Siena Wins Worst College Basketball Game Ever®️

By Kevin Sweeney

It was the worst collegiate basketball game I have ever watched.

Siena took down Saint Peter’s in triple overtime yesterday by a final score of 59-57. The game was tied at 40 at the end of regulation, tied at 45 after one OT, 50-all at the end of the second. The fact that a team gets to walk away with a win on their resume from that game almost seems unfair.

With Siena losing star guard Nico Clareth to a midseason transfer and without their 2 best off-ball scorers in Jordan Horn and Khalil Richard due to injuries, it was always going to be a struggle for the Saints to put the ball in the basket. To combine that with playing Saint Peter’s, a team that under John Dunne is known for grinding the tempo of games (347th in possessions per game this season) to a halt, was a recipe for a grind-it-out affair.

We knew it would be ugly.

We didn’t know it was possible to be that ugly.

The first half concluded with Saint Peter’s leading 24-16, as they roared out to a nice lead by shooting a blistering 39% from the field and 3-9 from 3. Meanwhile, Siena had double the number of turnovers than made field goals (10-5) and didn’t have a single player make more than 1 field goal in the half.

At that point, this was bigger than 1 game: many Saints fans began to sarcastically root for the Siena to beat the record for their lowest-scoring D1 game of 39. Whatever Jimmy Patsos said in the locker room must have worked, as Siena’s offense churned up to another level in the second. Saint Peter’s committed 7 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the second half, putting Siena in the bonus for the rest of the game. But the Saints went just 19-33 from the stripe in the second half and overtimes, including putrid showings from big man Prince Oduro (2-8) and wing Thomas Huerter (2-7). At one point, the teams combined to miss 6 straight free throws in the span of 3 seconds of game action. Take a look at this brutality:

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There’s a very real argument to be made for shutting a game down immediately when something like this happens.

Yet somehow in such an ugly affair, the game just found a way to be entertaining in its unpredictability. Whether it was the only 1 field goal made in the final 5:50 of regulation, the teams trading 5-0 runs to keep the score tied in the first overtime, a jump ball to end the second OT period, Prince Oduro traveling as soon as he caught a defensive rebound for Siena, or 2 consecutive shot clock violations by the Saints in the 3rd OT, the game was simply something to behold.

In the end though, a big bucket by sophomore wing Ahsante Shivers (14 points, 10 rebounds) gave Siena the lead late, and they held on at the buzzer to claim one of the strangest wins in CBB history.

Of course, the always-quotable Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos had plenty to say postgame, saying “I was glad we went three overtimes. Otherwise, we weren’t going to score 40 points, and I didn’t want that score flashing around the country,” per Mark Singelais of the Times Union.

And if you think watching that game took a toll on the fans, look at what it did to Patsos:

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That man is drenched.

To be honest, I’m not sure how to end this. After the watching that game, I sat around for about 15 minutes processing what I had just witnessed. The lowest-scoring 3OT game (by a wide margin of 21 points) since 2002, per Ken Pomeroy. The game didn’t cover the over even though they played 15 extra minutes! But it was more than that, it was an absolute mess of a basketball game. In fact, it was such a mess that my dorm room lost power. No one else’s did. Just mine. I’m convinced that this is not a coincidence.

Have a great day, and shield your eyes on February 25 when these teams match up again.

Seton Hall Handles DePaul on Delgado’s Record-Setting Night

By Kevin Sweeney

Entering Wintrust Arena today, Angel Delgado needed just 2 rebounds to become the Big East’s all-time leading rebounder.

He grabbed 19 of them, setting the tone for an 86-70 victory Sunday over DePaul as the Pirates got back on track in Big East play. Myles Powell led all scorers with 21 points, including some huge shots in the second half when DePaul tried to make things interesting.

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Angel Delgado and Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard share a moment shortly after Delgado eclipsed Derrick Coleman’s Big East rebounding record. Photo by Kevin Sweeney/CBB Central

The first half was very much a half defined by runs. After Seton Hall ran out to a 19-8 lead in the early going, DePaul responded, as some excellent play from freshman PG Justin Roberts helped get the Blue Demons back within 23-21.

“His ability to put the ball in the basket is obvious,” DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said of Roberts. “My hope for him is as we turn the page from January to February that he can start shaking off what makes a young guy young.”

But with Roberts sidelined with 2 fouls, Seton Hall took advantage, going on a 23-6 extended run to seize full control of the game as the first half wound down. The Pirates got 19 points from their bench in the opening period, an area where the Pirates have struggled at times this season.

For much of the second half, it appeared that the Pirates would have no issue putting away the Blue Demons. But DePaul had one run left in them. Trailing 64-46 with 11:59 to go, DePaul went on a 12-2 run, cutting their deficit to just 8 and electrifying the crowd at Wintrust Arena. The run was sparked by Eli Cain, the talented junior guard who had struggled for much of the night, as he got a pair of buckets and connected on a beautiful assist to help get the Blue Demons going. But Powell was there with the answer, hitting a pair of big 3’s that helped ice the game for the Pirates.

Seton Hall’s ability to slow down Cain and DePaul’s leading scorer Max Strus was huge in the winning effort. Cain went for just 11 points on just 5-18 shooting, while Strus never really got involved in the game and was held to a very quiet 9 points on 4-9 shooting.

Leitao blamed his team’s lack of ball movement when discussing Strus’s quiet night, saying, “When you really move the ball and you attack, the balls ends up finding itself in good players hands.”

Seton Hall moves to 16-5 on the season and 5-3 in Big East play, earning a much-needed win after having losing 3 of their last 4 games. They will return home Wednesday to take on Providence.

DePaul falls to 9-12 on the season and 2-7 in Big East play. Tre’Darius McCallum led the way with 16 points and 6 rebounds for the Blue Demons, who will go on the road to take on Butler on Saturday.

CBB Central Mailbag: 1/27

By Kevin Sweeney

A loaded day in college basketball is upon us, and I decided there was no better way to start that than to answer some of your mailbag questions as we head down the stretch of college basketball season. Thanks to those of you who submitted questions and if your’s didn’t get answered send me a tweet and I will answer it in Twitter form! Here we go:

Conference USA has been absolutely awesome to watch this season. A lot of really talented teams at the top of the league have a chance to make noise if given the opportunity to, but the chances for a 2-bid CUSA will be hurt by my answer here: I believe the champ will have 3 or more losses. I just can’t see WKU, MTSU, or ODU, the league’s 3 one-loss teams, winning out until conference tournament time. Every team in the top 5 of the conference (MTSU, WKU, ODU, Marshall, UAB) will play each other at some point the rest of the season, and it would be a monumental achievement to sweep that set of games given how talented (and different stylistically) those 5 teams are.

Vermont hasn’t lost an America East game since February 8, 2016. This blog was started 5 days later. Yeah, Vermont has been THAT dominant. And despite being without superstar big man Anthony Lamb, the Catamounts’ streak may just run into the 2018-19 season. Becker is as good as any coach in the country at getting players to star in their role and putting a team together that plays to its strengths. Without Lamb, this team isn’t as talented as other top mid-majors, but I wouldn’t want to see UVM in March because I know Becker will have his team prepped and ready to go. As for his job prospects, I think UConn should absolutely give him a call if Kevin Ollie gets fired, and he’d be a slam dunk at Rhode Island if Danny Hurley were to take a bigger job this offseason. I also wouldn’t rule him out for an opening in Indiana or somewhere else in the midwest, as he has strong recruiting ties in that state.

Coaching is the biggest factor in my book. Obviously you need talent, but it’s very rare that the mid-major will have more talent than the Power 5 program. That said, from a roster construction standpoint, you need some veterans who have played a lot of basketball and know how to win. I think you need to be able to hit the 3 at a high level, but you can’t live and die by the 3 if you want to consistently win these battles. From a recruiting standpoint, you have to thrive on landing versatile kids; as many 6-3 to 6-7 athletes who can shoot and defend as you can. If you can assemble that, you then have more defensive options and the ability to create mismatches. It’s very rare to be able to gash a Power 5 school by having lots of good bigs. Spread them out, beat them in space, and trust your veterans to make plays late in games.

Full disclosure on this one for those who don’t follow me as regularly on Twitter: I am actually a student at Northwestern and have been to every home game this season except for the ones I was on break for. I even did some reporting on this exact story in the preseason for a class project.

From a pure wins-and-losses perspective, Northwestern has been perfectly fine at “home”, and their struggles away from Allstate Arena should be the story. But I think it goes beyond just wins and losses. Northwestern basketball drew an excitement from its students and a buzz across Evanston and the entire Chicagoland area last season. While excitement on campus was tempered due to the accessibility issues of Allstate Arena (about 45 minutes by student shuttle on a good day from Northwestern’s Evanston campus), it was still present early in the season. But as the season began to spiral downhill early, being able to go home to a rowdy home atmosphere and a high level of excitement and energy for every big home game would have been huge. Maybe it would have helped Northwestern get their “mojo” back, something I’ve mentioned a few times that the Wildcats have lacked this season.

That said, I don’t think Allstate Arena is the reason Scottie Lindsey regressed and became one of the most inefficient volume scorers in major conference basketball, or that the Wildcats have virtually no depth, or that they can’t defend in man-to-man against much of the Big Ten. Northwestern has shown signs of life, winning 2 in a row, but it will take a ton of work to even be in the discussion about the NCAA Tournament come March.

Staying in the Big Ten but pivoting to a team that has surprised in a good way this season, Tim Miles has done a really solid job making this Nebraska team competitive entering a year in which many thought he was a lame duck. Personally though, I don’t think that Nebraska has that strong a case for an NCAA Tournament bid. They have no Quadrant 1 wins and are very unlikely to even get a chance at one except maybe in the conference tournament. The RPI, KenPom, Haslametrics, and T-Rank all have the Huskers outside the top 50 in their rankings, and their only OOC win of note is a victory over a mediocre Boston College team, while losses to St. John’s and UCF look worse than they did at the time. The one thing in Nebraska’s favor is a favorable late schedule in the Big Ten, with 5 of their final 8 at home and none against the top 4 teams in the conference. If Nebraska can get to 12 conference wins and win at least 1 conference tournament game, they will be right in the thick of bubble talk come Selection Sunday.

https://twitter.com/GregGardner1/status/957007419971915776

The Mavericks have been a major disappointment this season, especially in conference play. Losses to CCU and Little Rock have helped anchor this team to just a 4-5 start in Sun Belt play. And while no one number tells the entire story for UTA’s struggles, we knew going into the season that this team would go as far as Kevin Hervey and Erick Neal would take it. While that senior dynamic duo has been far from bad, the margin of error is very slim with this team and without both playing excellent basketball, the Mavs are pretty average. Hervey’s shooting numbers across the board have dropped in conference play, and Neal, one of the best distributors in college basketball, is averaging under 6 assists per game in Sun Belt games after hovering around 10 apg for much of OOC play. That duo is special and will be very tough to beat in March, but right now things don’t look good for the Mavs as their “window” to Dance with Hervey and Neal still in Arlington is closing rapidly.

@MaceoBaller16 gets the last question(s) of the mailbag in. On Stanford, the big thing was getting healthy and their freshmen getting comfortable in college basketball. They’ve done just that with Dorian Pickens returning to action and Daejon Davis really stepping up lately as a freshman. Recently, they’ve just passed the eye test for me as an NCAA Tournament team, but that resume needs a ton of work after losses to 2 Big Sky schools, LBSU, and Cal. They probably need 13 or more Pac-12 wins to be in the at-large mix, and even that is tough. They will be a dangerous potential bid-thief though.

Mid-Season Mid-Major lineup is one of the most interesting questions I’ve gotten in awhile. Here’s what I’d build (these may not be the BEST at each position, but rather what pieces would fit together best).

  • PG: Emmett Naar (St. Mary’s)
  • SG: Kendrick Nunn (Oakland)
  • SF: Jemerrio Jones (NMSU)
  • PF: Nick King (MTSU)
  • C: Ajdin Penava (Marshall)
  • Coach: Steve Forbes (ETSU)

And finally, if I were to add a player to play with Trae Young, I’d either go with Marvin Bagley or Jevon Carter. Bagley and Young in a pick-and-roll? Watch out. And giving Oklahoma an elite perimeter defender (while also taking away his kryptonite) to go out and get stops late would be incredible.

Thanks as always for reading and enjoy a great Saturday of college basketball!

Mid-Major Basketball’s Breakout Stars in 2017-18

By Kevin Sweeney

Each year, I spend much of the offseason looking for the next superstar: guys with solid numbers early in their careers who explode and turn into college basketball’s elite. Now in the heart of the conference season, I’ll take a look at the guys who have done just that. Some of these breakout stars were easy to see coming, others absolutely came out of nowhere. Here’s my top 10 breakout stars at the mid-major level.

Luwane Pipkins (UMass)

Matt McCall has quickly started to change the culture at UMass, and the biggest beneficiary of that has been Pipkins. After a solid freshman campaign a season ago, Pipkins has established himself as one of the A10’s best this season, upping his scoring efficiency across the board en route to averaging nearly 20 points and 4 assists per game. Still just a sophomore, the sky is the limit for the Chicago native.

Jerrick Harding (Weber State)

Randy Rahe has made a living from developing his players over 4 years, and Harding is no exception. The sophomore has become one of the elite scorers in all of college basketball, more than doubling his scoring output from his freshman season. He’s coming off a recent 10-game stretch in which he averaged 24.8 points per game while shooting 57% from the field. When you combine that type of efficiency with the scoring mentality that Harding has, it’s impossible to stop.

Max Heidegger (UCSB)

Heideger’s number increases this season are honestly a bit hard to believe. He went from an inefficient volume bench scorer as a freshman to an high-level shooter and pure scorer this season. To me, he’s the frontrunner for Big West Player of the Year and a huge reason Joe Pasternack has been able to execute such a massive turnaround this season.

Nathan Knight (William & Mary)

I picked Knight as my breakout player of the year in the CAA, but even I didn’t expect him to be this good. Tony Shaver has designed his offensive system with 4 guards on the perimeter surrounding the big man Knight, giving him lots of space to operate in the post. Knight protects the rim, rebounds the ball proficiently, and is an efficient scorer on the low block- in short, everything you want in a mid-major big man.

Ajdin Penava (Marshall)

Penava was a solid bench big for his first 2 seasons in Huntington, but has blossomed into an absolute star in his junior season. Not only has he diversified his offensive game to be able to score inside and out, he currently leads the nation in blocked shots per game at a ridiculous 4.4 per contest. His ability to make such a big impact on games at both ends of the floor makes him one of the most indispensable players in the country.

Isaiah Reese (Canisius)

Reese showed some promise in his freshman campaign in Buffalo, but I didn’t see the explosion that Reese has had this season coming. The 6-5 sophomore from Miami looks like a legitimate candidate for MAAC Player of the Year and even a sneaky NBA prospect. He brings limitless range and the ability to run the show on offense to the table, as well as a silky-smoothness that is just plain fun to watch.

Dylan Windler (Belmont)

Mostly known as a 3-point shooter last season, Windler has improved his all-around game this season to help replace Evan Bradds’ production. He’s an extremely efficient offensive weapon now, shooting 56% from the field and a lights-out 45% from downtown. Windler is also a force on the glass, snatching 9 caroms per game for the Ohio Valley leaders.

Kevon Harris (Stephen F. Austin)

Harris has asserted himself as the best player on a SFA team that is 16-3 and one of the best mid-major clubs in college basketball. The 6-6 sophomore has really improved as a shooter from his freshman season, as he went from a middling 33% to an elite 46% from downtown this season. Watch out for this guy and the Lumberjacks come March Madness.

Matej Kavas (Seattle U)

Cameron Dollar left one amazing present for Jim Hayford after being fired: Matej Kavas. After playing solid basketball in his first season, Hayford has gotten the most out of the Slovenian sophomore this season. At 6-8 with guard skills, Kavas is a massive matchup nightmare for WAC opposition, and is on track for a special career as one of the building blocks of Hayford’s program.

Yoeli Childs (BYU)

Putting Childs on my WCC preseason first team was one of my best takes of the preseason. Simply put, he’s been a beast. In a league where Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s (especially Jock Landale) get all the publicity, Childs has flown under the radar as one of the best big men in country. The scariest part: Childs is only getting better, and it is going to be really fun to watch him develop over the rest of his career in Provo.

Pretender or Contender: A Look at Conference Play’s Early Overachievers

By Kevin Sweeney

Conference play is in full swing, and with that we finally have a better feel for the majority of the teams in the college basketball. As several teams have gotten off to unexpectedly hot starts to open the conference slate, now’s a great time to take a look at which teams we should believe in and which teams can’t be expected to remain at the top of their conference for the long term.

Atlantic Ten: Duquesne

Status: Pretender

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what Keith Dambrot has done (and continues to do) in his first year at Duquesne. I just don’t think they can continue to fight for a top 3-4 spot in the A10, even with the league down. This team’s lack of depth will be a challenge as conference play wears on, and while the Dukes have been stout defensively, I’m not sure they will have thSe scoring punch to get to the 12 or so conference wins that it will take for a top 4 finish. That said, the fact that Dambrot has the Dukes in position to be a top half team in the A10 with a massive influx of talent coming next year is wildly impressive.

Big South: Radford

Status: Contender

The Big South has appeared much more wide open than the 3-horse race many expected it to be in the preseason, but perhaps the biggest surprise has been Radford. The Highlanders have quietly won 6 of 7 and 4 of 5 to start Big South play, including wins over perennial powers UNC-Asheville and Winthrop. Ed Polite has continued his emergence into one of the Big South’s best (20 ppg, 10.4 rpg in conference play), while freshman guard Carlik Jones has been proficient at scoring the basketball early in his collegiate career. I believe the Highlanders have a real chance to contend for a conference title.

CAA: William & Mary

Status: Contender

Tony Shaver’s club came into the 2017-18 season with low expectations from the media, but the Tribe have been wildly impressive so far. Nathan Knight has blossomed into one of the best big men in the country, and W&M runs remarkably efficient offense with excellent floor-spacing and distribution. With 3 of the next 4 on the road, we’ll learn quickly if my read on things is correct and the Tribe are ready to contend for a CAA title and their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

Horizon League: Wright State

Status: Contender

Perhaps no team has been a bigger surprise to start conference play than Wright State, who knocked off Youngstown State this afternoon to move to 6-0 in Horizon League play. Freshman big man Loudon Love has been a revelation, averaging close to a double-double while giving Scott Nagy a reliable frontcourt presence. Meanwhile, the midseason addition of Cole Gentry, a South Dakota State transfer, has been huge. Gentry has added another steady ballhandler and shooter to WSU’s rotation, and the Raiders are 8-0 in games he’s played at least 20 minutes in. With Oakland not living up to the preseason hype, the door has been opened for Wright State to make a run for the Horizon League title.

MAAC: Canisius

Status: Pretender

I went back and forth with this one, but I’m just not sold yet on this team. The trio of Jermaine Crumpton, Isaiah Reese, and Takal Molson has the capability of beating almost any team in the MAAC. That said, the Golden Griffins have been inconsistent this season and have enjoyed home court in 4 of their 6 conference games thus far. With 4 of their next 5 on the road including 3 of the top 5 teams in the conference, we’ll know quickly if Canisius, picked 9th in the MAAC in the preseason, can make a push towards the NCAA Tournament.

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Much of the core of last season’s Canisius team graduated, such as Phil Valenti (#22), Keifer Douse (#4), and Kassius Robertson (#5), yet the Golden Griffins have been one of the most impressive teams in the MAAC in the early-going. Photo by Kevin Sweeney/CBB Central

 Missouri Valley: Drake

Status: Contender

Drake’s massive turnaround in year one of the Niko Medved era has been one of the better stories of the college basketball season. Medved inherited a senior-laden roster and has led it to a 5-1 start to MVC play. Reed Timmer is one of the most underrated guards in college basketball, and Nick McGlynn has had a major breakout season to give the Bulldogs a big boost in the frontcourt. If they can survive the upcoming 3-game stretch of Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Loyola, the Bulldogs should be in prime position for a top-3 seed in Arch Madness this March.

Ohio Valley: Austin Peay

Status: Pretender

Yet another program with a hot start under a first-year head coach, what Matt Figger has done in year one at APSU is nothing short of remarkable. Behind a grad transfer and 2 stud freshmen, Figger has his club out to a 5-1 start in OVC play including an 87-67 drubbing of Jacksonville State on Saturday. That said, the Govs have had a fairly easy schedule early in conference play, and I still think they will struggle with Belmont and Murray State at the top of that conference.

Nico Clareth to Transfer From Siena

By Kevin Sweeney

The Nico Clareth era at Siena is over.

The Uber-talented but sometimes enigmatic junior guard will not return to the Siena men’s basketball program after taking a leave from the team last week, the School announced today. Clareth will attend Siena as a student in the spring before transferring. He’ll have 1 year of eligibility left after presumably sitting out the 2018-19 season.

Clareth began his tenure in Loudonville with a bang, wowing Siena fans with thunderous dunks and 3-point shooting frenzies en route to winning MAAC 6th Man of the Year as a freshman.

But a career in green and gold that once looked so promising hit roadblock after roadblock over the next 2 seasons. There was an offseason knee surgery that took longer than expected to heal. An indefinite leave of absence during his sophomore season. Rumblings of chemistry issues. But Clareth put those concerns on hold with a performance for the ages in the MAAC Tournament last season against Monmouth, where he exploded for 27 points in the second half on a bum ankle to lead the Saints to a thrilling victory.

After being named a captain in the offseason, it appeared that Clareth had turned a corner. But sources have told me that the Saints had chemistry issues once again, and Clareth left the team before the team’s game on 1/5. The Saints are 5-12 in a rebuilding campaign this season with a young team.

There is no doubt that Clareth has the talent to play at any level in college basketball. At 6-5, he can get to anywhere he wants on the floor, has plus athleticism, and a 3-point stroke that when hot is absolutely unstoppable. But there will be without a doubt concerns about what has transpired over the last 2 seasons as he looks for a new home for his final season of college basketball.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if this departure is the nail in the coffin for Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos, as his team struggles the year after a disappointing 17-17 season. Patsos is 74-80 in his 5th year at Siena, and former Siena beat writer Tim Reynolds (now a writer for the AP in Florida) tweeted this last week: “There is a growing sentiment among people close to the Siena program that major changes are necessary. Some don’t want to wait until March, either.”