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Steve Pikiell built Stony Brook, now it’s time to reach the NCAA Tournament

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

When Steve Pikiell became the head coach of Stony Brook in 2005, winning basketball games — something that should have been the primary objective for a new coach — was seemingly secondary at the time. Of course, winning was important, but continuing to usher Stony Brook from Division III to the Division I level and correcting academic issues that had been an ongoing issue with the team were primary obstacles for the young coach in his first head coaching role.

Today, Stony Brook is becoming a force in collegiate athletics. Football achieved national notoriety last season after defeating Army and reaching the FCS playoffs finishing with a final ranking of #11 in the Sports Network poll. Baseball orchestrated a memorable run in the 2012 College World Series as they reached Omaha knocking off programs such as Miami (FL) and LSU in the process. They have an athletic director and president who have made an institutional decision to use athletics as a vehicle to elevate Stony Brook on a national level.

In 2005, however, things weren’t this rosy for Stony Brook, especially their basketball program.

(MORE: Click here to read NBCSports.com’s America East Preview)

“When I took over we had an APR of 805. Every obstacle you could have as a young head coach was right there in front of me, but I was excited.”

It wasn’t too long ago that keeping players on the team eligible, no less winning basketball games, was a tall order. Pikiell understood the challenges and was aware that things looked bleak at the time he took the job, but he recognized how Stony Brook was a giant that just needed some poking to wake up.

“When I took the job I saw the potential, even though the program hadn’t been winning. When you take over a program that didn’t have much success in the last 20 years, and then you add some obstacles to it as you move from Division III to Division I, my first couple of years was mostly just about managing and trying to get through obstacles. But, I knew what a great place it was when I was hired. We have great leadership here.”

Today, the talk surrounding Stony Brook basketball sounds something like: “When will they finally reach the NCAA Tournament?” Or, “Are they on the verge of becoming the next great mid-major?”

It’s something that is constantly on Pikiell’s mind and a goal of his every season. Every coach in the country, especially at the mid-major level, aspires to win their league and advance to the Field of 64.

“My goal every season is to win the league championship, go to the NCAA Tournament, and graduate everyone.”

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

Yet, to discount the success in other areas would be foolish, especially considering the state of the program when he took over: “…[W]e’ve done everything else – in a program that hadn’t done any of those things. We’ve graduated everyone, kids have signed pro contracts, we’ve won postseason games, we’ve had the Student Athlete of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year, the Player of the Year– all things that Stony Brook basketball never really saw.”

The product that is being put on the floor has not gone unnoticed as their quaint arena, Pritchard Gymnasium (Stony Brook is in the process of building a new arena), routinely sells out. Pikiell joked that years ago he wasn’t even sure if selling season tickets was an option: “In the past, I don’t even know if we had season ticket holders. But now, they shut off season tickets about a month or a month and a half before the season.”

While the preceding accolades and success are tremendous, it is time for Stony Brook to get over that final hurdle of winning the America East. Three years ago it was a last second loss at Boston University in the championship. Two years ago a loss at home to Vermont in the championship. Last year, as the No. 1 seed, it was a loss on the road to Albany in the semi-finals.

Despite the close losses, Pikiell remains very confident in the program’s future and knows a league title is on the horizon. At the mid-major level, keeping a coaching staff intact is important for continuity and recruiting, and that has been a key for Stony Brook’s success:

What I like most about [the staff] is this isn’t just about trying to get one great recruiting class and ride them out to move onto the next level. This is about being consistent and building. We lost four seniors last year who all signed pro contracts. Two years ago when Bryan Dougher graduated, people said we wouldn’t be as good, but we went from 22 wins to 25 wins. The program is in place to continue to be good and continue to compete for league titles.

Pikiell is clearly committed. His name has been rumored for others jobs recently, but he’s stayed put at Stony Brook and recently accepted a contract extension over the summer through the 2017-18 season. The Connecticut native is content on Long Island and, having spoken at length of the tremendous growth the university has and continues to make, there’s no reason to think the basketball program won’t continue to take steps forward under his watch.

The next step to take and obstacle to conquer? Reach the NCAA Tournament.

PHOTO: Drake wears jersey of Zion Williamson, 2018 recruit

Drake
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Drake, who is famous for jumping on bandwagons and Canada’s most well-known Kentucky basketball fan, was spotted in an Instagram post wearing the jersey of Zion Williamson, one of the best players in the Class of 2018:

@mikewillmadeit @troubledte6

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

This Williamson kid is good, too.

Well, he’s great for the mixtapes.

Because he does stuff like this:

2017 McDonald’s All-Americans announced

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Michael Porter, Jr. #1 of KD Mokan Elite dribbles. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Rosters for the 2017 McDonald’s All-American game were announced on Sunday night as the game is headlined by Kentucky (four) having the most committed prospects in the game for the second consecutive season. Duke and UCLA also have two All-Americans each while seven players remain uncommitted.

Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Miami, Michigan State, Oregon, USC, Washington and Western Kentucky all have one McDonald’s All-American each.

The 40th McDonald’s All-American game is scheduled for March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.

Here are the rosters for the East and West:

EAST

Mohamed Bamba, 6-foot-11, Westtown School (West Chester, PA) — undecided
Wendell Carter, 6-foot-9, Pace Academy (Atlanta, GA) — committed to Duke
Trevon Duval, 6-foot-3, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) — undecided
Quade Green, 6-foot-1, Neumann Goretti High School (Philadelphia, PA) — committed to Kentucky
Kevin Knox, 6-foot-8, Tampa Catholic High School (Tampa, FL) — undecided
Nick Richards, 6-foot-11, The Patrick School (Hillside, NJ) — committed to Kentucky
Mitchell Robinson, 6-foot-11, Chalmette High School (Chalmette, LA) — committed to Western Kentucky
Collin Sexton, 6-foot-3, Pebblebrook High School (Mableton, GA) — committed to Alabama
Lonnie Walker, 6-foot-4, Reading High School (Reading, PA) — committed to Miami
P.J. Washington, 6-foot-8, Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV) — committed to Kentucky
Kris Wilkes, 6-foot-7, North Central High School (Indianapolis, IN) — committed to UCLA
Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-foot-8, Victory Prep Academy (Houston, TX) — committed to Kentucky

WEST

DeAndre Ayton, 7-foot-0, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, AZ) — committed to Arizona
Brian Bowen, 6-foot-7, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — undecided
Troy Brown Jr., 6-foot-7, Centennial High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to Oregon
Jaylen Hands, 6-foot-3, Foothills Christian High School (El Cajon, CA) — committed to UCLA
Jaren Jackson, 6-foot-11, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — committed to Michigan State
Brandon McCoy, 6-foot-11, Cathedral Catholic High School (San Diego, CA) — undecided
Charles O’Bannon Jr., 6-foot-6, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to USC
Michael Porter Jr., 6-foot-10, Nathan Hale High School (Seattle, WA) — committed to Washington
Billy Preston, 6-foot-10, Oak Hill Academy (Mount of Wilson, VA) — committed to Kansas
Gary Trent Jr., 6-foot-5, Prolific Prep (Napa, CA) — committed to Duke
M.J. Walker, 6-foot-5, Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro, GA) — undecided
Trae Young, 6-foot-2, Norman North High School (Norman, OK) — undecided

Conference breakdown of McDonald’s All-Americans

Pac-12: 6
SEC: 5
ACC: 3
Big 12: 1
Big Ten: 1
Conference USA: 1
Undecided: 7

VIDEO: Tom Crean loses his mind at garbage time alley-oop

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Indiana landed a 76-57 win over Rutgers on Sunday, a win that the Hoosiers badly needed; well, maybe the better way to phrase it is that Indiana couldn’t afford to lose this game.

Whatever the case is, the bottom-line is this: Indiana got a win in impressive enough fashion that they could clear the bench at the end of the game.

That resulted in Devonte Green attempting to throw an alley-oop to Freddie McSwain at the buzzer.

While up 19.

And that, in turn, cause Tom Crean to lose his mind:

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball doubleheader Sunday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Sunday with two games that will air as part of a doubleheader.

It starts with UMass at Rhode Island at 2:30 p.m. and concludes with George Washington heading to La Salle at 4:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

No. 13 Oregon routs Oregon State 85-43

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 11: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks shoots the ball over Ar'Mond Davis #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on December 11, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Payton Pritchard and No. 13 Oregon made the 40-mile bus ride a wasted trip for Oregon State in the latest leg of college basketball’s most-played rivalry.

As it turned out, the 347th Civil War wasn’t much more than a neighborhood skirmish.

Pritchard had 17 points and Oregon scored the game’s first 21 points in an 85-43 victory over Oregon State on Saturday night.

“Defense,” Pritchard said of the fast start. “When we start off going hard on defense, locking up, that’s going to happen for us.”

Dylan Ennis added 16 points to help the Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) win their 14th consecutive game – their longest such streak in 70 years – and 36th in a row at home. Dillon Brooks and Casey Benson each had 11 points.

Drew Eubanks had 19 points to lead the Beavers (4-14, 0-5), and Stephen Thompson Jr. added 10 points. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

“I think we were nervous,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “They came out and got physical with us and we had a couple of guys that didn’t know how to respond to their physicality.”

So dominant was Oregon from the opening tip that Oregon State needed more than nine minutes to make a field goal and had four of its first nine attempts blocked. The Beavers didn’t have more points than turnovers until Eubanks hit two free throws to cut the Ducks’ lead to 31-11 after 14 minutes.

“Our defensive intensity was really good to start the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I liked our activity the whole first half. Guys really flew around pretty good.”

Oregon State shot 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) in the first half. Eight of those 20 misses were blocked.

After leading 41-13 at the half, Oregon started the second on a 16-5 run to go up by 37 points. The Ducks’ largest lead was 43 in the final minute.

Oregon had assists on its first eight field goals and finished with 23 assists while shooting 27 of 52 (51.9 percent) overall and 11 of 23 (47.8 percent) from 3-point range.

“I don’t think we made a 3 that wasn’t off an assist tonight,” Altman said. “When our ball movement was good, we scored baskets.”

Jordan Bell had four of Oregon’s 12 blocks, one off the school record, and Chris Boucher had three. Oregon now has 137 blocks on the season to lead the nation.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State is now 2-10 since losing leading scorer Tres Tinkle, who averaged 20.2 points through the first six games, to a broken right wrist in late November. His status remains indefinite.

Oregon is one victory away from matching the school record for consecutive wins (15), which dates back to 1913. The Ducks have won 14 straight for the sixth time in their history but only the second time since World War II.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon, after climbing eight spots in the past two weeks, may improve its position with at least two teams ranked above it having lost.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Oregon’s 42-point margin was its largest in 161 Civil War victories. Oregon State has 187 wins in the series, including one by 43 points.

HE SAID IT

Altman said Boucher, who leads the Ducks in scoring at 13.7 points, told him before the game that he was fine continuing to play off the bench. Boucher hasn’t started since missing two games with a sprained ankle in mid-December. “For a player to say, `Use me however you’ve got to use me to win the game,’ that’s unselfish and that creates chemistry,” Altman said.

WAY TO GO, CHARLIE

The biggest cheer from what remained of the announced sellout crowd of 12,364 came when senior walk-on Charlie Noebel hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left for his first points of the season and his second field goal in 21 games spanning three seasons.

UP NEXT

Oregon State will try to break its five-game losing streak when it hosts Stanford on Thursday night.

Oregon stays home to face California on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday.