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2K Classic: Numbers and notes, a look back

by - Published November 24, 2014 in Columns
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NEW YORK – We have a few final notes and numbers from the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

In the first semifinal, for Texas, and Iowa for that matter, it was a classic tale of two halves. Our look at the numbers breaks it down by half, starting with the first half:

… Continue Reading

Texas has come a long way from the “Chaminade Crew”

by - Published November 22, 2014 in Columns
texas

NEW YORK – Texas has come a long way from a couple of years ago. There were bad memories then, and there will be good ones from right now.

Two years ago, Texas had fallen on hard times. A consistently very good program, with a Final Four run in 2003, the Longhorns lost to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. That was the start of a bad year, and the continuation of a downward trend for the program from one that was a consistent big winner. The year before, they barely made the NCAA Tournament. It got so bad that there was speculation that Rick Barnes’ job may be on the line.

… Continue Reading

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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The Morning Dish – Friday, November 21, 2014

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

Holiday tournament basketball tipped off on Thursday, one of the many things we can give thanks for over the upcoming holiday. Though perhaps not too much thanks.

The proliferation of large, eight-team in-season tourneys has been a boon for teams looking to get in an extra three games each season, but it also has played a part in watering down the importance of such tournaments as a whole.

… Continue Reading

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
big12

Top to bottom, the Big 12 was the best college basketball conference in the country this year. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

In fact, when it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney. And as good as those seven teams were, the league’s eighth and ninth teams may have spoken most to the Big 12’s depth.
… Continue Reading

The Jimmy V: Analysis and teams headed in opposite directions

by - Published December 6, 2012 in Columns
author_floriani

NEW YORK – It was a doubleheader with a little of both. The Jimmy V Classic featured one lopsided game followed by a close, down to the wire affair.

Scores:

Georgetown 64, Texas 41
NC State 69, UCONN 65

… Continue Reading

Picking out some early season turkeys – and sweet performances

by - Published November 23, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and that means we’re cooking up something for the holiday.

For the main course, we’re serving a few turkeys that have crept up in the college basketball nation. These conferences, teams, players and — in one case — an entire city’s judicial/law enforcement institution just aren’t getting the job done for one reason or another.

Some of these look tastier than others, but all will be heading to the chopping block if they don’t shape up soon. Some much-needed improvement could save these proverbial turkeys from the fate awaiting their avian namesakes across the country.

After the entrees, we’ve got a delicious spread of all-American winners that are worth saving room for — just like that pumpkin or apple pie. In the Protos household, my mother has added a German chocolate pie to the mix that is as mouth-watering as its more traditionally American pastries. Perhaps we need a new name for the pie. Or maybe not, as one of the coaches that we name has a distinctly Central European flavor.

Let’s get to the tryptophan-inducers first.

J’Covan Brown

How can someone putting up more than 26 ppg be on a list of turkeys? Well, when you get kicked out of a game for swearing and your young teammates subsequently choke up a double-digit lead in a few minutes, you become a turkey. Brown is absolutely essentially to a Longhorns team dominated by freshmen. After picking up a fourth foul midway through the second half against NC State, Brown protested the call with a vulgarity en route to his bench during a timeout. The referee took offense and gave Brown at technical and fifth personal, thus ending his night and beginning the Wolfpack’s comeback.

Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA isn’t exactly off to a great start, just months removed from sending VCU to the Final Four. The conference’s preseason favorite, Drexel, dropped a game to Norfolk State and then scored only 35 points in a loss to Virginia. George Mason has two overtime losses already, to Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Every team except Northeastern has at least two losses already, and five teams haven’t won more than one game.

UCLA

It’s messy out in Westwood. Heading into tonight’s game against Michigan, the Bruins are still looking for their first win against a Division I team after losing to Kansas in Maui and Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State — by 20 — at home. The team can’t hit anything right now, and Reeves Nelson earned a suspension for sulking during the team’s opening loss to Loyola Marymount. There’s time to turn it around, but if they don’t, Howland might take much of the blame for this sloppiness.

The Syracuse edition of law & order

There’s no bigger turkey in college basketball right now than the attorneys and police officials in Syracuse, N.Y. They’re not even related to Orange basketball, but they have been thrust into the spotlight by accusations that Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two ball boys over a span of more than a decade. The sordid story has devolved into people calling one another liars, and we need a functional investigation to get even close to realizing justice and revealing the truth. But the Syracuse district attorney’s office and police chief are too busy blaming each other for bungling the original investigation last decade. The DA has accused the police chief of hiding information while the police officers are calling the attorneys incompetent and unresponsive.

And now let’s enjoy some good stuff.

Coastal Carolina

The Chanticleers are back in business after injuries and suspensions derailed a promising season last February. Coastal Carolina already has knocked off power conferences foes LSU and Clemson — with the victory against the Tigers coming on the road. Besides a road game at East Carolina and a home date with Charleston, the Chanticleers look setup to post another gaudy record, which could earn this team an at-large bid if needed. That’d be a major accomplishment for the Big South.

Cleveland State

It’s certainly far more common for the Horizon League to get some extra love in the NCAA Tournament than the Big South, and the conference is certainly on the basketball nation’s radar after Butler made two consecutive trips to the title game. But with Norris Cole gone this season, the Vikings didn’t appear to be the team to beat in the conference. They certainly are playing the part after taking out Vanderbilt and Kent State on the road and a strong St. Bonaventure team at home by Lake Erie.

The cream of the crop

The top teams in the country have looked strong thus far, as North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke have performed well against some stiff competition. As mentioned plenty of times, the top teams are returning an unusual amount of top talent, thanks in large part to the NBA lockout. We should be in store for a fantastic season with plenty of epic match ups, especially come March and April.

Coach K

Speaking of Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski notched one of the sweetest accomplishments in sports in 2011 by surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA coaching history. Coach K has Duke in contention for ACC and NCAA titles nearly every season, a testament to his ability to adapt to a changing game and remain in the forefront for multiple generations of ballers.

Missouri Valley

The MVC might be the new CAA, which had been the new MVC anyways. Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and even Missouri State look like they could be in NCAA Tournament contention by the end of the regular season. Creighton annihilated Iowa on in Des Moines, while Wichita State dispatched Colorado and looked strong against Alabama and Temple.

Norfolk State

A week after losing to Marquette by 31 points, the Spartans regrouped to win three straight — including games against Drexel and TCU — before taking Marquette to the final possession in a rematch in the Paradise Jam title game in the Virgin Islands.

TicketCity Legends Classic: The final look

by - Published November 22, 2011 in Columns

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Here’s a look back at the TicketCity Legends Classic, captured by Vanderbilt in a thriller over Oregon State, with three points in particular worth noting.

Results:

  • Consolation: NC State 77, Texas 74
  • Championship: Vanderbilt 64, Oregon State 62

 1. Resiliency

This word has been used frequently as a number of teams have shown the admirable trait of coming from behind, especially in the face of second-half deficits. … Continue Reading

Larranaga Jumps Into Shark-Infested Waters

by - Published April 25, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

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

  1. Miami finally got its man in hiring George Mason coach Jim Larranaga to become the Hurricanes’ next coach, according to the Associated Press. In Larranaga, the Hurricanes get a coach with a Final Four pedigree, and that’s coming out of the Colonial Athletic Conference. The Colonials’ coach has family roots in Florida, and the opportunity was particularly alluring, even though George Mason is a perennial NCAA Tournament contender in the CAA.
  2. IUPUI hired its new coach from within in the program, elevating associate coach Todd Howard to the top spot, according to the Associated Press. Former head coach Ron Hunter left the program to coach Georgia State.
  3. It’s a little hard to figure what Hollis Thompson is thinking, but the sophomore Hoya announced he will enter the NBA Draft without an agent, according to the Associated Press. Thompson averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this past season — not exactly attention-grabbing stats.
  4. As much as Texas faithful don’t want to hear it, the decisions of Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton make a little more sense. All three players will go through the NBA Draft process, according to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil. However, only Hamilton has immediate plans to sign with an agent, though Thompson figures to be a possible lottery pick.
  5. Former Wake Forest sophomore guard Ari Stewart is heading to the West Coast to play for USC and coach Kevin O’Neill, according to Pedro Moura for ESPN Los Angeles.com.
  6. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, you just won the 2011 national championship. Where are you going next? The weed man? Not a great idea. Police arrested the sophomore swingman April 21 and charged him with marijuana possession, according to the Associated Press.
  7. Redemption remains a possibility for Coombs-McDaniel, much like it is for BYU’s Brandon Davies, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. Davies had possibly the most noteworthy sex of any college athlete this year when the news broke in early March that the Cougars would suspend their best big man for violating the university’s honor code, which prohibits premarital sex. However, Davies is confident that he’ll complete the necessary penance to return to campus as a BYU student-athlete, then return to the court as a solid post player for the Cougars.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

The Miami coaching gig is a death trap.

It’s not that the Hurricanes will never succeed, and it’s not that a talented coach can’t attract some talented players to Coral Gables. The problem is that it will be almost always impossible to get fans in the stands, which is one of the primary concerns of athletic departments.

And without a naturally enthusiastic fan base, Miami’s coach must produce fantastic seasons on a regular basis. For new coach Jim Larranaga, that’s a tall order.

The Hurricanes have some talent heading into next season, especially if Reggie Johnson returns to school instead of remaining in the NBA Draft. He would join Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott in south Florida. Unfortunately for Larranaga and the ‘Canes, most people in south Florida are more interested in other teams and activities. The city’s mercurial fan base has the Miami Heat as their primary object of affection on the hardwood. Among the Coral Gables community and student body, ‘Canes football will always be the No. 1 sport on campus.

That leaves Larranaga’s crew fighting for the No. 3 spot in town with other sports teams, including the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers and Miami Dolphins — NFL lockout permitting. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the allure of the beach and notorious night life. Unless Miami can knock off North Carolina and Duke on an annual basis, getting fans to show up at the BankUnited Center will be a very tough task.

The Hurricanes’ 7,200-seat arena would need about 50 percent of all Miami undergrads present and accounted for just to fill three-quarters of the seats. Larranaga would need to attract some serious talent to generate enough buzz to fill the rest of the arena. And that wasn’t his M.O. at George Mason, nor will ACC rivals like Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Gary Williams and Leonard Hamilton make it easy for him to get the best kids to play at Miami. Within the state of Florida, the Gators have the best shot at recruiting local kids, with Florida State’s Hamilton not far behind.

Despite that shark-infested climate, Miami remains an ACC team with ACC expectations. That means the Hurricanes need to sell out the big games, finish in the top third every now and then, and make a run to at least the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament when talented recruiting classes come through town. Ask Paul Hewitt and Al Skinner how that goes.

Good luck to Larranaga. This won’t be a vacation.

Coaches vs. Cancer: Five Thoughts

by - Published November 21, 2010 in Columns

NEW YORK CITY – Five points of note from coaches vs. Cancer :

The final day results :

Consolation: Illinois 80, Maryland 76
Championship: Pittsburgh 68, Texas 66

1. Pitt can beat you many different ways. Their guard play is solid. The big men might not engage in a classic “old school” post-up style but they are active. Overall, one player can emerge and step up on a given night. In the semifinal win over Maryland, it was freshman forward Talib Zanna who energized Pitt with a 14-point, 12-rebound effort. On Friday against Texas, foul trouble relegated Zanna to a 2-point, 6-board effort in 15 minutes. More than taking up the slack was Ashton Gibbs with 24 points, 19 after intermission. Yes, on that “given night” virtually anyone Jamie Dixon’s rotation can be the difference maker. To a player, the Panthers are just fine with that.

2. Illinois cares extremely well for the ball. In the overtime loss to Texas in the semifinals, the Illini turnover rate (turnovers/possessions) was 15%. In the consolation with Maryland the rate was 17%. Both are impressive figures against defenses which are not exactly chopped liver. Bruce Weber’s club is respectable up front and strong at the guard spot.

One player who can do damage in both areas 6-3 guard Demetri McCamey. He’s strong enough to finish in the paint and had admirable range on the perimeter. Many observers have Illinois pegged for fourth behind Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State in the Big Ten. If that’s the case, the conference is going to be a dog fight with several teams capable of doing significant damage come March. And the Illini won’t exactly be an easy out

3. Maryland left 0-2 for New York but showed their young players are making contributions while getting valuable experience. I took notice of the work of 6-10 sophomore center Jordan Williams. He scored 14 points with 8 rebounds against Pitt. In the consolation Williams did not score in the first half but had a strong second half, finishing with 15 points and 13 boards. In typical Gary Williams fashion, Maryland plays hard each night out. Williams is enthused with the group he had. There is reason to be as they should improve each time out, and surprise a few people along the way.

4. Texas was another young team with a fine showing. The Longhorns finished within a possession of knocking off No. 4 Pittsburgh but do not want to hear anything regarding “moral victories”. When one of the Texas players was asked what the team can take from this experience he simply replied, “second place.” To paraphrase the lottery slogan, Texas was “into to win it.”
Barnes cited the first ten minutes of the Pitt game as crucial, noting his young team came out too passive on defense. A 26% turnover rate, the highest of any team in the four games, and something a young team can be prone to, did not help either.

5. Pitt does not win “ugly.” After the final Jamie Dixon of Pitt was asked to comment on critics who say Pitt “wins ugly.” “They must be looking at me,” Dixon quipped. Pitt averaged 71 possessions the prior three contests before the final. In the final the pace was more half court, but credit both defenses. They stopped transition and forced teams to make several passes and use clock before settling on a shot.
Offensively the Panthers will run and attack the basket if the opportunity is there. The “win ugly” label comes from their tough half court defense, which makes the opposition work and often struggle, not from a supposed walk-it-up-the-floor offense. The “ugly” part of Pitt basketball is encountered by the opposition, having to face that defense. As Dixon added, “I’d rather ‘win ugly’ than lose pretty.”

The Final breakdown:

Possessions, Offensive Efficiency
Pitt  66  103
Texas  65  102

All-Tournament:
Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) (MVP)
Trevon Woodall (Pittsburgh)
Jordan Hamilton (Texas)
Jordan Williams (Maryland)
Demetri McCamey (Illinois)

Brings Back Memories

The Coaches vs. Cancer event is always a favorite and brings to mind the wonderful event and work of the coaches association in fighting this dreaded disease. This year took an added meaning and reflection. A few days prior to the Garden games, Bill DeFazio passed away at age 63, a victim of pancreatic cancer.
DeFazio, a friend of St. Anthony’s coach Bob Hurley from youth, actually coached the girls at St. Anthony’s before moving to Marist. He retired from the sidelines two years ago, the winningest girls coach in Hudson County history with a superb 576-169 record. He coached both Marist and St. Anthony’s to state titles and won a number of other championships along the way.
DeFazio was a great tactician and motivator. And colorful on the sidelines, to say the least. Veteran writer Jim Hague remembers the night DeFazio (about 50 at the time) made a long jump clear over the bench at Dickinson High School. A book of DeFazio stories could fill quite a few pages – and probably sell at a brisk pace.
Three years ago I had the good fortune to see one of his teams play. They won a state tournament game with a fairly comfortable margin and DeFazio worked every possession along the sideline. At times he would plead, yell and still encourage his girls. Make no mistake: as much as he yelled at them for a mistake, he was devoted and would do always be there if they had a problem on or off the floor.
This past Spring the court as Marist High School was named in his honor. It shouldn’t be a surprise so many of the young women he coached and taught valuable lessons of life, were there for the celebration.
He is in several halls of fame. Beyond those wins, accolades and other awards is the work DeFazio did in touching and influencing the lives of so many young people. As good a coach as he was, that was the area Bill DeFazio truly excelled.

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Houston is trying to find an identity early on

November 28, 2014 by

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Houston went on the road and was soundly defeated by Harvard on Tuesday. It’s a game that Kelvin Sampson hopes to take a lot from early in his tenure with a new-look team as they try to find out who they are.

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

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Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

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Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

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2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

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Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

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The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.