BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It’s time for a closer look at the Progressive Legends Classic final night at the Barclays Center.
UCLA 60, Georgia 56
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It’s time for a closer look at the Progressive Legends Classic final night at the Barclays Center.
UCLA 60, Georgia 56
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Georgetown defeated eleventh-ranked UCLA to advance to the Legends Classic championship game. The 78-70 victory is broken down in tempo free numbers. In a 71-possession game the efficiencies were:
NEW YORK - St. John’s split their two games the past week. A common thread of the two games was the importance of rebounding. The battle under the glass, especially on the offensive end, played a part in both outcomes, though more so in the meeting with UCLA.
On Tuesday, St. John’s was trampled 94-64 by Seton Hall at the Prudential Center. It was, simply, a “Valentine’s Day massacre”. On Saturday they showed resilience bouncing back for a strong 66-63 victory over UCLA at Madison Square Garden.
We’ve got plenty of great games on tap this weekend. Here’s what you can look forward to watching in between shopping online for holiday gifts.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The biggest storyline of the day broke late afternoon Nov. 17 when ESPN reported that Syracuse police are investigating allegations that Syracuse associate coach Bernie Fine sexually molested a couple of ball boys during a period that lasted more than a decade.
ESPN is taking a risk with this story. The rumors about Fine molesting a former ball boy emerged more than five years ago. In fact, in a statement posted on the university’s website last night, Syracuse heard about the allegations from an adult male who said he talked to police. The university conducted its own investigation, which included interviews with people that the accuser named. None of those people corroborated the accusations.
That leaves ESPN in a precarious position. The network is bringing this story to the forefront now because a second person has launched molestation charges at Fine. That person happens to be the older stepbrother of the other accuser. Syracuse police are looking into the accusations again. But there’s nothing certain.
However, if you watch the eight-minute segment about Mark Schwarz’s research for ESPN, you get the sense that he is siding with Bobby Davis, the 39-year-old who previously accused Fine. Schwarz questions why no one asked whether it would be inappropriate for Davis and Fine to share hotel rooms during travel and spend significant secluded time together. Those are legitimate questions, but his reporting seems wholly one-sided, and we don’t hear the opinions of other people involved.
In another statement posted on Syracuse’s site, coach Jim Boeheim denies the accusations, citing the university’s 2005 investigation and his 40-year relationship with his associate coach. In an article accompanying the interview with Schwarz, Boeheim told ESPN that he believes the accusers are seeking money and using ESPN as part of their scheme.
That’s a brash accusation in its own right. On one side, we have two individuals — who have a family relationship — making sordid accusations that scarily resemble the scandal unfolding at Penn State. On the other side, we have Syracuse representatives and Boeheim vehemently denying the charges and painting the accusers as mercenaries.
This will not end well for someone.
So far, Syracuse seems to be handling the events fairly well, placing Fine on administrative leave while police continue their investigation. That’s probably an appropriate reaction that allows the school to reinstate the coach if the charges are unfounded. But if there’s truth to these accusations, the university can quickly terminate Fine and avoid the negative appearance of callously paying a sexual predator.
Although it’s somewhat hard to tell based on the mess in State College, Pa., people are innocent until proven guilty in this country. Syracuse seems to be on the right track to allow the police and attorneys to do their jobs.
ESPN, on the other hand, will appear to be less objective if it turns out that the Worldwide Leader in Sports was played in a plot to achieve personal gains.
Fortunately, we have lots of great basketball ahead this weekend to keep our attention on the hardwood. Here’s a rundown of some of the top match ups on tap.
After six full days into the regular season, the ACC is the only undefeated conference remaining. And that pretty much guarantees that Maryland will lose to Alabama Thursday night or Georgia Tech will fall against Saint Joseph’s.
No one really keeps track of which conferences go the longest without a loss, but hoops pundits love to banter about which conference is tops in the game. The ACC hasn’t been part of that conversation for a few years now, despite claiming two of the past three champions and a contender or two for this year’s title.
As of this week, the ACC has North Carolina, Duke and Florida State in the top 25. No other team even received a vote from the pollsters. As Rodney Dangerfield often lamented, this conference doesn’t get any respect these days, with everyone focusing on Tobacco Road and ignoring most of the rest of the conference. That would be a mistake this season.
Already, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Virginia have flashed plenty of promise. They’ll need to bring down some of the big boys from conferences like the Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten before they rise into the public spotlight. That’s probably going to start happening in the next couple of weeks as the early season tournaments gain steam and more power conference squads go head to head.
When it’s all said and done this season, don’t be surprised if at least five different ACC teams spend some quality time in the top 25, and the conference once again joins the discussion as tops in the land.
Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.
1. Although Phil Jackson seems pretty convinced that there won’t be a next season for the NBA next season, several college players are gambling that they’ll still be making NBA money within a few months. Here are a few of the players who announced during the past few days that they’ll be entering the NBA Draft.
2. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz breaks down the NCAA Legislative Committee’s proposal to move up the deadline for declaring for the draft. If the Board of Directors approves the measure, players will need to decide by April 10 whether they intend to declare for the draft — and they can’t turn back. It essentially ends the test-the-waters approach, which isn’t good for the kids, Katz writes.
3. One player who won’t be testing the waters this season is Baylor’s Perry Jones, ESPN.com’s Andy Katz writes. Somewhat surprisingly, Jones will return to the Bears, who had a disappointing season but will return a start-studded team, anchored by Jones.
4. Despite the uproar about the early entry deadline, that’s small change compared to the fiasco in San Diego. The Associated Press reported this week that the FBI is investigating former members of the Toreros program for running a sports betting business, and 10 people have been charged in the case, including the team’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson. In addition to Johnson, former player Brandon Dowdy is accused of fixing games.
5. Jorts-mania could be coming to a town near you. Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson will be launching a Jorts Tour — after his now-famous nickname — to sign autographs and hawk his clothing line, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog.
6. As Nebraska prepares to move to the Big 10 next season, the Huskers have reworked coach Doc Sadler’s deal to pay him an extra $100,000 per year, making his salary $900,000 per year through 2015-16, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.
7. One of Nebraska’s former Big 12 rivals, Iowa State, is dealing with some drama after police arrested freshman center Jordan Railey for punching a man late Wednesday night along a hot spot for Ames restaurants and bars, according to the Associated Press. Coach Fred Hoiberg has suspended Railey while gathering more information about the incident.
Man, what a rough week for news in the world of college basketball.
Several players landed in trouble with the law (Nebraska, Florida). An NBA-minded freshman skipped his team’s season-closing banquet to work out in Vegas (Kansas). And speaking of Sin City, the gambling bug apparently migrated south to San Diego, where the very integrity of the game is in question after the FBI unearthed a supposed sports business ring that included former Torero players who are accused of fixing games.
And just to pile on, the NCAA looks pretty selfish and uninterested in the welfare of student-athletes after moving forward with a proposal to give players until about a week after the championship game to decide whether they want to return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Needing only an affirmative vote by the NCAA’s Board of Directors to become official, the proposal applies tortured logic that benefits schools and coaches but not players. And the players already are limited because the NCAA won’t let them profit from their name or likeness in commercial products, such as video games. However, the NCAA is happy to take its cut from those sales.
That’s enough to get you pretty down about the game.
Thankfully, I watched the Harlem Globetrotters play tonight on ESPN. And that evaporated my creeping cynicism. The figure-eight weaves, between-the-legs passes and crowd-pleasing interludes don’t look like traditional basketball. All those fancy moves make for great entertainment, and everyone in the arena is having fun — even the tough-luck Generals.
Basketball is supposed to be fun. Yes, the game can be a means to a career — and a small fortune — for the most talented players. But for the 99 percent of players who don’t come within sniffing distance of an NBA pay check, the game needs to be fun. If it’s not, why play? The Globetrotters take fun to an extreme, but they embody the soul of the game.
Despite the spate of bad news, the game goes on. By November, optimism will be the mood du jour as nearly 350 Division I teams embark on the journey toward a 2012 championship. And with any luck, most of them will have plenty of fun along the way.
Editor’s Note: We’ve trimmed down the Full Court Sprints because Hoopville’s new design has made some elements redundant. In particular, our new design highlights some of Hoopville’s great coverage in the middle column. In addition, we’ve got recent tweets from Phil Kasiecki and Michael Protos in the right column. There’s no games on tap anytime soon — sadly — so the upcoming games and recent results are irrelevant until November. We do have plenty of news to round up and some quick commentary on recent trends and news.
Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.
If it’s April, three of the top stories in basketball relate to which coaches are changing jobs, which players are going pro, and which players are transferring. Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman has a list for the latter category. In case you’ve missed some of the player movement of the past few weeks, Goodman lists all the players who have announced that they will play elsewhere.
At ESPN.com, you can track all the coaching movement in Division I in a chart that lists schools, former coach and new coach. As of today, 13 teams are still in the hunt for a new coach.
And if you want to find out whether your team’s best underclassmen will be playing in the NBA or NCAA next season, check out CBS Sports.com’s set of charts.
The most recent team to fill its open coaching position is UNLV, according to the Associated Press. BYU associate coach Dave Rice is moving on from the Mormons’ home base of Utah to Sin City. Rice’s now former boss, BYU coach Dave Rose, said Rice is an excellent teacher and has a history of success, which he’ll be taking to the desert and a Rebels team that has emerged as a perennial Mountain West contender.
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin will begin treatment for prostate cancer after announcing that he was diagnosed with the disease in fall 2010, according to SI.com’s “Fan Nation” blog.
BYU is extending coach Dave Rose’s contract, a rare reward for excellence at the university, according to Fan Nation. Just don’t ask about the financial details.
We already have some drama heading into next season’s North Carolina State vs. Maryland rivalry in the ACC. Granted, in recent years, there’s not much of a rivalry to speak of between those teams. However, Wolfpack Athletic Director Debbie Yow, former boss of Maryland coach Gary Williams, accused Williams of trying to sabotage her search for a new coach. She eventually hired former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried to replace Sidney Lowe, drawing the ire of State fans who wanted Shaka Smart or another hot name. There’s plenty of bad blood between Yow and Williams, according to the “Lost Lettermen” blog.
UCLA finally knows where the Bruins will be playing home games next season while Pauley Pavilion gets a facelift. Eamonn Brennan, of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog, reports that the Los Angeles Sports Arena will host 14 Bruins home games, with the team playing four others at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Fresh off his third national championship, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun said he will take some to decide whether he wants to retire, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. But don’t think that means he’s taking any time off from the recruiting trail.
I watched every second of Connecticut’s championship game victory against Butler. And that might officially make me a basketball geek — as if there were any doubt about that.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Huskies’ 53-41 win wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever watched. But there’s been far too much talk about how terrible the game was, and some commentators have even hinted that the NCAA Tournament has a flawed format in which the best team doesn’t win the title.
To that, I say: horse manure.
The NCAA Tournament has one of the most difficult post-season formats of any sport at any level because a champion must win six — at least — games in a row against opponents that play a variety of styles. A championship run is a testament of a coach’s ability to strategize a game plan and adjust it during the heat of the action. It’s a testament of great players performing at a consistently high level for three weeks.
Even the most talented teams in the country will likely face at least one opponent that plays a style that makes the favorite somewhat uncomfortable. For underdogs, the ability to get a team outside its comfort zone, force mistakes and capitalize on opportunities forms the recipe for an upset. VCU took that recipe and repeated it from the First Four to the Final Four.
The Rams got past USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas with a pressure defense that preyed on inconsistent backcourt play. On offense, VCU rode hot three-point shooting to cover up for a size disadvantage in the post. If the Rams met the Jayhawks in an NBA-style seven-game series, there’s no way I could see VCU winning the series. I’d pick VCU to win one, maybe two games in seven against Kansas. But the more talented team — as NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley frequently pointed out during their stint as NCAA Tournament analysts — would likely advance, barring injuries or a major internal meltdown.
And that’s what makes the NCAA Tournament wonderful. To be champion, you must come to play every game for three weeks. Anything short of your best effort could send you home. And even your effort might not be enough if you’re running the wrong game plan.
So don’t tell me Butler’s 18 percent shooting in the championship ruined the tournament or somehow devalues Connecticut’s achievement. In the game I watched, I saw an outstanding defensive effort in which the Huskies limited the Bulldogs to a tiny number of clean looks at the hoop. However, Butler also failed to make in-game adjustments. The team took 51.6 percent of its shots from three-point range, making only 9-of-33 attempts. After Chase Stigall hit a three to open the second half and give Butler a six-point lead, the team didn’t make another shot from the field for seven minutes and only one shot in 13 minutes. During that stretch, the Bulldogs missed 11 three-pointers.
Brad Stevens realized his teams was overmatched in the post, but the Bulldogs just weren’t getting it done from the perimeter. The team’s stubborn insistence on jacking up bombs — and bricks — led to the dismal shooting percentage and put Connecticut on track to the championship.
More simply put, the Huskies executed their game plan more efficiently and effectively than Butler could, and the Bulldogs couldn’t adjust to do anything about that. In a championship game performance, that’s all you can ask from the winning team, regardless of the score.
:NEW YORK CITY – With all that is going on off the court, some of us forgot a simple fact: Tennessee is a very good basketball team. They shifted the action from the background to what is happening on the floor by capturing the Pre-Season NIT at Madison Square Garden.
The Semifinal Scores:
Tennessee 77, VCU 72
Villanova 82, UCLA 70
VCU 89, UCLA 85
Tennessee 78, Villanova 68
Five points of emphasis from the Pre-Season NIT:
1. Tennessee is not only resilient but talented. Despite the ongoing drama in Knoxville regarding coach Bruce pearl, the Volunteers came to New York and just concentrated on one thing: playing basketball at a high level. Pearl commented after the VCU game on what great things the Rams do and how much fun it was preparing for them. The Tennessee coach said the same thing about Villanova. Pearl, quite frankly, wanted to put all of these off the floor issues aside for now. Not dwelling on them does not mean they will go away. But for now Pearl is thrilled to be doing what he loves best: breaking down tapes, planning and preparing with his staff.
2. Villanova needs a plan B, Jay Wright admitted after the Tennessee game. There will not be many nights when Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes for that matter are all shut down and not as effective. But when those days do come, Villanova will have to try a different approach. Admittedly, shutting down the Villanova backcourt like Tennessee did will not happen often. But it could happen in Big East and/or post-season and Wright wants to be prepared. Both nights Mouphtaou Yarou came through for Villanova. He scored in double figures both nights and against UCLA the 6-10 sophomore had 16 rebounds and three blocks. Wright likes Yarou’s defensive presence as it gives the guards the opportunity to defensively gamble knowing there is a “stopper” to guard the basket. His offense, as well as that of Antonio Pena and Dominic Cheek (both had good outings in the final), is going to figure very much into Wright’s plans down the road.
3. VCU will be tough to contend with in the Colonial. They earned a split in New York and showed some impressive attributes both nights out. VCU loves the three-pointers and transition. The uptempo offense of coach Shaka Smart relies on 38 percent of its scoring from beyond the arc. Often these three-point attempts are uncontested as the Rams attempt them in half court or out on the break. Their pace is a rapid 75 possessions per game and they utilize those possessions with a very impressive 111 offensive efficiency. This is a team not wildly running or bombing from three. There is an inside presence in Jamie Skeen. Prior to coming to New York, the 6-9 senior asked his teammates to get him the ball more. “When more is given, more is expected,” Smart said with a biblical theme regarding the request. Skeen delivered both nights, especially with a team-high 23-point outing against UCLA, earning him all-tournament honors. Not the last honor VCU will see this season.
4. UCLA showed heart. Down 15 at the half in the semifinal against top ten Villanova. Three time zones from home. It seemed like a time to think consolation game. To their credit, the Bruins tightened the defense, kept their composure and had it to a two-possession game midway through the final half before Villanova went on a game-sealing run. In the third place game the Bruins competed hard for 40 minutes before dropping a close one to VCU. What the Bruins have to do is avoid slow starts. They suffered through them in both contests in New York. They also need contributions from Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson on a nightly basis. Against Villanova, Honeycutt (a 15 PPG scorer) came up with only eight points on 3-8 shooting. The Pac-10 is relatively balanced this season. There are games that are “winnable” through extra effort and outplaying opponents. Here UCLA showed the effort. Now if they can avoid those slow starts.
5. Tennessee can defend. Scotty Hopson is a threat on the perimeter or in the paint. Tobias Harris can slash and score. Brian Williams, at 6-10 cleans the offensive glass for put backs. Make no mistake, Bruce Pearl’s club is anything but one-dimensional. The defense by the Vols in the two games was quite impressive. Villanova entered the game with a 119 offensive efficiency, but was held to 93 by an active, harassing Tennessee defense. In fact, Tennessee held both opponents under 100 offensive efficiency as VCU managed just a 90 OE in the semifinals. In the final Hopson bothered the Villanova guards all night with his quickness and length. Villanova did struggle offensively in the championship. Blame that on the Vol defense.
Jamie Skeen (VCU)
Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova)
Tobias Harris (Tennessee)
Scotty Hopson (Tennessee) – MVP
Northeastern has had a rough run through non-conference play. There are multiple reasons for it, but a 2-7 mark has confidence being a concern as the team hits final exams.
Brigham Young lost for the third time in as many tries against ranked teams. While the Cougars have a good team, they could use a significant non-conference win, and they are running out of such opportunities at this point.
St. Peter’s is 2-4 after a close call this weekend. With all the new players on board, John Dunne is looking beyond the final score and the record in evaluating his team, and it’s not in a search for moral victories but rather a look at reality.
The Eagles will be very much in transition this season, as they suffered fairly heavy personnel losses to go with Jeff Jones’ departure for Old Dominion. They will need some of their eight newcomers to play key roles right away.
Army lost a lot from last season’s team, but has plenty of talent. The biggest adjustment will be to new roles and a concern will be a relative lack of experience as this season could be one of growing pains or a leap into contention.
Don’t be surprised if Boston University makes a grand entrance into the league by being the top team in their first season. They have a solid combination of talent and experience, along with some options from a personnel standpoint.
Although the Bison lost much more than just stats could describe from last season’s team, they aren’t exactly starting over. This is still a veteran team with good talent, and now many players who have winning experience have to move into bigger roles.
Matt Langel’s work continues this season, and the Raiders look like they’re making strides albeit at a time when the league as a whole is on a good upswing. They have some young talent that needs to grow to move up in the standings.