South Alabama Jaguars

Mark Gottfried

Legends Classic regional round matchups released

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While the four teams selected to play in this upcoming season’s Legends Classic semifinals at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Arizona State, LSU, Marquette and NC State) have been known for quite some time, the regional round matchups for the event had yet to be announced. That changed Thursday, as the Gazelle Group released the matchups for those games.

Each of the four teams that will make their way to Brooklyn for games November 23-24 will have two home games to play in the regional round. Those opponents will come from a four-team pool of Belmont, IUPUI, Kennesaw State and South Alabama, with those teams being selected well in advance of today’s announcement.

There will be a separate four-team event hosted by Kennesaw State November 23-24, and as is the case with the semifinal round in Brooklyn those games will be announced at a later date. Below are the regional round matchups.

Milwaukee Regional (hosted by Marquette)
November 13: Belmont at Marquette
November 16: IUPUI at Marquette

Raleigh Regional (hosted by NC State) 
November 15: South Alabama at NC State
November 18: IUPUI at NC State

Baton Rouge Regional (hosted by LSU) 
November 16: Kennesaw State at LSU
November 19: South Alabama at LSU

Tempe Regional (hosted by Arizona State) 
November 16: Belmont at Arizona State
November 19: Kennesaw State at Arizona State

South Alabama’s leading rebounder to transfer

Abdul Lewis, Tonye Jekiri
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After leading the team in rebounding as a freshman with an average of 6.9 boards per contest, South Alabama freshman Abdul Lewis has decided to transfer. News of Lewis’ decision was announced by South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves Wednesday afternoon.

“I would like to thank Abdul for his contributions to the program this past season and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Graves said in the release. “He will be granted a full release to transfer back closer to home and I would anticipate him being able to find a situation that allows him to be within an hour or two from there.”

The 6-foot-9 Lewis, a native of Newark, Nw Jersey, also averaged 7.0 points per game and started 27 of the 33 games he played in. With Lewis moving on and fellow forward Dionte Ferguson (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) out of eligibility, the Jaguars will have to account for the loss of their top two rebounders from last season.

Rising junior forward Georgi Boyanov, who averaged 4.7 rebounds per contest in 2014-15, will be South Alabama’s leading returning rebounder. The Jaguars also return rising senior Tafari Whittingham and add three newcomers in Loyola Marymount transfer Nick Stover (who sat out last season) and freshmen Josh Ajayi and Nikola Marijan to the front court rotation.

NCAA tournament participants Belmont, LSU and NC State part of Legends Classic field

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Wednesday afternoon the Gazelle Group announced that the field for the 2015 Legends Classic has been filled. The four teams that will automatically “advance” to the semifinal round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn November 23 and 24 were known, with those teams being Arizona State, LSU, Marquette and NC State.

Wednesday’s announcement included the four teams that will play in the regional round were finalized as well.

Belmont, IUPUI, Kennesaw State and South Alabama are those four teams, and each of the four automatic semifinalists will play two games against those schools before heading to Brooklyn. Kennesaw State will host the subregional rounds between these four teams November 23 and 24.

Of the eight teams in the field three reached the NCAA tournament last month, with NC State beating LSU in the Round of 64 on their way to the Sweet 16 and Belmont losing to No. 2 Virginia in the Round of 64.

NC State returns a number of key players from that Sweet 16 team, including point guard Cat Barber, and while LSU lost starting forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA they add a highly-regarded recruiting class led by Ben Simmons. Arizona State returns an experienced team in the first season of the Bobby Hurley era in Tempe, and Marquette adds one of the nation’s best recruiting classes led by five-star forward Henry Ellenson.

Matchups for all three rounds of the event will be announced at a later date.

South Alabama adds Loyola Marymount transfer Nick Stover

WCC Basketball Tournament - First Round - Loyola Marymount v Portland
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South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves added some depth to his front court Sunday, with it being reported by Jamie Shaw of the Phenom Hoop Report that former Loyola Marymount forward Nick Stover has decided to transfer to the Sun Belt school. The news was later confirmed by multiple outlets.

Stover started 14 of the 32 games he played in last season, posting averages of 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest. A 6-foot-6 small forward, Stover will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2014-15 campaign per NCAA rules.

After shooting just 32.1% from the field as a freshman Stover improved his percentage as a sophomore, making 43.2% of his field goal attempts. His best offensive performance of the season came in a loss at San Francisco, as he scored 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field, and Stover finished with three consecutive double-digit scoring efforts.

In a story written by Tommy Hicks of, Stover noted his relationship with Graves and the rest of the South Alabama coaching staff as one of the key reasons why he chose the school.

“It was a lot about (the coaching staff),” Stover said of his decision to choose the Jaguars. “I see where they are trying to go with the program and they really pitched it, about how the first year they were trying to make changes and gettting the team adjusted to those changes. They said they are going to get the team back to playing like they used to play.

“Their development, how they handle the player development and one-on-one instruction, that really sold me on it too. The individual workouts that they do and how the one-on-one workouts are helpful. All the  development they are going to put me through, including the weight room and things like that, just really sold me.”

South Alabama will need to account for the graduation of Augustine Rubit, who was one of the most productive front court players in the country last season, and they’ll be adding forwards Tafari Whittingham (junior college transfers) and Abdul Lewis to the program this summer.

2013-2014 Season Preview: The Top 20 Big Men

Creighton Bluejays Doug McDermott drives on the Cincinnati Bearcats Justin Jackson during the second half of their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia
AP photo

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 our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.

We will be ranking:

The final installment of our Top 20 player rankings focuses on the big men, and for all the talk of college basketball being a “guard’s game” post presences are a necessity if a team’s going to win a national title. With NBA Draft eligibility rules being what they are, national champions more often than not have at least one elite big man. Some are bruisers who do the majority of their work inside, while others possess the ability to step out on the perimeter and score as well.

Here’s our list of the Top 20 big men in college basketball:

1. Julius Randle (Kentucky): The 6-foot-9 freshman has the build of a pro already, and the talent is there as well. Incredibly difficult to stop around the basket, Randle is also capable of knocking down perimeter shots. Given how difficult it is to match up with Randle, it’ll be interesting to see how John Calipari utilizes the most talented player on his star-studded roster.

2. Doug McDermott (Creighton): The senior forward, who averaged 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season, will be in the Big East and national Player of the Year discussions in his senior campaign. With range well out beyond the three-point line, McDermott shot 54.8% from the field and 49.0% from three in 2012-13.

AP photo

3. Mitch McGary (Michigan): McGary’s (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) played his best basketball at the most important time of the year for the Wolverines, who reached the national title game for the first time since 1993. The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 boards in the tournament.

4. Aaron Gordon (Arizona): Gordon’s an elite athlete who finishes above the rim with authority. If Gordon’s able to consistently knock down perimeter looks in addition to his ability to score inside, look out. The key? Gordon needs to embrace being a big man at the college level.

5. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville): Harrell, a role player for last season’s national champions, is expected to play a starring role for the Cardinals as a sophomore. Harrell (5.7, 3.6) is a very physical interior player, and he was dominant at times with the United States Under-19 team in this past summer’s World Championships.

6. Adreian Payne (Michigan State): Payne’s been a tantalizing player for much of his time in East Lansing, and he began to show signs of putting it all together during the latter portion of his junior season. Payne, who averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 boards per game last season, can also knock down perimeter shots when left open. Consistency is the key for Payne.

7. Isaiah Austin (Baylor): The 7-foot-1 Austin may be one of the most skilled players in the country, as he can handle the ball on the perimeter as well as score from just about anywhere on the floor. The question for Austin (13.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who’s healthy following offseason shoulder surgery, is whether or not he’s better equipped to handle physical play on a nightly basis in the Big 12.

8. Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee): Pound for pound one of the strongest players in America, Stokes averaged 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game without Jeronne Maymon (knee) available to help him out in the paint. With Maymon healthy, look for Stokes to be even better as a junior.

9. Cory Jefferson (Baylor): Jefferson went from being a role player to being an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Currently fifth in school history in blocked shots for a career (117), Jefferson (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg) shot 61% from the field as a redshirt junior.

10. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky): Cauley-Stein (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg) was one of the bright spots in what turned out to be a tough season for the Wildcats. An excellent athlete, the 7-foot big man was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection and he’s expected to play a starring role for Kentucky this season.


source: Getty Images
Getty Images
  • 11. Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State): It can be argued that Nash should be listed with the wings, but his versatility allows the Cowboys to use him in a variety of ways. He’s already a handful off the dribble and on the block, but he needs to be a better shooter.
  • 12. James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina): Anyone’s guess as to how long P.J. Hairston will be out of the lineup, but regardless of the shooter’s status, McAdoo needs to be a key figure for the Tar Heels this season.
  • 13. Alex Kirk (New Mexico): A good argument could have been made for Kirk winning Mountain West Player of the Year last season over teammate Kendall Williams. Kirk posted averages of 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in 2012-13.
  • 14. Jerrelle Benimon (Towson): The reigning CAA Player of the Year was outstanding for the Tigers in 2012-13, posting averages of 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
  • 15. Joel Embiid (Kansas): Embiid’s received high praise from many and he’s yet to play a college game. A bit raw offensively, Embiid will likely do the majority of his damage on the defensive end to start the year.
  • 16. Augustine Rubit (South Alabama): Rubit’s a bit underrated nationally, but the fact of the matter is that he was one of the nation’s most productive big men last season. The Sun Belt Player of the Year averaged 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds.
  • 17. Dwight Powell (Stanford) : Powell’s expected to have a big year for the Cardinal after averaging 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Powell earned first team All-Pac-12 honors and was named the league’s Most Improved Player.
  • 18. Juvonte Reddic (VCU): The last line of defense for the Rams, Reddic emerged as the Atlantic 10’s best big man in 2012-13, averaging 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • 19. Akil Mitchell (Virginia): Tony Bennett’s big man is one of the most underrated players in the ACC. He averaged 13.1 points and 8.9 boards as a junior and should be a major part in Virginia’s push for an ACC title.
  • 20. Ryan Anderson (Boston College): Anderson is a major reason that BC is expected to surprise a lot of people in the ACC. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.0 boards as a sophomore.

2013-2014 Sun Belt Preview: Star-studded league should provide plenty of drama

Elfrid Payton, Keith Appling
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Elfrid Payton (AP photo)

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.

The Sun Belt was one of the conferences that had the most reshuffling during conference realignment, as four schools are headed out of the league while three new programs — Georgia State, Texas State and Texas-Arlington — come aboard.

Ironically enough, while the league loses powerhouse Middle Tennessee State, North Texas forward Tony Mitchell and Florida International head coach Rick Pitino, the Sun Belt will likely end up having more star power on their rosters than any mid-major league in the country.

It starts with one of the new additions, as Ron Hunter’s Georgia State squad seems primed for a huge year. Hunter’s back court will be loaded, as his son R.J., a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, returns after averaging more than 17 points as a freshman. He’s got a chance to be an NBA Draft pick down the road. He’s joined by Devonta White and Manny Atkins, who both averaged about 15 points, but the most notable name will be Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow. If Harrow lives up to his potential and Hunter can find some production on the interior, the Panthers have the chance to be really, really good.

(MORE: Ron Hunter channels his inner ‘Coach Dad’)

As talented as Hunter and Harrow are, however, neither will enter the season as the Sun Belt’s Preseason Player of the Year. That title falls to Augustine Rubit, a 6-foot-7 forward that averaged 19.4 points and 10.2 boards as a junior. In layman’s terms, he’s a beast, but if the Jaguars are going to improve on their 14-6 record in Matthew Graves’ first season as head coach, Rubit will need a supporting cast that loses two starters to step up.

No mid-major player had a bigger summer than Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton. The 6-foot-3, do-it-all guard — he averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 boards, 5.6 assists and 2.4 steals — not only managed to make the U19 national team, but he started for them over more highly-regarded players. Throw in the return of Shawn Long, and Bob Marlin’s club will also contend for the league title.

Then there’s Western Kentucky. They return four starters from a team that finished just 10-10 in league play, but they are also coming off of their second straight run to the NCAA tournament. T.J. Price is the Hilltopper to make note of.

And finally, Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but leading scorer Ed Townsel is back, as is sophomore Cameron Golden. The key will be transfers. Brandon Reed averaged 15.1 points as a freshman back in 2009-2010 before transferring to Georgia Tech while Melvin Johnson III averaged 13.0 points as a junior at UT-San Antonio in 2011-2012.

Arkansas-Little Rock and UT-Arlington both have enough talent to make a push as well.


In: Georgia State, Texas State, Texas-Arlington,
Out: Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Florida International, Florida Atlantic

AP photo


Rubit came within 18 points of averaging 20 and 10 a season ago, and he’s returning to school to play for a team with a real shot of winning the league title. I know how much talent there is in this conference; this decision was still pretty easy.


  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: Hunter averaged 17.5 points as a freshman and will be playing this season with Ryan Harrow.
  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette: If he can refine his jump shot, Payton has a shot to follow the footsteps of Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
  • Brandon Reed, Arkansas State: Reed averaged 15.1 points as a freshman with the Red Wolves, but tried transferring to Georgia Tech. That resulted in two uneventful season, so Reed came back under the graduate transfer rule.
  • Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette: The best big man in the league not named Augustine Rubit.


1. Georgia State
2. Louisiana-Lafayette
3. South Alabama
4. Western Kentucky
5. Arkansas State
6. Arkansas-Little Rock
7. UT-Arlington
8. Troy
9. Texas State
10. Louisiana-Monroe