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2014 Patriot League Tournament Preview: Can Boston U. win first season in Patriot?

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The 2014 Patriot League Tournament kicks off Monday night with a pair of preliminary contests. Back in October, newcomer Boston University was viewed as the favorite, and thanks to its strong finish BU enters the field as the top seed. Despite holding home-court advantage, it will be far from easy for the Terriers. American University has had a strong start to conference play, but stumbled as of late. With Jesse Reed and Tony Wroblicky on the roster, the Eagles can still make a run over the next 10 days. Bucknell enters the tournament as the league’s hottest team, while Holy Cross had greatly exceeded preseason expectations. Army and Lehigh, Nos. 5 and 6 seed, have the ability to cause some chaos in this year’s bracket.

It’s been an unpredictable Patriot League season so far, why should the postseason tournament be any different?

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 3-12

Where: Campus sites (higher seed)

Final: March 12, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Favorite: Boston University

The Terriers entered their first season in the Patriot League as the preseason favorite. There was a rough patch midway through conference play when Patriot League contender American handed BU at 30-point loss. Ten days later, Lehigh gave the Terriers their second loss in four games. Since Boston University has won seven out of eight, with its only defeat to red-hot Bucknell. The BU core of D.J. Irving, Dom Morris, Maurice Watson, Jr., and John Papale have home-court advantage through out the Patriot League title.

And if they lose?: Bucknell

Boston University could potentially play Bucknell is the semifinals, which would be a difficult matchup for the Terriers. The two teams split the regular season meeting, both games decided by a combined 13 points. The Bison graduated an incredible senior class, specifically Mike Muscala. After losing to Holy Cross on Feb. 9, the Bison sat 5-7 in the league. Since then, Bucknell has won six straight — including games over BU and American — to close out the season, entering the Patriot League tournament with a lot of momentum. If they get by BU, there’s a good chance the Bison can keep this streak rolling into the NCAA tournament.

Sleepers:

  • American:  Started off conference play 10-0, but reliance on starters — three of which average 34 or more minutes per game — has caused the Eagles to cool off since the start of February.
  • Holy Cross: A surprising team this season, the Crusaders ended the regular season third in the Patriot League. Holy Cross has won in different ways, and have relied on more than just Dave Dudzinski in some of those victories.

Studs:

  • Maurice Watson Jr., Boston University: One of the more underrated floor generals in the country, leads his team in scoring, assists and steals.
  • Cameron Ayers, Bucknell: The Patriot League Player of the Year has scored in double figures 27 times this season, averaging 15.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
  • Dave Dudzinski, Holy Cross: The senior forward has gone for 20 or more six times, including 20 points in the last meeting with BU. He recorded a double-double against the Terriers in the first meeting.

CBT Prediction: Boston University over Holy Cross

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.