Weekend Preview: Five storylines to follow

1 Comment

Five story lines to follow this weekend

The Diamond Head Classic: This weekend will give us one of the better in-season tournaments of the year, as we could end up seeing Miami and Arizona play in a semifinal and San Diego State take on the Wildcats in the finals. Here’s Saturday’s Diamond Head schedule:

Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Ole Miss at Indiana State (ESPNU)
Sat. 6:00 p.m.: No. 18 San Diego State at San Francisco (ESPNU)
Sat. 10:30 p.m.: No. 4 Arizona vs. ETSU (ESPNU)
Sun. 12:30 a.m.: Miami at Hawaii (ESPNU)

Great individual matchups: There are some terrific games this weekend, as we already laid out for you. But in addition to those games, we will also be treated to some great individual matchups:

  • BYU will take on Baylor on Friday night, pitting Brandon Davies up against Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers. It shoud also be fun to see Brady Heslip and Tyler Haws have a shooting contest.
  • When Evansville plays Butler on Saturday afternoon, keep an eye on Colt Ryan of the Purple Aces. Butler may have Rotnei Clarke, but Ryan might be the best scorer on the floor.
  • UCSB’s Alan Williams has been a revelation on a team that’s been struggling early on this year. He’ll be going toe-to-toe with Leonard Washington.
  • Dayton and Murray State might have their day ruined. Well, the Flyers, at least, if Kevin Dillard, their star point guard, doesn’t get back from the back spasms that ended his night against Illinois State early. Murray State has a stud point guard of their own. Some kid named Isaiah Canaan or something.

Injuries ruining games: Kevin Dillard’s back spasms aren’t the only injury that could end up ruining a good game this weekend. St. Louis is taking on Loyola Marymount on Saturday afternoon, but since Kwamaine Mitchell isn’t back from his foot injury yet, we won’t see him against Anthony Ireland of LMU. Western Kentucky got smoked by VCU in large part because they were without their starting back court of TJ Price and Jamal Crook. They may turn the ball over 32 times against Louisville without those two. Marshall may have had a shot to upset Kentucky if Deandre Kane hadn’t broken his hand.

Tracking eligibility status: There are also a couple of eligibility cases to keep an eye on this weekend. Texas thought they lost Myck Kabongo to a season-long suspension, but they appealed to try and get their star point guard immediately eligible on Thursday night. Might he be in the lineup on Saturday at Michigan State? It’s a long shot. At Marquette, Buzz Williams got the news on Thursday night that Todd Mayo, OJ’s brother, would be eligible for the second semester after getting his academic issues taken care of. Is he the answer for a Golden Eagle team that has sputtered a bit early on this season?

UCLA playing for Ben Howland’s job?: The Bruins will take on Fresno State at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, and while the Bulldogs do have some young talent on their roster, they shouldn’t be any match for UCLA. But who knows, because if there’s anything we’ve learned about UCLA through the first month and a half of the season, it’s that we never really know what’s going to happen with them.

The most intriguing part of this game, however, is the fact that a report came out claiming that Ben Howland’s job is in jeopardy. That’s not a surprise, but according to BruinReportOnline.com, there’s a chance that Howland may not make it through the season. Look at the faces of the UCLA team during games. Watch the end of their bench on a big play. You tell me if it looks like that team is having fun out there. Are they going to care if Howland does get fired? Will they rally around their coach like UConn has rallied around Kevin Ollie?

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
2 Comments

Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.