Does Marcus Smart’s return make Oklahoma State the Big 12 favorite?

Leave a comment

Marcus Smart made it official on Wednesday afternoon: he will be returning to Oklahoma State and will not be entering his name in the NBA Draft.

“I think I made the right decision,” Smart, who had a chance to be a top five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, said at a press conference. “I am aware of how much money I am giving up.”

As long as he was fully informed and educated about all his available options, Smart’s decision to return to school was the right one. And it creates what will end up being one of the most intriguing storylines throughout the 2013-2014 season: Can Oklahoma State end Kansas’ nine-year run of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles?

On paper, it looks like they have a great chance to do so.

The Pokes not only bring back Smart, but he’ll be paired with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, giving Travis Ford one of the nation’s most talented perimeter attacks. Throw in role players like Brian Williams, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte, and Oklahoma State has the makings of a top ten team.

But is that enough to take down Kansas?

There’s a reason that the Jayhawks have won at least a share of nine straight regular season titles, and his name is Bill Self. Remember, this isn’t the first time that Kansas has had their roster devastated by graduation and early entry to the NBA Draft. In 2006, they started all freshmen and sophomores. In 2009, they lost six players to the NBA Draft and returned just Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. 2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding season, and the Jayhawks made the national title game. With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor gone, 2013 was supposed to be a rebuilding season as well, but the Jayhawks still managed to earn a No. 1 seed.

So what will happen next year?

Kansas will have a roster loaded with highly regarded recruits, and they are still in the mix to land the No. 1 prospect in the country in Andrew Wiggins.

Oklahoma State will be talented, but NC State was talented this season as well. A lot of people predicted the Wolfpack would be a top ten team and would win the ACC. Look how that worked out. Baylor was predicted to be the favorite in the Big 12 in 2012 and they ended up finishing third in the conference.

And while Travis Ford isn’t necessarily regarded as a markedly better coach than Mark Gottfried or Scott Drew, he does have Marcus Smart at his disposal once again.

Smart’s one of those guys that earns all of the cliches — winner, coach on the floor, etc.

He’s gets all of them.

NC State and Baylor didn’t have a player like that on their rosters.

Is that enough to be a difference?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

Leave a comment

North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

4 Comments

Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

Oklahoma State Athletics
2 Comments

Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.