The Court Report: A coach's pink hair, a mid-major star bangs the drums for his team and ACC-Big Ten Challenge picks
Matt Norlander takes an inside look at college basketball and also highlights the best wins of the season so far
We're introducing a new weekly set piece here at CBSSports.com. The general idea is this: with 353 teams, and games basically every night from now until the end of March, there's a lot happening in college basketball that deserves a little extra recognition and/or reporting.
We want to serve readers with more content that makes following college basketball more rewarding.
So this series, which will run every Wednesday, will do just that. Quick-hit items on big schools, small schools and everything in between. I'll touch on some mainstream topics but also dedicate ink to the players, teams, coaches and trends that sometimes tend to briefly flicker the radar before falling away. You'll hear from coaches and players throughout the sport every week in this space.
It's more than a notebook and more than a mailbag. It's a varied bulletin of basketball stories, nuggets, videos and photos that will range from scoops to rumors to statistical analysis and more. To sum it up: A fun, information-loaded piece of coverage you can look forward to every Wednesday.
So let's get to it.
Oakland's Greg Kampe will coach with hot-pink hair
Greg Kampe is one of the longest-tenured coaches in college basketball. He's run the Oakland Grizzlies since 1984 and won more than 600 games. He's 62 years old. And on Friday, he'll coach with his hair dyed a blazing pink in the spirit of raising cancer awareness.
"I've got the dye and it is hot pink," Kampe said. "It is PINK-pink."
The cause has become personal for Kampe in recent years. First, he lost his good friend, former Detroit Tigers outfielder Dave Bergman, in early 2015. Six weeks after that, another close friend of Kampe's died of cancer. And then the disease impacted players in his program. Former Oakland player Tommie McCune lost his mother within four weeks of her learning she had the disease. Most famously, there was the viral moment in 2016, when Oakland senior Max Hooper ran up to the concourse of Oakland's home arena and hugged his father, Chip, who watched from a mobile hospital bed.
Chip Hooper died from cancer less than a week later.
"When Chip Hooper died, I thought, This has been a devastating time and I wish I could do something to help," Kampe said. "And a couple days later, the American Cancer Society knocked on the door in my office and said, 'Can you help us?'"
Since then, Kampe has annually raised a lot of money. He's rallied for $350,000 in funding over the past two years alone. The idea for dying his hair pink actually was inspired by former NFL player DeAngelo Williams, who drew attention in 2015 when he put pink highlights in his dreadlocks in honor of his late mother, who was taken by breast cancer. In early October, Kampe said he got to thinking about how little the act of actually wearing pink during October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) had become.
"We're watching pro football in October and people have pink shoes, pink wristbands and pink this and that," he said. "And it's gotten kind of mundane. You're watching the game and they don't even talk about why they're wearing the pink shoes anymore. When they first started doing that, they would talk about it. They would do specials on, like, DeAngelo Willliams and how he had pink hair. ... Now, it's commonplace to turn the TV on, see pink shoes, and no one's even discussing it."
So Kampe went to Twitter, challenged the public to raise merely $5,000 for the American Cancer Society. The goal was easily surpassed (if you're feeling generous this holiday season, please consider donating), and so Friday's game between Oakland and James Madison will feature Kampe with a pink mop. This initiative is a relatively small one for Kampe, who had a viral tweet earlier this year raise nearly $100,000 in coordination with corporate fundraising from Chevrolet.
"Since that day, everything I do is to help the American Cancer Society, and we'll have crossed a half-million dollars soon," Kampe said. "My goal is to get to a million, 'cause then I'll feel like I did something."
Villanova's start worst of any reigning champ this century
Jay Wright and the Wildcats were ranked in the top 10 of every preseason poll of note. But after Michigan and Furman, losing by an average of 17.5 points in those two, the shine has quickly come off the reigning national champions.to
And according to reporter Adam Zagoria, this week marks the first time since 1982 that a Big East team hasn't been ranked in the AP Poll. A major wow.
The Wildcats' 2-2 start is the worst through four games by a reigning national champion since UCLA was 2-2 in the fall of 1995. UConn in 2014-15 was 3-3 after six games, for what it's worth. We'll see if Villanova can dodge taking a third loss, but it won't be easy. Next up, starting Thursday, is the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida. LSU, Florida State and a solid Charleston team are all lurking in the bottom half of that bracket.
No. 22 Buffalo's best player is also a good drummer
C.J. Massinburg's got a great story. The Buffalo senior guard helped lift the Bulls to a thumping upset of No. 4 Arizona in last season's NCAA Tournament, then opted to return for one more year in college hoops. The 6-3 dynamo leads Buffalo in scoring (20.3) and is second in rebounding (9.3). The Bulls are off to a tremendous start. Nate Oats has coached his team to history with its first AP ranking ever -- they're 22nd as of this week -- and road wins over top-100 KenPom teams West Virginia and Southern Illinois.
Massinburg had 43 points against West Virginia, putting on one of the most efficient and impressive performances by any opposing player ever at the WVU Coliseum.
His other talent is on the drums. Massinburg recently couldn't help himself after he came upon the pep band's drum kit before Buffalo's road game against Southern Illinois.
"I feel like drums are a way, I wouldn't say to get out anger, but you can definitely express yourself playing drums," Massinburg said. "It's so broad, you have freedom on the drums. You can put your own twist on songs."
Check his beats:
While a couple of stories have been done in recent years about Massinburg's ability to play piano, he told CBS Sports his true passion is slamming the skins.
"With piano, I used to play a lot, but when I came to college I stopped playing as much because I just didn't have the time," he said. "The thing with piano is, once you get away from that for a while, you lose your skill a little bit. But the thing I love with drums is, any song I hear, as long as it has a beat, you know what you can do. As long as you have rhythm, you can play anything."
Massinburg picked up the drums because he grew up in a musical family and had an opportunity early in his high school days to play at his church. He begged his father for months to buy him a set. The family endorsed his love of the kit; Massinburg set it up in the house's lesser-used living room and played for hours.
"I'm the type of person that, once I get into something, I really have to get good at it, put my mind to it," he said. "Once I got a taste of the drums, I bugged my dad every day: 'Dad, can I please have a drum set?'"
Massinburg went through high school looking up drumming technique and watching YouTube tutorials. One of his favorite songs to play is Bill Withers' "Lovely Day."
Buffalo's beat this season is being heard across college hoops. Massinburg and the Bulls play their next game Wednesday night at home vs. Dartmouth.
Siena, Holy Cross go full game without making a FT
A 57-45 Holy Cross win over Siena isn't going to grab anyone's attention.
But what happened Sunday in Mohegan Sun Arena at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off was bizarre and unusual. Comet-like, even. According to KenPom.com, the teams not only played the slowest game of the year (just 51 possessions; the sport's average this season is hovering around 71), but it was the first time in at least two decades, according to Ken Pomeroy, that a Division I men's basketball game hasn't featured at least one made free throw.
In fact, there were only three free throws taken the entire game. It gets wackier. There were four technical fouls handed down, but via two double-technicals -- so no foul shots came because the double-Ts offset. The first half took only 24 minutes in real time. The officials for the game were Ron Tyburski, Ryan Corbett and Josh White. Tyburski has worked Division I games since 1994 and mostly calls Big Ten, MAAC, MAC, Horizon League, Summit League and America East games. He spoke to CBS Sports about one of the cleanest, fastest games in college hoops history.
"We only had three fouls at the end of the first half," Tyburski said. "It was both teams just being disciplined. They really didn't foul. They were sitting back in zone and running half-court possession offenses. Kids were playing, coaches were coaching."
The near-spotless Siena-Holy Cross affair came almost exactly five years removed from an infamously hideous Niagara-Seton Hall season-opener on Nov. 9, 2013, a tilt that combined for a near-record 73 fouls and 102 free-throw attempts. That was at the beginning of reform over freedom of movement and an overhaul on college basketball's playing aesthetic. It's taken a few years, but Tyburski said the game is much better now.
"The coaches obviously bought into it, players bought into it from the coaches and it's made it a better game," he said. "Statistically that's been proven from the NCAA ... scoring's been up."
So who got to the line? Holy Cross' Jacob Grandison, who had a game-high 24 points, missed his team's only attempt. Siena's Kevin Degnan was 0 for 2. It's quite possible we'll have to wait at least another two decades before something like this happens again.
"It wasn't until afterwards, I'm digesting it all, thinking, This might be the one and only game ever this way," Tyburski said.
This wasn't the only low-number affair in the past week in college hoops. On Monday, Charlotte and Longwood turned back the clock eight decades and played to a 42-39 finish. Charlotte, coached by former Virginia/Tony Bennett assistant Ron Sanchez, won. And that game had 11 more possessions that Holy Cross-Siena!
More derisory doings from Monday: Eastern Michigan tied a Division I-worst by only scoring four first-half points in its game against Rutgers. The Eagles missed 23 of their first 25 attempts. EMU erupted for 32 in the second half en route to losing 63-36. The irony is that EMU was also involved in the only other Division I game in the modern era that had a team score a record-low four first-half points. On Jan. 26, 2013, EMU outpaced Northern Illinois 18-4 through the first 20 minutes.
The seven most unlikely wins of the season so far
It's hard to forecast for certain which wins in the first two weeks of the season will turn out to be critical for seeding and/or inclusion into the NCAA Tournament, but here are the most unpredictable outcomes through the first 15 days of the season, according to KenPom.com's daily projections. They're also the only seven upsets that had a single-digit-percentage chance of happening.
- Texas Southern 72, Baylor 69 (3 percent). The biggest stunner of the season so far is a SWAC team winning in a Big 12 opponent's arena. Baylor was projected as a 21-point winner.
- Florida Atlantic 80, UCF 79 (4 percent). UCF has managed to wobble no further despite this upset and is now 4-1 and trying to live up to its projection as the best team in the American.
- Longwood 63, Richmond 58 (5 percent). Longwood has been in Division I since 2004 and has only once gone above .500 in a season.
- Furman 76, Villanova 68 (6 percent). Of course. And still, the way Michigan dominated Villanova a few nights earlier still seems more shocking.
- IUPUI 76, Boston College 69 (6 percent). IUPUI was picked sixth in the preseason in the Horizon League.
- Stony Brook 83, South Carolina 81 (7 percent). Stony Brook's off to a 3-1 start. It won this game on the road just three days after it started down 22-0 at George Washington and rallied to win that game.
- Florida A&M 65, Jacksonville 50 (9 percent). A MEAC team taking a win on the road to open the season on Nov. 6 was fairly shocking.
One team not mentioned above but has two of the 12 most unlikely wins of the season: Lipscomb. Casey Alexander's team made the NCAAs last season and is now 4-1 thanks to back-to-back road wins against SMU and No. 18 TCU.
Furman one of college hoops' best stories of November
"I probably should resign this afternoon."
That's what 35-year-old Furman coach Bob Richey jokingly opened with when he called on Monday to discuss his team's 5-0 start, which includes road wins against Loyola-Chicago and Villanova. The Paladins, who haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1980, pulled off a rarity by beating two schools coming off Final Four appearances within the first two weeks of a season.
Richey said the Loyola-Chicago game was mutually agreed upon by he and Ramblers coach Porter Moser when the two saw each other on the road this past April, only weeks removed from Moser's dream waltz to the national semifinals. The Chicago-area game was a scheduling mission dating back two years, when former Furman coach Niko Medved tried to get a local game for Furman junior Matt Rafferty, who is from the area.
And the Villanova game? Furman only got that -- and a $90,000 check -- because TV needed to fill the game and Villanova had to get another buy game on its schedule.
"They were struggling to fill the field," Richey said of ESPN's multi-team (MTE) event contract.
Technically/contractually, Furman-at-Villanova was connected to Villanova's appearance in this week's AdvoCare Invitational. Because of this, Furman took the Villanova game and agreed to play two more games against non-Division-I teams in the process.
Amazingly, flight logistics wound up being an influencing decision -- and now Furman's got one of the best résumés in college hoops through two weeks because of it.
"If you don't play in an MTE, you get 29 games," Richey said. "If you do, you get 31. ESPN reached out, 'We need someone to play Villanova.' ... It was a direct flight to Philly and Chicago. I will tell you, that made an impact on my decision. At this level, connecting vs. direct flights, you've got travel and practice. It makes a difference."
Incredibly, Furman won at Nova despite playing seven freshmen or sophomores. This group went 23-10 last season but was expected to take a step back after losing a lot of seniors. Hardly. Furman was able to withstand a late 7-0 run by Villanova to get it to OT. To the surprise of most inside Finneran Pavilion, the Paladins punched out the Wildcats 16-8 in the bonus session.
"It kind of looks to script, this is how these games go," Richey said, referring to how most underdogs fold on the road against big-time teams. "And then we missed the free throw (at the end of regulation). I felt like we controlled overtime. How many times do you see that? I think that's kind of rare. … My whole message to myself, my mental prep before the game, was 'Stay composed.' Try to keep clarity, energy up and see if it can feed into the team. Internally, it's a war. You're sitting there. It's a dream come true to even start to think about having success in that environment. But you have to stay in the possession, stay right there, and it's something I've got to get out of my mind."
"It's a dream come true to even start to think about having success in that environment."Furman coach Bob Richey
It wrapped a three-games-in-five-days grind for FU. The travel and schedule was so tight, Richey made the unexpected call of not practicing, not even doing a walkthrough, prior to the Villanova game.
"I thought it was going to be too much to get our guys up there, practice, run around and get ready for a game of that magnitude, with that emotion," he said. "Wanted our guys to rest. We knew they were exhausted."
Instead, the team did the out-of-towners Philly special after they got in: cheesesteaks, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, everything.
Richey was also quick to point out that just because his team's got these nice wins, it doesn't mean it's the best in the SoCon.
"Last year we had a great view in our league," he said. "Wofford beats North Carolina at North Carolina, the world goes crazy -- and they finish fifth in our conference. Greensboro beat NC State and won our conference. Winning these games doesn't necessarily equate to winning our league."
The team celebrated in Philly with a nice, big steakhouse dinner on Saturday night.
"Which, at our level, you normally have pizzas and subs on the bus," Richey said. "To be able to enjoy that and eat a big-time meal, it was our family trip, so we had all the staff's families with us. Kids running around, the wives are with us. It was a cool moment. ... We got back to the hotel -- nobody wanted to go to sleep. We were in the lobby as a staff and embracing the moment and, kind of like proud parents, right?"
Furman's got more opportunities ahead. Four more noncon road games await, including a huge one on Dec. 21 at LSU. If it can steal that one, and wins most of the games it should in the SoCon, this team could have an at-large case come March.
It's always fun to embrace and engage with you. I'll be taking answering a few questions from readers each week. Have a question, curiosity or complaint? Do @ me. Lob your question my way on Twitter.
For the purposes of this question, I'll establish something here that I'm sure will be repeated in this series or elsewhere on the site throughout the season. Though college basketball's conference structure is not easily definable, in 2018, I break it up into three tiers.
The Major 7: AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC.
The multi-bid leagues: Atlantic 10, Mountain West, West Coast Conference.
Single-bid/mid-major/low-major leagues: Everyone else.
Conference USA has regressed to mid-major status over the past five years, unfortunately. But in regard this question, it's fortunate because I think it's the answer -- for now. C-USA has the most top-101 KenPom teams of any mid-major league, with three. It has eight teams either undefeated or with just one loss, and that's not accounting for 3-2 Western Kentucky, which beat West Virginia.
Unlikely. NBA All-Star actively coaching in their city at the youth level and waiting for his opportunity to lead the alma mater.. He's the best player in the history of the program who happened to get into high school coaching for the right reasons, found he enjoyed it immensely, and used his celebrity for the betterment of growing Memphis-area basketball. From there, the Memphis job eventually opened and he's turned into the true, rare case of the right man at the right place at the right time. Most schools in Major 7 conferences who need a new direction won't have a former
Timely question, Eric. I like those. My answer is: absolutely not. College basketball is not going to reduce its inventory of regular season games, so if you're starting the season two weeks later, as your question posits, then you're either squeezing in too much in nonconference play or you're pushing the season into mid-April. It wouldn't make sense to wait this deep into November. Starting the season on a Tuesday in early November with the Champions Classic and a few other good nonconference matchups is the ideal way to lift the curtain.
And for those wondering about another scheduling idea, which has been floated with some frequency in recent years: moving college basketball to a single-semester sport and pushing it all the way into January is not the answer, nor is it ever going to happen.
The annual made-for-TV event gets going early next week. Let's rattle off picks for every game right here, right now.
- Virginia Tech at Penn State: Virginia Tech
- Illinois at Notre Dame: Notre Dame
- Michigan State at Louisville: Michigan State
- NC State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin
- Pitt at Iowa: Iowa
- Indiana at Duke: Duke
- Virginia at Maryland: Virginia
- Syracuse at Ohio State: Ohio State
- Rutgers at Miami: Miami
- North Carolina at Michigan: North Carolina
- Purdue at Florida State: Florida State
- Georgia Tech at Northwestern: Northwestern
I've got the ACC edging out, 8-6.
- Gonzaga's Wednesday title match against Duke is the fourth meeting all time between the schools. Duke is 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 18.7 points. Every matchup between the teams has come when both are ranked. The Maui title tilt features Duke at No. 1 and Gonzaga at No. 3. Given how uncommon it is to get No. 1 vs. No. 2, this has a good shot of being the top matchup on paper in the sport this season.
- There was buzz in the past 18 months that 2019 five-star point guard prospect Jalen Lecque might bypass college altogether and declare for the 2019 draft. Because of his age, he would be eligible. But on Wednesday, Lecque, in theory, put that speculation to rest. He signed his National Letter of Intent with NC State.
- Much was made in the offseason about the NCAA getting rid of the RPI in its men's basketball selection process and implementing the NET. The anticipated debut of that metric is expected to be rolled out for the first time by the end of November. Who will be No. 1? What surprises will show in the first rankings?
- Through the first 15 days of the season, 53 teams are still undefeated. North Texas, at 7-0, has played the most games without taking a loss.
Each week, we'll wrap with a photo worth 15 seconds of your time. This week it can only be Zion Williamson, whose windmill dunk in the San Diego State game on Monday provided his top highlight through the first two weeks of his Duke career.
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