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VCU-Virginia series exactly what college hoops needs

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Virginia and VCU are getting together to do something cool.

Play each other at their own gyms.

The two schools have scheduled a home-and-home series for 2017 and 2018, it was announced Wednesday.

“Coach (Tony) Bennett was excited about the possibility,” VCU coach Will Wade told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “and we were certainly excited about it. It’s a game that made sense for both sides.”

Frankly, it’s a game that makes sense for college basketball, at large, even if it is one of the rarest occurrences for a high-major to visit a mid-major, even one of the Rams’ caliber. Given the growing popularity of neutral-site games, financial necessities of playing home non-conference games and, sometimes, a general lack of competitive spirit (to be fair the high-majors certainly have more to lose than gain), these types of games just rarely happen and it has helped in one way to make November a rather dull month of college hoops.

People have been clamoring for a Kansas-Wichita State matchup that Bill Self he has no interest in scheduling. Iowa and Iowa State used to play in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Drake on their home courts every other year, but they now the schools play an antiseptic doubleheader on a neutral site in the center of the state. There’s no parade of high majors visiting schools from the MAC, WAC or CUSA, even if there might be regional or national interest. Matchups against blue bloods is great, but giving someone a chance to play Cinderella outside of March and on its home gym is appealing, too.

It’s just very hard to get a high-major program to leave its gym for anything short of an NBA arena or a made-for-TV attraction.

“You don’t get that often, where a team of that caliber comes to your home court,” Wade said. “They’re a top-10 program in the country right now in terms of the last three or four years.

“Make no mistake, they wouldn’t be doing this if our program wasn’t very good and they didn’t get some benefit out of it as well.”

Give Virginia and Bennett a ton of credit here for agreeing to head to VCU next year and then get the return game in 2018. The Cavaliers, who have risen to ACC and national prominence under Bennett, didn’t have to schedule this game, especially given they already did a home-and-home with VCU in 2013 and 2014. Bennett hasn’t been shy about aggressive scheduling with trips to George Washington (a loss), James Madison and Green Bay (another loss) in recent years, plus a host of trips to face other high-majors.

Virginia and VCU will certainly be games worth watching, not just because of the caliber of programs on the court, but because it’ll have the intimacy and intensity of a college campus, which is one of the things that can make college basketball stand out, something the sport definitely needs in November.

Gilmore leaving VCU

Will Wade (AP Photo)
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Sophomore forward Michael Gilmore is transferring from VCU, the school announced Tuesday.

Gilmore started 18 games and appeared in 55 total for the Rams, but never carved out more than a marginal role, averaging 11.5 minutes per game as a sophomore after 6.3 his freshman season. He averaged 3.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game this past year as he saw his role dwindle down the stretch for the Rams.

His departure will take away some interior depth for VCU, but coach Will Wade will still be returning the bulk of the team that tested eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma in the Round of 32 a month ago.

For Gilmore, he’ll likely have plenty of suitors despite the pedestrian numbers he posted over the last two years as 6-foot-10 forwards who have shown the ability to space the floor don’t hit the transfer market with great regularity.He was a consensus four-star recruit in the Class of 2014.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Semifinals in Charleston, New York and San Juan

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Utah vs. Miami, 7:00 pm. (ESPNU)

The second semifinal at the Puerto Rico Tipoff could be the best game of the day in college basketball, as a ranked Utah team will look to get past a Miami squad that has the look of a dark horse in the ACC. The key for the Runnin’ Utes, not only Friday but moving forward, will be to find that offensive option who can take over the “end of shot clock” role Delon Wright filled his last two seasons. Lorenzo Bonam played well against Texas Tech, but he’ll have a tough matchup opposite Angel Rodriguez.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 5 Duke vs. VCU, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Blue Devils are back in action after falling to No. 2 Kentucky at the Champions Classic, this time taking on a VCU team that will pressure full-court. VCU’s “Havoc” could cause problems for a Duke team whose point guard situation has yet to be sorted out. As for the Rams, they’ll have to figure out a way to keep Amile Jerrferson and Marshall Plumlee off the boards after both putting together solid possessions late.


1. Xavier hits the road for the first time this season, taking on No. 24 Michigan in Ann Arbor (9:00 p.m., BTN) as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Zak Irvin’s back in the lineup for the Wolverines, and with all of their pieces available Michigan is a team to keep an eye on in the Big Ten. But the same goes for Xavier in the Big East, as Jalen Reynolds and company should contend.

2. No. 2 Kentucky is back in action, hosting Wright State (8:00 p.m., SEC Network) three days after beating No. 5 Duke at the Champions Classic. The expectation is that the Wildcats will take care of business comfortably, especially with the Raiders arriving in Lexington as losers of two straight games. If the young Wildcats can put this one away early, that would speak to the team’s ability to move forward from a big win and focus on the task at hand.

3. Speaking of moving on from big wins, No. 3 Maryland hosts Rider in a game that could be trickier than some expect if Teddy Okereafor gets going for the Broncs. Okereafor’s gotten off to a slow start for the expected MAAC contenders, and he’s a key piece for this team on the perimeter. As for the Terps, their versatile and talented roster continuing to mesh with an eye towards bigger goals as the season wears on is what should be watched for in this contest.

4. The Paradise Jam begins today, with four games being played on the US Virgin Islands. The best matchup could be Hofstra taking on Florida State (3:30 p.m., CBSSN), with both teams possessing explosive backcourt rotations. The Pride are led by Juan’ya Green, Brian Bernardi and Ameen Tanksley, and Leonard Hamilton will counter with a deep rotation led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. The Seminoles, who are the better defensive team of the two, have the talent needed to contend in the ACC. An impressive weekend at the Paradise Jam could help them gain some attention nationally.

5. No. 22 Butler looks to continue its offensive fireworks in San Juan as they take on Temple in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tipoff (1:00 p.m., ESPN2). Tyler Lewis has been outstanding at the point, setting up the Bulldogs for a host of quality scoring opportunities whether in the half court or out in transition. The Owls don’t lack for talent themselves with senior forward Jaylen Bond leading the way, and the return of stretch forward Obi Enechionyia helped them in a big way against Minnesota.

6. A shorthanded Georgetown squad looks to avoid its first-ever 0-3 start, as they take on Wisconsin at the 2K Classic in New York City (5:00 p.m., ESPN2). Paul White missed the first two games with a hip injury and Tre Campbell didn’t make the trip due to illness, with the latter’s absence leaving the Hoyas with just two available scholarship guards. Now those two (D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and L.J. Peak) are very good, but they’ll have their hands full with a Wisconsin perimeter attack led by Bronson Koenig.


  • Long Beach State vs. No. 6 Virginia (Charleston Classic), 9:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • East Tennessee State at No. 11 Villanova, 7:00 p.m. (FS2)
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at No. 13 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • McNeese State at No. 8 Oklahoma, 8:00 p.m.
  • Jackson State at No. 20 Baylor, 8:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at No. 25 Oregon, 11:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
  • East Carolina at No. 15 California, 11:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)


  • Ohio vs. Tulsa (Paradise Jam), 1:00 p.m.
  • George Mason vs. Oklahoma State (Charleston Classic), 1:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Murray State at Georgia, 7:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • Columbia at Northwestern, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Coaching Changes: Who’s set for success, failure

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The college basketball coaching carousel was in full effect last spring, as 40 head coaching positions changed hands. Of those 40 jobs, 12 major high major programs will enter this season with a new man in charge while six more teams that would be classified as mid-major plus had turnover in leadership.

Here are the coaches in the best position to succeed immediately, and those that will likely need some time before they see the kind of success they’re used to:


  1. Steve Prohm, Iowa State: With Fred Hoiberg making the move to the NBA, someone was bound to land a job coaching a team with the talent needed to play deep into the NCAA tournament. Prohm was the pick for Iowa State after a successful run at Murray State, and with players such as Monte Morris, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay, his first season in Ames can be a special one.
  2. Will Wade, VCU: Yes, Wade has some personnel losses to account as the former Shaka Smart assistant returns to VCU; most notably, Briante Weber and Treveon Graham have graduated. The cupboard isn’t bare either, however, as Melvin Johnson is back for his senior year, as are JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox. Look for the Rams to once again be a factor in the Atlantic 10 race. (And yes, I know my opinion differs from some of my colleagues.)
  3. Tim Duryea, Utah State: Duryea’s definitely familiar with the USU roster, as he served as the now-retired Stew Morrill’s assistant for 14 seasons. And he’s got a good roster to work with, with all five starters returning led by forwards Jalen Moore and David Collette. Utah State exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the Mountain West a season ago; they’ll be expected to contend this time around and have the pieces to do just that.
  4. Mike White, Florida: Like Prohm, White arrives at his new gig after experiencing a lot of success at his last stop. But unlike Prohm he’s taking over for a coach in Billy Donovan took Florida’s program to heights never before reached in the history of the program. There’s some talent to work with, especially if he can get Kasey Hill going, and White also managed to hold onto most of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class.
  5. Ben Howland, Mississippi State: While Howland’s resume surpasses that of any other coach on this list, and he’ll have Malik Newman at his disposal, that doesn’t overtake the fact that there’s a lot to be done with a program that struggled mightily in the three seasons prior. Howland put together a good recruiting class led by Newman, but if there’s a concern it’s the health of his front court (that wasn’t all too deep to begin with).
  6. Matt McCall, Chattanooga: McCall’s first head coaching gig at the Division I level has the potential to be a very successful one, thanks to the talent due back on campus. Four starters, including guard Casey Jones and forward Justin Tuoyo, return from a team that won 22 games and finished 15-3 in SoCon play.
  7. Eran Ganot, Hawai’i: Last season began with tumult for Hawai’i, but interim head coach Benjy Taylor was able to lead the Rainbow Warriors to 22 wins and a run to the Big West tournament final. Now former Saint Mary’s assistant Eran Ganot takes over an experienced group that returns three starters (seven who started at least two games) led by Big West Defensive Player of the Year Roderick Bobbitt.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

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  1. Shaka Smart, Texas: A key question for some is how Smart’s pressure system will mesh with bigs who are best equipped to play in the half court. However the biggest issue in Smart’s first season at the helm in Austin is the strength of the Big 12, with perennial favorite Kansas leading what should be a deep race. There’s still talent, enough to make the tournament, but contending in the Big 12 may take a little time.
  2. Rick Barnes, Tennessee: Barnes has relocated to Knoxville, where he’ll aim to rejuvenate a program that dealt with the Donnie Tyndall investigation (and ultimately, firing) for much of last season. Three starters return but the one true difference-maker, Josh Richardson, isn’t among those players. Add in a lack of size in the post, and this could be a difficult season for Barnes in an SEC that will be improved.
  3. Avery Johnson, Alabama: Johnson and his staff have made some waves recruiting-wise, most notably reeling in Terrance Ferguson, and that certainly bodes well for the future. However, when it comes to this season he inherits a roster that lost its top three scorers from a season ago. That could prove difficult to overcome in a league that’s improved from last season.
  4. Chris Mullin, St. John’s: To say that Mullin and his staff were left with a bare cupboard would be an understatement. Two of the remaining players (Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan) didn’t exactly mesh with the new staff’s plans, so they moved on. The work done by Mullin and assistants Barry Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih to fill out the roster will help St. John’s in the long run, but this season could be a difficult one.
  5. Brian Wardle, Bradley: Wardle’s move from Green Bay to Peoria, Illinois is a big one for a Bradley program that struggled in a big way under Geno Ford. Given Wardle’s accomplishments he’s got a good chance of turning things around. But it’s going to take some time to do so, especially with just one starter from last season’s nin win team back on campus. There was a lot of turnover on the roster, so the Braves will take their lumps as a result.
  6. Bobby Hurley, Arizona State: Hurley put together two successful seasons at Buffalo before making the move west, and he inherits a roster doesn’t lack for experience. In a similar situation at Buffalo in 2013-14, he led the Bulls to 19 wins and had the MAC Player of the Year in Javon McCrea. The two issues this time around: while the Pac-12 may not have a dominant team as it did a season ago (Arizona) it is deeper, and the Sun Devils will have to navigate a tough non-conference slate as well.
  7. Dave Leitao, DePaul: Since Leitao’s first run at DePaul came to an end in 2005, the Blue Demons have struggled mightily. Now he returns to the Windy City, and while there is some talent (Billy Garrett Jr. being one option) there’s a long way to go when it comes to making a move up the Big East standings and being a true factor in the conference.

VCU pulls in four-star 2016 wing De’Riante Jenkins

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VCU and new head coach Will Wade landed a huge commitment on Saturday as four-star wing De’Riante Jenkins decided to close things out. The 6-foot-5 Jenkins had cut his list to seven schools earlier in the week and canceled upcoming official visits to Rutgers and Clemson to pledge to the Rams.

Regarded as the No. 61 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Jenkins is a long and athletic wing who is a good passer and he can also handle the ball a bit. Jenkins is the first commitment for VCU in the Class of 2016 and his decision is incredibly important because it shows that the Rams can still pull in top-100 players without Shaka Smart. A nice system fit for VCU, Jenkins should thrive getting up and down the floor for the Rams.

This spring and summer with the Upward Stars in the adidas Gauntlet, Jenkins averaged 16.1 points and 5 rebounds per game in 10 contests. Jenkins shot 49 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free-throw line.

Report: 2016 point guard Myles Powell trims list to five

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One of the top guards in the Northeast, Myles Powell has been on the receiving end of recruiting attention from more than a few top programs. Thursday night it was reported by that Powell, who will finish his high school career at South Kent Prep in Connecticut, has cut his list from eight schools to five.

The five schools that remain on the list are Connecticut, DePaul, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and VCU. Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Saint Joseph’s, which were on the list Powell revealed in late July after playing for the Playaz Basketball Club (NJ), are the three programs that did not make the cut.

UConn, which will lose three seniors from its backcourt at the end of the 2015-16 season, has already landed one point guard in the Class of 2016 in Georgia native Alterique Gilbert. The Huskies also have freshman Jalen Adams, but playing multiple point guards at the same time has been something that head coach Kevin Ollie has been more than willing to do since he’s taken over the program.

DePaul has also landed a guard in the Class of 2016 (Devin Gage), but with players such as Billy Garrett Jr., Darick Wood and Aaron Simpson all being upperclassmen there’s a need for depth moving forward. Pittsburgh, which has a senior point guard in James Robinson, has a need to address at the position especially with Josh Newkirk’s decision to transfer to Indiana.

Seton Hall is young on the perimeter, with Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas sitting out this season, but they also have a need to fill at the point and landing Powell would help in that regards. The Pirates will be led on the perimeter this season by sophomores Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington and grad student Derrick Gordon. As for VCU, the Rams may not have a senior at the point, but Powell’s perimeter shooting ability would help them account for the eventual loss of senior shooting guard Melvin Johnson.

According to the report, Powell will begin setting up official visits in the very near future.