spt-120218-kstate

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.

Four-star PG Jaylen Fisher de-commits from UNLV

Getty Images
Kelly Kline/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Coaching changes can wreak havoc on a program’s recruiting class, and that’s been the case for UNLV thanks to the tumultuous nature of their search for a new head coach. Thursday evening one prospect who remained committed to the Mountain West program throughout the process that ultimately led to Marvin Menzies landing the job announced that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.

Four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, announced via social media that he’s decided to de-commit from UNLV.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a Rebel this year,” Fisher wrote. “But there have been a lot of changes with the program since I committed to UNLV; changes that have made me reconsider whether UNLV is still a good fit for me. So with that in mind and after much consideration with my family, I have decided it’s best that I reopen my recruitment.”

Fisher’s decision leaves wing Justin Jackson as the lone member of UNLV’s 2016 class at this point, with Jackson telling Scout.com in early April that he was undecided as to whether or not he’d reopen his recruitment. The school’s search for a coach began in January when they parted ways with Dave Rice, promoting Todd Simon in an interim role.

After deciding not to retain Simon, who’s now the head coach at Southern Utah, UNLV hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard…who left for Texas Tech less than two weeks later. UNLV landed Menzies, who they passed over for Beard, and he’s got a lot of work to do to field a roster that will be competitive in the Mountain West next season.

As for Fisher, the Arlington, Tennessee native should be a popular prospect with his decision to reopen things. And with Memphis losing former commit Charlie Moore, the Tigers are in need of help at the point. The question now is whether or not new head coach Tubby Smith will look to reach out to Fisher.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal

NCAA rule change that impacts Memphis coaching staff now official

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Leave a comment

One of the more popular topics in college basketball in recent weeks was the status of Memphis assistant coach Keelon Lawson and sons Dedric and K.J. in the aftermath of the school hiring Tubby Smith. Would Smith keep the elder Lawson on staff as an assistant, thus in all likelihood ensuring that Dedric and K.J. would return as well? Would he let go or attempt to reassign Keelon, and as a result risk losing two players from an already limited roster?

Ultimately Smith decided to reassign Keelon to a non-coaching position, making him director of player development. And with the NCAA having a rule that those with a connection to a prospective student-athlete had to serve in a coaching capacity for the player’s first two seasons, the question was whether or not Memphis would need a waiver to pull off the move.

Luckily for Memphis the NCAA was looking into an alteration of the rule, and on Thursday with the NCAA not taking action on Proposal 2015-30 the change became official.

Under the new rule a coach’s two years on staff would begin immediately upon his arrival. In the case of Lawson this is key as he spent a year on former Memphis head coach Josh Pastner’s staff before Dedric and K.J. enrolled. With the two-year requirement ruled to be served under the new proposal, Smith could reassign Keelon Lawson without having to ask the NCAA for a waiver.

The next step as far as Memphis is concerned is Dedric, who ultimately entered his name into the NBA Draft pool (without an agent), withdrawing and returning to school for his sophomore season. As a freshman Dedric was the best freshman in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers. DraftExpress.com currently ranks him 28th amongst college freshmen, which makes him no sure thing to be drafted should he decide to stay in the draft.

At the very least the next month should result in Dedric receiving constructive feedback from NBA scouts and executives that he can use to improve next season.

K.J. played in just ten games last season due to a lingering Achilles tendon issue, averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The hope is that K.J. will be granted a medical redshirt for last season, thus preserving a year of eligibility.

Chattanooga men’s hoop coach McCall gets 2-year extension

Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) Chattanooga men’s basketball coach Matt McCall has received a two-year contract extension after leading the Mocs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in his debut season.

The school announced the extension Thursday. McCall’s contract now runs through the 2021-22 season.

Chattanooga went 29-6 last season to set a school record for victories. The Mocs captured their first Southern Conference regular-season title since 1994 and also won the league’s postseason tournament to earn their first NCAA bid since 2009.

Indiana beat Chattanooga 99-74 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Athletic director David Blackburn said in a statement, “We had great confidence in who we hired a year ago, and that never wavered. This is in recognition of him and his staff’s great work in equipping our student-athletes for success.”

Jim Valvano’s title-winning N.C. State team to finally get White House visit

FILE - In this April 5, 1983, file photo, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano embraces sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles moments after Charles had dunked a shot to give North Carolina State the win over Houston in the national championship game at the Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
(AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
4 Comments

The N.C. State men’s basketball team never got invited to the White House after they won the 1983 National Title.

It wasn’t a tradition in those days. They spoke with President Ronald Reagan, but they did so from the confines of a television studio in Raleigh. It’s commonplace now to see title winners from all sports making their way to the Oval Office to shake hands with our nation’s leader, but back then, the funding and invitation weren’t always available.

And that never say right with the guys on that team. Since Lorenzo Charles, whose memorable dunk was the title-winning bucket, passed away in 2011, that team has had a reunion every spring, and the topic of going to the White House to celebrate the win always came up. That inspired Thurl Bailey, who was the No. 7 pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, and his friend, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, to write letters to President Obama requesting that the ’83 iteration of the Wolfpack get their White House visit.

“As definitive as a National Championship sounds, as an athlete there always seems to be unfinished business,” Bailey told N.C. State’s website. “You’re always looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity. This was it for me.  If I could get this done, it would be yet another story for me and the other members of that team to be able to pass along to our kids, grandkids and generations after that.”

Bailey’s efforts proved successful.

On Thursday, N.C. State announced that President Obama had not only received the letters, but he has issued a May 9th invitation for that 1983 team to visit him in Washington, D.C., meaning that Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and the rest of that 1983 title-winning team will finally get to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

“The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am,” Bailey said. “Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long.”

Los Angeles to host new college basketball doubleheader

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) A new men’s basketball doubleheader will be played in Los Angeles featuring Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga and Southern California.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the one-day event, to be played at Staples Center on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats will play the Zags and the Cougars will face the Trojans.

Tickets will go on sale May 4. Game times and television broadcast information will be announced later.