On Thursday, we saw an announcement of one of the home games attached to the 2K Classic. That game is slotted for November 14th, and that means the 2K Classic, which will be held at Madison Square Garden on November 17th & 18th, was Friday’s schedule announcement.
Just like the home games for the event, we still don’t know which team Marquette will be playing in the semifinal round. The second game at MSG will be dependent on whether MU wins or loses on Thursday, as they’ll get paired up with the corresponding winner/loser from the other half of the doubleheader for either the championship game or the consolation game on Friday.
Since we don’t know who MU will play for sure, we may as well look at all three possible opponents.
2015-16 Record: 23-13, 10-8 in the Big Ten
Returning Points Leader: Zak Irvin, 11.8 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Derrick Walton, Jr., 5.4 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Derrick Walton, Jr., 4.2 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #58
No, that’s not a typo. The same Wolverine is Michigan’s leading returning rebounder and assist man. Here’s the weirder part: Derrick Walton, Jr., led UM in both categories last year. Now, that may have been partially due to everything getting thrown out of whack by Caris LeVert getting hurt and missing 20 games, but how often do you see a 6’1" guard being a team’s best rebounder??
Walton also finished as the second best returning scorer on the squad, while Irvin was right behind Walton (4.5 rpg) in the glass cleaning department. They also return Duncan Robinson, a 6’8" guard/forward who scored in double digits (11.8 ppg), rebounded decently (3.5 rpg), and shot the living hell out of the ball (45% on threes, 211 attempts on the year).
John Beilein has been in Ann Arbor as the head coach for nine seasons now. Regardless of the tumult with the other teams in the 2K Classic (more on that in a moment), the Wolverines were probably going to be the toughest out for Marquette in this event. Beilein’s Michigan teams have only missed the tournament twice, and one of those times was his first season as head coach. This is more impressive than it sounds, since Michigan had gone 11 years in between tournament appearances before Beilein got them there in 2009.
2015-16 Record: 21-12, 9-9 in the ACC
Returning Points Leader: Michael Young, 15.7 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Michael Young, 6.9 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Jamel Artis, 3.0 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #43
Pitt has a new head coach this coming season. Jamie Dixon, the guy you remember running the show when the Panthers were in the Big East, has departed for TCU, his alma mater. It was a bit of a "writing on the wall" situation, as Pitt had earned a rep under Dixon as a very good team that just couldn’t break through to a Final Four. Not a bad place to be, of course, but when you start sliding backwards when your team moves to the ACC, it might be time to find a new job. Since earning a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2011, Pitt has missed the tournament twice and gone 1-3 in the NCAAs in the other seasons, never earning a seed better than #8.
So, it makes sense that he’s gone. It doesn’t really make sense that Pittsburgh replaced him with Kevin Stallings, whom you might remember as the less than terrifically successful coach at Vanderbilt. It’s not an overwhelmingly positive hire from the outside, but hey: Maybe Pitt fans will be happy with just not going backwards under Dixon.
2015-16 Record: 25-5, 13-5 in the AAC
Returning Points Leader: Ben Moore, 11.9 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Ben Moore, 7.4 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Shake Milton, 2.7 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #17
Well, lucky thing we waited to post this instead of just running it this on Friday morning as a guess as to the announcement. SMU head coach Larry Brown is now former SMU head coach Larry Brown, as the most transient head coach in basketball history stepped down on Friday. Brown had been in charge in Dallas for the past four seasons, ushering SMU from Conference USA into the AAC. His tenure resulted in one NCAA tournament appearance, one loss in the NIT championship game, and one postseason ban for academic misconduct and lack of coach control. Fun!
He’s been replaced by Tim Jankovic, the coach-in-waiting that the Mustangs hired when they hired Brown. Jankovic has been a head coach twice before, at North Texas (went 53-57) and Illinois State (went 104-64). A quick comparison of Brown’s SMU teams to Jankovic’s ISU teams on KenPom has just one immediate and obvious difference: Jankovic’s teams are much more likely to shoot three pointers, so it seems likely that the Mustangs will bounce upwards from being one of the 15 least frequent long range shooting teams for the last four seasons.