The Southeastern Conference received a bit of a wake-up call on Selection Sunday this past spring, as the conference received just three bids. An issue for some of the teams left on the outside looking in: non-conference scheduling. While a program like Kentucky had no such issues in booking challenging contests, the same couldn’t be said for some of their fellow conference members.
With that in mind commissioner Mike Slive announced that scheduling expert Greg Shaheen (whose work with the selection committee gives him the ability to inform programs of what exactly the committee wants to see schedule-wise) would evaluate the non-conference slates of member schools. One school whose schedule was changed as a result of this evaluation was Auburn, which was ultimately replaced in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by Northeastern.
On Friday the Tigers released their full schedule, and it’s a slate that should place head coach Tony Barbee in position to improve on last season’s 9-23 mark. The toughest non-conference game on the schedule will likely be Auburn’s trip to Ames, where they’ll take on Iowa State on December 2. But outside of that contest and games against Murray State (November 23) and Illinois (December 8 in Atlanta) there isn’t much “meat” on the slate.
With that in mind, fans will expect the Tigers to at the very least reach double digits in victories in 2013-14. And while simply winning ten or more games isn’t something to get excited about, that would be an improvement when considering how the Tigers played last year. It would also help the computer profile of the SEC if programs such as Auburn raised their level of play.
Auburn had the worst RPI (254) of any major conference team in the nation last season and the SEC only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers went 9-23 in 2012-13 and lost 16 of their final 17 games in the worst single-season stretch in program history.
Barbee is entering his fourth season as Auburn’s head coach with the worst three-year conference record in program history. He is under contract for $1.5 million per year through 2017 and has a buyout of $750,000 for each year of his remaining term, or just shy of $3 million entering the season.
With Frank Sullivan and Rob Chubb out of eligibility the Tigers have some holes to fill, meaning that their summer trip to the Bahamas came at just the right time. Virginia transfer K.T. Harrell will be one of the players asked to lead the way offensively for the Tigers, who finished ninth in the SEC in scoring (64.8 ppg) and 11th in field goal percentage (40.9%) in 2012-13.
“This summer has been really good for us,” Harrell said following Auburn’s 88-60 win over the Bahamas All-Stars earlier this month. “As a team we have gotten so much closer. This has been the best summer that I have been a part of as far as camaraderie and how close we have gotten. This trip has helped us a lot.
“Practice has been great, we have gotten better execution-wise. Everyone knows what we are planning to do and our identity so this has been really good.”
Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.
The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.
A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.
Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.
The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.
“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”
Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.
Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.
The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.
“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release. “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”
Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.
“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.
“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”
John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.
10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?
What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.
To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:
“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”
One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.
North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.
A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.
Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.
Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.