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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.

Bracket Breakdown: How the Big 12 Will Fare

by - Published March 16, 2010 in Columns

With more than half of its conference participating in the NCAA Tournament, the Big 12 has sky-high aspirations to have at least one of its members making it all the way to the Final Four. And two of them making it is not a foolish prospect either. Here is a preview of what to expect from all seven Big 12 participants in the Dance.

Kansas Jayhawks (32-2, 15-1 Big 12)

No. 1 seed, Midwest Region

Ranked No. 1 in the nation and having received the top overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas is the Big 12’s — and NCAA’s — favorite to bring home the prize: the national championship.

Owners of 13- and 14-game winning streaks during the regular season, the Jayhawks come into the mid-March Madness having won every game they were supposed to win, their only losses coming on road games to No. 14 Tennessee and daunting Oklahoma State. Kansas won its conference’s regular-season title by a wide margin and also paced itself to a trouble-free Big 12 tournament championship.

The Jayhawks have already beaten a number of teams invited to this year’s field of 65. That includes road wins against a No. 5 seed, Temple, which Kansas thrashed 84-52 Jan. 2, and Kansas State, a conference rival and a No. 2 seed, which the Jayhawks defeated grittily, 81-79, in overtime Jan. 30.

Back spasms almost prevented Kansas’ star, point guard Sherron Collins from coming back in time to down the Wildcats during the Jayhawks’ overtime win, but very little stops the senior from leading his team to victory these days, especially in crunch time. The Jahawks’ leading scorer and assist man at 15.5 points and 4.6 assists per game, Collins is added insurance when a game gets too close for comfort. In the rest of the occasions, Kansas’ complete offense/defense combo does the trick alone.

The Midwest Region isn’t exactly the cakewalk section of the tournament, but Kansas should advance unchallenged through at least the first two rounds, downing 16th-seeded Lehigh in the first and UNLV/Northern Iowa in the second. Maryland, Georgetown or Ohio State might throw a scare into them into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond, but the Jayhawks are not only destined to get to the Final Four but also to win the tournament championship for the second time in the past three seasons.

Kansas State Wildcats (26-7, 11-5)

No. 2 seed, West Region

Feeling lucky to be in any region besides the one the Jayhawks are in — seeing how the Wildcats have lost 41 of the 43 past meetings — Kansas State is the No. 2 seed in the West, behind the monster Big East Conference’s Syracuse. The Wildcats have an exciting combo of guards in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, who average a combined 35.1 points per game, and shouldn’t have problems advancing to the Sweet 16 by beating No. 15 North Texas and No. 7 BYU.

But that’s where they’ll likely encounter another Big East bully, Pittsburgh, and things could get complicated for the Wildcats. Pittsburgh’s defense could create a lot of problems for Kansas State, and in a match up of second-place teams in the top two conferences, the Panthers would show the Wildcats that the Big East is just a tidbit better than the Big 12 and end their best season in more than 20 years.

Baylor Bears (25-7, 11-5)

No. 3 seed, South Region

No team may have an easier path to the Final Four than Baylor, a No. 3 seed in the weakest region, the South. The No. 1 seed of that section is Duke, a team many believed could fall to a No. 2, followed by Villanova, a squad that has fallen from grace after losing five of its past seven games.

Not only do the Bears have a high-scoring backcourt duo in LaceDarius Dunn (19.4 ppg) and Tweety Carter (15.7 ppg), but they also play intensively on the defensive end. First, they get No. 14 Sam Houston State, a team that will see itself overmatched against the Bears. Then, likely, it will be No. 6 Notre Dame, a dangerous opponent that may upend them, but if the Bears can get past them, the Sweet 16 will await them in Houston, giving them a home court advantage they can ride into the Elite Eight and Final Four.

Texas A&M Aggies (23-9, 11-5)

No. 5 seed, South Region

With two wins, the Aggies get to play a virtual home game in the Sweet 16. That’s all the Aggies of Texas A&M need to do to get a match up in Houston against (likely) the South Region’s top seed, Duke. That’s easier said than done, though. The No. 5 Aggies need to get past the No. 12 Aggies of Utah State, the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation. This game is more even than people might realize because of that long-range shooting wild card.

Utah State won 17 games in a row at one point for a reason, and Texas A&M might see itself get upset in the first round. Utah State is scarier than either team Texas A&M would get in the second round: a No. 4 Purdue without Robbie Hummel or No. 13 Siena. But if the higher-seeded Aggies can get past that first-round hurdle, they could get themselves a dream game in the Sweet 16.

Missouri Tigers (22-10, 10-6)

No. 10 seed, East Region

Inconsistency is the name of Missouri, a No. 10 seed in the East Region. The Tigers opened the season by winning their first four games, then dropped three of their next four. They then ran out to a winning streak of nine games before losing three of their next five. The latest word on the Tigers is a stretch that could have seen them lose four consecutive games if they had not pulled out an overtime win at lowly Iowa State March 2.

No. 7 Clemson, Missouri’s first-round rival, isn’t riding high either after losing its last two games before the NCAA Tournament, but the battle of Tigers will probably go the more-experienced Clemson’s way. Missouri’s leading scorers are all second-year players. The best is yet to come for them, just not this year.

Texas Longhorns (24-9, 9-7)

No. 8 seed, East Region

Few understand what’s happened to Texas, a team that won its first 17 games, earned a No. 1 ranking and then lost nine times in 16 games. But when looking at the schedule, it’s not that difficult to find an answer: the Big 12 happened. The eighth-seeded Longhorns lost seven games against conference rivals and were unable to get any confidence-building wins. A big chunk of their Big 12 victories came at the expense of teams like Iowa State and Texas Tech, the conference’s little brothers.

The Longhorns, however, did get a break in drawing No. 9 Wake Forest as their first-round East Region match up. The Demon Deacons are more done than an overcooked turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Texas fans better enjoy those Damion James‘ first-round dunks. They will be some of his last, seeing how the second round will bring top-seeded Kentucky and the end of a season-gone-awry for Texas.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (22-10, 9-7)

No. 7 seed, Midwest Region

Just how good is shooting guard James Anderson? Good enough to carry Oklahoma State to at least one NCAA Tournament win, that’s how good he is. The No. 7 Cowboys get a date with No. 10 Georgia Tech in the first round of the Midwest Region, and Anderson and his 22.6 points per game look to be more than sufficient to get them past a Yellow Jackets squad that had a losing record (7-9) in the ACC.

Beating up on top teams has been the Cowboys’ trademark this season. They were one of two teams that handed Kansas a loss this season, a fact that should scare anyone who happens to be in their way. But they also beat Baylor and handled Kansas State in Manhattan. They are capable of upsetting No. 2 Ohio State in the second round, but we won’t predict that considering the Buckeyes’ Evan Turner will be awaiting. Out with a bang, that’s how the Cowboys will go in the second round.

Besides Missouri, all Big 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament look poised to win at least one game in the Dance, with a couple of them having the potential to reach the Final Four. That’ll make the conference very proud of all its children. In the end, though, it’s all about Kansas for the Big 12, and the Jayhawks will show why they always got the biggest piece of cake for dessert.

Bracket Breakdown: Which Teams Rose and Fell?

by - Published March 14, 2010 in Columns

When Texas reached No. 1 in the polls in mid-January, the Longhorns looked like a lock to cruise to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fans and experts were eagerly awaiting Texas’ clash with Kansas in Austin, which many figured could determine the overall No. 1 seed.

However, the Longhorns fell into a tailspin and finished the season by losing nine of 16 games. Instead of receiving a No. 1 seed, Texas will have to face a No. 1 seed in the second round. The selection committee gave the disintegrating Longhorns a No. 8 seed in the East region. The Longhorns will face No. 9 Wake Forest in New Orleans with a possible second-round match up against No. 1 Kentucky. That’s a dramatic fall in less than two months.

A few other teams appeared on pace for great seeds before faltering down the stretch.

  • Purdue fell to No. 4 after remaining in consideration for a No. 1 seed as recently as two weeks ago. The loss of forward Robbie Hummel might derail the Boilermakers’ Final Four aspirations.
  • Wake Forest lost five of its final six games, including an opening-round ACC tournament game to No. 12-seed Miami. As a result, the selection committee dropped the Demon Deacons to a No. 9 seed, which could be considered generous.
  • Utah State looked to be in contention for a No. 8 or 9 seed before losing the WAC championship game to New Mexico State. The selection committee gave Utah State a No. 12 seed as a result.
  • Tennessee has wins against Kansas and Kentucky this season, but the Volunteers’ last game was a 30-point drubbing to the Wildcats in the SEC tournament. A lack of other quality wins and that blowout led to the Volunteers falling to a No. 6 seed.

While some teams played their way down to worse seeds, a few other stormed through February and early March to rise in seeding. Notre Dame is the most notable ascender because the Fighting Irish were barely in bubble contention when superstar Luke Harangody went down to injury. But the Irish found a way to rattle off six straight wins before falling to West Virginia in the Big East tournament semifinals. That win streak included upsets of Pittsburgh — twice — Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette. The streak added several great wins to a profile that already featured a marquee win in South Bend against West Virginia. The late season resurgence delivered Notre Dame an invitation to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed, one of the most remarkable late-season charges in recent years.

Here are some of the other late bloomers.

  • En route to a No. 3 seed, Georgetown also had a late run in the Big East with wins against Cincinnati, Syracuse and Marquette.
  • Before losing to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, Maryland had won nine of 10 games, including a huge victory against Duke in College Park and road wins at Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Florida State. The selection committee gave the ACC co-champion a No. 4 seed.
  • Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed thanks to a sensational finish in which the Buckeyes won 13 of their last 14 games, including three wins against Illinois and solid victories against Minnesota and Michigan State.

Texas: Longhorns Look for Lead Dog at Point Guard

by - Published February 24, 2010 in Conference Notes

Already having defied logic through a colossal midseason meltdown that saw the Longhorns lose six of nine games after starting the season 17-0 and obtaining the holy No. 1 ranking, now-No. 21Texas (21-6) was at it again Saturday in a Big 12 Conference dogfight at United Spirit Arena against unassuming Texas Tech (16-10).

A little more than a month ago, Texas vs. Texas Tech would have been a pit bull vs. chihuahua kind of dogfight. But Saturday, the Longhorns continued to be shih-tzus, barely hanging on to beat the Red Raiders, 71-67, after the Red Raiders’ Nick Okorie missed a would-be game-tying jumper with 12 seconds to go.

“We really survived here against a team that showed a lot of heart,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said afterward.

Surviving is all Texas has been doing lately. The Longhorns are trying hard not to fall out of the top 25 altogether. But after finding out that starting point guard Dogus Balbay will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, which he suffered early during the Saturday win, that might just prove impossible — especially in the talent-packed Big 12, which features the No. 1 team in the nation: Kansas.

Although Balbay’s numbers didn’t exactly lead the league — 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game — the junior gave Barnes something he feels he’ll have difficulty finding in Balbay’s comrades, J’Covan Brown and Justin Mason: backcourt leadership.

Following two previous calls into  the starting lineup, Brown, a freshman who averages 10 points per game, was sent to the bench Saturday and played only five minutes despite the unavailability of Balbay. Mason, a senior, ran the team for 38 minutes. His numbers weren’t impressive: Eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, five assists and four turnovers.

It’s tough to make much of a one-game audition, but it surely looks like Texas will have to rely on its big men more than it already does to prevent further plunging of its NCAA Tournament-seeding stock. Good thing Texas has plenty of beef in the paint, highlighted by forward Damion Jones, who averages 17.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“We’re an inside-out team,” said Gary Johnson, voicing the likely strategy his team will have to follow with four regular-season games remaining. “That’s what got us to the point in the season when we were undefeated.”

Not that anything can really get Texas back to its undefeated-times level, but it has no other choice, and the testing starts right away. The Longhorns have a date against Oklahoma State (19-7) today, a daunting task considering Texas’ recent struggles. Following that, they’ll have a road nightmare at No. 23 Texas A&M, a must-win — along with a decent Big 12 Tournament run — if Texas aspires to get at least a No. 4 seed in the tournament as our latest Mock Tournament predicts.

Texas won’t go far in the Dance, but perhaps it can go out barking louder than it has been lately.

Florida: Lucas Picks Texas

by - Published January 1, 2009 in Newswire

Former Florida sophomore guard Jai Lucas announced that he will transfer to Texas. If Lucas enrolls before the second semester starts, he would be eligible to play after the first semester of next season. He said Texas was his favorite school, and coach Rick Barnes was a major factor in his decision to attend Texas. Florida coach Billy Donovan said in November, when Lucas decided to leave the school, that Lucas wanted to play point guard, a position occupied by sophomore Nick Calathes.

Jimmy V Classic Features Solid Performances

by - Published December 14, 2008 in Columns

NEW YORK – The Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden gave us a vintage individual performance. And a team performance that, if not vintage, was certainly eye-opening.

Scores:
Davidson 68, West Virginia 65
Texas 67, Villanova 58

What Davidson Did Well: Follow the lead of their “franchise” player and maintain poise. The Wildcats built an early second half double-digit lead only to see West Virginia claw back and take a lead of their own. Sterling guard Stephen Curry was struggling from the floor, largely due to being hounded by a taller, longer Mountaineer defender all night long. In the end, Curry proved to be the major difference. With the game on the balance Curry stepped up. In front of over 14,000 with five minutes left the Davidson junior hit four major shots. And they weren’t exactly wide open looks. He simply put his signature on the contest and willed his team to victory when they needed it most. Curry finished with a game-high 27 points and 10 assists. The stat sheet tells us Curry was 9 of 27 from the field, including 4 of 16 beyond the arc. The stats list him as game-high scorer but do not tell the type performance he had those final few minutes – when his team needed him most. Lest anyone think Curry is solely a green-light gunner, he had a game-high 10 assists and looked for his teammates all night.

What West Virginia Did Well: Rebound and defend. Davidson coach Bob McKillop was hard-pressed to remember another time his team was out-rebounded so bad, and won. West Virginia owned a 58-32 edge on the boards; on the offensive end it was 29-12. The Mountaineers were hit with backcourt injuries, as Alex Ruoff was out and Joe Mazzulla was limited to six minutes of action. Regardless, you knew coach Bob Huggins would not use that as an excuse and come up with a defensive scheme to neutralize Curry. And he did. Huggins kept rotating fresh bodies on Curry. Virtually all of the West Virginia defenders were the taller, long type, hoping to disrupt the Wildcat marksman. It worked.

“They (West Virginia) were taller and longer defensively than what I am used to,” Curry said. “Every time we screened they switched and another tall defender was there waiting.” Simply, he was forced to earn every shot. In the end Curry just did what great players do. Even then, there weren’t any easy shots.

What Villanova Did Well: Compete inside. Texas posed a huge problem with three 6-10 players in the rotation. The Texas “bigs” are collectively not the greatest skilled but they can bang and wear you down. Dante Cunningham had another impressive performance, battling inside and putting up a team-high 23 points and 12 boards. Dwayne Anderson added 9 boards in relief. The 6-6 senior swingman will have to step up and help inside on a regular basis once Big East play unfolds with a succession of physical challenges. Villanova out-rebounded Texas 35-31 and was not significantly hurt on the offensive end by the Longhorn big men.

What Texas Did Well: Defend all night long. In the post-game press conference A.J. Abrams enthusiastically discussed the Longhorn defense. They forced Villanova into a 38 percent shooting night, which included a 4 of 18 (22 percent) mark from beyond the arc. Texas also imposed their defensive will to disrupt the Villanova offense into a 19-turnover evening. On a night when the pace was moderate and possessions were at a premium, that figure loomed as a crucial one. The stat sheet, again, will tell one and all Justin Mason scored 3 points in 33 minutes. Mason’s work is another example of the stats not doing him justice. He played outstanding perimeter defense and was a big reason Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds had a 10-point night on 2 of 7 shooting from the floor.

Final Note on ‘Nova: For Villanova this was their first major test of the year. Actually, they faced Rhode Island in the Hoop Group Classic but didn’t get the challenge they expected. Texas provided the measurement. It would be harsh to say the Wildcats failed. Let’s say it was a learning experience. As well as the Wildcats competed, coach Jay Wright noted a little extra toughness is needed facing a team like Texas. In the loaded Big East, Villanova will face several programs of a similar challenge.
Wright is looking for key defensive stops. Villanova trailed by four points midway through the second half. On several consecutive trips they simply could not get the contest to a one-possession game, thanks largely to Abrams’ (game high 26 points) clutch shooting. The game boiled down to defense. And the Wildcats couldn’t get those key stops at crunch time.

A few players that impressed:

  • Abrams, Texas G: Scored 26 points, 4-of-9 from 3.
  • Mason, Texas G: The defense never rests.
  • Damion James, Texas F: Scored16 points. Can operate in the paint or outside.
  • Cunningham, Villanova F: A competitive and tough 23 point 12 board night.
  • Corey Stokes, Villanova G: Knocked down a few threes early, finished with 11 points.
  • Stephon Curry, Davidson G: Went for 27 points, but his spurt in the last five minutes was the story.
  • Andrew Lovedale, Davidson F: Took advantage of the defense’s concern over Curry, scored 15 points.
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia F: Solid 24-point, 14-board outing.
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia F: Impressive inside, scored 13 points and added 17 rebounds.

Quotable: “I really think we have the ability to get to the Final Four. But before we even think about that, we just want to get better each day.” – A.J. Abrams, Texas

College Basketball Tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, who will be joined by former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on every Sunday from Selection Sunday to the Final Four. You can listen to the show here.

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

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

2013 Prep School Tour

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

Sept. 9: St. Andrew's
Sept 10: Tilton
Sept. 11: South Kent School and Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 12: Putnam Science Academy
Sept. 16: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 17: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 23: New Hampton School
Sept. 24: Brimmer and May
Sept. 25: Proctor Academy
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
Oct. 13: Tabor Academy
Oct. 15: Brooks School

Hoopville Archives

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

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

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Cesar Fulcar commits to Wentworth

The senior guard led Watertown to the state semifinal this past season

Travel team profile: Bay State Magic

Bay State Magic doesn’t have much size on their junior team this season, so they’ll have to win with execution and intangibles

Travel team profile: Mass Elite

Mass Elite is one of the largest travel teams in the state despite being relatively new

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is already moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter