Northeast Conference tournament preview

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The most commonly used saying when talking about basketball during the month of March is “if seeding holds”.

Its how we predict what the best matchups will be. Its how us media folks try and build our schedules during the month. Its how ESPN tries to predict which games it will broadcast. Think about it like this: if seeding holds, than I am going to have a great time covering the Final Four for the CAA Tournament.

I got a feeling that in the NEC Tournament, seeding is not going to hold. One reason? The conference is deep. Seven teams finished with double figures wins. They had three teams finish the regular season with more than 20 wins. That’s rare when you play in a league where guarantee games make up a large portion of the regular season. Another reason? The computers don’t love favorite LIU. John Templon of NYC Buckets has been running tournament projections for a number of conferences, and LIU only made the finals in just over half of his projections. Wagner, his computer suggests, in the favorite while three-seed Robert Morris won the tournament almost a third of the time.

Games aren’t played in a calculator, but if the numbers are right — and, quite often, they are — this is going to be en exciting tournament to follow.

The Bracket

Where: Campus sites

When: March 1st-March 7th

Final: March 7th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN

Favorite: Long Island

LIU is the reigning tournament champion. They won the conference this season. They have the league player of the year on their roster. This group can play, and they proved over and over again during the year. There is also adequate reason for impartial fans to root for the Blackbirds: this team plays at the third-fastest pace in the country. They get up and down the floor, and is there anything better than watching a talented basketball team let its athletes get out in the open court and make plays?

And if they lose?: Wagner

The sentimental pick is an easy one. In 2010, Wagner won just five games. Now? They are 24-5 after finishing second in the NEC with a league record of 15-3. Their head coach is Danny Hurley, the brother of Duke legend Bobby Hurley and the son of famed New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, who has built St. Anthony into a powerhouse. Wagner is an aggressive defensive team that thrives on forcing turnovers. Two things to consider: the Seahawks won at Pitt this year, but they went 0-2 against LIU.

Sleepers: Robert Morris finished the season in third and, like Wagner, they are a stalwart defensive team. They are also the best rebounding team in the conference. Most telling, however, is that Bobby Mo has been the NEC’s tournament representative a handful of times recently. This group won’t be intimidated by the pressure of a knockout tournament. Quinnipiac and St. Francis (NY) are also worth keeping an eye on.

Studs:

Julian Boyd, LIU: The NEC’s POY this season, Boyd is a versatile and strong 6’7″ forward that will remind some folks of Rob Jones of St. Mary’s.

Kyle Vinales, Ken Horton and Bobby Ptacek, CCSU: These three all average more than 17.6 ppg and sit in the league’s top four in scoring. How often do you see that at the Division I level?

Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart: Playing on a team without many offensive options, Gibson averaged 22.0 ppg without turning into a gunner. He shot 43.6% from three and had the ninth-highest efficiency rating of any player in the country that used at least 28% of his team’s possessions.

Velton Jones, RMU: Jones is the engine that makes Bobby Mo go. He’s a terrific on-ball defender and a dangerous penetrator and creator.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson throws down a vicious putback

(YouTube)
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Zion Williamson made another highlight-reel play on Saturday outside of Atlanta as he threw down a vicious putback dunk at the Best of the South.

The five-star prospect has returned from a minor knee injury this spring to look like his old self in July as he’s entertained packed gyms of fans and college coaches the last two weeks.

The Class of 2018 star is currently regarded as the No. 3 overall prospect in the latest Rivals.com national rankings.

(h/t: Courtside Films)

Five-star 2018 point guard Darius Garland cuts list to six schools

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Five-star Class of 2018 point guard Darius Garland revealed the final six schools that he’s considering on Friday.

The N0. 12 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, the 6-foot-0 Garland is one of the top floor generals in the nation as he is still considering Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Vanderbilt.

A native of Nashville, Garland is a potentially elite perimeter threat at the college level as he’s one of the more deadly three-point marksmen in the nation.

Garland spent this spring and summer playing with Bradley Beal Elite in the Nike EYBL as he averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 assists per game in the league this spring.

VIDEO: Kentucky’s John Calipari participates in the #DriveByDunkChallenge

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The #DriveByDunkChallenge is sweeping the nation on social media this summer.

Rules to participate are pretty simple:

  1. Drive around in your vehicle.
  2. Find a basketball hoop (or a basketball ring if you’re Ted Cruz) on a random driveway.
  3. Run out of your car and dunk on that random hoop while a friend films.
  4. Run back to your car and drive away.

Let Anthony Davis show you how it works:

Pretty simple, right?

The #DriveByDunkChallenge isn’t raising money or awareness for ALS like the #IceBucketChallenge did three years ago, but it’s something harmless and fun to do to pass the time during the dog days of summer.

Sensing an opportunity to join an Internet craze, while also following in the footsteps of his former player Kentucky star, Wildcats head coach John Calipari got involved with his own dunk late Friday night.

And his video is much funnier than I thought it would be.

While most #DriveByDunkChallenge videos are done by healthy and spry teenagers who are cruising neighborhoods during the day, Calipari, and his hip replacement, got in on the fun with a late-night dunk.

I love that Calipari ditched the ball behind his back while running back to the car after the dunk.

Most people who participate in the challenge usually have their own ball and keep it with them through completion. But Calipari either picked up a random ball in the driveway or just he lost the handle with his own ball and had a turnover.

The next time Calipari goes hard on one of his point guards for losing control and playing too fast, remember this moment.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas posterizes defender

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Creighton rising junior wing Khyri Thomas, like several of his teammates, are taking part in the Omaha Summer League this offseason.

On Thursday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Thomas eviscerated a defender with a one-handed posterization.

Thomas is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign for the Bluejays. He started all 35 games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Aside from the increase in offensive production, Thomas served as one of the top defenders in the Big East. He shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award with Villanova’s Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges.

Zion Williamson throws down 360 windmill dunk

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Zion Williamson added another jaw-dropping dunk in the layup lines on the first night of the second live evaluation period.

Williamson and his SC Supreme team took on Each 1 Teach 1 at the Hoopseen Best of the South at the LakePoint Sporting Community in greater Atlanta.

The 6-foot-7 power forward threw down a 360 windmill dunk during his pregame routines.

Each 1 Teach 1 would pick up a 70-67 victory over SC Supreme. Williamson would end with a monster stat line of 37 points and seven rebounds.