Pac-12 Best and Worst of the Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 24th, 2015

It was an eventful opening week in the Pac-12. Here are a few of the highlights — and lowlights — from the early action out west.

Best Showing from a Supposedly Bad Team: Most pundits expected USC to be vastly improved from last season, so it may be a slight mischaracterization to say USC was “supposed to be bad”. But it was still surprising to watch USC dismantle a good New Mexico team so easily on Saturday. The difference for the Trojans has been shooting. Last season, the Trojans’ effective field goal percentage was just 46.8 percent while making only 32.9 percent of their shots from downtown. This season, in a small sample size, USC’s effective field goal percentage is 56.2 percent and the Trojans are shooting 37.9 percent from downtown. The defense is still a work in progress with so many underclassmen in the rotation, but the pieces are there and if the offense can keep up, the Trojans could have a shot to go dancing in March.

Jordan McLaughlin And The Trojans Are Challenging Old Notions About USC Basketball

Jordan McLaughlin And The Trojans Are Challenging Old Notions About USC Basketball. (AP)

Worst Showing from a Supposedly Good Team: Through Miami’s first five games, the Hurricanes have looked like an offensive juggernaut that cannot be slowed down. But if Utah is going to be a team with Sweet 16 aspirations, they should never look as lifeless as they did against the Canes. The Utes turned the ball over 16 times in that game and allowed the Hurricanes to shoot better than 50 percent from everywhere on the floor. Jakob Poeltl and company were also easily out-rebounded. The Utes have struggled shooting the ball from long range this season, and relatedly, senior point guard Brandon Taylor has been an abject disaster on both ends of the floor. Still, there’s reason to be believe that both those early trends are aberrations, and losing to Miami isn’t the end of the world. But there’s no denying it: for the present moment, the way they lost has left Pac-12 supporters with a bitter taste in their mouths.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on November 24th, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the Rush the Court correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

The Best Kept Secret in Division I

Counting the four games played Monday night, the Atlantic 10 conference has compiled a 40-11 (0.784) record against their opponents through the first two weeks of the season. Every conference schedules its share of cupcakes and the A-10 is no exception, as nearly 38 percent of the slate — with a 15-0 record in those games — comes from conferences ranked in the lower third of Division I and Division II basketball. Versus the seven elite conferences and the A-10’s four fellow basketball-first conferences, league teams have played 25 percent of their schedule and compiled a 10-6 (0.625) record. Results are particularly impressive versus the SEC (2-0), ACC (3-3) and the Big 12 (1-0) Conferences. Distracted by the plethora of upsets, the World Wide Leader gave George Washington’s 73-68 win over then #6 Virginia a little less than a full news cycle before moving on to other upsets.

The Atlantic 10 has started the season off well so far. This week gets a lot tougher for Dan Hurley and Rhode Island - as well as the rest of the A10. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Atlantic 10 has started the season off well so far. This week gets a lot tougher for Dan Hurley and Rhode Island – as well as the rest of the A-10. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Lacking an early season tournament win — Virginia Commonwealth, the conference flagship since Shaka Smart brought the Rams into the league in 2012-13, took two close losses, the first to Duke by eight points and the second to Wisconsin by one point. Saint Joseph’s split its Hall of Fame slate last weekend, dropping a semifinal game to Florida on Saturday before bouncing back versus Old Dominion in the consolation game Sunday. Dave Paulsen took his George Mason squad to the finals of the Charleston Classic, beating Mississippi and Oklahoma State before losing in the finals, 83-66, to #12 Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.24.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2015


  1. Michigan State celebrated jumping to No. 3 in the newest AP poll by thrashing Eastern Michigan on Monday night. The common motifs of offensive balance and sharing the ball were once again on display, as the Spartans put five players in double figures and assisted on 26 of their 31 made field goals. One of the five was transfer Eron Harris, who had been struggling so far this season. The junior made both of his three-point attempts, and his improved offensive play should bode well as Sparty heads to Anaheim this week to play in the Wooden Legacy.
  2. After being named the Big Ten Player of the Week, Denzel Valentine was also named the national player of the week by NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk. The Michigan State senior put on a clinic in recording a triple-double as the Spartans came back to beat Kansas in last Tuesday’s Champions Classic. Purdue also got some recognition from the site, as the Boilermakers were named the team of the week along with Miami (FL). Purdue is off to a very nice 5-0 start this season and clearly looks like a team that should easily finish in the top four of the Big Ten.
  3. You may have thought that things couldn’t get much worse for Illinois this season. After a 1-3 start that included losses at home to North Florida and Chattanooga, the Illini needed a Jalen Coleman-Lands buzzer-beater to beat lowly Chicago State on Monday night. Illinois was down by a score of 58-45 at one point, and needed two costly turnovers from Chicago State in the last minute to get the win. With much of the Illinois athletic department in a state of flux after scandals in the football and women’s basketball programs, the men’s team getting off to such a slow start hasn’t done anything to help in Champaign.
  4. The other B1G school from the Land of Lincoln has gotten off to a better start than its counterpart, but Northwestern lost its first game of the season on Monday night in the CBE Classic in Kansas City. At one point the Wildcats led formerly top-rated North Carolina by two points in the second half before ultimately losing, 80-69. Northwestern shot the ball well but it ended up losing the battle inside the paint. This game was probably the best non-conference chance for Chris Collins’ unit to dial up a resume-enhancer, so if the Wildcats want to break their infamous NCAA Tournament drought, they will have quite a bit of work to do during conference play.
  5. The Big Ten at large hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts this season as league teams have lost too many games to teams that have no business beating them. Indiana was one of the exceptions to that trend in getting off to a nice 3-0 start, but that ended on Monday in the Maui Invitational when the Hoosiers lost to Wake Forest in the first round. Some familiar concerns were raised in the loss, as Indiana allowed Wake to score a whopping 52 points in the paint. Turnovers and a lack of execution late in the game were also key issues in the loss, raising some of the same questions in Bloomington that have been around for a couple of years now.
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Pac-12 Week One Honors

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 23rd, 2015

Week one in college basketball is in the books. And yes, we’re counting week one as going back to opening day a couple Fridays back. Sure, that makes 10 days, but this is a sport that claims a Feast Week that runs for 10 days or more, a Championship Week which is actually a fortnight, and a March Madness that stretches into April. All of those semantics now out of the way, our normal Monday Pac-12 Honors post will wrap up the previous week, unveil our weekly power rankings, and anoint a Team, Player, Freshman and Newcomer of the Week. Let’s jump right in.

Team of the Week: Washington

Andrew Andrews And The Huskies Have Been Electric Early (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Andrew Andrews And The Huskies Have Been Electric Early (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

The Huskies are not the best team in the conference, or at least they probably aren’t. But for a team that wiped the slate clean after last season and brought in eight brand new players, they sure are fun to watch. After going to China and coming away with a win against a veteran Texas team on opening night, the Huskies have poured it on, backing up a 33-point win over Mount St. Mary’s with a 37-point win over Penn. They’ve played three straight games of 80 or more possessions, have the third-highest tempo in the nation, and get in and out of a possession in just over 12 seconds, the quickest such team in college basketball. Loaded down with aggressive free-wheeling freshmen, these Huskies have been a pleasant surprise and everything we want a Lorenzo Romar team to be.

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Unsettled Mountain West Offers Opportunity For Fresno State

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 23rd, 2015

Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) is a Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. Last night, he covered Fresno State-Rice from Houston.

It’s been awhile since the Fresno State Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament. 14 years, in fact. To give you a sense of how long it’s been, the coach that last got them there (in 2001), the legendary Jerry Tarkanian, passed away earlier this year. Since Tarkanian retired, the program has undergone two coaching changes, NCAA sanctions and a change in conference affiliation. Between 2003 and 2008, Fresno State’s home arena, the Save Mart Center, averaged around 11,700 fans per game. From the 2008-09 season into the present, the Bulldogs have played host to an average of 4,000 fewer fans per game (average attendance in that span is a little more than 7,200). As a result, the Fresno State athletic department has gotten creative with how to fill those empty seats. Two years ago, former Bulldog and current Indiana Pacer superstar Paul George agreed to buy every ticket at Save Mart Center for the Bulldogs’ home opener so fans could get in for free. This season FSU ran a promotion that delivered a free ticket to last week’s game against Lamar to anyone who could prove they followed any of the athletic department’s social media accounts.

In his fifth season, head coach Rodney Terry has arguably fielded his most talented team at Fresno State. (Fresno Bee Staff Photo)

In his fifth season at Fresno, head coach Rodney Terry may be field his most talented Bulldog team yet. (Photo: Fresno Bee Staff)

In 2011, Rodney Terry was hired as Fresno State’s head coach. Terry was well-known for his recruiting efforts at Texas, where he was able to secure commitments from the likes of current NBA players Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, as well as current Miami (FL) guard Sheldon McClellan (who is averaging 19.8 ppg as a senior this season). It made sense that it would take a few years to get the Fresno State program back on its feet, and it finally feels like the Bulldogs are beginning to walk on their own in Terry’s fifth season.

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Three Things Utah Learned in Puerto Rico

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 23rd, 2015

Three games in four days in an arena in a tropical location: In college basketball this is a surefire recipe for testing the mettle of your team early in the season. For Utah, which just wrapped up a weekend in Puerto Rico with a 2-1 record and a third-place finish, there was a major wake-up call in a 24-point blowout loss to Miami sandwiched in between two less-than-stellar performances. Still, this weekend will serve Larry Krystkowiak‘s team well as it can focus on several key areas that need to improve. Below, we look at three of those areas.

It was that type of struggle for Jakob Poeltl and Utah this past week. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

It was that type of struggle for Jakob Poeltl and Utah this past week. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  1. Keep Jakob Poeltl Involved – In case you hadn’t heard, the sophomore seven-foot Austrian is a serious player. Long, athletic, mobile and skilled, with a variety of moves in his arsenal, there are very few players in the country who can handle him in the post one-on-one. And even when the Utes run into one (such as Miami center Tonye Jekiri), Poeltl is capable of affecting the game in so many ways that it is imperative that the Utes keep him involved. In that Miami game, Poeltl picked up two early fouls and never got consistently on track in 25 minutes of action. Keeping Poeltl away from foul trouble while still maintaining his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor is a priority. But the other thing the Utes need to work on is feeding the ball to Poeltl as often as possible. Against Temple on Sunday, the Owls had no one who could pose much of a threat to him inside, and he went for 32 points on 12 field goal attempts as a result. Still, there were stretches where the Utah offense would neglect to find its big man for several possessions in a row. And even when they did look to him, the post entry passes thrown were often difficult to receive, such as in this example here. But, to Poeltl’s credit, he was able to catch that pass (and many others) and convert. The Utah offense needs to work on post entry passes for the rest of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Behind a Cloudy Georgetown Start Emerges a Shining Sophomore

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 23rd, 2015

As with any Georgetown game over the past two seasons, all eyes were focused on the All-Big East First Team nominee. Opponents watched his every move as he came off ball screens, flared behind the three-point line or looked to score with the ball in his hands. After all, the 6’3″ combo guard has been held below 10 points just three times in his last 34 games. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that such a highly regarded, attention-grabbing player has played in such an under-the-radar fashion so far this year. Four games into his senior season, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is averaging only 13.6 PPG and shooting just 41.3 percent from the field, his lowest marks since his freshman year. He played better against Duke on Sunday — tallying 14 points and six assists — but Smith-Rivera has certainly left much to be desired as the team’s go-to scorer. His coach, John Thompson III, however, remained unfazed: “I’m not worried about D’Vauntes, he’ll be just fine.”

Isaac Copeland is getting it done on both ends of the court. (AP)

Isaac Copeland is getting it done on both ends of the court. (AP)

After playing what might be the toughest schedule in the country through four games, Georgetown stands at a less than desirable 1-3 mark. What that record doesn’t reveal is that, while Smith-Rivera has struggled, we are simultaneously witnessing the development of the next Hoyas’ star. A jump in productivity as a sophomore is a common phenomenon, especially in Georgetown’s system centered around perimeter passing and backdoor cuts. So when Isaac Copeland scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed a team-high six rebounds against Duke, it was hard not to notice. The 6’9″ forward had shown flashes of ability last season but mostly played a complementary role behind leading offensive threats Smith-Rivera and Joshua Smith. In the offseason, Copeland saw the opportunity and he pounced. “I think the main thing is he worked extremely hard,” said Thompson III. “Freshman year he spent some time trying to figure things out, now he understands and has settled in not thinking and now playing.” Read the rest of this entry »

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The SEC Week That Was: Volume I

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 23rd, 2015

We’re less than two weeks into the season and the losses are starting to mount in the SEC, as just five of the 14 teams remain undefeated. If we’re looking on the bright side of things, there is really only one truly inexcusable result: Mississippi State falling to Southern. Keeping with the positive vibes, Kentucky yet again dominated the Champions Classic, and LSU and Texas A&M have tantalized with promise. Let’s hand out some hardware for the first week and a half of action.

Jamal Murray and Kentucky are off to a great start (

Jamal Murray and Kentucky are off to a great start. (Getty)

Team of the WeekKentucky is probably going to get ink in this space more than a few times this season, so why not start right away? The Wildcats’ win over Duke is easily the best the league can offer thus far, and freshmen Skal LabissiereJamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have all shown dynamic flashes. Kentucky is already defending at an elite level even though John Calipari lost his entire starting frontcourt and didn’t add an elite defensive big man (as he often does). On a micro level, Alex Poythress has settled very well into a “supporting” role, putting up at least nine points and seven rebounds in each of the last three games. Labissiere is going to need help in the paint and on defense, but Poythress and Marcus Lee have been up to the task thus far.

Player of the Week. Ben Simmons. LeBron James, Magic Johnson and — on the “low” end — Lamar Odom, are just a few of the comparisons we’ve have heard for Simmons. With the understanding that these were more about a skill set than anything else, the Aussie freshman has nonetheless lived up to expectations in his first three games. He has proven to be an alley-oop waiting to happen so far and is averaging 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He has also been the main presence for LSU on the glass despite frequently being featured in the pick and roll on offense. His matchup with Marquette’s super freshman Henry Ellenson this week will be our first glimpse at whether he has lockdown defender potential in him, as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas State in the CBE Hall Of Fame Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2015

It’s Feast Week in college basketball. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments this week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today.

Catching Up: After a major house-cleaning where seven underclassmen left Manhattan, expectations for Kansas State basketball this season understandably dropped. Considering the circumstances, though, the Wildcats are off to a strong 3-0 start, avoiding some of the bad early losses that had made them a laughingstock over the last two seasons. An NCAA Tournament bid is still the absolute best-case scenario for this team, but the Wildcats look slightly better than their preseason projections, already climbing 13 spots in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. As you might expect from a team lacking in elite talent, Kansas State’s early success can be attributed to fundamentals. They’ve rebounded well, especially on the offensive glass where they’re corralling 40.4 percent of their misses; and to compensate for a lack of knockdown shooters, they’ve paraded to the foul line a staggering 106 times and converted 72.6 percent of those attempts. Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu  have given the Wildcats the kind of production they need from their few veterans (averaging 17.0 and 15.3 PPG, respectively) while newcomers Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes have made up for their inexperience with controlled play on offense — turning the ball over just a combined 11 times in 215 minutes of action.

Wesley Iwundu has been a steadying presence for a Kansas State team enduring significant roster turnover. (Scott Sewell/USA Today)

Wesley Iwundu has been a steadying presence for a Kansas State team enduring significant roster turnover. (Scott Sewell/USA Today)

Opening Round Preview: The Wildcats open up the CBE Classic against a team, Missouri, going through a rebuilding effort of its own. The Tigers have a bit of a strange makeup on offense. They have several players who can hit outside jumpers but that strength hasn’t done much to open up the lane, as only 30.2 percent of their shots this season have come at the rim. Like Bruce Weber’s team, Missouri has also gotten production from its newcomers, particularly Kevin Puryear and K.J. Walton. The Tigers haven’t rebounded well, meaning Kansas State should own the glass, but containing Missouri on the perimeter could be another story. Kansas State has dared its opponents to beat them from deep, but none have yet been able to take advantage. Missouri has shown that it can get hot, though, so limiting Cullen VanLeer, Terrence Phillips and Wes Clark will be important for the Wildcats’ chances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015

It’s Feast Week in college basketball. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments this week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today.

Catching Up: It’s already been quite an eventful beginning to the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks pummeled Northern Colorado in the opener, 109-72, in a game where they knocked down 15 three-pointers. In their first real test, though, Kansas again stumbled at the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks couldn’t handle a second half explosion from Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and did themselves no favors on the offensive end. Some good news came last Friday when freshman big man Cheick Diallo received a waiver from the NCAA to travel with the team to Maui, but Diallo has yet to be cleared. As a result, head coach Bill Self has now begun to unleash his wrath against the sport’s governing body in public settings. Whether Diallo will be cleared to play this week (or this season) remains a mystery, but it’s becoming apparent that Self is tired of the distraction of waiting for an answer. In between the Jayhawks’ loss to Michigan State and Self’s campaign against the NCAA, Kansas also suspended guard Brannen Greene for six games as the result of a playing time dispute. Kansas, it seems, is in a bit of a mini-crisis heading into today’s Maui Invitational.

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the final of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks will have an opportunity to work out any kinks relating to Greene’s suspension in their first round game against host Chaminade, by far the easiest opening round matchup. The Division II Silverswords are currently 0-2, having already lost to Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska earlier this month. Chaminade averages 32 three-point attempts per contest and they convert 14 of them, so Kansas will need to do a good job of protecting the perimeter. In general, though, this is the type of game where Self’s squad will pound it inside and wear down the overmatched opponent. The Jayhawks’ much tougher tests in the islands will come on Tuesday and Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 11.23.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015


  1. It’s been an eventful weekend for Cheick Diallo‘s eligibility struggle. After he was allowed to travel to Maui on Friday with the Jayhawks, Bill Self opened up to the media about the process the school has endured to clear the big man. So far, Kansas has hired two separate investigative firms, visited Diallo’s high school on six different occasions, and sent a letter listing 19 shortcomings with the NCAA’s investigation. As of Sunday morning, Kansas still had not heard from the governing body regarding its most recent efforts. What happens next is really anybody’s guess, but the Mali native is with the team on island and is presumably ready to go should he get cleared sometime during the tournament.
  2. After hanging tough against Utah before losing last Thursday, Texas Tech bounced back with a pair of wins to finish fifth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Red Raiders knocked off Mississippi State and their highly touted freshman Malik Newman on Friday before defeating Tubby Smith‘s former school, Minnesota, on Sunday. For his part, Smith seems very happy with his position, telling the media, “I’m really happy we were able to come to a place like Texas Tech where they’ll celebrate you and not just tolerate you.” With a roster showing promise, the Red Raiders are poised to improve their Big 12 record this season, something that should give Texas Tech fans more reasons to celebrate Tubby’s team.
  3. There was also some recent cause for celebration in Austin, as Shaka Smart picked up his first win as the Texas head coach when the Longhorns defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 67-56, in their home opener. They were led by big man Cameron Ridley, who scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds. After shedding some pounds in the offseason, Ridley is becoming a focal point of Smart’s attack and it has become clear that he intends to keep feeding him the ball going forward. Getting the senior some high percentage looks is a priority for a team that is shooting just 34.4 percent on two-point attempts through two games.
  4. Travis Hines at the Ames Tribune took an opportunity to draw some early conclusions about Iowa State, and one of the things he noticed is just how much balance with which the Cyclones are playing through 80 minutes of game action. Iowa State so far has four players with usage rates higher than 20 percent, suggesting that they’re generously spreading the love on offense. The one starter not above that mark? Senior Georges Niang. But make no mistake, the team still knows Niang is its rock. “It’s good to have the foundation,” Naz Mitrou-Long said, “and Georges has been our guy for that for the last couple years.”
  5. Despite missing three rotation players, Oklahoma State eked out a victory over Long Beach State on Sunday to finish third in the Charleston Classic. The Cowboys led by seven points with 39 seconds remaining when Jawun Evans picked up a personal foul and Chris Olivier was hit with a technical. Long Beach State would get it to within a single point as a result, but four clutch free throws by Tyree Griffin sealed the game for the Cowboys. Interestingly enough, the two teams will turn right around and play again on Friday in Stillwater, but this time Oklahoma State figures to be closer to full strength.
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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 23rd, 2015


Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Maui Invitational: It just wouldn’t be Feast Week without the Maui Invitational, which has been around in some form since 1984. Wake Forest (#80) will be this year’s ACC representative in the Hawaii tournament, as the Demon Deacons are slated to meet Indiana (#15) in today’s first round (ESPN2 – 5:00 ET). Danny Manning‘s team has been shorthanded in its first three games — including wins over UMBC and Bucknell along with a home loss to Richmond — but there is a chance that some players will return soon. Manning announced after Wednesday’s defeat to the Spiders that Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) and Cornelius Hudson (suspension) will make the trip to Maui, but he said that he considered it doubtful that Miller-McIntyre would play this week. As usual, there are a number of highly rated teams in the Maui field — in addition to the Hoosiers, some other participants include Kansas (#5), Vanderbilt (#19) and UCLA (#47)
  2. CBE Classic: Roy Williams hopes the rest of his team’s three-game trip through the Midwest goes better than it started on Saturday. North Carolina‘s homecoming game for Marcus Paige did not work out as planned; not only did the injured star have to watch the game from the bench in street clothes, but the Tar Heels lost to a pumped up Northern Iowa team, 71-67. Look for Williams’ squad (#7) to bounce back tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30 ET) when it takes on Northwestern (#69), coached by a familiar rival — former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins. Next, the Tar Heels will take on either Kansas State (#94) or Missouri (#148) — the co-hosts of this Kansas City tournament — on Tuesday night. The championship game will be played at 10:00 ET (ESPN2).
  3. Legends Classic: Another team headed by a former Duke guard will be N.C. State’s (#56) opponent in Brooklyn tonight (ESPN3 – 9:30 ET) with Bobby Hurley in his first year at the helm at Arizona State (#68). Both teams suffered upset losses in their opening games — Mark Gottfried‘s Wolfpack to William & Mary and the Sun Devils to Sacramento State — but since then each team has won two games at home. In the other semifinal, LSU (#54) takes on Marquette (#100), a team coached by yet another former Blue Devil player and assistant coach, Steve Wojciechowski. Although the games should be fairly entertaining with several evenly matched teams, the big story of this tournament has to be the New York City debut of the nation’s #1 freshman (maybe even #1 player) in LSU’s Ben Simmons.
  4. MGM Grand Main Event: So far this year, Clemson (#40) has beaten up on three teams rated in the 200s nationally, all in nearby Greenville, the Tigers’ current home. Brad Brownell‘s squad will face a slightly stiffer challenge in playing Massachusetts (#157) in Las Vegas tonight. The other schools in this four-team tournament are Creighton (#83) and Rutgers (#210), so it’s not exactly a power-packed field. Still, if Clemson plans on getting to postseason play next March, neutral court wins over mid-level competition are a must. As usual, Clemson appear to be quite capable on the defensive end, holding opponents to 47.0 points per game and 32.4 percent field goal shooting. The question will be one of offense.
  5. Battle 4 Atlantis: In only its fifth year of existence, this event has quickly become one of the best Feast Week tournaments. In just a short period of time, the Bahamas event has become a desired destination for many of the sport’s power schools. Compared to the Maui Invitational — the longtime top draw of the week — the Battle 4 Atlantis offers a similar resort experience for fans without the long travel there and back for schools located outside the west coast. This year Syracuse (#38) joins six other top-100 teams in the Atlantis field. Jim Boeheim‘s Orange start with a break by facing the only lowly regarded team, Charlotte (#275) in Wednesday’s opening round game (ESPN2 – 2:30 ET). After that, Syracuse is guaranteed a worthy opponent on Thanksgiving Day, going up against either Connecticut (#26) or Michigan (#37). And with big dog Gonzaga (#6) sitting on the other side of the bracket, the Orange could have a great opportunity to log some huge non-conference wins on their resume.
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