PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — De’Andre Hunter had 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds to help fourth-ranked Virginia beat Middle Tennessee 74-52 in the last first-round game at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday night.
Kyle Guy also scored 15 points and Braxton Key added 13 for the Cavaliers (4-0), who never trailed but didn’t put the game away until midway through the second half. Virginia led 9-0 and 30-9, only to see the Blue Raiders claw to within 38-30 early in the second half.
Guy answered with a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run that stretched the lead back out. Middle Tennessee got no closer than 11 again.
Virginia shot 46 percent but finished with a season-high 13 turnovers.
Antonio Green scored 11 points to lead Middle Tennessee (3-2), which shot 39 percent.
The Cavaliers advanced to Thursday’s semifinals to face Dayton, while the Blue Raiders will face Butler in the consolation bracket.
Western Kentucky made a major splash in the recruiting world on Wednesday as five-star center Charles Bassey will reclassify into the Class of 2018 and enroll at the school this season, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.
The 6-foot-10 Bassey will be one of the most college-ready freshmen in the country next season as he’s coming off of an MVP performance at the Pangos All-American Camp earlier this month. Long regarded as a top-10 national prospect in the Class of 2019, Bassey will be counted on to produce right away at Western Kentucky.
A double-double threat because of his size, strength, rebounding ability and good hands, Bassey gives Western Kentucky the elite big man they coveted when they tried to reel in former five-star big man Mitchell Robinson last season.
Coming off of a solid 27-win campaign in which they advanced to the semifinals of the NIT, the Hilltoppers are going to be a major threat in Conference USA next season — especially after talented point guard Lamonte Bearden opted to return to school after testing the NBA Draft process. Talented rising sophomores like Taveion Hollingsworth and Josh Anderson also return on the perimeter for Western Kentucky as Bassey becomes the perfect interior presence for the Hilltoppers.
Western Kentucky also has a talented six-man recruiting class coming in with Bassey, including four-star guard Dalano Banton, as the Hilltoppers will have a lot of young talent on the roster for next season.
Give points to Conference USA for being willing to try something unconventional.
The league used a dual-court setup for the opening rounds of its men’s and women’s conference tournament at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, playing two games simultaneously.
“We’re kind of the guinea pig. I don’t know if anyone else will try it or not,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said to the Chicago Tribune. “We’re in a position where we can try some things and take some risks and see what we can build.
“Initially, we were just touring the facility and it’s such a great facility with the plaza out front, and the hotels and restaurants. We were like, what we can do here. I think they like to be able to show the flexibility of the arena and the surrounding facilities.”
The idea of playing games at the same time at the same facility isn’t new, but turning your conference tournament over to this kind of experiment is certainly something of a bold choice. It seems better suited for a non-conference tournament than an event where an NCAA tournament bid is ultimately at stake.
Still, given the Conference USA tournament isn’t likely to generate a whole bunch of buzz on its own, trying something outside the box should be lauded – even if it ends up creating a big of a Sunday 9 a.m. AAU vibe to it.
The Dallas Cowboys have already hosted a Final Four, and they are now adding to their basketball portfolio, albeit at a smaller scale.
Conference USA will play its men’s and women’s conference tournament’s at the NFL franchise’s Ford Center in Frisco, Texas, it was announced Tuesday.
“We are excited to have our men’s and women’s basketball teams compete at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco,” conference commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “This unique setting within an outstanding venue and a thriving area will truly add to the championship experience of our student-athletes and fans.”
The Ford Center is a 12,000-seat venue located at The Star, the Cowboys’ 91-acre campus that houses their headquarters and a practice facility, and will host all 22 games – 11 from both the men’s and women’s tournaments – of CUSA postseason play. AT&T Stadium, nicknamed Jerry World for Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, hosted the 2014 Final Four.
“We are always looking to bring new experiences to student-athletes, their families and fans with our state-of-the-art facilities,” Jones said in a statement. “Conference USA’s basketball tournament is a great opportunity to showcase the versatility of Ford Center as well as what The Star and the City of Frisco have to offer.”
The announcement was for the 2018 and 2019 seasons after the league played its tournament in Birmingham, Ala. for the past three seasons.
Last season Southern Miss, which was being investigated by the NCAA for possible rules violations that occurred under Donnie Tyndall, took the step of self imposing a postseason ban. Of course Doc Sadler’s Golden Eagles, who finished the season with just nine wins, were unlikely to play in the postseason but such moves are made to placate the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Sunday night Southern Miss announced just days before their regular season opener that they’ve decided to self-impose a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season as well.
“I am very disappointed for the current members of our men’s basketball team and coaching staff, none of whom were involved in any alleged violation of NCAA rules,” Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis said in the release. “While excruciating due to the impact on the young men in our program today, the decision to withhold our team from postseason competition following the 2015-16 season is appropriate given the findings of the recent university and NCAA review of our program.”
It goes without saying that this is an unfair situation for Sadler, who had nothing to do with the seven Level I rules violations (the most severe variety), his coaching staff and the players. None of those individuals had anything to do with those alleged violations, and in the case of the coaching staff none were there working for Tyndall before he moved on to Tennessee (where he was fired after just one season as a result of this investigation).
But given the way penalty structures are set up, it’s the coaches and players who are currently on campus who are made to pay for past transgressions. The timing of this is unfortunate to say the least, as the four seniors on the roster don’t have the opportunity to at the very least look into transferring to a school eligible for postseason play without penalty. While some may use that as a reason to criticize the NCAA, this is the best they can do and it’s a system that was set up by the member schools.
Tyndall spent just two seasons in Hattiesburg, winning 56 games and taking Southern Miss to the quarterfinals of the Postseason NIT in both years. But those on-court achievements have come at a significant cost, one that keeps Sadler and company from achieving some semblance of success themselves.
UTEP currently has just one scholarship point guard on its roster, resulting in head coach Tim Floyd and his staff actively pursuing another option in the Class of 2016. Thursday the Miners landed that recruit, as 5-foot-10 point guard Deon Barrett announced that he’ll be attending the Conference USA school. Barrett is UTEP’s first verbal commitment in the Class of 2016.
Barrett, who attends Lancaster HS in Lancaster, Texas (located in Dallas County), just recently received a scholarship offer from UTEP and it didn’t take him long to commit. Barrett, who won a Class 5A state title alongside Texas A&M freshman Elijah Thomas last season, will take his official visit to UTEP this weekend. Barrett averaged 15 points and seven assists per game as a junior, a year in which he showed himself to be a good perimeter shooter as well as a distributor.
As noted above UTEP was in need of additional depth and a possible answer for the future at the point guard position. At present time junior guard Dominic Artis is UTEP’s lone scholarship point guard, with the academic ineligibility of sophomore Omega Harris (he’ll miss at least the first semester) leaving the Miners without a player who could occasionally spell Artis at the point.
While Barrett obviously can’t help UTEP with that depth issue this season, he can upon his arrival on campus for the 2016-17 season.