FULLERTON, Calif. — In the aftermath of a 69-65 loss to an unranked Providence team whose best player spent half the game on the bench in foul trouble, Arizona coach Sean Miller made a startling yet telling statement.
"I leave this game feeling very, very good about our team’s effort," Miller said.
Comments like that from Miller are his way of tacitly acknowledging that this Arizona team does not have the talent that previous editions have boasted. Those Wildcats coasted on occasion yet still captured back-to-back Pac-12 titles. These Wildcats can dive for every loose ball, scrap for every rebound and still lose to an unheralded opponent.
Their best player is a skilled but undersized power forward unlikely to make the NBA. Their defensive stopper is a junior guard who could scarcely crack the rotation the past two years. One of their point guards is a junior college transfer who's more of a scorer than a distributor and the other is a deft passer but stands just 5-foot-8.
Whereas the past few Arizona teams could count on established stars like Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell or future lottery picks Stanley Johnson and Aaron Gordon, it was telling who Miller turned to Friday night when the game was on the line. With his team down by two and less than 30 seconds to go, Miller drew up a ball screen for Parker Jackson-Cartwright and unproven backup center Dusan Ristic, resulting in a game-clinching turnover.
"We learned a lot over the last two days as a basketball team," Miller said. "One of the things we've learned is that room for error, that margin and that gap that we've experienced the last couple years isn't there right now. So our effort level has to be there every play."
Arizona's loss was only its first of the season, but the manner in which the Wildcats have compiled a 5-1 record confirms Miller's point. They needed overtime to get past a winless Santa Clara team on Thursday and they didn't take their first double-digit lead at home against Boise State the previous week until less than four minutes remained in the game.
Turnovers have been a month-long issue so far for Arizona, which had 21 on Friday night to up its season average to 14 per game. The Wildcats also are shooting a meager 28.3 percent from behind the arc, good enough for 293rd nationally.
Arizona could count on its elite defense to make up for wayward shooting nights in previous seasons, but these Wildcats are a notch or two below in that level as well. So far they're 36th nationally in points per possession, a sizable drop after finishing second and fourth the previous two years.
The lack of a defensive stopper was evident when Providence star Kris Dunn carved up the Wildcats on some of Friday's most crucial possessions. Dunn had the game's final 10 points, most notably the go-ahead pull-up jump shot in the lane with 32 seconds remaining.
“We have such a long way to go on defense, it’s not even close," Miller said Thursday night. "The last two years, if you saw Arizona play, you saw two of the nation’s best defensive teams and we are just starting the ascent to potentially one day arrive somewhere in the stratosphere of that."
This Arizona team doesn't have the sky-high ceiling of the previous two, but there's certainly room for growth.
The Wildcats are already a dominant rebounding team, a strength they'll only improve upon when starting center Kaleb Tarczewski returns from the left ankle injury that has bothered him all season. It's also difficult to imagine Arizona being this poor a 3-point shooting team all season considering Gabe York, Elliott Pitts and Marc Tollefsen are all shooting at well below their career averages.
Perhaps the biggest X-factor for Arizona is freshman guard Allonzo Trier, a five-star recruit whose ability attack off the bounce and draw contact is a skill none of his teammates possess.
Frequent turnovers and defensive lapses have caused Trier's playing time to fluctuate, but Miller now seems to realize he has to give the 6-foot-4 wing some more rope and let him play through his mistakes. While Miller glared at Trier and gestured at the shot clock after the freshman let it expire without taking a shot midway through the first half Friday night, the Arizona coach did not pull him from the game like he might have previously.
"We have to develop Allonzo, I know that," Miller said. "He has shown glimpses. I have no doubt he'll get there, but he's just a young player working through things right now."
So how good can Arizona be? Can the Wildcats still live up to their preseason top 15 ranking and contend for a third straight Pac-12 title? A lot of that will depend on how Trier develops, whether the outside shooting and ball handling improves and if Arizona's defense can transition from good to elite by the end of the year.
Entering the third week of the season, Miller is still searching for the ideal rotation or lineup combination, something he didn't have to deal with the past couple seasons.
"There's not an obvious answer," Miller said. "There's a lot more question marks than answers."
It's all part of the challenge of having a roster that's deep and versatile but doesn't have the same margin for error as previous Arizona teams did.
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A slew of early season upsets has been one of the primary storylines of the first two weeks of the college basketball season and one of the most dramatic yet unfolded Friday afternoon in Coral Gables, Fla., where Northeastern stunned No. 15 Miami.
The teams traded the lead multiple times throughout the second half, including when Sheldon McClellan made a jumper with 18 seconds left to give Miami a one-point advantage. Coming out of a timeout with five seconds showing. Quincy Ford found the ball in his hands on the right side near the 3-point line. He dribbled toward the free throw line but stopped short, elevated and softly dropped the game-winner through the cylinder to stun the previously unbeaten Hurricanes 78-77.
Ford scored 24 points with six rebounds and four steals and fellow senior David Walker added 21 to account for more than half the Huskies' points. It was exactly the type of bounch-back victory Northeastern needed five days after losing to Miami (Ohio).
The Huskies appear more than capabable of making a return trip to the NCAA Trounament in March for a second consecutive year. Consider that the Huskies beat a Miami team with wins over ranked foes Butler and Utah.
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The Wayne Selden who tantalized Kansas with his assertiveness and efficiency this past summer resurfaced Wednesday night in Maui.
The mercurial 6-foot-5 junior torched Vanderbilt for 25 points on only 11 shots, more than enough to lead the Jayhawks to a 70-63 victory over the Commodores in the Maui Invitational title game.
Selden's performance capped a brilliant three days in Maui in which he showcased a lethal 3-point stroke and the ability to attack the rim. He averaged 19.3 points per game, sank 12 of 17 attempts from behind the arc and got to the foul line 12 times, exactly the sort of numbers Kansas coach Bill Self has been waiting for him to put up with regularity for the past two years.
A former top 20 prospect heralded for his size, athleticism and scoring prowess, Selden played in Andrew Wiggins' shadow as a freshman and failed to produce the breakout sophomore season many projected from him last year. He averaged slightly fewer points than he had as a freshman, shooting a pedestrian 36 percent from behind the arc while consistently struggling to finish in traffic in the paint.
Occasionally, he'd shred a quality opponent just to remind everyone of his limitless potential. Just as often, he'd drift aimlessly through a big game without ever putting his stamp on it, making it easy to forget he was even on the court.
Last July's World University Games in South Korea provided a forum for Selden to bounce back from a scoreless performance against Wichita State in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. Selden helped lead a U.S. team comprised mostly of Kansas players to a gold medal, averaging 19.3 points per game and taking the honor of the event's best player.
If the Selden that Kansas gets for the rest of the season is the South Korea version, that would be even more important for the Jayhawks than Wednesday's news that prized freshman Cheick Diallo has been cleared to play. Selden is the ultimate X-factor for Kansas, a high-scoring wing capable of taking pressure off everyone else on offense if he becomes the star he was once predicted to be.
There were signs of star power against a much-improved Vanderbilt team on Wednesday night, but none bigger than this smooth step-back jumper.
There's not another player on the Kansas roster who can do that. Heck, there aren't many other players in the Big 12 who can do that.
With the nucleus of Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis leading the way this week in Maui, Kansas dispatched of Chaminade and UCLA with ease before slowly pulling away from Vanderbilt. In the process, the Jayhawks served notice they're yet again the team to beat in the Big 12 and a threat to make the Final Four.
What would help, of course, is Selden sustaining this level of play. There's no guarantee that will happen, but the past three days in Maui were certainly a promising start.
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Colorado forward Tory Miller crossed a line Wednesday that should never be crossed during competition in any sport. The sophomore forward from Kansas City bit Air Force junior Hayden Graham on the shoulder while they battled for a loose ball on the floor in the second half.
Officials determined after a review that it was a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected Miller, who could face further punishment from his coach, Tad Boyle, and the Pac-12 Conference. Miller made the first start of his career in the game but scored just two points with three rebounds.
“Tory’s an emotional player,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told the Colorado Springs Gazette after the game. “There was something in the scrum there in the jump-ball situation. They saw something. The Air Force player said something. They felt like they confirmed it and they booted him. We’ll deal with it. But Tory’s a great kid. I mean, I’m not talking about a good kid, Tory’s a great kid."
Colorado won the home game 81-70 over their neighbor 90 miles to the south. Afterward, Graham showed a great sense of humor in spite of the bite marks in his shoulder.
My man is WAY to ready for Thanksgiving— Hayden Graham (@Hayden_Graham35) November 26, 2015
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Kansas fans have chanted "Free Diallo" throughout this week's Maui Invitational.
Soon, they will get their wish.
The NCAA concluded a lengthy investigation into Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo's eligibility on Wednesday with the announcement that the McDonald's All-American forward will be eligible to play for the Jayhawks starting against Loyola (Md.) on Dec. 1. Kansas' matchup with Vanderbilt in the Maui Invitational title game on Wednesday night will be the last game Diallo will sit out.
“Our goal is to have eligibility decisions made prior to the start of a student-athlete’s season,” Oliver Luck, NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “However, this was a complicated case involving international transcripts and a high school that remains under review. Additionally, staff considered a complex set of circumstances regarding amateurism.”
The major issue in the Diallo case concerned the time he spent at Our Savior New American Prep School, which has been under NCAA review for several years. Based upon an independent review of Diallo's coursework that Kansas provided on Nov. 20 and information its investigators had already gathered, the NCAA approved Diallo's initial eligibility waiver.
As for the amateurism aspect, the NCAA ruled that Diallo received a limited amount of extra benefits and will not be eligible for five games. The Maui Invitational title game is the last of those five contests.
The addition of Diallo will further strengthen a Kansas team that already is one of the nation's best. The 6-foot-9 native of Mali is the perfect complement to senior Perry Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt because their strengths are so different.
Ellis atones for modest length and athleticism with a polished repertoire of back-to-the-basket moves and a mid-range jump shot consistent out to nearly the 3-point arc. Diallo isn't going to scare anyone if Kansas feeds him the ball in the high post or on the low block, but he runs the floor exceptionally, finishes at the rim, rebounds at both ends and uses his impressive timing and wingspan to protect the rim on defense.
The presence of Diallo enables freshman Carlton Bragg and veterans Landon Lucas and Jamari Traylor to remain in a reserve role. Diallo's defensive presence should also give Kansas' guards the security to play the passing lanes and apply increased ball pressure without fear of surrendering an uncontested layup if they get beat.
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When he blindsided the Utah State basketball team earlier this month by quitting two days before its season opener, forward David Collette quickly learned a hard lesson.
College coaches seldom accept rejection gracefully.
Utah State officials informed Collette on Monday that they are denying his request for a release granting him and his family permission to speak with other schools. The restriction makes it difficult for Collette to transfer to another Division I program because coaches cannot communicate with him or his family without violating NCAA rules.
Collette can still enroll at another institution and then initiate contact with the basketball program, but he'd have to pay tuition on his own for the first two semesters. Cobbling together that kind of money would be no easy feat for a college sophomore married to another full-time student.
"I don't understand why Utah State would do this," Collette told Yahoo Sports. "If a guy's not comfortable where he is or not happy, why not let him go? The coaches and administrators always talk about how they have their players' backs. Well, obviously not. From what I've experienced, they do not have my best interest at heart whatsoever."
The timing of Collette's decision to transfer is Utah State's primary frustration. It left the Aggies almost no time to find a replacement for a 6-foot-10 forward who earned third-team all-conference honors as a redshirt freshman last season after averaging 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.
"David Collette chose to leave Utah State two days prior to its season opening contest, which hamstrung the team in terms of recruiting a new player to that position or even practicing with other players for that position," Utah State said Wednesday in a written statement to Yahoo Sports. "The timing of David’s decision to leave the team is the reason Utah State is handling his release this way."
In a Nov. 11 release announcing Collette's sudden departure, Utah State coach Tim Duryea suggested that tampering by other schools may have played a role in the unusual timing.
"I think there were a lot of factors in play that, unfortunately, have become a trend in college basketball of schools poaching other schools' players," Duryea said. "I don't feel good and don't like how things transpired."
Collette vehemently denies that any other program influenced his decision by expressing interest directly to him or through a third party. He instead attributes his abrupt exit to a deteriorating relationship between him and Duryea, a longtime Utah State assistant who ascended to head coach when Stew Morrill retired last spring.
One of Collette's issues with Duryea stems from his alleged use of the phrase "you might as well shoot yourself in the back of the head" when speaking with the team. Though Utah State said Duryea apologized to Collette when told the phrase was insensitive, Collette recalls differently. He said the coach laughed it off and told him it was just a figure of speech.
Another of Collette's issues stemmed from a fight in practice in which one player allegedly sucker punched another in the back of the head. Utah State said in its statement to Yahoo Sports that "punishment for the incident was handed out and seen through," but Collette was uncomfortable with how Duryea downplayed the incident and demanded players stay silent about it.
"He told us not to tell anyone about it — not even family members — because he didn't want the media to find out," Collette said. "Why tell your players to shove it under the rug? If you're a coach telling your players to shove something under the rug, you're obviously not doing something right."
Incidents like those wore on Collette until he could no longer envision playing another year for Duryea. Collette felt guilty about letting down his teammates by quitting so close to the start of the season, but he said they were "understanding and supportive" when he addressed them.
It didn't take long for Collette to realize Utah State coaches and administrators would not be quite so gracious. He received an email the day after he said he was leaving informing him the school was canceling his athletic aid for the remainder of the semester.
Collette also said that his height and weight on his Utah State bio abruptly reverted back to those from the previous year. The difference between 6-10, 235 pounds and 6-8, 220 pounds is significant to a high-major college coach scanning the transfer market in search of a power forward.
"Who does that? It's so childish," Collette said. "I compare Utah State to a bitter ex-girlfriend. I feel like I broke up with Utah State and now she's doing everything she can to get back at me."
Of course the worst part for Collette is he can't truly move on from Utah State just yet. He's in limbo until he finds out the results of his appeal next month.
Collette chose to speak with reporters about his concerns this week in hopes of exerting public pressure on Utah State to grant him his unconditional release. He says he doesn't know where he intends to transfer, but he hopes to find a program with the type of supportive environment he wants.
"If a player is not happy, he should have the freedom to leave," Collette said. "What's so frustrating for me is I'm trying to find another place as soon as I can, and they're holding me back from that."
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Ohio State plays Michigan on the football field later this week, which might be a saving grace for Thad Matta and his basketball team.
The hardwood Buckeyes are probably content to be as anonymous as possible on campus right now after suffering a second straight humbling home defeat to an unranked nonconference foe.
Louisiana Tech came to Value City Arena and handled the Buckeyes much too easily Tuesday night in an impressive 82-74 victory for the Bulldogs. The upset came on the heels of Ohio State losing to Texas Arlington and marked the first time the Buckeyes have lost consecutive home nonconference games since early December 1963.
Yes folks, that's nearly 52 years.
Ohio State was expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten this season after losing D'Angelo Russell and three other key contributors from last season. But it's suddenly looking like a much longer, tougher season could be in store for Matta and the Buckeyes.
Of course, there is time and plenty of opportunity upcoming to get back on track, but this appears to be a team that hasn't found a leader around whom to rally. The two losses have been characterized by turnovers leading to points on the other end and defensive lapses that must have Matta grinding his teeth.
A big problem Tuesday was gaurding the 3-point line. La. Tech made 10 3-pointers
Forward Marc Loving did what he could on the offensive end with 25 points, scored in an efficient manner with just 15 shots. Three other starters scored in double figures for the Buckeyes, but there isn't a lot of depth on this roster and that shows up.
Senior guard Alex Hamilton scored 24 to lead the Bulldogs but went 0-for-5 from behind the arc. Erik McCree scored 17 and sophomore Jacobi Boykins scored 16.
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Freshman Dontavious Smith stole a pass late in the first half Tuesday during UMass Lowell's 104-76 victory over Wheelock College, but he didn't quite get the jump he wanted for his dunk attempt on the other end with a defender on his hip.
Smith went in low, missed the dunk, hung on the rim momentarily trying to slow his momentum and the glass just could take the force from the 6-foot-8 forward. Smith even received a congratulatory pat on the rear end from one of his opponents who was apparently impressed.
Smith did a little bit of everything in his team's win. He scored 14 points with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks.
Ryan Jones scored 20 for the River Hawks and Keith Hayes II added 15 off the bench, but this one will be remembered for Smith taking out the backboard.
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Only hours after his team's upset loss to Wake Forest in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, Tom Crean's week in paradise somehow got worse.
Indiana forward Troy Williams' mother — or someone with access to her account — wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that it was time to get her son "the F--- OUT OF IU!!" after Crean benched him against St. John's. The full post is in the link below, but warning the language is explicit.
This from Troy Williams mom..my apologies for the fbomb https://t.co/E2ERydLYLM— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) November 24, 2015
Patty Williams quickly apologized with the following tweet: "I sincerely am sorry for my rude words! Please everyone involved don't take my anger out on my son. Thank you. I love him too hard I know." She has since turned her Twitter account to private.
Troy Williams scored 16 points on only 10 shots in Indiana's loss to Wake Forest, but he landed in Crean's dog house because of his five turnovers and his poor rebounding. He only pulled down three boards in a game that the Demon Deacons won by dominating the offensive glass.
Replacing Williams in the starting lineup on Tuesday was Collin Hartman, a veteran best known for outside shooting. Hartman had three points and five rebounds in 27 minutes in Indiana's 83-73 victory. Williams was active in 19 minutes off the bench, finishing with seven points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.
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His head throbbing, legs wobbly and eyes flickering, Trace Dimeff struggled to stand.
The Central Arizona College guard had just taken a violent knee to the jaw Saturday night while diving for a loose ball, but he refused to remain flat on his back on the floor with his team down five late in overtime. Dimeff instead staggered to his feet, lurched to the left corner and buried maybe the most improbable shot of the college basketball season thus far.
When you lowkey got a mild concussion but ball is still life & you gotta hit the clutch corner three w 5 secs left pic.twitter.com/BqX3v6M70w— Trace Dimeff (@TDimeff) November 23, 2015
"I don't know what my teammate was thinking, but he passed me the ball," Dimeff told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. "I didn't even see the shot go in honestly. I started falling down right after I shot it, but I heard everyone start yelling. I think it was all muscle memory."
Doctors afterward diagnosed Dimeff with a concussion severe enough that it may sideline him for both of Central Arizona's games this week. He definitely won't play Tuesday night against Eastern Arizona College, but he's hoping to pass concussion protocol tests in time to play on Friday.
Dimeff isn't sure why referees didn't stop the game when he was writhing on the court. His memory of the shot is hazy, so he had no idea how frightening it looked until he and his teammates cued up the game film on a laptop on Monday morning.
"We were laughing about it, but I'm also thankful that I'm safe because it really looked scary," Dimeff said. "I remember being dizzy when it happened, but I thought I just ran over to the corner. I don't remember stumbling. I had no idea my hands were still on the ground almost until I caught the ball."
Dimeff posted video of the shot on his Twitter account Monday morning. It had been retweeted more than 10,000 times by the time he awoke less than 24 hours later.
The only disappointment for Dimeff was the outcome of the game. In spite of Dimeff's shot to narrow the gap to two, Central Arizona fell 87-84 in overtime against Arizona Western College
"Honestly, I really wish we would have won the game, Dimeff said. "It's a shot I'm going to remember for the rest of my life, but it still hurts to lose."
Dimeff shouldn't be too hard on himself considering he finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
In basketball parlance, a shooter who cannot miss is often described as unconscious. Never has the term been more accurate than this.
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If the Sun Belt Conference coaches could re-do their preseason poll armed with the information learned in the season's first two weeks, it's a good bet Texas-Arlington would finish higher in the voting than the eighth-place finish the coaches forecast back in the third week of October.
Texas-Arlington pulled off a second consecutive surprising road win Monday night beating Memphis 68-64, just three days after beating Ohio State in similar fashion.
The Mavericks are certainly one of the most surprising teams in the nation at this point in the season not just because of their two most recent wins but because they are succeeding so early after losing their top-four scorers from last season.
Sophomore forward Kevin Hervey figured to be a key piece of this season's team after averaging seven points a game a year ago. He led the Mavericks with 22 points and 11 rebounds Monday for his first double-double of the year.
Memphis played once again without senior point guard Kedren Johnson, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury that could require surgery at some point. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, which is nothing new for Memphis.
The Tigers held a commanding advantage in free throw attempts, but made only 28 of their 44 attempts. The Mavericks went 11 of 19 at the foul line and attempted 24 more field goals in the game than Memphis, which committed 16 turnovers.
Three Memphis players grabbed double-digit rebounds led by 19 from Shaq Goodwin, but Avery Woodson was the only Memphis starter to make 40 percent of shots taken.
Memphis and Ohio State can compare notes and lick their wounds together after facing Texas-Arlington. They meet Friday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational.
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As Illinois players spilled onto the court in celebration of Jalen Coleman-Lands game-winning 3-pointer on Monday night, embattled Illini coach John Groce could only muster a relieved smile.
Groce knew the Illini never should have needed last-second heroics to eke out an 82-79 victory over lowly Chicago State.
The shrewdly designed, well-executed play to free Coleman-Lands was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Illinois performance. Inbound passer Malcolm Hill got the ball back via a handoff at the foul line, sped up court and fed a wide-open Coleman-Lands spotted up in the corner for a game-winning shot that beat the buzzer by no more than a couple tenths of a second.
Coleman-Lands' shot ensured Illinois would not start the season 1-4 for the first time since before the Cubs last won the World Series. The Illini (2-3) already lost a tough one-point heartbreaker to Providence and fell at home against North Florida and Chattanooga.
Whereas North Florida and Chattanooga are at least small-conference powers, a loss against Chicago State would have been a whole new level of bad. Chicago State went 8-24 last season and dropped its lone prior game against a Division I opponent this year by 42 at Iowa State.
Illinois actually needed a game-saving second-half rally and some final-minute good fortune just to give itself a chance to avoid another loss. The Illini trailed by 14 in the second half before freshman forward Michael Finke sparked a comeback. Chicago State still led by two in the final minute but a steal in the backcourt and a shot clock violation short-circuited its upset bid.
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Ben Simmons turned in another head-shaking stat line Monday night. His passing skills dazzled, his defense frustrated and his offense delighted, particularly a running overhead shot that gave LSU its first lead in the final minute.
What the nation's best freshman didn't do in his first 20-20 game was knock down the game-winning shot twice in the final seconds when presented with the opportunity. He passed up both shots in favor of passes to teammates. The first was a good decision as Marquette defenders converged on him near the free throw line. The second decision is one he'll probably want back but also one from which he will learn
Jalyn Patterson missed a deep 3-pointer off of Simmons' pass and Marquette celebrated handing Simmons and his LSU teammates their first loss of the season 81-80 and the first loss of Simmons' oollege career in a semifinal of the Legends Classic.
Simmons scored 21 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, dished seven assists and led a comeback in the final minutes after LSU had fallen behind by nine with under five minutes to play. There wasn't much Simmons didn't do to guide his team into position to win it at the end except for taking that final shot, which is really the moment that lingers in minds from this one.
One of Simmons' greatest attributes, especially considering he's only a freshman, is his unselfishness and his ability to create shots for teammates by drawing defenders and finding the open man. But that inclination to pass worked against him Monday when he passed up a good look at an 18-foot jump shot to pass the ball to a teammate for a much longer attempt.
Marquette freshman forward Henry Ellenson had a decent night against Simmons in one of the best early season matchups of premier freshman in the nation. Before fouling out late in the game against Simmons, Ellenson scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and helped set a tone on defense that kept LSU out of a rhythm much of the night.
But LSU turned to defense as well when it needed to get back in the game, using a press to force turnovers and get some easy looks. The strategy worked well but the Tigers couldn't make it stick at the end. The next time they find themselves in a tight, late-game situation, LSU will be able to draw on this experience. So will Simmons.
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Any improvement Indiana showed defensively in its first three games may have been a mirage.
The Hoosiers suffered a surprising 82-78 loss in the Maui Invitational quarterfinals on Monday because they couldn't come up with stops when they needed them.
A rebuilding Wake Forest team playing without last season's leading scorer exploited Indiana's defensive shortcomings with alarming ease. The Demon Deacons shot 50.7 percent because the Hoosiers couldn't stop dribble penetration, closed out on shooters too slowly and failed to adequately control the defensive glass or protect the rim.
Especially alarming were the issues prized freshman big man Thomas Bryant experienced moving laterally and defending ball screens. In the first half, perimeter-oriented Konstantinos Mitoglou gave him a ton of problems. In the second half, Wake Forest attacked him relentlessly off the dribble, especially in the final minute as the Demon Deacons clawed their way back from a late nine-point deficit.
With 30 seconds remaining and Wake Forest down one, Bryant Crawford blew right by Robert Johnson, took advantage of Bryant's slow rotation on help defense and scored an uncontested go-ahead layup. Then after a Troy Williams free throw tied the score, the Demon Deacons had Bryant's man set a top of the key ball screen so Crawford could attack him off the dribble again, this time resulting in the game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds left.
The way that Indiana struggled defensively much of the first half and wilted down the stretch is discouraging for a team that spent the offseason trying to get better at that end of the floor. The Hoosiers were 283rd in the nation in two-point field goal percentage defense last season because their perimeter players couldn't stay in front of anyone off the dribble and they lacked an adequate rim protector to erase mistakes.
What Monday's loss showed is that Bryant isn't an instant solution to those issues — at least not yet. Teams will force him to defend ball screens until Indiana goes zone or he shows he can do it. The Hoosiers don't have the option of pulling him off the floor because he's a weapon on offense and he's the team's top rebounder too.
While Wake Forest will get another crack at a quality win against Vanderbilt in Tuesday's Maui semifinals, Indiana will have what should amount to a get-well game in the consolation bracket against woeful St. John's. The Hoosiers need to use that game to go back to basics on defense and try to fix some of the issues that emerged on Monday.
Thanks to a potent offense with shooters and playmakers all over the floor, Indiana doesn't need to be an elite defensive team to meet its goals this season.
But if the Hoosiers aren't better than they were Monday night, they're not going to get anywhere close.
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Before boarding a flight for Puerto Rico a few days ago, Miami coach Jim Larranaga solidified his program's future by securing commitments from a pair of 2016 Rivals top 50 prospects.
Then the Hurricanes arrived at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and proved their current team is worthy of excitement too.
They annihilated Mississippi State by 26 points in Thursday's opening round. They demolished 16th-ranked Utah by 24 in Friday semifinals. They roared to a 19-point first-half lead over 22nd-ranked Butler in Sunday's championship game before withstanding a late surge from the Bulldogs and emerging with an 85-75 victory.
Three emphatic wins in Puerto Rico suggest that Miami may have been one of the nation's most underrated teams entering the new season. Not only have the unbeaten Hurricanes accomplished enough to deserve a spot in the AP Top 25 when it's released anew Monday morning, it would also be a travesty if they don't debut somewhere in the top 15.
It shouldn't be a total surprise that Miami is off to such a strong start because the Hurricanes return the core of a 25-win NIT team that last year showed glimpses of immense potential. At its best, Miami walloped Duke in Durham last season and also nearly upset ACC champion Virginia. At their worst, the Hurricanes endured surprising home losses to Georgia Tech by 20 and to Eastern Kentucky by 28.
Eliminating that inconsistency is a possibility this season if Miami neither relies too heavily on its haphazard 3-point shooting nor on senior point guard Angel Rodriguez. When Rodriguez involved his supporting cast and they responded by making baskets, Miami was at its best last season. When Rodriguez hunted his own shot and did too much himself, his turnovers rose, his shooting percent plummeted and the Hurricanes became much more vulnerable.
Balanced, efficient offense actually became a strength for Miami in Puerto Rico. The Hurricanes have risen to second nationally in points per possession because they're two deep at every possession and they can score in so many different ways.
They're long, athletic and active enough defensively to force turnovers with smothering ball pressure and parlay them into easy transition baskets. They have a 7-foot center in Tonye Jekiri who can alter shots and rebound at one end yet post-up and score at the other. And they have an array of perimeter weapons highlighted by the aforementioned Rodriguez, sharpshooter Davon Reed and high-scoring wing Sheldon McClellan.
It was Miami's disruptive defense that caused Butler the most problems during a first half in which the typically mistake-free Bulldogs committed nine turnovers and allowed the Hurricanes to convert many of them into fast-break opportunities. Butler did a better job in the second half taking care of the ball, freeing Kellen Dunham for jump shots and attacking the offensive glass for second-chance points, but every time the Bulldogs would mount a charge, Miami had an answer.
When a Dunham 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to eight with nine minutes to play, Je'Quan Newton responded with a critical jumper. When a pair of Kelan Martin free throws pulled Butler within seven a couple minutes later, Rodriguez and Reed buried back-to-back threes. And when the Bulldogs surged to within four on yet another Dunham deep ball, the Hurricanes responded once more by holding Butler without a field goal over the game's final three-plus minutes.
The challenge over the next six weeks for Miami will be maintaining the level of intensity it showed in Puerto Rico. The Hurricanes have a chance to enter ACC play with an impressive record considering their toughest remaining non-league home game is against retooling Florida and their lone road games are against La Salle and Nebraska.
Three years ago, a veteran-laden Miami team won 29 games, captured the ACC regular season title and advanced to the Sweet 16.
It's far too early to suggest this year's team is capable of similar exploits, but the Hurricanes are certainly off to an encouraging start.
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The Duke star enjoyed a confidence-replenishing weekend in New York City while leading the Blue Devils to victories over a pair of perennial NCAA tournament teams.
Showcasing a lethal jump shot, a quick first step to the basket and an ability to draw fouls or finish in traffic, Allen propelled Duke to an 86-84 win over Georgetown in Sunday's championship game of the 2K Classic. The sophomore guard finished with 32 points on just 12 shots, none bigger than the fist pump-inducing right-wing 3-pointer he hit with 2:49 remaining to give the Blue Devils the eight-point cushion they would need to close out the Hoyas.
Allen's brilliant performance against the Hoyas (1-3) on Sunday eclipsed the career-high scoring output he put up only two nights earlier in the 2K Classic semis against VCU. On that night, he sliced up the Rams' turnover-inducing, high-pressure defense, scoring 30 points in 37 minutes despite coming off the bench for the only time this season.
It's critical for Duke that Allen continues to score in bunches because the Blue Devils are replacing their four leading scorers from last year's national title team. When Allen serves as Duke's go-to threat, it allows big men Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee to focus on defense and rebounding and eases the pressure the Blue Devils' vaunted freshman class to carry the team right away.
Allen has averaged 28 points per game in Duke's four victories this season. By contrast, he had six points on 2-for-11 shooting against a Kentucky defense geared to hold him in check.
One big difference was that Isaiah Briscoe and Kentucky's other guards had the quickness to stay in front of Allen and did a good job overplaying his dominant right hand. Another was that the Wildcats' thicket of long, athletic big men altered his shots at the rim. A third was that Allen attempted only two 3-pointers against the Kentucky ball pressure, opting to consistently attack off the dribble and finish at the rim instead.
Allen consistently hit outside shots at Madison Square Garden this weekend, sinking four threes against VCU and five against Georgetown. That opened up driving lanes for him against two defenses that aren't quite as imposing as Kentucky's.
Allen's offense was the bright spot on Sunday for a Duke team that clearly remains a work in progress early this season.
The Blue Devils were inconsistent defensively on Sunday whether in man or zone, especially when foul trouble sidelined Marshall Plumlee and deprived the team of its best rim protector. Highly touted freshman Brandon Ingram continues to give a spotty effort and fellow freshman Derryck Thornton made a dumb foul and missed two key free throws as Duke was trying to close the game out.
There may come a time this season when Duke isn't so reliant on Allen, but the Blue Devils haven't reached that point yet.
For now, they need Allen to be spectacular to beat quality opponents. Against Georgetown and VCU, he was nothing short of that.
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Buzz Williams found a clever way to honor Frank Beamer hours after the revered Virginia Tech football coach was carried off the field by his players after his final home game.
Williams wore a long-sleeved T-shirt with Beamer's likeness on it during the second half of the Hokies' 76-52 victory over VMI on Saturday evening.
BUZZ rocking the Beamer T for the second half! pic.twitter.com/3xt71BkwBC— Michael Shroyer (@michaelshroyer) November 22, 2015
The tribute from Williams was touching considering he and Beamer haven't been Virginia Tech colleagues for very long. Whereas Williams is only just beginning his second season in Blacksburg, Beamer served as head coach at his alma mater since 1987 and led his alma mater to seven conference championships.
Virginia Tech fans stayed en masse at Lane Stadium after the Hokies' overtime loss to North Carolina on Saturday to listen to Beamer address the crowd one final time. Many Hokies fans also praised Williams on social media for his touching gesture.
Love Buzz in the Beamer shirt. The way Whit got a guy like that for basketball that "gets it" gives me so much hope for the football search.— Connor Harvey (@connorharvey322) November 22, 2015
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The homecoming game North Carolina coach Roy Williams scheduled for Marcus Paige did not go as either of them planned.
Not only did a broken finger prevent Paige from playing, the Tar Heels also floundered down the stretch in the Iowa native's absence.
Having built a 16-point lead at Northern Iowa three minutes into the second half, top-ranked North Carolina failed to deliver a knockout blow. The Panthers instead made the Tar Heels pay for lackadaisical perimeter defense, careless ball handling and poor shot selection, erasing that deficit with a blistering seven-minute surge and then emerging with a 71-67 upset victory.
Northern Iowa wasn't expected to match the success of last year's 31-win NCAA tournament team without graduated star Seth Tuttle, but a new go-to threat emerged for the Panthers late in Saturday's game. Senior point guard Wes Washpun scorched the Tar Heels off the dribble, scoring the majority of his 21 points via forays to the rim and also dishing out eight assists.
It was Washpun's penetration that sparked the 20-4 Northern Iowa second-half spurt that tied the game and the late push that won it for the Panthers.
Of the 14 baskets Northern Iowa made in the second half, Washpun scored six himself and assisted on five others. Sometimes North Carolina's help defense was too late rotating over to stop the speedy point guard at the rim. Other times the Tar Heels were too slow to close out on shooters when Washpun kicked to them spotted up behind the arc.
The disappointing loss underscores the risks Williams takes scheduling homecoming games for seniors who have contributed a lot to the North Carolina program. The Tar Heels never would have agreed to a road game at Northern Iowa under normal circumstances, but they did so Saturday as a reward for a senior guard who averaged 17.5 points per game as a sophomore and 14.1 points per game as a junior.
North Carolina might have overcome its defensive miscues were Paige on the floor to bolster the offense on Saturday, but the Tar Heels missed his poise, ball handling and ability to space the floor with his outside shooting.
Without Paige, there were too many rushed shots and too many turnovers as Northern Iowa made its run. The Panthers controlled tempo, did an admirable job keeping the Tar Heels off the offensive glass and dared North Carolina's perimeter players to knock down jump shots — a team-wide weakness last year even with Paige on the floor.
North Carolina's issues were never more evident than during its final meaningful possession when Joel Berry forced a contested potential game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. Isaiah Hicks managed to chase down an offensive rebound, but Berry threw a panicky diagonal pass that Northern Iowa's Jeremy Morgan intercepted, enabling the Panthers to ice the game at the foul line.
The only silver lining to the loss for North Carolina was that not many of its fans were watching. The game concluded at the same time that the Tar Heels football team was finishing off Virginia Tech in overtime.
North Carolina can also take solace in the fact that Paige's return will solve some of the issues that Northern Iowa exposed. It wasn't a confidence-inspiring performance by the Tar Heels, but an early road loss against a quality mid-major isn't too damaging either.
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Michigan State dropped Kansas on Tuesday night. Iowa and Indiana routed Big East opponents two nights later. Maryland, Michigan and Purdue each are also unbeaten and ranked in the AP Top 25.
At a time when the Big Ten is performing exceedingly well in non-conference play, one of the few exceptions is the reigning league champions.
A dropoff was inevitable for Wisconsin after losing five of its top seven players from a team that appeared in back-to-back Final Fours, but the way the Badgers have started the new season suggests that fall could be sharper than anticipated. Wisconsin lost for the second time in four games in Friday's first Legends Classic semifinal, falling 71-61 to a Georgetown team that entered the tournament still searching for its first win.
Whereas Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky and the rest of last year's Badgers formed one of the nation's most potent offenses, this year's group appears to be lacking weapons. Leading returning scorer Nigel Hayes had 22 points to keep Wisconsin within striking distance against Georgetown, but the Badgers could never make a sustained run because no other scoring threats emerged.
Bronson Koenig, the point guard expected to be Wisconsin's co-star this season, shot just 2 of 12 from the field and couldn't find much daylight coming off ball screens. Stretch forward Vitto Brown sank a couple of jump shots and redshirt freshman center Ethan Happ contributed at the foul line and on the offensive glass, but neither emerged as go-to options. Throw in a virtually silent performance from the Wisconsin bench, and it added up to 33 percent shooting from the Badgers.
The biggest issue is that Wisconsin seldom gets any easy baskets in transition and is too easy to guard in its half court sets. Georgetown simply stayed in a packed-in man-to-man and helped frequently on Hayes and overplayed Koenig coming off ball screens without fear that the rest of the Badgers would beat them.
The Hoyas weren't explosive on offense themselves, but they did enough to avoid their first-ever 0-3 start. Backup forward Reggie Cameron scored 14 first-half points, promising sophomore forward Isaac Copeland carried Georgetown in the second half and guards D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and L.J. Peak didn't shoot well but consistently got to the foul line.
Georgetown advances to the Legends Classic title game against Duke or VCU, where the Hoyas will attempt to even their record at 2-2. Wisconsin will continue to search for answers offensively in the third-place game against either the Blue Devils or Rams.
In Bo Ryan's tenure as Wisconsin coach, the Badgers have never finished worse than a tie for fourth in the final Big Ten standings.
Between their sluggish start and the way the rest of the league is performing, extending that streak will not be easy.
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When Kansas boards its flight to Maui on Friday, an ineligible player will be part of the Jayhawks' traveling party and an eligible one will remain at home.
Joining the rest of the team will be highly touted freshman center Cheick Diallo, who the NCAA has cleared to travel with Kansas but not yet to play for the Jayhawks. Staying in Lawrence will be key reserve Brannen Greene, who coach Bill Self has suspended six games for "conduct detrimental to the team."
A sharpshooting 6-foot-7 wing who hit more than 40 percent of his threes last season, Greene is one of two Kansas guards who sees extensive playing time off the bench. He averaged 12.0 points the first two games of the season and has yet to miss a shot from the field.
The timing of Greene's suspension isn't ideal since depth is key at the Maui Invitational, where Kansas will play three games in three days beginning Monday against Division II Chaminade. The Jayhawks will face either UCLA or UNLV on day two in Maui, while Top 25 foes Indiana and Vanderbilt loom on the other side of the bracket.
In Greene's absence, fellow perimeter reserve Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could see more playing time in relief of starters Frank Mason, Devonte Graham and Wayne Selden. The 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk scored five points off the bench in the season opener against Northern Colorado and added four in Tuesday night's loss to Michigan State.
It's unclear what specifically led to Greene's suspension, but the junior guard posted the following crypic message on his Twitter account after it was announced: "Don’t talk unless you know. I’m just trying to play basketball." The tweet has since been deleted.
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Some of the most jaw-dropping moments of the opening week of the college basketball season have come when Ben Simmons had the ball in his hands in the open floor.
The 6-foot-9 LSU freshman makes plays other players his size can't even fathom attempting, from no-look bounce passes, to behind-the-back dribbles, to pin-point lobs.
In three victories over Kennesaw State, McNeese State and South Alabama, Simmons has averaged 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Even more impressive, everything Simmons has done appears to be virtually effortless, as though the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall next June is coasting until he faces better competition.
LSU won't face a Top 25 opponent until SEC play begins in January, but the Tigers will at least square off against two major-conference opponents next week when they face Marquette and either Arizona State or NC State at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. In the meantime, here are Simmons' seven most memorable highlights from his first week in college basketball.
1. This is the rare highlight that showcases Simmons' skill at both ends of the floor. First he blocks a 3-point attempt softly enough to keep it in bounds. Then he sprints down court, catches a bullet pass one-handed and somehow throws a perfect underhand lob pass to teammate Tim Quarterman all in one motion for the alley-oop dunk.
2. I have no idea if Quarterman intended this to be a shot or if it was actually an off-target lob pass, but Simmons turned it into an alley-oop nonetheless. Showing tremendous coordination, he corrals the ball off the back rim with his non-dominant hand and flushes it for a nice follow dunk.
3. Less than three minutes into his debut, Simmons showed off his unselfishness, creativity and flair in transition. Simmons calls for an outlet pass, zooms up court and feeds Quarterman with a pinpoint behind-the-back bounce pass. How many 6-foot-9 freshmen can do that?
4. Another LSU fast break, another YouTube-worthy Simmons assist. On this occasion, he dribbles behind his back to shed one defender at mid-court, then feeds fellow freshman Brandon Sampson with a gorgeous no-look bounce pass.
5. Every once in a while, a shifty NFL running back will get in the open field and juke an opposing defender out of his cleats. South Alabama forward Georgi Boyanov now knows what that feels like. Simmons put on a move in the open floor Thursday night that left him spinning around like a top.
6. This clip offers proof Simmons' vision can be a weapon even when he's not in the open floor. When the McNeese State defense begins to collapse on him, he whips a diagonal pass to an open shooter who buries a 3-pointer.
7. We'll end the way we started — with a clip that displays Simmons' impact on both defense and offense. First he strips Kennesaw State's Kyle Clarke. Then he finishes the play with an emphatic one-handed slam.
(Thanks for the video, ReBorn HD)
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When Indiana hosted Creighton on Thursday at Assembly Hall, it figured to be a game decided at the 3-point line with perimeter offense being a strength for both teams.
But the Hoosiers completely dominated Creighton by utilizing freshman center Thomas Bryant and showing it can play inside out. Indiana shot well over the Bluejays 2-3 zone knocking down 10 3-pointers but still managed to get the ball into the post to Bryant who scored 17 points and snared seven rebounds. The perfomance demonstrated Indiana is versatile on the offensive end and Bryant should be a force Big Ten teams will have to contend with when he is even more seasoned later in the year.
The importance of Bryant's performance was not lost on the fans who saw it in person. They seranaded Bryant with a Tho-Mas-Bry-Ant chant late in the game and gave the 6-foot-10 product of Rochester, N.Y., a standing ovation when he left the floor.
With three Wooden Award candidates already on the roster in Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., the Hoosiers were already tough to guard. That trio accounted for 47 points and 13 assists. Adding a skilled big man who showed a plethora of post moves Thursday and also can step out and hit jump shots from as deep as the 3-point line, the Hoosiers pose big problems for opponents.
One of the big questions about Indiana coming into the season was whether it would play better defense this season. Three games in is much too early to make any determinations on how much progress has been made, but it's not too early to say that Bryant makes them better on that end of the court, too. He blocked four shots in the win over Creighton.
The Hoosiers head to the Maui Invitational next for a date with Wake Forest on Monday.
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A dreadful day for Arkansas basketball began Wednesday morning when a coveted in-state shooting guard coach Mike Anderson had pursued for years announced he was committing to Kentucky.
Things only got worse by Wednesday night when an awful performance from the Razorbacks only validated Malik Monk's decision not to attend his hometown school.
Arkansas lost 88-80 at home against a shorthanded Akron team that shot 51 percent from the field despite not even having its full complement of depth as a result of injuries. The Razorbacks never led and trailed by as many as 14 points midway through the second half.
The upset loss highlighted how far Arkansas (1-1) has fallen between the end of last season and the start of this one. A Razorbacks team that won 27 games and reached the NCAA tournament last season lost all five starters and 78 percent of its scoring.
SEC player of the year Bobby Portis and second-team all-league guard Michael Qualls both entered the NBA draft. Fellow starters Ky Madden and Alandise Harris exhausted their eligibility. Then top 100 signee Ted Kapita failed to qualify and Anderson suspended three players including promising guard Anton Beard and rotation big man Jacorey Williams after they were arrested on suspicion of first-degree forgery. Beard will return to the team in mid-December while Williams is done for good at Arkansas.
All the roster turnover surely didn't help in Arkansas' pursuit of Monk, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard with deep range and jaw-dropping athleticism. It surely also didn't help the Razorbacks that their main challenger was a Kentucky program that has reached the Final Four five out of the last six years and sends a handful of players to the NBA each spring.
Arkansas supporters were hoping the allure of playing in his home state at a school where his older brother Marcus starred would be enough to offset Kentucky's appeal. Anderson and his staff made Monk their top priority the past couple years, even having the entire team sit side-by-side in the first row of the bleachers at Fayetteville High School last March when Monk's team made its lone visit of the season.
Not surprisingly, losing a consensus top 10 recruit with so many ties to Arkansas did not go over well with Razorbacks supporters.
An Arkansas radio host went on a crazed 12-minute rant that included the warning to Monk and his family that they "better move." A search of Monk's name on social media is even more deplorable. Even Portis weighed in with a tweet that has more than 5,000 retweets.
I didn't need Kentucky to make it to the NBA but thats none of my business🐸☕️— BOBBY BP PORTIS (@BPortistime) November 18, 2015
Tough times for Arkansas, and there could be more of them ahead too if they don't defend better as a team and find complementary scorers to support the trio of Anthlon Bell, Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley.
This will probably be a difficult season for the Razorbacks and Monk's decision squelched out much of the optimism that things will get better next year.
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Michael Finke may have a hard time sleeping tonight.
The Illinois forward missed a tip dunk in the closing seconds Wednesday night that almost certainly would have given his team a quality road win at Providence.
With the Illini trailing by a point and just a few ticks left on the clock, Malcolm Hill attacked off the dribble but missed a contested layup in heavy traffic. Finke blew by a flat-footed Ben Bentil and crashed the glass for a put-back slam, but his two-handed attempt caromed hard off the back iron, dooming Illinois to a 60-59 loss that will be especially hard to swallow.
It's cruel that Wednesday's game will be remembered for Finke's botched dunk attempt because the redshirt freshman had actually played very well. Finke scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had a pair of assists, earning crunch-time minutes after playing sparingly in both of Illinois' first two games.
Among the other silver linings for Illinois was the performance of promising freshman guard Jalen Coleman-Lands. Now fully healthy after missing much of the preseason with a stress fracture, Coleman-Lands sank five 3-pointers off the bench and finished with 17 points.
Illinois falls to 1-2 with challenging games against Notre Dame, Missouri, UAB and Yale still remaining before the start of Big Ten play. Providence improves to 2-0 and gained some confidence that its supporting cast can come through on a night when All-American candidate Kris Dunn is not at his best.
Dunn didn't make his first field goal until less than nine minutes remained in the second half and finished with only 10 points, but other Friars picked up the slack. Bentil scored 18 points and fellow forward Rodney Bullock had 13.
(Thanks for the video, Terrence Payne)
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Before Washington's season ended in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament last March, Dony Wilcher's phone was already buzzing.
College coaches from across the nation called or texted the Portland AAU coach to find out whether one of his former players intended to explore the possibility of transferring.
Washington's Andrew Andrews was an appealing option for programs seeking to fill a hole in their backcourt. Not only was Andrews a dynamic scorer who averaged 18.4 points during his final 11 games last season, the 6-foot-2 guard also was on pace to graduate last spring and thus could transfer without sitting out a year.
As March turned to April and other players began fleeing the struggling Washington program, the volume of calls urging Andrews to join the exodus only increased. NCAA rules prohibited college coaches from contacting Andrews directly until he received a release from his letter of intent, but even coaches he hadn't worked with since middle school received calls pumping them for information or texts asking them to pass along word of a particular program's interest.
"He probably had 15 or 20 schools calling," Wilcher told Yahoo Sports. "Every mid-major on the cusp was trying to get a steal and lots of major-conference schools wanted him too. More than half the schools that called at least on paper were probably better than Washington projected to be this season."
Andrews quietly evaluated his options for about a month after last season ended before making a decision that surprised many of the coaches pursuing him. He would remain at Washington as one of only two returnees from a 2014-15 season that started 11-0 before crashing to a 16-15 finish after the midseason dismissal of center Robert Upshaw.
It would be heartwarming if loyalty to embattled coach Lorenzo Romar was the primary reason Andrews chose to stay at Washington and pilot the Huskies through a transition year, but in reality that was only a small part of it. While Andrews enjoys playing for Romar and is grateful to him for offering a scholarship four years ago when other power-conference schools not, the fifth-year senior stayed mostly because he believed Washington provided a better platform to further his career than other programs could.
When close friend and former McDonald's All-American Nigel Williams-Goss transferred to Gonzaga last spring instead of returning to Washington for his junior season, it created a void at the position Andrews needs to prove to pro scouts he can play. Andrews played point guard in high school, but he has always played him off ball in college alongside highly recruited standouts Tony Wroten, Abdul Gaddy and Williams-Goss.
"That was a huge, huge factor for me staying at Washington," Andrews told Yahoo Sports. "I didn't want to go my entire college career without playing point guard when that was the position I was recruited to be. I would have regretted not getting that chance because I feel like I was never really a natural two guard."
Other programs that put out feelers to Andrews last spring promised playing time at point guard, but the Portland native was pragmatic enough to realize the roster reset at Washington could be advantageous to him.
As the only returning upperclassman on a team welcoming eight talented freshmen and a junior college transfer, Andrews didn't have to worry about splitting time with another point guard or playing a complementary role. He also craved the opportunity to lead a young team to a surprise NCAA tournament bid and leave a lasting legacy at Washington.
"He's shown he can play at that level and hit big shots, but he wants to show he can lead that team," Wilcher said. "Even when four Top 25 schools called and said, 'You can spend your senior year here and the ball's in your hands buddy,' he sat in a dark room and decided to give himself the ultimate test. He said, 'I'm going to stay here and see what I can do.'"
Washington is projected to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 because of its youth, but the Huskies got off to a promising start on Friday night in Shanghai. They returned to the fast-paced, turnover-forcing style of the program's heyday, spoiling Shaka Smart's Texas debut with a 77-71 victory over the Longhorns.
Shouldering a bigger burden than he ever has before as Washington's primary scorer and playmaker, Andrews had some good and bad moments in the game. He scored a game-high 23 points and showed leadership whenever Texas mounted a surge, but he also shot poorly from the field and did not register any assists.
While Andrews knows there's room for improvement both individually and collectively, he was both encouraged and relieved by the outcome.
"You don't want to fly that many hours home after a loss," he said. "The biggest thing I was proud of was the resilience we showed. When Texas made its run, we didn't quit. We kept playing hard and kept playing aggressive. We were able to play through adversity."
It will be up to Andrews to keep Washington on an upward trajectory and help pilot the program through a transition season.
As one of the only Huskies who didn't join the exodus out of Seattle last spring, there's no doubt this is his team. Now it's time to see where he can lead it.
THE BACK STORY BEHIND WEDNESDAY'S CLASH OF GIANTS:
The matchup between college basketball's two tallest players exists because of Russell Turner's keen eye for marketing.
Hoping to bankroll a raise for his assistants last spring, the UC Irvine coach searched for an opponent willing to pay the Anteaters to play a road game this season. Someone on the Anteaters staff mentioned Central Florida needed another home game, which got Turner's mind working.
UCF had signed 7-foot-6 incoming freshman Tacko Fall. UC Irvine already had a 7-6 center of its own in Mamadou N'Diaye. Why not set up a game that would not only pay the bills but also potentially generate some publicity?
"It's unusual for us to make a cross-country trip for one game while class is in session, but this seemed like a good enough combination of reasons to do it," Turner told Yahoo Sports. "We're going to get some nice exposure because of the interest in both guys. That could be good for both teams."
Any buzz Wednesday night's clash of giants produces would be welcome for a UC Irvine program overshadowed by the Lakers, Clippers, UCLA and USC in its home market. The Anteaters return eight rotation players from their first NCAA tournament team in school history, yet their rout of Loyola Marymount on Sunday drew only 2,077 people to the Bren Center.
The matchup between N'Diaye and Fall appeared to be in some jeopardy as recently as last week because NCAA officials were still assessing the UCF center's high school transcript and had not yet cleared him to play. The NCAA finally ruled Fall academically eligible on Friday, wisely avoiding the PR hit of sidelining an engineering student who speaks four different languages and is already excelling in calculus and chemistry courses.
Fall, a native of Senegal who played high school basketball in Florida, came off the bench in his college debut Saturday and tallied four points, three rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes during a 90-85 loss to Davidson. N'Diaye, now in his third season as UC Irvine's starting center, has averaged 11.5 points, six rebounds and five blocks in two games this season despite drawing frequent double and triple teams from opposing defenses.
"He's a dominant player," Turner said. "The stats don't always show the impact he has on a game. In our last game against Loyola Marymount for example, the guy next to him (power forward Mike Best) scored 22 points in large part because of the amount of attention Mamadou draws."
Only two centers taller than N'Diaye and Fall have ever played in the NBA, former Golden State Warriors player Manute Bol and former Washington Bullets player Gheorge Muresan, each at 7-foot-7. The NCAA doesn't track college basketball's towering giants, but only 7-foot-7 former UNC Asheville center Kenny George is known to be taller.
The presence of such a player is often a challenge for opponents not accustomed to a giant altering shots around the rim, but both UC Irvine and UCF experience that in practice every day. The only difference is that the Anteaters have had three years to figure out how best to use their 7-foot-6 center on offense.
"We've had more time with Mamadou, and that's probably the one advantage we have," Turner said. "It's definitely different when there's a guy that size on the court."
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SEAN MILLER'S JAB AT UCLA
Sean Miller took a swipe at a rival school Monday night with all the precision of a surgeon wielding a scalpel and all the subtlety of a lumberjack brandishing a chainsaw.
When Arizona secured its 40th straight home victory by routing Bradley, Miller thanked fans for filling 14,500-seat McKale Center no matter the opponent and noted that many other schools couldn't do the same. Miller twice specifically noted a game he watched the previous night in which the stands were half empty.
"I watched a couple games last night like, 'Wow!' That is amazing who's not at the game,'" Miller told reporters in Tucson. "I know there's a lot of traffic, but you wonder if the season ticket was not printed the right way. Did they give the wrong date? The wrong starting time?
"There's a lot of programs right now that for some of these early games, they can't come anywhere close to 14,500. Again, I think it's what separates us as a program. As a young kid, why would you ever want to go to a place where nobody comes to the games? That puts a lot of pressure on their recruiting. For us, if you come here, you have an opportunity to play in front of 14,500, you've got that pregame introduction, you've got the Zona Zoo. It feels like college basketball."
Miller never specifically mentioned a particular school, but he was careful to drop enough breadcrumbs for reporters — and recruits — to figure out he was talking about UCLA. The Bruins edged Cal Poly on Sunday night in front of a sparse crowd of 6,595. In the past, UCLA officials have cited inconvenient start times and Los Angeles gridlock as reasons for why 13,800-seat Pauley Pavlion is often half empty unless the Bruins are facing an elite opponent.
"There are no excuses here in Tucson," Miller said. "When we play a game, everyone knows the start time and they're coming to watch the Wildcats. They're not going to say traffic or this and that."
It's probably no coincidence that Miller took at shot at UCLA at a time when the Bruins have reemerged as a threat to Arizona on the recruiting trail. Steve Alford has three Class of 2016 top 50 recruits signed and two more in the Class of 2017 that have already committed. The most recent addition is five-star forward T.J. Leaf, an El Cajon, Calif., native who backed out of his pledge to Arizona over the summer and signed with UCLA instead last Thursday.
Before this recent UCLA surge, Miller hadn't lost many recruiting battles in California. Seven of the 13 top 50 recruits Arizona signed in the past four recruiting classes hailed from California including Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson and Gabe York.
So while the UCLA staff may not a appreciate a rival coach making a thinly veiled reference to their attendance issues, the Bruins probably should take it as a compliment.
They hadn't recruited well enough in years past for Miller to take them seriously as a threat, but they're clearly on his radar now.
DON'T MISS THESE
• Wednesday, Nov. 18: UC Irvine at Central Florida
Comment: When else will you ever see a pair of 7-6 centers square off against one another?
• Thursday, Nov. 19: SMU at Stanford
Comment: The preseason AAC favorites will challenge a shorthanded Cardinal team without its starting backcourt
• Thursday, Nov. 19: Boise State at Arizona
Comment: If Boise State couldn't win at Montana on Friday night, what chance do the Broncos have at Arizona?
• Sunday, Nov. 22: Valparaiso at Oregon
Comment: The dangerous Crusaders return almost every key player from a 29-win NCAA tournament team.
• Monday, Nov. 23: UCLA vs. UNLV (Maui Invitational)
Comment: The winner likely gets a crack at Kansas in the Maui semifinals; The loser likely faces D-II Chaminade.
Stone Brewing Company is unapologetic about producing so many different irresistable IPAs, so it sought to make that clear in the name of its latest one. "Sorry, Not Sorry" is a newly released imperial IPA brewed with peaches and made in collaboration with Missouri's Four Hands Brewing and Washington's Bale Breaker Brewing. I picked up a bomber at a store last week and also had a glass on tap a few days later. While I wasn't sorry I tried "Sorry, Not Sorry," I wasn't as impressed as I hoped to be either. The crisp piney and citrusy flavors and aromas that I crave in an IPA weren't especially strong in this one, nor were the peach notes for that matter. It's pleasant to drink and masks its nine percent alcohol pretty well, but it's not remarkable. (GRADE: 6.5/10)
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The formula Michigan State used to upset fourth-ranked Kansas on Tuesday night isn't one the Spartans can possibly hope to duplicate too frequently this season.
Not even an All-American candidate like Denzel Valentine can shoulder this heavy a load very often.
Michigan State rallied for a 79-73 victory because Valentine refused to accept defeat. The senior guard had a hand in all but five points the Spartans scored after Kansas expanded its lead to 11 points midway through the second half.
There was the corner 3-pointer Valentine drilled with a hand in his face to give Michigan State its first lead since the opening minutes. There was this pinpoint feed to Matt McQuaid for a go-ahead 3-pointer on the Spartans' next possession. And there was his leaning jumper in the lane with 90 seconds to go that put his team in front for good.
Valentine became the fourth Michigan State player ever to record a triple-double, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Of the 79 points the Spartans tallied, Valentine either scored or assisted on an incredible 57 of them.
What makes Valentine's performance even more remarkable is that he kept finding ways to score against numerous different types of defenders. When Kansas coach Bill Self tried point guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham, Valentine would shoot over the top of them. When Self went bigger with wing Wayne Selden or power forward Perry Ellis, Valentine would blow by them off the dribble or free himself by running them through screens.
Michigan State needed every one of Valentine's baskets and assists on a night when the Spartans' frontcourt was severely shorthanded. With forwards Gavin Schilling and Marvin Clark both sidelined by injuries and center Matt Costello battling foul trouble, Michigan State surrendered 21 points to Ellis and a few more baskets to Carlton Bragg and Jamari Traylor.
That shouldn't be too big a longterm concern for Michigan State because Schilling and Clark will be back in the next few weeks, but the over-reliance on Valentine could be more of a lingering issue.
West Virginia transfer Eron Harris appears to be lacking confidence and struggling on defense. Point guard LouRawls Nairn struggled with his jump shot and was on the bench most of the second half. And since McQuaid and Bryn Forbes are mostly spot-up shooters, that puts a lot of pressure on Valentine to always be the one initiating the offense and creating off the dribble in late-clock situations.
Such an arrangement can often lead to stretches of stagnant, predictable offense over the course of a long season, but forgive the Spartans if they choose not to worry about that for now.
On this one night, they should celebrate Valentine's Day four months early in honor of the senior guard who carried his team to an unlikely victory.
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The long-awaited matchup of No. 3 Maryland and Georgetown on Tuesday night proved to be one of the most entertaining games in the early going of the college basketball season and the best example yet of why these programs should never again allow significant time to pass without confronting each other.
It was the first meeting between the schools played locally in the Washington D.C. area since 1993 and the first played on the Maryland campus since 1973. The Terrapins came back from a seven-point deficit in the final 4 minutes to win 75-71 and claim bragging rights.
Sophomore guard Melo Trimble made all the difference for the Terrapinsin a game featuring stellar backcourt combinations on both sides of the court. Trimble and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon ultimately got the best of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and L.J. Peak.
Trimble found his stroke after halftime with 17 points in the second half and 24 in the game. Trimble scored nine of those points in the final four minutes, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left after the Terrapins had played most of the half from behind. Trimble also knocked down four free throws in the final 13 seconds to put the Hoyas away after Sulaimon gave Maryland a 3-point lead at the 1:20 mark.
Georgetown has had about as tough a start to the season as any major program in the nation. First the Hoyas lost in double overtime to Radford and now they must swallow a hard-fought defeat to a crosstown foe with national title aspirations.
Still, there is no shame in losing in such fashion to the No. 3 team in the nation. In fact, while the outcome is disappointing, it is also evidence that when the Hoyas are focused and playing together, they can play at the highest level.
All five Georgetown starters scored in double figures with center Bradley Hayes leading the way with 16. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 14 with four assists and four rebounds, but the most encouraging line of the night on the Georgetown side came from freshman Marcus Derrickson who had 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
The Hoyas aren't off to the best start, but they still have a lot of potential.
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Gregg Marshall will have to wait a little longer for his 400th career coaching victory.
Marshall watched his ninth-ranked Wichita State team struggle on the road Tuesday night against a talented and experienced Tulsa team falling 77-67 to the unranked Golden Hurricane, in yet another early season upset. The loss ended a run of seven straight victories for Wichita State in the series.
The Shockers never found any offensive rhythm and didn't shoot the ball well, despite having stellar point guard Fred VanVleet in the lineup. VanVleet has been working through a strained hamstring and a sprained ankle.
VanVleet brought his team back at the end of the first half hitting three consecutive 3-pointers in the span of 77 seconds to give the Shockers a one-point advantage. The Shockers held their largest advantage early in the second half up five, but they couldn't hold the lead with poor shooting against an inspired Tulsa team with nine seniors.
While VanVleet enjoyed some stellar moments and scored 11 points, he clearly wasn't himself and Marshall might have to consider sitting VanVleet until he his healthy. Yet, Marshall's biggest problem might be getting more scoring from the rest of his team outside of his two stars.
Starting forward Anton Grady scored 18 to complement the experienced backcourt, but the Wichita State bench combined for just eight points.
Ron Baker led all scorers with 23 for Wichita State, but senior Shaquille Harrison answered with 20 for Tulsa and was one of four Tulsa players to score in double figures. Marquel Curtis and Pat Birt combined to score 30 points off the bench for Tulsa.
It is the kind of confidence-building, early season victory that could propel Tulsa to memorable season. Coach Frank Haith felt good about the potential of his team and its experience prior to the season and he has to feel even better about the Golden Hurricane now that they have a signature victory.
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Five minutes into the second half of the showcase game of this year's Champions Classic, Kentucky ran a play seldom seen at any level of basketball.
The 5-on-1 fast break.
The possession, which ended with an uncontested Marcus Lee put-back, exemplified why second-ranked Kentucky was able to keep fifth-ranked Duke at arm's length for much of their battle between two of college basketball's most tradition-rich programs. The quicker, faster Wildcats won 74-63 because they generated many more easy baskets off the dribble and in transition than the Blue Devils did.
Kentucky was at its most dangerous in the open floor when the ball was in the hands of its trio of talented guards. Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe attacked relentlessly, creating scoring chances off the dribble in half-court sets and seemingly turning every Duke turnover or long rebound into a fast-break layup or dunk.
Of the 30 baskets Kentucky scored, Ulis, Murray or Briscoe either scored or assisted on all but six of them. Ulis finished with 18 points and six assists, Briscoe had 12 points and one assist while battling cramps and Murray tallied 16 and five, most notably a spinning reverse layup from a virtually impossible angle.
The dominance of Kentucky's guards drained the drama out of one of the most hotly anticipated nonleague games of this year's college basketball season.
The Champions Classic delivered the heavyweight matchup many expected in last April's national title game, but neither team bore much resemblance to the ones that competed in last year's Final Four. The seven leading scorers from a Kentucky team that started 38-0 all entered the NBA draft, as did Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, the four pillars of Duke's national championship team.
The Wildcats and Blue Devils remain factors in this year's title chase because these programs are recruiting at a level no other schools can match. Both teams reloaded with top recruiting classes, but whereas many of Kentucky's newcomers were effective in their first big college game, the stage looked too big for some of Duke's freshmen.
Skilled forward Brandon Ingram sank only one basket and was too slow to defend the perimeter. Sharpshooter Luke Kennard missed all five of his field goal attempts. And the only true point guard on Duke's roster, Derryck Thornton did not appear ready to assume that position in the Blue Devils' starting five.
The effort and offensive rebounding of 7 footer Marshall Plumlee and 6-9 Amile Jefferson kept Duke within striking distance in the first half, but Kentucky's lead ballooned to double digits as soon as the Blue Devils' second-chance points dried up. None of Duke's perimeter standouts besides veteran Matt Jones had any success at all either getting by their man off the dribble or knocking down contested jump shots.
Grayson Allen scored 54 points in Duke's season-opening victories against Siena and Bryant, but the sophomore could not come close to replicating that production against a Kentucky defense geared to stop him. The Wildcats overplayed Allen's right hand and funneled him toward their shot blockers, limiting him to six points on 2-for-11 shooting.
What Duke's biggest challenge going forward will be is finding a playmaker capable of generating open looks for someone besides himself. Maybe Allen can evolve into that type of combo guard. Perhaps Thornton will grow into the starting point guard position. But otherwise the Blue Devils will have other games like this one where they shoot 40 percent from the field and finish with nearly twice as many turnovers as assists.
As for Kentucky, the primary goal will be getting tougher inside, where freshman Skal Labissiere got pushed around by the older Plumlee and Jefferson. Nonetheless, with a perimeter trio as good as Kentucky's, the Wildcats can afford a few frontcourt growing pains.
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Jalan West's college career might be over one game into his senior season at Northwestern State.
The NCAA assist leader last season, West was poised for another strong season as one of the nation's best point guards. He started well, scoring 25 points in a loss to Ole Miss on Friday, the opening night of the college basketball season.
He was injured in a collision in the final minute of the game as he drove to the basket, and the school confirmed Tuesday he is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
It is a huge blow to the team most likely to offer a challenge to Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference. Northwestern State led the nation in scoring last season.
West will certainly play at the professional level - most likely overseas - and he must decide if the time to turn pro is now or if he wants to apply for a medical redshirt season and play again next year.
"It's very disheartening, especially in the case of a great young man who has given everything to our program," Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said in a press release.
West averaged 7.7 assists per game last season and came into the season as the NCAA career leader in assists among active players. He dished six assists in the season opener. According to the school, West's 2.6-1 assist-to-turnover ration ranks among the top 15 in NCAA history.
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A look at whose stock has risen and fallen during this year's college basketball tip-off marathon. Check back throughout Tuesday's action because this file will be updated all day:
STOCK RISING: OREGON'S DEFENSE
Strong defense was the biggest reason Oregon edged 20th-ranked Baylor 74-67 on Monday night. The Ducks limited the Bears to 39 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers including six from point guard Lester Medford. One of the keys to Oregon's defensive effort was its array of quick, athletic wings capable of closing out fast on shooters and keeping their man out of the lane. They could afford to extend their defense even with top shot blocker Jordan Bell sidelined with a foot injury since junior college transfer Chris Boucher again filled in admirably, disrupting Baylor's offense with his long arms, quick feet and keen instincts. Baylor did score 30 points in the paint and rebound more than 40 percent of its misses, but those numbers were tolerable for Oregon considering the Bears massive size and strength advantage in the paint. Rico Gathers, in particular, had an 85-pound advantage on Boucher yet pulled down half as many rebounds.
STOCK FALLING: VIRGINIA'S DEFENSE
Virginia's packline defense prides itself on walling off the paint and forcing teams to shoot contested jump shots, but the Cavaliers weren't disciplined enough to adhere to those principles in their surprising 73-68 loss at George Washington on Monday night. The Colonials shot a respectable 45.1 percent from the field, went to the foul line 28 times and scored the most points a Virginia team has given up in regulation since Dec. 2013. Guard Patricio Garino attacked off the dribble, center Tyler Cavanaugh scored around the rim and forward Kevin Larsen played the quarterback role from the high post, scoring nine points and dishing out five assists. It's crucial that Virginia gets back to dominating on defense soon because the Cavaliers again don't have the sort of high-powered offense to compensate. They also have a difficult November and December schedule featuring games against Cal, Villanova, Ohio State and West Virginia.
STOCK RISING: DEDRIC LAWSON
Even though its upset bid fell short in an 84-78 loss to Oklahoma, Memphis has to be encouraged by how well it competed against a top 10 opponent. The Tigers displayed more talent, effort and basketball IQ than at any point in last year's disappointing 18-14 season. The biggest bright spot was Lawson, the heralded 6-foot-8 centerpiece of Josh Pastner's freshman class. Lawson was aggressive attacking off the dribble or pulling up from mid-range in his second college start, scoring 22 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and getting to the foul line 15 times. He committed a couple bad fouls and settled for too many 3-pointers, but those are youthful mistakes. All in all, Lawson showed the ability to emerge as Memphis' go-to scorer as a freshman and perhaps help the Tigers exceed uncharacteristically modest expectations this season.
STOCK RISING: BEN SIMMONS
There is nothing more fun to watch in college basketball so far this season than Ben Simmons leading a fast break. The 6-foot-10 forward continues to show skills that other players his size simply don't have. In LSU's season opener against McNeese State on Friday night, Simmons fed a streaking teammate with a behind-the-back pass to set up a layup. In the Tigers' second game against Kennesaw State on Monday night, Simmons showed off his ball handling and speed in the open court, going behind the back before feeding a teammate a perfect bounce pass for a layup. Simmons finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals on Monday night. Granted the competition isn't high-level, but it's notable how dominant the future top-five pick has been.
STOCK FALLING: MALIK POPE
From Winston Shepard's leadership and aggressiveness, to Dakarai Allen's confident shooting stroke, to Zylan Cheatham's high-enery potential, San Diego State's performance against Utah was very encouraging even in a 81-76 road loss. One of the few exceptions, however, was the play of the Aztecs' most highly touted prospect. Many thought Pope was poised for a breakout season as a sophomore now that his knee injuries have finally healed, but the skilled 6-foot-10 forward only has one basket in two games. Against the Utes, he was content to hoist contested threes early in the shot clock rather than trying to attack off the dribble or work for a better shot. He finished 1-for-8 from the field and had as many points as fouls with four apiece.
STOCK RISING: VALPARAISO'S AT-LARGE HOPES
It's very early and it's still a long shot, but Valparaiso appears to be the rare Horizon League team that may not have to rely on winning its conference tournament to secure an NCAA bid. The Crusaders (3-0) already have two wins that should boost their RPI at the end of the season, a rout of MAAC favorite Iona on Sunday and a 58-55 nail biter at Atlantic 10 contender Rhode Island on Tuesday morning. Finding power-conference teams willing to schedule a game was not easy for a Valparaiso program with amost every key contributor back from last year's 29-win NCAA tournament team, but the Crusaders do still have a few more chances to notch quality nonconference wins. They visit Pac-12 contender Oregon and improving Oregon State next week and play a home-and-home series with fellow mid-major power Belmont in December.
STOCK FALLING: STEPHEN F. AUSTIN'S SUPPORTING CAST
Southland Conference player of the year Thomas Walkup was up to the challenge of trying to help Stephen F. Austin avoid an 0-2 start. Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks, nobody else was. Walkup scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out three assists in Stephen F. Austin's 70-60 loss at Northern Iowa, but his supporting cast shot was an ice-cold 10 of 42 from the field. Guard Ty Charles was especially ineffective for the second straight game, missing nine of the 11 shots he attempted. While Stephen F. Austin has been disappointing in losses to Baylor and Northern Iowa, it would not be wise to write off the Lumberjacks too quickly. They return four starters from a team that started 1-3 last season but rebounded to win 29 games and reach its second straight NCAA tournament.
STOCK RISING: GEORGE WASHINGTON
With Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews out for the season, Dayton's Dyshawn Pierre in limbo and VCU replacing its coach and a handful of key players, the Atlantic 10 title race is more wide open than usual. The way George Washington played in its 73-68 upset of Virginia on Monday night, the Colonials could be the team to take advantage. Active on defense and aggressive on offense, George Washington led the sixth-ranked Cavaliers most of the game. Guard Patricio Garino demonstrated all-conference level ability at both ends of the floor, forward Kevin Larsen scored and distributed from the high post and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh provided the interior scoring threat the Colonials didn't have last season. And they did it all against a team known for its elite defense, a team that defeated George Washington 59-42 a year ago.
STOCK FALLING: BYU
BYU's 66-65 loss to Long Beach State will be hard to stomach for the Cougars fans who stayed up late on Monday night to watch it. They watched their team give away a winnable game because of poor free throw shooting and careless ball handling. A BYU team that was fifth in the nation in foul shooting a year ago sank just 8 of 21 free throws against the 49ers. No miss was more costly than Kyle Collinsworth's that would have tied the score at 66 with 38.3 seconds to play. Of course BYU still would have gotten one final chance to win were it not for Long Beach State's Nick Faust poking the ball away from Collinsworth as he turned to dribble up court after grabbing a big defensive board with seven seconds to go. It was BYU's 24th turnover of the game, and it doomed the Cougars to defeat.
STOCK RISING: COLORADO GUARD GEORGE KING
With volume-shooting Askia Booker gone and swingman Xavier Johnson sidelined after tearing his Achilles, Colorado needed perimeter scorers to emerge in support of all-conference center Josh Scott. Enter George King, a little-known 6-6 wing who redshirted last season after averaging 1.5 points per game as a freshman. King lit up Auburn for 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting on Tuesday, helping Colorado rally from a double-digit deficit to defeat the host Tigers 91-84. Through two games, King is now averaging 20.5 points per game and has sunk eight 3-pointers. If King can emerge as a consistent perimeter complement to Scott, that would be a huge boost to a Colorado team projected to finish in the lower half of the Pac-12 this season. Suddenly, the Buffaloes would have a pretty solid perimeter nucleus in King, talented point guard Dominique Collier and Providence transfer Josh Fortune.
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I've said UNLV freshman Derrick Jones may make more appearances on SportsCenter this season than any other college basketball player. This is why. Few if any players across the country can get up as high as Jones did Monday night on this soaring second-half jam against overmatched New Mexico Highlands. The freshman guard took off from just outside the paint, igniting a fun celebration on the UNLV bench. Jones finished with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting as the Rebels rolled to a 107-45 rout. Tougher competition awaits UNLV soon. The Rebels will open with UCLA next Monday at the Maui Invitational.
Previous Dunk of the Year nominees:
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LIU Brooklyn, a team with no seniors, won its season opener Monday night with the sort of late-game execution we're used to seeing much closer to the postseason than Thanksgiving. Not that we're complaining.
The game with Loyola (MD) was tied 68-68 with 5 seconds to play. Loyola inbounded the ball and LIU Brooklyn junior forward Jerome Frink swatted away a game-winning attempt from Jarred Jones. The ball went to LIU Brooklyn sophomore Martin Hermannsson who had the presence of mind not to heave it at the basket from 3/4-court distance.
Hermannsson found junior Joel Hernandez streaking up the court and fed him the ball in time for a stop-and-pop 3-pointer, which Hernandez watched bank in at the buzzer for a 71-68 road victory and the Blackbirds' first happy dance of the season.
The block from Frink was a huge play for the big man playing in his first game with his new program after two years at Florida International.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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Maryland and Georgetown haven't met in a regular season game o the College Park campus since the 1973-74 season despite being in close proximity in the Washington D.C. area.
That will change Tuesday night when the third-ranked Terrapins host the Hoyas, who are coming off a surprising double-overtime loss to Radford over the weekend. In honor of the meeting and with a tip of the cap to the past, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and some of his players recreated a photo taken in the 1973-74 season of former coach Lefty Driesell and some of his players.
Maryland started the 1973-74 season with a similar ranking and expectations to this season's team. The Terrapins were ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll that year, rose as high as No. 2 and never fell out of the top-10 finishing at No. 4. They beat the Hoyas that year 115-83.
This season's team has national championship aspirations and has already moved up two spots in the Associated Press poll from its preseason ranking.
The programs last played in 2008 in the Old Spice Classic in Florida and Georgetown dominated with a 27-point win. Maryland beat Georgetown in the previous meeting in the NCAA tournament in 2011 76-66. Maryland leads the series 36-27.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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With all but two key players back from a team that captured its second consecutive ACC title last season, Virginia coach Tony Bennett upgraded his non-conference schedule to reflect his program's newfound status as a national power.
That move may backfire unless the Cavaliers play better than they did Monday night.
Sixth-ranked Virginia lost 73-68 at Atlantic 10 contender George Washington because the Cavaliers were one-dimensional on offense and couldn't compensate with their usual level of defensive dominance. The Colonials shot a respectable 45.1 percent from the field, attempted 28 foul shots and scored the most points anyone has against Virginia in regulation since Dec. 30, 2013.
Virginia's packline defense prides itself on walling off the paint and forcing teams to shoot contested jump shots, but George Washington dominated around the basket Monday night.
When Virginia doubled the post on the catch as has been its signature, forward Kevin Larsen calmly dribbled out of it and whipped skip passes cross court to wide open shooters. When the Cavaliers responded by not doubling as consistently, Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh scored or drew a foul consistently going one-on-one with their backs to the basket. And if all else failed, Patricio Garino fearlessly attacked the rim off the dribble or via the offensive glass.
Garino had 18 points including seven straight midway through the second half to give George Washington the lead for good. Cavanaugh also had 18 points and Larsen filled up the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.
All-American candidate Malcolm Brogdon kept Virginia competitive with 28 points, but the Cavaliers never found a consistent second and third scoring option.Forward Anthony Gill fought through foul trouble to tally 11 points, but guards London Perrantes, Darius Thompson, Marial Shayok and Devon Hall combined to shoot an anemic 6 of 23 from the field.
George Washington's performance signaled that it's a major threat to not only reach the NCAA tournament this season but also contend for the Atlantic 10 title. The Colonials have almost every key player back from last year's NIT team and welcome Cavanaugh from Wake Forest, giving them the sort of interior threat that the guard-oriented Atlantic 10 usually lacks.
Virginia can definitely still contend in the ACC for a third straight year, but the Cavaliers will have to fix some of their issues in a hurry to avoid digging themselves an early hole Still to come on their upgraded nonleague schedule: Ohio State, West Virginia, Villanova and Cal.
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Mount St. Joseph College found a clever way to honor the memory of Lauren Hill when it opened the season against Hiram College on Saturday at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
The Lions ran Hill's signature play on their first possession, but their purpose wasn't to try to score a basket.
Guard Taylor Brown bounced a post entry pass to teammate Meredeth Harfiel, who placed the ball on the same spot on the floor where Hill memorably sank her first collegiate basket last fall. Players from both sides then gathered around the ball and hoisted their right hands in the air with their index finger and thumb forming the shape of an "L."
The poignant gesture drew cheers and applause from fans at the Cintas Center, many of whom had come to the same venue the previous year to watch Hill play in her first college game while battling a rare, inoperable form of pediatric brain cancer. Mount St. Joseph pushed to have the game moved up a few weeks because doctors feared Hill might be dead by the time the season was supposed to begin.
Hill scored a layup in that game against Hiram on the very same play Mount St. Joseph ran on Saturday. She appeared in a handful of subsequent games in November and December despite sporadic dizziness and nausea, severe balance issues and a sensitivity to light and loud noises that forced her to wear sunglasses and earplugs on the bench.
Although Hill eventually accepted the role of honorary Mount St. Joseph coach just before Christmas, she continued to fight to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer researc. She had raised $1.4 million via donations and her #Layup4Lauren Challenge by the time she died April 10 at age 19.
Saturday's game between Mount St. Joseph and Hiram was part of a season-opening event that organizers dubbed the Lauren Hill Classic. Hiram won 70-63, but that's not what most who were involved will remember for years to come.
They'll remember the thoughtful gesture on the game's first play in remembrance of a 19-year-old girl whose life was taken far too young.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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The college basketball season is finally here and who better to break it down with the Grandstanding podcast crew than Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger. Jeff joins Kevin Kaduk and Jay Busbee to break down several topics including:
• The 30-second shot clock and the other rule changes for the 2015-16 season.
• No blueblood schools being represented among the preseason All-American team.
The most compelling portion of this year's tip-off marathon should be the last four hours.
Jammed into Tuesday's primetime time slot are three of this season's best non-conference matchups: the revival of the Maryland-Georgetown rivalry and the Champions Classic pitting Duke against Kentucky and Kansas against Michigan State.
That trio of games will be must-see TV for college hoops fans, but there are a few quality matchups earlier in the marathon too. Here's a look at eight storylines to watch during this year's marathon:
1. Can Grayson Allen continue his torrid start?
The unlikely hero of last season's national championship game is demonstrating his 16-point onslaught against Wisconsin was no fluke. Allen has racked up 54 points in two games this season, scorching opposing defenders off the dribble when they crowd him and burying threes in their faces when they give him too much space. Those performances were encouraging for a Duke program that lost its four leading scorers from last year's national championship team, but Allen still has a lot to prove. Blitzing minnows Siena and Bryant is one thing. Doing it against an opponent as big and athletic as Kentucky is another. Freshman Isaiah Briscoe should draw the assignment of guarding Allen when the Blue Devils and Wildcats meet in Tuesday's Champion's Classic. His attempts to slow down Allen will be one of the intriguing individual matchups in a game pitting two of college basketball's most dominant programs.
2. Is Michigan State's shorthanded frontcourt up to the challenge?
With forwards Marvin Clark and Gavin Schilling sidelined because of injuries, Michigan State enters its matchup with Kansas shorthanded in the frontcourt. Aside from veteran Matt Costello and McDonald's All-American Deyonta Davis, walk-on Colby Wollenman is the only other player on the Spartans' roster taller than 6-foot-6. Costello and Davis combined for 28 points and 18 rebounds in Michigan State's season-opening rout of Florida Atlantic on Friday, but the Jayhawks' frontcourt should pose a significantly bigger challenge. Skilled 6-foot-8 senior Perry Ellis is a Big 12 player of the year candidate, freshman power forward Carlton Bragg is a promising understudy and Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson each are experienced big men who are holding down the center position until Cheick Diallo becomes eligible.
3. Will Georgetown's early woes get worse?
Of all the season-opening upsets that befell high-profile programs over the weekend, Georgetown's double-overtime home loss to Radford may be the most damaging. Not only was it alarming that Georgetown couldn't put away an opponent projected to finish fourth in the Big South this season, the loss also leaves the Hoyas in jeopardy of digging a deep early-season hole. Georgetown's next three opponents are third-ranked Maryland, 17th-ranked Wisconsin and either fifth-ranked Duke or Atlantic 10 power VCU. Thus the Hoyas will have to beat someone good to avoid an 0-4 start and will have to pull at least one upset to start any better than 1-3. For Georgetown to stay competitive against Maryland on Tuesday night, the Hoyas must defend and rebound with more vigilance than they showed against Radford. Too often caught flat-footed or out of position, Georgetown allowed the Highlanders to score too easily in key stretches and to grab 15 offensive rebounds.
4. Can Oregon compete with Baylor despite its injuries?
Oregon's matchup with Baylor has gone from difficult to daunting the past few weeks. Two key injuries have robbed the Ducks of top big man Jordan Bell and starting point guard Dylan Ennis entering a game against a formidable Baylor team that clobbered mid-major darling Stephen F. Austin in its season opener. Ennis' foot injury leaves a leadership void for Oregon and forces unproven pass-first sophomore Casey Benson to fill in at point guard in his absence. Bell's broken foot could be even more critical against Baylor given the size, strength and rebounding prowess of the Bears' frontline. At power forward, the Ducks will start 6-foot-6 Elgin Cook. In place of Bell at center, Oregon will go with 6-foot-10 Chris Boucher, who gives up about 85 pounds to Baylor standout Rico Gathers. The Ducks' advantage in the frontcourt will be their quickness, but rebounding is an especially big concern. Baylor ranked second in the nation in offensive rebounding last season, gobbling up a whopping 41.9 percent of its misses.
5. How far has Utah's Jakob Poeltl come since last year?
When San Diego State edged Utah 53-49 last November, Jakob Poeltl was a non-factor on offense. The 7 footer from Vienna, Austria, showed tantalizing length, mobility and timing on defense in tallying seven blocks and 12 rebounds, but he could barely get a shot off against the Aztecs' smothering interior defense and finished with a mere four points. Poeltl will not be an afterthought Monday evening when Utah and San Diego State meet again in Salt Lake City. With last year's one-man engine Delon Wright in the NBA, the Utes will try to play through Poeltl and small forward Jordan Loveridge as much as possible to initiate their offense. Poeltl packed on 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, perfected a couple of go-to post moves and sought to improve his form at the foul line. The NBA prospect scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Utah's season-opening victory over Southern Utah on Friday night.
6. Can Memphis get a perception-changing upset?
Memphis fans used to complain Josh Pastner couldn't get the Tigers beyond the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. Now those seem like the good old days. One year after poor point guard play and wayward outside shooting doomed Memphis to an 18-14 season, the Tigers appear to be in jeopardy of missing the postseason for a second straight year. Four rotation players including leading scorer and shot blocker Austin Nichols transferred this offseason and point guard Kedren Johnson is hampered by a lingering shoulder injury that sidelined him for Saturday's season opener against Southern Mississippi. Memphis will have a chance to show that all the pessimism surrounding its season is premature on Tuesday when the Tigers host a top-10 Oklahoma team that returns four starters from last year's Sweet 16 run. A strong defensive effort and 28 combined points from forwards Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson were the highlights of Memphis' season-opening win against Southern Mississippi, but the Tigers also surrendered 21 offensive rebounds and shot poorly from the perimeter once again.
7. How will Rhode Island look without its injured star?
The worst image of college basketball's opening weekend was the sight of E.C. Matthews being helped off the floor 10 minutes into Rhode Island's season-opening victory over American. The Rams' leading scorer suffered a season-ending right knee injury when he drove to the hoop, planted in the paint and crumpled to the floor. Matthews' injury lowers expectations for a Rhode Island program that appeared to be poised for a breakthrough season. The Rams returned every key player from a 23-win NIT team and added two potential impact transfers, making them one of the preseason favorites to win the Atlantic 10. Tuesday's matchup with mid-major power Valparaiso will be a good barometer for how dangerous Rhode Island can still be with sharpshooting Vermont transfer Four McGlynn taking Matthews' spot in the starting five. The Crusaders, who return virtually everyone from a 29-win NCAA tournament team, flexed their muscles Sunday by demolishing MAAC favorite Iona in their season opener.
8. Can Virginia pass its first road test?
The last time a top 10 team visited George Washington, Beyonce was still the lead singer in Destiny's Child, Friends was still TV's No. 1 rated sitcom and George W. Bush was just beginning his first term as president. The Colonials will get another chance for the first time in 15 years when sixth-ranked Virginia comes to town on Monday night. George Washington scored only five second-half field goals in a 59-42 loss in Charlottesville last season, but the veteran-laden Colonials should be a stronger team this season. They have NCAA tournament aspirations thanks to the return of standouts Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald and Patrico Garino and the arrival of Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh. Two-time reigning ACC champ Virginia must replace standout wing Justin Anderson this season, but Tennessee transfer Darius Thompson appears capable of filling that void. The junior guard started against Morgan State in the Cavaliers' season opener and had 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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Here is the thing about Kris Dunn's monster performance in the season opener for Providence. It could have been so much better.
The junior guard scored a career-best 32 points and with career-best eight steals and also grabbed six rebounds and dished five assists and after leading the Friars to a 76-64 win over Harvard on Saturday he talked about needing to get better in the next game. And there is plenty of reason to believe that can happen.
Dunn, an Associated Press preseason All-America pick, made only three of his first 15 shots, leaving one to wonder what his line will look like in some games this season when he shoots well throughout. He's a threat for a triple double every night.
Providence’s Kris Dunn is first major-conference player w/ 30 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast, 5 stl in a game since DeAndre Kane on Jan. 7, 2014.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2015
Following an outing like that to start the season, it won't take long for opponents to start designing ways to slow down Dunn and get the ball out of his hands, forcing a young collection of talent around him to make plays and win games.Providence coach Ed Cooley said before the season started that this team would be the youngest he has had as a head coach.
But Dunn is a lottery pick and certainly one of the top-five players in the college game and holding him down even with exotic defenses and double teams won't be possible on a consistent basis. This is a young man who endured two labrum surgeries in the span of 17 months and understands what the game means to him more than most of his peers. He stayed in college when he could have been making millions in the NBA because he wanted to improve as a player before taking that next step.
Watching him is going to be fun this year, unless you're a fan of any of his opppnents.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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North Carolina State can rest assured it wasn't the only major conference team to fall victim to an upset from small school in college basketball's opening weekend, but most of those other upset victims didn't also loose a key player to injury as well.
The Wolfpack learned Saturday that it will be without junior guard Terry Henderson for as long as two months after he suffered torn ligaments in his right ankle in the loss to William & Mary to start the season Friday night.
Henderson was injured just 7 minutes into the contest, but by then William and Mary already held a significant lead. Henderson, a tranfer from West Virginia who hadn't played since March 2014 after sitting one season under NCAA transfer guidlines, was expected to give coach Mark Gottfried's team perimeter scoring after the Wolfpack watched Trevor Lacey leave school early last spring and go undrafted. Lacey made 78 3-pointers for the Wolfpack last season.
Freshman guard Maverick Rowan came off the bench in the opener to give the Wolfpack 16 points and he is the likely candidate to fill the role Gottfried had planned for Henderson. Rowan, a product of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is two inches taller than Henderson at 6-foot-7, but he won't bringnthe experience to the table that Henderson had, at least in the first stage of the season.
The Wolfpack were expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the ACC and there is no reason they can't still make that happen, especially with a manageable nonconference slate.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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With almost every key player back from a 23-win NIT team and two potential impact transfers also available, Rhode Island entered the season as a threat to not only make the NCAA tournament but also capture the Atlantic 10 title.
Then the Rams suffered a devastating injury mere minutes into their season opener.
An MRI exam taken Saturday revealed that the right knee injury guard E.C. Matthews suffered Friday night will sideline him for the rest of the season. Rhode Island's leading returning sustained the injury in the first half of a 65-42 rout of American University when he drove to the hoop, planted in the paint and crumpled to the floor clutching his right knee.
"While the news has been a lot to process in such a short period of time, I know that it is a temporary setback and I will be back stronger and hungrier than ever before," Matthews said in a statement released by the school. "Whether it is a rehab or physical therapy session, I will fight to get better everyday. This is a new challenge and I am up for it."
The loss of Matthews means Rhode Island will have to find a way to replicate the 16.9 points per game the 6-foot-5 guard averaged a year ago. No single player can do that by himself, but the Rams do have enough depth to remain a formidable opponent.
Guards Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett are both returning starters. Sharpshooting Vermont transfer Four McGlynn scored 15 points in his Rhode Island debut on Friday and will likely replace Matthews in the starting five. And forwards Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson will instantly go from secondary scoring threats to guys counted on to shoulder a bigger load.
The only silver lining to the Matthews injury for Rhode Island is that its entire core should be back again next season if there are no defections or early departures.
Nonetheless, this is still devastating news for a program whose time had seemed to have arrived.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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Thirty-seven seconds after he missed a pair of free throws that could have given his team the lead late in double overtime, Radford guard Rashun Davis found a way to atone for it.
Davis buried a pull-up 25-footer with 1.5 seconds to go, propelling the Highlanders to an 82-80 upset victory over Georgetown in the season opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon.
"The missed free throws stayed on my mind, but coach told me I had to stay with it and make the next one," Davis told reporters in Washington D.C. after the game. "My teammates and coaches were telling me to stay in attack mode. When I saw the opportunity, I took it."
Radford's win was among the biggest surprises from an opening weekend of college basketball rife with stunning outcomes.
Georgetown crushed the Highlanders by 27 points last season and the gap between the two teams seemed even wider entering this game. Whereas the Hoyas are expected to emerge as Villanova's top challenger in the Big East this season, the Highlanders are projected a modest fourth in the Big South and began the year 212th in the preseason KenPom rankings.
It was fitting that Davis sank the game's most memorable shot because his career high 28-point effort was one of primary reasons Radford managed to trade blows with Georgetown for the previous two-plus hours. Davis and fellow guard Cameron Jones (20 points) sliced up the Hoyas' lethargic defense and thoroughly outplayed the more highly touted backcourt of L.J. Peak and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
A surprising 19-point, 12-rebound game from center Bradley Hayes kept Georgetown competitive, but the Hoyas made too many defensive miscues and blew too many chances at the free throw line to avoid the upset. In fact, it took a couple of ill-timed Radford blunders for Georgetown to even force double overtime.
Radford still led by two in the final minute of regulation after an Isaac Copeland sank a 3-pointer, however, Georgetown surprised the Highlanders with full-court pressure, leading to a Peak steal and game-tying layup. The Hoyas again went with full-court pressure trailing by three late in the first overtime, forcing two more turnovers that enabled them to force a second extra session.
Why John Thompson III wouldn't continue to press in the second overtime is a mystery, but it's a decision that could prove costly given Georgetown's upcoming schedule.
The Hoyas renew their previously dormant rivalry with Maryland on Tuesday in College Park. Then they will meet Wisconsin and either Duke or VCU in the Legends Classic next weekend. In other words, Georgetown is in jeopardy of opening the season with a 1-3 or 0-4 record unless it can spring an upset.
Georgetown can take some solace in the fact that it's not the only power-conference program stinging from a surprising season-opening loss.
Wisconsin fell to Western Illinois. UCLA lost to Monmouth. Illinois, NC State, Arizona State and Georgia each also suffered surprising setbacks against small-conference foes.
The only thing that makes the Hoyas' loss worse is the upcoming schedule. Either they pull it together in a hurry, or they dig themselves an early hole.
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Snap judgments from season openers often turn out to be wrong a few months later, but it's all we have to go on right now. Here are some first impressions from college basketball's upset-filled opening night:
1. Wisconsin's season-opening loss was worrisome
Western Illinois went 8-20 last season, won only three conference games and is projected to finish dead-last in the Summit League in this year. Somehow, someway, the Leathernecks opened the season by beating a team that has reached the Final Four two straight seasons. Lethargic on defense the whole night and inept offensively for much of the second half, Wisconsin fell 69-67 to Western Illinois on the same night that the 17th-ranked Badgers hung their Final Four banner from last season. While last year's Badgers lost to hapless Rutgers and still recovered last year, there were some disconcerting issues Friday night that suggest the loss may not be a fluke. Wisconsin didn't have a single player in double figures besides Koenig and Nigel Hayes until a late flurry from Vitto Brown brought his scoring total to 11. The Badgers also were consistently a step slow in their defensive rotations, allowing Western Illinois to shoot 54 percent from the field.
2. Baylor's backcourt may be not be a weak link.
In a shockingly one-sided 99-57 rout of a Stephen F. Austin team that won 29 games last year, the Bears received better-than-expected performances from each of perimeter players. New point guard Lester Medford looked much improved while scoring 13 points, dishing out nine assists and largely playing under control. Wings King McClure and Al Freeman sank four threes between them and combined for 22 points on an efficient 8-for-10 from the field. Those are encouraging signs for a Baylor team that returns one of the nation's top frontcourts. If the Bears get good guard play too, they'll join Iowa State and Oklahoma as one of Kansas' top challengers in the Big 12.
3. Big Ten teams should stop scheduling North Florida
Eleven months after stunning Purdue in West Lafayette, North Florida toppled another Big Ten basketball power. Dallas Moore scored 26 points, dished out 10 assists and didn't commit a single turnover to lead the visiting Ospreys to a decisive 93-81 victory over Illinois. Although never leading once the whole game and trailing in the second half by as many as 23 points are red flags for the Illini, this loss doesn't necessarily signal that this season will be a disappointment. Illinois is shorthanded and lacking in continuity after losing key players to injuries or off-the-court woes. North Florida is also a quality team, having returned the bulk of its roster from an NCAA tournament team.
4. UCLA's backcourt has to be much, much better
It's probably time to pump the brakes on the Aaron Holiday hype a bit. One week after San Diego State coach Steve Fisher deemed Holiday UCLA's best player after a scrimmage between the Bruins and Aztecs, the younger brother of Justin and Jrue Holiday looked every bit like a true freshman in his team's season opener. He shot 3 of 13 from the field, committed six turnovers and dished out only one assist in UCLA's turnover-plagued overtime home loss to Monmouth. With Holiday sputtering, Isaac Hamilton virtually invisible and Jonah Bolden sitting out for disciplinary reasons, Bryce Alford reverted back to trying to do too much. Sometimes that worked out in UCLA's favor — like when he buried two threes late in regulation to give the Bruins a four-point lead. More often than not, it proved detrimental.
5. Grayson Allen is more than just a one-hit wonder
Seven months after he came off the bench to rally the Blue Devils past Wisconsin in the national title game, Allen showed he's ready to build on that impressive performance. He tallied 26 points on 8-for-13 shooting on Friday night to lead his team to a season-opening rout of Siena. The ultra-athletic Allen scored in a variety of ways too, burying high-arcing threes, finishing in traffic off the dribble and even throwing down one memorable transition dunk. With Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook all playing professionally and this year's freshman class still finding their footing, Duke needs someone to emerge as a go-to scorer early in the season. Right now, that's a role Allen looks ready to seize.
6. Belmont is a team nobody will want to see in March
If Belmont makes the NCAA tournament, whichever team draws the Bruins will not be pleased about it. The OVC favorites demonstrated that Friday night with a thrilling 83-80 road win against improved Marquette. Belmont was overmatched on the glass and surrendered 21 points and 16 rebounds to freshman Henry Ellenson, but the Bruins held off the Golden Eagles thanks to a combined 42 points from stars Evan Bradds and Craig Cradshaw. With four starters returning from a team that reached the NCAA tournament a year ago and pushed Virginia in the opening round, Belmont was not intimidated playing at Marquette. This wasn't a bad loss for the Golden Eagles, but it's not a fluky one either.
7. Rhode Island's season may rest on MRI results
The worst moment of the night came midway through the first half of Rhode Island's victory over American when Rams star E.C. Matthews suffered a potentially serious knee injury. Matthews drove to the hoop, planted in the paint and crumpled to the floor in pain clutching his right knee. He'll undergo further testing this weekend to determine the severity of the injury. If Matthews suffered ligament damage, that would be a crushing blow to a Rhode Island team many consider the favorite to win the Atlantic 10. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 16.9 points last season for a Rams team that won 23 games and reached the second round of the NIT.
8. Washington's kids are alright
With only two scholarship players back from last season and four freshmen in its starting lineup, Washington appeared to be at least a year away from returning to relevance. That may yet be the case, but the Huskies got off to a promising start Friday in Shanghai, China, when they upset Texas 77-71 in Shaka Smart's debut. Young, deep, athletic and undersized, Washington intends to return to the fast-paced, turnover-forcing style of its heyday, so Smart's full-court pressure actually played into the Huskies hands. They thrived in a frenetic game in which both teams displayed miserable shot selection and surrendered a combined 48 offensive boards. Senior Andrew Andrews led Washington with 23 points, but the freshmen also contributed. Forward Malik Dime delivered 10 points, 14 rebounds and three steals off the bench, while guard Dejounte Murray put the Huskies ahead for good with a jumper with four minutes to go.
9. The Ben Simmons show will be must-see TV
Ben Simmons actually scored the fewest points of any of LSU's three prized freshman in a season-opening victory over McNeese State, but the way the potential No. 1 overall draft pick played was so unselfish and effortless that it hinted there were more spectacular games to come. The 6-foot-10 forward led fast breaks, fed teammates with behind-the-back passes and even casually corralled an errant alley-oop pass with his off hand and threw it down for a big dunk. Simmons finished with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, while also adding 13 rebounds, 5 assists and a pair of blocks. It was a tantalizing debut that left viewers hungry for even more dominant performances to come.
10. NC State remains maddeningly inconsistent as ever
Few teams are harder to predict night-in, night-out than the Wolfpack. One night they'll give away a game against Wofford or North Carolina Central. The next night they'll have their fans storming the floor with an upset of Duke or North Carolina. Bad NC State was on display Friday night when the Wolfpack fell behind 27-7 against William & Mary and never dug themselves out of that hole. They rushed too many shots and suffered too many defensive lapses to ever seriously threaten, eventually falling 85-68. While Cat Barber will undoubtedly have better shooting nights and the defense will surely tighten up, the status of starting shooting guard Terry Henderson is a concern. Henderson injured an ankle seven minutes into the first half and did not return.
11. Pittsburgh may exceed preseason expectations
It was only one half of basketball on a gym floor as slick as an ice rink, but Pittsburgh acquitted itself well in its season opener against Gonzaga. Before referees halted the game at halftime because the playing surface had become dangerously slippery, the Panthers held a 37-35 lead and appeared fully capable of matching a top 10 team shot for shot. Forward Michael Young had 11 points and was especially effective attacking Gonzaga's big men off the dribble. Pittsburgh also played better defense than it did a year ago, enjoying success denying post entry passes and doubling Gonzaga's big men on the catch in an effort to make the Zags' guards knock down outside shots. The one concern for the Panthers is that the cancellation of the game hurts them more than it does Gonzaga. The only other credible non-conference opponents Pittsburgh plays are Purdue and Davidson.
12. North Carolina has enough talent to survive without Marcus Paige
With Marcus Paige sidelined for the next few weeks with a fractured finger in his non-shooting hand, North Carolina entered the season without its primary outside shooting threat. No other Tar Heels player besides Paige averaged one 3-pointer per game last season or shot more than 37 percent from behind the arc. A lack of outside shooting may bite North Carolina at some point during Paige's absence, but it was not an issue during Friday night's 91-67 victory over Temple. Guards Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Nate Britt each combined to knock down 7 of 9 attempts from behind the arc, making the Owls pay whenever they were left free. That opened up space inside for Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, who combined for 41 points and 21 rebounds against an overmatched Temple frontline.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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The frustration of just missing the NCAA tournament the past two years had seven months to fester among returning members of the Williams & Mary basketball team. When the college basketball regular season tipped off Friday night at heavily favored North Carolina State, the Tribe was ready to get back to work.
On the day coach Mark Gottfried received a new contract and a raise, he watched his NC State team fall flat from the start and struggle throughout in a 85-68 loss that served as one of the biggest surprises of opening night. It was hardly the way the Wolfpack envisioned starting the season following a surprising run to the Sweet 16 last spring.
William & Mary made four 3-pointers and a three-point play in the first eight minutes to jump to a 27-7 lead and the Wolfpack never recovered from its shaky start. The Tribe shot 52 percent in the game and made nine of 22 attempts from behind the arc.
Junior guards Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt led the way, combining for 36 points as part of a four-guard starting lineup.
Caleb Martin scored 21 for the Wolfpack, making five of his team's six 3-pointers. North Carolina State attempted 11 more shots in the game than William & Mary but went 27-for-71. Junior Anthony Barber struggled to find his shot, making four of 16 attempts.
There were no real warning signs that the Wolfpack might stumble. They handled Cal St. Los Angeles in an exhibition game and came into the opener with three returning starters and several other experienced players.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
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Three years after concerns about player safety doomed the idea of playing college basketball on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the organizers of the Armed Forces Classic learned another lesson about the challenges of holding a game at an unconventional location.
Turns out playing on dry land isn't any safer.
Referees halted Friday's game between Gonzaga and Pittsburgh at halftime because heat and humidity had rendered the floor dangerously slippery at a tiny arena on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan. Pittsburgh led Gonzaga 37-35 when the game was called.
While players on both sides appeared to want to keep playing in order to not disappoint the hundreds of Marines in the bleachers, the decision to err on the side of caution was clearly the correct one. In fact, the floor was so slick that if anything referees probably endangered the players by not calling the game sooner.
Despite a pair of giant fans set up at both baselines in hopes of keeping the floor dry, neither Gonzaga nor Pittsburgh players could gain any traction when they tried to plant or cut. They slipped and fell so often that fans on both sides begged for the game to be stopped on social media and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas quipped on the broadcast, "It looks like an ice rink out there."
The most frightening moment came midway through the first half when Pittsburgh's James Robinson slipped while back pedaling and fell face first on the floor, opening up a cut that sent blood streaming down the right side of his face. Robinson returned to the game before halftime, but conditions only worsened, making elite athletes resemble clumsy kids at an ice skating birthday party.
When the teams returned to the floor to start the second half, referees informed them they were stopping the game and a PA announcer made the announcement to the crowd. Then Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon and Gonzaga coach Mark Few both grabbed a microphone to express their disappointment to the crowd.
Said Dixon, "We're disappointed we can't continue to play, but that's the situation we're in."
Said Few, "First of all, we're sorry. We wish we could have finished this game. That's what we wanted to do as a small token for you guys. I just want you to know in the short time we've been here, the impact you've had on myself, my players, that's something we'll cherish for a long time."
The entire situation was reminiscent of the weather issues that plagued the aircraft carrier games three years ago.
One didn't start: A matchup between Ohio State and Marquette was canceled about an hour after it was supposed to tip off because condensation made the court aboard the USS Yorktown too slick. Another didn't finish: Organizers called the game between Florida and Georgetown at halftime that same night because the floor aboard the USS Bataan had also become too wet.
The third game was delayed two days because of rain but it was completed under a cloudless sky aboard the USS Midway. A San Diego State team that relied on its perimeter game shot 1 of 18 from 3-point range and 14 of 33 from the foul line, unable to get to the rim against Syracuse's packed-in zone and unable to shoot straight as a result of the gusty ocean breeze.
The team that will probably be more disappointed about Friday's game ending early is Pittsburgh, which was denied a chance at a marquee victory. Projected to finish 10th in the ACC this season, the Panthers looked far better than that in the first half, leading most of the way despite 15 points from Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer.
At the end of the day, though, it was better for both teams that the game was called.
Better a canceled game and a disappointed crowd than a player flying home with his arm in a splint or his knee in a brace.
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The granny shot is back in college basketball. Somewhere Rick Barry is smiling.
Louisville big man Chinanu Onuaku had a miserbale freshman season at the foul line a year ago and experimented throughout the summer and in exhibition play with shooting free throws underhand. When the regular season began for the Cardinals on Friday night in a home game against Samford, Onuaku found himself at the line in the first half and he stayed true to his plan, sinking his first free throw of the season in throwback fashion.
Onuaku shot 46.7 percent from the line as a freshman and coach Rick Pitino is going to need him to be able to stay on the floor late in games, particularly when the Cardinals are ahead and opponents might be fouling. Pitino suggested Onuaku try the underhand approach this summer and the sophomore appears to be making the most of it, despite the fact that he is likely to be heckled by fans and harassed by opponents.
PODCAST: The Dagger's college basketball season preview
His teammates might have given him a hard time at first, but if the approach works and helps them win games, it won't last long. The 6-foot-10 sophomore attempted only 30 free throws last season when former teammate Montrezl Harrell was the primary offensive option in the post for Louisville, but Onuaku is likely to see his free throw opportunities grow this season.
Barry, an NBA Hall of Fame member, shot 90 percent from the line during a 14-year pro career and has been a proponent of struggling free throw shooters using the underhand approach.
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Reigning national champion Duke, top-ranked North Carolina and 21 other teams in the AP Top 25 will be in action Friday night when the 2015-16 college basketball season finally tips off. Here's a look at eight of the most important storylines to follow during opening night.
1. Which elite freshmen will impress in their college debut?
LSU's Ben Simmons, the fourth freshman ever to be named an AP preseason All-American, will make his college debut when the Tigers host McNeese State. The Australian-born future lottery pick will be a matchup nightmare for opponents because at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, he handles the ball well enough to lead a fast break and creates for himself or for others off the dribble.
Cal's matchup with Rice will also provide a glimpse of McDonald's All-Americans Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, the two pillars of the Bears' most heralded recruiting class since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray. Brown is a strong, athletic small forward capable of bull rushing his way to the rim and defending multiple positions, while the 6-foot-11 Rabb is an explosive, active big man who blocks shots, creates deflections and controls the glass.
The stable of talented freshmen at Kentucky and Duke will also be in action when the Wildcats host Albany and the Blue Devils meet Siena. Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and Duke's Brandon Ingram are the freshman headliners, but the more intriguing aspect of these games could be seeing how the Wildcats' trio of talented ball-handling guards coexists when on the floor at the same time and how freshman Derryck Thornton performs for the Blue Devils at point guard.
2. Can top-ranked North Carolina dispatch of Temple without Marcus Paige?
On a night when none of the AP Top 25 teams in action face one another, the Tar Heels probably have the biggest test. They'll travel to the Naval Academy to face Temple, which returns all but two rotation players from a team that won 26 games last season and reached the NIT semifinals after being snubbed on Selection Sunday.
Complicating matters for the Tar Heels is that they'll be without leading scorer Marcus Paige, an All-American candidate who averaged 14.1 points and 4.4 assists last season despite a lingering foot injury. This year it's a broken bone in Paige's non-shooting hand that will sideline him the next few weeks.
North Carolina has enough playmaking guards to make up for Paige's absence, but the Tar Heels will miss his outside shooting. Expect Temple to slow down the tempo, pack in its defense against North Carolina's armada of big men and force the Tar Heels to shoot from deep. No North Carolina player besides Paige averaged even one 3-pointer a game last season or shot above 37 percent from behind the arc.
3. Which small-conference power can upset a high-profile team?
Give Baylor coach Scott Drew a ton of credit for doing something few of his peers were willing to do. Not only did he schedule three-time reigning Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin, he also did so in his team's season opener.
With four starters back from a 29-win team including conference player of the year Thomas Walkup and promising sophomore guard Ty Charles, the Lumberjacks are dangerous opponent. Baylor will have a massive edge in size and strength in the frontcourt, but new starting point guard Lester Medford, freshman shooting guard King McClure and the rest of the Bears' unproven backcourt will be tested.
In addition to Baylor, there are a handful of other high-major programs opening at home against mid-majors they cannot afford to take lightly. Marquette will be challenged by Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont, which returns a quartet of starters from an NCAA tournament team including high-scoring guard Craig Bradshaw. And rebuilding Missouri can't afford to overlook anyone this season but especially not a Wofford team that went 28-7 last year.
4. How big an impact will the rule changes have?
Hoping to increase scoring in college basketball and make the sport more watchable, the NCAA approved a series of major rule changes last June. Those included shortening the shot clock to 30 seconds, reducing the number of timeouts allotted to each team and increasing the freedom of movement for offensive players.
The change that coaches believe will have the most impact are the rules limiting contact. They expected a significant uptick in fouls early in the season as players get used to the changes, but many also acknowledge those whistle-filled November and December games will be worth it in the long run if it leads to the game become higher scoring and more aesthetically pleasing.
Scoring in Division I plunging to 67.5 points per game for the 2012-13 season, the lowest in the 3-point era. A short-lived emphasis on freedom of movement during the 2013-14 season led to an uptick, but that evaporated quickly and scoring plunged back to 67.7 points per game this past season. With the full backing of the NCAA and college basketball's rules committee, expect referees to enforce the new rules all season this time.
5. How will the new coaches fare in their debuts?
Of all the new hires made last spring, none faces more pressure in his debut season than Steve Prohm. The new Iowa State coach is replacing the most popular man in Ames, Fred Hoiberg, and he has inherited a roster that Cyclones fans believe is strong enough to contend for a place in the Final Four.
The first meaningful glimpse of how Iowa State will look under Prohm arrives Friday evening when the Cyclones meet Colorado on a neutral floor in Sioux Falls, S.D. This is a game Iowa State should win, yet the Buffs can be dangerous if guards Dominique Collier, Josh Fortune and Tre'Shaun Fletcher can provide some perimeter offense in support of standout big man Josh Scott.
Prohm is one of a handful of new faces in new places Friday night. We'll get an early look at how much HAVOC Shaka Smart intends to run at Texas when the new-look Longhorns face Washington in China. We'll also get to see Florida's first game in nearly two decades without Billy Donovan on the sideline when new coach Mike White leads the Gators against Navy.
6. Is St. John's really that bad?
Exhibition results are often overblown, but this one was hard to overlook. St. Thomas Aquinas walloped tradition-rich St. John's 90-58 last week in what was easily November's most eye-popping exhibition result. The Johnnies trailed by double figures less than six minutes into the game, by 16 at halftime and by 20 or more for most of the second half despite facing a Division II opponent that lost all three games it played against D-I competition the previous year by an average of 34 points.
Whether that performance was a fluke or an omen should become a bit clearer Friday night when St. John's opens the regular season against Wagner. The Seahawks lost 20 games last season and were picked sixth in the Northeast Conference's preseason poll, but the return of athletic forward Dwaun Anderson gives them the potential to exceed that prediction.
St. John's, on the other hand, does not return a single player from last season that averaged more than 1.5 points per game and also lost its top freshman for the season due to an eligibility issue. So Chris Mullin's debut season is clearly going to be a struggle for the Johnnies. And Friday should provide an early glimpse of just how bad it could be.
7. How will Gonzaga's unproven backcourt look?
Thanks to the return of All-American candidate Kyle Wiltjer, promising NBA prospect Domantas Sabonis and skilled 7 footer Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga boasts maybe the nation's best frontcourt. What will determine whether the Zags can match the success of last year's 35-win team, however, will be the performance of a revamped backcourt.
With Kevin Pangos having finally graduated, Gonzaga will turn to redshirt freshman Josh Perkins at point guard when it opens the season against Pittsburgh on Friday night in Japan. Perkins is a former consensus top 50 recruit who has a quick first step to the basket, a solid jump shot and outstanding court vision, however, he can occasionally get a bit too fancy with his passes and commit too many turnovers.
The wings are a bigger question mark for the Zags as Kyle Dranginis, Silas Melson and Eric McClellan will probably all split time. Gonzaga needs McClellan to take over the role of defensive stopper from the graduated Gary Bell. It would also help if all three can knock down open jump shots to make opponents pay for committing help defenders to stop the Zags' frontcourt standouts.
8. Will a point guard emerge at Duke?
When Tyus Jones decided to parlay his brilliant freshman season into an NBA contract this past spring, one of college basketball's most talent-rich programs was left in an unusual position. Not only did Duke not have a single point guard on its 2015-16 roster, all the elite point guards in Class of 2015 had also already signed with other schools.
Mike Krzyzewski and his staff solved this problem by putting the full-court press on Class of 2016 prospect Derryck Thornton and persuading him to graduate a year ahead of time. Thornton will make his college debut on Friday when Duke hosts Siena.
The ideal situation for Duke would be Thornton playing his way into a starting job, but that may take some time since he was already behind everyone else on the roster since he only arrived on campus in mid-August. Therefore it's likely that combo guard Grayson Allen may see substantial early playing time at point guard while Jones adjusts to the college game.
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A recruiting class expected to boost UCLA back to national relevance got even stronger Thursday evening when a skilled power forward committed to the Bruins.
T.J. Leaf, Rivals.com's No. 15 prospect in the Class of 2016, chose UCLA over fellow West Coast powers Oregon and San Diego State. The 6-foot-10 El Cajon, Calif., native had previously committed to Arizona before reopening his recruitment over the summer.
The addition of Leaf solidifies UCLA's 2016 recruiting class as one of the five best in the nation, behind only Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky at this point. On Wednesday, the Bruins received letters of intent from elite point guard Lonzo Ball (No. 8), athletic shot blocker Ike Anigbogu (No. 37) and slashing wing Kobe Paras (No. 128).
Pair that class with the returning talent UCLA should have back next season, and the Bruins could have their most talented roster since the heyday of the Ben Howland era when they went to three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008. Transfers or early entry defections are always a possibility, but this is what UCLA's 2016-17 rotation could look like:
GUARDS: Lonzo Ball (Fr.), Bryce Alford (Sr.), Aaron Holiday (So.) Isaac Hamilton (Sr.), Prince Ali (So.)
FORWARDS: T.J. Leaf (Fr.), Jonah Bolden (So.), Gyorgy Goloman (Jr.)
CENTERS: Thomas Welsh (Jr.), Ike Anigbogu (Fr.)
Leaf should be an important piece on that team because of his combination of skill and athleticism. He is a deft passer, a capable rebounder and a scoring threat both in the paint and from the high post.
A major reason for UCLA's renewed recruiting success in Southern California is the strong relationship between assistant coach David Grace and the Compton Magic AAU program. Leaf, Anigbogu and Paras are all members of the Magic, as are Class of 2017 UCLA commits Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill.
Over-reliance on that pipeline could be a long-term concern for UCLA, but for now the Bruins shouldn't apologize for reaping the benefits.
They have a young 2015-16 roster, a top five recruiting class set to arrive next fall and realistic hopes of returning to title contention in the next couple years.
Rivals.com video of T.J. Leaf:
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College basketball season tips off Friday night with 23 AP top 25 teams in action. To celebrate the end of the offseason, here are 68 fearless predictions for the new season.
1. This may be the year of the whistle in college basketball. Expect new rules cracking down on hand-checking and physical contact to lead to a barrage of fouls, especially early in the season as players and coaches adjust to the changes.
2. And unlike two years ago when the rule changes faded away by midseason, expect referees to stick with them this time. College basketball's rules committee has made it clear that changes are needed to increase scoring in the sport.
3. First-team All-Americans: G Kris Dunn (Providence), G Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), G Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), F Ben Simmons (LSU), F Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)
4. Exhibition loss that's a sign of things to come: St. Thomas Aquinas 90, St. John's 58. It's going to be a looooooong debut season for Chris Mullin.
5. Football schools which will have more success on the hardwood than the gridiron this school year: Miami and Texas
6. Basketball schools which will have more success on the gridiron than the hardwood this school year: Memphis and Temple
7. LSU's schedule will frustrate fans, media and most of all NBA scouts. You'll have to wait until January to see potential No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons face marquee competition.
8. Best ESPN broadcasting decision, part I: Pairing analyst Doris Burke with veteran play-by-play man Sean McDonough for ACC Big Monday games. Not only is Burke a massive improvement over former Duke star Shane Battier, she's also one of the most well-prepared and insightful analysts in the business.
9. Best ESPN broadcasting decision, part II: Parting ways with Bob Knight. The network had buried Knight in a three-man booth calling American Athletic Conference games last season after several years in a prominent role on Big 12 telecasts.
10. Bill Walton will continue to be college basketball's most polarizing analyst. Nobody is more entertaining than Walton if you're not emotionally invested in the game he's calling, however, nobody is more insufferable and off-topic if your team is playing.
11. Harvard's era of dominance in the Ivy League will take a one-year hiatus. With all the talent the Crimson lost from last season, they could finish behind Columbia, Princeton and Yale.
12. ACC breakout star: Grayson Allen, Duke
13. American Athletic Conference breakout star: Obi Enechionyia, Temple
14. Atlantic 10 breakout star: Scoochie Smith, Dayton
15. Big East breakout star: Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
16. Ben Ten breakout star: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
17. Big 12 breakout star: Johnathan Motley, Baylor
18. Mountain West breakout star: Malik Pope, San Diego State
19. Pac-12 breakout star: Reid Travis, Stanford
20. SEC breakout star: Wade Baldwin, Vanderbilt
21. Gonzaga will scrap its supersized starting lineup by Christmas. It's understandable Mark Few wants to get his best three players on the floor at the same time, but I'm skeptical a lineup that includes Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer can be effective on defense. Neither Wiltjer nor Sabonis are comfortable guarding high-major wings who can attack off the dribble.
22. Steve Prohm (Iowa State) will have the most success of any new coach next season, but the hire I like best longterm is Ben Howland at Mississippi State. Howland seemed genuinely happy in Starkville when I caught up with him this summer and he's already recruiting at a level previously unimaginable for the school.
23. I've said I'll never project Wisconsin lower than fourth in the Big Ten under Bo Ryan until it happens, and I'm not going to break that pledge. While Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan each have Top 25-caliber rosters, look for the Badgers to remain in the mix with Zak Showalter, Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown emerging in support of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.
24. I've said I'll never project Kansas anywhere besides first in the Big 12 until it happens, and I'm not going to break that pledge either. While Iowa State and Oklahoma are worthy challengers, the Jayhawks will win the league for the 12th straight year.
25. Wait 'til next year, Northwestern. Tre Demps, Alex Olah and Bryant McIntosh will get the Wildcats off to a strong start against a cupcake-heavy non-conference schedule, but the Wildcats will finish below .500 in the Big Ten and settle for an NIT bid.
26. Coach who will be in demand next spring: Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin. Underwood has led the Lumberjacks to three straight league titles and back-to-back NCAA tournament bids. They have an excellent chance to extend both those streaks this season with four starters back from last season.
27. Coach who will be out of work next spring: Georgia Tech's Brian Gregory. An influx of transfers could help the Yellowjackets ascend a couple rungs in the ACC, but Gregory enters the season with a 19-51 record in league play and a buyout that diminishes this spring.
28. Coach on the hot seat who will keep his job: Indiana's Tom Crean. Not only will the Hoosiers make the NCAA tournament, they'll do so with ease this year. That ought to be enough to quiet Crean's critics ... for now.
29. The ACC will produce more NCAA tournament teams than any other league next season. North Carolina, Virginia, Duke are locks. Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State, N.C. State, Louisville and Syracuse have the potential to join them.
30. As if Louisville hasn't given hecklers enough material already with its scandal-tainted offseason, opposing fans should have a field day poking fun at Cardinals center Chinanu Onuaku attempting all his free throws underhanded.
31. You know what though? Onuaku won't care at all. He'll shoot far better from the foul line than the 47 percent he managed a year ago.
32. Common sense will prevail and the NCAA will clear 7-foot-6 UCF freshman Tacko Fall, an engineering major who grew up in poverty. Not even the NCAA will want to take this PR hit all season.
33. Preseason Top 25 team that could disappoint: Baylor. The frontcourt is a major strength but will an unproven backcourt be steady enough to keep the Bears in the Top 25? Lester Medford's play at point guard will be key.
34. Team outside the preseason Top 25 that could surprise: Cincinnati. All five starters and most of the bench return from last year's 23-win defensive juggernaut that lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament's round of 32.
PODCAST: Preview the NCAA season with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg:
35. He'll be on SportsCenter as often as Scott Van Pelt: UNLV's Derrick Jones II. The high-flying freshman is already one of college basketball's premier dunkers.
36. Expect a two-bid Missouri Valley Conference this March. My pick to join Wichita State is Evansville, but Northern Iowa and Illinois State both have a realistic shot.
37. Freshmen who will have the biggest impact this season: LSU's Ben Simmons, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and Mississippi State's Malik Newman
38. Freshmen ranked outside the top 10 who will have the biggest impact this season: Marquette's Henry Ellenson and Villanova's Jalen Brunson.
39. Freshmen ranked outside the top 40 who will have the biggest impact this season: Washington's Dejounte Murray and UCLA's Aaron Holiday
40. This is the year Florida's Kasey Hill will finally look more like a former McDonald's All-American point guard. Mike White's up-tempo system is a good fit for his skill set, and three years of maturity should help improve his shot selection and decision making with the ball in his hands.
41. Normally I'm a firm believer that two years is way too quick to evaluate a coaching hire, however, I'm not certain Missouri's Kim Anderson will get a third season. The Tigers went 9-23 in his debut season, lost two of their top players via offseason transfers and are projected dead last in the 14-team SEC this year. Worse yet, there's minimal recruiting momentum to offer hope for the future either.
42. Maui Invitational prediction: Kansas over Vanderbilt
43. Wooden Legacy prediction: Michigan State over Arizona
44. 2KSports Classic prediction: Duke over Wisconsin
45. Orlando Classic prediction: Notre Dame over Xavier
46. Puerto Rico Tip-Off prediction: Utah over Butler
47. NIT Season Tip-Off prediction: Villanova over Georgia Tech
48. Battle 4 Atlantis prediction: Gonzaga over UConn
49. Mid-major star whose name you'll know by March if you don't already: Louisiana-Lafayette's Shawn Long. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds as a junior, upping his career total to 52 double-doubles.
50. The Big Ten hasn't lost its challenge with the ACC since 2008, but I think that changes this year. Give me ACC 8, Big Ten 6.
51. The combination of Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson will render Virginia's loss of NBA draft pick Justin Anderson less significant than many expect. Shayok, in particular, has breakout potential.
52. Louisville will enter ACC play without a single notable victory, putting pressure on the Cardinals to perform well in ACC play. Aside from two very difficult games against Kentucky and Michigan State, Louisville does not play a single non-conference opponent who finished in the top 100 in the RPI last season.
53. Team that will make the biggest jump from last year to this year: Cal. Can the Bears go from eighth-place in the Pac-12 standings to winning the league? It's certainly a possibility thanks to the return of a formidable backcourt and the arrival of a pair of McDonald's All-Americans.
54. Team that will take the biggest fall from last year to this year: Arkansas. Early-entry defections and off-court trouble have left the Razorbacks without all five starters from last year's 27-win team, relegating them to rebuilding mode.
55. Kansas can win the Big 12 and spend most of the season in the top 10 without Cheick Diallo, but the Jayhawks need the highly touted freshman big man to win a national championship. His ability to alter shots and finish above the rim makes him an ideal complement to highly skilled but modestly athletic Perry Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt.
56. The Mountain West could struggle to get more than two teams into the NCAA tournament this season. San Diego State and Boise State appear to be good bets, but the league really needs UNLV to navigate a daunting early schedule and play to its potential in league play in order to have a third viable candidate.
57. Small-conference team that will win a game in March: Valparaiso. With every rotation player back from a team that went 28-6 last year and pushed Maryland to the final possession in the NCAA tournament, the Crusaders will be a team nobody will want to draw.
58. Marcus Paige will play up to his potential this season once he recovers from a broken finger in his non-shooting hand. A lingering foot injury hampered Paige all last season, but the North Carolina guard will return to his sophomore year form this season.
59. The Ron Baker-Fred Van Vleet era at Wichita State will end a win or two shy of a second Final Four. Wichita State's backcourt is as formidable as any in the nation, but the Shockers will eventually run into an NCAA tournament team long and athletic enough in the frontcourt to hurt them on the glass.
60. Most compelling conference title race: the ACC. Virginia returns enough talent to potentially capture its third straight ACC regular season title, but North Carolina and Duke will again pose a formidable challenge.
61. Second most compelling conference title race: the Pac-12. The gap between reigning champ Arizona and other contenders has closed considerably. Cal has its most talented roster since the Jason Kidd era, Utah returns 9 of its 11 top scorers from a Sweet 16 team and Oregon is loaded too.
62: Conference championship predictions: Virginia (ACC), UConn (AAC), Rhode Island (A-10), Villanova (Big East), Maryland (Big Ten), Kansas (Big 12), San Diego State (Mountain West), Arizona (Pac-12), Kentucky (SEC), Gonzaga (WCC)
63. Team that will bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor year and return to the NCAA tournament: UConn. The addition of freshman Jalen Adams and graduate transfer Sterling Gibbs will solidify the Huskies' backcourt in spite of the loss of Ryan Boatright.
64. Team that will struggle again this year: Memphis. The loss of Austin Nichols and Kedren Johnson's injury woes may doom the Tigers to another frustrating season.
65. Four transfers who will make the biggest impact this season: Damion Lee (Louisville), Sterling Gibbs (UConn), Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Eron Harris (Michigan State).
66. Early men's Final Four projection: Kentucky, Kansas, Virginia, Villanova
67. Early women's Final Four projection: UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Baylor
68. Most of these preseason predictions will probably be wrong. The most fun part of college basketball is that it always defies expectation.
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College basketball's interminable seven-month offseason is finally almost over.
The new season tips off Friday night with a handful of intriguing games to whet our appetites for next week's 24-hour marathon and the holiday tournaments thereafter. Here's a look at Friday's most compelling games involving West Coast teams:
1. PITTSBURGH vs. GONZAGA, 7 P.M. EST (OKINAWA, JAPAN)
Last year's records: Pittsburgh 19-15, 8-10 ACC (Lost to George Washington in the opening round of the NIT); Gonzaga 35-3, 17-1 WCC (Lost to Duke in the NCAA tournament Elite Eight)
Key players: Jamel Artis, Pittsburgh (13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga (16.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
One big question: Will Gonzaga's supersized lineup thrive or fail?
Assuming Domantis Sabonis' sore back has healed enough for him to play on Friday, then the first test of the defensive viability of Gonzaga's supersized starting lineup will arrive right away. Pittsburgh combo forward Jamel Artis will be a difficult assignment for either Kyle Wiltjer or Sabonis because of the 6-foot-7 junior's quickness, perimeter shooting and ability to create for himself and others off the dribble.
Artis emerged as Pittsburgh's top scorer a couple weeks into league play last season, averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists during his team's final 18 games. He did most of his damage abusing bigger, slower power forwards last season, but may spend more time at his natural small forward position this season with 6-foot-9 Michael Young returning and a several transfer big men now on the roster.
While Artis' quickness advantage might force Gonzaga to play zone or to go long stretches with only two of its three elite big men on the floor, the Zags have the size and skill on offense to make up for any easy buckets they surrender. Wiltjer, Sabonis and 7-footer Przemek Karnowski may overmatch a Pittsburgh team that missed the NCAA tournament last season mostly because it allowed the second most points per possession of any ACC team.
Predicted winner: Gonzaga
2. TEXAS vs. WASHINGTON, 10 P.M. EST (SHANGHAI, CHINA)
Last year's records: Texas 20-14, 8-10 Big 12 (lost to Butler in the opening round of the NCAA tournament); Washington 16-15, 5-13 Pac-12 (No postseason)
Key players: Isaiah Taylor, Texas (13.1 ppg, 4.6 apg); Andrew Andrews, Washington (15.0 ppg, 2.2 apg)
One big question: How quickly can Washington's freshmen turn the program's fortunes around?
For a program that last made the NCAA tournament in 2011 and returns only two scholarship players, Washington enters the new season with reason for optimism. A top 10 recruiting class featuring eight highly touted newcomers should breathe new life into the program and begin to turn its fortunes around.
Freshmen Dejounte Murray, Matisse Thybulle, Marquese Chriss and Noah Dickerson are expected to start against Texas along with senior point guard Andrew Andrews, Washington's team leader and top returning scorer. Rebounding and turnovers almost certainly will be issues with such a young, undersized roster, but the Huskies once again have the depth and athleticism to get back to the up-tempo offense and turnover-inducing defense that were their staples at the height of Lorenzo Romar's tenure.
The season opener against Texas should be a good early barometer for how long Washington's turnaround will take. While the Longhorns are still learning how to play for new coach Shaka Smart, they return high-scoring guard Isaiah Taylor and several other key players from a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season.
Predicted winner: Texas
3. COLORADO vs. IOWA STATE, 5 P.M. EST (SIOUX FALLS, S.D.)
Last year's records: Colorado 16-18, 7-11 Pac-12 (No postseason); Iowa State 25-9, 12-6 Pac-12 (Lost to UAB in the opening round of the NCAA tournament)
Key players: Josh Scott, Colorado (14.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg); Georges Niang, Iowa State (15.3 ppg, 3.4 apg)
One big question: Can Colorado find enough scorers to support Josh Scott?
While the graduation of volume-shooting Askia Booker should improve Colorado's chemistry and efficiency, it does leave the Buffaloes in search of new ways to generate offense. Senior big man Josh Scott may be the Pac-12's premier low-post scorer, but other threats must emerge around him for Colorado to finish higher in the standings than it did a year ago.
One option is Josh Fortune, the deep-shooting former Providence guard who averaged 8.4 points per game his last season with the Friars. Another option is Dominique Collier, the former top 100 recruit who struggled in his debut season for Colorado but has obvious breakout potential as a sophomore. There's also a chance that returners Wesley Gordon or Tre'Shaun Fletcher take a step forward.
Several of those guys will make to make big contributions for the Buffaloes to even be competitive against Iowa State in Steve Prohm's debut as Cyclones coach. Iowa State returns a handful of key players from a high-scoring, free-flowing 25-win team including preseason All-American Georges Niang and speedy point guard Monte Morris.
Predicted winner: Iowa State
4. ILLINOIS STATE at SAN DIEGO STATE, 10 P.M. EST
Last year's records: Illinois state 22-13, 11-7 Missouri Valley (NIT second round); San Diego State 27-9, 14-4 Mountain West (Lost to Duke in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament)
Key players: DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State (12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Winston Shepard, San Diego State (11.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
One big question: Will San Diego State's offense show improvement?
An elite defense that held opponents to the nation's fourth fewest points per possession couldn't even mask all of San Diego State's offensive issues. The Aztecs played at too slow a pace to generate easy baskets in transition and lacked the point guard play or outside shooting to score consistently against set defenses.
Outside shooting may again be an issue this season for San Diego State, but coach Steve Fisher addressed the other two areas of concern. Highly touted freshman Jeremy Hemsley is expected to start right away at point guard and the Aztecs are trying to press more and push the tempo. Throw in the return of Winston Shepard, Trey Kell moving off ball to shooting guard and Malik Pope's breakout potential, and San Diego State certainly has reason for optimism.
The first test will be an Illinois State team expected to challenge Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Evansville in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Redbirds return six key contributors from a team that went 22-13, reached the Arch Madness title game and played in the NIT.
Predicted winner: San Diego State
OPPOSING COACHES ASSESS FOUR OF THE WEST'S TOP TEAMS
In last week's West Coast Bias, opposing coaches assessed Oregon, New Mexico, San Diego State, UCLA and BYU. This week, Arizona, Cal, Utah, Gonzaga and UNLV are getting the same treatment.
Yahoo Sports spoke with coaches who faced those four teams in exhibition play and asked them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. Their scouting reports are below:
Arizona's 90-54 exhibition victory over Chico State validated what coach Sean Miller had been saying since practice began.
Ryan Anderson is the Wildcats' best all-around player.
The Boston College transfer scored an efficient 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before exiting once Arizona built a comfortable second-half lead. Chico State coach Greg Clink spoke about Anderson's impact, Mark Tollefsen's ability to play on the perimeter and which point guard brings the most to the Wildcats.
Chico State coach Greg Clink on Arizona: "Ryan Anderson, to me, was a phenomenal player. He's a go-to guy for them. When you need a basket, you can give it to him in multiple spots on the floor and he can score. I was really impressed with how he played. ... I think both [Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright] were equally effective against us, but they're different in how they do it. Allen looked more for his shot. He's definitely more of a scoring point guard. With Cartwright, getting the ball up the floor and creating shots for others, that's what I thought his strengths were. ... [Kaleb] Tarczewski is such a good defender. We have a 6-11 transfer from Fresno State who's an all-league player for us. He told me it was hard for him to even get a shot off against Tarczewski. Our guy had a tough time getting around him in the post because he's so big and long and moves so well laterally. ... When they put [Mark] Tollefsen at the three, he poses matchup problems with his length and size. I think his ability to defend on the perimeter may be an area of concern, but it was hard to tell against us. We don't have the type of high-major wings who can exploit that. ... Depth is a strength for them. They have multiple options at every position and they're bringing guys off the bench who are just as good as their starters."
With McDonald's All-Americans Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown joining a Cal team that also returns an impressive backcourt, the Bears have a chance to make a big leap this season.
They handled their first opponent with predictable ease on Monday night, storming to a 93-58 victory over a Carroll College team that competes in the NAIA and does not start a single player taller than 6-foot-6.
Rabb needed just five shots to finish with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Brown overpowered smaller defenders on his way to a team-high 17 points. Carroll College coach Carson Cunningham offered his impressions of both freshmen and his thoughts on the Bears' potential.
Carroll College coach Carson Cunningham on Cal: "Rabb is very patient. He'd look for double teams in the post, and if he didn't see one coming, he'd make a quick assertive move to the rim. At that age to be playing with that poise, it was definitely impressive. ... Jaylen Brown is a physical force. He was crashing the glass with abandon, attacking the rim and really asserting himself physically. Defensively he has a ton of versatility. Unless their opponent has a dominant college big man or a super quick little point guard, he can really guard every position and switch every ball screen. It makes it really difficult to get an edge. ... It's a really good situation for those young guys to have a backcourt that is so polished and experienced. It takes a lot of the pressure off them. ... Our team isn't very big, so one thing we tried to do is make their 7 footers play off a lot of pick and rolls and guard a lot of stuff off the bounce. We might not be the best team for them to try out their really big lineup against, but there are probably going to be some matchups when their ability to go really big will help them. ... I definitely think Cal's preseason ranking is warranted. Bringing ballyhooed freshmen into a veteran-laden lineup and trying to meld it together is a tough job, but I think coach Martin will be able to do it. They'll be a tough, tough team to deal with once they mesh. I can see them making a run."
Utah left quite an impression on Cal State Monterey Bay coach Rob Bishop after its 120-74 demolition of the Otters last Thursday night.
"I saw Arizona on film this weekend," Bishop said, "and right now I'd take Utah."
What surprised Bishop most about the Utes was how long and athletic they are and how many ways they can score even with last year's engine Delon Wright now in the NBA. Between guards Brandon Taylor (20 points) and Lorenzo Bonam (14), combo forward Jordan Loveridge (17) and rapidly improving center Jakob Poeltl (9 points, 10 rebounds), Bishop believes Utah has lots of options for how to generate offense.
Cal State Monterey Bay coach Rob Bishop on Utah: "Poeltl has gotten much stronger. He's really physical. He moves really well. He has improved his free throw shooting. He's a rebounding machine. Fortunately, we only saw him for 20 minutes because we couldn't do anything with him. ... I think they'll play through Poeltl more this season, but I don't think they have to play through him exclusively. With Loveridge, Taylor and then the JC kid [Bonam], they have other guys who can create offense. ... I know they're really high on [Bonam]. I didn't look at him like he's the next Delon Wright, but he played well against us. He was very good at creating for them. I don't know if he turns into the guy they go to down the stretch in close games or not, but he's certainly going to be an option. ... Loveridge shot it with confidence. He was very aggressive. With his ability to go inside and outside, he might be the guy who can create mismatches. ... Brandon Taylor is so fast in person. He's lightning quick getting the ball up the floor. He's going to be huge for them if they do play at a faster tempo. ... I know they were good defensively last year, but I think they'll even be better this year with all the guys they have back. They did what they're supposed to do against a D-II team like us. They took us out of everything we wanted to run."
Gonzaga didn't get to experiment with its giant lineup for long in a 90-58 rout of NAIA Eastern Oregon on Saturday.
The three big men did start together as Mark Few promised, however, Domantas Sabonis fell hard early in the first half and played only six minutes.
Of the Zags who did play the most minutes, the guy who impressed Eastern Oregon coach Jared Barrett the most was Kyle Wiltjer. The 6-foot-10 All-American candidate scored an efficient 33 points in 27 minutes, sometimes via the 3-point shot and other times via mismatches in the post.
Eastern Oregon coach Jared Barrett on Gonzaga: "Wiltjer is so smart with positioning and timing with his post-up game. In 15 years of coaching including 12 years in Division I, he's the best I've seen at spotting a mismatch and taking advantage. His IQ with that is off the charts and if you get caught behind him, it's a basket. ... I worry about their big lineup defensively. They started Sabonis on our two guard. I know he's agile and moves well for a big man, but against better teams that's going to be a really hard matchup. If they're not going to go zone starting those three, some teams are going to cause problems. ... I liked [Josh Perkins] the best out of all their guards. He gets their bigs the ball whenever he can. [Kevin] Pangos last year was more of a score-first guy, but Perkins makes it really easy for their bigs to score. ... Teams are going to pack in their defenses against Gonzaga and dare those wings to shoot. [Eric] McClellan, Silas Melson and Kyle Dranginis went a combined 1-for-14 against us on threes. I know they're probably better shooters than that, but they're streaky. If you can help more on their posts and risk closing out late on their shooters, I think that's preferable. ... They put McClellan on my point guard, who's our leading scorer, and our point guard said he was just OK. Coach Few knows better since he sees him every day in practice, but in the one game we played against him, we didn't see [him as a defensive stopper]. He's going to have to be better."
Two UNLV freshmen impressed Whittier College coach Rock Carter the most Friday night during his team's 94-57 exhibition loss to the Rebels.
One was McDonald's All-American center Stephen Zimmerman, who scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots in 28 productive minutes. The other was high-flying reserve guard Derrick Jones Jr., who needed only 21 minutes off the bench to light up the scoreboard for 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
Carter spoke about their potential impact and why he thinks UNLV's full-court pressure will eventually be effective this season even if it wasn't all that fearsome against Whittier.
Whittier College coach Rock Carter on UNLV: "They have the depth and athleticism to press, but the way they played against us wasn't as physical and aggressive as I thought it was going to be. They might not have been as motivated to play it as hard against us, but I do think they have the players to play it. ... The thing I was really impressed with about Zimmerman was how smart he is. He positions himself well and he passes exceptionally well. We'd double team him from different angles, and he was so good at picking and choosing who to pass to that we actually had to stop double teaming and let him shoot it over us. ... Patrick McCaw was the guy we were most concerned with coming into the game, but he didn't shoot too well against us. I think he'll have better nights to come ... Out of all their guards, I was most impressed with Derrick Jones. He's the real deal. He put the ball on the deck, he had a nice stroke, he was good on defense. He needs to add some weight to compete night in, night out, but he's going to be really good for them. ... I know [Dave] Rice is catching some heat, but I think they have a nice team this year. I think they have the physical tools to compete in the Mountain West and nationally."
THE COUNTDOWN: 2016 RECRUITING CLASSES
With the fall signing period beginning Wednesday, a look at the West Coast teams with the best crop of early commitments thus far. This list will undoubtedly change dramatically by next spring with 26 Rivals 150 prospects still uncommitted and numerous transfers yet to hit the market.
5. UNLV: Jaylen Fisher, G, Memphis (No. 55); Justin Jackson, F, Ontario (NR); Christian Vital, G, Oakdale, Conn. (NR); Carlos Johnson, F, Contra Costa, Calif. (NR)
Even though Dave Rice's future at UNLV could depend on how successful his team is this season, the uncertainty didn't prevent the Rebels coach from cleaning up on the recruiting trail yet again this year. Rice once again showed the ability to get talent from all over the continent when he went into Memphis and nabbed Fisher, a point guard with good size and defensive instincts. His other big coup was landing Jackson, a four-star forward who can score a variety of ways.
4. Washington: Markelle Fultz, G, Hyattsville, Md. (No. 13); Sam Timmins, C, New Zealand (NR)
On the heels of landing a highly touted eight-man 2015 recruiting class, Lorenzo Romar struck again this summer. Fultz, a five-star combo guard who's a perfect fit for Washington's up-tempo system, chose the Huskies over higher-profile teams like Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina and Louisville. Romar also nabbed Timmins, a skilled center considered one of this year's top prospects hailing from Australia or New Zealand.
3. Gonzaga: Zach Collins, C, Las Vegas (No. 32); Zach Norvell, G, Chicago (No. 93); Killian Tillie, F, France (NR)
With Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski graduating and Domantis Sabonis a candidate to enter the NBA draft, Gonzaga needed to replenish its frontcourt. Collins is a skilled 6-foot-11 center and Tillie is a traditional stretch four. Both will compete for frontcourt minutes as freshmen alongside Missouri transfer Jonathan Williams, 7-footer Ryan Edwards and perhaps Sabonis. Norvell could also carve out playing time at wing with Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis both set to graduate.
2. Oregon: Payton Pritchard, G, West Lynn, Ore. (No. 51); M.J. Cage, F, Santa Ana, Calif. (No. 54); Keith Smith, G, Seattle (NR)
Whether via impact transfers or promising freshmen, Oregon continues to stockpile the talent necessary to contend in the Pac-12 year after year. Pritchard is a former Oklahoma commit with deep range and a knack for creating for others off the dribble, Cage is a big man who defends, rebounds and runs the floor well and Smith is a high-scoring 6-foot-7 wing who was once committed to San Diego State.
1. UCLA: Lonzo Ball, G, Chino Hills, Calif. (No. 8); Ike Inigbogu, C, Corona, Calif (No. 37); Kobe Paras, G, Los Angeles (No. 128)
This is the recruiting class that could elevate UCLA from upper-echelon Pac-12 team back to Final Four contention. In addition to this trio of impact prospects, the Bruins are also the favorite to land highly touted T.J. Leaf when he announces his college destination on Thursday. Leaf, a versatile 6-foot-10 forward rated Rivals.com's No. 15 prospect, is also considering Oregon and San Diego State.
With the air cool and crisp across most of the country and the temperature finally dropping below 90 here in Southern California, it's finally stout weather again. Good thing that the seasonal Russian Imperial Stout from Oscar Blues is finally hitting store shelves. Dark as night and thick as motor oil with 10.5 percent alcohol by volume, Oscar Blues "Ten Fidy" is a beer hearty enough to be a meal. The dark chocolate, coffee aroma gives way to a bold flavor that's boozy yet balanced, neither too bitter nor coyingly sweet. This beer may be a slow sipper, but it's still hard to resist having more than one. (GRADE: 8/10)
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When Alabama-Birmingham coach Jerod Haase asks his players to dig a little deeper at times this season, he might get a better response than other coaches in the same position.
Who wouldn't want to give their best for a coach who paid $46,000 so that members of the UAB men's and women's teams could enjoy the benefits of full-cost-of-attendance stipends many of their peers around the country and Conferencen USA are now receiving?
The UAB athletic department decided it couldn't afford the stipends this year. So Haase and his wife decided to take money out of their pockets to keep the Blazers on a level playing field with their competition.
Full-cost-of-attendance stipends were approved earlier this year and are meant to assist student-athletes with expenses that aren't covered under their scholarships.
The selfless move turned what would have been a massive negative on the recruiting trail into a something the program and Haase's assistant coaches can use as evidence of the coaching staff's commitment to players. It's no small development for a program that is trying to build on the momentum of winning the conference tournament title and a NCAA tournament upset over Iowa State last season.
The donation is acceptable under NCAA rules because the department is in control of the money and how it is spent. It's not as if Haase is writing checks to his players.
Haase makes $1 million annually so donating $46,000 to help his program and the women's team at UAB is not going to have him eating ramen for lunch this season. Athletic director Mark Ingram told ESPN the department plans to begin playing full cost of attendance for all student-athletes beginning next year when it can be worked into the budget.
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Outside of the military academies, there probably won't be another college basketball team show as much respect for the national anthem before games this season as Virginia Tech.
Coach Buzz Williams asked a group of veterans to assist him in educating his players about the importance of the anthem and how to conduct themselves when it is being performed before games this season. Williams has high expectations for his players and he chose to share them publicly in a remarkable tribute to the nation's veterans.
Our National Anthem is more than a song before every game, I wanted our players to know how important it is https://t.co/HDBBNZCIj1— Buzz Williams (@TeamCoachBuzz) November 11, 2015
Williams lined his players up in front of their bench area to watch men and women in uniform unfold their chairs. He told his players and coaches that the chairs weren't earned by their talent or hard work but by the sacrifices made by veterans and those currently serving in the military.
The entire group then stood stoically as the anthem was performed in an empty Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies tip off the season Saturday at home against Alabama State. Williams is hoping to make a big jump in one of the toughest college basketball conferences in the nation after going 11-22 in his first season leading the program last year. The Hokies were just 2-16 in the ACC last season.
Virginia Tech has six new players who are expected to be regular contributors this season, including three transfers. but the Hokies were still picked to finish 14th in the 15-team league in the preseason media poll.
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Maryland coach Mark Turgeon enters his fifth season with the Terrapins with a team ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls and one many believe can compete for a national title. But those lofty aspirations took a hit when a key piece of the roster was lost for the season this week.
Sophomore guard Dion Wiley suffered a torn right meniscus and underwent surgery on Tuesday. While it's possible he could return sometime in February or March, it is unlikely Turgeon would ask the former four-star recruit to give up an entire season of eligibility in order to play a few weeks, even for a team that could be making a run at a national title in the spring.
Turgeon clearly liked what he saw from Wiley in preseason practices and had high hopes for him this season.
“I am really disappointed for Dion because he worked so hard in the offseason and was playing at a very high level,” Turgeon said in a press release. “This is a big loss for our team as Dion was expected to be our starting shooting guard.
Wiley appeared in all 35 games as a freshman last year and started twice. He averaged 4.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in nearly 14 minutes per game. He figured to add to those totals as an experienced sophomore this season, likely coming off the bench.
Maryland is not lacking for options at shooting guard, but it now won't have the depth and flexibility Turgeon was counting on just a few days ago.
There already were plenty of expectations for former Duke star Rasheed Sulaimon and what he would bring to the team. The pressure now ramps up to another level for Sulaimon to meet those expectations. The former member of the All-ACC Freshman team has played 90 games in his career.
Sophomore Jared Nickens, a rangy 6-foot-7 shooter, was second on the team in 3-pointers last season and might be the team's best perimeter threat. But Turgeon will be crossing his fingers that his guards can stay healthy from this point on because any further attrition could limit how deep a run this team can make.
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It doesn't happen often, but every now and then a college basketball season begins without a player from one of the sport's blue blood programs being named to the Associated Press All-American first team.
This is one of those seasons.
The AP preseason team was released Monday and it featured four familiar names to college hoops fans and one newcomer. Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, who began his career at Kentucky, received more votes than any other player. He is joined on the team by fellow seniors in Iowa State forward Georges Niang and Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield.
Providence junior guard Kris Dunn is widely considered the most NBA ready player in college basketball entering the 2015-16 season, which begins Friday. And LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons is the new guy and is a player fans around the nation are eager to see play.
All-America teams in the sport almost always include at least one player from Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina or UCLA the teams universally considered the blue bloods of the college game. It's true whether you're talking about the preseason or postseason teams.
But it's not as if those programs annually dominate the All-America selections. The 2013 preseason team for instance, included only Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins as a blue blood representative and the only such player on the 2012 preseason AP team was Indiana forward Cody Zeller.
The last time the postseason AP All-America team didn't include at least one player from blue blood schools was the 2003-04 season when Josh Childress from Stanford, Ryan Gomes from Providence, Jameer Nelson from Saint Joseph's, Emeka Okafor from UConn and Lawrence Roberts from Mississippi State were honored.
UConn is certainly about as close as it gets to a blue blood program but isn't technically considered one and certainly wasn't at the time that 2003-04 team was selected.
Fans who don't cheer for blue blood programs will certainly see this as a positive harbinger for the season to come. While fans of those traditional powers probably won't lose much sleep. Each of those six blue blood rosters features plenty of talent and several of those teams should contend for a national title again this year. The postseason All-America team could look much different in April.
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Yahoo Sports will break down the top 10 leagues for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 10 to No. 1. Here's a look at our No. 4 league, the Pac-12.
When Arizona's four leading scorers either graduated or turned pro last spring, the landscape in the Pac-12 instantly changed.
No longer does it feel like the rest of the league is merely competing for second place.
Arizona remains a contender to capture a third straight conference title thanks to an influx of promising newcomers, but the gap between the Wildcats and other challengers has closed. Cal has its most talented roster since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray, Oregon will build around a collection of promising forwards and Utah brings back nine of its top 11 scorers from a Sweet 16 team. Don't count out UCLA either given the return of Bryce Alford and the collection of young guards and established big men surrounding him.
If Arizona repeats as Pac-12 champions, it will be a testament to Sean Miller's ability to reload on the fly. Only four rotation players return from last season's 33-win Elite Eight team, yet the arrival of four promising freshmen and three impact transfers give Miller the deepest, most offensively gifted roster he's had since coming to Tucson.
Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson has been Arizona's best player since practice began, no surprise considering for the Eagles he was a three-year starter who averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a junior before leaving in search of a winning program. Anderson will be the offensive focal point of an elite frontcourt that also includes lone returning starter Kaleb Tarczewski, reserve 7 footers Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche and versatile combo forward Mark Tollefsen.
How Miller will divvy up playing time in the backcourt is anyone's guess since he has plenty of options even with freshman small forward Ray Smith lost for the season to an ACL tear.
Kadeem Allen's defensive prowess and ability to score off the dribble earned him starting nod at point guard in Arizona's exhibition game on Sunday night, but the junior college transfer will split time with pass-first sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright as the Wildcats search for an heir to T.J. McConnell. Sharpshooter Gabe York, polished freshman Allonzo Trier, veteran Elliott Pitts and defensive standout Justin Simon each bring different qualities at wing, while Tollefsen is also an option at small forward if Miller prefers not to go with a three-guard look.
Cal can't match Arizona's depth this season, but the Bears may be the only Pac-12 team with a more talented starting five.
Excitement for Cal basketball is at its apex since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray thanks to an incoming class featuring a pair of top 10 recruits. Oakland native Ivan Rabb is an athletic 6-foot-11 big man who blocks shots, rebounds and scores over either shoulder in the post. Georgia product Jaylen Brown is an explosive athlete and aggressive slasher strong enough to overpower opposing wings on his way to the rim.
Those two will join a Cal roster loaded with returning perimeter talent as conference player of the year candidate Tyrone Wallace, former five-star wing Jabari Bird and sharpshooter Jordan Mathews each are back. Brown will probably spend some time at power forward to accommodate those three but he'll also play his natural small forward position when the Bears opt to go bigger with Rabb at power forward and either 7-foot-1 Kingsley Okoroh or 7-foot Kameron Rooks at center.
Oregon must replace reigning Pac-12 player of the year Joseph Young, but the Ducks have a collection of scorers who are up to the task. Power forward Elgin Cook averaged 13 points per game last season, forward Dillon Brooks could be poised for a breakout season after improving his body over the offseason and freshman guard Tyler Dorsey is a polished scorer who starred for Greece's U-19 team this past summer.
While finding a go-to scorer in crunch time will be key for the Ducks, the bigger issue will be dealing with injuries to starting point guard Dylan Ennis and shot-blocking big man Jordan Bell. Pass-first sophomore Casey Benson and Dorsey will likely share time at point guard while Ennis recovers from the foot injury he suffered last week, while junior college transfer Chris Boucher will see additional playing time until Bell returns in a few weeks.
No contender must replace a more important player than Utah, which lost Delon Wright to graduation. The all-conference guard was the engine offensively for a Utes team that reached the Sweet 16 last year and its premier perimeter stopper on defense.
Whereas Utah put the ball in Wright's hands and asked him to create off a high screen and roll in almost every late-clock situation last season, the Utes will probably play through potential first-round pick Jakob Poeltl in the post more often this year. The 7 footer will have plenty of help from returning starters Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge an array of shooters on the perimeter and some skilled young forwards in the frontcourt, most notably potential breakout candidates Kyle Kuzma and Brekkott Chapman.
UCLA is a year away from contending for conference titles and Final Fours again, but the Bruins can still finish in the Pac-12's upper tier if a supporting cast emerges around high-scoring junior Bryce Alford. Skilled 7 footer Thomas Welsh, veteran low-post scorer and rebounder Tony Parker and promising 6-10 stretch forward Jonah Bolden form a capable frontcourt. Meanwhile in the backcourt, Isaac Hamilton will seek to score with more consistency as a sophomore and freshman Aaron Holiday has drawn frequent praise this preseason for his on-ball defense and ability to create for himself and others off the dribble.
The Pac-12 champion will likely emerge from that pool of five teams, but Oregon State has the chance to be the best of the rest. The Beavers add their most talented freshman class in years to a returning core that includes elite defender Gary Payton II and quality guard Malcolm Duvivier. The newcomers will provide much-needd depth and scoring for a team that somehow won 17 games last season seemingly on defense, hustle and grit alone.
Beyond the Beavers, there are teams with lots of question marks.
Four of Arizona State's five leading scorers from last season return, but new coach Bobby Hurley may not have enough depth to coax an upper-division finish out of the Sun Devils in his first year. Colorado boasts one of the best post players in the league in a now-healthy Josh Scott, but the Buffs desperately need sophomore Dominique Collier and others to provide perimeter scoring. Stanford has an intriguing young frontcourt anchored by sophomores Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, but guard play was already going to be an issue even before promising junior Marcus Allen went down with a stress fracture and point guard Robert Cartwright broke his arm. And USC is awash with enough young talent to finally escape the Pac-12 basement, but Andy Enfield's team is probably a year away from finishing in the upper half of the conference.
MAKING A LIST
Best shooter: Brandon Taylor, Utah. One formula for Utah to generate offense without Delon Wright is to surround center Jakob Poeltl with shooters capable of burying threes if left open. The Utes were among the nation's 10 best 3-point shooting teams, and Taylor was a huge reason for that. The 5-foot-10 guard made the fourth most threes of any player in a single season in school history with 82, yet still shot an impressive 43.9 percent from behind the arc.
Best playmaker: Tyrone Wallace, Cal. While Wallace has had to learn to play point guard and is still more comfortable as a scorer than distributor, there's nobody else in the conference more dangerous with the ball in his hands. The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 17.1 points and 4.0 assists as a junior for Cal primarily because he is so tough to keep out of the lane off the dribble.
Best defender: Gary Payton II, Oregon State. Following in the footsteps of his father, Gary Payton II emerged as the most disruptive player in the league last season, taking Pac-12 defender of the year honors. The 6-foot-3 Payton has good length for a guard, quick hands and feet and the ball-hawking instincts of a free safety, all of which contributed to him averaging 3.1 steals per game last season. That's the most in the Pac-12 and second most in the nation.
Top NBA prospect: Jaylon Brown, Cal. It would be a surprise if Brown doesn't get taken in the lottery next June. The 6-foot-6 freshman is a strong, athletic wing capable of bull rushing his way to the rim in transition the way Stanley Johnson did last season at Arizona. Expect Brown to see some time at both forward spots since Cal is loaded on the perimeter but lacks interior depth.
Best backcourt: Cal. While incoming McDonald's All-Americans Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown have received the most preseason attention,Tyrone Wallace may be Cal's most indispensable player. The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists last year, establishing himself as the Bears' top scorer, playmaker and perimeter defender. Wallace will be flanked on one side by sharpshooting Jordan Mathews and on the other by now-healthy Jabari Bird. Backup point guard Sam Singer will give Wallace the freedom to shift off ball when he enters the game. Brown will spend time at small forward when Cuonzo Martin goes big.
Best frontcourt: Arizona. The lone returning member of last year's starting five will anchor Arizona's frontcourt. Kaleb Tarczewski, the 7-footer with an NBA body and a slowly improving skill set, will start at center once again for the Wildcats and provide low-post scoring, solid defense and leadership. Joining Tarczewski in the starting five will probably be versatile 6-foot-8 forward Ryan Anderson, a three-year starter for Boston College who averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a junior. San Francisco transfer Mark Tollefson and skilled 7-footer Dusan Ristic give the Wildcats solid depth at both spots..
Best recruiting class: Cal. First Cuonzo Martin persuaded Rabb to stay close to his Oakland home for college. Then in one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 recruiting cycle, Martin got Brown to spurn numerous national powers to head West and join Rabb at Cal. Martin nearly got a third McDonald's All-American to join his program, but 6-foot-10 Caleb Swanigan eventually chose Purdue over the Bears and Michigan State this past spring. Regardless, this is already a potentially program-changing class for Cal.
Coach on the rise: Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State. Expected to be among the nation's worst power-conference programs last season, Oregon State instead emerged as a pleasant surprise. New coach Wayne Tinkle squeezed 17 wins out of a modestly talented roster by slowing the pace to a crawl and installing a stingy zone defense. Tinkle also simultaneously recruited the most highly touted class the Beavers had signed in years, raising hopes that Oregon State can end its 25-year NCAA tournament drought in the next year or two.
Coach on the hot seat: Three Pac-12 coaches face varying degrees of pressure to appease their respective fan bases this season. Stanford's Johnny Dawkins has only made the NCAA tournament once in seven seasons and graduated his three leading scorers from last year's NIT championship team. Washington's Lorenzo Romar hasn't made the NCAA tournament in four seasons but has begun to recruit at an elite level again. And USC's Andy Enfield has finished last in the Pac-12 both of his first two seasons, but boasts enough young talent to make a jump this winter.
FACTS AND FIGURES
New coaches: Bobby Hurley, Arizona State
Regular-season winner last season: Arizona
Tourney winner last season: Arizona
League RPI rank in each of past 3 seasons: 2014-15: 5th, 2013-14: 3rd, 2012-13: 6th
NCAA bids the past three seasons: 15 (Arizona 3, UCLA 3, Oregon 3, Colorado 2, Utah, Cal, Stanford, Arizona State)
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The only Iowa native on Augustana University's roster sank a memorable shot on Friday night to topple one of the prominent programs from his home state.
Daniel Jansen buried an off-balance 18-foot buzzer beater over ex-AAU teammate Adam Woodbury, lifting Augustana to a memorable 76-74 exhibition victory over an Iowa team that won 22 games last season and reached the NCAA tournament's round of 32.
Exhibition losses against lower-division opponents typically inspire panic in a fan base, but Iowa supporters should at least recognize that this wasn't the typical overmatched Division II team that upset the Hawkeyes. Augustana enters the new season ranked No. 1 in the NABC Division II Top 25 poll thanks to the return of five starters from a team that went 31-3 last season.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he scheduled Augustana because he knew the matchup would provide a barometer for where his team stands before it begins a difficult non-conference schedule that includes games against Iowa State, Florida State and Marquette. The Hawkeyes return four starters from last season but must replace leading scorer and rebounder Aaron White.
"There's two ways to look at this game," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told the Des Moines Register after the game. "You can schedule it or not, OK? We could have found a team that won eight games last year very easily. We scheduled a team that won 31 games. Most teams won't play them, OK? But I felt like we needed a game like this.
"We better play somebody good who is going to expose some of our weaknesses as opposed to you win by 25 and you don't really know where your weaknesses are yet."
Among the weaknesses Augustana exposed in Iowa were subpar rebounding and a glaring lack of depth.
Augustana built a 15-point second-half lead in part because it grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and converted them to 15 second-chance points. Forwards Jansen and Casey Schilling combined for 39 points and 15 rebounds.
Iowa relied almost exclusively on its starters to rally from that deficit and tie the game on a 3-pointer from Peter Jok with 28 seconds to go. Four of Iowa's five starters logged at least 31 minutes and Brady Ellingson was the only reserve to play more than 11 minutes off the bench.
Thus, while the outcome itself shouldn't inspire sky-is-falling-level alarm at Iowa, there certainly are a couple concerns to address. To enjoy another season as strong last year, the Hawkeyes need to get better play from their frontcourt and develop a capable bench.
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At age 68, Mike Krzyzewski has Duke's program in as strong a position as it has been at any point in his storied career.
The Blue Devils have reestablished themselves as college basketball's trendiest destination for elite recruits, not only propelling them to their fifth national title last spring but also thrusting them into championship contention for the foreseeable future.
Duke added to its already formidable 2016 recruiting class on Friday when Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect Harry Giles chose the Blue Devils over Kentucky, Kansas and Wake Forest.
Before partially tearing his ACL earlier this week, Giles had showcased all the tools an elite power forward should possess, from the size and toughness to defend and rebound in the post, to the quickness and athleticism to run the floor and guard on the perimeter, to the agility and skill to score in a multitude of ways. The 6-foot-10 native of Winston Salem, N.C., is among the favorites to be taken No. 1 in the 2017 NBA draft assuming he can show that he's fully recovered from his latest knee injury.
Securing a commitment from Giles likely will be enough for Duke to hold off Michigan State and Kentucky to claim the top spot in the 2016 recruiting rankings. Giles joins a class that already included three top 50 prospects — explosive wing Jayson Tatum (No. 3), point guard Frank Jackson (No. 10) and forward Javin DeLaurier (No. 41). Center Marques Bolden (No. 16) has not chosen a school yet but is also a Blue Devils target.
If Bolden also picks Duke, the Blue Devils would have four Rivals top 25 players in this class and 11 since 2014. To put that into perspective, fellow recruiting juggernaut Kentucky has seven so far in that span. Kansas and Arizona have four and North Carolina has just two.
Why has Duke become the chic program again in recruiting after swinging and missing on elite prospects like John Wall, Harrison Barnes, Greg Monroe and Shabazz Muhammad in previous years? There are a handful of factors that have contributed.
Krzyzewski's ability to leverage his role with USA Basketball has played a big role. The NBA's stars embracing and lauding Krzyzewski has only made playing for him more appealing to today's top prospects, as has the additional face time he has logged with high school players at the U-17, U-18 and U-19 levels.
The academic fraud scandal that has ensnared North Carolina certainly hasn't hurt either. The Tar Heels' pursuit of Brandon Ingram, Giles, Tatum and other one-and-done-caliber prospects was crippled by the threat of looming NCAA sanctions and a potential postseason ban.
But maybe the biggest reason for Duke's success is Krzyzewski's 2011 hire of ex-Blue Devils guard Jeff Capel as associate head coach. The former Oklahoma and VCU coach has shown a remarkable knack for building relationships with prospective recruits, spearheading the Blue Devils' pursuit of Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, among others.
Giles has a chance to be as good or better than any of his predecessors assuming his history of knee problems doesn't impede his development. He previously tore the ACL and MCL in his other knee the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, but he had fully recovered from that injury by this past summer when he led the U.S. in both scoring and rebounding en route to a gold medal at the U-19 World Championships.
With a full year to recover from his latest knee injury before Duke opens the 2016-17 season, Giles ought to be healthy enough to be a key contributor for a Duke program poised success.
The Blue Devils won the national championship last spring and enter the new season ranked in the top five. They could easily be preseason No. 1 the following year depending on what sort of roster attrition Kentucky, Michigan State and others endure.
So yes, life is good in Durham these days. At 68, Krzyzewski has never been more formidable.
Rivals.com video of Harry Giles:
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One of the leading contenders to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA draft has suffered his second major knee injury in the past three years.
Harry Giles, Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2016, will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a partially torn ACL in his right knee, Scout.com and ESPN.com reported Thursday. The 6-foot-10 forward suffered the injury just a few minutes into Oak Hill Academy's season opener on Tuesday night.
Giles previously tore the ACL and MCL in his other knee the summer between his freshman and sophomore year. He appeared to have fully recovered from that injury this summer when he led the U.S. in both scoring and rebounding en route to a gold medal at the U-19 World Championships.
This latest injury comes at a time when Giles is done with his college visits and is preparing to announce his choice. Duke has been the favorite to land Giles since this past summer when it nabbed his close friend and fellow elite recruit Jayson Tatum, but Kentucky, Kansas and hometown school Wake Forest are among the other finalists.
While NBA teams might be fearful of risking a high pick on a power forward with a history of recurring knee issues, Giles' second ACL tear certainly will not affect his college recruitment.
Duke, Kentucky, Wake Forest and Kansas would be just as elated to land Giles today as they would have been last week.
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There's only one positive Chris Mullin can take from his ignominious debut as head coach of his alma mater.
It didn't count in the standings.
Division II St. Thomas Aquinas walloped tradition-rich St. John's 90-58 on Wednesday night in what is easily the most eye-popping exhibition result of the new season. The Johnnies trailed by double figures less than six minutes into the game, by 16 at halftime and by 20 or more for most of the second half.
It's no mystery St. John's is headed for a rebuilding year after losing virtually every key player from a team that reached the NCAA tournament last March, but a 32-point loss to a little-known Division II program only reinforces how much of a struggle this season could be.
St. Thomas Aquinas is hardly a Division II powerhouse after all. In the 15 years since they joined Division II, the Spartans have never made the Division II NCAA tournament and have never won an outright league title. They went 21-11 last season and reached the title game of their conference tournament, but they also lost all three games they played against Division I competition by an average of 34 points apiece.
You'd have thought St. Thomas Aquinas was Kentucky or North Carolina on Wednesday from the beatdown the Spartans handed St. John's.
With freshman point guard Marcus LoVett on crutches on the sideline, the error-prone Johnnies could not handle St. Thomas Aquinas' trademark full-court pressure. They committed 27 turnovers and often seemed hesitant to attack the few times they did manage to beat the press.
Federico Mussini led St. John's with 16 points and Christian Jones added 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, but those were the only bright spots. Pittsburgh transfer Durand Johnson, who is expected to be one of the Johnnies' top players this season, finished with four points on 0-for-7 shooting.
Exhibition losses against lower-division teams typically receive a lot of attention, but history suggests they're just as often a fluke as a bad omen.
In 2009-10, a Syracuse team that lost 82-79 to LeMoyne won 24 of its first 25 games en route to a Big East title. In 2012-13, Miami fell 69-67 to St. Leo yet went on to enjoy its best season in school history, finishing 29-7, winning the ACC tournament and reaching the Sweet 16.
At the same time, Memphis' poor guard play in a humbling loss to Division II Christian Brothers last year was definitely a harbinger of things to come. The Tigers finished 18-14 and missed the postseason altogether mostly because they lacked a competent backcourt.
Unfortunately for St. John's, this outcome feels like a sign that this season will be rough.
It's one thing to lose to a high-quality Division II program by a basket or two. It's another to fall by 32 points.
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Northwest Christian may be the only college basketball team this season to arrive at a game in a stretch limo.
Coach Luke Jackson hired a Cadillac Escalade limosine to transport his team to its exhibition game against neighboring Oregon on Tuesday night. Oregon's Matthew Knight Arena is less than a mile from Northwest Christian's campus.
"I just thought it would be a fun way to reward the guys for their hard work," Jackson, a former all-Pac-12 forward at Oregon, told Yahoo Sports. "A game like this, we're just trying to keep it close and give Oregon a chance to fine tune things as they get ready to play some better competition. We thought this would be a good way to keep it fun and loose and treat the guys to something fun."
While the limo ride and the chance to challenge themselves against a high-profile opponent may have been exciting for Northwest Christian, the game itself was humbling for the nation's 12th ranked Division II NAIA team. Oregon overcame the absence of its starting point guard and center with ease and rolled to a 92-44 rout of Jackson's Northwest Christian team.
To Jackson, the game served as a teachable moment. His team had its weaknesses exposed by superior competition, which should provide motivation in practice in the coming days. And Jackson was reminded that pregame limo rides are perfect for exhibition games but too distracting for contests that count in the standings.
"I think it might have caused them to forget about the game plan," he quipped. "I don't think we'll take a limo to any other games this season. We'll be taking the team bus."
(Thanks for the photo, @roxybernstein)
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