To Foul Up Three or To Not Foul Up Three

Today on the show, Brad and Kevin dissect a wild week in college basketball. First, Brad rants about Providence electing not to foul up 3 and their loss to Georgetown. Then, plenty of analysis of Ole Miss’s great week, Duke’s comeback win, rough weeks for several top-25 clubs, and San Francisco’s tilt with Gonzaga. All that and so much more right here on the CBB Central Podcast.

Loyola Survives Illinois State, Moves to 3-1 in Valley Play

By Kevin Sweeney

There are a million ways to win a game.

A comment often made by Loyola head coach Porter Moser was turned around on him postgame by senior Marques Townes, who greeted him in the locker room with those nine words.

It’s not often you’ll win a college basketball game against a conference rival when you don’t make a field goal in the game’s final 6:16, but that’s exactly what Loyola did Saturday at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers held on for a 67-64 victory, sending a sellout crowd that fought the elements to make the trip home happy.

“You would have been looking at a quarantine game four or five years ago,” Moser said postgame, noting the snowstorm hitting Chicago and Loyola students not yet back on campus for the spring semester.

Unable to score down the stretch, the Ramblers turned to their defense to win them the game.

Moser said postgame that to win close games in such a competitive conference, you have to do three things down the stretch: take care of the ball, make your free throws, and get defensive stops.

That’s exactly what they did, getting several key stops late in the ballgame including one on the final possession of the game. They also made all four free throws in the final minute.

On that fateful possession, Loyola locked in, taking ISU out of their rhythm and forcing a deep, contested three by Zach Copeland that didn’t fall. Notably, Redbird star wing Milik Yarbrough wasn’t in the game for that final possession after he committed a turnover on a critical possession with under a minute to play.

Postgame, ISU head coach Dan Muller said that leaving Yarbrough on the bench for the final possession was strategic, attempting to put more shooters on the floor needing a three to tie.

After a putrid offensive showing Tuesday night against Evansville, the Ramblers came out firing on all cylinders in the first half. Loyola posted 40 first-half points after scoring just 48 the entire game against Evansville, shooting 59% from the field and not committing a single turnover.

“After the game [against Evansville] we were all pretty disappointed and the locker room was pretty intense,” sophomore big man Cameron Krutwig said. “We responded really well with some great days of practice.”

Despite the dynamic offensive half, Loyola couldn’t put away the Redbirds in the first, with a few costly mistakes complimented by a few big buckets by Yarbrough and senior guard Keyshawn Evans kept the Redbirds within six at the break.

The Loyola lead ballooned out to as many as 12 in the second half, as the Ramblers took a 50-38 lead on a 3-point play by Townes with 15:06 to go in the game. Townes finished with 21 points on 9-18 shooting to lead all scorers, continuing a strong senior campaign.

Asked postgame whether Townes is an underappreciated player in the conference, Moster said “He’s surely not underappreciated with us.” Townes ranks in the top ten in the conference in points produced, minutes, assists, and field goal percentage. He also leads the league in defensive win shares, per Sports Reference.

The Redbirds didn’t fold, immediately going on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to just 3. They also locked in defensively, holding Loyola to just 39% from the field in the second after the 59% performance in the first.

But when it came to winning time, Illinois State just couldn’t quite get over the hump, failing to execute on several key late-game offensive possessions that could have gave them the lead.

Beyond Townes’ 21, Loyola also got 13 points each from Krutwig and senior point guard Clayton Custer. However, Moser emphasized that he’s still looking for more bench production beyond freshman Cooper Kaifes, who gave the Ramblers eight points in 24 minutes.

The Redbirds fall to 9-8 and 2-2 in MVC play, a disappointing mark for a team that came into the season as one of the favorites in the conference. They were led by Milik Yarbrough’s 19 points and 10 rebounds along with Keyshawn Evans’ 16 points.



Dixie State to Move Up to D1, Join WAC

By Kevin Sweeney

The Division 1 basketball ranks continue to grow.

Dixie State University will be the latest program to make the jump to D1, as they announced in a joint release that the University will join the WAC beginning July 1, 2020. They will be the 355th Division 1 team, with Savannah State dropping down to Division 2 following the 2018-19 season, Merrimack joining the NEC in 2019, and UC San Diego joining the Big West in 2020.

For the WAC, it’s the latest program they’ve helped make the move up as the league attempts to remain viable. The addition of Grand Canyon has certainly earned the conference significant notoriety given the ‘Lopes’ early D1 success. More recently, the league added Cal Baptist, which sits at 9-7 in its first season of D1.

Like GCU and CBU, Dixie State has the potential to have immediate success in the WAC. DSU has an on-campus arena that seats over 4,700 and has been a consistently competitive D2 program. The Trailblazers haven’t won fewer than 18 games in a season since 2008, including a 23-7 mark last season. DSU also beat UNLV in an exhibition in 2013 and lost by 2 to Wyoming this season.

The men’s basketball program is coached by Jon Judkins, who has been their coach for their entire D2 era.

burns arena

Burns Arena, home of Dixie State basketball. Photo Credit: St. George Sports Commission

“Dixie State University is located in the fastest growing city in America and in a state that is supporting higher education at unprecedented levels,” Brian Mueller, Chairman of the WAC’s Board of Directors said per a release. “The university has a growing student body and is investing in excellence in their academic and athletic programs. They have some outstanding athletic facilities, including a Division I level basketball arena. Like Grand Canyon and California Baptist, Dixie State will be competitive immediately and will be a strong contributor to the continued growth of the Western Athletic Conference.”

Dixie State will have to go through a four-year Division 1 transition process where they will be ineligible for postseason play before becoming full members of Division 1 beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.

The WAC will now have nine programs as of 2020. As of now, Dixie State will be an FCS Football independent as the WAC does not offer football, though rumors have swirled of possible further WAC expansion that would eventually create a WAC FCS football conference.

First Year Coaches Getting Job Done Quicker than Expected

By Kevin Sweeney

Every year, it feels like a few first-year head coaches shock us with their ability to win big in their first year with their new program. Taking over for a fired coach at the mid-major level is difficult– the number of immediately-eligible impact players likely to commit to mid-majors in April is very low. That makes it that much more impressive what the six coaches below have done so far– uncover some underrecruited stars or make big systematic changes while developing inherited talent.

Justin Hutson (Fresno State)

Record: 12-3 (3-0 MWC)
Big Wins: Northwestern, Cal, @ Utah State

Hutson has made Bullldog fans forget about losing Rodney Terry pretty quickly and is off to a terrific start to his first career head-coaching gig. With a roster lacking size but loaded with guard talent, Hutson has implemented a spread offense that puts his playmakers in positions to succeed, and guards Deshon Taylor, Braxton, Huggins, and New Williams have all thrived. Hutson has also aided in the breakout junior season of 6-8 Nate Grimes, who has established himself a strong inside presence on both ends. With a NET of 63 and a KenPom of 59, it’s not out of the question that the Bulldogs could steal an at-large bid with a couple bigs in MWC play.

Darian DeVries (Drake)

Record (12-4, 1-2 MVC)
Big Wins: New Mexico State, San Diego

The fourth coach in the last 3 seasons for Drake, DeVries has done a magnificent job in year one. The former Creighton assistant brought in a pair of key grad transfers in Nick Norton (UAB) and Brady Ellingson (Iowa) along with JUCO and prep recruits to rebuild quickly after inheriting a roster that lost five of its top six scorers this offseason. The Bulldogs appeared in position to contend for a conference title, but those hopes were likely dashed when Norton tore his ACL in the team’s MVC opener. Still, you have to love the direction this program is headed in long-term, and a 20-win year for the first time since the Keno Davis 28-5 season in 2007-08 is more than attainable.

Dusty May (FAU)

Record: 10-5 (1-1 CUSA)
Big Wins: @ UCF, @ Illinois

Like DeVries, some of the luster of this year has been lost by recent injuries, as May has lost star 4-man Jailyn Ingram and talented freshman wing Jaylen Sebree to season-ending injuries, while grad transfer Xavian Stapleton has also missed time but is expected back soon. Those injuries haven’t stopped May’s group from pulling some big upsets in the non-conference season over UCF and Illinois, and the Owls are well on track for their best-ever finish in Conference USA.

Craig Smith (Utah State)

Record: 11-5 (1-2 MWC)
Big Wins: Saint Mary’s

My friends over at Three Man Weave did an awesome job breaking down the X’s and O’s of why Smith’s Utah State team has been so good this season, so I will keep it short in that area. Smith made a game-changing August addition in Portuguese big man Neemias Queta who has made a huge impact, especially on the defensive end. Combine Queta’s interior presence with Sam Merrill’s ability to get buckets, and you have something special on your hands. Smith made a living off uncovering hidden gems with great success at South Dakota, and it appears he’s already found one in Queta. If he finds a couple more, he’ll have this Utah State program rocking and rolling for a long time.

Griff Aldrich (Longwood)

Record: 10-6 (0-1 Big South)
Big Wins: @ Richmond

Longwood’s combined D1 record in the 14 seasons before Griff Aldrich arrived in Farmville? 130-312.

Griff Aldrich’s record so far at Longwood? 10-6.

That’s impressive no matter how you slice it, especially he wasn’t a college coach until 2016 when he joined Ryan Odom’s UMBC staff as Director of Basketball Operations. The Lancers rely heavily on the 3-point shot, taking move than half of their shots this season from downtown. With three excellent veteran guards in Isaiah Walton, Lorenzo Phillips, and JaShaun Smith, this team can compete with anyone in the Big South.

Walter McCarty (Evansville)

Record: 8-8 (2-1 MVC)
Big Wins: Ball State, Loyola-Chicago

Few doubted McCarty would get this Evansville program going when he landed Kansas transfer Sam Cunliffe during his first summer as head coach. I just didn’t expect it to happen this fast.

After returning just 3 players who averaged more than 2.8 points per game last season, McCarty has worked his magic to get this team to .500. The Aces have implemented a pro-style offense emphasizing spacing, with dynamic wing KJ Riley (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 apg) the primary beneficiary. Once McCarty gets his guys into his system, watch out.