the Tar Heels until they took the lead for good on a Davis jumper with less than eight minutes to play.

The Tar Heels had one more chance after Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds left. They got the ball to John Henson, known more for his shot-blocking than scoring, and in a length-versus-length matchup, Davis got a hand on his short jumper and the Wildcats were able to run out the final seconds for a 73-72 victory.

It’s a game that many would love to see a rematch of, and considering that both teams are a ways from their respective ceilings, no one would be surprised if it materialized in the month of March.

While that was the best matchup of the day, there were a few other teams, conferences and player of note.

 

Marquette

Winning at the Kohl Center is hard for visiting teams to do, but Marquette pulled it off on Saturday and did so without their starting point guard. Before the game, the Golden Eagles announced that Junior Cadougan was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. Wisconsin has lost two straight, but neither is a bad loss as they lost to North Carolina earlier in the week. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are 7-0 with a blowout win over Ole Miss and Saturday’s win at Wisconsin.

 

Xavier

Xavier is becoming quite the second-half team. On Monday, they trailed by ten in the second half before rallying to beat Vanderbilt in overtime in Nashville. But yesterday they did themselves one better, as they trailed Purdue by 11 at the half and 19 in the second half before coming back to edge the Boilermakers 66-63. In the last 10:44, Xavier outscored Purdue 30-8.

 

Illinois

It seems like Bruce Weber has been on the hot seat forever in Champaign, but let’s acknowledge not only the job he has done thus far but especially what he is doing this season. After an 82-75 win over Gonzaga on Saturday, the Illini are 8-0 with wins over Richmond and at Maryland as well. Neither of those two is a big NCAA Tournament resume win, but they are worth noting because the Illini haven’t beaten up on a slew of terrible teams and could be 12-0 when they take on Missouri on Dec. 22, though they will have to get by UNLV at home before then. Saturday was the first time all season Gonzaga did not have at least four players score in double figures.

 

Brigham Young

No Jimmer, no problem for Brigham Young. After Saturday’s 79-65 win over Oregon in Salt Lake City, BYU is 6-2 with a win over Nevada included and the only losses being at Utah State and against Wisconsin. Granted, this isn’t the Oregon team we all thought we would see before the season with the departures of Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, but the Ducks aren’t pushovers.

 

Head-scratching in the CAA

A number of conferences have their opening games this weekend before teams resume non-conference play for a little while longer. Perhaps none has had results that might leave one scratching their head as much as the Colonial Athletic Association, where three teams won on the road and preseason favorite Drexel lost to Delaware by 11 (albeit on the road). The Dragons have had a rough go of it thus far, but Chris Fouch is back so they’re closer to having their full team together. Still, Fouch was 0-9 yesterday and the Blue Hens won the battle on the glass by a 40-32 margin over a Drexel team that routinely beats up opponents on the boards.

The one other score that jumps out is Georgia State thumping William & Mary 66-34 in Atlanta. The Tribe didn’t look to be far from being a good team last season, but they’re struggling mightily out of the gates and Saturday may be the low point thus far.

 

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation

  • Ohio State didn’t miss a beat despite Jared Sullinger being out with back spasms.
  • College of Charleston lost a wealth of talent and experience from last season’s team, but the Cougars are 7-1 overall and are one of four teams that went 2-0 in early Southern Conference games this weekend. Chattanooga, who the Cougars beat last night and was picked to win the North Division, is 0-2.
  • Connecticut got a big lift from Ryan Boatright with 23 points and six assists in his home debut.
  • UCLA is now 2-5 after a home loss to Texas that saw them blow an 11-point lead.

 

Some of Sunday’s Key Matchups

Sunday is a day full of interesting matchups of teams that we’re trying to find out something about. None of these are like North Carolina-Kentucky, but they will be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Baylor at Northwestern
  • UNLV at Wichita State
  • California at San Diego State
  • Dayton at Murray State
  • North Carolina State at Stanford
  • Notre Dame at Maryland
  • VCU vs. George Washington (BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center)
  • Kansas State at Virginia Tech

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