With Missouri State’s (Missouri Valley) season completed, seven of the eight schools participating in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off will start competing this week in post-season conference tournaments. Butler (Big East), Miami (Atlantic Coast), Minnesota (Big Ten), Mississippi State (Southeastern), Temple (American Athletic), Texas Tech (Big 12) and Utah (Pac-12) open post-season conference play in three different time zones from New England through middle America to the Pacific southwest. The ninth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off is set for November 19, 20 and 22 at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan.
Butler – After tying for second in the Big East regular-season standings, the 22-9 Bulldogs face Xavier in a quarter-final contest Thursday at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden. Underclassmen Kellen Dunham (6-6 junior guard, 16.6 points per game), Roosevelt Jones (6-4 junior forward, 12.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game) and Andrew Chrabascz (6-7 sophomore forward, 10.9 points per game) are the Bulldog’s top three scorers. The Bulldogs are currently projected by Joe Lunardi as a six-seed in the NCAA South Regional.
Miami – Champions of the inaugural Puerto Rico Tip-Off title in 2007, the Hurricanes tied for sixth in the ACC’s regular-season standings with North Carolina State. Seeded sixth in the post-season bracket, Miami plays either Wake Forest or Virginia Tech Wednesday with the winner facing Notre Dame in the ACC quarterfinals Thursday in Greensboro, N. C. Juniors guards 6-5 Sheldon McClellan (14.8 points per game) and 5-11 Puerto Rican native Angel Rodriguez (12.3 points and 4.2 assists per game) are Miami’s top two scorers. The 20-11 Hurricanes are currently listed by Lunardi as a “first four out” school in the NCAA bracket.
Minnesota – The 17-14 Gophers tied for 10th in the Big Ten regular-season standings with Northwestern to net an 11th-seed in the post-season bracket and a Wednesday meeting in Chicago against Rutgers. The winner of the Gopher/Scarlet Knight game plays Ohio State Thursday. Minnesota, which won the 2010 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, feature three underclassmen among their top five scorers, including juniors Carlos Morris (6-4 guard, 10.9 points per game) and Joey King (6-9 forward, 9.3 points per game), and freshman Nate Mason (6-1 guard, 9.6 points per game). The Gophers are the defending NIT champions.
Mississippi State – The Bulldogs tied South Carolina for 11th in the SEC regular-season standings and open post-season play Wednesday against Auburn in Nashville. The Bulldog/Tiger winner will challenge Texas A&M Thursday. With a 13-18 record, four of Mississippi State’s top five scores are underclassmen, including juniors Craig Sword (6-3 guard, 11.0 points per game), Gavin Ware (6-9 forward, 10.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game), and Fred Thomas (6-5 guard, 9.1 points per game), and freshman I. J. Ready (5-11 guard, 7.9 points and 2.5 assists per game).
Missouri State – The Bears’ season is complete after losing their opening game in the Missouri Valley post-season tournament to Southern Illinois 55-48 last week in St. Louis. Junior Camyn Boone was the 11-20 Bears’ top underclassman as the 6-6 forward was the team’s second-leading scorer (8.7 points per game). He also paced Missouri State in rebounding (5.4 per game) and field goal percentage (57.1, 101 for 177).
Temple – The 22-9 Owls, who will be playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off for the third-time, are listed by Lunardi as one of the “last four in” the NCAA tournament field. Temple tied Cincinnati for third in the American Athletic regular-season standing to net a fourth-seed in the post-season tourney at Hartford, Conn. With Temple coach Fran Dunphy seeking his 500th career coaching win, the Owls will meet Memphis in a quarter-final game Friday with the winner facing a semi-final contest against SMU, East Carolina or UCF. Guards Will Cummings (6-2 sophomore, 14.1 points and 4.3 assists per game) and Quenton DeCosey (6-5 junior, 12.3 points per game) are the Owls top two scores. Junior Jaylen Bond leads Temple in rebounding (8.3 per game) while the 6-7 forward is scoring 8.2 points per game.
Texas Tech – The 13-18 Red Raiders open Big 12 Conference post-season play Wednesday against Texas in Kansas City. With nine underclassmen among the team’s top 10 scorers, junior Devaugntah Williams leads the Red Raiders as the 6-4 guard is averaging 10.6 points per game. Tubby Smith will be returning to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with his second school as he coached Minnesota to the 2010 title by defeating Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Utah – The Utes, who tied Oregon for the second spot in the Pac-12 regular-season standings, will be seeded third in the post-season tournament. Projected by Lunardi as a fourth-seeded in the NCAA South Regional, the 23-7 Utes will play the winner of the Stanford/Washington game Thursday in Las Vegas. Juniors Brandon Taylor (5-10 guard, 10.4 points per game.) and Jordan Loveridge (6-6 forward, 10.2 points per game) are the Utes top underclassmen. Jakob Poeltl ranks as one of the nation’s top freshman as the 7-1 center is averaging 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Poeltl ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage (68.9, 104 for 151).