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MAAC conference tournament preview

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Back in October, the MAAC looked like a two-team league. Iona and Fairfield were both stocked with talent, both homegrown and of the transfer variety, and had some pundits speculating that this could feasibly turn into a two-bid — if not three-bid, WCC-in-2008-style — conference by the end of the season.

Alas, it didn’t happen.

Fairfield started off the season slowly, had a run late in the year but saw any real hope of an NCAA Tournament run dashed when point guard Derek Needham went down for the season with a broken foot. Iona had a promising start to the year but they dropped two winnable games — by winnable, I mean games in which the held an 18 point lead, one of which was with eight minutes left in the game — that essentially ended any real shot they had of putting together a resume strong enough to deserve at-large consideration.

But here’s the thing: just because the MAAC isn’t going to be sending two teams to the NCAA Tournament doesn’t mean that there isn’t talent in this league. Because there is. Loyola (MD) had a banner year for that program, Steve Masiello turned around Manhattan quicker than anyone thought possible and Siena can claim wins over Fairfield, Iona and Manhattan.

The Bracket

Where: Springfield, MS

When: March 2rd-March 5th

Final: March 5th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

Favorite: Iona

Would it be anyone other than Iona at this point? The Gaels are easily the most talented team in the MAAC. Scott Machado is an NBA caliber point guard, Momo Jones and Mike Glover are transfers from high-major programs and there are a number athletes and/or shooters filling out the roster. Iona can score with the best of them. They push the ball and allow Machado to make decisions; he may be the only point guard in the country that is a better passer than Kendall Marshall. The issue with the Gaels is defense, but in the MAAC, if they are clicking offensively, no one is going to be able to keep up with them regardless of the defense they are playing.

And if they lose?: Loyola (MD)

The Greyhounds did not end the season very well. They lost three of their last six games heading into the postseason. The good news? The three wins they had in that stretch came against Iona, at Manhattan and against a Boston U team that finished third in the America East. What does that mean? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it certainly means that while they are capable of losing on any given night, Jimmy Patsos’ team can beat anybody.

Sleepers: I don’t think Fairfield is going to make much noise. They’ve had a disappointing year and will be playing without their star point guard. I do, however, envision Manhattan being a nuisance. Masiello has himself a star in 6’4″ George Beamon and enough talent surrounding him that the Jaspers almost certainly make some noise. That is, if they can get past Siena in the first round.

Studs:

Scott Machado, Iona: I think the best story about Machado is that his first name is actually Michael, but he grew up a Knicks fan in the 90’s and refused to share a name with Jordan.

George Beamon, Manhattan: I don’t think there is a player in the conference that is as important to his team as Beamon is. Without him, who scores?

Mike Glover, Iona: Yeah, I’m going with two different Iona players in the studs category. Its because they are. The man’s nickname is ‘Optimus Prime’ and he averages 18.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg. You don’t need me to tell you he’s a stud.

O.D. Anosike, Siena: The nation’s leader in double-doubles — well, Divison I leader — Onisike has had just one game this season where he didn’t get either double-figure rebounds or double-figure points.

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

Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt cuts list to nine

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.

The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.

“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.

Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.

Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.

Report: Michigan State and Penn State will play at the Palestra

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Head coach Patrick Chambers of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.

According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.

Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.

With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.

The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.

Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.

 

OSU officials: Coger died after 40-minute outdoor workout

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18:  Head coach Brad Underwood of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks reacts in the first half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma State basketball player Tyrek Coger died after a 40-minute team workout on the football stadium stairs in hot weather, university officials said Friday.

Coger, a 21-year-old forward who had recently transferred to OSU, did not appear to be struggling during Thursday’s workout at Boone Pickens Stadium, OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said Friday at a news conference. Afterward, Coger sat down and when the team went to check on him, they noticed there were issues.

The team called 911 and paramedics arrived at 5:08 p.m. Coger arrived at Stillwater Medical Center at 5:48 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m., Shutt said.

The temperature at 5 p.m. Thursday in Stillwater was 99 degrees with a heat index of 105 degrees, The Stillwater NewsPress reported.

Oklahoma State basketball coach Brad Underwood broke down Friday as he remembered Coger, noting that he was in Las Vegas on a recruiting trip when he learned of Coger’s death and that the past two days have been the most difficult of his coaching career.

“This is the hardest couple of days I’ve ever experienced in my coaching life. You say goodbye to players when they graduate and that’s one thing,” Underwood said, pausing to wipe away tears with a towel. “Making that phone call to a mother is – there’s no words.”

OSU athletic director Mike Holder says the team will thoroughly examine its practices following Coger’s death. The NCAA’s Sports Medicine Handbook does not provide specific guidelines for when teams should avoid practicing in extreme temperatures.

The handbook says heatstroke is the third-leading cause of sudden death in athletes, and that athletes should be gradually introduced to activity in warm temperatures over a “minimum period of 10 to 14 days.” Coger had been in Oklahoma since July 5, the school said.

The NCAA handbook also provides a list of signs and symptoms of heat injury, notes that heatstroke is most likely to occur at the start of preseason practices and says that some athletes with certain health conditions or athletes who are not adequately in shape can be more susceptible to heatstroke. It was not clear whether that was the case with Coger. In an interview with the Stillwater newspaper published earlier this month, Coger spoke of frequent headaches that plagued him during his high school days. He said he underwent surgery several years ago to drain fluid from around his brain.

“At the moment, I’m thinking `Basketball is over,”‘ he told the newspaper, recalling his feelings at the time of the surgery. “`I gotta think beyond basketball now.”‘

Coger, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, said in the interview that he recuperated from his surgery then started his college career at Eastern Florida State College. He transferred after one season to Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he played last season. The 6-foot-8 player then initially signed with Ole Miss last fall but opted for Oklahoma State after the Southeastern Conference ruled he was ineligible because of rules on junior college transfers.

Shutt also said that under NCAA rules, basketball teams can meet for eight hours a week during the summer – time that can be broken up as two hours on the count and six on strength and conditioning, or all eight on strength and conditioning. NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford confirmed that was the case, and noted that staff members are allowed to conduct and supervise that activity.

In 2012, Coger played a friendly game of one-on-one with Washington Wizards star John Wall, who posted a photo of the matchup on Instagram following Coger’s death. Wall wrote: “Rest in Peace to the lil homie who always had the competitive spirt.. you will be missed Tyrek.”

Coger’s death is the latest tragedy for OSU. Last fall, a driver crashed into a crowd at Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade, killing four spectators and wounding dozens. In 2011, women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and two others died in a plane crash in western Arkansas. And in 2001, 10 people died in a Colorado plane crash, including two men’s basketball players and six staff members.

Associated Press writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

CBT Podcast: Michael Porter Jr., George Washington and non-conference scheduling

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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In today’s podcast we spend quite a bit of time discussing the three major topics of discussion from the last week: The Washington Post’s story on Mike Lonergan and George Washington basketball, Michael Porter Jr.’s commitment to Washington and non-conference scheduling and how it is affected by expansion, both in conference realignment and by the number of games that are played in league.

As always, you can either click “play” in the Soundcloud player below or listen via iTunes or the Stitcher app. You can also subscribe in Audioboom.

NCAA to survey tournament hosts in wake of North Carolina law

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Mississippi Rebels and Xavier Musketeers players run by the logo at mid-court during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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In the wake of the NBA announcing that they have decided to pull the All-Star game out of North Carolina due to HB2, a controversial state law that was passed that prevents transgender people from using the bathroom corresponding with the gender which they identify, the NCAA has moved a step closer to doing the same.

On Friday, the association announced that they have sent out a questionnaire to the cities that are planning to bid, and have already received bids, to host NCAA championship sites. That questionnaire follows an announcement in April that “sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions” are required to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination and also safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

The questionnaire is due back by August 12th for sites that plan on making a bid to host an NCAA championship event in 2018-19 and beyond. The sites of championship events in 2016-17 and 2017-18 have already been awarded. The deadline for those cities to return their questionnaire is to be determined.

A copy of the questionnaire can be found here. It includes the following questions:

  • Has your city, county/parish, and/or state passed anti-discrimination laws that are applicable to all persons?
  • Does your city, county/parish and/or state regulate choice of bathrooms or locker rooms that may affect student-athletes, coaches, administrators, or game officials during the Event?
  • Does your city, county-parish and/or state regulate choice of bathrooms that may affect fans attending the Event?

The NCAA also provided the relevant host cities a chance to explain, in an open-ended question, how they will provide a way for all fans to attend the games without being discriminated against.

The state of North Carolina is slated to host a number of NCAA championship events across all levels, but the most relevant fact here is that, Greensboro, in 2017, and Charlotte, in 2018, are slated to host games during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Traditionally, the state always has a first weekend site because of the proximity of large fan bases that will be able to sell out the arenas.

Earlier this week, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called North Carolina’s HB2 law “embarrassing“.