Krutwig Stays Perfect, Ramblers Regain Confidence in Win Over Niagara

By Kevin Sweeney

For the first ten minutes and change, it looked like more of the same for Loyola. Coming off a stunning defeat at the hands of Furman on Friday night in which the Ramblers mustered just 58 total points, The Ramblers looked stagnant on offense once again, and Niagara pulled out to an early 22-14 lead.

A quick timeout by Porter Moser changed things.

From that point, Loyola went on a game-defining 37-9 run spanning into the early stages of the second half, pulling away for a 75-62 victory Wednesday night at Gentile Arena in a campus game played as part of the Fort Myers Tip-Off.

Cameron Krutwig led the way for Loyola (2-1) with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks while shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field. In three games this season, Krutwig is now 15-15 from the field, using his soft touch around the basket to finish at the rim. The sophomore from Algonquin, IL is clearly in better shape than he was last season, and it showed tonight.

“I hope you didn’t say that to him,” Moser said when Krutwig’s shooting start was first mentioned postgame. “He’s taking good shots, we’ve got to continue to get him the ball. It was a total emphasis to start the second half.”

Krutwig, who was unaware of the streak, scored eight points in the first 3:14 of the second half as the Ramblers continued to feed their star big man.

“After Friday, all the players and all the coaches sat back, looked themselves in the mirror, and took accountability,” Krutwig said. “A lot of good stuff happens when I get the ball. The coaches have been preaching it, and we just made it a focal point in the offense.”

The Ramblers put four players in double figures in Krutwig, Marques Townes, Aher Uguak, and Clayton Custer. Custer’s was a quiet 14 points though, as he dealt with foul trouble for much of the night.

After a slow start, Uguak shined as the game went on. The uber-athletic sophomore transfer from New Mexico posted 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 6-9 shooting. It was by far his best game in a Rambler uniform after shooting just 5-14 from the field against Furman.

“I met with Aher this week…I said ‘You have to have fun, you gotta smile!’” Moser said, noting that Uguak had sat out much of the last 2 seasons. “Let your defense and all the little things dictate everything.”

Those “little things” provided a big spark early in the second half, when Uguak tipped out a Krutwig free throw miss, leading to a Krutwig bucket and a big roar from an early-arriving Rambler student section. However, Gentile Arena never got louder than after Uguak threw down a thunderous jam in transition, showing off the athleticism that made him such a highly-touted prospect out of high school.

Loyola held Niagara’s “Big 3” of James Towns, Keleaf Tate, and Marvin Prochet to just 13-42 shooting. The Purple Eagles as a whole shot just 29% from the field in the game. Towns led the charge for Niagara (1-1) with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Prochet posted his second consecutive double-double to begin the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Niagara tried to make a comeback push late in the second half with a 12-0 run that cut the Rambler lead to 10 after falling behind by 22, but a pair of buckets by Krutwig and Townes quickly put the game away.

Moser’s club returns to action Friday night when they take on Grambling State before heading to Fort Myers to take on Richmond and either Boston College or Wyoming. Niagara continues their convoy out west to Laramie for a Friday night tilt with Wyoming.

 

Week One Overreactions and Analysis

Today on the show, Brad and Kevin break down all the action from week one, including analysis of Duke vs Kentucky (2:40-9:15), Florida vs Florida State (9:20-18:40), Auburn’s hot start (18:45-21:30), and other various games throughout opening week. Then, they talk about how the A10 and Mountain West have hurt their respective hopes for multiple NCAA Tournament bids, while the C-USA’s ability to pick off some high-majors gives them hope (44:25-56:30). Finally, they lock in their picks for the week, projecting the champion of each early-season tournament that starts this week, 9 games to watch, and a buy game upset of the week (56:40-1:19:25)

32×32: 2018-19 WCC Preview

By Kevin Sweeney

Today concludes our 32×32 preview series! 32 conferences, 353 teams, and over 50,000 words later, on the pages of this site is all you need to know to get ready for the season! Thanks to all who have supported my work this month, and I can’t wait to get things underway this season!

We wrap things up with the WCC, which features arguably the best team in college basketball. However, the bigger storyline for me is the improving depth of the conference, which continues to develop itself to be more than just Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU.

Standings Projection:

#1. Gonzaga

Even with the Killian Tillie injury, the Zags are legit national title contenders. Adding Geno Crandall solidifies the point guard position next to Josh Perkins, and the Bulldogs are so deep up front. Tillie’s injury and a tough non-conference schedule probably makes an undefeated season not in the cards, but the talent this team has is limitless.

#2. Saint Mary’s

This is a new-look SMC club in the post-Jock Landale era. The Gaels will now rely much more on their backcourt, chiefly Jordan Ford. Ford exploded onto the scene late last season, and is poised to averaged 20+ points per game in 2018-19. Add in South Florida transfer Malik Fitts in the frontcourt with Seattle grad transfer Aaron Menzies and highly-touted freshman Matthias Tass, and this team should be strong again.

#3. BYU

Elijah Bryant was one of the most underrated players in the country last season, a hyper-efficient 3-level scorer who flirted with a 50/40/90 season last season. Losing him early to the pro ranks was a crusher for a BYU program that could have contended for an at-large bid otherwise, but this team still has the pieces to make noise. Dave Rose gets Nick Emery back to pair with TJ Haws in the backcourt, and the Cougars still have an elite big in Yoeli Childs.

#4. San Francisco

I’m bullish on this USF team this season, as Kyle Smith gets high-level guard Charles Minlend back into the mix with Frankie Ferrari and Jordan Ratinho already in the mix. Smith also adds in Belarusian big man Dmitry Ryuny, who posted absurd numbers in the FIBA U18 Euros this summer. The Dons can shoot the ball, and slowly keep adding talent to the mix. This is definitely a program on the rise in the WCC.

#5. Pacific

Adding Jahlil Tripp to the mix changed the game for Damon Stoudamire’s group, a versatile combo-wing who rebounds like a big man and passes like a point guard. Tripp is deployed as a small-ball 4 in most lineups for Stoudamire, paired with 3 guards who can really score the basketball. NDSU transfer Khy Kabellis provides more shooting and scoring punch for the Tigers. JUCO big man Amari McCray could change the game for this group– if he can live up to his recruiting billing the Tigers could be in the mix for an NIT berth.

#6. San Diego

Sam Scholl takes over for Lamont Smith after Smith was forced out in the wake of legal troubles. He’ll look to continue the momentum that Smith was building with the Toreros, who are coming off their first 20-win season in 10 years. The depth with this team isn’t quite there, but the trio of Isaiah Wright, Isaiah Pineiro, and Olin Carter is tough to beat. This USD team should win a few games they shouldn’t.

#7. Santa Clara

An impressive incoming group for Herb Sendek will define his tenure at SCU, and Sendek has a star in KJ Feagin who should help bridge the gap. He’ll pair with Matt Hauser and SEMO transfer Tahj Eaddy for a pretty impressive backcourt, and if sophomore Josip Vrankic can take the next step the Broncos have a chance to surprise.

#8. Pepperdine

Combining Lorenzo Romar’s elite recruiting prowess with Pepperdine’s beautiful Malibu campus is bad news for mid- and high-major programs across the west coast. Romar already has made his mark in his transition class by landing Kessler Edwards and Andre Ball, a pair of potential building blocks next to existing stars Colbey Ross and Kameron Edwards. Once Romar adds a pair of high-impact transfer forwards into the mix in MJ Cage and Keith Smith next year, watch out.

#9. Loyola Marymount

Mike Dunlap enters the season on the hot seat at LMU, and the 9th place finish I’m projecting probably isn’t enough for him to keep his job. The Lions were inefficient on offense last season, but they do bring back a pair of high-level players in James Batemon and Eli Scott who have the talent to push this club into the league’s middle tier.

#10. Portland

Terry Porter hasn’t been able to build much momentum as he enters year 3 as the head coach in the city he played pro basketball. He has a building block in sophomore guard Marcus Shaver, who is on an all-conference trajectory. However, Porter has to recruit more talent and fix the team’s woeful rebounding in order to move up the standings.

All-Conference First Team:

  • Jordan Ford– Saint Mary’s (11.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, .508/.443/.754)
  • Zach Norvell– Gonzaga (12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, .456/.370/.800)
  • Rui Hachimura– Gonzaga (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.6 apg, .568/.192/.795)
  • Killian Tillie– Gonzaga (12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, .580/.479/.773)
  • Yoeli Childs– BYU (17.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, .541/.313/.643)

Player of the Year: Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s)

Ford is going to go off this season. The dynamic scoring guard has been putting up monster numbers all preseason, posting 43 in a secret scrimmage against Stanford in October. The biggest question is whether he moves back over to point guard or if he’ll continue to play in a pure scoring role next to talented redshirt freshman Kristers Zoriks.

Breakout Player: Ford

Ford going from not making an all-WCC team to Player of the Year would classify as a breakout for me. I expect him to average 20+ points per game for the Gaels.

Newcomer of the Year: Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga)

Clarke’s athleticism from the forward position will be a major asset to this Gonzaga team. Reports have raved about Clarke this offseason, and he should provide outstanding defense and versatility for this group. If he has improved as a shooter during his redshirt year, he’s a clear NBA prospect.

Podcast: We Made It!

On a fun new episode of the CBB Central Podcast, Kevin and Brad get you prepared for the new season. First, we go through some season-long bets on everything from whether a team will make the NCAA Tournament to whether a guy will average a certain number of points to whether a guy will be drafted in the first round. This lets us go on record with some hot-ish takes preseason that we’ll look back on after the season ends. Then, we do a little pick’em for the games from Tuesday through Friday, picking the top 10 games of the week.

32×32: 2018-19 WAC Preview

By Kevin Sweeney

While still somewhat-tenuously constructed, the WAC finally appears to have some sort of D1 stability. New Mexico State and Grand Canyon can carry the conference, while Seattle and UVU are on the rise. Meanwhile, reports have the WAC aggressive in recruiting D2 schools to join the D1 ranks with them, with talk of the WAC becoming a football conference (presumably FCS) once again.

Standings Projection:

#1. New Mexico State

One of the nation’s most consistent mid-major programs, NMSU seems to just reload year after year, no matter who the coach is. Chris Jans has helped continue that tradition, bringing in a pair of top-10 JUCO prospects along with a pair of impact transfers fresh off sitting out a year to bolster an NMSU club that returns a pair of key contributors in AJ Harris and Eli Chuha from an NCAA Tournament team. Mohamed Thiam and Ivan Aurrecoecha both come from the JUCO ranks having put up big numbers, and should give the Aggies a fearsome front line to pound teams on the glass. Meanwhile, Utah transfer JoJo Zamora, who briefly committed to GCU in his transfer search, should provide some big-time scoring punch next to Harris in the backcourt. I don’t see this team skipping a beat.

#2. Grand Canyon

In what was supposed to be the breakthrough season in the first year of D1 eligibility for Dan Majerle’s club, the ‘Lopes failed to live up to expectations. The key flaw: GCU couldn’t get any dribble penetration, as perpetual knee injuries hindered Josh Braun’s effectiveness and Oregon grad transfer Casey Benson proved more game manager than shot creator. With both gone, this is a new-look GCU club, one reliant on a frontcourt featuring preseason POY Alessandro Lever and Illinois grad transfer Michael Finke. PG questions loom with sophomore Damari Milstead and D2 grad transfer Trey Dreschel both candidates to start, while scoring guards JJ Rhymes, Carlos Johnson, and Oscar Frayer will all rely on their strength and athleticism to get to the rim. Spacing is a concern, but Majerle has continued to assemble talent and should have a dangerous club for the 2018-19 season.

#3. Seattle

After building an incredibly successful program at Eastern Washington, Jim Hayford is looking to do the same at Seattle. A trio of talented transfers become eligible after sitting out the first year of Hayford’s tenure, as Dashawn McDowell (SMU), Delante Jones (American) and Myles Carter (Seton Hall) join a group that already features Matej Kavas. Carter likely will replace Aaron Menzies as the “1-in” in Hayford’s 4-out, 1-in offense, but none of the transfers will be more important than McDowell. A former well-regarded recruit, McDowell’s athleticism should be an asset at either guard spot, and Hayford could really use another guard who can handle the ball next to Morgan Means.

#4. Utah Valley 

The job Mark Pope has done with this UVU program has been superb, building the Wolverines into a WAC contender among GCU and NMSU. Losing one year wonder big man Akolda Manyang hurts, but UVU still has plenty of talent to make some noise this season. A pair of transfers in Bailey Steele (Eastern Michigan) and Connor MacDougall (New Mexico) will take over up front for Manyang, while the Toolson cousins will continue to provide strong production on the wing.

#5. Cal State Bakersfield 

CSUB was one of the worst shooting teams in college basketball last season, shooting a putrid 30% (342nd nationally) from downtown. That’s a troubling stat given how guard-reliant the Roadrunners are, though CSUB does have some excellent guards at his disposal in Damiyne Durham and Jarkel Joiner along with Rickey Holden. Joiner has all-conference upside– a prolific high school scorer who showed flashes but was a bit of a a ball-stopper as a freshman. Rod Barnes’ club goes smaller and more athletic this season, but will need good production from JUCO import Darius Williams up front to maintain the rebounding edge they held last season.

#6. UTRGV

Lew Hill’s club loses high-usage scoring star Nick Dixon, a crushing blow to a club that didn’t have a ton of scoring depth to begin with last season. I like what Hill has done to his frontcourt, adding athletic forward Solomon Hainna next to Terry Winn to make a very athletic unit that should be able to get up and down in UTRGV’s up-tempo system. However, Hill will need a guard to give them some serious scoring punch in Dixon’s absence. Perhaps that guy is Greg Bowie, who showed promise as a freshman but will have to up his efficiency.

#7. UMKC

Kareem Richardson has been unable to build much momentum at UMKC, and his club is coming off a brutal 2017-18 headlined by a midseason loss to D2 William Jewell. They also committed the cardinal sin of WAC basketball: they lost to Chicago State. The good news for Richardson and company is they were incredibly young last season, with guys like Xavier Bishop, Brandon McKissic, and Marvin Nesbitt all back. JUCO forward Jamel Allen should also give this team a boost. However, another 20+ loss season could put Richardson on the hot seat.

#8. Cal Baptist

The more exciting of the 2 new D1 clubs this season, CBU has engineered a rapid rise to D1 after only moving from NAIA to D2 in 2010. Randy Bennett disciple Rick Croy has done a great job at the D2 level, and I’m confident he can make the Lancers a winner in the WAC with time to recruit, as CBU has great facilities and appears committed to building a winner at the D1 level. For this year, look out for combo guard Jordan Heading, a senior who averaged over 14 points and 5 assists last season.

#9. Chicago State

After spending months looking for a replacement for Tracy Dildy, CSU finally landed on Lance Irvin to run their program. For a program with such poor resources, Irvin is actually a strong hire: his family began the famed Mac Irvin Fire AAU program in Chicago and he has been an assistant at several D1 programs. Plus, he actually wanted the job. The talent level is still very low, and they return no one who averaged more than 6 points per game last season.

Not good, Bob.

All Conference First Team:

  • JoJo Zamora– New Mexico State (6.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, .455/.360/.811 in 2016-17 at Utah)
  • Conner Toolson– Utah Valley (12.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, .454/.395/.810)
  • Oscar Frayer– Grand Canyon (9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, .482/.366/.547)
  • Matej Kavas– Seattle (15.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, .474/.464/.791)
  • Alessandro Lever– Grand Canyon (12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, .453/.321/.766)

Player of the Year: Alessandro Lever (Grand Canyon)

Lever just got better and better as the season went on last season, averaging almost 19 points and 6 rebounds per game in the season’s final 10 games. He has to get smarter and eliminate needless fouls, but Lever is a legit high-major talent who should continue to improve into his sophomore season.

Breakout Player: Greg Bowie (UTRGV)

If this breakout comes true, it will have come out of necessity for Lew Hill’s club. Without Nick Dixon, the Vaqueros desperately need someone to score the basketball. Bowie could be that guy after averaging 7.5 ppg as a freshman. A few promising performances, like his 18 points vs Seattle in January or his 14 points and 6 boards against NMSU, give me reason for optimism.

Newcomer of the Year: JoJo Zamora (New Mexico State)

NMSU has at least 3 players worthy of being in the discussion for this award, but I’ll roll with Zamora, who I’m betting on having a massive year in his only year at NMSU. Zamora can really score the ball, and played a key role for a good Utah team in 2016-17 before electing to transfer for his final year of eligibility.

32×32: 2018-19 SWAC Preview

By Kevin Sweeney

The Mike Davis reign of terror in the SWAC is over, with the long-time Texas Southern head man taking over at Detroit this offseason. The departure of Davis opens things up for a new team to take control of the conference, though TSU made a strong hire in Johnny Jones to run the program in the post-Davis era.

#1. Grambling State

Ineligible for the postseason last season, the Tigers heated up down the stretch despite having nothing but pride to play for, rattling 11 straight wins at one point to finish 13-5 in SWAC play. 4 of GSU’s top 5 scorers return, including star point guard Ivy Smith, who exploded onto the scene last season after a less-than-exciting freshman campaign.

#2. Texas Southern

Former LSU head coach Johnny Jones took over late in the process for the aforementioned Davis, and embraced similar recruiting tactics to his predecessor to add some talent to this club and keep them competitive in the SWAC despite the loss of Trae Jefferson. LSU grad transfer Jalyn Patterson, who played for Jones, should step into the point guard role, while former North Texas forward Jeremy Combs should pair nicely with Trayvon Reed in the frontcourt. I don’t foresee the Tigers missing much of a beat.

#3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

JUCO important Martaveous McKnight was truly a revelation for UAPB, averaging over 18 points per game en route to earning SWAC Player of the Year honors in his first season with the Golden Lions. Combine a star scorer like McKnight with a stout defense, and George Ivory has a legit SWAC contender on his hands.

#4. Prairie View A&M

To say PVAMU has gone all in on the transfer market is an understatement. Not a single scholarship player on the roster came from the high school ranks, with the roster littered with JUCO and D1 transfers. The Panthers should get excellent guard play, with returning stars Gary Blackston and Dennis Jones being joined by Kent State grad transfer Taishaun Johnson, who averaged over 12 points per game as a freshman at South Alabama before steadily falling off the map. If he can revert to his 2015 form, no SWAC club will have more firepower than PVAMU.

#5. Southern

Once a rising name in the business who recorded a pair of 20+ win seasons in 4+ seasons at Morehead State, Sean Woods starts over as the head coach at Southern after player abuse allegations led to his dismissal from Morehead. Woods will lean heavily on senior guard Eddie Reese, who averaged over 11 points and 3 assists per game last season, as well as mobile big man Sidney Umude, for big production out of the gates.

#6. Alabama State

After entering SWAC play winless, the Hornets put together a surprisingly-successful 2017-18 conference campaign, going 8-10 and breeding some future optimism with a lot of production returning. Reginald Gee and Jacoby Ross should provide some backcourt fireworks, but ASU will have to improve from the charity stripe, where they shot under 65% as a team last season.

#7. Jackson State

JSU loses a ton of production from last season. Adding Ball State grad transfer Jontrell Walker, a microwave-type scorer who played a big role Incarnate Word before heading to BSU should help in that regard, but Wayne Brent needs a few of his newcomers to step up in order to contend.

#8. Alcorn State

Shooter Maurice Howard should be the focal point offensively for the Braves this season, as ASU loses AJ Mosby from last year’s club. Watch out for JUCO import Jonathan Floyd, who averaged almost 17 points per game while shooting over 44% from downtown for Copiah-Lincoln.

#9. Mississippi Valley State

The Delta Devils bring back a ton of production, but how good a thing is that considering they only won 4 D1 games last season? MVSU was mostly horrible on both ends, with former Memphis wing Dante Scott a bright spot in what was a forgettable season. Not much improvement should be expected.

#10. Alabama A&M

Former FIU head coach Donnie Marsh departed his post as AAMU’s head man after a brutal 3-28 opening season, instead opting for a spot on Michael Fly’s staff at FGCU. Former Morehead State assistant Dylan Howard takes over on an interim basis, and he inherits a club that was the worst in the nation on a points-per-game basis.

All-Conference First Team:

  • Ivy Smith– Grambling St (16.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.0 apg, .399/.362/.805)
  • Gary Blackston– PVAMU (19.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, .439/.358/.719)
  • Martaveous McKnight– UAPB (18.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, .452/.352/.724)
  • Dante Scott– MVSU (14.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, .420/.370/.775)
  • Trayvon Reed– Texas Southern (9.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, .683/.111/.657)

Player of the Year: Martaveous McKnight (UAPB)

The defending POY, McKnight should be seen as the clear favorite this season. His scoring prowess was truly game-changing for the Golden Lions last season, and he should have a huge senior season.

Breakout Player: Maurice Howard (Alcorn State)

Howard knocked down 75 triples last season, and 100 shouldn’t be seen as out of the question this season as he moves into a bigger role. The Braves will need a big year from him with all the production they lose.

Newcomer of the Year: Jeremy Combs (Texas Southern)

Combs barely played in his only season at LSU, but before that he was one of the better big men in the C-USA. In 2015-16, Combs averaged nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Mean Green. He should be a steal at this level.