KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 24: The La Salle Explorers celebrate after they won 76-74 against the Mississippi Rebels during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 24, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
East Tennessee State’s Bluenanza hoops celebration reached a new level on Monday night when the team incredibly made back-to-back halfcourt shots to give two ETSU students free tuition.
ETSU students Garrett Pack and Jeremiah Pearson were both selected by the school to attempt halfcourt shots to win free tuition. Both students missed their attempts, but Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Richard Sander gave them a second chance to win with a unique twist — each student could pick one player on the team to shoot for them.
The students picked senior T.J. Cromer and junior Devontavious Payne to take the shots. Both players delivered clutch shots to secure free tuition for Pack and Pearson.
Talk about a ridiculous way to end a madness-type of event.
That wasn’t the only highlight-reel play from the team on Monday night. Senior AJ Merriweather also threw down this ferocious windmill.
Utah landed an important player for its future on Sunday as four-star center Branden Carlson pledged to the Utes.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center is great commitment for Utah as he’s regarded as the No. 113 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals. Carlson’s development is going to be especially intriguing because he won’t play for Utah until the 2019-20 season because of a two-year LDS mission out of high school, according to Scout.com’s Josh Gershon.
Since Carlson needed to add strength and weight, that should give him a little more time to bulk up before college begins. Utah also has freshman center Jayce Johnson just entering the program — another four-star center — so that spaces the two big men out by a few years.
Head coach Larry Krystkowiak has done a nice job developing big men, specifically Jakob Poeltl, and it appears to be paying off on the recruiting trail.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina won’t have a difficult time finding motivation this season.
The memories of losing in the NCAA championship game on a last-second 3-pointer to Villanova still sting more than six months later. It was the crushing final play in a 33-win season that saw the Tar Heels go from a preseason No. 1-ranked team questioned about its toughness to a group that matured enough to sweep the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles before reaching the Final Four.
There are enough veteran returnees for UNC to have the potential to do it again, driven by the memory of coming so oh-so-close to cutting down the nets in April.
“Every time I turn around and look up at the banners, where the national championship banners are,” junior Joel Berry II said, “sometimes it hurts me that we don’t have the 2016 national championship up there. So it’s just motivation to me.”
Some Tar Heels, including Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, still haven’t watched film from the loss.
“I thought we had a great, great year but it’s just like somebody pulls your heart out and taunts you by shaking it in front of you,” Williams said. “But you’ve got to get over it.”
The Tar Heels (33-7, 14-4 ACC) have some big holes with the losses of four-year starter Marcus Paige – the guy UNC looked for when it needed a big shot – and Associated Press all-American Brice Johnson inside. But they return six of their top eight scorers while adding a top-10 recruiting class.
Berry is the top returning scorer (12.8 points), while fellow junior Justin Jackson (12.2) and senior big man Kennedy Meeks are returning starters. The Tar Heels also return ACC sixth man of the Isaiah Hicks, now likely to earn a promotion into the starting lineup.
On the bench, senior Nate Britt provides backcourt depth along with junior Theo Pinson – out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right foot – and sophomore wing Kenny Williams III.
The Tar Heels also will get help up front from McDonald’s All-American Tony Bradley Jr., who headlines a wing-heavy recruiting class.
Some other things to know about the Tar Heels this season:
PINSON’S INJURY: Pinson’s injury during a recent practice, announced Friday, has the potential to be a big blow. The versatile swingman is the team’s top defender, a good passer and a leader with a knack for keeping up team morale .
BERRY IN CHARGE?: Berry looks like the top candidate to take Paige’s role as the guy to entrust with taking the big shot. He was the team’s best outside shooter (38 percent from 3-point range) and led the team in assists, steals and free-throw percentage. And in a sign that Berry could be ready for a leap, he upped his game by averaging 13.7 points and shooting 50 percent in six NCAA Tournament games – ending with 20 points against Villanova.
HICKS’ FOUL TROUBLE: Keeping Hicks on the floor last season was a challenge, including twice in the final 10 games when he picked up four or five fouls in fewer than 10 minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward brings scoring and rebounding, and he was the team’s defensive player of the game eight times – third most on the team behind Paige and Berry. The Tar Heels need him out there this year with fewer frontcourt options.
JACKSON’S GROWTH: Jackson has good size on the perimeter and has been a complimentary scorer through his first two seasons. The Tar Heels need him to become a consistent scorer now in a leading role, especially when it comes to improving his 29-percent shooting from behind the arc last year. He’s an unselfish player and has occasionally seemed content to blend into the background, but the Tar Heels are tougher to stop when he’s playing assertively .
THE ROOKIES: The 6-foot-10 Bradley, a native of Bartow, Florida, will have a shot at immediate minutes for a team with only Meeks and Hicks returning to the frontcourt. The rest of that recruiting class brings depth on the wing with Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods and Shea Rush.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) American Athletic Conference coaches have picked Cincinnati to win the league title this season.
The Bearcats edged UConn in the poll, which was released Monday at the conference’s annual media day.
Cincinnati received 95 points and six first-place votes, while UConn claimed the other five and finished with 94 points.
Cincinnati guard Troy Caupain and Memphis’ Dedric Lawson were chosen as the league’s preseason co-players of the year.
Caupain is joined on the preseason conference first team by teammate Gary Clark, Lawson, SMU forward Ben Moore and Houston guard Damyean Dotson.
UConn guard Alterique Gilbert was projected as the league’s top rookie, the fourth straight season a Huskies player has been chosen for that honor.
Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the SWAC.
Texas Southern ripped through the league last year before seeing its NCAA bid chances evaporate with a loss to Southern in the SWAC tournament, but coach Mike Davis has conference player of the year Derrick Griffin back and committed to hoops after being dismissed from the football program, making the Tigers a favorite in the league once more.
Paris Collins returns to lead Jackson State after their third-place finish from a year ago.Chance Franklin is also back after putting up 12.3 points per game for the Tigers, who lost the SWAC title game a year ago by a single point to Southern.
The Jaguars will be looking for big contributions from Tre’lun Banks and Jared Sam, their top two returnees from last year’s NCAA tournament team. They’ll be needed in a big way to offset the losses of Christopher Hyder, Adrian Rodgers and Shawn Prudhomme.
Alcorn State was the regular-season runner-up last season, but is down four senior starters from the group and the Braves are ineligible for postseason play due to APR scores.
PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derrick Griffin, Texas Southern
The two-sport star is down to one after getting dismissed from the Texas Southern football team this fall, but he’s back for hoops following a year in which he averaged 13.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON SWAC:
- Paris Collins, Jackson State: Averaged 13 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season.
- Marcus Romain, Mississippi Valley State: The 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
- Tommy Armstrong, Alabama State: Armstrong returns to power an Alabama State team that won eight of its last 11
- Trelun Banks, SouthernShot 36.4 percent from 3-point range while scoring 12.4 points, grabbing 2.8 rebounds and dishing out 2.2 assists per game.
ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @theswac
1. Texas Southern
2. Jackson State
4. Alabama State
5. Alcorn State
6. Prairie View A&M
7. Mississippi Valley State
8. Alabama A&M
9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
10. Grambling State