Jeff Eisenberg

  • Jerian Grant's late-game heroics propel Notre Dame past Duke

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 7 hrs ago

    At the end of his team's come-from-behind win over fourth-ranked Duke on Wednesday night, Notre Dame star Jerian Grant turned toward the student section and encouraged them to return to their seats instead of storming the floor.

    Against all odds, they listened, which is as remarkable as any of the amazing late-game plays Grant made moments earlier to help seal a 77-73 victory. 

    In a game in which the opposing team boasted nine McDonald's All-Americans and national player of the year favorite Jahlil Okafor, Grant was undeniably the best player on the floor. He scored a game-high 23 points, dished out a season-high 12 assists and made the game's three biggest plays after the eighth-ranked Irish had rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to get within striking distance.

    That shot might have clinched it for Notre Dame, but Grant made sure at the other end. He swatted away Cook's driving layup attempt, securing a marquee victory for an Irish team that should not fly under the radar as a national contender any longer now that it's 20-2 overall and 8-1 in the rugged ACC.

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  • Michigan offers glimmer of hope it may yet salvage its season

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 15 hrs ago

    Admit it. You thought Michigan was toast after Caris LeVert's season-ending foot injury earlier this month, right? I know I certainly did.

    This was a player who led Michigan in nearly every major statistical category, from scoring (14.9 ppg), to rebounding (4.9 rpg), to assists (3.7 apg), to steals (1.8 spg). And this was a Wolverines team that hadn't even been all that good with LeVert, having dropped six non-league games and left themselves ample work to do in Big Ten play just to get within sight of the NCAA tournament bubble.

    Michigan has shown in its first three games without LeVert that it still has a pulse even without its best player. The injury-plagued Wolverines won at Rutgers last week, took Big Ten favorite Wisconsin to overtime on Saturday and throttled previously surging Nebraska on Tuesday night despite also losing starting point guard Derrick Walton to a lingering toe injury.

    Michigan's formula for success in recent weeks is the antithesis of what it was in recent years under Beilein.

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  • Two Oklahoma State players combine for an ugly alley-oop try

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 19 hrs ago

    Oklahoma State's Jeff Newberry is a high-flying 6-foot-2 point guard who was among the nation's most coveted junior college prospects last year.

    Somehow teammate LeBryan Nash made Newberry look as clumsy as me trying to finish an alley-oop with a pass that was well off target.

    Nash's alley-oop pass was too low and led Newberry too far under the basket during the second half of Oklahoma State's 64-53 victory over No. 20 Baylor on Tuesday night. As a result, Newberry got stuffed by the underside of the rim as he tried to finish the play.

    Newberry enjoyed an otherwise decent game against Baylor, posting 10 points, four rebounds and two steals off the bench. He also had a nice two-handed baseline slam when he beat his man off the dribble earlier in the second half.

    The botched alley-oop is probably the play that will get the most attention though. Marcus Smart to Markel Brown, it was not.

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  • Dorian Finney-Smith saves Florida with go-ahead dunk, clinching block

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The only basket Dorian Finney-Smith scored Tuesday night will be replayed over and over on highlight shows the next 24 hours. 

    With Florida and Alabama tied 50 apiece and less than 30 seconds remaining, Finney-Smith caught a pass on the left wing, shot-faked and blew by 6-foot-10 defender Jimmie Taylor. Six-foot-9 Michael Kessens was late arriving for help defense at the rim, so Finney-Smith took advantage, soaring for a picture-perfect one handed slam dunk.

    Alabama still had one last chance to force overtime or win in regulation, but Finney-Smith erased that as well. He swatted away Levi Randolph's attempt at a game-tying layup, corralled the rebound before the ball went out of bounds and held onto it until time expired, sealing a badly needed 52-50 Gators victory in Tuscaloosa. 

    The heroics of Finney-Smith are a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing Florida season. The Gators (11-9, 4-3) began the year ranked in the preseason top 10 but failed to notch even one relevant non-league victory and have further hit the skids in SEC play, suffering three straight losses prior to Tuesday's critical win.

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  • VCU routs George Washington to cement itself as A-10 favorite

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    In Shaka Smart's first five seasons as head coach at VCU, the Rams have won 26 or more games every year, made the NCAA tournament four times and even advanced to the school's only Final Four. 

    The one thing Smart curiously hasn't accomplished is winning a league title.

    VCU took a step toward checking that off Smart's list Tuesday night by demolishing arguably its biggest competition to win the Atlantic 10 this season. One of the Rams' most dominant defensive efforts of the season carried them to a 72-48 rout of a George Washington team that entered the game only a half game out of first place.

    Swarming full-court pressure defense harassed George Washington into 16 turnovers, but that wasn't what led to the Colonials' demise. They also couldn't score even when they did get across half court, shooting only 26.9 percent from the field, getting almost nothing out of their frontcourt and missing all but one of the 17 threes they attempted. Guards Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald were able to get to the foul line with consistency, but George Washington finished with more turnovers than field goals.   

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  • Will seldom-used Marshall Plumlee's role increase for Duke?

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Immediately after capturing his 1,000th victory Sunday against St. John's, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski credited the contributions of reserve center Marshall Plumlee as one the reasons the Blue Devils were able to rally from a 10-point second-half deficit.  

    "We were getting our butts kicked most of the game," Krzyzewski told FOX's Gus Johnson. "Then all of a sudden we put Marshall Plumlee in. We haven't used that lineup much. And Marshall and [Jahlil Okafor] together, I don't know, there was a spark."

    The comments from Krzyzewski raise a few questions. Did the youngest Plumlee brother's entrance into the game merely coincide with Duke's comeback, or was his presence one of the primary causes? And will Duke opt to dabble with playing 7-footers Plumlee and Okafor together more frequently in the future?

    Prior to Sunday, Plumlee's primary role this season had been to spell Okafor when he was in foul trouble or needed a rest. He had been averaging 7.0 minutes per game in ACC play and had scored a total of six points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

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  • An NCAA tournament without Syracuse is becoming increasingly likely

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Syracuse's overall record suggests it's still in decent position to sneak into the NCAA tournament despite its 93-83 loss at North Carolina on Monday night.

    A closer look at the Orange's remaining schedule, however, reveals reason for concern.

    Yes, Syracuse is 14-7 so far this season. Yes, Syracuse is a respectable 5-3 in the ACC. But the Orange need to pile up wins before Valentine's Day because their schedule is back-loaded and their final seven regular season games may be the nation's toughest finishing kick.  

    Between Feb. 14 and March 7, Syracuse will face fourth-ranked Duke twice, travel to eighth-ranked Notre Dame and dangerous NC State and host unbeaten Virginia, 10th-ranked Louisville and former Big East foe Pittsburgh. Aside from maybe the Pittsburgh game, the Orange almost certainly will not be favored to win any of those games. 

    Syracuse last missed the NCAA tournament in 2007 and 2008 when it settled for back-to-back NIT bids. The Orange have won 27 or more games every season since then, reaching the 2013 Final Four, the 2012 Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010.

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  • Washington dismisses troubled NBA prospect Robert Upshaw

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Robert Upshaw is a former consensus top 50 recruit, a potential first-round pick in next June's NBA draft and a rim protector so gifted that he leads the nation in blocks despite coming off the bench almost every game he played this season.

    What does it say about his off-court issues then that a 7-footer so talented has been unable to stick at either school he has played for?  

    Washington coach Lorenzo Romar announced Monday that he has dismissed Upshaw from the program for an unspecified violation of team rules. Fresno State previously booted Upshaw after his freshman season in 2013 when coach Rodney Terry grew tired of suspending the promising center and decided keeping him on the team was more trouble than it was worth. 

    “We wish Rob well as he moves forward in his life," Romar said Monday in a statement "We will do our best to support him in the future."

    Upshaw's ability to defend the rim and run the floor may still get him selected in next June's draft, but his off-court problems certainly jeopardize his chances of an NBA team plunking down guaranteed money to take him in the first round. 

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  • Watch Coach K's locker room speech after his 1,000th win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The locker room speech Mike Krzyzewski gave Sunday after his 1,000th win echoed the public sentiments he shared with reporters a few minutes later.

    The Duke coach deflected credit for his accomplishments onto the players, coaches and administrators who have helped him reach 1,000 wins. Krzyzewski also lauded his players for rising to the occasion in the final 10 minutes, transforming a double-digit deficit against St. John's into a memorable road win.

    "To see the emotion you guys had when you were making plays to come back was astounding," Krzyzewski said. "We made so many big-time hustle plays. So many. So many. That's what happens when you're consumed with winning, and I appreciate that."

    When Krzyzewski was done speaking, his players, still clad in "1,000 wins and Kounting" T-Shirts, presented him with the game ball. Krzyzewski thanked them and then asked Duke athletic director Kevin White and school president Richard Brodhead to share a few words.

    (Thanks for the video, Duke Athletics)

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  • Ranking the leading contenders for national coach of the year

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The list of midseason national coach of the year contenders is remarkably diverse.

    One coach was still an assistant when the school year began. Another was a fixture on every "hot seat" list this past summer. A third inherited a roster without a single player who averaged more than four points per game last season.

    There's a coach who's unbeaten with nine McDonald's All-Americans and a coach who's unbeaten without any. There's also a coach who's contending in his league despite only six scholarship players and nobody taller than 6-foot-6.  

    Below is a look at my list of midseason coach of the year candidates. Feel free to quibble with my order in the comments section or let me know who I missed.

    1. Tony Bennett, Virginia

    2. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

    3. Archie Miller, Dayton 

    4. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

    5. John Calipari, Kentucky

    6. Mark Turgeon, Maryland

    7. Chris Holtmann, Butler

    8. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

    Eight others worthy of consideration: Mike Brey, Notre Dame; Tom Crean, Indiana; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin; Bob McKilliop, Davidson; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Bob Huggins, West Virginia; Gregg Marshall, Wichita State.

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