O26 Buzz: This Week’s Storylines

Posted by Nicholas Patrick on January 3rd, 2014

Every Friday throughout the rest of the season, the Other 26 Microsite will dig into some of the top storylines featuring those leagues from the previous week.

1. Eye-Opening O26 Results from the Past Week

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

Kyle Collingsworth and his fellow BYU Cougars need to get back on track after opening WCC play with consecutive losses

  • Saturday: UNC Greensboro 55, Virginia Tech 52: The Spartans’ complete list of victories against D-I opponents now includes High Point, Stetson, James Madison, oh, and a member of the ACC.
  • Saturday: Massachusetts 69, Providence 67 (OT): Derrick Gordon’s game-winner gave the Minutemen their fifth victory against power conference opponents.
  • Monday: Southern 116, Champion Baptist College 12: This game was already unsettling by the time CBC scored its first point (at that time, Southern had already put up 44 points).
  • Monday: Louisiana Tech 102, Oklahoma 98 (OT): Alex Hamilton scored 36 to lead the Bulldogs to their first win against a power conference opponent.
  • Monday: Pepperdine 80, BYU 74: The Cougars trailed from the opening minutes and finished a disheartening week that also included a loss to Loyola Marymount to open WCC play.
  • Tuesday: North Texas 61, Texas A&M 41: The Mean Green took charge midway through the first half and never looked back on their way to crushing the Aggies.
  • Thursday: Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 51: If this blowout win over their primary WCC rival is any indication, the Zags may not have a true challenger for the conference crown.

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The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013′s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

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Checking In On… the West Coast Conference

Posted by Michael Vernetti on December 24th, 2013

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Looking Back

College teams use their pre-conference slates in a variety of ways, but debate usually centers on two approaches: build RPI and team character by challenging strong teams, sometimes on the road; or marshal team resources by playing a home-centric schedule with a modicum of challenging opponents. No conference exemplifies this split more than the WCC in 2013-14.

Dave Rose and BYU bullied their way through a tough non-conference slate. (BYU Athletics)

Dave Rose and BYU bullied their way through a tough non-conference slate. (BYU Athletics)

BYU, donning Gonzaga’s suddenly-unused traveling clothes, has compiled the boldest preseason schedule by far, traveling to Stanford (112-103 win), Kansas City for a tournament (86-82 win over Texas, 75-62 loss to Wichita State), Utah State (85-74 win), UMass (105-96 loss), Utah (81-64 loss) and Oregon (100-96 loss). Straddling a home game against ranked Iowa State (90-88 loss), the Cougars have played seven games outside Provo, three of those against ranked teams. Other than a penchant for travel, however, BYU’s boldness hasn’t revealed much about what kind of team it will be in the WCC, much less the postseason, if there is one. For one thing, BYU lost four of those tough games and gave up a bucket-load of points (88.6 PPG), with three opponents topping 100. One could say the Cougars are battle-hardened but still unproven.

The polar opposite of BYU’s approach was taken by Saint Mary’s, which rattled off seven straight home wins, some over quality opponents (North Dakota State, Akron, Louisiana Tech) before venturing to Boise and conquering Boise State 82-74. Those who argue that only the road forges steel were given support by the Gaels’ 78-71 collapse against Frank Martin’s rebuilding South Carolina Gamecocks followed by a loss to Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic. The Gaels will play George Mason on Christmas morning in the ignominious seventh-place game. From an at-large resume perspective, Saint Mary’s will need to leave the islands with at least one victory.

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Previewing a Sneaky Good Saturday of Basketball on Tap

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 21st, 2013

This Saturday’s schedule may not shimmer like last week’s did – the face-off between Oklahoma State and Colorado stands as the only game featuring two ranked teams – but dig a little bit and you may like what you find. Or better yet, let us do the digging: Here are four storylines to keep an eye on during this sneaky-good Saturday of college hoops.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Two Storied Programs Meet In Rare Clash

Kansas and Georgetown may have both inhabited the upper reaches of college basketball’s hierarchy for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean the two programs know each other especially well. Saturday’s meeting at Phog Allen Fieldhouse (12 PM EST, ESPN) will be just the third time the two schools have faced off, although the latest Hoya-Jayhawk matchup was quite recent, coming just two seasons ago at the Maui Invitational. Needless to say, the cast of characters (on both sides) has seen a massive overhaul since that game. While this one is worth watching for the pure novelty of the Hoyas’ maiden voyage to Allen Fieldhouse, there’s more at stake here than just a new twist on history. Kansas seeks to maintain the momentum gained in last weekend’s win over New Mexico, while the Hoyas, firmly off the national radar for the past month, find themselves with a nice opportunity to quell some doubts after a shaky first month. Rock Chalk meets Hoya Saxa – quite a way to kick off the weekend.

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The Best In The West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West Of The Rockies

Posted by AMurawa on December 16th, 2013

Roughly a quarter of the way through the year, we’re going to unveil something a little new here, something we’ll check back in on once a month or so. We’re going to take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast, and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and Western Athletic Conferences) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools 1 though 20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers, in part because calling Arizona #1 and then naming another school #2 just seems wrong, because the Wildcats are just so far ahead of everyone else. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on the teams in our list.

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – The Wildcats are in a class by themselves out West. Even when putting together my national top 25, I wanted to put Arizona at #1, leave spots 2-5 empty, and then have a four-way tie at #6. What they’ve accomplished thus far is unassailable, especially considering how young this team is. Expect somebody (maybe multiple somebodies) in the Pac-12 to put up a serious challenge, but at this point in the season, Sean Miller’s squad is not only the best in the West, but they’re the best by a long shot.

Contenders to the Throne – And all top 25 teams.

Oregon (#2 overall, Pac-12 #2) – The Ducks are the team closest to joining the Wildcats up top, but while they’ve got an undefeated record and some quality scalps, they’re missing the quality of wins that the Wildcats have. But, as good as Dana Altman’s squad has been, they’re not even at full strength yet – Dominic Artis and Ben Carter are due back this week.

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After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

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Who Won the Week? Duke, Marcus Smart, and NJIT…

Posted by rtmsf on November 22nd, 2013

wonweek

 

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. And man, will those be tested this winter. 

WINNER: Duke

Parker Has Been Outstanding So Far This Season

Parker Has Been Outstanding So Far This Season

The Blue Devils went 3-0 in the past week – star freshman Jabari Parker had 21 points in each of the games, with 10 rebounds in two of them and nine in the other – vanquishing Florida Atlantic, UNC-Asheville and East Carolina to move to 4-1 on the season and to qualify for the New York portion of the NIT Season Tip-Off, where Arizona may await. But what Duke did off the court might be even more impressive, reeling in three five-star recruits: package deal Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones last Friday, followed by Justise Winslow on Thursday. Okafor, the nation’s top player according to Rivals, and Jones, the nation’s second-rated point guard, had agreed to play together in college despite growing up in different states; the pair has the potential to one-and-done their way to a national championship, especially with some strong supporting pieces around them. As a lanky wing defender capable of driving hard to the basket, Winslow and his talents fit right in with what Okafor and Winslow will bring to campus. Now, to get Parker to pull a Marcus Smart and come back to school…

(Related winners: Parker. Related losers: The rest of the ACC.)

LOSER: The rest of the ACC

Speak of the devil. (No, not the Devils. We already did that.) The conference gacked away a series of winnable games over the last week, which can’t help the status of a league hyped to be the best this season (if not all-time). North Carolina, missing Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, was felled by a last-minute three-pointer from Belmont’s J.J. Mann, at home on Sunday. Notre Dame led for only a few minutes in an 83-70 home loss Sunday to Indiana State, shooting 37 percent in the process. Maryland lost 90-83 at home to a beleaguered Oregon State squad, surrendering 60 points combined for the Beavers’ Roberto Nelson and Devon Collier, and 60 percent shooting, too. Georgia Tech turned the ball over 19 times and allowed two 20-point scorers for Dayton, which won 82-72 in Atlanta on Wednesday. North Carolina State lost only the sixth game the ACC has ever lost to the MEAC at home Wednesday, falling 82-72 to LeVelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad. Boston College fell Thursday to UConn 72-70 at Madison Square Garden, which is at least defensible, save for the fact that the Eagles got to New York despite losing at home to Toledo last week. (Hooray, predetermined tournament finals!) This one might come back to bite ACC squads in the butt come Selection Sunday, but until then… let’s just call this a forgettable week for the conference and move on.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by Michael Vernetti on November 21st, 2013

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Not only has the WCC posted an impressive .811 winning percentage (30-7) through games of November 20, but also some of its members have shown the capacity to turn the conference race into an interesting exercise. Before losing a gritty 90-88 home game to #21 Iowa State on Wednesday, BYU looked particularly strong. The Cougars have been revitalized by the return of Kyle Collinsworth after a two-year mission and the emergence of 6’9″ freshman Erik Mica as a force in the paint that will make it easier to forget Brandon Davies. Those two, combined with sizzling early-season play by Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino, have helped BYU score at a 90-plus PPG clip and sweep of Weber State, Stanford (on the road) and a couple of cupcakes. The loss to rugged Iowa State from the top-ranked (in the early going) Big 12 Conference served as a reality check for the Cougars, and they will get another test against Texas on Monday in Kansas City, but Dave Rose appears to have the fast-moving, high-scoring team he is known for.
As usual, Dave Rose and BYU are off to a fast start. (AP)

As usual, Dave Rose and BYU are off to a fast start. (AP)

  • Saint Mary’s has done a lot to dispel those “What will we do without Matthew Dellavedova?” worries by posting a 4-0 record against strong competition. By cruising past Louisiana Tech, Akron and North Dakota State – all projected to be conference winners and go to the NCAA Tournament – the Gaels have done more than any other WCC team to boost the conference’s standing. Saint Mary’s slowed a little against Drake, not considered a force in the Missouri Valley Conference, but that 67-63 win might have been the residue of playing four games in the season’s first eight days. The Gaels’ early-season efforts put them at number three nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index (admittedly a small sample of games played), but, more importantly at 19th nationally in strength of schedule. The next closest WCC competitor is Pacific’s SOS at 65th nationally and Gonzaga’s one spot behind. Brad Waldow has been a beast in the paint for Saint Mary’s, posting two double-doubles and averaging 19.3 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Veteran guard Stephen Holt has proved Delly-like in his ability to find Waldow in good position to score, has posted a nearly three-to-one assist to turnover ratio (22 assists, eight turnovers) and is scoring at 12.3 PPG.

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Fred Hoiberg’s Unique Formula Continues to Add Up To Wins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 21st, 2013

On Wednesday night, the Iowa State Cyclones went into the Marriott Center and scored one of the better victories of this young season, beating an explosive (and previously undefeated) BYU team, 90-88. A check of the box score would reveal few surprises on the Cyclone side; Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane dropped in 21 points apiece to pace Fred Hoiberg’s squad, and fellow starters Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Matt Thomas all pitched in at least four field goals of their own. What that box score doesn’t reveal is that Iowa State was forced to play crunch-time possessions without Kane (ejected for a flagrant foul), Ejim (fouled out with two minutes left), and Hogue (fouled out minutes before Ejim); or that it sparingly used Daniel Edozie, who came up with the biggest play of Iowa State’s win — a blocked shot and subsequent recovery on a Tyler Haws jump shot in the final seconds. They were far from perfect down the stretch — especially at the free throw line — but the Cyclones showed off a necessary resourcefulness in claiming a statement victory in Provo. As unlikely and unusual as that game-ending lineup was for Iowa State, the challenge at hand must not have felt that foreign for their coach. Piecing together new casts has become commonplace for the Mayor; no two rosters in the Hoiberg era have born any sort of close resemblance, but the former Cyclone star has found a way to remold each and every new-look squad into a winner. Suffice it to say, after only four games, he appears to have done it again this year.

Fred Hoiberg's Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn't Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Fred Hoiberg’s Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn’t Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Hoiberg has lost at least three starters in each of his three offseasons in Ames, including last summer. The departures of seniors Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, and Tyrus McGee meant Iowa State would be returning just two contributors from a year ago – Ejim And Niang. An exodus of that size, particularly without the arrival of a star-studded freshman class, would typically mean a rebuild is in order. Not in Ames. There’s a “transfers welcome” sign hanging from Hilton Arena these days, with the former Marshall guard Kane the latest talent to undertake Hoiberg’s relocation program. More newcomers join him in this season’s Cyclone rotation. JuCo transfers Hogue and Edozie both had a hand in last night’s win, while two promising freshmen, Thomas and Monte Morris – top 100 recruits both – round out the cast of new faces for the 4-0 Cyclones.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week One

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 19th, 2013

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the first full week of Pac-12 basketball.

Roberto Nelson, Oregon State

Roberto Nelson Poured In 31 Points In Oregon State’s Upset Win At Maryland (credit: Andy Cripe)

Best Game – Oregon State @ Maryland: Arizona-San Diego State would be a fine pick here as well, but the Wildcats held a comfortable lead for nearly 35 minutes in that one. In College Park, things were exiting and intense from the outset. The whole atmosphere, bolstered by an appearance from the President of the United States, made this feel like something much more than a mid-November game. And on a day when Indiana State won at Notre Dame and Belmont upset North Carolina, it was the Beavers’ turn to pull the shocker. The knocks on Craig Robinson‘s team remain; it is largely a two-man offense without a great rebounder, but it has a solid distributor in Challe Barton and two capable three-point shooters in Angus Brandt and Olaf Schaftenaar. Who knows where the unpredictable Beavers go from here, but the Maryland win provides a boost of momentum that the program desperately needed.

Upsets – There were three upsets in the conference this week, starting late last Monday night when BYU walked into Maples Pavilion and hung 112 points on Stanford. Junior Chasson Randle scored 33 points for the Cardinal, but it was nowhere near enough after a horrific showing on the defensive end of the court. Three days later, UC Irvine destroyed Washington on its home court, taking a 38-36 halftime lead and turning it into a 14-point win. And of course, the Beavers topped Maryland to close out the week. Oregon State went on an 8-0 run to start the second half and never trailed in the final 20 minutes, winning by a final of 90-83.

Power Rankings (As voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler):

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Okafor, Jones, Alexander and Johnson Commit in Decision Day 2013…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 15th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. The Decision Is In: Okafor and Jones Are Off to Duke

The Package Deal is Done: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are headed to Duke next fall.

In the Champions Classic, Kansas got the better of Duke; today the Blue Devils are back on top. The package deal announcement came in this afternoon as five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star point guard Tyus Jones committed to Duke over Kansas and Baylor this afternoon on ESPNU. The decision bumps Duke up to the No.1 spot in the recruiting rankings and automatically turns the Blue Devils into a title contender next season. The two have long discussed playing together and formed a strong bond through their time as Team USA friends as well as through AAU and camp travel. Okafor is the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 and laid claim to the top spot this past winter when he took over the title from Jones, who is now ranked as the No.4 player overall. Okafor stands at 6’10” and will provide a strong post presence for the Blue Devils, which they are currently lacking. With his size and touch he is almost unguardable in the post and will create a need for constant double teams. Jones stands 6’1” and has been touted as the best true point guard in the land for a few years now. He is a wizard with the ball and has range from the NBA three point line. Every team wants a strong point guard and post presence and Duke just landed both, so in turn they will once again be in contention for a national title in 2014-15. This marks the second year in a row that Coach K has signed the top player from Chicago, with last year’s recruit current freshman sensation Jabari Parker.

2. Big Cliff Off to Kansas

While Kansas lost out on Okafor and Jones, it did land five-star center Cliff Alexander, who played his cards close to the vest throughout the recruitment process and chose the Jayhawks over in-state school, Illinois. The Chicago native is currently ranked as the No. 3 center in the class of 2014 and No. 5 player overall. Other schools in the mix were DePaul and Memphis but the decision ultimately came down to Kansas and Illinois. John Groce was pitching Alexander on being the hometown hero that stayed in the Land of Lincoln, but the lure of playing for the Jayhawks was just too much. Alexander has ties to Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who had recruited Alexander as part of Bruce Weber’s staff for a while. His girlfriend is also a freshman at Kansas and on the women’s basketball team. At Kansas, Alexander will be able to operate in the high-low offense that Self runs and with his ever-expanding offensive game he will be able to score down low on power moves and also show off his improved outside shot. Alexander will join five-star small forward Kelly Oubre (#6 overall, #1 SF) in the class of 2014 in Lawrence. Over the past few years, Alexander has lived in Okafor’s shadow despite playing the Duke recruit to a draw the past two years. While Okafor decided to head to the east coast, Alexander will make a name for himself in Lawrence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 13th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Did everyone survive the tipoff marathon? Only one team from the Pac-12, Stanford, got to participate this season, and the showing was not a good one. BYU took an eight point lead into the locker rooms at halftime at Maples Pavilion, and the deficit was held right around there for the final 20 minutes. The Cardinal defense was atrocious, allowing 112 points and allowing two Cougar players to score over 25 points.
  2. Nike unveiled its turquoise “N7″ uniforms on Tuesday, and Oregon State will be one of five teams to don them this November. Florida State, New Mexico, and both the Nevada men’s and women’s teams had unis designed for them by Nike. Click here for a closer view at the Beaver threads, featuring a blue, ghost Beaver on the back and an orange and black tartan print running all the way from top to bottom. The Beavers will debut the jerseys against Southern Illinois Edwardsville on November 26.
  3. Oregon head coach Dana Altman raised a few eyebrows when saying that he wasn’t disappointed in two of his starters, Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, for selling their team-issued shoes. The violation earned a nine game suspension for each of them, but Altman said he is only disappointed for the pair, and not in them. The suspension didn’t come around to hurt the Ducks in their opener, an 82-75 triumph over Georgetown in South Korea.
  4. While the rest of the nation was watching Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke, California was busy handling a Denver team that made the NIT last season. The Golden Bears got their second win on the young season thanks to a tremendous performance on the defensive end of the floor, something rarely seen across the NCAA this year with the new fouling rules. Sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace recorded three steals, while both Justin Cobbs and Sam Singer added two more. Down low, forward Richard Solomon had two blocked shots and pulled down 16 rebounds.
  5. If you grill it, they will come. That’s the plan brought forth by the Colorado athletic department, who will be giving out 10,000 free strips of bacon to students who attend the Jackson State game on Saturday. This definitely goes down as one of the top college hoops promotions of all time.
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