76 Classic Superlatives

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

It wasn’t the sexiest bracket you’ve ever seen in a Thanksgiving weekend tournament. There were no teams ranked in the top 25 prior to this weekend and no player of the year candidates to be found anywhere. But there were some great coaches, some solid teams expected to contend for their respective conference titles, and some good basketball played at the 76 Classic in Anaheim this weekend. By way of putting a bow on this tournament, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the weekend.

Champion: St. Louis – The Billikens take home the championship without ever being seriously challenged this weekend. They posted a 60.6 effective field goal percentage over the three games, nailing 29 threes, and as a team they posted almost a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. But where the Billikens really excelled was defensively. They limited their opponents to less than seven offensive rebounds per game, forced almost 15 turnovers per game, held their opponents to under 45% shooting from the field, and did all of that while only allowing their opponents 15 free throws per game. With Brian Conklin emerging as an efficient offensive threat, Kwamain Mitchell returning to the fold as a great floor general and playmaker for the team, and a deep and talented bench capable of carrying out head coach Rick Majerus’ game plan, this is a disciplined team that can give all sorts of teams trouble this season.

Brian Conklin, Saint Louis

Brian Conklin Turned In A Career Weekend In Earning The Most Outstanding Player Award At The 76 Classic (Credit: Chris Lee, McClatchy Newspapers)

Surprise Team: Santa Clara/Oklahoma – Both the Broncos and the Sooners came away from this weekend with a 2-1 record, and both teams come away with their share of converts. When Santa Clara senior forward Marc Trasolini went down with a torn ACL in September a lot of people counted out the Broncos. That injury left the Broncos with an inexperienced frontline to pair with its prolific backcourt of junior Kevin Foster (who broke Steve Nash’s all-time record for three-pointers at Santa Clara this weekend) and sophomore Evan Roquemore, but this weekend Kerry Keating’s team proved that those guards (along with junior wing Ray Cowels) were good enough to put this team on their back. Meanwhile, not much was expected of an Oklahoma team that went 14-18 last season. With more or less the same roster returning, similar results were expected, but under new head coach Lon Kruger and with new point guard Sam Grooms taking the reins, the Sooners advanced to the championship game before getting outclassed by the Billikens. While the Sooners should not be expected to contend for a Big 12 title, Kruger definitely has this program headed in the right direction, and this team will rise up and knock off some teams this year.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

  1. Over the weekend, three different Pac-12 teams played in eight-team tournaments. Arizona State, Utah and Washington State combined to go 1-8 in the Old Spice Classic, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the 76 Classic. Thankfully ASU was able to come across another BCS conference team that was worse than they were, handing Wake Forest a 28-point beatdown, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for in the Thanksgiving tournaments this year. Other tournaments this week had mixed results, as Stanford advanced to the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and gave Syracuse just about all it could handle before succumbing in the final minutes, and USC also split its two games in Las Vegas, losing to UNLV on Friday in the semifinal, but knocking off South Carolina in the consolation game.
  2. Arizona State did get some sort of good news this weekend, however, as an update on Jahii Carson finally came through. While Carson is still not eligible to play at this point, there is at least some movement here, as Doug Haller clarified in reporting that Carson was waiting on a late ACT score to post. When that score posts, if it is high enough, Carson can begin practicing (and playing) with the team immediately. If the score is not high enough, Carson will be ineligible this season. Stay tuned.
  3. Down the road a piece in Arizona, Sean Miller is promising big changes for the Wildcats. “The same five that started against San Diego State (Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko) “will never start another game (together) at Arizona,” said Miller. Certainly Natyazhko is expected to be out of the starting lineup, although it remains to be seen whether Perry will move over to center or if freshman Angelo Chol will get a chance to start. But Mayes’ tenuous hold on the point guard position may be slipping as well, after he has struggled, handing out just three assists in his last five games. While freshman Josiah Turner has had his struggles adjusting to the new level of competition, his last few games have shown improvement and he may be ready to take over the reins. Likewise, the time could be now for Miller’s other freshman guard, Nick Johnson, who could slide in at the wing if Perry takes over in the middle. We’ll see what Miller has in mind on Tuesday night at New Mexico State.
  4. Oregon State had a fun weekend, wrapping up their week-long east coast road trip with a 20-point win over Towson in front of President Obama, among others. Devon Collier continued his strong start to his sophomore season by scoring 15 points, grabbing five offensive rebounds, handing out three assists and snagging two steals, while sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had by far his best game of the year, scoring 12 points and handing out four assists while playing under control. There were high hopes for Nelson this season, and maybe Saturday was the first sign of promising things to come.
  5. Finally, as if a 1-2 record in the Maui Invitational and a 1-4 start to the season weren’t enough for UCLA, sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Maui on Thursday and took five stitches. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer on this underwhelming season did not practice this weekend and will be reevaluated today to determine whether he will be able to play tonight when UCLA hosts Pepperdine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
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RTC Live: 76 Finals – Oklahoma vs. St. Louis

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2011

It’s the title tilt in the 76 Classic this evening as we finish off the holiday weekend with a look at one of the pleasant surprises of the new season, Rick Majerus’ Billikens. Join us for the conversation this evening, after the jump.

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RTC Live: Oklahoma vs. Santa Clara

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2011

The 76 Classic has already had some interesting results in Anaheim this weekend. If you’re looking to relax after a long Black Friday, join us for some holiday hoops with Oklahoma vs. Santa Clara at Midnight ET. Join us for the conversation, after the jump.

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76 Classic Notes From Day One

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences and a Pac-12 microsite staffer. This week he’s checking on the eight teams at the 76 Classic in Anaheim with some thoughts…

While the old tradition about Thanksgiving Day and football going together like turkey and mashed potatoes is all well and good, college hoops fans know that Thanksgiving week has fast become a smorgasbord of hoops action as well. Thursday night after some turkey and fixings with the family, I got a chance to dig into the basketball buffet a bit at the 76 Classic with a pair of intriguing games: New Mexico/Santa Clara and Oklahoma/Washington State. While I’ve had a chance to catch WSU and UNM on TV a couple of times, this was my first real good chance to get to know these teams. Here are my thoughts on what I saw Thursday night.

Drew Gordon, New Mexico

Drew Gordon Is Just One Lobo Who Has Yet To Get On Track This Year

The big question mark for New Mexico coming into the season was how they would go about replacing point guard Dairese Gary, who graduated last season. Junior Jamal Fenton had served as Gary’s understudy for a couple of years, but at 5’9”, he can be a liability on the defensive end. Well, after four games I think we can safely say that UNM has its point guard – and it’s not Fenton. Freshman Hugh Greenwood, a 6’3” native of Australia, saw the majority of the minutes at the point Thursday night (he played 33 minutes, Fenton just 16) and scored 14 points, handed out three assists and never turned the ball over. “I thought he was tremendous,” said head coach Steve Alford. “He has, like a lot of guys, some things he has to do better defensively but he competed and ran our team well.” However, as solid as Greenwood was, the Lobos still are having trouble getting Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year Drew Gordon, or even MW preseason all-conference player Kendall Williams, on track. Gordon scored 11 points and added ten rebounds on Thursday, but did so in a below-the-radar way, while Williams scored just six points and was repeatedly exposed defensively by Santa Clara’s Kevin Foster. In the Lobos two losses so far this season, Williams and Gordon area combined 2/25 from the field. ““We had some guys, very similar to the New Mexico State game, where there was just no production and we’re not good enough for that,” said Alford in a clear reference to his two stars. “We’ve got to have production from guys who are supposed to produce.”

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Turkey Hangover Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

  1. This basketball season just keeps getting better and better for the Pac-12. Thanksgiving brought three more losses in tournaments from the Bahamas to Anaheim, with Utah losing by 28 to Harvard in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona State dropping an ugly one to Fairfield in the Old Spice Classic, and Washington State capping off a brutal night with a 15-point loss in the 76 Classic to an Oklahoma team that was 14-18 last year. Not only is an 0-3 record definitely not something to be thankful for, but there wasn’t even a close game or a particularly good effort mixed in there; the tightest final margin was ASU’s 11-point loss in a relatively down-tempo game (approximately 62 possessions per team). The conference is now a combined 33-23 on the year, with a 5-9 record against teams from other BCS conferences.
  2. While Oregon fans are still holding out hope that somehow Jabari Brown winds up back in Eugene, rumors began circulating Thursday that Brown would end up at San Diego State next season. Steve Fisher has been rolling out the welcome mat for talented transfers who have struck out elsewhere, and while this would be a great get for an Aztec program that should be pretty strong next season, it looks like Duck fans can extinguish that last little flame of hope that Brown would return to Dana Altman’s program.
  3. The big game around the conference tonight is Stanford’s battle with Syracuse for the NIT Season Tip-Off title, a game we’ll discuss more later this morning. But USC kicks off an intriguing couple of days at the Las Vegas Invitational, with UNLV tonight and either North Carolina or South Carolina tomorrow night. The Trojans are just 2-3 on the season, but have lost their three games by a combined total of 11 points (including one double-overtime loss). Given that USC has shot 57.1% from the line in those three games (and just 62.9% for the season), you can see why head coach Kevin O’Neill says that free throws are killing them.
  4. Across town, UCLA is in much worse shape than the Trojans. While SC has at least been competitive every night out, and even managed to post a couple of wins, UCLA is still winless on the year against Division I competition. Worse yet, they haven’t been close – four losses by an average of almost 16 points a night. The closest they’ve come is an 11-point loss to Loyola Marymount. This UCLA roster is certainly not awash in hyper-talented individuals, but as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times points out, the lack of commitment from several important members of the team is the bigger problem.
  5. Well, there’s always football. Nevermind that there is still a scenario whereby the winner of the Pac-12 South division isn’t eligible for a bowl game – it’s still better off than the basketball side of things. And given my own struggles in simply picking winners in Pac-12 games (I was 2-4 last week), I feel like I should be made an honorary member of the conference. Anyway, games kick off tonight on the football side and if everything breaks my way this weekend (including a highly improbable UCLA win over USC – I swear I’m not yet drunk as I write this), I can still catch Connor.
Game Connor (16-8) Drew (13-11)
Colorado @ Utah Utah Utah
California @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Oregon State @ Oregon Oregon Oregon
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Arizona Arizona Washington
Washington State @ Washington Washington State Arizona
UCLA @ USC USC 28, UCLA 17 UCLA 21 USC 20
Notre Dame @ Stanford Stanford Notre Dame
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Pac-12 Early Season Tournament Round-Up/Preview

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

It’s a great time to be a college hoops fan. This week in college basketball is arguably the fifth best week in the season, you know, right behind the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament and the week of the conference championships. We’ve got a chance to see teams, often for the first time, matched up with other schools from disparate corners of the country in tournament play, with the opportunities for teams to snag resume-boosting wins in rapid-fire fashion. Sure, we’ve already got a few tournaments wrapped up, and there are even a handful that come along later, but for the most part we’re right in the wheelhouse for the early season tournaments. So, we’ll take a quick look at all the Pac-12 teams and either preview or review the early season tournaments that each team is participating in.

  • Arizona – The Wildcats got things started right off the bat with an appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. After dispatching of Valparaiso and Duquesne in the first week of the season, they rallied from behind in the semifinal against St. John’s to advance to the championship game, but folded down the stretch there, losing to Mississippi State.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils are in Orlando over the Thanksgiving weekend for the Old Spice Classic. They’ll get things started with Fairfield, expected to battle Iona for the MAAC title this year, before facing either Dayton or Wake Forest on Friday.  Texas Tech, Indiana State, Minnesota and DePaul make up the other side of what looks to be a relatively weak bracket, but given ASU’s poor start to the season, expecting them to do much damage in Orlando seems to be a pipe dream.
  • California – The Golden Bears are in the middle of the CBE Classic tournament in Kansas City this week, where they will play Missouri tonight in the championship game at 7 PM PST. They got to the final by demolishing Georgia last night 70-46, after handling George Washington and Austin Peay with ease in Berkeley last week.
Brandon Smith, California

Brandon Smith And The Cal Bears Take On Missouri In The Finals Of The CBE Classic Tonight

  • Colorado – A seventh place showing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off wasn’t what Buffalo head coach Tad Boyle had in mind, but that’s exactly what he got last weekend, after dropping the first two games of the week to Wichita State and Maryland in relatively close games before taking care of Western Michigan to avoid a winless trip to the tropics.
  • Oregon – The Ducks spend their tournament time in something called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, December 20-22 in Eugene, with games against North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin doing absolutely nothing to help their at-large chances. Read the rest of this entry »
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UCLA on the Verge of a Meltdown?

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

Less than a week into a season where UCLA was picked by the media to win the conference, Bruin fans are beginning to have flashbacks to the 2009-10 disaster of a year. That season got off to an ignominious start with a double overtime home loss to a southern California afterthought, Cal State Fullerton, and proceeded downhill quickly, with an oh-fer 76 Classic close on its heels and sophomore big man Drew Gordon having some run-ins with head coach Ben Howland that ended in his eventual transfer out of the program. The season was “highlighted” by some awful guard play and an inability to stop anyone on the defensive end, and after a 2-6 start, ended in a 14-18 record.

Joshua Smith, Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Nelson and Smith Are Causing Chemistry Issues This Season

Although this vintage of the Bruins has only played one game, they’ve already got the loss to a southern California afterthought in the books, a game in which they displayed awful guard play and an inability to stop anyone, and with yesterday’s revelation that junior forward and preseason all-conference selection Reeves Nelson has been suspended indefinitely by Howland for poor conduct in the opening days of the season, they’ve got the attitude problems too. Aside from skipping Monday’s practice, Nelson’s immature behavior also reared its ugly head in the opener against LMU, where he failed to participate in a timeout huddle on more than one occasion, yelled at teammates, and made progressively more erratic shot selections. The length of the suspension will be determined in a face-to-face meeting between Nelson and Howland soon, but there have already been whispers that Nelson is considering moving on from UCLA. And with a trip to the Maui Invitational to face a stacked tournament field around the corner (luckily, the Bruins drew host Chaminade in the opening round), the Bruins are on the verge of a complete meltdown.

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Stanford’s Jeremy Green Collapses After Victory Over DePaul

Posted by jstevrtc on November 28th, 2010

From RTC Correspondent Andrew Murawa:

Stanford guard Jeremy Green collapsed Sunday on his way from the court to the locker room following his team’s 81-74 overtime victory over DePaul at the 76 Classic in Anaheim.

Green appeared to having trouble catching his breath and lost his balance before being supported by teammates and eventually lay on the ground, where he was in obvious distress. He was attended to by Stanford medical personnel in the tunnel between the court and the locker room while the paramedics were called. Green was eventually transported to the hospital via ambulance, Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins confirms. There is no further immediate update from Stanford representatives.

Green played 39 minutes in the Cardinal game on Sunday, scoring a game high 19 points in helping the Cardinal avoid an 0-3 weekend in Anaheim. We’ll have more details on Green’s condition as events warrant.

UPDATE (6:32 PM ET): Source at Stanford says Green is in stable condition at the hospital and is expected to travel home with the team tonight. While leaving the court following the game, Green had complained of stomach pain and dizziness apparently related to exhaustion.

 

 

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RTC Live: 76 Classic Finals

Posted by rtmsf on November 28th, 2010


Games #46-#47.  It’s been a long week of feast, but we’ll wrap it up in Anaheim with the consolation game and the finals of the 76 Classic.

Coming into Feast Week, UNLV and Virginia Tech had to be the favorites to advance to the 76 Classic Championship game, and when it tips off at 6 PM PST, those are the two teams who will be fighting it out for the title. While Virginia Tech had to finish strong in their semifinal matchup with Oklahoma State to move on, UNLV has advanced through Tulsa and Murray State with solid workmanlike efforts. Both squads will rely on their strong backcourts and defensive pressure, with the matchups between the Running Rebels’ Oscar Bellfield and Tre’Von Willis and the Hokies’ Dorenzo Hudson and Malcolm Delaney definitely worth keeping an eye on, but it may be the performance of some talented and skilled front court players, namely UNLV’s Chace Stanback and Virginia Tech’s Jeff Allen, that will decide the outcome. We hope you’ll come and join us for what should be a very entertaining matchup in the championship, but you’re welcome to show up early too, as we’ll be keeping an eye on the third-place game between Oklahoma State and Murray State, with both teams hoping to avoid a second loss on the weekend, beginning around 3 PM PST.

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RTC Live: 76 Classic Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2010

Games #39-#40.  Back in Anaheim with Mickey and Friends for the semifinal round of the 76 Classic.

It’s Friday of Thanksgiving week, and while you could join the rest of the lunatics out braving crowded parking lots and jam-packed stores, you being the faithful college basketball fan,  you’re hanging out on the couch and catching up on your hoops-watching time while working your way through your turkey-day leftovers. If that’s the case, you may as well join us as we take in the 76 Classic all day long. We’ll start with the first semifinal (Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State) at 11:30 am PST and wrap up the night with Murray State and UNLV somewhere around 8:30 pm PST, but we’ll be here the whole day long breaking down the action from courtside. The Hokies coasted through their opening round game with CS Northridge, while Oklahoma State had to put in a full day of work to handle DePaul, behind 27 outstanding points from senior forward Marshall Moses. But the Cowboys figure to have their hands full with a strong Virginia Tech backcourt on Friday and will need to get more out of their starting backcourt who were a combined 2/17 from the field against DePaul. In the nightcap, Murray State’s backcourt will also have the spotlight firmly upon them as they will have to hold up under UNLV’s non-stop defensive pressure to give the Racers a chance to advance to the championship game. In between the two semis, we’ll keep in touch regarding the consolation games, so we’ll hope you’ll join us for a long and exciting day of basketball out west.

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RTC Live: 76 Classic Qtrs – UNLV vs. Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2010

Game #36.  RTC Live moves on to Anaheim for the 76 Classic, site of the first-ever credential that the site received a long two years ago.

You’ve had your turkey, you’ve done the family thing, you’ve given your thanks. Now settle back and join us for the final opening round game of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, a battle between UNLV and Tulsa for a chance to advance to the semis on Friday. The Rebels already have a big win under the belt this season, having knocked off Wisconsin in Las Vegas last weekend, and with senior guard Tre’Von Willis returning from suspension and with juniors Oscar Bellfield and Chace Stanback already on top of their games in Willis’ absence, Lon Kruger’s club has got to be considered a favorite to advance at least to the championship game of the tournament. In their way stands Tulsa, off a couple sneaky good wins over Oral Roberts and Missouri State. With skilled big man Steven Idlet and senior scoring guard Justin Hurtt leading the way, the Golden Hurricane pose a serious challenge for the favored Rebels. We hope you’ll fight through the post-feast daze to hang out and talk about a good early season matchup we all can be thankful for.

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