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The Morning Dish – Monday, November 24, 2014

by - Published November 24, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-yellow

Sunday was the big day in several early season tournaments, so they lead the way once again. This time, though, three of them crowned champions.

We start with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which was an old Big East matchup. West Virginia made a strong start stand up, leading by 15 points at the half en route to a 78-68 win behind 21 points from tournament MVP Juwan Staten. Connecticut suspended four players before the game for a violation of team rules, two of whom are walk-ons and only one of whom has seen the court for the Huskies this season.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 22, 2014

by - Published November 22, 2014 in The Morning Dish
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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

Baylor is clearly third in the Big 12

by - Published February 12, 2012 in Columns
hoopguy-orange

At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.

Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.

Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading

A much-needed road win for West Virginia

by - Published February 6, 2012 in Columns
westvirginia

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – It might not have been apparent for much of the game, but West Virginia needed a win on Sunday afternoon. The Mountaineers got it, but not without some consternation as they trailed for much of the game and needed overtime for an 87-84 win over host Providence.

“We needed this bad,” said head coach Bob Huggins. “We haven’t been nearly as good on the road as we have in the past. I needed it for my sanity.”

… Continue Reading

In a time of tribulation, college hoops shows the good in sports

by - Published December 6, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

The Jimmy V Classic couldn’t have come at a more necessary time this year.

College sports have had a rough run in recent months. Throughout the summer, fans had to try to figure out which conference their favorite team would be playing in when all the moving and shaking subsides. The motivation for conference realignment is all about the dollar bills, often at the expense of any sport not named football — and with little consideration for rivalries that make sports thrilling to watch and play.

But conference realignment was utterly benign compared to the chaos that erupted in State College, Pa., when one of the NCAA’s premier football programs crumbled under the weight of allegation after allegation of sexual misconduct by Jerry Sandusky, a former coordinator. Exacerbating the situation, coach Joe Paterno and Penn State officials appear to have covered up the activities, and it cost one of college football’s legends his job.

Then scandal crept into college hoops, at another sacred program. Coach Jim Boeheim has built Syracuse into a top program, and he relied on his top assistant, Bernie Fine, to help get the Orange there. But allegations of sexual abuse have surrounded Fine, and university officials fired him. Syracuse has received plenty of criticism for possibly failing to do enough to report the rumors of the abuse to police nearly 10 years ago, and Boeheim passionately defended his friend and assistant when ESPN first reported the allegations. He has had to backtrack from those statements, and some experts are calling for his ouster.

Yuck.

With such greed and alleged corruption percolating in college sports, it’d be easy to become disillusioned.

But resist the urge. Or to put it another way: “Don’t ever give up.”

Former NC State coach Jim Valvano made that phrase the motto of the foundation named for him after he died of cancer in 1993. Since his death, ESPN has partnered with the Jimmy V Foundation to raise funds for cancer research. The money goes directly to research, and it goes to a broad range of medical experts toiling to find a cure, not just for popular causes such as breast or prostate cancer but also rarer cancers that have a far worse death rate.

The annual Jimmy V Classic serves as a forum for ESPN to reach a national audience to urge donations, in addition to showcasing a few of the country’s best teams. If that’s not a great role for sports in U.S. society, I don’t know what is.

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

Utah doesn’t have a Division I win yet on the season, and the Utes could struggle some more to pick that up after indefinitely suspending Josh Watkins, according to the Associated Press. Watkins has been Utah’s best player by far, averaging 17.7 ppg and 4.9 apg.

Things aren’t much better for one of the Utes’ biggest rivals, the Utah State Aggies. Diamond Leung, of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog, writes that Brady Jardine could be out all season after injuring his foot Nov. 19 in the team’s win against Southern Utah. Jardine is one of the team’s top rebounders, averaging 7.7 rpg.

West Virginia v. the Big East continues to froth in the legal system, with the Big East’s lawyers moving for a dismissal of West Virginia’s lawsuit attempting to get the Mountaineers out of the conference and into the Big 12 ahead of the Big East’s mandatory 27-month waiting period, according to the Associated Press’ Vicki Smith.

We don’t place a ton of stock in the polls in general, but Harvard’s arrival this week is newsworthy. As CBS Sports.com reports, it’s the first time that the Crimson have ever appeared in the top 25, and they are the first Ivy League team to reach the polls since Princeton in 1998.

Games to watch Tuesday

  • Missouri vs. Villanova, 7 pm EST (Jimmy V Classic)
  • George Mason at Virginia, 7 pm EST
  • Kent State at James Madison, 7 pm EST
  • Robert Morris at Duquesne, 7 pm EST
  • Iowa at Northern Iowa, 8 pm EST
  • Washington vs. Marquette, 9 pm EST (Jimmy V Classic)
  • Long Beach State at Kansas, 9 pm EST
  • Memphis at Miami, 9 pm EST

No cause for alarm in the Big East

by - Published November 29, 2011 in Conference Notes
bigeast

One of the best parts of the early college basketball season is that, year after year, the big-time programs of the BCS conferences (mostly) load up on cupcake teams from lesser-known conferences to begin their campaigns — and those teams prove to be more substance than fluff.

More often than not, those cupcakes turn out to give some of the more talented squads from conferences such as the Big East a run for their money, even knocking off a few of them along the way.

The Big East has had its fair share of losses in the early going as some of the teams we picked to be contenders for the conference championships are dealing with some early season growing pains. … Continue Reading

Big East has some close calls but remained unscathed — until today

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Columns

Editor’s note: West Virginia just lost to Kent State 70-60 in a game played this morning as part of ESPN’s 25-hour marathon of college hoops. Figures.

Now that we are a week into the 2010-11 college basketball season, the Big East started the day as one of four conferences that could say every one of their teams made it through the opening weekend without suffering a loss; the ACC, Big 12 and Mountain West are the others.

Although you would expect most of the Big East to make easy work of their early season cupcake opponents, the parity of college basketball that has become prevalent in recent years showed itself once again with some big-time programs needing some solid play to hold off so-called mid-majors. … Continue Reading

West Virginia Mountaineers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Conference Notes

West Virginia Mountaineers

 

Last Year:

21-12 overall, 11-7 Big East (T-6th)

Coach:

Bob Huggins (5th season, 101-42)

Projected starting five:

G: Jabarie Hinds, Fr.
G: Truck Bryant, Sr.
F: Kevin Jones, Sr.
F: Kevin Noreen, Fr.
F: Deniz Kilicli, Jr.

Important departures:

Casey Mitchell 13.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg
John Flowers 9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Joe Mazzulla 7.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Inside the numbers:

45 percent scoring returning
47 percent rebounding returning

Additions:

G: Jabarie Hinds, 6’0”. 160 – Rivals #93
F: Tommie McCune 6’7”, 185 – Rivals #102
G: Gary Browne, 6’1”, 185

Schedule:

Toughest nonconference game: 12/23 at (12) Baylor
Toughest in-conference stretch: 2/11 – 2/22 vs. (8) Louisville, at (11) Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame

Prediction:

7th in BE; 20+ wins; Second round of NCAA Tournament

What to expect:

West Virginia will have a tall task ahead if they want to return to the NCAA Tournament. Losing three starters, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla, Huggins will look to Kevin Jones to be his go-to guy.

Jones struggled last year to score at times, but in typical Huggins fashion, their defense kept them in most games long enough for someone to hit a shot. Familiar faces Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli, two players who can take the load off of him scoring-wise, will join Jones in the starting five. Bryant will play more two-guard this year to concentrate more on scoring than assisting. Freshman Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne will take over point guard duties for the Mountaineers.

Hovering around the middle of the road in the BE, Huggins will need to do a solid coaching job to get this hodge-podge group of players into the Big Dance.

Back to Big East preview

Bracket Breakdown: Your Complete Guide to the Final Four

by - Published April 3, 2010 in Columns

On one side of the bracket that went busted a day into the NCAA Tournament, we have two Cinderella teams hoping that the crystal shoe will fit them at the end. On the other, we have two power-conference juggernauts trying to spoil the folk tale’s happy ending.

It’s not a good vs. evil story. It’s merely the Final Four, and its two No. 5 seeds (injury-riddled Michigan State and Butler) battling each other for one spot in the championship game while the ACC’s and No. 1 seed Duke combats the Big East’s and No. 2 West Virginia for the other. Two feel-good stories vs. two bracket-saving, household names.

It should be fun. Let’s take a look at those Final Four-ers.

Even though it’s a second consecutive Final Four trip for the Spartans (28-8), the state of Michigan should still be pleasantly shocked to find them there. Michigan State has walked on the borderline of survival in every round to reach these instances, having won its four games by an average of 3.25 points. Clutchness and healthy doses of guards Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have done the trick. They have the Spartans feeling they can go from 2009 runner-ups to 2010 champions despite their major underdog status.

However, when it comes to underdogs, no team barks louder than the Bulldogs of Butler (32-4). Fans are growing either hopeful or tired of hearing about how this team’s run is not unlike that of the Hickory team from the “Hoosiers” movie, the story of a small-town Indiana high school squad that wins the state championship — my apologies if I ruined the movie for anyone.

The similarities are there. Butler is also from Indiana and plays in the mid-major Horizon League. Adding to that, the Bulldogs have pulled their set of upsets to get to the Final Four. They beat their region’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds — Syracuse and Kansas State, respectively — to get a shot at the title while playing in their home state.

As it’s been the case all tournament long, swingman Gordon Hayward will be key for Butler, not just because of his team-leading scoring but because of his rebounding. The sophomore will need to set a tone on the glass and hope his teammates follow. Michigan State is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and extra possessions could be the difference. The Spartans, for their part, must take Butler’s playing-at-home spirit out right off the bat. And they shouldn’t rely on their crunch-time skills. Butler, which comes into the game having won 24 consecutive games, has been just as good in those instances this tournament.

Whichever squad remains alive after the underdog-off will have to face a powerhouse in the championship game. Duke (33-5), thought by many to be the most vulnerable No. 1 Tournament seed, is the only No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four. The “Big Three,” guards Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith and forward Kyle Singler, combine for about 70 percent of the Blue Devils’ total scoring and has carried Duke past every team it was supposed to beat. Now, however, Duke, a team that relies heavily on three-point shooting, will face its biggest offensive test against a lengthy West Virginia (31-6) squad that forced another No. 1 seed, Kentucky, into misfiring on 28-of-32 three-point attempts in their Elite Eight match.

The Mountaineers not only are long and effective zone defenders but also feature one of the most exciting players in the field: forward Da’Sean Butler. Butler hasn’t needed to hit any big shots this post-season as West Virginia hasn’t had any major scares during its run, but Butler is one bad dude when called upon, as proven by his two game-winners in the Big East Tournament. He and forward Devin Ebanks are the Mountaineers’ main offensive weapons.

Smith is the guy for Duke. His ability to break down defenses and create, along with his reliable jump shot, could have West Virginia scrambling out of their zone defense rather early. The Blue Devils are an outstanding shooting team, and the Mountaineers might not have a choice but to play them man-to-man. How West Virginia adjusts to Duke’s shooting ability will be the deciding factor. And it would also help the Mountaineers if they could make a couple of shots. Defense is what’s gotten them this far, but they’re the worst shooting team remaining. West Virginia has shot less than 42 percent in all of their tournament wins.

Because of its underdog of underdogs’ status, Butler is the team that seemingly everyone wants to win it all, especially because the Bulldogs are playing in front of their home crowd. Michigan State will be a tough rival, but these teams are evenly-matched. Meanwhile, on the other side, Duke will need a good shooting day to get past the Mountaineers, who will pray for an average shooting day to help them get back to the championship game for the first time since 1959. It should be fun.

Predictions that will probably be completely wrong: Butler and Duke advance. And Duke wins it all.

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Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

unlv

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

syracuse

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.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

brown

Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

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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

marianapolis

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

riversschool

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.