Tom Crean and the most important coaching decision in the Sweet 16

2 Comments

Tom Crean will have the most interesting coaching decision of the Sweet 16 on his hands heading into tonight’s matchup with No. 4 seed Syracuse.

How will he matchup with the Orange on the perimeter?

Syracuse is as big and has as much length up and down their roster as any team in the country. Michael Carter-Williams, the Orange point guard, is 6-foot-6 with the wingspan of a pterodactyl. Starting off-guard Brandon Triche is 6-foot-4, as is Trevor Cooney, who is the first back court player off the bench. That’s before you get to their front court, where 6-foot-8 James Southerland plays the three while CJ Fair and Jerami Grant, who are both lanky, 6-foot-8 athletes, also man one of the wings in the Syracuse zone.

Indiana?

Well, their starting back court consists of 6-foot Jordy Hulls, 6-foot Yogi Ferrell and 6-foot-4 Victor Oladipo.

Now, this will obviously create issues on the offensive end of the floor. The length that Syracuse is able to employ in that zone is going to make it difficult to get a clean look at a three, something that the Hoosiers are going to have to rely on if they want to win this game. But it’s also going to make it a nightmare to try and get the ball into the high-post. The way to break down the Syracuse zone is to get the ball into the high-post, whether via the dribble or the pass, and find either Cody Zeller at the rim or one of the myriad of shooters Indiana will have on the perimeter. Can the Indiana guards feed the high-post with all of those arms between them and Christian Watford? Will they be able to pass out of the zone if they are able to penetrate to the foul line? Ironically enough, the ability of IU’s back court to penetrate the zone with the dribble may be more important given the fact that Watford is not exactly known as a great passer.

Those are concerns, but they may not be the biggest concern for Tom Crean.

The issue is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. The ideal would be for Oladipo, one of the best on-ball defenders in the country who also has the length and athleticism to matchup with Carter-Williams, to matchup with the Syracuse point guard to try and take away his effectiveness in the half court. But if Hulls and Ferrell are both on the floor, that would mean that one of those two would be stuck guarding Southerland or Fair or one of Syracuse’s other forwards. That’s a matchup that cannot happen.

The obvious answer? Play Will Sheehey and Remy Abell more minutes, but that creates a problem on the offensive end of the floor. Hulls is the zone-buster, one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the country. He doesn’t miss. Ferrell is easily Indiana’s best penetrator, the guy that can split the top of that 2-3 zone and break down the defense. Indiana’s effectiveness against a zone on the offensive end of the floor will take a hit with either of those two sitting out.

So what will Tom Crean do?

Does he play a 2-3 zone of his own?

Will he slide Oladipo onto Southerland and hope that Hulls and Ferrell can matchup with Triche and Carter-Williams?

Does he role the dice on rotating his little guards?

How Tom Crean handles the size differential may be determine the outcome of this game.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
1 Comment

The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

Leave a comment

Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

1 Comment

Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

Leave a comment

The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

1 Comment

North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.