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NCAAs Start Today, Won’t be as Good as 2001 Maui Classic

I guess if you beat a Top 5 team at the buzzer, you can take a breather.

I guess if you beat a Top 5 team at the buzzer, you can take a breather.

That is Patrick Jackson, or Petey as he was known to fellow students. He looks tired. He looks happy. I guess when you hit a buzzer beater to defeat Kansas (ranked #4) in the Maui Classic, I’d say both those emotions apply. But it wasn’t just Kansas. Their reward for beating #4 on national television? A date the next night with #3 UCLA, who the Cardinals promptly ran out of the gym with an 18-point beating. The Cards would go on to lose to #1 Duke in the championship game, but they would enter the next week at #16 in the associated press poll. So as you watch upsets unfold over the next few weeks in the NCAA tourney, just remember that BSU has been there done that on the national television stage. With any luck, Coach Whitford may get them there again.

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Zavier Turner to Transfer

Ball State HoopsWhen I worked in DC, the political crowd always dubbed Fridays as “Take out the trash day” because that was the afternoon that you saved all the stuff you didn’t want a lot of eyes on. The backlash for a Friday news story was far less than any other day, thanks largely to most people having a life and not caring what happened on Friday as they were done with their 4th rum runner and second all you could eat wings plate. Mmmmm…. wings. But I digress.

Ball State’s trash news today is that sophomore guard Zavier Turner and 2014 MAC Freshman of the Year is bidding adieu to the Muncie metro area and exploring transfer options. 8.7 points and 3.3 assists was Turner’s stat lines this season, which was a reduction from last season’s 12.1 points and 3.7 assists but let’s not forget the big Turner story this year: the mid-year suspension.

After the suspension the points per game dropped considerably and I’d say it’s safe to say that Turner wasn’t especially thrilled to be there given his reduced role, reduced production, and (for the team) the reduced results. Over the course of Turner’s suspension, the Cards shuffled everyone but the muffin man into the starting point guard role like a former walk on and shooting guards.

Coach Whitford had the cursory “We wish him well…” quote, which was nice. Good luck to Zavier and best wishes wherever he may end up. I hope it’s not Indiana. Though Tom Crean’s tongue kisses probably are polar opposite from Coach Whit’s approach.

Sean Sellers Named MAC Freshman of the Year

Ball State HoopsBall State hoops fans have admittedly not had much to cheer about or celebrate during the rebuilding process being championed by Coach James Whitford, but it’s time to break out your celebratin’ shoes for an individual achievement. Cardinal Sean Sellers, fresh off yesterday being named to the All-Freshman Team on Monday, was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year by the media Tuesday morning.

It should have been an easy choice, considering his 12.0 points per game is tops among MAC rookies and his 43.7% 3-point shooting percentage is one of the nation’s best. He also finished fifth in season scoring for rookies in Ball State history, so he’s got that going for him too. Which is nice.

For those that doubt what Coach Whitford can do (or will do if you’re more into the whole forward-thinking thing), it’s the second consecutive season a Ball State freshman has been named the conference’s best. And before you try to indict the lack of results based on that fact, I’d say it speaks more to the dumpster fire that Coach Whitford took over rather than his inability to do the job. But, what do I know?

Congrats to Sean and Go Cards!

Ball State Sunday News and Notes, The Royal Rumble Edition

Royal_Rumble_2011.2

A BSU Royal Rumble? All my money would be on Sean Baker.

It’s Royal Rumble night at OTP Manor and the one night of the year when friends and folks gather to throwback behavior and passions to a simpler time when all we cared about was getting the newest Trapper Keepers or what was going to happen on the next GI Joe. If you listen to the OTPcast, you know that Jason calls fans of professional wrestling “booger eaters” and the “lowest common denominator” of society. I can say with absolute certainty I don’t eat anything from my nose and there’s bound to be lower forms of existence than getting together with several buddies, drinking too much beer, and tossing out 80s catchphrases from our favorite wrestlers gone by.

I did get to thinking though that if BSU athletics had a Royal Rumble, I’m not sure who I would put as the favorite. If we limited it to current athletes only, I’d say Nick Miles would be my selection. If we open it up to alumni, I’d have to go with Sean Baker. The Souleater knows no quit, and he would be damn near impossible to eliminate. Jason Whitlock would be up there as well, as Rashiki was a real pain in the ass to dump over the top rope too. I’d watch.

Should a Cardinal Royal Rumble ever exist, and I nominate myself and Chris Ulm to coordinate, the amount of funds raised would be HUGE. And speaking of huge funds raised, the Cardinal Commitment Campaign has surpassed its goal of $20M by $600k. While I’d like to say I’m taking some of the credit because of stories we ran, segments on the OTPcast we did, or the fact that a fraternity brother was the chair of the campaign, ALL the credit should go to Cardinal nation for stepping up and putting their money where their mouth is in relation to overall program success. For a lot of years, I’ve heard fans of multiple sports bemoan the lack of champagne results while through a lack of support forcing the U to operate athletics on a beer budget, so it is awesome that friends of the feather stepped up and made this happen.

Some other news from around the Nest…

NewsNotesLogoThe men’s basketball team lost a conference home game to Kent State on Saturday to drop them to 7-10 on the season and 2-4 in the MAC. I am by no means an expert on MAC basketball and frankly, haven’t been exceptionally well versed about BSU’s basketball program since the days of Ray McCallum and Tim Buckley, but it seems like the Coach Whitford era in Muncie perhaps had an even lower starting point than people thought. It appears to my exceptionally untrained eye that this may be yet another in the “prepping for next year” train of experiential learning. Perhaps we can sneak Brian Burns, Theron Smith, Petey Jackson and Matt McCollum back for a few games. I doubt anyone would notice. Right?

NewsNotesLogoThe women’s basketball team also fell on Saturday in their home contest against MAC East leader Ohio 60-53. The Cards sit at 9-9 overall and 5-2 in MAC play, so there is not only a ton of season left, there’s also well-placed belief that the Cards are capable of a post-season appearance and/or run. So that’s some good in an otherwise pretty suck BSU athletics news.

NewsNotesLogoIn what’s more negative news but sprinkled with at least a little bit of optimism, the Cardinals gymnastics squad did lose their MAC opener to CMU, but did score a season high total score in the process. They also set season-high event scores on the vault, the floor exercise, and the bars. I set some high scores in bars at my time at BSU, but I’m fairly positive that this score isn’t about Golden Tee. The Gym Cards are back in action Feb 2 when they travel to Southern Utah.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s tennis also lost on Saturday, a home contest against Wright State 4-3. Nos. 1 and 2 singles, Courtney Wild and Bethany Moore both picked up wins and are both 2-0 on the season. Well done! Collegiate tennis doesn’t get a ton of publicity or eyes, but it’s really enjoyable. I’d strongly suggest you check out a match if you can. On the men’s side of the tennis ledger, the men’s team dropped two matches to Wisconsin-Green Bay and Illinois this weekend, but Lucas Anderson/Patrick Elliott and Ray Leonard/Andrew Stutz won 1 and 2 doubles respectively, and Anderson won #2 singles. Someone will at some point have to explain to me how collegiate tennis is scored, as it appears 8 matches were completed, but only 7 points were awarded between BSU and UW-GB. Math on a Sunday, or any day really, is not my strongest suit.

NewsNotesLogoIn case you were unaware, it’s men’s volleyball season and your Cardinals have started 2015 with quite the bang, losing only their first match of the season on Friday at Harvard, and rising to #14 in the national rankings. Admittedly, I know nothing about volleyball other than the volleyball players I lived behind in grad school were fun to hang out with. However, even with limited knowledge I can assume that the aura of Harvard carries over to their volleyball team. I would imagine it’s a whole court full of Winklevoss twins, and those guys were yutzes. The Cards did rebound on Saturday and sweep Sacred Heart, so the victory train is rolling once again. Toot chirpin’ toot, indeed. You can catch the Cardinal volleyballers in conference action at Worthen Arena on Friday against Quincy.

NewsNotesLogoIn continuing good Cardinal news, the women’s swimming and diving team got the win Friday against Milwaukee 128-114. Along the way of the double dual meet, the Cardinals posted 14 top three finishes and four event wins. Ever since we had Friend of the Pylon and coach Nick Gayes on, we’ve had a special place in our heart for the Pool Cards. The final women’s swimming and diving home match of the season was Saturday against Miami, a 186-111 win for the Red Hawks.

So, some ups, some downs, but some giant news about improving the infrastructure of Cardinal athletics and the experience of student athletes on campus. Today, much like yesterday was and tomorrow will be, is still a great day to be a Cardinal!

Lines Moving for Upcoming March Madness on Sportbet.com

Ball State HoopsCollege football is over and the NFL is winding down, but that doesn’t mean your eyeballs won’t have plenty of sport to feast on over the next few weeks. It’s conference season for your favorite college basketball teams, and we are roughly 6 weeks away from the greatest two days in sports, the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. If you’re like me, you’re going to take off work, camp out at home or your local watering hole, and hunker down for wall to wall basketball for roughly 12 hours a day. If you’re like Jason, you’re going to build up a bankroll for those two days specifically for your entertainment wagering options. Incidentally, if you are of that persuasion, you can read more about the latest NCAA Basketball news at Sportbet. Spoiler alert: Much to Alan’s enjoyment, Kentucky is really good this year.

The Wildcats are actually less than even money to win the title. For those unfamiliar with sports betting about future events, the number you see with a + means that’s how much a $100 bet will win you. Take for example, Alan’s nemesis the Louisville Cardinals. At +2200, a $100 bet would win you your original stake ($100) and the $2200 on top of it. A negative number would be what you have to stake to win $100. In Kentucky’s case, you’d need to stake $110 to then win $100 on top of it, a total return of $210. It’s absurd that a team has a negative stake at this point in the season no matter how good they are.

In case you were curious, the Hoop Cards aren’t even listed. The highest longshot for the NCAA title is +50000 (or a $50,000 profit on a $100 stake) so the Cardinals odds are longer than that, assuming you can even find a casino to make that bet. I’d be willing to wager that you could convince Steve Wynn to give you his house, the casino, and a velvet painting of Ronnie Thompson tongue kissing Jason Whitlock against a $10 stake. Currently the Cards are 7-7 and 2-1 in the MAC so they aren’t last. They’re also tied for the lead (with three other teams) for the MAC West, so I suppose anything is possible. MACsketball is weird.

Second-Half Rally Lifts Ball State MBB Over Indiana State

BSULogoWell hello there friends. I’m sure, like me, you’ve spent your Saturday clutching to the last few precious college football games remaining for 2014. However, the sooner we get it through our head that football is over for the Cardinals this season, the sooner we can move ahead to focusing solely on basketball. Not coincidentally, the Hoop Cards were in action today at Worthen against the Fighting Sycamores of Indiana State, notching their third win of the season 70-63 over our Terra Haute brethren, snapping a three-game losing streak to ISU in the process. This doesn’t take away the pain of the football upset, but, it’s a start. To the release

MUNCIE, Ind. — Francis Kiapway was on the floor for during crunch time Saturday because of how well he had played defensively throughout the game with Indiana State.

At the end of the day, it was his two clutch 3-pointers that helped the Cardinals to a 70-63 victory, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Sycamores (3-5).

The Cardinals (3-3) overcame a 30-22 halftime deficit by shooting nearly 64 percent from the floor and knocking down 6 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half.

“That was a great college basketball game; the energy in the building was outstanding,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “I was really proud of our team. We have let some bad plays mushroom for us this year, and it was a big theme for us in the second half to focus on the next play. I thought we did that for the whole half.”

Zavier Turner led five double-figure scorers for Ball State with 15 points, including 14 in the second half, to go along with six assists. Bo Calhoun scored a career-high 13 points, while Kiapway, Matt Kamieniecki and Franko House all had 11.

“Zavier made some really important decisions in transition in the second half,” Whitford said. “Getting those points in crunch time was really the difference in the game for us.”

Kamieniecki also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. His lay-in after a pass from Turner gave the Cardinals a 60-58 lead in a back-and-forth game with 2:11 to play.

Indiana State briefly regained the lead on a Brenton Scott 3-pointer, but Kiapway answered with treys on the next two Ball State possessions for a 66-61 lead. The Cardinals were then able to ice the game at the free throw line.

“Francis stayed in the game not because of his ability to shoot but because he was very sound defensively,” Whitford said. “He made some huge defensive plays prior to that. I couldn’t be happier for him because he loves the game as much as any player I’ve ever coached. It was great to see him step up and play well.”

In addition to improved shooting, the Cardinals began to dominate the glass in the second half. Indiana State held a 22-18 rebounding advantage at halftime, but Ball State out-rebounded the Sycamores by a 17-8 margin after the break.

Justin Gant and Khristian Smith led Indiana State with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Ball State will now have the week off for final exams. The Cardinals will return to action Saturday, Dec. 13 with a 7 p.m. CT (8 p.m. ET) tipoff at Valparaiso.

There’s a decent sized alumni contingent up around Valpo, so check out the Cards next week if you can.

Ball State Men’s Basketball Shoots Past Grambling

BSULogoPart of me wants to point out the poor choice of words in the BSU media relations lede given the current goings on in Missouri where firefighters are getting shot at, a CNN lady got hit with a rock, and you know, a teenager got shot by a police officer, but that would be blending current events and sports and that seems like more Alan’s bag. So yeah, Ball State men’s basketball beat Grambling. Go Cards!

MUNCIE, Ind. — The Ball State men’s basketball team knocked down 14 3-pointers Monday night and cruised to an 88-46 victory over Grambling State at Worthen Arena.

Jeremie Tyler led five double-figure scorers for the Cardinals (2-2) with 18 points, while Rocco Belcaster knocked down his first four treys of the night on his way to a career-high 15 points. Franko House and Sean Sellers finished with 12 points each, while Bik Gill added a career-high 11.

Ball State moved the ball well, recording 23 assists on 30 made baskets, led by Sellers with six assists and Kaleb Mallory with five. Mallory and Francis Kiapway shared the point guard duties for the Cardinals, which had only 10 turnovers against Grambling State (1-3) after giving it away 25 times Saturday in an overtime loss at IUPUI.

“The biggest thing for us coming off Saturday’s game was taking care of the ball; it was a huge deal,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “For us to come in with Francis and Kaleb running the show and to have 10 turnovers, that was the stat of the game, no question about it. I thought we played very unselfishly and shared the ball.”

Kiapway scored eight points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers of his own in his second career game after missing time early because of injury. The 14 3-pointers were the most by a Ball State team since the 2006 season and two shy of the school record.

“Francis did a very good job of being poised,” Whitford said. “He didn’t play too fast; he kind of set the tone. There were a couple chances where he could have tried to make home run plays and he didn’t. He really controlled the rhythm and the tempo of the game, and I though Kaleb did a good job with it, too.”

Ball State won the battle on the boards for the third straight game, outrebounding Grambling State by a 35-23 margin. Matt Kamieniecki had a game-high 13 rebounds just two days after grabbing a career-high 15 boards at IUPUI.

The Cardinals finished the night shooting 54.5 percent from the floor (30 for 55) and 50 percent from beyond the arc (14 for 28). Grambling State was able to score 36 points in the paint, but the Tigers shot 1 for 8 from 3-point range as the Cardinals outscored them 42-3 from distance.

Ball State is now off until a Dec. 3 road game at Eastern Illinois. The Cardinals will return home Dec. 6 to host Indiana State at Worthen Arena.

Indiana State, you say? Seems like the basketball team could dole out some revenge for the football bed-shatting and that would be fine by me.

Zavier Turner Suspended Indefinitely from Ball State Basketball

BSULogoThey say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but methinks this would qualify in the “bad” category. After a 40-point thumping of IU Kokomo and a closer than expected loss to #25 Utah, Ball State basketball was on the upswing. Today, their ascent may have hit a patch of turbulence.

From the BSU release:

Sophomore guard Zavier Turner of the Ball State men’s basketball team has been suspended indefinitely by head coach James Whitford for a violation of team rules.

“­We are committed to high standards, and there are consequences for poor judgment,” Whitford said. “We place a high emphasis on the culture within our program, and we strive to develop players both on and off the court.”

Turner has started the first two games this year, averaging 12.5 points and 3.0 assists per game. He was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year last season.

So there’s that. More on this as it comes.

Cardinal Hoops Crack the Century Mark in Home Opening W

BSULogoYes, I know it’s still the fall (technically) and normally this time of year, a BSU sports fan’s limited attention span is still focused on pigskin, but in case you were unaware, the Ball State men’s basketball team under second-year head coach James Whitford is two games deep in their 2014-2015 campaign.

While the season-opener at #25 Utah didn’t turn out the way friends of the feather would have liked for it to with a 90-72 loss, the dozens of BSU fans who were able to watch on the Mountain West network said the Cardinals looked like a team exceptionally capable of making some significant noise in the MAC this year. I think most who follow the Hoop Cards and have ever interacted with Coach Whitford would tell you that the Cardinals being a force is a matter of “when”, not “if”. If Monday’s result was any indication, that “when” may very well be sooner rather than later, as IU Kokomo learned the hard way that one does not simply walk in to Worthen Arena and walk out with a win. Or even a loss closer than 39 points.

To the BSU release…

MUNCIE, Ind. — Freshman guard Jeremie Tyler scored 23 points Monday night to lead the Ball State men’s basketball team to a 101-62 win over IU Kokomo in its home opener at Worthen Arena.

The Cardinals (1-1) moved the ball well and shot it well on a night when they topped 100 points in a game for the first time in 10 years. The team handed out 26 assists on 38 baskets and shot better than 62 percent from the floor against the Cougars (1-4).

“I was pleased with our team,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “I thought we came out of the gates right, though we didn’t really defend well the first eight minutes … When the ball is really moving, we can score. We have guys who can make shots, we can play fast, and we have some perimeter guys who are really versatile.”

Tyler was playing against his brother, IU Kokomo junior guard Jerome Campbell. He became the second freshman to score more than 20 points for Ball State already this season.

Sean Sellers scored 26 points three nights ago at Utah, marking the best freshman scoring debut in program history. He went for 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting Monday night and matched Zavier Turner for team-high honors with six assists, all in the first half.

The Cardinals were able to get out in transition, scoring 23 fastbreak points, including three dunks from Tyler. They also did damage from beyond the arc, reaching double-digits in 3-pointers made for the second straight game with 11.

“We have a skilled team, so when they turned the ball over or missed shots, we were able to take advantage,” Whitford said. “We’re not going to be able to get that many fastbreak points against everybody, but we always want to get a few. We’re a team that can really score in transition, and that’s the way we play.”

Bo Calhoun scored a career-high 12 points, and Turner added 11. Matt Kamieniecki, Franko House and Mading Thok scored eight points each, while Kaleb Mallory had seven and Rocco Belcaster six to give the Cardinals nine players with at least six points.

Jared Lawrence scored 15 points and Micah Pier had 13 to lead IU Kokomo, an NAIA program.

Ball State reached the century mark for the first time since Dec. 8, 2004 against Anderson. The Cardinals topped 60 points in a half for the first time since February 1997 by racking up 62 in the first half.

After two games in four days to start the season, Ball State is now off until a Saturday contest at 1 p.m. against IUPUI at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis. The Cardinals will return home Monday, Nov. 24 to host Grambling State.

Yes, it was IU Kokomo and not Kansas or Michigan State. I do not care. You beat a team by almost 40 and drop a hunsky in the process and you’re doing something right. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if it was Northside Middle School that got their tails beat by 40, mostly because those kids are jerks and BSU needs something good to happen in a revenue sport this season.

As mentioned above, the Hoop Cards take on the Jaguars of IUPUI on Saturday in Indianapolis. The Jags come in with an 0-2 record and losses to Purdue and Indiana State. I would smarmily remark on their latter loss, but frankly, I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired from the football upset yet. So, Cards at 1-1 with a very real chance to run off more than a few wins before their next loss. That starts on Saturday, so show them some love.