The proud basketball tradition had faded to a deep charcoal the past couple decades. Not exactly black because it hadn’t completely died, and remnants of a glorious past still remained around its North Philadelphia campus, but for far too long, when the words La Salle University and hoops were uttered in the same sentence, students and alums of the school weren’t exactly beaming and shouting out, “Yeah, that’s us. We’re the Explorers. Bring it on.”
Now, after a week unlike any other in the program’s history over the last 60-plus years, they just might.
In beating Atlantic Ten rivals Butler and Virginia Commonwealth last week, the Explorers knocked off ranked opponents in back-to-back games for the first time since 1952. In the interim, they won an NIT title (1952), an NCAA title (1954), finished runner-up in the NCAA tournament (1955), and have had four of the truly legendary college players of all time don their gold and blue: Tom Gola, Michael Brooks, Lionel Simmons and Kenny Durrett.
Despite grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and forcing 15 turnovers, Wichita State couldn’t shoot their way out of a paper bag on Tuesday night as Indiana State knocked off the 15th ranked Shockers on the road, 68-55.
Known for their stingy defense, Wichita St. had trouble containing the Sycamores offensive attack, which relied heavily on slow, methodical offense, waiting for the best scoring opportunity. Junior forward Manny Arop had a game-high 17 points on 7-11 shooting for the game, with the dagger being a breakaway slam off of a steal in the closing minute.
As a team, the Sycamores shot 53 percent (24-45) compared to the Shockers 27 percent (16-59) from the field. Wichita State had problems figuring out a way to get Carl Hall, the team’s second leading scorer and primary post presence, the ball as Indiana State had backside help and double-teams ready for Hall at every turn.
Because the Shockers couldn’t get the ball in the paint, they shot 28 three-point attempts, making nine of them. Cleanthony Early led the Shockers with 15 points on 3-10 shooting, two of which were early first half three pointers .
This was never going to be an encore performance met with raucous applause and rave reviews. With the headliners racing out the door even as the curtain closed, the most anyone could hope to witness was a reasonable facsimile put forth by a group of unproven understudies and fresh-faced newcomers.
Thus far, the effort has been shaky at best.
Welcome to the University of Kentucky men’s basketball 2012-13, the season after the Wildcats earned their eighth national championship.
Despite their youth, they entered the current campaign ranked third in the country – a byproduct of the program’s history, both recent and long-term, and the acknowledged talent that had joined coach John Calipari’s fold. Parade All-Americans Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel not only gave the UK faithful hope that the good times would continue to roll, but, apparently, they had the experts convinced of the same thing.
Returning big man Kyle Wiltjer, the main link to last year’s 38-2 example of dominance, and North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow only strengthened those positions.
Being known as one of the best players in the country is one of the highest honor a basketball player can have. Some, however, do not receive the recognition in the National Player of the Year race because they play at smaller schools; the mid-majors. There are a number of talented players in the mid-major ranks and this is where we will examine who has a chance to win the Mid-Major Player of the Year award.
This award is better known as the Lou Henson Award, which is awarded to the top mid-major player in the country at the end of the year. CollegeInsider.com will announce the winner at the end of the season, but it’s never too early to start looking at the players with the best chance of walking away with the honor.
Here are the Mid-Major Player of the Year rankings:
- Doug McDermott - Creighton Blue Jays (24.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 52 percent 3-pointers)
Entering the season as a potential National Player of the Year and All-American, Dough McDermott came into the 2012-13 campaign with enormous hype. So far he has yet to disappoint.
Blah, blah, blah … Blah, blah, blah …
Think about it, what more can you say after a weekend in which Syracuse knocked off No. 1 Saturday afternoon in Louisville and then got one-upped later that night in a mid-major classic for the ages, in which two mid-majors that really shouldn’t be considered mid-majors at this point showed once again why they shouldn’t be considered mid-majors at this point.
In short, “little guys,” you got the floor …
Butler, 16-2. If ever any doubts existed that something special was brewing with the Bulldogs under Brad Stevens, they should have been put to rest in front of a national-TV audience Saturday night. Of course, they should have been put to rest by back-to-back NCAA title-game appearances in 2010 and 2011, but that’s another story to beat BCS conference propaganda mongers over the head with at another date. A word of warning – Butler has a legit trap game tonight at overlooked La Salle before hosting giant-killer Temple on Saturday.