Syracuse Shows Off Its Depth in a Win at Arkansas

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2012

Eli Linton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday night’s SEC/Big East Challenge game from Fayetteville.

Everyone in Fayetteville, Arkansas, wanted this win tonight. They packed the Bud Walton Arena to the rafters, white out and all. They stood and gave their best “woo! Pig Sooie!” chant, got to the arena just a little bit earlier, and sang the fight song just a little bit louder. Even one of the parking attendants felt he needed to tell me how important this game was to the school. “We’re playing for all the marbles tonight.” He said when I pulled up (Yes, but can I park here?). But tonight, it didn’t matter how bad the Razorback fans wanted it, it wasn’t going to happen. For a team that prides itself in the slogan “fastest 40 minutes in basketball,” these 40 minutes turned out to be the longest of the year for Arkansas.

Syracuse Quieted the Hostile Crowd Assembled at Arkansas Friday Night

Syracuse fell behind briefly at the beginning of the game thanks to the hyped-up crowed and Mike Anderson’s energized Razorback squad, but the game quickly shifted into Orange hands as they slowed the tempo with a zone defense and a killer night from beyond the arc, mostly by the hands of senior James Southerland, who came off the bench to lead the Orange with a career high 35 points. Southerland was an unbelievable 9-13 from three, and he’s been having a career year to help boost the Orange to the no.6 ranking. Coming in to the game, all eyes were on sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who leads Division I in assists per game and was second in steals. Carter-Williams did not disappoint, almost racking up a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals.“He almost had a triple-double and I’m yelling at him. So he must be pretty good,” Jim Boeheim commented about Carter-Williams’ performance after the game.

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Breaking Down Arkansas’ Chances Against the Orange

Posted by DPerry on November 30th, 2012

The SEC/Big East Challenge tipped off last night with the SEC’s supposed two top teams putting in drastically different performances. The #8 Kentucky Wildcats were run off the floor by host Notre Dame, while the #7 Florida Gators dominated visiting Marquette from start to finish. Each conference left the competition’s opening night with two wins apiece with four more games on tap tonight.

BJ Young will be counted on to lead Arkansas when the Orange come to town in the SEC/Big East Challenge.

Friday night’s games do not appear to give the SEC much of an opportunity to pull ahead in the Challenge, though, and the match-up between Syracuse and Arkansas looks like an especially one-sided contest. However, this SEC microsite writer won’t be shocked if the Razorbacks do enough to pull off a shocker. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Depth- Second-year Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is fully committed to “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.” Running and pressing are necessities for his teams, and for that to work, Anderson requires a deep bench. Through the season’s first five games, 10 players are averaging more than 12 minutes/game, with no one being relied upon for more than 28 per contest. This heavy rotation allows Arkansas to continually attack on offense and defense, a strategy Syracuse doesn’t often see in their Big East opponents. If the Razorbacks can stay within striking distance through the opening stages of the game, they’ll undoubtedly be fresher than the more talented Orange late in the second half. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC/Big East Challenge: Big East Looks to Gain the Edge on Friday Night

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 30th, 2012

After splitting Thursday nights first four games of the SEC/Big East Challenge, the Big East looks poised to take hold of the series with tonight’s four match-ups.  Let’s take a look at Friday’s slate of games.

#6 Syracuse @ Arkansas

Quick trivia question:  when was the last time Syracuse lost a regular season non-conference game?

Answer:  Cleveland State in the Carrier Dome in 2008. You might remember Cedric Jackson’s 60+ foot heave at the buzzer against a Jonny Flynn-led Syracuse team to defeat the Orange, 72-69.  Since that game, Syracuse has swept its non-conference slate, which has included multiple games against Florida and Memphis as well as match-ups against California, North Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, and NC State. The Orange will look to continue that streak against an Arkansas team that looks to make noise in the SEC this season. Arkansas is led by B.J. Young, who is one of the better scorers in the SEC and leads the Razorbacks with 20.5 points in just 26.5 minutes per game so far this year. The Razorbacks put points on the board, averaging 82 per game, but are not an efficient scoring team. They shoot 43.7% from the field and just 27.8% from three-point range, which is not a good sign for a team preparing to go up against a Syracuse zone that they are not familiar with. Arkansas is a good home team, and Bud Walton Arena will be sold out, so the game should prove to be a significant road test for the Orange.  If they can contain Young, and Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland continue their tremendous play, the Orange should be able to escape with a win.

#20 Georgetown vs. Tennessee

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Pac-12 Burning Question: Who’s Your Guy In The Clutch?

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2012

As the level of competition starts to heat up, it becomes more important to be able to make plays come crunch time. Our Burning Question of the week addresses that issue, as we ask:

Eight ticks left, down a deuce, whose hand do you want the ball in?

 

Adam Butler: Get that ball to Solomon Hill. I’ve seen him do it before, making clutch plays at Florida and against Washington, and he’s not afraid of the moment. He’s been there and he’s done that and, as the eldest, most experienced statesman on a good team, he knows he’s good. Additionally, he’s smart. He can beat you from the outside if you give him that (39% from deep last year, 38% this year), and he can get you on the dribble – attacking the rim or getting to the line. Options, as it were, allow this dynamic talent to win a ball game. And I haven’t even mentioned his passing. He’ll find the open guy to put the game away if it isn’t an option for himself. And just who is that other guy? Well it could be Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Kevin Parrom, or any of the other talented Wildcats. Among all those pieces, however, Hill brings the most broad set of talents and the experience and wisdom to put those skills to dagger-esque efficiency.

Solomon Hill is One Person’s Mr. Pac-12 Clutch…

Parker Baruh: I want California’s Allen Crabbe with the ball. He’s a great shooter and already off to a scorching start this year by scoring 22.o points per game, good for 11th in the nation. He has experience being a junior and I want the ball in someone’s hands who can shoot from anywhere on the floor which Crabbe can do as he has shot 40% from behind the arc and 44% from the field for his college career. Yes, Crabbe has had stretches of inconsistency, but he’s also had games where he couldn’t stop making shots such as last year’s game against Oregon on the road. He had 14 points in three minutes last year against the Ducks in the second half which essentially ended the game. And if Crabbe were to get fouled shooting or going to the rim, he was 84% from the line last year, which would undoubtedly help. Crabbe’s start this year albeit in a small sample size has been full of scoring and what looks to be improved confidence and as long as the Cal guard has that lethal stroke, I want the ball in his hands at the end of the game.

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Jeff Withey Quietly Putting Up NPOY Numbers, Especially on the Defensive End

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 30th, 2012

For his first couple of years in a Kansas uniform, senior center Jeff Withey’s game reflected his nonchalant personality to a fault. A California native, Withey transferred from Arizona in December of 2008 and became eligible midway through the 2009-10 season. He was a non-factor for almost two years, averaging 2.3 PPG and 1.8 RPG in 2010-11 as a sophomore. Two years later, his personality is still the same. After the Jayhawks defeated North Carolina last season to advance to the Final Four, Withey was speaking with a few media members on the court of the Edward Jones Dome as players celebrated and people searched for a ladder. “Excuse me,” Withey told the reporters after a few questions. “I have to go cut down the net.”

Jeff Withey is Taking His Defense to a New Level This Season (AP Photo)

Withey knows every team-first cliché in the book. He rarely talks about his numbers or dominant defense, but somebody needs to, because Withey is becoming one of the best defenders college basketball has seen in years. Last season, Withey broke the all-time NCAA Tournament record with 31 blocks in six games. He has only gotten better this year, blocking 37 shots through the season’s first six games. C.J. Moore of CBSSports.com found that if Withey was a team all by himself, he would rank 13th in the country in blocked shots. A year after Anthony Davis won nearly every National Player of the Year Award for his defense and shotblocking ability, Withey is putting up similar numbers this season.

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by jnowak on November 30th, 2012

This is the fourth installment of our weekly Big Ten Power Rankings which we will publish every Friday. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan of the Big Ten microsite.

Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers made a statement against North Carolina this week. (Photo: Andy Lyons)

  1. #2 Indiana (7-0) — We didn’t really have much to credit to the Hoosiers this season to justify their lofty national ranking — until now. Wins against Georgia and Georgetown on a neutral floor were nice, but the Hoosiers really came to play at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night. Say what you want about North Carolina’s team this season, but Indiana flexed its muscles inside and out. Defense, at times, is still a question mark. But you’ve got to be able to stop this team to stand a fighting chance. 
  2. #3 Michigan (6-0) — There’s no doubt about it — the Wolverines are a legitimate Final Four and national title contender. Their guard play to this point has been nothing but outstanding, leaving Trey Burke the ability to spend his time finding teammates before going off for eight or 10 points if his team needs a run. While Mitch McGary has been a non-factor early, fellow freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nick Stauskas have been even better than advertised and Tim Hardaway Jr. has found a consistent jumper. Their interior game is a weakness, but one that no one has been able to fully exploit yet.
  3. #6 Ohio State (4-1) — It’s still hard to really get a good read on the Buckeyes, whose non-conference slate up to this point hasn’t been able to tell us much. With the Marquette game cancelled, it left us with only the Duke game to really judge. Ohio State played well, simply coming up against a Blue Devils squad with the most impressive résumé in the country. After that loss, we’ll probably see Ohio State steamroll it’s next few opponents until a December 22 showdown with Kansas. Then we’ll have another good measuring stick. Until then, steady as she goes.
  4. #23 Minnesota (7-1) – The Golden Gophers have quickly gone from a Big Ten sleeper NCAA Tournament team to a team that nobody in the country wants to face. They’re hot as just about anybody now, and the most baffling thing about it is they continue to win without consistent output from Trevor Mbakwe. Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams Jr. have been fantastic. Read the rest of this entry »
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Marching to Vegas: Joshua Smith Will Not Be Joining Us

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

With news of Josh Smith’s departure earlier this week, UCLA’s departure numbers since their 2008 Final Four has reached 11 players. Just a week earlier, teammate Tyler Lamb left the team as well. Now I’m not going to turn this into a “UCLA has transfer issues” column. There are thousands of those across the interwebs for three years now. No, college basketball has a transfer issue and the spotlight just shines brightly on UCLA because they’re arguably the greatest program in the history of the game. For that reason, the spotlight shines brighter and it’s quickly turning into an interrogation lamp as Ben Howland has to answer spicier and spicier questions about his spiraling program. I know I’ve already spent an M2V piece examining the state of this program but these days it appears about as volatile and complex as Paula Broadwell’s “unprecedented access.”

Joshua Smith, UCLA

Joshua Smith’s Mid-season Departure Again Shines The Spotlight On Ben Howland And Begs The Question, “What’s Going On?” (Gary A. Vasquez, U.S. Presswire)

So with Smith’s departure we’re disappointed. I wrote about it on my blog, how Josh Smith is our selfish tragedy because we choose to believe we’d never let that happen to us. Me? Squander innate NBA talents? Never! But that’s the thing: Leaders are there to lead and while success is driven from within, great leadership helps you find that desire deep inside your gut. Thus the question is now perpetually being brought up – Bruins Nation kills it – as to what’s going on in Westwood? Stemming from the theories proposed by Bruins Nation, the one that strikes me as most poignant is that it is well-documented that playing for Ben Howland is joyless. Now this didn’t come to me as a tremendous surprise, A) I’ve watched Howland teams for years now and see it myself, and B) I’ve heard rumblings of such. Not a shocker. But Josh Smith’s transfer, among so many of the others, really brought to light the fact that this is a significant concern. Winning masks most everything but at the end of the day, this is a game being played, shouldn’t it be fun? Go ahead and call me an idealist because I most certainly am. I choose to believe my superstars are playing for championships not contracts and kids stay in school a year longer because they love the experience. That’s how I see sport.

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Who Won the Week? Notre Dame, Prairie View and Athletic Departments Seeking Cash…

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Notre Dame

Heisman Trophy candidate and star linebacker Manti Te’o celebrates the Irish’s victory (Photo credit: US Presswire).

On top of emphatic wins over St. Francis and Chicago State, the Fighting Irish capped a three-win week with a 64-50 victory over reigning NCAA champion Kentucky for their 41st win in their last 42 games in South Bend. In what shouldn’t have been described as an upset — the Irish were 1.5 point favorites — Notre Dame held the Wildcats to 40 percent shooting from the field and managed to keep the pace of the game slow, making Kentucky grind out possessions as they put up their lowest-scoring game of the season by 18 points. In each of the Fighting Irish’s three games, senior forward Jack Cooley finished with a double-double, capped off with 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats. (Cooley has six double-doubles in eight games this season.) For a team that doesn’t play a true road game until the Big East schedule, Notre Dame needed to make a non-conference statement, and did so emphatically.

(Related winners: Cooley, the Big East. Related losers: Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow, who only played nine minutes in Thursday’s loss and may have already played himself out of John Calipari’s rotation.)

LOSER: UCLA

In the time since this column was last published, the Bruins have been a bastion of bad news on and off the court. They took an ugly loss to Cal Poly of the Big West at home at the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion (or is that Poly Pavilion now?), and then capped that off with the transfers of swingman Tyler Lamb and talented-but-overweight center Joshua Smith. Yes, the Bruins still have more talent than nearly every other team in the country, but it looks more and more like it can’t come together and play defense. After a few troubled years for coach Ben Howland, underachieving with the talent he has could spell the end of his tenure in Westwood.

(Related winners: Cal Poly; Lamb and Smith for escaping; point guard Larry Drew II, who has been thriving and will get an even better chance for success as the Bruins run the floor more. Related losers: Howland, UCLA fans.)

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 30th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Many of the power conference teams hit the road for the very first time this weekend, so we should start to get a real sense of where teams stand early in the season. With a little less college football going on this weekend, you should make some time to catch a few games. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Tennessee at #16 Georgetown – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Exceeding Expectations (Getty)

  • Tennessee heads to Georgetown for its first true road game of the season. Like many of the games this past week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and now the Big East/SEC Challenge, we are going to get a true indication of where a lot of teams stand. While the Vols are 4-1, they lost their toughest test against Oklahoma State. They face a Geogetown team that is extremely long. The Hoyas start four players who are at least 6’8”, while the “shortest” player, 6’2” guard Michael Starks, is their leading scorer. Look for the Hoyas to take advantage of their size and shoot a lot within the paint. Georgetown currently shoots 56% from inside the arc while the Vols rank 106th in the country in two-point defense. Also, keep a close eye on free throws. With this game looking like it’s going to take place inside the arc, free throws will be a key to victory. The Hoyas are struggling to get to the line and it caught up with them in their recent overtime loss to Indiana. On the other hand, Tennessee is ranked in the top 25 nationally in free throw rate. The team that gets to the line more and sinks its free throws should be the winner in this contest.

Baylor at #8 Kentucky – 12:30 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • Kentucky and Baylor are two teams in desperate need of a good win. Kentucky is coming off a beating on the road at the hands of Notre Dame. As coach John Calipari discussed in many of his preseason press conferences, the Wildcats are not consistent on offense or defense. As soon as you think they are coming together, they lay an egg and shoot 40% against ND. Baylor is also struggling to find an identity outside of “The Pierre Jackson Show.” While Jackson’s play has been mostly excellent, it does not seem to be working particularly well with recent losses to Colorado and College of Charleston. Kentucky will be tough to beat at home but they need better consistency on both ends of the court. They should be able to shoot the ball against a struggling Baylor defense, particularly from downtown. If the Wildcats can get back in the long-ball groove, they should win at home for the 56th straight time under Calipari.

#18 Oklahoma State at Virginia Tech 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN3 (****)

  • While Oklahoma State lost to Virginia Tech last year in a close contest and will play a true road game for the first time this year, the Cowboys have not been tested so far this season. More importantly, they have responded with drubbings of Tennessee and North Carolina State. For the Hokies, OSU is by far their toughest opponent to date. The Cowboys have been winning with solid defense. Opponents have been held to 36.3% from two and an overall eFG% of 39.8%. Typically, you may take these stats with a grain of salt given the competition, but Travis Ford’s team has played a strong schedule thus far. The match-up you should keep a close eye on is the Cowboy defense versus Virginia Tech guard Erick Green. The 6’3” Green is averaging 24.3 points per game thus far, and Ford will counter with a trio of big guards in 6’7” LeBryan Nash, 6’4” Marcus Smart, and 6’3” Markel Brown. Do not expect Green to hit for two dozen against the Pokes. If he does, Virginia Tech will be in good shape. Finally, watch the Hokies on the offensive glass. They currently rank 314th in the country in offensive rebounding rate against a fairly soft schedule. It’s not going to be easy for coach James Johnson’s squad to hit their shots, so he needs them to grab offensive boards desperately. If they don’t, look for the Cowboys to win in Blacksburg.

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Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Outduels Deshaun Thomas for Top NPOY Spot, COY Top Five Debuts…

Posted by DCassilo on November 30th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Up until Wednesday, nobody deserved to be atop the player of the year list. There had been some strong performances by great players, but no one had grabbed the reins of this year’s race. But when Duke and Ohio State took the court on Wednesday, it became obvious that the two best players in the country were on the floor: Deshaun Thomas and Mason Plumlee. A deep three-pointer from Thomas would be followed by a monster dunk from Plumlee. It was fun theater to watch in what might go down as the most memorable non-conference game of the season. In the end, Plumlee took those reins with 21 points and 17 rebounds, while Thomas was limited to 16 points by early foul trouble. And now, we have our front-runner. Even a bad week won’t necessarily knock him off the top spot. Plumlee made his move. It’s time for the rest of the country to respond.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Sean Kilpatrick – Cincinnati (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 6.7 RPG

Perhaps the nation’s most underrated player on the nation’s most underrated team, Kilpatrick came up big in the rather anonymous Global Sports Classic. Against Iowa State and Oregon, Kilpatrick averaged 24 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He can beat you in a number of ways, as he has already hit eight three-pointers and 16 free throws in separate games. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Alabama, Dec. 6 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock

9. Le’Bryan Nash – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 19.2 PGG, 6.4 RPG

Nash or Smart? The battle rages for who is the better Cowboy. (AP)

Deciding who is better between Nash and Marcus Smart can be a difficult task, but the sophomore has proven to be a tad more consistent this season. In all five games he’s played, Nash has tallied at least 16 points and five rebounds. This week: Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech, Dec. 5 vs. South Florida

8. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.2 BPG

Notching a triple-double will surely get our attention at Rush the Court, and that’s exactly what Withey did against San Jose State. The senior had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks in the victory. A defensive stalwart, it was the second time this season he had at least 10 blocks in a game. This week: Nov. 30 vs. Oregon State

7. Isaiah Canaan – Murray State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

As noted last week, Canaan was bound to have some monster scoring games once he could get his three-point shot to fall, and that’s what happened this past week. With the help of 55 percent shooting from deep, Canaan scored 30 points against Old Dominion and 32 points against Lipscomb. Expect much more of this to come. This week: Dec. 4 vs. Bethel

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 7.3 RPG

McDermott finally got his scoring going with 80 points in his last three games. Still, he needs to shoot more, as he has attempted 11 shots or less in four of seven games despite being Creighton’s only real scoring threat. If he does so, he could really start putting up some big numbers. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Saint Joseph’s, Dec 6 at Nebraska

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Julius Randle Out Three Months, Andrew Wiggins Plans Visit To Florida State…

Posted by CLykins on November 30th, 2012

Seven Sweet Scoops is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will discuss the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists, and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings.

1. Julius Randle To Miss Three Months. Julius Randle, the No. 4 overall ranked prospect in the class of 2013, is expected to miss three months after fracturing a bone on the top of his right foot. From Prestonwood Christian Academy (Texas), Randle suffered the injury during the Thanksgiving Hoopfest on November 24. He underwent surgery on Tuesday and is targeting a return to the court either during the high school playoffs for Prestonwood, or the postseason all-star games for the senior class at the latest. Among the schools pursuing the 6’9” power forward include Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Oklahoma and Texas. Randle has already made visits to Florida, Kentucky and Oklahoma and has finalized visits to Texas (December 15-16), Kansas (December 28-30) and NC State (January 25-27), with a spring decision most likely. One day prior to his injury, Randle had notched a double-double in his first and possibly only game for Prestonwood this season with 27 points and 13 rebounds in their season-opener.

Julius Randle is considering Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Oklahoma and Texas

 2. Andrew Wiggins Scheduling Florida State Visit. The No. 1 overall ranked prospect in the class of 2013 and widely regarded as the best high school basketball player in the nation, Andrew Wiggins is planning his first official visit to Florida State. Although the date has yet to be confirmed, it is likely that the visit will come in the first weekend of December. Since his reclassification into the senior class, Wiggins has received new interest from the likes of Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio State. However, throughout his entire recruitment two schools have been viewed as the leaders for the 6’8” small forward, Florida State and Kentucky. When speaking of the Seminoles, the Wiggins name is synonymous with their program as both of Andrew’s parents — former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and former Canadian Olympic track star Marita Payne-Wiggins — attended Florida State. A member of Huntington Prep (West Virginia), Wiggins most recently participated alongside teammate and Florida State commit Xavier Rathan-Mayes at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge in front of Seminoles’ head coach Leonard Hamilton and associate head coach Stan Jones. With a hectic playing schedule ahead of him, Wiggins is expected to plan more visits when he can in the future with a spring decision targeted.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 30th, 2012

  1. We mentioned yesterday how a pair of recent departures from UCLA will hurt the Bruins this season, but we didn’t even begin to look at how it can hurt recruiting in the years to come. This LA Times article discusses exactly that, along with getting a feel for the overall temperature of the program. Ben Howland has lost 11 players in the past four years, a staggering number even in the state of mass transfer that college hoops is in today. The departures haven’t appeared to hurt Howland in recruiting (obviously, as he brought in one of the top classes in the nation this year), but as the number of shocking losses grow, one has to wonder just how long until the Bruins see a sharp drop-off. Sophomore guard Norman Powell was quoted in the article as saying you shouldn’t let it affect your decision; “The people transferring, they probably have personal decisions. You can’t make your recruitment decision on, ‘Oh, people are leaving the program.’ The Bruins did a good job of putting the distractions behind them to dominate Cal State Northridge on Wednesday night, and they’ll need to do the same thing Saturday when they meet a very good San Diego State team in Anaheim.
  2. After starting his career in Westwood by making the Big Dance in five of his first six seasons, defections, a lack of chemistry, and unthinkable losses have marked Ben Howland‘s past three seasons and the beginning of this one. Pacific Takes says the next few weeks will determine Howland’s future with the school, as the Bruins take on three tough opponents in that span. If they can get through Christmas with a clean slate, the UCLA fan base will be charged up for what this team has in store for conference play. Anything less and those Pac-12 games could very well be Howland’s last.
  3. Arizona has opened the season with four wins and a Top 10 ranking, but the Wildcats are still a good bit away from reaching their peak. But if you’re looking for a “test-worthy” opponent to prove the Cats are legit, you’ll get plenty of opportunities in the coming days. Sean Miller’s club will take on Texas Tech and Clemson on the road before facing a Sweet Sixteen type (and maybe even Elite Eight) team in Florida at the McKale Center. Sandwiched in is also a visit from a 6-0 Southern Miss squad. So if you’re holding out on Zona, you’ll get proof soon enough that this is a legit team.
  4. Arkansas-Pine Bluff threw everything it had, including a mixture of zones, at Arizona State on Wednesday night in hopes of an upset. It didn’t work, but it did teach freshman point guard Jahii Carson and the Sun Devils how not to play against a zone; trying to shoot the Golden Lions out of it instead of attacking a weaker and smaller defense inside. In the end, however, this was still a fine win for Arizona State. These types of games have been ones to trip up Herb Sendek and ASU in the past, so a 13-point win to get to 5-1 on the season is fine in my book.
  5. Finally, some congratulations is due to Drew. This space is usually saved for our Pac-12 football picks each week, but Drew clinched the contest last Friday when Utah’s Reggie Dunn returned a Colorado kickoff 100 yards to beat the Buffaloes, 42-35. The final scoreboard shows Team Murawa up six, and with only tonight’s UCLA-Stanford and tomorrow’s Nicholls State-Oregon State match-ups remaining, not even I can catch up. If you haven’t already, check out our college hoops pick’em, which we began yesterday. We’re already off to a great start thanks to young Kentucky’s flop in South Bend.
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