College Basketball Nation: Brandon Davies

1. Syracuse wasn’t the only newcomer the ACC took care of in scheduling. Notre Dame has a tremendous first-year schedule in the league with home games against North Carolina and Duke. Three Big Ten nonconference games are also on Mike Brey's daunting overall schedule, two of which were out of his control. It was Notre Dame’s turn to play Indiana in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, and the Big Ten-ACC Challenge gave the Irish a road game at Iowa. Notre Dame had already scheduled the Gotham Classic in Madison Square Garden against Ohio State. “We’ve got three Big Ten teams on the schedule but I don’t want our fans to think we’ve joined the Big Ten,’’ said Brey. The Irish will also play three potential postseason teams in Delaware, Bryant and North Dakota State in the Gotham Classic in leading up to the Ohio State game Dec. 21 in NYC. Santa Clara and Indiana State, two other teams with postseason ability, come to South Bend. “Our fans are going to be spoiled by getting Carolina and Duke coming to South Bend,’’ said Brey. “We’ve got BC, Georgia Tech as our repeat games and Virginia and UNC too. Having Duke and Carolina coming here in the first year in the ACC is knocking it out of the park. We’re fortunate.’’ Brey considered playing a road game against Baylor in Dallas to start the season but then decided against it and wanted to get a home game for new point guard Demetrius Jackson. “He’s a key guy for us so I want to him to play 20-something minutes at home,’’ said Brey. “With the schedule we have, we’ve got enough games on the road and neutral.’’

2. Washington State coach Ken Bone said Idaho coach Ron Verlin agreed to move a game against the Cougars on Dec. 7 so Wazzu could participate in the Jud Heathcote event -- an event celebrating Heathcote's legacy at the four schools where he has either coached or -- in the case of Gonzaga -- has a passion for. Washington State will play Montana in the undercard while Gonzaga will host Michigan State at Spokane Arena on Dec. 7. Heathcote lives in Spokane where he coached high school basketball at West Valley High. He’s a regular at Gonzaga games. He also coached at Montana and Washington State before winning a national title with Magic Johnson at Michigan State in 1979. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo served under Heathcote before replacing him. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has become extremely close with Heathcote, as well.

3. Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett all will be unable to participate in next week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago on Thursday and Friday (live coverage on ESPNU 10 a.m. to 2 p.m./ 2-3 p.m. ESPN2 each day). That means there will be ample opportunity for even more players to shine in what has become a wide-open draft. At each of the five listed positions, there is at least one player who could really benefit from the lower numbers. Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, who is being discussed as a first-round lock, has a real shot to move up among the point guards. This will be a critical few days for those watching Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin among the shooting guards. The same is true of Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas with the small forwards, BYU’s Brandon Davies with the power forwards and Kansas’ Jeff Withey with the centers.

Coaches vs. Cancer Primer

November, 16, 2012
An interesting doubleheader combo of four teams you wouldn’t normally put together but also four teams that are sort of on the game’s fringe right now. Notre Dame is ranked, Saint Joseph’s was picked to win the Atlantic 10. Still none of these teams are especially known commodities or even March locks. For all, it’s a good chance to get some big market love and perhaps more important, big nonconference win.

The basics: Nov. 16-17, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY

The set matchups: BYU vs. Florida State, 7 p.m. ET: Notre Dame vs. Saint Joseph’s, 9:30 p.m.


[+] EnlargeMichael Snaer
Melina Vastola/US PresswireFlorida State's Michael Snaer needs to provide senior leadership for the Seminoles.
Michael Snaer, Florida State: The senior called himself the nation’s best shooting guard this summer. He needs to play like it if the Seminoles are going to win this thing. Arguably the best player in the field, Snaer has worked on establishing his leadership skills along with his scoring for a young FSU team.

Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s: The guard was terrific on both ends of the floor for the Hawks in the season-opening walkover against Yale. He is the team’s cog, both the leader and their most potent scorer.

Jack Cooley, Notre Dame: The Notre Dame big man will have his hands full with St. Joe’s C.J. Aiken but then again, Cooley has had his hands full plenty in his career and never wavered. Cooley is as tough as he is efficient.

Brandon Davies, BYU: Davies got off to a rather nice start for BYU, scoring 28 in the team’s opener against Georgia State. But things came easy in that game -- at one point the Cougars led 31-2 -- and that won’t be the case here. BYU will need Davies to score but be disciplined against Florida State.

Matt Carlino, BYU: The Cougars, thanks to Davies, have the inside part of the game locked up. To be successful, they need to get the outside in order. That’s where Carlino, tabbed with the next Jimmer albatross as a freshman, comes in. He’s got the scoring and shooting ability to spread the offense and make BYU a legit threat.


Was Florida State’s loss to South Alabama an aberration or a sign of trouble?

The defending ACC champions played a sloppy game offensively, committing 17 turnovers, and a lousy game defensively, allowing South Alabama to connect on 9 of 15 3-pointers. The Seminoles bounced back to beat Buffalo but still allowed the Bulls to hit 50 percent from the floor.

Can BYU’s high-octane offense score against Florida State? That’s the simple key.

This FSU defense doesn’t look like last year’s, what with the better shooting percentage that two lower-level opponents have put up. So what can the Cougars, averaging 80 points per game, do?

Will St. Joe’s be able to keep the Irish away from the arc?

The Hawks are big; they block shots and they have a good collection of scorers, but their perimeter defense has been an Achilles heel and against Notre Dame, that’s a real problem. They were pretty dominant against Yale, holding the Bulldogs to just 35 points. But Yale doesn’t exactly shoot or score like the Irish.

Can Notre Dame use its depth as an advantage?

It should be able to. The Hawks are without Carl Jones, suspended by the university for three games, while Mike Brey has one of his deepest, more athletic teams in years. The numbers game could be huge for the Irish in this one.

Who emerges as the best big man in this one?

There are some good candidates with Cooley, Davies and Aiken. All three are different but effective at what they do and all three are hugely critical to their team. Foul trouble for any will be a big issue.


Semifinals: BYU over Florida State; Notre Dame over St. Joe’s
Championship game: Notre Dame over BYU

Jason King's Wooden Watch

November, 15, 2012

When college basketball opened play last week, Doug McDermott of Creighton and Indiana forward Cody Zeller were touted as the leading candidates for the Wooden Award. Two games into the 2012-13 season, nothing has changed.


Zeller is averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds. Foul trouble limited McDermott to five points in Wednesday’s win over UAB, but it’ll take more than one poor showing to knock one of the game’s most competitive, highly skilled players from his perch.

Still, even though Zeller and McDermott are the leaders, plenty of other players turned heads during college basketball’s opening week. Based on their performances thus far, here are 10 standouts that Wooden Award voters may want to watch in the coming weeks and months.

Keith Appling, Michigan State -- Four days after scoring 17 points in a season-opening loss to Connecticut in Germany, Appling helped the Spartans bounce back with a 19-point effort in a 67-64 victory over Kansas. The guard hit two clutch shots in the waning moments -- a 3-pointer with 1:35 remaining and an acrobatic lay-up with 13 seconds left -- to clinch the win.

Isaiah Austin, Baylor -- The 7-foot-1 freshman center couldn’t have been more dazzling in his college debut last week. Austin had 22 points, four rebounds and two blocks in just 17 minutes in a victory over Lehigh. Showing his versatility, Austin mixed in a pair of 3-pointers with a few nasty dunks. Austin sprained his ankle midway through the second half and did not return.

Trey Burke, Michigan -- The Wolverines’ first three wins have come by an average of 35 points, and Burke is the main reason. The preseason All-American is averaging 18.8 points and eight assists. His turnovers (3.7 per game) are a bit high, but that should change as Michigan develops more cohesion.

Seth Curry, Duke -- The ninth-ranked Blue Devils got a massive boost from Curry in Tuesday’s 75-68 win over No. 3 Kentucky. Curry scored 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including a 3-of-5 mark from 3-point range. He’s averaging 19 points through two games and is connecting on 50 percent of his field goals and 3-point attempts.

Brandon Davies, Brigham Young -- A forward, Davies is averaging 22 points and eight rebounds for the 2-0 Cougars, but even more impressive is that he’s shooting 74 percent from the field while also chipping in three assists per game. He’ll face a good test when BYU takes on Florida State Friday.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina -- The future NBA lottery pick is flourishing in his increased role after playing behind John Henson and Tyler Zeller last season. McAdoo is averaging 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds through two games. We’ll get a better look at him during next week’s Maui Invitational.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh -- Anyone who watched Lehigh’s game against Baylor understands why McCollum was tabbed as a preseason All-American. The guard lit up the Bears for 36 points despite being heavily guarded by defensive standouts such as A.J. Walton and Deuce Bello. McCollum is averaging 24 points through three games and is shooting 50 percent from the field.

Phil Pressey, Missouri -- The player who some feel is the nation’s top point guard is off to a solid start for the 2-0 Tigers. Pressey is averaging team-highs in points (20.0) and assists (5.5). Missouri has yet to be tested, but that will change next week when they open against Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The tournament also features Duke, Memphis, Minnesota, Louisville and others.

Scootie Randall, Temple -- Randall missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he hardly showed any rust when he returned the court for the first time on Tuesday. The guard scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting to spark the Owls to an 80-66 victory over a Kent State squad that was high on momentum after upsetting Drexel.

Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida -- Forward Keith Clanton is generally regarded as the Knights’ top player but, through two games, 6-foot-5 Sykes has commanded most of the headlines. Sykes had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a mild upset of South Florida in the season opener. In two games, he’s averaging 24.5 points. 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
Editor's note:’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the WCC, click here.

The most important player for each team in the conference ...

BYU: Matt Carlino
The former UCLA transfer showed flashes of a bright future in his partial first season with the Cougars. But as BYU's lead guard in 2012-13, he'll need to raise his own offensive game another step, while working in plenty of touches for forward Brandon Davies and bound-to-be-rusty Tyler Haws.

[+] EnlargeElias Harris
AP Photo/Kevin P. CaseyThis is the year for Elias Harris to live up definitively to the recruiting hype at Gonzaga.
Gonzaga: Elias Harris
With emerging junior Sam Dower and highly touted freshman Przemek Karnowski, the Zags are at no loss for frontcourt talent in 2012-13. So why is Harris their most important player? Because this is -- or at least should be -- his team, the last chance for one of Gonzaga's biggest-ever recruits to punctuate a hot-and-cold career.

Loyola Marymount: Anthony Ireland
Ireland is without question LMU's best player, and he's also its most important, a point guard who averaged 16.1 points and 4.9 assists per game last season. After the unexpected loss of would-be senior Jarred DuBois to transfer (Utah), Ireland will have to do even more.

Pepperdine: Jordan Baker
Baker, whose freshman season was full of promise and frustration, is important both now and in the future as Pepperdine -- which finished just 4-12 in the WCC last season in the first place -- looks to recover from the losses of leading scorers Taylor Darby and Corbin Moore.

Portland: Ryan Nicholas
Portland won just seven games last season and then lost its point guard, Tim Douglas, who led the team in usage rate before transferring. That means even more will be expected from Nicholas. The 6-7 forward led the Pilots with 11.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg last season and might need to up those totals even more as a junior.

Saint Mary's: Brad Waldow
We know what we're going to get from this team's best player, guard Matthew Dellavadova, but we don't know what to expect from his supporting cast now that seniors Rob Jones and Clint Steindl have graduated. Waldow averaged 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game as a freshman, with an offensive rating of 121.8. More minutes and touches should lead to more production, particularly on the boards, something the Gaels will desperately need.

San Diego: Johnny Dee
Dee showcased huge potential in 2011-12, including (but not limited to) his 30-point outburst against Pepperdine in the WCC tournament. Fellow sophomore guard Christopher Anderson will be crucial too, but Dee has the makings of a star.

San Francisco: Cody Doolin
When you lose this many players (nine) in one offseason, your most important player becomes anyone with a warm body. But Doolin and fellow junior Cole Dickerson stuck around, and both will have to take on major roles in the wake of all those defections.

Santa Clara: Kevin Foster
Foster was en route to a solid if unspectacular individual 2011-12 before being suspended for the final 12 games of the season. But the 3-point gunner is back for his senior year and should be the focus of the Santa Clara attack.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The afternoon games at the KFC Yum! Center were more crummy than yummy, at least for those who prefer their NCAA tournament games seasoned with crunch-time drama. But Murray State and Marquette fans aren't complaining.

Here's a quick look at No. 3 seed Marquette's 88-68 victory over No. 14 BYU:

Overview: There would be no Mormon Miracle this time around.

BYU roared back from a 25-point deficit Tuesday to beat Iona in the First Four, recording the largest comeback win in NCAA tournament history. The Cougars again dug themselves a massive hole on Thursday, but Marquette was far too good to get caught from behind.

The Golden Eagles led by as many as 19 points in a dominant first half and held off a couple of medium-sized Cougars charges to keep the advantage in double digits most of the way home. Marquette was a little too quick, a little too insistent on the glass and had a little too much Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.

The team's two senior anchors combined for 45 points and answered every comeback attempt by BYU. If those two can keep playing like that, Marquette is going to be a difficult team for any West Region opponent to handle.

Turning point: Back-to-back BYU 3-pointers sliced the lead to 52-46 with a little more than 15 minutes to go. Marquette responded with a quick 8-0 run, capped by a dunk in transition by Crowder. The margin would get no closer than eight points the rest of the game.

Key player: You probably won't find many better lines than Crowder's this opening weekend. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds ... in the first half. His versatility was too much for BYU to handle, especially when he hit three 3-pointers in the first half. Crowder finished with 25 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, five steals and four assists. Johnson-Odom provided a nice wingman with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists of his own.

Key stat: Marquette outrebounded BYU 48-32 and had 16 offensive rebounds. The Golden Eagles scored 18 second-chance points to just five by the Cougars.

Miscellany: Marquette's Davante Gardner, in his third game back since a left knee injury sidelined him in January, chipped in 15 points and six rebounds off the bench. ... BYU's Brandon Davies led his team with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Cougars fans can only wonder what might have been last year had Davies not been suspended. ... Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sat in the Marquette section behind the team's bench.

What's next: Marquette advances to play No. 6 seed Murray State in the West Region third round on Saturday. It should be an interesting matchup between two high-tempo, athletic teams.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The NCAA tournament has arrived at the KFC Yum! Center, and this pod definitely comes Kentucky-fried for your enjoyment.

Murray State begins the day by playing within its state's borders, and No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seed Western Kentucky will renew their intermittent rivalry in the evening. But some outsiders will seek to crash this Commonwealth celebration.

Let's take a look at the afternoon games on tap here Thursday:

No. 6 seed Murray State (30-1) vs. No. 11 seed Colorado State (19-13), 12:15 p.m. ET

What to watch: Is Murray State for real? That has been a season-long question, as the Racers won their first 23 games and broke into the top 10 for the first time in school history. They ended the season ranked ninth in the coaches' poll but received a No. 6 seed because of a soft schedule. But they drew a favorable opening matchup in Colorado State, a guard-oriented team that doesn't have a player over 6-foot-6. The Rams love any open shot and rank sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.

Who to watch: Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan is one of the top players in the country, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Colorado State coach Tim Miles admiringly described Canaan as a "pain in the butt" and went so far as to compare him to Jimmer Fredette. If the Racers make a run in this tournament, Canaan could be one of the breakout stars of March.

Why to watch: Any team that goes 30-1 must be doing something right, and Murray State can cause enough matchup problems to make a run to the Sweet 16. The Ohio Valley Conference champ has won a game in each of the last two NCAA tournaments. Colorado State is looking for its first NCAA win since 1989, and the highly entertaining Miles will churn out some memorable sound bites if it happens.

What they're saying: "I think we're kind of used to this situation. We've kind of been looked at as an underdog all year long. I know that gym's probably not going to be in our favor [Thursday]. Our conference tournament kind of prepared us for that a little bit. So we're used to this kind of atmosphere. We're going to try not to let that stuff get to us and just concentrate on our game plan and the way we've got to play to win." -- Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier.

"I think Murray's always been on the map. They have a great winning tradition. But I just think with this year that it just opened up some more eyes. More people kind of went out of their way to see where Murray State was, who these guys were, what are they doing, how do they represent themselves. So I think it was just a matter of us doing a little bit extra for the program." -- Murray State guard Donte Poole.

Of note: Poole signed with Colorado State out of high school and even attended summer school there in 2007. ... The Racers are one of just five teams to enter the NCAA tournament with only one loss but not earn a No. 1 seed. The best showing by any of those previous teams was Texas Tech's Sweet 16 run in 1996. ... Miles has often worn a Smarty Jones hat in honor of the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner to remind his teams of their underdog possibilities. "And just by chance, we end up in Louisville," he said. "I thought that was pretty cool karma."

No. 3 seed Marquette (25-7) vs. No. 14 seed BYU (26-8), approximately 2:45 p.m. ET

What to watch: Marquette crashed the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed a year ago and now looms as a potential Final Four threat in the West Region. The Golden Eagles love to get out in transition, and BYU just beat one of the fastest teams in the country while completing a stunning comeback against Iona in Dayton. Can BYU follow VCU's unconventional path from a year ago?

Who to watch: Marquette's 1-2 punch of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom can beat you from 3-point range or off the bounce, while Big East player of the year Crowder is a 6-6 matchup nightmare who can do a little of everything. Both are seniors who won't be easily rattled.

Why to watch: BYU has already turned in possibly one of the most entertaining games of this year's tournament, and the Cougars have the fascinating redemption saga of forward Brandon Davies. Marquette matches the high energy of its coach, Buzz Williams, and is almost never boring.

What they're saying: "When I first got in here, I smelled the chicken being cooked. So that reminded me of the last time we were here." -- Marquette's Crowder, recalling his team's last appearance at the KFC Yum! Center, when the Golden Eagles blew an 18-point lead in the final six minutes during a loss last year to Louisville.

"A lot of confidence comes from coming from behind and winning, especially in the NCAA tournament. There's a lot of new emotions and adrenaline that comes into play when you're in this tournament. It gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can play and battle back from a pretty big deficit." -- BYU forward Brock Zylstra.

Of note: Marquette typically wins the fast-break battle, but it gave up a season-high 35 transition points in its loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament last week. ... The last time the Golden Eagles were a No. 3 seed, they made the Final Four in 2003 behind Dwyane Wade. ... With Tuesday's victory, BYU has won NCAA tournament games in three straight years for the first time in school history. ... The Cougars spent Tuesday night in Dayton and made the short bus ride to Louisville on Wednesday, arriving about 2:30 p.m. ... BYU coach Dave Rose said forward Noah Hartsock, who has been battling knee and ankle problems, was "pretty sore" after the Iona game, but he expected Hartsock to be ready to play Thursday.

Rapid Reaction: BYU 78, Iona 72

March, 14, 2012

DAYTON, Ohio -- Reaction from BYU's 78-72 win over Iona.

Overview: The scouting report on Iona was simple. The Gaels can run with anyone (they have the top scoring offense in the country), but they can’t guard anyone.

Both proved to be true in their loss to BYU on Tuesday in the First Four matchup at University of Dayton Arena.

With 4:34 to go in the first half, the Gaels held a 55-31 lead.

Get out your calculators for this one.

That’s a 24-point margin, right? Well, for the next 16 minutes and 31 seconds, the Gaels recorded just seven points.

Huh? How does a team score 55 points in the first 15:24 of the game and then register seven during the next 16:31?

They couldn’t score against BYU’s zone. The Cougars forced Iona to slow down and rely on sets instead of the up-tempo game that had carried the Gaels to that crazy start. Iona was perplexed as BYU kept cutting into its lead.

As Iona’s offense stalled (going scoreless for more than nine minutes), BYU mounted a comeback that resulted in a 71-70 lead for the Cougars on a Noah Hartsock 3-pointer with 2:28 to play. Brandon Davies hit a pair of late free throws, and a Brock Zylstra three-point play with 23 seconds to go gave BYU a 76-70 lead. More late free throws sealed the win for the Cougars.

It was the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. That followed the greatest comeback in the last five minutes during Western Kentucky's late push against MVSU in the first game.

The largest deficit of the game was 25 points, making this a 31-point turnaround for BYU. Welcome to March.

Key Player: Davies had 18 points, and Hartsock scored 23. Both were crucial in the win.

Key Stats: Iona scored 55 points and shot 69 percent from the field and 71 percent on 3-pointers in the first 15:26 of the game. But in the final 24:34 of the game, the Gaels scored 17 points, shot 20 percent from the field and made just 1 of 18 3-point attempts.

Misc.: Wow. Again. I know a lot of folks have knocked the First Four setup, but we were treated to a pair of thrilling finishes in Dayton. And that was only Day 1. ... How on earth did that happen? How did Iona blow that lead? I’ve never witnessed that kind of collapse in person.
Utah’s futile Pac-12 debut
Colorado defeated Utah 73-33 in the first Pac-12 game for both schools. It marked the fewest points allowed by Colorado since beating Kansas 42-30 in January 1949. Utah hasn’t had this low of a scoring total since 1980, and the Utes’ 22.8 field goal percentage was the fourth lowest in school history. The 40-point loss stands as the fourth worst in school history. Utah’s 11 first-half points are the fewest ever allowed by Colorado.

Oglesby hasn’t missed since November
Torian Oglesby made history on Sunday in Bowling Green’s overtime loss to UTSA. He came off the bech to hit all 10 of his field goals, setting a school record for attempts without a miss. Even more impressive than that? Oglesby hasn’t missed a shot since November. After finishing December 16-for-16 from the field, Oglesby has now hit a Division I record 26 straight shots. That broke the record set by Ray Voekel of American University, who hit 25 shots in a row in 1978.

Robinson impersonates Wilt
Thomas Robinson had career highs with 30 points and 21 rebounds in Kansas’ 84-58 win over North Dakota on Saturday. It was the first 30-point, 20-rebound game in the Big 12 since Blake Griffin did so. It had been 50 years since a Jayhawk had done it. The last 30-20 game in Kansas history came on February 13, 1961 against Missouri when Wayne Hightower scored 36 points to go with 21 rebounds. The only other Jayhawk to record a 30-20 game? Wilt Chamberlain, who did it seven times.

Gabriel makes Auburn history
In the 106 years and 2,322 games of Auburn basketball history, no one had recorded a triple double. Until Monday. Kenny Gabriel recorded the first triple-double in Auburn history as the Tigers beat Bethune-Cookman 67-41. Gabriel matched career-highs with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while setting a new career-high with 10 blocks. He’s the first SEC player with a points-rebounds-blocks triple-double since Jarvis Varnado in January 2010.

BYU’s 1st 20-20 game in over 35 years
Brandon Davies pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds to go with 21 points, as BYU defeated San Diego 88-52 for its first West Coast Conference win. The 22 rebounds are the most for a Cougar since Steve Trumbo’s 23 in January 1982. It’s the first 20-20 game by a BYU player since the 1974-75 season.

Games to watch before the weekend

December, 26, 2011
Five weekday games we'll be keeping an eye on:


No. 12 Georgetown at No. 4 Louisville (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)

What’s at stake for the Hoyas: Georgetown has been the surprise Big East team in nonconference play. John Thompson III has found a nice blend with role players elevating themselves into starring roles. Georgetown has already proven it can win on the road, as evidenced by its victory at Alabama. But winning at the raucous KFC Yum! Center is another matter.

What’s at stake for the Cardinals: Louisville has one more major nonconference test at Kentucky on Saturday. That game matters more in the state. But getting off to a good start in the Big East is just as important for this team.

No. 15 Indiana at No. 17 Michigan State (7:30 p.m. ET):

What’s at stake for the Hoosiers: Nothing can be taken away from what Indiana has earned in the nonconference. The Hoosiers have a home win against Kentucky and a road win at NC State to their credit. IU also won on a neutral court against Notre Dame. The latter two are NIT teams at best. Still, Indiana has improved dramatically and is proving to be a tough out. Stealing a road win at MSU would send a clear message to the rest of the Big Ten that the Hoosiers have arrived. A Big Ten home opener against Ohio State on Saturday looms large after this game.

What’s at stake for the Spartans: Michigan State has rebounded quite well since opening the season with losses to North Carolina and Duke. The Spartans took out Florida State at home and won at Gonzaga and have benefited from steadier guard play and improved frontcourt production. Now the Spartans must hit the ground running in Big Ten play and squash out the upstart Hoosiers at home.

No. 14 Mississippi State vs. No. 7 Baylor (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET in Dallas)

What’s at stake for the Bulldogs: Mississippi State can take a major step forward in becoming a legitimate contender in the SEC with a neutral-court win over Baylor. In terms of overall talent, the Bears will be the closest match to Kentucky the Bulldogs will face over the next two months. Mississippi State can match Baylor at each position, even off the bench. A win would put the Bulldogs into top-10 range heading into the new year.

What’s at stake for the Bears: Baylor has dismissed each challenger it has faced so far this season, winning on the road at Northwestern and BYU and beating Saint Mary’s and West Virginia in Las Vegas and San Diego State at home. Mississippi State poses the final test for the Bears before Big 12 play begins, and it will be the toughest they have faced yet.


Vanderbilt at No. 13 Marquette (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET)

What’s at stake for the Commodores: Festus Ezeli is back for Vanderbilt, free from any eligibility or injury issues. That means the Commodores have no more excuses -- except that this is one of the toughest venues to get a win. Vandy nearly closed out a road win at Louisville earlier this month. If the Commodores can take down Marquette in Milwaukee, it will cancel out their two losses to Xavier and Louisville.

What’s at stake for the Golden Eagles: Marquette was pushed in New York by Washington and won. The Golden Eagles had to survive a scare from Norfolk State and prevailed. Marquette held off Wisconsin in Madison. But then the Golden Eagles couldn’t handle the strong guards and rebounding of LSU in Baton Rouge in a Dec. 19 loss. They can find their stride again heading into Big East play with a strong performance against Vandy.

BYU at Saint Mary’s (ESPN2, 11 p.m. ET):

What’s at stake for the Cougars: BYU opens West Coast Conference play in what is easily one of the two toughest venues in the league. BYU can send a strong message to the rest of the WCC that the Cougars have moved into the conference to win it. This team is getting quite comfortable with UCLA transfer Matt Carlino having emerged as a do-everything guard since becoming eligible.

What’s at stake for the Gaels: Saint Mary’s has to let BYU know it can protect its home court and be Gonzaga’s top challenger in the league this season. But to do that SMC will have to do a solid job on the backboard to keep players such as Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock off the boards. Saint Mary’s can’t afford to start the title chase making up ground after a losing a home game to one of its conference's main contenders.

Tough Baylor hands BYU rare home loss

December, 17, 2011

For one scary moment, Perry Jones III feared he was done for a long time.

Baylor's big man was writhing on the court in pain and wasn’t sure he could come back into the game, let alone how much of the season might be missed.

Jones had knocked knees with BYU’s Brandon Davies atop the perimeter on a drive with 1:26 left and his seventh-ranked Bears up 84-83. Without its star forward, Baylor looked like it might lose not only the game, but its shot at a glorious season.

“I was scared,’’ Jones told by phone Saturday. “I couldn’t move my leg on my own. I thought I tore something.’’

But Jones quickly made a decision while on the bench.

He wanted back in.

“I didn’t want to let my team down,’’ Jones said. “I just wanted to ignore the pain, get to the weak side and get the rebound. I was there at the right time.’’

Jones’ tip-in follow with 21 seconds left gave Baylor an 86-83 lead.

“That was huge,’’ BU coach Scott Drew said. “What was really special is that normally a player gets injured, limps around and doesn’t make the big play. He got the big play.’’

Brigham Young had one more chance to tie the game when Davies had a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But Pierre Jackson, a 5-foot-10 guard, came from the side and blocked the 6-9 forward’s shot.

“I was closest to him,’’ Jackson said after the Bears' 86-83 victory. “I know I can jump pretty high. I wanted to contest it but I happened to block it. It was a big block, and it saved the game for us.’’

Drew said Jackson is as athletic a player as Baylor has and that he wasn’t surprised Jackson found a way to block Davies’ shot.

Jones, a clear contender for All-America status and Big 12 player of the year, finished with a career-high 28 points and eight rebounds, while Jackson added 13 off the bench. Brady Heslip made six of 10 shots from beyond the arc and finished with 18 for the Bears.

Baylor hadn’t been tested yet this season, blowing out all its competition, even in the one previous road game at Northwestern.

[+] EnlargePerry Jones III
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireBaylor's Perry Jones III led all scorers with 28 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists.
So Drew wasn’t sure how his team would handle going into the Marriott Center, a notorious graveyard for BYU opponents.

“You’re not going to find a tougher atmosphere in college,’’ Drew said. “They were 48-2 in their last 50 games. This definitely gets us ready for Big 12 play and tells us a lot about our team. It showed we know how to execute at the end of games. Toughness is required to win on the road. We weren’t ready early on, and we got dominated on the glass.’’

The Cougars added UCLA transfer Matt Carlino for this game, and he tied Davies for the team lead with 18 points. But Baylor did have length, size and depth advantage in the frontcourt with BYU missing sixth man Stephen Rogers.

However, it was Cal transfer guard Gary Franklin who played a key role Saturday. He made two 3s in 12 minutes, but Drew said Franklin’s defense was just as crucial.

“Normally you like to bring in a player that you add midseason for a home game,’’ Drew said. “But he was tremendous. He guarded very well.’’

It's pretty clear the Bears are more than capable of competing for the Big 12 title and a deep run in March, possibly long enough to get to New Orleans.

But there still are some potholes ahead. Baylor plays Saint Mary’s and West Virginia in Las Vegas next week, and then squares off with Mississippi State on Dec. 28 in Dallas.

The length of Arnett Moultrie and size of Renardo Sidney will certainly test Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, while Heslip, Franklin, Jackson and A.J. Walton will have their hands full with Dee Bost and Rodney Hood.

So plenty of tests remain for the unbeaten Bears. But one of the biggest of all was passed in Provo.

“We got through the adversity together,’’ Jones said. “We just have to play smarter and play better together.’’

BYU loses sixth man for Baylor game

December, 16, 2011
BYU forward Stephen Rogers will miss Saturday's big game against Baylor and between two to four weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Rogers, a versatile 6-foot-8 player off the bench for the Cougars, averages 9.9 points and is a top outside shooter. His loss could mean more time for freshman Damarcus Harrison, who previously averaged 11.1 minutes per game.

BYU is 8-2 and presents a formidable challenge at home against undefeated Baylor, with the Marriott Center sold out for the first time this season.

The Cougars do have UCLA transfer guard Matt Carlino eligible for the first time while Baylor adds another player as well with Cal transfer guard Gary Franklin now eligible as well.

BYU forward Noah Hartsock, one of the players to watch along with Brandon Davies against the Bears' strong frontcourt, told the Deseret News that Carlino's addition should help.
"That's pretty awesome for us. He's really excited," Hartsock said. "He's a great player. He can really get up and down the court. It's going to take some time for him to get into the system.

"It's a tough game, especially against the sixth-ranked team in the nation as his first game. But he's a good player and he's going to make some good contributions for us this year. He's been really patient and he's worked hard. He's done a great job preparing and keeping himself in shape for this season."

Utah State students stage silent protest

December, 2, 2011
Utah State saw its 33-game home winning streak snapped on Wednesday in a loss to Denver. But perhaps more stunningly, for a few minutes during the game, the Aggies lost the outspoken support of their rambunctious student section.

According to The Herald Journal, Utah State students remained silent during the first three minutes of the game in protest of an usher had told them before the game that cursing and pointing at opposing players was not allowed.
Originally, the students thought of the three minutes of silence as a running joke, but after at least one member of the event staff reportedly threatened to kick them out of the Spectrum and take away student IDs for cursing or pointing, they decided to do it.

"It wasn't really a protest. It wasn't us being crybabies or pouting; it was us getting the message across that you are censoring the craziest student section in the nation, and this is what will happen if you keep censoring us -- just silence," said USU student Charley Riddle, who wrote on a whiteboard at the start of Wednesday's game "No cheering for first 3 mins" and held it up for the thousands of students to read.

USU basketball players felt the fans actions on Wednesday.

"Not having our fans here kind of hurt us," said USU guard Brockeith Pane, who finished with 12 points in the 67-54 loss. "I know it hurt me."

Utah State students were already on edge after university president Stan Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes wrote a letter expressing their disappointment after "crude language, outright vulgarity and deeply personal insults were hurled at BYU forward Brandon Davies in the Aggies' season-opening win.

But now it's the administration that is calling the usher's warnings a miscommunication, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Barnes emphasized that the administration did not intentionally place any of the restrictions on the student body that sparked the brief protest.

"We have not changed any policies," Barnes said. "Unfortunately, one of the ushers went to the students and created standards we had no idea about. We didn't ask that individual to tell them that."

"We feel like we have the best student fan base in America," Barnes said. "We wanted to make sure that a few individuals that have crossed the line stayed in bounds. We want to take care of the bad actors. But that doesn't mean making wholesale changes."

Brandon Davies breaks his silence

November, 9, 2011
Was what happened to Brandon Davies fair?

That question followed BYU's apparently star-crossed 2011 team until Florida knocked Jimmer Fredette & Co. out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. Davies, as you know, was suspended for the season by the school for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. BYU has a very strict honor code, and Davies vowed to live by the honor code. The argument usually went one of two ways:

1. BYU is admirable for sticking to its customs at the expense of basketball wins.

2. BYU is a crazy place with crazy rules. What are they thinking?

Neither is perfectly true -- there's much more nuance involved -- but more than not I agreed with No. 1. For almost a year, we haven't gotten to hear what Davies himself thinks about all this. He's been kept away from media and hasn't spoken out. But what does he say? Was his BYU punishment fair? On Tuesday, Davies spoke with the media for the first time since the incident:
"I was definitely treated more than fair," he told reporters. "Just to be able to make it back here and be able to be a part of this team again is a blessing to me." [...] He said it "hurt" not being able to help his teammates. "Not just me, but everyone around me," he told reporters. "It's definitely something I'll never forget about and something I never want to do again, so I just use that to drive me in all that I do today."

Davies said he thinks he has changed for the better after his suspension, "but that's up to other people to decide."

"I can't really tell someone that I've changed; it's up to me to show that. Hopefully I'm in the right direction and doing that the best I can."

The thing is, to most of us, Davies doesn't have to change a thing. It's not like he failed a drug test or got caught stealing a laptop from a campus library. He had sex with his girlfriend. You almost want to pat him on the back. "Dude, you're OK. You're not a bad person! I promise!"

But Davies doesn't live by everyone else's code. He lives by his school's -- and by extension his church's -- code of ethics. And a bad decision within that code of ethics caused him to let his teammates down last season. It may also have taught everyone a lesson about what's important in life. Your beliefs? Or your win-loss record? Which was kind of inspiring, in its own way.

But mostly, I bet Davies just wants to put the whole deal behind him. I'd guess that goes for BYU fans, too.

3-point shots: Pitt's Robinson to return

October, 26, 2011
1. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said senior forward Nasir Robinson should be back at practice sometime next week after missing the past few weeks following a torn meniscus in his right knee. Robinson is one of two key seniors for the Panthers. The other is lead guard Ashton Gibbs. Dixon said Gibbs has been playing at a high level, making shots, and proving to be the necessary leader for the Panthers. “He’ll play in the NBA some day,’’ Dixon said of Gibbs.

2. BYU coach Dave Rose said that so far the two players on the Cougars who appear to be ready to take over for Jimmer Fredette’s production are wing Charles Abouo and big man Stephen Rogers. Rose said both have been highly productive so far in practice. But the one player who has the most NBA potential and is starting to be even more assertive is forward Brandon Davies. Davies was reinstated to the team in the fall after being dismissed for an honor code violation last February. The Cougars will need the inside-out combination to have a chance to catch Gonzaga in the WCC.

3. Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he might have his best set of big men in his tenure with Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk, Sam Dower and Ryan Spangler. If Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos can have as much of an impact as projected and David Stockton proves to be a calming presence at the point then the Zags have a shot to be a deep March team. Gonzaga needed to be deeper inside and with more options. It appears they have that this season.

Video: Brandon Davies' impact on BYU

August, 27, 2011
AM ET's Diamond Leung on the importance of Brandon Davies' reinstatement at a post-Jimmer BYU.