What’s Trending: Chris Walker’s Tattoos, a Sea of Golden Bears, Michael Cobbins Buggin’ Out…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 7th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Chris Walker Debuts for Florida

Finally, after sitting out the Gators first 21 games of the season, the much-hyped freshman Chris Walker made his first appearance for Billy Donovan.

The highly anticipated debut left us with a definitive highlight, but it was not really related to Walker’s box score.

A Sea of Golden Bears Fans

Perhaps it is the look yellow and blue gives when a filter is applied, but there’s  an abundance of gorgeous pictures and videos that were captured from Saturday’s wild scene at Haas Pavilion following Cal’s upset of then undefeated and No. 1 Arizona. Click on the image below or here to browse through the entire feed from Instagram.

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SEC M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 7th, 2014

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  1. Does anyone want to break away from the pack and become the third best team in the SEC? LSU looked like a prime candidate to do just that after wins over Kentucky and Arkansas last week, but the Tigers saw Tennessee’s momentum-killing loss at Vanderbilt on Wednesday and raised them a Thursday loss at Georgia. Sure, Georgia had an even conference record going into this game, but the Tigers still should have been able to take care of business in Athens. Nemanja Djurisic (17 points, 7-of-7 from the free throw line, six rebounds) has been inconsistent this year, but when he’s right, he can be one of the toughest match-ups in the SEC. His range (2-of-3 from three) pulls defenders away from the basket and helped Georgia neutralize a better rebounding team. Foul trouble on the LSU bigs didn’t help either. Mark Fox’s team now has two quality wins against Missouri and LSU, and the Bulldogs have won more than they’ve lost in conference play. Georgia could be setting up for an impressive SEC record as they’re already done with Kentucky and Florida. Given the loss of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA and how the Bulldogs played in non-conference play (6-6), finishing above .500 in SEC play would be a huge success.
  2. A lot of well-deserved freshman love has flowed to Kentucky’s class, and more recently, LSU’s Jordan Mickey. But it sure needs to flow to Bobby Portis too after what he did against Alabama. The Little Rock native kept the Razorbacks competitive against the Tide almost by himself, scoring 29 of the team’s first 35 points en route to an Arkansas freshman record-tying 35 points. No Razorback freshman had scored that much since Jannero Pargo was pinging threes into Bud Walton Arena’s nets back in 2002. Portis’ big game couldn’t have come at a bigger time for the Hawgs. Last week’s losses to Missouri and LSU didn’t kill their chances at an NCAA at-large bid, but a loss to the struggling Tide probably would have. If Arkansas is to keep winning, Mike Anderson needs to keep Portis on the court because not many players are capable of going 14-of-17 from the field. He hasn’t played fewer than 28 minutes since SEC play began, and his minutes need to continue to be in the low 30s to stay fresh enough to succeed, but this is one horse Anderson needs to ride as far as he can.
  3. Shooting over 50 percent from the field cures a lot of ills. Texas A&M’s offense was downright putrid against Florida (elite defense aside) recently, scoring only 36 points and shooting only 25.9 percent from the field. Enter Mississippi State, which was on a three-game losing streak and likely eager to face that Aggies’ attack in its first-ever trip to College Station. But Jamal Jones scored 20 points, Alex Caruso had 10 assists, and Texas A&M nearly doubled up its output from the Florida game while winning, 72-52. This was the type of solid all-around performance Billy Kennedy needed to instill some confidence in his players for the rest of the way. Not only did the Aggies make more shots than they missed, they also generated 22 assists against only six turnovers.
  4. We know Chris Walker has big-time potential, and we know he’s going to help Florida in some way or another before this season is out. There are a lot of things we don’t know about him too, like what exactly happened with respect to those impermissible benefits before he arrived in Gainesville. A lot of people don’t know much about Walker’s past either, and the Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway wrote a good article on that topic. Walker was abandoned by his biological parents, and lost his care-giving grandmother at  the tender age of 12 years old. It’s nice that Walker’s current story is no longer one of whether he’ll play, but rather how much he can help the Gators as he works his way into game shape. That’s an easy story to root for given how much he went through just to get to Florida.
  5. Quick, which is the hottest team in the SEC behind Florida and its 14-game winning streak? I’ll give you the answer: Vanderbilt, which has won four straight games. Behind the Commodores? Auburn, which won its third straight game by beating South Carolina on the road. It hasn’t been often in Tony Barbee’s tenure that his team has had the third-longest winning streak in the conference — it’s not much, but it’s something. Obviously Chris Denson and KT Harrell (25 points each) are the story here, but Tahj Shamsid-Deen (12 point, three assists) should be a thorn in opponents’ side for the next four years. He’s the type of crafty, confident point guard who will get more effective as he gains additional experience. The freshman ranks 10th in the SEC in assists per game, and touts an impressive turnover percentage (13.3 percent) for a first-year player.
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SEC Weekday Primer: Chris Walker Is Free Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 4th, 2014

Thank goodness for Tuesday. The weekday portion of the SEC schedule features a bunch of games that don’t move the needle all that much. But Super Tuesday this week brings Chris Walker’s long-awaited release from NCAA limbo and Kentucky’s follow-up to its impressive weekend win over Missouri. There’s also Marshall Henderson on national TV. Yes, thank goodness for Tuesday.

Ole Miss will be in a tough spot if the Wildcats play with the energy they did against Missouri (msn.foxsports.com).

Ole Miss will be in a tough spot if the Wildcats play with the energy they did against Missouri. (Getty)

Don’t Miss This One, Part I

Ole Miss @ Kentucky (Tuesday, 7:00 PM ET). If you’re scratching your head, I get it. Kentucky is fresh off arguably its most complete team effort of the season against Missouri. The Wildcats played hard, played together and got big games from each of their three talented freshmen guards. Ole Miss, on the other hand, got rolled in Knoxville and needed a late rally to beat South Carolina at home. The Vols’ frontcourt overwhelmed the Rebels in the win, and Kentucky isn’t lacking for talented big men. But let me make a case for Ole Miss or, if nothing, at least an intriguing game. The Wildcats enter this game under much different conditions than in their game against Missouri. They are at home; they’re not coming off an embarrassing loss; and they have been patted on the back since Saturday. That could lead to a dip in their overall energy, especially from a young team. The Wildcats almost allowed Missouri to beat them with nothing more than two guards doing most of the scoring. The Rebels have two talented guards themselves in Jarvis Summers and Henderson, and Summers could feast on opportunities if Kentucky’s transition defense is as bad as it was in Columbia. Maybe Kentucky turned a developmental corner in Columbia over the weekend, and if so the Rebels are in trouble. But the chance at an upset is possible here if the Wildcats don’t come to play.

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Florida to Get Boost from Addition of Chris Walker

Posted by David Changas on February 4th, 2014

It’s not often that a top-five team can add an elite recruit in February, but that is exactly what Florida will do tonight when highly-touted freshman Chris Walker finally makes his debut for the Gators. Walker, who was ranked seventh in the 247sports.com composite recruiting rankings last year, was declared academically eligible by the NCAA on December 14, and has been practicing but was not cleared for game action until last week. His suspension totaled 12 games, and was related to impermissible benefits from agents and AAU coaches. As a result, he will be forced to donate the $280 he received to charity and serve 80 hours of community service.

Chris Walker Will Finally Get to Bring His High-Ware Act to the Gators

Chris Walker Will Finally Get to Bring His High-Ware Act to the Gators

Florida currently sits at 19-2 overall and 8-0 in the SEC as it welcomes Missouri to the O’Connell Center for a Super Tuesday tilt. It is unlikely that head coach Billy Donovan will ask too much of Walker tonight, and with good reason. The Gators, currently ranked No. 3 in this week’s AP poll, have done quite well without him and Donovan may not want to disrupt the chemistry his front line has already developed. Florida’s senior-laden trio of Patric Young, Will Yuguete and Casey Prather, along with sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith, have led the Gators to a dominant SEC start, where their average margin of victory is north of 15 points per game. And Donovan has gone out of his way to make it clear not to expect too much from the ballyhooed freshman.

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Morning Five: 01.30.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2014

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  1. The news that McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker had been cleared by the NCAA to play for Florida has been widely considered a win-win for Florida and we would tend to agree. On one side the Gators are adding a potentially explosive inside force to add to what is already a top-five team. To make it even better for the Gators it took them so long to get Walker eligible that unless he has a ridiculous February and March he will probably be back in Gainesville next season. As for the NCAA’s findings, they eventually concluded that he received impermissible benefits from five people including two agents. As punishment, Walker will need to donate $270 (the amount he reportedly received from agents) to charity and serve 80 hours of community service. Walker’s first game as a Gator is expected to be February 4 against Missouri and we are sure that everybody will be watching to see how much an impact he can have on the Gators.
  2. Speaking of McDonald’s All-Americans, the latest group of McDonald’s All-Americans was announced yesterday. Looking through the list there are not any major snubs there although we are sure there are some high schoolers out there who feel left out. With the proliferation of high school all-stars games the moniker high school All-American has lost some of the luster that it had years ago, the McDonald’s honor is still the gold standard in our eyes. While the game is full of interesting match-ups (all presumably played without a bit of defense as is the tradition for all-star games) we are curious about their definitions of East and West as players from Chicago are on both squads and two players from Florida are on the West team.
  3. Delaware appeared to be on the verge of running away with the CAA regular season title, but their chances took a big hit when they announced that junior guard Jarvis Threatt and sophomore forward Marvin King-Davis would be suspended for at least a month. According to the school the suspensions are for unrelated violations of athletic department policy. While both players have significant roles on the team, Threatt is by far the biggest loss as he had been averaging 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.3 steals per game (leading the CAA in both assists and steals). The Blue Hens have a 2.5 game lead in the CAA standings, but with the loss of these two for at least a month that lead might not last.
  4. After starting the season 13-0 and looking like they were a potential threat to Arizona in the Pac-12, Oregon has fallen apart losing five straight before beating Washington State on the road. Now they may have to try to bounce back without the services of starting point guard Johnathan Loyd, who underwent surgery on his nose after breaking it in practice. Loyd, who leads the team with 5.7 assists per game, has not been ruled out for tonight’s game against UCLA, but if he does play he will most likely be wearing one of those masks that Richard Hamilton became well-known for wearing.
  5. Although it does not happen that often sometimes margin of victory can be warped by a team going on a big run in overtime making the outcome seem like a blowout when the winning team could have easily lost the game just five minutes earlier. To determine the utility/predictive value of margin of victory in these situations, Ken Pomeroy analyzed games between teams where they played twice with one game going to overtime and the other being decided in regulation and attempted to correlate the margin of victory in the two games. The results were variable, but as you might expect they essentially found that while the margin of victory was not that strongly correlated in overtime wins it should not be thrown out based on the idea that the two teams were essentially equal that night.
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SEC M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by David Changas on January 22nd, 2014

  1. If it’s Super Tuesday, it’s a good bet Kentucky is on center stage. Last night against Texas A&M, Kentucky let the Aggies hang around for most of the first half before coasting to a 68-51 victory to push their conference record to 4-1. The Wildcats got their usual strong performances from Julius Randle (13 points, 11 rebounds) and James Young (15 points, seven rebounds), but also got a game- and season-high 16 points from reserve Alex Poythress. The sophomore forward has been inconsistent since he arrived in Lexington, but has shown signs over the past several weeks that he’s ready to become a more regular contributor. After struggling in the period leading up to conference play, Poythress has now scored in double figures in three of the first five league games and looks to be more comfortable in John Calipari’s system. The head coach has said that Poythress’ biggest hindrance to becoming a more productive player is his own lack of confidence. If he is able to build on his recent performances, he will make Kentucky that much more dangerous as March approaches.
  2. In a game between teams that still have their sights set on the NCAA Tournament, LSU topped Missouri, 77-71, Tuesday night in Baton Rouge. LSU got 14 points and 13 rebounds from stellar freshman Jordan Mickey. The highly-touted freshman has lived up to the hype for head coach Johnny Jones, as he is second on the team to Johnny O’Bryant in both scoring (13.1 PPG) and rebounding (6.9 RPG). This game was a contrast in styles, as LSU’s strength is its frontcourt, while Missouri boasts one of the league’s strongest backcourts but struggles with production up front. It wasn’t surprising, then, that Mickey, O’Bryant, and Shavon Coleman combined for 49 of LSU’s 77 points, while Missouri got all but eight of its points from the guard trio of Jabari Brown (28 points), Jordan Clarkson (19), and Earnest Ross (16). LSU moved to 3-2 in the conference with the win, while Missouri, which came into league play with only one loss, dropped to 2-3.
  3. Although we’re less than a quarter of the way through the conference race, it is difficult to overstate the importance of the meeting between Tennessee and Arkansas tonight in Knoxville. The Vols, which are coming off a solid performance in a loss at Kentucky on Saturday, can ill-afford a home loss, as their NCAA Tournament hopes are tenuous at best. In the latest Rush the Court bracketology, the Vols, though not in the “First Four,” are projected as a 12-seed, meaning they have little room for error themselves. They have a number of games remaining against teams with weak profiles, so a win over the Razorbacks here is imperative. Arkansas, for its part, remarkably has only two conference road wins in Mike Anderson’s tenure in Fayetteville, both of which came against Auburn. The Hogs fell short in overtime against Georgia in Athens on Saturday, and though the beginning of their conference slate has been more difficult than most SEC teams’, a 1-4 start in the league would likely be too much overcome. Given their resume (RPI No. 66), a loss would give them little room for error (they are currently in RTC‘s “First Four Out”), and at some point, Anderson is going to have to win a big game away from Bud Walton Arena if he is going to get Arkansas to the Big Dance for the first time since his arrival.
  4. After missing the previous two games against Auburn and Mississippi State, the SEC’s biggest enigma has returned with a vengeance. Marshall Henderson was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 22.0 points and 3.5 assists per game in Ole Miss’ overtime home win over LSU, and the Rebels’ first win in Columbia since 2001. Henderson, who launched nearly 11 three-pointers per game last year but has increased that number to 11.5 per game this season, went 9-of-24 from beyond the arc in those two games. For Ole Miss (12-5, 3-1), which has seen its RPI profile (No. 66) improve since the beginning of SEC play, to have any chance of making its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, it knows that it largely will go as Henderson goes. And Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, whose team faces the Rebels in Nashville tonight, knows that stopping Henderson will be the Commodores’ key to victory. The head coach knows all too well what Henderson is capable of doing after witnessing first-hand the craziness in last year’s Ole Miss win at Memorial Gymnasium.
  5. The saga of Florida’s Chris Walker continues unabated, and Florida head coach Billy Donovan indicated on Tuesday that he will not address the situation anymore. Walker, who was Rivals’ No. 6 player in the class of 2013, was admitted to school in December, but is still awaiting clearance by the NCAA Clearinghouse relating to possible impermissible benefits during his AAU days. If he finally becomes eligible, he will add an important piece to an already formidable Gators’ front line. For his part, Donovan has clearly tired of discussing Walker’s status, and knows all he can do is play the guys who are available to him. Still, not many programs can look at the possibility of adding a top-10 recruit this far into the season. With Tennessee’s talented frontcourt duo of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon coming to Gainesville on Saturday, Donovan would certainly love to have Walker available for that key contest. It’s reasonable to assume that Florida will take care of business at Alabama tonight even without him.
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Florida Forward Chris Walker isn’t Sitting Out Because of Academics

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 15th, 2014

Two Southeastern Conference games took place on Tuesday night. If you’re reading this site, you probably watched one of them. Arkansas beat Kentucky in double-overtime on one of the craziest finishes you’ll ever see. The other game wasn’t nearly as interesting – not in a competitive sense, anyway. Florida beat Georgia, 72-50, to move to 3-0 in conference play and 14-2 overall. The Gators look Final Four-good, and they showed why by thrashing a plucky but overmatched Bulldogs team. It was the kind of beatdown you expect elite clubs to lay on lower-tier outfits like Mark Fox’s group. Ho-hum. The game, however, did provide a reminder of an issue most college hoops fans don’t seem to understand. A few members of Florida’s Rowdy Reptiles student section were wearing white T-shirts with the words “FREE CHRIS WALKER” plastered across the fronts. The students also started a “FREE CHRIS WALKER” chant after the forward came on the court to help officials adjust the net.

(USATSI)

It doesn’t look like Chris Walker is going to hit the court anytime soon. (USATSI)

The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Chris Walker is academics. Walker endured an unstable family environment and attended a high school that does not have a long history in putting high-level athletes on an academic path suitable for Division I eligibility. Walker took online classes over the summer and had enough credits by December to be declared academically eligible by the NCAA, and he was admitted into Florida and has practiced with the Gators for about a month. Walker still hasn’t played in a game, but the reason why has nothing to do with academics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Florida 77, #20 Memphis 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2013

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Brian Otskey attended the Jimmy V. Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. 

Three Key Takeaways from the second game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. Rebounding made the difference for Florida. The strong Gators front line absolutely dominated Memphis on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers by 11–37 to 26. This allowed Florida to overcome 17 turnovers and come away with the win. It was an evenly played game in most areas but Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather were the difference makers on the glass for Billy Donovan’s team.
  2. Despite the loss, Memphis proved it is legitimate. It is rare for a team to impress in a loss, but the Tigers did just that tonight against Florida. While its win over Oklahoma State earlier this season certainly stands out, the Memphis showed once again that it can go toe-to-toe with one of college basketball’s best teams. Josh Pastner’s non-conference slate, which has included two games against Oklahoma State, one against Florida, and one against LSU, has done its job in preparing the Tigers for the rigors of conference play in their new league. Memphis has the talent to battle Connecticut for second place in the American assuming Louisville will win the league.
  3. Florida has so many weapons. The balanced scoring and overall talent on this team is scary. Billy Donovan has six capable scorers on his roster and can mix and match with a variety of different lineups that feature speed, perimeter shooting, interior dominance, or any combination of the three. I especially like what Dorian Finney-Smith brings to this team. The Virginia Tech transfer scored 14 points but his presence defensively and on the boards is what stood out. He changes the dynamic of Florida’s lineup because of his versatility. With Chris Walker possibly joining this already loaded unit, which Donovan significantly downplayed after the game, the Gators have the look of a Final Four contender yet again.

Star of the Game: Casey Prather, Florida. Prather’s terrific improvement from his junior to senior season continued on Tuesday night as the Gator senior led all scorers with 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting while connecting on all six free throw attempts. Prather was good on the defensive side as well, a key piece of a talented Florida front line that limited Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin to only four field goal attempts in 35 minutes of play. Prather has been among the most improved players in the nation and a key reason why Florida continues to improve, even after two close losses to date in non-conference play.

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AAC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013

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  1. Tonight is a big one for the AAC as two of the name-brand programs that will actually still be in the conference next season are playing in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic. There are few stages at this point in the season that are bigger than the Jimmy V Classic and to represent half of this year’s field is a big deal. Both games are big tests for Memphis and Cincinnati but there is one team with a lot more at stake at Madison Square Garden — Mick Cronin’s Bearcats. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten anybody worth talking about and they were mildly embarrassed in the Crosstown Classic by Xavier over the weekend. We have harped on the Bearcats’ offensive struggles, but perhaps surprisingly, the team’s biggest issue is an apparent lack of toughness. I am still putting the finishing touches on my white paper Advanced Methods of Quantifying Toughness, so it’s easier to just say they weren’t great on either end of the floor against the Musketeers. Still, toughness is ostensibly supposed to be one of the Bearcats’ hallmark competencies and they didn’t do a great job on the glass or defending the three-point line, so it would probably help if they toughened up in those areas.
  2. As a college basketball fan, it would have been awesome to see Florida’s much-hyped freshman Chris Walker suit up for the Gators tonight, but I bet Memphis fans are breathing a sigh of relief. Well okay, so it wasn’t likely that Walker was going to light the world on fire, but Memphis only plays two real big men in Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin (and Florida already had a size and athleticism advantage to begin with). The game will obviously be competitive, but it will be especially interesting to see how the personnel decisions on both sides shake out. Memphis will want to play three guards and the Gators will probably want to rotate Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith at small forward — both of whom are too big and athletic for the Tigers’ guards. Josh Pastner is going to have to bring his A-Game to face a coach as good as Billy Donovan, and it will be fun to watch them match wits tonight.
  3. Although it will have no effect on the 2013-14 season, the news of UConn guard Rodney Purvis‘ shoulder surgery still made headlines on a slow news day. Purvis transferred from North Carolina State and is sitting out this year anyway, so it makes sense to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder now so he can be ready for next season. I know… fascinating stuff. But it gives us an excuse to talk about Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American who started 23 games as a freshman for the Wolfpack. He transferred without much fanfare but he is an athletic 6’4″, 200-pounder, who scored in double figures in 12 games last season. Granted, most of those games came before conference play and he was a bit more inconsistent as the competition improved, but he will be expected to take on the lion’s share of the load Shabazz Napier leaves behind. I don’t really know how what I just wrote has anything to do with his impending surgery, but that’s fine. Just log those few sentences away for now and call me out when I self-plagiarize for an impact transfer preview for next season.
  4. The conference’s banner program will also be in action tonight as Louisville hosts Missouri State. The Bears aren’t the same mid-major headache they once were, but they are 8-1 on the season and their only loss was on a neutral floor to Virginia, so they will be dangerous. Head coach Rick Pitino is especially worried about their potent three-point shooting ability, and while he is overstating their offensive brilliance a bit, he would be wise to make sure his team defends the three-point line. In the end, there is little chance that Missouri State has enough defensive ability to hang with the Cardinals on the road, even if Louisville is still missing scoring point guard Chris Jones. The bottom line is that the Bears will probably make it interesting in the first half but Louisville has more than enough horses to pull away in the second 20 minutes.
  5. The South Florida Bulls play host to Dunk City tonight as Brett Comer, Chase Fieler and the rest of the Florida Gulf Coast will be in town for an intrastate match-up. Although they are probably the less recognizable team, the Bulls will play as the favorites as the Eagles are struggling to recapture the magic from last season and have lost three of their last four games. Of course they are still the more compelling storyline for ESPN.com and thus Myron Medcalf wrote a worthy profile of life after last season’s NCAA Tournament run that is worth reading. It’s not AAC news necessarily… or like …at all. But we are equal-opportunity providers and when we see a good story with some connection to the league, you better believe we are posting it.
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SEC M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 16th, 2013

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  1. John Calipari has some coaching to do after Kentucky‘s deflating loss to North Carolina. “We’re not a good team because our emotion is all based on our individual play instead of our team play,” Calipari said. CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish also noticed some bad body language from the Wildcats. He writes, “I watched guys check-in and out without touching hands, which isn’t a big deal except for that it rarely happens with close teams. I saw Julius Randle roll his eyes at his guards — specifically Andrew and Aaron Harrison — whenever they failed to even think about getting him the ball on the block.” It could be that this edition of the Kentucky Wildcats is not a particularly close group. Calipari was on ESPN‘s college basketball podcast with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg last week and said he needed to “teach” the team how to huddle during free throws and high-five teammates heading to the bench. Can camaraderie be built over the course of a season? Who knows? Does a team need to be buddy-buddy to win a national championship? That’s another intangible-based question that no one can honestly answer. But there’s no question that team bonding can’t hurt, and the Wildcats need to start working together better than they have been to reach their goals.
  2. Jarnell Stokes had been on a roll coming into Tennessee’s game against Wichita State — posting four straight double-doubles — and the Volunteers needed it to continue to beat an excellent Shockers team on the road Saturday. But Stokes was bothered by Wichita State’s length and never got going (eight points on 3-of-7 shooting). On the other hand, Jordan McRae kept Tennessee in the game with 26 points, impressively putting his name on the “Dunk of the Year” list, but it wasn’t enough as the Volunteers lost by nine points. Part of the blame for Stokes’ offensive struggles must fall on Tennessee’s guards: He rarely received the ball close enough to the basket to operate. And it doesn’t show in the box score (two assists), but Jeronne Maymon looked good facilitating the offense from the high post. Antonio Barton is not a true point guard and Darius Thompson is a freshman, so Maymon’s passing ability could come in handy in finding McRae off screens as well as Stokes in the low post.
  3. For a time on Saturday it looked like Middle Tennessee might knock off Ole Miss for the second straight year. The Blue Raiders took a 50-48 lead midway through the second half and the teams traded baskets for the next few minutes until the Rebels finally pulled away. This was a good day for Ole Miss because they didn’t let last week’s close loss to Oregon beat them twice by being discouraged. The Rebels also got the win without a Herculean performance from Marshall Henderson (15 points on only 11 shots). Jarvis Summers was the scoring star (25 points), and he showed a versatile offensive game by shooting well from the outside and getting to the free throw line 11 times. Ole Miss, however, was abused on the glass, getting outrebounded by 21 boards.
  4. Georgia took three tough losses in the Charleston Classic and it dropped them to an unsightly 1-4 to start the season. But a return home and a dip in competition has gotten the Bulldogs back to .500 after a win over Lipscomb on Saturday. The latter two wins came largely without Bulldogs’ leading scorer Charles Mann, who suffered a bone bruise against Appalachian State at the end of November. “Charles has an injury that just needs rest to heal. He hasn’t practiced in 12 days,” [Mark Fox] said. “I got no idea of a timetable [for his return], to be honest with you.” The sophomore played only nine minutes against Chattanooga and not at all against Lipscomb. The development of Mann and fellow sophomore guard Kenny Gaines as an offensive duo could be a positive out of another rebuilding season in Athens. Yet another sophomore, forward Brandon Morris, scored a season high 17 points against Lipscomb, and looks to emerge as another offensive weapon going forward.
  5. Chris Walker has enrolled at Florida, but is not yet eligible to play, and Billy Donovan has ruled him out for the Gators’ Tuesday night game against Memphis. This is still good news for Florida, as Walker began practicing last Saturday and is expected to ramp up quickly once he gets the go-ahead. According to the Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway, “Walker was rated as a consensus top-15 player in the nation by most recruiting websites because of his ability to play in the open floor, finish around the rim, rebound and block shots.” He should make for a very good fit sliding on the wings of the Gators’ 1-3-1 zone and running with Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill in transition.
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Morning Five: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. After a rough first month of the season things are finally starting to turn around for Billy Donovan. Last Tuesday they knocked off a Kansas team that is still struggling to finds its identity, but that may pale in comparison to the impact of the announcement that McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker has enrolled at the school and is waiting on the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can play for the team. The addition of Walker should make the Gators a legitimate Final Four contender as their two losses have come in close road games and adding a 6’10” power forward will only make them tougher by adding to an inside game that is severely lacking in depth. Walker will almost certainly miss tomorrow night’s game against Memphis and while we have no idea how long it will take the NCAA Clearinghouse it looks like Walker won’t be needed for quite a while as the Gators do not play another ranked opponent after tomorrow night until February.
  2. It didn’t take long for Greg Whittington to find a new home. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown basketball team late last month, made his first official visit this weekend when he went to Rutgers and apparently Piscataway was impressive enough to convince him commit to Rutgers without visiting any other schools. As we have stated before, Whittington has the potential to a building block for a very good team as he averaged 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game in the first 13 games as a sophomore before being declared academically ineligible. Whittington is currently rehabbing after tearing his ACL, but if he recovers and is able to become academically eligible look for him to best big men in the Big Ten.
  3. As if losing to St. Peter’s was not bad enough, Seton Hall will be without Sterling Gibbs, its leading scorer, after he injured his right knee towards the end of regulation on Saturday. Gibbs reportedly had imaging tests on his knee on Sunday, but the school had not released the results as of last night. With Gibbs out, the Pirates are without their top three scorers as Fuquan Edwin (ankle) and Patrik Auda (foot) are still recovering from injuries. When you combine this with Tom Mayaan departing last week to rejoin the Israeli army for his mandatory service, Kevin Willard is left with an increasingly shaky roster. Fortunately for Willard, the Pirates face a light slate before they begin Big East play on New Year’s Eve.
  4. North Carolina might be turning the corner on the court, but it seems like the program cannot get out of its own way off the court. On December 6, former UNC forward Will Graves was arrested on one count of possession of marijuana and one count of drug paraphernalia at a home owned by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. According to the school, Williams was renting out the house to Graves who was finishing his degree at UNC and working as a part-time video coordinator for the basketball team. Williams renting out the house to Graves might not be surprising at some level, but it is interesting that he is doing it and has Graves on staff even though he dismissed Graves from the team three years ago. One of the more unique points in the case is that Graves was only charged after an electric worker noted that the supposedly vacant house was using more energy than expected and called the police to investigate. When the police arrived, Graves invited the police to enter the house where they found the marijuana/drug paraphernalia. As Sean Newell points out, Graves probably did not even have to let the police enter the house, but may have felt compelled to do so.
  5. Things have not worked out quite as well for this young Kentucky team as Big Blue Nation may have hoped and it appears that fans are not showing up at Rupp Arena in quite the numbers that they have in the past. As John Clay points out, attendance at Rupp Arena has dropped since 2009. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky as nearly every school has seen it, but it still an interesting trend given that the Wildcats boast the most rabid fan base in the sport. There are plenty of reasons for this (our personal favorite comes courtesy of Chester), but the most likely ones are a weak home schedule and the fact that nearly every game is available on TV. At this point, we have no idea how to reverse this trend (at least the TV part) and it seems like this will only continue, but it is something worth watching and might be a consideration for schools looking to build new arenas.
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Morning Five: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. When we hear about Allan Chaney‘s latest setback (a misfiring defibrillator) we hoped that it would be a minor issue, but unfortunately it appears this latest setback led Chaney to announce his retirement. It is an unfortunate end to Chaney’s career given all that he has battled back through (viral myocarditis before being denied medical clearance by Virginia Tech then going to High Point where he was allowed to play) before collapsing on November 24 in a game against Wofford when he defibrillator misfired. We have no idea how much the respective parties — Chaney, his family, and the school — played in him making his final decision, but we wish him the best of luck in his post-basketball life.
  2. We typically do not go for gimmicks, but every year that we fall for Taylor University‘s Silent Night and this year’s edition was no different. For those of you who are not familiar with the tradition, it is held the Friday before fall semester finals week begins. The students at the school remain completely silent until the team scores its tenth point at which point all sorts of craziness happens. To some it may be a little over the top to some, but we will never criticize people showing their enthusiasm for basketball especially when it is done in a constructive way.
  3. With the way that Oregon has been playing so far this season they are going to start to get national recognition. And things could get even better with the new additions to the roster that could make them even more dangerous. In addition to sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter who only have one more game remaining in their nine game suspensions for selling school-supplied shoes, the Ducks may also be adding 4-star power forward Jordan Bell who qualified academically and can start practicing immediately, but might redshirt. Regardless of whether Bell plays this year, the Ducks appear to be one of the top teams in the country and might end up as Arizona’s biggest threat in the Pac-12.
  4. It was a rough week for Stanford and senior guard Aaron Bright. Last week, Bright dislocated his right shoulder during practice and will require season-ending  surgery. That brings the Cardinal body count to three (players out for the year with season-ending injuries). To add insult to injury it appears Bright, who is taking a medical redshirt year to preserve his eligibility, may have to transfer as Stanford’s roster for the 2014-15 season would already be full. Even though we understand it is a numbers game at some level we have a hard time believing that the Stanford staff would not be able to find a way to keep Bright on the team next year.
  5. Heading into an important perception-building home game against Kansas tomorrow night, Billy Donovan appears to finally be turning the corner on getting his roster settled for this season. First, point guard Scottie Wilbekin is due back from the ankle injury he suffered in last week’s loss at Connecticut, offering the Gators some stability at a position that has been nothing short of a headache all season long. Next, according to Gator Country on Sunday, Damontre Harris and the program have officially parted ways. The South Carolina transfer had not suited up at all this season as he tried to fulfill obligations related to his suspension during the offseason, but it appears that he was unable to meet those expectations. The final piece of the puzzle concerns the eligibility of star freshman Chris Walker, who is expected to start practicing with the team as soon as final exams are over next week. With all the players shuffling in and out of the Florida lineup (and roster), we’re sure Donovan will be pleased to see some stability in that regard so he can focus on improving the team he actually has this season.
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