Monday the Wofford athletic department announced the passing of guard Jeremiah Tate, who drowned in the early morning hours swimming in Lake Wylie which is split between North Carolina and South Carolina. Tate was a camp counselor at YMCA Camp Thunderbird, and according to media reports he and another counselor jumped from the Buster Boyd Bridge.
While the other counselor did return to the surface Tate did not, with rescue crews finding his body two hours later. Per a report from WIS-TV 10 in Columbia, South Carolina, witnesses said that Tate couldn’t swim with the other counselor stating that he didn’t know that to be the case.
“The entire Wofford College family is devastated and saddened today by the loss of Jeremiah Tate,” Wofford Director of Athletics Richard Johnson said in a statement released by the school. “Jeremiah was such a dedicated, loved and respected member of the men’s basketball team.
“He had a wonderful personality and had many friends on campus extending outside of the athletic department. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with his family. He will truly be missed.”
Tate, who played in 13 games during his career at Wofford, was an Allstate Good Works Team nominee this past season.
The game-winning bucket for the Hogs ended up being a three-point play from Alandise Harris with just over a minute left in the game, a play that didn’t appear to be all that much of a foul. It was one of three instances down the stretch where the Terriers seemingly were on the wrong end of a whistle, but that sure didn’t keep Wofford from having a chance down the stretch.
After getting a stop with 35 seconds left, Wofford bled the clock, getting two terrific good looks at a three to tie the game, one from star guard Karl Cochran and the other from from point guard Eric Garcia. Cochran’s three rimmed-out and Garcia’s was just short. Cochran finished the night just 4-for-17 from the floor and 2-for-12 from three, one of the tougher nights the Southern Conference Player of the Year has had in his career.
Portis made seemingly every big play down the stretch for Arkansas, but it was Qualls that kept Arkansas in the game for much of the second half. He was 8-for-9 from the floor, hitting a couple of tough jumpers in addition to his typical highlight reel dunks in transition:
The issue for Arkansas is that Wofford was just too tough. They weren’t bothered by the Arkansas press, forcing the Razorbacks to try and execute in the half court against their physical, man-to-man defense. It very nearly paid off with a win.
The Razorbacks now advance to play No. 4 North Carolina on Saturday. The Tar Heels blew a big lead to No. 13 Harvard earlier in the day before scoring the final four points in a 67-65 win.
Names you need to know: SoCon Player of the year, senior guard Karl Cochran (14.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.7 apg), junior guard Spencer Collins (11.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.5 apg), senior forward Lee Skinner (9.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
Tendencies: Slowing the game down is what Wofford is interested in as they rank 315th in adjusted tempo with 61.6 possessions per 40 minutes. The Terriers try to maximize each possession and will shoot 3-pointers and knock them down at a 37 percent clip. On the defensive end, the slow tempo leads to Wofford only allowing 59.7 points per game, good enough for 22nd in the nation.
Big wins, bad losses: Wofford had a solid road win at N.C. State (something Duke couldn’t do) and also have respectable mid-major wins over Iona, Sam Houston State and Charleston Southern. In the loss column, only The Citadel was below .500 as the Terriers lost to Stanford, William & Mary, West Virginia, Duke and Chattanooga. With a non-conference strength of schedule at 18, Wofford has tested themselves frequently outside of the SoCon.
How’d they get here: The Terriers knocked off No. 8 seed UNC Greensboro, 70-52, then defeated No. 4 seed Western Carolina, 73-61, before besting No. 10 seed Furman, 67-64
Outlook: With a rigorous non-conference schedule and prior NCAA Tournament experience from last season, the Terriers won’t be afraid of the big stage and have a chance to win in the Round of 64 with the proper matchup. Especially if they sneak into the 5-12 matchup.
How do I know you?: Also a participant in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Wofford bowed out in the Round of 64 to Wisconsin. The Terriers have now made the NCAA Tournament in four of the last six years. After winning last season’s SoCon Tournament, senior Aerris Smith gave one of the greatest postgame interviews in recent sports memory:
The SoCon looks quite a bit different than it has in past seasons, as Davidson and the College of Charleston are no longer in the league while new additions like Mercer and East Tennessee State have made an immediate impact. And while there has been some turnover in the membership, the league’s power still ended up being Wofford, as many predicted prior to the season. The Terriers are a veteran-laden group, but they split their two games with Chattanooga, who finished in second in the conference, this season.
The Terriers returned essentially their entire roster from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and it showed during the season. After notching a number of quality non-conference wins — Iona, Charleston Southern, N.C. State — Wofford ended up winning the outright SoCon title. Wofford is led by league Player of the Year. Karl Cochran.
And if they lose?: Chattanooga
Shaka Smart protégé Will Wade has turned the Mocs into one of the most promising mid-major programs in the country. The goal is to eventually run ‘Chaos’, which is the mid-major version of VCU’s ‘Havoc’, and while they aren’t completely chaotic just yet, this is still a team that has won quite a few games in the past two years. The addition of VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo this season was huge.
Mercer: Last season, the Bears won the Atlantic Sun to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where they upset Duke in the opening round. They lost seven seniors off that team, but they also changed leagues and, led by a powerfully athletic guard like Ike Nwamu, finished in third in the always-tough SoCon.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts are led by the SoCon’s most dynamic guard, James Sinclair, and while they finished just 9-9 in league play, they were one of just three teams that were actually able to notch a win over either Wofford or Chattanooga.
Player of the Year: Karl Cochran, Wofford
A 6-foot-1 guard, Cochran was the spark for Wofford’s offense this season. He averaged 15.0 points, 5.8 boards, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals on the season while shooting 37.5 percent from three as the team’s only real perimeter threat.
Coach of the Year: Mike Young, Wofford
Young is the easy pick here, as he was able to back up the preseason projections and win the league’s regular season title. His job was made easier by the fact that he had a veteran team coming off of a league tournament championship from last season.
All-Southern Conference Team:
Jalen Riley, ETSU – Riley finished the season averaging a league-best 20.7 points.
Ike Nwamu, Mercer – Nwamu led the Bears in their first season in the SoCon, leading them to a third place finish in the league.
Casey Jones, Chattanooga – Jones was the leading scorer and the best player for the Mocs, the clear-cut second-best team in the conference.
James Sinclair, Western Carolina – Sinclair was the most dynamic player in the conference, averaging 19.1 points, 5.7 boards and 3.1 assists, which included the 40 points he had against VMI.
CBT PREDICTION: Wofford returns to the tournament by beating Mercer in the finals.
But the USA Today Coaches Poll has seen a single vote cast for Duke ahead of Kentucky this season, and Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press has found the culprit. Among the 32 coaches who vote in the poll, only Wofford head coach Mike Young has placed the Blue Devils at No. 1.
Young explained his rationale to Wiedmer:
“Well, I know one No. 1 vote Duke got, and that was mine,” Young said to Wiedmer. “I know Kentucky is such a remarkable team — so long and so deep. But Duke is just as terrific. I know I’d love to see them play each other in the (NCAA) tournament.”
To further explain Young’s thought process behind putting Duke at No. 1, you just need to look at the Terriers’ schedule. The Blue Devils smashed Wofford, 84-55, on New Year’s Eve. You might think that Wofford is some pushover mid-major program with no basis of knowledge of the bluebloods of college basketball, but the Terriers lost to No. 2 seed and Final Four participant Wisconsin last season in the NCAA Tournament and also beat N.C. State on the road this season.
At 11-4, Wofford is favored to win the Southern Conference and make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season. So Young is a good coach who has seen some really talented teams the past few years. His opinion doesn’t come without merit. In this case, he just happens to disagree with everyone else who follows college basketball.
Young is a big fan of Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor, however, and that could also aid in his decision to put the Blue Devils in the top spot.
“If you try to play him one-on-one, he’ll just overpower you; he’s almost unstoppable. And if you double him, he throws lasers back to the perimeter, which usually result in wide-open 3-pointers,” Young said of Okafor.
The nation’s college basketball fans will just have to agree to disagree with Young on his vote, but he does make one point that we can all get behind. We’d all love to see Duke and Kentucky face each other in March to determine on the floor who the better team is.
Gonzaga is in the Pac-12 portion of their schedule, as they knocked off Washington State and UCLA this past week after losing to Arizona in overtime last week. Wiltjer was Gonzaga’s leading scorer for the week, averaging 22.5 points and 5.0 boards while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 5-for-7 from three in the two wins.
Wiltjer has just about made the transition into Gonzaga’s go-to guy this season. Kevin Pangos is the engine that makes this team run, but it’s Wiltjer’s ability to shoot and score from the perimeter that has made them so tough to guard. If you put a smaller player on him, Wiltjer can go into the post and make you pay. If you use a bigger player on him, Gonzaga can put him in pick-and-roll actions with Kevin Pangos, which have proven to be lethal. If you decide to go zone, Wiltjer helps spread the floor for Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski in the paint, working in high-low passes.
Wiltjer is a much different player than Kelly Olynyk, but the impact the former Kentucky Wildcat is having on this team is the same.
THE ALL-THEY-WERE-GOOD, TOO TEAM
Ron Baker, Wichita State: In wins over Seton Hall and at Detroit, Baker averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 boards and 3.5 assists.
TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma: Thomas played his best game as a Sooner on Saturday. He finished with 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting and added three blocks in a win over Tulsa, finally showing why everyone considered his waiver to be immediately eligible a season-changer.
Ty Wallace, Cal: Cal won a pair of close games this week, thanks in large part to Wallace, who finished with 40 points, 16 boards, eight assists and five steals in two games.
T.J. Price, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers went into Oxford and knocked off Ole Miss on Saturday, and Price led the way with 26 points, 10 boards and five assists.
Amida Brimah, UConn: UConn played just one game this week, and it was Brimah that was the star. The 7-foot Ghanaian finished with 40 points on 13-for-13 shooting from the floor and 14-for-16 shooting from the line in a win over Coppin State. He had 56 points on the season coming in.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks
I wrote extensively on Kansas last week after seeing them go into the Verizon Center and knock off a good Georgetown team. You can read that here. If you don’t want to click, my point is essentially this: Kansas is nowhere near complete right now, yet they have already beating Utah, Michigan State, Florida and Tennessee and won at Georgetown. So what happens when they get to full strength?
Kelly Oubre is coming along nicely, as he’s starting to figure things out defensively and getting more aggressive — and a longer leash — offensively. Cliff Alexander is not going to be more than a effort guy that rebounds and dunks and defends this season, but he’s getting closer to being someone that can have a major impact in games. Wayne Selden and Frank Mason are getting more consistent.
It all seemed to be trending in the right direction … until Devonte’ Graham’s toe injury was announced. There’s speculation that he could miss the rest of the season, which would be a major, major blow. We know Kansas has point guard issues. They have for a long time now. And with Conner Frankamp transferring to Wichita State, Mason is now the only point guard on the team.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Colorado State Rams: The Rams won a pair of games this week, but the notable one came on Wednesday when they went into Boulder and knocked off Colorado. CSU is still undefeated this season.
Iowa State Cyclones: Three games this week, three wins. UMKC and Southern are whatever, but the Cyclones also went into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and blew out Iowa on Friday night.
Saint Mary’s Gaels: The Gaels picked up a huge win on Saturday afternoon, going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton in overtime despite the fact that star big man Brad Waldow struggled and Kerry Carter fouling out in overtime.
Incarnate Word Cardinals: The Cardinals lost their first game of the season this week. They also went into Nebraska and knocked off the Cornhuskers. Ken Burmeister has himself a pretty good ball club.
Wofford Terriers: The Terriers are now 8-2 on the season after going into Raleigh and beating N.C. State. They got a bit lucky, but they also got the win, so who cares?
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
UConn vs. No. 2 Duke, Thu. 8:00 p.m.
No. 3 Arizona at UTEP, Fri. 11:00 p.m.
Syracuse at No. 7 Villanova, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
No. 21 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Ohio State, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
No. 15 Butler vs. Indiana, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
UCLA vs. No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
No. 16 Oklahoma at No. 17 Washington, Sat. 9:00 p.m.