Phil Pressey

College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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1. We cannot judge Missouri yet: Not until they have Michael Dixon and/or Jabari Brown in the fold. Brown will get eligible in December. A former top 30 recruit coming out of high school, he’s a big-time athlete at 6-foot-5 and may actually be the best perimeter shooter that Frank Haith has on his roster. Which is saying something, because Dixon is a pretty good perimeter shooter in his own right. It’s unclear when (or if) Dixon will be back with the team, as the mystery surrounding his suspension has taken a bit of a turn. But the bottom line is that, right now, Missouri’s offensive is sputtering because the three guys that have started a game at the two and the three are shooting a combined 33.3% from three and 38.3% from the field.

Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi have been great up front. Flip Pressey is as good as advertised. But until the Tigers have that perimeter shooting, they’ll only be OK.

2. St. Mary’s might be in trouble: I love Matthew Dellavedova. From the ugly-as-sin-but-always-goes-in jumper to the mouthguard to the greasy moptop, there’s so much about his game that would make you think he’s garbage. He’d be the last guy picked at the park, but he’s nasty, with a little Mark Jackson in his game; he’s a terrific passer, especially in the pick-and-roll, and has been used in the post by Randy Bennett this season. The problem? The Gaels don’t have guys that can finished those passes. Their bigs are weak around the rim and can’t score with their back-to-the-basket. Their shooters aren’t really shooters at all. Stephen Holt is about as confident spotting up from three as I would be trying to ask Blake Lively out for coffee. Dellavedova can’t do it all himself; he’s not going to play like this every night. He’ll get his team scoring chances, but until those chances start turning into points, the Gaels are going to be just OK.

3. Jahii Carson is a stud: Anyone else that watched him go for 30 points and seven assists against Creighton on Saturday will agree with me. He’s averaging 21.0 points and 5.0 assists five games into the season, and he’s doing so as Herb Sendek has allowed the Sun Devils to put the pedal to the medal in transition. ASU still has a long way to go to be considered a tournament contender, but with Carson, the redshirt freshman, running the show, this group will be entertaining to watch.

Imagine if Arizona would have taken Carson instead of Josiah Turner? Think Sean Miller is regretting that decision now?

4. Northwestern is 6-0: The Wildcats, who are still without an NCAA tournament berth in their history, were 4-0 before heading down to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge, and while they didn’t exactly beat two top ten teams down there, wins over TCU and Illinois State aren’t too shabby. The Redbirds are going to finish near the top of a strong MVC, while TCU followed up their loss to Northwestern with a win over UAB. There’s a long way to go this year, but 6-0 is 6-0.

5. What’s up with Butler and VCU?: We’re two weeks into the season, and the Atlantic 10’s two hyped additions are a combined 6-5. Butler bounced back from a loss at Xavier by beat Marquette and North Carolina out in Maui, but followed that up with a blowout loss to Illinois in the title game. VCU looked really good in their win over Memphis, but Memphis has been bad early in the season, and the Rams have lost battles with Wichita State, Duke and Missouri.

Frankly, I’d be more concerned with Butler. Losing Crishawn Hopkins’ playmaking ability really hurts them. Rotnei Clarke is simply not a point guard, but Roosevelt Jones hasn’t progressed to the point where Brad Stevens can feel comfortable having him bring the ball up the floor. And while I understand the need to allow Clarke to fire away at will, at some point, he needs to improve his shot selection. He doesn’t need to take fadeaway 25-footers with a hand in his face with 25 seconds left on the shot clock; he can get that shot anytime he wants.

VCU will be fine, as I think this is a group that’s still figuring out how to replace Brad Burgess on the offensive end of the floor. Juvonte Reddic’s play has been impressive, as was their three-point shooting against Memphis, but I think Ram fans need to cap their expectations for this group as a borderline top 25 team for now.

My up-to-the-second Atlantic 10 power rankings: St. Joe’s, VCU, Butler, St. Louis, Temple, La Salle, UMass, Xavier.

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

No. 15 Cincinnati extends home streak, beats Memphis 87-74

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 04:  Troy Caupain #10 of the Cincinnati Bearcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Fifth Third Arena on February 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI (AP) After a dominant first half, No. 15 Cincinnati relaxed and wound up sweating one out.

Jacob Evans III scored 12 of his 15 points during the Bearcats’ lopsided first half on Thursday night, and they let most of a big lead slip away before holding on for their 25th straight home victory, 87-74 over Memphis.

Cincinnati (25-3, 14-1 American Athletic) led by as many as 24 points during its highest-scoring opening half in conference play this season, pulling ahead 51-32 at the break. The Tigers cut the lead to six points before fading.

“We got off to a big lead, and in the second half I feel we started to coast a little bit,” Evans said. “We can’t do that. If we want to make a deep run in March, we can’t take a half off against any team. Our energy on defense went down.”

The Bearcats’ front line dominated on offense. Gary Clark had 13 points and nine rebounds while Kyle Washington had 16 points and six rebounds. The problem was the sluggish defense in the second half, which left shooters open.

“For about 30 minutes, I thought we played about as well as we can play,” coach Mick Cronin said. “My halftime speech gets an F. I talked to our guys about defense. Our defense was nonexistent for most of the second half. We learned our lessons.”

Memphis (18-10, 8-7 ) has dropped a season-high three straight. Jeremiah Martin led the Tigers with 23 points and 11 assists. Dedric Lawson had 21 points with 10 rebounds.

“They were a little bit intimidated to start the first half because (Cincinnati) was making shots,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “And when you get in a hole like that, it’s tough.”

The Tigers cut the lead to 75-69 on Martin’s three-point play with 5:18 left. Evans’ 3-pointer – his only basket of the second half – ended the comeback. It was his only 3-pointer of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: Lawson got his 35th double-double, the sixth-most by an active player. His 18 double-doubles this season are a career high for the sophomore. He has 282 rebounds this season. The AAC record is 321 by UConn’s Daniel Hamilton.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 25 straight home wins match the second-longest streak at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. The arena record is 41 straight wins from 1997-2000.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bearcats have won four straight since a 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12, minimizing the damage of their only conference loss.

BAD START

The Tigers were playing from behind the entire time because of their horrible start. They missed 10 of their first 15 shots – Lawson was 0 for 3 – while the Bearcats rolled out to a 26-11 lead.

LOOKING UP

Lawson got a loose ball while sitting under the basket in the second half and took a shot that bounced off the rim. After the slow start, he ended up 9 of 16 from the field.

CUMBERLAND BACK

Freshman Jarron Cumberland sat out Cincinnati’s last game because of a curfew violation. He was back on Thursday and had nine points in 22 minutes.

UP NEXT

Memphis: The Tigers host Houston on Saturday. They won at Houston 79-67 in overtime on Jan. 19.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Central Florida on Saturday. They beat Central Florida 60-50 on Feb. 8.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Five Maine players suspended following a fight over locker room music

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Bob Walsh of the Maine Black Bears prepares for their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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There wasn’t much love being spread in the Maine basketball locker room on Valentine’s Day.

A locker room fight led to the suspensions of five players, including the team’s leading scorer. According to Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News, who obtained the police report, the incident was the result of teammates Wes Myers and Marko Pirovic arguing over locker room music on Feb. 14.

Myers wanted the music off, Pirovic, who stands five inches taller and outweighs Myers by 25 pounds, refused. This led to both throwing punches, one of which connected on Pirovic’s face, breaking his jaw.

Jaquan McKennon, Ilija Stojiljkovic and Dusan Majstorovic were all suspended, but reinstated on Wednesday, for telling head trainer Ryan Taylor that Pirovic’s injuries resulted from him falling in the shower.

Myers, a junior guard averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game, remains suspended indefinitely.

Pirovic declined to press charges. All involved could still face punishment from the university, according to the Bangor Daily News.

It’s been a long season for the Black Bears. Maine owns the America East’s worst record at 6-24 (3-12). Outside of a modest three-game winning streak in late January, the Black Bears have not won a game in 2017. They close out the regular season on Saturday at home against Binghamton.

How did Gary Clark catch that alley-oop?

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 24:  Gary Clark #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats shoots the ball against the Tulane Green Wave at Fifth Third Arena on January 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.

Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?

Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.

Cassius Winston ends half with half-court 3-pointer

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Cassius Winston #5 in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.

The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.

Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.

Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.

 

CBT Podcast: Mark Titus recaps Wednesday’s games

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.

Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom