Late Afternoon Snacks: Butler edges Indiana; Gators visit the desert

2 Comments

There’s too much going on on any given Saturday for us to wait for Late Night Snacks. We’ll take stock of what’s happened up to this point, and look ahead to the good stuff that’s still to come in Late Afternoon Snacks.

Game of the Day

Butler 88, No. 1 Indiana 86 (OT) – Like it could be anything else. For a top-ranked Big Ten team to fall to an A-10 challenger is big news any day. When it’s blue-blood Indiana losing to in-state little brother Butler, in overtime… well, that’s about as close to March Madness as you can get in December. The Bulldogs outshot Indiana, but appeared to be on the ropes, with Roosevelt Jones, Andrew Smith and Erik Fromm fouled out before the game ended. But Rotnei Clarke and Chase Stigall hit long bombs in the extra period to keep the team in it. Even then, a most unlikely hero iced the game for Butler. Alex Barlow, who came to Butler on a baseball scholly, backed down Jordan Hulls and hit all sides of the rim before his game-winner dropped in.

Meaningful Results

No. 6 Louisville 87, Memphis 78 – The Tigers led this game by 16 points at one time and still lost. Too many turnovers (24) gave too many chances to the Cards’ big three of Chane Behanan (22 points), Peyton Siva (19) and Russ smith (also 19). Joe Jackson of Memphis led all scorers with 23 points, but he also contributed eight of the turnovers.

No. 21 North Carolina 93, Western Carolina 87 – It’s not so much the result as the score that’s meaningful here. The Tar Heels held the Pirates to just 26 first-half points before engaging sieve mode in the second stanza. Western dropped sixty-one points after halftime and had a chance to upset their hosts. Reggie Bullock fouled out of the game and only managed 26 minutes of floor time.

Georgia Southern 78, Virginia Tech 73 – Maybe the Hokies didn’t like the pressure of being our team of the week earlier? After a huge upset of Oklahoma State, Tech has dropped two in a row. Losing at West Virginia was understandable, but a home loss to lightly regarded Georgia Southern (0-2 in the SoCon) is a real head-scratcher. Forward Cadarian Raines played just 14 minutes and scored zero points in the loss, while Erick Green scored 28 and tried like heck to put the team on his back, to no avail.

Tonight’s Best

Belmont at No. 9 Kansas, 7 PM – One of the nation’s most consistently dangerous mid-majors visits Allen Fieldhouse. KU should have no trouble inside, but will their perimeter defense hold up to the Bruins’ outside attack?

West Virginia at No. 3 Michigan, 8 PM – Our reigning team of the week will undergo a stiff test. Can they avoid the Dauster curse and pull off the big upset while still wearing the CBT bullseye?

Mississippi State at Loyola, 8 PM – Will it be a great matchup? Who knows? But we’ve established that it’s a very meaningful one, because of the historical implications.

Kansas State at No. 14 Gonzaga, 9 PM – This game is actually being played in Seattle, so it’s a home game in name only for the Bulldogs. Still, a perfect opportunity to show if they’re going to bounce back and be a force this season. Kansas State is 7-1 under Bruce Weber, whose Illinois recruits just topped off the Zags last weekend. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

No. 5 Florida at No. 8 Arizona, 10 PM – Clearly the marquee matchup of the evening. Our own Raphielle Johnson will be at the game, so we’ll get the eyewitness report of this blazing top-ten matchup that will tell us a great deal about both teams. An ideal nightcap for a big day of college hoops.

Eric Angevine is editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

Getty Images
1 Comment

John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

Getty Images
2 Comments

Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

Getty Images
1 Comment

Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)