NCAA Daily Links
Hello folks, hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend! Sorry for the delay, as I have a lot of news to cover for you! There have definitely been some great games and upsets. Here is the NCAA Daily:
Minnesota Loses Star PF Trevor Mbakwe For Season
(Amelia Rayno/Star Tribune)
The Minnesota Golden Gophers lost their star player, Trevor Mbakwe, to a torn right ACL. It happened early in the second half of the Old Spice Classic finals, a game the Gophers lost 86-70 to Dayton. Mbakwe, currently the 16th ranked player in the NBADraft.net Mock and the top ranked senior, was the Big Ten's leading returning rebounder (10.5 rpg in 2010-11). He was averaging 14 ppg and 9.1 rpg through Minnesota's first 7 games. Coach Tubby Smith stated there is a possibility that Mbakwe, who like Abromaitis, is a fifth year senior, could look to be granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Amelia Rayno's article takes on how the Gophers will survive without their star, with the possibilities not looking to rosy for the teams future. The Gophers front court was thin as is, and it seems like junior SF Rodney Williams might be playing some at the 4 spot. Williams is a great athlete, but there is little reason to expect him matching the incredible impact Mbakwe had with his out of area rebounding and length which he used to alter and block shots (was averaging 1.7 bpg). This also has to really hurt Mbakwe's draft stock, ACL injuries are always devastating and in a draft deep in PF talent, he may not be able to show his best against the competition while still recuperating. Definitely hope that things work out for Mbakwe, who seemed like a major rising star in college basketball.
The only real possitive news for Mbakwe is that it happened early enough in the season (7 games) that there is a chance that he can apply for a medical redshirt and play next year.
Chase Stanback and Mike Moser Spark Major Upset over #1 North Carolina
Not many people were betting on North Carolina being the first undefeated NCAA Champions since the 1976, 32-0 Indiana Hoosiers. But, the pre-season #1 Tar Heels were not expected to be seriously challenged by an opponent until their December 3 game against the pre-season #2 Kentucky Wildcats. Well, a former championship contending school who had been very much under the radar, decided to flip the script. Led by two former UCLA transfers in Chase Stanback and Mike Moser, the hometown UNLV Runnin' Rebels won the Las Vegas Invitational 90-80 over UNC.
Roy Williams did actually predict this the night before the game, but it was a pretty significant upset early in the college season. Chase Stanback had the game of his career with a 28 point and 10 rebound showing, while current NCAA rebounding leader Mike Moser contributed 16 points to go with 18 rebounds. Senior PG Oscar Bellfield also had 16 points and 9 assists, notching 4 of the Runnin' Rebs 13 treys on the game. UNLV definitely got the better of UNC's talented front court, holding the trio of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes to 11-34 shooting on the day.
Andrew Carter breaks down what went wrong for the Tar Heels in the game, bright spots (such as PJ Hairston's efficient 15 point performance) and notes the aforementioned key stat of the Tar Heel starting front court's poor shooting day. He also points to UNLV's 14-0 run to start the 2nd Half as the key moment in which the game took shape. UNLV may have had a bit of a home turf advantage in this tournament, but the Tar Heels definitely showed that while they are a deep, talented squad, they can be beaten. This by no means eliminates the Tar Heels from NCAA Championship contention, they are still the team to beat if everyone is healthy in March. Still, it was a major win for 7-0 UNLV and shows that the pre-season favorite Tar Heels are not going to tornado through this season.
Jim Calhoun on Andre Drummond: "He Does Things That Are Special"
(Don Amore/Hartford Courant)
After a disappointing early exit at the hands of the UCF Knights, the UConn Huskies were taken to the brink during a 78-76 OT win over Florida St in the Battle 4 Atlantis consolation game. While Jim Calhoun was disappointed by the Huskies play in both games, he has a few definite positives in his observations of his team's trip to the Bahama's. Athletic freshman guard Ryan Boatright gained clearance and scored 14 points in his first game of the season, making a big contribution to the close win over FSU. Sophomore PG Shabazz Napier had a bounce back game after the UCF loss, scoring 26 points while making 6 triples. Also, Andre Drummond seemed to show some serious flashes in a marquee match-up.
Finishing with 13 points (5-8 FG), 10 rebounds, 7 blocks and 3 steals, Drummond showed he could make an impact against big time competition. FSU's Bernard James finished with 11 points (4-11 FG)and 14 boards, but the fact that Drummond could come out nearly even in a battle against another talented big man is very encouraging for UConn. The Big East is plenty physical, but FSU has a fantastic defense and are a solid simulation for the physical play Drummond is sure to face in the paint.
Alex Oriakhi has been coming off of the bench, but I would not be surprised to see Calhoun move him next to Drummond for an imposing front line. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier may provide a good deal of UConn's scoring, but if the team is going to contend, than the front court will play a major factor. Glad to see Drummond showing why everyone is so enamored with him as a basketball prospect with his play in the win over FSU.
Harrison Barnes Leaves Arena on Crutches, Doubtful For Wednesday's Game Against Wisconsin
Giving Andrew Carter props again, he is actually the bearer of more potential bad news for the now #5 ranked UNC Tar Heels. Harrison Barnes injured his ankle at the 6:13 mark of the loss to UNLV. Though he came back at the 3 minute mark and finished with 15 points in 30 minutes, he left the arena on crutches and was diagnosed as having a sprained ankle. Barnes is averaging a team leading 17.3 ppg for UNC, and his status is doubtful for tomorrow's contest against the #9 Wisconsin Badgers.
That spells bad news for North Carolina, as the Badgers are undefeated and play fantastic defense. If Barnes is hurt, Roy Williams is said to be likely to give Reggie Bullock (7.8 ppg) and PJ Hairston (9.7 ppg) more minutes at the wing. Still, I am sure the Heels would feel a lot better with Barnes starting at SF and seriously hope he is well enough to play the now #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis Out For Season
(Brian Hamilton/Chicago Tribune)
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost a major part of their team as fifth year senior Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL in practice and is expected to miss the season. Abromaitis had served a four game early season suspension and had only played in two contests before his injury, averaging 14 ppg and 7 rpg. He was also named a pre-season All-Big East selection and the 6'8 forward was considered to be a player this year's Notre Dame team leaned on.
Brian Hamilton points to the fact that the Irish have been in this situation before. In 2009, ND lost Scott Martin to a torn ACL and than Luke Harangody had to sit a 5 game stretch at a point where the Irish were 6-8 in conference play. They ended up gelling together and winning 6 conference games in a row. Mike Brey definitely hopes this will be a similar situation, but the loss of Abromaitis will really hurt this team. It is still unknown whether Abromaitis will receive a sixth year injury exception, but it is a possibility.
Syracuse Fires Assistant Coach Bernie Fine Amid Abuse Allegations
(Mallory Jean Tenore/Poynter.org)
Shortly after the Penn State Jerry Sandusky case became major news, Bernie Fine received accusations of sexual abuse from a former ball boy at Syracuse. While coach Jim Boeheim and former players backed the long time Orangmen assistant, there have been multiple accusers and a taped phone conversation with his wife with accuser Bobby Davis proclaiming her belief in his story. This has led to the firing of Bernie Fine and some questions about the handling of Davis' story, which he first tried to make public in 2002.
The Post-Standard claimed there was a six month investigation into Davis' allegations, but with no corroboration of his story, police investigation or trial, they did not have sufficient evidence to publish an article. Mallory Jean Tenore writes about how this case leads to a great number of questions of how to handle these allegations and stories. This case is incredibly sad and provides a lot to think about as far as handling these situations, not to mention casting a major shadow over college sports in general.
Harvard Upsets #22 Florida State in Battle 4 Atlantis
After University of Central Florida beating Connecticut, Harvard made it an underdog final at the Battle 4 Atlantis. In a game in which defense played a major factor, the Ivy League Crimson beat ACC power Florida State 46-41. This was the first Harvard victory over a ranked opponent since 2009 and moved them to 5-0 on the season. They also won the tournament after beating UCF in the final, 59-49. The Crimson are lead by forwards Kyle Casey and Keith Wright, who was named the tournament MVP.
In the semifinal game, FSU's Michael Snaer led the game with 10 points and was the lone player in double figures on either team. Guard Oliver McNally lead the Crimson with 7 points and 6 boards. Eben Novy-Williams also points out that Harvard, the pre-season favorite in the Ivy League, has not played in the NCAA Tourney since 1946! Tommy Amaker seems to be making the Crimson an Ivy League powerhouse. With Wright being the returning conference player of the year and a win over a ranked team under their belt, seems like a long drought is about to end for Harvard.
Khem Birch Records Double Double In First Career Start
(John Grupp/Pittsburgh Review Tribune)
After putting up some underwhelming numbers in limited minutes, Khem Birch received his first start in Pittsburgh's Friday game against Penn in the Philly Hoop Group Classic. Filling in for Dante Taylor, who was unable to play due to migraines, Birch had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in 29 minutes as Pitt won 78-58. He also recorded 8, 11 and 6 in 28 minutes in a Sunday victory over Rider, 81-71. The long and lanky F/C is still rather raw, but it is good to see him show some promise after a rather slow first 4 games. Birch will probably play a slightly lesser role once Taylor is able to come back, but he is a fantastic athlete and with some seasoning, should be a solid NBA Draft prospect. We will see if he is able to make an impact in Big East play, where Pittsburgh again hopes to be a contender.
Florida Forward Erik Murphy Out Indefinitely
(Greg Luca/The Independent Florida Alligator)
In some more injury news on the college front, the Gators will not have the services of starting PF Erik Murphy for an undisclosed amount of time due to torn meniscus in his right knee. Despite fantastic depth at guard, the #10 Gators have a pretty thin front court. Luckily, in sophomore Will Yeguete showed definite promise, notching a double-double in 26 minutes, plus getting 4 steals in a 96-70 win over Stetson. Yeguete is a big time athlete from Bordeaux, France and showed flashes of his potential playing for France's U-20 team. Billy Donovan, who picked up his 400th career win in the victory, is probably hoping Murphy comes back sooner rather than later. The 6'10 Murphy is a sharp shooting 4 man who was scoring a couple triples per game at a 57.1% clip this season. Yeguete is a better athlete and rebounder, but Murphy's size and experience are key factors to the Gators being ranked this high in the polls.
Hard work paying off for SLU's Conklin
I did not really know what to expect from the St. Louis Billikens, but thus far they are one of the more intriguing teams of the early season. The A-10 school is 6-0, winning every game by double digits. This includes four straight wins over schools from major conferences, including Washington, Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma. Brian Conklin, nicknamed "the Oregon Destroyer" due to his roots in Eugene, Oregon, has established himself as the teams leader.
Conklin is a 6'6 and 230 pound PF who definitely is not afraid to mix it up inside. Oklahoma recently felt his wrath to the tune of 25 points on 9-11 FG and 7-7 FT, en route to capturing the MVP of the 76 Classic in Anaheim. He is averaging 17 and 4.7 for the year and has the Billikens looking like an A-10 favorite and a likely NCAA tourney team. The Billikens have excellent coaching in Rick Majerus and luckily have star PG Kwamain Mitchell back after a full season suspension in 2010-11. Still, if the Billikens hope to have success as a team, it looks like the Oregon Destroyer will be leading the way.
Reggie Hamilton Scores 35 for Oakland in Win Over Tennessee
(Tom Markowski/The Detroit News)
The Vols lost 2 out of 3 games in the Maui Invitational, but kept it respectable versus than #6 Duke and took than #8 Memphis to two OT's. Still, they had yet to take on Reggie Hamilton of Oakland, who went off for 35 points in a 89-81 win over the Vols. After averaging 13.8 ppg through Oakland's first 4 games, Reggie went off for 34 against Utah Valley, only to top the performance the very next game against Tennessee. Last season, Hamilton finished right behind 2011 NBA Draft pick Keith Benson in scoring at 17.6 ppg. He is now averaging 20.7 ppg for 4-2 Oakland and seems to be heading in an upward swing. Though he is only 5-11, Hamilton should make some noise this season and is a mid-major player to keep an eye on.
#11 Xavier Gets Road OT Win Versus #19 Vanderbilt
(AP/Salt Lake Tribune)
Xavier rallied from being down 10 and ended up getting an 82-70 win over Vanderbilt. Mark Lyons hit a tying shot in the final seconds of regulation and Tu Holloway scored 10 of his 24 points in OT. The duo shot a combined 13-38 (34.2%) on the game, but obviously hit them when it mattered the most. Lyons finished with 19 points and 4 steals, which helped keep Xavier a perfect 5-0. Vandy was led by John Jenkins with 20 and also received 18 point games from Jeffery Taylor and Lance Goulbourne as Vandy fell to 5-2. This was the first ranked win of the season for the Musketeers, as they look to repeat as coach Chris Mack and the squad hopes to add to Xavier's five straight regular season conference titles.
Thank you all for reading, I'm sure everyone is incredibly excited about the NBA season starting! Come back and check out the NCAA Daily stories for the latest on college basketball news and some insight into future draftees.