Morning Five: 10.07.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 7th, 2011

One week, people. One week.

  1. So many people are assuming threat postures over this so-called battle of words between John Calipari and Rick Pitino, but to us this is just a symptom that fans of college basketball just want something to talk about. We’ll never fault anyone for that, but it just doesn’t seem like there’s a lot in this. Here’s the deal: speaking in front of the tent village that pops up around Lexngton’s Memorial Coliseum annually as people camp out for Midnight Madness tickets, Calipari told an interviewer that Kentucky basketball was the biggest deal “throughout this whole state,” raising the ire of Louisville fans. Pitino responded with a little bit of name-calling without actually saying Calipari’s name. That’s it. There’s no feud here because what Calipari said is correct. There are thousands of UK fans who live in Louisville. Yes, there are thousands of U of L fans who live in non-Louisville Kentucky, but to us Calipari’s comments were meant to compliment UK fans and were centered on his program, and did not constitute an insult of the Louisville program or its fans.
  2. doesn’t need our help getting attention, but we’ll always link quality college basketball discussion wherever it is, and this qualifies: remember that brawl in the summer that happened when Georgetown took its trip to China and played an exhibition against the Bayi Rockets? No surprise, there’s much more to it than you’d think. The New York Times’ Jim Yardley was in China three years ago doing a story on another Chinese professional team but got the scoop on Bayi. The team is a former military propaganda showpiece and have been given every break by those who run that league, are the most hated squad in the country, but have lost relevance of late. The incident with Georgetown, as Yardley writes, may be the thing that puts the Rockets away for good. His history of that team and the Chinese pro league is a must-read, and provides considerable insight on the fracas with the Hoyas.
  3. With conference realignment buzzing along as it is and people talking about the eventual superconferences at some point seceding from the NCAA, college hoops fans are wondering what effect these changes will have on the holiest of holies, the NCAA Tournament. Inspired by a series of tweets last night from Bylaw Blog and’s Andy Glockner, Rock Chalk Talk has laid out one fantastic (though obviously remote) possibility: the establishment of a champion based on the UEFA Champions League model. Can you imagine, say, six Selection Sundays as opposed to one? True, the singularity of Selection Sunday is what makes it so special, but in this model each one would mean just as much. And the idea of certain Power Six conference programs getting relegated, you have to admit, is pretty intriguing. Interesting stuff whether you’re a soccer fan or not.
  4. “Ladies and gentlemen…Tone Loc!” Such an introduction would inspire exactly zero excitement in anyone currently enrolled at Syracuse. Frankly, it probably wouldn’t inspire much excitement in anyone who has children enrolled at Syracuse. But that’s who was slated to host the midnight madness festivities at the Carrier Dome. Unfortunately, it’s been a tough month for Tone, who recently pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge. That in mind, the ‘Cuse made went with a change of host, tapping Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill (no, really) as master of ceremonies. As the Syracuse site Troy Nunez Is An Absolute Magician points out, at least Julie Boeheim will still be there. By the way, the last two sentences in the linked article are great.
  5. One of the best (or worst, whatever you prefer) examples of a kid that was hyped to death and just never, ever panned out was Schea Cotton. This is no exaggeration; Cotton had been touted as a basketball messiah from the age of 15, and many pros — meaning no less than Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler, Ron Artest, Paul Pierce — compared both the style and skill level of Cotton’s game to that of LeBron James. And many, including those same pros, can’t explain why he never played a minute in the NBA. Cotton is the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled Manchild, and we cannot wait to see it. If you want to see the reason for the hype (and the opinions of the aforementioned pros), check out the trailer contained in the linked article. Oh. My. Goodness.
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Steve Lavin To Undergo Prostate Surgery

Posted by jstevrtc on October 5th, 2011

St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin will have prostate surgery in New York City on Thursday as part of what will hopefully be the beginning of the endgame of the treatment course for his diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Go Get 'Em, Coach, And Feel Better Soon

Back in April, Lavin went public with that diagnosis, noting that his physicians had recommended a trial of watchful waiting that had started about six months prior. Taking a “wait and see” approach is a common course of action in the treatment of the disease, especially when it’s caught early. Obviously we have no specific information as far as the communications between Lavin and his doctors, but given his age — the average age of patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer is 70, and Lavin is 47 — he should tolerate the procedure well, and it can be safely assumed that he and his physicians have examined all the data available and decided that this offers him the best chance for a totally cancer-free life. Surgery is frequently curative for the disease.

Of course, we can describe the surgery as a “common” course of action and make this all sound as routine as anything, but when you’re the one in the open-back gown being wheeled back to the operating room, there’s not a single thing that feels common or routine about it. That in mind, everyone at RTC really hopes this goes as smoothly as it can for Coach Lavin, and we’re hoping and praying for the best for him.

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The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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RTC Conference Primers: # 31 – MEAC

Posted by jstevrtc on October 3rd, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Readers’ Take I

Top Storylines

  • Turmoil at Bethune-Cookman.  Bethune-Cookman is the defending regular season champion, but can they concentrate on basketball? Since least season, the school has fired Clifford Reed, its head coach for the previous nine years, because of “insubordination and failure to cooperate” during an investigation of the basketball program. His son, C. J., was last year’s conference Player of the Year and the league’s top scorer, but was named (not charged) in a now-closed sexual assault case and has left the college. The elder Reed is suing the school for wrongful termination. Forget that the Wildcats will be under new leadership and have to place replace C.J.’s scoring; will they be able to concentrate on hoops with this stuff hanging over the program all year?
  • NCCU Wild Card.  We ask the above poll question about North Carolina Central because even though they’ve been readmitted to the MEAC, the Eagles welcome three transfers from Power Six conferences (on whom more in a bit). In the few pre-season writeups we’ve seen so far, NCCU has been predicted anywhere from first to 12th. They’re by far the biggest wild card in this conference this season.
  • MEAC Parity.  From 2000 to 2009, the MEAC post-season tournament saw only two schools claim more than one title (Hampton and South Carolina State). Hampton took the conference tournament crown last year and won the honor of a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Morgan State took the two before that, and Coppin State won in 2008. Those three schools have separated themselves in recent years as the top programs in this league. Which one will rise up this year, or can another squad challenge that trio?

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 09.23.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 23rd, 2011

  1. As we’ve said before, one of the few positives that’s come out of the conference congealment/realignment mess is that some writers have simply had enough and are pulling out all the stops in their critiques, and the readers are benefitting from it. The latest example of this came yesterday from Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel, who explains why the current system blows, the new superconference system will be even worse, and that it’s not too late to save these conference and school administrators from themselves and try to save college athletics, certainly (our favorite section coming here), “…for the average fan, who just appreciated things like the Big East basketball tournament or Backyard Brawl or the myriad other traditions that seem a lot cooler than protecting the salary of the guy who runs the Great Idaho Potato Bowl.” Enjoy.
  2. So, in that vein…Dan Beebe is out as commissioner of the Big 12, and it looks like this conference — which looked extremely wobbly at best just a week ago — will now survive. You probably remember that it was Oklahoma that said it would only stay on board if Beebe was removed AND if Texas‘ brand new Longhorn Network would be restricted in what it could show, especially regarding high school games/athletes. As for the “victory” yesterday and the discussion among the member schools that lasted for just over an hour, OU president David Boren said, “We achieved substantial reforms. We feel extremely good.” We assume now that it’s only a matter of time until the remaining schools gang up on Texas and that TV network to try and hammer out a few more substantial reforms.
  3. It’s been just over 18 months since March 3, 2010, a night on which Maryland defeated Duke in a basketball game. It’s also the night that Maryland student John McKenna was beaten with riot batons by a couple of police officers during the celebratory mayhem that followed the game. McKenna and his family hired a private investigator who found a tape of the incident, showing that McKenna was not provoking the officers and was unarmed. The tape didn’t support the officers’ story that McKenna was belligerent to the policemen’s horses and it was the horses that caused McKenna’s injuries. A Prince George’s County, MD grand jury saw that tape recently. The officers are still innocent until proven guilty, but the grand jury indicted them earlier this week, charging them with first- and second-degree assault.
  4. On May 13, UNLV senior Chace Stanback was pulled over for suspicion of DUI and ended up testing positive for marijuana. The summary of his punishment is as follows: $585 in fines, 40 hours of community service, attendance at DUI school, and participation in a victim impact panel. Yesterday, the school also suspended Stanback for the Rebels’ season opener on November 11 against Grand Canyon as well as an exhibition ten days earlier. The 6’8” swingman will be UNLV’s leading returning scorer, averaging 13.0 PPG last season (2nd on team), and led the Rebs last year in rebounding (5.9 RPG) as well as efficiency rating (13.5).
  5. Speaking of November 11, that’s Veterans’ Day, and the night that Michigan State and North Carolina will face off in the first-ever NCAA game on an aircraft carrier, lovingly called the “Carrier Classic,” specifically aboard the USS Carl Vinson docked in San Diego. The combatants for the 2012 edition now look to be Arizona from the Pac-12 and Connecticut from the Big East ACC…well, whatever. We understand the reasons they’re doing this on the Vinson and why the ship has to be docked, but as we wrote in our original article on the carrier game, at some point in the future this has to be played on an active ship in the middle of missile drills. Talk about preparing a team to play on the road, man. The sight of a bird being launched in the middle of an 18-year old’s one-and-bonus will make a couple of snarky signs or synchronized cheers from some day-drinking poli-sci majors look pretty tame.
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Morning Five: 09.22.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 22nd, 2011

  1. A couple of top prospects made their college choices within the last couple of days and the rich keep getting richer. On Tuesday night, Kentucky opened its account within the 2012 class when 6’4”, 180-pound shooting guard Archie Goodwin tweeted his intent to be a Wildcat. It was Perry Ellis‘ turn on Wednesday, and the 6’8”, 220-pound forward chose Kansas, citing Bill Self’s knack for getting the most out of his Jayhawk bigs as motivation for heading to Lawrence. Goodwin is ranked 13th overall and Ellis is 37th in the ESNPU 100 class of 2012 rankings. Ellis was also the first ranked recruit to commit to Kansas from that class, but it goes without saying that neither program is finished mining its talent.
  2. Oklahoma took some heat for the ultimatum it gave to the Big 12 on Tuesday, claiming that it would stay in the conference if, among other demands, some restrictions were placed on exactly what Texas’ Longhorn Network could show, and if current Big 12 commish Dan Beebe was removed. Nobody (including us) bought it as a good-faith negotiating tactic, but it turns out that OU might be getting at least part of what it wants. Evidently Oklahoma isn’t the only school that would welcome Beebe’s ouster, and the most recent word is that the presidents of the conference’s member institutions are having a conference call (no pun intended) tomorrow that will determine the future of the Big 12, beginning with the removal of Beebe and the installment of former Big 8 commissioner Chuck Neinas as the new boss.
  3. Last week, when people who follow college sports weren’t talking about conference realignment, they were talking about the piece that appeared in The Atlantic by essayist and historian Taylor Branch entitled “The Shame Of College Sports.” The 14,573-word diatribe against the NCAA was lauded by almost everyone as a stinging polemic, to say the least, and an utter rout for Branch. CBS’ Seth Davis, however, took Branch and his essay to task yesterday, charging Branch with basing his whole article on a faulty premise and conveniently leaving out obvious counterpoints. We provided a CliffsNotes version of the Branch essay, and we highly recommend you check out Davis’ response, too, linked above.
  4. Rick Pitino had a chat with ESPN’s Andy Katz yesterday in which the Louisville coach predicted that the Big East would survive Realignment ’11, that the conference would add two service acadamies (football only) by the end of the week, it would still remain one of the strongest basketball conferences in the land, and that he is “happy with Big East basketball.” Pitino has a gift for spin that makes even the most skilled of lobbyists envious, but he’s probably right about the Big East staying strong. Obviously it won’t be what it once was if Syracuse and Pittsburgh follow through with their departures, but as far as basketball power, assuming Rutgers and Connecticut leave and Notre Dame and West Virginia stay, you’d have those two programs plus Louisville, Marquette, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Villanova, and St. John’s, all NCAA Tournament teams last year.
  5. We bet you can win a few bar bets — though your chances of success increase dramatically if you’re outside the state of Michigan — on one of the great riddles in college basketball: who was Michigan State’s only three-time basketball all-American? Hint: he was a point guard. Your sucker will probably pounce at the chance to answer “Magic Johnson!” and expect to relieve you of your cash, but he’d be wrong. Magic was a two-time AA as a Spartan (because he only played two years). It’s a Flintstone named Mateen Cleaves who holds that honor, and today he will be inducted into Michigan State University’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Despite feeling as humbled and honored as you’d expect, the 34-year old Cleaves told Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal and, “It does make me feel old that I’m entering the hall of fame.” No comment.
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Taylor Brown Cleared, Will Be Back For Bradley

Posted by jstevrtc on September 21st, 2011

Bradley forward Taylor Brown is back playing basketball. After sitting out all of last season while doctors investigated an issue with his heart, Brown has been cleared to play his senior season.

Brown Had To Willingly Decondition His Body and Heart For His Cardiac Workup

Here’s what’s particularly compelling about Brown’s case: as part of his doctors’ investigation over the last year or so, Brown was told to actually de-condition his heart. Obviously, that doesn’t mean he was told by his docs to start smoking and to commence with an all-lard diet, but it does mean that he was told not only to refrain from playing basketball, but also not to do anything active. In short, he was told by his doctors, quite frankly, to do nothing, to allow himself to get into worse shape, because it would help his physicians reach a diagnosis. That might be fantastic medical advice for certain basketball blog writers — such a directive from one of our doctors would be met with a hearty “Can do!” and an immediate trip to the store for more Doritos — but it’s not the easiest thing for someone in their early 20s to hear, and certainly not for an athlete with a future that was getting brighter with every game he played.

After transferring from junior college in 2008, Brown averaged 3.4 PPG and 3.0 RPG in an average 11.5 MPG for Bradley in 2008-09. That ballooned to 13.5 PPG and 6.8 RPG during his sophomore year, and his 12.9 efficiency rating was the best on his team for 2009-10. After sitting out his junior year for the cardiac workup, he’s had to work hard to re-condition himself after the long period of prescribed de-conditioning, and he’ll be back to help the Braves rebound from a 12-20 (4-14 MVC) mark last year.

Patients are told by their doctors to rest or restrict themselves from certain activities, depending on the malady from which they’re suffering, or because it will aid in the workup of a suspected disorder. But there are incredibly few conditions that would require your physician to say, “We actually need your heart to be in a little worse shape than it is now so we can check into this. That’d help us out a lot. Then we’re going to put you through a bunch of heart tests.” Because the working and final diagnoses of Brown’s case have never been released during this process, we won’t disrespect him here by saying what we think it is, but the fact that he’s been cleared to play is even better news than it seems on the surface. We’re just glad he’s OK and we’re looking forward to him playing hoops this season — but probably not nearly as much as he is.

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Morning Five: 09.21.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 21st, 2011

  1. With all the hints and allegations flying across the country via texts, Twitter, and television reports (mostly Twitter, though), at some point beyond the decisions made by Texas A&M, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, somebody is going to have to pull the trigger and commit somewhere, even if the Pac-12 is now closed for realignment business. Attempting to grease the rails a little, the SEC did Missouri a solid as of yesterday afternoon, offering the Tigers a spot in that conference but still allowing them to see what happens to the Big 12. Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, though, has spoken out frequently about how he’d prefer to keep the Big 12 together and stay put, but we don’t know if his statements could be fairly applied to a revamped Big 12, or the now oft-speculated Big 12/Big East hybrid. Still, what a nice turn of events for Mizzou. Some schools don’t have anyone that wants them and are getting nervous. Missouri has the SEC as its fail-safe, and that’s not a bad spot to be in right now. The scuttlebutt is that this won’t happen, now, but the SEC needs a 14th school for (gag reflex initiated) football reasons, and it has to come from somewhere.
  2. Jim Boeheim’s rant yesterday (see yesterday’s M5 or our Tumblr feed at right) provided a refreshing dose of logic on Realignment-ageddon and is so far the best discourse on what will probably happen as a result. As far as why this is happening, look no farther than yesterday’s piece by Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy in which he explains why this nonsense began, what’s perpetuated it, and how astonishing it is that some pretty smart folks are making such colossal blunders, here. A description of the actions of college presidents over the last six weeks as “an unprecedented bacchanal of jealousy, mistrust, fear and conceit?” Oh, yes. Get yourself more of that.
  3. A couple of days ago, DeCourcy penned an article making the claim that Pittsburgh’s defection to the ACC would all but ruin the Panther basketball program. On Tuesday, Mike Miller of’s Beyond the Arc published his counterpoint, asserting that things won’t change that much, and he has a snippet from a recent interview of Jamie Dixon as part of his evidence in which the head Panther says these conference switches “won’t be quite as much change as it may seem initially.” What’s Dixon supposed to say, though? He’s not going to show up for an interview and say, “Man, we are totally screwed. And I’m so outta here.” We enjoy the opposing takes from two experts in the field of college basketball, and that’s at least one good thing about all the realignment talk — the people who do care about basketball have a few new points for gentlemanly debate.
  4. In any conflict, resolution is most effectively and quickly achieved when the belligerents and all immediately affected parties put themselves in a room, come together face to face, and have it out. The Big East had its “come-to-Jesus” meeting last night, according to the great Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News. According to Weiss, this get-together of bigwigs resulted in every remaining school — yes, both the football and non-football schools — pledging to stay put as the conference now puts the full-court press on a couple of candidates to take the places of Syracuse and Pitt. Among the candidates mentioned: Army, Navy, and Air Force. That is not a typo.
  5. Before the Pac-12 slammed its doors shut last night, Oklahoma had been rumored to be headed everywhere from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten to the SEC or a sewn-together, refurbished Big 12. That last option, according to Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman, is only possible if current Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is removed and Texas’ new Longhorn Network is restricted in exactly what it can show, among other demands. If this was leaked intentionally by OU brass, we don’t exactly know why, since it doesn’t look like a final good-faith attempt to keep the conference together as much as it does extortion or an example of Oklahoma holding the conference hostage. What we found especially funny is this photo that made it to us (and countless others) through the Twitter grapevine of’s Andy Staples and Leila Rahimi, a reporter for KXAN in Austin (Hi, Leila!) who took the pic. Nice ad placement in a story referencing Oklahoma’s unhappiness at how the Big 12 has become a bunch of satellites revolving around the Jupiter that is Texas, don’t you think?

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Reports Say Pac-12 Will Not Expand

Posted by jstevrtc on September 20th, 2011

Moments ago, ESPN’s Andy Katz and The New York Times’ Pete Thamel tweeted that the Pac-12 will not expand beyond 12 teams. This news follows a conference call of the presidents of the conference’s member schools that took place earlier tonight.

So, now where are we? If the Pac-12 stays put, does that open things up for the Big 12 and Big East to expand and attempt to push the Pac-12 into a position of lesser relevance? Are Oklahoma and Texas now blowing up the phones at the SEC offices, pleading for one of what appears to be two remaining spots, or will Oklahoma now have to reconsider sticking with the Big 12 after issuing the conference its bizarre ultimatum on Tuesday? Will Missouri tell the SEC thanks-but-no-thanks? More on this as things develop. What a soap opera this has been, and continues to be.

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Morning Five: 09.20.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 20th, 2011

  1. We absolutely love the rant that Jim Boeheim went on yesterday as he spoke to the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham. We linked the article by Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News in our Tumblr feed yesterday (see right), but the thing is just so full of great quotes — and what sounds like frank disgust — regarding conference realignment and specifically his school moving to the ACC. Another morsel: “Where would you want to go to to a tournament for five days? Let’s see: Greensboro, North Carolina or New York City? Jeez, let me think about that one and get back to you.”
  2. Love among the Big East and Big 12 ruins? More like survival. The honchos from each of those jilted conferences are now engaged in talks to evaluate the possibility that they could combine what’s left of their leagues into a new one and still exist as after the conference shuffling is all through. Anyone ready for a little Seton Hall-Baylor? Maybe some Cincinnati-Kansas State? Actually, the matchups aren’t that bad, but we’re again reminded of how people putting these conferences together don’t want to face geographic reality. Football teams will be unaffected, playing their one game a week, but what are basketball teams going to do? Go on MLB-type road trips where they knock off a few games in a row against their most distant conference-mates? See, there’s this thing called going to class…
  3. San Diego State sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin had generated some positive chatter over the summer, with his teammates anointing him the most improved Aztec on the squad. He only averaged 7.4 MPG last year, contributing 2.6 PPG and 1.7 RPG, but Steve Fisher seemed to trust him more and more as the season progressed. Franklin might still have that breakout soph season, but he may have created a bit of a hurdle for himself over the weekend. Early Sunday morning, Franklin was pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DUI. As if that weren’t enough, he only turned 20 a couple of months ago. No comment from Fisher as of yet.
  4. OK, back to conference realignment, because we know you can’t get enough. West Virginia is one of the schools that seems to be caught both geographically and athletically in the middle of all this, with prognosticators seemingly placing them in a different conference every week. Frank Giardina of West Virginia Metro News has a few opinions on the matter, including 1) the WVU-Pittsburgh football rivalry is dead and Pitt would love to extract themselves from it, 2) WVU will move to the SEC, 3) TCU will never play a single second in the Big East, and 4) the late great hall of fame coach and Big East founder Dave Gavitt was no friend to basketball programs at WVU, Rutgers, and Penn State, and Gavitt’s emphasis on making the Big East a basketball-centered conference is exactly what’s killing it now. Thoughts?
  5. Meanwhile, while everyone in the Northeast (and the Midwest, and a good deal of the South) wonders what conference they’ll belong to in a year or two, Ben Howland out at UCLA just goes about his business in putting together one heck of a recruiting class from the class of 2012. He had already signed (rankings via the ESPNU 100) #50 Jordan Adams, a 6’5”, 210-pound small forward from Georgia, and #72 Dominic Artis, a 5’11” PG from California. Then, last night, #5 Kyle Anderson tweet-committed to the Bruins, and it’s worth noting that Anderson, another SF at 6’7” and 210-pounds, is from New Jersey. Did all this conference instability have anything to do with his decision? Probably not, since UCLA is an impressive draw all by itself, but hey…it probably didn’t help matters. Something to keep in mind: the #1 player in the nation, 6’6”, 215-pound SF Shabazz Muhammad, apparently has the Bruins in his final five.
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