Utes, Hurricanes & Owls still competing in post-season

Puerto Rico Tip-Off participants Utah (NCAA, Pac-12 Conference), Miami (NIT, Atlantic Coast) and Temple (NIT, American Athletic) are still competing in the post-season. If Miami and Temple win NIT quarter-final matches, the two schools would meet in the New York semi-finals March 31. Other schools competing next fall in San Juan are Butler (NCAA, Big East), Minnesota (Big Ten), Missouri State (Missouri Valley), Mississippi State (Southeastern) and Texas Tech (Big 12). The ninth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off is set for November 19, 20 and 22 at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan.

Butler (12-6 Big East record, 23-11 overall) – As the sixth-seeded team in the Midwest Region, the Bulldogs defeated Texas (56-48) and lost to Notre Dame (67-64) in games played in Columbus. Juniors Kellen Dunham (6-6 guard, 16.5 points per game) and Roosevelt Jones (6-4 forward, 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game), and sophomore Andrew Chrabascz (6-7 forward, 11.2 points per game) were the Bulldog’s top three scorers. Dunham was a first-team all-league pick and Jones was named to the second-team.

Miami (10-8, 23-12) – Despite not gaining an berth in the NCAA Championships, the Hurricanes play at Richmond Tuesday (March 24) for a spot in the NIT semi-finals. Winners of five of its last six games, Miami edged North Carolina Central (75-71) and Alabama (73-66) at home to open NIT play. Juniors guards 6-5 Sheldon McClellan (14.3 points per game) and 5-11 Puerto Rican native Angel Rodriguez (11.9 points and 3.9 assists per game) are Miami’s top two scorers. Both McClellan and Rodriguez earned all-ACC honorable mention honors along with 7-0 junior center Tonye Jekiri (8.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game). Jekiri was named to the ACC’s all-defensive team and was second in the voting for the league’s most improved player.

Minnesota (6-12, 18-15) – Minnesota, which joins Miami (2007) as previous Puerto Rico Tip-Off champions (2010), featured three underclassmen among their top five scorers this season, including juniors Carlos Morris (6-4 guard, 11.1 points per game) and Joey King (6-9 forward, 9.7 points per game), and freshman Nate Mason (6-1 guard, 9.8 points per game). The Gophers will be playing for the second-straight season in Puerto Rico after opening the 2014-2015 campaign in the Armed Forces Classic.

Mississippi State (6-12, 13-19) – With ESPN.com reporting that Ben Howland will be the new Bulldog leader, the former Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA coach (401-206 record) will have four of Mississippi State’s top five scorers returning from the 2014-2015 campaign, including juniors Craig Sword (6-3 guard, 11.3 points per game), Gavin Ware (6-9 forward, 10.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game), and Fred Thomas (6-5 guard, 9.1 points per game), and freshman I. J. Ready (5-11 guard, 8.2 points and 2.4 assists per game). Sword was a second-team all-SEC selection.

Missouri State (5-13, 11-20) – With not having one starter averaging more than 10 points a game at the end of the season, Coach Paul Lusk signed 5-10 junior college guard Dequon Miller from Motlow State Community College in Tennessee. Miller averaged 19.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2.6 steals this season and earned junior college honorable mention all-American honors. Junior Camyn Boone was the Bears’ top scorer (8.7 points per game) at the end of season. He also paced Missouri State in rebounding (5.4 per game) and field goal percentage (57.1, 101 for 177). Junior Dorrian Williams was named to the Valley’s all-improved team as the 6-3 guard averaged 7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals a game.

Temple (13-5, 25-10) – Winners of 13 of their last 16 games, the Owls host Louisiana Tech Wednesday with the winner advancing to New York’s famed Madison Square Garden for the NIT semi-finals. Temple has defeated Bucknell (73-67) and George Washington (90-77) at home to advance to the NIT quarter-finals. Guards Will Cummings (6-2 sophomore, 14.9 points and 4.2 assists per game) and Quenton DeCosey (6-5 junior, 12.2 points per game) are the Owls top two scorers. Junior Jaylen Bond leads Temple in rebounding (8.2 per game) while the 6-7 forward is scoring 7.7 points per game. Cummings was named to the AAC all-league first-team while Bond earned honorable mention recognition. Temple will be playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off for the third-time after appearances in 2007 and 2011.

Texas Tech (3-15, 13-19) – With nine underclassmen among the team’s top 10 scorers, junior Devaugntah Williams led the Red Raiders as the 6-4 guard is averaging 10.5 points per game. No school in the Big 12 got more production from freshmen than Texas Tech led by 6-9 forward Norense Odiose (7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game), 6-5 forward Justin Gray (6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16 games before knee surgery), 6-8 forward Zach Smith (6.2 points, 4.9 rebounds 1.5 blocked shots a game), 6-3 guard Keenan Evans (5.8 points and 1.4 assists) and 6-10 center Isaiah Manderson (4.4 points and securing 2.7 rebounds). 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 West Virginia in the finals.

Utah (13-5, 26-8) – The Utes will play Duke in the NCAA’s South Regional semi-finals Friday after defeating Stephen F. Austin (57-50) and Georgetown (75-64) in their opening two games in Portland. Juniors Brandon Taylor (5-10 guard, 10.5 points and 3.4 assists per game), a second team all-Pac-12 pick, and Jordan Loveridge (6-6 forward, 10.2 points per game) are the Utes top underclassmen. Jakob Poeltl was named to the Pac-12 all-freshman team as the 7-1 center is averaging 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game. Poeltl, who has made 12 of his 13 shots in the NCAA, ranks nationally in field goal percentage (69.1, 123 for 178).

2014 PRTO PARTICIPANTS – Led by West Virginia, four schools from the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off advanced to the post-season. The Mountaineers defeated Buffalo and Virginia to advance to the NCAA “Sweet 16” against Kentucky in Cleveland Thursday. West Virginia defeated George Mason, Boston College and defending NCAA champion Connecticut in the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. UConn, the 2014 PRTO runners-up, lost to Arizona State in the first round of the NIT. Dayton defeated Boise State and Providence before losing to Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional. Texas A&M defeated Montana in the NIT before being eliminated by Louisiana Tech.

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