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2014 Big South Tournament Preview: Home court advantage in March is fun!

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There may not be a more wide-open conference tournament this season than the Big South. High Point won the North Division with the best record in conference play at 12-4, but they also needed to win 10 of their last 11 games to do so and are playing without one of their star forwards in Allen Chaney. The next six teams in the standings all finished within two games of first place.

What’s that mean?

Winthrop, who was tied for second in the South Division, will essentially be the No. 7 seed while UNC Asheville, who was also tied for second in the division, will get a first round bye.

In other words, good luck with your predictions. If you are going to make one, think about this: the tournament will be played on the home floor of Coastal Carolina, as the HTC Center is the best venue in the league and just so happens to be located near Myrtle Beach.

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

The Bracket

When: March 5, 7-9

Where: The HTC Center, Conway, SC

Final: March 9th, 12:00 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: High Point

High Point won the Big South’s North Division and finished with the best record in league play. They also just so happened to have the best player in the conference on their roster in John Brown, a 6-foot-7, freak-of-nature athlete that averaged 19.6 points, 7.9 boards and 1.7 blocks. Losing Allen Chaney hurts, but the Panthers regrouped without him, winning 10 of their final 11 games after starting out Big South play 0-2 and 2-3.

And if they lose?: VMI

If you like scoring, you’ll like watching VMI, who averages the second-most possessions of any team in the country, according to KenPom. Q.J. Peterson is one of the best low-major freshmen in the country — he’s averaging 19.6 points, 5.5 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals as a 6-foot-0 guard — and D.J. Covington has the size inside to matchup with any big man in the league.

Sleepers:

  • Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers have far and away the best defense in Big South, according to KenPom, and used that to win the South Division. More importantly, the tournament will be held on their home floor.
  • UNC-Asheville: The Bulldogs run almost as much as VMI and also feature the league’s most dominant interior presence, particularly defensively, in D.J. Cunningham.

Studs:

  • John Brown, High Point: Enough said. Right?
  • Andrew Rousey, UNC Asheville: If Q.J. Peterson isn’t the best freshman in the conference, Rousey is. The 5-foot-10 guard averages 19.9 points and shoots 39.4% from three.
  • Javonte Green, Radford: Green is one of the best pound-for-pound forwards in the league, checking in at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and averaging 17.0 points and 8.2 boards.

CBT Prediction: UNC Asheville over Coastal Carolina

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

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Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”

Rose’s transfer to BYU becomes official

Ge'Lawn Guyn, L.J. Rose
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His commitment came more than a month ago, but L.J. Rose’s transfer to BYU became official Tuesday.

The former Houston guard was officially announced as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer by BYU on Tuesday. He’ll bring much needed help to a Cougars backcourt that lost Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer to graduation and Jordan Chatman and Jack Toolson to transfers.

“L.J. will add great experience and talent to our guard line,” BYU coach Dave Rose said in a statement released by BYU. “We’re excited about the leadership he will bring on the court and in the locker room. He will make us a deeper and more versatile team.”

As a junior, L.J. Rose averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 assists, but a foot injury limited him to just two games last season and allowed him to receive a medical redshirt and the opportunity to be a graduate transfer for his final collegiate season. He’ll be a big part of BYU’s attempt to build on last year’s 26-11 season as a former top-100 recruit, who began his career at Baylor, on a team in need of an infusion of talent after absorbing the losses from last year’s roster.

His father, Lynden, Sr., was a teammate of BYU coach Dave Rose at Houston during the program’s Phi Slama Jama era.

UCLA loses key forward to professional ranks

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Jonah Bolden #43 of the UCLA Bruins during a 76-68 Ducks win at Pauley Pavilion on March 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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UCLA announced on Tuesday afternoon that Jonah Bolden will be forgoing his college eligibility to turn professional.

“Jonah Bolden has informed the coaching staff that he has opted to play professionally this season,” the release said.

Bolden is a versatile, 6-foot-10 forward with some NBA potential. In his only season playing with the Bruins, he averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards while starting 11 games. His ability on the defensive end of the floor was something the UCLA staff was counting on this season.

A sophomore this past season, Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA as a freshman, meaning that he was allowed to be on scholarship and in class but could not play during the 2014-15 season.

He had two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without Bolden, T.J Leaf will likely be counted on to play more minutes at the four.

D.J. Harvey cuts list to ten schools

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With the July Live Period coming to an end, it’s time for schools to starts deciding who they’re going to target, who they’re going to offer a scholarship to and who they’re going to cut bait with.

At the same time, we’re going to see a flurry of players starting whittling down the number of schools they’re actually considering.

D.J. Harvey was once considered a top ten prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the DeMatha product has seen his stock slide a bit in the last year, he’s still a top 50 player that has a number of power programs knocking on his door.

Over the weekend, he announced that he has cut his list to ten schools: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Louisville.

Rick Pitino: ‘We’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed’

Louisville coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team during the first half of its NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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Rick Pitino hopped on the air with 93.9 in Louisville recently and discussed the stuff you expect to hear a coach discuss on the radio in July.

He talked about the players that are improving (Jaylen Johnson). He talked about how he’s worried about how his team is going to score next season. He talked about the glut of big men on his roster and how none of them have done much to separate themselves from the pack.

It was all fairly typical.

But this line did catch my eye:

“Defensively, we’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed,” Pitino said. “We’ve pressed a lot in the past but this team is very long, very athletic. I’m very bullish on this basketball team.”

Pitino’s teams have always pressed but he hasn’t been mentioned with the likes of Shaka Smart (Havoc) or Bobby Huggins (Press Virginia) because it isn’t an all-out press. Typically, the Cards run a 2-2-1 zone press that drops back to a half-zone/half-man amalgam that’s designed, in part, to confuse opponents as much as it is to force turnovers.

Is that going to change this year?

It would make some sense. This team is as athletic, long and versatile as any that he’s coached in recent memory. Think about the kind of physical tools that Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel have. Think about what Donovan Mitchell can do if he’s allowed to ball-hawk the way Peyton Siva and Russ Smith did in the past.

This group can cause a lot of problems if they’re allowed to fly around the floor, and it sounds like Pitino may let them do just that.