Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

WCC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards: Can anyone knock off Gonzaga?

Leave a comment

After making it all the way to its regular-season finale undefeated, Gonzaga has, rightfully, been the storyline in the WCC this season, but it should be noted that the ‘Zags only cleared St. Mary’s for the regular season title by a single game. Gonzaga will probably need to beat the Gaels for a third time, which would come in the title game of the tournament, to stay in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

When: March 2-7

Where: Orleans Arena; Las Vegas, NV

Final: Monday, March 7, 9 pm

Favorite: Gonzaga

It looked as though the ‘Zags would be using this tournament to match Kentucky and Wichita State as the two most recent programs to make the NCAA tournament without a blemish, but instead they’ll need it to keep a top seed, most notably in the West region, which would allow them to stay in the Pacific time zone all the way through the Final Four. They should cruise into the WCC finals where either St. Mary’s or BYU should be waiting with an attempt to make things interesting.

Should Gonzaga be able to make it out of Vegas unscathed, it should be enough for the Bulldogs to hold on to a top seed. Their problem, though, is they’ll only be able to record one quality win over their three games while their competition in the Pac-12 can log a multiple resume-boosting victories; and frankly, the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Oregon may already have better overall profiles. If the ‘Zags do get upset, they’ll likely fall out of contention for a No. 1, and even if they win, if, say, UCLA wins the Pac-12 tournament and beats Oregon and Arizona to do it, the Zags may still end up on the wrong side of the No. 1 line.

And if they lose?: St. Mary’s

The Gaels’ strong season has been totally eaten up by Gonzaga’s undefeated run and the WCC’s relative weakness, but make no mistake, this team is legit. They’ve bulldozed their way through the conference with just one of their wins coming by single digits. Jock Landale, currently second in KenPom’s player of the year rankings, is averaging 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the floor. The Gaels are a real threat to Gonzaga.

Other Contenders:

  • BYU: The Cougars are longshots here, but by virtue of handing Gonzaga its lone L, they’ve got to be at least taken seriously by St. Mary’s and the Bulldogs.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • BYU: It’ll probably take a Herculean effort and probably a tournament title to get the Cougars in with an RPI hovering around 70 heading in. A win against St. Mary’s in the semis might move the needle, but in all likelihood, the Cougars need the automatic bid.

WCC Player of the Year: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga

The Washington transfer has been as good as Gonzaga could have hoped, putting up career numbers nearly across the board during a 29-game winning streak. He’s shooting 50/36/90 while averaging 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

WCC Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga

There’s no other option here as Few could very well be the national coach of the year after guiding Gonzaga to wins in its first 29 games of the season.

First-Team All-WCC:

  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga (POY)
  • Jock Landale, St. Mary’s: He’s put up monster numbers for a real contender
  • Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga: Returned from a back injury to have another big season in Spokane.
  • Erik Mika, BYU: After a two-year mission absence, Mike was second in the league in scoring (20.2) and first in rebounding (9.4)
  • Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara: Shot 37 percent from 3-point range while hoisting over eight shots from distance per game

Second Team All-WCC:

  • Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga
  • TJ Haws, BYU
  • Zach Collins, Gonzaga
  • Lamond Murray, Pepperdine
  • Joe Rahon, St. Mary’s

Defining moment of the season:

CBT Prediction: Gonzaga

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1 Comment

Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
2 Comments

Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
3 Comments

Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.