AAC M5: 11.10.14 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 10th, 2014

  1. AAC_morning5_headerIf you didn’t catch it on Friday, make sure to take some time to read the Houston Chronicle‘s extensive profile on new Cougars’ coach Kelvin Sampson and his decision to return to the college coaching ranks. There aren’t many shocking revelations here, but it covers his decision to return to college coaching after more than five seasons in the NBA and sheds some light on why he ultimately chose Houston. In fact, the most eye-opening tidbit in the piece was learning that the program — which went to multiple Final Fours in the 1980s — has only one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992. We are on the record here in saying Sampson is a fantastic hire for the Cougars and everyone should expect that he will end that drought sooner than later. If he stays around the program long enough to build something solid in Houston, the Cougars will be one of the conference’s better teams for a very long time.
  2. Tulane got a much-needed size injection last week when the school cleared sophomore center Aaron Liberman to play, effective immediately. A Los Angeles native, Liberman began his career at Northwestern but saw action in only 10 games last season after a redshirt year in 2012-13. He probably won’t be an impact player for the Green Wave, but at 6’10” he will earn rotation minutes in the team’s thin and inexperienced frontcourt. Ed Conroy’s club is relatively loaded in the backcourt with the likes of Louis Dabney and Jonathan Stark available, so if all Liberman provides is interior defense and help on the glass this season, he will play a meaningful role as this program adjusts to the new conference.
  3. One intriguing player at UConn who hasn’t received any attention this preseason is sophomore forward Kentan Facey. The New York native was the Huskies’ top-ranked recruit last season, but he played sparingly while clearly still learning the nuances of the game. His offensive skills are developing, but the 6’9″ Facey has athleticism to burn and the Huskies need all the help on the interior they can get. Facey started in the team’s first exhibition game against Southern Connecticut State and rewarded head coach Kevin Ollie with nine rebounds in 18 minutes of action. The sophomore’s performance on the glass in particular made his coach very happy and potentially earned himself an opportunity for more playing time. Of course Facey promptly corralled only four rebounds in 20 minutes of action in the team’s second exhibition game against Assumption, so the learning curve hasn’t exactly disappeared.
  4. You have to love the quiet intensity of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. The Bearcats have played just two preseason games and already Cronin has banished one player (redshirt freshman Deshaun Morman) to the locker room before the end of a game and been late to a press conference so he could have a stern postgame chat with his team. Cincinnati got off to a sluggish start and actually trailed Division II Fairmont State in the first half, so the sloppy start is presumably what upset Cronin. His attention to detail and perfectionism are a large part of the reason why his teams are successful without top-tier talent, so while it might seem like Cronin needs to relax, Cincinnati fans won’t complain once the season starts.
  5. We try not to get nitpicky when the media makes predictions we don’t agree with, especially before the season starts. That said, we strongly disagree with Tulsa World sports writer Kelly Hines when she wrote that it would be a “solid finish to Frank Haith‘s first season” if the Golden Hurricane make the NIT. She is right to point out that moving to a new conference will make things more difficult for Tulsa, but this is a squad that returns nearly everyone of note from an NCAA Tournament team. It would be disappointing to say the least if the Golden Hurricane don’t return to the NCAA Tournament again this season. It was one sentence in what was surely the 20th piece of preview content Hines has published in recent weeks, so we aren’t going to make a big deal out of it. But I bet if we polled the Tulsa players on this matter, they would not be satisfied with a “solid finish” of making the NIT.
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 09.14.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on September 14th, 2012

  1. Midnight Madness is less than six weeks away. As most of the coaches prepare for the upcoming season, the players are trying to get back into game shape. ESPN caught up with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo recently to get an update on some of his players, specifically Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson. Dawson, who tore his ACL last March, has been practicing “at about 95 percent” according to Izzo but he believes that it will take some time for him to get his conditioning back. Michigan State’s non-conference schedule is as usual not very forgiving, highlighted by key match-ups against Kansas and Connecticut. A healthier Dawson especially on the defensive end would add tremendous value to the Spartans during the Big Ten season if he can use the preseason to get used to the tempo of the game. Izzo also spoke highly of freshman Gary Harris, a 6’4″ guard who is a five-star prospect, specifically pointing out his defensive abilities. As Dawson continues to improve, Harris may be earn some playing time especially if he can step into the role of a defensive stopper for Izzo.  
  2. Speaking of off-season training regiments, Bo Ryan‘s program includes “The Hill,” which has been part Badger basketball tradition for a few years in Madison. Every fall, the Wisconsin roster trains on the hill in Platteville, Wisconsin, where Ryan began his coaching career way back in 1984. The coaching staff believes that the hill training not only adds physical conditioning but also serves as a great team-building activity and improves the overall mental toughness as the rigors of class and practice take over during the fall. Ryan has been known for “eccentric training” techniques over the years, which have clearly paid off as Badger basketball has established itself as a perennial top team in the Big Ten and produced eight consecutive NCAA appearances. Freshman phenom Sam Dekker got his first taste of the hill recently and had a few comments about the training program. Dekker, a 6’7″ wing and former top 25 recruit, has high expectations due to his athleticism and shooting range as the Badger fans hope for another NCAA appearance and a strong finish in conference play.
  3. Northwestern’s Bill Carmody added more size to his roster as 6’10” forward Aaron Liberman will join the Wildcats for the upcoming season. Liberman averaged 17.4 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 8.7 BPG during his senior season in 2010-11. He has been studying in Israel and should be able to earn playing time fairly quickly as the Wildcats have a need for skilled size in the paint. Northwestern ranked 11th in the conference in terms of offensive rebounding percentage (25.6%) and got hammered on the defensive boards consistently by the likes of Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller last season. The departure of senior forward Luka Mirkovic (3.8 RPG) gives an opportunity for freshmen such as Liberman and Chier Ajou (7’2″ center) to step up and control the paint, at least on the defensive end. Jared Swopshire, the 6’8″ forward who transferred from Louisville ought to help out with the rebounding as well as he averaged 6.8 RPG during the 2009-10 season before a spate of injuries. 
  4. Transitioning from freshmen to established Big Ten veterans, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas has been named to the preseason All-America list by Blue Ribbon for the upcoming season. Thomas will lead the Buckeyes after taking a backseat to Jared Sullinger during the last two seasons. He saw a huge improvement from his freshman to sophomore season as his scoring increased from 7.5 PPG to 15.9 PPG and hopes to take his game to the elite level during his junior year. Buckeye fans do not expect him to skip a beat offensively but hope that he improves his shot selection (only 34% 3FG) and become a leader on the court along with fellow junior Aaron Craft. Thomas is accompanied by Indiana forward Cody Zeller on the preseason All-America list from the Big Ten. 
  5. The preseason NIT Tip-Off schedule has been announced and Michigan will be representing the Big Ten as one of the top seeds in November. John Beilein’s squad will be accompanied by Virginia, Kansas State and Pittsburgh as the other potential favorites to win the annual event. As always, the preliminary rounds will be held on campus and the semifinals along with the championship game will be held in Madison Square Garden on November 23. With three key returning players for the Wolverines – Trey Burke (14.8 PPG), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.6 PPG), and Jordan Morgan (5.6 RPG), Michigan appears to be the favorite to win the Tip-Off this year. Pittsburgh hopes to rebound from a rough season per their normal standards but the Woverines’ versatility combined with incoming freshmen Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson III should be too much to overcome as Beilein hopes to make the Final Four with his talented squad next season. 
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Morning Five: 08.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2012

  1. Is before college football kicks off too early for the 2012-13 All-America team to come out? Not if you’re the bible of preseason college basketball, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. Chris Dortch, its longtime editor-in-chief, tweeted out the annual’s five selections for next season’s individual honors. The recipients are Florida State’s Michael Snaer and Louisville’s Peyton Siva at the guard slots, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas as the forwards, and Indiana’s Cody Zeller at center (the cover featuring all five players is shown here). We’ll break these selections down a little more later today but some notable omissions on the first team are Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Michigan’s Trey Burke, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, and NC State’s CJ Leslie, among many others.
  2. Speaking of college football, tonight represents the start of the gridiron season as we head into Labor Day Weekend. And as everyone reading these words knows, Labor Day Weekend represents the beginning of fall. And fall means Midnight Madness really isn’t very far away — 43 days to be exact. Many schools have had their events scheduled for a while, but Pittsburgh has decided to shake the negativity off of last year’s disappointing season by doing something completely different. The Panthers have not hosted a Madness event since 2003, but to celebrate the school’s 225th anniversary and Homecoming weekend, Pitt is planning on building an outdoor “arena” and holding court under the stars. In the case of rain or a particularly bad cold snap (not unheard of in western Pennsylvania that time of year), the event will move indoors. But given the huge success of last year’s Carrier Classic playing a real game streetball style, we hope that this thing goes off without a hitch. Maybe someday this trend will result in real games hosted from Rucker Park to the Venice Beach asphalt — all the guys who grew up watching the And-1 mix tapes can dream, right?
  3. It’s not very often, well, ever, that we get a tip about something called the “Jewish Dwight Howard.” Yet that very email dropped into our inbox yesterday and, sure enough, Northwestern announced on Wednesday that it was adding a preferred walk-on by the name of Aaron Liberman to its roster. The 6’10” big man hails from California but spent last year in Israel, and will now join a Wildcat front line that boasts five players 6’8″ or bigger. Despite choosing to walk on for Bill Carmody, he received interest from a number of schools including Boston College, USC, Pepperdine, and Yale. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to see Liberman, replete with his yarmulke on top of his head, enter a game next season. Let’s hope that his college career turns out a little better than Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan,” did 10 years ago.
  4. While on the subject of big men, we realize that this is not going to be a popular position for many basketball fans, but the Pac-12 Networks announced its hoops schedule of over 150 games next season along with the caveat that Bill Walton will return as a color analyst after two years away from the business. He will also do some Pac-12 games for ESPN from time to time. Love him or hate him, Big Red has a certain giddy excitement and accompanying way with words that is utterly unique to him and him alone, and for that reason, we’re excited to have him back in the fold. Now… about figuring out where on our cable package the P12 Network actually resides…
  5. Indiana’s Tom Crean took a considerable amount of heat earlier this week for his (mis)handling of scholarships that resulted in fifth-year senior Matt Roth losing his scholarship from the school. With a top recruiting class entering Bloomington, Roth ended up as the odd man out heading into next season. But in an interview that Roth gave to Peegs.com earlier this week, Roth quite clearly stated that he had no hard feelings against Crean and had been completely aware dating back to the end of last season that losing his spot was a distinct possibility. While it’s great that Roth feels like he was informed, that doesn’t make Crean’s decision to recruit over him any more tolderable. Yes, college basketball is big business, and yes, players are not guaranteed four-year scholarships… but, does that make it right? Every coach in America gets 13 scholarships to play with — if he can’t win with 12 spots filled with elite talent, he’s not going to win.
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