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Pikiell Leaves Stony Brook: Was it the right time?

By Brett Malamud

Steve Pikiell agreed to become the ninth head coach in Rutgers University men’s basketball history, and was introduced by the Scarlett Knights at a press conference on Tuesday.

Pikiell comes from the defending America East champions Stony Brook Seawolves, who were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Kentucky last weekend. Led by senior forward Jameel Warney, the Seawolves proved that they were the top team in the America East, after being picked first in the conference’s preseason rankings, and winning the regular season title.

The coach hasn’t always had it easy though. In his first three years at the program, Pikiell compiled a 20-67 record, placing last in the conference each year. That sparked a turnaround in his remaining eight seasons, as the Seawolves never placed lower than fifth in the conference, and finished in the top two in six of those years. In fact, Stony Brook never had lower than 22 wins in six of the last seven seasons. However, until this season, Stony Brook found itself without a conference title, and advanced to the conference title game four times, falling short in each.

Pikiell

Many fans and administrators blamed the coaching for the losses, but failed to realize something important: it was the coaching that got them to the title game again and again. If it were not for Pikiell, the Seawolves would not have seen the road past America East powerhouse Albany, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament for three straight years, before getting knocked off in the America East quarterfinals by Hartford this season. Without Pikiell, we probably would never have seen Warney in a Stony Brook uniform, where he’d go off for 43 points in the America East title game and get doused in confetti in IFCU Arena—his home court—in front of a capacity crowd.

Pikiell received several offers in the past from mid-major schools, but never wanted to leave, always sticking to the fact that he enjoyed coaching the Seawolves, but the case for leaving now is an easy one. Rutgers offered Pikiell an $8 million deal over five years. But with the forthcoming departure of seniors Warney, Carson Puriefoy III and Rayshaun McGrew, Pikiell made the easy decision that, if he was going to begin a rebuild, he would do it at the Big Ten level. While Rutgers is arguably the worst job in the Big Ten, the offer was one that Pikiell couldn’t refuse. It was a no brainer.

So while the fans and administrators will be upset that Pikiell is leaving, they need to stop and thank him for sticking with a team that was built from the ground up, and for bringing the Seawolves to a place where no other Stony Brook coach brought them—to March Madness. Pikiell helped to put Stony Brook on the map, and for that, he deserves to go out on top.


Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy

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The Top 5 Most Overlooked Teams In College Basketball

By Christian Pierre-Louis 

As the college basketball season winds down and heads into conference tournament week, I would like to shine a light on five teams who deserve more love from fans and the media. All season you have been hearing about great teams like Syracuse, Kansas, Duke, Arizona and Florida, but there are some under the radar teams that could make some noise in the NCAA tournament.

5. Saint Joseph’s– Ten years ago, guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West led the Hawks to an undefeated regular season and a trip to the Elite Eight. The Hawks have made the NCAA tournament only one time since, in 2008, when they fell to Oklahoma in the round of 64. The Hawks lost four of their first eight games of the season, including a 30-point loss to Big East rival Villanova. They have since lost only three games — at then-No. 19 UMass on January 8, Richmond on January 25, and to then No. 13 St. Louis on February 5th. Saint Joe’s has quietly climbed the conference standings since, passing teams such as UMass and Dayton, and now sits just two games out of first place. Winning the A-10 might not be a realistic proposition for the Hawks, but a solid formula for an at-large bid could involve one win this week as they face St. Bonaventure tomorrow afternoon.

4. Providence– Being on the bubble to qualify for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament entering the first weekend of March always makes for great basketball, as teams are fighting for victories to make a case to get in the tourney. That is the case for the Friars; they have an 8-7 conference record, and with three games remaining, they need to separate themselves from the pack. Coach Ed Cooley has worked wonders with his Providence team this season amongst a massive amount of chaos. The Friars essentially face three must-win games with the end-of-season clash at Creighton being the most important one. Providence already has a win over the Bluejays in its pocket, but a road win would carry more weight during the selection process. Just like their conference rival St. John’s, with whom it split road victories in conference play, Providence is in need of a good showing at Madison Square Garden next week to solidify their chances of getting in.

3. Harvard– Harvard, under coach Tommy Amaker, is trying for a third straight Ivy League title this season and it, too, has the most-gifted roster in the conference. It may be building toward some kind of a breakthrough as well. But if the Crimson can make it back to the Big Dance, all top teams need to be put on notice. Last year as a No. 14 seed Harvard shocked No. 3 New Mexico in the Round of 64. They did that last year as their All-Ivy players Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were wrapped up in a cheating scandal that involved about 125 students and they withdrew to keep the chance to return to school and also preserve their final year of eligibility. Without them, Harvard overachieved and ended up with that win over the Lobos before falling to Arizona two days later. This year those two are back, along with multidimensional Wesley Saunders and slippery quick Siyani Chambers, who are now the two leading scorers but this team full of balance with six players averaging between 14.8 and 9.0 points. Watch out for the Crimson, as they have the firepower to make some havoc and bust some brackets.

2. SMU– The SMU Mustangs are a team that should be considered to be one of the most dangerous heading into the tournament. Thanks to Larry Brown, this year’s squad is looking to make a run and prove doubters wrong. Less than two years after being lured out of retirement, the Hall of Fame coach has transformed one of college basketball’s biggest doormats into a team that is ranked No. 23. When you look at the Mustangs’ resume, they have marquee wins over the Connecticut Huskies, Memphis Tigers and Cincinnati Bearcats, which is nothing to scoff at. At 22-6, SMU deserves more recognition from the public. They still face the Louisville Cardinals and Memphis to finish out the season, and should only need to win one of these games along with a home game against the UCF Knights to better their profile for the Big Dance. The Mustangs are a good team that could pull off a few upsets in the tournament, and it wouldn’t be March Madness without teams like them.

1. Witchita State– Most of you are wondering how could the No. 2 ranked team in the country be overlooked, well they are and it’s a travesty. A lot of people point out that the Shockers play in a weaker conference and that their competition is bad. I tell those people to go look at the tape, this team is ridiculously impressive and have a chance to finish the regular season undefeated! No matter who you play, that is quite impressive in today’s world of college basketball. One of the best stories in college basketball this season has been reduced to a talking point, and that discussion will ramp up as we head for the exit of the regular season. This team has won 30 straight games and with the way teams now schedule, it’s tougher than ever before to go wire to wire without a casualty on the schedule. To the skeptics, I’ll say this: Fight it all you want, but Wichita State will be on the top line as a 1 seed if it’s got a bagel in the L column come March 9, the finals of the MVC tourney. I would be stunned beyond belief if Wichita State isn’t handed a No. 1 in that scenario. Being perfect carries symbolic and tangible significance. In fact, even one loss would keep them in the conversation. For those who keep on underestimating the Shockers, be advised that come late March-early April, you may be watching them cut down the nets.

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Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.

BU Zoo Gives Binghamton Bearcats Some Noise

←BACK TO THE NEW BU ZOO WEBSITE

By Brett Malamud

It has been an up and down season for the Binghamton Bearcats. Currently they are 4-19 overall and 1-9 in the America East Conference. Last season, they brought in new head coach Tommy Dempsey, a 119 game winner at Rider, but went on to finish the 2012-13 season with a total of three wins. Each game, the 5,000-seat Events Center barely reached 2,000 in attendance. Attending each game was a difficult thing for me to do, while anticipating an upcoming loss in an empty arena each time. The fact that I am a huge fan of college basketball is probably the reason I decided to attend every single game anyway.

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This season, while the record just isn’t there at home, the crowd noise has been. The student section, the BU Zoo, has been there for the Bearcats the entire season.  But the BU Zoo is more than a student cheering section- it is a movement. It began with simply designing a great logo, slapping that logo on t-shirts, and giving the shirts away to students. Soccer season came in the early Fall, and the Zoo began to grow with a couple hundred students attending the games. The Zoo became good friends with some of the soccer players and then some basketball players as well. Then opening night of basketball season came. As I walked down to the Events Center, excited for a new season of college basketball, I thought to myself “Are we even going to have anyone show up tonight?”

Events Center Opening Night 2013-14 (Via Brett Malamud)

Events Center Opening Night 2013-14 (Via Brett Malamud)

BU Zoo Opening Night 2013-14 (Via Brett Malamud)

BU Zoo Opening Night 2013-14 (Via Brett Malamud)

That night, 4,318 fans, showed up at a packed Events Center. The BU Zoo was filled to the top that night with students wearing green. But that wasn’t the end of it. The trend continued, with a couple hundred students showing up for each game. But then another major breakthrough came for the Zoo when the Bearcats faced Stony Brook University at the Events Center on Tuesday night.

Back on January 15th, the Bearcats lost on Long Island to the America East conference leading Seawolves by 22. As I attended the game on Long Island, I noticed that the Bearcats didn’t really prove to be any competition for the Seawolves, so I was a little nervous about Tuesday. But the Zoo showed up in full force for a game that was nationally broadcasted on ESPN3. A confirmed 1,200 students showed up out of the 4,635 fans for the game and sat with the Zoo. Complete with their own fan mascot Mr. Green, the Zoo did not sit down and was loud for the game’s entirety.

The BU Zoo's fan mascot, Mr. Green (Via Binghamton University)

The BU Zoo’s fan mascot, Mr. Green (and myself to the right of him)  (Via Binghamton University)

This greatly factored into Stony Brook’s lack of production and Binghamton proceeded to take a surprising 23-18 lead into halftime. The Bearcats made it a game throughout but eventually lost the game in the final minute. Losing by five to a team that is likely to be representing the America East Conference in the NCAA tournament is something that the Bearcats should be very proud of. The Zoo received praise from coach Tommy Dempsey in a letter regarding the noise level during the game.

On behalf of the Athletic Department, coaches, and our players I would like to thank you for your enthusiastic support for our team on Tuesday night vs. Stony Brook. I just want to make sure you all know that it gives our players a tremendous emotional lift when the BU Zoo is rocking like that. We are working hard everyday to improve and to reward your loyalty with some big wins to close out this season. We hope to see you all again on Saturday afternoon at 2pm. Thanks again and GO BEARCATS!

Tommy Dempsey

And when we all thought it was over, the Zoo received another huge praise, this time on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption from the show’s host, Binghamton alumni Tony Kornheiser. The BU Zoo has been rocking and will continue to rock the house for seasons to come.

 

For more information about the BU Zoo,VISIT THEIR NEW WEBSITE,  like their Facebook page, and follow them on twitter at @The_BU_Zoo

BU Zoo Logo (Via BU Zoo)

BU Zoo Logo (Via BU Zoo)

←BACK TO THE NEW BU ZOO WEBSITE


 

Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy

Duke Nails Top Prospects

By Christian Pierre-Louis

In the mere span of a few seconds Friday afternoon, Duke became the likely favorite for the 2014-15 national championship. That’s what happens when two of the five best high school players in the country announce their decision to be Blue Devils. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both headed to play for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. They chose the Blue Devils over Kansas and Baylor.

The two players always thought to be a package deal, never really wavered in that aspect of each one’s recruitment. Okafor and Jones didn’t play high school or AAU basketball on the same team, but represented USA Basketball together and became close friends from playing at elite camps and tournaments around the country. A couple of teams attempted to split them up, but it never worked. Despite various rumors to the contrary, Okafor and Jones followed through on their package deal.

 

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor made a splash and signed with Duke (Via Adidas and AP)

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor made a splash and signed with Duke (Via Adidas and AP)

Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center from Whitney Young (Ill.), is ranked No. 1 in most rankings including the 247Sports Composite, Rivals, and ESPN. He is an absolutely dominant force on the inside, and is the best back-to-the-basket player to come across the high school landscape in a very long time. He can get position on the interior, and then is able to score in a variety of ways. Okafor is also capable of passing out of double teams. He has terrific hands and is an outstanding rebounder.

Meanwhile, Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.), is among the top five in all the major recruiting rankings. It became clear a couple of years ago that he would be the best pure point guard in the country, given his high-level basketball IQ and ability to run an offense and control tempo. Jones is a great passer with vision, but he’s also very adept at scoring in his own right. He has good range to the 3-point line and while he isn’t overly explosive, Jones can change speeds effectively.

Okafor and Jones join previous commit Grayson Allen in Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Regardless of who stays and who goes pro from this year’s Blue Devil team, it’s certainly not a stretch to say that Duke will be the favorite heading into next season. Okafor gives them the most dominant big man in the country, while Jones is clearly one of the top point guards in the nation. Even if Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood decide to go pro, Krzyzewski will have the pieces to win a national title.

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Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.

This Weekend in College Basketball

Recapping the most important news from this past weekend

By Jared Bursky 

Future Stars Make Their Decision

Last Tuesday, we were able to get a glimpse of how dynamic freshmen can make an immediate impact in college basketball. We also saw extraordinary talents in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle who represent the future of the NBA. Five ranked teams were in action Friday, including number one to be Michigan State, but that was hardly on the minds of many college basketball fans. Friday featured seismic announcements from four of the top high school basketball recruits in the country.

Committed to Duke

1. Jahlil Okafor (6-10, 265) ESPN 100 # 1

Chicago, Illinois

Whitney Young H.S.

Center/ Power Forward

2. Tyus Jones (6-1, 171) ESPN 100 # 4

Apple Valley, Minnesota

Apple Valley High School

Point Guard

Analysis

Duke will be loaded next year with Okafor and Jones coming in as a package deal. They are the perfect compliments. A pass first, true point guard and a dominant low post big man along with returners mean big things for Duke next year.

Jahlil Okafor and Tyrus Jones both chose Duke on Friday (Via ESPN, IconSMI)

Jahlil Okafor and Tyrus Jones both chose Duke on Friday (Via ESPN, IconSMI)

Committed to Kansas

1. Cliff Alexander (6-8, 225) ESPN 100 #3

Chicago, Illinois

Curie High School

Power Forward

Analysis

Illinois or Kansas? His choice was Kansas, but not before he mistakenly picked up the Illinois hat at first at his announcement. You know this one is hurting in Champagne, Illinois but for now, Kansas will plan on doing great things with Alexander.

Committed to Arizona

1. Stanley Johnson (6-6, 220) ESPN 100 #9

Fullerton, California

Mater Dei High School

Small Forward

Analysis

Arizona got Aaron Gordon in last year’s recruiting class, now they have another stud to follow. Johnson is a great scorer and has the tools to make an immediate impact in an Arizona program that seems to be back near the top.

Friday Action

MSU Survives Columbia

Michigan State, coming off a huge win in Chicago against #1 Kentucky, struggled with a tricky Columbia squad for thirty-five minutes. The Spartans were able to pull away in the final minutes and finished with a 64-53 win. The fact that this game was this close is shocking.

Saturday Action

Wisconsin Rallies against Green Bay

The Badgers overcame a seven point second half deficit to defeat Green Bay on Saturday. Green Bay junior Keifer Sykes scored a career high 32 points but it wasn’t enough against Wisconsin, who was lead by Frank Kaminsky’s 17 points.

Battle of Defense: #10 Ohio State shuts down #17 Marquette

52-35? Sounds like Peyton Manning just lead the Broncos to a win. However, Ohio State limited Marquette to 35 points due primarily to the great performance of Aaron Craft (10pts 7 reb 10ast 2stl). Marquette shot just 19% from the field in the defensive struggle.

Sunday Action (Upset City Edition)

Indiana State over #21 Notre Dame

The Sycamores had five players score in double figures as their balanced attack outlasted Notre Dame 83-70 in South Bend. Notre Dame received solid production from their starters but the bench could not contribute much as the Irish were sent to their first loss.

Belmont shocks #12 North Carolina

Another upset on the road. Belmont went into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 83-80 on the shoulders off J.J. Mann (28 points). UNC got a terrific effort from James Michael McAdoo who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. This was one of three home losses on the day for teams in the ACC.

#7 Michigan Falls in Ames

Not that this was not an upset; Michigan is a very good team, but Iowa State does have something brewing in Ames. #7 Michigan’s Mitch McGary made his season debut Sunday but in a losing effort, as the Cyclones defeated them 77-70. Melvin Ejim led Iowa State with 22 points.

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Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10

We’ve Only Just Begun: Recapping the Tip-Off Marathon and The Champions Classic

By Jared Bursky

The twenty-four hour ESPN College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon has concluded. College basketball is officially back. If you tuned in at any point during the marathon, you would think it is in midseason form. Four of the top five teams played, four matchups featured two ranked teams facing one another; new rules, a ridiculous freshman class, and great coaches…what else is their to say? This could have been a great week; we got it in one day. Don’t go anywhere now because March will be here before you know it.

The “Other Games”

No, the two games at The Champions Classic were not the only games being played Tuesday. Yes, the other games mattered. While all eyes were on Chicago, a great slate of matchups helped kick off the college basketball season early Tuesday morning. For some, it is never too early to start building a case for Selection Sunday. Here were some of the key scores:

BYU 112 – Stanford 103: The two started off the marathon with a shootout, as BYU was able to outlast Stanford with hot shooting down the stretch. BYU will look to challenge Gonzaga as the new team in the WCC.

#16 Wichita State 66 – Western Kentucky 49: The Shockers shocked everybody by making it to the Final Four this year. This team will be a force again as they pulled away from WKU in the second half.

Quinnipiac 67 – La Salle 73: La Salle was able to battle back and defeat Quinnipiac after dropping their season opener. After an improbable run to the Elite 8 last year, La Salle will try to repeat their March success after losing just one player from last year’s team.

LSU 90 – Massachusetts 92: A close game throughout, UMass was able to edge out a win against LSU with good free throw shooting and 24 points from their leader Chaz Williams.

West Virginia 82 – Virginia Tech 87: An odd game. WVU jumped out to a big lead in the first half but Va. Tech responded with a 34-9 run that put them in the lead for good. Freshman Ben Emelogu is a name to keep an eye on for VT.

South Carolina 74 – #23 Baylor 76: Baylor somehow pulled out a victory while not scoring in the last seven minutes. Sharpshooter Brady Heslip led the Bears with 18 points as they held on against Frank Martin’s Gamecocks.

NC State 57 – Cincinnati 68: Both of these teams were ranked consistently throughout the 2012-2013 season but both seem to be in a little bit of a rebuilding mode. Cincinnati was able to pull away because of its leader Sean Kilpatrick.

Ranked Matchups

#14 VCU 59 – #25 Virginia 56: A close game throughout came down to the final seconds. VCU’s Treveon Graham nailed a three with just over a second left to secure a victory against a game Virginia team led by Joe Harris (18 points).

#11 Florida 53 – #20 Wisconsin 59: A classic Badger grinder. Bo Ryan preaches defense and his Badgers were able to control the tempo. Keeping games in the 50s bodes well for Wisconsin, who was led by Ben Brust.

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM “THE OTHER GAMES

  1. Wichita State is an awesome college basketball environment, and they are still a very good team
  2. Massachusetts guard Chaz Williams is an unknown stud (24 points vs. LSU)
  3. Baylor may not be as good as we thought.
  4. NC State may struggle in the ACC this year
  5. VCU is tough and knows how to win (10-1 run to finish the game at #20 Virginia)
  6. Wisconsin will always be Wisconsin, a hard-nosed, tough and rugged team.

The Champions Classic

68 NBA representatives attended the two games in Chicago. Four of the top five teams in the country, the top three freshmen in the country, WOW. It is safe to say that The Champions Classic did not disappoint.

Game 1: #2 Michigan State 78 – #1 Kentucky 74

It was experience against youth, and experience won. Kentucky started four freshmen and a sophomore while MSU countered with two seniors, a junior, and two sophomores. Michigan State came out firing, jumping out to quick 10-0 lead. The Spartans dominated the first half from start to finish, leading 44-32 at the break. Kentucky’s star freshman Julius Randle was held to 4 points on 1 of 5 from the field while MSU’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne combined for 27 points on 10 of 14 from the field. The Spartans were out and running early and often and their defense was smothering. Kentucky seemed out of sorts on both ends. The second half was a different story. Payne got in early foul trouble for the Spartans, which allowed Randle to get loose. Randle had a monster second half and finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Kentucky’s confidence began to grow and it carried over to the defensive end. Michigan State became stagnant on the offensive end as Kentucky battled back, finally tying the game at 66 before the Spartans took the lead back for good. Branden Dawson’s tip in with about 5 seconds left sealed the deal for Michigan State.

Branden Dawson’s alley oop (Via @gifdsports)

Branden Dawson’s alley oop (Via @gifdsports)

KEYS

In my game preview I said that Michigan State had to take care of the ball and Kentucky must rebound. Oddly, both did an outstanding job, respectively. Michigan State only turned it over seven times while Kentucky coughed it up 17 times. However, Kentucky shockingly outrebounded MSU 44-32. Something had to give. The 17 turnovers by Kentucky were the difference. They often turned into fast break points for the Spartans, especially in the first half. Transition defense was a clear weakness of the Wildcats.

TURNING POINT

UK clawed back into the game and finally broke even at 66. However, Michigan State answered as Denzel Valentine found Keith Appling for an open three in the corner. Gary Harris stole the ensuing inbounds pass and hit a driving layup to reclaim a five-point lead for the Spartans.

KEY PERFORMANCES

MSU: Keith Appling (PG) 22 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds.

UK: Julius Randle (F) 27 points 13 rebounds, 1 assist

WHAT WE LEARNED

MSU

  1. Michigan State is the best team in the country as of November 13th.
  2. Gary Harris is not just the top candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year; he is one of the best players in the country. He is a solidified NBA Lottery pick.
  3. Michigan State goes as the transformed and improved Keith Appling goes.
  4. This team has as good of shot as anyone to make the Final Four.

UK

  1. Kentucky is again inexperienced, but they are tough. This team will be just fine and will only get better.
  2. Julius Randle is undoubtedly the best player and leader for Kentucky. Simply put, he is a beast.
  3. Kentucky’s strength is attacking the rim; they are not a great three point shooting team (4 for 20 from distance).
  4. Final Four good without a doubt, if they start playing a “more together” type game, the sky is the limit.

Game 2: Kansas 94 – Duke 83

Do not let the final score fool you. This was a close game throughout. It was back and forth with the two exchanging leads constantly. It was once again a battle of experience and youth. Duke’s starters included a senior, a junior, a third year sophomore (via transfer), a true sophomore and a freshman. Bill Self played seven freshmen in his rotation Tuesday. An even game throughout, neither team established a clear edge early. One thing that was a constant was the execution of Kansas. We saw many instances of Bill Self’s greatness as a coach last night, first with a beautifully designed backdoor out of bounds play for Andrew Wiggins. Speaking of Wiggins, he only played nine minutes in the first half. While Kansas executed, Jabari Parker took on the role of assassin for Duke. Parker was the lifeline for Blue Devils. He did everything. Defensively he was active, he was hitting from deep, and making acrobatic finishes at the rim. The second half featured the same back and forth action until finally Kansas made its move at the end. Wiggins who finished with 22 (16 in the second half) made crucial plays down the stretch including a step back jumper and a dunk in transition, which fouled Jabari Parker out of the game. Kansas also received breakout performances from big man Perry Ellis (24 points and 9 rebounds) and Wayne Selden Jr. (15 points). Kansas outrebounded Duke 39-24, as Parker’s 27 points and 9 rebounds were not enough.

KEYS 

Kansas received many contributions from many different players in a winning effort Tuesday. Wiggins did not disappoint with 22 points, but the “other guys” were a huge reason why Kansas played so well. Perry Ellis and Wayne Seldon Jr. helped lead the charge for KU and Frank Mason and Naadir Tharpe helped pace the Jayhawk backcourt. On the other hand, Duke did not defend Kansas too well. Kansas’ execution often beat Duke’s defensive pressure. I was particularly impressed with the Jayhawk guards and their ability to get the ball into the paint, whether by entry or dribble drive.

Perry Ellis put up 24 points against Duke (Via USA Today Sports)

Perry Ellis put up 24 points against Duke (Via USA Today Sports)

TURNING POINT

Not a tough one here. Andrew Wiggins put the Jayhawks in front for good in the last five minutes with multiple plays on both ends. His step back jumper and transition dunk put Duke away for good.

KEY PERFORMANCES

Kansas: Perry Ellis (PF) 24 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals

Duke: Jabari Parker (F) 27 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals

WHAT WE LEARNED

DUKE

  1. Jabari Parker can do it all; Duke will rely on him heavily all season long. He is special, period.
  2. Duke will need better contributions from their bigs going forward. Kansas outrebounded them 39-24 and Perry Ellis dominated them in the paint.
  3. Duke has perhaps the most scoring depth of anyone in the country. Parker, Hood, Thornton, Sulaimon, Cook, etc. These guys can fill it up.
  4. Duke is still a candidate to make the Final Four, but there are some concerns as of now with rebounding and defense. Expect them to improve in both areas. 

KU

  1. Bill Self is a great coach. Okay we didn’t just learn this, but I was shocked at the execution of Kansas. Coach Self had his boys ready to play.
  2. Kansas, although young, will be just fine. Their freshman, Wiggins, Selden and Frank Mason in particular, were very poised.
  3. Perry Ellis is becoming a star. He was named to the All-Tournament team last April and he is picking up where he left off. When he plays like this, KU will be a tough out.
  4. Kansas is once again a Final Four contender, and should win the Big 12 for a 10th consecutive season.

Final Thoughts

The quality of play we saw over the course of the twenty-four hour marathon was impressive. There are so many good teams with so much talent. This should be an exciting and iconic year in college basketball.

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Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10

Tuesday Preview: The Champions Classic

By Jared Bursky

How great is it that the Final Four begins tonight? Hold on a minute. It’s only November 12th. You would hardly know with the matchups in Chicago tonight. At 7:30 #1 Kentucky takes on #2 Michigan State, followed by #4 Duke and #5 Kansas, in what may be a preview of this year’s Final Four. Here is what you should be looking for in the two matchups:

#1 Kentucky v. #2 Michigan State (7:30 ESPN)

Quick Notes

  • The game will be the earliest ever matchup between #1 and #2. Previously the earliest was November 29th.
  • Kentucky’s freshman class, regarded by many as the best class ever, battles against its first ranked opponent.

For Michigan State to win it must:

TAKE CARE OF THE BALL. Michigan State opening the season with major problems in the turnover department has seemed to become an annual event. Oddly, as March approaches these problems are typically solved, but to beat a team with the talent of Kentucky, turnovers cannot happen. Easy baskets will feed confidence to this young Wildcat team, and that’s when they will really start rolling. Michigan State needs to be efficient on offense lead by the evolving Keith Appling on the point guard position. Making life tough on Kentucky may show their inexperience.

For Kentucky to win it must:

REBOUND. We all know Michigan State will rebound at a high rate on both sides of the ball. Kentucky’s toughness will be tested most on the boards. For the Wildcats to win, they MUST compete on the boards, especially on the defensive end. If Michigan State imposes its will on the offensive boards, Kentucky will have a hard time. Extra possessions for the likes of Harris and Payne are bad news. The Wildcats have the athletes to rebound effectively, but with their inexperience, they have yet to see a machine like they will see tonight. Expect the team that controls the boards to have the inside track to win this game.

Key Matchup:

Branden Dawson/Adreian Payne vs. Julius Randle

Randle is undoubtedly the pulse of this Kentucky team, posting double-doubles in both of his first two games. If Michigan State can contain him and make him work on the defensive end it can be successful. On the flip side, if Randle gets into a rhythm early and attacks the boards like he has been, Kentucky could build confidence early and turn that into success.

X Factors:

Michigan State- Keith Appling, PG: This year will be Appling’s third year at the point. Entering his sophomore year he transitioned from the off guard position. If he can take care of the ball, provide some scoring, and distribute to Harris and Payne, Michigan State can come out of Chicago with a win.

Kentucky- Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, C: One seven foot center is dangerous, who knows what the possibilities are when a team has two. Kentucky does. You know Izzo wants to establish his guys in the paint early. If these two can provide rebounding and rim protection, Kentucky will be in great shape.

#4 Duke v. #5 Kansas (9:30 ESPN)

Quick Notes

  • Coach K 3 – Bill Self 0: Self has lost all three matchups against Duke.
  • Another 1 v 2: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, the top two recruits coming into this year, battle for the first time at the college level.

For Duke to win it must:

APPLY PRESSURE ON THE BALL. Kansas has an inexperienced backcourt with Duke being the exact opposite. Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton need to make life hard for Kansas’ guards. Duke once again has an uncanny ability to make shots from beyond the arc. Open looks for Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Cook and Thornton would prove to be a nightmare for Kansas. If Duke pressures the ball to create turnovers and bad possessions, the running game and three point shot could get going early and often. Duke also does not have Mason Plumlee as a rim protector anymore. They do not have great size in the frontcourt. Preventing easy entries into the post will be critical to Coach K and the Blue Devils

For Kansas to win it must:

HAVE SECONDARY SCORING. Kansas cannot rely on Andrew Wiggins to carry them. Duke will attack in waves with different players. Having point guard Naadir Tharpe back from a one game suspension will surely help the Jayhawks, but Kansas needs a group effort. Cue Perry Ellis and Tarik Black. Ellis really started to come on toward the end of last season while Tarik Black, a transfer from Memphis, has the potential to dominate a game in the paint. If Kansas can feed these two guys on the block and score early, Kansas can open up opportunities for Wiggins and fellow freshman Wayne Seldon Jr. to make plays.

Key Matchup:

Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker

Hold on a minute. We get to see #1 and #2 play at 7:30, and it might get better at 9:30? Wiggins and Parker may be the BEST matchup of individuals we will see all year long. Parker was the number one recruit for so long until Wiggins skyrocketed past him. Does a small rivalry exist here? Maybe. What we do know is that two of the best freshmen and players in America will matchup against each other tonight in Chicago, and the winner of this matchup puts his team in a great position to get a meaningful early season win. This is a must see, period.

Wiggins and Parker will go head to head in this early season matchup (Via USA Today Sports)

Wiggins and Parker will go head to head in this early season matchup (Via USA Today Sports)

X Factors:

Duke- The Bigs: Discounting Parker whose versatility will have him in different spots, Duke’s big men accounted for only 15 of its 111 points in its opening game win vs. Davidson. Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston in particular, need to provide rebounding, toughness, and more offensive output. With incredible scoring and versatility from its guards, Duke will cruise if this happens.

Kansas- Andrew White III, G/F: This 6-6, 210 sophomore chipped in 12 points in Kansas’ first game. More importantly he nailed 3-5 attempts from beyond the arc. Kansas does not have a bevy of shooters to rely on, so if White can come off the bench and make shots, pressure will be taken off the shoulders of Wiggins. If White is in rhythm and Kansas decides to attack from the inside out, Tarik Black and Perry Ellis will have a great spot up option to kick out to.

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Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10