Inside College Hoops

Pac-12 Media Day

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Welcome to the Bracketeer’s ongoing coverage of Pac-12 Media Day. I will update this post throughout the day to recap all 12 of the schools in the conference and any additional nuggets that I personally gather. Only four weeks until Tip-Off!

1) Oregon
HC Dana Altman:
- Mentioned the defensive formula that is trending in College Hoops (named Villanova twice and the Oregon final four team.
- Talked about replacing Dillon Brooks. Brooks won the most games in Oregon Basketball history.
- N’Faly Dante has still not been cleared by admissions to play.
- Asked about always being able to reload his roster: Summed it up by saying he has a great staff.
- Counting on Francis Okoro, CJ Walker, and Shakur Juiston to bring the type of physicality that will replace Elgin Cook’s loss.

2) Colorado
HC Tad Boyle:
- Praised Junior Class for sticking together. Built class from recruiting.
- Scheduling upgrade from last year was due to the team he knew was coming back. Seeked games with KU, Dayton, Iona, and Northern Iowa.
- Wants to play with an inside out approach. He thinks CU will see more zone this year due to 3 point line moving back and new coaches in the Pac-12.
- 5th in the Nation in returning minutes.

3) Washington
HC Mike Hopkins
- No word yet on Quade Green waiver.
- On the rotation: stay patient and letting things play out.
- Preparation for Baylor: Just show up and see how we stack up.
- Praise for Nate Roberts.
- Scheduling is a focus for the staff. They struggle to get national teams to play a true road game. This was evidenced by Auburn cancelling the back half of the home-and-home series that was supposed to happen this season.
- You could see Jaden McDaniels at the top of the zone. (Non-Commital)
- On zero true road games: Did their best to balance out travel and space out games. Found neutral opportunities in Anchorage, Hawai’i and Toronto to be the most lucrative of the options.
- Understands the importance of the Conference being able to win some games early. He thinks new scheduling mandates has been a big part of the league improving going forward and better position themselves for more At-Large bids.

4) Arizona
HC Sean Miller
- Only coach to bring two Freshmen here.
- Balked at the idea of playing zone this year.
- Gave credit to all three new HC's in the league. Thinks the league upgraded with the new hires. Spoke about how tough Cronin's teams are.

5) USC
HC Andy Enfield
- Factored in the strength of the league and balanced it with Non-conference scheduling strategy.
- Isaiah Mobley has been cleared, Enfield expects him to be 100% for the opener.
- Looking forward to future of USC with eventual new AD and recently hired President.
- Commented on Mick Cronin being a very good basketball coach, nice guy. They don't know each other that well but getting to know each other. Later said good basketball in Los Angeles.
- Commented on being picked 5th after finishing 8th last year. Says it speaks to the level of talent we have this season.

6) Arizona State
HC Bobby Hurley
- Team is adjusting back to being a Guard-heavy team.
- Jalen Graham is currently out with an ankle injury. Sounds like he could return in the coming weeks.
- Hopes the 20-Game schedule will help alleviate future SOS concerns
- Rebounding is key for this team to be able to succeed.
- He thinks the expanded three point line allows their Guards to have more freedom of movement and is an overall positive for this team.

7) Oregon State
HC Wayne Tinkle
- Peyton Dastrup needs to be a key piece for the team to reach their goals.
- Zach Reichle has been working hard in the weight room and ready to make an impact.
- Others who will be counted on: Alfred Hollins, Jarod Lucas, Antoine Miller.
- Spoke about Jared Lucas being the all-time leading scorer in Southern California history and how that he can be just as special in College.

8) UCLA
HC Mick Cronin
- Defense/Offense are equally as important.
- Pac-12 defensively is a tougher league than nationally recognized.
- Shareef O'Neal works hard, hustles, listens and is coming along nicely. Credits his parents for his character.
- Why he left Cincinnati: Never a good time to leave, but overall he thought he was at the right point in life for a change.
- Made a few jokes about transitioning to LA life and the cost of living, went on to say that the sicker shock is real.

9) Utah
HC Larry Krystowiak
- Looking to go 7 deep this year, rest of team has to play their way into the rotation.
- Proud of scheduling efforts.
- Took the high road on CA State Bill/NIL questions, did not believe his opinion would add any value.
- Pointed out that his two sons play CBB. One for the Utes and the other at Dartmouth.
- On upgraded talent: I can tell you that we've got more stars than we've ever had, but we've also got a really high-character group of guys, and I think we've got a chance moving forward,

10) Stanford
HC Jerod Hasse
- Says the foreign tour in Italy and Germany was a great trip.
- He thinks his team grew together over the summer.
- Says he is excited about the guys he has, despite losing KZ Okpala to the NBA, Koyde Pugh for the season (knee), and Trevor Stanback (medical hardship).
- He wants Oscar Da Silva to become a complete player on both sides of the ball, credits Oscar for working really hard in the offseason.

11) Washington State
HC Kyle Smith
- Praised living in Pullman and the opportunity. Not backing down from the notion that is too difficult to recruit there. - Praised Jeff Pollard and Noah Williams
- Said he had no say on scheduling and that it was already in place when he arrived. And seemed happy about it.
- Says scheduling after this year will be more carefully done and in line with conference mandates.
- Gave entire team Dental Floss, noted that Pollard was the only one who flosses everyday.

12) California
HC Mark Fox
- Talked about having 17 new players and how he has been pleased thus far in their efforts.
- He has preached and the players have responded on the notion of a daily investment to get better.
- Academics at Cal, tradition of the conference, and Cal Hoops history were the main areas that attracted him to the job.
- Discussed how valuable having Trent Johnson on staff is and all of the experience he brings.
- Says he doesn’t read the articles or the stories writen and it didn’t make a difference to him that the Bears were picked last.

The Final Tally (Media Poll)


TEAM (first-place votes) POINTS
1. Oregon (9) 291 points
2. Colorado (9) 288
3. Washington (6) 273
4. Arizona (2) 263
5. USC (1) 198
6. Arizona State 187
7. Oregon State 161
8. UCLA 148
9. Utah 131
10. Stanford 84
11. Washington State 47
12. California 35

Preseason All-Conference Teams

First Team
Tyler Bey, Jr., G/F, Colorado
CJ Elleby, So., F, Washington State
Nico Mannion, Fr., G, Arizona
Remy Martin, Jr., G, Arizona State
Jaden McDaniels, Fr., F, Washington
Payton Pritchard, Sr., G, Oregon
Nick Rakocevic, Sr., F, USC
Isaiah Stewart, Fr., F, Washington
Tres Tinkle, Sr., F, Oregon State
McKinley Wright IV, Jr., G, Colorado

Second Team

Timmy Allen, So., F, Utah
N'Faly Dante, Fr., C, Oregon
Daejon Davis, Jr., G, Stanford
Josh Green, Fr., G, Arizona
Ethan Thompson, Jr., G, Oregon State

3X3U Friday

Mall of America

Mall of America

As I entered the Mall of America, I noticed something different. Players walking from one entrance to the adjacent end of the Mall to go play a game. Th3 3X3U setup a locker room far from the Main Court and there is a behind the scenes Practice court over there as well. The Patriot League team happened to be right in front of me as the cruised the Mall, much to the surprise of many shoppers. Very unique experience. I finally made my way to the Credential area and back to the Main Court to see the ACC defeat the Moutain West.

The Patriot League just defeated the MEAC on a 20-20 tiebreaking jumper.

Up next? MVC vs. WCC, can’t wait!

WCC wins it impressively. The Frankie Ferrari-Isaiah Piniero combo is nice.

Southland vs. OVC was chippy, but the Southland squad was real hot, especially early. Cruised to a 21-12 victory.
AAC vs. A10 time. Excited to see SLU’ and Seattle native Tramaine Isabell take on Jeremiah Martin and co.
This AAC squad is nice. Martin being as great as he is, gives them a big edge. He hit some big two’s. AAC was saved by the buzzer and held on to win 20-19.

NEC vs. Big West. FDU’s Darnell Edge and Mike Holloway Jr. are on the NEC team and Tacoma, WA native Ar’mond Davis is on the Big West squad, good to see some familiar faces.
NEC completely dominated, Big West struggled to get a rhythm going. Final score: 22-11.

SEC takes down 21-16. Mizzou’s Jordan Geist with a great game shooting the rock.

Up next: America East vs. Big South. Big South destroyed the America East 21-4. Impressive showing.

Time for two teams that won earlier - Patriot vs. ACC. Game was real physica. ACC pulled it out 21-16, crowd was into this one too. Great theatrics.

Mountain West and MEAC in must-win action now. Both are 0-1.. MWC earns the much needed win. over the MEAC.

WCC (1-0) battled with the OVC (0-1) in our next matchup. WCC held on to win 21-19. Jacksonville State’s Jason Burnell spikes the basketball in disgust after the final shot went through the hoop.



NEC Semifinal Coverage: Robert Morris at Farleigh Dickinson

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Game Notes (Robert Morris):
-Coming off big comeback OT win over St. Francis Brooklyn
-Last time at the Rothman Center, lost a 2OT thriller 97-94 to FDU
-RMU ranks 23rd nationally in forced turnover %.

Game Notes (Farleigh Dickinson):
-First share of NEC Regular Season Title since 2006
-All 5 FDU starters average double figure scoring. Balanced attack.
-FDU ranks 6th nationally in 3 Pt.%.

1st Half
Yannis Mendy gets the scoring started with a mid-range jumper, 2-0 Robert Morris. A lot of nervous energy here early on, both teams have missed three shots a piece. FDU’s Mike Holloway is fouled and makes one of two from the line.
1st Media Timeout: RMU 2, FDU 1.

Robert Morris subs in some fresh bodies. Two quick fouls called against the Colonials. Darnell Edge connects on a three ball to ignite the crowd. Dante Treacy for RMU answers with a trey of his own. On the next FDU possession, Holloway hits a triple. Jahlil Jenkins connects for FDU a short time later. RMU moves the ball around and finds Koby Thomas for a flush and one. Thomas completes the three point play. FDU’s Brandon Powell hits a big three. RMU answers with a Cameron Wilbon driving shot and he is fouled.
2nd Media Timeout: RMU 12, FDU 12.

Wilbon misses. Jennings is fouled and is heading to the line. He makes both and gives the Knights a two point advantage. Jon Williams for RMU hits an open three. Holloway misses from deep. RMU’s Charles Bain has a driving one handed floater swish through the hoop. RMU’s Jon Williams with a beautiful dish to cutting teammate, Matty McConnell for an easy layup.
3rd Media Timeout: RMU 19, FDU 14.

A flurry of activity to start this segment. Edge gets it going for FDU with a layup. RMU’s Malik Petteway with a layup on the other end. Then, Brandon Powell responds with a layup for the Knights. After a Holloway steal, he finds Jenkins for another layup. RMU turns it over and FDU is fouled. Holloway hits both FT’s. A bit later, FDU’s Kaleb Bishop hits a three and the crowd is loving it. 9-0 run for the Knights. RMU’s Wilbon ends the run with a nice jumper.
4th Media Timeout: FDU 25, RMU 23.

Jenkins is fouled again, makes one of two. Powell is fouled later for FDU, made both. Five point lead is the largest today for the Knights. Jenkins is called for an offensive foul, is heading to the bench with two. Great defense by RMU to force a shot clock violation. Less than a minute until the break. RMU holds for the final shot, and McConnell hits a big three. A three quarters court FDU shot hits the rim, but no good!
Halftime: Farleigh Dickinson 28, Robert Morris 26.

2nd Half
After a stop, McConnell picks up where he left ogg and drains another triple. Darnell Edge answers for FDU with a pretty jumper. Josh Williams was left alone at the top of the key, and he makes the Knights pay with a three. Elyjah Williams of FDU with a bigtime offensive rebound, later drives back to the hoop and throws down a powerful dunk. McConnell quiets the crowd with another trey. McConnell finally misses, FDU rebounds and draws a foul. After an FDU miscue, Koby Thomas connects and is fouled. RMU off to a hot start.
1st Media Timeout: RMU 39, FDU 33.

Thomas makes the free throw. RMU’s Josh Williams (Jon’s brother) hits a three and the RMU contingent on the other side of the court goes crazy. FDU Timeout, trailing by 10. Jenkins comes out and hits a 16-footer to stop the bleeding. But on the other end, Thomas dunks again. Jenkins hits a vital three. McConnell misses, FDU misses twice inside.
2nd Media Timeout: RMU 45, FDU 38.

Elyjah Williams connects on two free throws. RMU’s Charles Bain hits a three. After Holloway gets fouled and makes both FT’s, FDU decides to go into a full court press. Nobody marks McConnell, he gets free for a very easy layup. Edge responds on the other end with a made jumper. Great D by the Knights to force an RMU shot clock violation. Jennings misses a runner, RMU gets out in transition and almost turns it back over. Bishop instead picks up his fourth foul. Foul trouble would be really bad news for FDU, they are only using seven guys. Mendy ends up making both free throws, and RMU is up by eight. Great post move y Holloway and he finishes with a baby left-handed hook. Edge comes down after RMU misses and finishes with a driving hoop. Back and forth we go, but a few misses. Players are going all out!
3rd Media Timeout: RMU 52, FDU 48.

Game Coverage - Temple at Memphis

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Kareem Brewton turnover to start things off. Damion Moore gets the ball at the top of the key with a wide-open lane, drives and connects plus draws a foul. Misses the Free Throw. Next Tigers possession, Raynere Thornton buries a three. After a Temple, miss Memphis comes right back and Brewton connects. After a few more misses, Kyvon Davenport drills a jumper. Shizz Alston gets going for the Owls with a three of his own.
1st Media Timeout: Memphis 9, Temple 5

Owls come out firing with tough three point makes by both J.P. Moorman and De’Vondre Perry. Jeremiah Martin was anxious to join the three-point party, and man can he fill it up. After a couple of Martin treys, Alston nailed a nifty jumper and was fouled. Good sequence there, the pace is fast.
2nd Media Timeout: Memphis 17, Temple 15

Alston completes the three point play. Martin answers with another jumper, boy he heats up quick. Davenport hits a jumper. Temple HC Fran Dunphy calls timeout. Tyler Harris of Memphis makes a layup. Alston answers with another triple. After a couple of Memphis turnovers, Perry ends up finishing on the other end for the Owls.
3rd Media Timeout: Memphis 23, Temple 21

Antwann Jones, Jr. of Memphis nails a three right out of the break. Missed shot by the Owls. After a miss by Nick Lomax of Memphis, Justyn Hamilton hits a jumper for Temple. Antwann Jones hits a layup to answer. Alston comes right back with a successful drive to the basket. Alston picks up a steal from Jones, Jr. Tigers are playing sloppy. Martin is fouled after Owl miss. He hits both FT’s.
4th Media Timeout: Memphis 30, Temple 25

Ernest Aflakpui (who was questionable) is in the game and fouled. He makes one of two at the stripe. After a small scoring break, Temple broke the ice with an Alani Moore triple. Crowd is quiet. Later, Perry drew a foul for the Owl and made 1 of 2. Lomax turnover. Later, a steal and dunk by Moorman. Then another steal and dunk by Quinton Rose for Temple. Memphis is melting down right now. Martin finally gets the Tigers going with a driving layup. Big blocked shot from Antwann Jones Jr. leads to a transition break and a foul, sending Martin to the line. He connects on the first, misses the second. Owls have the final shot, it goes to Alston (of course) and he hits a driving shot off the glass to conclude the half.
Halftime: Temple 38, Memphis 33.

Antwann Jones Jr. gets the scoring going in the second half with a three-ball. After a blocked shot by Brewton, Brewton himself finishes on the other end. Game tied. Temple called for travelling. Davenport sinks a three. Wow, this is a game of runs. Quinton Rose ends the 8-0 Memphis run, with a driving lay-in. Nate Pierre-Louis of Temple misses a point blank layup, much to the delight of the Memphis faithful. On the other end, Jones Jr. throws a perfect lob to Thornton for a slam. Crowd loving this.
1st Media Timeout: Memphis 43, Temple 40

Pierre-Louis hits a contested runner off the glass as the shot clock expires. Been a lot of missed jumpers during this stretch, not a ton of exciting news. Alston is eventually fouled and connects on both foul shots. The ensuing possession Alston gets called for travelling. Seldom-used Isaiah Maurice for Memphis is in the game and flushes home a dunk, apparently Temple forgot about him. Next Tigers possession, Martin drives to the hole and makes the shot and the foul. Free throw coming after the timeout.
2nd Media Timeout: Memphis 47, Temple 46

Martin completes the 3-point play. Pierre Louis gets fouled and sent to the line, only makes one of two. Maurice is still in and he makes a key layup. Lomax with a steal and tremendous hustle to keep the ball in bounds, eventually takes it to the tin and Temple is called for goaltending. Temple uses a timeout, trailing now by five. Maurice is at the line, missed the first and made the second. Lengthy Temple possession leads to a Pierre-Louis three. Cuts the lead to three for Memphis. After a Tigers turnover, Perry draws a foul. Perry misses, then makes. Nice hesitation dribble drive by Lomax, earns a trip to then line, where he makes both FTs. After an Owls missed runner, Martin drives in for another layup. But then a big three in the corner by Temple’s Thornton keeps the Owls right in it.  
3rd Media Timeout: Memphis 57, Temple 54

Mike Parks makes two free throws after the break for the Tigers. Alston turns the ball over. After a Memphis miss, Moorman gets position inside and makes an easy layup. Davenport answers with a silky-smooth baseline drive and reverse lay-in. Missed three by Alston, and in transition Alani Moore hits a trey. Crowd is loving it, Tigers have an eight-point lead. Thornton draws a foul and makes one free throw for Memphis. Temple really needs buckets. Missed three by Alston again, Tigers turn it into a three-point play at the end of the shot clock by Martin, wow (great shot, one-handed floater). Martin completes the three-point play. Alston answers with a bucket and is fouled, makes the foul shot. Lead is now nine for Memphis. Great putback by Martin after a miss by Tyler Harris. Pierre-Louis gets back to the line and hits one of two. Martin again with a driving shot, it’s good. Temple called for travelling, it is loud in FedEx Forum.
4th Media Timeout: Memphis 72. Temple 60

Owls turn it over out of the timeout. Unbelievable – it’s another Martin three-point play. And yes he finishes it. Martin now has 30. More sloppy play from Temple, Coach Dunphy wants timeout. Alston misses, Memphis rebound. Davenport is fouled and with 1:24 to go, I am heading to the press room. Full recap to come.
Final Score: Memphis 81, Temple 73

TOTW: LSU Statement Week

LSU began the week with a stunning win at Kentucky and wrapped it up with a win in Athens.

LSU began the week with a stunning win at Kentucky and wrapped it up with a win in Athens.

Teams of the Week

LSU -
Tiger fans were disappointed during the Bracket Reveal telecast when they found out that their Bayou Bengals were left out of the Top 16 projected seeds. With a month of basketball still left to go - LSU went to Rupp Arena on a Tuesday evening to face one of the hottest teams nationally, Kentucky. It was a game to remember for LSU folks. Tigers trailed by nine points on four occasions in the second half against Kentucky, yet rallied to pull out a thrilling 73-71 victory in a game that ended with a slice of controversy. Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped in a missed FG attempt by Skylar Mays at the buzzer, which officials dissected on replay before ruling that the tip-in beat the buzzer. The monitor can’t be used for goaltending or basket interference plays. Tigers escaped with perhaps the biggest win of the week! LSU then had to remain focused as they faced an improving Georgia team on the road. Tremont Waters once again stepped up and led the Tigers to victory 83-79. Waters had 20 Points, 5 Rebounds. LSU wrapped up the week as a projected 3-seed in our current Bracket. Quite a week.

UAB - Blazers have been all over the map in Conference USA play this season. This week, the rollercoaster continued in a good way. UAB had to win both road games at Marshall and at WKU to have any chance at being included in the Top Pod of the brand new CUSA Bonus scheduling format (which I love by the way). This is still critical because the Top 5 teams go to Pod 1, and are assured of having the top 5 seeds in the CUSA Tournament. Well guess what? The Blazers pulled off the unthinkable sweep and got tremendous help when North Texas experienced some serious roster turmoil and lost to both Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. Congrats to the Blazers, who now can play their way up to a top seed and improve their overall metrics should they win the automatic bid next month.

Liberty - The Flames have been a fun story this season. They had an excellent non-league season, scoring big wins at UCLA, over Georgia State (preseason Sun Belt favorite) and over a tough Kent State club. The Flames had a Top 50 NET rating after killing a lot of inferior competition. Then the first showdown with Lipscomb happened and the Flames were ultimately embarassed on their home court…by 20! This past week presented a rematch in Nashville. Liberty took it as an opportunity to return the favor. Liberty started the game way out in front, but Lipscomb kept charging back. In the end, the Flames left Nashville with a gutsy 74-66 victory. Lipscomb’s 19-game ASUN win streak - gone. Lipscomb’s 11-game overall win streak - gone. Over the weekend the Flames were also able to take care of business over Division 1 newcomer North Alabama. I’d be shocked if we do not see Lipscomb-Liberty Round 3 next month in the ASUN Title Game for all of the marbles.

Missouri State - First Year Head Coach Dana Ford has been foundationally building a revised program with purpose and character in Springfield. This team has been written off several times this season. The week began with the Bears being two games out of first and in a logjam in the middle of the MVC standings. The Bears took care of Evansville on Wednesday evening in their building. Meanwhile, 1st place Loyola Chicago lost to Bradley to create a late week showdown between Loyola and Missouri State on Sunday. The Bears went into a packed Gentile Center and shot 63 percent from the field and hit three free throws in the final 5.5 seconds en route to catching Loyola and Drake atop the league standings. Final score: 65-61 Bears. Tulio Da Silva had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Bears, who won their fifth Valley road game. Da Silva has been playing great lately. Bears now have a sweep over the Ramblers, which could be key for Arch Madness seeding purposes.

Virginia - The Hoos were licking their wounds a bit after Duke came into their house and scored somewhat willingly on Virginia’s well regarded defense. The big challenge next for UVA was that they needed to then take on a hungry and hot UNC Tar Heel club in Chapel Hill with only one day off in between. Talk about a scheduling disadvantage. Well Virginia did what they’ve done best in recent memory and got tough. The Cavaliers held UNC to 30% shooting from deep and the Heels attempted 30 of them. It was a rough go to get open looks all evening. Big win for Virginia’s resume as they left Chapel Hill with a 69-61 victory. Saturday, UVA got somewhat of an unexpected test from Notre Dame. De’Andre Hunter (20 Pts in each game last week) and Kyle Guy (20 vs. UNC, 22 vs. ND) carried Virginia’s scoring efforts throughout the week and it was just enough to slip past the Irish 60-54.

Strongly Considered

Manhattan - Going through a very rough season, but managed to win at league leading Canisius and at Niagara.
Omaha - Hit GW basket to stun league leader South Dakota St. and followed it up with win over Purdue Fort Wayne.
VCU - Big win at Dayton, despite huge Flyers rally late. Also took care of business against rival Richmond.
BYU - Has taken the 2nd place WCC torch and ran with it. Two big road wins at USD and at LMU.
Ole Miss - Another big road win at Auburn last week, plus took care of Mizzou.

Honorable Mention
Montana
(Pivotal win at Weber St. and also won at Idaho St.), Michigan St. (Impressive win at Wisconsin, also beat Ohio State), Iowa State (In only game last week won at Kansas St.), Buffalo (Passed big test at Toledo, also won at Akron), UMKC (Knocked off Grand Canyon and CSUB, big wins for the program) Marist (two surprising road wins at Quinnipiac and at Monmouth), Florida (Key Road win at Alabama and beat Vandy), Lamar (First Southland team to beat SHSU, and beat NW State), Duke (record comeback win at Louisville and took care of NC State), Illinois (Surging Illini won at Ohio State in only game), Harvard (Impressive road sweep of Penn and Princeton), St. Francis PA (won at FDU and completed sweep of Robert Morris), Wright State (Earned share of 1st Place lead with big win over NKU), Colorado (Swept Arizona schools), Furman (Crucial win over UNCG, also took care of VMI), Bradley (Suddenly hot. Beat Loyola-Chicago and won at Illinois St.). Gardner Webb (Swept Winthrop and Charleston So.), Youngstown St. (6-game win streak. Beat IUPUI and UIC last week), Temple (much needed road win in OT at USF, also took down SMU), Mississippi State (Won at Arkansas without Nick Weatherspoon, and beat Alabama).

Notes

  • Conference USA has finished the scheduled part of their regular season. Now the fun begins! Bonus play with the Top five teams grouped in Pod 1, the next five teams in Pod 2, and the bottom four teams in Pod 3. The way things worked out for the league was unfortunate to not have an At Large bid contender alive at this point. However, it should be noted that the increased metrics for the top five would potentially get the Auto Bid winner a better seed come Selection Sunday. Curious to see how that plays out.

  • Quinnipiac and Siena played a game to remember on Sunday. A 107-100 3OT victory for the Bobcats. Two individual stat lines, were off the charts in this one. QU’s Cameron Young ended with 55 Points and shot 9-13 for three point land. He was incredible. Siena’s Jalen Pickett was hanging with Young all night. Pickett went for 46 Points and 13 Assists. What a game!

  • Austin Peay has quietly had an excellent year over in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Governors sit at 11-3 in the conference which includes a road win at Jacksonville State. Peay got all they could handle on Saturday at Morehead State, and if not for Terry Taylor’s efforts they likely would’ve lost. Taylor had a ridiculous 42 Points (10-19 2's, 5-9 3's, 7-9 FT's) and 18 Rebounds. The OVC Tournament next month will be a ton of fun, watch out for the Gov’s.

TOTW: Belmont Steals The Spotlight

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Teams of the Week

Belmont -
At the beginning of the week, all of the hype in the OVC was surrounding Ja Morant and the Racers of Murray State. After all, they were a dominant 6-0 in conference and only had two narrow losses (At Bama and At Auburn). The Belmont Bruins entered the week behind the 8-ball a bit in the OVC. Having already been swept by Jacksonville State and tasked with travlelling to two of the toufhest places in the conference, Murray State and Austin Peay. More than 40 NBA scouts came to witness Morant, only to see him go down with an early ankle injury that would bother him most of the game. Meanwhile the Bruins did a fantastic job on the defensive end to frustrate the Racers and limit them to a season low 32.3 percent shooting. After opening up a large lead, Belmont would go on to an emphatic 79-66 victory. With a day off in between, it was then time to play another team above them in the standings - Austin Peay. This game would go much differently for the Bruins. Austin Peay led 50-40 at Halftime, and the Governors held as large as a 14-point lead in the second half. Belmont’s Dylan Windler sparked a major comeback, scoring 22 of his 33 points in the second half and actually scoring 20 straight Belmont points during a single stretch. Kevin McClain’s layup put the Bruins up for good after breaking an 85-85 tie with 1:25 left. Bruins have now added a couple of quality road wins to a sneaky resume. Odds of them getting at-large remain slim, but for today they can be included in that conversation. Regardless, Belmont is a team that most do not want to face come March.

Purdue - In terms of projected seeding for the NCAA’s, nobody made a bigger move than Purdue. Last week at this time, I had Purdue 24th on the Seed list - good for the final #6 seed. Today? The Boilers are all the way up to 12th and have the final #3 seed. How? Purdue had an outstanding weekend to say the least. First it was a road game in Columbus against a tournament caliber Ohio State team. Carson Edwards led the way it in this game with 27 points, 5 steals, 4 assists and sinking 11 free throws. Boilermakers then had to turn around and get ready to host a red hot Michigan State (9-0 B10) team. This was a complete team effort by Purdue. Ryan Cline knocked down five treys, Nojel Eastern had eight free throws, and Matt Haarms had 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks off the bench. Despite a late rally from Michigan State, Purdue dominated most of the game and won handily, 73-63. Heck of a week for the Boilermakers.

Miami (OH) - I’ll admit this was an unlikely candidate to win this award before play began last week. The Redhawks were 9-9, 1-4 in MAC play and had only one road win all season. That quickly changed last Tuesday night when the Redhawks went to Ball State and stunned the Cardinals 71-65. Senior Darrian Ringo was sensational, pouring in 15 points to go with 6 assists and 5 steals. That gave the Redhawks confidence with First Place 6-0 Bowling Green coming to visit Millett Hall. The Redhawks really brought it defensively, holding the Falcons to 19-52 shooting and 15 turnovers. Meanwhile, Sophomore Nike Sibande had a 25 point, 7 rebound night to lead the way in a 67-53 victory. Redhawks look poised to threaten the MAC for the reamainder of the season.

Rutgers - Another unlikely selection, and a first time selection. You cannot tell me that you had the Scarlet Knights penciled in to beat Nebraska and win a road game last week. But that is exactly what happened! In Monday nights win over the struggling Huskers, Rutgers got great scoring efforts out of Montez Morris (20) and Geo Baker (16) as the Scarlet Knights sent Nebraska packing with a 76-69 win. Then it was off to face a regional rival in Penn State. Rutgers came ready to play. In a mostly tight game, and not exactly pretty, Rutgers grinded out a 64-60 triumph. Geo Baker hit a clutch three around the three minute mark to put the Scarlet Knights up for good. If anything, Rutgers is not a team to be overlooked over the next six weeks.

UMBC - We all know what happened with the Retrievers last March, unforgettable. However the majority of the 2018-19 campaign has been pretty forgettable. UMBC was sitting at 11-9, 3-2 in league and still yet to knock off a quality opponent. That all changed last Wednesday night. As the Retrievers prepared to face the league leading Vermont Catamounts, they found out star player Anthony Lamb for Vermont would be unavailable. And remember, Patrick Gymnasium is at the same location as last year’s stunning American East Championship win for UMBC. After a very competitive first half, UMBC opened the second half on a 17-3 run and never looked back. Retrievers stunned the Vermont faithful once again, 74-61. This gives UMBC a legitimate shot in the arm heading into the back half of the season. They completed the mountain road sweep by knocking off New Hampshire on Saturday 59-51. Watch out for UMBC down the stretch.

Strongly Considered

Washington - Another big-time road sweep in conference over Oregon and Oregon St. to get to 7-0.
UAB - Suddenly in the drivers seat of Conference USA after winning at North Texas and at Rice.
Kentucky - Statement home wins over Kansas and Mississippi State.
Missouri St. - Demolished league leader Loyola Chi and beat Bradley.
USC - With a healthy Kevin Porter Jr, turned things around by sweeping the Arizona schools at home.

Honorable Mention
San Diego
(Huge win over USF and beat LMU), American (big wins over Bucknell and at Boston U.), George Mason (won at Dayton and beat GW), Pepperdine (Big win over St. Mary’s), Baylor (Knocked off Alabama and won at OK State) UTSA (crazy comeback win to beat ODU and beat Charlotte), Davidson (Road win at SLU and beat GW), Louisiana Tech (Beat WKU and Marshall at Home), Drake (won at Valpo and took care of Evansville), CS-Fullerton (big win over UCSB and won at Cal Poly), BYU (knocked off Saint Mary’s), Penn (Completed the Big 5 Sweep!), Siena (Won at Fairfield and vs. Manhattan), Western Illinois (Stunning win at South Dakota), Coastal Carolina (Two Road wins at Little Rock and at Arkansas St.), Robert Morris (Stayed hot with wins over Wagner and Sacred Heart).

Notes

  • Grant Williams of Tennessee was a man amongst boys last week. Williams averaged 31 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals per game last week for the nation's top-ranked team (18-1, 6-0 in SEC). Williams finished with a career-high 43 points on 10-for-15 shooting when the Vols' top-ranking was put to the test in overtime at Vanderbilt last week, adding eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists

  • We’ve been waiting for South Dakota State to get rolling. It looks like the Jackrabbits have hit their stride of late. Mike Daum had a monster week. Scoring a combined 63 Points and adding 33 Rebounds as SDSU cruised to wins over Omaha and NDSU.

  • UNC Wilmington has had their struggles this season, But a beautiful bright spot has been the Senior season that Devontae Cacok is putting together. Last week was a big one for Cook. He put up 22 Points, 16 Rebounds in a vicotry over William & Mary. Then followed that up with a 20 Point, 19 Rebound performance in a losing cause vs. Elon.

TOTW: Syracuse takes giant step forward

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Teams of the Week

Syracuse -
Regardless of the circumstances, anytime you can go into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knock off the Duke Blue Devils it is a memorable experience. And that certainly holds true for the Syracuse Orange after their 95-91 stunning overtime win last Monday night in Durham. Duke people will tell you that Cam Reddish sat out with an illness and probably even worse, Tre Jones left after just six minutes with a potentially serious shoulder injury. But this award isn’t about Duke, it’s about a Syracuse team that really needed a shot in the arm after questionable losses to Old Dominion, Georgia Tech, and UConn this year. Tyus Battle had a big performance at Duke with 32 points and Paschal Chukwu came off the bench to grab 18 Rebounds and 10 points. Amazing performances for both. Later in the week, Syracuse hosted a pretty hot Pittsburgh team in a game at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse rode the momentum from Monday and took care of the Panthers 74-63. Chukwu was elevated to the starting lineup and grabbed 11 more Rebounds. Battle added 22 Points. Heck of a week for those two individuals and for the Orange.

Baylor - Prior to this week, Baylor was in serious trouble. They had just lost one of their best players, 6-9 240 lb. Sophomore Tristan Clark for the season and were well outside of the projected bubble due to losses against Texas Southern, Stephen F. Austin, and Wichita State. There is nothing Baylor can do about those losses now, but the Bears needed a big week in a bad way. Senior King McClure really stepped up during Monday’s win at Oklahoma State with 29 points in a virtual must win for the Bears. That set the stage for an intriguing visit from highly rated Texas Tech. This time it was a complete Baylor team effort to find the path to a 73-62 statement victory over the Red Raiders. Frosh Jared Butler had 19, Senior transfer from Yale, Makai Mason had 16, and the Baylor defense forced 17 Red Raider turnovers. Seven different Bears scored at least six points. Sharing the rock seemed to keep the vaunted Texas Tech defense on their heels. Great week for Baylor.

Grambling St.- When Texas Southern went to Baylor, Oregon, and Texas A&M and beat all three of them on the road during Non-Conference play, everyone (including myself) penciled the Tigers in as the projected SWAC champions and by a large margin. So when Grambling traveled to Houston to face TSU last Saturday, not many were expecting a close game. Texas Southern controlled the majority of the game. Late in the contest, Irv Smith of Grambling began to take over. Smith scored the final four points in regulation, including a layup with two seconds left, to force overtime. After trailing during most of the Overtime period, Grambling mounted another comeback and trailed by one, and had the bal for a final possessionl. Then Smith hit the game winning jumper for the stunning 88-87 victory. Head Coach Donte Jackson has done an amazing job since taking over as Grambling’s coach last season. They went 13-5 in SWAC play last year while on probation. Now, with full tournament eligibility he is getting them in position to make a run to the NCAA’s. Also last week, Grambling defeated Alcorn State in a blowout 77-42.

LSU -We are going to stay in the great state of Louisiana for our next award, and tell you about what LSU did last week. The Tigers headed to Oxford on Tuesday night to face a red hot Ole Miss team that won last week’s award for Team of the Week. LSU came in with a superb gameplan to keep Ole Miss off balance and had seven players score six points or more. Tremont Waters did his usual thing for the Tigers by scoring 20 points and adding nine assists as LSU won in very impressive fashion 83-69, effectively bringing Ole Miss back down to Planet Earth. By Saturday, it was time to cool off the other surprise team in the SEC - the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina came into Baton Rouge a very surprising 4-0 in league play. LSU did a tremendous job not allowing the upset-minded Gamecocks to have much of a chance in this one as the Tigers controlled the game from the onset. Freshman Emmitt Williams came off the bench in a big way with 15 Points, 13 Rebounds. And it was again a balanced effort with six Tigers scoring in double-figures. LSU cruised to a 89-67 victory in wrapping up a highly successful week.

UNC Greensboro - Another week, another SoCon team recieving TOTW honors. This time it’s the Spartans of UNC Greensboro. Quite frankly, I am surprised they did it and here is why. The Spartans had a fantastic 15-3 record entering last week, but had really played poorly in a blowout home loss against Wofford and some were beginning to question if this team should be considered a contender still. Well UNCG answered that question somewhat by holding off Furman two Saturdays ago and set themselves up with some confidence entering this road swing to WCU and ETSU. In the WCU game on Thursday, UNC Greensboro looked real shaky for much of the game, trailing by four points late in the game. But UNCG closed strong and came away with a 69-60 victory. Demetrius Troy had a highly efficient game leading the Spartn offense with seven assists and zero turnovers. Then came Saturday’s difficult test in Johnson City, TN against ETSU. The surging Buccaneers came into the game winning their last eight in a row. The Bucs also were a perfect 10-0 at home. Given the recent struggles of UNCG, many expected the Bucs to cruise in this one. The Spartans had other plans. A couple of unlikely heroes really stepped up in a 75-68 win for UNCG. Freshman Angelo Allegri came off the bench and hit five three pointers and added two steals. Junior Center James Dickey had 10 points, nine Rebounds, and 4 Blocks. And UNCG’s defense held ETSU to 31% 3 Pt shooting and forced 17 turnovers. Huge win for UNCG.

Strongly Considered

Kentucky - Won a big time road game against Auburn, also won at Georgia
Monmouth - Won three times last week: at Siena, versus rival Iona, and over Fairifield. Major turnaround after 1-13 start to season.
Iowa State - Huge win at Texas Tech, and held serve vs. Oklahoma State
Jacksonville St. - Finished the season sweep over Belmont in OT and beat Tennessee Tech, now 6-0 in OVC play.
Maryland - Maybe the hottest team out there. Dominated Ohio State on the road, beat Wisconsin at home. Another tremendous week.

Honorable Mention
Pennsylvania
(Beat bubble team and rival Temple in their building), Arizona State (Entered the week with doubts, left with two impressive wins over the Oregon schools), Bucknell (big wins at rival Lehigh and against Holy Cross), Kansas State (Big win at Oklahoma and took care of home business vs. TCU), Middle Tennessee (Knocked off top CUSA team UTSA and beat UTEP) Michigan State (won at Nebraska in big matchup), Canisius (Two crucial road wins. At Fairfield and at Quinnipiac), Bowling Green (Stayed unbeaten in MAC play with wins over Ball State and WMU), Houston (two road conference wins at SMU and at USF), UMass-Lowell (wins at Hartford and vs. Albany), Oakland (knocked off rival and previous first place Detroit on the road), Mount St. Mary’s (won on the road at first place Wagner), Loyola (MD) (Won at Holy Cross and vs. BU), Milwaukee (low ranked Panthers impressively swept UIC and IUPUI).

Notes

  • Ja Morant of Murray State is having a season for the ages and his draft stock has skyrocketed. In Sunday’s win at SIUE, Morant had 40 Points, 11 Assists, 5 Steals and went a perfect 21-21 from the Free throw line. In Thursday’s win over EIU, Morant had 27 Points and 9 Assists. Make sure to watch a Racers game or two this season.

  • Andrew Kostecka of Loyola (MD) had himself an exciting and successful week. Andrew had 28 points in an overtime win over Boston University and added 26 more points plus the game winning shot in another overtime win over Holy Cross. Tremendous individual and team week for Andrew and the Greyhounds.

  • George Mason is fighting their tails off to turn around their season after a disappointing non-conference slate combined with some lofty preseason expectations. The Patriots are off to a 5-1 start in Atlantic 10 play thanks in large part to 6-4 Junior, Justin Kier. Kier has been named MVP in their last four games in a row, according to Ken Pomeroy and has now won Atlantic 10 Player of the week honors in back to back weeks. Kier had 40 points, 18 Rebounds total in the two wins over UMass and Fordham last week. Up next, Kier and the Patriots head to Dayton for a key matchup on Wednesday evening.

Game Coverage - Charleston at Northeastern

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Pregame Charleston Notes:

·        Snapped 22-game home win streak, losing to Drexel, bounced back against Delaware.

·        Brevin Galloway is a spot up shooter that is gaining confidence

·        Rebounding, Defense, Protect the Ball. Principles of Earl Grant.

·        Marquise Pointer needs to guard Serbian stud Vasa Pusica.

·        Zep “Honey Badger” Jasper (great nickname)

Pregame Northeastern Notes:

·        Bill Coen has a winning record over every current CAA member with the exception of Charleston, where he is 5-5.

·        Vasa Pusica is pronounced VAH-sah poo-SHEETZ-ah

·        Injuries have decimated the Huskies, but they are now mostly healthy with the exception of Maxime Boursiquot who is missing this season with a Hip injury.

·        Shawn Occeus is the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year and is finally healthy.

·        Star player Vasa Pusica represented Serbia in International play in the summer of 2016.

·        Matthews Arena is historic, former home of Celtics and Bruins.

1st Half
Intensity right from the opening tip from both clubs. Vasa Pusica ends up on the recieving end of a fast break to start tonight’s scoring. Huskies play great D and force a desperation trey attempt by Marquise Pointer, but he banks it in! The next Charleston possession, same thing happens at the end of the shot clock - this time its Brevin Galloway with the heave at the shot clock buzzer and he swishes it. WOW. Anthony Green of Northeastern answers with a three on the other end.
1st Media Timeout - Charleston 8, Northeastern 4

Both clubs are playing excellent defense. Sam Miller of Charleston hits a big three. Cougars bench is really fired up early on. Jarrell Brantley connects, he has four points early on. Bolden Brace with an answer for Northeastern.
2nd Media Timeout - Charleston 15, Northeastern 10

Jeremy Miller of Northeastern hits a shot to get Northeastern closer. Vasa Pusica adds two more. Northeastern has their first lead since 2-0. Charleston answers with a dunk from Nick Harris. Northeastern in transition kicks the ball over to Pusica who delivered a sweet dish to Anthony Green as he was streaking down the lane. Green is fouled and will shoot two when we come back.
3rd Media Timeout - Charleston 17, Northeastern 16

Green makes both free throws. Charleston is getting cold from the field of late. Green goes for a dunk attempt, but great defense by Galloway to strip him as he went up. Pusica picks up his second foul with 5:52 left in the first half, could be a factor - he goes to the bench. Bolden Brace now has two as well for the Huskies after going over the back trying to get a rebound. Shawn Occeus picks up a charge call. And this is now becoming a bit of a foul fest. Finally Jaylen Richard breaks the ice with a nice stroke. Occeus misses a three but Donnell Gresham gets a big offensive rebound and puts it in plus is fouled. Gresham will have one foul shot when we return.
4th Media Timeout - Northeastern 20, Charleston 19

Gresham sinks the free throw. Brantley gets the ball on the wing and takes his man to the cup and finishes, what an impressive move. Cougars get the ball in transition and this time Grant Riller finishes on the other end. Occeus answers for the Huskies. Huskies get it back for the last shot of the half, and turn it over.
Halftime - Northeastern 23, Charleston 23

2nd Half
Occeus takes the opening possession to the rack and draws a foul by Brantley. Makes one out of two thanks to a lane violation by the Cougars, otherwise he would’ve missed both. After a Charleston miss, Brace backs his man down and hits a straight away bank shot from about six feet. Brantley responds by hitting a nice jumper. On an in bounds pass under their own basket, the Huskies find Occeus underneath and he jams it home. Pointer shoots an airball as the shot clock expires and the students let him have it a little bit. Pusica connects on a driving layup. Riller responds by driving and laying in a bucket while getting fouled, misses the free throw however. Brace hits a big three after faking like he was going to drive. Brace gets a steal and goes coast to coast, finishing with a euro-step and hits a beautiful layup. Grant Riller hit a jumper on the other end.
1st Media Timeout - Northeastern 35, Charleston 29

Bolden Brace has been amazing already in this half. From about 16 feet away from the basket near the baseline he shoots a fadeaway and it rattles home, wow. Green draws a foul down low, goes to the line, and makes both shots. Huskies lead by 10, largest of the game for either team. Jordan Roland of Northeastern hits a nice mid-range jumper. Occeus breaks his man down off the dribble and drives to the lane, finishes with his left hand. That was pretty. NE up by 14 now. Charleston is looking flat. Pusica hits a layup off the drive. Marquise Pointer finally stops the Cougar bleeding with a three ball. Roland answers with a jumper. Sam Miller with a dunk for Charleston off a pretty dish from Pointer. Pusica hits a three, and that has to hurt Charleston.
2nd Media Timeout - Northeastern 50, Charleston 34

Brantley draws a foul and makes both free throws. Next time down for Charleston, Brantley connects on three point play and does a power flex move toward the Northeastern student section. Charleston suddenly is within 11. Occeus picks up his third foul and now Charleston is in the bonus. Riller goes to the line anc converts his one and one. Another Northeastern turnover and Charleston creates yet another three point play. This time by Miller.
3rd Media Timeout - Northeastern 50, Charleston 43

Miller finishes off the three point play. Occeus made a miraculous shot while fouled by Brantley as he was fading out of bounds toward the baseline, huge shot. Occeus misses on the foul shot. Charleston’s Zep (Honey Badger) Jasper is called with an offensive foul. After a Husky miss, Cougars draw another foul. Richard is at the line for a one and one. Richard converts on both. Pusica with a beautiful alley oop to Green and finshes with a slam. Steal by Occeus but he missed the layup. After a blocked shot by Brace, Occeus recieves a long outlet pass from Brace and finishes a contested layup. Riller draws a foul, double bonus now for Charleston. He makes both. Pusica draws a foul, makes both free throws. Lead is back to ten for the Huskies. Richard hits a corner three ball for the Cougars. Pointer hits a running layup. Timeout Northeastern.
4th Media Timeout - Northeastern 58, Charleston 53

True to form, Bolden Brace hits a big time three to stretch the lead to eight. Riller hits a three for the Cougars, Charleston has a furious press going. Creating bcak to back turnovers. Brantley gets denied on a lay-in though. The ball ends up in the trusted hands of Pusica and he is fouled. Pusica hits both foul shots. Huskies by seven now. Richard called for a key travelling call. Only 44 seconds remain. Occeus is fouled and will head to the line. Makes one of two. Riller is fouled unnecessarily by Green. Down to 27 seconds to go now. Riller makes both, lead is six for Northeastern. Pusica is going back to the line after a foul by Pointer. Pusica delivers again on both shots. Pointer misses a three and Brantley fouls out, Green to the line. This should pretty much wrap things up. Green makes one.
Final Score - Northeastern 69, Charleston 60.

Teams of the Week: Jan. 7-13

Devontae Shuler and the Ole Miss Rebels had a statement week.

Devontae Shuler and the Ole Miss Rebels had a statement week.

Teams of the Week

Ole Miss -
Many of us thought that this week would really show us how good the Kermit Davis led Rebels really are. Well, the Rebels sure showed us! On Tuesday night, Senior Terence Davis put on a dazzling performance - 27 Points, 12 Reb’s, and led the Rebels to a big win over Auburn 82-67 in front of a sellout crowd. That set the stage for Saturday’s rivalry game in Starkville against Mississippi State. The stage felt even bigger nationally, with Basketball’s version of the Egg Bowl being broadcast on CBS. I live in California, and I can tell you it is very rare to see either school on network TV on a Saturday afternoon. The Rebels seized the moment. This time it was Freshman Blake Hinson’s time to shine. He stepped up with five three pointers and finished with 26. The leadership of Breein Tyree also stood out, as he knocked down key free throws and led the Rebels emotionally. Rebels won 81-77 and are now 3-0 in the SEC with two road conference wins.

Wofford - The Terriers had to have felt somewhat disrespected prior to their visit to Greensboro on Thursday night. A lot of the talk was about how tough the Spartans were and how they were defending champions, and a lot of people picking the Spartans this year to repeat as SoCon champs. This years’ SoCon is even more loaded, and Wofford is leading the charge. They made a huge statement by punishing UNC Greensboro in their backyard and later completing the road sweep at VMI. Wofford outrebounded UNCG 41-24 and held the Spartans to 21% 3 point shooting (4-19).. The game was over early on for all intents and purposes. The Terriers have clearly established themselves as the team to beat for now in the SoCon. But teams like ETSU and Furman will also have a say, what a league!

Maryland - I hope you bought stock in the Terps after their home loss to Seton Hall back on December 22nd. Since then Maryland has really come together. This past week, I believe the Terps turned a corner. Winning at Minnesota was a big win. To date, Maryland is the only team to win there. This greatly helped Maryland’s resume and position in the Big 10 of course. Beating the Gophers by 15 (82-67) was a big statement. In the second game of the week against Indiana, Bruno Fernando had a heck of a night. Shooting 11-12 from the Field and finishing with 25 points. Fernando has been sensational all season long, plus the Terps are getting consistent contributions from Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, and Jalen Smith. Ayala and Smith are both Frosh who start. Dangerous club right now.

Eastern Michigan - It’s been a wild ride this season in Ypsilanti. The Eagles were picked to win the West Division of the MAC and be the biggest threat to Buffalo in the league. So what happened? Well, the Eagles took a bunch of lumps in the non-conference season including losses to Detroit, Rutgers, UC Irvine and others. EMU couldn’t seem to get anything going. So when the Eagles travelled to Muncie, Indiana on Tuesday night to face a strong contender in Ball State, most overlooked them. Well the Eagles showed life and put a heck of a game together, defeating the Cardinals 84-82 in a Double OT thriller. On Saturday, the Eagles hosted another MAC contender, Kent State. EMU got off to a huge start thanks ot hot shooting from deep (12-19 for the game) and it was never even close. Eagles win 95-61. EMU has now put themselves back into the discussion for teams that can steal the MAC bid, great week Eagles.

South Carolina - It’s incredibly rare to see two teams from the same conference selected to the Teams of the Week Top 5. But in this case, Frank Martin’s club has earned the recognition. The momentum started rolling after they escaped Gainesville two Saturday’s ago with a wild win. That led us to Tuesday night, when heavily favored Mississippi State arrived in Columbia. The Gamecocks came out ready to fight, and this was a great game to watch. The Gamecock offense ran through 6-11 big man Malik Kostar, they repeatedly fed him. Kostar finished with 25 points on 18 shots and the Cocks survived in OT with a big win. Then over the weekend, a winter storm postponed the Missouri game from Saturday to Sunday. When the teams finally got on the court, Coach Martin’s club picked up right where they left off. Fighting, scratching, clawing for every loose ball plus playing tough defense and taking smart shots. The Gamecocks would prevail 85-75. Offensively, it was a much more balanced attack than the Mississippi St. game. Five players finished in double figures. Hats off to Coach Martin for keeping this team together and for mixing his game strategies from game to game so effectively.

Strongly Considered

Temple - First team to beat Houston and survived a scare in OT against USF, heck of a week.
UT Arlington - Road sweep over Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State during a major rebuild season under first year Head Coach Chris Ogden.
Marquette - Miraculous win at Creighton (YouTube it) and solid home win over Seton Hall.
Davidson - Won on the road against a hot George Mason club, and made a big second half comeback to knock off VCU in a key game.
Washington - Big time road sweep at Utah and at Colorado. First Road sweep for this UW program in six years. Also the difficulty of playing two games in three days at high altitude. Well done Dawgs.

Honorable Mention
Oklahoma State
(Beat West Virginia on the road and Texas at home), Iowa (Nice road win at Northwestern and home win over Ohio State), Texas Tech (big wins over Oklahoma and at Texas), Prairie View A&M (Big upset win over Texas Southern and road win at Alcorn St.), Villanova (Tough win at Creigton and home win over St. John’s) Valparaiso (won at Southern Illinois and took care of Bradley at home), Oregon State (Rare Home sweep of L.A. schools, Beavers are getting hot) Rider (Took full control of MAAC with road wins at Canisius and Niagara), Dartmouth (wins conference opener over Harvard in a big way), Missouri State (wins at Indiana St and At Bradley), North Alabama (Swept FGCU and NJIT, big wins for 1st year in D1 squad), UTSA (won key game over North Texas and took care of Rice), DePaul (Won at St. John’s without Ponds in only game), LSU (nice win at Arkansas and vs. Bama), UNLV (Tough win at the Pit over UNM), Central Connecticut State (two road wins in league over FDU and MSM), Arizona (Bay Area Road Sweep over Stanford and Cal), Eastern Washington (knocked off Big Sky favorites Montana in only game), Princeton (another win over Penn, this one on the road), Hampton (won first two games as Big South member over Charleston So. and UNCA)

Notes

  • Markus Howard of Marquette scored 79 points in two victories during the week. Many will remember his 53 point game to rally over Creighton in an epic collapse by the Blue Jays. Howard will be in line for a lot of postseason notoriety this coming April.

  • Matt Morgan of Cornell had a performance to remember in the Big Red’s 86-74 win at Towson. Morgan connected on nine three pointers and finished with 38 points. Morgan has a reputation for shooting the rock, but this shattered his previous career high of six three pointers in a game.

  • The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns have had their ups and downs this year. This week was no different. They fell short at Georgia State, but bounced back with a nice win at Georgia Southern. Do not blame the ups and downs on 6-8, 215 star senior Jakeenan Grant. He has been sensational. Grant had 36 points, 11 rebounds on Thursday, and followed that up with 22 points, 12 rebounds in Saturday’s victory.

Teams of the Week and More - Happy New Year!

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For those of you who have followed for a long time, you are probably familiar with my Teams of the Week tweets coming on Sunday Nights or Monday Mornings. This year for Conference play, I’d like to shed a little bit of light into how the teams are chosen and write a quick snip it for the teams awarded and add a few nuggets where I see fit.

Teams of the Week

New Mexico -
The Lobos must’ve been relieved to end a rugged non-conference slate. A Non-conference schedule that included two losses to arch rival New Mexico State, three more losses at the Pit against CU, North Texas, and Penn, plus a blowout loss against Saint Mary’s. But the turn of the calendar and a clean 0-0 MWC record, gave the Lobos a fresh start. On Wednesday, they went to Colorado Springs and took care of business against Air Force, 65-58. Setting the stage for the matchup with 14-0 Nevada in the Pit. I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted what happened next. The Lobos demolished Nevada from the opening tip, and cruised to a 85-58 victory. Anthony Mathis continues to put up a lot of points, scoring 27 in the win. And KU transfer Carlaton Bragg, who is slowly increasing his MPG’s, picked up 12 rebounds. This Lobo team mainly plays seven players, and only one (Mathis) is shorter than 6-7. Could give a lot of teams fits in the MWC this year.

Jacksonville State - The Gamecocks came into the season looking like a contender in the OVC. Many had them in the Top 3 in preseason polls plus they routed Alabama in an Exhibition Game. Then the games started counting and the 0-3 start was disappointing. The Gamecocks finished non-league play at 8-5 but without a significant win. That all changed on Thursday night in Nashville. The Gamecocks went into Belmont and stunned the favored Bruins 83-73. The key was only committing 8 turnovers and controlling the rebounding edge 47-32. Jacksonville State then continued their road trip with a 69-62 win at Tennessee State. Quite an impressive road sweep and early control in the OVC conference race belongs to tthe Gamecocks.

Iowa State - January 5th was circled on the Cyclone calendar since last summer. Every season when KU visits it is the biggest game of the year at Hilton Coliseum. But before that, the Cyclones were dealt with an always difficult road test in Stillwater. The finally healthy Cyclones were able to grab an important road win while Coach Prohm ironed out some different lineup combinations. Then it was time for the big matchup, KU. Cyclones would soon find out that the Jayhawks would not have key big Udoka Azubuike for this game, not sure it would have mattered. After a seesaw first half, the Cyclones dominated KU thuroughly in the second half and cruised to a 77-60 win. This establishes ISU as an early contender in the Big XII race.

St. John’s - The Red Storm, led by Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron have had a fun start to the season. The biggest issue has been the schedule, leaving most of us wondering - how good are they really? Well, Big East play is here now and the Johnnies just had a marvelous week. An 89-69 win over a very good Marquette team and an OT thrilling win at Georgetown on Saturday were big for this team. Johnnies now head to Villanova tonight. Looking more and more like a tournament team.

Michigan State - I typically like to reserve this space for underdogs or lesser known teams, but this week the Spartans earned the honors. A gutsy win at Ohio State where the Spartans had to rally and a blowout win over Northwestern earlier in the week were enough to elevate the Spartans in seed projections and get to a perfect 4-0 in a loaded Big Ten. Well done Sparty.

Strongly Considered

Purdue Fort Wayne - Huge win over South Dakota State by 16 in only game of the week. Now 3-0 in Summit League play.
Minnesota - Road win at Wisconsin in only game this week, but it was so big for the resume that they almost made the cut.
South Carolina - Stunning upset win at Florida with one second to go on a homerun pass with 1 second left in only game of the week.
Texas - Longhorrns had a fantastic week. Winning at Kansas State and vs. West Virginia. Good to beat up on those teams while they are down.
Georgia State - Big time road sweep over Texas State and UT Arlington. Texas State was looking to establish themselves as the team to beat in the Sun Belt. Ron Hunter’s club wouldn’t let it happen.

Honorable Mention
Oregon State
(Beat Oregon on the road), Rice (Surprisingly beat LA Tech and Southern Miss at home), Alabama (Big Home win over Kentucky), Texas Tech (Beat WV on road, KSU at home), George Mason (blowout wins at Saint Joe’s and vs. Bonnies), Navy (Surprising wins over Holy Cross and Colgate), Ball State (Big Road win at Toledo), Virginia (won showdown over FSU, and beat Marshall), La Salle (wins conference opener at UMass).

Notes

  • Oral Roberts Frosh, Kevin Obanor, is starting to play a more significant role. He has helped the Eagles to a surprising 3-0 start in Summit League play. Obanor is coming off the bench still, but averaging 20.3 PPG in the three contests despite averaging just 24 MPG. A player to keep your eye on.

  • A bizarre week for both UTSA and UTEP, who were tasked with facing each other twice in a three day window. Round 1 was in San Antonio on Thursday, then Round 2 in El Paso on Saturday. The Roadrunners pulled off a sweep of both contests (75-60, 67-63 respectively) and are now 2-0 in CUSA play.



Game Coverage - Rider at Drake

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Pregame Notes:
Game Notes (Rider): The Broncs are logging tons of airline miles: Rider beat Robert Morris on Sat. Traveled 2.626 miles for a Monday night loss to Wazzu. Then traveled 1,548 miles here to Des Moines for today's game. Next? 1,415 miles to Las Vegas for 2 games this wknd. Rough.

Game Notes (Drake): The Bulldogs only returned two letterwinners from last season, tied for fewest in the nation with Chattanooga. New Head Coach Darian Devries did an amazing job building a roster in no time, Nick Norton (UAB transfer) and true frosh D.J. Wilkins have been key.

Game Action:
Quick steal to start the game by Nick Norton and pull up three is a brick. Tyere Marshall (Rider) takes the ball the length of the court and scores. After another miss by Drake, Marshall scores again for the Broncs. Kimar Williams for the Bulldogs answers with a three. Then Marshall answers again with a juimper this time. Nick Norton hits a pretty three right in front of me. Rider’s Anthony Durham hits consecutive buckets.
1st Media Timeout: Rider 10, Drake 5

Stevie Jordan keeps things rolling for Rider with a jumper. Nice drive and dish by Drake Frosh Garrett Sturtz to fellow Frosh D.J. Wilkins for three. Drake gets the ball back and tries an alley oop to Tremell Murphy and he is fouled hard by Rider’s Jordan Allen. On the in-bounds, Sturtz makes the Broncs pay with a three ball. Drake right back in it.
2nd Media Timeout: Rider 13, Drake 11

Great ball movement by Drake to get the ball to Nick McGlynn who gets a two hand slam and is fouled. McGlynn completes the three point play. Marshall makes another basket for Rider, he is playing great early and has 10 already. Rider’s Ajeri Ogemuno-Joohnson makes a splash off the bench with a physical put back lay in after getting his own rebound.
3rd Media Timeout: Rider 22, Drake 18

Marshall again makes a jumper, and Williams adds two more for Rider. Wilkins answers with a three ball, nice stroke. After a few misses on each side and a few fouls were back to a media timeout.
4th Media Timeout: Rider 26, Drake 24

When Drake scores I am noticing a common denominator: they move they ball very well. Just happened again as the Bulldogs worked the ball around to Anthony Murphy who was open for three and he buries it. Another solid Drake possession unfortunately leads to a McGlynn miss. Rider’s Marshall pushes the ball down court and finishes again, he has 14 now. After a Rider miss, Nick Norton pushes it and finishes with a layup. Rider doesnt get a good look and we head to Halftime.
Halftime: Drake 29, Rider 28.

McGlynn draws a foul inside to start the second half and connects on one of two. Marshall answers for Rider (been saying that all night already). Norton with a nice driving layup for Drake. Later, in transition, Norton hits an open Wilkins for three. Drake has their largest lead of the night at five. Rider turns it over. After a long possession, Wilkins hits another three to beat the shot clock. A miss by Rider, and a dunk by McGlynn. Timeout Rider, the lead is 10. Rider finally has a good trip down, Jordan Allen connects for two.
1st Media Timeout: Drake 40, Rider 32

Anthony Durham scores right after a bucket by Wilkins. Rider’s Jordan draws a foul and hits both, Drake’s lead is down to six. Dimencio Vaughn draws a foul and makes one free throw. Garrett Sturtz takes his man off the dribble and finshes for a pretty deuce. Marshall answers with another bucket for Rider, he now has 18. Wilkins draws a foul, he is an impressive player for a Freshman. Wilkins makes both free throws. Offensive foul called on Rider’s Frederick Scott. Rider leaves Drake’s Anthony Murphy open for three and he drills it. Wilkins misses a 10 footer, ends up getting the ball again after an offensive rebound and hits a three, he now has 17 points. Allen for Rider then connects on back to back three pointers and is feeling it.
2nd Media Timeout: Drake 52, Rider 48

McGlynn with a nifty hook shoot that rattles around and home for two. Vaughn draws a foul and makes both FT’s. Nick Norton with a nice move to fake his defender and finishes with a layup. Ogemuno-Johnson earns a trip to the line and makes both. Drake lead is at four. Sturtz knifes his way into the lane and finishes. Rider’s Williams called for a crucial travelling, crowd getting somewhat on him. Drake turns it right back over.
3rd Media Timeout: Drake 58, Rider 52

D.J. Wilkins with a big rejection from behind on Marshall. Then Nick Norton connects from deep for Drake. After a Rider turnover, McGlynn hits a three. Rider now trails by 14 and calls timeout. After the break Rider misses twice, and Murphy draws a foul on the other end. He hots one of two. Rider gets a rebound and find Vaughn open for a quick two underneath.
4th Media Timeout: Drake 67, Rider 54

The final sequence was full of some stall tactics by Drake and too many misses by Rider. And that’s gonna do it! here from Des Moines.
Final: Drake 76, Rider 58.

Drake goes to 8-2, great start for them. Rider will need to get their act together prior to MAAC play.

Game Coverage - St. Joe's at Princeton

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The Saint Joseph’s Hawks come into tonight looking for their first true road win. They had a chance earlier this year when they fell short 87-85 against William & Mary. Today presents another winnable road opportunity, However the Hawks come in reeling, losing four out of five. For all intense of purposes, the Hawks At Large bid aspirations have diminished.

The Princeton Tigers come in with three straight wins including two road wins and 21-point win over George Washington last time out. Myles Stephens and Devin Cannady lead this Tiger club who has high hopes to make the Ivy League semifinals and reach the NCAA’s. Should be a fun one tonight.

1st Half Recap - Saint Joes came out firing and built up a seven point lead at one point. Princeton continued to fight back with solid play from Devin Cannady (13 Points) Richmond Aririguzoh contributed with 10 points, including 6-6 FT’s. Saint Joe’s got a nice half from Charlie Brown (10 Points, 5 Rebs) and Jared Bynum (9 Points) set the tone for the Hawks. The difference was the Hawks were getting better looks and the stats prove that. They shot 15-29 as a team.
Halftime: St. Joe’s 39, Princeton 36.

Hawks capitalize on a few Princeton miscues and have grown the lead to eight now. A beautiful stroke for three by Taylor Funk and a couple of clutch drives and finishes from Lamarr Kimble created some separation.
1st Media Timeout - St. Joe’s 53, Princeton 45

Taylor Funk connects on a pretty trey in the corner. He later adds a nce jumper from 15. Princeton picks up a big three pointer from Sebastian Much. Followed by a couple free throw makes by Jose Morales.
2nd Media Timeout - St. Joes 63, Princeton 50

Lamarr Kimble stretches the Hawks lead to 15 after a driving layup. Princeton’s Jerome Desrosiers comes back with a trey. After a Aririguzoh layup on one end for Princeton, St. Joe’s answers with a thunderous dunk from Chris Clover. Cannasy draws a foul and connects on one of two foul shots. Morales hits a driving layup.
3rd Media Timeout - St. Joes 67, Princeton 60

After a couple of misses, Jared Bynum connects from deep. Cannady answers with a three of his own. Funk responds for the Hawks with a jumper. Another triple from Desrosiers.
4th Media Timeout - St. Joes 80, Princeton 71

Desrosiers hits two more triples for the Tigers and the lead is down to six. After a couple fouls and coverted free throws for the Hawks the lead is back to ten. Then a big moment happens when Cannady picks up his 5th foul. He exits with 26 points and the Tigers now trailing by 12. Chris Clover delivers an exclamation point dunk.
Final Score - St. Joes 92, Princeton 82

2018 Battle 4 Atlantis Predictions

Another quality field is heading to the Bahamas tomorrow for the annual Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. A few of the favorites in this field still have a lot of mysteries about them. So how will it all play out?

8. Middle Tennessee – The Blue Raiders are in unfamiliar territory after Kermit Davis finally landed a Power five job that he long deserved at Ole Miss. Nick McDevitt takes over this year as a new up and coming Head Coach by way of UNC Asheville. Blue Raiders were picked in the bottom half of Conference USA coming into the season. But thus far, signs have been positive. They battled Belmont tough down the road at Belmont in their first significant test. It would not surprise me if the Blue Raiders could pull off a win while in this highly coveted event. However, percentage wise they are more than likely leaving with three losses. I’m really interested to see what type of progress this bunch makes together in the Bahamas.

7.  Oklahoma – The Sooners are also going through a significant change. This one is more personnel related, as Trae Young has moved to the NBA. Lon Kruger has been tasked with putting impressive veteran newcomers like Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds with veteran returnees Christian James and Rashard Odomes. Jamal Bieniemy is also in the mix, a Freshman who impressed Kruger in the summer. The early results have been promising. Sooners picked up road wins at UTRGV and at UTSA (no Jhivvan Jackson for the Roadrunners), and just beat Wofford on Sunday by 11. Only two days off between the Wofford win and facing the Gators with Bahamas travel plus events in between hurts their chances in the opener. Then I believe they will have a real even matchup against Stanford. Almost a true coin flip game there, I see them falling short. And finally Sooner fans will be able to rejoice after a win over MTSU for 7th place.

6. Dayton – The Flyers had a real shaky and uncharacteristic year last year in HC Anthony Grant’s first year with the Flyers, finishing 14-17. This is a team I was able to see in person last year and they return some pieces that I personally like. Josh Cunningham is a load down low, and many teams have a hard time matching up with him. Trey Landers, Jalen Crutcher, and Jordan Davis were three others that stood out last year. Having all four back together should equal a wins improvement this year. However, we have already seen some warning signs. In the final tune-up prior to Atlantis, the Flyers allowed Fort Wayne to hang around virtually the entire game and trialed at various junctures. Seems like there is still some experimenting going on. I liked what I saw out of Butler against Ole Miss and believe Dayton wont be able to keep up with the Bulldogs. On Day two, a matchup with Middle Tennessee will be a nice opportunity to restore order and build confidence. On the final day, I think they will again have a great shot at picking up a victory but ultimately believe they will lose close against…

5. Stanford – The Cardinal have three super sophomores in Daejon Davis, KJ Okpala, and Oscar DaSilva. But the hole left by Reid Travis transferring has them left with more question marks in the paint. This will be the second trip to the Eastern seaboard for Stanford as they have already picked up a win in Wilmington, NC against UNCW and took some lumps in a loss to UNC on the road. They made it all the way back to campus where unfortunately the air quality coming from the California fires made it unsuitable to play a basketball game against Wofford. So now they travel back east to the Bahamas, having not played since November 12th and over 6,000 miles traveled. They draw Wisconsin in the opener, which will be an obvious difficult matchup problem against 6-10 All American candidate Ethan Happ. After seeing Wisconsin dominate Xavier on the road, I don’t see Stanford challenging much in this one. The following two days do look better for the Cardinal. The game against Oklahoma will be intriguing. I slightly like Stanford’s continuity more than the Sooners at this early in the season. And that puts Stanford in perfect position to take 5th place with a third day victory over Dayton.

4. Butler – The always tough Bulldogs come to the Bahamas with a 3-0 record after escaping a scare at home against Ole Miss. Butler is led by Kamar Baldwin and the Bulldogs brought back a lot of experience with Paul Jorgensen, Sean McDermott, and Henry Baddley. I think they are capable of winning this tournament and also capable of being beat by nearly anyone in the field. So 4th place seems reasonable. I really think the opening matchup against Dayton serves the Bulldogs well to pencil them into the semifinals. And then they would play mighty Virginia, who looks amazing on paper, but is completely untested early on. So you never know. I’ll take Virginia for the simple reason that I haven’t seen enough to warrant an upset prediction. In the Bahamas finally I have the Bulldogs falling just short to…

3. Wisconsin – These Badgers, who are led by potential All-American big man Ethan Happ, have been impressive early on. Badgers were able to go into the Cintas Center last week and dominate Xavier. Something that is rarely seen in that building. With the limited action that we have to go off, you have to figure the sky is the limit for this club. Khalil Iversn, Brevin Pritzl, Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers are the type of supporting cast weve grown accustomed to seeing out of Wisconsin over the past two decades. All besides Reuvers can shoot from downtown and helps keep defenses honest. I think Wisconsin has a distinct advantage over Stanford. Then will really be in a battle against Florida. That game could easily go either way. I am riding my lofty preseason Gator expectations and predicting a slim Badger loss. Badgers will head back to Wisconsin on a happy note after a quality win against Butler in the 3rd Place game.

2. Florida – I am being a little bit stubborn on Florida. I really thought they were underrated during the preseason. However, they were smacked by rivals Florida State on opening night. Will it just be the wakeup call they needed or is Florida not that good? The Battle 4 Atlantis should help clarify some of this. Last season the Gators beat Kentucky twice, but also lost at home to South Carolina, lost at Ole Miss, and had around five head scratching losses. And if this schizophrenic personality continues this season, then I give up trying to predict Gator games. This roster has some new blood however. Heralded frosh Andrew Nembhard is in to take over the point. He brings international experience after leading Team Canada over the summer. Nembhard is surrounded by veterans in the starting lineup. Gators drew Oklahoma in the opener, not a guaranteed win, but one that the Gators need to win. Beyond that, they will have a showdown with Wisconsin on Thanksgiving. Should be a great one. I feel like the Gators will come in a bit tired and got worn down in the Championship Game. But overall a successful trip resulting in a second-place finish.

1. Virginia – I will remain bullish on the Cavs being a great team this year until they prove me otherwise. With DeAndre Hunter back and the focal point in this offense, I really like the roster dynamics that coach Tony Bennett has orchestrated. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are clutch players as well. I really do not see Middle Tennessee being much of a challenge for the Hoo’s on Wednesday. That sets up an interesting matchup with Butler that I believe Virginia should win, but also think we will find out more about each team in that semifinal. That brings us to the final on Friday against Florida. Could be a real interesting one. I believe Virginia’s style of play will really help them navigate a three games in three days structure. And Florida could really fall to the Cavalier defensive pressure in the Championship game. Virginia wins three straight.

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2018 Maui Invitational Predictions

The best tournament of the season is set to kickoff later today in Maui. Three of the top nine teams in KenPom (Duke, Gonzaga, Auburn) lead the field and we have no Chaminade for the first time ever. Here are my predictions from 8th Place through 1st…

8. Xavier – Tough to pick anyone in this field to finish in Eighth place, but I am going with Xavier. Travis Steele has seen his Musketeers struggle in each of their first three games and trending in the wrong direction heading into Maui. The Musketeers lost at home against Wisconsin handily back on 11/13 and Evansville (picked last in the MVC) gave them a scare. Xavier still has some solid players and were in my preseason bracket but have a lot to work on. Win or lose, hopefully we get to see Quentin Goodin put on a show this week.

7. Iowa State – Coming off a very unusual last place Big XII season, the Cyclones are poised to turn things around in 2018-19. They arrive in Maui with multiple big opportunities in front of them. Starting with a very winnable game against Arizona. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they will likely be without Cameron Lard (6-9, 225. 12.2 PPG and 8.1 RPG avg. last year) and possibly Solomon Young (6-8, 245). Editor’s note: I am typing this oversees with no access to wi-fi to confirm injury status). Iowa State should only get stronger as the season goes on. In Maui, I see a happy ending with the Cyclones getting by Xavier in the 7th place game. However, I foresee a couple of tight losses precluding that games against both Arizona and…

6. Illinois – Brad Underwood has been building since day one in Champaign. In comes Ayo Dosunmu. A five-star in-state recruit that has the type of talent to help lead a complete turnaround this season. Dosunmu came in with back to back State Championships, playing for the Team USA U18 team this summer and winning gold, and has a reputation for being unselfish and a lockdown defender. Not exactly your typical blue chip. I mention this because this can serve as Dosunmu’s spotlight tournament with all the ESPN coverage this upcoming week. Illinois as a team however was exposed a bit at home against Georgetown and the high hopes have crashed down some. Georgetown has since gone to Jamaica and lost to LMU and barely survived against South Florida. So the Illini might not be ready for this. I don’t give them much of a chance against a loaded Gonzaga team in round 1. But I think the Illini come to play on day 2. The losers bracket games require a refreshed mentality, and I sense the Cyclones will be a little mentally fatigued after what figures to be a war against Arizona, giving Illinois an edge psychologically. On the final day, I see the Illini being slightly outclassed by…

5. San Diego State – The Aztecs come to Maui representing the Mountain West Conference. I say that not to state the obvious, but because how the Aztecs perform here will go a long way toward impacting the perception of the conference, specifically in Nevada’s case, who figures to have a successful year. With a couple of wins, the Aztecs show that they are likely worthy of early At Large consideration and can help the leagues aspirations for multiple bids. They open with Duke, which only helps strengthen their Non-Conference schedule, however I do not think the Aztecs have the weapons to hang with Duke. This should help them regroup and get ready for Xavier on the second day, and I like the Aztecs there. Finishing up with a 5th place win over Illinois should keep Aztec and MWC fans encouraged heading into December.

4. Arizona – How will Arizona hold up mentally with the ESPN cameras on them for three days? Only time will tell. Luckily there is a lot of basketball to squeeze in and that should allow Sean Miller’s club to focus on winning. I like what Brandon Williams and Brandon Randolph have shown in the early going. Arizona has yet face any kind of serious test, so that all changes now. Based on what I said about Iowa State and their injury issues, I think that leaves the door open for Arizona to pick up a big win on the first day. From there, the Cats run into Gonzaga and I see a lot of mismatches in that one on paper. That leaves Arizona to face another Final Four contender in Auburn, and I don’t picture that one going well for Arizona either. All in all, if this plays out, it’s a success. Beating Iowa State and taking losses to Gonzaga and Auburn – no shame in that. Plus, the team learns a lot about themselves in the process.

3. Auburn – Tigers looked very sharp in their three tune-up contests prior to heading to Maui. That included a win over nationally ranked Washington. A game in which Auburn thoroughly dominated from the opening tip.  Auburn opens against Xavier and it could get interesting should the Tigers get into foul trouble or not take care of the ball. Based on what we have seen thus far, I do not anticipate Auburn struggling in that game and should comfortably get into the Semifinals for a showdown with Duke. Auburn has the athleticism to hang with Duke I believe. They will not out-athlete them, but certainly can hold their own. Ultimately, they fall short, I think Duke is equipped for the spotlight this season. Auburn will be happy to see Arizona in the 3rd Place game. Auburn finishes strong and lands in 3rd.

2. Gonzaga – Talk about Final Four contenders, these next two teams were picked by several of my peers to compete in the Final Four. Which would setup for an epic Maui Invitational Championship Game. Seems to happen annually right? This is the first Maui Invitational without Chaminade in the main bracket, and while that bothers me, it allows for a field even more loaded than before. I think the Zags come out and play very well in wins over Illinois and Arizona. Should allow them to be very fresh for Duke in the Title game. At some point, missing Killian Tillie is going to impact the Zags and I think that moment happens against Duke. Filip Petrusev has looked good in his absence to support the frontcourt, but this will be a different type of test and the Zags will fall just short.

1. Duke – The Blue Devils have already created quite a buzz with their blowout victory over Kentucky on opening night in Indianapolis. Since then they slept walked to a 20+ point win over Army and destroyed a MAC contender in Eastern Michigan. Now with the super quartet of Freshmen: RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Ty Jones, and Cam Reddish – Coach K’s crew invades Maui on a mission. The talent on Duke’s team is the richest in the nation. The personalities of the players seem to fit the spotlight. Although we are still early on, I am starting to get the feeling that the way they will get beat is by beating themselves, or lack of focus. I do not see that happening this week. I think Duke beats SDSU comfortably, then beats Auburn and Gonzaga in closer matchups with Duke controlling both games.

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2018 Myrtle Beach Invitational Predictions

This season’s other opening eight team bracketed event is the innagural Myrtle Beach Invitational. Based on what we know about each team thus far, this is how I see the tournament playing out.

8. Monmouth – Unfortunately, this years’ Hawks team has fallen off a ways from the competitive teams under King Rice in past years. They come to the Beach with an 0-3 record, all losses by double digits against Lehigh, Colgate, and St. Joe’s. This appears to be a rebuild and learning year for the Hawks. It would be great to see them pull off an upset here but there is no way I am predicting that. More learning experiences this week for Monmouth and hopefully they squeeze in some beach time, it’s a long season.

7. Wake Forest – The Deacs have only played once this year, so this one was pretty tough to gage. But they play three Frosh and two Soph’s fairly heavily. Junior Bandon Childress had a nice opener with 18, 6 Assists, 4 Rebounds. The bench appears to be pretty thin, which can really hurt you in this quick turnaround type of format. Wake has St. Joe’s in the opener and that should be a real tight game, I slightly favor the Hawks in that one, then I have the Deacs getting caught off guard on Day 2 against a veteran team from California (will discuss soon). Finally Wake fans can have a reason to celebrate when they take care of Monmouth in the 7th place game.

6. Cal State Fullerton – Senior Kyle Allman is probably the best player in the Big West, in fact he is the best player in the Big West. Don’t believe me? Call one of your friends at Arizona State and ask them about Mr. Allman. All he did was carry the Titans with 35 points and 7 rebounds, in a crushing double overtime loss on opening night. Fellow senior Khalil Ahmad poured in 31 points. Fullerton does a nice job of mixing small lineups and big lineups. Could be a factor keeping them fresh this week. The Titans drew UCF in round one, which will be pretty interesting. I’m going with UCF in that one because they have to be upset after giving a game away to FAU. More on them later. Then I see CSUF coming out more focused than Wake Forest and hanging on to beat them. On Day three I see them falling short against…

5. Valparaiso – The more and more I dissected this Crusader roster, the more I like what I see. We don’t know much about on the court yet as Valpo has not faced a D1 team. But they brought in veteran Ryan Fazekas from Providence, solid Frosh Javon Freeman-Liberty, another vet Deion Lavender from UAB and SIU, and Bakari Evelyn is now a fourth year junior. I think this should be a much improved season for Valpo. Really interesting draw against WKU who has solid vets as well plus a young phenom. I’ll go with WKU in the opener, but I see Valpo easily taking care of Monmouth and finishing on a two game win streak with a nice win over Fullerton in the 5th place game.

4. Western Kentucky – Here is a team I had in my First Four as part of the preseason bracket exercise I went through. Tons of talent, solid leadership from Jared Savage and DeSean Murray give the Hilltoppers a shot at a special season. They will be a dangerous matchup for anyone in Myrtle Beach. After getting past Valpo, I do not believe they will have enough firepower to beat a hungry West Virginia squad. In the 3rd place game, it should be another battle but I again have them falling short due to seasonality of this roster. But fully expect WKU to pick up a big win or two in December, the opportunities are there.

3. Saint Joseph’s – The Hawks arrive in Myrtle Beach feeling fantastic. They already have a couple of 15 point wins over ODU and Monmouth. Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown have looked real good early. Pierfrancesco Oliva is a stat sheet stuffing 6th man. This Hawks team has some nice pieces and I am anxious to see how they fare this week. They drew Wake Forest and I like the Hawks in that one. The game against UCF could really go either way, I like the UCF roster a tad bit better, but I am higher on Phil Martelli coaching vs. Johnny Dawkins. In any event, I have to make a pick, so I have the Hawks here and ending with a really nice high note by beating WKU. The A10 really needs it.

2. UCF – The Golden Knights have the roster to win this tournament. However they have always struggles to realize potential it seems like, and that showed up again last week when they gave away a large lead before losing to Florida Atlantic. Back to the drawing board for the Knights and not an easy draw at all against CS Fullerton. I think the Knights will have just enough to squeeze two tight wins over CSF and St. Joe’s before running into…

1. West Virginia – Sagaba Konate, Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, James Bolden and more. The Mountaineers are again armed with firepower. They will need to take care of the basketball. Blowing the big lead and losing to Buffalo only happened because they got overwhelmed by traps and presses. Something that you would think they have a lot of practice with. Mountaineers get to open with Monmouth and I suspect that will restore their confidence prior to the WKU game, which is dangerous. Ultimately I believe they get that win and jump on a tired UCF team in the Championship game.

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2018 Charleston Classic Predictions

It’s prediction time again! This season’s first eight team bracketed event is the Charleston Classic. Based on what we know about each team thus far, this is how I see the tournament playing out.

8. Appalachian State - The Mountaineers have to be coming into Charleston feeling somewhat confident after hanging tough with Alabama last Sunday. Isaac Johnson, Justin Forrest, and Ronshad Shabazz took every shot attempt except for six in that game. So not exactly deep scoring for Appalachian State. I see them being competitive at the Classic, but unfortunately returning back to Boone with no wins to show for it.

7. Ball State - This pick kills me a little bit inside. I really enjoy watching this Cardinals team. You don't find more entertaining players in the MAC than Tayler Persons. Trey Moses has a smooth touch and great high post game. Kyle Mallers, KJ Walton, and Tahjai Teague are solid contributors, and the Cards go nine deep, which is usually a plus in this type of format. A tough draw though leaves them just falling short against V-Tech and Alabama.

6. Alabama - The Tide were one of my at large picks in my preseason bracket. A lot to like on paper for Avery Johnson's roster. However things have not clicked in the early going. The Tide were rolled by Jacksonville State in a charity exhibition game, they struggled most of the game on Sunday vs. App State. By the end of the year, I think they will be much stronger. Now though is a different story, they face an experienced Northeastern team that matches up well against Alabama. After that I see the Tide beating Ball State on day two. And taking a tough loss on the final day against…

5. Davidson - Many people picked the Wildcats to win the A10 this season, and with the rocky start the A10 is off to they could definitely be in line for that opportunity. But the Wildcats have a few kinks to work out. They really had a hard time against Dartmouth, barely winning by three in their last game. They draw Wichita State in the opener, which should be a very tight game.  I am leaning toward Wichita to be able to defend the three point attack well enough to win that game. From there I believe Davidson should win comfortably against Appalachian State, and end on a very nice high note by defeating Alabama.

4. Wichita State - Coach Marshall has a much different roster this year. Markus McDuffie plus a lot of newcomers. The Shockers had a rough home loss in the season opener against Louisiana Tech, but bounced back nicely by beating Providence on a neutral court. Samajae Haynes-Jones (a reserve PG last season) really stepped up with 15 points and 8 dimes against Providence, the need him to continue to play at a high level and provide a secondary threat behind McDuffie. I think Wichita will ride the momentum and win a tight one over Davidson. I then believe Purdue will be too much for them to overcome, and ultimately they finish fourth after losing a war against…

3. Northeastern - The Huskies were red hot last Friday at Harvard, hitting 13 of 23 from three point land which included 7 out of 10 from Jordan Roland off the bench. Northeastern came into the season as the favorites to win the CAA. They will be making three separate visits to Charleston this season. The Charleston Classic, the road game against Charleston, and the CAA Conference Tourney. Head Coach Bill Coen must love it down there, I don't blame him. I believe Northeastern finds a way to get two victories this week. Beating Bama in the opener, and ending with a tight win over Wichita St.

2. Virginia Tech - I was very high on this team until the Chris Clarke news came out. Even still this is a very talented squad especially compared to the competition in Charleston. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is an All-ACC level talent as a Sophomore. Isaiah Wilkins played fantastic in his debut as a true Frosh, scoring 21. And you add the three seniors (Ahmed Hill, Justin Robinson, Ty Outlaw) and you still have a pretty loaded team. I think the Hokies will get a stiff test from Ball State, but find a way to get past the Cardinals. They will be somewhat surprised to see Northeastern in Round 2 and take care of business, before losing in the Championship Game to…

1. Purdue - The Boilermakers have the best player in this field in Carsen Edwards. Players of his caliber can really shine in a three day event. Purdue got a nice test from Ball State last week and I believe that got them mentally prepared to take on this test. The bracket sets up nicely for them as well. Facing Appalachian State in the opener and then the Wichita-Davidson winner. If they can win those two comfortably they should have an advantage of fresher legs in the Final. I believe that will give them just enough of an edge to outlast Virginia Tech and become 2018 Charleston Classic Champions.

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Game Coverage - Toledo at Wright State

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Arrived here in the Greater Dayton area just in time for tip-off between the Toledo Rockets and hosts, Wright State’s Raiders. Toledo comes into the game with a 2-0 record (1-0 vs. D1) and Wright State is looking to recover after being beat by 19 at Murray State. With this game being played at the Nutter Center, I am expecting a tight ballgame.

Hot shooting on both ends to kickoff the game. Luke Knapke of Toledo has started with three treys already! Mark Hughes has 6 and Loudon Love has 4 in the early going.
1st Media Timeout - Wright St. 12, Toledo 12

Only two points during that sequence, naturally scored by Love. He is so impressive to watch in person and a load to handle down low. Really gives the Raiders an interesting dynamic should they advance back to the NCAA Tournament next season
2nd Media Timeout - Wright St. 14, Toledo 12

Yet another three ball drilled by Knapke. Raiders turn it over, and Jaelan Sanford finishes on the other end. Wright St.'s Billy Wampler draws a foul, makes one of two from the line. Pretty jumper is good from Marreon Jackson of Toledo. Wampler quickly answers with a three.
3rd Media Timeout - Wright St. 24, Toledo 23

TJ Smith gives the Rockets the lead back with a three pointer. Wampler of WSU nails another three on the other end.  After a series of missed shots, Chris Darrington of Toledo steps up and drills a three. I am sensing a theme here (both teams love shooting from deep!). The Raiders' Cole Gentry nails a three to put WSU up 4.
4th Media Timeout: Wright St. 30, Toledo 26

After Knapke made one of two from the line, Gentry came down and nailed another three. Sanford drew a foul, made both FT's. Gentry takes his defender off the dribble and finishes with a beautiful layup. WSU's Skylelar Potter sinks two free throws. Knapke answers with his fifth three of the half! Gentry answers with another three of his own.
Halftime - Wright St. 40, Toledo 32.

Transition layup by Willie Jackson after a Wright State turnover Wampler hits a jumper. Jackson responds with a triple this time. Wampler tries an offbalance heat check, but it rims off. Next time down, Wampler hits a two. Wampler now with 13. Jackson gets to the charity stripe and hits two. Parker Ernsthausen of WSU, draws a foul and makes both FT's. Offensive foul called on Sanford and that creates some pushing and both teams get a double technical foul (WSU - Mark Hughes, Toledo - Marreon Jackson). Potter hits a three that got the Raider bench off of their feet. Rockets turnover. Love with a nifty up and under. Raiders lead by 12, their largest.
1st Media Timeout - Wright St. 51, Toledo 39

Missed shots by Wampler and Sanford to open things in this segment. Gentry with a great driving floater. Sanford misses again, starting to get cold. Wright State wants a timeout after Ernsthausen has blood on his jersey. Darrington draws a foul, only hits one. Next possession for Toledo, Darrington drops in a layup. Gentry answers with a jumper. Teams trade a few missed shots.
2nd Media Timeout - Wright St. 55, Toledo 45

Knapke gets fouled, makes one of two. Gentry knifes through the lane for two more, he has 19 now. Darrington gets fouled shooting a three, and knocks down each free throw. Gentry fouled, makes both. Willie Jackson gets back to the line, hits both. Ten point lead for WSU. Wampler misses a wide open three. Toledo turns it over. Wampler finds an open Potter in the corner for three, and he buries it. Love with a rejection on Willie Jackson.
3rd Media Timeout - Wright St. 63, Toledo 50

Sanford hits a jumper and is fouled in the process, and he completes the three point play. Love backed down on Knapke, sweet turnaround hook is good. Missed threes by Nate Navigato and Spencer Littleton of Toledo.  Sanford with a strong drive, gets fouled, and makes both foul shots. Knapke hits his sixth three, and is 6-6 from downtown. Nice dish from Hughes to Potter. Potter at the line now, makes both. Ernsthausen has fouled out. Navigato cuts the lead to 8. WSU calls timeout. Out of the timeout, the Raiders work it around to Gentry, who hits a big three.
4th Media Timeout - Wright St. 72, Toledo 61

Missed three by Wampler. Toledo's Darrington misses as well. Both teams in the double bonus as Sandler picks up his second foul. Potter makes both. Under two minutes to go. Navigato shooting two, makes em both. Toledo within nine now. Hughes is fouled, makes one. If you like threes and free throws - tonight is your night. Gentry forced to call timeout, 1:27 to go. Wampler was left alone and Hughes found him for an easy layup. Sanford gets a quick layup and fouled. Toledo timeout. Hughes turns it over and Toledo uses another timeout with 1:01 to go and down by 9. Turnover by the Rockets and the foul fest is coming. Up first is Cole Gentry, makes both. Toledo misses, another foul sends Gentry to the line for two more. Gentry fouled again with a chance to hit 30 points, and he does. Naturally Gentry dribbles out the clock and the Raiders faithful are going home happy.

FINAL Wright St. 84, Toledo 74

Game Coverage - #25 Buffalo at SIU

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We are set for tip-off here at SIU Arena. It is the first of two meetings between the #25 Buffalo Bulls and the Southern Illinois Salukis. Both teams have high postseason aspirations. Should be an outstanding game tonight!

Note: Armon Fletcher who was injured against Kentucky on Frday, did not dress tonight. Big loss for the Salukis.

Montrell McRae opens up the scoring with a wide open dunk. The teams traded baskets. Kavion Pippin had a sweet stroke, ruled a two. Buffalo’s Davonta Jordan answered with a trey. SIU came right back at the Bulls with a triple from Marcus Bartley. Thik Bol came in off the bench and contributed right away with a beautiful jumper himself. 1st Media Timeout - SIU 13, Buffalo 8

Sean Lloyd keeps things rolling with another Salukis three pointer. Eventually Buffalo would manage to get a couple of stops. CJ Massinburg calmed the storm with a layup and later in the sequence, Nick Perkins had a beautiful post up and layed it in. 2nd Media Timeout - SIU 16, Buffalo 12

Unfortunately notes not saved. 3rd Media Timeout - SIU 20, Buffalo 16.

Caruthers catches SIU sleeping and gets a quick layup. SIU’s McGill continues to play with two early fouls and connects from downtown, giving the Salukis a five point advantage. Perklins continues to be a matchup problem, drew a foul down low. Connected on both free throws. Aaron Cook is impressive. Cook slashed into the lane and dropped a floater in the basket over the outstretched arms of Perkins. Later in the sequence Cook manages to knife into the lane again and connects again. CJ Massinburg hits a corner three to silence the fans. SIU 27, Buffalo 23 - 4th Media Timeout.

Shot clock violation by SIU following an airball by Bartley. Bartley then commits a foul on McRae. McRae makes the first, misses the second - but Bulls get their own rebound and eventually Massinburg hits a pretty floater. Bulls only down by 1. Another stop for Buffalo, Jeenathan Williams takes it strong and is fouled. Williams hits both and Buffalo has its first lead tonight. Aaron Cook picks up his 2nd and Buffalo is in the double bonus for the final 28.6 seconds. Jeremy Harris hits a huge three with 4 seconds left in the half and the Bulls go on an 11-0 run to end the first half. Halftime Buffalo 31, SIU 27.

Pippin opens the 2nd Half scoring with a nice driving layup. Buffalo's Jeremy Harris with a smooth open dunk for the Bulls. Lloyd draws a foul, and makes one of two from the line. UB's Graves hits a silencing three ball. Cook and McGill are both playing with three fouls now. Crowd is vocally upset with the officials. 1st Media Timeout - Buffalo 38, SIU 32.

SIU's Darius Beane finds some open space along the baseline and hits a pretty 15-footer. UB reserve guard Ronaldo Segu answers with a nice driving shot. Bulls back up six. Pippin comes back and drills a nice jumper. But UB's Graves immediately hits a triple. Bulls get a stop, Massinburg jacks a one on one three which was way off, then the Salukis turn it back over. A bit sloppy now. 2nd Media TO Buffalo 43, SIU 36

Perkins commits a foul on Pippin, and Pippin connects on both - cuts the lead to five. Harris answers for the Bulls. Pippin responds with a baby hook in the paint. Jordan hits another big three in the corner. Buffalo has their largest lead at eight. Lloyd draws a foul on Massinburg, Lloyd hits one of two. Salukis left McRae open in the corner for three, and McRae makes them pay. 3rd Media TO Buffalo 51, SIU 41

Bartley fouls Williams and Williams makes both FTs. Pippin responds with a dunk. Incredible vision by Caruthers to hit Williams underneath for an easy deuce on a one handed almost no look pass. Bulls lead by 12. Starting to work the clock on each possession. Thik Bol misses a jumper and on the other end Massinburg serves up an alley-oop to McRae. Bulls by 14.   4th Media TO Buffalo 60, SIU 43

Buffalo finishes the job in the final four minutes. Mostly spending the time running the clock out and forcing more Saluki mistakes. The Bulls defense suffocated SIU for most of the final 30 minutes an impressive showing and anouther huge road win for Buffalo. FINAL Buffalo 62, SIU 53

Pac-12 Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
- Colorado - 
The Buffs haven't won a game away from Boulder since January 13th. The matchup against the Sun Devils isnt bad at all and it should be a much less than electric atmosphere in Vegas on a Wednesday afternoon. Overall - Arizona State is just the better team despite recent struggles.
- Cal - It's been a long tough year for the Bears. They get a chance to knock off their arch nemesis in Round One, the Stanford Cardinal. Throw the records out the window! But in the end I think Stanford pulls away and allows Cal to go home and focus on building up for next season.
- Washington - As a Husky, this is painful and actually I am somewhat hedging my happiness too. The Huskies have been going 1-1 in most weeks lately and it's hard to know which team will show up. Meanwhile the Beavers have started to play better in the final two weeks. This should be a close one and since I have to make a pick here - I'll go with OSU.
- Washington State - This Cougar team actually beat Oregon last week, so you have to give them some chance to do it again. I think they will compete for a while. But the talent and coaching at Oregon outclasses WSU in this one. 

Gone in the Quarters:
- Arizona State - 
The Sun Devils have been a hot topic in Bracketology for the past month due to their drop off in play. Their resume still holds up barely against the bubble, and they have a shot to knock off U of A. But I know better than to pick against the Wildcats in this tournament.
- Stanford - I really want to pick Stanford, but I do not like their matchup against UCLA.  I was impressed with how UCLA wrapped up the year and I think Stanford will actually get a little test from Cal on Wednesday before this one.
- Oregon State - The Beavers didn't fare very well at all this year against USC. I think they are done in this round.
- Oregon - The Ducks/Utes matchup will be a really tight one I'm guessing. Two firey coaches getting their teams to play hard and fighting to get to win this whole tourney. In the end I'll go with David Collette to put this one away late.

Semifinal Send Offs: 
- Arizona - Surprise! If you read my comments about ASU, then I am clearly contradicting myself by sending the Wildcats home in this round. I think when you look at the UCLA/Zona matchup that the Bruins match up very well as evidenced by their eight point win in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. I think Aaron Holliday is coming to Vegas on a mission and going to carry the Briuins to the title game.
- Utah - It's a matchup thing here with the Trojans and Utes as well. When they met in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, the Utes had no answer for Chimezie Metu or Jordan Usher. The Trojans shot the ball very well but they were mostly two pointers. I think Utah will need a brand new gameplan this time around but now the Trojans are in their heads.

Championship Game:
- UCLA over USC - 
Yes, I am going with an unconventional all Los Angeles Final. It's just the way the bracket played out. Anyway I am on the Holliday bandwagon one more time as the Bruins secure their place into the NCAA Tournament. 
 

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Atlantic 10 Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
- UMass - 
The Minutemen have unbelievablly only won one game away from home all season, that was at Dayton over two months ago. They did knock off some good teams in Amherst, but I don't see them suddenly figuring it out and beating a La Salle team who they lost to by 15 a few weeks ago.
- Fordham - In the Rams last six games they did not come within single digits in any of them. Needless to say they finished in last for many reasons. Add in the fact that they have to play against GW in the Nation's Capital and you have a recipe for a quick trip.

Day 2 Exits:
- Dayton - The Flyers are a fantastic team in Dayton. If you've followed this blog all year, you'll know that we covered the Davidson-Dayton game back in January. Dayton also has one of my favorite players I've seen in person this year in Josh Cunningham, he is bulldozer down low. So what is the problem? The Flyers haven't won outside of Dayton since January 9th. VCU has a much shorter trip to Washington DC and I think the Dayton season ends here.
- La Salle - The Explorers make a great case for the 12/5 upset over GMU. In fact they just beat the Patriots two weeks ago. However, since then - GMU won a couple of nice road games against VCU and St. Joe's. Also, GMU is playing nearby in DC, giving them the extra boost. Should be a real close game.
- Saint Louis -  SLU finished the year with a tough road trip to Duquesne and the Bonnies. Ended up losing a chance at earning a bye and landed as the number six seed. That leaves the Billikens a little tired and now in Washington DC to face the local GW Colonials. I think its a formula that results in an early exit for Travis Ford's crew.
- Duquesne - Keith Dambrot's Dukes have been really fun to follow this season. They started 5-2 in league including a couple of OT thrilling wins along the way. But the Dukes hit a serious wall and from that point on, they only won twice to finish at 7-11 in the A10. Now they face a Richmond team that finished pretty strong. Don't be surprised if Dambrot has the Dukes ready for a run, but I'll still pick them to lose here.

Gone in the Quarters:
- VCU - These Rams will come in pretty inspired after eliminating Dayton. But I don't think they can hang with what I believe will be a refocused Rhode Island team. 
- George Mason - The Patriots swept the season series against Saint Joe's. The Pats are playing close to home as well, but I really like the trajectory of Saint Joe's. The Hawks have won six of seven including the blowout of URI and I think they bring too much momentum for GMU to handle.
- George Washington - Davidson and GW met twice earlier in the year and the Wildcats won by 27 and 29 points in those two games. That alone gives me no reason to try to pick an upset here. Nice little run for GW to play three times in front of the home folks.
- Richmond - Spiders come in on mini win streak, but prior to that they had lost five straight. I don't think they have the horses to take down the red hot Bonnies. 

Semifinal Send Offs:
- Rhode Island - 
I am going with an upset pick here. I think after the beatdown Saint Joseph's gave Rhode Island last week, they will have the mental edge in this one. Just more of a gut feel after the way the Rams played last week. Rams end up being an 8/9 seed in the NCAA's.
- St. Bonaventure - Davidson was a really tough matchup for the Bonnies in both games this season. After the 3OT thriller last week, I think the Wildcats are ready to exact some revenge on the Bonnies. I think St. Bonaventure is still looking at an At Large bid however.

Championship Game:
Davidson over Saint Joseph's - 
I expect Davidson to ride the momentum of the Semifinal win over the Bonnies to cut down the nets in DC. I think they will wind up a 12th seeded team should this happen, ruining the dreams of another bubble team. Excellent run for Saint Joseph's, but I can't see them beating the Wildcats here. In the only previous matchup, Davidson won in blowout fashion, 91-62. Should be a fun Semifinal and Title Game in this league!

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