Can UConn rebound in the NCAA Tournament?

1 Comment

One of the most intriguing story lines of the first weekend is the UConn Huskies.

Here we have the nation’s defending national champions. There are two lottery picks on the roster and a handful of players with the potential to play their way into the NBA Draft down the road. On paper, there may not be a team better suited towards knocking off Kentucky, the prohibitive favorite in this tournament, than the Huskies.

The problem is that the tournament isn’t played on paper, the same way that UConn’s season wasn’t played on paper.

UConn was one of, if not the most disappointing team during the regular season. They finished below .500 in the Big East and needed a pair of wins in the Big East Tournament just to ensure themselves an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Not exactly what you would expect from a team that was considered by many to be a legitimate National Title contender back in October.

The question that everyone is asking — and that Big Blue Nation seems to be a bit concerned about — is whether or not the Huskies have a real chance to get out of Louisville that first weekend without a loss.

And as a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, the answer is undoubtedly … maybe?

The million dollar question right now is whether or not the UConn team that went 3-1 since Jim Calhoun’s return to the sideline — with the one loss being a nail-biter to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament — has actually changed this team. On the surface it looks like it. They shook off a stretch where they lost nine of 12 to win three in a row when Calhoun returned. But those wins came against a Pitt team that is nowhere near what we expect out of that program, Big East cellar-dweller DePaul and a slumping West Virginia. UConn was also competitive with Syracuse in two games already this year.

What’s more is that this could be the last time that UConn looks like UConn for a while. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond are expected to declare for the draft. Alex Oriakhi, and a couple of other notable players, have rumors surrounding their future in a UConn uniform. Jim Calhoun’s health is deteriorating to the point that he may be forced to retire after the year. And all this is occurring with a potential postseason ban on the horizon for 2013.

This may be UConn’s last chance at a run for tournament glory.

But that will require the Huskies beating a good Iowa State team that is a matchup nightmare and then knocking off Kentucky in Louisville.

My advice: enjoy it while it lasts, Husky fans. It may not be for much longer.

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

Syracuse walk-on accused of sexual assault

Syracuse Post-Standard
Leave a comment

Dominick Parker, an 18-year old freshman who was added to the Syracuse roster as a walk-on just 12 days ago, was arrested last Friday and charged with sexual abuse in the first degree, reports Syracuse.com.

Parker is accused of having sexual contact with an 18-year old female student while she was incapable of giving consent. His name and picture have been removed from the Syracuse athletics website.

“Sexual and relationship violence is not tolerated at Syracuse University,” the school said in a statement. “We are now doing all that we can to support and provide assistance to those affected by the alleged incident. As this is an ongoing investigation, Syracuse University will not be providing further comment.”

Wichita State to sell beer at Koch Arena

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

As if it wasn’t already hard enough to win games at Koch Arena.

Starting this season, Wichita State fans will be able to buy beer during games at their home arena, a fact that should ensure that the raucous home environs that have made the Shockers so difficult to beat in Wichita remains the same.

That’s not a bad thing to add to a home court advantage while making the move into a new conference, the American, for the 2017-18 season.

Once a rarity, beer at college sporting events in a growing trend. Minnesota, Florida and Texas, among a number of others have added alcohol sales in recent years. Given the money that would seem likely to be generated, it’s a trend that will probably become even more pervasive in college athletics.

Let’s just make sure that everyone partakes in moderation.

Blue Ribbon release college basketball preseason top 25, all-american teams

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Blue Ribbon, the college basketball bible, has released their top 25 and preseason all-american awards, the first publication to do so as far as I know.

Their top five — Arizona, Michigan State, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky — contains the same teams as my top five will, only in a different order. The only crazy ranking that I see in their top 25 comes with Miami checking in at No. 16. I have a feeling they are going to end up regretting that by the end of the season.

What is somewhat crazy, however, is Blue Ribbon’s all-american teams.

Bonzie Colson is their Preseason National Player of the Year. That’s not my pick, but it’s justifiable. But having Miles Bridges as a second-team preseason all-american? Angel Delgado as a fourth-team preseason all-american? I disagree with both of those picks.

But that will all play out during the season.

And, frankly, I haven’t exactly had the best track record predicting all-americans in recent years, not after I opted to rate Skal Labissiere as a first-team preseason all-american over Buddy Hield.

That was a miss.

It happens to the best of us.

But I feel pretty comfortable saying that Miles Bridges as a second-team preseason all-american will end up being a miss.

4-star center commits to Purdue

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas entering their senior seasons, adding front court options in the 2018 class was something that Purdue needed to do. Purdue added its second front court commitment in the 2018 class Tuesday evening, as four-star center Emmanuel Dowuona reportedly made his pledge. News of Dowuona’s commitment was first reported by the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Dowuona, a 6-foot-11 big man who attends Westwood Christian School in Miami, joins fellow four-star prospect Trevion Williams in Purdue’s 2018 class to date.

Dowuona’s commitment comes just days before he was reportedly to visit Tennessee. Among the other programs to have offered Duwuona were Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and UConn.

Dowuona played for the Team Breakdown program on the Under Armour Association circuit during the summer, averaging 7.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. While still a bit raw offensively, the native of Ghana provides value as a defender and rebounder. Dowuona is joining a program that during Painter’s tenure as head coach has done a good job of developing big men.

Dowuona and the aforementioned Williams will look to compete for playing time in 2018-19 alongside current redshirt junior Jacquil Taylor and 7-foot-3 redshirt freshman center Matt Haarms.

Dayton freshman Toppin ineligible for 2017-18 season

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dayton announced Tuesday afternoon that one of the program’s incoming freshmen will not be eligible to compete this season. 6-foot-8 forward Obadiah Toppin has been ruled by the NCAA to have not met initial eligibility requirements, and he will have to sit out the 2017-18 season as a result.

Toppin will be allowed to remain a member of the team and participate in practices, and he will have four seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2018-19 season. While the NCAA’s decision leaves the Flyers short a front court option in head coach Anthony Grant’s first season at the helm, it did not come as a surprise.

“We knew this was a possible scenario for Obi early on in the recruiting process,” Grant said in the release. “And if it came to pass, we saw this as a chance for him to utilize this year acclimate as a student and enhance his strength and skill as an academic redshirt. This is a great opportunity for Obi to develop as a player and student over the next 12 months, and prepare himself for a very successful college career.”

Toppin, who averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game at Mt. Zion Academy last season, is one of five freshmen who have joined the program. Matej Svoboda and Jordan Pierce will look to earn minutes alongside returnees Josh Cunningham and Xeyrius Williams, and the same can be said for redshirt freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Toppin being declared ineligible is the third hit Dayton has taken to its front court this offseason. Ryan Mikesell, who played in 32 games last season, will redshirt after undergoing two hip surgeries. And Sam Miller, who was also part of the team’s front court rotation last season, was suspended from school for the fall semester after he was arrested during the summer.