Week in Review: Jae Crowder and Indiana get recognized

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Player of the Week: Jae Crowder, Marquette

The Golden Eagles are coming off of a 2-0 week that saw them knock off both Washington in New York City and UW-Green Bay. In those two wins, Crowder was terrific, averaging 19.5 ppg an 6.5 rpg while collecting three blocks and three steals and shooting 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. But with Crowder, its about more than just the numbers. You want an example? He’s all of 6’6″ and probably would be listed as a small forward in a normal lineup, but when Chris Otule injured his knee on Tuesday at the Jimmy V Classic, Crowder was the guy that slid into the center spot for the Golden Eagles. Another example? Crowder also hit the game-winning jumper against the Huskies.

Marquette isn’t a secret anymore. This is a tough, physical team that is as talented this season as they have been under Buzz Williams. They have a stable of big, athletic wings that can shoot and penetrate, they have a pair of capable big men and they have an underrated, playmaking point guard.

But Crowder is the piece that brings it all together. His ability to play on the perimeter and in the post is a major reason for the versatility that Williams has in the lineups that he is able to put on the floor. He defends, he rebounds and he is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. He’s a leader for this group, and it shows. As Williams said of Crowder after the close win over Washington, “that’s my guy. I’ll roll with that cat no matter where he goes.”

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Phil Pressey and Marcus Denmon, Missouri: Denmon scored 50 points in two games this week, including 28 in the Tiger’s win over Villanova. But we went over him earlier this week. Pressey deserves just as much credit for his team’s success. He only shot 5-18 from the field, but he had 17 assists in the two games, including 12 in just 24 minutes against Nova.

G: Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones, West Virginia: The ‘Eers went 2-0 this week with wins over Kansas State and Miami, two other teams that will be on or around the bubble come March. Bryant had 51 points in the two games. Jones went for 30 points and 12 boards against the Wildcats, including a three at the end of regulation to force overtime.

F: Christian Watford, Indiana: Watford had 20 points, including 17 in the second half, as Indiana knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky. He also hit a pretty big shot.

F: Draymond Green, Michigan State: Green was sensational as the Spartans knocked off Gonzaga in Spokane, finishing with 34 points on 11-13 shooting from the floor and adding three assists and three steals. Green added 14 points and nine boards as Michigan State knocked off CCSU at home on Wednesday.

C: Patric Young, Florida: Young was completely dominant as the Gators knocked off Arizona in overtime, going for 25 points and 10 boards while blocking two shots and shooting 12-15 from the floor. He added another double-double on Friday night, finishing with 12 points and ten boards in a win over Rider. For the week, Young shot 17-22 from the field.

Bench: Will Barton, Memphis (27.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 spg, 22-33 FG); Ben Brust, Wisconsin (25 points, 7-7 3’s vs. UNLV); Deonte Burton, Nevada (24.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); Jack Cooley, Notre Dame (22.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg) DJ Cooper, Ohio (14 pts, 10 rbs, 10 asts, 5 stls vs. Portland); Vincent Council, Providence (21 pts, 11 asts, 9 rbs vs. Brown); Gorgui Deing, Louisville (16.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 13-15 FG); Thomas Gibson, Kansas State (19.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg); John Henson, North Carolina (18.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.5 bpg); Tay Jones, St. Joseph’s (29 pts, 5 asts, 5 rbs vs. Creighton); Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech (26.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg); Mason Plumlee, Duke (13.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 spg, 3.5 rpg, 11-15 FG); Herb Pope, Seton Hall (25.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 18-24 FG); Thomas Robinson, Kansas (23.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Josh Terry, Austin Peay (21.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Alex Young, IUPUI (43 pts, 9 rbs vs Western Kentucky)

Team of the Week: Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana played just one game last week, but it was a big one. The Hoosiers hosted heated rival and then-No. 1 Kentucky and won a thriller, using a three-pointer from Christian Watford as time expired to upset the Wildcats. The shot set off a wild scene, as the fans stormed the floor, setting off a wave of emotion that had built up for four years.

But this win was about more than just a party. I think that its safe to say Indiana is for real this season; knocking off the no. 1 team in the country will make a lot of people think the same. The question I have, however, is just how fluky this game was. Kentucky did not play well. Terrence Jones was no where to be found, Anthony Davis was in foul trouble and Doron Lamb didn’t have his best game. Combine that with the energy in the building that was fueling the Hoosiers, and its not difficult to see why it would be easy to assume that this game was more about the circumstances surrounding the teams than it was about the game. Styles make the fight, so to speak.

This is the best Indiana team to take the court in the Tom Crean era, and there is no question that the Hoosiers are probably better than we thought heading into the season. But, at best, I still think this is, at best, a borderline top 25 team.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Austin Peay: The Governors won their first two games of the season this week, beating Arkansas State in overtime before going into Knoxville and taking down Tennessee. Josh Terry led the way, averaging 21.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg for the week. He had 20 points, six boards, five assists and four steals in the win over Tennessee.

Dayton: The Flyers are still the most confounding team in the country. After solidly handling No. 15 Alabama on Tuesday, the Flyers struggled to hold off USC-Upstate over the weekend. The Flyers have some talented scorers and a couple of big guys on their roster, but with Dayton, the issue seems to be whether or not they are going to decide to show up.

Duke: The Blue Devils won two games this week, including a six point win against Washington in Madison Square Garden in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Austin Rivers played well in both games, but the performance of the week belongs to Mason Plumlee. He averaged 13.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg while totaling seven blocks and seven steals in the two games. But while he shot 11-15 from the field, Plumlee was 4-17 from the free throw line.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles picked up two wins on the week, knocking off UW-Green Bay on Saturday after their thrilling win over Washington in the Jimmy V Classic. Its tough not to like Marquette this season. Size, balance, athleticism, experience and toughness. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Missouri: Like Marquette, Missouri put together a strong performance at the Garden on national television, one that swayed the national consciousness in their favor. The Tigers are fun to watch simply because everyone of the players on their roster plays a vital role. While its the ability of Kim English to spread the floor at the four spot, its the play of Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon that gets the Tigers all of those open looks.

Murray State: Its time for us to starting talking about the Racers more seriously. Murray State is now 10-0 on the season after Sunday night, when they went into Memphis and knocked off the Tigers. Isaiah Canaan — who seems like he has been in college for a decade — is the player to watch, averaging 19.8 ppg and 4.0 apg.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers improved to 9-1 on the season by going 2-0 this week with a pair of impressive wins. First, they knocked Iowa off 80-60 despite finding themselves down 10-0 in the first couple of minutes. UNI followed that up by putting a whooping on Milwaukee, beating them 67-51. Milwaukee was coming off of a double-digit win over DePaul.

Oklahoma: Lon Kruger has done an impressive job turning this program around. The Sooners, who are now 7-1 on the season, went 2-0 last week, knocking off in-state rival Oral Roberts before earning a win over Arkansas. The Sooners also have wins over Washington State and Santa Clara, but we may not know how good they are until Big 12 play starts considering that their last non-conference test, Cincinnati, will be dealing with suspensions when they play.

St. Joseph’s: Langston Galloway had 30 points in a win over Boston University on Wednesday while Tay Jones had 29 points — including 20 in the second half — on Saturday as the Hawks knocked off Creighton.

Temple: The Owls may be playing without Michael Eric right now, but they still have Ramone Moore. The talented small forward had 32 points as the Owls handled Villanova fairly easily at home. Temple also picked up a win against Toledo on the road.

West Virginia: Playing two teams that they appear destined to share the bubble with this season, West Virginia went into Wichita and knocked off Kansas State in double overtime, following that up with an impressive and fairly dominating win over Miami. Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant combined to scored 93 points in the two games.

Wichita State: Coming off of a 19 point win over UNLV, Wichita State went into Tulsa and knocked off the Golden Hurricane, following that up with a win over Utah State. Combine that with the loss that Creighton had at St. Joseph’s, and the Shockers might be the favorite in the Missouri Valley.

Five Thoughts:

Is it time to call Washington just mediocre?: After losing to both Marquette and Duke at the Garden last week, the Huskies are now just 4-4 on the season and losers of three straight. That’s not exactly ideal from the team that many believe is the most talented team in the Pac-12. Why are they struggling? Washington doesn’t play enough defense, for starters. They also are a poor decision-making team. Their shot-selection leaves much to be desired and they average 15 turnovers per game. Washington is extremely talented, but they consistently under-perform every season. Why should we expect any different this year?

Struggles for the WCC?: Two weeks ago, I said that the WCC was the best mid-major conference in the country. My sentiment hasn’t exactly changed, but the league doesn’t appear to be quite as strong as I had originally thought. Over the weekend, Gonzaga lost at home to Michigan State while Santa Clara got dropped by 38 against Washington State. Portland got worked over by both Boise State and Ohio while Loyola Marymount is only a week removed from losing to both Columbia and North Texas. Throw in St Mary’s loss to Denver, and the strength and depth of the league isn’t what it appeared to be.

So who is the best mid-major league? If you are asking me today, I’m taking the Missouri Valley. Creighton is ranked and, in my opinion, should still be ranked even after losing at St. Joseph’s this weekend. Wichita State has won three straight against UNLV, Utah State and Tulsa. Northern Iowa is 9-1 with wins against Iowa and Milwaukee this past week. Not a bad top three.

Murray State should be ranked: The Racers are now 10-0 on the season, but that record is only 7-0 against Division I teams. The thing is, all of those wins are solid. Four of them came on the road against the likes of UAB, Morgan State and Western Kentucky. The other three were against Dayton, Southern Mississippi and San Francisco. And then on Sunday, the Racers went into Memphis and knocked off the Tigers. You think there are really 25 teams in the country that a) have a better resume than that and b) are actually better than the Racers?

Reeves Nelson had to go: There was no other choice for Ben Howland. You cannot suspend a player three times during a single season and keep him on the team. As a head coach, you lose credibility, and Howland is already struggling with that. The next step, however, would be to kick Josh Smith off of the team. The big fella is, simply put, too big to be an effective basketball player. His conditioning is a bigger issue and more of a detriment to the Bruin’s success Nelson ever was. Nelson may have been a clubhouse cancer, but Smith can be Jared Sullinger if he wanted to be.

The Crosstown Punchout: Before I say what I am about to say, remember this: I think that the suspensions given to the players on the Cincinnati and Xavier teams were too short. Six games and one Big East game for the sucker punch that was landed on Kenny Frease’s chin or the stomp that was placed on his head is too short. Four games for being the spark that ignited the entire brawl is not enough.

That said, I am sick of hearing people say that basketball has to be taken away from these kids to teach them a lesson. Isn’t the point here that this is bigger than basketball? That we are trying to get these kids educated not just in sports and the classroom, but in how to be able to be a functioning member of society? If Yancy Gates thinks its ok to throw a sucker punch like that, doesn’t that show you he is a long way away from that lesson? And if you kicked him out of school, would he even get that point?

Games of the Week:

Indiana 73, No. 1 Kentucky 72: We all know what happened by now:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPXImXAMStc%5D

West Virginia 85, Kansas State 80 2OT:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Lqj3NG1oPc%5D

Marquette 79, Washington 77:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvP-xewPXrY%5D

Matchups of the Week:

– Tue. 9:00 pm: No. 16 Wisconsin @ Milwaukee
– Wed. 8:00 pm: Belmont @ Middle Tennessee State
– Thu. 8:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ No. 22 Gonzaga
– Fri. 10:30 pm: Weber State @ Cal
– Sat. 2:30 pm: No. 25 Texas A&M @ No. 12 Florida
– Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 20 Memphis @ No. 4 Louisville
– Sat. 4:00 pm: Arizona @ No. 22 Gonzaga
– Sat. 5:00 pm: UNLV @ No. 22 Illinois

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.