There may not be a bigger question mark at any position for a given team in the Big 12 than the point guard spot at Kansas. After Naadir Tharpe left the program, paving the way for signee Devonte‘ Graham to enroll in Lawrence, the question moved from “who will play at the point?” to “how will the freshman fare?” First-year point guards have rarely led the way for Bill Self’s teams at Kansas, so Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star is here to give the lowdown on the winding story of how Graham and Kansas matched up with one another. If Graham doesn’t pick things up in the Jayhawks’ system early, Self will again be left to his backup options of Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
A pair of Iowa State Cyclones have had some run-ins with the law recently, earning sophomore guard Matt Thomas and Southern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader indefinite suspensions after each was cited for driving while intoxicated at different points in the offseason. As stupid of a decision as it is to drive while drunk, it would be a surprise if head coach Fred Hoiberg held either player out of game action once the season gears up. Still, both players have opportunities to make big impacts for the Cyclones next season, so it would be in everyone’s best interests for them to remain out of trouble off the court.
Roughly one year ago, Stevie Clark was unofficially anointed the point guard in-waiting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, after encountering a couple of legal incidents himself, Travis Ford dismissed him from the team, leaving an opening for a new floor general. Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey is set to join the Cowboys and could fill that role as a transfer, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to get a waiver to play immediately. He has some makeup questions of his own, but if he is ruled eligible and realizes the opportunity in front of him, he could play a big part in steadying the Cowboys’ ship after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
Last week, Kansas State rolled out its finalized non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season, and while it isn’t a juggernaut, it looks plenty daunting. The Wildcats have two true road games (at Long Beach State and at Tennessee), and Bruce Weber‘s team will head out to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational. This year’s field will be competitive as usual, with Arizona, San Diego State, Pittsburgh and Purdue among the competitors, but another interesting potential showdown could involve former Big 12 member Missouri. Last season, the Wildcats had to make up for some embarrassing early losses, but with an improved squad, they’ll obviously look for a much better showing this time around as they get ready for what lies ahead later in the season.
In another scheduling tidbit, Baylor learned the team it will face in its Thanksgiving tournament, as the Bears will square off against Memphis in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on November 27 and will face either Illinois or Indiana State the following evening. In the aftermath of the losses of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip from last year’s team, the Bears will need to make hay early if they are to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in the program’s history.
California will have to move on in their coaching search after Chris Mackdecided to stay at Xavier. Mack, who is 111-57 in five seasons at Xavier including four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Sweet Sixteens, cited a desire to continue to coach the players he has worked with as his reason for staying. Xavier will be without Justin Martin, who averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, but decided to transfer after his junior year and will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver. Former Arizona State assistant and NBA coach Eric Musselman was reported to be next in line, but it appears that he is no longer in the running for the coaching vacancy. It is unclear who the administration is targeting now, but the two names who have been mentioned the most are California associate coach Travis DeCuire (Mike Montgomery’s recommendation) and UC Irvine coach Russell Turner.
It appears that Georgia State is becoming a popular destination for discarded guards from the state of Kentucky. A year after Ryan Harrow left Kentucky to be with his father, who suffered a stroke, former Louisville guard Kevin Ware has decided to also transfer to Georgia State. Ware will also seek a hardship waiver and when combined with his medical redshirt from last season could be eligible to play for two more seasons at Georgia State. When combined with a backcourt that already has Harrow and R.J. Hunter, they should be the dominant team in the Sun Belt once again.
It was an interesting weekend for Iowa State on the transfer front. Abdel Nader, a transfer from Northern Illinois transfer who sat out last season after averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds at Northern Illinois, was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for a DUI late on Saturday night. Iowa State got better news on Sunday when Bryce Dejean-Jones announced that he would be transferring to Iowa State. Dejean-Jones, who led UNLV in scoring last season at 13.6 points per game, will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver.
Creighton will be taking a step back next year, but the addition of Maurice Watson Jr. could help ease the transition. Watson, a transfer from Boston University after a sophomore season in which he led them in scoring (13.3), assists (7.1), and steals (2.1 per game), will serve as Grant Gibbs’ replacement assuming Gibbs is unable to figure out to work out a couple more years on the Creighton campus (honestly, he is approaching Tommy Boy status at this point). Shockingly, Watson does not appear to have any transfer waiver ready so he will be able to play during the 2015-16 season.
Ohio State picked up a potentially important transfer in Trevor Thompson. Thompson averaged 5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, but did show flashes of becoming something more including a 15 point, six rebound performance against Duke. Thompson joins Anthony Lee, a Temple transfer among those joining the Buckeyes next season. According to reports, Thompson will also be seeking a transfer waiver due his father’s medical condition (no idea what that condition is). With his height (6’11”) and potential, he could be a valuable addition to Ohio State.
Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the MAC. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.
The Week That Was
Non-Conference MAC MVP?Miami (OH) may be mired at the bottom of the East Division with a 2-4 record, but it’s not because of Julian Mavunga. The 6’8’’ senior forward from Indianapolis is averaging nearly a double-double, and leads the conference in both scoring (21.5 PPG) and rebounding (9.8 RPG).
Western Michigan’s Rough Non-Conference Schedule: While the Western Michigan brass deserves some credit for scheduling a rigorous non-conference slate to steel them for the rigors of the MAC, they may have overdone it a bit. The Broncos are 1-7 and still have difficult road games left against Oakland and Duke before MAC play begins. WMU has lost to the likes of Gonzaga, Temple, Purdue and Detroit to start the season. Whether or not this helps them win the West remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that the Broncos will almost certainly have to win the conference tourney if they have any Big Dance aspirations.
Northern Illinois is Awful: There’s really no polite way to say it. New coach Mark Montgomery probably knew his squad was going to struggle in his first season, but he couldn’t have imagined dropping non-conference games to the likes of Utah Valley State and Nebraska-Omaha. There aren’t a lot of easy answers, either. The Huskies (0-7) are allowing more than 73 points per game and offensively are shooting a dreadful 35% from the field. To make matters worse, NIU turns it over 17 times per game. To be fair, the Huskies are very young. Five of NIU’s 10 regulars are true freshmen. Stud rookie Abdel Nader (10.1 PPG/3.9 RPG) has shown some early promise, but things are looking ugly in DeKalb.
Miami of Ohio's Julian Mavunga is Off to a Tremendous Start This Season (AP/Amy Sancetta)