College Basketball Nation: Long Beach State 49ers

On Holiday is College Basketball Nation's daily rundown of the holiday tournaments, complete with previews, recaps, and links to all of the early-season tournament info you'll need in the weeks to come.

In Review

[+] EnlargeShabazz Napier
Elsa/Getty ImagesConnecticut's Shabazz Napier was "too good," according to Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Top story: Shabazz Napier is above the law (2K Sports Classic): "Shabazz Napier is just too good," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "I imagine it would be in the NFL like trying to deal with a great running back like Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson now, something like that where a guy can change direction at the drop of a hat, he can play with both hands, both feet, he's explosive to the basket, he's got the pull-up (jumper), obviously. He's got the straight pull-up, he's got the step-back, he's got the 3. And he's got one of those unteachable abilities to make big shots at really crucial times." — Kieran Darcy, ESPN.com

New Mexico is not (Charleston Classic): New Mexico's struggles in Charleston didn't end with UAB. A day after an occasionally thrilling, often ugly two-overtime survival of the Blazers, Kendall Williams & Co. lost for the first time this season, 81-65 to Massachusetts.

New Mexico fans shouldn't panic, and not only because it's still just Nov. 22. For one, UMass is an experienced team on the cusp of a very good season. They also happen to play very fast basketball — difficult to slow down, anyway, but especially so just one day after a double-overtime scrap. New Mexico played the Minutemen even through 30 minutes. In the final 10, they were outscored 22-8. That reeks of fatigue.

Michigan (somehow) survived Florida State in OT (Puerto Rico Tip-Off): "Michigan’s offense was as effective in the second half as it was dreadful in the first. The Wolverines scored 27 points on 30 first-half possessions compared to 55 points on 42 possessions in the second half and overtime. That’s 0.9 points per possession in first and 1.31 points per possession after the halftime horn. Florida State’s length was as advertised inside and Michigan shot just 46 percent on twos but made some threes, 37.5 percent, and got to the free-throw line. Converting the freebies was a different story; Michigan was just 17-of-27 at the stripe. The free-throw shooting almost cost the Wolverines down to the final horn, when Florida State had a desperation heave at the win. … A loss to Florida State would have been crippling to Michigan with games against Duke, Arizona and Stanford still on the schedule." — Dylan Burkhardt, UMHoops

In Puerto Rico, Florida State pounded VCU and took Michigan to the wire — and honestly, probably should have finished the Wolverines off in regulation. I don't know whether this is a short-term November blip or a sign of a team that is much better than anyone outside Tallahassee expected — but the latter option is officially on the table.

VCU survived, too, needing an eight-point second-half run, and an 8-of-14 night from Juvonte Reddic, to shed Long Beach State. A win's a win and all, but the no-turnover-no-stop formula that eventually sank VCU last March reared its ugly head again here (Long Beach turned it over on 16.4 percent of its possessions and scored 1.10 points per trip.)

Michigan State got by Virginia Tech with relative ease, their first cruise since beating Kentucky and earning the No. 1 ranking 10 days ago. Next up is Oklahoma, a more challenging, but still eminently winnable, test.

What else? The semifinal rounds of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off are under way as of this writing; read Andy Katz, Dana O'Neil and C.L. Brown on North Carolina and Louisville (and their opponents Fairfield and Richmond) here.

Can Kansas State get offense going?

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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This could be a long season for Kansas State.

If that seems like too bold a proclamation for Nov. 14, well, I agree. We're just two games in where the Wildcats are concerned, and for as revealing and as important as two games can feel, it is not exactly a sample size on which to base sweeping, dismissive judgments. Things can seem much different in even a week. If you start overreacting to every game this early, you'll have the longest season of all.

With that said, there is some cause for concern, chief among it Kansas State's 60-58 home-opening loss to Northern Colorado.

The Bears were 13-18 in 2012-13. They allowed 1.09 points per possession last season, 305th-best in the country. They lost games last season to UC-Riverside, Southern Utah, Idaho State and Montana State. They returned five starters, which is either a reason to think they're a bit better or proof they are what we thought they were. I'd go with the latter, but it doesn't matter: There is no way to spin a 0.89 points-per-trip performance at home against Northern Colorado positively.

This season was always going to be an uphill battle for Bruce Weber and his staff. The Wildcats were excellent in 2012-13, Weber's first, because much of Frank Martin's talent remained and much of it fit Weber's style perfectly. The Wildcats defended hard, ran good motion offense and bullied the offensive glass (their 2012-13 offensive rebounding percentage: 38.5), and were it not for that pesky, Sweet 16-bound La Salle, they looked capable of making a deep tournament run.

There is little such luxury this season. Star guard Rodney McGruder graduated. Point guard Angel Rodriguez transferred to Miami. New faces dominate, and the offense, K-State's sneaky strength a season ago, has suffered accordingly. Thomas Gipson, KSU's rebound magnet of a forward, was missing Friday; his return should help in the days to come.

Sunday's opponent, Long Beach State, doesn't look like the 25-win team of two years ago either. And Kansas State's offense was slightly better (71 points in 65 possessions) against Oral Roberts on Wednesday. But the 49ers do have as much experience in big-time road nonconference games as any program in the country these days, and if the Wildcats stall out again, it's not hard to envision K-State dropping to 1-2 in three home games. Keep an eye out for the Wildcats.

Nonconference analysis: Best of the rest

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
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This week, ESPN.com has been breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Now let's take a look at the slates of a dozen of the top teams outside of those conferences.

BYU

Toughest: Iowa State (Nov. 20), CBE Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Kansas City, Mo.)
Next toughest: at Stanford (Nov. 11), vs. UMass (Dec. 7 in Springfield, Mass.), at Oregon (Dec. 21)
The rest: Weber State (Nov. 8), Mount St. Mary's (Nov. 15), vs. Utah State (Nov. 30 in Salt Lake City), North Texas (Dec. 3), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 11), Utah (Dec. 14)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- With Tyler Haws back, BYU could steal the WCC crown from Gonzaga. The Cougars certainly will be prepared for the task. A home game against the Cyclones will be an early test for the program. The pot of gold in the Hall of Fame Classic could be a matchup against Final Four participant Wichita State (if BYU gets past Texas). Games against UMass and Oregon in December could be the kind of matchups that pull Dave Rose's team off the bubble on Selection Sunday, if they're successful.

FLORIDA GULF COAST

Toughest: at North Carolina State (Nov. 26)
Next toughest: at Nebraska (Nov. 8), Iona (Dec. 1)
The rest: Hartford (Nov. 12), at Furman (Nov. 15), Eckerd (Nov. 18), Ave Maria (Nov. 23), at FIU (Dec. 7), Samford (Dec. 14), at South Florida (Dec. 17), at Mississippi State (Dec. 19), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Florida Gulf Coast's athleticism and acrobatics enhanced the NCAA tournament experience for everyone, as "Dunk City" became a national slogan. Well, FGCU's nonconference slate belies its playmaking ability. The Eagles' toughest matchups should be road games against a Nebraska team that finished at the bottom of the Big Ten last season and an NC State squad that lost most of its impact players. The trip to Vegas yields games against Florida A&M and either Radford or Sacred Heart. And it gets worse. You'll have to Google "Eckerd" and "Ave Maria." The dunks can't make up for this disappointing schedule.

GONZAGA

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27), at West Virginia (Dec. 10), at Memphis (Feb. 8)
Next toughest: vs. Kansas State (Dec. 21 in Wichita, Kan.)
The rest: Bryant (Nov. 9), Colorado State (Nov. 11), Oakland (Nov. 17), Washington State (Nov. 21), Coppin State (Dec. 1), New Mexico State (Dec. 7), vs. South Alabama (Dec. 14 in Seattle)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Zags must recover from the loss of talented frontcourt duo Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. But they're still talented enough to maintain their reign in the WCC. There will be little doubt if they succeed in the Maui Invitational. Matchups against Baylor and Syracuse could follow Gonzaga's opening round game against Dayton. A loaded Memphis squad could be a problem for the Bulldogs in February. Kansas State is less interesting because Angel Rodriguez and others transferred this offseason. The potential at the Maui Invite boosts this slate, however, especially because there's a strong chance we'll see those matchups.

HARVARD

Toughest: at Colorado (Nov. 24), at UConn (Jan. 8)
Next toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 28-30), Boston College (Jan. 1)
The rest: vs. Holy Cross (Nov. 10 in Boston), MIT (Nov. 12), Howard (Nov. 15), Bryant (Nov. 20), at Northeastern (Dec. 4), at Boston University (Dec. 7), Vermont (Dec. 21), at Fordham (Dec. 28), at Rice (Jan. 4), at Florida Atlantic (Jan. 21)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Tommy Amaker has one of the best rosters in Harvard history. He has the key players from last season's NCAA tourney squad. Plus, Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey are returning from last season's suspensions. We'll know more about the program's ceiling after it travels to Boulder to face Tad Boyle's talented Colorado squad. Harvard will encounter one of America's best backcourts when it goes to UConn in January. Not much beyond that. The Great Alaska Shootout features one of the weakest holiday tournament fields in the country. Nothing else in this lineup that would really interest the selection committee.

INDIANA STATE

Toughest: at Notre Dame (Nov. 17), at Saint Louis (Dec. 18)
Next toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 27-30)
The rest: Ball State (Nov. 9), at Belmont (Nov. 14), Truman State (Nov. 22), at Eastern Illinois (Dec. 7), at Missouri-Kansas City (Dec. 14), IUPUI (Dec. 21), Belmont (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Sycamores are Wichita State's biggest challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference now that Creighton has moved on to the new Big East. Jake Odum and three other starters return. They'll have to get comfortable off campus. Road matchups against Notre Dame and Saint Louis will be their toughest nonconference games. The Sycamores play five true road games before MVC play begins, and that does not include the Great Alaska Shootout. The latter features a subpar field, but Indiana State could get Harvard in the title game at least. The program might regret two nonconference meetings with Belmont once Selection Sunday arrives.

IONA

Toughest: at Kansas (Nov. 19)
Next toughest: at Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 1), at Dayton (Dec. 19)
The rest: at Cleveland State (Nov. 9), Wofford (Nov. 16), George Mason (Nov. 23), St. Bonaventure (Dec. 14), at Nevada (Dec. 22), at Northern Iowa (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Tim Cluess' program has reached the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons. And despite losing Momo Jones, the Gaels could return. Most of their starters from last season are back. Their nonconference slate, however, features few opportunities to boost their at-large resume. They'll play Andrew Wiggins and Kansas in Lawrence in November. George Mason, Florida Gulf Coast and Northern Iowa are all matchups they could lose. But even if they win all three, they'll probably need more quality wins to get some help on Selection Sunday.

LONG BEACH STATE

Toughest: at Arizona (Nov. 11), Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24), Creighton (Dec. 3)
Next toughest: at Kansas State (Nov. 17), at Washington (Nov. 30), at NC State (Dec. 7), at Missouri (Jan. 4)
The rest: Hawaii-Pacific (Nov. 9), Loyola Marymount (Nov. 14), USC (Dec. 19), Montana State-Billings (Dec. 21), at Nevada (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Dan Monson's program dismissed standouts Kaela King and Tony Freeland in the offseason. But the 49ers still can win the Big West, especially with former UCLA guard Tyler Lamb becoming eligible after the first semester. They'll need everyone to step up to deal with this strenuous nonconference schedule. The program will face national title contender Arizona on the road in early November. The 49ers open the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a matchup against Michigan, another national title contender. The tourney also includes VCU and Georgetown. Big East title favorite Creighton travels to the West Coast for a matchup in early December. The slate ends with a matchup against Missouri in Columbia. Now that is a nonconference schedule.

LOUISIANA TECH

Toughest: vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 14 in Oklahoma City)
Next toughest: at Saint Mary's (Nov. 8), at Oklahoma (Dec. 30)
The rest: Centenary (Nov. 13), Central Arkansas (Nov. 20), Gulf Coast Showcase in Naples, Fla. (Nov. 25-27), at Jackson State (Dec. 1), UL-Lafayette (Dec. 4), Southern (Dec. 7), Northwestern State (Dec. 11), McNeese State (Dec. 17), at UL-Monroe (Dec. 22), Longwood (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Last season, Louisiana Tech won 27 games and cracked the AP's top 25 poll. The Bulldogs didn't reach the tournament, but they're still a potential favorite to win Conference USA in their inaugural season in the league. But they'll probably enter conference play with an inflated record. Their mid-December game against national title contender Oklahoma State is the only one that stands out. Road games against Saint Mary's and Oklahoma could be factors if Louisiana Tech is on the bubble at the end of the season. The Bulldogs' lack of quality nonconference wins hurt them last season. They at least have a shot at a few decent ones this season.

MERCER

Toughest: at Ole Miss (Dec. 22)
Next toughest: at Texas (Nov. 8), at Oklahoma (Dec. 2)
The rest: Reinhardt (Nov. 13), Seton Hall (Nov. 16), at Evansville (Nov. 18), Johnson & Wales (North Carolina) (Nov. 20), Yale (Nov. 23), at Ohio (Nov. 26), at Valparaiso (Nov. 29), Denver (Dec. 7), Alcorn St. (Dec. 16), St. Andrews (Dec. 27)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Mercer brings back four starters from a team that won the Atlantic Sun's regular-season crown in 2012-13. That's the good news. But it's usually a bad sign when you have to Google some of the names featured on a team's nonconference slate. Yes, Johnson & Wales is a real school. Yes, Mercer is playing a bunch of high majors, too. But they're only high majors in name as 2013-14 approaches. Ole Miss should be its toughest game and the Bears have had success against the SEC in recent years. Texas has lost everyone, and Oklahoma has to replenish, too. Those three teams are not expected to contend for the title in their respective conferences. And then, there's Johnson & Wales.

SAINT MARY'S

Toughest: at Boise State (Dec. 14), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next toughest: Louisiana Tech (Nov. 8)
The rest: Akron (Nov. 12), North Dakota State (Nov. 14), Drake (Nov. 16), Alcorn State (Nov. 24), Murray State (Nov. 30), Eastern Washington (Dec. 8), American University (Dec. 19)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- This is actually better than some recent Saint Mary's nonconference lineups. But it's still so-so, even for a Gaels program that must reboot after losing star Matthew Dellavedova. A road game against Mountain West title contender Boise State is probably Saint Mary's toughest game. The Gaels could see the Broncos again if they beat South Carolina in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic. Iowa State might be waiting in the championship game. Louisiana Tech could win the Conference USA crown in its first season, so that November matchup should be meaningful. But the Gaels have just one true road game.

SOUTHERN

Toughest: at Florida (Nov. 18), at Arizona (Dec. 19)
Next toughest: at Marquette (Nov. 8), at Baylor (Dec. 22)
The rest:, at Middle Tennessee State (Nov. 10), Tulane (Nov. 13), at North Florida (Nov. 16), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 22), Blue Mountain College (Nov. 25), at Denver (Dec. 3), at Louisiana Tech (Dec. 7), Dillard (Dec. 14), Champion Baptist College (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- The squad that nearly upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament last season is ready to play the role of David again. Southern, a team that returns star Malcolm Miller, could ruin a few nonconference seasons for some of the country's best teams. The Jaguars kick off the year at Marquette. They'll face Florida in Gainesville a few weeks later. Then, they have back-to-back road matchups against Arizona and Baylor in December. That November game against Blue Mountain College is actually an anomaly on this challenging nonconference schedule. You taking notes, SEC?

WICHITA STATE

Toughest: at Saint Louis (Dec. 1), vs. Tennessee (Dec. 14 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.)
Next toughest: CBE Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 25-26), at Alabama (Dec. 17)
The rest: Emporia State (Nov. 9), Western Kentucky (Nov. 12), at Tulsa (Nov. 20), Oral Roberts (Dec. 7), North Carolina Central (Dec. 22), Davidson (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Shockers have elevated expectations after last season's Final Four run. With so much talent returning, a trip to Arlington in April seems feasible. Wichita State will get an early test against reigning Atlantic 10 champ Saint Louis, and then it will host SEC sleeper Tennessee a few weeks later. The Vols beat the Shockers in Knoxville last season. They could face BYU if they beat DePaul in the first round of the Hall of Fame Classic. Games against Bama and Davidson shouldn't be overlooked, either. But this slate lacks the power players you'd like to see a Final Four team encounter prior to conference play.
Editor's Note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. Starting Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, we'll unveil the final six: Charleston, 2K Sports, Diamond Head, CBE, Wooden and Maui. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

Tournament bracket for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Editor's Note: An earlier version of this bracket had a pair of incorrect matchups. We apologize for the mix-up.)

When and where: Nov. 21-22, 24 in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Initial thoughts: The bracket seems to grant Georgetown an easy path to the title game. Northeastern lost its top two scorers -- Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee -- from last season (29.9 PPG combined). And Kansas State is recovering from a tumultuous offseason that included the loss of Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder. Georgetown’s opening-round opponent, Charlotte, had offensive issues last year (187th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) and now top scorer Chris Braswell is gone.

A title, however, is not a guarantee. The Hoyas will probably travel to San Juan without Greg Whittington, who recently tore his ACL. And the other side of the bracket is much tougher, even though Long Beach State is depleted after multiple offseason dismissals. Florida State struggled last season but the Seminoles were young so most of their roster returns, although they’ll miss Michael Snaer. Michigan is the obvious favorite. The Wolverines will be led by Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, a pair of players who would have been first-round draft picks last month had they decided to leave school after their team’s national title game loss to Louisville in April. Freshman Derrick Walton will probably follow Trey Burke as the team’s new point guard. He’ll be surrounded by a strong crew. VCU will be tough, too. The HAVOC defense helped VCU acquire the nation’s highest turnover rate last season. The Rams, however, lost point guard Darius Theus and Troy Daniels. Still, they haven’t lost much steam with a solid recruiting class and Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon in the mix now.

Things could get interesting on Friday in this tournament.

Matchup I can’t wait to see: Florida State has a lot to prove. Last season was a mess for Leonard Hamilton, who recently received a contract extension. His program has a chance, however, to make an early statement in the 2013-14 season with a win over a VCU squad that will be a Top 25 program entering the season. But Shaka Smart has some new faces, and his squad must identify a new leader now that Theus is gone.

[+] EnlargeMcGary/Robinson
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III could have been first-round NBA draft picks following Michigan's run to the national title game.
Potential matchup I can’t wait to see: Can you say rematch? The last time Michigan and VCU met, the Wolverines pummeled the Rams in the third round of the NCAA tournament. That 25-point victory was an embarrassment for a VCU squad that was completely out of rhythm from tipoff. But the Rams are deep again. And the Wolverines have a couple of potential lottery picks running the operation again. I’d love to see these two squads face off again in the semis.

Five players to watch:

Treveon Graham, VCU: The Rams are often praised for their defensive strengths. Last season, however, VCU proved its worth on offense, too -- averaging 78.0 points (11th in the nation). Graham, the team’s top scorer, was a catalyst. He averaged 15.1 PPG and 5.8 RPG. He also hit 36.6 percent of his 3-pointers. Graham doesn’t waste minutes, either. He had the Atlantic 10’s top offensive rating (118.1 per KenPom.com, among players who used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions). Last season was a breakout campaign for this guy. If VCU reaches its ceiling, the 6-foot-5 guard/forward could earn All-American consideration.

Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: After the Wolverines rumbled to the national championship game in Atlanta, many expected McGary and Robinson to take their talents to the NBA. The two youngsters had a chance to turn pro and make millions. But their decision to return means that the Wolverines will enter the season as Big Ten contenders again. There’s a huge gap at PG, a spot that was occupied by Wooden Award winner Trey Burke last season. With McGary and Robinson back, John Beilein has one of America’s top centers and one of the nation’s most versatile wings. This tournament will be an early opportunity for the duo to prove that Michigan is still potent without Burke.

Okaro White, Florida State: There’s a lot of pressure on White right now. Florida State will enter 2013-14 without top scorer and veteran Michael Snaer. Terrance Shannon transferred. And Leonard Hamilton will be forced to rely on some young players again in a league (ACC) that could be the nation’s best conference with the arrival of Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse. But White made major strides in his junior campaign. The 6-8 forward averaged 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks. He hit 81.5 percent of his free throws, and he was 10th in the ACC with a 4.13 block percentage (KenPom.com). But can he lead this group? We’ll find out in Puerto Rico.

Markel Starks, Georgetown: Greg Whittington’s torn ACL jeopardizes his entire season and it also jeopardizes the Hoyas’ season. Three other starters from last season return. But it was much easier to view Georgetown as a threat to win the inaugural title in the new Big East when Whittington was healthy. To maintain that hope -- if Whittington can’t return -- Starks has to guide a team that still has some talented pieces from last season and will add UCLA transfer Josh Smith after the first semester. Starks did it all for Georgetown last year (12.8 points, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 41.7 percent from the 3-point line). But the Hoyas might need him to do even more in 2013-14.

Title-game prediction: VCU over Georgetown.

The Hoyas should reach the title game, but I think they’ll face a VCU squad that’s equipped with a multitude of talent and depth. Smart has a rotation that could be 10-11 players deep. And even though he has lost a few veterans, he will gain the services of former top recruits Mo Alie-Cox and Jordan Burgess, two players who were academically ineligible for competition last season. And Shannon, the Florida State transfer, will be available, too. Smart’s HAVOC attack demands talent and depth, and he has both. This is the most skilled squad that he has had at VCU. That’s just too much for Georgetown to overcome, especially with VCU’s interior advantage (see Shannon and 6-9 forward Juvonte Reddic). These Rams will be dangerous. They’ll prove it in San Juan.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: VCU over Georgetown
Jeff Goodman: VCU over Northeastern
Seth Greenberg: Michigan over Georgetown
Andy Katz: Michigan over Georgetown
Jason King: VCU over Kansas State
Dana O'Neil: VCU over Kansas State

Saturday's conference-clinching scenarios

March, 2, 2013
3/02/13
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Here are the scenarios today for teams that have a chance to clinch their regular-season conference title outright. For conferences with two divisions, we use the terminology “will clinch best record” instead of “will clinch conference outright.”

Akron: Will clinch best record in MAC with win at Buffalo and Ohio loss at Bowling Green
Belmont: Will clinch best record in Ohio Valley with win vs. Jacksonville State or Eastern Kentucky loss at Tennessee State
Charleston Southern: Will clinch best record in Big South South Division with win vs. Coastal Carolina
High Point: Will clinch best record in Big South North division with win vs. Campbell
Long Beach State: Will clinch Big West outright with win at UC Irvine or Pacific loss at UC Riverside
Louisiana Tech: Will clinch WAC outright with win vs. San Jose State and Denver loss vs. New Mexico State
Memphis: Will clinch Conference USA outright with win at UCF or Southern Miss loss vs. East Carolina
Mercer: Will clinch Atlantic Sun outright with win at Stetson or Florida Gulf Coast loss vs. Kennesaw State
Miami: Will clinch ACC outright with win at Duke
New Mexico: Will clinch Mountain West outright with win vs. Wyoming and Colorado State loss at Boise State
Niagara: Will clinch MAAC outright with win vs. St. Peter's
South Dakota State: Will clinch Summit League outright with Western Illinois loss vs. South Dakota
Texas Southern: Will clinch SWAC outright with win vs. Alcorn State
Valparaiso: Will clinch Horizon League outright with win at Green Bay or Detroit loss at Illinois-Chicago
Wichita State at Creighton: Winner clinches Missouri Valley outright

Numbers to Know: Wednesday recap

February, 14, 2013
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Player of the Night -- James Ennis, Long Beach State
Ennis had 26 points, 15 rebounds and four steals in Long Beach State’s win over Cal State Fullerton. Ennis is the first Division I player this season with at least 26 points, 15 rebounds and four steals in a game. He’s the first Big West player to do so since Fullerton’s Pape Sow, who had 26 points, 18 rebounds and four steals against Cal Poly in February 2004.

Scorer of the Night -- Elston Turner, Texas A&M
Turner scored 37 points on 13-for-20 shooting, including 7-for-10 on 3-point attempts, in Texas A&M’s win over Ole Miss. Turner didn’t fill the stat sheet in many ways other than scoring, as he had just two rebounds, one assist, one steal, no blocks, no fouls and no turnovers. Only one player has scored more points in a game this season without any fouls or turnovers. That player is also Turner, when he scored 40 against Kentucky on January 12. His 40-point performance was the most by a Division I player without a foul or turnover in more than six years.

Shooter of the Night -- Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Brown, who is usually known for dunks like this, showed off his outside shooting skills in Oklahoma State’s win at Texas Tech. Brown scored 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 7-for-8 on 3-point attempts. He also made both of his free-throw attempts. No player in Big 12 history has made more 3-pointers while only missing only one attempt than Brown. Five other Big 12 players have also shot 7-for-8 from beyond the arc: Oklahoma’s Nate Erdmann (1997), Kansas’s Kirk Hinrich (2003), Texas A&M’s Antoine Wright (2005), Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn (2008) and Iowa State’s Jamie Vanderbeken (2011).

Stat Sheet Stuffer -- Joe Jackson, Memphis
Jackson had 21 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals in Memphis’s win over UCF. Jackson is only the second Division I player to reach those plateaus in a game this season. The other was Western Carolina’s Trey Sumler, who had 25 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and four steals against Chattanooga on January 19. Jackson is the first Memphis player with a stat line like that since Antonio Burks, who had 27 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and four steals against UAB in February 2003.

Debut of the Night -- Myck Kabongo, Texas
Kabongo might have been the only player with his season debut last night, but he still deserves the award. Kabongo had 13 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the Longhorns’ double-overtime win over Iowa State. Perhaps Texas is a different team now that Kabongo has returned from his 23-game suspension. According to BPI, Iowa State is the best opponent Texas has defeated this season.

Video: Syracuse 84, Long Beach St. 53

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
10:34
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C.J. Fair's 16 points and 13 rebounds helped No. 4 Syracuse improve to 7-0 with an 84-53 victory over Long Beach State.

Saddle Up: Syracuse in the spotlight

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
1:15
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Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. It is struggling to put down this book.

Long Beach State at No. 4 Syracuse, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2: First things first -- this Long Beach State team is not the Long Beach State team of 2011-12, wherein Larry Anderson and Casper Ware were a real threat to topple any or all of the big-name teams they faced in Dan Monson's insane nonconference schedule. This LBSU team, though probably more athletic than the rest of the Big West Conference, is far younger, far more unpolished and far less effective than it was last season.

In other words, sure, LBSU might go to the Carrier Dome and take down Syracuse on Thursday night. But I doubt it.

If anything, this game -- which comes during a so-so Thursday night slate -- is about reintroducing the world to this Syracuse team, which feels just a teensy bit under the radar a la Florida.

There are a couple of pertinent things to know about Syracuse:

1. Despite losing Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and one of the nation's best shot-blockers in Fab Melo, Syracuse hasn't lost a step on defense this season. In fact, Jim Boeheim's team is vastly improved. Why? Because sophomore Rakeem Christmas is blocking shots at nearly the same rate as Melo without allowing the Orange to get outclassed on the defensive glass, which was their one unsightly characteristic in 2011-12. Along with freshman DaJuan Coleman and junior Baye Keita, Boeheim has three viable options to play in the back of his vaunted 2-3 zone, and together he doesn't have to sacrifice one defensive trait (blocks) for another (rebounds).

2. James Southerland has become a knockdown shooter. Anyone who saw Syracuse's win over Arkansas on Friday can attest to this (Southerland dropped 35 points on 9-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc). After that game, his splits look like this: 10-of-13 from the free throw line, 69.2 percent from inside the arc, 47.4 percent outside it. At 6-foot-8, there are few defenders who will be able to contest Southerland's shot; if he's even 75 percent this efficient the rest of the season, look out.

3. Michael Carter-Williams is good, dude. There was a lot of hype in the preseason that said as much, but it was hard to gauge, mostly because Carter-Williams was so sparingly used in Syracuse's ultra-deep backcourt last season. But now that Carter-Williams has the ball in his hands more than any other player -- he leads the Orange in usage rate (26.0) -- he has proved to be as talented and versatile as advertised.

Carter-Williams does a handful of things well. He can get to the rim or score from midrange in the lane. He grabs defensive rebounds, uses his long reach to create steals and handles the ball well. But more than anything else, Carter-Williams sets up his teammates. As Luke Winn pointed out Wednesday, MCW's assist rate of 50.2 percent is the third-highest in the country. That means Carter-Williams is setting up his teammates on half of their buckets, while turning it over just 25 percent of the time.

You would expect a talented 6-6 forward to be a versatile, even gifted, scorer. You would not expect him to be one of the best point guards in the country. Thus far, that's how MCW is playing. It's really impressive.

No. 16 Creighton at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3: This game is an ESPN3 exclusive, which basically means that the only place you can watch it is on your computer screen (or your TV, if you have your Xbox hooked in to ESPN). Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation for folks out in Nebraska, many of whom would probably like to watch the game on the accepted device most normal, non-obsessive basketball fans use to watch basketball.

But there is an upside. For one, if it were just a locally televised broadcast, I wouldn't get to watch it. Second, according to this article, the lack of TV availability may have helped sell more tickets: "Husker officials said that as of Wednesday afternoon, fewer than 1,000 tickets remained. The Devaney Center seats 13,595. The largest home crowd so far was 8,491 on Monday night for USC." Whether you want to credit the TV schedule or on the fact a ranked Creighton team is coming to Lincoln to play a surprisingly 6-1 team coached by an energetic, young first-year guy -- it's probably some of both -- the end result is going to be a very well-attended state rivalry-style basketball game that shouldn't be easy for Creighton by any stretch of the imagination. I can't wait to watch it on my MacBook.

Texas isn't too big for De'Andre Haskins

November, 20, 2012
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Player of the Night: De’Andre Haskins
Four years removed from playing in Division I, Haskins led Division II Chaminade to an improbable 86-73 upset of the Texas Longhorns in the Maui Invitational. The former Valparaiso guard put up a career-high 32 points and nine rebounds to give Chaminade its seventh win in 83 games at the Maui Invitational. Haskins didn’t score until nearly nine minutes into the game and had just five points at halftime. Two of Chaminade’s wins have come at the expense of Texas head coach Rick Barnes. In 1991, Barnes' Providence squad lost to Chaminade.

Stat Sheet Stuffer: Otto Porter
Porter did a little bit of everything in leading Georgetown to a 78-70 win against the No. 11 UCLA Bruins. He finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals. Porter, a sophomore, is just the fourth power conference player with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and five assists in a game over the past 10 seasons. Joining Porter on that list are Ekpe Udoh, Geoff McDermott and Luke Harangody. The last Georgetown player to reach all of those levels in a game was Michael Sweetney in 2002-03.

Freshman of the Night: Brandon Ashley
Ashley scored 20 points on 6-of-6 shooting and added 10 rebounds as Arizona topped Long Beach State 94-72. Ashley is the only freshman over the past 15 seasons from a power six conference with a 20-10 game in which he didn’t miss a field goal. The 16th ranked recruit in the ESPN 100, Ashley is the first player on that list with a 20-10 game, and just the fourth freshman nationally. Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams are the only other Wildcats to post a 20-10 game as a freshman over the past 10 seasons.

Scorer of the Night: C.J. McCollum
Just another 35-point effort for McCollum, as Lehigh rolled to an 82-67 win against Fairfield. The nation’s leading active scorer had 36 points in Lehigh’s season opener against Baylor. Over the past five years, the only other players with multiple 35-point efforts in November were Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham (2011-12), Washington State’s Klay Thompson (2009-10), Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks (2008-09) and Davidson’s Stephen Curry (2008-09).

Strange Stat Line of the Night: Martins Abele
In Duquesne’s 90-88 win against James Madison, the 7-footer from Latvia made his presence known in the box score despite playing just five minutes. Abele managed three blocks and five personal fouls. Since 2000, only two other players have fouled out in five minutes or fewer and also blocked three shots. In January 2001, Maryland’s Chris Wilcox did it against Wake Forest. A month later, Rutgers’ Eugene Dabney did so against Georgetown.

Video: Arizona 94, Long Beach State 72

November, 20, 2012
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Freshman Brandon Ashley scores 20 in Arizona's 94-72 win over Long Beach State.


North Carolina coach Roy Williams had insisted since the beginning of preseason practice that his Tar Heels would be a good outside-shooting team. Finally, during its 78-63 victory at Long Beach State, No. 11 UNC showed that potential.

Turning point: After making three of their first four 3-pointers at the Pyramid, the Tar Heels had missed 13 straight -- and trailed 41-39 just over four minutes into the second half -- when junior Reggie Bullock connected from long distance. It was the first of six UNC 3s during a 23-7 run. The Tar Heels, who shot 10-for-27 from beyond the arc, led by double figures the rest of the way.

Why UNC won: The outside shooting was a big deal, especially since the Tar Heels had made only 7 of 27 3-point shots in their first two games. But forward James Michael McAdoo was a big deal, too. After being slowed by double-teams in the first half, the sophomore got more aggressive in the second half, and finished with a team-leading 18 points and 8 rebounds. Freshman point guard Marcus Paige chipped in 15 points and 4 assists; and sophomore wing P.J. Hairston finished with 14 points off the bench.

James Ennis led Long Beach State with 18 points.

What it means for UNC: With their first road game (and road win) under their belts, the Tar Heels (3-0) should head to the Maui Invitational with a bit more confidence. Paige, in particular, showed more of what he can do; after shooting 4-for-17 over his past two games, he was 6-for-10 (including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers) at LBSU.

What it means for LBSU: Like UNC, the 49ers are trying to replace four starters from last year’s starting lineup. And like UNC, they are still a work in progress. LBSU (1-2) led by as many as six points in the first half, and outscored the Tar Heels 34-30 in the paint for the game. But the 49ers got out-paced on second-chance points (21-11), shot just 36.2 percent and were out-scored on the bench 32-14. Guard Mike Caffey chipped in 14 points and 4 assists.

Star of the game: McAdoo. After starting only three games last season, he is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds over his first three starts this season.

More observations: The Tar Heels continue to tinker with the center position. Although sophomore Desmond Hubert (0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) started his third straight game, he was also replaced in the second half-opening lineup for the third consecutive game -- this time by freshman Brice Johnson (10 points, 7 rebounds).

What’s next: The Tar Heels will play Mississippi State in the Maui Invitational at 6 p.m. ET on Monday. LBSU visits No. 12 Arizona on Monday for a 9 p.m. ET tip.
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Big 12. Now, in conclusion, let's take a look at 10 prominent mid-majors from outside those 12 conferences ...

AKRON

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), at Creighton (Dec. 9)
Next-toughest: Middle Tennessee (Dec. 2), at Detroit (Dec. 15), Princeton (Dec. 30)
The rest: at Coastal Carolina (Nov. 9), John Carroll (Nov. 12), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 18), Cleveland State (Dec. 23), Texas Southern (Dec. 27), Coppin State (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Zips could theoretically face Oklahoma State, Tennessee and NC State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. But Zeke Marshall & Co. have a guaranteed matchup at Creighton in early December. That road trip to Detroit a week later will pit the favorite in the MAC against the favorite in the Horizon League. MTSU and Princeton are also strong mid-majors. It’s a strong start for an Akron team that upset Mississippi State in its season opener a year ago.

DAVIDSON

Toughest: at New Mexico (Nov. 12), vs. Duke (Jan. 2 in Charlotte)
Next-toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25), at Drexel (Dec. 22)
The rest: Emory (Nov. 9), at Milwaukee (Nov. 17), at Chattanooga (Dec. 1), Charlotte (Dec. 5), Wofford (Dec. 8), UNC Wilmington (Dec. 15), at Richmond (Dec. 29), UNC Greensboro (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The core of a team that topped Kansas on a neutral site in 2011 returns this season. Can De'Mon Brooks, Jake Cohen and the rest of the Wildcats pull off another Top 25 upset against Duke in early January? It’s possible. The Old Spice Classic field is lukewarm, which gives Davidson a legitimate chance to win its first two games and meet Gonzaga in the final. Solid schedule for a team that’s built to make noise in March.

DETROIT

Toughest: at Syracuse (Dec. 17)
Next-toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 13), at Miami (Nov. 24), at Pittsburgh (Dec. 1), Akron (Dec. 15), at Temple (Dec. 28)
The rest: Northern Michigan (Nov. 9), Drake (Nov. 17), at Bowling Green (Nov. 27), Toledo (Dec. 5), Rochester (Dec. 8), Alabama State (Dec. 10), at Alcorn State (Dec. 19), Canisius (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Detroit’s mid-December meeting with Syracuse is the toughest game on its nonconference slate. But the Horizon League favorite earns a 9 based on their “next-toughest” matchups. The Titans will play three teams (Pitt, Temple and Miami, all on the road) that could finish top-five in their respective leagues and earn NCAA tournament bids. Legitimate shots at top-50 RPI wins for Ray McCallum Sr.’s squad.

HARVARD

Toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 20), at Memphis (Jan. 19)
Next-toughest: at UMass (Nov. 13), at Connecticut (Dec. 7), at Cal (Dec. 29), at Saint Mary’s (Dec. 31)
The rest: MIT (Nov. 9), Manhattan (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 27), Fordham (Dec. 1), at Boston College (Dec. 4), Boston U (Dec. 11), Holy Cross (Dec. 22), Rice (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Last season, Harvard finally broke its NCAA tournament drought (the Crimson hadn’t made an appearance since 1946). Thoughts of a return, however, have been subdued by the losses of top scorer Kyle Casey (11.4 ppg) and standout guard Brandyn Curry (4.9 apg), who were both implicated in a cheating scandal during the offseason. Tommy Amaker’s squad travels to Cal, Memphis, UConn, St. Joe's and Saint Mary’s -- barometers for this team’s chances of returning to the Big Dance. If Harvard's confidence can survive that stretch, the Crimson will enter Ivy League play with an argument for an at-large berth. But those personnel hits dramatically reduce expectations for the program.

LEHIGH

Toughest: at Baylor (Nov. 9), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at VCU (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: at North Texas (Dec. 20)
The rest: at Sacred Heart (Nov. 25), at Quinnipiac (Nov. 27), Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 1), Fordham (Dec. 4), at St. Francis-Pa (Dec. 8), Bryant (Dec. 29), Muhlenberg (Jan. 8)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- C.J. McCollum passed on the NBA to return to Lehigh for his senior season. After leading the 15-seed Mountain Hawks to an upset against Duke in March, Lehigh is ready to turn more heads with a respectable nonconference menu that will feature multiple NCAA tournament-caliber squads. The Mountain Hawks kick off the year with a tough road trip to Baylor. They will play at Pitt with a trip to MSG on the line if they knock off Robert Morris in the NIT opener. And then two big tests at North Texas and VCU around the holidays. Last year’s upset against the Blue Devils elevated Lehigh’s stock. The program will earn even more credibility if it’s successful in the opening months of 2012-13.

LONG BEACH STATE

Toughest: North Carolina (Nov. 16), at Arizona (Nov. 19), at Syracuse (Dec. 6), at Ohio State (Dec. 8), at UCLA (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: at USC (Nov. 13), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: North Alabama (Nov. 10), at Fresno State (Nov. 25), at Loyola Marymount (Nov. 29), Fresno State (Dec. 3), BYU Hawaii (Dec. 15), Pacific (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- They've done it again. In recent years, Dan Monson’s squad has topped the nonconference strength of schedule ratings. Long Beach State should maintain that status with a slate featuring five teams that could be ranked in the top 15 of the preseason polls (UNC, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA). But the foursome that carried the program in recent years -- Casper Ware, Larry Anderson, T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps -- is gone. So Monson will rely on multiple transfers and his 2012 recruiting class to battle through one of the toughest opening stretches in the nation.

MURRAY STATE

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: at Dayton (Dec. 22), Valparaiso (Dec. 29), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: Brescia (Nov. 9), Old Dominion (Nov. 24), at Lipscomb (Nov. 26), Bethel (Dec. 4), at Evansville (Dec. 8), Western Kentucky (Dec. 16), at Arkansas State (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Racers should enter the season as a Top 25 team after winning their first 23 games last season and achieving a national ranking throughout the season. After opening with Auburn and then getting St. John's or Charleston, Isaiah Canaan could lead Murray State to a Charleston Classic title game matchup against Baylor or Colorado. Those are the only two nonconference foes that pose an obvious threat for the Racers. Always-tough ODU and Horizon co-favorite Valpo travel to Murray, and the Racers are sure to be given a tough BracketBusters opponent. Still, given the accomplishments last season and the return of Canaan, the Racers can’t get too much credit for this schedule. Then again, high-major programs probably dodged this mid-major powerhouse.

NORTH TEXAS

Toughest: at Creighton (Nov. 9), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at Saint Louis (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Lehigh (Dec. 20)
The rest: Cameron (Nov. 16), Texas-Arlington (Nov. 28), Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 1), Jackson State (Dec. 8), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 16)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Tony Mitchell could lead the Mean Green to a regional round upset of Kansas State in the NIT Season Tip-Off. And if that happens, a matchup with Virginia at MSG could happen, with Michigan or Pitt waiting in the wings. Even if the program stumbles, however, road trips to Creighton and Saint Louis , a pair of Top 25 squads, will boost its nonconference schedule in Tony Benford’s first season as head coach. C.J. McCollum and Lehigh come to Denton five days before Christmas for a meaningful mid-major matchup. No complaints for this slate.

OHIO

Toughest: at Memphis (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: at UMass (Dec. 19), at Oklahoma (Dec. 29), Marshall (Jan. 5)
The rest: Portland (Nov. 10), UNC-Wilmington (Nov. 16), Wofford (Nov. 18), Hampton (Nov. 20), Richmond (Nov. 24), St. Bonaventure (Nov. 28), at Robert Morris (Dec. 1), Oakland (Dec. 8), Winthrop (Dec. 15), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- D.J. Cooper is back to help Ohio build off last season’s Sweet 16 run. Memphis is the only team on the Bobcats' nonconference schedule that could stifle the team’s effort to extend that momentum. Marshall will be tough, and UMass and Oklahoma are sleepers in their respective conferences, but the rest of the schedule is simply average, especially for a squad that nearly toppled North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. But remember, that run didn’t make scheduling any easier.

UTAH STATE

Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Saint Mary’s (Nov. 15)
The rest: Idaho State (Nov. 10), Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Nov. 17), Weber State (Nov. 24), at Santa Clara (Nov. 28), Western Oregon (Dec. 8), at Utah Valley (Dec. 15), Nicholls State (Dec. 20), UC Davis (Dec. 21), Southern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Before Utah State takes its talents to the Mountain West, it will finish its tenure in the WAC vying with New Mexico State for the conference championship. If the Aggies can win at BYU, and win home games versus SIU and Saint Mary's, they’ll certainly be prepared for another run to the WAC title. But one or two additional matchups against high-major opponents wouldn’t have hurt.

3-point shot: Calhoun back on campus

August, 27, 2012
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1. UConn coach Jim Calhoun said two weeks ago that he wanted to be back on campus for the start of school despite having hip surgery earlier this month after falling off his bike. Well, he made it a one day earlier, according to his staff. Calhoun was on campus Sunday to meet with the staff and players, and he plans on being back on campus Tuesday. Calhoun’s presence is great news for the staff and players who are hoping to get to the season in October without any more major distractions. The Huskies can’t play in the postseason due to poor Academic Progress Rate scores. But they have two major events in November: a Nov. 9 game against Michigan State at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, then the following week in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

2. Stanford was desperate for a replacement game once Saint Louis canceled a home-and-home series that was to start this season in Palo Alto. The Cardinal found a replacement that is more than suitable for this late date. Stanford will host one of the WAC favorites -- Denver -- on Dec. 2 to open a home-and-home series. Stanford’s only other top home game is against Belmont. The road/neutral games are more than adequate for a potential Pac-12 title contender. Stanford plays at NC State and Northwestern, and against Missouri in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis.

3. Boise State coach Leon Rice was relieved to get the news the Broncos would be in the Big West in 2013. He said he can now start setting up series with Mountain West schools beginning in 2013; he had held off due to the uncertainty. Meanwhile, Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said he trusts the leadership of the conference to add Boise State to the mix. He said his biggest concern is a path to the NCAA tournament. The Big West got better with San Diego State; it’s still unknown if Boise will help. But the schedule, especially with four Big East schools playing the Broncos, will definitely help the overall conference power rating.
Last season's toughest nonconference record belonged to the Long Beach State 49ers. Coach Dan Monson knew what he had in stars Casper Ware and Larry Anderson, and he was eager to ensure the 49ers build their RPI as much as possible before returning to play fellow Big West teams in the conference slate. So Monson took his team on a national nonconference barnstorming tour, playing at Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina, as well as against Xavier and Kansas State in the Diamond Head Classic.

The end result was exactly what you'd predict: Long Beach State didn't win many of those games (it won at Pittsburgh and beat a half-strength post-brawl Xavier team, and that's it) but it ended the regular season with the top nonconference schedule strength in the country, a key metric in the current NCAA tournament selection committee's considerations.

Monson lost Ware, Anderson and five other seniors this year, so it was fair to expect LBSU to tone down the insane scheduling practices. Why put a young, transfer-heavy team through the gauntlet so quickly?

Monson had different ideas. Earlier this week, he revealed Long Beach State's schedule, and it could be every bit as difficult as the one he took on in 2011-12. The 49ers will play at USC, Arizona, Fresno State, Loyola Marymount, Syracuse, Ohio State and UCLA. Yes, those are all away games. Long Beach State also gets a rare nonconference home visit from North Carolina, a return game from Fresno State, and a place in the mid-season ESPN BracketBusters event. With the exception of Fresno, Marymount and USC, those are all brutal road trips or very difficult home games. The first few months of LBSU's season will not be easy.

The 49ers coach could have lightened the program's load somewhat, given the huge attrition from last year's team, but that would be a short-term outlook. Monson is more interested in the long-term, hoping he can establish Long Beach State as a we'll-go-anywhere-and-play-anybody type of program in any given year, a strategy that might hurt in the near run but should continue to help LBSU gain exposure and help convince recruits and transfers they'll have the opportunity to play on some of the game's biggest stages.

Take that away, and Long Beach State is just another mid-major program. Instead, Monson is working on something much more ambitious. It may not be pretty in November and December, but over the next five years, it should pay off in more ways than one.

3-point shot: Draft disappointment

June, 29, 2012
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1. Alabama took a hit with both JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell going undrafted Thursday. So too did Georgetown after Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims went unselected. Add New Mexico's Drew Gordon, Xavier's Tu Holloway, Long Beach State's Casper Ware, Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, Ohio State's William Buford, Texas' J'Covan Brown, West Virginia's Kevin Jones and Iona's Scott Machado to the list of players who didn't get picked.

2. Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney can't be too disappointed. He was a long shot to be selected. He has had one of the most bizarre and most discussed careers I have seen in covering the sport for 22 years. Hopefully he will find his way. The Bulldogs' Dee Bost, who didn't get picked either, once famously declared for the draft then returned to school in 2011 after claiming he didn't know the rules.

3. The Big East fully expects Boise State to be a football member and is doing all it can to help the Broncos get the rest of their sports into the Big West, even making a financial commitment. San Diego State spent Thursday lobbying other Big West members to help get the Broncos into the league. Boise State has until Saturday to withdraw from the Mountain West for 2013 or face further penalty. The Big West has to simply make a decision. The basketball conference will be much improved by adding Boise State with SDSU and Hawaii -- three programs that care deeply about their sports.

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