Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: February 9, 2012 11:54 pm
 

Coach who slayed Murray State speaks

John Cooper's Tennessee State team got one of the biggest wins in program history tonight. (AP)
By Matt Norlander

The last time Tennessee State beat Murray State at Murray State in regulation was the 1995-96 season. That was also the last season the Tigers finished a campaign with a winning record (15-13).

Thursday night, Tennessee State not only got that ever-elusive W at Murray State, in regulation, after a 16-year wait, but the Tigers also ensured themselves of an above-.500 record. I was able to speak with TSU third-year coach John Cooper after the game. He talked and walked from the CFSB Center to the bus.

Once he got on the bus, I could tell immediately. It was quite joyous in the background, you see (as I heard). I suspect that two-hour ride from Murray, Ky., to Nashville, Tenn., didn’t dip much in volume or enthusiasm.

This could very well be the win that defines 16-10 Tennessee State’s season. Only one team every year gets the unique delight and reward of playing spoiler to the sport’s final unbeaten. Unlikely as it was, Tennessee State smashed Murray State’s undefeated hopes Thursday night with the 72-68 outcome.

Cooper said his guys didn’t need calming down. They weren’t anxious in timeout huddles and there was no need to stress about the situation at halftime, when Murray State led 40-33. The Tigers trailed most of the second half, too. That was a “benefit,” according to Cooper, who didn’t do anything outside of the ordinary in terms of prep for this game.

Same type of scouting, same type of practice, all of it to the familiar beat Cooper and his coaches have used and helped earn the team a season-best six-game winning streak.

“I’m not one of those guys where we go and do a bunch of different things. This group simply does better by staying true to what we do,” he said. Murray State star Isaiah Canaan, who had his fourth game of more than 30 points (31) got his despite State doing its best to contain him.

“We tried to guard him well and he shot the tar out of the basketball,” Cooper said. “The goal was not to let him get his and stop everyone else.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Canaan got most of his and yet Murray State couldn’t get a home win in conference. Normally, a league’s best team getting a huge performance from the league’s best player doesn’t end in an L.

Cooper was pretty measured after what is fair to call the biggest win of his young career. He took over this team in 2009 and soon found himself with only four scholarship players thanks to the exodus of transfers that can come with a program like Tennessee State losing a head coach (Cy Alexander).

“Quite frankly, we haven’t had a lot of success in recent history with our basketball program,” Cooper said. “You don’t just jump right up and beat the big boys.”

It took him six tries, but he finally got Murray State, which is the class of the Ohio Valley — the Duke or Syracuse or UCLA of that league. He's proud. I let him talk for a few minutes after asking a general question about the program. If this sounds like he's letting off steam, he wasn't. I think Cooper was affirming aloud to himself how big the win was and how long it had been since the program was so surely moving in a good direction.

“This hasn’t happened in our program in a long time. It’s just one win, though,” Cooper said. “No one has ever, once, said anything about us. I’m not knocking the media, but no one was saying anything about us, even when they (Murray State) played SEMO (Southeast Missouri State), and that’s fine. We don’t go about that like we have a chip on our shoulder. We’ve got to prove it, and rightfully so. To win like this, it’s really hard to do this.”

Hard, sure, but also a lot of fun. The party on that bus proves it.

Posted on: February 9, 2012 10:35 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 10:40 pm
 

Murray State finally loses its first game

Isaiah Canaan's superb play, for once, wasn't enough. (AP)

By Matt Norlander


College basketball needed 94 days, but just as it’s happened every time for the past 36 years, there will be no undefeated team in the sport this season. Everyone finishes with a flaw. Murray State, surprisingly, earned its first flaw by falling on its home floor to Ohio Valley foe Tennessee State Thursday night, 72-68.

Tennessee State’s actually putting a nice run together; it's now won six straight, the longest streak of its season. Before tonight, third-year Tigers coach John Cooper had faced Murray State five times. His record: 0-5 with an average losing margin of 19.2 points. Yes. Unexpected. The last win for the Tigers over the Racers came on Valentine's Day in 2008.

The Racers were done in by two things, specifically: three turnovers in the final 12 seconds and eagerness to create T-shirts that boasted of the team's accomplishments. They had their chances Thursday night, though. In fact, the Steve Prohm's team should have won, stumbles and falls and all. Tennessee State, a team not particularly outstanding in any major statistical category, had a season-high 15 steals tonight. Racers star Isaiah Canaan scored 31, but his teammates combined for the other 37 points on 13-of-37 shooting, 3-of-13 from 3-point range.

There’s a slow and undeniable crank to any team’s season that gets to February without a scratch. When that team’s a mid-major unaccustomed to the spotlight and national attention, the vice squeezes even harder. Without knowing how the Murray State bus rides and locker room and practice sessions have been the past two or three weeks, it's fair to spice in that assumption as to why the run ended the way it did.

The real let-down here is that Murray State doesn’t get to face Saint Mary’s in BracketBusters without a loss. If it had, that game would’ve been the highlight of next Saturday’s slate. Now, it’s an intriguing game but certainly not the marquee.

This is how Murray State's perfection came undone. Thanks to RunTheFloor.com for getting the quick video.



We still love you, Racers fans.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 9, 2012 5:22 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 5:44 pm
 

Self says Taylor's playing at unprecedented level

Taylor's playing as well in 2012 as Bill Self could expect. (Getty Images)
By Matt Norlander

Tyshawn Taylor playing unlike any guard Bill Self's coached at Kansas? That's what Self is saying.

Self joined Jeff Goodman and Bruce Pearl on today's ep of "SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball," and I've done you the kind favor of editing out most of Goodman's voice in the clip below. We'll get to that in a minute. Thomas Robinson is the key, the glue, the most important part of Kansas. Without him, KU's probably a bubble team, Jayhawks fans.

But Taylor, who once was so inconsistent -- and still can be with the turnover issues -- has come to live since the calendar turned to 2012. He's now the fifth-leading scorer in the Big 12, putting up 17 even per game, and he's not scored fewer than 15 in a game since Jan. 7, against Oklahoma. What's intriguing to me about Taylor is, he's definitely a player where you've got to watch him. Watch him a lot, because his stats don't tell his whole story; he's too much of a wild card to rely on what the paper says.

Self is a happy coach right now. Kansas can actually win this league again because Robinson's raised his play to a level few could anticipate, and Taylor's come on to play the way a senior should. Most of the time, at least.

"He makes plays you can't coach and makes plays that look like he's never been coach -- just in a span of seconds," Self said. "We have not had a guard since I've been at Kansas that's played as well as he 's played for as long as he's played."

High praise.

Self talks Tyshawn

Posted on: February 9, 2012 12:02 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 12:17 pm
 

Better comeback: Duke-Maryland or Duke-UNC?

Last night certainly had to be one of the five best games in Duke-UNC history. (AP)

By Matt Norlander


As Duke was improbably bombing its way back into the game against North Carolina Wednesday night, I suddenly, near the very end, remembered how I'd seen this show before. Eleven years ago, Duke erased a 12-point deficit in less than a minute at the end of regulation in Maryland's Cole Field House. Duke won 98-96 in overtime. It's become one of the five biggest games in Blue Devils lore. It's definitely the most memorable Duke game from that season. By the way, the Blue Devils won it all that year. It might take you a second or two or five to remember the team they beat in the national title game.

But you remember the Maryland game instantly.

I think we'll remember Duke 85, North Carolina 84 instantly 11 years from now as well.

Wednesday night, Duke swiped away a 10-point Carolina lead in the final 2:15. And unlike the Maryland game, this one didn't need overtime. Unlike the Maryland game, this one had the best ending a basketball game can get: a do-or-die shot that falls true with not a millisecond remaining on the scoreboard. Was it better? Which game was better? I don't know, and don't care much to debate that. I'd have to re-watch the Duke-Maryland game (which can be done on ESPN Classic tonight at 8 p.m., by the way) to get a true sense.
Boozer and Krzyzewski in 2001 at Cole Field House. (AP)


Instead, let's debate the comebacks. Which tops the other? Duke had more time to kill off the lead against its hated rival, and is considered the inferior team. In the Maryland game, against its faux rival, both teams were good, but Duke was seen as superior. Maryland still hadn't slayed that dragon yet. In fact, in retrospect, it's interesting to see Maryland lose that game. It's like the Jordan Bulls continuing to lose to the Pistons before getting over the hump. Maryland won the '02 title, you'll recall.

The most impressive aspect to the '01 game was the fact Duke didn't have any timeouts. Watch the video below. Interesting to hear the crowd cheer when the PA announcer says, "We have one minute play," the Maryland fans in attendance blissfully ignorant of imminently being first-hand witnesses to Terp brutality and ACC history.

Once Jay (back then, "Jason") Williams sinks a twisting layup, Mike Patrick says, "They need a miracle." And they get it. Drew Nicholas botches two free throws, and even when Duke's five points and 45 seconds away from sending the game to an extra session, Patrick and Brad Daugherty seem to know what's going to happen before it happens. Eerie to listen to them know yet not know at all what's around the corner.

That wasn't the feeling you got last night. Last night's comeback seemed to shrink from 10 points to 3 on that last possession, when after Zeller missed the free throw, we all realized, Hey, Duke can win this thing right now. That's when Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman, as Austin Rivers was bringing the ball up the floor, had their premonition.

To me, last night trumps '01, and here's why: Rivers hit the first true, game-winning buzzer-beater in the history of North Carolina-Duke. That's weighty and really, quite surprising. Williams, who had a game-high 25 -- eight coming in the final minute --  in the Miracle Minute, even said last night's game might top what he and Carlos Boozer and Shane Battier and the rest of the Devils did in Cole Field House.

Last night's game also had a play you almost never see, that accidental tip-in by Tyler Zeller that gave Ryan Kelly's errant 3 ... two points, since it wasn't going to fall through the hoop. There is also a twinge of controversy to Duke's comeback, as Seth Curry hit a 24-foot shot with 1:47 to go. The problem? He clear-as-day traveled before releasing the ball. Officials didn't pick it up, as his momentum and natural shooting motion seemed to play tricks on the stripes as they ran up the floor during a transition offensive play. The butterfly effect was in play.

In the Maryland game, Duke never lost the lead in overtime. They carried the momentum into the extra session and
finished off the game with plays you never see in highlights these days. But Duke was expected to win that game. Against Carolina, most expected UNC to win by double digits. Duke was coming off a miserable home loss to Miami. It was out of flow and without direction.

But then punky frosh Austin Rivers capped off a comeback, hitting his team's 13th 3-pointer with one of the biggest daggers this rivalry will ever know. If it doesn't get bigger than Duke-Carolina, than how can last night's double-digit comeback on the road not eclipse the Miracle Minute? Wednesday night's game doesn't have the flashy nickname or unprecedented packed-in run of points, but it does have the better highlight. Watch both videos and give me your vote.





Posted on: February 9, 2012 9:05 am
 

Wakeup Call: Still buzzing from last night

By Matt Norlander

Yeah, just love that .GIF.

How the Internet made Jeremy Lin an instant star. Fascinating. // A couple of politicians are still ticked at each other over realignment. // Athletic departments are finally coming around on social media. How 'bout that. // The mystery man behind 5-Hour-Energy. Also fascinating. // Well, isn't that embarrassing ...

★ Thank your lucky stars I had Night Court and Wakeup Call duty last night, Mike Miller. I also had this post in the works, but he beat me to it: Duke beats UNC, in photos.

★ The UNC fan who already knew Rivers' shot was going in before it fell.

★ The win probability for UNC was cruising nice and high -- then went Wile E Coyote.

★ Andy Staples on how the Rivers shot happened.

★ And, of course, here's Parrish's take. So much to read on an incredible ending.

★ Central Florida fans mocked Marshall coach Tom Herrion with choreographed fake heart attacks last night.
 
★ How often do you see an official put out a statement regarding something that happened in a game? Read what led that very thing to happening last night.

★ Before Duke and UNC went out and took over the college basketball universe again, Pat Forde put up this smirky (I say that in a good way) column about UConn and its groveling.

★ The University of North Dakota is essentially telling the NCAA to go screw itself now that it will continue to use its Fighting Sioux nickname. I'm already munching on popcorn. Go, UND!

★ St. John's loses another player, but this one's got an interesting twist to it.

★ You can already sign up for March Madness On Demand.

★ Is Wayne Blackshear nine days away from suiting up for Louisville?

★ Someone has been tracking all of Jon Rothstein's player comparisons, and I think this is hilarious.

★ I wish I could be at DoMo Bobblehead Night.

♬ For reasons I can't understand, Blood, Sweet & Tears isn't considered to be one of the best bands of the '70s. The bands early records are untouchable, basically. The jazz interpolations fused into their rock opera/Broadway-sounding writing was one-of-a-kind.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 9, 2012 12:05 am
Edited on: February 9, 2012 12:24 am
 

Night Court: One of the best nights this season

Syracuse: still only has one loss thanks to Kris Joseph's clutch shooting Wednesday night. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Matt Norlander

Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday night’s reaffirming slate of games …

Game of the Night:  Syracuse and Georgetown was the better game. And that's the tremendous thing about it. When most of the sports world tuned in to ESPN to watch two classic hoops rivalries, both tilts delivered in a huge way. And Syracuse and Georgetown better continue to play games at the Carrier Dome going forward. (Syracuse is headed to the ACC very soon.) The sweet came in the way the overtime played out. The Orange -- who, by the way, will get overshadowed again thanks to Austin Rivers -- played terribly but still got the win, 64-61 in the extra session. Jim Boeheim's angry with the world, even though he passed Dean Smith's record for all-time wins, now owning 880.

Game of the Night, No. 2: Duke and Carolina added a thick chapterto the sport's best rivalry. This comeback doesn't top Duke's against Maryland more than a decade ago, but it's close. UNC had no business losing that game at home. We'll have more on the site soon, and you can check Parrish's reaction from Chapel Hill in the post below this one.

Win to brag about: Notre Dame is an 8-3 Big East team. This is 10 times more shocking than Jeremy Lin’s week. Mike Brey’s team is headed to the tournament so long as it avoids the fact that it is Notre Dame and is playing each game with pixie dust. The Irish went on the road and won against West Virginia, 55-51. Notre Dame's tremendous season takes another back seat tonight because of the other two huge games.

Loss to hide from: Baylor, you can't hide tonight. You want to. Most will overlook you, but I won't. Not here. Awful performance by the Bears, who got punked at home by Kansas, 68-54. Baylor's soft. It plays in stretches that mirror the kind of effort you see from bad JV teams at the end of the season. Baylor could win every game from now until the end of the Big 12 tournament: it’s still not getting a one seed. The Bears got conclusively slammed to the mat by Kansas tonight. Great for the Jayhawks, who might just end up winning the damn Big 12 again, against some serious odds, but Baylor's bandwagon emptied, and they should be mocked for how they laid down.

Loss to hide from: It’s not hard to win at Boston College. But it’s hard for Florida State, which is building up quite the bipolar resume. The Seminoles leave Beantown with a 64-60 loss in their pockets. PUKE.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Austin Rivers. Twenty-nine on the road in the biggest game of his life to date. Then he hits the game-winning 3 over the other player who'd played so well, Tyler Zeller. Watershed moment tonight for Rivers and his role on this team going forward. Toss him the keys, K.

Another player who deserves improper benefits: Jeff Withey's career-high 25 for Kansas deserves recognition. Incredible job by him tonight, pulling Kansas to a runaway win.

Numbers don’t lie

  • 46-4. According to my man John Gasaway, Drexel, VCU, ODU, George Mason and Georgia St. are 46-4 against the rest of the CAA. Wowow.
  • 28-1. And if you thought that was dominance, consider LIU Brooklyn, Wagner and St. Francis (NY) are 28-1 vs. NEC foes.
  • 6.  In the NEC, Wagner reached 20 wins. Sixth time it's done it. 
  • 33%. That's Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik's record in the ACC to date. Among the worst in league history.  the worst coach in recent ACC history? Bob Wade won 41% of games. Les Robinson, 44%. Buzz: 33%.
  • 10. Zeller needs another bump for his play which was so good until the end, when he inadvertently tipped in a Duke ball, missed a free throw and didn't get a hand in Rivers' face before the game-winner. Zeller's now at 10 double-doubles this season, which is twice as many as he had in the past three years.

Three other notable results

  1. Southern Miss goes into UAB and takes on some water, falling 71-61, losing its second C-USA game.
  2. I sold too soon on Saint Louis, which got to 7-3 in the A10 tonight with a 72-60 win at St. Joe’s tonight. Billikens will be a tournament team.
  3. La Salle lost 78-76 at mediocre Richmond tonight, and so their Atlantic 10 honeymoon is officially over.

Notes

  • So long as I’m in charge of Night Court, you won’t see another Arkansas result passed along. The Hogs fell 81-59 AT GEORGIA, and remain winless on the road this season. Mike Anderson’s team was never a serious NCAA tournament threat, but this cements their complete irrelevance this season.
  • I almost want to go there with Pitt, but I’ll still hold out and see what the Panthers can scrounge up down the stretch. Pitt fell at South Florida tonight, swiftly debunking a lot of the good ink they’d gotten over the past two weeks. Also not a tournament team.
  • After 15 straight wins by the MAC East over the MAC West, Toledo's 77-73 W against Ohio ends the intra-conference massacre.
  • Seton Hall avoided a season-ending loss tonight at Rutgers. Giants wide receive Victor Cruz was there to watch.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 8, 2012 3:06 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 3:07 pm
 

Report: Air Force fires its head coach

By Matt Norlander

Air Force has fired its coach, Jeff Reynolds, according to Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

A press conference on Wednesday afternoon is scheduled to formally announce the change. Assistant Dave Pilipovich is expected to take the reigns for the remainder of the year, according to Schwab. Air Force, 11-10, has lost its last six games and never finished above .500 under Reynolds, who took the job in 2007.

Reynolds' firing is the fourth in-season boot in college hoops this year.

Posted on: February 8, 2012 11:56 am
Edited on: February 8, 2012 12:34 pm
 

Buckeyes still aren't too far behind the Wildcats

Sure, Ohio State might not be AS good as Kentucky right now, but they're not that far behind. (Getty Images)

By Matt Norlander

Let's not go lose ourselves in the moment.

Let's not say Kentucky's better than everyone else right now by a significant margin. I know a lot of you want to. I know many want the two or three really big, really easy, really fun storylines to push and discuss and squeeze the sport into an easy, five-minute conversation. But to say Kentucky is indisputably hovering over the landscape is premature. College basketball still has another one-loss team in Syracuse, after all. But I'm not even going to address the Orange right now. They're good, and I likely won't think any less of them tonight, should they lose to rival Georgetown.

Ohio State is the one I've got my eye on. You know, the team who also has a player-of-the-year candidate, multiple future pros and a defense that's better than anyone's, statistically, in the country. The Buckeyes absolutely deserve inclusion into the club -- not that they ever were unworthy enough to get kicked out. In the wake of Kentucky's cruise-control win over Florida last night, and surely with commentary cooking in the oven right now, you'd be easily led to believe college hoops' hierarchy looks like this:

Kentucky

--

Syracuse
Ohio State
Missouri
North Carolina
Baylor
Kansas

--

Fill in the rest

In reality, it's more like this:

Kentucky
Syracuse
Ohio State

--

The rest

Right now, that's the fair configuration. If you wanted to put Missouri in the top group, I wouldn't argue all that much, either. Remember, when it comes to Ohio State, we're talking about a team that's the best in points per possession defense. Kentucky, known for its D with Anthony Davis, actually has moved into the best offense, surpassing Missouri. Ohio State: No. 1 in adjusted defense, No. 9 in adjusted offense. Kentucky: Tops in offense, No. 7 in D. There's not that much difference between the two right now.

The Buckeyes allow .84 PPP, tied with Wisconsin for tops in the country. In KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency, tOSU is still tops, even after a miserable defensive performance against Purdue. It was in the mid-.70s until Purdue went on a 3-point bonanza at Value City Arena Tuesday night. Ohio State forces more turnovers and gives it away less, too.

I do think Kentucky's better than Ohio State. I was the only one here at CBS HQ who picked UK to win it all in the preseason, and I've never wavered on that. But I think OSU belongs on the same shelf right now. The Buckeyes have one of the best defenders in college basketball, too. For all that Anthony Davis does to block and alter shots (by the way, Davis is the most efficient offensive player in the nation. Ridiculous.), Aaron Craft causes as much havoc lower to the floor. Seriously: check the stats and see how much damage he does. He's the compact, scarlet-and-gray version of Davis for OSU's D.

Also, take a look at the overall strength of schedule, Ohio State: 34. Kentucky: 71. And UK, as many have pointed out, still has road games against the SEC's best remaining. We're cruising into mid-February and it's great to see these teams mold into their true selves, but we've still got lots of ball to see. To say Kentucky definitively lifted itself above the riffraff last night is premature. In time, they can, and in a way, I hope they do, because I love domination in sports. It creates polarity and polarity drives interest.

The good news is, I think we get a real verdict on this in the coming two weeks. Ohio State gets Michigan State at home this weekend, then goes to Minnesota and Michigan. It needs to win all three to remain elite, most likely. Kentucky has Vandy on the road Saturday, then gets Mississippi State in Starkville on Feb. 21.

If there's this desire to make Kentucky College Basketball's Great Team, why can't we extend that to two, three or four other teams? All have viable cases at the moment.

Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com