Chase Tapley

College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Chase Tapley, closer: Jamaal Franklin is the most talented player on San Diego State, and I don’t really think that’s up for discussion. He’s lanky and athletic, a terrific rebounder at 6-foot-5 and one of the most exciting — and confounding — scorers in the country. He’s like Russ Smith that rebounds the ball; you just know that when he has the ball in his hands, something exciting is going to happen, and it may not always be a good thing.

But if I’m a San Diego State fan, I don’t want the ball in Franklin’s hands on a big possession. I want the ball in Chase Tapley’s hands. The senior guard has turned into a lethal finisher, somewhat reminiscent of Tu Holloway before the brawl. On Saturday, he scored 12 points in overtime as the Aztecs avoided getting upset by Colorado State.

Frankln may be the guy that gets San Diego State through a game, but Tapley is the guy who needs the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: The west coast is shaping up to have some terrific regular season title races this season. The Mountain West speaks for itself, but the Pac-12 should be just as entertaining.

UCLA is finally hitting their stride and, for my money, has become the best team in the conference. The win at Colorado convinced me. They can survive even when their trio of stud freshmen struggle on the road against a talented opponent. But the Bruins really aren’t all that much better than Arizona or Oregon. The Ducks beat the Wildcats at home on Thursday night in a game where Sean Miller’s club nearly finished off another ridiculous, last-minute comeback.

But can we really right off 1-3 Colorado right now? I don’t think so.

And what about Arizona State, who has arguably the best point guard in the conference in Jahii Carson and a triple-double waiting to happen at center in Jordan Bachynski? And did you realize that Washington — yes, that Washington — has improved to 3-0 in the Pac-12 after winning at Cal and at Stanford this week?

Buckle up, left-coasters.

Road games in conference: Two weeks into league play, the road is looking like a pretty friendly place to be in the Big East. Home teams are just 11-17 after Providence went into New Jersey and knocked off Seton Hall on Sunday.

The Big Ten, however, is a much different story. Home teams are 14-9 in league play. Seven of those homes losses were by teams in the bottom of the league standings — Iowa, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. The other two? Purdue dropped a home game to Ohio State this week, and Illinois was run out of their gym by Minnesota.

There’s a reason that we’ve been saying whoever wins on the road is going to win the Big Ten.

Reggie who?: The biggest reason that Miami has been able to survive without Reggie Johnson on the court? Julian Gamble. The 6-foot-8 senior has played the best basketball of his career over the last seven games, averaging 9.3 points, 7.5 boards and 2.4 blocks. He had 14 points and six boards in the win at UNC during the week and finished with nine points and eight boards against Maryland on Sunday night, including three huge baskets late in the second half.

Branden Dawson’s return: You might have missed it on Sunday because of those football games that were on TV, but Dawson had a terrifying moment when he looked to re-injure his surgically repaired left knee. He was going up for a dunk and crumpled in a heap. It looked really, really bad.

But it turned out to be nothing serious, and Dawson had a terrific moment where he came spring out of the locker room to a standing ovation:

“It felt great because Q (team trainer Quinton Sawyer) said, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been putting in the hard work. Next dead ball, I want you to sprint out,'” Dawson said. “I did that, and the crowd went crazy.”

That’s awesome.

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.