Weekend Preview: Five Storylines

Leave a comment

Who is the third best team in the ACC?: I think that it’s pretty safe to say that Duke is the best team in the conference, followed by NC State. Those two will square off at noon on Saturday. But that’s not what’s important heading into this weekend. We already know what we’re going to get out of those two teams this season, and any result that comes with Ryan Kelly sidelined will have an asterisk next to it.

Who is the best of the rest? Is it Miami, who just went into the Dean Dome and beat North Carolina but also lost to Florida-Gulf Coast? Is it Florida State, who has losses to Mercer and South Alabama and a win at Maryland this week? Is it UNC or Maryland after all? At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Heels visit Tallahassee, where they were embarrassed a season ago. At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, Miami plays host to the Terps. I think we’ll know a lot more about all four teams come Monday morning.

Some Pac-12 clarity: UCLA is playing their best basketball of the season right now, sitting at 3-0 in the conference and finally getting the kind of production out of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson that we all expected. But they will be visiting Colorado on Saturday afternoon in a game that should be able to tell us two things: Is Colorado a serious contender in the conference? And is UCLA tough enough to win on the road?

We should also get a good gauge on both Arizona State and Oregon. The Ducks are still unbeaten in the league after handing Arizona their first loss of the season on Thursday night, but Arizona State is also without a loss. The Sun Devils went into Oregon State and knocked off the Beavers on Thursday. They will play Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

Shaking out the Big East: There are two games early on Saturday that will help clear some things up about the conference. The first is Georgetown’s 11:00 a.m. tip at St. John’s. The Hoyas have had all kinds of issues scoring the ball this season, but now those struggles are starting to seep into the defensive side of the ball. This is the kind of thing that JT III needs to fix immediately if Georgetown wants a real chance at being competitive in the league. But both Marquette and Pitt are looking for answers as well. The Golden Eagles are 2-0 in the league, but they won two close games at home. Pitt is 1-2 in conference play, but the ‘1’ was an undressing of Georgetown in which the Hoyas simply rolled over and died.

First place in mid-majors on the line: There are a pair of games on Saturday afternoon that will determine who will be sitting in first place. Northeastern and Towson, surprisingly enough, are both 3-0 in the CAA right now. They square off at noon. When that one is over, Hartford will trek down to Stony Brook to put their undefeated America East record on the line.

Bob Huggins takes on his old team: At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Huggy Bear and West Virginia will be taking on No. 18 Kansas State in Morgantown. The matchup itself should be interesting enough — WVU used a 13-0 run at the end of regulation to force overtime at Texas and keep their tournament hopes realistic — but don’t forget about the importance of KSU to Huggins’ career. They gave him a chance after he was fired by Cincinnati.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

Leave a comment

N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

1 Comment

LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

Leave a comment

Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

Leave a comment

A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

Leave a comment

With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.