Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:42 pm

Missouri State's Weems shows loyalty paying off

By Jeff Goodman

OMAHA, Neb. - Kyle Weems had every excuse to bolt. 

New coach, seven new faces and a team that was set to be picked in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley. 

However, Weems - who could have taken advantage of the NCAA's fifth-year rule and played for a high-profile program such as Kansas, Kansas State or Oregon this year - remained at Missouri State. 

"It was flattering," Weems said moments after torching Creighton for 31 points in a 77-65 road upset. "But I love this university. I didn't want to leave this place." 

"I could have left," said Weems, who would have needed to finish an internship in the summer. "But I didn't want to be like that. My mother and father raised me not to run from challenges." 

Weems was the Valley's reigning Player of the Year, but the rest of the starting unit from the Bears team that went 26-9 overall and 15-3 in the league had moved on. The leading returning scorer to accompany Weems was Caleb Patterson, who played just 13.6 minutes last season. 

Then his coach, Cuonzo Martin, left for Tennessee. 

"I never worried about him leaving, mostly because of the people around him -- his mom and dad," new coach Paul Lusk said. "He's too good of a kid and has so much substance." 

There was Weems, who had struggled for much of the season with a new, unproven cast surround him, draining key 3-pointers in the second half to give the Bears the unlikely road victory over a Creighton team that entered the contest ranked 19th in the nation. 

Outplaying the guy on the other side, Doug McDermott, who had received far more accolades for his play thus far this season. 

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to come out and prove something -- not only for the team," Weems said. "But this was huge for us. It shows that we're still a team to be reckoned with." 

But this was a Missouri State team that has Weems and a bunch of guys that few know much about. Lusk had no option but to add a couple of junior college guys in Anthony Downing and Jarmar Gulley. He took Michael Bizoukas and handed him the starting point guard spot despite being nothing more than a role guy for the last three seasons at DePaul. He was forced to give Caleb Patterson major minutes even though he rarely played meaningful time on last season's veteran-laden team. 

It was a Bears team that came into the game with a 7-5 record, one that has been omitted from the conversation when discussing potential Missouri Valley teams that could make their way into the NCAA tournament conversation. 

"I understand it," Weems said of the lower expectations. "But it's hard to deal with it." 

Weems had also struggled individually, averaging 14.3 points while shooting below 40 percent from the field and just 33 percent from beyond the arc. But it was just a matter of time before he broke out -- and it happened in the second half on Wednesday when he scored 25 of his points and made all three of his attempts from long distance. 

"Every coach hoped he didn't bust out against them," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "But it happened tonight." 

In the same uniform he's donned for the past three years. 

Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:46 pm

Podcast: Doug McDermott vs. Barnes debate begins

By Matt Norlander

It's that soft spot between Christmas and New Year's, but lots of good basketball is about to get going thanks to conference play starting in earnest. Goodman, Parrish and I have our weekly Wednesday podcast here to discuss: Jordan Taylor's somehow underrated play this year; Creighton's Doug McDermott is about to explode on the national college hoops landscape; Rick Pitino can't be trusted; and this week is so huge for Louisville. The next three games, really: Wednesday vs. Georgetown; Saturday at Kentucky; Jan. 3 against St. John's.
We mix in some other things, too, particularly at the beginning, when I learn Parrish was once a pizza delivery boy.

  • From the beginning: Some weekend wrap-up/catchup chatter. Sometimes this is the best parts of the podcast. It wanders into talking about Seth Greenberg, because of course.
  • 9:00: As for the here and now, it starts with Jordan Taylor, who Goodman saw in person last night. He's not having a down year, you know.
  • 16:29: Now we get to Doug McDermott, who's having an insane year, a First Team All America-level year so far. We've been on McDermott since the summer, but it feels like the coming weeks will finally bring widespread pub and love to a player who's doing much better so far this season than a guy named Jimmer last season.
  • 20:50: This conversation/debate could gain traction if McDermott continues to play so well, but we touch on Harrison Barnes vs. McDermott as college players (the two were high school teammates).
  • 24:09: Why we do not believe Rick Pitino.
  • 27:56: Podcast comes to a close with a nine-minute discussion on the next three games for U of L: Georgetown, Kentucky, St. John's (yes, St. John's). I think it's the most critical non-postseason three-game stretch the Cards have this season.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 3:29 pm

Missouri Valley has look of multiple-bid league

By Jeff Goodman

The Missouri Valley has been a one-bid league for the past four years. 

That'll change this season. 

League commissioner Doug Elgin isn't quite ready to put his league on par with 2005 and 2006, but he's also not afraid to admit that this year the conference should be in position to receive multiple bids come March. 

The top four teams -- Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State and Northern Iowa -- are 36-7 overall. All rank in the Top 50 of the RPI and the league certainly has the look and feel of a multiple-bid conference this season. 

Back in mid-December of 2005-06, when the Valley wound up with three teams in the NCAA tournament, there were six teams in the RPI's Top 75 and the non-conference mark for the league was 57-20. The next season, when a record four schools got into the Big Dance, there were four teams in the Top 75 and the non-conference record was 66-22. 

This season there are four teams in the Top 50 and the non-conference record is 70-33. 

"We're decidedly stronger and deeper than we've been in the last three or four years," Elgin said. "Juniors and seniors are leading the way, and we have some really good point guards on the contending programs." 

There are some marquee wins for the league as well. Indiana State took care of Vanderbilt with its star big man, Festus Ezeli; Wichita State defeated UNLV; and Creighton knocked off San Diego State on the road. The league isn't ranked second or third in the RPI - as it was back in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons - but it's eighth overall. 

Creighton is considered the premiere team in the league and also boasts the frontrunner for conference Player of the Year honors -- Doug McDermott. But Greg Lansing's Indiana State team proved it may be improved from a year ago -- when it went to the NCAA tournament -- with the win in Nashville against Vandy. Gregg Marshall has his best overall team since arriving at Wichita State, with five guys in double-figures, and Ben Jacobsen has made certain Northern Iowa hasn't fallen off the map since the huge upset over Kansas in the NCAA tournament a couple years ago. 

Elgin said that there has clearly been an increased commitment by the league as a whole to boost their non-conference schedules.

"Part of the problem the last few years was that the teams that ended up being our strongest didn't have the non-conference schedules," Elgin admitted. 

Elgin also said coaching stability has something to do with the success this season. Missouri State's Paul Lusk is the only rookie coach. New Bradley coach Geno Ford has experience coming from Kent State and every other coach has at least three years of head coaching experience in the league except for Lansing - who was an assistant coach for the Sycamores before getting the head gig. 

"It's too early to start counting our chickens," Elgin said. "But I think we're certainly getting close to where we were." 


Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:02 pm

Non-BCS Power Pyramid, Week 3

By Matt Norlander

Every Monday, we’re going to be giving you readers and fans and coaches more and more reason to hate us. How can we do this outside of just being our natural, irritating selves? By ranking as many teams in as many ways as possible, of course. And we won’t reserve our judgment for your scorn in big-boy country. No, we’d like to alienate ourselves to the fan bases around the nation, mid-major schools included.

This feature serves as a complement to the weekly Top 25 and One, which you can read right here.

No more ado — here’s how we see it, the 15 best non-BCS teams in college basketball as of Monday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m ET.

Top Tier

1. Xavier (6-0). A Sentence: There’s a considerable difference between X and everyone else, when you take into account the Muskies’ wins over Vandy on the road and the comeback W against Purdue last week. A Statistic: The only major flaw with Chris Mack’s team right now is the free-throw shooting. X is under 60 percent as a team. Will get them eventually. The Schedule: at Butler Wednesday; vs. Cincinnati Saturday.

2. Iona (6-1). A Sentence: Saw this team in person a week ago, and no joke, they look incredibly dangerous for pretty much any team outside of the top five right now. A Statistic: The Gaels are scoring 1.14 points per possession, which is definitely good, but a little less than I expected from the highest-scoring and highest assisting team in the country. The Schedule: at Denver Wednesday; at Marshall Sunday.

3. Harvard (8-0). A Sentence: I’d love for Harvard to justify me putting them this high with a win Thursday, but they merely need to keep it compelling. A Statistic: The Crimson have been helped by a “defensive” stat they have such little control over: free throw defense. Opponents are shooting an NCAA-worst 54 percent from the line against them. The Schedule: at Connecticut Thursday; at Boston University Saturday.

Ron Swanson Approves

4. UNLV (8-1): A Sentence: Beating North Carolina, then losing on the road at a Power Pyramid Wichita State team equates to a UNLV team smelling the Pyramid’s ceiling. A Statistic: 52.2 was the percentage from 3-point range the Shockers put up against UNLV over the weekend. It was the first time this season Vegas has had a team shoot better than 50 percent against them from downtown. The Schedule: vs. NAIA Cal State San Marcos Wednesday; at Wisconsin Saturday.

5. Creighton (7-0). A Sentence: Greg McDermott’s team is playing so well because his son is on his way to an Adam Morrison-like year in terms of offense. A Statistic: Remarkably, the Jay’s effective field goal percentage has rise, up to a still-tops-in-the-U.S. 60.9 clip. The Schedule: at St. Joseph’s Saturday.

6. Gonzaga (5-1). A Sentence: I’m not quite sure what Gonzaga will become, but I do know they’ve got plenty of chances, plenty of talent, and believe they’d beat everyone below them here on a neutral floor more times than not (as of today). A Statistic: The game, and loss, to Illinois was the first road game of Gonzaga’s season. Last year, the team was 7-5 on the road, and didn’t get above .500 in that category until the end of the year. More road woes coming this year?. The Schedule: vs. Michigan State Saturday.

7. Saint Louis (7-1). A Sentence: Have been impressed with Saint Louis so far, but for reasons I won’t expound upon here and now, I still remain wary. A Statistic: Saint Louis is in the shorter half of D-I teams, and they’re rebounding like it. The 24.2 offensive rebounding percentage will eventually need to come up, unless the team’s able to keep the eFG% above 58 (which it is now). The Schedule: vs. Vermont Wednesday; vs. D-II Illinois Springfield Saturday.

8. San Diego State (8-2). A Sentence: Interesting about this team right now: the numbers don’t love it, but boy have I and so many others been impressed. A Statistic: Despite the strong start, Aztecs are 58 in KenPom. Where’s the love? BYU is 21! The Schedule: at San Diego Wednesday.

9. Memphis (4-2). A Sentence: Tigers had a couple of patsies last weeks, so they fall slightly be default. A Statistic: Just take notice of the team above and the team right here. One’s played 10 games, the other six. There is a lot of room to flex between groups right now; we’ll have a better sense of the Pyramid’s hierarchy in about three weeks. The Schedule: at Miami Tuesday; vs. Murray State Sunday.

10. Belmont (5-2). A Sentence: I’ll take this moment this week to say: Unless Belmont starts ripping up opponents by 20-plus on the regular, they’re just going to be a really good, nondescript team off most non-Pyramid radars until late February. A Statistic: Last year, Belmont was one of the best teams in the country at turning you over. This year, it’s the opposite. The 14.1 offensive turnover rate is third-best nationally. The Schedulevs. Tennessee State Tuesday.

Base Blocks

11. Northern Iowa (7-1). A Sentence: The Valley is going to be a multi-bid league this year, and UNI will be making the NCAAs — yes, I’m saying that on Dec. 5. A Statistic: The Panthers’ D, giving up .93 points per possession, hasn’t been given enough love so far. Let’s see if this team can become as good on the D end as the 2009-10 group. The Schedule: vs. Iowa Tuesday; vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday.

12. Temple (4-2). A Sentence: Pretty sure Owls are in a tough spot this week; they’ll most definitely need to go 2-0 to remain inside the Pyramid’s walls on Dec. 12. A Statistic: Owls senior Michael Eric is currently taking more of your misses than anyone else. He possess a 34.6 success rate at grabbing defensive boards. The Schedule: at Toledo Wednesday; vs. Villanova Saturday.

13. New Mexico (6-2). A Sentence: Sophomore guard Kendall Williams has turned into a better player than I’d expected and is the reason UNM keeps a logo on this graphic. A Statistic: 23-4. That was the opening run to start Saturday’s game against Missouri State, which was in the Power Pyramid last Monday. The Schedule: at USC Saturday.

14. Wichita State (5-2). A Sentence: Valley swaps one team for another, as the Shockers replace Missouri State this week, keeping three teams in the rankings. A Statistic: In the out-of-nowhere performance to date this season, senior Joe Ragland scored 31 in the 89-70 WSU W over UNLV, thanks to eight 3s. Ragland boosted his PPG average to 11.9. The Schedule: at Tulsa Wednesday; vs. Utah State Saturday.

15. Murray State (9-0). A Sentence: Small surprise of the season: Billy Kennedy’s former team has started out terrifically without him. A Statistic: Three of the nine wins have been against foes outside of D-I, so that’s a big caveat. Wins over So. Miss and Dayton were convincing, though, so I’ve got the heart to put them in, just ahead of Tulane and College of Charleston. The Schedule: at Memphis Sunday.

Roaming outside the Pyramid:

♦  Out this week: Missouri State, Marshall. In: Murray State, Wichita State.
♦  Marshall gets its chance to get back into the Pyramid if it beats Syracuse this week, and I think Murray State’s visit could be short-lived due to the Memphis matchup forthcoming.
♦  I know you’re unbeaten, Tulane. If you get through next Sunday with wins over Wofford and Jacksonville State — even though those aren’t great wins — I’ll get you in with an 11-0 D-I record.
♦ Brigham Young is the only highly ranked KenPom team not to make the Pyramid. Let’s see what happens Dec. 17 against Baylor and then we’ll assess.
♦ I considered ranking Northwestern until it got mollywhopped by Baylor. (I keed!)

Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:20 am

Trippin': Creighton finds point guard depth

By Gary Parrish

Greg McDermott never really thought of it in advance because he was focused on basketball and stuff. But once his Creighton Bluejays were in the Bahamas for their preseason trip, the second-year coach realized that having little-to-no cell phone service was a nice advantage.

"There was no Facebook and no Twitter," McDermott (right) said. "So the players had to spend a lot of time together and figure out things to do with each other, and that's what I wanted accomplished on this trip. It was really important to develop team chemistry; I think that was accomplished on this trip, and having limited cell phone service was certainly a benefit that I didn't really think about before we left. It was a huge benefit because it forced the guys to spend time together."

Creighton returned home from the Bahamas last week.

McDermott shared his thoughts about the trip with CBSSports.com this week.

What McDermott learned: "We have depth at a lot of positions," McDermott said "We played 11 guys 14 minutes or more with nobody playing more than 21 minutes. So we were able to put a lot of combinations on the floor."

Who or what impressed McDermott: Freshman point guard Austin Chatman had 30 assists and just four turnovers in four games. "He's picked things up as quickly as anybody I've ever coached," McDermott said. "He's been blessed with a lot of speed and the ability to change speeds and change directions, and he's got unbelievable vision. Point guard was an area where we were weak last year because Antoine Young was our only point guard. So to have a quality person as a freshman who can play that position as well is going to be a huge plus for us."

What concerned McDermott: "We turned it over as a team a little more than I would've liked, but we're trying to play a little faster because of our personnel and I think that's a natural step in the process of learning to play that way," McDermott said. "You're going to force the issue sometimes, and that was somewhat of a concern. And the other concern is that we didn't shoot free throws very well, but I think we're a much better shooting team than we shot it."

----- NOTES -----
  • Most teams on foreign trips bounce from one city to the next, but Creighton stayed at the same resort the entire time. That made the trip more about basketball and less about sight-seeing. "From an educational standpoint it maybe wasn't as good in terms of seeing everything you can possibly see when you're on a trip," McDermott said. "But I think this is beneficial in a different way. You check in and you're there to stay, and we were at an all-inclusive resort so we never had to jump on a bus and go find a place to eat in the middle of the day."
  • Gregory Enchenique did not make the trip with Creighton because he's playing with the Venezuelan national team. That's not ideal, obviously. But it forced McDermott to look at other options in the middle and develop depth. "It ended up being a huge positive for Will Artino and Geoffrey Groselle," McDermott said. "They got all the reps in practice and all the playing time in the games at that center position. So there's some quality depth there that's gonna be really good for us."
  • Sophomore Ethan Wragge was limited to playing in just two of the four games because of an injury. "But it was only a mild MCL sprain," McDermott said. "He's going to be fine."
  • McDermott said he wants all of his veterans to get some rest over the next week or so -- especially his son, Doug McDermott, who played for USA Basketball before accompanying Creighton to the Bahamas. "I think he understands that he has to listen to his body," McDermott said. "He's essentially played half of a college season since the first week in July. He's played 15-plus games and has probably been part of 20-plus practices. He needs to give his body a break."
  • Because Chatman has been so impressive, McDermott will play his two point guards together at times this season. "We did that some over in the Bahamas," he said. "Having two great ball-handlers on the floor who can also distribute the basketball will really help us."
Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:24 am

Doug McDermott's Summer Tour

By Jeff Goodman

``If Doug McDermott is your leading scorer (and I mean that as no disrespect to him), US is in trouble.”

Yes, that was my tweet on July 1 - in the middle of the US U-19 team’s quest for the gold medal in Latvia.

McDermott played terrific overseas (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and was the team’s leading scorer for much of the tournament (before Jeremy Lamb erupted), but my point was that he should be a complimentary guy in a big-time overseas event such as the FIBA U19 World Championships and not the focal point.

The Creighton fans were in an uproar over my comment, so I wanted to make sure the younger McDermott didn’t take offense to it.

``No, not at all,” he told me on Thursday. ``There was a lot of talent that didn’t show up. I actually thought it was funny.”

After spending nearly a month on the road for the U-19 team, McDermott’s busy summer isn’t over yet. After he and his teammates came up short overseas, he returned to school and participated in five practices in preparation for the team’s trip to the Bahamas next month. His dad, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, has also put him to work at camp.

``I had three days off in-between getting home and practice,” the younger McDermott said.

McDermott and his teammates will have five more practices shortly after his father gets off the road recruiting prior to the team leaving for the Bahamas on Aug. 10.

``I’m sure I’ll be worn out when I get back, but I’m excited because this should be a great bonding experience for us,” McDermott said.

This is a team that’s favored to win the Missouri Valley and could be one of the toughest mid-majors in the nation next season.

McDermott led the team in scoring (14.9) and rebounding (7.2) as a freshman, senior point guard guard Antoine Young (13.1 ppg, 5 apg) is back and Gregory Echenique has shaken the rust off after playing 30 games in the Valley and averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 boards per game.

The Bluejays losses: Kenny Lawson, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Echenique late in the year, and Kaleb Korver (4.3 ppg).

Look for shooter Jahenns Manigat, who shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last season, to replace Korver in the starting lineup – and Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs could wind up starting on the wing.

Doug McDermott admitted the difference this season needs to be in the leadership end.

``We didn’t have much leadership last year,” he said. ``We had really good seniors, good guys, but the leadership wasn’t there. Me, Antoine and Greg all need to step up this year.”

And anything less than an NCAA tournament bid would be a disappointment.

``Clearly, that’s the goal,” he said. ``That’s all that’s on our minds.”
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 4:32 pm

Butler's Howard wins dubious award

Posted by Eric Angevine

What's in a name? The immortal bard would have us believe that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But what if you call a rose the Eddie Sutton Tustenugee award? How does that smell?

Butler Bulldogs senior forward Matt Howard was selected by a national media panel to receive a postseason honor by that name, and will be honored at the Tulsa Sports Charities Legends in Sports Dinner on April 31.

The purpose of the newly-created award - to honor a DI player who exhibits tenacity, dedication, discipline and unselfishness - is unmockable. The John and Judy Marshall Foundation has chosen the right player for the honor, without a doubt. The name of the award, on the other hand, might be a tad more risible.

The Tulsa World explained the name in a little more depth in an April 29 article.

The “tustenugee” word in the award’s title comes from the language of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The word translates to “warrior.”

“With this award, we are honoring a great player, a warrior, Matt Howard, who places team above self, while also paying homage to a coach, Eddie Sutton, whose legacy is steeped in discipline and dedication,” said director of Tulsa Sports Charities Tommy Thompson in a press release.

Tustenugee sounds like a great word, but definitely one that will draw a snicker. What bothers me a bit more is the second paragraph in that quote.

Eddie Sutton was a great, great coach. I will not dispute that. However, the phrase 'steeped in discipline' does not come to mind when I think of the man who took Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State to the NCAA tournament. Sutton resigned under a cloud of NCAA sanctions after his Kentucky staff was found to be paying players. While at Oklahoma State, he crashed his car while under the influence of alcohol and prescription painkillers. Even after his career was nominally finished, Sutton found a way to commit one more cynical act, by coming in as interim coach of the San Francisco Dons in 2008, staying just long enough to cadge his milestone 800th win out of a program that got nothing but dubious headlines out of the deal. Discipline on the court? Sure, I'll give him that. Elsewhere, not so much.

Maybe Howard knows all this, or maybe he just doesn't want to spend any time in Tulsa. Whatever the reason, he's sending his father to pick up the award in his place.

Howard is a warrior, and he deserves praise for his leadership and discipline. The Marshall Foundation has good motives. But any award named after a coach who can be called Eddie "Boxful of Cash" Sutton on the internet without kicking off a libel suit is bound to draw out a few less-than-favorable memories from those who know college basketball.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: January 12, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 2:13 pm

Dollar Beers for Creighton Basketball!

Posted by MATT JONES

Tonight's Missouri Valley Conference showdown between Creighton and Wichita State may not be on the top of your must-watch games of the evening, but for the citizens of Omaha, Nebraska, the game just got a lot more interesting. 

As part of a promotion to "White Out for Wichita", Creighton is offering dollar beers for all fans over 21 years old  up until tipoff in the "Budzone" part of the arena.  Being the responsible citizens that they are in Creighton, shuttle services are being provided for all those who want to party the night away and enjoy some Bluejay basketball with an old-fashioned buzz. 

While "dollar beer" promotions have long been a part of minor league baseball and other sideshows, I am not sure that I have ever seen such an event at a college sporting event.  But for the Creighton fans in Omaha, tonight may get slightly rowdy as the Shockers come a'knockin.
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