adidas Nations Sunday Recap

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LONG BEACH, California — College counselor games finished up on Sunday at adidas Nations as the college players had two more sessions of games and a chance to ball with former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady and Denver Nuggets wing Arron Afflalo. CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips were there to take in the action and give six takeaways from the day’s action, including a high-profile matchup of freshmen and a thoughts on two All-Big Ten candidates.

Frank Kaminsky looking to balance inside, outside play

Wisconsin senior forward/center Frank Kaminsky struggled with his outside shot this weekend, and while the ability to be a “pick and pop” guy who extends defenses is one of his best attributes there’s also the need for Kaminsky to balance his time on the perimeter with carving out some space inside. And in speaking with Kaminsky following his game Sunday evening, he touched on the amount of work it takes to manage that balance and make sure he as effective as possible.

“It’s tough sometimes,” Kaminsky told Sunday evening. “There are a lot of things that go into it. Working hard in the weight room, conditioning and things like that. It’s not easy but it’s the way I know how to play. It was difficult for a couple of years but it’s getting easier and easier as I [gain experience].”

Another key for Kaminsky and his teammates is the need to account for the graduation of guard Ben Brust. Brust shot the ball well for the Badgers last season, and he was also an important leader for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four. According to Kaminsky it will be the responsibility of everyone to step forward in 2014-15, and the fact that so much of Wisconsin’s rotation from last season returns to Madison will help in this regard. (RJ)

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

A.J. English enjoys a productive weekend

After winning 22 games and the MAAC regular season title in 2013-14, Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels are hoping to get back to the NCAA tournament after falling short of their goal in the MAAC title game. The Gaels will have to account for the loss of guards Sean Armand and Tre Bowman, but they return three key cogs in the attack led by junior guard A.J. English. English, who averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season, performed well in the adidas Nations counselor games throughout the weekend while playing two different roles depending on the circumstances.

English saw time at both guard spots Sunday, with his time at the point coming when camp teammate and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. sat out the evening session game. English knocked down shots when open, made some solid decisions off the dribble and also defended well. As for what English was looking to gain from the camp experience, he hoped to make strides in all aspects of his game.

“I feel like I have to get stronger [in all aspects],” English said Friday. “Nobody’s perfect; I’m definitely not perfect. So I try to learn stuff from these great coaches and take in everything they say.” (RJ)

Camp gives LSU’s Josh Gray, Jordan Mickey valuable time on the court together

With Anthony Hickey transferring to Oklahoma state, former Odessa College point guard Josh Gray is an incredibly important piece for Johnny Jones’ LSU Tigers this season. And while Gray has been able to establish some on-court chemistry with his new teammates while taking summer classes in Baton Rouge, sophomore forward Jordan Mickey wasn’t among them. With that being the case, the adidas Nations camp gave those two some valuable time on the court together as they work to understand where the other is most effective.

“It means a lot since he wasn’t [on campus] for summer school,” Gray said when asked how the camp helped him establish greater chemistry with his new teammate. “So coming out here and playing on the same team, that’s helped a lot. Now I know what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what positions he’s [at his best].”

Mickey and Jarell Martin will be the leaders for LSU in the front court, where the Tigers have to account for the early departure of Johnny O’Bryant III. Now a Milwaukee Buck, O’Bryant led the Tigers in scoring and was one of their best rebounders in 2013-14 and how good the Tigers can be this season depends upon what strides Mickey and his fellow big men can make in their individual (and collective games).

“We just have to make up for it as a team,” Mickey said. “We have to trust our offense, trust our coaches and not be selfish players.” (RJ)

Kelly Oubre makes his camp debut; faces Stanley Johnson

One of the biggest names at adidas Nations this week has been highly-touted Kansas freshman wing Kelly Oubre. The 6-foot-7 lefty didn’t play the first two days in camp games, but suited up for a high-profile battle with fellow McDonald’s All-American and incoming freshman Stanley Johnson on Sunday morning.

It was a fun matchup of two of the best freshman college basketball will see this season. Johnson used his power game and skill level to go off of the bounce to attack Oubre while Kelly unleashed some feathery perimeter jumpers to the tune of a 6-for-7 outing from three-point range. Oubre also showed off some passing ability while attacking the basket or if he was trapped on high ball screens and he generally looked the part of potential impact player this season. Oubre still has some work to do on the defensive end against bigger and stronger players, but he has the natural talent and athletic traits to be a difference maker at Kansas this season. Oubre finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds while Johnson had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. (SP)

Terran Petteway closes out a strong week

One of the camp’s most steady performers this week was Nebraska junior wing Terran Petteway. The reigning All-Big Ten selection consistently hit shots from the perimeter, attacked using shot fakes and also played very hard on both ends of the floor.

As one of the more experienced guys in the event, the 6-foot-6 Petteway looked like an even more complete scoring threat than last season with the variety of ways he scored the ball this week in Long Beach. Petteway had minimal difficulty getting his own shot, and besides UCLA guard Norman Powell, might have helped his NBA stock more than any other player in attendance this week. (SP)

Jabari Bird steadily improves as week goes on

One of the players I wanted to see the most this week was Cal sophomore wing Jabari Bird. The 6-foot-6 Bird started the week slowly but came on strong during the final day of games on Sunday. Bird finally seemed more comfortable hunting his own offense and his jumper seemed to be more consistent, as well.

Bird also rebounded the ball well from the wing and was engaged on the defensive end while battling some higher-profile wings. The sophomore will be an interesting player to watch this season under Bears’ first-year coach Cuonzo Martin and this week seemed like a step in the right direction for him going into year two in the Pac-12. (SP)

No. 3 Michigan outlasts No. 9 Florida State to advance to Final Four

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Michigan struggled to generate consistent offense, but the Wolverines held off No. 9 seed Florida State for a 58-54 win on Saturday night during the West Regional final in Los Angeles.

The No. 3 seed Wolverines (32-7) are headed back to the Final Four under head coach John Beilein for the first time since 2013 as Michigan advanced to the Final Four for the eighth time in program history.

Making things look easy during a Thursday night blowout win over Texas A&M, Michigan made 10 first-half three-pointers to cruise to victory. During the Elite Eight, Michigan couldn’t generate any consistency from the perimeter. Only shooting 18 percent (4-for-22) from three-point range, Michigan missed ten straight three-pointers at one point as they had to grind out a win in an offensive struggle. Redshirt sophomore guard Charles Matthews paced the Wolverines with 17 points while junior big man Mo Wagner chipped in 12 points despite an 0-for-7 shooting night from three-point range.

Florida State (23-12) did its best to hang around despite having major offensive issues of their own. The Seminoles found themselves trailing by three points with under a minute left, but they couldn’t get over the hump in the final few possessions. Senior forward Phil Cofer (16 points) and junior guard P.J. Savoy (12 points) were the only two double-figure scorers for Florida State as they shot 32 percent (16-for-50) from the field and 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range.

Michigan advances to next weekend’s Final Four in San Antonio as they’ll take on No. 11 seed and national darling Loyola.

Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean gets her piece of the net

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Loyola-Chicago’s hero — their 98-year old chaplain, Sister Jean — got her reward for being the good-luck charm that got the Ramblers to the Final Four.

Think about this:

  • The Ramblers beat Miami on a game-winning three with 0.3 seconds left
  • They beat Tennessee on a jumper with 3.6 seconds left that bounced off the rim, the backboard and the rim again before going in.
  • They needed a three with 7.6 seconds left to help them hold off Nevada in the Sweet 16.
  • A senior that never averaged more than 8.3 points and that had a season-high of 14 points against something called Eureka this season went for a career-high 23 points to get the Ramblers to the Final Four.

She earned this piece of the net.

The Atlanta Falcons are trying to recruit Sister Jean from Loyola

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The Atlanta Falcons are American sports’ most cursed franchise now that the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series.

Hell, Atlanta sports in general are a minefield of terrible losses, blown seasons and heartbreak.

Which is why the Falcons, who may or may not have blown a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, are trying to get Sister Jean on their payroll:

Stay away, Falcons.

Sister Jean is ours.

Sincerely, College Basketball

No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago advances past Kansas State, to Final Four

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Sister Jean strikes again!

Ben Richardson, a senior guard who’s never averaged more than 8.3 points in a season, broke double-figures just four times during his senior year and had a season-high of 14 points that came in a game against something called Eureka, scored went 6-for-7 from three and scored a career-high 23 points for No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago as college basketball’s latest Cinderella finished off their run to the Final Four with a 78-62 win over No. 9-seed Kansas State.

A No. 11-seed is the lowest-seeded team to ever reach a Final Four, and Loyola is just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four. LSU did it in 1986, George Mason made it in 2006 and VCU reached the Final Four out of a play-in game in 2011.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win was that it was never really in doubt. Kansas State led 3-2 for 17 seconds in the first half … and that’s it. The Ramblers opened the game on a 15-5 run, took a 36-24 lead into the break and led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

Perhaps this is what says it all — The Ramblers emptied their bench to let the walk-ons get some run.

In the Elite Eight.

Their bench players dribbled out the clock to send them to the Final Four.

For a team that needed game-winning jumpers in the final 10 seconds in the first three rounds of the tournament, Kansas State was the lowest seeded team that the Ramblers played in the tournament. I guess it’s fitting that they were the game they finally won comfortably.

And to be frank, this is the postseason run that we all needed this year.

Let’s start with the basics: Nobody wants to see Kansas State in the Final Four. I’m sorry Kansas State fans, but that’s the truth. This run has been fun, it might have saved Bruce Weber’s job and I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for the fight and the grit that guys like Barry Brown Jr., Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed play with.

But if you are going to give me the choice between seeing a miracle mid-major run to the final weekend of the college basketball season or a middling power conference program that happened to get hot against a lucky draw in the NCAA tournament, I’m taking the mid-major.

Every. Single. Time.

And I guarantee that I’m not the only one.

If we’re not going to get a blueblood, give me the little guy.

Especially when they are being led to glory by a 98-year old nun named Sister Jean.

That is the other part of this: Everything about this Loyola-Chicago team is good. They are what makes college basketball so special. They are why this event is the best sporting event in America. And they are making this run in the tournament in a year where the sport has been marred by scandal after scandal.

There was the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball that resulted in assistant coaches at four programs getting arrested. There was the arrest of the three UCLA players that turned into an international incident covered by TMZ, CNN and FOX News when LaVar Ball stood up for his son and got into a war of words with Donald Trump. There were the accusations that were levied at Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo that he covered up sexual assaults committed by players within his program. There were the reports that leaked before the start of the NCAA tournament that tied players at myriad programs with taking impermissible from a disgraced NCAA agent, and then the controversy surrounding a report that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 for Deandre Ayton.

Anyone paying attention to college basketball from afar would think that the sport is an absolute cesspool, and whether the fact that it is may or may not be true depending the way that you view amateurism and the ability of college athletes to earn money off of their likeness, the bottom-line is this: College basketball’s public image has never been worse.

Until now.

Now we have a team from the Missouri Valley — a league that Wichita State and Creighton left because it wasn’t good enough — heading to the Final Four. We have a mid-major program whose most famous member is their 98-year old chaplain. We have a program with a head coach that is so far from the glitz and glamour of $3,000 suits that he wears outfits that look like this.

This is why college basketball is the best.

Because things like this can happen.

Tonight, we are all Ramblers.

Report: Gonzaga will decide on conference future in next few weeks

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Now that Gonzaga has been eliminated from the 2018 NCAA tournament, the school has some important decisions to make regarding its basketball future.

A report at the end of February from Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune said that the Bulldogs were among two teams targeted by the Mountain West Conference for future expansion. The Mountain West talks are becoming more of a reality since the Zags were ousted by Florida State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Dennis Dodd of is reporting that Gonzaga will make a conference decision in the next few weeks as the school is exploring the possibility of leaving the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth confirmed to Dodd that the Mountain West and Gonzaga are talking while also noting that rumors of BYU and Gonzaga being a package deal are false. Since the window is quickly closing to try to get new teams into leagues for the 2018-19 season the Gonzaga/Mountain West talks should be figured out within the next few weeks.

“I think we’re into that crunch period for sure if we’re going to try to get it done for the fall of 2018. At the same time, we’re not going to rush the decision because of timing,” Roth said to Dodd.

“In a perfect world, we’re going to be making a decision in the next couple of weeks here. But there is no such thing as perfect worlds in the crazy world of college athletics.”

While Gonzaga has dominated the WCC over the last 20 years, the conference hasn’t provided enough quality competition for the perennial top-25 program. That’s why the jump to the Mountain West would be intriguing. The Bulldogs would get a better yearly strength of schedule to help its tournament profile. The Mountain West would add a stable NCAA tournament contender that would also boost the national profile of the league.

“Our conference doesn’t get the national respect, and the Mountain West has better respect,” Roth said to Dodd. “Whether it’s significant enough for us to make that move, we’re trying to figure [that] out.”

As Dodd noted in his report, this move would have little to do with revenue for Gonzaga. This move would be made strictly for competitive purposes:

Such a move would seemingly have little to do with revenue, at least for Gonzaga. The Mountain West TV contract is worth approximately $18 million (about $1.5 million per school). Gonzaga’s current league, the West Coast Conference, gets a tiny fraction compared to that amount.

Based on an industry standard that basketball is worth only 25 percent of any media rights contract, jumping to the MWC would net Gonzaga only $375,000 per season.

Based on Roth’s quotes about the WCC and the level of national respect, it will be fascinating to see if this move happens in the next few weeks. It makes sense for both Gonzaga and the Mountain West to make this move. But a lot of other things also have to be figured out for such a move to take place. Once the college basketball season is over, this will be one of the biggest storylines to follow heading into next season.