R.J. Hunter (Georgia State athletics)

Who will wear the glass slipper? 11 potential ‘Cinderellas’ in 2013-2014

2 Comments

source:
R.J. Hunter (Georgia State athletics)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Every March, the nation falls in love with a new Cinderella, as a team from off college hoops beaten path puts together a run in the NCAA tournament. Florida-Gulf Coast, Wichita State, Lehigh, Butler, VCU, George Mason. The list goes on and on and on. 

To help you prepare for your college hoops viewing schedule this season, here is a list of potential Cinderellas. We can differ on what, exactly, makes a team eligible to be a ‘Cinderella’, but here’s criteria I used to make this list:

  • Cannot be from one of the top nine conference, meaning no new Big East, no Atlantic 10 and no Mountain West.
  • Cannot be a team that got preseason top 25 consideration. So no Harvard and no Wichita State. 
  • Cannot be a program that is “known”, so send my apologies to the folks at St. Mary’s, BYU, UTEP and Southern Miss. 

Essentially, I’m just looking for a way to give you a list of teams you don’t know about that will be a double-digit seed yet have a chance to make it to the second weekend of the Big Dance. Feel free to quibble away:

Boston University: The Terriers have arguably the best back court at the mid-major level this season. D.J. Irving can score with the best of them, and his counterpart, Maurice Watson, is a terrific point guard and a former top 100 recruit that really has no business playing outside a power conference. Good guard play can take you a long way in March.

Florida-Gulf Coast: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Everyone knows about #DunkCity already so they shouldn’t be on this list. Whatever. I don’t care, because Florida-Gulf Coast brings back enough talent to once again make a run in the tournament. Bernard Thompson is back, as is freewheeling point guard Brett Comer. The Eagles have a slew of long, athletic big men that can run the floor as well. The biggest question will be whether new head coach Joe Dooley let’s #DunkCity be #DunkCity again.

Georgia State: Ron Hunter has himself as talented of a perimeter attack as you’ll find at the mid-major level. R.J. Hunter averaged more than 17 points as a freshman, and he’s not the only returnee, as Devonta White and Manny Atkins are back as well. Throw in the addition of Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow, who is eligible immediately, and the Panthers are some production from their front court away from being a real threat to make the Preseason NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Indiana State: Jake Odum is a stud. Anyone that remembers the run he led the Sycamores on as a freshman back in 2011, winning the MVC tournament, will agree with me. Manny Arop and Justin Gant also return for a team that beat Creighton, Wichita State, Miami and Ole Miss last season. ISU lost seven of their last nine games last year, however. Can they avoid a collapse this season?

Iona: The Gaels are loaded with high-major transfers. Sean Armand and David Laury is as good of a 1-2 punch as you’ll find at the mid-major level, and Tre Bowman, Mike Poole and Tavon Sledge all started their careers playing in BCS conferences. Iona gets up and down the floor in a hurry, plays five guys that can handle the ball and shoots a lot of threes. They’ll be inconsistent, as all jump-shooting teams are, but on the nights that those shots are falling, they’ll be able to compete with just about anyone. 

Louisiana Tech: What I like about the Bulldogs is that head coach Mike White has this group playing a system that is tough to prepare for. Tech presses. A lot. They force a lot of turnovers and can overwhelm teams that don’t have strong back court play. The Bulldogs won a lot of games last season, but utterly disappointed in two marquee road games against WAC powers Denver and New Mexico State to end the regular season. Will Raheem Appleby and company be able to dominate in their first year in Conference USA?

Mercer: With all the attention that Florida-Gulf Coast got last season, would it surprise you if I told you that Mercer was actually the best team in the Atlantic Sun during the season? They also knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville during the NIT, bring back all but one contributor from last year and will have as experienced of a rotation as you’ll find anywhere.

North Dakota State: Taylor Braun returns to Fargo to lead a team that brings back all five starters from a season ago. The Bison were arguably the best team in the Summit League last season and could have knocked Nate Wolters and South Dakota State from their perch had Braun not gotten injured midway through the year. Look for NDSU to right that wrong this season.

Towson: Pat Skerry engineered one of the most impressive turnarounds in the country last season, and he did largely on the backs of transfers from high-major programs. Namely, Jerelle Benimon, a Georgetown transfer that ended up averaging 17 points and 11 boards. With sharpshooter Four McGlynn eligible this season, the Tigers could end up being even more dangerous this year. 

Weber State: The Wildcats lost Damian Lillard, Scott Bamforth and Frank Otis in the last two years, but with Davion Berry, a Big Sky Player of the Year candidate, leading a team with one of the better front lines at the mid-major level — you might have heard of Kyle Tresnak but keep an eye on Joel Bolomboy — Weber State is favored to finally win a Big Sky title.

Wright State: The Raiders were one of the most surprising teams in the country last season, finishing third in the Horizon and coming a few possessions from making the NCAA tournament after getting picked dead last in the preseason. Wright State brings back all five starters from that team.

VIDEO: Lonzo Ball caps crazy first half with 30-footer

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 2 UCLA and Michigan are stuck in the middle of an absolute shootout.

At halftime in Pauley Pavilion, the score is tied at 50 after the two teams combined to shoot 22-for-30 from three.

Seriously.

The highlight?

Ball capping the first half with a three from the logo:

PHOTO: Bryce Harper visits the Duke locker room

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the second half against the Yale Bulldogs during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 19, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Duke embarrassed UNLV in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon.

Not only did they beat the Runnin’ Rebels 94-45, but they made sure that UNLV was on the receiving end of what will probably go down as the best dunk of the college basketball season.

(No, seriously, you need to see what Grayson Allen did.)

After the game, Duke had a special visitor in their locker room: soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper, who seems destined to break the hearts of Washington Nationals fans when he leaves D.C. for the Yankees. I’m sure this will only boost his popularity in a city that loves the Maryland Terrapins:

czw6qrtviaat0tq
via @DukeMBB

No. 15 West Virginia struggles early, beats VMI 90-55

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Tarik Phillip #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers talks with head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Temple Owls in the second half during the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) It took nine games for West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr. to start to find a rhythm.

Miles scored a season-high 20 points and the 15th-ranked Mountaineers overcame an early lull to beat VMI 90-55 on Saturday and give coach Bob Huggins his 799th career win.

Miles missed the first three games with an unspecified illness and was ejected for throwing an elbow in the first half of a close win over Virginia last Saturday. The lack of court time set him back on a team where a dozen players are getting extensive minutes.

Against VMI, the junior went 6 of 9 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

“It feels good,” Miles said. “I just had to get back into the basic of things, and just whatever it takes me to do. Did I feel like it was my time? No. Everybody has roles and we all kind of know what each other likes to do.”

West Virginia (8-1) followed up a 53-point win over Western Carolina on Wednesday night with a lackluster first half to finish its final exams week.

VMI (1-7) accomplished what no other mid-major opponent has done in the first half this season – handle West Virginia’s full-court pressure defense and keep up in scoring for a while.

The Keydets lost by 18 points at home to Gardner-Webb in their last game but were scrappy out of the gate against the often-substituting Mountaineers.

After falling behind by 16, the Keydets were within 22-17 before Miles made two 3-pointers, and Elijah Macon’s free throw with 4 minutes left until halftime put the Mountaineers ahead by double digits for good, 32-22.

“I thought we competed, especially for the first 25 minutes,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “I give West Virginia a ton of credit. They come at you for 40 minutes. They wore us down a little bit.”

Esa Ahmad added 12 points and Brandon Watkins had a season-high 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for West Virginia.

QJ Peterson scored 17 points for VMI, which was limited to three field goals over the final 12 minutes of the game.

BIG PICTURE

VMI: The Keydets might win more games if they match the intensity that they had midway through the first half, when they went on an 11-0 run, including seven points by Peterson, who led West Virginia’s Hedgesville High School to a state championship in 2012.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers lead the nation in forced turnovers with 26.5 per game, including at least 34 turnovers in two of their last three games. Two years ago VMI committed 36 against them. But the defensive effort wasn’t there from start-to-finish Saturday for West Virginia, which forced 22.

“Twenty-two forced turnovers to most people is good,” Huggins said. “And we’re looking at it like we should’ve had some more.”

ADRIAN SLUMPING

The Mountaineers haven’t gotten much production lately out of Nathan Adrian, who no longer is the team’s top scorer after getting two points each against Western Carolina and VMI.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

West Virginia should move up in the AP poll after No. 12 Saint Mary’s and No. 13 Xavier lost earlier in the week.

CHARITY CLANK

West Virginia isn’t going to win many games at the free throw line. The Mountaineers are shooting 66 percent from the line this season and went 26 of 42 (62 percent) on Saturday. They fared better from 3-point range, going 10 of 19.

UP NEXT

VMI: Hosts Charleston Southern on Tuesday.

West Virginia: Can give Huggins his 800th win when it hosts Missouri-Kansas City next Saturday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

No. 3 Jayhawks cruise to 89-72 victory over Nebraska

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk #10 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots against Evan Taylor #11 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Allen Field House on December 10, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self and Nebraska coach Tim Miles exchanged a few humorous words after the third-ranked Jayhawks rolled to an 89-72 victory over their former Big 12 foe on Saturday.

Turns out Miles was giving him a little jab.

“Come on, what do you have to complain about? Nothing,” Miles said, recalling their light-hearted conversation. “Sorry, the cheerleaders’ little thing on their pompom fell on the floor. You got it tough.”

Indeed, Self had just spent most of the afternoon riding the officials and riding his players.

Basically, spoiling for a fight.

But from Miles’ perspective, there wasn’t much reason: The Jayhawks made it look easy.

“I thought the first half we were really good, we were really solid. The second half we weren’t,” Self said. “We didn’t guard anybody, but the first half was good, so we’ll dwell on the positive.

“That’s what I always choose to do,” he added with a wry grin, “dwell on the positive.”

Frank Mason III had 18 points and seven assists without a turnover. Josh Jackson had 17 points and Svi Mykhailiuk added 15. Devonte Graham scored 14 and kept everybody calm. Landen Lucas was 5 for 5 from the field and finished with 12 points to give Kansas (9-1) an inside presence.

The result was a blowout despite the absence of forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who is suspended following his arrest Friday for misdemeanor battery. The part-time starter spent the game in street clothes.

“I don’t know anything more than I knew yesterday, which is very little,” Self said. “It’s not anything that’s worth commenting on because there’s no decisions to be made as far as finality goes until you hear what transpired, and certainly I’m sure people are trying to figure it out.”

Tai Webster led Nebraska (5-5) with 22 points. Ed Morrow Jr. finished with 16.

“Yeah, it was rough,” Webster said, “a tough environment to come into. The crowd is nothing like we’ve seen before, but they’re good at what they do. They pressure you full-court, every time you take it out, and they’re relentless. They’re tough.”

The Jayhawks rolled to a 54-34 halftime lead, but things started to go haywire after the break. They missed eight of their first 11 free throws in the second half, allowing Nebraska to claw back into the game.

What really set Self off, though, came with about 12 minutes left, when Mykhailiuk tracked down a loose ball and tried to throw an alley-oop pass to Jackson off the glass. Jackson’s dunk hit the rim and sprung into the air – and sent Self springing from his seat with an R-rated roar.

Asked who earned the brunt for it, Jackson or Mykhailiuk, Lucas chimed in: “Everybody on the court.”

It was Jackson who responded, though. He scored the next two baskets, then converted an emphatic jam, as the Jayhawks pushed their lead back to 20 and coasted the rest of the way.

“That’s a fast team, a skilled team, a powerful team. They can get you a lot of ways,” Miles said. “I was really proud of our guys. I thought the second half we showed some toughness, some resiliency to at least claw back and make it uneasy on them.”

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska has lost five of six, including a blowout loss to No. 10 Creighton. The only win for Miles’ struggling team during that stretch came against South Dakota.

Kansas finished 14 of 25 from the free throw line, continuing a troubling trend. Jackson was 3 of 8, while Udoka Azubuike clanked three of his four attempts off the rim.

BRAGG BENCHED

The Jayhawks’ sophomore forward pleaded not guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery after allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. Bragg had appeared in their first nine games, starting five of them, and is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16 minutes.

“I think one reason why in the first half we were more focused was because of it. I don’t know,” Self said. “But they seemed to be pretty focused in the first half, but it was a distraction, and with teams and throughout seasons, there’s going to be different things come up.”

UP NEXT

Nebraska returns home to play Gardner-Webb on Dec. 18.

Kansas plays Davidson on Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

No. 11 Louisville runs away from Texas Southern 102-71

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 10:  Quentin Snider #4 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball during the game against the Texas Southern Tigers at KFC YUM! Center on December 10, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Rick Pitino graciously acknowledged the latest milestone in his Hall of Fame career with the hope his Louisville Cardinals grow from the tougher-than-expected win that required overcoming some deficiencies.

Quentin Snider scored 15 points, V.J. King added 13 and No. 11 Louisville overcame a cold shooting start to beat Texas Southern 102-71 on Saturday and give Pitino his 400th victory as the Cardinals’ coach.

Pitino, who last month earned his 750th career college victory, improved to 400-163 in his 16th season with Louisville. His Cardinals (9-1) first had to shake off early sluggishness and a 4-for-21 start from the field to pull away from the scrappy, athletic Tigers and win their fourth in a row.

They also had to overcome a rebounding clinic conducted by Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin, who grabbed 26 of his team’s 49 boards to establish as NCAA Division I high for this season. His performance included 15 offensive rebounds that helped the Tigers make things tense for 25 minutes before Louisville slowly pulled away.

“Well, congratulations to Derrick Griffin because that was an amazing rebounding performance,” said Pitino, whose team edged the Tigers by two rebounds overall. “Happy with the victory, but when you can learn lessons in victory rather than defeat, like the Baylor game, it helps you a lot. … It was good tonight because those guys got taken to the woodshed on the glass, and they’ll learn a valuable lesson.”

Louisville made 30 of its final 57 shots (53 percent) to finish at 44 percent from the field overall while holding TSU (4-5) to 35 percent. Snider’s first double-figure game scoring in four contests set the tone followed by five teammates.

Donovan Mitchell had 12 points, Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel 11 each and Mangok Mathiang 10 for Louisville.

Freshman point guard Demontrae Jefferson debuted with 27 points for Texas Southern, which lost its fourth straight. Dulani Robinson added 16 points and Griffin had 15 for the Tigers.

Griffin didn’t seem fazed by his rebounding performance.

“Playing defense was key,” said the 6-foot-7 sophomore, last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and this year’s preseason choice. “That’s what we focus on, and our offense comes from our defense.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Texas Southern: The 5-7 Jefferson entered as a four-star prospect and with just one practice but delivered on high expectations with strong court leadership and 10 first-half points. Griffin helped the Tigers stay close on the boards with Louisville but had no bench to keep up with the Cardinals, being shut out 21-0 in the first half and outscored 43-8 overall.

“They’re just so physical,” coach Mike Davis said of Louisville. “Because of that, a turnover here, a missed shot there would’ve been different but it would’ve been hard for us to sustain our play for 40 minutes.”

Louisville: Three days after thriving against Southern Illinois, the Cardinals’ frontcourt struggled early against TSU as Mathiang and Ray Spalding each picked up two fouls. Fortunately for Louisville, Snider picked things up while Adel and King added timely baskets.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Louisville: The Cardinals have had a good week with lopsided wins that should keep them near the top 10.

ROAD TESTED

Texas Southern won’t debut at home until Jan. 14 against Grambling and their next four games are at No. 22 Cincinnati, LSU, TCU and No. 4 Baylor, which handed Louisville its first loss last month. Davis said he created the challenging road docket to prepare his team for league play and hopefully win a third straight SWAC regular season title.

“We’re not focused on the outcome right now. we’re focused on the outcome in March,” he said. “I’d rather show them a great hotel, eat really well, play in a game they’ll be able to see on TV one day with the family than to play a home game in front of a few hundred people and it cost us money. If they understand the challenges now, it’ll help them in the real world.”

UP NEXT

Texas Southern: The Tigers’ stretch of 16 road games to open the season continues Tuesday at No. 22 Cincinnati.

Louisville: Hosts Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 17. Pitino reunites with second-year Colonels coach Dan McHale, who was a Cardinals staff assistant and former video director.

More AP College Basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org