Steve Masiello

Late Night Snacks: First Saturday of the season produces no upsets

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GAME OF THE DAY: Manhattan 99, La Salle 90 (2OT)

The Jaspers and Explorers played an outstanding game at Tom Gola Arena, with Manhattan coming back from four points down with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Guard George Beamon scored 24 points in his return to the court, and Mike Alvarado put together a solid all-around game (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists) to help push the Jaspers past La Salle.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Dayton 81, IPFW 80

IPFW’s answer to the “foul or defend” question when up three in the final seconds was to foul, and it nearly worked. But they threw away the inbounds pass, leading to Jordan Sibert’s game-winning three pointer. Dyshawn Pierre was excellent for the Flyers, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 3 Louisville 70, College of Charleston 48: The Cardinals weren’t at their best, with the absence of both Chane Behanan (suspension) and Luke Hancock (Achilles) playing a role in that. With the eventual return of those key players and the continued development of Montrezl Harrell, Louisville will improve.

2) USC Upstate 64, Virginia Tech 63: All-Atlantic Sun forward Torrey Craig shot just 5-for-20 from the field but the Spartans still managed to win in Blacksburg in a result that wasn’t all that stunning. The Hokies shot 9-for-18 from the foul line.

3) Ohio 75, Northern Iowa 64: The Bobcats have some big holes to fill but their win over UNI is a good start. Junior college transfer Maurice Ndour led four starters in double figures with 20 points and five rebounds.

STARRED:

1) Richard Carter (Drake): In the Bulldogs’ 61-59 win at UIC, Carter “put the team on his back” to the tune of 38 points (12-for-17 FG, 12-for-12 FT), four steals and three rebounds.

2) F Marvin Dominique (Saint Peter’s): The Peacocks didn’t get the win in their game against LIU Brooklyn but Dominique was outstanding, finishing with 31 points (12-for-19 FG), 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern): Murray is the most talented player in the SWAC, and if he’s focused the well-traveled big man can lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament. Murray tallied 33 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists in TSU’s 95-83 win over Norfolk State.

STRUGGLED:

1) Everyone involved with the Niagara/Seton Hall game: The Pirates won 83-72 with Sterling Gibbs scoring 23 points, but the issue was the inability to adjust to the new rules regarding contact. The teams struggled (73 total fouls) and so did the officials, resulting in a game that lacked rhythm.

2) Grambling State: The Tigers were (as expected) outclassed on Saturday, falling 96-58 at DePaul. Grambling State’s now lost 29 games in a row, and they visit Big East preseason favorite Marquette on Tuesday.

3) South Dakota: The Coyotes took one on the chin, falling at St. Bonaventure (68-46) and finishing with more turnovers (17) than made field goals (15).

NOTABLES

  • No. 15 Gonzaga made short work of Bryant in the season opener for both, winning 100-76. While Przemek Karnowki struggled with foul trouble Sam Dowe had no such issues, finishing with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
  • No. 23 New Mexico’s Craig Neal won his first game as head coach, as the Lobos coasted past Alabama A&M by a final score of 88-52. One of the standouts for the Lobos was forward Cameron Bairstow, who put up 22 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Ohio State’s balanced effort in their 89-50 win over Morgan State is something people should get used to seeing this year. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 18 to lead five Buckeyes in double figures, with Shannon Scott adding 16.
  • Cleanthony Early picked up where he left off last season, scoring a game-high 21 points in No. 16 Wichita State’s 93-50 win over Emporia State. Ron Baker (17 points) and Fred Van Vleet (12) also reached double figures for the Shockers.
  • USF scored 70 points or more in just five games last season, with only one of those occasions coming in the 2013 portion of the slate. The Bulls scored 72 on Saturday night, doing so without the services of injured point guard Anthony Collins.
  • Three starters scored at least 20 points for Loyola Marymount, which moved to 2-0 with a 98-89 win over South Dakota State. While Anthony Ireland (20 points, 12 assists) is a known commodity, keep an eye on newcomers Ben Dickinson (22 points; transfer from Binghamton) and Gabe Levin (20).
  • VMI handed Air Force their first-ever loss in the three-year history of the All Military Classic, beating the Falcons 71-63 with D.J. Covington (20 points, seven rebounds) and O.J. Peterson (19) leading the way.
  • First-year head coach Dedrique Taylor enjoyed quite the debut, as his Cal-State Fullerton squad won at Montana State by the final score of 84-55. Guard Alex Harris (20 points) led four starters in double figures.
  • Temple held off Penn 78-73 at the Palestra to move to 1-0 in Big 5 play, with Dalton Pepper accounting for 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Four Owls scored in double figures.
  • Players returning from season-ending injuries included Penn State’s Tim Frazier, Northwestern’s Drew Crawford and Cleveland State’s Anton Grady, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Vikings’ 73-69 comeback win over Iona.
  • Kameron Belin’s shot with four seconds remaining proved to be the difference as Youngstown State beat FIU 74-72 in overtime. Belin, who finished with 17 points, scored all nine of the Penguins’ points in the extra session.
  • Butler’s Brandon Miller picked up a win in his regular season head coaching debut, as the Bulldogs put together a very good second half performance on the way to an 89-58 win over Lamar.
  • One night after losing by 84 points at Utah, NAIA Division II school Evergreen State was back on the floor at Idaho State. The Geoducks put up a better fight against the Bengals, losing 99-62.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

AP Photo
Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
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Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.