Team of the Week: West Virginia
West Virginia looked like they might be in some trouble early on this season. After getting drubbed by Gonzaga on national television in the opening game of Marathon Madness, the Mountaineers briefly bounced back against Marist before losing the final two games of the Old Spice Classic to Oklahoma and Davidson. It was a less than ideal way for Bob Huggins’ team to start the season. But after a win over VWI in late November, WVU finally made a statement this week as they knocked off in-state rival Marshall before handing Virginia Tech their first loss of the season on Saturday.
We knew it was going to take some time for the Mountaineer team to come together; that’s just what happens when your roster consists of three transfers playing major minutes. The front line looks like it is rounding into form, as Kilicli had 21 points against Marshall and Aaric Murray went for 15 points and seven boards against Virginia Tech. More importantly, Kevin Noreen finally showed of some of his potential, as he notched his first career double-double, finishing with 14 points and 12 boards, seven offensive, against Virginia Tech. The back court is still trying to work their way through the start of the season — Juwan Staten, Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds were a combined 3-25 on Saturday — but one of those three was the game-winning layup from Staten.
Five Teams Deserving a Shoutout:
- Illinois: Illinois had easily the most impressive win of the week, as they went into Spokane and knocked off a Gonzaga team that everyone believed was well on their way to becoming the Gonzaga that we used to know. I’m not ready to buy the Illini as a real Final Four or national title contender yet simply because they are a team that relies heavily on three-pointers (43.5% of their FGA’s are threes, and 41.0% of the points they score are off of threes, the second-highest rate in the country) and plays only OK defense (they are 63rd in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom). But what I will say is that I no longer look at the Illini as a fluke. Gonzaga is a good team — even better at The Kennel — and a bad matchup for Illinois, but they still were able to get the win. That’s impressive.
- NC State: The Wolfpack seem to finally be headed in the right direction this season. After putting together an impressive second-half comeback in their loss at Michigan, Mark Gottfried’s club picked up a better-than-you-think win over UConn at the Jimmy V Classic followed by a dominating performance in a win over shorthanded Cleveland State. The most incredible stat for NC State right now? CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are currently third and fourth on the team in scoring. That needs to change for this team to compete with Duke for the ACC crown.
- Charlotte: If I were to give you ten picks for who the last remaining unbeaten team in the 16 team Atlantic 10 would be, how many people would mention Charlotte? But nine games into the season, here we are. The 49ers are 9-0 on the season and the last team without a loss on their resume. They haven’t done it against great competition, but they do have one very good win on their resume right now, as they won at Davidson on Wednesday thanks to some big-time shot-making by Pierria Henry.
- MTSU: It’s time to start paying attention to the Blue Raiders again. After a 2-0 week, which included a win over previously-undefeated Ole Miss, MTSU is now 7-2 on the season with their only losses coming at Akron in overtime and by 21 at Florida, which is less than Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State lost by.
- Dayton: The Flyers are back in the mix at the top of the Atlantic 10 this season, as they went 2-0 this week. That included an impressive win at Alabama where Kevin Dillard went off for 25 points and six assists.
They were good too: Wyoming, New Mexico, Florida, Northern Iowa, Illinois-Chicago
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.
The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.
A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.
Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.
The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.
“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”
Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.
Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.
The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.
“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release. “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”
Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.
“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.
“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”
John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.
10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?
What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.
To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:
“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”
One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.
North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.
A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.
Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.
Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.