Chaz Williams

Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: VCU visits UMass and a showdown in the A-Sun

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: VCU at UMass, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Like teams that prefer to play fast? This is the game to watch then, with both the Rams and Minutemen ranked in the top 25 nationally in adjusted tempo. Both have speed and a desire to pressure defensively, with the Minutemen being led by senior point guard Chaz Williams. As Williams goes so goes UMass, with the Minutemen entering tonight’s game having won three of their last four. He’ll be tested by a VCU team that makes things incredibly difficult on opposing point guards, with guard Briante Weber being the toughest perimeter defender of the bunch.

The thing to watch in this matchup: turnovers. UMass may play fast but they’re only forcing around 14 turnovers per game, with VCU forcing 19 turnovers per game. If VCU has success in forcing live-ball turnovers and Juvonte Reddic outplays the UMass front court, the Rams are more than capable of leaving Amherst with the win.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE NIGHT: Mercer at FGCU, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Atlantic Sun race essentially comes down to this matchup in Fort Myers. A win for the Eagles moves them into a tied for first with Mercer, but a loss gives Bob Hoffman’s Bears a two-game lead and a sweep of the season series. Two of the best guards at the mid-major level will be on display as well, with Langston Hall pacing Mercer and Brett Comer doing the same for FGCU. The differences in the first meeting, a 68-55 Mercer win on January 23, were Mercer’s forcing 15 FGCU turnovers and limiting the Eagles to 1-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

  • The two teams tied for first place in the Ivy League are both on the road, with Yale visiting Cornell and Harvard playing at Penn. For the Bulldogs this is the first of four straight games on the road before they host the Crimson on March 7.
  • Iona looks to maintain its two-game lead in the MAAC with a win at Rider. The Broncs are in the fight for fifth place and the final first-round by in the MAAC tournament, and a win would move them two games ahead of Marist and Siena.
  • Oakland is hoping to improve its standing within the Horizon League with a win over a UIC team that’s 0-13 in league play and mired in a 16-game losing streak. A Duke Mondy three-pointer as time expired gave the Golden Grizzlies a 76-75 win in the first meeting.
  • Also of note in the Horizon League is Wright State’s game against Detroit, with the Raiders looking to make a run at the three-seed in next month’s conference tournament. They currently trail Valparaiso by a game for third.
  • Manhattan visits Siena with the Jaspers needing a win to keep pace with Quinnipiac in the race for second in the MAAC. And with the Bobcats having swept the season series, Steve Masiello’s team will need QU to drop a game at some point.

VIDEO: University of New Orleans aids area flood victims

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After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.

I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”

That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.

“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”

The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.

UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.

“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”

Rutgers land 7-foot grad transfer from UNC Wilmington

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket as he is defended by C.J. Gettys #23 of the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks in the second half of their game during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Rutgers landed a commitment from seven-footer C.J. Gettys on Monday night.

Gettys is a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, where he averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 blocks for a team that reached the NCAA tournament. Gettys is a slow-footed back-to-the-basket player, however, and that didn’t exactly fit with the way that UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts likes to play; think Shaka Smart’s VCU teams.

So Gettys opted for Rutgers, picking the Scarlet Knights over Dayton, Purdue and Chattanooga.

He is the fifth member of new head coach Steve Pikiell’s first recruiting class.

VIDEO: Seventh Woods dunks on UNC student

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Some poor UNC student decided that he was going to try and block Seventh Woods, a freshman point guard for the Tar Heels, on a dunk attempt.

What ended up happening was that he got windmilled on.

To quote Samuel L. Jackson, as portrayed the great philosopher Dave Chappelle, “You ain’t never seen my movies?” Woods was doing this as a freshman … in HIGH SCHOOL.

Former National Player of the Year Michael Brooks dies at 58

Brooks for All-American Brochure
Courtesy La Salle Athletics
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A Philadelphia basketball legend and a former National Player of the Year passed away on Monday night.

Michael Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward who was named the NABC National Player of the Year in 1980, died in Switzerland on Monday night due to a massive stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was just 58 years old.

Brooks finished his career with 2,628 points and 1,372 rebounds. He never averaged less than 20 points in his four seasons in college. (Think about that for a second.) He was the No. 9 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and averaged double-figures for four years before season-ending knee injuries sent him to Europe to play. Brooks was also named the captain of the 1980 Olympic team that missed out on the Moscow games due to the USA’s boycott.

Brooks, according to the Inquirer, had aplastic anemia, which required him to receive a bone marrow transplant last week. His body rejected the marrow, which resulted in the strokes that ended his life.

UCLA cruises in opener on Australian tour

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
AP Photo/Michael Baker
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UCLA, who will be the most interesting team in all of college basketball this season, played their first game of an Australian tour on Tuesday morning, and they won in pretty impressive fashion.

The Bruins had triple digits on the board early in the fourth quarter, eventually beating a club in Sydney by the score of 123-76. For comparison’s sake, Washington and potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz beat the same team 101-80 a couple of weeks ago, so the win and the margin of victory is somewhat impressive.

Also worth noting: None of UCLA’s freshmen started. Steve Alford rolled with Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter — Holiday and Hamilton combined for 27 points, 18 assists and 11 boards while Alford had 17 points on just 10 shots — with G.G. Golomon and Thomas Welsh up front.

But the noteworthy performances here were from the McDonald’s All-Americans that Steve Alford brought into the program. In his first game in the blue and gold, Lonzo Ball, a potential top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was just OK. He finished with nine points and four assists while shooting 3-for-9 from the floor. Leaf, however, was terrific, as he led the team with 21 points to go along with nine boards and three assists.

The first exhibition game is hardly a great way to predict how a season is going to play out, but given the pressure and expectations currently surrounding the program, everything the Bruins do this season is going to be scrutinized.

This isn’t a bad way to start.