What’s Trending: Conference Tournament Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 18th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

The second week of conference tournaments began with many questions, the biggest of which focused on a certain 6’7″, 285-pound freshman in Durham, North Carolina. For the past few weeks, questions about Zion Williamson and whether he would — or should — return to play for Duke have been thrown around by nearly everyone. It took the superstar forward all of two minutes of game time to show everyone that he is indeed back…

https://twitter.com/si_ncaabb/status/1106368814206324736

The storylines involving Zion continued in Duke’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal match-up against Syracuse. In the past, it was Duke — paging Grayson Allen — as the centerpiece of any tripping story. This time, however, it was Syracuse’s Frank Howard taking his turn to extend his leg a little further than necessary…

“I love playing with Duke, I love my teammates.”

The Zion experience carried into the ACC Tournament semifinal match-up against North Carolina. The Tar Heels had dominated the first two Zion-less games, but after scoring 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds through the first 39 minutes, it was Zion’s final two points and rebound that made the biggest difference…

Scoring, rebounds, steals… oh, Zion can pass the ball pretty well too…

In the non-Zion Williamson category of the ACC Tournament, the basketball world was gifted a dancing Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams

…a frantic possession and game-winning basket by Florida State’s Terance Mann…

…and everyone’s favorite, allegations of NCAA violations…

On the topic of NCAA violations, the SEC Tournament included LSU’s Will Wade releasing a statement where he made a plea to get back on the sideline. LSU General Counsel Tom Skinner fired back with, “as a university and employer, we need to hear our employee say, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ or explain the circumstances or admit he did not do something wrong. We’ve been unable to get to that point. We have no choice, in terms of institutional control, to not suspend someone.”

On the court, Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield began the Volunteers’ SEC Tournament action with a poster over Mississippi State…

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1106755627366391809

LSU’s Skylar Mays came up with a dunk that had LSU fans jumping for joy…

…but it was ultimately Florida’s Andrew Nembhard who allowed Florida to move on and send LSU home.

Florida’s run through the SEC Tournament came to an end on Saturday, literally at the hands of Auburn….

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1106998122658582533

In the other semifinal, the SEC Tournament delivered a gem between Tennessee and Kentucky…

During Wednesday’s opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska’s Tim Miles had the spotlight on him after his Huskers toppled Rutgers…

…after beating Maryland on Thursday, Miles got his shot at redemption…

After the second win in as many days, Big Ten Twitter was quick to point out this fact that fans in Bloomington, Indiana, were not happy to read…

The Big East Tournament will be remembered for this sequence in Seton Hall’s semifinal win over Marquette

https://twitter.com/CBBonFOX/status/1106760477718138881

Meanwhile, at the end of the tournament it was once again Villanova that walked away as the champion… AGAIN.

Tournament week in Las Vegas began with the West Coast Conference Tournament where St. Mary’s earned an automatic bid by getting the best of Gonzaga.

…and it continued with the Pac-12 Tournament where all eyes were on Bill Walton doing Bill Walton things…

…and it ended with Oregon winning the Pac-12 Tournament to steal a bid from a team on the bubble.

As players play for an opportunity to keep their season going, these tournaments bring up stories that need to be shared. The emotion in the face of Old Dominion headcoach Jeff Jones makes the Monarchs an easy team to root for…

While there is so much to love and appreciate with college basketball, there was one thing that continues to outshine the product on the floor. Officiating throughout tournaments leaves fans wondering…

And as painful as questionable calls can be, the monitor review process will almost assuredly come up time and time again next week. Getting the correct call is important, but too often these reviews kill any flow to a game. Add in the fact that they act as de facto timeouts for teams that often do not have any to call and you have a situation that creates more problems than it solves.

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Three Questions Facing LSU After It Loses SEC Tournament Opener

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2019

When news broke before LSU’s regular season finale against Vanderbilt last weekend that coach Will Wade would be suspended as a result of his implication in possibly arranging a payment to secure the commitment of Javonte Smart, no one knew what impact it would have on a team that was set to clinch the SEC championship. A comfortable win over the woeful Commodores did just that, and despite Smart being held out for precautionary reasons, the first real test for the Tigers would come against Florida on Friday. After appearing to be well on their way to passing it in racing out to a 10-point halftime lead, a more aggressive – and perhaps more desperate – Gators squad pulled off a 73-70 upset behind a last-second three-pointer from freshman Andrew Nembhard. Now, LSU heads to the NCAA Tournament, where it likely will be slotted as a #2 or #3 seed, with a number of unanswered questions.

LSU Interim Coach Tony Benford has a tall task ahead of him. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
  1. How significant will Wade’s absence on the sidelines be during games? LSU was clearly ready to play on Friday, as it came out with energy and worked to get the ball inside — where it had a decided advantage — early in the game. When things started to go wrong in the second half, though, interim coach Tony Benford did not appear up to the challenge of keeping the Tigers calm. The Tigers led by three points when Naz Reed was called for running through a Florida screen. A tick after the whistle, Florida hit a three, which the referees inexplicably counted. What was already a disastrous possession was then made worse when Benford picked up a technical foul, ultimately contributing to a six-point trip that changed the entire complexion of the game. Benford was justified in his outrage, of course, but he admitted afterward that he deserved the technical, and that he should have shown the restraint necessary to avoid the technical. His lack of experience in that situation clearly hurt the Tigers today.
  2. Will the LSU players tune out their new coach? Who knows what is to become of LSU after this bizarre season ends, and whether it even matters if they continue to win given the possibility of everything being vacated. With a talented group of players who could be ready to leave school in the aftermath of Wade’s likely dismissal, perhaps they will tune out Benford, who has been put in an untenable position. The players deny that they will, but would anyone really be surprised if the Tigers turned their 16-2 SEC record into an early departure from the NCAA Tournament?
  3. Will the Tigers get any calls? Based upon the aforementioned circumstance, as well as officiating as a whole on Friday, the early answer is no. LSU was called for 24 fouls, while Florida was whistled for only 10. This was the case despite LSU being the more aggressive team, and the Gators taking 28 threes (nine more than the Tigers). After the game, Benford seemed resigned to the fact that this type of officiating is what his team can expect going forward. “We’re not going to get any calls. I heard guys [say] when there’s an interim coach, you’re not getting any calls. I thought they fouled, we fouled some. They got the calls, we didn’t get the calls.” Based on the numbers, he is correct. But his belief that this will continue also likely is accurate, and that could spell trouble for the Tigers when the games really count.

LSU’s situation is unlike anything we have seen in college basketball in the recent past. For a supremely talented team to lose its coach under these circumstances with one game left in the regular season is essentially unprecedented. Whether the Tigers can overcome all that has been put in front of them is an open question, but there is no doubt that they have a significant hill to climb.

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What’s Trending: Conference Week Madness is Underway!

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 11th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Let the NCAA Tournament ticket punching begin!

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1104579515672678401

Jon Rothstein eloquently describes the month of March perfectly. It’s time to sit back and enjoy all that college basketball will bring us…

After 14 consecutive years at the top of the Big 12, Kansas‘ reign as the conference’s top team finally came to an end. In an era of college basketball where anything is possible, the longevity of the Jayhawks’ streak was beyond remarkable…

I
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In Winning at Kentucky, LSU Proves Itself to be Among SEC Elite

Posted by David Changas on February 13th, 2019

In getting off to a superb 9-1 start in SEC play, LSU served notice that it should be taken seriously in the conference race. But in comparison with the golden resumes of top-five stalwarts Tennessee and Kentucky, there were lingering concerns about whether the Tigers were quite at their level. While much of the college basketball world had its sights on Saturday night’s blockbuster clash between Tennessee and Kentucky, LSU entered Lexington last night with a chip on its shoulder. After falling behind 48-39 with 16:51 left to play, Will Wade‘s club began to attack the basket with regularity. The result of a raucous final few minutes was a 73-71 win in Rupp Arena on a controversial last-second tip-in by Kavell Bigby-Williams.

Wins at Rupp Arena Are Not Easy to Come By (USA Today Images)

Based on the stellar recruiting Wade has done since arriving in Baton Rouge two years ago, expectations for the LSU program were reasonably high coming into the season. Early losses to Florida State and Oklahoma State in the Advocare Invitational tempered some of that excitement, but a strong start to conference play slowly garnered some fringe national attention. The problem was the schedule: Coming into Tuesday night’s game, LSU’s most impressive victories had come in the last week (at Mississippi State and versus Auburn in Baton Rouge). But everyone knew Kentucky, which had reeled off nine straight SEC wins of its own, would present an entirely different challenge. Now, after pulling off the upset, LSU has solidified its status as a contender and is well-positioned to make a serious run at the SEC title. The Tigers, which are now 6-0 on the road in SEC play, have winnable road games left against Georgia, Alabama and Florida, and other than a looming showdown with #1 Tennessee on February 23, they will be heavy favorites to win their remaining home contests. If they can take care of the Volunteers, a share of the regular season championship, at minimum, is likely.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Saint Mary’s 85, #10 VCU 77

Posted by RJ Abeytia on March 16th, 2017

St. Mary’s is like a magic trick unfolding before your eyes that you can’t solve no matter how many times you see it (except for Gonzaga). The Gaels play with such stunning synchronicity and precision that it never looks like they have to strain to find good shots. Such was the case in Salt Lake City Thursday night when Randy Bennett’s Gaels blitzed VCU to the tune of 46 first half points on 64 percent (!!) shooting and an offensive efficiency of 124.3. In the second half, VCU extended its defense to get back in the game, but at a price of fouls. St. Mary’s was in the bonus for the bulk of the half, making them even tougher to defend. VCU mucked the game up and never conceded, but the Gaels ultimately prevailed, 85-77.

St. Mary’s Handled Business Against VCU Tonight (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The center position is evolving. From Vanderbilt’s Luke Kornet to Arizona’s Lauri Markannen to St. Mary’s Jock Landale, stretch centers who have guard skills are becoming increasingly prevalent in basketball. While essentially playing the entire game, Landale put up 16 points on a phenomenally efficient 6-of-8 shooting night along with 13 rebounds.
  2. St. Mary’s is better than you think defensively. The Gaels came in ranked as the 26th-best defense in the country, and next to their wondrous offense, it shouldn’t be lost in translation how tough this team is on both ends. They held VCU to an Offensive Ratintg of 101.3, limiting the Rams to 2-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
  3. Joe Rahon drives the Gaels.  Rahon picked up his third and fourth fouls with 15 minutes left in the game, allowing VCU to immediately go on a 15-2 run to close the lead to four. He then came back in and hit a huge three with 8:17 to go, and VCU never got any closer.

Star of the Game: Joe Rahon stabilized Saint Mary’s when it needed it most — hitting the aforementioned three as well as a big pair of free throws — but this was Jock Landale’s night. VCU coach Will Wade summed it up afterward: “Their bigs were just bigger and better than our bigs. I hate to put it so simply but that’s really the way it is and what it came down to tonight.” Landale was first and foremost among Gael bigs, as he usually is.

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Brad Brownell’s Days May be Numbered at Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2017

It’s been six long years since Clemson has been invited to the Big Dance, and based on recent history, we are likely witnessing Brad Brownell’s farewell ACC campaign. Just six weeks ago, the prospect of the Tigers ending their NCAA drought looked promising — a 10-2 mark in non-conference play included four wins over Power Five schools. After a comeback road win over Wake Forest to begin ACC play, however, the bottom has since dropped out. Clemson now rests near the bottom of the ACC with a conference record of 3-9. Saturday’s 64-62 loss at Duke was a typical outcome, as six of the Tigers’ ACC defeats have been by five points or fewer. Now holding an overall record of 13-11 going into tonight’s rematch against Wake Forest, Clemson faces a steep uphill climb to earn an NCAA bid and save Brownell’s job.

Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers suffered yet another close defeat at Duke on Saturday.
(Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

There was considerable discussion of Duke’s emotional state entering Saturday’s meeting with Clemson, tipping off just 38 hours after the Blue Devils’ draining win over rival North Carolina. But Clemson was also dealing with negative vibes stemming from its own gut-wrenching last second loss to Syracuse. In Saturday’s postgame press conference, Brownell commented, “You know, give our kids a lot of credit; we took a major punch in the gut this week on that loss against Syracuse. We’ve been a little snake-bit, but at the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to make the winning plays to change these things.” Mike Krzyzewski echoed Brownell’s view by saying, “I feel bad for Brad’s team because I have watched six of their games. Five that I watched, they could have won easy with one possession. This was another one, and that is the heartbreak of our league.”

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VCU Holding Steady Under Will Wade

Posted by Ray Curren (@currenrr) on February 16th, 2016

As with any beloved family member, the longer Shaka Smart stayed in Richmond, the harder he was going to be to replace. And contrary to what many outside the area may think, VCU’s strong basketball tradition didn’t start with the charismatic and personable young coach, but it made him a seemingly impossible act to follow. A 2011 trip to the Final Four is the most notable element of Smart’s impressive coaching resume, but he also won at least 26 games in all six seasons at the helm, going to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last five years (VCU is one of 11 schools nationally with such a streak). In the school’s first three years since moving up to the Atlantic 10, Smart led the Rams to 12 conference wins each season and the Rams never received a seed lower than #7 in the NCAA Tournament.

Once under Shaka Smart, the young Will Wade is beginning to plant the seeds towards his own legacy at VCU. (Getty)

Once an assistant under Shaka Smart, the young Will Wade is beginning to plant the seeds towards his own legacy at VCU. (Getty)

VCU did its best to keep Smart from leaving. To call his departure inevitable is probably inaccurate, but they certainly knew it was a distinct possibility all along. After Smart bolted for the resource-rich program at Texas, it didn’t take long for VCU to appoint Will Wade to replace him. Wade, like Smart, is a young, energetic, new-age leader who never played at a high level. At 33 years old, he is currently the fourth-youngest Division I coach, but, unlike Smart, this young head coach brought two years of D-I head coaching experience with him, leading Chattanooga to a 27-7 Southern Conference record over two seasons from 2013-15. Wade was also an assistant for four years under Smart (including the Final Four campaign) prior to that, and was a key member of the Harvard dynasty in the Ivy League before joining the VCU staff.

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Morning Five: 08.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. Every year ESPN’s 24 Hours of Basketball feature is one of the highlights of the early-season schedule. This year’s version should be no different as ESPN has another loaded slate. Outside of the obvious appeal of both games of the Champions Classic the most interesting aspect of the schedule to us is that Wichita State is scheduled to play at home at midnight. It goes without saying that Koch Arena at midnight will be crazy and we understand the need for smaller programs to accept awful tip times to get on national television, but Final Four teams should not have to do that. Aside from that the thing that sticks out to us is that it seems like a waste to pair VCUVirginia and Florida-Wisconsin against Michigan StateKentucky and DukeKansas respectively since on any other night
  2. The latest question in the CBS Candid Coaches series asked which coach was most likely to be the next Andy Enfield. Unlike the poll that we linked to in yesterday’s Morning Five, this votes in this poll were more evenly distributed with Bryce Drew (15%), Mike White (12%), Will Wade (9%), and Steve Masiello (8%) leading the way. The selection of Drew as the top choice is not particularly surprising and you could argue that he might already be too well-known to be considered an Andy Enfield-type. The others are certainly less well-known and unless you follow mid-major basketball pretty closely you might not know about them. Of course, a year ago Enfield’s name probably would not have even registered in the “others receiving multiple votes” category so it is quite possible that the next Andy Enfield is not even on this list.
  3. Over the years AAU coaches have been accused of doing a lot of sketchy things, but we have not heard of any who were charged with drug trafficking. That is until Curtis Malone, head of the well-known DC Assault team, was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. After a year-long investigation, the DEA searched Malone’s home last Friday and uncovered a kilogram of cocaine, 100 grams of heroin, a handgun, and other related items. While we will acknowledge the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” it is worth pointing out that Malone was convicted of distributing crack cocaine in 1991 so this would not be a completely new endeavor if the charges were proven to be true.
  4. If you had any question as to why Texas has its own ESPN network the news that Texas led the nation in merchandise royalties for the eighth straight year for schools represented by Collegiate Licensing Company should clear things up for you. Clearly the majority of these sales are driven by the football program, which has historically been much more successful than the basketball program, but it speaks to the popularity of the program particularly when its two biggest sports (football and basketball) are going through what can best be described as a rough patch. The fact that seven or eight of the schools are in the South (depending on what you consider North Carolina) should come as no surprise given the fervor of their fans. It is worth noting that several prominent programs–Ohio State, Michigan State, Southern California, and Oregon–are not represented by Collegiate Licensing Company so those schools might approach Texas in terms of royalties particularly since they might be under a different payment structure than schools represented by Collegiate Licensing Company.
  5. For those of you who have short attention spans we suggest you check out Andy Glockner’s Twitter-style season preview where he goes through the most prominent teams in the 2013-14 season. As you would suspect the previews are not exactly comprehensive, but for the purposes of an early August preview this should suffice for pretty much everybody. And if you are in the mood for something a little bit more in depth, you can be sure that those previews are on the way.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Will Wade

Posted by WCarey on June 24th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

After a 13-19 campaign in 2012-13, Chattanooga found itself in a coaching search. That search ended on May 13 when the Mocs named Will Wade as the program’s 18th head men’s basketball coach. While Wade is just 30 years old, he has an impressive résumé from working with several established, veteran head coaches. Wade’s coaching career began as a student manager at Clemson where he worked under both Larry Shyatt and Oliver Purnell. After graduating from Clemson in 2005, Wade stayed on with the Tigers for two more seasons – one as a graduate assistant and another as the director of operations. Following his time at Clemson, Wade moved on to Harvard where he served on Tommy Amaker’s staff for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. After his two seasons at Harvard, he then took a position on Shaka Smart’s staff at VCU where he helped coach the Rams to postseason appearances in each of his four seasons in Richmond. Among those four postseason appearances were three consecutive trips to NCAA Tournament and a Cinderella run to the 2011 Final Four. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Will Wade about his career and his plans for his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

Will Wade

Will Wade Takes Over Chattanooga as One of the Youngest Head Coaches in Division I Basketball

Rush the Court: You have been on the job at Chattanooga for a little over a month. What have you been able to accomplish during that time?

Will Wade: The time has gone very quickly, It has been a smooth transition. In the first month, we have hired a staff, recruited three new players and met a ton of boosters and donors. We have been very active in the community.

RTC: Other than your ties to Tennessee as a Nashville native, what attracted you to the job at Chattanooga?

WW: Tremendous growth opportunity. Chattanooga is a basketball town and we have been very good in the past – we can do it again. We have a great arena, a lot of local interest, our own practice facility, and an administration that wants to win. That is all of the ingredients needed for us to be successful.

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Morning Five: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. We are not that familiar with the finances of the city of Chicago, but we have a hard time believing that it has a lot of money to spend on a new arena for DePaul. Still it appears that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce his plans for an (at least partially) funded $300 million arena for the school that is part of a bigger project that the city is undertaking. There is still a lot of speculation on what this will involve including how much taxpayers will be expected to contribute and reports vary widely so we will hold off on commenting on the situation too much other than to say we have a hard time believing this will pass without a huge fight. The other interesting aspect of this proposal is the possibility that a casino could play a prominent role in the area. We doubt that being a NCAA Tournament site would be a major deal to a city the size of Chicago, but it could be an issue for whatever conference DePaul ends up in by the time the project is completed.
  2. The ever-growing transfer list appears to have added one of its biggest names as it appears that Deuce Bello will transfer from Baylor. Bello, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school thanks in large part due to his dunking ability, has never really blossomed as a college player averaging just 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore. Given his production we wouldn’t expect him to be that highly recruited, but his athleticism and the fact that he has been “coached” by Scott Drew the last two seasons will probably lead several top programs to take a look at him.
  3. You know a program has made it when other schools begin to raid its bench for head coaches. Such is the case for VCU (if you didn’t already know they had made) it as Chattanooga hired VCU assistant Will Wade to be its new head coach. We are always hesitant to give an assistant too much credit for their program’s success as Chattanooga is attempting to bill Wade as the driving force behind the success of both VCU (citing him as a driving force behind the “Havoc” defense) and Harvard (landing a top 25 recruiting class and helping mold Jeremy Lin into the player he is today–or make that last year actually). Outside of that we do not have much to add on Wade’s hiring (we will give it some time–a few years–before grading the hire), but will point out that it is kind of cute how the school starts off the press release by mentioning a public reception for Wade tomorrow that everybody is invited to attend.
  4. We are not sure who got in Kyle Vinales ear today, but he or she certainly had a pretty quick impact as the Central Connecticut State transfer backed out of his commitment to transfer to Toledo hours after announcing it. Vinales is one of the top transfers available in terms of his scoring ability and should have the ability to score at almost any Division I level and certainly would have at the bottom of the MAC. The question is how far up he can go. The ability to put the ball in the basket is certainly a universal skill, but at some point the athleticism of the players you are playing against limits your ability to score. Vinales certainly has the ability to play at a higher level than Toledo, but in doing so he should be careful not to go to such a high level that his minutes decrease significantly as we have seen with several transfers.
  5. We do not have much information about Brown sophomore Joseph Sharkey, who is in critical condition after being assaulted early on Sunday morning. According to reports, Sharkey was walking with a group of women when a man approached Sharkey and punched him in the face in what has been described as an unprovoked attack. To be frank at this point the details of the report and what led to the incident are not particularly important. Instead, we will focus on Sharkey and his health while wishing him the best in his recovery.
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