Posted on: May 31, 2011 11:02 am

Gonzaga hoops player moves on to Baylor football

Posted by Matt Norlander

Gonzaga losing a player to Baylor. Seems wrong, right?

It is an oddity, but it's only happening because Demetri Goodson is giving up basketball in Washington to play football in Texas. We first told you about the Zags point guard switching career paths at the beginning of May, when he notified the program he'd be leaving.

According to Fox 26 in Houston, Goodson is set to don green and gold in his next iteration as a student-athlete.

“Just get my transcript from Gonzaga shipped over to Baylor,” Goodson told Fox 26. “I shipped it out yesterday (Saturday). Once they get all that stuff done, I’ll be there. It’s a great feeling."(I’m) excited. A bit nervous because I haven’t played (football) in a while. Once I go and start hitting the weights and learning their system, I’ll be alright."

Goodson has been away from the game, competitively, for six years. He was a starting cornerback through his sophomore season at Klein Collins High School, in Spring, Texas. He was recruited by a number of high-ranking SEC and Big 12 programs even after he gave up the game to focus on basketball in his latter two years of high school.

The move is intriguing because it's not as if Goodson was a non-factor for the Zags. As a point guard, he had a 19.8 assist rate last season, which is certainly decent, at least. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 assists per game. He was good enough and seeing enough playing time to warrant returning for his senior season, a senior year in which he probably would've started. But Goodson told Fox 26 he thinks he stands a better chance making money playing football.

After a six-year layoff? That's some supreme confidence. 

“I could probably go overseas and make some money,” Goodson said. “But professionally football will be a better move for me just because of the number of basketball players who make it and the number of football players.

"That was basically why I did it.”

Going from college hoops to the gridiron isn't unprecedented, of course. Tony Gonzalez (played both sports at Cal before his pro career in the NFL) and Antonio Gates (led Kent State to the '02 Elite Eight before his Hall-of-Fame career with the San Diego Chargers), as well as Greg Paulus, who put in grad-school time with Syracuse's football team, are just some of the examples.

There's also the confidence that comes with familiar familiarity. Goodson's older brother, Mike, is currently a running back for the Carolina Panthers and also played football in Texas -- at A&M.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 4, 2011 8:34 am

Goodson leaving hoops to pursue football

Posted by Jeff Borzello

A few players have played basketball and football in college. In some cases, most notably Greg Paulus and potentially Melvin Goins, a player used his four years of basketball eligibility and then used his fifth year to play football.

But leaving basketball after three years to transfer and play a sport you haven’t played in six years?

That’s exactly what Demetri Goodson is planning to do.

The Gonzaga point guard announced Tuesday he was leaving the basketball program to pursue a college football career.

“He wants to finish his NCAA eligibility playing football,” head coach Mark Few said. “After having convinced us he would finish his degree then we were all in support of his decision.”

The Spokane Spokesman-Review suggested Goodson will return home to Texas, and could play at Texas A&M or Texas State. His older brother played football at A&M, and his brother’s former coach is now at Texas State.

Arizona State offered Goodson a football scholarship back in high school, despite the fact he stopped playing on the gridiron during his sophomore season.

Goodson started all 35 games last season and 68 of his last 69 games, averaging 5.2 points and 2.6 assists during his junior campaign. He will have two years of football eligibility.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Tags: football, Gonzaga
Posted on: April 28, 2011 10:21 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 10:51 am

Tough schedule will test Xavier in 2011-12

Mark Lyons returns to lead Xavier next season.Posted by Eric Angevine

The Xavier Musketeers announced a home slate that should have season-ticket holders salivating for the non-conference season at the Cintas Center come autumn.

"We are excited about this impressive home schedule and I know that our fans will be too," said Xavier head coach Chris Mack in a statement released by the athletic department. "The non-conference home slate is arguably the best we've ever had, including games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams Georgia, Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Purdue."

It's a measure of Xavier's steady growth as a program that the Musketeers can get power-conference teams to come to Cintas at all. Even a home-and-home is difficult to secure for most mid-major programs. Cincy, of course, alternates yearly with Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, and Gonzaga is technically a mid-major, too, but technicalities don't much matter in the scheduling game. These are all opportunities to sell out the home arena, generate excitement around the program and build a tourney-worthy profile without having to travel all throughout November and December.

Throw in the fact that the A-10 slate gets more challenging every year, and the Musketeers should be sitting pretty come time for the Big Dance once again.

Reading that list brings to mind one of those questions I ponder from time to time without ever really settling the issue. Seeing Gonzaga and Xavier face off reminds me that the Bulldogs and Musketeers, along with Butler, more or less created the current expectation that mid-majors can become long-term, viable success stories. And yet, as of today, only Butler, under Brad Stevens, has pushed through to the tournament's final weekend from that group. Things get even more confusing when we note that the two CAA teams to have made the Final Four were at-large selections who barely made the field.

Personally, I'm of the belief that achieving consistent success in a tough conference like the growing A-10 or WCC is a pretty meaningful accomplishment. In fact, the auxiliary enhancement of each league's overall profile is a long-term benefit that the Horizon and CAA are just beginning to delve into. Being a league bully, as Gonzaga once was, is nice, but ultimately hollow. Next season, the Bulldogs will have to wade through a slate that features an established foe in St. Mary's, tough competitors like San Francisco and new league member BYU. Xavier must face tourney teams like Temple and Richmond as well as challenging opponents Duquesne and Rhode Island and legendary coaches like Rick Majerus (St. Louis) and Phil Martelli (St. Joe's). Stack that up against a sagging power conference like the Pac-10, and see who has the edge come Selection Sunday in 2012.

Xavier is in a very good place right now. Chris Mack, one of the more dynamic and effective young coaches in the game, has again eluded the clutches of a major college program. Even with Tu Holloway leaving, Mack has talent and experience returning, including last year's second-leading scorer Mark Lyons (right). Mack also brought in a top-100 player in 6-foot-5 recruit Dezmine Wells to keep expectations high and the talent pool fully stocked. The machine is purring like a vintage roadster.

Sure, making the Final Four would be nice. But maybe a program like Xavier has even bigger dreams. Maybe this is the kind of team that can finally break through and win it all some day. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race (this and other comforting cliches will be available all summer long here at Eye on College Basketball).

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:57 am

Southeast wrap-up: The best and worst of 15 games

Posted by Matt Jones

In the history of the NCAA tournament, there are very few accomplishments that match what Butler pulled off this weekend in New Orleans. With their victory over Florida, Butler is now going to back to back Final Fours, an utterly unbelievable feat for a program that lives outside of the BCS power conferences.

When Brad Stevens’s group made it to the national championship game last season, it was considered by most to be an exceptional Cinderella run, brought about by a unique combination of a NBA lottery pick leader, outstanding clutch play and a run of good fortune. But now, after four consecutive thrilling wins that will send Butler to Houston for another go-around on college basketball’s biggest stage, such simplistic reasoning will no longer suffice.

With the win on Saturday, Butler basketball has shown that it deserves to be seen as one of the top ten current basketball programs in the country. It is only one of those types of programs that can lose a player like Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft and then come back and contend immediately again. Teams like Kentucky, Duke, UNC and Kansas are used to seeing superstars leave, and then immediately reloading. Now we must put Butler in that same group.

This year’s Butler group is now realistically on the brink of winning a national championship. Matt Howard’s last second win over Old Dominion got the tournament off to a rocking start and showcased just how clutch a performer the senior has been throughout the course of his career. The upset over Pittsburgh produced the most shocking ending of March, and removed the biggest obstacle to a second Final Four run. 

And then in New Orleans, the Bulldogs came to play, but not as the upstart from a small conference seeking to shock the world. Rather, they were the cool, calm and collected team that had been there before and could handle the moment. The Bulldogs handled their business from the opening tap in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin and then were the more poised team down the stretch against a veteran Florida team who they rattled in the final minutes. 

Butler now goes to Houston with a chance to win the whole thing. It will be favored against VCU in the national semifinal and in a one game scenario against either Kentucky or UCONN, the Bulldogs would once again have a chance to shock the world. What Butler has accomplished is unheard of in modern college basketball and it may not yet be over.

Regional MVP: Shelvin Mack: Since Butler turned around its performance midway through the season, Shelvin Mack has been the driving force in big moments. Saturday’s final versus Florida was no different, as Mack scored 27 points and hit a number of crucial shots. Mack may be the most clutch performer left in the NCAA tournament and he showcased in New Orleans that he could be the most underrated perimeter player in America.

All-Regional team

C Vernon Macklin, Florida
F Matt Howard, Butler
F Alex Tyus, Florida
G Shelvin Mack, Butler
G Kenny Boyton, Florida

Game to remember: Butler 71, Pittsburgh 70. This is a game that will be remembered for a long time and could define these programs for years to come. Butler’s win allows the Bulldogs to lay claim to one of the great accomplishments in recent college basketball history. While Pittsburgh’s loss means that Jamie Dixon will not yet be able to get rid of the stigma of having never made a Final Four. Add to it, the bizarre late foul calls and the Nasir Robinson pain of costing his team the game late, and this will be one of the 2-3 most remembered games of the tournament.

Game to forget: Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58.  It happens every year. One trendy upset pick comes into the tournament and lays a total egg, making everyone who talked about them all week look silly. This year’s team was Belmont, who most thought had earned respect through its demolition of the Atlantic Sun and thus respect was given before playing against a slow team from the Big Ten. But that slow team controlled tempo, used its dominating size and the game was a dud. Never listen to the 4-13 pick that is trendy...it rarely works.

Biggest disappointment: St. John’s. It was a great regular season for Steve Lavin’s club and a late injury did temper expectations. But after the senior-laden squad did so well, the Johnnies fans wanted more than simply a harsh defeat to Gonzaga. Lavin will have St. John’s back sooner, rather than later. But a better showing this year was expected.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: They don’t get much better than the show Jacob Pullen put on for Kansas State in its 70-65 loss to Wisconsin. Pullen willed his team to the tournament towards the end of the season and then showcased all of that same desire in his two games. 38 points against Wisconsin was part of one of the great tournament performances so far, win or lose.

Most memorable moments:

  • Matt Howard makes a great putback at the buzzer to get March Madness off to a great start. We knew the tournament was back in session. 
  • Michigan State put forth an amazing comeback, down 25 late, but coming back and only losing by two. It was a miserable performance up until the end, but Tom Izzo teams can never totally be counted out.
  • Any time Jimmer Fredette plays, it is worth watching. He ran out of magic against Florida, but in the first two games, his deep threes were quite a sight.
  • The late fouls by Shelvin Mack and Nasir Robinson in the Pitt-Butler game won’t soon be forgotten and ignited a debate on the roll of officials at the end of games.
  • How can a team like Gonzaga look so dominant against St. John’s and then so terrible against BYU? Every game is different.
  • Billy Donovan coached well all tournament...until the end. I still do not know what the offensive gameplan was at the end of regulation or in overtime versus Butler.

Team to watch out for next year: This was a senior-laden bracket, with most of the best teams losing most of their best players. But there were some signs that UCLA could get out of its recent funk. Josh Smith is fun to watch and is able to do some amazing things in the paint. If Ben Howland can keep everyone around, the Bruins will join Arizona at the top of the Pac 10 once again next year.

Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:44 am

Searching for upsets? Look at the 11s

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Besides picking a champion and the Final Four, the most common question concerning the NCAA tournament brackets are Cinderellas and sleepers in the double-digit seeds. While the 13 seeds might be the strongest ever, many of the best mid-major teams received difficult draws.

Belmont has a disciplined opponent in Wisconsin, which won’t rattle or turn the ball over; Oakland drew Texas, which can match up with Keith Benson on the inside; Louisville shoots too well for Morehead State; and Kentucky will be able to play in the half-court with Princeton. For the No. 12 seeds, Vanderbilt has the defensive personnel to guard Richmond, while Kansas State should be prepared for Utah State.

For upsets, though, check out the No. 11 seed line. It’s not far-fetched to think that all four will advance into the round of 32.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles were up and down all season, but they proved time and time again that they are capable of beating high-quality teams. Against Xavier, Marquette has the personnel to come out on top. Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder are match-up nightmares in the frontcourt, as Xavier’s big men, Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean, will be drawn away from the rim. They can’t compete with Butler and Crowder on the perimeter. Tu Holloway is capable of carrying the Musketeers, but Marquette has the size and length on the perimeter to give him problems.

Missouri: I actually envision the Tigers reaching the Sweet 16. Sure, they were inconsistent during Big 12 play and were awful away from Columbia, but hear me out. Missouri runs the “Fastest 40 Minutes,” which is difficult to prepare for on short notice, but is beatable when you see it over and over again. The Tigers had a great non-conference season, but struggled within the conference. Big 12 opponents knew what to expect. Cincinnati will have trouble with Missouri’s speed and athleticism, while a tired Connecticut team that has struggled against defensive pressure all season is waiting in the second round.

USC/VCU: While I think USC will beat VCU, both teams are more than capable of knocking off Georgetown. USC gets great frontcourt production from Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson, which will make life difficult for the Hoyas in the paint. Marcus Simmons is a lockdown defender who can slow down Austin Freeman. VCU plays an aggressive brand of defense that relies on pressure and turnovers; without a healthy Chris Wright, the Hoyas won’t be able to handle the Rams. If Wright is back to 100 percent, though, Georgetown can make a deep run. It’s doubtful, though.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs were left for dead in early February, when they were 15-9 and struggling mightily. Since then, they have rattled off nine straight wins and get pitted against a St. John’s team not playing its best basketball of the season. The Red Storm lost two their final four games, and barely escaped against Rutgers. Moreover, they lost D.J. Kennedy for the season with an injury. Gonzaga struggles to defend the perimeter, but the Red Storm have a scant few players who can knock down the three – and Kennedy was one of them. St. John’s struggles on the glass, while Gonzaga has Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and co. down low. If Demetri Goodson and Marquise Carter take care of the ball against the pressure, Gonzaga should win.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:05 am

WCC tourney final gets desired matchup

Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's: once again, but never like this.

This is the matchup the league and college basketball fans at large wanted from the WCC tournament. You can thank the format of the WCC tournament, which is similar to the Horizon League in that the top two seeds are protected until the conference semifinals. Play the best in the regular season, and you get the bye until the penultimate game. So now the WCC is ensured of its most competitive matchup, on paper.

And the question can be asked: biggest game in the history of the rivalry? That's possible, as neither team is secure with its at-large position.

Winner is for sure in, and loser will be sweating for five nights. The two split the season series, each team winning on the other's court. Gonzaga, at 23-9, has a bit more bubble wiggle room because its strength of schedule is better and it has better wins (Xavier, Baylor, Marquette) to claim than the 24-7 Gaels (St. John's, Long Beach State, Texas Tech).

What's particularly embraceable about this game, outside of the massively looming at-large question, is the star power. The Gaels have Mickey McConnell, the player of the year in the conference, and Matthew Dellavedova. Robert Sacre, Steven Gray and Elias Harris may not be Adam Morrison, Matt Bouldin and Blake Stepp, but they're still familiar faces to casual hoops fans who come around the block this time of the year.

It has now been more than a month since Gonzaga's lost, as the Bulldogs have peeled off eight in a row. That isn't their longest winning streak of the season, though; Mark Few's club won nine straight from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15. A bit ironic this team has as many as nine losses and is unstable as it is despite two lengthy streaks of victory.

Saint. Mary's can't claim to fully be recovered, despite making it to the WCC championship game for the third straight year. The Gaels dropped three straight before recovering to beat Portland in the season finale last week, and then beating Santa Clara Sunday night. How quickly many would forget the three-game slide if Saint Mary's won tonight.

Prediction: I've got a hunch the WCC is sending two teams to the tournament this year. For that to happen, Saint Mary's has to win tonight, 'cause I don't think its non-con schedule stacks up. Gaels win, 75-70. The game tips at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Posted by Matt Norlander


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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 4:27 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:30 am

Poppin' bubbles: Bid thief emerges

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Saturday was enormous for the bubble – of course, by “enormous,” I mean that it made things impossibly crowded at the bottom of the at-large pile. Certain teams played themselves into the picture, while others will inevitably be sweating come Selection Sunday (Seth Greenberg, we mean you). Sunday will be no different; there is no shortage of games with big-time bubble and at-large implications.

Gonzaga 71, San Francisco 67: The Bulldogs did what they needed to do in order to stay in the hunt, even if it wasn’t pretty. Gonzaga has won eight in a row and 10 of its last 11, forging a share of the conference title at 11-3. Can the Zags get into the NCAA Tournament even with a loss Monday in the title game? They have defeated Xavier, Marquette, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the non-conference season, but the RPI is in the 60s and the SOS is in the triple-digits.

Saint Mary’s 73, Santa Clara 64: The Gaels also took care of business in the West Coast semifinals, advancing to the title game. When compared to Gonzaga, they have fewer good wins, with the only top-50 victory coming over St. John’s back in the season opener. Outside of that, the best non-league win was over Long Beach State. On the plus side, they have better computer numbers – but that loss to San Diego is an eyesore.

Florida State 72, North Carolina State 62: If Chris Singleton was playing, the Seminoles would have locked up a bid by now. Without him, though, they needed to prove that they could win without him. Florida State won five of seven to end the season, finishing 11-5 in the ACC. The ‘Noles have a marquee win over Duke, which is carrying their profile right now. Victories over Boston College and Clemson help. They will likely face Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals – can they survive a loss?

Indiana State 60, Missouri State 56: What a devastating loss for Missouri State. The Bears likely needed to win the automatic bid in order to get to the NCAA Tournament; third-seeded Indiana State made sure that didn’t happen. Missouri State simply doesn’t have the profile necessary to get an at-large bid. The Bears don’t have any top-50 wins, with just three coming against the top 100. The best non-league win came over Oral Roberts. It will be a stressful week on the bubble – and I don’t think Missouri State gets in

Kentucky 64, Tennessee 58: Tennessee is probably safely in the field due to its non-conference wins over Pittsburgh and Villanova, but the Volunteers are not doing themselves any favors. They lost six of their final nine games to drop to 8-8 in the SEC. With seven top-50 victories, a win in the SEC Tournament over Arkansas should lock up a bid. If the Vols lose to the Razorbacks, though, this will be an interesting case.

Penn State 66, Minnesota 63: A few weeks ago, this might have been a must-win for Minnesota, not Penn State. However, the Golden Gophers finished the season by losing five in a row and nine of their last 10. On the other hand, Penn State moves to 9-9 in the Big Ten and has a shot heading into the conference tournament. The Nittany Lions have some decent wins over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State, but a loss in the conference tournament would be their 14th of the season. That could be tough to overcome.

VCU 79, George Mason 63: We have our first potential “bid thief” of Championship Week. With George Mason already locked into a bid, VCU now has a chance to take one of the few remaining at-large bids if it can win the CAA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, the Rams might still hold an outside shot at getting an at-large bid should it lose in the championship game. The win over the Patriots was VCU’s third top-50 win of the season.

Boston College 84, Wake Forest 68: The win didn’t really do anything to enhance the Eagles’ profile, but at least they avoided a bad loss. A defeat here and BC would have likely been out of the field. With the victory, the Eagles get the five seed in the ACC Tournament, meaning a rematch with these Demon Deacons. If Boston College defeats Wake Forest in the opening round, we could be in store for a bubble play-in game between BC and Clemson. The Tigers have already defeated the Eagles once.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: February 25, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 5:03 pm

Mid-major royalty fighting to crash the Dance

Memphis and other top mid-majors must fight to make the dance this season

Posted by Eric Angevine

One thing about experience - it tends to tamp down panic when things aren't going smoothly.

Bear witness to the late-season recoveries of some of the most well-known mid-major programs in the country. Butler didn't play last night, but the recent 6-game win streak they've built in the Horizon League puts them in a tie for first place following Milwaukee's win over Cleveland State last night. It's a far cry from last season's total domination of domestic competition, but the result could very well be the same - another Horizon championship for Butler.

In similar fashion, another group of Bulldogs -- this one from Spokane -- hung around all season to forge a late-February tie for a title that once seemed out of reach. Gonzaga took advantage of St. Mary's defensive slide last night, claiming an overtime win in Moraga to even the slate against the Gaels. With two games left, either contender could end up with the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament, and an inside track to the NCAAs.

Memphis, despite uncharacteristic losses to SMU, Marshall, Tulsa and (gulp) Rice, is hanging in with UAB and Southern Miss on the C-USA leaderboard.

George Mason lost to Wofford in the non-conference season, then dropped their first two CAA games to title contenders Old Dominion and Hofstra before tearing off the most impressive winning streak in the country over the past two months. Jim Larranaga knows from hope and resilience.

Xavier had a brutal stretch of injuries that left them all but dead in the water following non-conference play, but there they are at 12-1, ready for another Big Dance.

It's not just the big names, either. Some small-conference teams with more recent success stories are clawing their way toward the postseason as well.

Murray State, authors of an upset of Vanderbilt in last year's tourney, overcame Kenneth Faried -- the nation's career rebounding leader -- to stay atop the OVC by a slim margin. Todd Bozeman's Morgan State Bears are just 1/2 game back of Bethune-Cookman with three games left. The Vermont Catamounts, who always seem to be lurking in the America East, have come out of that conference's annual scrum with an eye on the Dance yet again. Princeton, after yielding position to Cornell for a few seasons, is back in the hunt for the Ivy title this year.

All of these teams show a poise born of familiarity. They've lived the hoary old cliche: "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon" and they know through some sort of institutional memory that transcends individual players and coaches, that the prize will still be there at the end of the season if they stay the course.

This is one of the most fun weeks in college basketball outside of actual tournament play. By this time next week, we'll know if some of these comeback stories paid off in the race to the finish line. It might not be as easy for these teams as it has been in seasons past, and at-large considerations are all but invisible, but it's telling that we can't rule any of them out as of today.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
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