The 2016-17 season is underway, and with it comes the first edition of Talking Hoops with Ted Sarandis here on Hoopville. Here, we talk about first impressions and what to look forward to on the season.
We start with a look at Tuesday night’s Champions Classic, which ended with the best game on the young season as Kansas beat Duke on a late jumper in a terrific back-and-forth game. From there, we talk about four clear top teams at the moment, and how those teams rely on freshmen or veterans to varying degrees, then some early games of note like North Carolina looking impressive and UConn losing two straight. We also touch on how veterans will be key players for teams stacked with young talent, and that has already proven true.
Not only are we in the midst of the holidays, but conference play beckons if it hasn’t already started. Non-conference play is almost complete, and teams form impressions during this time of how they will be in conference play. Even so, as is always the case this is imperfect. Conference play is a different animal, as teams are more familiar with each other from having played each other every year. That’s why we see some teams even in mid-majors get nice wins in non-conference play, but then lose games in conference play that strike the untrained eye as head-scratchers.
It is with that in mind that we take a look at how all 31 conferences shape up based on non-conference play thus far.
NEW YORK – Simply put, Gonzaga is as balanced a team as you’ll find in college basketball this season. They’re also deep, and their players know how to play off each other. And while they had to hang on to beat St. John’s 73-66 to take home the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday, they had the kind of response needed of a veteran team that’s going to make a deep postseason run, as many think they will.
Gonzaga’s guards understandably get a lot of attention, because they comprise one of the best backcourts in the country. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. already formed a good one, but adding freshman Josh Perkins and USC transfer Byron Wesley makes them that much better. Pangos, the heart and soul of this team, is off to an unreal start, as he’s still knocking down shots the way he normally does, but has an incredible 38 assists and just four turnovers on the young season.
The West Coast Conference had a nice year in 2013-14, to be sure. For a time, though, it looked like it would be even more than that.
The WCC once again put two teams in the NCAA Tournament, just like it has in four of the past five years. Gonzaga again advanced at least one round, just like it has in each of the past six years. The league went 71-41 out of conference against Division I foes and finished a very respectable ninth in the RPI, proving its No. 10 ranking from the year before was no fluke.
Non-conference play is just about over at this point. Conference games are ready to take over the rest of the slate, with a few having an “opening day” of sorts, including the Big East with its well-publicized day of five games on Tuesday. A few have already had early conference games, with the West Coast Conference having its opening day on Saturday.
How are the conferences shaping up? Which ones look like we thought and which ones look nothing like what we thought before the season? Here is a look at all 32 conferences as conference play beckons.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Dave Rose thinks his ballclub isn’t that far away. They’ve been right there. They have played well and won against some good teams. But as the non-conference slate winds down, his Brigham Young team could still use a signature win. They had such an opportunity in Saturday, but UMass handled them 105-96 and basically beat them at their own game.
Brigham Young plays at a fast pace, and they have done it well all season, including turning the ball over less than 11 times per game on average. They did it well on Saturday at the offensive end, shooting 48.5 percent from the field and handing out 15 assists with 11 turnovers. But UMass did it better, shooting 55.6 percent. UMass also did something unusual: they out-scored the Cougars in the paint, as BYU came into the game on average out-scoring opponents by ten points per game in the paint. The Cougars also lost for the first time all year when they out-rebounded an opponent.
NEW YORK – Before getting to New York, Baylor captured three NIT games on their home floor. Following the 76-70 semifinal win over BYU, Coach Scott Drew was asked about playing at a neutral site. “Back in 2009 we faced Penn State in the (NIT) finals,” drew said. “They brought about 18 busloads of fans so it didn’t appear too neutral to us,” he added with a laugh.
Now, Baylor has the following, momentum and eyes on pursuing the prize. They will battle Iowa, 71-60 winners over Maryland in the other semifinal, for the championship.
Three things we observed from the Baylor-BYU matchup:
Non-conference play is almost over, and it has been quite a stretch. We’ve learned a good deal about a lot of teams, while some are still a mystery for various reasons – injuries, suspensions, ineligibility and a light schedule are all possible reasons. In addition, a few conferences have already seen a game or two mixed in with the non-conference schedule.
Conference play is right around the corner, and while a non-conference resume doesn’t tell the whole story, it does shed some light on teams and conferences. In conference play, there is more familiarity since teams play each other every year, although the changing landscape is starting to diminish that factor a bit. That’s one reason why we see some teams put forth a very good non-conference showing, including some good wins, then go on to have a mediocre showing in conference play.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how every conference in America shapes up.
Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.
Here’s a quick recap of all the major NBA decisions from the past week. The NCAA’s deadline for early entrants to remain eligible required players to decide by May 8 if they wanted to remain in the NBA Draft or return to school.
This section is aptly titled for a Washington, D.C., area writer looking to write a column honoring the importance of recently retired Maryland coach Gary Williams.
In his 22 years at Maryland, Williams helped craft the Terrapins into a perennial ACC contender. His continued success eased the path to the construction of the Comcast Center, which is one of the largest arenas in the conference and has one of the best home court advantages. The 20,000-plus fans who fill the Comcast Center haven’t always approved of the quality of the home team, but they consistently fill the arena with rowdy fans, giving Maryland one of the best home court advantages in the country.
After the turmoil of the late 1980s, it’s amazing that Williams was able to get this program back to the top of the ACC so quickly. Trouble started in 1986 with the death of Terrapin hero Len Bias, who seemed destined to become a national hero as a possible heir apparent to Larry Bird in Boston. However, his cocaine-induced death and the subsequent brouhaha in College Park derailed the program, leading to the ouster of coach Lefty Driesell.
Without Driesell, the team fell into mediocrity — and NCAA violations — during the tenure of Bob Wade. With the program on probation and lackluster performance on the court, Williams returned to his alma mater with a tough task at hand.
It took Williams five seasons, but once he got the Terrapins into the NCAA Tournament, they remained fixtures of March Madness until 2005. That includes a Final Four run in 2001 that ended mercilessly with the team’s fourth loss of the season to eventual national champion Duke. But Williams and Maryland vanquished those demons the next season when the Terrapins won the 2002 title.
The championship title was a turning point for Williams’ tenure at Maryland. Until then, the critics liked to talk about Williams as one of the greatest coaches to have never won a title — a fraternity no coach enjoys being part of. With that monkey off his back, Williams then had to deal with detractors who bemoaned that Williams failed to use the program’s success to attract the top recruits to College Park.
Recruiting is a touchy subject for Maryland fans. On the plus side, no one has even sniffed an NCAA violation during Williams’ years. But on the other hand, Williams drew the ire of many fans because he couldn’t keep a lot of the talented kids in Prince George’s County, Md., and Baltimore in-state. Highly touted recruits like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay, Nolan Smith and seemingly half of Georgetown’s starting lineup each season are all locals. That would be acceptable if Williams had a slew of talented recruits on a conveyor belt to College Park from across the country.
But after three NIT appearances in four seasons, the natives became restless. Williams had the misfortune of dealing with a few disastrous recruits, including the much-maligned post-championship class of Chris McCray, John Gilchrist, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley. That core failed to meet lofty expectations, and the fans nearly revolted at the perceived inability of Williams to coach a great class. But the players just didn’t work out. It happens.
Williams got Maryland back on track with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes. He helped Vasquez mature from a sloppy point guard and nearly out of control hothead to a dominant ACC player who was a threat to post a triple double nearly any night. The Terrapins returned to the NCAA Tournament three out of four seasons but never advanced further than the second round.
Heading into this off-seaosn, Maryland was at a cross-roads as another disappointing recruiting class — Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory — finished their collegiate careers. Jordan Williams, one of the top recruits in recent years to come to Maryland, figured to be the linchpin of next season’s team, but he is heading to the NBA instead.
At age 66, Williams was staring at a complete rebuilding project in an era that makes it increasingly difficult to run a clean and successful program. Williams refused to sacrifice one for the other. That makes now a great time for Williams to step down. To rebuild the Terrapins, Williams would need at least a couple of years to get the right guys around solid building blocks like Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. Williams might be pushing 70 before the Terrapins have another legitimate shot at a deep run.
When I’m pushing 70, I hope have the energy to work more than 60 hours a week recruiting, strategizing and representing a major college program. After such a remarkable, program-defining coaching career, Williams has earned this respite.
In our latest podcast, we touch on a number of issues affecting conferences like Conference USA, as well as a big loss for Creighton, less mystery in Arizona, and more on the ACC as we look forward to the weekend.
In our latest podcast, we talk about a short stint in the top spot of the polls, some developments in the Mountain West Conference, and more of the ACC before closing with the Big East and Atlantic 10.
In our latest podcast, we talk about the great games Kentucky has been a part of lately. We go on to other ACC matters involving arch rivals, as well as some quick hits and a conference race that should be as good as expected.
In our latest podcast, we talk about a coaching legend reaching a milestone, the defending champs looking very good and continuing their winning ways close to home, and some off-court news during a light week of game action.
Early season tournaments are the focus in this episode, with a look at how strong a few Big East teams are out of the gate and how strong the ACC could be. Plus one SEC team had a big week outside the scope of tournaments.
We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.
We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.
We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.
Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout
The Boston Back to School Showcase gave high school teams from three states and north of the border a chance for a couple of early games. We take a look back at the day and a few who stood out.