Marquette v Miami

Jim Boeheim and Buzz Williams: Two coaches that couldn’t be more different

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the surface, it would seem like Marquette and Syracuse are similar programs.

Both are members of the Big East this year and both will be leaving the Big East after this year. (Technically, Marquette is leaving the Big East to join the new Big East, but you get my point.) They’ve played once already this season and both have made plenty of appearances on ESPN and CBS during the year. Their head coaches are quirky, lovable characters adored by their fanbase. Most importantly, both programs are very good and nationally relevant; there’s a reason that they’re squaring off in the Elite 8 on Saturday afternoon.

But when you take a closer look at how these two teams have gotten to this point, you’ll realize that the No. 3 seed Golden Eagles and No. 4 seed Orange don’t really have all that much in common.

It starts with their game preparation. There may not be a coach in the country that puts more effort and more time into his scouting reports for an opponent than Williams. He’s thorough. He’s tireless. He embraces the x’s-and-o’s and calls out an opponent’s plays from the sidelines while understanding advanced analytics as well as anyone. This is what their locker room looked like prior to their Sweet 16 matchup with Miami:

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When he came to the press conference on Friday afternoon, he had already watch film of Syracuse’s last six games.

“How we handle scouting is probably unique to some organizations, but our kids know what to expect when it comes to scouting,” Williams said. “My staff has been incredible. This year and in years past, for that matter, in scouting. I’m over the top on the analytics involved as a team, as an individual.”

Compare that to Boeheim.

“I’m not a big proponent of scouting, film work,” he said. “I probably watch less film than anybody in the country. We know what we need to do. Everybody in this business knows what they need to do. It’s a question of if you can execute it in the game.”

“I always laugh at football coaches. They know every play, every position, every move that these other guys are going to make because they watch 36,000 hours of tape. Their players have no clue what they’re talking about. If they can get some of the players to get some understanding … It’s not what the coaches know or what you know, it’s what the players know and how they execute.”

Notice a difference?

Then you look at who they recruit.

Marquette’s roster is littered with players that embody their feisty head coach. Williams’ back-story is one that has been told 100 times, and deservedly so. It’s incredible. He never played basketball. He didn’t know anyone in college basketball. He got his first job because he sent letters to 425 different coaches every week until he was able to scrape together enough money to pay for a flight to the 1994 Final Four. From there, he heard about a job at UT-Arlington and scraped together enough money to buy a car and drive down to the head coach’s house simply to tell him he wanted the job.

Long story short, he worked his way up the ladder — quite literally — before eventually getting the head coaching gig with Marquette when Tom Crean left for Indiana. Every player that Williams recruits has that same mindset. They have a chip on their shoulder, they have something to prove. Whether it’s because they were under-recruited coming out of high school, or because they couldn’t work their way into a rotation at their first Division I school, or because they were overlooked and had to work their way up through the JuCo ranks, there’s an attitude that permeates every fiber of this Marquette program.

“When we step on the court, if you don’t give us respect, we’re going to earn it,” Vander Blue said after Thursday’s win over Miami. “Sooner or later, you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due.”

Boeheim does.

“They have a very good team. I just look at the players on the team, I don’t look at the hype,” Boeheim said. “That’s what you look at as a coach. You don’t look at how many high school all-americans they had. Whatever.”

“Half of the high school all-americans aren’t any good.”

Boeheim would know as well as anyone, as his roster is stockpiled with top 25 recruits and early entry candidates. The Orange wage war on the recruiting trail with the biggest of the big boys, and they land their fair share of the kids they target. It’s ironic, really: both coaches have a ‘type’. Williams recruits a Chevy Silverado commercial — blue-collar, motor, work ethic, toughness — while Boeheim wants the kids that hit all of the NBA Draft buzzwords — length, athleticism, potential, ceiling — to plug into his 2-3 zone.

And therein lies the beauty of this matchup.

The perennial underdogs vs. the five-star talents. The hall of fame coach that played at Syracuse vs. the short kid from Van Alstyne that got his start as a student assistant at a JuCo.

Regardless of the differences between the two programs, there is one thing that they do have in common: they don’t want their season to end on Saturday night.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.