Rick Ray

Weekend Preview: Five storylines to follow

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Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) honor a game that should never be forgotten: In March of 1963, three years before Texas Western went and beat Kentucky for a national title with a team that included black players and earned themselves a spot in Hollywood history with the movie ‘Glory Road’, Mississippi State had to sneak out of their own state just for the chance to play Loyola in the NCAA tournament. At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, the two programs will pay tribute to that game on ESPNU. Dana O’Neil wrote a terrific story about the event on Thursday, and if this intrigues you, I would suggest you check out Kyle Veazey’s book on the game.

Is West Virginia going to be able to turn their season around?: The Mountaineers struggled at the start of the year, losing three of their first four games and looking like they were a long way from being a tournament team. But with three transfers in the fold, a slow start was to be expected. And after following up those losses with wins over VMI, Marshall and Virginia Tech, it looked like the ‘Eers might have actually turned their season around. That was until they lost to Duquesne.

So will WVU be able to compete for a tournament spot? They’ll get a chance to make a statement on Saturday evening when they take on No. 3 Michigan.

The Battle of Anthony Grant: Anthony Grant took over for Jeff Capel at VCU when he took the head coaching job at Oklahoma. Grant didn’t last long with the Rams, as he took over at Alabama when Mark Gottfried resigned in the middle of the 2008-2009 season. That opened up a job for Shaka Smart, who may have actually turned VCU into a better program than Alabama. Those two teams will take the floor at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Who is the best team in Iowa?: For my money, it is either Northern Iowa or Iowa, and it’s just our luck that the Panthers and the Hawkeyes happen to be playing on Saturday afternoon on the Big Ten Network. Northern Iowa is a tough, defensive-minded team with a couple of versatile big guys and one of the nation’s more underrated back courts. Iowa is a bit more uptempo and wants to score more than UNI. It should be an interesting contrast of styles. It’s also not the only game of the event, as Drake and Iowa State will be playing the same day in Des Moines in the Big Four Classic.

Indiana will be doing the same thing: Iowa’s not the only state that will be putting together a mini-state tournament. Indiana will do the same with the Crossroads Classic at Conseco Fieldhouse tomorrow afternoon. It kicks off with Butler taking on No. 1 Indiana and ends with Purdue and No. 22 Notre Dame tangling.

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

VIDEO: Marquette’s Henry Ellenson shows off his versatility

Marquette's Henry Ellenson is fouled by Providence's Ben Bentil as he drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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I’m on record saying that I would consider Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson if I had the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, and while, at this point, I think that Brandon Ingram is probably going to end up going No. 2 — (Maybe No. 1???) — I still believe that Ellenson is going to be one of the best players from this draft class.

Why?

Well, just take a look at these highlights from the 26-point, 16-rebound performance he had in a win over Providence last night.

Then remember that Ellenson is 6-foot-11:

POSTERIZED: Pensacola State’s Jamal Thomas dunks through block attempt, makes coach go nuts

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A solid poster dunk went down in the junior college ranks last night as Pensacola State sophomore Jamal Thomas finished a dunk through a block attempt against Northwest Florida State.

The 6-foot-3 Thomas used his power and momentum to go through the opposing shot blocker and the play made his head coach, Pete Pena, go nuts with an over-exaggerated fist pump. The video is short, but be sure to watch for Pena’s reaction near the logo at the top right of the screen.