Josh pastner

Weekend Preview: Storylines to follow

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The drama surrounding the continuation of the Memphis-Tennessee series: If you’ve missed the latest, here’s a quick catchup: Josh Pastner has never wanted to play Tennessee. He doesn’t want to help the Vols recruit in the city of Memphis by allowing them to play there once every other year. The old Memphis athletic director overruled him and understood the importance of the rivalry, and Pastner played ball. The new athletic director, however, allowed Pastner to go out in front of the media and talk all week about how the series was coming to an end and how Memphis needed a new opponent.

And then the AD went and negotiated with Tennessee about keeping them on the schedule behind his head coach’s back.

If you can’t see why this is a problem, go ahead and read this eviscerating column from Geoff Calkins. Then, go and read through his twitter feed. This story has become about so much more than simply the game — which, it just so happens, is a game that both Tennessee and Memphis desperately need to win. How long will Pastner want to work for a man that has no problem publicly humiliating his most high-profile, highly-paid and prominent employee?

Gauge games: The most frustrating thing about allowing teams to put together their non-conference schedules on their own is that so many teams end up playing nothing but rolls of Division II charmin for he first two months of the season. Thus, when we hit league play, it’s impossible to get a good read on those teams. Two of the biggest culprits this season: Seton Hall and Maryland.

The Terps host Virginia Tech on Saturday, and while the Hokies have come back to earth since their 7-0 start, they do have a guard in Erick Green that is capable of going for 30 on any given night. Maryland is 12-1 this season, but they haven’t played anyone other than Kentucky, who they lost to. Seton Hall, on the other hand, is 12-2 on the season and travels to play at Notre Dame. The Pirates won their Big East opener by … beating DePaul by one on the road.

Also keep an eye on Purdue’s trip to Michigan State. The Boilermakers struggled through the first two months, but they are healthy now and just knocked off Illinois at home.

Does anyone want to be the best team in Texas?: Texas A&M can’t seem to put together a convincing win, regardless of opponent. Texas Tech sticks. North Texas has been a massive disappointment. TCU? Rice? Houston? SMU? C’mon. The two best teams in the state are Baylor and Texas, who have been almost as disappointing as UNT this year. The Bears have as much raw talent as anyone in the country, but they have lost to Charleston and Northwestern, which makes up for that win at Kentucky. Texas finally got Jaylen Bond back from injury, but he’s not the difference-maker Mykc Kabongo will be.

Conference play kicks off for real: This will be the first “real” weekend of conference play. Who gets upset? Who stands out? Who did we undervalue in the non-conference? Who did we overvalue in the preseason? This is when it really starts to get fun.

Grab your popcorn.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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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 addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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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.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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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.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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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 lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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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.