O26 Weekly Awards: Iona, Chris Wood, Bob Williams & Texas A&M-CC

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 17th, 2015

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

Iona. The Gaels battled a pair of tough MAAC contenders on the road this past weekend and beat them both, despite playing some (at times) less-than-pretty basketball. On Friday, against cross-town foe Manhattan – a rivalry game Steve Masiello once compared to Kentucky vs. Louisville – Iona overcame 21 turnovers, withstood several second-half runs and edged the Jaspers by three for its first victory in Draddy Gymnasium since 2012. “I heard a lot about this game, and there is nothing like a Manhattan crowd,” freshman guard Schadrac Casimir, who hit several big shots in the second half, said afterward. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but it was junior A.J. English who drilled a clutch triple with 32 seconds left to seal the deal. Less than 48 hours later, the Gaels showed arguably more grit at Quinnipiac in not just erasing a seven-point second half deficit but overcoming their worst shooting performance (31.5%) since Tim Cluess took over the program in 2011. A team usually known for its fast-paced and free-flowing offense – the 28th-most efficient in America – put together its best defensive showing of the season to beat the Bobcats by three despite scoring just 0.86 points per possession. “We know that our shots aren’t going to fall every game and we have to find other ways to win,” Iona forward David Laury (18 points, nine rebounds) said. The Gaels have now won eight straight contests and sit two full games up on second-place Rider in the MAAC standings, their gritty weekend inching them one step closer to a second straight conference crown.

Honorable Mentions: San Diego State (2-0: vs. Wyoming, vs. Colorado State); Chattanooga (2-0: at Wofford, vs. Samford); UC Santa Barbara (2-0: vs. Long Beach State, at Cal State Northridge); Central Michigan (2-0: at Ohio, at Buffalo); Rice (2-0: vs. Middle Tennessee State, vs. UAB); Valparaiso (2-0: vs. Green Bay…at UW-Milwaukee)

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 4th, 2015

Team of the Week

UNLV – With a 2-0 week, including a road win against in-state rival Nevada, the Runnin’ Rebels got back to 4-5 in the first half of conference play. The young and talented group certainly has underachieved to this point, but each of their conference losses has been decided by two possessions or less. And with a three-game winning streak as the team takes the turn, and with opponents like Fresno State, Boise State, Wyoming and San Diego State all due a visit to the Thomas & Mack, Dave Rice’s club could be ready to turn things around down the stretch.

Following Five Conference Losses Decided By Two Possessions Or Less, UNLV And Christian Wood Could Change Their Second Half Luck (Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Following Five Conference Losses Decided By Two Possessions Or Less, UNLV And Christian Wood Could Change Their Second Half Luck (Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Player of the Week

Christian Wood, So, UNLV – The 6’11” sophomore, once considered a soft, perimeter-bound wanna-be just got done posting double-doubles number 11 and 12 this week, averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 boards in this week’s games. For the season, he’s not only putting up 14.4 points and 9.5 boards, but he’s boosted his shooting numbers, turned up the gas on the defensive end and found a way to earn his 70+% free throw shooting to the line at a higher rate. We’d sure still love to see him launch his 20-something-percent three-point shot far less often (he’s jacking better than two and a half threes per contest), but the light is beginning to click on for Wood.

Newcomer of the Week

Malik Pope, Fr, San Diego State – Averages of just eight points and four boards in 18 minutes per game don’t begin to do justice to the energy that the 6’10” frehman has brough to the Aztecs in his recent emergence. In the four consecutive games now that Pope has played 17 or more minutes as part of the regular rotation for Steve Fisher, San Diego State has average 1.12 points per possession. His ability to knock in threes (he’s 11/22 from deep on the year) or put the ball on the deck and go dunk on someone gives this offense some punch they sorely needed.

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 31st, 2014

It’s been awhile since we checked in on the Mountain West. But with conference play set to begin on New Year’s Eve, it is time we get all caught up with the state of the league. We can break the league into three broad tiers: the conference favorites (San Diego State, Colorado State and Wyoming, in some order); an intriguing group of talented teams with recent success in the middle (New Mexico, Boise State and UNLV); and everybody else.

San Diego State's Offense Has Been Awful, But They're Still A Force To Be Reckoned With In The Mountain West (Stephen Dunn)

San Diego State’s Offense Has Been Awful, But They’re Still A Force To Be Reckoned With In The Mountain West. (Stephen Dunn/AP)

The Championship Tier: San Diego State came into the season as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. Somewhere in the middle of an egregious display of offense in a 36-point outing at Washington, that prognosis changed somewhat. With Colorado State out to a 13-0 start, the Rams are making their case as a challenger to the returning champions, while Wyoming is trying to claim the name Dunk City on their way to a big role in the conference championship chase. But really, go back and look at who either of those last two teams have beaten. Both have wins over Colorado and New Mexico State as among their best wins. The Rams can throw in wins over Georgia State, UTEP and UC Santa Barbara for flavor, but the biggest accomplishment for both teams is really the absence of bad losses. Meanwhile, the Aztecs, despite those three losses and offensive issues, has wins over Utah and BYU, both of which are better than anything on Colorado State or Wyoming’s ledger. And, just realistically, we’ve seen Steve Fisher succeed with atrocious offense backed up by excellent defense; it has been their M.O. for the past two years at least. While this level of offensive ineptitude is concerning, and the Aztecs are no longer the prohibitive favorite in the league, smart money still puts San Diego State a notch above the competition. Read the rest of this entry »

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O26 Weekly Awards: GW, Christian Wood, Benjy Taylor & Pac-12 Upsets

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 30th, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

George Washington. While many folks were drinking eggnog and caroling and having holiday fun, George Washington was in Hawaii stringing together three impressive, defensive-minded victories in a row to win the Diamond Head Classic. In doing so, not only did the Colonials establish themselves as the Atlantic 10’s second-best unit, they also picked up a resume-defining non-conference victory that should work wonders come Selection Sunday.

George Washington beat Wichita State and won the Diamond Head Classic. (Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

George Washington beat Wichita State and won the Diamond Head Classic. (Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

Mike Lonergan’s club entered last Monday with essentially zero quality wins of note, having dropped all three opportunities against KenPom top-100 units – including a 13-point handling at Penn State the previous week – and running out of chances. Luckily, the trip to Hawaii offered a few finals shots before A-10 play, and the effects from that contest in Happy Valley (especially defensively) were apparently left on the mainland: GW opened the tournament by holding Ohio to 15 points in the second half and steamrolling the Bobcats, 77-49. Big man Kevin Larsen finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds and the Colonials allowed their MAC opponent a mere 0.77 points per possession – a dominant defensive effort that continued into their next two games. Against Colorado the next night, Lonergan’s group limited the Buffaloes to just 50 points on 36.5 percent shooting, their second-worst offensive output of the season. Then, on Christmas night, GW notched its biggest win (and probably the A-10’s biggest win) of the young season by storming back from eight down against Wichita State, grabbing the lead with under five minutes to play and holding off the Shockers for a 60-54 triumph. Lonergan’s decision to switch to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half enabled GW to limit Wichita State to its fewest points per possession since February 2, 2013, and helped spark the game-clinching, 20-6 run late in the contest. In fact, over the course of three games, the Colonials allowed just four (total!) double-figure scorers and never surrendered more than 0.90 points per trip – a stretch of defensive excellence that puts them firmly in the NCAA Tournament at-large discussion, likely from now until March.

Honorable Mentions: Loyola-Chicago (2-0: N-Texas Tech, N-Boise State); Stony Brook (2-0: vs. American, at Washington); UNLV (2-0: vs. Arizona, vs. Southern Utah); Iona (2-0: vs. Florida Gulf Coast, at Drexel)

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The Case for UNLV’s Dave Rice

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 27th, 2014

For those interested in bashing Dave Rice this season, it hasn’t been a challenge finding a few friends to join in on the fun. Even our own Andrew Murawa took a rip at UNLV’s walking, breathing, coaching piñata a few weeks back, listing Rice dead last in a ranking of the MW’s 11 current head coaches. This lack of love from Mr. Murawa and others is understandable: The Rebels have slogged their way through a season that began with a seemingly loaded roster and Mountain West title aspirations. Thomas & Mack Arena has turned uncharacteristically hospitable — feel free to ask Air Force, Nevada and UC Santa Barbara about UNLV’s new, friendlier visitor initiative if you don’t believe me. The Runnin’ Rebels may still finish third in the Mountain West and UNLV fans will fairly entertain hopes of running the table (at home) in the MW Tournament to find a backdoor into the Big Dance, but like the Vegas weekender stumbling onto his Sunday flight home, there is no hiding the disappointment for this UNLV team. Just don’t blame Dave Rice.

Dave Rice Has Plenty Of Destractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let's See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Dave Rice Suddenly Has Plenty Of Detractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let’s See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Remember last year’s UNLV team? The one that won 25 games and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament? If the memories aren’t flowing in, don’t look to this year’s team for any help. The only current Rebels to earn serious minutes a season ago are Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones — the result of Rice losing seven rotation players from last year’s team. Adding to the offseason chaos was the fact that four of those seven departees still possessed college eligibility, so their decisions to pursue basketball careers elsewhere (for a variety of reasons) were largely unplanned. The impact of those defections has been dramatically overlooked by Rice critics; lose that much talent and production from any team, and creating a brand-new winner the next season is bound to be difficult. For every Kansas there is a Miami, Temple or Illinois, where rebuilding years are understood as necessary steps to a brighter future. Somehow the folks in Sin City missed the memo preaching leniency in the wake of an offseason exodus, as most explanations for the Rebel malaise have skipped over the overhaul, choosing instead to focus on the perceived deficiencies of the man at the helm.

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Who’s Got Next? Kentucky Adds Two More Studs; Selden Decides For Kansas…

Posted by CLykins on October 17th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking 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.

Young and Lee Join Historic Kentucky Class

Young’s Addition Bolsters UK’s Already Star-Studded Class (US Presswire)

If your familiar with the phrase “the rich get richer”, that describes Kentucky basketball recruiting. After landing a pair of top-five prospects from the class of 2013, twin brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison, the Kentucky Wildcats received verbal commitments from two more highly ranked 2013 prospects, in the form of James Young last Thursday and Marcus Lee on Wednesday afternoon. Young is a 6’6″ shooting guard out of Rochester High School (Michigan) and is the No. 5 ranked prospect in the ESPN 100. Lee, a 6’9″ power forward out of Deer Valley High School (California), is the No. 28 ranked recruit. Along with Kentucky, Young listed Kansas, Michigan State and Syracuse in his final four while Lee had just listed California as his only other possible destination. Young and Lee will now join the Harrison twins and unranked prospect Derek Willis as a part of Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class.

“Kentucky has always been my dream school,” said Young, who revealed his choice by holding up a “Kentucky Bound” blue T-shirt. “I’m not just looking for the NBA. I’m looking for an education and a national championship and that’s about it.” Young emerged as a prime recruiting target for the Wildcats in the spring and had listed Kentucky as the team to beat for his services since the summer. Young has made two consecutive visits to Lexington, once for Kentucky’s alumni weekend and the other this past weekend for “Big Blue Madness.”

Kentucky will now possess the most lethal perimeter trio in all of college basketball for the 2013-14 season with the addition of Young to complement the Harrison twins. In the left-handed Young, the Wildcats are getting one of the best pure scoring guards in the country. An aggressive scorer who can stroke it from deep or utilize his mid-range game, Young is exceptional at scoring off the catch and has a plethora of moves to get to the rim. On the defensive end, he uses his athleticism and length well to disrupt the opposition. The one aspect of his game that needs the most work is his ball-handling. In transition, he can fill lanes but with improved ball security, he could be even more deadlier running the fast break and making plays for either himself or his teammates.

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Who’s Got Next? Top Uncommitted Prospects To Commit Soon…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 18th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.

What We Learned

Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) might stay in Wichita.

Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.

Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.

Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.

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