Sights, Sounds & Waves: A Recap of the 2022 Emerald Coast Classic
November 29, 2022
The 2022 Emerald Coast Classic (ECC) concluded on Saturday with the TCU Horned Frogs defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes to win the championship. TCU’s Mike Miles Jr. also walked away with the Most Outstanding Player Award, averaging 19.0 points and three assists per game on 44% field goal percentage. Miles Jr. had only begun practicing — a half practice at that — the day before the second round of games.
The Emerald Coast Classic 2022 All-Tournament team is listed below:
David Brown III/Loyola Maryland
The eight teams to participate in this year’s competition were: TCU, Cal, Clemson, Iowa, Omaha, Louisiana-Monroe, Loyola-Maryland and Southern University.
Each of the eight teams fought hard for their three games of the tournament, learning new things and navigating early season challenges together.
Many of the coaches expressed their gratitude for the difficulties faced against good teams, as it helps their players grow before the stakes of the season are at their highest.
“Really good tournament; we’ve enjoyed our time here,” said Clemson head coach Brad Brownell. “It’s great to be tested by teams like [Iowa, Cal, TCU], great time of the year to know what works and what isn’t going so well.”
In a neutral playing environment all bets are off in terms of fan support or loathing. Thus, all players and coaches have to rely on are their game plans and each other.
Although every team came in confident in their x’s and o’s, the difference between the winners and losers of each game was found in the commitment by every party for the full 40 minutes of the game.
Let’s take a look at how each team performed overall in the Emerald Coast Classic:
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs – Champions
Jamie Dixon, in his seventh year of being head coach at the program, came into this tournament with a confident roster and the temperament to manage the most crucial and tense moments of each game. “We had a few bad turnovers that led to baskets so I said hey guys, we were up eight we just made some mistakes, we’re fine. Let’s start getting some stops,” he said.
“We obviously like this tournament. We’ve been here twice, two championships, and we love this area. Well run, great set-up, great place,” he said.
The Horned Frogs finished the tournament with the Most Outstanding Player in Mike Miles Jr. and an All-Tournament player in Micah Peavy.
Dixon described how the tournament has grown since his early years of being head coach at TCU when the Horned Frogs last visited in 2017. Former Most Outstanding Player and current player for the Oklahoma City Thunder Kenrich Williams led TCU to the title during its first appearance and won all-tournament team honors as well. “This [tournament] was his coming out party I thought, there were a few scouts back then but I remember telling them how he’d be an NBA player,” Dixon said.
The Horned Frogs played a fast-paced “bully ball” brand of basketball during the tournament, averaging 13 points off fastbreak opportunities. Miles Jr. set this tone on both ends, using his strength and frame to be disruptive, wear down opponents and get to his spots.
Their pressure on offensive rebounds and defensive rotations kept opponents in a hurry. Guard Micah Peavy, forward Chuck O’Bannon Jr. and center Eddie Lampkin Jr. were punishing opponents with their physicality. Lampkin Jr. — reportedly in his best physical shape since his sophomore year of high school — was a dominant force in the paint, averaging 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the tournament.
Dixon was disappointed that TCU committed 45 turnovers during the ECC, citing a need to play more in control at times. However, their tight defense and transition prowess kept them in the driver’s seat of the game’s momentum as their opponents totaled 50 turnovers.
Overall, TCU’s demeanor set them ahead of their opponents level of play. The sheer dominance exuded on the court seemed to affect the opposing players down the line of the game, as small mistakes compounded into runs by TCU rather quickly.
Their energy and passion throughout the duration of the game would help both fans and players on the court stay in high spirits.
Whereas many coaches would likely ask their players to tone it down — to focus or for professionalism purposes — Dixon embraces his teams’ energy:
“We want to play with a lot of emotion and we want to have fun playing basketball so we really try to encourage that for our players,” he said. “I want our guys celebrating ALL of our guys.”
TCU entered the tournament with three wins and one loss , left with five wins and one loss overall on their record, averaging 77.6 points per game for the duration of the ECC.
Iowa Hawkeyes – Runner-up
The Hawkeyes and head coach Fran McCaffery entered the ECC with high expectations. Iowa was ranked number six in the Preseason Coaches Poll, which is the highest number among the Big Ten conference.
After the breakout season of Keegan Murray, the former Hawkeye picked fourth in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, many scouts and fans have expected similar production from his brother, Kris Murray.
Whether or not the expectations are fair, it seemed Murray was trying to live up to them during the entirety of the tournament. Although Murray played with poise on both ends for most of the time, there were spurts where it seemed he was unnecessarily forcing shots and the Hawkeyes’ offense stumbled as a result.
Murray averaged 17 points per game on 43% shooting from the field. In Iowa’s games against Clemson and TCU, Murray shot a combined 8-31 from the field. The third year forward had some lumps throughout his performance, but overall showed a knack and feel for the game that scouts should be intrigued by.
Both Murray and Patrick McCaffery were named to the ECC All-Tournament team.
On the impact that the tournament had for the team, McCaffery said “[The] games were physical, which is not like what we see in the Big Ten. I think it’s important to play against teams with that kind of physicality…we’ll learn from it.”
Prior to the tournament the Hawkeyes had been undefeated and excelling on both ends of the court. After a solid shooting night against Omaha, they shot 7-36 from the three point line in their following two games.
“Normally we’re a much better shooting team than [3-17], I think that played into when [TCU] started to get some separation,” Dixon said.
Even with their shooting woes, the Hawkeyes played a connective offense which had every player touching the ball on a possession, if not multiple times. Offensive sparks provided by guards Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins helped Iowa against TCU, but Patrick McCaffery was carrying the offensive load alongside Murray in the tournament games prior.
The Hawkeyes finished the ECC with five wins and 1 loss on their overall record.
Clemson Tigers – 3rd Place
The Tigers entered the ECC with three wins and a loss to South Carolina. Head coach Brad Brownell entered the tournament with expectations of his team to compete hard and was pleased with the results.
Clemson had the best ball movement of any team in the tournament. Star guards Chase Hunter and Brevin Galloway provided leadership and control on the offensive end, but their efforts didn’t prevent the Tigers from being turnover prone for the duration of the ECC (11 turnovers per game.)
The Tigers also played well off the catch, not hesitating to make a move and showcasing an impressive display of decision-making across the roster. “We have good players that really know how to play and who really like each other,” said Brownell. “Our guys are very connected…we play a style that shares the ball as we really want our guy to move it.”
Hunter’s ability to break down a variety of defenses was nothing short of impressive. The 6’3 juniors usage of his strength and angles broke down the defenses attempt at closeouts/rotations. Hunter finished the tournament averaging 15 points for its duration and was named to the ECC All-Tournament team for his efforts.
Galloway hadn’t scored too much prior to the 3rd place game against Cal, but the guard handled the game’s pressure well and helped set his teammates up for the shots they needed. Galloway later spoke with me about the teams’ mindset and helping each other out.
“I think it was great for us to come back after the loss to Iowa yesterday,” said Galloway. “To be able to bounce back from that and have a positive impact today was good.
On the team’s selfless mindset and sharing of the ball, Galloway acknowledged and embraced his role in helping the offense succeed. “[Being aggressive] is something I take upon myself to make sure I’m doing,” he said. “That’s definitely our role on the team, is to drive in the paint and create for others. Me and Chase actually talk about that, we gotta be aggressive on both ends of the floor and create shots for our teammates.”
Galloway went in-depth a bit further about effort leading by example. “The biggest thing is, especially for me considering my age and the kind of leader I want to be, I want to instill confidence in the guys…let them know that as soon as they get the rock in their hands to let it fly,” he said.
Forwards Hunter Tyson and Ben Middlebrooks also contributed to the superb ball movement displayed.
Tyson’s skill as a movement shooter in addition to his feel/instincts helped the offense in possessions where a play broke down.
“Anytime you have guys shooting well on a night, it helps spread the floor for everyone else,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to what coach said…it’s how we move the ball, how we play together and when we’re able to knock down shots it really helps.”
Tyson averaged 13.6 points per game during the ECC on a scorching 50% shooting from the three point line.
Middlebrooks was setting hard screens and operating as a passer out of the free-throw-line-extended area. This role opened up the paint for cutters and added a bail out option for the Tigers’ ball handlers.
Most of Clemson’s offense consisted of off-ball movement and cuts, so Middlebrooks’ contributions were quintessential to their goals of winning.
Clemson’s defensive plan was far more disruptive than their offensive connectivity. Although they weren’t playing man-to-man coverage, their defensive communication and quick rotation made it appear as if they were running a zone defense.
“Coming in, the coaches prepared us for the physicality,” Tyson said. “We fouled them a little bit too much but as long as we’re playing hard, playing physical.”
The Tigers’ quick feet and hustle helped tone down Devin Askew’s playmaking impact, thus making it difficult for Cal to get something going on the offensive end. Clemson had to sacrifice fouling and free throw attempts in order to keep their imposing defense running, but the whistle didn’t dampen the spirits of either the players or coaches.
“Since we have an older group we didn’t get too discouraged,” Tyson said. “They’re calling these fouls whether we like it or not, so we have to stop doing it. I think we did a much better job of [defending] without fouling in the second half.”
The Tigers left the ECC with five wins and two losses on their record overall.
University of California-Berkeley Golden Bears – 4th Place
The Cal Bears, led by head coach Mark Fox, entered the ECC with an abysmal record of zero wins and three losses. Concern for the season is warranted considering that the level of competition will only rise from here, but the issues facing the Bears are easier to fix than they seem.
The tournament did little for their record, but the competitiveness the Bears played with showed that their record didn’t tell the full story. Lars Thiemann was named to the ECC All-Tournament team.
The experience was likely invaluable for players like Devin Askew—former five star recruit and Kentucky point guard—and Thiemann who got a taste for how the team will play against tougher competition and will be able to make adjustments.
After transferring from both the University of Kentucky and the University of Texas, many have been questioning Askew’s character and commitment to his teammates over his own production.
Sources with the bears say that this concern is unwarranted. Askew has bought into the program, coaches and teammates. He’s committed to the team and is working hard to adjust to the culture rather than be concerned about his personal needs.
Considering the rough start to his inaugural season with the Bears, it’s easy to try and draw a correlation between Askew’s arrival and their record, but the kind of effort he displayed spoke the opposite.
Askew entered the ECC averaging 16.3 points and three assists shooting a tick under 40% from the field (39.1%) and 25% from three.
The counting stats look good—percentages aside— due to his ability to create looks for himself and others, but the nature in which a “pure point guard” like Askew has been forced to produce is unsustainable all game.
During the ECC, Askew was utilizing his playmaking talents to create a look on every single possession. Whether he’s playing a two-man game with Thiemann or running the pick and roll to manipulate the defense, it’s as if his teammates are flat out uncomfortable.
The Bears are facing the kind of issues that Clemson excels at—connectivity—and that dooms their offense to become stagnant. Shooters are hesitant to catch and shoot immediately, good look or not.
Pick and rolls and paint penetration typically resulted in only drive and kicks, seemingly making Askew the only perimeter player comfortable enough to take advantage of a bending defense.
There were many possessions where a Bears player would have his man beat, and would simply look for the next pass/opportunity. At first glance it seems like patience on the players’ part, potentially instilled by the coaching staff. But once one realizes that this patience isn’t translating to better shots or lower turnovers, the patience seems more like shakiness.
Regardless, there is still plenty of hope for the rest of Cal’s season. Thiemann is a legitimate force in the paint and an ideal offensive weapon to complement Askew’s playmaking capabilities. Grant Newell’s craftiness and Kuany Kuany’s versatility also proved to be bright spots.
The Bears finished the ECC winless and with seven losses overall on the season.
University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks – 5th Place
The Omaha Mavericks entered the ECC led by first-year head coach Chris Crutchfield with a record of one win and three losses. After an abysmal opening game in the tournament against Iowa, which they lost 100 to 64, the Mavericks closed out the rest of their games with wins.
The Mavericks leading scorer for the season, Marquel Sutton, and J.J. White were the main offensive weapons for their ECC games.
Sutton averaged 10 points on 62% field goal percentage, while White averaged 10.3 points per game shooting 53% from the field and 50% from three.
Assistant coach Warren Niles credited their final win in the tournament against Southern’s physicality and full-court press to their mentality:
“We just wanted to stay composed and execute our gameplan, not get sped up,” he said. “We pride ourselves on executing… making sure we’re taking good shots and getting the ball moving.
The Mavericks’ defense was also being executed beautifully, with excellent communication and on-time defensive rotations that prevented Southern from pulling away on a scoring run before halftime.
Freshman Luke Jungers was the star against Souther, finishing with a career high 17 total points on a mixed shot diet. Jungers’ ability to punish defenders — whether for switches, rotations or ball watching — kept the floor open and broke down Southern’s press.
“I think the biggest thing was just keeping our poise, being patient, understanding how to beat [Southern’s] pressure,” Jungers said. “Coming into the game I know my job is to make shots. That’s what I came here to do, so that’s what I was doing.”
Jungers was later named to the ECC All-Tournament team. Omaha’s culture under Crutchfield has seemingly begun on a positive note.
The Mavericks left the ECC with an overall record of three wins and four losses.
Southern University Jaguars – 6th place
The Southern Jaguars, led by head coach Sean Woods, entered the ECC with a winless record and three losses. Their leading scorer, guard Bryson Ettiene, was averaging 13.6 points on 43% shooting from three prior to the tournament.
Ettiene’s sharpshooting cooled off for the duration of their games, but Southern’s guards P.J. Byrd and Brion Whitley led the Jaguars offense in his stead.
Byrd averaged 15.3 points during the tournament on 68.7% field goal percentage while also providing gritty defense and hustle. The 6’1 guard did an excellent job of imposing his presence on both ends of the court. Byrd also displayed free-throw drawing savant, shooting 22 free throws in total during the ECC and making 20 of them.
Whitley averaged 14.6 points during the tournament on 47% field goal percentage and
was named to the ECC All-Tournament team.
Senior forward Tyrone Lyons was the most impactful perimeter defender of the tournament. The 6’7 wing’s combination of foot speed, wingspan and defensive instincts single handedly impacted the game when he entered.
Lyons was Southern’s most effective press defender against Omaha, and once they went away from it the game changed completely in the Mavericks favor.
Southern’s defensive schemes proved to make opponents uncomfortable and sped up, helping them rack up fastbreak opportunities on nearly every possession.
Once their offense becomes more stable/structured, their defense will be able to carry them to many unforeseen victories. A lack of consistent off-ball movement plagued the Jaguars’ offense once shots stopped going down and Omaha tightened up their turnovers.
The Jaguars finished the ECC with an overall record of two wins and four losses.
Loyola University Maryland Greyhounds – 7th Place
The Loyola Maryland Greyhounds entered the ECC led by head coach Tavares Hardy with an even record of two wins, two losses. The Greyhounds’ utilization of a three-guard lineup offense helped promote ball-movement and unselfish play during the tournament.
Sophomore wing David Brown III was granted all-tournament honors for his efforts, averaging 10.3 points on 50% field goal percentage.
The Greyhounds won their last game of the tournament against Louisiana Monroe off of a last second shot from Kenneth Jones.
This is reflected in their stats prior to entering this years’ tournament, where each night had different leading scorers and their top three scorers (Jaylin Andrews, Kenneth Jones and Alonso Faure) averaged about the same points per game production.
During the tournament each of these players helped contribute to wins; Faure was the leading scorer with 15 points in their ECC opener against Clemson.
But the selfless team system showed up in the box score of the Greyhounds’ other games. Against Southern, David Brown III was the leading scorer with 25 points; Against Louisiana Monroe, Chris Kuzemka led the team with 12 points on four three-point shots.
Even with the team bought into supporting and uplifting one another’s games, the Greyhounds struggled for a majority of the ECC.
The three-guard lineup made it difficult to keep opponents out of the paint, and Loyola Maryland’s lack of big men with solid fundamentals doomed them to give up points against aggressive opponents.
The Greyhounds left the ECC with an overall record of three wins and four losses.
University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks – 8th Place
The University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) Warhawks entered the ECC with one win and two losses. Led by head coach Keith Richard, ULM’s first game of the tournament, TCU, was their biggest challenge.
Senior guard Jamari Blackmon was named to the ECC All-Tournament team averaging 11.3 points per game shooting 54% overall and on threes.
Even after the opening-game blowout, it seemed that the Warhawks weren’t able to stabilize their offense or keep their defense in check, leading them to a winless showing at the ECC.
Forwards Thomas Howell and Victor Bafutto provided strong presences inside for the Warhawks on both ends. Guard Tyreke Locure provided scoring and ball-handling, albeit inconsistently.
ULM seemed to suffer from a team wide nonchalant mindset, save for a few players.
The Warhawks finished the ECC with an overall record of two wins and five losses.
The 2023 Emerald Coast Classic will take place around the same time next Fall, and may feature teams like Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama.