Lamont Jones

2013 MAAC Tournament Preview

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The MAAC is wild, been that way all season. Ten teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will finish the final act to an unpredictable conference schedule at the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Mass.

Five teams are separated by only two games. Niagara enters Thursday with a No. 1 followed by Rider, Loyola (Md.), Iona, and Canisius — each team has a realistic chance to go dancing on Monday night. Each team has at least five conference losses, which shows how balanced the conference is.

Last season, the top-seeded Iona was dropped in the semifinals by Fairfield, before Loyola (Md.) snatched the automatic bid.

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

The Bracket

Where: MassMutual Center (Springfield, Mass.)

When: March 8-11

Final: March 11, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Favorite: Niagara 

The Purple Eagles begin the conference tournament as the top team, but in the MAAC the top team and the fifth place team are much different. Niagara limped through the last part of the season, going 4-4 over the last five games (2-2 with leading scorer Antoine Mason out).

And if they lose?: Rider. The Broncs has won five straight and seven of eight after dropping three consecutive. Rider ended the season on the road, beating both Niagara and Canisius in a span of three days. The Broncs are playing its best basketball at the right time of the season. Rider has also beaten Niagara twice, even when the Purple Eagles were with and without leading scorer Antoine Mason.

Sleepers: Iona could also go as far as Lamont Jones takes the Gaels. Jones has only gone under 20 once in the last dozen games. He’s also played well against some of the MAAC’s. Canisius is also in the mix aftering spliting with Loyola (Md.) and Rider, while only falling to Niagara by one. Canisius is a solid team, more than able to make a three-day run in Springfield. Loyola (Md.) is back strong after earning the MAAC’s automatic bid last season.

Studs:

Lamont Jones, Iona: The senior guard is the leading scorer in the MAAC with 23.2 per game.   Jones has gone for over 30 points three times in his last seven games, most recently a 35 point (22 second half) outburst in a win against Loyola (Md.).

– Antoine Mason, Niagara: Mason is the leader scorer. The 6-foot-3 scorer is getting back into game mode after

– O.D. Anosike, Siena: The senior forward is a double-double machine this season with 16 on the season. The 6-foot-8 Anosike is averaging 12.9 points and 11.4 boards per contest.

– Billy Baron, Canisius: The classic ACC to A10 to MAAC transfer has been very productive in his first season for the Golden Griffins averaging 16.6 points and a conference-high 5.1 assists per game. Baron and his father, first-year head coach Jim Baron are a big reason why Canisius has improved by 13 wins this season

Others: Rhamel Brow, Manhattan; Erik Etherly, Loyola (Md.); Juan’ya Green, Niagara

CBT Prediction: Iona over third-seeded Loyola (Md.). Last season the Gaels won the regular season title, only to see the Greyhounds dance to the tourney.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Kawhi Leonard to be inducted into SDSU Hall of Fame

Kawhi Leonard (Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard (Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard is, and probably always will be, the greatest player to ever come through the San Diego State ranks.

And this week, the Aztecs announced that they will be honoring the all-NBA wing due to his accomplishments in Viejas Arena: Leonard will be enshrined in the SDSU Hall of Fame this October.

Leonard is a terrific story, one that most people probably already know. A former Mr. Basketball in California, Leonard was somewhat under-recruited, winding up at SDSU where he proceeded to post monster numbers for an Aztec team that climbed into the top five in the country his sophomore season. He went pro after just two years with the program, getting picked 15th by the Spurs due to concerns about his ability to adjust to the perimeter full-time.

And we all know how that worked out.

VIDEO: South Dakota walk-on Logan Power get surprised with a scholarship

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Logan Power, a 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore from Nebraska, landed a scholarship at the end of South Dakota’s trip to Spain.

You can see the video of it above. Power played in 14 games last season, averaging 2.5 points as he played a real role for the Coyotes down the stretch of the season.

Sometimes moments like this can feel like artificial, like a production designed to boost a coach’s Q rating as much as it is to award the player that scholarship. This doesn’t feel like that at all, as head coach Craig Smith barely can even offer a speech about the player as he fights to hold back tears.

It’s a touching moment.

Well done, USD.

Why did Trevon Duval list Seton Hall, St. John’s and not Duke, Kentucky?

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Trevon Duval is the reason that mixtapes were created.

A top five player and the top point guard in the Class of 2017, Duval is 6-foot-3 and super-athletic, boasting the kind of handle that would make Uncle Drew blush. It’s not possible to do any kind of scouting off of a mixtape; judging what a player can and can’t do based off of a highlight package doesn’t happen.

But given what Duval is capable of doing, it makes him the perfect player to have game film cut and edited so that his highlights fit seamlessly within the beat of an instrumental.

That’s why this mixtape is so good.

But unlike a lot of mixtape phenoms, Duval’s game goes beyond the tricks that look good in slow motion.

His ranking isn’t a fluke. He’s far and away the best point guard in 2017, but you wouldn’t know that based on his offer list.

On Monday, “trimmed” his list to ten schools: He’s not following a typical path for the top point guard in the class. Much has been written in the last six months about how Duke and Kentucky, the two preeminent programs on the recruiting trail, have been targeting second tier point guards in the Class of 2017, the likes of Trae Young and Quade Green and Tremont Waters.

Young and Green and Waters are all terrific players, top 30 recruits with a shot at becoming McDonalds All-Americans, but Duval is in a tier all by himself. He’s the only surefire one-and-done point guard in the class.

And he listed Seton Hall and St. John’s in his final ten.

He didn’t list Duke and Kentucky.

What do Seton Hall, St. John’s and Trevon Duval all have in common?

Under Armour.

Duval plays for We-R-1 on the travel circuit, a program that is sponsored by UA. He played his junior season at API, a high school program in Texas that was sponsored by Under Armour. Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrence Ferguson, the last two elite prospects to forego college to head directly to the professional ranks overseas, both came from API and reportedly signed sponsorship deals with UA. If UA has a reputation at the grassroots level, it’s that they’re as loyal as any of the three major shoe companies. They do everything they can to keep it all in the family.

The best example of this?

Diamond Stone, a product of the Under Armour Association circuit and Wisconsin native that bucked in-state powers Wisconsin and Marquette to play for Maryland, the program that is to UA and Oregon is to Nike.

It doesn’t always work that way — see: Josh Jackson — and of the final 10 schools on Duval’s list, only four are programs sponsored by Under Armour.

But it’s not an accident that Seton Hall and St. John’s made the cut, and it’s not a coincidence that UCLA — who just this summer signed a massive sponsorship deal with the apparel company — is now considered to be the favorite to land Duval.

The idea that shoe companies control where elite prospects go to school is a bit overblown in this day and age. If it wasn’t, Kansas, an adidas school, wouldn’t have landed Andrew Wiggins or Josh Jackson, two of the last four No. 1 players in the country, neither of whom played with an adidas sponsored team before college.

But it does happen.

And when it does, it’s not all that hard to identify.

Trevon Duval (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
Trevon Duval (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.