Saturday, April 05, 2014

Siena: 2014 College Basketball Invitational Champions

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. -- Tournament MVP Brett Bisping had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Siena cruised past Fresno State 81-68 in the decisive Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational championship series Saturday.
Rob Poole added 23 points. Siena (20-18) capped its longest season, which began Nov. 8, with its first national postseason title since jumping to Division I in 1976.
"Practices weren't fun, fights, black eyes, getting hurt all the time," Poole said. "But that's the hard work you need to do to win a championship."
Picked 10th of 11 in the preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches' poll, Siena got a rowdy crowd of 2,788 fired up early and never trailed. Siena's student section was lured by the promise of free bacon before the brunch-time tip.
Fresno State hit just three of its first 17 shots and went more than nine minutes without a field goal in the first half. Tyler Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-18), who were 4 of 22 from the field in the first half and trailed 39-22 at the break.
Siena built a 22-point lead five minutes into the second half.
Fresno State got 17 points from Cezar Guerrero but shot a season-low 30 percent and was outrebounded 46-34.
"Their physicality to start the game was at another level," Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be whose will is going to win out. They outcompeted us, especially to start the ballgame."
With Siena's regular downtown arena already booked, the CBI marked Siena's first games in its cozy campus gym since the 1996-97 season. That didn't mean much in Game 2, when Fresno State shot 64 percent from floor and breezed to an 89-75 win.
Siena could have ended at 15-17 after it lost in the MAAC tourney. But the Saints rattled off victories against Stony Brook, Penn State and Illinois State to set up the title series with Fresno State and finished the season winning nine of 11.
Quoting Gandhi and the Grateful Dead during a typically rambling postgame news conference, first-year Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said his team has had a chip on its shoulder since the preseason poll.
"Everyone did laugh at us," Patsos said. "I know people laughed when I took the job."

Murray State: 2014 College Insider Tournament Champions

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) — Murray State has brought another basketball championship trophy home to Kentucky.
Joining 2012 and 2013 NCAA champions Kentucky and Louisville, the Racers won the CIT title Thursday night with a 65-57 victory over Yale. Murray State's triumph in the Tournament comes two years after it won the Ohio Valley Conference championship, advanced to the NCAA tournament and upset Colorado State before losing to Marquette.
Murray State has been on a good run.
After losing high-scoring guard Isaiah Canaan, the Racers advanced to the OVC semifinals before losing to eventual champion Eastern Kentucky. But Murray State (23-11) rebounded to win five straight in the CIT.
While most of the state is focused on the Kentucky Wildcats in this weekend's Final Four, the Racers are celebrating a title of their own.
"There are only four teams that are going to win a tournament championship this spring; we're one of them and blessed to do so," Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. "We'll take a little bit of time away and get back at it in a couple of weeks."
The Racers can savor being the latest team Kentucky program to add hardware to its trophy case.
The Wildcats face Wisconsin in Saturday night's semifinal in Arlington, Texas, in pursuit of their second NCAA title in three years and ninth overall. Kentucky has rebounded from losing three of five down the stretch to win six of seven in postseason, including last week's defeat of rival and defending champion Louisville at the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis.
The Racers have averaged 25 wins under Prohm, who served the previous five years as an assistant before taking over for Billy Kennedy before the 2011-12 season.
Despite losing 2,000-point scorer Canaan and returning just one senior in guard Dexter Fields, the Racers were picked as OVC West Division co-favorites. They finished second and lost to EKU in the tournament but caught fire in the CIT with an offense that averaged 80 points per game.
Freshman Cameron Payne picked up where Canaan left off, leading the Racers with 19.8 points per contest entering the final, where he scored 24 and Jarvis Williams 16.
Javier Duran had 18 points for Yale (19-14).
Though the CIT title carries a lesser profile than an NCAA or NIT trophy, Murray State takes a lot of pride in winning it. Considering the Racers only lose Fields, he believes they can continue their successful run that has culminated in another championship for the Bluegrass State.
"This feels great," said guard Dexter Fields, the team's lone senior. "Watching these guys grow from November to now, it's been exciting to watch. I'm just excited to watch these guys next year. They came out here and fought their tails off every day in this tournament. I give credit to them."

Minnesota: 2014 NIT Champions

NEW YORK -- As time wound off the clock at Madison Square Garden on a rainy Thursday night, Richard Pitino looked frazzled.
He tugged at his chin. He kept reshuffling his beige suit jacket. His nerves were tangibly bothering him in late in the second half. But with the game's last possession seconds away, Pitino did the only thing he's known how to do since he was a boy. He turned to his dad for advice.
As he peered to his right, he found Rick Pitino sitting behind him with former Louisville star Peyton Siva in the sea of gold and burgundy apparel from the Golden Gopher faithful. Siva cast a wide grin and the elder Pitino was coaching his son from the first row. Pitino was seconds away from his first title of any kind in his first year at Minnesota.

"My dad played him [Larry Brown and SMU] twice, and I learned that we have totally different teams," Pitino said during his post-game press conference with his daughter in his lap.And as he cut down the nets with his season ending in success, there was finally a distinction between the younger and older Pitino. Only one had lifted any type of championship hardware in 2014 between the NCAA and NIT Tournaments.
"We did speak about [the championship game], but having my whole family being behind the bench was a lot of fun. Hopefully this is just the beginning for me at Minnesota. My family knows how much I brag about it here."
Pitino has every right to brag about his strong first season. The Golden Gophers finished their campaign under the second-year coach with 25 wins, the first time they've reached that mark since the 1996-97 season where they finished 31-4 and went to the Final Four, which was counted as "unofficial" due to academic fraud charges.
Last season ended in a third round loss in the NCAA Tournament and Tubby Smith being fired. This season seemed to infuse the Golden Gophers with new life. With Pitino at the helm, there is now a concrete answer for Minnesota's future in the Big 10.
"When your name is Pitino, you're going to be a great coach and this kid has done a phenomenal job," Larry Brown said following his team's loss. "[Elder Pitino] was at practice. I'm sure he told them ways to beat us because [Louisville] beat us twice."
Pitino found a way to get his players to buy into his methodology very early. He started by changing the culture in the locker room at Minnesota currently and for his upcoming years with the Golden Gophers by signing three three-star athletes to replace his graduating seniors.
Austin Hollins, the Golden Gophers' senior leader, hit a three late in the contest that sent SMU packing. And to him, it was just an extension of Pitino's coaching all season.
Hollins said his work ethic increased since Pitino came to Minnesota and the outcome was the NIT championship.
"There's a number of things," Hollins said when asked what Pitino has taught him in one season. "Going out there and playing as hard as you can, he expects perfection and I think that was one thing this year that he's gotten out of me. He's pushed my game to the highest level it could be."
The long-practices, the grueling tape sessions and the 13 loses, the blemishes on his first season were easily forgotten for an instance.As Pitino climbed the crimson ladder on the far end of the Garden's golden hardwoods and cut the net down with a horde of Gopher fans surrounding the court, he paused before turning forward. He pointed to each of his players and hoisted the net above his grey, silvery mane to the applause of hundreds.
Pitino achieved in one season what many coaches fail to do over a tenure at their respective universities: he got his team to buy-in to his message. The 31-year old coach got the Golden Gophers walking out of Madison Square Garden with a confident strut of royalty.
"The guys that were here," Pitino said. "Coach Smith recruited great people, people with substance. All kids that when they are don playing basketball, are going to be very successful off the court. They are all great representatives of the University of Minnesota. And then the guys that we brought in were similar to those guys, easy to get along with, easy to coach. Never any issues. We had great chemistry from the start."
"For them to walk off champions," Pitino continued. "and for the guys coming back to understand what it takes to take that next step is exciting for us. I'm fired up for it. We can just keep moving forward as a program."