Blogger Spotlight: Talking Texas’ tough luck with Burnt Orange Nation

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The NBA draft’s early entrant deadline rarely leaves teams happy. But Texas took a particularly rough jolt this season.

Three Longhorns – sophomore Jordan Hamilton and freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph – declared for the draft. Hamilton’s signing with an agent and Thompson’s likely to. Joseph should return to school (he’s hardly a first-round lock, which means no guaranteed money), but who knows?

So it made sense for this week’s Blogger Spotlight to talk with the man behind Burnt Orange Nation, Peter Bean. (You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.) We spent time talking about the draft, Rick Barnes, Texas hoops vs. Texas football and much more.

Q: Friday must’ve been an unpleasant day. After weeks of Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton mulling over their NBA decisions, not only do both declare, but Cory Joseph joins them. Did you see that coming?

A: We’d heard Joseph was about 50-50 on whether to declare, so his decision wasn’t out of nowhere.  That said, we expect he’ll withdraw, given his readiness for the next level.  Still, it’s a bit of a curious decision given that collegiate players can only early-declare once, so assuming he comes back — as he should — he’ll be under the gun next time it’s time to evaluate his decision.

Q: Hamilton’s signing with an agent. You think Joseph will be back. What about Thompson?

A: We’re not at all confident that Thompson is going to come back — call it a 10 percent chance, which is better than nothing, but still grim.  Unfortunately for Texas, with so many potential lottery picks returning to school this draft is wide open, which from an objective perspective makes it difficult to recommend Thompson pass on this chance.  Tristan has a lot of development in front of him, and his upper body some filling out to do, but he’s a hell of a talent and he’s wise to go now.  Which really, really sucks. (For more from Peter on the three declaring for the draft, click here.)

Q: Then what are your expectations for next season? Most had been predicting a Big 12 title, but that’ll obviously need to be reassessed.

A: Well, the top point guard in the 2011 class — Myck Kabongo from Toronto — is coming to Texas, and assuming Joseph returns Texas will have one of the best backcourts in the nation, but without Thompson there is absolutely no post presence to speak of.  Texas looks like it can be a fun, dangerous team, but the expectations are substantially lower without Thompson.  With him, they’re a Final Four contender.  Without him, the team’s ceiling looks like the Sweet 16.

Q: Rick Barnes got a lot of credit for adjusting his offense this season to play to his players’ strengths (and got a big boost from Hamilton in the process). But Texas struggled down the stretch on offense. Was this a year where Barnes squeezed everything out of his roster and they just couldn’t keep playing at a high level, or did he need to keep adjusting?

A: Rick Barnes did perhaps his best coaching job with this year’s team.  And I’m not sure that he needed to make any adjustments to his approach down the stretch; more than anything, the team struggled offensively because Jordan Hamilton got cold.  He shot dreadfully the last 10 games of the year, and without him we just weren’t as dynamic or multi-dimensional. Teams could afford to sag down on defense with impunity.

Q: Might lower expectations be a good thing? Barnes wouldn’t have to deal with as much knee-jerk reaction/criticism and a young team would be able to grow into its potential.

A: I suppose there’s something to lower expectations, but hey, you really want a cast that can take you to the Final Four.  Without Thompson and Hamilton, that’s a long shot.  Will it be easier on Barnes with lower expectations?  Probably, but that’s only worth so much.  This program is at the point where we want the stars to actually align for once, so we can get back to the Final Four.  I’m not sure any coach has gotten so badly hurt by early draft departures and bad timing of his best players overlapping.

Q: Is there a point where Texas ever fully becomes wrapped up in its basketball team? Or does football always loom, no matter how well the ‘Horns are playing? Does BON reflect that?

A: Certainly at BON, we go full bore into basketball during the season, and both me and Andrew Wiggins — the site’s co-founders — are actually probably bigger hoops fans than football, which is saying something.  With that said, football always looms.  During January and February, most of the fans are more focused on recruiting than hoops.  There are gobs of drive-by fans, who don’t understand college basketball and mostly just show up in threads to complain that the team isn’t 32-0.  Like it’s football or something.  It drives me crazy, but hey, we’re a football school.  And the flipside of that is that the fall is a lot of fun.

Q: Are there Texas fans who only watch hoops? Is there such a thing as a Longhorn who doesn’t care about the football team? I wouldn’t be surprised given the consistently good teams and talent Barnes fields.

A: I’d imagine there are a few, but not many at all.  There is a small minority of us who probably care more about hoops than football, but we’re dwarfed in size by those who care almost exclusively about football.  Football is everything here.

Q: BON has three editors and a massive amount of contributing writers, which isn’t usual for most of the SB Nation blogs. Is this a reflection of the school’s size, its devoted fan base or the success of the blog? Or all three?

A: I think it’s really reflective of the kind of roster you need to provide truly in depth coverage of a college athletics program.  There are tons of sports, there’s recruiting, and on and on, and it’s just not possible for one person to do as well as a dozen can. 

Q: How did you get into blogging and how much do you still have time for given your duties at SB Nation?

A: I got started blogging in 2004 because I moved to Washington DC and missed talking Texas sports with my friends. (They only talk politics up there, which… no.)  That was about the time that blogs were starting to pop up, and as a passionate writer, I thought, “Hey, I want to do that, too.”  True story: I launched my Texas blog right after Texas lost to Oklahoma 12-0 in 2004. Vince Young and the Longhorns promptly won 22 straight games, including the 2005 national title. Just sayin…

Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to write as I used to, so it really helps to have a strong roster of contributors to help keep things moving.  In addition to my other duties at SB Nation, I’m a full-time attorney at a firm in Austin, so sleep is at a premium these days.  I can’t complain, though.  I appreciate being busy and enjoy everything I’m doing.

Q: BON’s been around for six years. What do the next six years hold for it?

A: We keep having fun and keep growing, and blogging as part of SB Nation just makes it incredibly easy to keep adding to the depth of our coverage of Texas athletics.  I couldn’t have predicted we’d be here six years ago, so who knows where we’ll be six years from today.  All I know is there will be hoards of Texas fans obsessed with the sports programs, and we’ll be there to obsess about it all right there with them.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

No. 25 Villanova women beat American University 83-42

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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VILLANOVA, Pa. – Maddy Siegrist had 24 points and seven rebounds, Lucy Olsen added 14 points and No. 25 Villanova beat American University 83-42 on Tuesday night.

Siegrist scored 15 points in the opening 13 minutes as Villanova led 34-15. The Wildcats extended it to 46-23 by halftime before starting the second half on a 9-0 run for a 32-point lead.

Villanova added an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter for its largest lead of the game at 79-36. The Wildcats held American to 15-of-50 shooting (30%) and scored 21 points off 19 turnovers.

Christina Dalce scored 13 points for Villanova (8-2), which plays Saint Joseph’s on Saturday before taking a week off for final exams. Siegrist, who was coming off a 29-point performance on Sunday, made 10 of 17 shots as Villanova shot 56%.

Emily Johns scored 12 points for American (0-8), which hosts Marist (3-5) on Saturday.

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.

New Mexico State suspends player after shooting

Nathan J. Fish/Sun News/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State’s athletic director says power forward Mike Peake has been suspended indefinitely from the basketball team in connection with last month’s fatal shooting of a student from a rival university.

Mario Moccia also told reporters that neither he nor the school could comment on Peake’s enrollment status as a student. The 21-year-old Peake has not been charged in the Nov. 19 pre-dawn shooting on the University of New Mexico’s campus in Albuquerque hours before the host Lobos were to play the Aggies. That game was canceled along with the Dec. 3 rematch in Las Cruces.

“Mike is suspended from our basketball team until the completion of the university’s investigation and the investigation of the proper authorities,” Moccia said. “When those investigations will be complete, I can’t say.”

State police investigators said 19-year-old Brandon Travis conspired with two other UNM students and a teenage girl to lure Peake onto campus.

The subsequent shootout left Travis dead at the scene and Peake hospitalized with a leg wound that has required several surgeries.

A brawl at an Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces was a precursor to the shooting, police said.

First-year NMSU men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar was not made available to talk to media until 10 days after the shooting.

He expressed his condolences for Travis and his family and said he took full responsibility for the actions of multiple players who sneaked out of the hotel on that morning of the game.

But until Monday, NMSU officials had not spoken publicly about any specific discipline for Peake related to the shooting.

“If there is criticism over this decision, I am in a position to take it on myself,” Moccia said. “I’ve known this player for years and I know what kind of person he is. I didn’t feel a need to rush to judgment. I wanted to give the investigation time to play out before making any decisions.”

Peake, a 6-foot-7 junior from Chicago, played one season at Georgia before transferring to Austin Peay. He joined New Mexico State in 2021 and averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds last season, helping the Aggies reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent State for 73-66 win

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that entered Monday undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.