No. 9 Michigan State nearly overcame Gary Harris’ rough afternoon


At this point in the season Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris is one of the players who has to be considered not only for Big Ten Player of the Year honors but a spot on All-America teams as well. Averaging 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game (before Sunday), Harris is one of the key cogs in the attack for a Spartan squad that has battled the injury bug all season long.

To expect Michigan State to win in spite of a 3-for-20 afternoon from Harris with all members of their rotation available would be a stretch. To do so with Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (hand) out of the lineup and Adreian Payne (foot) playing just his second game in the last month? Near impossible. Yet there were the Spartans, hanging around at Wisconsin with Payne and Travis Trice making key plays down the stretch. Ultimately Michigan State would fall, as Traevon Jackson hit a jumper from the left wing with 2.1 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin the 60-58 victory.

The issue for Harris, first and foremost, was the defense applied by Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. One of the Big Ten’s best defenders Gasser made life difficult for Harris for much of the afternoon, and when the sophomore was able to get shots up few of those looks went unchallenged. That resulted in some forced attempts, hardly the recipe for a player looking to get untracked offensively, and when Harris did shake free of Gasser he found another Badger (or more) waiting.

Harris did manage to get two dunks early in the second half, but those plays didn’t provide the spark needed to get him going offensively. Add to this the fact that Harris didn’t attempt a single free throw, and the end result is a six-point afternoon for one of the nation’s best two-guards. Harris did account for seven rebounds and three steals, as he didn’t allow his shot to affect the level of effort given in other areas of the game.

However as noted above the Spartans remained in contact with Wisconsin throughout thanks to the play of Payne, who scored 24 points and tied the game at 58 with a three-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining. Payne was assertive offensively, and defensively he spent time on both Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. After shaking off some rust in a comfortable win over Penn State on Thursday night, Payne had the look of the player he was before injuring his foot.

And with an eye towards March and the need for players other than your stars to step forward on occasion, Travis Trice’s 13 points should not be ignored. Trice hit a key three with 1:45 remaining to pull Michigan State to within three, and his pass to Payne resulted in the game-tying basket. And after scoring a total of five points on 1-for-11 shooting in Michigan State’s last two games, maybe this outing will be the confidence boost Trice needs moving forward.

And just as important as the scoring is the fact that Trice went a second consecutive game without committing a turnover. When healthy (knock on wood, Spartan fans) Michigan State won’t need Trice to be a double-digit scorer but they do need him to be productive when on the floor. That happened against Wisconsin, and Michigan State nearly left Madison with the win as a result.

Gary Harris had the worst shooting day of his young career on Sunday, with Michigan State also missing two starters, and Tom Izzo’s squad nearly overcame it. The Spartans will be fine, because it’s a safe bet that Harris doesn’t shoot that poorly again.

CAA Preview: Hofstra, James Madison head balanced field

Ronald Curry (AP Photo)
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the CAA.

There may not have been a conference in the country that was more competitive at the top than the CAA a season ago. Four teams shared the regular season title and seven finished within three games of first place.

It doesn’t get more competitive than that, and while a couple of those teams lose some critical pieces, we’re staring down the barrel of another CAA season that won’t be decided until the final game.

On paper, Hofstra looks like the best team, as they clearly have the most talent. Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, the best 1-2 punch in the conference are arguably the best perimeter pairing in mid-major hoops, are both back for their final season. Sharp-shooter Brian Bernardi returns as well, as do a couple of big bodies inside, but the issue for the Pride this season will have nothing to do with how well they can score.

Can they get stops? The Pride were 49th nationally in offensive efficiency last season. They were 249th in defensive efficiency and struggled throughout the year to get critical stops on key possessions.

That leaves James Madison, who won a share of last year’s regular season title. The Dukes have the league’s best pure point guard on their roster in 6-foot-4 Ron Curry. Curry averaged 13.9 points and 4.3 assists as a junior and was the catalyst in a number of important wins. Matt Brady also has the best big man in the conference in 6-foot-9 Yohanny Dalembert. Throw in a pair of snipers on the wings and a handful of quality role players, and JMU has a real shot at winning again.

The key for this group is going to be team chemistry. In 2014-15, their season turned when they dismissed Andre Nation, arguably the most talented player on the roster, in December.

Northeastern, William & Mary and UNC Wilmington all lose critical pieces off of last year’s roster.

Northeastern will be without big man Scott Eatherton, a key piece in their near-upset of Notre Dame in the opening round of last year’s NCAA tournament, but they bring back four key seniors from last year, including Quincy Ford and David Walker. They’ll be in the mix down the stretch despite Eatherton’s graduation, but the same cannot be said for William & Mary.

The Tribe run a Princeton-esque offensive system, and they run it well, which should help them overcome the loss of Marcus Thornton, one of the most dynamic guards in all of college basketball last season. They also return a promising wing in Omar Prewitt, but there are some real concerns. Can Prewitt handle facing an opponent’s best defender on a nightly basis? And without Thornton, do they have someone they can turn to if their offense breaks down?

UNCW loses their two leading scorers and three of their top five players. Kevin Keatts is a terrific coach, but the Seahawks look primed to take a small step back this season. As will Drexel, who lost Damion Lee as a graduate transfer to Louisville.

There are two teams to keep an eye on in the middle of the league: Delaware and Towson. The Blue Hens were dreadfully inexperienced last season and dealing with a coaching staff that was left in contract limbo. They still managed to finish 9-9 in the league, returning the league’s two best freshmen in Kory Holden and Chivarsky Corbett. They’re probably a year away from truly being a contender.

Towson lost leading scorer Four McGlynn, but John Davis and Byron Hawkins both return while Wake Forest transfer Arnaud William Adala Moto will be eligible this year.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Hofstra is probably the most talented team. But Hofstra was really talented last year, too, and with [Green and Tanksley] they only finished 10-8. Can they defend a little better? That was their Achilles’ heel last year. I also like James Madison. Ronald Curry is the best point guard in the league, and [Yohanney] Dalembert is the best big.”
  • Sleeper: “I really like Delaware. I think they’re a year away, but I hate to play them. If Kory Holden has it going, they’ve got two guys that can score inside and if Chivarsky Corbett progresses on the wing? I like their chances.”
  • Star to watch: “Juan’ya Green. He just plays wit such a pace. Big guard, can score at all three levels, make threes, mid-range, scores at the rim. He’s got a feel for the game. Old man game, it looks like he’s coasting until you see the box score. He’s a terrific player. Far and away biggest difference maker in the league.”


I’m not sure what I can add here that wasn’t mentioned in the Coach’s Take. Green, who transferred into the program from Niagara, averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 boards. The knock on him — like the rest of the Pride — is his effort on the defensive end of the floor. But even with those concerns, Green is the best player on the team that can win the league.


  • Ronald Curry, James Madison: Curry has improved every year he’s been in college, averaging 13.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 boards as a junior. As he goes, JMU goes.
  • Ameen Tanksley, Hofstra: The second-part of Hofstra’s dynamic Philly duo. Green is the playmaker for the Pride, Tanksley, a 6-foot-5 wing that averaged 16.5 points last season, is their pure scorer.
  • Terry Tarpey, William & Mary: A 6-foot-5 guard, Tarpey averaged 12.0 points, 8.4 boards and 3.2 assists as a junior. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in the league last season. A winner through and through.
  • Yohanny Dalembert, James Madison: A junior from Haiti, the 6-foot-8 Dalembert should be the best big in the conference this season. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.9 boards a season ago.



1. James Madison
2. Hofstra
3. Northeastern
4. Delaware
5. William & Mary
6. Towson
7. UNC Wilmington
8. Drexel
9. Charleston
10. Elon

Texas lands commitment from top 100 center

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James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.

Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.

“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”

He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.

Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.