Terran Petteway scored 23 points and hit a pair of ridiculous threes to stave off No. 9 Michigan State’s comeback attempts as Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers picked themselves up a statement win by going into the Breslin Center to knock off the Spartans, 60-51.
Nebraska isn’t quite on the bubble yet, and while this win certainly will put them within striking distance, the bottom line is that this was a program win. Nebraska has a tough home court. They can play with anyone in Pinnacle Bank Arena, especially when it’s packed, but going into the toughest environment in the Big Ten?
Beating Tom Izzo in his own building?
That’s not something that anyone can do.
The future is bright in Lincoln, but that’s not the biggest story coming out of this game.
Michigan State has now lost four of their last seven games. Granted, they are not playing at close to full strength just yet. Two of those losses came without Adreian Payne in the lineup. One of them came with Keith Appling on the bench. He returned to action today, but came off the bench, played limited minutes and was largely ineffective and clearly not at 100%. Branden Dawson is still a week away from returning from his broken hand.
In fact, I think you have to go all the way back to their loss to North Carolina, when Gary Harris was battling an ankle issue and Appling first injured his wrist, for when the Spartans were last completely healthy.
That’s more than two months ago, which begs the question: How do we judge this team when it comes to the tournament? They beat Kentucky in the Champions Classic and they beat Oklahoma in Brooklyn, but beyond that, everything that they’ve done this season has come without one of their Big Four players in the lineup.
The eye test — and common-sense — will tell you that a team with that much talent and a head coach the likes of Tom Izzo will be an immediate tournament favorite, but can we really seed a team in the Big Dance based off of that? The Spartans need to prove it with results on the court, they’ll have a chance to in their last four games.
Here is the remainder of Michigan State’s schedule: at Purdue, at Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, at Ohio State. Appling should be back to 100% by next weekend, when Sparty makes the trip to Ann Arbor, and Dawson shouldn’t be out of the lineup much longer than that. They’ll play some tough games with their entire roster, which means that they’ll have a chance to show the selection committee what seed they deserve.
Because on Sunday, it was quite evident just how badly the Spartans miss Appling’s presence at the point.
Credit where credit is due: Nebraska played a heckuva game. But Michigan State made it easy on them. Outside of a 12 minute stretch in the middle of the second half, the Spartans put on a clinic on how to play dumb basketball. They forced quick threes, they committed costly turnovers, they took shots that were too difficult with time left on the shot clock. It seemed like every big possession for the Spartans, every chance they had to take firm control of the momentum, ended up poorly.
Nebraska didn’t make many mistakes. They didn’t turn the ball over and they didn’t let the Spartans get much, if anything, in transition. It all came in the half court, and Michigan State’s execution was, frankly, not good for most of the game.
When that happens, all it takes is a couple of ridiculously difficult threes to end up on the wrong side of an upset.
Pac-12 Season Preview: Can Oregon or Arizona break the league’s Final Four drought?
Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Pac-12 conference.
The Pac-12 hasn’t had a Final Four team since UCLA made three straight from 2006-2008, and the conference has had a long stretch without an elite program.
Oregon is hoping to change that this season, as the Ducks return most of last season’s team that had a breakthrough year. Arizona and UCLA also have talented teams, and the Pac-12 has a lot of intriguing newcomers to keep an eye on this season, including the potential No. 1 pick in the draft in an unlikely spot.
1. Oregon remains a major threat: For a No. 1 seed with nearly everyone returning, the Ducks aren’t getting a lot of preseason hype. That shouldn’t be the case. Oregon brings back lethal scorers in Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell are back to protect the rim. Senior Dylan Ennis and freshman Payton Pritchard add guard depth to a team with Final Four aspirations.
2. Arizona reloads with some talented freshmen: The Wildcats lost plenty of talented seniors but Sean Miller reloaded with a strong recruiting class with some talented returning pieces. The Wildcats lack a proven scorer with Allonzo Trier gone, but they’ve added five-star freshmen Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons. Five-star big man Lauri Markkanen could also make an impact and Dusan Ristic returns up front, as does former top 10 recruit Ray Smith, who is coming off of his second ACL tear.
3. Arizona’s freshmen aren’t even the best freshmen entering the league: Arizona is bringing in three five-star prospects but the most exciting freshmen to watch will be Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Fultz is getting buzz as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft while Ball is an exceptional passer with a high IQ and skill level.
4. UCLA has a lot to prove: Speaking of the Bruins, they’re in for an intriguing season after a disappointing 15-17 record. They return most of the core from last year with Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday all returning and Lonzo Ball is coming in. This Bruins offense should be tough to stop. But defense is the huge question mark and they have to learn to get stops.
5. Ivan Rabb returned to lead Cal: The former five-star center had a very good freshman season, averaging 12.8 points and 8.6 boards per game in only 28 minutes — and limited touches. But he opted to return for his sophomore season and now the Golden Bears are his team. Rabb has a serious chance to be an All-American and a lottery pick with a good season.
PRESEASON PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Markelle Fultz, Washington
Potentially the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fultz is an immensely talented guard who can play on or off the ball and scores in a number of ways. Also a skilled passer with good vision, it will be interesting to see how Fultz plays this season and if he’s able to carry Washington to the NCAA tournament with a relatively young roster.
THE REST OF THE PAC-12 FIRST TEAM:
Jordan McLaughlin, USC: Efficient and talented, the junior point guard should get full point-guard duties with Julian Jacobs leaving.
Kyle Kuzma, Utah: Kuzma was impressive in spurts as a sophomore, but with the amount of talent the Utes lose, he should put up monster numbers this season.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Health will be a factor for Brooks, but he’s a matchup nightmare with confidence in big games.
Ivan Rabb, Cal: If Rabb can protest the rim and add to his 1.2 blocks per game, he could be the best two-way big man in college hoops.
BREAKOUT STAR: Utah junior forward Kyle Kuzma has the look of potential star and with the Utes losing Jakob Poeltl and so many key players it could be his chance to shine. The 6-foot-9 forward can attack off the dribble or knock down jumpers, but he has to be more consistent.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar is bringing in NBA-caliber talent the last few recruiting classes, but he has to start winning games and making consistent runs to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies haven’t made the NCAA tournament in
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : There are some intriguing teams here with future pros, but the conference needs to prove it can make a run to the Final Four to quiet the doubters.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The Pac-12 might be the most exciting league in the country this season when it comes to freshman guards. Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons are all headliners, but players like Charlie Moore, JaQuori McLaughlin and Payton Pritchard could also have key roles.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. Oregon: This team has scoring, solid guard play and a nice mixture of post defenders to make another deep tournament run. If Dillon Brooks is healthy and others around him step up, Oregon has a serious chance to make a Final Four run.
2. Arizona: Watching how the new five-star pieces will mesh will be fascinating but this team undoubtedly has a lot of talented players. If former five-star freshman Ray Smith can return from multiple knee injuries then Arizona has a real shot at the league title.
3. UCLA: Defense is going to be the huge question for UCLA since we already know their offense is going to be tough to stop. If Lonzo Ball can help rally together this talented group of returnees, the Bruins could easily make a deep run in March — or have another chaotic season and miss the tournament.
4. Cal: This Cal team will look dramatically different from last season as this is clearly Ivan Rabb’s team. The sophomore big man should get more post touches and he has some decent players coming back like Jabari Bird, Kameron Rooks and Sam Singer.
5. Colorado: The Buffaloes have quietly been to four of the last five NCAA tournaments and have George King and Josh Fortune back this season. This team can really knock down perimeter shots and its gives them a huge boost on offense.
6. USC: The Trojans lost plenty of pieces from the rotation but they also have a lot of talent coming back. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin is efficient and forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu have the talent to make a leap.
7. Washington: This will be Markelle Fultz’s team but a lot of the role players from last season return. Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle both started as freshmen and shot blocker Malik Dime returns as well.
8. Oregon State: The Beavers lost Gary Payton II but return most of their young core and add four-star point guard JaQuori McLaughlin. Sophomores Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Drew Eubanks give Oregon State a bright future.
9. Utah: With so many talented players leaving, there will be a lot of question marks for the Utes as Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam lead. Transfers like David Collette (Utah State) and Sedrick Barefield (SMU) need to make an impact.
10. Arizona State: This team should have a lot of talented guards but the frontcourt remains a question mark. Tra Holder and Kodi Justice are back and they get Buffalo transfer Shannon Evans and Sam Cunliffe in the rotation.
11. Stanford: New coach Jerod Haase gets 10 of the team’s top 11 scorers back and the return of injured players like Robert Cartwright and Reid Travis will help. Marcus Allen, Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey are all returning double-figure scorers.
12. Washington State: The Cougars lost 17 straight to end last season as they’re in rebuilding mode. Seniors Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu should put up numbers but they need more help.
VIDEO: East Tennessee State players hit back-to-back halfcourt shots to win free tuition for two students
East Tennessee State’s Bluenanza hoops celebration reached a new level on Monday night when the team incredibly made back-to-back halfcourt shots to give two ETSU students free tuition.
ETSU students Garrett Pack and Jeremiah Pearson were both selected by the school to attempt halfcourt shots to win free tuition. Both students missed their attempts, but Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Richard Sander gave them a second chance to win with a unique twist — each student could pick one player on the team to shoot for them.
The students picked senior T.J. Cromer and junior Devontavious Payne to take the shots. Both players delivered clutch shots to secure free tuition for Pack and Pearson.
Talk about a ridiculous way to end a madness-type of event.
Utah landed an important player for its future on Sunday as four-star center Branden Carlson pledged to the Utes.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center is great commitment for Utah as he’s regarded as the No. 113 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals. Carlson’s development is going to be especially intriguing because he won’t play for Utah until the 2019-20 season because of a two-year LDS mission out of high school, according to Scout.com’s Josh Gershon.
Since Carlson needed to add strength and weight, that should give him a little more time to bulk up before college begins. Utah also has freshman center Jayce Johnson just entering the program — another four-star center — so that spaces the two big men out by a few years.
Head coach Larry Krystkowiak has done a nice job developing big men, specifically Jakob Poeltl, and it appears to be paying off on the recruiting trail.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina won’t have a difficult time finding motivation this season.
The memories of losing in the NCAA championship game on a last-second 3-pointer to Villanova still sting more than six months later. It was the crushing final play in a 33-win season that saw the Tar Heels go from a preseason No. 1-ranked team questioned about its toughness to a group that matured enough to sweep the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles before reaching the Final Four.
There are enough veteran returnees for UNC to have the potential to do it again, driven by the memory of coming so oh-so-close to cutting down the nets in April.
“Every time I turn around and look up at the banners, where the national championship banners are,” junior Joel Berry II said, “sometimes it hurts me that we don’t have the 2016 national championship up there. So it’s just motivation to me.”
Some Tar Heels, including Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, still haven’t watched film from the loss.
“I thought we had a great, great year but it’s just like somebody pulls your heart out and taunts you by shaking it in front of you,” Williams said. “But you’ve got to get over it.”
The Tar Heels (33-7, 14-4 ACC) have some big holes with the losses of four-year starter Marcus Paige – the guy UNC looked for when it needed a big shot – and Associated Press all-American Brice Johnson inside. But they return six of their top eight scorers while adding a top-10 recruiting class.
Berry is the top returning scorer (12.8 points), while fellow junior Justin Jackson (12.2) and senior big man Kennedy Meeks are returning starters. The Tar Heels also return ACC sixth man of the Isaiah Hicks, now likely to earn a promotion into the starting lineup.
On the bench, senior Nate Britt provides backcourt depth along with junior Theo Pinson – out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right foot – and sophomore wing Kenny Williams III.
The Tar Heels also will get help up front from McDonald’s All-American Tony Bradley Jr., who headlines a wing-heavy recruiting class.
Some other things to know about the Tar Heels this season:
PINSON’S INJURY: Pinson’s injury during a recent practice, announced Friday, has the potential to be a big blow. The versatile swingman is the team’s top defender, a good passer and a leader with a knack for keeping up team morale .
BERRY IN CHARGE?: Berry looks like the top candidate to take Paige’s role as the guy to entrust with taking the big shot. He was the team’s best outside shooter (38 percent from 3-point range) and led the team in assists, steals and free-throw percentage. And in a sign that Berry could be ready for a leap, he upped his game by averaging 13.7 points and shooting 50 percent in six NCAA Tournament games – ending with 20 points against Villanova.
HICKS’ FOUL TROUBLE: Keeping Hicks on the floor last season was a challenge, including twice in the final 10 games when he picked up four or five fouls in fewer than 10 minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward brings scoring and rebounding, and he was the team’s defensive player of the game eight times – third most on the team behind Paige and Berry. The Tar Heels need him out there this year with fewer frontcourt options.
JACKSON’S GROWTH: Jackson has good size on the perimeter and has been a complimentary scorer through his first two seasons. The Tar Heels need him to become a consistent scorer now in a leading role, especially when it comes to improving his 29-percent shooting from behind the arc last year. He’s an unselfish player and has occasionally seemed content to blend into the background, but the Tar Heels are tougher to stop when he’s playing assertively .
THE ROOKIES: The 6-foot-10 Bradley, a native of Bartow, Florida, will have a shot at immediate minutes for a team with only Meeks and Hicks returning to the frontcourt. The rest of that recruiting class brings depth on the wing with Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods and Shea Rush.