NC State, Tennessee early favorites in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

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Thursday was a big day for in-season tournaments as many announced the pairings for their events, one of which being the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Here are some quick thoughts on the eight teams taking part in the event, scheduled for November 15, 16 and 18 (and a non-bracketed game between UNC Asheville and NC State on November 23).

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Schedule (all times Eastern) 

November 15
10:30 am Akron vs. Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
12:30 pm UNC Asheville vs. Tennessee (ESPNU)
5:00 pm NC State vs. Penn State (ESPN2)
7:30 pm Providence vs. Massachusetts (ESPNU)

November 16
10:30 am Semifinal 1 (ESPNU)
1:00 pm Consolation 1 (ESPN3)
5:00 pm Semifinal 2 (ESPN2 or ESPNU)
7:30 pm Consolation 2 (ESPN3)

November 18
11:oo am 7th place game (ESPN3)
1:30 pm 5th place game (ESPNU)
3:30 pm 3rd place game (ESPNU)
6:30 pm Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Akron vs. Oklahoma State

The best quarterfinal is set to tip at 10:30 am, with both teams looking to make good on their talent and get to the NCAA tournament. The Zips are led by senior center Zeke Marshall, who could very well hear his name called in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft.

Keith Dambrot’s team won the MAC regular season title outright, only to fall to Ohio by a point in the conference tournament final, and with the majority of their key contributors back (they did lose forward Nikola Cvetinovic) Akron will be one of the preseason favorites in the MAC.

As for Travis Ford’s Cowboys, Keiton Page has graduated but the back court will be in good shape thanks to the addition of Marcus Smart and high school teammate Phil Forte.

And Le’Bryan Nash returns to Stillwater for his sophomore season, and if the Cowboys play to their potential this is a likely NCAA tournament team out of the Big 12.

Best individual match-up (that we know will happen): Lorenzo Brown (NC State) vs. Tim Frazier (Penn State)

The bottom half of the bracket will have two very good point guard battles, with Vincent Council (Providence) and Chaz Williams (UMass) facing off in the nightcap.

Brown, who likely won’t see much playing time on the Wolfpack’s trip to Spain due to surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, has been hailed by many as the best returning point guard in the ACC.

On the other side is Frazier, who was one of the Big Ten’s best in an otherwise rough season for the Nittany Lions, and he should be even better provided some teammates step up to assist him offensively.

Best individual match-up (that you want to see): Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee) vs. C.J. Leslie (NC State)

This would have to happen in the final obviously, but with their dissimilar games a battle between Stokes and Leslie would be fun to watch.

Leslie’s the better scorer of the two (Stokes’ output stunted some by being a mid-season addition) while Stokes had a slightly higher rebounding average (7.4 to Leslie’s 7.3) and outweighs the junior by nearly 40 pounds. “Styles make fights” and this will be one individual showdown to focus on.

Winner: NC State

Looking at these two teams on paper most will say that the Wolfpack and Volunteers are the early favorites, but UMass and the winner of the Akron/Oklahoma State quarterfinal will also factor into the equation.

But with their returnees and a very good incoming freshman class (three McDonald’s All-Americans led by shooting guard Rodney Purvis) Mark Gottfried’s team can use San Juan as a springboard towards contending for an ACC title.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.