Stony Brook seeking to get over the hump, earn NCAA Tournament bid

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If one is to strictly judge a program’s success by berths to the NCAA Tournament, Albany and Vermont have been the top programs in the America East conference for the past 11 seasons as they have been there a combined eight times.

Will Brown has had sustained success at Albany, while Vermont’s success has been passed from Tom Brennan to Mike Lonergan and now to John Becker.

Many close followers of the America East would tell you that the top team may actually not be one of the aforementioned programs, but rather a school that has never even been to the NCAA Tournament: Stony Brook.

The Seawolves have accomplished a whole lot in a short time as a full-fledged Division 1 program: three regular season titles, three appearances in the NIT, and three 20+ win seasons in the past four years. Yet, no NCAA Tournament.

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell understands getting to the NCAA Tournament needs to happen to help legitimize the program even further, but he isn’t about to discount the strides that have already been taken.

“I’m proud of the three league championships; we never had one,” Pikiell told NBC Sports after Stony Brook’s 68-63 loss at Columbia. “I’m proud of the guys in the program; they work hard and are great kids. Is there pressure? Yeah. I’d like to get there for Stony Brook University.”

The pressure Pikiell speaks of is a good pressure. The pressure signifies how far Stony Brook has come to the point of winning the America East is the expectation, and not just a lofty goal. However, real pressure — the kind that keeps a coach in his office late at night — is something he experienced in his first year at Stony Brook in 2005-06.

“My first year we started out 0-9. That’s pressure. Fighting for your life.”

Times have changed.

“We are going to compete for a league title this year. We have to hit three home runs. Our non-conference just ended, you want to have a winning record in the non-conference; we have that. Now we’re going into league play; we’ve won one game already. You have to hit another home run during the regular season. Then you’ve got to do it all over again in the conference tournament.”

It’s the usual suspects at the top of the nine team league as Albany and Vermont figure to be Stony Brook’s primary challengers.

“Vermont has I think like eight seniors; these guys have won a lot of games. And Albany, he does a great job – Will Brown up there. Last year, [the America East] had five teams in the postseason. You play tough non-conference games, so the record doesn’t indicate how good some of these teams are.”

When Stony Brook won 25 games last season — their most since they became a Division 1 program — the recipe for success was on the defensive end as they surrendered just 57.5 points per game. While the defense isn’t as strong this season with graduating claiming Tommy Brenton and Marcus Rouse, Pikiell believes his team can win in multiple ways.

“We’re a little bit young. We lost a lot of seniors last year, so we were kind of figuring ourselves out. I like our team. I think we can win in two ways this year, whereas last year it was defense, defense, defense.”

The Seawolves are already 1-0 in the America East having beaten New Hampshire earlier this season, but league play truly starts up this weekend on the road at Hartford — a team who handed them one of just two league losses a season ago.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.