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Arizona associate head coach James Whitford has been introduced as the next head coach at Ball State, the school announced Saturday.
The vacancy was created when Ball State fired coach Billy Taylor on March 14 after six seasons and an 84-99 overall record.
“In my mind, Ball State offers the best combination of academic excellence, basketball tradition, outstanding arena and fan support of any school in the Mid-American Conference,” Whitford said in a release. “When you add the unparalleled recruiting base in the state of Indiana and the great teaching those high school players receive from their various coaches, this job became one I targeted over the last few weeks.”
Whitford has coached at Arizona for four seasons and came from Xavier, the same prior stop as head coach Sean Miller. Whitford was promoted to associate head coach after the 2010-11 season and is known as one of the high-level recruiters on the staff. He has helped to pull in a number of major classes for the Wildcats, including the 2013 edition that features top prospects Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon.
Prior to Whitford’s time at Xavier, he worked for 11 seasons at Miami (OH) and helped that program to a Sweet 16 appearance in 1999. He turned down an opportunity to become the head coach at that school following last season, deciding instead to remain at Arizona.
Ball State finished 15-15 this past season, including 8-8 in MAC play.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.