Gardner-Webb v North Carolina

Big South Conference Tournament Preview

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The race for the Big South’s automatic bid took an unexpected turn last week when High Point freshman forward John Brown went down for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. Senior forward Allan Chaney, whose career nearly ended due to a heart ailment, will have to lead the way for a team that is down to two double-digit scorers (guard Adam Weary being the other). Corey Law scored 14 points in their 63-62 win over Campbell, and he has give High Point consistent offense if the Panthers are to win three straight games.

However a possible quarterfinal matchup with host Coastal Carolina looms, and the two-seed from the South (Gardner-Webb) is also capable of knocking off High Point. South Division champion Charleston Southern, led by point guard Saah Nimley, averaged nearly 75 points per game in Big South play while also leading the league in field goal percentage defense. VMI, as the second place finisher in the North, received the other first-round bye in the top half of the bracket but don’t be surprised if UNC Asheville knocks them off in the quarters. Eddie Biedenbach’s team won ten league games, with one being a 90-79 win at VMI on February 9.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: HTC Center (Conway, South Carolina)

When: March 5, 7, 9-10

Final: March 10, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Gardner-Webb 

The Runnin’ Bulldogs didn’t win their division (Charleston Southern did) but they did sweep the regular season series between the two teams. Chris Holtmann’s team enters the conference tournament in good form as they’ve won ten of their last 11 games, with the lone defeat being a surprising 57-54 loss at Presbyterian.

Guard Tashan Newsome (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and wing Donta Harper (12.9 ppg) lead the way offensively, and if Gardner-Webb can control tempo (they average 65.5 possessions/40 minutes, per statsheet.com) the Runnin’ Bulldogs are capable of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time as a Division I member.

And if they lose? Charleston Southern did win the South, the tougher of two two divisions, and in Saah Nimley they have the league’s best point guard. In total four players average double figures for the Buccaneers, who led the conference in both scoring offense and field goal percentage defense. Jeremy Atkinson and Keith Hornsby lead the way for UNC Asheville, but the Bulldogs enter the conference tournament having lost five of their last six. High Point still has Chaney inside but losing a player of John Brown’s caliber at this point in the season may be tough to overcome.

Sleepers: Look no further than the host team, Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers lost just one conference home game this season, falling by seven (70-63) to Gardner-Webb on February 16. Anthony Raffa is capable of getting hot, and fellow guard Kierre Greenwood’s no slouch either. Another possibility is VMI, which averaged 74.7 points per game in conference play and is led by the league’s best player in senior forward Stan Okoye.

Studs:

– F Stan Okoye (VMI): The Big South Player of the Year, Okoye is averaging 21.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. And Okoye enters the conference tournament hot, as he averaged 33.0 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in wins over Liberty and Longwood.

– F Jeremy Atkinson (UNC Asheville): Atkinson’s only 6-4 but that didn’t stop him from being one of the league’s best front court players, averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and earning first team All-Big South honors.

– G Saah Nimley (Charleston Southern): One of two underclassmen (Brown) to earn first team All-Big South honors, Nimley posted averages of 16.0 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. The 5-8 floor general is one reason why Charleston Southern won 12 league games.

Prediction: Nimley and Arlon Harper take over the weekend, leading Charleston Southern past Gardner-Webb in the final.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Rutgers land 7-foot grad transfer from UNC Wilmington

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket as he is defended by C.J. Gettys #23 of the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks in the second half of their game during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Rutgers landed a commitment from seven-footer C.J. Gettys on Monday night.

Gettys is a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, where he averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 blocks for a team that reached the NCAA tournament. Gettys is a slow-footed back-to-the-basket player, however, and that didn’t exactly fit with the way that UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts likes to play; think Shaka Smart’s VCU teams.

So Gettys opted for Rutgers, picking the Scarlet Knights over Dayton, Purdue and Chattanooga.

He is the fifth member of new head coach Steve Pikiell’s first recruiting class.

VIDEO: Seventh Woods dunks on UNC student

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Some poor UNC student decided that he was going to try and block Seventh Woods, a freshman point guard for the Tar Heels, on a dunk attempt.

What ended up happening was that he got windmilled on.

To quote Samuel L. Jackson, as portrayed the great philosopher Dave Chappelle, “You ain’t never seen my movies?” Woods was doing this as a freshman … in HIGH SCHOOL.

Former National Player of the Year Michael Brooks dies at 58

Brooks for All-American Brochure
Courtesy La Salle Athletics
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A Philadelphia basketball legend and a former National Player of the Year passed away on Monday night.

Michael Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward who was named the NABC National Player of the Year in 1980, died in Switzerland on Monday night due to a massive stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was just 58 years old.

Brooks finished his career with 2,628 points and 1,372 rebounds. He never averaged less than 20 points in his four seasons in college. (Think about that for a second.) He was the No. 9 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and averaged double-figures for four years before season-ending knee injuries sent him to Europe to play. Brooks was also named the captain of the 1980 Olympic team that missed out on the Moscow games due to the USA’s boycott.

Brooks, according to the Inquirer, had aplastic anemia, which required him to receive a bone marrow transplant last week. His body rejected the marrow, which resulted in the strokes that ended his life.

UCLA cruises in opener on Australian tour

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
AP Photo/Michael Baker
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UCLA, who will be the most interesting team in all of college basketball this season, played their first game of an Australian tour on Tuesday morning, and they won in pretty impressive fashion.

The Bruins had triple digits on the board early in the fourth quarter, eventually beating a club in Sydney by the score of 123-76. For comparison’s sake, Washington and potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz beat the same team 101-80 a couple of weeks ago, so the win and the margin of victory is somewhat impressive.

Also worth noting: None of UCLA’s freshmen started. Steve Alford rolled with Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter — Holiday and Hamilton combined for 27 points, 18 assists and 11 boards while Alford had 17 points on just 10 shots — with G.G. Golomon and Thomas Welsh up front.

But the noteworthy performances here were from the McDonald’s All-Americans that Steve Alford brought into the program. In his first game in the blue and gold, Lonzo Ball, a potential top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was just OK. He finished with nine points and four assists while shooting 3-for-9 from the floor. Leaf, however, was terrific, as he led the team with 21 points to go along with nine boards and three assists.

The first exhibition game is hardly a great way to predict how a season is going to play out, but given the pressure and expectations currently surrounding the program, everything the Bruins do this season is going to be scrutinized.

This isn’t a bad way to start.

East Tennessee State dismisses Shemar Johnson from team

East Tennessee State coach Steve Forbes shouts from the bench in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson
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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) East Tennessee State has dismissed guard Shemar Johnson from its basketball team.

Buccaneers coach Steve Forbes said Monday that Johnson was no longer part of the team. Forbes said in a statement that “being a Buc is a special opportunity and at ETSU we provide our student-athletes with a tremendous experience. With that privilege comes accountability and Shemar failed to meet the expectations I have to be a player in our program.”

Forbes added that “I wish him the best now and in the future.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 guard from Columbus, Mississippi, was a redshirt freshman who hadn’t yet played a game for ETSU.