College Basketball Nation: Frantz Massenat

DIRECTV Classic primer

November, 21, 2012
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Don't be fooled by the name; this is not a new tournament. It is merely a repackaged Anaheim Classic that is no longer leaving naming-rights sponsorship money on the table. This would normally be the part where we criticize soulless corporate sports sponsorship ... but, I mean, it's the Anaheim Classic. Surely we can find a better target for our outrage.

Anyway, let's talk about this basketball tournament, huh?

The basics: Nov. 22-25, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif.

The set matchups (Nov. 22): Pacific vs. Xavier, 2 p.m. ET; Drexel vs. Saint Mary's, 4:30 ET; Rice vs. Georgia Tech, 9 ET; Drake vs. Cal, 11:30 ET.

THE FAVORITE

Xavier: Major caveat alert: I could make a reasonable argument for Saint Mary's, Cal or even a banged-up Drexel, because I'm not really sure there is one clear favorite in this group of teams. But if I have to pick, I suppose I'll take the squad that shut down Butler just one week before Butler beat Marquette and drilled North Carolina in Maui. The transitive property is a fickle siren, but this early in the season it has to mean something.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: The Australian Olympian and four-year senior is the undispusted leader of this Gaels team in ways both measurable and otherwise, and his offensive output will be (as ever) a huge key to his team's chances of getting out of Anaheim with three consecutive wins.

[+] EnlargeDee Davis
Frank Victores/US PresswireSophomore guard Dee Davis has thus far ably filled holes left by departures at Xavier.
Allen Crabbe, California: One half of Cal's two-headed returning scoring tandem (the other being fellow guard Justin Cobbs), Crabbe is essential to California's hopes of replacing Jorge Guiterrez and Harper Kamp and still making a run at the top of the revamped Pac-12.

Dee Davis, Xavier: It's early yet, but sophomore guard Davis appears to be just the latest in the Musketeers' long line of starter-minutes-ready young players to emerge after former stars depart. Through three games (including the aforementioned Butler romp) Davis is averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 assists, with a 132.2 offensive rating.

Frantz Massenat, Drexel: The Dragons suffered a big-time loss this week when guard Chris Fouch lost the rest of his season to ankle surgery, but the good news is that Massenat -- a versatile point guard who drives, dishes and shoots with near-equal skill -- remains.

Kammeon Holsey, Georgia Tech: When Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory dismissed Glen Rice Jr. in mid-March, he not only made a statement about the importance of attitude and chemistry in his program. He also left Holsey as his only notable returning scorer. Thus far, Holsey has delivered, though this tournament will be the Yellow Jackets' first real test, and we'll see if they'll be more than an ACC punching bag this season.

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS

Is Xavier for real? The Musketeers were written off at the start of this season, and understandably so -- Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease graduated, Dez Wells was (possibly wrongly) kicked out of school, Mark Lyons transferred to Arizona, and what remained were guys most hoops fans had never heard of. So the Musketeers were picked to finish ninth -- ninth! -- despite the fact that this program has missed exactly one Sweet 16 (2011) since 2008. When Xavier tossed Butler around in the Musketeers' home opener, the write-offs looked premature. But now, outside of their own building, the young Musketeers have a real chance to prove they're not going anywhere.

Is Cal a Pac-12 contender? The Pac-12 was bad last season. We've established this ad nauseam (especially for Pac-12 fans, I'm sure) throughout the past 12 months. But for as bad as the league was, on a per-posssesion basis Cal was perfectly respectable (and pretty clearly the best team in its league), even if that respectability didn't always translate into wins. Despite the turnover, would you bet against Mike Montgomery making a run at the top of a still-volatile league this season? I wouldn't.

Does Saint Mary's miss Rob Jones? Jones was a drastically underrated player last season. Not only was he a versatile scorer, but his rebounding anchored the Gaels on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense, where he posted the nation's 16th-best defensive rebounding rate. Forward Brad Waldow is the chief successor to Jones, and will have to have a nice season for Saint Mary's to wrest another West Coast Conference title away from a very good Gonzaga team.

Is Drexel still Drexel? Bruiser Flint's team was brutally close to an NCAA tournament appearance last season, and had a fair quarrel when all was said and done. With all but one starter returning, and a Virginia Commonwealth-less Colonial Athletic Association, this season was set up as a redemption campaign. It has not gone as planned. The Dragons lost their first two games (to Kent State, which is a bad loss, and Illinois State, which is a good one) and then lost Fouch to a season-ending injury soon thereafter. A title run in Anaheim -- or at least a couple of resume wins, beginning with Saint Mary's -- would be a nice way to get this season back on track.

Who's the upset candidate? There are some solid teams in this field, but no truly great ones. Which means we could see a few wacky results. That Rice-Georgia Tech game is anyone's guess, and who knows what happens if either of those teams get hot? What if Drake springs an upset on Cal? In a week in which Texas lost to a Division II team and another dude scored 138 points, I'm not discounting any possibilities.

THE PICKS

First round: Xavier over Pacific; Saint Mary's over Drexel, Georgia Tech over Rice; Cal over Drake.

Semifinals: Saint Mary's over Xavier; Cal over Georgia Tech.

Championship: Saint Mary's over Cal.

3-point shot: Brown's exit shocks Ducks

November, 21, 2011
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1. The decision by freshman guard Jabari Brown to transfer from Oregon stunned the Ducks coaching staff. Head coach Dana Altman said after Sunday’s game that he tried to talk Brown out of the decision and he wasn’t closing the door. Altman said Brown was frustrated. Another member of the staff said Brown didn’t give a reason for his departure. He was playing significant minutes and it was only after two games. Brown was a leader for the Ducks during the trip to Italy in the preseason. The Ducks are flustered, wondering what else they could have done to prevent this departure. If Brown follows through and doesn’t come back, this will be a season-changing decision for the Ducks.

2. Drexel looked like the Colonial Athletic Association favorite in a short-handed victory at Rider last Tuesday. But then the Dragons went to the Virgin Islands and collapsed, losing to Norfolk State and Virginia in the first two games, shooting a combined 6-of-34 from 3-point rane. The Dragons were still without two of their three best guards in Chris Fouch and Tavon Allen, both injured. “We can’t make shots and we’re having to play guys in spots they’re not comfortable in,’’ Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. The Dragons pulled a no-show against Norfolk and couldn’t make a bucket against UVa. But Flint isn’t worried. The core of the team is still talented enough – especially with Samme Givens and Frantz Massenat healthy inside and out – to compete for the CAA title. But an at-large berth is taking a serious hit.

3. NC State coach Mark Gottfried has the Wolfpack playing at a high level here early in the season. The Wolfpack are an entertaining team to watch and can score with C.J. Leslie, DeShawn Painter, Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown and, once he's back from an ankle injury, Scott Wood. But Gottfried is selling that Belgian big man Thomas de Thaey will be the surprise if he can get cleared by the NCAA. The Wolfpack are still awaiting a ruling on the 6-foot-8 forward.
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- Bruiser Flint wanted to go to sleep, but he got sucked into the midnight tip between Gonzaga and Washington State and before he knew it the clock read 2 a.m.

His wakeup call, all of a sudden, was a mere 90 minutes away.

“That’s OK, I’ll get a lot of sleep today,’’ the Drexel coach said.

And it will be a good rest.

His Dragons, the surprise pick to win the tough Colonial Athletic Association conference, won their opener against Rider 80-62, getting 21 points from big man Samme Givens and Frantz Massenat, who grew up down the street from the Rider campus.

The game tipped off at 6 a.m., as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, requiring players to arrive to Alumni Gym (or better known as the Broncs Zoo) at 4:45 in the morning and bag a typical pre-game breakfast. The Dragons subsisted on oranges, fruit and breakfast bars.

“Yeah, we’re pretty hungry,’’ Givens said.

Flint prepared his team by hosting 5 a.m. practices on Saturday and Sunday, a luxury Rider coach Tommy Dempsey didn’t have. The Broncs opened their season on Friday night at Robert Morris and then faced Pittsburgh on Sunday before flying home for the early-morning home debut.

“If I were asked to do this again, I don’t think I’d play three games in four nights, with the last one at 6 a.m.,’’ Dempsey said.

This game wasn’t a thing of beauty, but to blame the wee hours would be unfair to the clock. Drexel believes ugly is beautiful and so the final stat line -- a combined 28 missed 3-pointers, 44 personal fouls and 31 turnovers -- was exactly the way the Dragons like to play.

“We want to wear you down,’’ Flint said. “We want to punch you in the face and you say, ‘Ok’ and take a knee.’’

Which is exactly what happened to the Broncs. Drexel beat them down, outscoring Rider 52-34 in the final 20 minutes before the buzzer sounded and the fans headed out to work, class or a large cup of coffee.

The players?

They’re headed to class.

“We actually go to class at Drexel,’’ Flint joked. “We’ve got a good APR, so these guys are going to class. Me? I’m going to sleep.’’

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