Posted on: August 18, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 1:37 pm

Trippin': Can Zips make another run at MAC title?

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Matt Norlander

Akron's among the best mid-major teams that you never think about. The Zips have had a healthy run the past seven years under head coach Keith Dambrot. They reached the NCAAs last season, falling to 2 seed Notre Dame in the second round.

The team just got done with its Canadian trip to Toronto and Montreal. The Zips went 5-0 in their exhibitions. Nice -- even if that didn't mean too, too much. Dambrot's a pretty level guy, by the way. When talking to him about his group, he didn't seem as reactive to what'd transpired on his trip the way other coaches do. Maybe that's why he's been able to average well over 20 wins since 2005.

What Dambrot learned: "Well, we have a lot to learn. We're behind mentally from the teams we've had in the past, but we're more athletic than we've been. We still have to figure out the rotation."

What impressed him: "We played hard defensively and shared the ball well offensively. I was glad to be able to get six new guys out there to play." Yes, Akron will bring in six green guys to the roster this season. It's a turnover Dambrot hasn't dealt with in some time. 

What concerned him: "Just the lack of being game-tested. We lost four guys who've been in four straight MAC title games." Two of those players are playing professionally. Steve McNees is now in Austria and Brett McKnight, a leading scorer for four years, signed in Germany.

-- Freshman Nick Harney led the team in scoring, Dambrot said. The other two standouts were Chauncey Gilliam (a transfer from Maryland-Baltimore County) and Brian Walsh (a Xavier transfer).

-- The good news is the team has no major injuries it's dealing with. Everyone's healthy, Dambrot said, save for one minor wrist injury which won't be an issue in the coming weeks.

-- The Zips also lose, in addition to McNees and McKnight, Darryl Roberts and Mike Bardo. Roberts was really key, as he was a very disciplined and very reliable point guard for Dambrot. All told, it's about 45 percent of the team's minutes played from last year are up for grabs.

-- If the team is going to thrive, it's going to have to ride Nikola Cvetinovic. Now, Cvetinovic did not make the trip with the team, but it wasn't disciplinary; he's currently playing in the World University Games for his home country, Serbia. Because of the Games, in fact, Akron went against all-star teams that didn't have true all-star rosters -- many a player is currently playing in the event in China.

-- There are only three seniors on this year's team -- Cvetinovic, Brett McClanahan (who will move from small forward to shooting guard) and Kyle Petersen -- and they'll all see playing time. Dambrot said he's got a good idea of the starting lineup. Cvetinovic and McClanahan will line up with junior 7-footer Zeke Marshall, sophomore point guard Alex Abreu and junior forward Quincy Diggs.

-- Dambrot ended by saying his team's ability and confidence can be seen in his seven-year run. He won't change his strategy, even with a lot of experience gone. What he is concerned about is the strength in the MAC's East division. HE admitted the Zips probably have "the least amount of impact players coming back ... so it's no definite thing."
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 18, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: August 18, 2011 10:29 am

Trippin': Baylor's depth shows in Canada

By Gary Parrish

The basketball was good.

The team-bonding experiences were better.

But the best part of Baylor's trip to Canada was ... the weather.

"It's been so hot in Waco," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "It was nice walking around outside."

The Bears traveled to Toronto for a four-game foreign trip.

They went 3-1.

Drew returned home this week and shared his thoughts with CBSSports.com.

What Drew learned: "I learned we have a lot of options this year. You're always going to have some injuries and illnesses and things, so you want to have some depth and options."

What or who impressed Drew: "Every game somebody else stepped up. Brady Heslip had a couple of games of more than 20 points. Perry [Jones] improved every game that he played. You could go up and down the roster and say one game it was this guy, one game it was that guy. So, again, I like that we have options."

What concerned Drew:  "We turned it over too much. We weren't very good at taking care of the ball last year, and we aren't right now either."

----- NOTES -----
  • Sophomore Perry Jones led the Bears in points and rebounds on the trip. The 6-foot-11 sophomore averaged 20.3 points and 7.5 boards. He also led the Bears in field goal percentage (59.0 percent).
  • Neither Quincy Acy nor Quincy Miller played in Canada. Acy is injured. Miller is yet to be cleared for freshman eligibility. Both are projected as starters for the Bears this season.
  • Dime Magazine named Deuce Bello one of the world's top 20 dunkers while he was still in high school. The incoming freshman did nothing to damage that reputation in Canada. "Deuce had some highlight dunks up there," Drew said. "He's good for one highlight dunk a game."
  • Boston College transfer Brady Heslip, a native of Canada, played with the Bears in an official capacity for the first time in Toronto after sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. He averaged 16.5 points and made 41.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. "He can really shoot it," Drew said. "I think he's going to be one of the best shooters in the country."
  • Baylor played man-to-man defense almost the entire time in Canada, but Drew said that doesn't necessarily mean his team will play man-to-man this season. The Bears have, under Drew, played lots of zone in the past -- most succesfully when Ekpe Udoh led the school to the 2010 Elite Eight.
  • Cory Jefferson might get caught in a numbers game considering the Bears have Acy, Miller, Perry Jones and Anthony Jones in the frontcourt. But the redshirt sophomore performed well in Canada -- averaging 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. "He's really improved," Drew said.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 17, 2011 11:37 am

Trippin': Duquesne's Everhart relies on perimeter

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories

By Jeff Goodman

It goes without saying that Ron Everhart’s Duquesne Dukes will be different this year.

Gone are the two mainstays of the program for the last few years – Bill Clark and Damian Saunders.

But Everhart still has one of the best guards in the A-10 and maybe even the nation in sophomore T.J. McConnell – and maintains the Dukes will still run and play fast.

Everhart took his group to Canada – where they played five games in four days - and shared his thoughts:

What Everhart learned: The chemistry of this group seemed really, really good – and we were able to control the game with our guard play.”  

What or who impressed him: McConnell was terrific, his normal consistent self. What really impressed me was (B.J.) Monteiro’s effort. Three guys surprised me and played better than I anticipated: Jerry Jones, Andre Marhold and Sean Johnson. Sean picked up where he left off last season. Jones shot it well and played with a lot of confidence – he’s a completely different player

What concerned him: Our frontcourt is our big question. We know we can run and score and defend on the perimeter.”

- McConnell averaged 10.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game as a freshman last season and Everhart said he sees plenty of similarities between him and Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea – who he coached at Northeastern. ``They do a lot of the same things,” Everhart said. ``Especially with ball screens, their vision and burst. T.J.’s a little longer and just needs to catch up physically and gets the strength that J.J. has. But I think when he does that, I think he has a shot at playing at the next level.”

- The strength of the team will be on the perimeter with guys like McConnell, Monteiro and Johnson.

- Everhart said that two players, Radford 7-foot transfer Martins Abele, and 6-foot-6 freshman Kadeem Pantophlet, didn’t make the trip.

- Freshman Mamadou Datt (6-8, 210) didn’t play due to injury. Datt is a native of Senegal who spent last season at Stoneridge Prep. He tore his meniscus, but Everhart said he expects Datt to be ready for practice in mid-October.

- Senior wing B.J. Monteiro led the team in scoring at 19 points per game. Johnson was second at 13.2 and McConnell averaged 12.6 points on the trip.

- Everhart was excited about the play of Marhold – who averaged eight minutes per game last season. ``He was active and played significantly better than I expected. He surprised me – I thought he’d struggle. The way he played on the trip, I think he’ll make a significant contribution this year.”

- Freshman wing P.J. Torres was solid for the first three games before suffering a sprained ankle that forced him to miss the fourth game. He came back and played the finale in Canada. ``He’s going to be a nice addition to our backcourt,” Everhart said.

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 16, 2011 3:10 pm

Trippin': Oakland moves on without NBAer Benson

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories

By Matt Norlander

Very few mid- and low-major programs have to go through what Oakland and head coach Greg Kampe will in 2011-12, the loss of an NBA-level player that was utterly dominant in his league during his junior and senior seasons. It’s a blessing every coach wants to be cursed with. I spoke with Kampe on the phone Tuesday, and he told me he’s never had to replace a player like Keith Benson (drafted 48th to the Atlanta Hawks) before.

It’s a challenge he accepts, and he acknowledged that this team will have a different identity, a different personality, than it did when Benson was with the team. And that speaks to Benson’s play, purely, because when asked if Benson was a man of few words, Kampe responded, “Fewer than that.”  The team was 50-3 in their last 53 league games while playing with Benson.

Oakland played in two locations last week — Windsor and London, Ontario. The team went 2-1 overall against Western Ontario and Windsor, which they split a two-game series with.

What Kampe learned: “I think the key was the 10 days of practice. We have three to four freshmen that are going to have to play a major part of our season. What we were able to do is get those freshmen game minutes in the summer. They weren’t very productive minutes, but I know we gave people the chance to go out and show us something. The freshmen have a ways to go for them to be good, but we’re going to need them to be good for us to be good.”

What or who impressed him: Freshman forward Dante Williams, a 6-6, 170-pound guy “who played well in all three games.” Kampe said Williams established himself as a player who can and should play a lot of minutes. Kampe also said Corey Petros, a  6-10, 243-pound 4 guy, made a noticeable impact. Petros is also a freshman. Those two stood out above the other young guys.

What concerned him: “We’ve been a dominant inside team, and now we have to get our veteran players to trust our freshmen in there.” Initially the concern was about rebounding, but the Grizzlies were dominant on the boards — despite the lower level of play.

— Despite Benson’s departure, Oakland does have a player-of-the-year candidate in Reggie Hamilton, pictured above with Kampe. Hamilton actually had a better offensive rating and a factored into Oakland’s offense more frequently than Benson last season. He was First Team in the Summit League last season. He scored 29 in the team’s first game against Windsor.  

— On the injury front, the Grizzlies do get a redshirt junior coming back. Guard Blake Cushingberry was a starter two years ago. Then, seven days prior to the start of last season he blew out his ACL. Cushingberry practiced all 10 days in August but did not play in the games due to some disciplinary issues, Kampe said.

— Other losses from last season’s team include all-league player Will Hudson, who recently signed with Gold Coast Blaze, an Australian pro team, and Larry Wright, the Summit’s Sixth Man of the Year.

— Kampe said despite the youth of the team, depth isn’t an issue. Just the opposite, in fact. “I think our strength is that we have depth. Now, do we have talent? I won’t know that until the start of the season. We’ve got five guys that have been a starter at Oakland or in the Big Ten.” Three of those starters are perimeter guys from last year in Hamilton, who scored 25 in the NCAAs against Texas; Travis Bader, who made 93 3-pointers last season; and Drew Valentine, a junior forward who Kampe said was the most important player on the team and the best defender in the league.

— The team also has Laval Lucas-Perry, a starter at Michigan who transferred two years ago. He’ll be the backup point guard and will see minutes, as well as Joey Asbury, a 6-7, 200-pound forward.

— With a small group of guys, don’t be surprised to see Oakland go with a four-guard look here and there. They play the dribble-drive as is, so it can be advantageous. “We’re not used to being that small, but there’s a very good chance that’s the route we’re going to go,” Kampe said.

— And the last time Kampe talked to Keith? Just before the trip. Because of the NBA lockout, Benson has been diligent in working out and honing his skills on Oakland’s campus.  

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 16, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: August 16, 2011 11:41 am

Trippin' : Central Florida's Canadian jaunt

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories

By Jeff Goodman

Central Florida coach Donnie Jones has six new faces this season.

Jeffrey Jordan (Illinois), Tristan Spurlock (Virginia) and Josh Crittle (Oregon) all sat out last season after transferring into the program.

The Knights added a talented freshman class with Rod Days, Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson.

Last season was a roller-coaster ride for Jones & Co. as the Knights shocked the nation jumping out to a 14-0 start – one which included upsets over Florida and Miami.

Then came the descent, a second-half collapse that put Central Florida in the bottom half of Conference USA.

But Jones is confident this team is more equipped to handle the highs and lows of the college basketball campaign – especially after a trip north of the border:

What Jones learned: We were able to play guys at multiple positions and we wanted to see how it would all work out. Isaiah Sykes played backup point guard for about 20 minutes and he was terrific. He started at small forward and then we also played him at backup point guard.”

What or who impressed him: ``Our two all-conference players – Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan – both played well. Clanton scored inside and outside and Marcus had 25 the first night, but they teams keyed on him and he showed his versatility by passing the ball and just taking what he was given.”

What concerned him: ``We’ve got to get better in the halfcourt. We focused on pressing, but we need to do a better job of guarding in the halfcourt. I wanted our guys to press.”

- Jeff Jordan and freshman Wayne Martin didn’t play on the trip. Jordan, who sat out last season following his transfer from Illinois, still needs to get his academics in order before he becomes eligible in the fall. Martin is recovering from an injury suffered his senior year in high school. ``He looks like he’s ready to play,” Jones said. ``But we didn’t want to take a chance. I think he could use another three weeks.”

- Jones said they went into the trip with the mindset that it was a conference tournament – with one game each day.

- Jones went with a different starting lineup each of the three games. He didn’t start Jordan or Clanton in the final contest of the trip.

- Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock, who sat out last season, injured his ankle in the first game and was held out the remainder of the trip. 

- Late addition C.J. Reed, who transferred to Central Florida following his dad’s firing at Bethune-Cookman, wasn’t able to go on the trip and will sit out this season. Reed averaged 19.1 points per game last season and was the MEAC Player of the Year. He’ll have one season left of eligibility with the Knights.

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

Posted on: August 15, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 2:01 pm

Trippin' Louisville returns from Bahamas

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories

By Jeff Goodman

Rick Pitino admits his team overachieved last season.

It’s difficult not to agree.

Louisville wasn’t all that talented, yet managed to win 25 games and get to the Big East championship game.

``For the next two years, we’ll have the type of talent we need,” Pitino said. ``Last year we weren’t confident in any game we went into. We were confident in our preparation and our approach, but we didn’t have the size and ability.”

The Cardinals lost leading scorer Preston Knowles and the enigma that was Terrence Jennings, but added a strong freshman class which includes four Top 100 players.

Pitino will bring in Top 25 players Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan as well as big man Zach Price and late signee Kevin Ware.

Blackshear and Behanan should be key contributors immediately, while Price is slated to be the back-up center – and Ware’s role is still unclear.

Pitino and the Cards just returned from a six-day trip to the Bahamas in which the team played four games.

What Pitino learned: Who is fundamentally ready to play – and who isn’t. The competition wasn’t very good, but now I know what to work on once we start individuals. Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Kyle Kuric are ready to play right away. If we opened up tomorrow, they could play. The rest of the guys could not.”

What or who impressed him: ``By far the best player was Peyton Siva. When he came here, he was a combo guard. Now he’s a true point guard.”

What concerned him: ``I don’t worry about it, but our freshmen don’t know how to play the game. But that’s true for most freshmen. (Jamal) Mashburn was the only freshman since I’ve been coaching who came in and knew how to play.”

- Freshmen Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware did not make the tip because they were both taking summer courses. Pitino said both are scheduled to arrive on campus, with the rest of the team, on Sunday, and he doesn’t expect any issues with them getting through the NCAA Clearinghouse.

- Pitino said that freshman Angel Nunez, who has a similar body type to that of former Louisville star Francisco Garcia, is well-behind Garcia on the defensive end. ``Francisco needed work,” Pitino said. ``And he’s light years behind Francisco.”

- Dieng, who Pitino feels will be among the nation’s leaders in block shots, is up to 232 pounds. ``He’s a good player, not a great player,” Pitino said. ``I think he can be a great player his junior and senior years. He needs to get up to 255 pounds.”

- Pitino said that in addition for the trip being beneficial for the players, it was also an advantage for his staff – which completely turned over. Richard Pitino is back after a couple years in Gainesville and Pitino also brought on Kevin Keatts from Hargrave Military Academy and Wyking Jones, who spent last season at New Mexico.

- Pitino also said he had no idea when the game between the Kentucky Legends and the Dominican Republic national team, coached by John Calipari, was slated to be played in Louisville at the Yum! Center. Well, the game is set for tomorrow night. ``I honestly had no idea," Pitino said. 

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo via Louisville athletics

Posted on: August 12, 2011 9:07 am
Edited on: August 12, 2011 1:03 pm

Trippin': Young Northern Iowa team post-Brazil

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Jeff Goodman

Johnny Moran is the lone starter remaining from the Northern Iowa team that shocked the world and knocked off Kansas two years ago in the NCAA tournament.

And he didn’t even play in Brazil.

Moran, according to Panthers coach Ben Jacobson, is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is a couple weeks away from being ready to return to the court.

So Jacobson headed to Brazil with five true freshmen, two redshirt frosh and three sophomores. Moran is the lone senior on the team.

``It may have worked out better for some of the young guys that Johnny didn’t play,” Jacobson said.

What Jacobson learned: ``From a basketball standpoint, we’ve got a little more size and length, and maybe a little more speed and athleticism than we had a year ago. You can see it in practice and in games when we’re able to get to places – whether it’s defensively or rebounding (on both ends) – because of our length.”
What or who impressed him: ``A couple of the freshmen played really well. Redshirt freshman Nate Buss rebounded the ball well, especially on the offensive end. He’s 6-9 and long and I was impressed with how hard he went. Freshman Deon Mitchell played extremely well against one of the pro teams – guys that were much older then him. He was really good in the open floor and does a good job of finding guys and making it easier for them. Deon’s going to be really important for us this year.”

What concerned him: ``We didn’t put in a lot of offensive stuff. Most of what we did was transition. It’s not like we executed a lot of sets. We spent most of the time in practice on the defensive end of the floor. The challenge for us is going to be in September, October and November – because we’ll be relying on a couple of freshmen to make an impact for us.

- Junior big man Jake Koch is coming off ankle surgery in the spring. Koch averaged 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last season – second on the team in both categories.

- Jacobson lost Jordan Egleseder, Adam Koch and Ali Farokmanesh after the Sweet 16 run two years ago – and lost point guard and last year’s leading scorer, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, and Lucas O’Rear after this past season. However, Jacobson feels as though the gradual losses have allowed the program to remain competitive towards the top of the Missouri Valley. ``We certainly feel that way – and I know our guys feel that way.”

- Jacobson spoke highly of his quality depth coming off the trip and also was blown away by how hard his kids played. ``We had guys diving for loose balls when we were up big.” Tyler Lange, who played a total of 46 minutes a year ago, was one of those guys – as he dove for a ball up 40 points with less than two minutes remaining.

- Freshman guard Jevon Lyle was the lone player who didn’t make the trip due to a violation of team rules.

- Jacobson, when asked how often he thinks about the fact that he should have Doug McDermott on his team, jokingly blamed Dana Altman. Remember, when Altman left Creighton for Oregon it meant that Greg McDermott went from Iowa State to Creighton and brought his son, Doug, with him. Doug, arguably the top player in the league, was slated to play at Northern Iowa. ``I don’t want to bring Dana into this,” Jacobson joked. ``But why did he have to go take Oregon?”

- Jacobson is unable to talk about it due to NCAA rules, but Northern Iowa has a verbal commitment from the youngest of the three Koch brothers: Bennett. The word on the street is that Bennett Koch is a cross between his two older brothers, Adam, and Jake. He’s got some of Adam’s athleticism and also possesses Jake’s feel for the game. 

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 11, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: August 12, 2011 11:19 am

Trippin': North Florida returns from Canada

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Jeff Goodman

He wasn’t on the roster and didn’t play the previous game against Murray State, but when North Florida assistant coach Bobby Kennen returned to the locker room and said the name, Ospreys head coach Matthew Driscoll shook his head in disbelief.

Theo Davis.

Yes, that Theo Davis.

The former Top 10 player, who was once committed to Texas, signed with Iowa State, attended Gonzaga and wound up at Binghamton, is now at Brock University in Canada.

``I couldn’t believe it,” Driscoll said. ``He wasn’t on the roster, but was No. 42.”

Brock coach Brad Rootes told CBSSports.com that Davis is in his first year with the program and is in fourth season overall of eligibility.

Davis finished with eight points and eight rebounds in North Florida’s 85-81 victory.

But this isn’t about Theo. It’s about North Florida – and its trip north of the border.

What Driscoll learned: ``We have a high-character group. Everywhere we went, people – from waiters and waitresses to the people who worked in the hotels we stayed at – all said what a pleasure our kids are to be around. You can tell our guys really, really like each other.”

What or who impressed him: Sophomore Charles McRoy - ``Parker Smith had 29 points in the final game, but that’s what he does. The guy we walked away impressed with – after 10 practices and the games – was Charles. He just went to another level. This is a kid I wanted to redshirt last year, but my staff convinced me not to – and he had some huge moments. He’s 6-6, plays the wing and he had no idea where to be last year defensively. This year he was where he was supposed to be and just made plays for us – whether it was 3’s, drives or putbacks.”

What concerned him: Free throw shooting. ``We had 12 games last year decided by five points or less and we missed 69 free throws in the six losses. We still didn’t shoot it well from the line on the trip. In the second game, we missed more than we made and were 19-of-39.”

- Driscoll said that highly touted freshman point guard Jacoby Davis wasn’t gained admittance academically into the school. Sources indicate that the West Charlotte, N.C., standout may go the prep school route and wind up at a higher level.

- Driscoll let his assistants be the head coach each game and he sat up in the stands on the other side of the gym the entire game.

- Last year’s leading scorer, Parker Smith (12.0 ppg), didn’t start a single game – and Driscoll said he’ll come off the bench again to give the team a scoring punch.

- Look for junior Will Wilson, who averaged 10 minutes a game last season in a reserve role to Brad Haugabrook, to have the first crack at the starting point guard spot. He’s not a big-time scorer, but does a nice job distributing – and can score when necessary.

- Jimmy Williams, who started all 34 games a year ago and averaged 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest, made the trip - but did not play due to the good old “coaches decision.” 

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

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