Josh Pastner

The Memphis-Tennessee rivalry may be back on … that was quick

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Remember all that talk about Memphis ending their rivalry with Tennessee?

We wrote about it this morning. We would have written about it again tomorrow. Memphis talk radio has been dominated by the subject the past couple of days.

Why was it ending?

Because Josh Pastner finally had an athletic director that sided with him, that believed playing Tennessee was not in the best interest of the Memphis basketball program.

Apparently not:

University of Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said Thursday he and Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart are in discussions about continuing the basketball series between the programs. The contract ends with Friday night’s game in Knoxville.

“We are re-evaluating everything,” Bowen said, calling it “important” to play the Volunteers.

Bowen’s plan must have been a surprise to Tigers basketball coach Josh Pastner. On Wednesday, Pastner said that he and Bowen “both see eye to eye” on ending the Memphis-UT series.

In case that’s unclear, the Memphis AD let his head coach go on and on and on about how a series with an in-state rival was going to end only to go behind his back and try to renegotiate a deal with the school to keep them on the schedule. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, either.

Pastner, to his credit, has apparently bought in, saying on the Gary Parrish Show that he “believes in chain of command. I will always back my boss.” That’s smart. You don’t want to bash the guy that signs your paychecks publicly.

“I have probably evolved from that,” Pastner said of the theory that playing Tennessee could hurt the Tiger’s recruiting in the city of Memphis. “Early on I took the same stance as Calipari. The facts are that I’ve been a head coach here for four years. Two of my classes were top five in the country. The other two, we only needed to get a couple guys. … We’re recruiting at the very very highest level. I think through time, that’s evolved, and I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.”

“Recruiting’s cutthroat. You don’t want to give anyone any leg up.”

But you have to figure that next time, Pastner would appreciate a heads-up from his boss that he will be going over his head.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.