State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky

Late night snacks: Crashing after the marathon

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It took 24 hours and countless games, but the unofficial beginning to the college basketball season came and went with an overwhelming bang. Let’s recap, shall we?

Games of the Night

1.) Duke 75, Kentucky 68 – The classic matchup didn’t disappoint. Seth Curry dominated. Alex Poythress was a monster. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski threw post-game barbs at each other. The vitriol may not be there, but the on-court product and the tension was high and it was awesome.

2.) Michigan State 67, Kansas 64Keith Appling had a coming out party and Sparty rebounded after a season-opening loss to UConn. Tom Izzo will always have the edge when it comes to big games.

3.) UMass 67, Harvard 64 – One of the first true “dagger” games of the day. A last-second basket proved to be the difference for the late-morning game. More on that later.

4.) New Mexico 86, Davidson 81 – It seemed like this outcome was impossible. The Lobos trailed for a majority of the game, Davidson was bonkers from three and New Mexico had a start that could only be eclipsed in its awfulness by the loser of the game before theirs, West Virginia. Then Tony Snell caught fire with 25 points, the big men started to show up and the Lobos escaped with a win at home.

Starred

Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso – Teams like Valparaiso don’t get a ton of, if any, national attention. So when they do, they need to take advantage. Broekhoff did with 20 points on 4-of-8 three’s in a 69-46 win over Northern Illinois. From personal experience, it was nice to hear Broekhoff’s string music on my television as I went in-and-out of sleep this morning.

Seth Curry, Duke – He came to Duke to play on this stage four years ago when he transferred from Liberty. The fifth-year senior dropped in 23 points, including 3-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the win over Kentucky. Some have wondered when the youngest of the sharpshooting trio (dad Dell, older brother Steph, and him) would truly arrive. He’s showing his elite-level game now.

Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State – Hit game-winning step-back jumper in the closing seconds to lift the Shockers to a 53-51 victory at VCU. Scored 11 points total.

Sampson Carter, UMass – Carter made his only bucket of the game count, a three from the corner in the final seconds to deliver the death-blow for the victory over Harvard in the mid-morning matchup. Carter actually had more fouls (four) than points (three).

Struggled

Butler – How far has Brad Stevens‘ program fallen? The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins hurt, but going into a game against what everyone thought was an undermanned Xavier team, albeit on the road, the Bulldogs laid a colossal egg, losing 62-47. Only one player, reserve Kellen Dunham, finished in double-figures with 11 and prized transfer Rotnei Clarke had seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, including just 1-for-7 from three-point range. In a game that could’ve put them back on the map, they flopped. Hard.

Virginia – It’s been a tough early season for the Cavaliers already. This time it’s in the form of a 59-53 loss to Delaware at home in the NIT Tip-Off semifinals. The Blue Hens stole the Wahoos the chance at going to Madison Square Garden. Man, Tony Bennett, you got some work to do.

Ray McCallum, Jr., Detroit – The day was somewhat uncharacteristic for the consistent son of the Titans’ head coach. Yes, 23 points is the norm for the junior. But it took him 23 shots (eight makes) and he was 4-for-12 from three in a 77-74 loss at St. Johns. He’ll no doubt get his all season. But considering the stage, volume shooting wasn’t what McCallum needed.

Josh Smith, UCLA – He air-balled a lay-up. He got dominated by far-inferior talent in the post. He finished with five points, five rebounds and four steals in a win over UC-Irvine. Off the court, he seems like a great person. On the court? He seems like another Renardo Sidney.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State – The Aztecs made extremely easy work of San Diego Christian, 97-51. Franklin lived up to the preseason conference player of the year hype, pouring in 28 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kid’s on his way.

Fanbases that can take a breath

Kansas State – This is more of a reason for the Wildcats to laugh than to be relieved. They avoided, um, narrowly, being the next victim of the Alabama-Huntsville Pain Train, taking down the Division II squad 87-26. The Chargers beat North Texas last night.

Pittsburgh – The Panthers put in one of the more underrated performances of the night, mainly because it went toe-to-toe with the Kentucky-Duke game. Pitt took down C.J. McCollum and Lehigh impressively, 78-53 at home, scoring 43 in the second half. Travon Woodall scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, while the Mountain Hawks’ McCollum was “held” to 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Fanbases that can take a seat

West Virginia – It’s your first game of the 2012-13 season. It’s your first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. It’s the first game of the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball, aka Marathon Madness. So what do you do!?…You shoot 27.3-percent, 11.5-percent (3-for-26) from three and tank the game 84-50. Mountaineers fans, blame Denniz Kilicli’s shaving of his beard. Or the loss of players like Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones. But man, your team needs a better effort to contend in the Big 12 this season, much less in non-conference.

UCLA – Oh what am I saying? We all were waiting for this. This program has a ton of individual talent, with or without Shabazz Muhammad, but we all wondered, ‘how would it all coalesce?’ Well, the Bruins avoided a near disaster against UC-Irvine in the form of a 80-79 overtime win which had a crazy ending to the extra period. It’s a long season, but those that were waiting to hate on UCLA now have their first — maybe second, if you count Muhammad’s indefinite suspension — bullet in the chamber. Let’s see how Howland manages all those stars in their first taste of adversity.

Now everyone, go get some sleep.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Southern Conference to keep championships in North Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The Southern Conference will keep four league championships in North Carolina despite the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference withdrawing championships because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people.

The league said it will honor commitments for these tournaments: men’s soccer in Greensboro, men’s and women’s basketball in Asheville and men’s golf in Pinehurst.

“We don’t want to punish the local host communities by pulling the championships out of the state this year,” Commissioner John Iamarino said Friday. “That point did resonate with presidents and chancellors.”

The league said in a statement its presidents and chancellors “reaffirmed their resolute opposition to legislation that discriminates against any individual.”

Iamarino said his conference was prepared for criticism in light of the NCAA and ACC decisions over the North Carolina’s law, which excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. It also requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

HB2 was signed into law this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has defended it as a commonsense safety and security measure.

The Southern Conference is headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Its 10 schools – Citadel, Chattanooga, East Tennessee, Furman, Mercer, UNC Greensboro, Samford, VMI, Western Carolina and Wofford – are in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The decision on the championships came after two conference calls among league leaders.

“While not unanimous, we found enough common ground to get to this point,” Iamarino said.

He said the league was influenced by the North Carolina host communities, all urging the conference to hold its events as planned. In Asheville, Iamarino said he met with about 30 people, including some from the LGBT community, who promised to fight the HB2 law but wanted the basketball tournaments to remain.

Iamarino said the venues involved are privately controlled and the league is confident of there will be an inclusive atmosphere at the events. The men’s golf event will be held at Pinehurst Country Club and the basketball at a neutral site in Asheville.

The soccer will be played on the Greensboro campus.

Earlier this month, the NCAA removed seven championships from North Carolina, including first- and second-round games of the men’s basketball tournament scheduled for Greensboro. The ACC soon followed suit, pulling 10 of its championships from the state, including the football title game that was scheduled for Charlotte.

The ACC on Thursday relocated the football game to Orlando, Florida.

Iamarino said Southern Conference presidents and chancellors will meet in May to see if more action is necessary. He said there’s concern similar laws could extend beyond North Carolina.

“This could be a long-term issue,” he said.

Iamarino said he’s also concerned the schools against keeping the championships in North Carolina might take their own actions, perhaps boycotting the league events played there.

“It’s a real concern,” he said. “We’ll continue to communicate and prepare for everything.”

Report: Virginia Tech forward Blackshear still recovering from offseason foot surgery

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Kerry Blackshear Jr. #24 of the Virginia Tech Hokies and Kamari Murphy #21 of the Miami Hurricanes go for a rebound in the second half during the quarterfinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament Verizon Center on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Virginia Tech sophomore forward Kerry Blackshear will miss the start of training camp as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery, according to a report from Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The 6-foot-10 Blackshear played in all 35 games for the Hokies last season as he battled through the foot injury to average 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. According to Barber’s report, Blackshear had surgery on his right foot five days after the 2015-16 season ended, but he’s still wearing a walking boot to help recover. There has been no timetable given for Blackshear’s return.

Blackshear will be a key piece for a Virginia Tech team that is a bit thin up front this season. Freshman Khadim Sy can provide some minutes up front, but he’s inexperienced and center Nick Fullard has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Getting a healthy Blackshear will be a key storyline for a Virginia Tech team that many will have in the preseason top 25.

Indiana roster dealing with handful of injuries as practice begins

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  A general view of  the SMU Mustangs game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on November 20, 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.

According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.

That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.

Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”

Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.

Texas lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Jase Febres

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Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.

The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.

Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.

The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.

 

VIDEO: Kentucky fans get married in the ticket line for Big Blue Madness

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Kentucky fans have unique ways of making their annual Big Blue Madness event the most chaotic tip-off event of the season. While Big Blue Nation is waiting in line for tickets to this year’s festivities in Tent City, one couple decided to go the extra mile.

After securing the first spot in line for tickets, Ray Branham and Vicki Harvey opted to get married. According to a post from Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio, the couple had already been talking about tying the knot, but decided to make the move once they had the top spot in line. As you can see by the wedding video, it was a very Kentucky-themed ceremony as the duo got married in front of friends and other Kentucky fans.

I can’t say I’m surprised two Kentucky fans decided to get married in line for something like Big Blue Madness and this (unplanned) wedding gives this year’s event something unique that we will always remember.