Eric Angevine

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Frosh Peters making a push for Terps point guard spot

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There was a time in college basketball when a coach wouldn’t dream of entrusting his team to a freshman point guard. That time has passed, and we’re in the era of the one-and-done player who tends to get his playing time right away.

Maryland freshman Roddy Peters may not be the second coming of John Wall, but he is impressing Terps head coach Mark Turgeon. After observing a few early practices, Turgeon is starting to think he got an even better player than he originally thought.

“I knew Roddy was really good, but he has a gear I never saw,” Turgeon told a reporter for Maryland’s The Diamondback student newspaper after a recent morning practice. “I thought he was a fourth-gear guy, but he kind of gets into a fifth gear and I didn’t know he had that.”

Peters is 6-foot-4 and not afraid to drive to the rim, but he appears to have the skillset of a natural point guard, which should make him really tough to defend.

Early on, the point job may be the property of Seth Allen, but Turgeon told the newspaper that he definitely plans to shake things up, allowing combo guard Allen to indulge his natural instinct as a scorer while Peters distributes. With Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell inside, and Xavier transfer Dez Wells as the unquestioned leader of the Terps, Maryland has a team to be reckoned with this season, all the more so if Peters can lock down the point guard slot and free up his teammates to fill up the nets.

 

Homecoming King? That’s Russdiculous!

Russ Smith
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source: Getty Images

I had forgotten that there is such a thing as a homecoming court, but at Louisville, where the reigning national champs reside, it’s quite possible that a Cardinals basketball player will supplement his national title ring with some more bling: a homecoming crown.

Card Chronicle turned up the fact that both Russ Smith and Luke Hancock are in the running for the campus Homecoming King slot. And apparently they’re not the first (nor likely the last) hardcourt heroes to make the list.

Luke Hancock and Russ Smith are the two potential basketball Cards who could be named king, a title which will be announced during halftime of the homecoming game against Central Florida on Oct. 18 (I think). Each will be trying to follow in the footsteps of former hoops kings Kyle Kuric (2011) and Peyton Siva (2012).

According to the blog, it could be an all-hoops sweep, as women’s team member Sara Hammond (pictured) made the short list for Queen. The Cards were Final Four participants on the women’s side of things as well.

All told, it’s a good year to be a Cardinal, as long as you avoid the knuckleheads in Boston sports radio.

Can a Cinderella emerge from the SWAC?

Southern University center Javan Mitchell and Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk get tied up during the second half of their second round NCAA tournament basketball game in Salt Lake City, Utah
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

On March 21st of this year, Gonzaga – the team that arguably popularized the term “Cinderella” as a signifier for mid-major success against the odds – nearly found the glass slipper on the other foot. The Bulldogs were the No. 1 seed, and the pesky, vastly outgunned Southern Jaguars were hanging around, threatening to become the first No. 16 seed to ever pull the first-round upset. The Zags pulled out the win, but the 64-58 final score sent shock waves around the college basketball world.

That it was Southern putting the irons to a top seed was even more shocking than the final score. The Jaguars earned their auto-bid out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the league that came in dead last in the kenpom.com rankings last season, below the Great West and DI Independents.

(MORE: Click here to read NBCSports.com’s SWAC preview)

SWAC teams don’t win much, because SWAC teams have no money. The Jaguars, who nearly made NCAA history a few months ago, ranked 341st out of 344 schools in basketball expenditures in 2012. According to the NCAA, each team that appeared in a tourney game last season earned roughly $242,200 for each March Madness showdown. The Southern basketball budget a year ago was roughly $535,000 total.

What could a SWAC team do with two NCAA units? More?

source: AP
Seasoned Texas Southern coach Mike Davis is adding horses to a dangerous team.

Winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament isn’t a crazy thought for a low-budget program any more. Remember Norfolk State and Lehigh celebrating 15 over 2 upsets on the same day two years ago? Both schools fall well below the median in basketball budget year-in and year-out. Norfolk State, like Southern is one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and a member of the MEAC, which has sent Hampton and Coppin State to legendary upsets in the past.

SWAC teams have won five NCAA tournament games since 1980, but three of those came in preliminary round games against other double-digit seeds. Another was an 8 vs. 9 matchup between Alcorn State and South Alabama in 1980. The only true upset came at the hands of the legendary Ben Jobe, who took a 13-seeded SWAC team – the Jaguars, handily enough – to a 93-78 win over Georgia Tech in 1993.

So, with the SWAC auto-bid firmly planted in the sixteen-seed range every year, can the big upset happen? Absolutely.

The Jaguars weren’t even the best team in the SWAC last year. Texas Southern, under former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, was 16-2 in the SWAC but ineligible for postseason play. This year, Davis and company add two-time transfer Aaric Murray to a team that loves to run and gun. A skilled big man who can run the court may be all the Tigers need to eke out a program-defining win in March. If they miss out, Southern is the counterpuncher, using defensive intensity to disrupt bigger, faster opponents.

The SWAC showed us that it’s possible for a 16 seed to beat a 1 last season. There’s no reason the cash-poor league can’t pull a true Cinderella routine in the near future. Possibly as soon as this year.

2013-2014 SWAC Preview: Texas Southern is ready to run

Deshawn Stephens, Lawrence Johnson-Danner
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source: AP
AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Texas Southern was the best team in the SWAC last season, garnering a 16-2 league record and a regular season crown. Coached by former Indiana and UAB leader Mike Davis, and playing behind burly 6-foot-9 senior Kyrie Sutton, the team would have likely grabbed the SWAC’s auto-bid had they been eligible for the postseason, but NCAA issues had them sidelined, and Southern University made the Dance instead, scaring Gonzaga with a 64-58 near-miss.

This year, Davis and his guys are out from under the ban, and they’ve added troubled big man Aaric Murray as a graduate transfer. If off-court issues don’t interfere, the Tigers have the speed and size to run the table.

The Southern Jaguars can be expected to put up a fight to retain their crown. Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff were the only league teams to beat Davis’ squad last year, and they’ll be the ones likely to make a run at it again this season. We’ll have our eye on Grambling as well, watching to see if they can improve on last year’s 0-28 debacle.

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

Hey, you know this guy. He wore out his welcome at La Salle, then got into Bob Huggins’ (admittedly crowded) doghouse at West Virginia. His dismissal from the Mountaineers led him to jump at the life preserver offered by Mike Davis, and the big man will play his final season with the Tigers. Murray is a talented player, he’ll be bigger and better than anyone else in the SWAC, and he’ll make a huge difference in Houston if he can stay out of trouble.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Ray Penn, Texas Southern: A 5-foot-9 dynamo who will thrive throwing the ball to Murray on the block.
  • Malcolm Miller, Southern: A rangy 6-foot-6 shooter, Miller is a matchup nightmare in the SWAC.
  • Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M: The league’s leading rebounder returns to lead his team as a senior.
  • Vicktor Arnick, Texas Southern: Mike Davis’ best recruit has the speed and length to make a difference in his first season.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Texas Southern
2. Southern
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Alcorn State
7. Prairie View A&M
8. Alabama State
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling

Former Tide teammates reunite in UNCW backcourt

UNC Greensboro UNC Wilmington Basketball
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The UNCW Seahawks are looking to rebound in the CAA standings after suffering through an NCAA-mandated postseason ban last season. Buzz Peterson can use some playmakers after uber-loyal star forward Keith Rendleman finally used up his eligibility.

Rendleman led the Seahawks in just about every category possible last season, save assists per game. That honor went to Chris Dixon (pictured), who made sure to get the ball to Rendleman as much as possible, and backed the big man up with 9.8 points per game. Dixon spend his first collegiate season at Alabama in 2009 before redshirting and heading off to junior college, then ending up in Wilmington.

Ben Eblen, Dixon’s former teammate in Tuscaloosa, actually played three seasons as a backup at ‘Bama, graduated, and decided to play out his final season of eligibility at UNCW, where the two will be reunited in the upcoming season.

Brian Mull of the Wilmington Star-News found out what Eblen will bring to the table.

After graduating from Alabama last December, Eblen spent the spring at home in Isle of Palms, S.C. He liked what Dixon told him about the program and the area, and felt he could help the Seahawks turn around.

“I really like to get after it on the defensive end, keep pressure on the other team’s guards,” Eblen said. “And put offensive pressure on the other team.”

Peterson plans to play the two together, with either capable of pushing the tempo to create scoring opportunities.

This isn’t Eblen’s first look at the CAA, either. He initially committed to Anthony Grant when he, and VCU, were in the Colonial. When Grant left for Alabama, Eblen went with him.

It’s tough to tell who will come out on top in a CAA decimated by realignment, but the Seahawks have to like their chances of an improved showing with an experience backcourt duo in place.

Mizzou adds four-star Namon Wright to 2014 class

Kyle King, Namon Wright
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Frank Haith and the Missouri Tigers got some good news today, picking up a commitment from 2014 guard Namon Wright.

Wright is a 6-foot-4 wing from California, ranked No. 87 overall by Rivals. His Twitter announcement was pretty low-key, and hardly definitive.

Follow-up tweets between Wright and his followers confirmed that the 2014 prospect had, indeed, pledged to Mizzou on his visit.

Haith and the Tigers still have a long ways to go before they’re in the recruiting stratosphere occupied by SEC foes Kentucky (and hey, who doesn’t?) but their ability to range all the way to the west coast to pick up a big, athletic guard is impressive. Haith was hardly lauded as a savior when Mizzou hired him away from Miami a couple of years ago, but he’s more than proved his mettle since then.