Arizona Proved It’s a National Title Contender and Isn’t Shy About It

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 30th, 2013

Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday night’s NIT Season Tip-Off championship game at Madison Square Garden where Arizona toppled Duke.

After most early-season games, especially in November, head coaches and players are very hesitant to make bold statements in public about what heights their team can reach by the end of the season. You’ll usually hear statements like, “we’re a work in progress; I like some things about our team; I’m proud of our guys; etc.” After his team’s impressive 72-66 win over Duke at Madison Square Garden last night, Arizona head coach Sean Miller was anything but conservative when discussing the potential of his 7-0 Wildcats. “I think we can be special, no question,” Miller said. “We have to be an elite defensive team. We have to be able to get stops. We have to be able to use our size rebounding.”

Arizona Came East and Proved Its Worth on Friday Night

Arizona Came East and Proved Its Worth on Friday Night

Special may be an understatement. It’s ironic because what Miller said they need to do to be special is exactly what the Wildcats did last night. Arizona took control of the game in the second half after trailing by three points at the break. Using its significant height advantage and defensive pressure, the Wildcats held the Blue Devils to 17 points over the first 17+ minutes of the second half to put the game away. It was a fantastic defensive performance against a team that entered the game averaging 90 PPG in seven games played. Freshman phenom Jabari Parker scored 19 points for Duke but Arizona limited him to the tune of a 7-of-21 shooting night, including an 0-of-5 mark from beyond the arc. Miller had his freshman star Aaron Gordon as well as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson take turns guarding Parker and it worked, keeping the 6’8” freshman out of sync all game long. “When you think about our team being versatile, two players really stand out, Rondae and Aaron, our two freshmen, because they are so interchangeable. But we can get better,” said Miller.

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Four Thoughts on Marquette, Creighton, SDSU & GW at the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 30th, 2013

The Wooden Legacy created a lot of buzz on Friday night during its action. Here are four thoughts on what happened last night in Fullerton.

  1. As of today, more than three months from the NCAA Tournament, it remains to be seen just how good Marquette really is. There are some serious question marks about this team, mostly offensively, including just exactly who on this team, aside from specialist Jake Thomas, is going to hit some outside shots. But, we could probably think back to last year about this time and come up with some similar questions. And the year before. And the year before that. But still, Buzz Williams’ teams have wound up experiencing plenty of success in each of those years (just to remind you, they’ve been in at least the Sweet Sixteen for three years running), despite those weaknesses never getting fully resolved. Why? A lot of it is because his teams have taken on the personality of their coach: humble, intense, blue collar, and hard-working. A great example of the fire that Williams brings out and celebrates in his team came with under a minute to go Friday afternoon in the waning moments of a Marquette blowout. With George Washington refusing to give up the ghost despite a 16-point deficit, the Golden Eagles did the same, fighting to the final buzzer. And there was that aforementioned specialist Thomas, diving on the floor for a loose ball, thinking of calling for a timeout on an otherwise meaningless possession, but then, from the seat of his pants, finding his bulldog point guard Derrick Wilson for a breakaway layup. It was a play that caused the entire Marquette bench, Williams included, to erupt with a passion normally reserved for a tight game. Distill that play, bottle it and you’ve got the very essence of “Marquette basketball” under Williams. Williams on that play: “That’s a Marquette play. You can argue as a fan that maybe it wasn’t a meaningful possession. You can argue that mathematically the game was over. But for Jake to dive on the floor with both feet and both hands and come up with the loose ball, and then to pitch it ahead to Derrick for a layup, I hope that that’s a reflection not only of him and of our current team, but also our program.”

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

  2. George Washington did not play particularly well on Friday afternoon, and head coach Mike Lonergan was the first to admit it. But, this is a team that, again, as Lonergan admitted, probably didn’t expect to be playing for a championship on Sunday anyway. They knew they were going to be in for a battle every game this tournament, and the fact that they have a chance to be playing for third place on Sunday is a boon for them. Meanwhile, for Creighton, it is a disappointment. If Creighton isn’t careful, they’re liable to suffer a letdown on Sunday, especially playing in the cavernous Honda Center in front of a sparse crowd rather than the band box Titan Gym where the first two rounds were played. And if that happens, a GW team with shooters on the wing like Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic, grinders in the middle and nothing to lose, could make the Bluejays earn their lunch on Sunday, something Greg McDermott alluded to in his postgame press conference: “I’m not looking too much down the road, because I think George Washington is a heck of a basketball team and we’re going to need to be ready to play on Sunday or we’re going to be in big trouble.” Read the rest of this entry »
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After Toppling Kansas, Villanova Beginning To Look The Part Of Big East Title Contender Again

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 30th, 2013

It’s not too difficult to conjure up memories of recent Villanova glory days. Just three and a half years ago, Jay Wright had his Wildcats heading to the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, his program fresh off a Final Four appearance the year before. The Cats had won 12 NCAA Tournament games in the five years prior, and the 2010 team was both deep and young: Of the 11 Wildcats to average eight minutes a game that year, only two were seniors. The future was bright. And then Robert Morris happened. Villanova survived the #15 seed Colonials on that fateful March day (by the thinnest of margins: 73-70 in OT), but Jay Wright is still seeking his next Tournament victory. Saint Mary’s dispatched the Wildcats from the Dance two days later, and the three years since have witnessed a program mired in mediocrity. After a detour to the NIT in 2012, last year’s plucky group managed navigate its way back to the Tournament, but nobody was mistaking those Wildcats for the talent-laden teams of the early Wright era. A team built upon a similar foundation was expected this season – a gritty, defensive minded group that would be capable of stealing wins on their homecourt. All those things may yet be true, but after a convincing win over Kansas on Friday, it may be time to add one more descriptor to the 2013-14 Villanova Wildcats – Big East title contenders.

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night -- Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture Tonight?    (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night — Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture This Evening? (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Last year’s Villanova’s team scored more than its fair share of big wins. They knocked off four of the Big East’s five best teams (all of whom were ranked in the top 20 at the time of defeat), but each of those victories came on the Wildcats’ home floor. Furthermore, when you remove that quartet of signature victories, Villanova went just 2-12 against teams that finished in in the top 75 of the Pomeroy Ratings. Throw in a charity stripe festival or two at the Wachovia Center – a +34 free throw differential assisted in the Nova upset of then #5 Georgetown – and you can see why last year’s team never quite established themselves as an upper-echelon Big East club.

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Syracuse’s Maui Title Speaks to Roster’s Versatility

Posted by Lathan Wells (@prohibitivefav) on November 29th, 2013

When you think about Syracuse, you automatically think about the zone. The Orange’s 2-3 zone defense has confounded opponents throughout Jim Boeheim’s tenure, and its uniqueness across the college basketball landscape makes it that much harder to prepare for. One of the keys to the zone is that there often appears to be holes, places for a team to look to operate with space. Instead, the length of the Syracuse defenders closes those holes quickly and converges on opponents with a tenacity that can make even the most seasoned teams struggle. This year’s Orange team, at least thus far, has operated as a sort of microcosm of its preferred method of defense. There appear to be weaknesses to exploit, and sometimes teams have had success doing so. But in the end, Syracuse, just as its vaunted 2-3 zone often does, has won, including hoisting this year’s Maui Invitational trophy on Wednesday.

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Coming into the year, the team was concerned about replacing its perimeter core. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, guard Brandon Triche and swingman James Southerland all left, either via graduation or early draft entry, leaving the team unseasoned on the outside. One of the keys was the development of shooting guard Trevor Cooney. Billed as a shooter coming out of high school, he’d failed to live up to expectations for the Orange early in his tenure. But Cooney has shown that he can explode at times, with a 27-point, seven three-pointer effort in the opener versus Cornell, five made triples against Minnesota in the opener of the Maui Invitational, and another 23 points against California in the semifinals of the same tourney. The problem is that at other times he’s been a non-factor, such as when he was 1-of-6 from the field in a win over Fordham or 1-of-5 from the arc against Colgate. Cooney’s consistent ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter game is a must for this team.

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Penn State Proving It’s More Than a Two-Man Show

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

With its win Tuesday night, Penn State upped its record on the young season to 5-1. As they head into their weekend mini-tournament in Brooklyn tonight, they will be tested by the likes of St. John’s and either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. These are all “power conference” teams, but they are all beatable. If the Nittany Lions want to continue the roll that they’ve gotten on this season, they will need to continue to get contributions from their starting frontcourt. Players like Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack are not household names outside of State College, but they have all been huge factors in the team’s play as of late.

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

In its victory over La Salle, Penn State had all five starters in double figures. With a pass-first type of point guard getting them great looks with his dishing prowess, Taylor, Jack, and Travis have shown they can take advantage and hit shots. While none of these three is very physically imposing, they all have certain useful skill sets that they’ve displayed in the early going. Travis is a banger and a slasher, leading the team in rebounds at a 7.3 RPG clip. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket, but his main role is that of someone to do a lot of the heavy lifting on the boards. Taylor went for 25 points in the team’s lopsided win against Longwood, mostly on the strength of his 5-of-9 shooting from deep. He too showed in that game and in others that he can knock down an open shot from mid-range, and displays athleticism and length defensively. Taylor is 11th in the B1G in block rate (5.78%) going into Brooklyn, and has a high of four in one game. Jack has a season high of 18 points, and while he tends to get pushed around a some in the low block, he works well in a high pick-and-roll situation with Frazier. Jack has also become a big fan of taking three-pointers from the top of the key, which will at times bring a center or power forward away from the basket and allow the others to crash the offensive boards.

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Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox the Keys For Ole Miss’ Season

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 29th, 2013

Andy Kennedy finally found himself in the NCAA Tournament last season after years of wrong-side-of-the-bubble torture at Ole Miss. Winning the SEC tournament had taken some of the drama out of the moment, but the Rebels built on that by beating Wisconsin in the second round. If Kennedy guides the Rebels back to the Dance this season it’ll be because one or more of his frontcourt players emerges as a consistent source of rebounding and rim protection. Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones have looked the part in spurts thus far, and they, not Marshall Henderson, are therefore the keys to Ole Miss’ season.

Andy Kennedy needs his front court to step up this season to take advantage of talented guards.

Andy Kennedy needs his front court to step up this season to take advantage of talented guards.

The Rebels have the pieces on the perimeter to play with most teams in the country. Henderson doesn’t need a lengthy explanation. He’ll infuriate other teams with jersey pops and landsharking, and probablyequally frusttrate Kennedy with his shot selection at times. But he’ll score, and score a lot. Jarvis Summers is one of the best distributors in the conference, and has a superb 33 percent assist rate so far. Derrick Millinghaus is another high-volume shooter, but has shown he can score at a high level too.

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Should Amir Williams Be More Involved in Ohio State’s Offense?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

After a frustrating first two years in Columbus where the word that might best describe his play would be inconsistency, Amir Williams has been much more of a factor in the first quarter of the year for the #7 Ohio State squad. Through the first five games of the year, Williams is averaging 10.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 2.2 BPG on 65.4 percent shooting from the field. Coming into this season, he was a 50.9 percent free throw shooter, but is now knocking those down at a 76.2 percent clip. He’s also shown more engagement and aggressiveness than he has in his first two seasons. Last season he was a starter, but he still only averaged 16.5 MPG and was observed to kind of coast and float through games without making much of an impact other than occasionally blocking a shot or two. Now he is up to 24.2 MPG, and with this he’s been more productive and especially more active on the glass. So with this comes the question for a team that is struggling on offense despite their good start: Should Williams be getting the ball more inside?

Amir Williams has been a strong presence inside for Ohio State this season (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams has been a strong presence inside for Ohio State this season (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

In the Wyoming game, Williams got the ball on the block a whopping three times. If you look at his statistical line from the game, you might question my math. He went 5-of-9 from the field and scored 12 points combined with 16 rebounds. But the majority of all his points came from tips and putbacks on the offensive end. Throughout the course of a game where Ohio State probably has at least 60 to 70 possessions, he got the ball in post position three times. If this were a little kid parks and rec league, he might have quit or cried to his parents because the other guys on the team don’t give him the ball. I’m not saying he was hyper-aggressive in his post ups, but there were times they could have dumped it into him quite easily and the guards and wings simply moved the ball around on the outside.

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Tennessee Blows Golden Opportunity For Resume Enhancers in Loss to UTEP

Posted by David Changas on November 29th, 2013

For Tennessee, the causes for concern following Thursday night’s loss to UTEP are numerous. The Vols showed no ability to run any semblance of an offense against Tim Floyd’s triangle-and-two and box-in-one defense, hitting only 34.9 percent of their shots, including 3-for-21 from three-point range. They allowed the Miners to shoot 58.0 percent on the other end, and played a wholly uninspired game against a Miners team that previously had given no indication it would be able to compete with the team many expect to finish behind Kentucky and Florida in the SEC race. And while Tennessee has a long way to go at this point to even be mentioned in the same breath as the NCAA Tournament, it’s still November, and what may be the most troubling aspect of losing in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis is that it created missed opportunities for two more games against teams certain to be part of the Big Dance.

Cuonzo Martin Missed a Good Opportunity This Weekend (AP/Adam Brimer)

Cuonzo Martin Missed a Good Opportunity This Weekend (AP/Adam Brimer)

With the loss, the Vols fall into the tournament’s losers’ bracket, and Friday will seek to exact revenge against a Xavier team that dealt them a 67-63 loss in the season opener. While Tennessee appeared to be the more talented team in that game, it got virtually no offensive production from forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon (11 combined points), and shot a paltry 7-of-19 from the free throw line. The Vols also let Matt Stainbrook, who led the Musketeers with 15 points and nine rebounds, control the game. Xavier is expected to finish in bottom half of the revamped Big East, and it is coming off a performance in which it blew a 15-point second half lead and lost 77-74 to Iowa in overtime Thursday. The Musketeers could turn out to be a quality opponent Tennessee will now have on its resume twice, but a win against UTEP would have given the Vols games against the Hawkeyes and either Kansas or Villanova, each of which appears to be sure-fire NCAA Tournament teams. Now, after playing the Musketeers, Tennessee will draw either USC or Wake Forest, neither of which is expected to compete for a bid to the Big Dance.

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Branden Dawson Is Not Just an “X-factor” Anymore

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 29th, 2013

During the offseason, the hype surrounding Michigan State centered around three key players: Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. Payne’s athleticism, Harris’ offensive firepower and Appling’s experience were determined as the key factors that would drive Tom Izzo’s squad to a Final Four. Junior guard Branden Dawson was included in the analysis but only as an “x-factor.” But after six games, Dawson is not just a sideshow anymore; he should be considered as one of the primary weapons for the Spartans. Dawson doesn’t have to find ways to impact the game as an “x-factor,” but there are definitely two ways in which he will impact every game: rebounding and defense. Let’s examine Dawson’s direct impact on the top-ranked team in the country.

Branden Dawson (left) should be considered as one of the best players in the Big Ten. (Al Goldis/AP)

Branden Dawson (22) should be considered as one of the best players in the Big Ten. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Rebounding: Dawson is averaging 9.7 RPG, but his intensity on the offensive glass is more impressive than what the statistics have shown this season. There are not many, if any, offensive plays called for Dawson but he has managed to average 9.6 PPG by attacking the boards. Check out his game-winning tip-in against Kentucky during the first week of the season. In this possession, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein was assigned to guard Dawson and was forced to step out of the paint as the Spartans spread the floor. As Appling drove into the paint, Cauley-Stein pulled away to cover the paint, leaving Dawson wide open on the wing. Dawson rarely takes a shot from the perimeter, so Stein’s move was perfectly justified. But what Stein did not factor in was Dawson’s toughness to find his way into the paint and muscle around with the opposing big men. This possession proves more than Dawson’s rebounding; it shows that opposing teams have a huge mismatch when lining up a traditional power forward against him. A big guy isn’t quick enough to keep up with Dawson and a quicker “stretch 4” will not be strong enough to handle Dawson in the paint. This mismatch of epic proportions will continue to haunt opposing coaches because Izzo will play Dawson at the power forward because he doesn’t lose an edge on the glass. By playing Dawson at the four, Izzo can use an additional guard such as Denzel Valentine or Travis Trice to spread the floor and increase the Spartans’ long-range shooting in the half-court. Read the rest of this entry »
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Kansas State’s Early Struggles Possible Sign of Things to Come

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 29th, 2013

Not much has gone right for Kansas State since capturing a share of the Big 12 regular season championship last season. The Wildcats advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, was beateen by Kansas for the third time, then lost to #13 seed La Salle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez graduated and transferred, respectively, and now, eight months later, K-State opened the season with a 60-58 loss to Northern Colorado, the same Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference this season.

Bruce Weber Can't Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

Bruce Weber Can’t Be Happy Through Six Games This Season. (USA Today Sports/Scott Sewell)

The Wildcats are 3-3 thanks to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off guaranteeing all teams three games, and that allowed them to grab another win over Long Beach State, a team which is #297 in the RPI and #230 on KenPom. The problems have been mostly on the offensive end for Kansas State. The Wildcats have yet to crack 72 points and are showing how dependent they were on McGruder and Rodriguez last season. Through six games, here are the key offensive metrics:

  • 62.7 PPG (#326 nationally)
  • 40.7% shooting (#293)
  • 12.8 APG (#179)

Head coach Bruce Weber returned four players who averaged at least 10 MPG last season, but only junior forward Thomas Gipson has shown signs of improvement early this season. His minutes per game are about the same as last but his scoring is up from a couple of points per game and he is shooting over 55 percent from the floor, up from 51.7% last season. The other three players – Will Spradling, Nino Williams, and Shane Southwell – have either gotten worse or plateaued. On the surface, Southwell’s stat line of 7.8 PPG/5.3 RPG/3.2 APG looks just fine. But the senior guard has been an albatross offensively. He is taking over eight shots per game and shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the field. His three-point percentage is even worse at 16.7 percent, but it hasn’t stopped him from taking three attempts a game. It became clear some time ago that senior guard Will Spradling isn’t a 30 MPG-type of player at the Big 12 level, but that’s about where he has been the last three seasons. With guards like McGruder, Rodriguez, and Jacob Pullen next to him, he can play as a serviceable third guard or sixth man in a pinch. But more offensive responsibility this season hasn’t led to better results. His 35 percent shooting is the worst of his career, as is his 24 percent from three-point range.

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It’s Time to Discuss If Michigan Was Overrated Coming Into the Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 29th, 2013

One game doesn’t prove anything is drastically wrong with a team, but after Michigan‘s 63-61 loss to Charlotte last weekend, the preseason top 10 team’s struggles have already raised some eyebrows. The Wolverines now sit at 4-2, which could have very easily been 3-3 given its comeback overtime win over Florida State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but the loss certainly exposed plenty of issues across the board against an inferior opponent (Pomeroy had the 49ers rated 196th coming into the game). Michigan was outrebounded, it only had eight assists, and shot only 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from three-point range in the loss. The two players who everyone expected to lead this team were dismal, with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary combining for 10 points. Robinson was particularly rough, failing to connect on any shot in his nine minutes of playing time. Nik Stauskas continued his season-long strong play with 20 points, but Zak Irvin’s 3-of-14 effort offset anything Stauskas was able to do.

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

So the real question is to wonder how much is this cause for concern for a team most analysts had picked to be second or third in the Big Ten? Does the Charlotte loss represent just one really bad night or was Michigan overrated as a top-10 team after losing two NBA draft picks and the reigning Player of the Year in Trey Burke? The easy answer is yes to both questions. Michigan likely had a really bad collective night to cause the loss, but the Wolverines haven’t really shown yet this season that it deserved to be so highly touted. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 29th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Eastern Michigan trapped and swarmed Kentucky’s Julius Randle on Wednesday, holding the big man scoreless in the first half. “If they’re going to do that, they’re going to have to live with other guys stepping up and having big days,” he said. Aaron Harrison was the other player stepping up, scoring 22 points and going 9-of-11 at the free throw line. Part of Randle’s immense value is that he affects the game even when he isn’t scoring. Harrison took advantage of the attention focused elsewhere, and did a great job attacking the basket. His two big scoring nights (the other being a 28-point outing against Robert Morris) have been aided by 10-plus free throw attempts in each game. Kentucky has no shortage of athletes, so there should be plenty of slashing opportunities at the rim when defenders are out of the lane denying Randle the ball.
  2. The temperature will be in the low 50s this weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas — that’s not unbearable, but the Razorbacks will likely miss the Maui sunshine. They also missed an opportunity in Maui, going 1-2 with losses against California and Gonzaga sandwiched around a win against Minnesota. The trip wasn’t a disaster because the Gophers are a team with solid metrics and a decent win over Richmond. But Gonzaga was Arkansas‘ last chance to make a non-conference splash, and 34 points from Kevin Pangos ended that dream quickly. Mike Anderson must avoid any non-conference setbacks and has some work to do in SEC play to make his first NCAA Tournament appearance with the Razorbacks. A bright spot was Bobby Portis, who began to assert himself offensively in the latter two games, scoring 12 and 18 points, respectively.
  3. A few thousand dollars can buy you a piece of Texas A&M basketball history. G. Rollie White Coliseum, the Aggies’ basketball home from 1954 to 1997, was demolished in August. Workers uncovered the original playing floor during the process, the existence of which was unknown prior to the demolition. Texas A&M began auctioning off portions of the floor yesterday, which include a NCAA logo, school name and logo, and a retro-Southwest Conference logo. The top bid on the baseline floor section is currently over $2,000. This is a neat story that probably won’t repeat itself very often. The vintage, yellowed Southwest Conference logo would be an especially great addition to a living room or office, if you’ve got a some money to burn.
  4. Mississippi State barely avoided disaster Wednesday, hanging on to beat KenPom #280 Jackson State by two points. It was an ugly, low-scoring affair marred by 19 Bulldog turnovers and plenty of missed shots. “We shouldn’t need evidence that this can happen,” head coach Rick Ray said. “We need to embrace who we really are, and until we do that, we’re going to struggle.” Mississippi State missed its freshman point guard, I.J. Ready, who had been playing well before “severely” injuring his hamstring. Without him, the Bulldogs had six assists against those 19 turnovers in escaping with the win. Gavin Ware has established himself as a credible low post threat and he’ll see plenty of double teams, but Mississippi State can’t capitalize on this if they keep fumbling the ball away. Their blowout loss at Utah State wasn’t a cause for alarm, but performing so poorly at home against a bad team does not bode well for the rest of the season.
  5. Tennessee suffered a setback in the Bahamas, losing to UTEP by eight late last night. The shooting backdrop in the Atlantis ballroom must be difficult, but it’s no excuse for the 38 percent shooting performance from the Volunteers. This included a putrid 3-of-21 from beyond the arc. Jordan McRae had a particularly rough shooting night, missing seven of his eight three point attempts. Not much is known about UTEP at this point: the Miners have two losses, but (oddly) both are to a decent New Mexico State team. Conference USA has already had Charlotte step up and surprise last weekend in Puerto Rico, but this was not a game Tennessee should have lost. They now find themselves with a rematch against a Xavier team that already beat them once to open the season. Semaj Christon got to the basket with ease in that game, so it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Cuonzo Martin makes to prevent this from happening again.
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