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.
Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.
The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.
Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.
With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.