College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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1. Roosevelt Jones, Butler’s playmaker?: The Bulldogs notched a win in their opener on Friday, beating Elon 74-59. Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham were as good as advertised, finishing with a combined 39 points while knocking down eight of their 18 threes. The concern for this group heading into the season, however, was at the point guard spot. Clarke, who is technically Butler’s starting point guard, finished with just a single assist, as he simply turned into the guy that brought the ball up the floor for Butler before reverting to sprinting off of off-ball screens. The guy that fill in as Butler’s playmaker ended up being Roosevelt Jones, a bruising, 6-foot-4 small forward. He ended the game with six points, nine boards and six assists.

Could Jones end up playing a role similar to what Draymond Green did at Michigan State?

2. Delaware lost their opener: The Blue Hens were supposed to be Drexel’s biggest challenger in the CAA this season, but their season didn’t exactly get off to a memorable start as Delaware lost at La Salle on Saturday afternoon. Delaware’s vaunted back court or Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt finished with just 31 points on 31 shots from the floor, handing out three assists and turning the ball over four times. La Salle is somewhat underrated this season, but that’s still a loss — and a performance — that will be tough for UD to swallow.

3. Notable injuries this weekend:

  • Isaiah Austin, Baylor: After scoring 22 points in his debut for the Bears, Austin went down with a sprained ankle midway through the second half against Lehigh. He didn’t play Sunday against Jackson State, but with a trip to a tournament in Charleston kicking off of on Thursday, that was more of a precaution.
  • Otto Porter, Georgetown: Porter caught a nasty-looking, inadvertent elbow early on in Georgetown’s win over Duquesne on Sunday evening. Georgetown classified it as a head injury and said Porter was being held out for precautionary reasons. He only played six minutes on Sunday.
  • Terone Johnson, Purdue: Johnson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week and missed the Bucknell game. He came off the bench on Sunday when Purdue destroyed Hofstra.
  • Vincent Council, Providence: Council injured his hamstring on Saturday in a win over NJIT. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out. “The hamstring is a very tender area and an injury you have to be careful with,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “We’re all feeling for Vince right now.”

4. Three losses to non-Division I teams: Howard dropped a 68-62 decision to Division II Lincoln (PA) University. Nebraska-Omaha, in their first season in Division I, lost to Saint Mary (not to be confused with St. Mary’s) 96-86. USM is an NAIA Division II team. But the ugliest loss of them all was given to Rice, who lost to NAIA St. Thomas by 13 points. St. Thomas has only had college athletics since 2006.

5. No more games on boats, please: The two that were supposed to be played on the east coast were cancelled due to condensation on the court making it unsafe to use. The one on the west coast had to be rescheduled because of rain on Friday night, and when it was played, the wind was so strong and the sun so bright that it created a situation where shooting from the perimeter was pointless. The game was, frankly, not enjoyable to watch.

Look, I’m all for supporting the troops and raising money and playing games between top 25 teams in exotic locales. I love the creativity. But there are ways to do all of that while playing inside — see: Michigan State and UConn. There are a lot of creative marketers out there. It’s time to come up with a new idea.

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

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

This hire is surprising, not because it’s the wrong hire — I think they got this right — but because Indiana actually made the right decision.

The overwhelming sentiment since Tom Crean was fired was that UCLA head coach Steve Alford would be named the next head coach at Indiana because the Hoosiers wanted an “Indiana Guy”. Alford was born in New Castle, he played at IU for Bobby Knight, he won a national title with the program. The goal was to get the Indiana fan base back, a fan base that was so estranged from the program that Indiana had to play an NIT game on the road as a higher seed because they were reportedly afraid of allowing ESPN’s cameras to see the empty seats.

But just because a hire appeases the fans doesn’t make it the right hire.

Miller was the right hire.

If they really want to get the fans back, winning is the best way to do it. Archie is as good of a bet to win at Indiana as anyone.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.