Atlantic Sun Conference tournament preview

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Belmont’s off to the Ohio Valley next season, which means the Bruins get to spend their final two seasons in the A-Sun dominating the league (35-3 vs. conference foes) and then trying not to stumble in the conference tournament for that automatic bid.

And where will they try to clinch the tournament title this season? At Mercer, which finished tied for second in the regular-season standings.

That’s what you call stress. And drama!


Where: University Center, Macon, Ga.
When: Feb. 29-March 3
Final: March 3, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Kerrion Johnson, Belmont
: The Bruins’ junior point guard has no shortage of options around him (5.2 apg) and can score himself (14.0 ppg). Little wonder Belmont’s offense thrives with him.

Ian Clark, Belmont: Sure, this could be Ian Clark or Drew Hanlon, but the 6-3 junior is more reliable with the ball and  better at creating scoring options for others. Himself, too (12.4 ppg).

Langston Hall, Mercer: A 6-4 sophomore who rarely comes off the floor, Hall leads the Bears in scoring (11.3 ppg) and assists (4.0 apg).

Torrey Craig, South Carolina Upstate: The conference’s leading scorer puts up 17 points a night and is the focal point of the offense. In a bigger league, the 6-6 sophomore would be an undersized forward. Not here.

Favorite: Belmont. Rick Byrd’s team has owned this league the last two years. The Bruins are an overwhelming favorite because of their depth, skill and style of play. Few A-Sun teams can handle them. Plus, Belmont isn’t getting an at-large berth if it doesn’t win. This is a team that’ll come in focused and ready.

And if they lose? Mercer. That’s an easy call, too. The tournament’s hosts have lost twice to Belmont this season, but by a combined five points, including last week’s 62-61 home loss. The Bears have lost three of their last four, but two were on the road. If the home crowd can help them through some rough patches, the Bears will be tough.

Sleepers: S.C. Upstate tied with Mercer for second and has the league’s leading scorer in Torrey Craig. But the odds of them reaching the championship aren’t great. If they get there, they are one of the two teams to have beaten Belmont, though. Lipscomb is the other, but it’ll be lucky to win one game.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

PHOTO: Baylor shows off new uniforms

Scott Drew
Associated Press
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Wednesday afternoon the Baylor basketball program sent out some images of its uniform combinations for the upcoming season, and the volt color way that first made a splash in 2012 is back. Baylor’s got four different uniforms it can wear this season: home (white), away (green) and two alternate uniforms.

While there is some volt green in each of the four uniforms, its presence is relatively tame compared to the uniforms Scott Drew’s program wore back in 2012. Of course those uniforms were part of adidas’ AdiZero uniform release (Baylor is now outfitted by Nike), with two other schools (Cincinnati and Louisville) wearing colorful uniforms with shorts that had “interesting” patterns on them.

While some of the new uniform designs in college sports have received some pushback from fans and alums, this stuff is about the players and recruits programs look to land for the future. Everyone likes free stuff, and when it comes to apparel for young athletes having something that’s both free and “exclusive” is seen as a positive.

Pressure is on new coach Steve Prohm at Iowa State

Steve Prohm
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AMES, Iowa (AP) Five months ago, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm was the coach at mid-major Murray State. Now he’s in charge of one of the big favorites in the Big 12.

Prohm officially began his first season in charge of the Cyclones on Tuesday with the team’s annual media day.

Iowa State has all the pieces to make a run at the league title and more – provided that Prohm can handle coaching college basketball at the highest level, of course.

In the minds of Prohm’s players, the Cyclones have nothing to worry about.

“Coach (Prohm) is in here earning our trust and our respect every day,” said senior forward Georges Niang. “Even though he’s not trying to cross any of our toes, he puts his foot down when he needs to and lets us know that stuff needs to get done. I think he has a great combination of how to keep us motivated…and still be stern and be able to get the most out of us.”

Fred Hoiberg’s departure for the Chicago Bulls after five mostly successful seasons gave Prohm a shot at a national title. The roster Hoiberg left behind for Prohm is loaded.

Niang, a likely preseason first-team All-American, second-team All-Big 12 point guard Monte Morris and league defensive player of the year Jameel McKay headline one of the nation’s most talented starting units. Throw in veterans like Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and transfer Deonte Burton, and Prohm might just have the best roster a new Power Five coach has inherited since Bill Guthridge took over for Dean Smith at North Carolina in 1997.

Guthridge reached the Final Four with his first team.

Prohm isn’t shying away from the notion that Iowa State is among the handful of teams with serious national title aspirations.

“Yeah, they’re realistic,” Prohm said when asked about the sky-high expectations for this year’s team. “I think we have the opportunity to have a very special season.”

The similarities between what type of styles Prohm and Hoiberg use was cited as a big reason why Iowa State hired him. Hoiberg even lobbied for Prohm to athletic director Jamie Pollard during the hiring process.

To that end, Prohm is going to let his players have a ton of input on how they play. Prohm doesn’t plan many changes, just tweaks that mostly involve techniques to improve Iowa State’s somewhat inconsistent rebounding and defense.

“I don’t need to say, `This is the way we’re doing things guys because this is the way I did it.’ That’s stupid,” Prohm said. “I need to meet these guys halfway.”

Prohm also acknowledged that he’ll be doing quite a bit of learning himself this season. But Prohm said he intends to embrace the unique opportunity he’s been afforded.

“This is a great situation to walk into. No question,” Prohm said. “Is there pressure? Yeah. But who wants a job with no pressure?”