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Report: NCAA upholds ruling against Donnie Tyndall

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Donnie Tyndall’s efforts to appeal his 10-year show-cause penalty have been denied, according to a report from USA Today.

The penalty is the result the NCAA finding that Tyndall, while the head coach at Southern Miss, had directed staff members to commit academic fraud while trying to get incoming recruits eligible to play and that he made payments to academic non-qualifiers who were not on scholarship.

Tyndall filed an appeal with the NCAA Infractions Committee stating, essentially, that his penalty, one of the most severe ever given out by the NCAA, was the result of one witness that had lied to them after the NCAA had granted him immunity.

Tyndall is currently coaching in the D-League.

What should we make of Maryland?

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I challenge you to find a team that, this season, is more fascinatingly confusing than the No. 17 Maryland Terrapins.

The Terps are 20-2 on the season, their 8-1 Big Ten record putting them in a tie for first place in the league with No. 10 Wisconsin, a game ahead of No. 25 Northwestern and two games in front of No. 23 Purdue. They’re undefeated on the road, which, with three freshmen starters, is almost as impressive as their 9-1 record in games decided by six points or less.

But they’re also a team that no one has paid much, if any, attention to this season. Part of that is because of the disappointment that was 2015-16, a year where Maryland entered the year as a preseason national title favorite and ended the year as a No. 5 seed getting picked off by Kansas in the Sweet 16. Part of it is because the youth on the roster this year led to depressed expectations; there wasn’t much hype coming out of College Park in October.

But perhaps the biggest part of it is that the Terps are the only team in the top 25 that has yet to play a team that was, at the time they played, or is, currently, ranked.

Think about it like this: Every team ranked above Maryland this week has played at least one game that has drawn the collective eyeballs of the college basketball world. With the exception of Northwestern, the same can be said for every team ranked below them. Saint Mary’s had their showdown with Gonzaga. Cincinnati played SMU on ESPN and squared off with Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout. Butler beat then-No. 1 Villanova. Creighton hosted then-No. 1 Villanova as a top ten team. Florida squared off with Duke at Madison Square Garden.

Maryland?

They’ve yet to play a game that we had to watch. I had a friend – who lives in DC, who played college basketball, whose father is a Maryland fan, who was in attendance for the Miracle Minute in 2001 – ask me yesterday how it was possible that the Terps could be 20-2 and he couldn’t name a player in the program other than Melo Trimble.

I’m sure he’s far from the only college basketball fan that thinks Justin Jackson is just a player on North Carolina or struggles to pronounce Kevin Huerter’s last name.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins puts in a layup over D.J. Johnson #4 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the closing seconds as they win the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic 69-68 at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Melo Trimble (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

SO WHAT MAKES MARYLAND SO INTERESTING?

Maryland is a team that sits at the crossroads of a pair of dueling narratives.

Is that 9-1 record in close games an example of how clutch they are, or is it simply a result of being lucky?

There is a large segment of the sports world that does not believe that it is possible to be ‘clutch’, that players don’t simply become better shooters – or passers, or pitchers, or goal scorers – simply because it is late in the game. There are smart people with a much better understanding of math that can roll out numbers that will confirm this. There are also smart people that can provide data on why certain players are, in fact, ‘clutch’. That debate exists, and while it’s not a debate that I want to dive into here, it’s worth noting because Maryland – specifically Melo Trimble – is either the most clutch or the luckiest player in college basketball during his time with Maryland.

Maryland is 9-1 in games decided by six points or less this season, and in four of those nine games, Trimble has scored the game-winning points in the final 30 seconds. That doesn’t count Tuesday night’s game at Ohio State, where Trimble scored Maryland’s final seven points to hold off a late charge from the Buckeyes.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Trimble is now 29-6 in games decided by six points or less in his three seasons in College Park.

This tells us two things:

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1. The Terps have a habit of playing close games. For example, they’re on a seven-game winning streak in the Big Ten right now, and only one of those games – a 12-point home win against Rutgers – was decided by double-figures.

2. It’s not a fluke that Maryland is winning those close games. It’s because they have Trimble. I don’t care what the math says, when you win 29 out of 35 two-possession games over a three-year span with three totally different supporting casts, it’s not by accident. Trimble is college basketball’s best closer.

And that brings us to the second coming-together of the narratives: results-based metrics vs. predictive metrics. Maryland is currently sitting at 18th in the RPI, a number that all-but locks them into the NCAA tournament at what should be a pretty good seed. The RPI’s formula, however, doesn’t factor in margin of victory – meaning that Maryland’s six-point win over American goes down as a win, not a game against a bad team they almost lost. KenPom’s formula does, and Maryland is ranked 39th on KenPom, a number that would put them squarely on the bubble given the fact that they don’t have many good wins.

As it stands, Maryland has just one RPI top 25 win and three total RPI top 50 wins. It’s not crazy to think that, come Selection Sunday, none of those three wins – at Minnesota, Kansas State, Oklahoma State – will be over NCAA tournament teams.

Still, 20-2 says a lot, which is why we can’t simply judge them on their tournament profile.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Anthony Cowan #0 and Justin Jackson #21 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrate against the Richmond Spiders in the first half during the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

SO WHAT MAKES THEM GOOD?

It starts with Melo Trimble, who has long been rated as one of the country’s elite point guard but who has been asked to play off the ball this season with the addition of Anthony Cowan, a star freshman point guard from Bowie, Maryland.

And while Cowan, who is the team’s third-leading scorer and leader in assists, has been terrific this season, he hasn’t even been the best freshmen on the Terps. That title belongs to Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward from Canada by way of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, Jackson is a player that may end up playing himself right into the NBA Draft. His physical profile is what NBA teams salivate over. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he can play the three and guard the four, he has range out of the three-point line. In his last two games, Jackson is averaged 25.0 points and 11.0 boards while shooting 9-for-12 from beyond the arc.

That production probably isn’t sustainable, but it is a glimpse into just what he is capable of doing.

Kevin Huerter, a sharpshooting 6-foot-7 freshman from Upstate New York, got off to a bit of a slow start this season but, in conference play, is shooting a crisp 46 percent from beyond the arc while firing up 5.5 triples a night. He had 26 points and seven threes against Nebraska. He had 19 points and five threes against Minnesota. Perhaps most importantly, he’s proven as a big shot maker and a guy that can be relied upon to make a play defensively. Ask Georgetown. He had the game-saving block in Maryland’s comeback win.

Throw in a quartet of bigs, led by defensive stopper Damonte Dodd and his more offensive-minded counterpart Michal Cekovsky (think the College Park version of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter), that anchor a lineup that has thrived playing small-ball as well as snipers off the bench in Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens, and Mark Turgeon has himself a good, balanced roster, one that is still getting better.

That’s the beauty of having a roster full of freshmen.

As the cliché, come March, freshmen are sophomores, and the best thing about sophomores is that they’re better than they were as freshmen.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Kevin Huerter #4 of the Maryland Terrapins blocks T.J. Cline #10 of the Richmond Spiders in the second half during the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Kevin Huerter (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

So this is where we are with this team.

Their all-american has a nasty habit of struggling for the first 30 minutes of a game before going into takeover mode down the stretch.

Their freshmen have been inconsistent but, individually, good enough to carry the team for stretches, or an entire half, sometimes even a full game.

They haven’t played anyone, let alone beaten anyone, and they play everyone close, regardless of how good the opponent is, but they almost always win those close games.

And the final point is what makes Saturday so important.

No. 17 Maryland will host No. 23 Purdue. It’s the best team that the Terps have played this season. It’s the chance for them to get a quality win on their résumé. And, frankly, it’s a chance for them to prove to the nation that they are the real deal. They play the first game of the day, on ESPN, in a timeslot where they will compete with Duke hosting a bad Pitt team and boring Virginia playing on the road against a mediocre version of Syracuse.

If the Terps plan on making a statement this season, this is the time to do it.

No. 2 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas Preview: Do the Bears have a shot at getting the win?

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The matchup that we’ve all been waiting for in the Big 12 will happen tonight, as No. 2 Baylor makes the trek up to Lawrence to pay their visit to No. 3 Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

The Bears are currently sitting at 20-1 on the season and are tied with the Jayhawks for first in the conference regular season standings at 7-1, but given the way that they were smacked around by West Virginia and the fact that they just can’t quite seem to blow anyone in the conference out, there have been some questions about whether or not this Baylor team is “for real”.

(Hint: they are.)

But since it’s Baylor and since Baylor is coached by Scott Drew, the nation-at-large isn’t going to believe it until it’s proven to them. That’s not a knock on the program, that’s a fact of life. Bill Self has won 12 straight Big 12 regular season titles, Drew is the butt of every running ‘he can’t coach’ joke.

This is their chance to prove the doubters wrong, and while it is foolish for anyone to think that it will be easy to go into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and get a win, Baylor does matchup pretty well with the Jayhawks on paper.

It starts with that zone. Technically, what they play is probably classified as a 2-3 zone, but it morphs. Typically, they have a guard matching up with a player at the high post and the other guard matching up with the ball-handler, meaning that, often times, it looks more like a 1-1-3 or a 1-3-1 zone. This has two benefits:

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  1. It makes it more difficult to get the ball into the paint, either via penetration or by passing the ball into the high-post. We generally think of a zone as being a defense that’s easy to shoot over, but that’s only the case when the ball gets into the teeth of the defense and shooters are left open when the defense collapses. Baylor’s zone is designed to make that difficult to do, which, when combined with the length they have on their front line, is why they are 13th nationally in three-point percentage defense. This is probably where I should note that Kansas is fifth nationally in three-point shooting. Strength vs. strength.
  2. Baylor’s zone means that Josh Jackson won’t have quite as easy of a time taking advantage of mismatches by playing the four. Baylor is one of the few programs that still starts two natural big men, a true center in Jo Lual-Acuil and a Player of the Year candidate in power forward Johnathan Motley. Those two would not be able to chase around Jackson, who will be a top five pick as a small forward prospect despite playing the four in a small-ball lineup for the Jayhawks. He’s going to have to deal with those big bodies defensively, but they aren’t going to be chasing him around on the perimeter.

Kansas is coming off of a win at Kentucky on Saturday, and that win came as a direct result of Self’s decision to play zone in the second half. I would fully expect him to do the same thing on Wednesday. Baylor, like Kentucky, is not exactly a team built to beat a zone – they have one player shooting better than 40 percent from three while Motley is a guy that could easily get Landen Lucas, the only big man on the Kansas roster with Carlton Bragg Jr. dealing with an arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, into early foul trouble.

Going zone would help protect Lucas. It would help protect Jackson, too, and I have a hard time imaging a situation where Self doesn’t recognize that.

What’s truly interesting here is what happens if the Bears are able to get this win.

It would put them a game in front of Kansas in the Big 12 standings with a home game against the Jayhawks still on the schedule. It’s stupid to predict that Kansas will not win the Big 12 title – We’ve been here over and over again in recent years; remember when the Jayhawks were 2-3 in the Big 12 last season? – but being a game up halfway through the conference slate with a home game left against Kansas is where you would want to be.

Conversely? I’m not sure if Baylor can win the outright regular season title if the Jayhawks pick them off.

So there’s a lot on the line here, and that’s before you consider the No. 1 seed implications this season.

So yes, this a really important matchup. Phog Allen will be rocking. Two of the top three teams in the country will be playing.

Buckle up.

PREDICTION: The line for this game opened at Kansas (-5.5) and has since moved to Kansas (-6.5). KenPom projects Kansas (-4). I would take Baylor (+6.5). Between the potential issues with front court foul trouble and the fact that the Bears should be able to take away the best Kansas matchups offensively, I think they’ll be able to keep this thing close.

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates with Frank Mason III #0 after making a three-pointer during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

No. 22 Creighton makes statement with win at No. 16 Butler

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Maybe it was too soon to write off Creighton.

Many did it after Creighton gave up 102 points to Marquette in Omaha last weekend. I did it after the Bluejays were smoked by Georgetown last Wednesday night. It was hard not to. The Bluejays had lost their engine – Mo Watson Jr., an all-american candidate – to a torn ACL and proceeded to get run out of the gym in two games they otherwise would have no business losing.

Saturday’s win over DePaul didn’t do much to change that sentiment.

Tuesday’s win at No. 16 Butler?

That will.

Justin Patton scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, adding seven boards and a pair of blocks, as No. 22 Creighton went into Hinkle Fieldhouse and beat the Bulldogs, 76-67. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas both added 15 points for the Jays, who shot 13-for-21 from three in the win.

The story of the game, however, were Watson’s replacements. Greg McDermott scrapped the idea of using senior Isaiah Zierdan at the point guard spot and, instead, turned the keys over to freshman Davion Mintz and walk-on Tyler Clement, and they were both good. Mintz had eight points and three assists without committing a turnover, hitting a pair of big threes early in the second half to help push Creighton’s lead out to double-figure.

But it was Clement that really availed himself. He looked overwhelmed at Georgetown, like he wasn’t ready to handle the responsibility that came with running this show. Who could blame him? On Tuesday, however, you never would’ve guessed that he entered the season as the third-string, emergency point guard, the guy whose job was mostly to run the offense at the end of blowout wins.

He handed out six assists, including a pair of beautiful pick-and-roll dimes to Patton, but more importantly, he was able to get the Bluejays into their offense. Sometimes that required leading the break, sometimes all it took was him getting the ball over half court and initiating the set that McDermott called.

If there is anything that McDermott’s teams have developed a reputation for, it’s been their execution in the half court. Creighton is always going to be able to get good looks on the offensive end of the floor because of it. What we saw on Tuesday was less reliance on a point guard to make things happen and more crisply-run offensive sets. Lots of movement, lots of motion, plenty of screens to get Patton touches in the paint.

The fact that Creighton can do that takes some of the pressure off of the point guard spot.

But this group still needed a presence out there, some to take charge, pull the ball out, call a play.

Mintz and Clement were those guys on Tuesday.

And as a result, there’s reason to be hopeful that Creighton’s dream season is not a lost cause.

Bubble Banter: The theme of the night was missed opportunity

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LOSERS

Georgia (RPI: 51, KenPom: 52, bubble): The Bulldogs desperately needed a marquee win, and all the stars were aligned for them to get it on Tuesday night. Kentucky, playing at home, was coming off of a two-game losing streak and playing without De’Aaron Fox, who reportedly had the worst of a stomach bug that had spread through the team. Then the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first six minutes, and this thing looked like it was going to go their way.

But alas, Malik Monk went bananas, Isaiah Briscoe had one of his best games as a Wildcats and Kentucky, in the end, pulled out the win. It was a massive missed opportunity for the Bulldogs, which was a common theme on Tuesday night on the bubble.

Pitt (RPI: 58, KenPom: 86, next four out): The Panthers are very much on the outside looking in right now, and they missed a golden opportunity to vault themselves past some other teams on the bubble. Pitt had a shot to beat North Carolina at the buzzer in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night and couldn’t capitalize.

Iowa State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 26, No. 9 seed): The Cyclones had a chance to solidify their tournament status and improve their seeding with No. 7 West Virginia, a team that has struggled on the road this season, coming to town. It went to waste in a double-digit loss.

Illinois (RPI: 50, KenPom: 67, next four out): Like Pitt and Iowa State, the Illini missed a great opportunity to land a marquee win with a home game against No. 15 Wisconsin. John Groce’s club is running out of chances to get themselves off of the bubble.

Auburn (RPI: 56, KenPom: 77, bubble): It was probably generous to put Auburn in bubble consideration. Losing at home to Tennessee doesn’t help.

WINNERS

Tennessee (RPI: 41, KenPom: 38, next four out): The Vols backed up their wins over Kentucky and Kansas State last week by adding a road win over Auburn on Tuesday night. The Vols are now 12-9 on the season and 4-4 in the SEC. They probably needed to get to 11-7 in the league to really have a chance, but it’s certainly doable. As we know, the SEC isn’t exactly loaded with title contenders.

Georgetown (RPI: 54, KenPom: 55, bubble): Georgetown put themselves back into the bubble picture after beating No. 22 Creighton and winning at No. 16 Butler last week. They backed that up by going into Chicago and knocking off DePaul, a win that matters in that it’s not a loss on the Hoya résumé. Georgetown still has work left to do, but with wins over Oregon (neutral), Butler (road) and Creighton (home), they have three wins that most bubble teams can only dream of having.

Dayton (RPI: 33, KenPom: 36, No. 8 seed): The Flyers avoided doing what VCU did earlier this month – losing at Fordham – and kept themselves comfortably on the right side of the bubble.

Wake Forest (RPI: 29, KenPom: 34, play-in game): The Demon Deacons played with fire, blowing a big lead and finding themselves behind Boston College in the second half, but they were able to pull out a road win over a team that is not all that good. Wake Forest is in a spot right now where they don’t really have the margin for error to drop a game like this.

Rhode Island (RPI: 48, KenPom: 48, bubble): The Rams are in a tough spot right now, playing in an Atlantic 10 that doesn’t have a lot of quality wins available. They picked up a win they needed tonight, knocking off George Washington at home.

 

 

Rick Pitino: Quentin Snider’s return ‘not in the foreseeable future’

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Two weeks ago, Louisville’s starting point guard Quentin Snider went down with a hip injury that was supposed to keep him out of action for 2-3 weeks, but according to head coach Rick Pitino, the program doesn’t seem to have a feel for when he will be back on the floor.

“We really don’t,” Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s not in the foreseeable future. We’re going to get 4-5 days of practice in him before he plays and it’s a ways away.”

Snider’s return became that much more important last week when back-up point guard Tony Hicks went down for at least six weeks with a broken hand.

Louisville is 3-1 in Snider’s absence, and in the last two games, Donovan Mitchell has played the best basketball of his Louisville career; he was named the NBCSports.com Player of the Week. But those performances came in games against Pitt and N.C. State, who have a combined-four wins in ACC play.

The Cardinals need Snider, who is averaging 12.1 points and 4.0 assists this season, back sooner rather than later.

“I’m doing better,” Snider said, according to the paper. “Right now it’s just straight running because I can’t really plant right now and change directions. I’m just getting up shots and doing a lot of stretching and stuff.”