Anatomy of a meaningless game: Georgia Tech-Wake Forest

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source: AP

On more than one occasion in my life, I have walked into a movie theatre with preconceived notions about the film I was about to see, negative impressions, perhaps of a clichéd romantic comedy or over-budgeted, testosterone-driven action flick.

The resulting feeling is a preeminent dissatisfaction with the movie, really before there is any justifiable reason for such a sentiment. So there I would sit, wading through the first few minutes, searching for evidence that could confirm my beliefs.

That same feeling arose within me on Thursday night as I tuned in to watch Georgia Tech against Wake Forest, a battle of the two worst teams in the ACC, sporting a combined conference record of 4-17.

As the Wake Forest pep band wheezed some song that I couldn’t quite pin a name on and these two bottom-dwelling teams prepared for the tip, I was anticipating the first sloppy turnover, errant pass, or unabashed airball to say to myself, “See? I was right. This is what basketball is like at the bottom of the ACC.”

But the Yellow Jackets and the Demon Deacons made me wait—at least for one minute and twenty-six seconds.

Like the first few introductory minutes of any bad movie, I couldn’t dislike Georgia Tech’s first play. They came out with energy. They moved the ball around. Mfon Udofia buried an open three from the top of the key.

But then, like when the dialogue in a movie takes it’s first dive into the unbearable, Georgia Tech did not disappoint.

Udofia, two possessions after hitting that three-pointer, swung the ball around to a teammate, though the “teammate” turned out to be the referee who was standing out of bounds. Turnover.

One possession after that, a block by Daniel Miller was negated when forward Kammeon Hosley double-dribbled in transition. Make that two Tech turnovers.

It seemed like an all-around problem.

As Travis McKie stepped to the line for Wake Forest, the camera angle showed the seats behind him at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which were sparsely populated.

The realization of the inconsequential nature of this game may even have spread to the broadcast crew.

Midway through the first half, the broadcasters named their sponsorship-mandated “O’Charley’s Fan of the Game.”

Before I reveal the big winner, some quick background info on O’Charley’s, whose website boldly proclaims that they “Put the ‘Ohs” in ‘Good Food’.”

It seems to be an establishment concentrated in the South and Midwest, looking like your typical chain restaurant. They’ve got some deals for you and a date. Probably could get away with a solid $30 meal for two.

Anyway, the O’Charley’s Fan of the Game was a three-year-old Wake Forest fan with a tie-dyed shirt on and, despite his inherent cuteness as a kid who looked like me when I was his age, it raised another question.

We couldn’t find any emphatic Wake Forest student to be the Fan of the Game? There was no 24-year-old Super Senior with his face painted, holding up an ironic handcrafted sign?

This must be what basketball is like at the bottom of the ACC.

The teams combined to shoot 14-of-55 from the floor in the first half and Wake Forest led by seven, 24-17, at the break.

I began to think back to what a matchup like this would have looked like close to 10 years ago.

In 2003-04, Chris Paul was a freshman at Wake Forest. He averaged nearly 14 points and six assists per game. Jarrett Jack led the Yellow Jackets to the Final Four and lost in the national title game to Connecticut.

Now Chris Paul is in “Lob City” with Blake Griffin and the only lob I saw in this game hit off the rim for a turnover. Jack is in New Orleans, chasing his dream of becoming a rodeo clown (at least according to Will Ferrell).

In all fairness, both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are rebuilding. Tech, in their first year since Paul Hewitt left for George Mason, has a core of young players and a 2012 recruiting class headed by big man Robert Carter.

Wake Forest has a six-man class coming in 2012, including Top 100 prospect Codi Miller-McIntyre.

But looking that far ahead is like expecting the sequel to be worthwhile, all while you struggle through the movie that plays in front of you.

The second half brought more back-and-forth runs and more effort, which kept me in it until the end. Put this way: I didn’t walk out of the theatre, more based on principle than anything else. I figured I’d give it until the end, just to see how it finished out.

With 41 seconds left and Georgia Tech down six, Yellow Jacket guard Jason Morris drove the lane and kicked it out to coach Brian Gregory, who was standing on the sidelines, out of bounds. It was the 14th turnover of the night. Maybe I should have left.

Wake Forest went on to get the win, 59-50, behind 33% shooting from the floor.

GT-Wake II is slated for March 3rd in Georgia. I’ll be tuned in for that one, too.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Louisville’s Deng Adel and Ray Spalding to test draft process

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A season that began with the firing of Rick Pitino in mid-October came to an end Tuesday night, as Louisville lost to Mississippi State 79-56 in a Postseason NIT regional final. There are a lot of questions to be answered, most notably who will lead the program moving forward after interim head coach David Padgett led the Cardinals to 22 wins.

As for the players, two announced following the loss that they will be going through the NBA Draft process. Junior wing Deng Adel and junior forward Ray Spalding both confirmed that they will be entering the NBA Draft but not hiring agents, so as to preserve their collegiate eligibility should they decide to return to school.

This will be the second time that Adel has entered the NBA Draft, doing so last spring before making the decision to return to school.

Playing just over 33 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8 Adel averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. Moving into the starting lineup after serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, the 6-foot-10 Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

Mississippi State advances to NIT semifinals at MSG

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Mississippi State advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York with a 79-56 victory over Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State (25-11) will face Penn State (24-13) on March 27.

Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Mississippi State led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.

Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for Mississippi State, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon each chipped in with 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.

Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.

Gregg Marshall does right by Alex Lomax with NLI release

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Memphis introduced Penny Hardaway as its new head coach Tuesday morning, with the former Tiger great and Memphis native making his triumphant return to campus.

And it didn’t take long for Hardaway’s hiring to have an impact on the recruiting trail either, as the point guard who led Hardaway’s Memphis East squad to its third straight TSSAA AAA state title is expected to play for his longtime mentor.

Alex Lomax, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, requested to be released from his NLI on Tuesday. It didn’t take Marshall long to make his decision, granting Lomax’s request and citing the unique circumstances in his statement as to why.

“Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the 5th grade has become a Division I head coach,” Marshall said. “Allowing him out of his NLI without any penalty is the right thing to do.”

The National Letter of Intent, for those who may not be too familiar with it, is a document that when signed binds the recruit in question to the school they’ve committed to. If the circumstances surrounding the recruitment change, getting released from the NLI can be incredibly difficult. Coaches and universities have no obligation to release a recruit once they sign, and it seems like every year we run into a situation where a coach is refusing to so.

Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham is only a senior this season because, after signing an NLI with Appalachian State, he was not given a release and forced to go to prep school for a year. That’s not as uncommon as you might think.

That is also perfectly within the bounds of the rules, if not the laws of being a decent human being.

Wichita State and Marshall could have taken this opportunity to make life miserable for Lomax, and there would have been those who rushed to say that since the young man made a commitment he should stick by it no matter what. Lomax was a noteworthy recruiting win for the program during its first season in the American Athletic Conference, as the Wichita State went into Memphis and landed a pledge from a prospect who was likely to be a key part of the program’s plans moving forward.

But the hit that comes with allowing Lomax to leave without fuss is far less severe than what happens if Wichita State and Marshall make things difficult for him.

Faced with the opportunity to do the right thing and help out a young player, Marshall and Wichita State did just that.

The program should, and will, be applauded for it.

Stevens’ 30 points leads Penn State past Marquette in NIT

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face either Mississippi State or Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey’s missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Report: Joseph Chartouny to transfer from Fordham

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After three seasons at Fordham, guard Joseph Chartouny will be leaving the school to play his final year elsewhere. News of Chartouny’s transfer was reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and the 6-foot-3 guard from Montreal will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

Chartouny made 28 starts for the Rams this season, averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Leading the nation in both total steals and steals per game, Chartouny was an Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection.

In three seasons at Fordham Chartouny, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Given his abilities as a defender and a distributor, Chartouny stands to be a popular player amongst programs looking to add an immediately eligible contributor who also has ample experience at the Division I level.

With Chartouny reportedly moving on, Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has a significant hole to fill in his backcourt rotation for 2018-19.

Transfers Antwon Portley (Saint Peters’s) and Erten Gazi (DePaul) will be eligible next season, with reserve Cavit Havsa set to be a junior next season. Fordham’s also landed three perimeter recruits in its 2018 class, with three-star point guard Nick Honor among that trio.