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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 JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky