Creighton’s McDermott heads our mid-major All-Americans

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MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Doug McDermott, So., Creighton

McDermott is an easy pick for the mid-major player of the year. Coming off of a season where he averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg for a Bluejay team that made the finals of the CBI, McDermott has shown up on a number of preseason all-american teams. He made the USA’s U19 team and averaged 11.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg on the team’s trip to Latvia this summer. With Creighton bringing back the majority of their roster from a season ago, the Bluejays are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley and a borderline top 25 team. As an all-american candidate playing on a team that will be a national name this season, McDermott’s name will come up quite a bit this year.

MID-MAJOR FIRST TEAM

G: Casper Ware, Sr., LBSU – Ware is a high-scoring, play-making point guard will be the catalyst for a team that returns quite a bit of talent and will be the hands-down favorite to repeat as Big West champs. Ware is coming off of a year where he averaged 17.2 ppg, 4.4 apg and 1.6 spg.

G: Damian Lillard, Jr., Weber State – Lillard had a disappointing season in 2010-2011, playing just nine games before seeing his season end when he broke his foot. In 2009-2010, Lillard averaged 19.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.6 apg. While his numbers may not be as impressive this season, they won’t need to be; the Wildcats are the favorite to win the Big Sky.

F: Orlando Johnson, Sr., Santa Barbara – Johnson is a prototype for a mid-major scorer. He’s 6’5″ with enough strength and athleticism to overwhelm smaller opponents but the jump shot and perimeter ability to blow by bigger defenders. That’s why he was able to average 21.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg and shoot 40.5% from the floor for the Gauchos.

F: Michael Glover, Sr., Iona – Glover is a basketball nomad with an intriguing story. Originally a Seton Hall recruit, the man they call Optimus Prime on the streets of the Bronx was never cleared as a freshman in 2007-2008. After attending two different high schools and nearly landing at both St. Francis in Brooklyn and Hofstra, Glover finally wound up with Iona, where he averaged 18.4 ppg and 10.1 rpg in his first season.

C: Arsalan Kazemi, Jr., Rice – Kazemi may be the unlikeliest member of this group simply because he is the first native Iranian to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He’s quite talented, as well. The 6’7″ forward averaged 15.2 ppg and 11.0 rpg as a sophomore, despite being the focal point of every defense the Owls faced.

MID-MAJOR SECOND TEAM

G: Reggie Hamilton, Sr., Oakland – After transferring to Oakland from UMKC after a year anda half as a Kangaroo, Hamilton exploded as a junior with the Grizzlies. Playing alongside Keith Benson, Hamilton averaged 17.6 ppg and 5.3 apg. This year, he’ll have the show to himself.

G: CJ McCollum, Jr., Lehigh – After leading the Mountainhawks to the NCAA Tournament as the most productive freshman in the country, McCollum was forced to carry an even heavier load last season after Lehigh graduated three starters. He responded by posting averages of 21.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 2.5 spg. He’s a 6’3″ guard.

G: Nate Wolters, Jr., SDSU – Wolters exploded in the second game of his sophomore season, going for 25 points and nine assists as the Jackrabbits knocked off Iowa. He didn’t slow down all season, as he ended the year aveaged 19.5 ppg, 6.1 apg (and just 2.2 t/o’s) and 4.6 rpg.

F: Kyle Weems, Sr., Missouri State – The reigning MVC Player of the Year almost didn’t return to Missouri State. With everyone else in the rotation from last season graduating and his coaching staff heading to Tennessee, Weems, who had graduated, received overtures from a number of high-major programs. But he’s back with the Bears and ready to try and defend their MVC title.

C: Andrew Nicholson, Jr., St. Bonaventure – Nicholson is one of the most productive big men in the country at any level. He can score at will in the post, and this season added range out to the three point line. If he improves on his physicality in the paint, Nicholson, who averaged 20.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg as a junior, is a first round pick come June.

MID-MAJOR THIRD TEAM

G: Alex Young, Sr., IUPUI – The third Summit League player on this list, Young is a 6’6″ swingman that simply produces. He averaged 19.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg last year, and if he improves his jump shooting and cuts down his turnovers, those numbers will go up this year.

G: Kevin Foster, Jr., Santa Clara – How about this for a stat — Kevin Foster shot 67 more threes than Jimmer Fredette did last season. And while he didn’t hit them at quite the same clip as the Jimmer, he did have some big games, including a 36 point explosion in a win over Gonzaga. With Marc Trasolini out with a torn acl, expect Foster’s 20.2 ppg average to go up this year.

G: DeAndre Kane, So., Marshall – Kane is a major reason why Marshall is a trendy pick to give Memphis a run at the top of Conference USA. A 6’5″ guard, Kane excels at using his strength to draw fouls and get to the line. He’s a good rebounder and creator for his size, but he needs to cut down on turnovers and improve his shooting percentage. He averaged 15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 3.4 apg.

F: Keith Wright, Sr., Harvard – Wright is the reigning Ivy Player of the Year and one of the biggest reasons why the Crimson are expected to make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season. The burly, 6’8″ post player is a load to handle defensively and a nightmare to keep off the glass. He averaged 14.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg last season.

C: Greg Mangano, Sr., Yale – Mangano actually has a legitimate chance to make the jump from the Ivy League to the NBA. A skilled, 6’11” center, Mangano has three point range, can score with his back to the basket, rebounds the ball well and is a dangerous shot blocker. He averaged 16.3, 10.0 rpg and 3.0 bpg as a junior.

MID-MAJOR FOURTH TEAM

G: Derek Needham, Jr., Fairfield – Needham has been one of the best players in the MAAC in his first two seasons with the Stags. Playing for a grind-it-out head coach in Ed Cooley, Needham averaged 14.1 ppg and 4.5 apg as a sophomore, which was down from 16.4 ppg and 5.2 apg as a freshman. Those numbers should go in a more free-flowing system under Sydney Johnson.

G: DJ Cooper, Jr., Ohio – Cooper may be the most entertaining player on this list to watch play. The 5’9″, left-handed point guard averaged 15.8 ppg and 7.5 apg for the Bobcats last season.

G: Matthew Dellavedova, Jr., St. Mary’s – Dellavedova is going to have big shoes to fill with Mickey McConnell graduating. He should be up for the job, however, as he has put up some impressive numbers in his two seasons in Moraga. Dellavedova averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.3 apg as a sophomore despite playing the off-guard spot.

F: Brad Burgess, Sr., VCU – Burgess was the perfect fit for VCU last season, a sharp-shooting, defensive-minded small forward that didn’t mind playing a role for the Rams. He did it very, very well, however, averaging 14.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg. More impressive? When Burgess took 14 or more shots in five games last season. In those five games, he averaged 24.6 ppg and hit 17-26 from beyond the arc.

F: Javon McCrea, So., Buffalo – As a freshman, McCrea came off the bench and played only 21.6 mpg, but he put up some very impressive numbers — 11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 1.3 spg, 65.7 FG%. He’s an efficiency lover’s dream. With more playing time this year, McCrea should have a monster sophomore season.

MID-MAJOR HONORABLE MENTION

Kent Bazemore, Sr., Old Dominion
Julian Boyd, Jr., Long Island
Kyle Casey, Jr., Harvard
Will Cherry, Jr., Montana
Ian Clark, Jr., Belmont
TyShwan Edmondson, Sr., Austin Peay
Chris Gaston, Jr., Fordham
Samme Givens, Sr., Drexel
Justin Greene, Sr., Kent State
Rob Jones, Sr., St. Mary’s
Momo Jones, Jr., Iona
Ken Horton, Sr., CCSU
Dario Hunt, Sr., Nevada
Scott Machado, Sr., Iona
Julian Mavunga, Sr., Miami (OH)
Ray McCallum, So., Detroit
Tony Mitchell, Fr., North Texas
Dominique Morrison, Sr., Oral Roberts
Kevin Murphy, Sr., Tennessee Tech
Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State
Brockeith Pane, Sr., Utah State
Ryan Pearson, Sr., George Mason
Rakim Sanders, Sr., Fairfield
Tony Taylor, Sr., George Washington
Trey Zeigler, So., Western Michigan

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.