College Basketball’s “League Pass” Teams

By Kevin Sweeney

Named for the NBA’s TV package “NBA League Pass”, the discussion of the best “League Pass teams” in the NBA has been floated many times. The premise is simple: if you could only watch a certain number of teams in the entire NBA (5 is a common number to debate), which would they be? So, while us college basketball fans have the luxury of accessing tons of teams through ESPN3 and other online streams, it’s still an interesting hypothetical concept to be brought to a discussion about college basketball. After getting a massive amount of feedback yesterday to the tweet below, I’ve put together my list of 10 college basketball “League Pass teams”.

Oklahoma

There were only a couple teams that felt like locks for this list, but the Sooners were definitely one of them. Who doesn’t want to watch an incredibly efficient offense led by one of the best and most exciting players in college basketball? Norman native Trae Young has been a revelation for Lon Kruger, averaging nearly 29 points and 9 assists per game in an early push for the Wooden Award. The Sooners share the ball, get great looks, and play at an extremely fun tempo, and I can’t wait to watch them more as conference play gets going.

Nevada

If you like the new wave of positionless basketball, I invite you to turn on a Nevada game. You won’t be disappointed. The Wolf Pack can spread you out and attack the rim, or get cooking from 3 and start pouring on points in a hurry. Eric Musselman has assembled a roster nearly exclusively made up of transfers, and that influx of talent has given Nevada a roster that resembles that of any high-major team in the country.

UNLV

Staying in the Mountain West, we pivot to Nevada’s in-state rival at UNLV, which has been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises thus far. Senior point guard Jordan Johnson is all kinds of fun to watch create offense despite is generously-listed 5-9 frame, and the Rebels’ 2 stud recruits in center Brandon McCoy and power forward Shakur Juiston are each averaging double-doubles. They get up and down the floor, make plays, and are definitely one of the most fun-to-watch teams in college basketball.

Duke

If you watch college basketball, chances are you have a strong opinion one way or another about Duke basketball. They are always interesting, but they are especially interesting this year with a transcendent talent in Marvin Bagley and the most controversial player in college basketball in Grayson Allen. The Blue Devils are as explosive offensively as any team in the country, but more importantly, college basketball would be missing something without the Dukies.

Virginia

This is the team that will likely draw the most criticism for its inclusion, but I’m a huge fan of watching Virginia basketball. It may not bring the same excitement that a game featuring powerhouse offenses like Oklahoma or Duke would, but the Cavaliers are always extremely disciplined, well-coached, and play tremendous defense. Plus, it wouldn’t be fun to only watch offensive-minded clubs all the time, would it?

Arizona State

The biggest surprise of the college basketball season has been the scorching start the Sun Devils have been on, capped with an incredible win at Allen Fieldhouse yesterday against Kansas. ASU has perhaps the best backcourt in college basketball with Tra Holder and Shannon Evans leading the way, and freshman big man Romello White has been dominant to open his career in Tempe. At this stage in the game, the Sun Devils are a top 5 team in the country and certainly a team you wouldn’t want to miss.

Villanova

If I were building a basketball team, I’d want it to look like Villanova. The Wildcats are a machine, a model of consistency despite the up-and-down nature of college basketball. They cut well, run extremely efficient offense, and play unselfishly. Definitely a must-watch team in college basketball.

ncaa-villanova-north-carolina-final-basketball

Jay Wright is one of the elite coaches in college basketball and makes his team incredibly fun to watch. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

UT-Arlington

As a mid-major lover, I had to get some true one-bid flavor in this group. And who better to do that with than UT-Arlington, which features one of the best duos in all of college basketball in Erick Neal and Kevin Hervey. Neal is the fearless, undersized creator that most mid-major coaches could only dream about landing, and Hervey is a legit NBA prospect at 6-9 with his ability to space the floor. The Mavs have shown the ability to pull upsets in the past (last season’s road wins at St. Mary’s and Texas come to mind) and they should be a team to watch in March.

Arizona

Since before the season even began, there was plenty of reason to care about the Wildcats. After assistant Book Richardson was arrested as part of the FBI investigation that shook the college basketball world, there was a lot of talk about the Arizona program. Then, a promising season appeared to be on the brink after a disastrous 0-3 weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis. However, the Wildcats have rebounded well from that trip and once again look like one of the most talented and complete teams in college basketball.

Florida

The Gators have struggled of late, but it’s hard to forget the display they put on at the PK80 late last month, where they went 2-1 that played an exciting brand of basketball and took Duke wire-to-wire. Jalen Hudson is incredible at making uber-tough shots, and Chris Chiozza is the engine that runs the Gators at both ends of the floor. Combine that with a great X & O coach in Mike White, and UF still makes my list despite their recent skid.

Three Key Takeaways from WVU – Virginia

By Brendan Crowley

A rivalry game with big national implications went down on Tuesday night in Morgantown, as West Virginia won its 8th straight with a 68-61 thrilling victory over #15 Virginia. Despite the Mountaineers not being able to impose their up-tempo style on the game, they were able to come away with a huge home victory behind a big game from star senior guard Jevon Carter. Here are 3 key takeaways from what was one of the best games of a packed Tuesday night slate:

  1. Virginia’s Bench – The Cavs will be near the top of the ACC by year’s end there’s no questioning that, but in order for them to make that next step and become a contender in the conference they’ll need more scoring outside of Devon Hall and Kyle Guy. Both were sensational last night, as they’ve been all year, the guards’ 37 combined points is what kept UVA in the game during the 2nd half. Other players will have to step up to create their own shot as the season goes along with Guy receiving more and more attention each night.
  2. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.- The Mountaineers have had a stifling defense all season and their ability to keep the Cavs on their toes the entire second half is what ultimately led to a West Virginia win. The Cavaliers’ 14 turnovers turned into points on the other end for the entirety of the game.
  3. Jevon Carter is the REAL DEAL – Last year’s Big12 defensive player of the year is back and better than ever before. He’s leading the nation in steals at a staggering 4.5 steals per game (yes,you read that correctly). Carter filled the stat sheet against the Cavs with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists along with going 9/10 from the free throw line. West Virginia’s returning players will have a major impact moving forward and expect this team to continue its winning ways as the Mountaineers will next take a road trip to Pittsburgh.

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Loyola Romps UIC in All-Chicago Rivalry Game

By Kevin Sweeney

Coming off a blowout defeat to Boise State on Tuesday night for its first loss of the season, one had to wonder how Loyola would come out in a tough home test against UIC.

Let’s just say the Ramblers passed with flying colors.

Loyola used a 23-2 run in the middle of the first half to grab a 20+ point lead they would never come close to relinquishing to claim a 85-61 victory over crosstown and former Horizon League rival UIC Sunday afternoon at Gentile Arena. Senior Aundre Jackson led all scorers with 23 points on 10-11 shooting in just 21 minutes of action for the Ramblers, who move to 8-1 on the season.

UIC was without sophomore point guard Tarkus Ferguson after it was announced he had suffered a stress fracture in his foot, and the Flames never looked comfortable without their floor general. 13 first half turnovers led to 16 Rambler points. UIC head coach Steve McClain took 3 of his 4 available timeouts in the first half, as he did everything he could to try to get his team back on track. But the Ramblers were on a roll and could not be stopped.

It starts off with our defense,” freshman guard Lucas Williamson said. “When we are getting stops and then we go down and hit shots, then we feel unstoppable.”

It was promising sign after promising sign for the Ramblers throughout the contest, with the continued emergence of a pair of freshmen in center Cameron Krutwig and guard Lucas Williamson. Krutwig was a steadying force, stuffing the stat sheet with 9 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. It was his passing ability that was most impressive, as he made several great passes to set up open looks for his teammates.

“He’s a phenomenal passer for any position, Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “He has great anticipation, great vision.”

Moser and his team were visibly excited by the turnout for the game, as the Ramblers had a season-high 3,024 in attendance. That included a large student turnout that was lined up to get in an hour before tip-off.

“I can’t tell the students and everybody how grateful I am that they’ve come and I want them to come back,” Moser said. “It’s a different energy when it’s full in there [Gentile Arena].”

For UIC, it’s the fourth straight loss, as the Flames fall to 2-5 on the season. Marcus Ottey led the way with 16 points on 6-9 from the field.

Loyola also got 14 points from Williamson and 10 points from Clayton Custer. Highly-touted JUCO product Adarius Avery made his season debut with an impressive 7 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes. The Ramblers travel to Gainesville to take on #6 Florida on Wednesday night.