Late Night Snacks: Coastal Carolina, Mercer and No. 2 Wichita State join NCAA field

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GAME OF THE DAY: Maryland 75, No. 5 Virginia 69 (OT)

In Maryland’s final regular season game as a member of the ACC the Terrapins needed five extra minutes to beat Virginia in College Park. The Cavaliers executed well late in regulation to force the extra session, with Anthony Gill’s basket with less than a second remaining tying the game. That could have been a crushing blow for the Terps, but Seth Allen and Dez Wells made important baskets in overtime to make sure that wasn’t the case.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 2 Wichita State 83, Indiana State 69

34 games. 34 wins. Gregg Marshall’s team took the next step in its quest to win a national title, responding to a second-half Indiana State run the way that champions are supposed to. Fred VanVleet scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and Tekele Cotton added 20 points for the winners. Jake Odum and Justin Gant scored 18 points apiece for the Sycamores, who should land in the Postseason NIT.

2) Nebraska 77, No. 9 Wisconsin 68

While some bubble teams have managed to stumble down the stretch, others have risen to the occasion. One of those teams is Nebraska, which knocked off No. 9 Wisconsin in Lincoln. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields scored 26 points apiece to lead the way, and there were other contributors as well. After starting conference play 0-4 Tim Miles’ Huskers have won 11 of their last 14, and they’re moving closer to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.

3) Ohio State 69, No. 22 Michigan State 67

After dropping games at Penn State and Indiana the Buckeyes were in need of a win and they got it, with their defense and LaQuinton Ross standing out. The Buckeyes held Michigan State scoreless over the final 4:30, and Ross scored 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. As for Michigan State, while there’s no need to panic their offensive execution down the stretch is something they need to improve on ahead of the Big Ten tournament.

STARRED

1) T.J. Warren (N.C. State) 

Warren made his final statement ahead of the ACC’s vote for Player of the Year, scoring 42 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 78-68 win over Boston College. Warren’s scored 40-plus points in consecutive games, the first time an ACC player’s done this since 1957.

2) Jarvis Threatt (Delaware) 

19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Blue Hens’ 87-74 win over Northeastern.

3) Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway (Nebraska) 

Shields and Petteway scored 26 points apiece in the Huskers’ 77-68 win over No. 9 Wisconsin, with Petteway also grabbing ten rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) Chris Wilson (Saint Joseph’s) 

Wilson struggled in the Hawks’ 71-63 home loss to La Salle, shooting 1-for-9 and finishing with two points, four rebounds and three assists.

2) Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey (Virginia) 

Mitchell and Tobey combined to score six points on 2-for-7 shooting in the Cavaliers’ 75-69 overtime loss at Maryland.

3) Sampson Carter and Raphiael Putney (UMass) 

Both players shot 2-for-10 from the field, combining to score 13 points in their 64-62 loss to No. 17 Saint Louis.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • America East: New tournament format year too late for Vermont
    After Stony Brook lost at Albany in last season’s semifinals the conference changed its tournament format, with the higher seed hosting every game. But that won’t occur until next season, leaving Vermont in the situation Stony Brook found itself in a season ago. Final score: Albany 67, Vermont 58. Peter Hooley scored 26 points and Gary Johnson added 17 to go along with 13 rebounds for the Great Danes, who will play at Stony Brook on Saturday for the automatic bid.
  • Atlantic Sun: Mercer returns the favor to earn first NCAA bid since 1985
    Last season FGCU began its captivating run with an Atlantic Sun title game win over Mercer on the Bears’ home court. Mercer hopes to do the same after beating FGCU 68-60 at Alico Arena. Langston Hall and Anthony White Jr. scored 15 points apiece for Bob Hoffman’s team, which has the ability to spring an upset in the NCAA tournament.
  • Big South: Coastal Carolina earns first NCAA berth since 1993
    The Chanticleers are headed back to the NCAA tournament thanks to a 76-61 win over Winthrop. Warren Gillis led four starters in double figures with 22 points, and Cliff Ellis has now led four programs to the NCAA tournament as a head coach.
  • CAA: Delaware, William & Mary advance to Monday’s title game
    Top-seed Delaware took care of business, beating Northeastern 87-74 in one semifinal. Their opponent in Monday’s title game will be William & Mary, with the Tribe beating Towson 75-71 in the other semifinal. And there will be some really good guards on the floor Monday night in Baltimore, with the Blue Hens being led by an experienced four-guard attack and Marcus Thornton the headliner for William & Mary.
  • MAAC: Bitter rivals Iona, Manhattan to play for the title
    Two schools separated by about ten miles will play for the MAAC automatic bid for the second consecutive season, with Iona holding off Canisius 75-72 and Manhattan whipping Quinnipiac 87-68. Iona’s Sean Armand and Manhattan’s George Beamon are two of the headliners who will be on center stage in Springfield, and these are two very talented teams capable of winning once in the NCAA field as well. But only one can go.
  • Southern: Western Carolina knocks off Davidson
    There will be a new SoCon representative in the NCAA tournament, with Western Carolina beating Davidson 99-97 in overtime. Trey Sumler scored 26 points for the Catamounts. Their opposition on Monday for the automatic bid: Wofford, with the Terriers eliminating Georgia Southern by the final score of 71-57.
  • Summit: Denver, South Dakota State roll
    Both winners scored 71 points, with Denver beating South Dakota 71-55 and South Dakota State outclassing Western Illinois by a final score of 71-50. Next up for Denver is top-seed North Dakota State, which received a bye to the semifinals. As for last season’s conference representative, the Jackrabbits face two-seed IPFW.

NOTABLES 

  • Jerami Grant made his return to the lineup in No. 7 Syracuse’s 74-58 win at Florida State and he played well, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Orange will be the two-seed in the ACC tournament.
  • Jordair Jett’s layup with just over three seconds remaining gave No. 17 Saint Louis a 64-62 win at UMass, ending their three-game losing streak just ahead of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Billikens will be the top seed in Brooklyn, while the loss dropped UMass from a three to a six-seed in the event.
  • Saint Joseph’s suffered a tough loss for its resume, losing 71-63 at home to Big 5 (and Atlantic 10) rival La Salle. The Hawks will be a four-seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, so they’ll get a bye to the quarterfinals.

Vanderbilt lands five-star forward Simi Shittu

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Vanderbilt continues to build a monster recruiting class under head coach Bryce Drew as five-star 2018 forward Simi Shittu pledged to the Commodores on Wednesday.

The second five-star commitment for Vanderbilt in the Class of 2018, Shittu joins top point guard prospect Darius Garland to form one of the best freshman combinations in the country for next season. The Commodores also have a top-150 forward in Aaron Nesmith.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Shittu is coming off of a monster summer in which he became a major problem and top-ten recruit. The No. 8 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, Shittu is a huge get and an instant starter for Vanderbilt next season.

By landing prospects like Garland and Shittu, Drew is also becoming a major player in a short amount of time as a high-major coach. Always a noted recruiter at the mid-major level at Valparaiso, now Vanderbilt is seeing Drew’s hiring workout as he’s bringing top talent to the program.

If Drew can continue to recruit like this then Vanderbilt could be in position to be in the top half of the SEC as the league has seen some of its rebuilds go poorly over the last few years.

Kansas still without freshman Billy Preston

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Kansas freshman Billy Preston has yet to make his debut for the Jayhawks and it appears he’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.

Head coach Bill Self met with media earlier this week to discuss the Preston situation, saying that nothing has changed about his status quite yet. Preston was previously suspended for violating a team rule when he missed the game against Tennessee State. Before Preston was set to debut against Kentucky in the Champions Classic he was also withheld from the contest after the revelation that Preston had been in a single-vehicle accident the previous weekend.

“I have actually been out, until I just pulled back in, so as of this morning, there was no movement. The last time you guys asked me was Friday and so you don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, so there is nothing new on that situation,” Self said.

“Sure, I’m worried,” Self also added. “I’m concerned and I do think that it can work itself, based on what I’ve been told. I also think that it obviously hadn’t happened yet.”

It’s uncertain when the next step in any of this will play out but Self doesn’t appear to be too concerned over it. Kansas has won without Preston so far but they could definitely use his size, scoring punch and overall depth to a team that isn’t very deep right now.

A matchup nightmare, Preston could help the Jayhawk offense while also giving Udoka Azubuike additional help on the glass and protecting the rim.

(H/t: Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star)

Brian Bowen not allowed to play at Louisville

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Louisville announced on Wednesday that freshman wing Brian Bowen will not be allowed to play at the school. The former McDonald’s All-American will be allowed to remain on scholarship but he can’t participate in any team activities.

Bowen was tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an adidas company executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents.

Bowen hired attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case and seek reinstatement as Setchen had experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami.

With this case, Bowen was not allowed back at Louisville as the school has fired head coach Rick Pitino and most of his previous staff. Athletic Director Tom Jurich also lost his job, so the Cardinals are definitely cleaning house and trying to detach themselves from anyone involved.

It will be interesting to see what Bowen opts to do in light of this news. He’s talented enough that other schools could want him, if he’s eligible, but he’s also a former five-star prospect who could have pro aspirations. But since Bowen won’t be playing this season, he also hasn’t had a chance to spotlight his game to potential pro suitors.

 

President Trump fires back at LaVar Ball on Twitter

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The never-ending war of words between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball escalated to another level on Wednesday morning.

Starting his early-morning tweets with some messages aimed at Ball, President Trump continued to double down on his insistence that he helped play a role in the safe return of three UCLA players arrested in China for shoplifting. LiAngelo Ball, LaVar’s middle son, was one of the three players involved in the international incident as fellow Bruins Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were also arrested. The trio returned to the United States last week after UCLA left China without them following a win over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

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LaVar has drawn the ire of President Trump for downplaying the President’s role in the return of the UCLA trio as Ball maintains that others had more to do with the release. All three UCLA players publicly thanked President Trump and the United States government during their return press conference on Nov. 15. The three players remain suspended indefinitely from all activities with the men’s basketball team.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, LaVar was critical of Trump’s role in the whole ordeal while also questioning why the President would spend so much time bothering for a thank you from the father of one of those arrested.

No. 22 Baylor comes from 12 down to beat Creighton

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It was another rough night for the Scott Drew Can’t Coach crowd.

No. 22 Baylor got 15 points apiece from Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston and closed the game on a 37-19 run as they knocked off Creighton, 65-59, in the title game of the Hall Of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

King McClure led the way for the Bears with 19 points, picking up the pieces for Manu Lecomte, who struggled to deal with the defense of Khyri Thomas.

Creighton jumped out to a 33-24 lead at the break and extended it to 40-28 with 18 minutes left in the game, but that’s when Baylor turned the game around. A couple of tweaks to the way that they played their zone coupled with the Bluejays missing some shots that they were capable of making led to the comeback. Instead of simply writing another ‘See, I told you Scott Drew can coach’ column, I figured it would make more sense to show exactly what I mean when I say that.

Creighton had a smart, simple game-plan offensively on Tuesday night. Get the ball into the paint, whether it was via dribble penetration or finding one of their big guys near the foul line or at the short corner, and then find a shooter on the perimeter, a cutter going to the rim or, simply, score from 8-10 feet out. That’s the best way to beat a zone, especially a zone that has the amount of length and athleticism that Baylor’s does. Notice in the clip below how extended Baylor’s guards are and, as a result, the space it creates:

Once Baylor got down by 12, their game-plan changed. Instead of extending, their defense became more compact. What is usually something of a 1-1-3 zone turned into more of a 2-3, with the focus seemingly being cutting off penetration. Baylor dared Creighton to let Ronnie Harrell be the guy that beat them, and it worked. The result was that the open threes dried up, and the jumpers that Creighton shot in down the stretch were much more contested than the looks they were getting earlier in the game:

That’s coaching right there.

Game-planning is a part of coaching. Player development is, too, as is recruiting. But making in-game adjustments like that, figuring out how a team is beating you, devising a way to stop them from doing that and getting your players to execute those adjustments is arguably the most important part of being a coach.

Here’s another example of what I mean.

Khyri Thomas might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball, and I don’t say that lightly. He essentially eliminated Manu Lecomte from the game. He is to point guards what Darrelle Revis was to No. 1 receivers. Whoever he is guarding is on Khyri Island.

Lecomte is typically Baylor’s closer, but Drew ran actions that allowed Lecomte to be a facilitator and a decoy, taking Khyri out of the play and taking advantage of matchups he thought his guys could win. That involved running a double-high ball-screen, which confused Harrell and Martin Krampelj defensively a couple of times, and resulted in a high-low action between Maston and Lual-Acuil on a number of possessions down the stretch.

But then there was also this set he drew up, using McClure as the ball-handler in that double-high ball-screen and while putting Lecomte in the same side corner. McClure refused the ball-screen, drove straight at the gap where Thomas was not going to help off Lecomte and got a bucket out of it:

That’s coaching!

And I’m not trying to say McDermott got out-coached here. His game-plan worked. Drew’s adjustment turned out to be just a bit better.

But Creighton also has players that can make the tough shots that they were forced into in the second half. If two more of them go down – if the Bluejays shoot 37.5 percent from the floor instead of 34.4 percent, if they go 7-for-30 from three instead of 5-for-30 – then they probably win this game.

Sometimes that’s how basketball works.

It’s why you always hear coaches refer to it as a ‘make or miss game’.

The larger takeaway from this game should be this: Both Baylor and Creighton are good teams. Both landed good non-conference wins during this event. Both are likely headed to the NCAA tournament.

And both took part in a fun, tactical battle between head coaches on Tuesday night that one of them had to lose.