Syracuse pulls away in second half to win third Maui Invitational title

The Orange won their 9th game overall in Maui history, with only Duke going 15-0 in five prior trips to the Island.

A blistering 12 of 15 start from the field doomed Baylor in the first 8 minutes of play.  A balanced scoring attack proved to be too much in the end for Scott Drew’s bunch to overcome.

The final score ended up being 74-67, but it was really indicative of how the game was played on the Big Island.
Elsewhere on the Mainland…

At the renovated Madison Square Garden in NYC, Arizona outlasted Drexel 66-62 and Jabari Parker went nuts for Duke in a convincing 74-64 win.  That should set up for hopefully an interesting title tilt come Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN.

Also worth noting on this Turkey Eve 2013, Kentucky won its’ 500th regular season game at Rupp Arena outlasting Eastern Michigan 81-63.  The 37 year old arena in Lexington is of course, named after Hall of Fame Coach Adolph Rupp.  UK was nursing a slim three point lead at 35-32 at intermission.  When the second half started, 7:08 had elapsed when John Calipari’s bunch ran off to a double digit lead and never looked back.  It grew as large as 21 with 2:39 left in the contest.

Kentucky also controlled the rebounding, nearly doubling the Eagles on the glass 52-33 (included 19 offensive boards leading to 23 second-chance points).  The Wildcats’ only glaring weakness was 20 turnovers leading to 18 Eagles points.

I will try my best to update the blog during the second half of the holiday weekend.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Baylor escapes, and I mean barely escapes over Dayton

Another upset almost took place in Hawaii.

Two close shots would not fall for Dayton in the closing seconds.  Baylor led only for 2 minutes and 8 seconds.  The 67-66 close shave victory for the Bears sets up a meeting with Syracuse late Wednesday night for the championship.  And guess who was relaying statistics behind the Baylor bench?

The father figure of Valparaiso basketball, the retired coach Homer Drew–of course in that really cool neon green T-shirt (my only fashion comment for the entire season, sorry to any ladies that might be reading–since the coaches did not decide to mostly wear any tropical attire unlike in years past).

The Orange easily blasted Cal 92-81, led by a huge game from Tyler Ennis who complied 28 points in the semifinal win.

Syracuse shot over 53 percent from the field and was a near perfect 23 out of 24 from the free-throw line.

Should set up to be quite a championship tilt.  Usually, the Maui champion along with the Preseason NIT winner in New York the day after Thanksgiving usually have the early leg up as far as gaining respectable tournament seeds come March.

But many things can change between now and then.
That is why I like watching the games.  Stick around and find out on your favorite cable channels of choice, plenty of fun games to choose from.

Major upset in Maui, plus Chaminade nearly pulls off another shocker of their own

Division II Chaminade pulled off one of the biggest shockers of the 20th century when they upset Ralph Sampson and Virginia a few days before Christmas in 1982.

Fast forward over 30 years later, and enter a transfer from “Dunk City”, Florida Gulf Coast by the name of Christophe Varidel.  He rode the bench for three years, including FGCU’s Cinderella trip to last March’s Sweet Sixteen.  I bet his world in the Twitterverse gained a lot of traction after scorching the nets for 42 points, which fell one shy of the tournament record set by Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison in a triple-overtime game in 2005.  However, his 10 threes tied another tournament record.

Baylor survived a rough half to pull away in the second stanza, 93 to 77.

The bigger upset occurred overnight Eastern time as Dayton outlasted Gonzaga, 84-79.  Jordan Siebert made some clutch shots by scoring 14 of his 23 points in the second half.  The first half of the game got very physical and took nearly 55 minutes to complete.  Both teams were shooting the double bonus with over 10 minutes to go in the first half.  Led by David Stockton, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton and steady junior guard Kevin Pangos out of Newmarket, Ontario (Canada), the Bulldogs refused to go away.

But it was tenacious Flyers defense and a bunch of missed shots from in close by the ‘Zags that proved to be the undoing for Mark Few’s crew.  Once center Przemek Karnowski and Pangos rode the pines after fouling out, Dayton had made a major statement.

This is the kind of game the Committee looks at big time when it comes to figuring out who is worthy of possibly making the NCAA Tournament.  Gonzaga was #12 in the nation going into Monday night.  Couple that with a great barnburner in Kansas City as BYU outslugged Texas in the CBE Classic by a 86-82 led by Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino.  Their opponent for the championship on Tuesday night will be Wichita State which easily took care of DePaul late on Monday night, 90-72.

FOR THE RECORD:  Gonzaga did in fact win the fifth-place game over Chaminade on Tuesday afternoon, 113-81 led by Sam Dower Jr. and Gerard Coleman each scoring 19 points.  Continuing the ‘Zags balanced attack was Kevin Pangos and Kyle Dranginis compiling 18 points each.  Gary Bell Jr. had 16 and Drew Barham had 11.  Rounding out the double digit Gonzaga parade of scorers was Przemek Karnowski, who had a double-double (10 points and 13 rebounds).

Elsewhere, Florida and Kentucky survived upset scares of their own against Jacksonville on the road for Billy Donovan’s crew, while John Calipari was sitting mostly in disbelief as well as the rest of Lexington as Cleveland State shot lights out for most of the game before falling gallantly in the closing minutes 68-61.

Meanwhile, the early games in Maui were not even that close–but California dodged Arkansas in the opener and Syrcause (the 1990 and 1998 Maui Classic champions) cremed Minnesota.  A pair of interesting contents await later this evening on the Island–Cal vs. Syracuse in one semifinal, while Baylor tangles with Dayton, the 2003 Maui Classic champions.

USC tries to nab away at UCLA’s tradition

Did you manage to read the latest issue of Sports Illustrated?

Some juicy information regarding the different practice styles of USC head coach Andy Enfield and the more stoic and calmer approach held by Steve Alford, who spurned New Mexico and bolted to UCLA days after Ben Howland was fired.

The comparisons are almost exactly that to the Clippers in comparison to the Lakers.  One is the glamour team and the other is just trying to stay in step.  Sure, UCLA has the NCAA record of 11 national championships to their credit…but if USC is going to get back into the national picture, it all starts with great guard play from the SoCal region.  They are going back to basics as far as recruiting top flight talent is concerned.

Come 2015 or 2016, will they make a Sweet 16 run similar to what the Men of Troy did back in 2001?  Stick around and find out, should be interesting to see.

Triple barrel coverage provided by Turner Sports on Super Saturday 2014

For the first time in major American sports television history, there will be three separate announcing crews in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas at the 2014 Final Four.

As previously announced by Turner Sports, TBS will cover both national semifinal games.

The new twist will have TNT and TruTV doing a broadcast tailor made for that particular school and rooting interest in the areas where those campuses are located–unique looking camera angles will be included.  Wonder if there will be a camera in the middle of the student sections?

So, if you want to see a pro-Kansas broadcast, you will get your chance.

Likewise, if you can’t stand Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk, and enjoy bleeding Duke or North Carolina blue–you will have a cable channel to settle on for one night.

The rest of the details can be found from the Sports Business Journal site:

http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2013/11/18/Colleges/Final-Four.aspx

Three huge upsets on Sunday could go a long way for the mid-majors

Justin Gant’s 17 points led the Sycamores to upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend by a 83-70 count.  Mike Brey suffered his first coaching loss at home during November in his 12 years as coach of the Fighting Irish.

Also making waves again was Belmont.  Remember what I said to open the season?

They are for real and could get a very decent seed if they play like this.

In spite of getting rebounded 44 to 24, plus shooting only 45 percent to the Tar Heels’ 48 percent…J.J. Mann led the charge for the Bruins depositing 28 points to outduel James Michael McAdoo’s 27.  The difference came from the foul line–Belmont was a staggering 20 for 22, while UNC hit only a paltry 22 of 48.  The 83-80 upset sent more shock waves ripping across the rain soaked United States.

Iowa State shocked Michigan, 77-70 led by Melvin Ejim’s 22 points to pace the Cyclones.  Glenn Robinson III was held to only 4 of 14 shooting for the day. 

Saturday had one major upset in Philadelphia, as Doug McDermott made a huge shot, was fouled and more free throws by Devin Brooks helped pull one out of the fire at perenially tough St. Joseph’s.  The 83-79 score proved how resilient the Bluejays are, and they could again wreak havoc on some brackets come Selection Sunday.

The Preseason NIT begins on Monday night, as Duke traditionally tips off at Cameron.

If any major upsets occur, I hope to blog about it before the end of the week.

If not, we will see you all in time for Thanksgiving break out west on the Island in Hawaii for the annual EA Sports Maui Invitational–always a fun three days and nights at the Lahaini Civic Center.

What drama seen Tuesday night at Chicago’s United Center

Star power, elite coaches, and star athletes.

By the time Michigan State outlasted preseason No. 1 Kentucky and Kansas pulled away late to whip Duke, there was some serious playing at 1901 West Madison Street on Chicago’s West Side.

Julius Randle nearly single-handedly dominated for the Spartans, scoring 23 of his 27 points during the second half.  Tom Izzo’s squad really came out like gangbusters and appeared to be running away leading by as many as fifteen points on Gary Harris’ driving layup late in the first half.

But the Cats made the 40-25 lead nearly disappear.  Within a eight minute span from 13:25 to 4:48 during the second half, the Cats turned up the pressure and got back to within one at 66-65.  Branden Dawson closed the game with a couple of clutch rebounds and the Spartans won in a choppy game 78-74.

The second game featured super freshmen Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.  This game was also very worthy of a Final Four, as both teams went toe-to-toe trying to see who would flinch first.  Duke’s fate ended after Wiggins stepped back and hit a key jumper to give KU an 85-81 lead with 1:33 left to play, and then had a fast-break dunk as a trailing Parker picked up his fifth foul. Wiggins held his arms out and yelled after the big dunk.

Another key to Kansas outlasting Duke was getting to the free throw line, as Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk toed the line 27 of 35 times, while Duke went only 28 times to the charity stripe hitting only 16 of those attempts.  That was the difference in the game.  Perry Ellis finished with 24 points and Wayne Selden had 15 for the Jayhawks.  Wiggins also had eight rebounds despite battling foul trouble for much of the contest.  Duke’s Jabari Parker had a solid effort in his first collegiate game, compiling 27 points and 9 rebounds in a losing cause.  Citing after the game his lack of “experience”, once he learns how to master faster defenses with and without the ball, he may someday pass the marks established during the early 1990’s tenure of Bobby Hurley.

Bottom line, these teams already have been tabbed by Sports Illustrated and Playboy as definite Final Four worthy material.  Remember, also don’t count out Butler, VCU, and Wichita State–who seem to not be losing a beat after the sixth annual Tip-Off Marathon which lasted nearly 30 hours long on the ESPN family of networks.

See you all next week, as the in-season tournaments draw ever so closer.