SEC M5: 02.18.15 Edition

Posted by David Changas on February 18th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky extended its unbeaten streak to 26 in a row on Tuesday night with a 66-48 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. While the Wildcats struggled to put away the Volunteers for a good portion of the evening, they continued their march toward perfection by setting a school record for consecutive wins to start a season. The previous mark of 25-0 matched Adolph Rupp’s 1953-54 squad (which declined a bid to the NCAA Tournament). It is difficult to imagine that John Calipari’s team won’t continue to extend the school record given what is mostly a soft schedule the rest of the way. Arkansas comes to Rupp Arena in 10 days and the Wildcats then travel to face a floundering Georgia squad four days later. The odds are that the Wildcats will win those two games and will roll into the SEC Tournament in Nashville boasting 31 straight wins.
  2. Despite the success Kentucky has already achieved, the question of whether it will run the table and win the national title with a perfect 40-0 record is college basketball’s hottest topic. The Huffington Post’s sports columnist, Jordan Schultz, recently set forth three reasons why the Wildcats might not cut down the nets in April. Schultz believes that the Wildcats’ guard play, half-court offense, and “youth” may lead to their downfall. With regard to their backcourt, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker have provided what the Harrison twins have not been able to, so production from the perimeter does not appear to be an issue. The so-called “youth” concern is an overrated factor, too, given the great experience so many players on this roster got last year in the team’s run to the national championship game. The half-court offense, though, continues to be a legitimate area of concern, as the Wildcats don’t always shoot the ball very well and rely so heavily on offensive rebounding that an off night in either area could lead to trouble.
  3. As we continue our Kentucky-themed M5 (and hey, why shouldn’t we go this route?), Karl-Anthony Towns, who was dominant down the stretch of the team’s three-point win over LSU last week, was named the SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday. He averaged 10.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game in victories over the Tigers and South Carolina. Unfortunately for Towns, he did not continue his stellar play in last night’s win over Tennessee, as he scored only three points and grabbed four boards in 16 minutes of action. For his part, Arkansas’ potential SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis was named Player of the Week for his efforts in his team’s two road wins over Auburn and Ole Miss last week. Portis, who leads the league in scoring, averaged 17.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
  4. South Carolina coach Frank Martin suspended two of his players for the remainder of the regular season on Tuesday. Sophomore Demetrius Henry, who has started 19 games and is averaging 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and Shamiek Sheppard, a seldom-used freshman, were punished for unidentified violations of team rules although each could be reinstated before the SEC Tournament begins in three weeks. The suspensions certainly did not hurt the Gamecocks on Tuesday night as they upset Georgia by six points in Athens. The win gives South Carolina a season sweep over the Bulldogs.
  5. On the other end of the suspension scale, Missouri will welcome freshman guard Tramaine Isabell back for tonight’s game against Arkansas. Isabell had been suspended in late January for what head coach Kim Anderson called “unacceptable” behavior. On Saturday, they welcomed back Montaque Gill-Caesar and Namon Wright from their own suspensions. The Tigers are 1-11 in SEC play and are without injured leading scorer Wes Clark, but they now have gotten all three players back who had been previously suspended. While having three freshmen available may not translate into more wins for Missouri, it does give Anderson the opportunity to use the team’s final six games to begin building for next year.
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Morning Five: 02.18.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 18th, 2015

morning5

  1. Tonight will be yet another meeting between North Carolina and Duke, but one thing will be missing from tonight’s match-up: Dick Vitale, the broadcasting icon who will not be calling the game for the first time in 35 years. While the company line is that this is just ESPN sending various members of the team where they are needed it seems to be a sign of ESPN moving in a different direction and one away from Vitale, its longtime star. Instead, ESPN will have Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas call the game. With Vitale being 75 years old and Bilas becoming an increasingly popular and recognizable figure it would seem that ESPN is trying to move him into the role as its lead analyst and this would seem to be an ideal way to start.
  2. It was not that long ago that people were talking about Seton Hall as a potential NCAA Tournament team. Now they appear to be spiraling completely out of control. On Monday, we mentioned Jaren Sina transferring amid speculation of issues within the locker room. Those were backed up by reports of racial tensions within the locker room (a report that Sina’s father denied). On Monday night, Sterling Gibbs, the team’s leading scorer, was ejected for hitting Ryan Arcidiacono leading to a two-game suspension. For his part, Gibbs apologized to both his team and Arcidiacono for his actions. With all that is going on with this team, we have to wonder how much longer Kevin Willard will remain the coach there.
  3. We are not sure how much to make of Louisville’s decision to suspend Chris Jones for an unspecified violation of team rules prior to their game at Syracuse. Although the suspension is indefinite and not related to a basketball issue, based on the reports we have heard the suspension is only for one game at this point and likely not something that will be an ongoing issue if Jones does not have another misstep. Even if Jones (13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game) is only out for this game, it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals adapt to playing without one of its four players who they can count on to score reliably.
  4. It is not often that we see a college coach get fined, but then again it is not often that we hear a coach publicly criticize a call as “the worst call I’ve ever seen in my life” as Penn State coach Patrick Chambers did following his team’s loss to Maryland on Saturday. The call (an awful offensive foul on Jordan Dickerson) and more specifically Chambers’ response to it led to a $10,000 fine by the Big Ten for violating the conference’s sportsmanship policy. We agree that Chambers’ reaction might not fit with a typical sportsmanship policy we would think that the conference would have the sense not to fine someone when their officials got something so blatantly wrong.
  5. This might not be news in the same way as most of the other items that we feature in the Morning Five and the story is technically almost a year old, but we still thought that Bob Huggins receiving a $25,000 bonus for beating Kansas on Monday and him not being aware of it until a reporter brought it up last year was noteworthy. Huggins is far from the only coach with such a clause–we have even heard of coaches from mid-majors voting teams in their conference into the top 25 in hopes of collecting a bonus for beating a top-25 team–but in this environment where there is increased debate about paying athletes in revenue sports these types of bonuses and Huggins’ apparent obliviousness to a bonus that would amount to the annual salary of many Americans might strike a chord.
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Big 12 M5: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 16th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. In the marquee game of Saturday’s Big 12 schedule, Kansas brushed Baylor aside to keep Scott Drew winless in Allen Fieldhouse and, more importantly, keep Iowa State and Oklahoma at bay in the standings. The Bears hit a ton of jump shots and threes in the early going, but they fell back down to Earth over the final thirty minutes. The Jayhawk defense played a big part in Baylor’s offensive regression in the second half, as the Bears shot just 5-16 on two-pointers and turned the ball over on roughly 24 percent of their possessions after intermission. Baylor is still a very good team, though, and I look for them to remain in contention for a five seed all the way up to Selection Sunday, which is now less than a month away.
  2. The takeaway for the Jayhawks, according to Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger, is that in spite of some of the things that make this Kansas team different from previous ones — the lack of a dominant interior presence on either end of the floor, the absence of a clear-cut first team all-conference selection, a defense that has been effective but not suffocating like in years past — the Jayhawks are getting better with each passing game. About a month ago, their national perception wasn’t looking too hot; Now, enough time has passed and enough things have changed since the big Kentucky and Temple losses that the Jayhawks should no longer get overlooked in the national picture. Same as it ever was, right?
  3. While most of the country was watching the NBA All-Star Saturday festivities, Kansas State benefited from a curious rule on their way to a 59-56 win over #17 Oklahoma. Midway through the second half, Wildcat Justin Edwards hit a three-pointer, but television replays clearly showed that the ball didn’t leave his hand until after the shot clock expired. However, the shot counted because the officials couldn’t go to the monitors. Per the NCAA rule book, shot clock violations can only be reviewed inside the final two minutes of a game or during overtime, unless the issue is rooted in whether the shot clock started or reset on time (which was not the case here). While excessive monitor reviews have been a big issue in college basketball, it would probably be worthwhile to make plays like this reviewable since they can have a much bigger impact than many calls that are already reviewable. As it was, the inability of the officials to take Edwards’ three-pointer away was a monumental break for a Kansas State team that needs as many of them as it can get, and the shot set up Marcus Foster‘s heroics at the end of the game. On the other side of the coin, the loss makes the Sooners a long-shot to even share the Big 12 title with Kansas.
  4. The other major upset in the conference saw TCU beat what had been the league’s hottest team in Oklahoma State. While the Horned Frogs are much better than they were in their first two years of Big 12 membership, the Cowboys were still favored in this one. Trent Johnson’s team had a huge second half on Saturday, scoring 44 points without the benefit of a made three-pointer. All season, Oklahoma State’s success has depended on how much help they get from their bench, and they got just five points from their reserves in Fort Worth, but on the other hand, that wasn’t their only issue on Saturday. Le’Bryan Nash scored 17 points, but he also turned the ball over seven times, and the Horned Frogs locked Phil Forte into a rough 3-10 performance from the field. After TCU took many of its conference opponents to the brink before falling short, it was nice to see them get their first Big 12 victory since “Harlem Shake” topped the Billboard Hot 100.
  5. It’s been a frustrating year for those who expected Texas freshman Myles Turner to flourish from the get-go, but the big man played perhaps his best game of the season in a 56-41 win over Texas Tech in Austin. Turner scored a game-high 25 points (no other Longhorn scored more than six) on just 13 shots, pulled down 12 rebounds and swatted three shots. After losing four in a row, Texas has rattled off three straight wins against the dregs of the league, but now comes a stretch where they’ll play three of their next four on the road including meetings in Norman, Morgantown and Lawrence. Buckle up.
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Big Ten M5: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on February 16th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Iowa dropped its Sunday match-up with Northwestern in overtime, bringing its record in Big Ten conference games decided by single digits to 9-20 over the past two seasons. The Hawkeyes are falling into their annual February funk – they went 3-4 last February, and it nearly cost them an NCAA Tournament berth. They don’t have many chances to grab big wins over the four weeks of the season. If anything, Iowa will face plenty of opponents looking to play spoiler, including Rutgers, Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern. One loss to any of those teams, no matter if the Hawkeyes can clean up Illinois and Indiana, could be the final nail in the coffin for their NCAA dreams.
  2. Northwestern obviously won’t be making the NCAA Tournament this year, but there is plenty of reason to be positive following the Wildcats’ win over Iowa. Chris Collins young team fought through six single-digit losses in January before losing its three previous games this month by double-digits. It was apparent that those close losses had a major effect on the young team’s psyche, but they may have turned a corner on Sunday. The Wildcats bench players played a huge role in the win, with Gavin Skelly menacing Aaron White and Dave Sobolewski sinking two crucial free throws in overtime. The Wildcats needed the win to give it a boost heading into the final four weeks of the season and beyond, and they got a ugly, yet massive one.
  3. Illinois endured a drubbing via the hands of #5 Wisconsin on Sunday but there are quite a few positives one could take from the game. Malcolm Hill continued his hot streak even with Rayvonte Rice back in the lineup, shooting 55.5 percent from the field and pouring in 15 points. Illini faithful should have two more years to watch Hill blossom into an elite talent, writes Jim Vainisi of The Champaign Room. According to Vainisi, Hill is a lock for Third Team All-Big Ten, but if he continues his torrid pace, he could find himself as high as second team.
  4. Penn State dropped a heartbreaker to Maryland at home on Saturday, and head coach Pat Chambers lost his mind (with good reason) in regards to an offensive foul call that very likely cost the Nittany Lions their fourth Big Ten win. Chambers’ outburst is almost certainly going to warrant a fine from the Big Ten, but standing up for his players undoubtedly his its benefits. Penn State’s recent history suggests that they’re perpetually mediocre, but they are improving. The Nittany Lions final stretch is absolutely brutal with match-ups against Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State and Minnesota, but even one upset win over any of those teams (coupled with a win over Northwestern) would put them in a good position heading into next season.
  5. Frank Kaminsky bolstered his already strong candidacy for Naismith Player of the Year with another double-double in Sunday’s win over Illinois, pouring in 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Kaminsky leads KenPom’s player of the year ratings, and has undoubtedly cemented himself as the Badger’s most important player. Their only Big Ten loss came in his absence against Rutgers. Wisconsin hasn’t skipped a beat with the loss of Traevon Jackson, and they could probably withstand another injury to one of their starters. But without Kaminsky, they have proven that their prone to struggle. With them, though, they’re a serious national title contender.
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SEC M5: Presidents Day Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 16th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. Coach Cal took a step back from coach-speak to appreciate Kentucky’s program-record tying 25-0 start after the Wildcats walloped South Carolina on Saturday. “You just tied a record of the most storied program in the country,” he told his team. “You tied a record and you’re all freshmen and sophomores and Willie (Cauley-Stein, a junior).” A win at Tennessee will push these Wildcats past the 1953-54 Kentucky squad, but would only tie the best start for a team coached by Calipari. His 1995-96 UMass team led by Marcus Camby started 26-0 before losing at home to George Washington, and his Derrick Rose-led 2007-08 Memphis team got to 26-0 before losing at home to Tennessee in what was one of the biggest regular season games in recent memory. As fate would have it, if the Wildcats get to 26-0 they would face Bruce Pearl, the man who halted Cal’s 26-0 Memphis team, next Saturday. In any event, both of Cal’s 26-0 teams finished as the National Runner-up, and it would probably be considered a disappointment if this Kentucky squad followed suit.
  2. The SEC got plenty of ink in College Basketball Talk’s Saturday Bubble Banter. Texas A&M strengthened its profile, or at least avoided mucking it up, by holding on to beat Florida. Ole Miss and Georgia, on the other hand, took hits with home losses, but the Bulldogs will be dinged much more than the Rebels. Georgia’s loss at home to Auburn (RPI #162, KenPom #135) would be easier swallow had it happened on the road, but losing in Stegeman Coliseum to the Tigers was a surprise. The Bulldogs had generally taken care of business this season, going 7-2 against RPI 101-200 with the only other loss being their season opener against Georgia Tech. They should be fine, especially coming off a strong win at Texas A&M, but can’t afford another bad home loss with South Carolina coming to Athens on Tuesday. An unrelated statistical oddity about the Auburn-Georgia rivalry: the schools are 90-90 against each other in basketball and 55-55 against each other in football. Talk about not having bragging rights.
  3. Despite its inconsistencies, LSU can be a hard team to match up with since most nights the Tigers will have a huge athletic advantage in the front court. This showed in their win over Tennessee, where the Vols struggled to get good looks against LSU’s length. Jordan Mickey ended up with seven blocks and now has an NCAA-leading 91 blocks on the season, and as a team the Tigers have the sixth-most blocks in the country. Barring a late season collapse, it seems the Tigers are a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament. Even if they wind up with a 10 or 11 seed, they should be in shape to take advantage of their athletic advantage down low and frustrate teams in the early rounds.
  4. Alabama has quietly been one of the more disappointing teams in conference play. The Tide are now just 5-7 in league play after dropping a must-win game at home to Vanderbilt. This comes after a 10-3 non-conference mark that included a win over UCLA and one-point loss at Wichita State, which was a marquee win Alabama had in their pocket before coughing it up late. To be fair, the schedule makers did the Tide no favors. They’ve already gotten Kentucky twice and have had to travel to Arkansas and LSU. But at the end of the day the NCAA Tournament is out of the picture for a team that has yet again had its offensive struggles under Anthony Grant. This season has been an improvement over last, but Grant’s job security continues to be an interesting question.
  5. Something fishy is going on in Eastern Missouri airspace. The plane chartered by Mississippi State lost an engine and had to make an emergency landing in St. Louis as the Bulldogs were on the way home after a win in Columbia. This comes just a few days after a plane carrying Kim Anderson had to make an emergency landing outside of St. Louis for a similar reason. Fortunately, no one was hurt either time. After his nerves evened out, Rick Ray must have been more pleased than usual with his team’s win. The Bulldogs let an 18-point slip away but held on for the victory, and have now won three SEC road games this season, which is a far cry from the 22-game conference road losing streak the program endured up until the January 21 win at Auburn. Building a program is all about positive momentum, and the Bulldogs have plenty of that right now.
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ACC M5: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 16th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Andrew Carter is on the train that we need to speed up college basketball. He thinks that the shot clock should be shortened, which would increase the number of possessions. In close games, the shorter shot clock would also give the losing team a better shot at a comeback. I think you’d see a slight dip in offensive efficiency, but a lot of slower teams don’t really get into their offense for the first 10 to 15 seconds anyway. That said, I’m not sure this rule change fixes the game. Something like that needs a major overhaul (shorter shot clocks; different standards for a foul; fewer timeouts). But if nothing else, I’d like to see the ACC get back to its vintage run-and-gun days of recent yore.
  2. Washington Post: Virginia‘s three-point shooting has been atrocious since losing Justin Anderson, one of the best shooters in the ACC. And after a way-too-close call on Saturday against Wake Forest at home, the Cavaliers need to get back to basics. A dirty little secret this year is that Virginia’s offense has been as efficient as its defense. Now the Cavaliers have to find a way to make do without their best and most versatile player. I’ve said this before, but assuming Anderson comes back healthy, this could end up making the team stronger and safer (not that the pack-line lends itself to players fouling out).
  3. The State: Clemson is a weird team this year. The Tigers are probably not good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but they’re a really tough team to beat. They have a shockingly good conference record thanks to a couple of wins over fellow bubblers. Brad Brownell made a good point that his team is in a position to better its record because they have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. That should worry a team like Duke or Notre Dame, both of whom have to get past the Tigers (albeit at home). But it should really worry NC State. Right now Clemson isn’t good enough to count as a good win, but it sure can hurt resume for the Big Dance.
  4. Chicago Sun-Times: So Jahlil Okafor loves Duke. He’s. Not. Going. To. Stay. It seems like this story gets written every year about top picks. It was written last year about Jabari Parker. Of course if you ask midseason players will say they want to stay. Most really like college, and they love their teammates. But that doesn’t mean they will (or should) turn down a multi-million dollar salary and a year of their professional career. Barring something crazy happening at the end of the season, Okafor should and probably will go pro. End of story.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Put your tin foil hats on everyone! Kevin White, Duke’s athletic director, was just chosen to serve on the Selection Committee. No matter how many times a media member goes through the mock selection process, fans don’t trust the real thing to live up to the same standards (and probably won’t while it remains so opaque). Appointing White probably won’t help.
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Morning Five: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 16th, 2015

morning5

  1. Last week was a tough one for the college basketball world as it not only mourned the loss of Dean Smith, but also the loss of Jerry Tarkanian. We mentioned Smith’s passing last week and his death was followed by an outpouring of stories of his impact both on and off the court. While Smith might have been the archetype of the ideal coach that the NCAA would like to hold up, Tarkanian was the anti-establishment figure. Tarkanian may be best remembered for his days roaming the sidelines at UNLV with his towel in his hand (or often in his mouth), but he should also be remembered for being an outspoken critic of the NCAA. Now some of this was due to his outright disregard for some of the NCAA’s rules, but perhaps more importantly it attempted to shine a light on some of the NCAA’s hypocrisy. So while you take time to marvel at his on-court achievements (706 wins, a NCAA title, and four Final 4 appearances) you should also note his willingness to speak out even when his views were unpopular.
  2. What appeared to be a promising season for Seton Hall has quickly fallen apart as they have lost 8 of their past 11 games after opening the season with a 12-2 record. The latest hit came on Wednesday when they announced that Jared Sina would be transferring. Sina, a 6’2″ sophomore guard from New Jersey who was averaging 7.0 points and 2.3 assists per game, had started 23 of the team’s 24 games to that point. Although neither the school nor Sina would address questions related to his departure it appears to be related to issues with his teammates. Given the way this season has gone for the Pirates that would not be surprising and frankly would explain some of what has happened to them in the past six weeks.
  3. While the news is obviously minor compared to that of Jerry Tarkanian’s passing, UNLV suffered another blow last week when they announced that Rashad Vaughn will be out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury is expected to keep Vaughn, a 6’6″ freshman guard who leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, until at least the Mountain West Tournament. Although Vaughn might not be generating that much national attention it is worth noting that he was third among freshman in the country in scoring at the time of his injury trailing only D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor. Based on the reports out of UNLV it seems like Vaughn will recover from this, but we would be concerned because this is the same knee he injured as a senior in high school and was forced to miss two months recovering.
  4. There were two other notable injuries/illnesses. The first and more significant one is Larry Nance Jr. who is out with what is reported to be mononucleosis with a return date potentially on February 25. Nance, who leads the team in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (7.2), missed the end of last season with a torn ACL and Wyoming subsequently fell apart. Although they are already a bubble team our bigger concern would be for Nance particularly given his recently disclosed history of Crohn’s and the medication he is on with the mononucleosis diagnosis. The other notable injury is Andrew Chrabascz, who is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after breaking his hand in Butler‘s loss to Villanova yesterday. Chrabascz, who averages 11.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, played much of the game with the injury.
  5. We write about players getting in legal trouble fairly frequently here, but rarely do so when it is a coach mainly because it does not happen to the latter as often. However, when the case is as public as that involving Jerrance Howard at Kansas we notice.  Howard, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters, has been suspended for two weeks after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana. Although the arrest happened last July, Bill Self was not made aware of it until Wednesday when Howard pleaded guilty. It will be interesting to how the arrest and Howard’s decision to not disclose the matter for such a long time will affect his ability to get a head coaching job.
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Big 12 M5: 02.13.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 13th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. Last summer, Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard pled guilty to a charge of unlawful possession of marijuana in Peoria, Illinois. According to the Peoria Journal Star, Howard was ordered to pay nearly $1,200 in fines and legal fees and was placed under court supervision for six months. Somewhat coincidentally, the six-month court supervision period ends today and head coach Bill Self claims he did not have knowledge of the situation until Wednesday. Self responded by suspending Howard from team activities for two weeks, but this is pretty much a non-story. Howard had a lapse in judgment, a sentence was handed down, and it was served. Let’s all move on.
  2. TCU coach Trent Johnson announced yesterday that junior guard Charles Hill Jr. has been suspended indefinitely for “conduct unbecoming of a TCU men’s basketball player.” Hill has appeared in 14 games this season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in a little over five minutes per game of action. As Frogs O’ War points out, Hill sent out a tweet following TCU’s 66-43 loss to Texas that may or may not have to do with his suspension. We probably won’t hear what he did to warrant punishment but kudos to Johnson, though, for working in “unbecoming” into a suspension announcement. Coaches and athletic departments typically reuse the same suspension statement ad nauseam. Finally, I feel smarter after reading one of these things!
  3. In West Virginia’s recent win over Kansas State, Mountaineers sophomore forward Brandon Watkins sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee while having his best game of the season (14 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes). Watkins is listed as day-to-day and therefore has a chance to suit up for the team’s massive road contest with Iowa State on Saturday. I hope he is well enough to play because heaven knows the ‘Eers haven’t had a good win since throttling Oklahoma a month ago.
  4. On Thursday, SI’s Luke Winn published the interweb’s most intelligent power rankings for your consumption. Seven Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 24 teams on his list, with Oklahoma making a seven-spot jump from last week, the sharpest increase of any team among his top 16. Winn asks whether the Sooners are the national title contender that we aren’t talking about, and it’s a valid question. They’ve played fantastic basketball lately but have still suffered a handful of head-scratching losses (Creighton, Washington, Kansas State at home and at West Virginia). I want to believe in the Sooners, I do, but I’m not totally confident in Lon Kruger’s team getting to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, much less Final Four weekend.
  5. West Virginia guard Juwan Staten was named as a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award on Thursday. Staten is just one of ten players in Division I to earn this distinction, given to the senior with “notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.” Staten is the Big 12’s lone representative. The Big East had three (D’Angelo Harrison – St. John’s; Matt Stainbrook – Xavier; Alex Barlow – Butler); the Big Ten had two (D.J. Newbill – Penn State; Frank Kaminsky – Wisconsin); the West Coast Conference had two (Kevin Pangos – Gonzaga; Tyler Haws – Brigham Young); while the Ohio Valley (Reece Chamberlain – Belmont) and Pac-12 (Chasson Randle – Stanford) conferences each had one representative per league.
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SEC M5: 02.13.15 Edition

Posted by David Changas on February 13th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. There has been ample discussion about what can be done to make college basketball a more enjoyable product, and with good reason. Scoring is down again this year, with way too many games finishing in the 50s and 60s. The most common suggested fix for the scoring issue is to reduce the shot clock to 30 seconds. A recent ESPN poll found that more than 58 percent of the sample of coaches would like to see that happen, although the SEC’s most prominent coach, John Calipari, said that he essentially could not care less whether it does. Given the sheer amount of talent that Calipari brings to Kentucky, it is likely that he will win big regardless of the pace of the game (notably, this is Calipari’s slowest team in his coaching career). Whether the change is actually recommended going forward won’t be known until after the NCAA’s Competition Committee meets in May.
  2. To say this has been a trying first season for Missouri head coach Kim Anderson would be understating things. His team is currently mired in the cellar and on a brutal nine-game losing streak. He lost leading scorer Wes Clark to injury in a Tuesday loss to South Carolina, and he has suspended three more players over the last couple of weeks. Still, all of that turmoil pales in comparison to the experience he went through on Wednesday afternoon when the twin-engine plane he was on for a recruiting trip needed to make an emergency landing in St. Clair, Missouri. Anderson was on his way to Illinois when he heard a “small rumble,” and after the safe landing, he complimented the two pilots for their efforts. Perhaps not surprisingly, Anderson’s return trip to Columbia was by car.
  3. The Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 was released on Wednesday, and the SEC had two representatives on the list: Arkansas’ Bobby Portis, who is averaging a league-leading 17.9 points per game to go along with 8.8 rebounds per contest; and Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, who is fourth in the SEC in blocks. Portis’ inclusion is no surprise, as the leading candidate for SEC Player of the Year has led Arkansas to its best season in the Mike Anderson era. As for Cauley-Stein, he was considered a National Player of the Year candidate after a strong start in November, but the junior center has been less effective lately. Given the recent emergence of freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, a strong argument could even be made that Cauley-Stein isn’t the best post presence on his own team.
  4. Speaking of the Wildcats, what would an M5 be without some mention of their quest for an undefeated season? Kentucky survived quite a scare in Tuesday’s come-from-behind win at LSU, but with only seven games left in the regular season, the national discussion and laser-hot focus will only become more intense. CBSSports.com’s “Undefeated Watch” takes a look at those seven games and what kind of threat there is for the Big Blue to lose any of them. The chances of any individual team taking down the Wildcats is not very high, but a home game against Arkansas and a trip to Georgia seem to offer the best opportunities. The reality is that it’s likely that Kentucky leaves the SEC Tournament in Nashville with a great chance to become the first undefeated national champion in the last 39 years.
  5. Florida is having a nightmarish season — the Gators’ crushing one-point loss to Ole Miss on Thursday being only the latest example — and the NCAA Tournament is clearly off the table unless it wins the SEC Tournament. But there is some good news for Billy Donovan on the facilities front, as his athletic department has committed to a $60 million renovation to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as well as an expansion of the weight room in the basketball practice facility. The O-Dome renovations will include new chair-back seats, club seating, and center-hung video boards. The Gators have had one of the game’s preeminent coaches roaming the sidelines for the past two decades, and it will now have a facility worthy of such a fantastic leader.
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Big Ten M5: 02.13.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 13th, 2015

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  1. For every step forward Iowa takes, the Hawkeyes seem to follow it up with another step back. That was the case again on Thursday night when Fran McCaffery’s team lost at home to Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are in the bottom third of the Big Ten standings and have been a major disappointment since league play started. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, were coming off a statement game where they demolished second-place Maryland — and yet somehow, Minnesota earned its first road win in conference play. Iowa still has a favorable remaining schedule the rest of the way, but if it somehow drops this weekend’s game at Northwestern, it might be time to hit the panic button.
  2. Thursday night also marked the return of Rayvonte Rice to the court in Illinois’ overtime win over Michigan. It was initially an awkward reunion, as the Illini looked uncomfortable in their sets and sputtered to a 20-point first half — their worst offensive half of the year. Rice didn’t score until the overtime period, but his defense and rebounding helped Illinois put together an amazing 21-0 run to overcome an eight-point deficit in the dwindling minutes. If John Groce’s team works out some of the kinks in the integration process, this could still become a very dangerous team in March.
  3. This year is shaping up to be the most successful season for Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan era. And while the head coach is no doubt enjoying his current success, part of his set of responsibilities includes planning for the future of the program as well. That future got a little brighter for the Badgers on Thursday when Ryan secured a commitment from Khalil Iverson — a small forward from Delaware, Ohio. Iverson adds to an already solid Class of 2015 for Wisconsin, but the big prize Ryan is seeking is five-star Wisconsin-native Diamond Stone. Landing a player of that caliber would help the Badgers again compete for a Big Ten championship and Final Four despite several expected personnel losses.
  4. Wisconsin wasn’t the only Big Ten program adding talent this week, as Indiana picked up freshman Jordan Fuchs, who also plays tight end for the school’s football team. Fuchs is not a typical two-sport player who excels in one sport and simply holds his own in the other. The Queens native was considered a top 10 basketball player in New York last year, and he’s already started practicing with the team and made the trip to Maryland. At 6’6″ and 230 pounds, Tom Crean may be looking to add any size he can get down into the post.
  5. Finally, we’ve talked extensively here at the Big Ten microsite about how phenomenal this season’s freshmen class has been. The highlight has been Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, who is making a run at the Big Ten and National POY awards with his 19.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 5.5 APG averages. But other players like Maryland’s Melo Trimble, Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr., Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh, Purdue’s Vince Edwards, Minnesota’s Nate Mason, and Ohio State’s Ja’Sean Tate, have also made a big impact on their respective teams. BTN decided to compare these seven players against freshmen classes of previous years, and the conclusion? This year’s rookies are the best of the bunch. While theirs is certainly a subjective analysis, it is high praise for all the young talent in this league.
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Big 12 M5: 02.11.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 11th, 2015

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  1. We now have repeat winners representing this week’s Big 12 Player and Newcomer of the Week. Baylor’s Rico Gathers takes Player of the Week after sharing the honor with K-State’s Nino Williams two weeks ago. It’s hard to deny the award to a guy who averaged 15.5 points and 17 rebounds in wins over TCU and West Virginia but that’s exactly what Gathers accomplished for the Bears. Oklahoma State’s Anthony Hickey wins his second Newcomer of the Week award after taking home the honors for the week of December 15. Hickey’s 15 points in a win at Texas and 15 more vs Kansas were instrumental in the Cowboys’ climb up the Big 12 ladder. Better make room in your trophy cases, fellas.
  2. Is Travis Ford the Big 12’s Coach of the Year thus far? ESPN’s Myron Medcalf thinks so and makes a compelling argument for the Oklahoma State coach. When you have the week the Cowboys have had sweeping the regular season series from Texas, a double-digit comeback victory versus Kansas and taking care of the also-streaking Baylor Bears, a question like this is bound to pop up. We have to remember that today is only February 11. Chaos has been commonplace nearly everywhere in the Big 12 except for the very top of the league and with six games to go, it’d be silly to expect the status quo to remain the status quo. We have to also remember that the only anxious people in Stillwater is, well, everyone because they’ve tasted fleeting success under Ford before only to see season after season end in disappointment. Who knows, maybe this is the year the Cowboys finish stronger than they usually do and Medcalf’s case makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation seven days ago. Life can come at you fast.
  3. Down two of their top four scorers in Manhattan, Texas and coach Rick Barnes needed a spark. As Chris Hummer of Horns247 notes, Barnes went with a three-guard starting lineup for the first time all season and it worked out beautifully. With Javan Felix and Jonathan Holmes‘ statuses still up in the air as of now, this experiment by Barnes would be worth trying out again. The trio of Isaiah Taylor, Demarcus Holland and Kendal Yancy, spacing on offense was as good as it has been all year long. Taylor was at his best, keeping the K-State defense off balance by driving and finding teammates. At 4-6 in conference play, it could be time to tinker with the lineup even if Felix and Holmes are ready to go. The Longhorns may not have much time to right the ship completely before the Big 12 Tournament but they must turn it around to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
  4. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal came out with a list of the 20 best players in the Big 12 earlier this week. In a league as talented as this one, you can’t possibly find 20 credible names without leaving some good ones off the list but there are a couple (Kenny Chery, Jonathan Holmes). As for the rankings themselves, I’d have some guys higher (Nash, Forte) and some lower (Spangler) but it’s not half bad. I’m curious to know what the thinking was by putting Kyan Anderson on the list. I’m all for showing TCU love whenever it warrants it but they haven’t done a lot of winning since the calendar turned to 2015. If you replace Anderson with Marcus Foster, who has been up and down for K-State, I wouldn’t see much change in the overall quality in the rankings. Then again, it’s just a list so whatever.
  5. Now at 12-12 on the season, Kansas State has now found itself playing the spoiler role. The Wildcats could throw a monkey wrench in the Big 12 race as they face West Virginia tonight and five other teams in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament — Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas — before season’s end. A lot of said monkey wrench throwing depends on whether or not Marcus Foster and Malek Harris are taken off suspension in time for tonight’s game (sources told Kansas.com that they’d be both out vs West Virginia). This is the reality that Bruce Weber and his team must face.
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Big Ten M5: 02.11.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 11th, 2015

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  1. Player of the Year talk in both the B1G and nationally is starting to heat up. Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell has been mounting an impressive campaign with his play of late, but Wisconsin is squarely in first place. That’s why many think that the award in both the conference and nationally should go to the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky. The case for Kaminsky comes from the fact that he is the offensive linchpin for the most efficient offense in the country. In addition to his abilities as a scorer and on the glass, he’s led the Badgers in assists eight times. His defense is more advanced than that of Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, and he showed his true value in the fact that Wisconsin is 0-1 (against a bad team) when he’s not in the lineup. Keep an eye on Russell, however, as the buzz will continue to grow if Ohio State can make a late run with its precocious freshman leading the way.
  2. Don’t expect Marc Loving back for Ohio State’s game against Penn State tonight. The sophomore is expected to miss his third straight contest but he may be back for the team’s Saturday tilt against Michigan State. Loving was suspended by the athletic department for an undisclosed violation. He’s been able to keep practicing, and he may be motivated by the fact that freshmen Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop have played well in his absence.
  3. Maryland has struggled lately with three not-so-close road losses to teams that they are currently stuck in a logjam with behind Wisconsin in the league standings. Turninovers and poor shooting have been the catalysts for the Terps’ significant drop in offensive efficiency since conference play began. The Testudo Times tried to diagnose the offensive problems by crunching some numbers. They have increased their tempo significantly since conference play started, but have seen their point per game drop to 62.6. While they’re still getting to the free throw line at a decent clip, they’ve started turning the ball over more frequently. There’s a good deal to digest there, but one major sticking point is the inconsistent play lately of Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, and Jake Layman. If these three can all get rolling, Maryland can right the ship.
  4. After suffering through close loss after close loss, Northwestern got blown out at home Tuesday night against Michigan State. This brings up some concern in Evanston as to why this team- especially with how young they are at key positions- seemingly getting worse as the season goes on. The Wildcats are now 1-10 in the Big Ten after surprising many with their 5-5 start last season. BTN’s Dave Revsine brought up the fact that this year’s unit has a better point differential than last year’s team, so luck is a factor. But maybe it’s time to realize that Drew Crawford was extremely important to last year’s team, and that maybe the rebuilding process at Northwestern may take longer than some expected.
  5. The Big Ten is close to having the rights to some of their games going up for bidding after their ESPN deal ends, and some feel as though a move to Fox and Fox Sports One would make sense since the media conglomerate owns half of the Big Ten Network. It might not end up that way however if Commissioner Jim Delany looks closely at the ratings the network is drawing with its coverage of the Big East. Granted, it may take a while for the “new Big East” to gain the eyeballs of the casual fan. But this year the league is probably the second best in the country yet has experienced some brutal numbers with its television ratings. While the B1G has more established brands nationally, a move away from ESPN could be risky.
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