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Late Night Snacks: Saint Louis honors a special fan (VIDEO)

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In early June the Saint Louis basketball family lost its biggest fan, as 9-year old Joshua Brown passed away after a battle with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of brain tumor. SLU connected with Joshua through the Friends of Jaclyn program, which connects children suffering from brain tumors with college sports teams.

Prior to the Billikens’ 74-47 win over Bowling Green on Saturday evening the team gave the Brown family an Atlantic 10 championship ring in Joshua’s memory.

GAME OF THE DAY: Toledo 80, Detroit 78

Thanks to Julius “Juice” Brown the Rockets are still undefeated (5-0), as his three-point play with six seconds remaining capped a wild comeback at Calihan Hall. With 15:20 to go in the game the Titans led 58-39 following two Juwan Howard Jr. free throws. From that point forward Toledo outscored Detroit 41-20, with J.D. Weatherspoon (14 points) and Rian Pearson (16 points) figuring prominently in the rally. Howard led Detroit with a game-high 23 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 1 Michigan State 87, Oklahoma 76: Keith Appling may have finished the game with just two assists, but on this night the Spartans needed him to score in order to hold off the Sooners. Appling finished with 27 points, scoring eight of those in the final 3:04 of the game. Gary Harris added 21 points and Branden Dawson posted a double-double (18 points, ten rebounds) for the Spartans. Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark, who was close to unstoppable early on, finished with 32 points and seven rebounds to lead all scorers.

2) No. 24 North Carolina 82, Richmond 72: The Tar Heels didn’t get off to the best of starts at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, but they were able to do enough in the second half to take care of Richmond. Marcus Paige (26 points) and Brice Johnson (24 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for UNC, who will play No. 3 Louisville in Sunday’s title game. Unfortunately for the Heels, the “P.J. Hairston Watch” continues.

3) No. 12 Wisconsin 76, Oral Roberts 67: Frank Kaminsky led five Badger starters in double figures with 21 points as Wisconsin held off the Golden Eagles in Madison. As for ORU, their chances of winning the Southland may have taken a hit with head coach Scott Sutton revealing after the game that sophomore guard Obi Egemano is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL (suffered in the game prior at Saint Louis).

STARRED:

1) Doug McDermott (Creighton): While the underclassmen get the majority of the headlines McDermott simply continues to produce. In Creighton’s 82-72 win over Tulsa McDermott tallied 33 points and 15 rebounds.

2) Elijah Pittman (Marshall): 35 points (8-for-13 3PT), seven rebounds and two assists in the Thundering Herd’s 96-78 win over UNCW.

3) Keith Appling (Michigan State): Scored 27 points (8-for-12 FG), with 8 of those coming in the final 3:04 after Oklahoma pulled to within four, to lead the Spartans past the Sooners, 87-76.

STRUGGLED:

1) LIU-Brooklyn. The three-time defending NEC champions have taken two beatings during their three-game stop in southern California. After losing to UC Irvine by 20 Friday night the Blackbirds fell 102-70 to Eastern Washington on Saturday.

2) George Mason. The Patriots, who entered Saturday’s game at Iona 4-0, did not show up in New Rochelle ready to play. With 8:55 remaining in the first half George Mason trailed 34-5 in a game they’d go on to lose 89-73.

3) Rutgers. Leading William & Mary 33-24 at the half, the Scarlet Knights were outscored 48-29 in the second half of their 72-62 loss to the Tribe. And Rutgers shot 10-for-19 from three in the game as well.

TOP 25 SCORES: 

  • No. 1 Michigan State 87, Oklahoma 76
  • No. 3 Louisville 71, Fairfield 57
  • No. 11 Memphis 98, Nicholls 59
  • No. 12 Wisconsin 76, Oral Roberts 67
  • No. 23 Creighton 82, Tulsa 72
  • No. 24 North Carolina 82, Richmond 72

NOTABLES: 

  • No. 3 Louisville wasn’t particularly sharp on Saturday as they beat Fairfield 71-57 in the second game of the afternoon doubleheader at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Chris Jones scored 15 points and Montrezl Harrell added 14 (and 13 rebounds) to lead the way.
  • The proper tonic for No. 11 Memphis on the heels of their poor performance at No. 8 Oklahoma State: Nicholls. Austin Nicholls led five Tigers in double figures with 20 points as Memphis beat Nicholls (don’t call them Nicholls State) 98-59.
  • Doug McDermott wasn’t the only standout in No. 23 Creighton’s 82-72 win over Tulsa, as Austin Chatman accounted for 17 points and nine assists.
  • Preseason Patriot League favorite Boston University picked up a solid road victory, as they beat preseason Big West favorite UC Irvine 74-68. D.J. Irving (18 points, six rebounds) and Dom Morris (17 and eight) led the way for the Terriers.
  • Five players scored in double figures as Vanderbilt bounced back from a tough loss to Providence, beating Morgan State 75-66.
  • Speaking of bouncing back from tough losses, Seton Hall beat Virginia Tech 68-67 with Fuquan Edwin sealing the game at the foul line. Now 4-2, the Pirates won’t be a pushover in the Big East.
  • Joe Harris only scored nine points but it didn’t matter as Virginia beat Liberty, 75-53. Anthony Gill scored 13 off the bench, and the Cavaliers will need that kind of production from the South Carolina transfer when they take on tougher competition.
  • The lone Division I team without a conference, NJIT, moved to 4-2 on the season with a 91-88 overtime win over Lafayette. Not sure if (or when) the Highlanders find a home, but the best thing Jim Engles and company can do to help their cause is win games.
  • Mark Henniger led five Kent State players in double figures with 20 points as the Golden Flashes held off Niagara, 102-97.

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)
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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

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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)
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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.

Jim Boeheim’s Melo comments are evidence of why athletes hate the media

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States poses with Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has a habit of creating headlines that are not all that flattering, to himself or to the people that he’s commenting on, which is why it wasn’t much of a surprise that a quote he gave to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard has been making the rounds this week.

The quote in question?

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of his former star and now three-time Olympic champion Carmelo Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

That sounds bad, doesn’t it?

But … I mean, he’s right, isn’t he?

Melo is 32 years old and title-less. He’s been to the conference finals once and gotten out of the first round of the playoffs just twice, and now he’s on the downside of his career. Athletes don’t get better as they exit their early 30s unless they’re taking whatever it was that turned Barry Bonds into a cyborg. Adding the remnants of Derrick Rose and a 31 year old Joakim Noah is helpful, but unless those contracts can teleport the Knicks back to 2011, Rose will be the only person calling this group a Super Team.

So yeah, Boeheim is right. You probably think so, too. Melo is probably never going to win an NBA title unless he finds a way to get to the Cavs.

But here’s the thing: focusing on that one line totally ignores the point that Boeheim was making in the interview. As always, context is critical, and if you read the story that Waters wrote, it’s pretty obvious the message that Boeheim was trying to get across. Melo is not going to leave a legacy in the NBA beyond being a guy that got a lot of buckets. It just didn’t work out for him that way. Ask Karl Malone how that feels.

But by going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, by becoming the first men’s basketball player to win three Olympic gold medals, Melo did solidify himself a legacy.

He’s the most accomplished and, arguably, the best player that Team USA has ever had. That’s not going to make up for the rings that are missing on his fingers, but it does cement his place in the history of the game.

That was Boeheim’s point, and it was a salient, intelligent point, one that complimented Melo for the success that he had in international play.

But if you scroll through your favorite blogs and see that headline, it looks like he was taking a shot at the player that brought him his only national title.

And given how twisted that quote has gotten, is it any wonder why athletes and coaches hate the media?

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): Boeheim has weighed in:

Oregon wins their opener on Spanish tour

Oregon forward Elgin Cook, from left, forward Dillon Brooks and guard Tyler Dorsey react after a play against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won 83-77. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Oregon won the opener of their tour in Spain 109-88 on Tuesday night, as the Ducks knocked off a team of all-stars in Madrid.

Tyler Dorsey had 19 points to lead the Ducks while Kavell Bigby-Williams and Dylan Ennis, who is coming off of a season derailed by foot injuries, both added 16 points. Chris Boucher, who was terrific at the Nike Skills Academy in July, had 12 points.

While Ennis’ health was noteworthy, it is also worth pointing out that Oregon’s star Dillon Brooks did not play on Monday and will not be playing on the trip. I know this because, in every photo posted by the official Oregon team accounts, Brooks is in a chair with a boot on his left foot.

The rising junior, a potential all-american, had surgery on the foot earlier this month.