Viewer’s guide to November hoops tourneys

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‘Tis the time for early season college basketball tournaments.

If you’re like us, you’ll spend the next two weeks glued to the TV, watching every game you can and trying to figure out a way to DVR the rest. In fact, there’s so much basketball to watch, it’s too much for one person to properly describe. That means it’s time for back-forth between me and Rob Dauster. We’ve got you covered.

Can’t miss tournament

Mike: The CBE Classic might feature more NCAA tournament-worthy teams (Duke, Gonzaga, K-State and San Diego State among them), but the Maui Invitational is the biggest deal. The field’s solid (Michigan State, UConn and Wichita State), but the potential semifinal matchup between Washington and Kentucky is as good as it gets this fall. When Terrence Jones intially committed to Washington in May, then immediately changed his mind and eventually headed to Lexington, it set off a mini-recruiting war of words between each program’s supporters. The players also want a piece of each other. Huskeis guard Isaiah Thomas said as much on Twitter.

Rob: The CBE Classic is certainly loaded at the top, but in my humble opinion, it does not qualify for this category. You see, this is the Can’t Miss “Tournament” category, and the CBE

Classic is not a tournament. Let me explain. The four “hosts” — Duke, Marquette, Kansas State, and Gonzaga — automatically make it to the round of four, which is held in Kansas City. For these early season tournaments, that generally isn’t a huge issue, but one of the early matchups in the CBE is between Gonzaga and San Diego State. There are some that would argue SDSU and Gonzaga the two best teams on the west coast, but if the Aztecs win — in Spokane, nonetheless — the Zags still advance? That’s not a tournament!

(Excuse me while I step down from my pedestal.)

Back to the point, I’m going to go with the Puerto Rico Tip-off simply because I apparently have no desire to agree with you in this category. North Carolina gets Hofstra and Charles Jenkins in the first round and looks destined to play an underrated Minnesota team in the second round. On the other side of the bracket, tourney teams Vanderbilt and West Virginia loom while Sun Belt favorite Western Kentucky is fresh off of a 28 point beatdown of St. Joe’s.

Mike: OK, it’s settled. You head to Puerto Rico, I’ll head to Maui — in late November. It’s a win-win!

Breakout player

 

Rob: One thing that is great about the Coaches vs. Cancer is that it happens at a time when most people will be able to tune in. That means that those people are going to get a chance to see Pitt’s Brad Wanamaker play. When you think about the Panthers, the first kid that comes to mind is Ashton Gibbs, their leading scorer and a potential first team all conference player. And while Gibbs is listed as a point guard, he really is the scoring guard for that team. Wanamaker is the playmaker. He’s the guy that facilitates that offense. He looks like he has streamlined his body and gotten more explosive in his senior season. Through three games he is averaging 19.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 6.3 apg while shooting 65 percent from the floor. Don’t be surprised when he makes a name for himself at Madison Square Garden.

Mike: I do like Wanamaker, and that whole Pitt team. Wanamaker reminds me of how college hoops used to be — a guy would stay in school four years, improving each season. By the time they’re seniors, it all pays off. Of course, Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer doesn’t fit that stereotype given everyone’s known he’s a big-time talent for years. And if they haven’t, they’re not paying attention. The 6-10 senior forward is smooth and efficient offensively, hits the defensive glass and doesn’t commit turnovers. He’s perfect for Bo Ryan’s offense — or any offense, really. He’ll help the Badgers take the title in the Old Spice Classic and propel himself into the national spotlight early.

Or, if you prefer your stars to play above the rim, try the Preseason NIT on Monday night. Pepperdine’s Keion Bell is bound to have at least three (nasty) dunks on UCLA players.

Rob: That’s the Keion Bell that did this, right? Right.

Team in for a rude awakening

Mike: I would pick on your Hoyas, but after their scare at ODU, I think they’ll be ready for Wofford in the Charleston Classic semifinals. (He writes without much conviction.) Wake Forest, on the other hand, should be shaking at the thought of playing Virginia Commonwealth in the Preseason NIT. The Demon Deacons are supposedly the No. 3 seed in the event, but the odds of them advancing to NYC aren’t good. Not with VCU’s underrated offense coming to Winston-Salem. Jeff Bzdelik doesn’t have the players to beat ACC foes yet, let alone top-flight non-BCS schools like VCU.

Rob: Can Wake Forest be rudely awoken again? They just got smacked at home by Stetson, losing their starting point guard in the process. I think it is safe to say this team is going to be at the bottom of the ACC this season.

Mike: Fair enough. What if I stick in the ACC and tell everyone to keep a close eye on UNC? You’ve already mentioned the Tar Heels’ opponents (Hofstra and likely Minnesota), which only adds to the steep learning curve Roy Williams’ team has this year.

Rob: I’ve got two teams for you. I’ll stay in the Big East for the first one and go with the UConn Huskies. Don’t get me wrong, I see this UConn team having some potential this season. I love Kemba Walker, and Alex Oriakhi looks well on his way to becoming a bigger Jeff Adrien after corralling 18 boards in their opener on Friday. But beyond that, the Huskies are young. Talented? Yes. Athletic? Yes. But they are very inexperienced and will be going up against a Wichita State team that is loaded with experience, plays tough defense, and is the favorite to win the MVC. Should they manage to win that game, UConn gets Michigan State in the second round. That could get ugly.

The second team is Kansas State. Wildcat fans may not agree with this pick, but I think that K-State is a bit overrated right now. Its not that they don’t have the talent, but I think that there are a lot of question marks — things like Curtis Kelly getting benched, a lack of scoring on the wings, a back court mate for Jacob Pullen — that need an answer. An early season matchup with a team as good as Gonzaga or potentially Duke could expose K-State.

Skip it

Mike: Unless you’re a Missouri fan dying to see the Tigers run up the score on sub-par teams, skip the Cancun Challenge. If the teams are smart, they’ll blow off the games and go sit on the beach.

Rob: You weren’t joking. The Cancun field is terrible. Other than Missouri, the only potential tournament team is Morgan State, and that is because they are the favorite to win the MEAC, which may be the worst conference in the country. I’d recommend skipping the Legends Classic as well. Syracuse should be pretty good, but Georgia Tech and Michigan are down, and UTEP just lost to Pacific.

Most vivid memory 

Rob: Simple. Gonzaga knocking off Michigan State 109-106 in the Maui Invitational in 2005. Three OT’s, Adam Morrison going for 43, buzzer beaters, future NBA players, two of the best coaches and the best programs in the country, and a missed layup that could have won the game with 4 seconds left in the third OT. It was terrific. The lasting image I have from that game comes courtesy of Maurice Ager. Ager led the Spartans rally at the end of regulation by hitting five threes in the last 7:10. The fifth came at the buzzer in regulation, and after hitting the shot, Ager stood at center court, screaming to the ceiling while pounding his chest before getting enveloped by his teammates.

That is what college basketball is all about. I still get chills watching the YouTube highlights.

Mike: That’s one of mine, too. I remember thinking we were bound to see a Final Four rematch, but it wasn’t to be.

My most vivid memory isn’t a fond one. A year after I graduated from Kansas, the Jayhawks played Ball State at Maui – and came away with a numbing 93-91 loss. It didn’t mean much that season (Kansas went to the Final Four and Ball State landed in the NIT), but it was a sight to see KU players on the sidelines nursing cramps and getting beaten badly on defense. It’s just one of the reasons why the early season tourneys can be so fun – sometimes, the unexpected happens, just like in March.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 Kansas State, 90-78

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.

OFFICIATING OOPS

Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.

SELLOUT … AND THEN SOME

For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.

UP NEXT

Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.

ARRIVING LATE

In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.

SIDELINED

Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Tennessee up to No. 2

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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.