After rolling through the regular season unblemished No. 2 Wichita State began its next quest: to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time since 1987, back before the event was dubbed “Arch Madness.” The first challenge came in the form of the Evansville Purple Aces, who went 6-12 in conference play but possess a star in the making in sophomore guard D.J. Balentine.
Balentine would perform well, scoring 31 points on 10-for-21 shooting, but the Shockers proved to be entirely too much for the Purple Aces. Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early scored 17 points apiece and two other Wichita State players scored in double figures as the Shockers moved to 32-0 with an 80-58 victory. Next up for Wichita State is the winner of Missouri State/Illinois State in Saturday’s semifinals.
The problem for Evansville was a simple one: they didn’t have enough horses to compete with one of the nation’s best teams. Egidiju Mockevicius added 11 points and 11 rebounds, but Aces other than Balentine combined to shoot 11-for-36 (30.6%) from the field. The Shockers are one of the nation’s best defensive teams and against Evansville Gregg Marshall’s team did little to dispel that notion, blocking 11 shots and converting 12 Evansville turnovers into 17 points.
And offensively Wichita State was efficient, shooting 50.9% from the field and 10-for-21 from deep and committing just nine turnovers. The only issue was their foul shooting, as the Shockers shot 14-for-25 from the charity stripe. This is a group with multiple options, from Baker and Early to MVC Player of the Year Fred VanVleet and MVC Defensive Player of the Year Tekele Cotton, and this combined with their rarely taking bad shots makes them a difficult team to defend.
The biggest question mark may be their interior scoring, but the Shockers have done a very good job of accounting for the graduation of Carl Hall all season long. Wichita State’s attacked this by committee and against Evansville that was once again the case, with Chadrack Lufile contributing 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Kadeem Coleby adding six points, four rebounds and six blocked shots.
Neither player has to produce offensively at the level that Hall, who averaged 12.6 points per game as a senior, did a season ago but they’ve found ways in which to contribute. And if Coleby and Lufile can continue to do so, Wichita State’s destined to be a very tough out as the month progresses.
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 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.
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.”
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 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.