Late Night Snacks: Boeheim’s 900, UNLV survives and newcomers abound

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The finals are, for the most part, over. Now it’s on to school-free college basketball for most of the Division I world.

On the first Monday of the holiday break, a few Top 25 teams survived close games, but the headliner was Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim got win 900 in his tenure. Three players made their career debuts for major programs and a low-major player does what you rarely see in the scoring column.

It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the night

Syracuse 72, Detroit 68 – 900. That’s really all you need to know. Coach Jim Boeheim won game no. 900 as a head coach, all at Syracuse, in the victory over the Titans. The game was tighter down the stretch than he would’ve liked it, but nonetheless, the Orange were able to hang on and celebrate.

Games of note

Missouri 102, South Carolina State 51 – The Tigers made easy work of the Bulldogs, but Jabari Brown made his debut for Mizzou since coming over from Oregon. He scored 12 points and dished out three assists in the win. The most-hyped transfer for coach Frank Haith on a team full of them is off to a good start.

UNLV 62, UTEP 60 – It their first Mike Moser-less game for the Rebels, they were able to hold on despite giving Konner Tucker a good three-point look for the win for UTEP with two seconds left. In more newcomer news, Khem Birch scored four points in his first game with UNLV since transferring from Pittsburgh.

Connecticut 84, Maryland-Eastern Shore 50 – This was just important for the simple fact that it’s the first game for the Huskies since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. They were a small distraction in a state that needs one right now, while picking up the pieces and being able to grieve. They were able to do that and allow some level of normalcy to an area that hasn’t had much of it in the last few days.

Starred 

Kelsey Howard, Jackson State – Howard carried the Tigers to their first victory of the season on the road at Seattle with 32 points, a high for any game on Monday night. He was 12-for-19 from the field and 6-for-10 from three.

James Southerland, Syracuse – On a night that was all about Jim Boeheim, before and after the game, it turned out that the Orange needed pretty much every one of the swingman’s buckets for the 72-68 win over Detroit. He went for 22 points hitting 5-of-8 threes.

Ryan Boatright, UConn – On a night that the state of Connecticut desperately needed, Boatright provided a performance that, even for a few hours, made them happy. The sophomore guard went for 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win over UMES.

Struggled

Frank Gaines, Fort Wayne – Gaines had a shot on a big-time stage to prove he belonged on the high-major level for the Mastadons (all-mascot pick!). He averaged 20.1 points per game going into the game, but was held to a season-low seven points on 2-for-14 shooting in a loss at Notre Dame. He may still belong on the big stage, but he’ll have to do better when the opportunity presents itself.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Isaac Sosa, Canisius – A special shout-out this week to Sosa, who did something that only a shooter can appreciate. Sosa finished with 24 points in the Golden Griffins’ (a totally underrated all-mascot pick) 82-54 victory over Longwood. They ALL came on threes. He was 8-for-12 from deep and overall. Keep chuckin’ it, my man.

Fanbase that can take a breath

UNLV – You passed the first test without your best player. On the road, no less. Getting Khem Birch eligible will help offset the loss, but at this point, just take wins. However ugly, however close. The Rebels will be fine as long as they dodge any bad losses.

Fanbase that can take a seat

Seattle – Well, Redhawks fans, I’m sure you long for the days of Elgin Baylor. SeattleU (as they’re oft to call themselves) gave Jackson State their first win of the season at home tonight, and well, that warrants a night were you’re asked to sit and ponder. Not really much you can say, otherwise.

Keep praying for Newtown, everyone.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.