While it is too early to state definitively whether or not a team will reach the NCAA tournament, it’s never too early to look at their non-conference achievements with an eye towards Selection Sunday. For some, their belonging to a power conference will result in numerous opportunities to pick up quality wins in January and February. But for other teams, their conference may not offer up enough chances to pick up quality wins.
The latter situation is one that Tennessee may have to deal with, as the SEC doesn’t have the same number of quality win opportunities as the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. On Wednesday night the Volunteers fell to N.C. State at home, shooting just 29.4% from the field in their 65-58 loss to the young Wolfpack. With big men Jeronne Maymon (17 points, 16 rebounds) and Jarnell Stokes (ten points, 13 rebounds) at their disposal the Volunteers still attempted 24 of their 68 field goals from beyond the arc, making just three of those shots.
For a team that entered the game averaging 15 three-point attempts per game and scored just over 20% of its points on those shots, that’s a high number to attempt against a team with a front court as young as N.C. State’s. But this wasn’t about Tennessee losing the game, as Mark Gottfried’s squad showed signs of progress in a season that includes a loss to North Carolina Central.
T.J. Warren posted another double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow front court players Lennard Freeman (eight points, nine rebounds) and Kyle Washington (five points, seven rebounds) were factors as the Wolfpack outscored Tennessee 36-26 in the paint.
But of the two teams it was Tennessee who was expected to be a team that would safely qualify for the NCAA tournament when the season began. That could very well happen, but as of right now their best non-conference win was against Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Tonight’s result makes Tennessee’s last quality non-conference opportunity, a home game against Virginia on December 30, even more important from a resume standpoint.
And they’ll need their fellow SEC brethren to improve their standing as well, because with just one shot at both LSU and Kentucky (they do get Florida and Missouri twice) it’ll be tough to rack up quality wins once league play begins.
Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.
News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.
Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.
Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.
Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.
6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.
West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.
Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.