NCAA Basketball Tournament - Detroit v Kansas

Detroit looks to lead Horizon with Butler gone

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The Horizon league has been on a kick to simplify the naming system employed by the league. With household name Butler gone to the A-10, now’s as good a time as any to make things user-friendly. One school has been way out ahead of the naming trend, however. The school we know as simply Detroit is technically and officially known as the University of Detroit Mercy. That’s because the University of Detroit proper merged with Mercy College of Detroit in 1990. The school is still sponsored by the Society of Jesus and the Religious Sisters of Mercy. The school is probably still best known as the program that gave us Dickie V., and recently named the basketball court after the former head coach turned ESPN shouting head.

Valpo is widely regarded as the heir apparent to the Butler Bulldogs this season, but Detroit is lauded as a possible league #2. The Titans embrace the opportunity to stake their claim to the newly wide-open league title.

“When I came into this league I said we wanted to be where Butler is,” said coach Ray McCallum. “They were the marquee program and the face of the league. What they accomplished is our dream as basketball coaches and players. We’re in a different role; we’re the hunted now.

“For us to be selected second it’s a sign of respect and growth. … Having this championship ring is something we want our new players to have.”

The Titans are a legit threat to dominate the emerging league power structure, primarily because they have retained the services of Ray McCallum. Both Ray McCallums, actually. There is little doubt that Ray McCallum, Jr. is a Titan primarily because his father is the head coach. The junior point guard is considered to be an NBA talent who could have gone anywhere in the country. He led his team to the NCAA tourney last season – their first appearance since 1999 – and it’s a good bet he didn’t stay in school hoping to come in second this year.

The rest of the team is a question mark, with several players from overseas looking to play crucial roles this year. Three junior transfers — two from Nigeria, one from Germany — are expected to provide instant maturity to a team that needs solid players surrounding a white-hot playmaker.

Shades of Davidson during the Stephen Curry years, methinks. Whether the Titans turn that catalyzing force into the next Horizon League dynasty, or struggle to survive once their ace goes pro is a question for next season. For now, the Horizon’s the limit.

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?”