College Basketball Nation: Tip-Off Marathon 2011

Video: Coach K sits down with Rece Davis

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
2:39
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After Tuesday's win over Michigan State, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat down with Rece Davis to discuss the historic night.

Second-half surge shows UK's firepower

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
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NEW YORK -- Can we please get a cease-and-desist order on this notion that Kentucky is not a very good team yet?

Look, I get it. John Calipari is a perfectionist of sorts. He wants to ensure that these players aren’t bursting with an ego the size of the Commonwealth, so he plays mind games with them.

But this chatter heading into the Kansas game about how there are maybe 100 teams better than the Wildcats? Complete rubbish, of course.

Sure, Kentucky has its moments where it looks lost, selfish and a bit flustered. But that doesn’t last long.

Marist was down by only four to the Wildcats late in the first half of the season opener. Kentucky won by 50.

Kansas was the aggressor for most of the first half Tuesday night in the inaugural Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, and the teams went into the break tied at 28.

Then UK jumped all over the Jayhawks and built a lead that swelled to 17 just like that. The final score was 75-65 and the Cats were never seriously challenged toward the end.

[+] EnlargeJohn Calipari
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireAs frustrated as he can get, even John Calipari would have to admit he's got a very good team.
Calipari said at halftime Tuesday that the reason for the erratic play was the freshmen he had on the court -- three most of the time in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis. He said there was too much one-on-one play. He even called it AAU basketball at one point.

The message was received.

“We had a bunch of young guys who were trying to play and do their own thing,’’ Calipari said. “I’ve got a bunch of young players and you wonder why I’m going crazy. We’ve got to learn how to finish a game.’’

Well, the real problem seems to be understanding how to start a game. Of UK's 19 turnovers, 12 came in the first half. Teague eventually settled down, though, and Terrence Jones bullied his way around the basket. There was steady play from senior Darius Miller, fast-break production from Gilchrist and Lamb and the shot-blocking of Davis -- all adding up to a dominant second-half performance.

“It’s early and we’ve got a whole different group of guys,’’ Jones said. “We have to learn.’’

Kentucky has been able to simply flip the switch so far. And it could work for a while, likely right up until the Wildcats face North Carolina on Dec. 3 at Rupp Arena. And by then, the Wildcats should be able to find a way to play without such disruption in the first 20 minutes.

As for the Jayhawks, they played with a purpose but just couldn’t effectively finish in the post during the second half. They had empty possessions and are still in search of consistent play at key positions. They were somewhat like Michigan State in the first game against Duke. The Spartans were effective early in that game too, and tended to be the aggressor. But the inability to finish plays in the halfcourt and then to release run outs or 3-pointers on the other end led to runs for the opponent.

Kansas doesn't have that many freshmen to incorporate, though. Kentucky will go through a learning curve due to the inexperience. The selfish play should settle down -- this is only game No. 2, after all. Calipari is still figuring out how to use freshman wing Kyle Wiltjer, who only played three minutes because the game was so physical. He turned to Eloy Vargas since he has the experience.

Hey, these are all good problems to have, whether it’s November or March. Calipari was the spin master earlier this week, saying that he had no idea what his team would do against Kansas. Well, he was sort of right. He wasn’t sure if the Wildcats would perform to their potential for a full 40 minutes. And it turns out they didn’t -- and they may not for some time.

But there is no reason to believe that Kentucky won’t remain one of the top teams in the country from this point forward. It doesn’t mean UK and its rabid fans should book tickets to New Orleans quite yet. We’re a marathon away from that at this point.

It is, however, truly scary to think how dangerous these young Cats will be whenever they put together a complete 40 minutes.

Video: Bob Knight on Coach K's record

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
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Bob Knight talks about being passed in number of career wins by his former player, Mike Krzyzewski.

Cal looking like the new Pac-12 favorite

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- Cal guard Brandon Smith said his teammates felt slighted when the media failed to pick the Bears as the Pac-12 preseason favorites, using whatever scrap of disrespect they could find as motivation.

The Bears finished second in the voting to UCLA, which subsequently got embarrassed at home by mid-major teams in its first two games and suspended its top scorer indefinitely. Meanwhile, Cal has beaten its first three opponents by an average of 21 points.

After a 72-55 win Tuesday against Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Austin Peay that saw the Bears lead by 29 points at one point, they spoke of continuing on in the CBE Classic and spreading the word that No. 22 Cal is indeed for real.

“We get to play some top teams, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to show the nation what we’ve got,” said Smith, whose team heads to Kansas City to play Georgia and then either Missouri or Notre Dame. “The ranking, to us, doesn’t matter much. It’s a just a number by our name. We’re out to show what Cal basketball is all about.”

It was only two seasons ago when confetti floated down from the rafters at Haas Pavilion with Cal having clinched its first conference title in 50 years. After a transition year last season that went better than expected with a short-handed team, Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Harper Kamp have hopes of winning it again.

“We look at that [second-place Pac-12 pick], and anything we can do to get a chip on our shoulder is good,” said Kamp, who sat out the season injured the last time Cal won the title. “We just have to play like we’re the underdog, and we need to prove ourselves night in, night out.”

The Bears are getting contributions from up and down their roster. Gutierrez scored 14 points and held Austin Peay’s TyShwan Edmondson to four points on 2-for-10 shooting. Smith said when he finds out the opposing team’s best player is a shooting guard and Gutierrez gets to guard him, “I just smile inside.”

Kamp and freshman forward David Kravish, who has impressed in the early going, scored 12 points apiece and took advantage of an Austin Peay frontcourt that was without top rebounder John Fraley, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Smith scored 11 points and didn’t commit a turnover. The Bears have also gotten good production off the bench from Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs, who can play both guard positions.

Even on a night when Crabbe struggled and scored five points on 2-for-12 shooting, Cal dominated. The Bears have led by at least 20 at halftime in each of their three games. Austin Peay was held to 13 first-half points. Now Cal has to show it can do it against better competition.

“It will be a bigger challenge for us,” coach Mike Montgomery said.

Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 75, Kansas 65

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
12:28
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NEW YORK -- A quick take on No. 2 Kentucky's 75-65 win over No. 11 Kansas in the second game of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

What it means: In a battle of two of the most storied programs in college basketball, the Wildcats prevail over the Jayhawks to improve to 2-0 on the season. Kansas drops to 1-1. A very young Kentucky team puts on an impressive show in front of a national television audience.

The skinny: This game started out like the first game of the evening, Duke versus Michigan State, with a tight first half. Both teams shot less than 41 percent from the field. Both teams had problems taking care of the ball -- Kentucky had 12 first-half turnovers, Kansas had 10. The game was tied 28-28 at intermission.

Then, just like Duke in Game 1, Kentucky opened up the second half with a big run -- in the Wildcats' case, an 11-0 run to go up 41-30. Kentucky led by as many as 17 in the second half, and never let Kansas get within striking distance once they surged ahead.

From downtown: Kentucky shot just 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, but was a sparkling 6-for-9 in the second half. Sophomore guard Doron Lamb, a Queens native, knocked down three of them in a short time span when the Wildcats were extending their lead. He finished with a team-high 17 points -- one of five Kentucky players in double figures. The others were sophomore Terrence Jones (15 points), and freshmen Anthony Davis (14 points, six blocked shots), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12 points) and Marquis Teague (12 points).

In a losing cause: Senior Tyshawn Taylor, who played for Bob Hurley at nearby St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, led the Jayhawks with 22 points. Taylor shot just 3-for-13 from the field, but made 15 of 17 from the foul line. As a team, Kansas shot just 20-for-59 from the field (33.9 percent), and 4-for-15 on 3-pointers. The Jayhawks also had 11 shots blocked.

What's next: Kentucky will play Penn State in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Kansas faces Georgetown next Monday in Hawaii, as part of the Maui Invitational.

Buckeyes guards prove their value

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
12:15
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jared Sullinger gets most of the attention for No. 3 Ohio State, and rightfully so. He's a legitimate candidate, if not the leading one, for player of the year honors this season.

Yet on a night when Sullinger had a good but not great game, the Buckeyes still managed to beat No. 8 Florida 81-74 at home Tuesday. That's because one of Ohio State's few questions -- its perimeter play -- showed it deserves a little more attention.

If the Gators figured to have one advantage coming into Value City Arena, it was the backcourt led by veterans Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker and talented freshman Bradley Beal. They left Columbus singing their counterparts' praises.

[+] EnlargeAaron Craft
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesAaron Craft held Erving Walker to just 1-of-6 in 25 minutes of play.
"Their guards are just tremendous," Boynton said of Ohio State.

For the second straight year, Florida was bedeviled by point guard Aaron Craft, a sixth man who played starter's minutes last year. Craft dissected the Gators' full-court pressure defense in Gainesville last season in just his second college game. Billy Donovan decided not to press him nearly as much this time around, but Craft found different ways to control the action.

Ask Walker. One of Florida's top scorers, the senior suffered through a 1-for-6 shooting night with Craft guarding him. Craft had three steals and seemed like he had his hands in the middle of every play, diving for loose balls and causing deflections with nonstop hustle.

"I thought clearly he dominated the game from start to finish," Donovan said. "He was the whole key, to me, in the game. More importantly, he really did it defensively. I mean, he physically beat up our guards. And I'm not saying our guards got fouled. Wholly within the context of the rules of the game, he physically manhandled our guards."

If Craft makes up for the loss of defensive stopper David Lighty from last year's top-ranked team, then William Buford picks up some of the scoring slack left by former 3-point specialist Jon Diebler. Buford has always been able to fill it up -- he has averaged double-digits since his freshman year and should finish his career as one of the top scorers in Ohio State history.

But this year he also must serve as the only senior on a team that's starting four sophomores. So it made sense that he took over the game in the second half with Sullinger on the bench with foul trouble. When Florida center Patric Young got hopelessly mismatched on the 6-foot-6 guard, Buford tripped him up with a sick crossover dribble before draining a 3-pointer for a 62-46 lead, the largest of the game.

How important is Buford? In Ohio State's Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky last season, he shot just 2-for-16 and missed a 3-pointer at the end as the Buckeyes fell 62-60. That disappointment caused him to make some changes in the summer to vary his game.

"I'm just valuing every possession more now," he said. "Trying to be more aggressive and shoot more free throws."

Buford got to the line six times Tuesday night. Ohio State coach Thad Matta talked to Buford during a couple of timeouts about avoiding rushed shots, and the senior did that in the second half.

"He's the one guy who's been through these wars numerous times," Matta said. "So we need him to do that."

Florida led most of the first half, beating Ohio State with some dribble penetration and pick-and-pops while hitting six first-half 3s. Then Craft and Buford got more aggressive with their defense, and the Buckeyes closed out on shooters like Erik Murphy, who surprised them with three 3s in the first half. The Gators looked lost for about a six-minute scoreless stretch between the first and second halves, allowing Ohio State to pull ahead for a comfortable lead it would never relinquish.

"It seemed like it was going to be a long night early on," Craft said. "But we did a good job adjusting as a team."

The slimmed-down Sullinger took only eight shots and went long stretches without getting many touches, though he did go to the free-throw line and make all eight attempts. Florida's Young played him to a virtual standstill, though, scoring 14 points to Sullinger's 16 and grabbing six more rebounds than the All-American. Yet the Gators needed a flurry of 3s late just to make the final score close.

"That says a lot about us," Buford said, "because he's the best big man in the country."

The Buckeyes' guards proved they're pretty good, too.

Video: Coach K with Andy Katz

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
12:11
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks with Andy Katz after a record-setting 903rd win.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Quick analysis from Value City Arena, where No. 3 Ohio State defeated No. 8 Florida 81-74 on Tuesday night.

How the game was won: Florida hurt Ohio State early with guard penetration, pick-and-rolls and six first-half 3-pointers. But the Buckeyes tightened up their perimeter defense late in the first half, and the Gators struggled to figure out other options. Jared Sullinger (16 points) took over inside, and William Buford handled the bulk of the scoring as the Buckeyes led by as many as 16 points in the second half and held off a late rally for their second victory in as many years over Florida.

Star of the game: Buford. He led all scorers with 21 points and added six rebounds and three assists while playing all 40 minutes. Freshman Bradley Beal burned Buford a few times in the first half, but the Ohio State senior picked up his defense as the game wore on.

Star of the game II: Aaron Craft had his usual stat-stuffing game. The Buckeyes sophomore point guard finished with 13 points, seven assists, three steals and three rebounds, along with innumerable floor burns. He also helped hold Florida's Erving Walker to just four points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Key stat: Ohio State hit 27 of 34 free throws, while Florida only attempted 21 (making 13).

What each team learned: The Buckeyes found out they could beat a very good team without a huge performance from Sullinger, who sat out a large stretch of the second half after picking up his third foul. But they let up a little too much late to let the Gators nearly get back in it with a barrage of 3s. Florida learned it can get some offensive production out of Patric Young, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds after he got some opportunities in the second half. The Gators need more scoring options, especially on nights when Walker is off.

What's next: Ohio State should fatten up on its record by playing Jackson State, North Florida, VMI and Valparaiso at home the next 10 days before a Nov. 29 showdown with Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Florida's next big test should come Dec. 2 at Syracuse.

Video: Brown's career day lifts Texas

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
8:43
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Behind a career-high 35 points from J'Covan Brown, Texas won a shootout with Rhode Island, 100-90.

Video: The Quincys lead Baylor to a win

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
6:56
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Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller spark Baylor's 77-67 victory over San Diego State.

Checking in from Columbus: Florida-OSU

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
5:47
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The last time I covered college basketball, I watched Ohio State destroy opponents in its first two games of the 2011 NCAA tournament in Cleveland.

Those Buckeyes look destined for greatness, but they would fall short in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky. Now comes their first major test of the 2011-12 season in just the second game of the year at Value City Arena.

For an early-season showdown, it doesn't get much better than No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Florida. Of course, these two teams played last year at this time, and the Buckeyes won 93-75 in Gainesville. The Gators will be looking for some revenge, though no November wins by the Bucks can make up for losing to Florida in the 2007 national title game.

I'm really looking forward to seeing a slimmed-down Jared Sullinger, the odds-on favorite to win national player of the year honors. He had his first star-making turn in last year's win over Florida, and we'll see if Patric Young can do anything to slow the double-double machine down.

If the Gators have an edge, it's in the backcourt with the experienced duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, plus Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario and talented freshman Bradley Beal. That's a lot of bodies on the perimeter that Billy Donovan can throw at Ohio State, though starters Aaron Craft and William Buford can also do a lot of damage for Thad Matta's team. I'll particularly be watching Buford, an explosive scorer who will have to pick up some of the defensive slack left by departed senior David Lighty.

Ohio State is awfully young, starting four sophomores and using freshmen off the bench. Its young players handled the pressure well last season, and that will have to happen again this year.

With the Buckeyes football team struggling, you get the sense that this community is hoping for something special from this basketball team. We'll start to find out tonight if that's the case.

Video: Memphis pulls away from Belmont

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
3:42
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Belmont was a popular upset pick after its narrow loss at Duke, but 10th-ranked Memphis was having none of it -- pulling away from the Bruins 97-81 on Tuesday afternoon.

Michigan State is eyeing spoiler role

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
3:16
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NEW YORK -- The preparations are in place for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to break Bob Knight’s all-time NCAA record of 902 wins tonight.

Knight is calling the game on ESPN. NCAA president Mark Emmert is here to honor Krzyzewski after the game.

There is a definite sentiment among the Blue Devils’ travel party to get this event over with, instead of letting it slide to Friday night against Davidson back home in Durham, N.C.

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesTom Izzo and the Spartans are hoping to keep Mike Krzyzewski from reaching his 903rd career win Tuesday night.
But there is a slight problem. Michigan State is playing the Blue Devils. As one Duke official said after the team’s practice Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, “We’re not playing Presbyterian.’’

The Spartans are coming off an emotional season opener Friday night aboard the USS Carl Vinson in Coronado, Calif. They lost to top-ranked North Carolina, but outrebounded the Tar Heels and were the more aggressive team. If it can duplicate that edge and find a way to shoot straight (instead of the 2-for-20 performance from long range versus UNC), MSU certainly can be a spoiler.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is confident the Spartans can win. No one is quite sure how much pressure the Blue Devils will feel in trying to get No. 903 for Krzyzewski. The Hall of Fame coach was locked in after practice, but did comment on the uniqueness of passing his former coach and mentor -- something that may not ever happen again. Izzo didn’t think it would.

“I think we can beat them. I think they’re good but no one knows how all of this will affect them,’’ Izzo said. “They could play off the charts, too. They’re good.’’

Izzo put together this schedule of playing UNC and Duke back-to-back because of the rare opportunities they presented -- playing a game on an aircraft carrier on 11-11-11 and then being included in the three-year Champions Classic format that will rotate to Atlanta and Chicago over the next two seasons.

Asked if he would take a split of this opening two-game set, Izzo said, “Sold. It would be tremendous.’’

The Spartans are at full strength for this game as Branden Dawson is recovered from tweaking his right knee. Dawson slipped on a center court decal on the Vinson Friday night. He still played but wasn’t as effective in the second half. He didn’t practice over the weekend but did participate in the Tuesday shootaround and is cleared to start.

Michigan State has size and strength with Draymond Green, Dawson, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix.

“We’ll have to continue to rebound better and play better in transition,’’ Izzo said. “We had that one poor stretch. We needed to get home, watch some film and be in our own surroundings.

"This is like an NBA trip. It’s a tough trip. But we got home and got some rest.’’

Izzo said if the Spartans can contest Duke’s 3-point shots and limit their turnovers, they should have a chance to win the game.

“We’ll play the spoiler role,’’ Izzo said. “It’s an incredible feat. But hopefully Mike won’t do it tonight.’’

Quite a KSU debut for Rob Senderoff

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:34
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It has been a long and arduous road to the first seat on the bench for Rob Senderoff.

Ashes?

More like Senderoff has risen from the Earth’s magma, surviving the Indiana mess to rebuild both his reputation and his career at Kent State.

And so in the minutes after Senderoff not only made his head-coaching debut, but also made it in grand fashion -- upsetting West Virginia 70-60 in Morgantown, a graveyard for Big East teams -- you’d expect him to be reflective and emotional.

Except Senderoff was the last thing on Senderoff’s mind.

“I know it sounds like coach talk and trust me, sometimes I do say things because you have to say them, but this time I mean it: I was only thinking about our four seniors,’’ Senderoff said. “I’ll be coaching for a long time, whether as an assistant or head coach, but this is my four year seniors’ last chance.’’

Three of those four made the most of it -- Justin Greene (12 points), Michael Porrini (11), Randall Holt (13) and Carlton Guyton (17) were responsible for all but 17 of the Golden Flashes’ 70 points.

And frankly it was because of those seniors that Kent State won. This will go down as an upset, but in the season opener for each, it’s hard to quantify. To the contrary of the Golden Flashes’ experience, West Virginia counters with six freshmen.

Down five at the half and outrebounded by 15, Senderoff implored his team to work on the glass, promising his players in the locker room that the young Mountaineers would “crumble ... they will crumble’’ in the face of the pressure.

That, too, wasn’t coach speak.

“I certainly wasn’t going to say, ‘Oh well, fellas we don’t have a chance,’’ Senderoff said. “But I also believed it. We’ve been through this before and they haven’t. For our players, this is our fifth straight game on national television if you go back to the MAC tournament and the NIT. They were more new to this than we were. We’ve said from the start of the season that how we play will determine if we win or lose almost every game and these guys believed that.’’

Faux upset or not, it still goes down as big news at Kent. Despite the run of success for the Flashes -- 12 straight 20-win seasons -- this marks just the second time the school has beaten a BCS team on the road in history and the first since 1970.

There have been neutral-court upsets and home wins, but never a true road game and nowhere is the road more true than in hostile Morgantown.

No road, though, has been tougher than Senderoff’s. He resigned from Indiana in 2007, caught up in the Kelvin Sampson phone mess and was offered a second chance at Kent State, a place he had worked previously.

The university could have cut ties with him when the Committee on Infractions hit him with recruiting restrictions and a 30-month show cause, but instead Kent State stood by Senderoff and kept him on as an assistant. Last season, when Geno Ford bolted for Bradley, the administration boldly named Senderoff its coach.

One game in, he’s already making a good impression.

“Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was great,’’ Senderoff said. “Right now I’m just happy my kids played like I knew they could.’’

Video: Breaking down Kent State's win

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:07
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Bill Raftery and Sean McDonough give ESPN.com their postgame thoughts on the game they covered, Kent State's 70-60 win at West Virginia.

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