Maui Invitational Preview

This is usually one of the fun events on the college basketball calendar.

The environment inside the slightly cramped Lahaina Civic Center reminds you of your high school fieldhouse–people in the stands commonly fanning themselves to try and stay cool with the biggest difference is that the coaches get to wear festive attire on the sideline (leis optional on the sideline).

Today’s quarterfinal action should feature some interesting games:

2:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2:

St. John’s vs. Vanderbilt.  How will Chris Mullin’s team react to playing a potential SEC up-and-comer?

5 p.m. on ESPN2:

Wake Forest vs. Indiana.  The Hoosiers will go far as far as Yogi Ferrell will take them.  Question is, will Wake Forest try to draw the Hoosiers into doing silly fouls?

9 p.m. on ESPNU:

Kansas vs. Chaminade.  The host school has not won in this tournament in such a long time, but they have come close in the last few years.  Even with a different Kansas group visiting the Big Island, I expect Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk to win by at least 15 points.

11:30 p.m. on ESPN2:

UNLV vs. UCLA.  The true Alphabet Soup game, if there ever was one.  Call this game a toss up, since both teams don’t have quite the star power that we have been accustomed to seeing over the years.

Semifinals are on Tuesday night and the championship game will be at 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

There are also some other big holiday tournaments, namely the Legends Classic in Brooklyn (LSU is involved) and the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.  Northwestern hopes not to catch the Sleeping Giants as they will take on North Carolina at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2, a few hours after ESPNU brings us the game between Missouri and Kansas State.  Also worth keeping an eye is the Battle 4 Atlantis, as Gonzaga continues to rack up those frequent flyer miles.  Look out, newly minted baseball MVP’s in Josh Donaldson of Toronto and Bryce Harper of Washington.  The baseball schedules may be crazy, but they are nothing compared to what Gonzaga has had to go through over the last two weeks–traveling to Japan, back to Spokane, and now heading to the Bahamas to play in a tournament.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

I will be back at the end of the month with a brief review from the Maui and other key tournaments that are taking place mostly from Thursday through Saturday.

Northern Iowa’s stunning win over North Carolina shakes things up entering holiday tournament week

SONG SELECTION:
Of Monsters And Men, “Wolves Without Teeth”
Found on the 2015 Beneath the Skin album

During the season’s first newly fallen snow Saturday afternoon, Northern Iowa used a frantic comeback down 16 points in the second half to stun top-ranked North Carolina 71-67.

It was also Marcus Paige’s homecoming, having grown up around 60 miles from campus in a small town called Marion, Iowa.  He was honored before the game but was injured and was unable to play.

The Tar Heels led 41-32 at the half and the lead ballooned to sixteen at 50-34 with less than 17 minutes on the clock.  But Northern Iowa rallied to pull off the biggest upset of this young season, thanks in large part to guard Wes Washpun’s 21 points and 8 assists.  As a team, the UNI Panthers converted on 11 of 28 attempts from the arc.

Lots of stuffing, and yes some turkeys in this pre-Thanksgiving version of Stock Up, Stock Down

This edition mostly affects three Indiana schools:

Stock Up

Purdue, for winning the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic 85-70 on Sunday over Florida.

Not the glamour matchup of years gone by but the Boilermakers are playing their way to at least a top 5 or 6 seed with Matt Painter’s crew winning every game by at least 15 points.

A balanced attack not seen the Glenn Robinson, Cuonzo Martin, and Carson Cunningham days was led by senior Rapheal Davis scoring 18 points, followed close behind by P.J. Thompson with 15 and Vince Edwards having 14.  Even the trio of inside guys like A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and A.J. Hammons combined for 30 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.  Purdue shot 50 percent from the field, and their offense seems to be clicking at exactly the right time.  But give Florida some credit without Billy Donovan patrolling the sidelines.  The Gators trailed only 63-60, but a 22-3 run put the game on ice.

Duke, for holding off Georgetown in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.  In the process, Grayson Allen became the first Blue Devils player to score back-to-back 30 point games since a true sharp-shooter in J.J. Redick turned the trick in 2005-06.

Stock Down

Valparaiso, for getting turned away at Oregon on their funky looking court 73-67.  However, they got within two in the final seconds before a pair of Alec Peters jumpers from deep did not go down.

Want a bit of trivia?  Sunday’s loss was the 38th straight loss for the Crusaders against a ranked team.  Their last win against a ranked team?  I remember like it was yesterday, with current coach Bryce Drew’s last second jumper as time expired in the 1998 First Round Midwest Regional tournament game in Oklahoma City against Ole Miss.

San Diego State–losing to UALR at home on Sunday in a defensive battle 49-43.  Expect the Aztecs to a drop a few slots in everyone’s mock brackets.

But there will be some major jockeying for position this week at the Maui Jim Invitational.  A small preview is in my next blog above.

Enjoy the rest of your day, and thanks for reading.

 

Maryland holds off Georgetown, UK pummels Duke

SONG SELECTION:

Foster The People, “Coming of Age”

Can be found on the 2014 Supermodel album from Columbia Records.

Once again, ESPN served up a really neat slate of college basketball games for the true hoops binge watcher.

I managed to watch all but three games in the early morning on Tuesday, but the rest of the games proved to be interesting.

Led by George Washington and Tulsa, more upsets continue to shake the rankings in the opening days

Call this a huge win by GW and not a bad loss for Virginia, according to Joe Lunardi and Seth Greenberg of ESPN.  The Colonials 73-68 victory really did not raise too many eyebrows since it is so early in the season.  Also, in the grander scheme of things–this loss will serve Virginia very well in terms of hanging around for a 1 or 2 seed.

George Washington (2-0) took control with a 10-0 run that started with Patricio Garino making a three-point play to give the Colonials a 57-55 lead with 8:06 left on the clock.  Garino added another basket on a tip-in rebound and an assist on a subsequent Tyler Cavanaugh’s layup.  Cavanaugh hit two free throws to make it 64-55 with 5:24 remaining and held on from there.

Wichita State goes down big time in Tulsa

A four-point play by junior college transfer Pat Birt with  9:18 remaining gave Tulsa a 57-51 advantage and the Hurricane eventually increased the lead to 69-57 with 4:02 left on two free throws by Shaquille Harrison (who finished with a team high 20 points).  Led by Ron Baker’s game high 23 and Anton Grady’s 18 points and nine rebounds, their 36.4 shooting going only 20 of 55 on the game.  That final score was 77-67, as Tulsa won for the first time in four years by outscoring the Shockers 47-36 in the second half.

Valparaiso survives, Colorado and Oklahoma impressive

Valpo had a nice game Tuesday morning in Rhode Island.  Led by Alec Peters with 14 and Vashil Fernandez sharing a trio of 12 point scorers, the Crusaders survived a furious rally as Four McGlynn (yes, that is his real name) missed two straight three-point shots that could have won the game for the Rams.

Even more important, URI has to go forward without standout guard E.C. Matthews, who suffered a devastating knee injury that ended his season prematurely last Friday night in the first half against American University of Washington, DC.

Colorado used their big men to withstand a raucous Auburn fanbase and come away with a hard-earned 91-84 win.  George King led the charge nailing 4 of 6 attempts from long range.

Meanwhile in Elvis Country, Memphis seems to be stuck in third gear as a huge defection of transfers and graduation have decimated this once proud program.  Even the stoic nature of coach Josh Pastner might not be enough to save the season the way things are going at the moment, after Oklahoma earned a statement win 84-78.  Buddy Hield’s 30 points and 8 rebounds were huge, especially in key stretches of the second half.

Maryland fends off pesky former foe

For most of the 40 minutes inside the Xfinity Center in College Park, Georgetown seemed to have their way.  It almost felt like watching David Wingate raining jumpers and Patrick Ewing hitting soft floaters in the lane circa 1984 and 1985.

But someone forgot to tell Melo Trimble how big this game turned out to be.  His 24 points helped erase a seven point deficit and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon nailed a cold-blooded three pointer with 1:18 left to help the Terrapins bring “Turtle Power” back to life with a really nice 75-71 win.  Traffic was snarled several hours before the game and it was quite a party atmosphere once fellow Maryland alumnus Scott Van Pelt began SportsCenter on the court minutes following the game.  Trimble seemed to be very humble and did not let the pressure of the moment get to him, and that is what you need not as a leader but also in helping your team to bigger things.

Although this is the first time since 1998-99 where the Hoyas have stumbled out of the gate losing their first two decisions, there will be a new Mourning that will eventually be called upon by John Thompson III to someday crack the starting lineup.  His name, Trey Mourning son of the NBA and former Georgetown star Alonzo Mourning.

Sandwiched between the CFP rankings, Kentucky and Michigan State appear to have the inside track

Call this a lesson learned in the case of Bill Self and Coach K at all of the Cameron Crazies.

The matchup we were all waiting for last April in Indianapolis did not happen, thanks to Wisconsin’s big-time upset at the Final Four.

With several key players for both UK and Duke leaving for the NBA, the game was decided on the little things.  Even with Kentucky stockpiling in the recruiting game for 2016, this current crop is doing fine thank you very much.

Even with Ashley Judd in attendance at “The House That Jordan Built”, all she could do is stare in awe as the Wildcats sent Duke back to Durham with a convincing 74-63 victory in front of 20,917 at Chicago’s United Center.  Without Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, the Dukies were mostly lost in transition.  Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe chipped in big time for John Calipari tabbing 46 points to go along with 12 assists, seven steals and more importantly, only four turnovers.  UK was the more athletic team and performed at a much quicker pace while Duke seemed to be at times bewildered and confused especially on the offensive end.  Another telling stat had Duke back on their heels most of the night–Kentucky used the fast break often to score 17 points off 16 Duke turnovers.

The second game showed how much grit and determination can dictate the outcome of a game.  Early on, Kansas was almost in complete control but thanks to Denzel Valentine’s triple-double had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, the 6’5″ senior’s heady play helped turn a 13 point halftime deficit to a 79-73 win.  Playing 38 of the 40 minutes, this was only the fourth triple-double by a Spartans player since 1979.  The others, just in case if you were curious to know:

  • Earvin “Magic” Johnson
  • Draymond Green
  • Charlie Bell

Elsewhere…

Hawaii had a nice win in their customary 4 a.m. Eastern time slot escaping with a one point win over Nevada and Long Beach State also won by the slimmest of margins, 66-65 at home over BYU.

Notre Dame, Indiana, and Pittsburgh also won at home in convincing fashion.

The Puerto Rico holiday tournament starts on Thursday, I hope to give a recap sometime over the weekend.

And my final blog before the Thanksgiving holiday will be a small preview of what you can expect across the ocean in Hawaii for the always fun tournament in Maui.

That tournament has taken on a life of its’ own, and the Selection Committee values the winner of those three games as a true benchmark for getting a very high seed when the brackets are released.

Sure hope the wind does not knock over any of your garbage cans, let alone any loose gutters that could be flying to goodness-knows-where.

Please try to have a great rest of the day.

 

Winthrop scores over 100 points for first time since 1989

SONG SELECTION:

Summer Camp, “Keep Up” on the Bad Love album

Released on May 25, 2015 under the Moshi Moshi Records label

What a shooting exhibition by the Winthrop Eagles on Saturday afternoon.

Led by Jimmy Gavin’s 26 points (5 of 5 from three) and Xavier Cooks with 22, the Eagles scored a 102-95 victory over Hampton in the season opener for both schools.  Winthrop last hit the century mark on November 25, 1989 when they scored 103 against a smaller school that was in the NAIA at that time.

It was also Winthrop’s Homecoming and after the slew of barbecues and outdoor games outside in the nice weather at Rock Hill, South Carolina–the action really heated up inside.

Hampton was led by the game high of 29 from Quinton Chievous on 12 of 20 shooting and 22 from Lawrence Cooks (no relation).

Even though Hampton won the rebounding battle decisively by a 51-33 margin, the shooting percentages were decidedly in Winthrop’s favor (31 of 59 for 52.5%, compared to only 35 of 79 for 44.3 percent for Hampton).

Nice touch done during introduction to the starting lineups

As each of the starters (including a member of the 2013 national champions from Louisville, who came to Winthrop via transferring again from Missouri in Zach Price) were being introduced to the crowd…each player shook the hands with all three referees and Hampton Head Coach Edward Joyner, Jr. who ironically enough–was seeking his 100th career win at the school but will have to wait until Tuesday at American University of Washington, DC to set that personal milestone.

One more upset to note on Saturday…which makes it five in less than 24 hours.

Radford toppled Georgetown as Rashun Davis nailed a last second three to win 82-80.

Couple that with UCLA dropping an overtime decision to Monmouth at Pauley Pavilion, there will be a lot of jockeying for position and isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.

Enjoy your football on Sunday–I will be back with another cool blog on Wednesday after the 24 Hour Tip-off Marathon.

Make it five postseason tournaments during March

The Vegas 16 concept from Kentucky marketing firm bdGlobal came up with a genius idea

See, there are some guys who can still do good in this world.

Sure, it’s a money grabber but consider the draw that Las Vegas is during Spring Break (both for alumni and students)–and I am sure this will definitely be a postseason tournament worth following.

According to CBSSports.com, Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas has been tapped to host an NIT-style tournament involving teams that missed out on hearing their schools called by Greg Gumbel of CBS Sports on Selection Sunday.

But unlike other tournaments from the likes of the CBI and the CIT, this tournament will be staged for only five days.  Even better, fans can save up on their hotel fees since organizers will keep the ticket prices reasonable unlike during the NCAA Final Four, which is on par with Super Bowl ticket prices as the most lucrative and expensive in American sports.

Sixteen teams will play a single-elimination bracket starting on Saturday, March 26 and ending with a champion on Wednesday, March 30 (one day before the NIT champion is crown at Madison Square Garden in New York).

Most, if not all of the games will be televised nationally.  But at the very least, you get a chance to hear more games via each school’s campus radio network–which I am certain most if not all Division One schools have stations with apps for easy listening on any mobile device.

Here is the link to the article.  Sure hope the match-ups turn out to be more fun than what the NIT has given us during the last several years:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/25373904/college-basketball-getting-new-postseason-tournament-in-vegas

Hopefully, the match-ups will be cool to see.

No Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker means Wisconsin slumps out of the gate

While you were sleeping (and again, all thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Pairs over the tragic and horrific events that took place during the rock concert and other locations on Friday night)…

Thanks to 54 percent shooting and gutsy rebounding, Western Illinois upset Wisconsin in Madison 69-67.  Leading the way for the Leathernecks was J.C. Fuller’s 20 points and Garret Covington with 16.

With Wisconsin returning only 38 percent of their scoring from last year’s National runner up team, it is going to be a very long and frustrating year in Badgertown.

And halfway around the world in front of Yao Ming and other Chinese dignitaries, Washington upset Texas in Shaka Smart’s first game since leaving VCU 77-71.

Armed Forces Classic game cancelled due to slippery floor

After both schools had to travel over 9,500 air miles, plus traveling another 9 1/2 hours from Tokyo and a short bus ride to arrive at one of the nine Marines bases in Okinawa, Japan–the game was cancelled shortly after halftime.

Gonzaga and Pittsburgh’s players were constantly slipping on the special court surface put together by Marines personnel and those coordinating from ESPN Events.  Even one Pitt player hit his head so hard on the extremely slick court surface that blood was gushing out of his right cheek.  It was a good thing many Marines were there alongside some of Pitt’s assistant coaches to help assist in getting the blood to temporarily stop.  It also didn’t help having the area outside the military bases experience a bit of rain several hours before the Saturday morning tip-off (since Gonzaga is 14 hours and Pittsburgh is located 17 hours east of Japan time).

But I can only imagine how uncomfortable that flight home to the United States will be.  Pitt will play host to the St. Joseph (Indiana) Pumas on Tuesday, while Gonzaga returns to The Kennel as they take on Northern Arizona on Wednesday night.

Next year’s game should be instantly gripping–with Veteran’s Day 2016 falling on a Friday.  Navy will be headlining a field with Indiana, Kansas, and Michigan State as they will play games at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu just weeks before the 75th anniversary of one of America’s darkest days in history.

Season begins with many of the top flight teams winning

Last spring’s Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, Grayson Allen picked up right where he left off at Lucas Oil Stadium.   Duke won 92-74 over Siena as Allen led the way with 20 points, including one dunk where he took off from just in front of the free-throw line and jammed it with his right hand.

Ben Simmons is for real

He came to LSU as advertised.  I said in my season preview that he might be the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal, but this freshman sensation is doing some good things with and without the ball.

As LSU easily beat McNeese State 81-70, Simmons’s stat line through 32 minutes was a nice 4 of 6 shooting, 3 of 4 from the free throw line (11 points) to go along with 5 offensive rebounds and two blocked shots.

Other key games of note:

Steve Prohm won a close game in Sioux Falls, as Iowa State overcame some erratic shooting to edge out the Buffaloes 68-62.

Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Wright State, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, and Virginia all coasted to easy victories.

Belmont and Marquette were locked up in a close game in Milwaukee.

The first upset of note was William & Mary winning at North Carolina State, as the Tribe used a team high 19 points from junior Daniel Dixon as this is a major head scratcher losing 85-68.  Caleb Martin scored a game-high 21 to lead the Wolfpack.

Sure, they are the first STOCK DOWN team in this very young season.  But remember, the Wolfpack did reach the Sweet 16 as an 8 seed last March.

This type of loss will knock them down a couple of seed lines at least, but the sky is more than the limit for William & Mary.  This will be one of those types of games where the Selection Committee will have highlighted on their spreadsheets when it comes time to comparing at-large teams.

Hope to provide my first grouping of teams in the STOCK UP category next week after the 24 hour Tipoff Marathon which will conclude in Chicago’s United Center with Duke matching up with Kentucky and Kansas squaring off against Michigan State.  Enjoy your weekend.