'First Four' on TruTV may be brilliant move


The NCAA must’ve wanted to avoid more outrage.

It tried to please everyone by settling on its format for the 68-team tournament next year. The “First Four” will feature the lowest seeds and the last at-large qualifiers in games that will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Big Dance begins.

Tony Ding/AP

This year, that might’ve meant games between Virginia Tech and Illinois, or Minnesota and Mississippi State. Perhaps Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop, along with Lehigh and East Tennessee State would’ve faced off in the others. Is that better? Worse? Hard to say. Only thing for certain is that it lets fans watch more games. (So it’s not all bad, no matter the matchups.)

Whether you love it, hate it, think it’s lame, or think the solution was the only logical thing to do, there’s only one thing to do: Get used to it.

“You’re not going to come up with the perfect model,” outgoing committee chair Dan Guerrero said. “You’re not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there. But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament.”

Many coaches are satisfied with the solution (though Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg is not one of them), which has its pros and cons – Matt Norlander does an excellent breakdown of ’em.

The strangest move may be where the games will be broadcast: TruTV. Yes, TruTV, formerly known as Court TV, the place I turned to in college to solve my insomnia.

I suppose that’s one way to boost the tournament’s “reach” among average viewers, given that TruTV is in roughly 93 million households, while ESPN and ESPN2 are both in about 100 million. College hoops fans will seek out the “First Four” games on a different network, while I doubt TruTV viewers would’ve changed to ESPN, which is where the play-in game has been shown the last few years.

To recap: The Big Dance expands to 68 teams in 2011 and features four first-round games that will be shown on a non-sports network. Times do change.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.