College Basketball, Previewing Miami (OH) and Missouri State

It’s that wonderful time of year when college basketball begins. I’ve taken a look at the area teams (and one not in the area) and will give you what you should watch for this year with each one. This post looks at the Redhawks of Miami (Ohio, in case you were wondering) and the out-of-town team, Missouri State. That’s the American dream, right? Someone who tells you what to think about?

Miami Redhawks (16-18, 8-10 MAC), Head Coach – Jack Owens

The good news for Miami is that they return their leading scorer from a year ago. Nike Sibande averaged just over 15 points a game taking a little over 12 shots a game. The next closest shooter took five-less shots, per game. So the offense will probably run through him again this season. Defensively is where the question comes in. The Redhawks lost their leaders in steals and blocks, in Darrian Ringo and Logan McLane, as Sibande was the only other Miami player to average at least a steal a game. Miami could employ an interesting zone, as their frontcourt will likely be out-sized this year, with no one taller than 6’ 9”. Owen’s second year at the helm of the Redhawks will see some new challenges with a younger team.

Predicting the team MVP – Dalonte Brown. Sibande will lead the team in scoring, but Brown will be second in scoring and first in everything else. In 21 minutes per contest, last season, Brown led the team in rebounds as he was the only Redhawk to pull down at least four defensive rebounds a game.

Best game to watch – Miami plays every team in the tri-state, except Dayton and Cincinnati. Their most intriguing game, from my perspective, will be against Xavier on November 28th. Miami will have gone through the gauntlet of the Bahamas Showcase and may put their development in a hyperbaric chamber, because of it.

Predicting what we will be looking back on, next April – This may be bold, or maybe not, but Miami will win the MAC. They have their scorer (Sibande) and their do-everything guy (Brown) and will have a stellar year two under Owens.


Missouri State Bears (18-15, 7-11 Missouri Valley), Head Coach – Dana Ford

One of these is not like the others, oh, and it’s this one! What is a Missouri team doing in a college basketball blog post about Cincinnati sports, you ask? Well, it’s my blog and I can post about who I want to. Also, one of my favorite coaches, a guy I got to know a tiny little bit while I interned at Tennessee State, was hired as Missouri State’s head coach, back in March. Dana Ford is an awesome coach and human being. As well as growing young basketball players into young men, Ford also helped found the Rebound Foundation. The Rebound’s goal is to end domestic violence. So yeah, he’s a cool dude.

Starting out at Missouri State is going to feel a little like Ford started at Tennessee State. Just three players who accumulated some sort of statistics return from last year’s team. There’s the Bears third-leading scorer in Jarred Dixon, the team-lead in blocks Obediah Church, and a kid who played in 13 games in Ross Owens. The rest of the roster is made up of transfers, a redshirt-freshman, and the Wojcik twins (who are freshmen). This team will be an interesting story and follow, outside of seeing Coach Ford rebuild another school, in that they have zero identity. It will all be on Coach Ford to instill his mentality of physical defense and rebounding in the most major mid-major conference in the country. Oh, and they have a transfer on their team by the name of Jared Ridder, who transferred from Xavier. Just a little nugget for the Xavier fans out there.

Predicting the team MVP – Jarred Dixon. If the scrimmage with Evangel is any indication, he is Coach Ford’s Jay Harris. Harris was the holdover at TSU whenever Ford began there that Ford leaned on to make baskets and drive the offense. Dixon shot 6-of-7 from the field for 15 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. He played 30 minutes in the exhibition, the only player to go over 25. He will be the guy for the Bears.

Best game to watch – January 23, 2019, they host Sister Mary-Margaret and Loyolla-Chicago.

Predicting what we will be looking back on, next April – Coach Ford leads the youngsters and the brand new Bears to a 9-9 MVC record.

Check out more area college basketball previews:

The Gem City Previews

The Blue Grass Previews

The Queen City Previews

Follow @jefffcarr and @sportsinnati on Twitter

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Monday Musings

It’s Monday morning (at time of writing) and my mind is in a bit of an entanglement.

Firstly, AJ Green is hurt. The report says “some games” which is about as vague as the chances I give the Bengals of beating the Saints, without him. Apparently, he hurt it in the last game before the bye, whenever he got up grabbing at his toe. Some reports say that, after the game, AJ mentioned stubbing it and he’ll be fine. Then he was seen at PBS in a walking boot. Now they’re saying multiple games will be missed. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see that Tyler Boyd will be Andy Dalton’s number one target for the Saints game, the Ravens game, and maybe beyond that. In a league where the slimmest of margins separate wildcard teams from teams who finish 7-9, losing AJ really blurs that line for Cincinnati.

The Reds are being linked to a number of different free agents, and it’s got me excited. Sure, I looked at season tickets and realized peons like me aren’t meant to afford that regality (plus, different ticket apps make it cheaper and easier to go to the games I want, anyway) and the Opening Day tickets available on websites start at $150, right now, as the “market” preys on overenthusiastic instant-gratification junkies. That being said, I’m all in on Redsfest coming at the end of November and will probably type up a few words on it, too. I’d love to meet Dallas Keuchel, or Patrick Corbin, or even Nathan Eovaldi, but we’ll see. The powers that be for the oldest professional base-ball franchise have said they’ll break the bank. But whether it’s a bigger crack in the piggy bank or a full blown shattered oinker, remains to be seen.

I plan on writing more about this next thought, so I’ll be brief, but college basketball is back, baby, and this fool just got cable. Hope my wife is ready to hear lots squeaking sneakers and swishing nets!

UC football is back ranked in the Top-25 with a pair of games against good Florida football teams (USF and UCF). That being said, they get the lesser of two Florida’s at home, this Saturday, in a game I think they have a much better shot at winning than I did in August. Then comes the monster that is UCF. 21-straight wins (maybe 22 by next week) will face off against the Luke Fickell reclamation project. Coach Fick has built the Cats into bonafide football players in just a year and a half, and may be the next name to be plucked from Clifton to a big time job. Nobody, including me, saw the success he’s had this year as possible, and yet here we are. We could be talking about a 10-win Bearcats football side, come December, and that is magnificent.

I’m still on about Bohemian Rhapsody. What a film. Been listening to Queen all weekend.

Also, playing Red Dead 2 any chance I get. It’s so simple and yet so fantastic. Much like many a good Western flick. One of the latest “missions,” or maybe stories is a better term for them, that I completed was one where your character gets drunk, but has to keep his other drunk friend out of trouble, and then run from Johnny-Law. Rockstar just knows how to make an entertaining video game.

Right, well, back to Monday, I suppose.

Brilliant Idea from the NBA G League

The NBA has come up with an idea to combat the “one and done” mentality of the NCAA, using the G League, and it is solid. This is an idea that, given proper implementation with its nuances, will be beneficial for players, schools, and NBA teams.

In case you haven’t seen anything about this, yet, here is an in-depth article about the new plan for the G League, courtesy of ESPN. https://es.pn/2P9n29h

In short, for prospects determined to be elite talents that would go to school for no more than one year (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, etc.) the NBA developmental league, known as the G League, will offer them a one-year contract for $125k, known as the “professional path” plan. This will free them from the bonds of amateurism as outlined by the NCAA and will open them up to focus on the one thing they want to focus on: basketball.

This is a brilliant plan for the player. Think about it. You’re a blue chip, five-star recruit sitting at home. You just got done talking to John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Mike Krzyzewski about coming to play ball at their schools. You’re star-struck by who you talked to, but then it hits you: a good portion of your time will be spentin class. Not class about basketball. Not a genuine professionally experienced basketball person teaching you the ins and outs of the euro-step. No, someone teaching art history, or ethics, or, God forbid, biology. Is a mitochondria going to help you sink a three-point jumper with a hand in your face? Probably not.

So there you are, wondering about which professor is going to fail you (nobody at North Carolina, from what I hear), when you get another call. “Hey, I know basketball is in your blood. Would you like to focus your skill for a year, concentrate only on improving your draft stock and legally make $125,000.00 bucks in the process?” How can you say no?

Oh sure, the first argument out of the gate is about the exposure. Kentucky basketball is legendary and on national television, playing marquee schools like North Carolina. There are passionate fans whose lives revolve around whether their school wins or loses. You don’t want to be a part of that? I mean, if your ultimate goal is to be a top pick in the NBA draft, then this shouldn’t be a huge factor to you. What NBA general manager says “Well, John Smith wasn’t super popular amongst the fan base of State University, so he’s falling down the draft board?” None, I hope. At least no successful GM would. They’re looking for talent and if a player can fit into their scheme. None of that is derived from whether a fan from their college likes them. It comes from their personal development through practices and games.

Sure, the G League isn’t broadcast far and wide, but that may actually be a good thing. How many kids’ abilities are compromised because they did something silly in a game and that school’s rabid fan base then blows up social media with how that kid is now a joke of a player? I would think that the lesser known exposure of the G League would have a sort of charm to it for a blue chip prospect looking to make a career out of putting the ball through the net, because he can develop his game in relative peace.

Plus, the player can hire an agent, get a shoe deal, and do all that marketing stuff outside the game, because he isn’t bound by the NCAA’s silly rules regarding amateurism. That is a huge deal, in my opinion.

In my next post, I’m going to tell you why This is terrific for NBA Teams. Stay tuned, and stay classy.

Thinking about College Basketball in September

It’s late September and baseball is transitioning into the post season, football season is building up some steam, and I want to talk college basketball. What? Yeah. I know, it’s a bit early, but I took a look at whats up on the hardwood today.

First thing I noticed is a familiar face (to me) in a new place. I once traveled with the Tennessee State men’s basketball team as their media relations point of contact. That was the 2014-2015 season, the first for head coach Dana Ford. He was the youngest coach in the country, that season, having just turned 30 that year.

In his first season, the Tigers won just five games. He was able to transform that team into a 20-11 team the very next year, earning conference coach of the year. Fast forward to March of this year. Ford accepts the offer to become the head coach of Missouri State. I’d kept tabs on him at TSU and now look forward to watching him move through the Missouri Valley Conference. 

Ford takes over a team who finished in the bottom half of the conference where Sister Mary, aka Loyola-Chicago, hails from. He’s got just two returning players who saw playing time for the Bears last year. He’s also got a former Xavier player in redshirt-freshman Jarred Ridder. I’ll keep my eye on Missouri State and Coach Ford, this year, and may even tell you a little bit about em, on this space.

The other thing I noticed was the ticket prices for Cincinnati’s home opener, the re-opening of Fifth-Third Arena, against Ohio State. My go-to app for tickets, Gametime, has the cheapest ticket for that game currently going for $94. UC is advertising this coming basketball season, heavily, at football games. People are excited to see the new arena, and excited to see how the Bearcats follow up last year. 

I’ll write more about this in the days to come, but I’m looking forward to Kyle Washington, Jaron Cumberland, and the rest of the team picking up where they left off.

As someone who constantly has sports on the television, I am enjoying my football and baseball, but am looking forward to some hoops. Without having looked at it, I’d say the top five for the preseason rankings are Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, and Michigan State, in some kind of order.

Pump Fakes and Passes – Thoughts while watching basketball

Currently watching the Loyola-Chicago vs Nevada game and had a few thoughts…about a myriad of things…that I wanted to write.

Currently, Sister Jean is handling the Wolfpack, up by nine, at the moment.

I will not elaborate fully, but man I was mad on Sunday. Seriously, one of the worst days in the life of a Cincinnati sports fan. The Bearcats blow a 22-point lead. You might have heard that. Also, the other team from the Queen City, Xavier, blew a 12-point lead. Something about Cincy and the postseason. I’m thinking of doing a post about what was the worst day in my Cincy fandom (shout out to Kyle at the office for the idea), but I am having trouble containing the post to something less than a Tolkien book. Stay tuned.

Loyola has forced nine turnovers on Nevada tonight. You totally can’t prove I’m wrong when I say this, so I’ll say it: UC would have beaten Nevada if they forced nine turnovers.

The mahi-mahi at Bonefish Grill is pretty darn good. Solid taste, great texture, and when you get “Rhea’s Mahi-Mahi” the spinach and lump crab meat make a great team, Bonefish is a good place to eat.

Nevada trying to make a comeback, now just down a touchdown. Needs the defense to lockdown the Wolfpack’s transition game because Sister Jean cannot hang with Nevada’s athleticism.

I have a pair of fantasy baseball teams this year (those of you who know me well are silently congratulating me on my newfound restraint) and one of the teams does not have Joey Votto on it. I love fantasy sports, but when it’s baseball I am quite biased. I am not complaining about a friend drafting him from under my nose, I am lamenting that I forgot about the draft even happening. Some commissioner I am…

Loyola-Chicago is, once again, doing whatever they want. Nevada will force a turnover only to find their pockets have been picked before they can even try to get points off the turnover. The Ramblers look poised for the Elite Eight.

Saw the new trailer for Deadpool and I am very aroused exited. The trailer shows he is putting together X-Force in this one, which could be Marvel working him into the Avengers. Is there an actor more perfect for a role that Ryan Reynolds being Deadpool? I’ll hang up and listen. Meanwhile, I like Josh Brolin as Cable. He’s the K to Reynolds J (obligatory Men in Black reference). It’s been awhile since I laughed at a movie as much as I laughed at the first Deadpool, so bring on round two.

Here’s a fun fact…I know nothing about college basketball, despite knowing a little about it. Nevada now two possessions behind Loyola. The Wolf pack just don’t like to have the lead until the final seconds. They led less than five minutes, total, in their first two wins on this tournament. These final minutes are going to be fun.

Big Oreo ad on the scorer’s table in Atlanta. Name a more iconic cookie, I’ll wait.

Tie game now! The twins for Nevada have some kind of Protectors of the Universe vibe around them. Pretty sure they get around town in a couple mini lion bots.

Looking forward to Opening Day, just one week from today. The Reds have year two of the young starting rotation on-deck, and I am thinking it’s going to be better this time. Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo look like the two heads of the rotation with Sal Romano being the next Mike Leake, and Amir Garrett, the Reds X-factor, holding down the back end of the rotation. The bullpen will be solid and so will the lineup. They just need the starters to do their jobs. Mark my words, if the Reds starters churn out quality starts 2 out of every 3 games, .500 is the floor for this team.

Two-point lead with less than two minutes to play and Loyola continued to dominate in the paint, but Nevada knocked down a trey to bring it within one with just am minute to go. Then pandemonium ensued. The Wolfpack had two good looks at the lead only to see the Ramblers grab the board and the subsequent free throws. 41.3 left with Nevada down three and the ball. Loyola wisely fouled, avoiding a possible game-tying three. The Ramblers, after Nevada sank the two freebies, with a one-pint lead sunk a DAGGER trey to go up four with six seconds left. Marcus owns sends Sister Jean to the Elite Eight!

Bracket Monday

The best Monday of the year happened yesterday. Now, some may disagree, especially with the time change and losing an hour just one day before, but Bracket Monday is the only, non-holiday, Monday of the year.

“That’s not what it’s called,” says some no-name.

“Well, it is now,” says I.

Bracket Monday is a day that, no matter what I am supposed to be doing, I am totally focused on the bracket. Who will make the Final Four? Which team is this year’s Cinderella? Will a 16-seed finally defeat a 1-seed? These are questions that my feeble, fandom-soaked, mind is only partially successful at deciphering. Regardless, I thought it worth sharing, so here we go.

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Lets start with the group of death, the South Region. I am super biased here…and that doesn’t really stay within their region, but I’ll get to that later. I like my Bearcats! Frankly, I feel like they are the better team in all their matchups, except for the Elite Eight when they find a way to beat Virginia, but there is more there than just the seeds. I, admittedly, do not know much about Nevada, but I can see Mo Bamba and Texas making it to round two. The Bearcats will be able to neutralize Bamba, forcing the rest of the team to step up, something they aren’t that adept at doing. Then, in the Sweet 16, UC will be able to slow Tennessee down to a crawl and make enough shots to get to, what I regard, as a dream matchup in this Tournament. I am so excited at the prospect of a UVA vs UC game in which the winner may score just 40 points, so I will totally pick it…because I really want it to happen.

Good spot to put a disclaimer, I like to fall back on picking matchups I want to see.

Other than the Longhorns, I feel good about the other two upsets I picked. Seth Davis, from the Athletic, is all over Buffalo over Arizona…but he still picked Arizona to win. I am taking it one step further and taking the Bulls. The other upset, Loyola-Chicago over Miami (Fla.), is more about what a story I could see it being. LC hasn’t been to the Dance in a long time, so I don’t see them bowing out to get some punch before the music kicks in. For what it’s worth, I am a fan of Kentucky…but this year has been so un-Calipari that I could almost see them losing in the first round to Davidson. I don’t think it enough to pick it, though, as you can see in the image above.

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Now on to the West. Again, my bias is showing. Putting X through to the Final Four is pretty bold, according to most pundits, but they have been really good all year. Take away their mandatory pair of games against Villanova, and they’re practically flawless. I think they can overcome the popular pick out the West, Gonzaga, in the Sweet 16 and overtake Michigan to get to San Antonio.

Only two upsets made it in my bracket for this region. Providence has a great coat and a good resume this year, which is why I think they take their 10-7 matchup and get out of round one. San Diego State is a literal dart throw…though I can see Houston being dejected after falling just short in the American Conference Championship game to Cincinnati. Michigan over UNC will be a trendy pick, and I’m in. UNC is a better version of Kentucky…which still means they’re shaky. Hot take here, but I think the Tar Heels are the weakest 2-seed.

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Next is the East Region where I have succumbed to peer pressure. Everyone is picking Villanova…everyone. I wanted to take Purdue, but I thought about it and they don’t have the stuff to stop Nova’s crazy shooters. Texas Tech kind of sparked my interest, but they are without a key player and you need all hands on deck to beat the Wildcats. Jay Wright has the best scoring team in this tournament and I do not see anyone in this region slowing them down.

Speaking of Texas Tech, I have St. Bonaventure beating them in the second round. I just really like the Bonnies. I think they have that fire of having just barely made it in to the tournament, and their guards are pretty solid, so I can see them being a nice Sweet 16 pick. Don’t think the Bonnies make it out of the first round, you say? Meh, I say you’re wrong. They’ll beat the Ball-less UCLA and then upset the boring Gators. On a Side note, I wanted to pick Wichita State over Villanova. I really enjoy watching Landry Shamet and Shaq Morris play basketball, but they just don’t have enough to push the Shockers to the Elite Eight.

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That brings us to the Midwest and final region on the bracket. I am going to take some heat for this call, but. I got New Mexico State being this year’s Cinderella…until they meet up with Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Sparty is on a scorched earth campaign as they have been hounded about Larry Nasser and sex abuse within the athletic department for most of the season. Probably the most exciting player in college basketball, not named Trae, Miles Bridges will lead his teammates to the Final Four. Meanwhile, Kansas will play victim to another Cinderella story as Mew Mexico State will bounce them in the Sweet 16. This is where I balance my college basketball fan-know-how with total nonsense because I just want this to happen. Tell me anything about New Mexico State. I do apologize if, for some reason, this is being read by someone who went there, or is there, but here in Ohio, knowledge of New Mexico State is as follows: they are in the tournament and are a 12-seed. That’s pretty much it. Nonetheless, I got em being awesome this year.

So that leaves us with the Final Four and Champion. If you know me, you’re rolling your eyes.

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“Cincinnati and Xavier are NOT meeting in the Final Four, Frederick!” Shut your pie-hole. Again, this is where the wishful-thinking, fan-minded side in me comes out, but Southwest Ohio would literally collapse in on itself from sheer excitement if this were to happen…so bring it on. Xavier and the Bearcats to see who faces Villanova, and oh, wait, it’s UC! The Bearcats make their first Championship game since, like, the 50’s, or something, and then shock everyone and win the whole dang thing.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen on the readership. Go ahead and disagree with me…I know you will.