CBE Hall Of Fame Classic: Reactions From Night Two

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. He’s in Kansas City this week for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BSGoodman or the RTC Big 12 Twitter account @b12hoops.

The CBE Hall Of Fame Classic wrapped in Kansas City on Tuesday night, with North Carolina overcoming a hot night from Kansas State to take the title by a score of 80-70. In the consolation round, Northwestern withstood a second half Missouri run to topple the Tigers 67-62.

  • North Carolina’s late run deflates Kansas State. The Tar Heels and Wildcats traded jabs for most of the night, with Kansas State pulling ahead for a prolonged stretch in the second half. In the closing minutes, however, North Carolina reeled off a 21-3 run to put Bruce Weber’s team away. It was a collective effort down the stretch for North Carolina, but one specific play turned the tide in the Tar Heels’ favor. Coming out of a media timeout with a touch under four minutes left, Roy Williams drew up a baseline out-of-bounds designed play for Joel Berry, who found himself open thanks to a pair of screens to bury a three-pointer off a pass from Brice Johnson. The Tar Heels were soft on offense for the better part of 35 minutes, allowing Kansas State to keep up on the glass and get some steals, but they tightened their game up when it mattered most and showed some toughness to close things out.
Down the stretch, Kennedy Meeks and UNC had just enough to hold off hometown Kansas State. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Down the stretch, Kennedy Meeks and UNC had just enough to hold off hometown Kansas State. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Kamau Stokes puts on a show as the young Wildcats put a scare into UNC. We talked yesterday about Dean Wade‘s great effort on the blocks on Monday, but it was a different Kansas State newcomer who grabbed the attention of everyone in the Sprint Center last night. Stokes came into Tuesday’s final shooting a paltry 3-of-14 from distance on the season, but caught fire against North Carolina with a 6-of-8 effort from distance. With each passing bucket, Stokes grew more confident, firing up the crowd and his teammates. Stokes’ hot stretch even drew a double-team from the Tar Heels at one point. His night was made even more unexpected by the fact that he required an extra year at prep school just to get a Division-I scholarship offer. It’s just unfortunate that the rest of the Wildcats shot just 36 percent from the floor and couldn’t buy a stop late in the game. Tonight served as a reminder that even though Bruce Weber has a young team full of guys that want to play for him, it’s still going to be a process. Stokes will continue to get opportunities as Weber figures out his rotation, but while we wouldn’t expect him to be this hot regularly, even decent three-point shooting would be a big lift to Kansas State as it retools.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Feast Week Previews: Atlantis, Advocare, Wooden

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 25th, 2015

Three more Feast Week events begin play on Wednesday or Thursday. As we did with Feast Week events already underway — like Puerto Rico and Charleston, as well as Maui, Legends, CBE and Cancun — let’s take a look at each tournament’s favorite, dark horse, team(s) with the most on the line, and a key storyline and player to watch.

Battle 4 Atlantis

Kyle Wiltjer Leads Gonzaga to the Bahamas (USA Today)

Kyle Wiltjer Leads Gonzaga To The Bahamas (USA Today)

  • Favorite: Gonzaga. This is not a vintage Atlantis field like those of 2012 or last year. The Zags are barely inside the top 10 and completely untested through two games, but the only other team in the field who made the NCAA tournament last year was Texas, who is starting over with Shaka Smart and already lost a game in Shanghai to the Zags’ quarterfinal opponent, Washington. Gonzaga has easily proven the most of any of the eight teams in Atlantis and deserve to be considered the favorite.
  • Darkhorse: UConn. The Huskies are a dark horse in a tournament? That arrangement has worked out well once or twice. Last year, UConn only scored 70 or more points seven times the entire season. This year, the Huskies feature a more balanced roster with transfers Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall) and Shonn Miller (Cornell) joining highly regarded freshman Jalen Adams and former Ryan Boatright sidekicks Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis. So far, this new cast of players has scored more effectively than last year’s team, producing 80 points or more in each of their three wins, including a 100 spot against Maine in the season opener.
  • Most on the line: Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M. The Orange have struggled to score at times this season but draw a young, depleted Charlotte squad in the quarterfinals; a win in that game likely earns them two chances at resume-building wins. The Lone Star State showdown is a quarterfinal matchup featuring teams who were near but on opposite sides of the cut-line for the field of 68 last year. Smart won’t endear himself to locals and those ever-important Texas boosters if the Longhorns drop an early decision to hated rival A&M.
  • Storyline: Who is this year’s 2011 Harvard/2013 Villanova? That upstart Crimson team shocked everyone in winning the initial Battle 4 Atlantis, launching a 26-5 season and the first of five straight Tournament appearances. The Wildcats stunned second ranked Kansas in the 2013 semifinals before knocking off another ranked team in Iowa in the final, propelling the Cats to a 29-5 campaign. Could the Orange or Huskies use the next few days to make a similar journey onto the national radar? Can Shaka conjure up his old tournament tricks to kickstart his Texas tenure?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Reactions From Night One

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2015

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for Rush The Court. He’s in Kansas City this week for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. You can follow Brian on Twitter @BSGoodman or the RTC Big 12 Twitter account @Big12Hoops.

The CBE Hall Of Fame Classic tipped off in Kansas City on Monday night, with Kansas State walloping Missouri in the opener and North Carolina taking care of Northwestern in the nightcap. Here are the most important takeaways from each team’s performance last evening.

Bruce Weber's crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Bruce Weber’s crew had a good night in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Dean Wade steps up inside for Kansas State. Post production on both ends of the court was a massive struggle for Kansas State a year ago, but it’s been a different story this year thanks to Bruce Weber‘s most important newcomer. Wade overwhelmed Missouri’s undersized lineup all night long, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds to register his first career double-double. The 6’10 freshman doesn’t yet have a ton of polish around the rim, but he showed impressive range all the way out to the three-point line and made all six of his free throws. Weber was very pleased with his big man’s play on Monday, telling media after the game that his rookie “responded against probably bigger, more athletic guys than we had played in the previous games.” Wade faces his biggest test of his young career today (7:00 PM PT, ESPN2) when he’ll go up against North Carolina’s formidable back line of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson.
  • Missouri has an all-around rough night. After last weekend’s gritty loss to Xavier, Missouri was only able to keep up with Kansas State for the first 10 minutes of the game. From that point, the Wildcats clamped down defensively and the wheels just fell off for the Tigers. Kim Anderson’s team was aggressive and played hard, particularly on one occasion where freshman Terrence Phillips leaped out of bounds to save a loose ball, but its execution otherwise couldn’t have been much worse. Missouri’s lack of size made things easy for Kansas State on the interior, and an ice-cold 4-of-18 night from three-point range did little to reduce the gap. This is an important year for the second-year head coach, who is not only working for an athletic director who didn’t hire him, but is also surrounded by SEC coaches who are far more accomplished. Monday night’s game was an opportunity to build on a solid effort against Xavier but the Tigers fell hard instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Feast Week Previews: Maui, Legends, CBE & Cancun Tourneys

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015

There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.

Maui Invitational

Despite some early season struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

  • Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Diallo or Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
  • Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker  you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Le Petit General: Larry Cordaro Leads NAIA School Past Two D-I Teams

Posted by Kenny Ocker on November 20th, 2015

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist.

Former Southeastern Louisiana assistant coach Larry Cordaro was given a unique opportunity: Build your own college basketball program, from scratch, in your home state. In his first season anywhere as a head coach in 2014-15, he took the debutant LSU-Alexandria Generals to a 23-4 NAIA record, including Red River Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles. This year, Cordaro’s team has won five of its first six games, including road wins at NCAA Division I schools Southeastern Louisiana, 82-68, and at Northwestern State, 99-97.

We took the time to talk with Cordaro this week about what it was like to beat his former school, the process of building a basketball program from scratch, and how life is different in the NAIA. This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity. Unlike the 5’5″ Cordaro, it is not particularly short.

Started from scratch, Larry Cordaro has quite a nice program down south. (Red River Conference)

Started from scratch, Larry Cordaro has quite a nice program down south. (Red River Conference)

Your page on the school website talks about how you want to build recognition for your fledgling program – what better way to do that than two wins over in-state Division I opponents?

Two Southland teams, we were able to go on the road and compete against and were fortunate to come out on top. It was our night both of those nights and hopefully the college basketball fans and people that keep up are recognizing what we’ve done, because our players put in a lot of time and they deserve the recognition.

When you go into these games against Division I opponents, what are you telling your players?

Just to play hard, to play together. We don’t get these opportunities too often. A lot of NAIA schools don’t get Division I schools to schedule them, but because of some relationships here in the state of Louisiana, we’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to fundraise for our program and just to really battle test our team. We feel like if we can play with Southland teams, Division I, then for sure we can hopefully compete and win a conference championship in the Red River. Last year, we were 0-5 versus the five Division I schools, and came close in three of them. Those games prepared us for the season moving forward. It’s just like the lower Division I schools going and playing against the high-majors – it prepares them that way for when they get in their leagues. You want to play better competition whenever you can. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Evaluating the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon: 29 Takeaways From 29 Hours of Action

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 18th, 2015

My name is Andy Gripshover (@apgripsh) and I watched the entire ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. All 29 hours of it, from start to finish. Here are 29 takeaways from the proceedings.

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

  1. I actually like the Oregon court. I really do. It’s unique; it’s fitting for the area; and everyone wastes too much time hating on the brightness in the middle when it’s actually a perfect contrast to the shade of brown used inside a three-point arc that doesn’t get NEARLY enough love. But that court plus the Ducks’ all-neon yellows PLUS Baylor’s forest greens with the neon green lettering? Yeah, that was a little much. Or perhaps a secretly evil way of starting off the Marathon.
  2. As for the game itself, Baylor was flat most of the way, trailing by double figures for the first 10 minutes of the second half before making a push late. Oregon put four starters in double figures plus Dwayne Benjamin doing his thing off the bench, and Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook thoroughly outplayed Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince.
  3. Now the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State is a court that I think we can ALL agree is beautiful. Very light and easy on the eyes, and those palm trees….
  4. The offenses in that game between the Beach and BYU were anything but beautiful, though. The Cougars were 26-of-62 from the field, including 5-of-21 from three and an utterly ghastly 8-of-21 from the free throw line. Was that bad? Because Long Beach was worse: 22-of-71 (!!!) from the floor, including 7-of-24 from three. The 49ers had a 22-2 run midway through the first half and held on for dear life in the second to knock off an NCAA Tournament team before heading to Charleston this weekend.
  5. As for the Cougars, Kyle Collinsworth looked at less than 100 percent in going 4-of-9 from the field…. and also 4-of-9 from the foul line. Chase Fischer took five threes and made none of them. It was a nightmarish offensive performance for BYU, and yet, the Cougars almost stole a win at the end anyway.
  6. There’s a certain feeling you get when you see the Stan Sheriff Center court at Hawaii for the first time and realize you’ve made it that far in the Marathon.
  7. Nevada made its first 17 free throws before missing and losing on a Roderick Bobbitt layup with 1.4 to go on the island despite an inspired 34 (!) for Marqueze Coleman. Quality Hawaii game. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Giving Thanks in College Basketball

Posted by Henry Bushnell on November 27th, 2014

It’s Turkey Day! For many, that’s just an excuse to gather with family, eat good food and watch football. But it’s also a time to give thanks. So what are we thankful for in college basketball?


Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

The short answer is “a lot.” But here are some specifics:

  • Variety – Why do we love college basketball? Rush the Court counted down the ways in the buildup to the 2014-15 season. But if there’s one word that’s not ‘excitement’ or ‘passion,’ it might be variety. Those 30 reasons conveyed that. Every team has its own identity. There are so many different offensive systems, so many unorthodox players, so many different coaching philosophies, so many distinct home court advantages… I could go on and on. But the point is, you can go to any game between any two of 351 teams, and the experience will be unique. And for that we are thankful.
  • The unexpected – In the NBA, despite it being a mere month into the season, you can all but rule out 20-25 teams from legitimately competing for a championship. You know who is going to be there in the end. On the other hand, the college game is defined by the unexpected. We are thankful for every single upset, whether it’s the Davidson-like NCAA tournament run, the double-digit seed winning its conference tournament, or even just the Eastern Washingtons beating the Indianas.
  • Legendary coaches – Naturally, there is a lot of year-to-year turnover in college basketball. But it’s the everlasting coaches that provide some necessary consistency. Guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo give you a single entity to which to attach yourself as a fan. And for them we are thankful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Syracuse-Georgetown Possible Nonconference Rivalry Provides Hope For Others

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 13th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Conference realignment is destructive and all-powerful. It is not all-conquering. The most recent frenzy of shifting league alliances, fueled by a nauseating blend of football, greedy athletic department officials and lavish broadcast rights deals, prompted all kinds of doomsday scenarios for college basketball. At one point, as the Big 12 inched closer and closer to a landscape-altering implosion, it looked as if Kansas, one of the true bluebloods of the sport, would be left without a conference to play hoops in. We actually reached the point where Kansas joining the Mountain West was a real, imminent thing. You know what happened next. The Big 12 survived, and the Jayhawks continued to win conference championships without blinking. The Border War – Missouri and Kansas’ long-standing rivalry, which dates back to a bitter slavery-motivated Civil War-era feud – was lost with Missouri’s move to the SEC, and a host of defections from the old Big East led to the creation of a new hoops-only Big East and a super-charged ACC. But in hindsight, the movement was less injurious for college hoops than most predicted early on.

The extension of the SU-GU rivalry should motivate others to remake similar games into annual nonconference fixtures (AP Photo).

The extension of the SU-GU rivalry should motivate others to remake similar games into annual nonconference fixtures (AP Photo).

The biggest casualty? Rivalries. I mentioned the Border war, but the GeorgetownSyracuse hatefest – which reached peak intensity in 1980 when John Thompson II ended the Orange’s 57-game winning streak at the old Manley Fieldhouse, Syracuse’s home before the Carrier Dome – was also cast aside by conference switches. The Hoyas and Orange had played their last game as co-members of the Big East last season – including a thrilling, emotional overtime match-up in the Big East Tournament semifinals – and unless the two schools came together and decided to rekindle the rivalry outside of league play, college basketball would lose another of its great annual hate-filled match-ups. Syracuse and Georgetown were parting ways, but was there a legitimate reason they couldn’t they toss scheduling logistics and lopsided recruiting benefits (the Orange playing in talent-rich Washington D.C. is eons more valuable than the Hoyas traveling up to the great rural countryside of Syracuse, NY) aside, and agree to some sort of home-and-home arrangement? Was there really no hope? Syracuse had already schedule out-of-conference series with former Big East rivals Syracuse and Villanova, after all. Setting something up with Georgetown seemed like the logical next move.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

At Michigan State, Tom Izzo’s Words Are Not to be Ignored

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 9th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

If there was any debate about who is the most influential sports figure on Michigan State’s campus, a funny exchange before Saturday’s Spartans home football game against South Florida effectively ended it. One week after some Michigan State students refused to leave the student section when inclement weather prompted an evacuation from Spartan Stadium bleachers, athletic director Mark Hollis – known to college hoops fans more for his innovative non-conference scheduling endeavors than anything else – used a different method to urge fans to depart the bleachers when thunderstorms approached the area. He summoned basketball coach Tom Izzo, a man no Spartans fan (or even college basketball fan) could possibly ignore (or even slightly resent), to hasten students’ exodus from Spartan Stadium. Only there was a trade-off: in exchange for leaving their seats, Izzo vowed to return to the student section when the game began. Mlive.com beat writer Diamond Leung captured this little back-and-forth, and Izzo, per usual, offered a few candidly humorous quips:

“I’m going to ask you for respect for of our university, myself and you guys,” Izzo told the crowd. “If you can just walk out and abide by it, I promise I’m going to come back and sit right in the middle of you when this game starts, all right?

“I’m going to watch you guys. Please do this for you, for me, for the university, as we show ourselves across the nation as the university that can get it done right. 

“I’m going to be right in the middle of you! Come on guys! I love you! I love you! Thank you so much for doing this! And you adults over there, all you adults, same thing! You adults, you better get out of here! It’s coming right over here! It’s coming, and it’s coming fast. Thank you so much. You’re the greatest fans in America, and I love you!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ohio State and LeBron James Sort of Like One Another

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 4th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Back when he was Cleveland’s homegrown basketball superstar, leading the Cavaliers to 60-win seasons and stoking hopes of a cathartic end to the city’s tortuously long championship drought, arguably no professional basketball player identified with his home state more conspicuously than LeBron James. LeBron wasn’t just the Cavaliers best player – he was a prodigiously gifted Ohio-born talent, a player no Cleveland fan could possibly dislike, whose selection as the No. 1 pick to Cleveland in the 2003 draft felt equal parts suspicious and fortuitous. Then, the relationship between state and player was severed on contentious and disdainful terms; James, an unrestricted free agent following the 2009-10 NBA season, went on national television and spurned his hometown team in favor of joining the Miami Heat, where he would go on to win two (and counting) NBA Championships. The antipathy seems to have receded with the perspective of time – people aren’t burning LeBron jerseys in parking lots anymore, for starters — and reasoned fans (there are outlandish exceptions, to be sure) have seemed to come to grips with the basketball-related motivations for James’ decision. There is even speculation LeBron would return to Cleveland if he decides to leave the Heat in free agency next summer. His ties with Cleveland, and the greater Ohio basketball scene, were never completely broken, in other words. James always had a soft spot for Buckeye State hoops. Which leads us to Tuesday, when Ohio State – the state’s premier Division I college hoops program – treated a score of media to a tour of the Buckeyes’ freshly renovated practice facility, where a soon-to-go-viral LeBron-related surprise was lurking amid the locker room nameplates:

Another symbol of LeBron's OSU love, placed prominently in the team locker room, isn't a bad way to boost coach That Matta's recruiting efforts (Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Another symbol of LeBron’s OSU love, placed prominently in the team locker room, isn’t a bad way to boost coach That Matta’s recruiting efforts (Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Just one more little recruiting flourish for a program already pulling in top Midwest talent on an annual basis? That’s the most obvious explanation. But the nameplate represents something larger than mere prep prospect eye candy. LeBron and Ohio State basketball have forged an interesting relationship over the years, a link that runs deeper than sheer geographical commonality. In 2007, when Nike created a James-Branded apparel line, Ohio State became the first program to swap Nike logos for the King’s unique emblem. James has openly discussed his Buckeyes fandom, and repeatedly said he would have chosen to play basketball at OSU, were the NBA’s 19-year-old age limit – which forces otherwise pro-ready high school players to play somewhere other than the NBA (re: college, but for a few exceptions) for one year after high school – imposed three years earlier. The bitter taste James left in plenty of Cavaliers fans’ (and, given the location and lack of local professional alternatives, probably a few Buckeyes fans’) mouths when he “took his talents to South Beach” did not ruin his relationship with Cleveland, much less OSU, and so he continues to share a special relationship with the program. From attending Buckeyes home games, to receiving an honorary No. 23 Buckeyes jersey, to earning the praise of football coach Urban Meyer – LeBron has made no secret of his affinity for all things OSU, and the program has reciprocated his attention and support not only with public praise and courtside seats, but also by serving as a court-stomping billboard for his trademark footwear, including this season, when the Buckeyes plan to sport this collection of flashy kicks for games. When the best basketball player in the world has cast his lot with your basketball program, a relationship encompassing everything from public endorsements to live appearances to custom gear, slapping his name above a locker and discussing his ability to help your team on the court this season faux-hypothetically is a small price to pay for his continued support.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story