Recapping your college hoops Saturday

Leave a comment

Winners

Kansas State: It seems like decades ago at this point, but back when the sun was still shining on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats landed the biggest win of the day by going into Waco and knocking off No. 9 Baylor 57-56. Coming in, the Wildcats had lost four of their last six games and found themselves sitting squarely on the bubble. With a trip to Missouri and a date with Iowa State still to come on their Big 12 schedule, a loss here could have been a step towards a losing record in league play. Instead, Frank Martin’s team picked up their second win of the year over a top ten team.

Washington: Terrence Ross had 25 points and Tony Wroten went for 22 as the Huskies picked up a 79-70 win over Arizona at home on Saturday. With the loss, Arizona drops two games behind UW and Cal — who beat Oregon State this afternoon — and essentially finds themselves in a position where they are going to have to win the Pac-12’s automatic bid to go dancing. This certainly isn’t the kind of win that will lock up a bid for the Huskies, but its another step in the right direction. We are starting to see some separation in the league standings — if Cal can beat Colorado, the Huskies and the Bears will own a two-game lead on the field — which is likely what will need to happen for this to become a two-bid league.

Xavier: The Musketeers picked up a thrilling, 86-83 overtime win over Dayton thanks to 31 points, five boards and five assists from Tu Holloway, who once again came through with the heroics. Xavier remains in third place in the Atlantic 10 standings — Dayton falls to eighth — with enough juice on their resume to keep them feeling pretty good about their bubble standing. If Xavier wants to cement a bid, they have to win at St. Louis and at UMass.

Butler: You simply can never count out the Bulldogs. Ever. After trudging their way through the first three months of the season, Butler had the country writing them off. Then they went into Youngstown State and won. A win at Cleveland State followed. After beating Loyola (IL), Butler blasted Indiana State 75-54 in their BracketBusters matchup. They are currently tied for this in the Horizon League standings. Is anyone going to bet against this team in March? Anyone?

Murray State: I knew the Racers were for real. I didn’t need to see anymore evidence. And after the No. 16 Racers beat the pants off of No. 21 St. Mary’s 65-61, you shouldn’t need to see anymore, either. Murray State has two tough road games left and still has to play in the OVC Tournament. All this team needs to do to ensure a trip to the Big Dance is to avoid losing three games the rest of the season.

Northwestern: John Shurna set Northwestern’s career scoring record as he led the Wildcats to a 64-53 win over Minnesota in a game that some had termed an elimination game. Now sitting at 6-8 in the Big Ten, Northwestern will likely need to go 3-1 down the stretch to have a real shot. In that mix are home games with Michigan and Ohio State. They need to win one of them.

The CAA: In a normal bubble year, no one in the CAA would be deserving of at-large consideration at this point. That said, this isn’t a normal bubble year, which means that the strength of the top four in the league could, theoretically, push someone into an at-large bid, most likely Drexel. The league helped their cause on Saturday, as the Dragons beat Cleveland State 69-49, George Mason beat Lamar 75-71 and Old Dominion won at Missouri State 73-67. Throw in VCU’s win on Friday night, and its wonder this group is surging.

Notre Dame: The No. 23 Irish aren’t really a winner as much as they are the practitioners of one of the best comebacks of the season. Down by 20 in the second half, the Irish woke up and made a late run to force overtime. In the extra frame, Patrick Connaughton hit a pair of threes as Notre Dame took control. The final score was 74-70. Connaughton had seven threes on the afternoon.

Losers

Mississippi State: I’m done with the Bulldogs. Until they prove something, until they beat someone of consequence, I’m ignoring them. Well, maybe I termed that wrong. When they don’t lose to one of the bad teams in the SEC, I’ll start paying attention again. The Bulldogs lost to Auburn 65-55 on Saturday, which followed up losses to Georgia and LSU. As of now, Mississippi State is getting very, very close to the bubble’s cut line.

The WCC: Believe it or not, the 65-51 loss that No. 21 St. Mary’s suffered at No. 16 Murray State may not turn out to be as bad as we thought it would be. Why? Because the loss vaulted the Gaels back into first place in the conference standings thanks to No. 24 Gonzaga’s 66-65 loss at San Francisco. The Gaels currently sit a game up with two games left — both are on the road for St. Mary’s — which could end up being just the spark the Gaels need to turn this season around.

San Diego State: The No. 13 Aztecs simply had no answer for Michael Lyons, who went for 27 points, in a 58-56 win for Air Force. The loss is the third in a row for SDSU, which — thanks to UNLV’s loss at New Mexico — pushes them into a tie for second place in the standings, two games off the pace set by UNM. Of note: Jamaal Franklin’s ankle is bad enough that he didn’t play.

Conference USA: CUSA is definitely starting to feel the crunch of the bubble bursting. On Saturday, Memphis blew a 13 point lead at home before losing to UTEP 60-58. The Miners are not a quality team this season, which is what makes this loss so problematic. Memphis doesn’t have enough good wins to weigh it out. Southern Miss also lost on Saturday, this one coming at Houston 73-71. While the two teams are now still tied for first in the conference, they are now both facing some potential bubble issues heading into the Selection Sunday.

Mercer: The Bears suffered a devastating, 81-75 loss to Jacksonville on Saturday, who sits at just 5-11 in Atlantic Sun play. The Bears? They were 12-2, the same as Belmont coming in. The Bruins won handily. The real loser is us, however. Belmont and Mercer play on the last day of the season. I was hoping the game would take place when the two teams were tied for his.

Illinois: This team is just an embarrassment now. They are getting picked on enough, so I’ll leave Illinois alone for now. But I will say this: the game after your coach says that his career in Champaign is just about done you need to do more than lose to Nebraska 80-57. That’s bad.

Bucknell: Holy Cross jumped out to a 20-4 lead and led 28-10 at halftime, a deficit that was too big for Bucknell to overcome. Combine that with wins by Lehigh and American, and all of a sudden the Bison are sitting just a game up in the Patriot League standings.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1 Comment

Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
1 Comment

Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.