Team of the Week: Colorado Buffaloes
Colorado dispatched of Murray State late on Sunday night, giving the Buffaloes their second tournament title in the calender year. The last one they won? The Pac-12 tournament back in March, which sent Tad Boyle’s club off to the NCAA tournament. But with a number of key pieces leaving that group and coming off of an up-and-down regular season, there were those that doubted the Buffs heading into the year.
Well, not anymore. Not after Colorado knocked off Dayton, Baylor and Murray State. Not after Askia Booker looked like Colorado’s star despite the fact that Andre Roberson did everything we all expected him to do this season. Not after Spencer Dinwiddie appeared to be one of the nation’s most versatile defenders and Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson proved to be much further along than typical freshmen. Until otherwise noted, Arizona and UCLA have to be considered the favorites to win the Pac-12.
But Colorado is not all that far behind.
Five teams deserving of a shoutout:
- Oklahoma State: We talked about Oklahoma State at more length in the Player of the Week post, but the bottom line is this: they ran over a top half of the SEC team in Tennessee and they thoroughly dominated a top ten team in NC State. Oh, and Marcus Smart is a star. That’s quite a turnaround from their opener, when the Pokes struggled to beat UC Davis.
- Duke: The Blue Devils went down to Georgia, and while it wasn’t a soul they were looking to steal, they did manage to make a statement early in the season when they knocked off reigning champ Kentucky. It wasn’t just the fact that they won, either; it was how they won: by putting on a big second half run and surviving when the more athletic Wildcats started pressing. That’s a big win for a Duke team that had plenty of doubters heading into the season.
- Hofstra: The Pride won all three games at home this week, including thrillers against both South Dakota State and Marshall. Shaq Stokes hit a game-winner at the buzzer to knock off the Jackrabbits, while the Pride went into double-overtime against the Thundering Herd. The best news? Jamal Coombs-McDaniel still hasn’t played. They’ll get better.
- Belmont: The Bruins scored unquestionably their biggest win of the season by going into Palo Alto and knocking off Stanford. The Bruin’s dynamic backcourt of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnosn combined for 29 points in the win. Murray State may not be the best team in the Ohio Valley this season, and Belmont has set themselves up nicely for a run at an at-large bid.
- Florida State: After losing the opener to South Alabama at home, the Seminoles bounced back with a win in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by knocking off both Notre Dame and St. Joe’s. In the process, Leonard Hamilton’s club has figured out that they’ll be a different team this season, one that relies on guard play heavily. The MVP of the week for FSU was freshman point guard Devon Bookert, who looked ready to takeover the role of primary ball-handler.
Also deserving a mention: Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, New Mexico, Santa Clara, SMU, St. Mary’s, Xavier, Wichita State, Youngstown State
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.
The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.
Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.
With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.