Big East M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Villanova is off to a strong start, and the bloggers over at Big East Coast Bias got together to discuss the Wildcats. The writers are all impressed by senior James Bell, who is off to a torrid start this season, averaging 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game through three contests. They also delve into Villanova’s standing among the “City 6,” the team’s non-conference slate heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis later this month, and the overall Big East play so far this season (hint: Doug McDermott is good).  The roundtable is a good read for anyone just getting caught up with this early season.
  2. Speaking of Doug McDermott, he flashed some early season heroics in an 83-79 win over a good Saint Joseph’s team, giving the Bluejays the lead with a late jumper and drawing a foul to secure a victory for the Bluejays in a come-from-behind victory. While McDermott will get a lot of credit for the win, and deservedly so with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks and Grant Gibbs all played huge roles in the victory as well. Wragge led the way for the Bluejays with 21 points, while Brooks scored 16 in just 21 minutes of play. McDermott has never really been a question for Creighton, but many wonder how the rest of the team will respond to the increased competition in the Big East; this win over Saint Joseph’s may have gone a long way towards assuaging some of those concerns.
  3. In college basketball recruiting, there are a few selector schools, and the rest of the nation is usually fighting an uphill battle against them when it comes to landing the true blue-chip prospects that define the sport. As a major program in a basketball hotbed like Chicago, one would think that DePaul would be a player in the local recruiting battles, but they are all too often left standing at the altar. The most recent example is Cliff Alexander, the third-ranked player in ESPN’s Top 100, had both the Blue Demons and another in-state program, Illinois, on his final list, before ultimately choosing Kansas. Chicago Sun-Times writer Ken Morrissey was none too impressed, calling the signing event “a funeral.” “I feel bad for Illinois coach John Groce and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. When Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari loses a stud recruit, he shrugs and signs another McDonald’s All-American. For Groce, there is no shrugging. I’m guessing there’s something that looks a lot like dry heaving. A player of Alexander’s skills can make all the difference in the world to an Illinois. Or he can bring a program to its knees. I believe Illinois was kneeling Friday.”
  4. In happier Big East recruiting news, Seton Hall‘s lauded 2014 recruiting class is all signed and ready to go. The class, which is currently ranked ninth by 247sports.com, includes top shooting guard prospect Isaiah Whitehead, four star power forward Angel Delgado, guard Khadeen Carrington, and forward Ismael Sanogo. The class is expected to be a transformative one for a Seton Hall program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and has gone without a conference title for 20 years. The class also makes a strong mark for the Pirates in their local recruiting areas, with Whitehead and Carrington coming from Brooklyn and Sanogo making the short trip to campus from Newark.
  5. Much has been written about the Seton Hall-Niagara 102 free throw game and what it means for a game that is taking a large step to eliminate the hand-checking that we’ve seen slow down the game in recent years, but that wasn’t the only game with a Big East team that was hugely affected. Marquette-Ohio State, a rematch of last season’s aircraft carrier game that wasn’t, devolved into a brutal slugfest of a game, ending in a 52-35 Buckeye win, a game so hard to watch that it put CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander to sleep: “I have no shame — in fact, I think this feeling is pride — in telling you that I passed out on my couch for 20 minutes while attempting to get through this one, knowing full well I had to write about it once it was over.”  Many of these games and free throw shooting contests have been hard to watch, but as a fan of the game I still hold onto hope that this is a good thing in the long run. Ugly games in November are a small price to play for exciting, clean basketball come March.
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Morning Five: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Friday’s major commitments turned out to be a case of the rich get richer. The big announcement was the simultaneous commitment of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones to play for Duke next year. As we said on Friday morning just the addition of those two should give Duke the #1 recruiting class in the country this year and quite possibly make them the preseason favorite for the 2015 national title. In perhaps the most controversial move of the day Cliff Alexander selected Kansas, but not before picking up an Illinois hat, putting it down, and then finally putting on a Kansas hat. The move generated a fair amount of criticism with many Illini fans and possibly the coaching staff thinking that they had the inside track on Alexander, an Illinois native. We doubt that the two teams will play next season, but we imagine the reception that Alexander would receive would not be unlike what Eric Gordon received on his only trip to Illinois. In the wake of the other news, Stanley Johnson‘s commitment to Arizona got lost in the shuffle, but the addition of another Mater Dei star (Aaron Gordon is also from there should help the Wildcats reload and help ensure that they will still be a force when Gordon presumably leaves Tucson after this season.
  2. In a reminder that fans should not be too hard on a recruit when he spurns your school, Quentin Snider announced that he was backing out of his commitment to Illinois (Friday was not John Groce’s finest day) and recommitting to Louisville. Snider originally committed to Louisville in August 2011 before backing out of that commitment at the end of July 2013 and chose Illinois in September 2013, but when Jaquan Lyle backed out of his own commitment to Louisville the Cardinals needed a point guard for the class of 2014 and Snider decided to return to his original commitment. Although Snider never officially announced it, Lyle’s committment and backing out of his committment at Louisville likely played a large role in Snider’s vascillation.
  3. The case involving Duke Mondy and Dante Williams that led the two Oakland players to temporarily be arrested on rape charges before being dropped. Without getting into too many details (you can go to TMZ for that, seriously) it appears to be a case of the players getting involved with a woman after their curfew while on a road trip and the woman becoming upset at the end and accusing the players of rape. While the players were able to avoid any serious legal repercussions it appears that they may be facing a rather stiff punishment from the school.
  4. At this point in the season we do not know what to think of Florida with their ever-changing roster. While Billy Donovan did reinstate Dorian Finney-Smith, who responded with 17 points and nine rebounds in his first game back, they are still without Damontre Harris, who remains off the team. With all of the uncertainty around the Gator lineup they remain one of the harder teams to get a handle on early in the season. Having said that if Donovan can get some semblance of a rotation by Christmas time they could be a tough out in March once again.
  5. Last year, Jack Taylor made international headlines with his 138-point performance. This year, he barely gets a mention in the Morning Five with his 109-point outburst yesterday. Taylor’s performance yesterday is third all-time trailing just his effort last year and a 113-point game in 1954. His stat line (and his output) would be a solid five game stretch for most players: 35-of-70 from the field, 24-of-48 3, and 15-of-17 from the  free throw line. Perhaps our favorite part of the game summary is the school mentioning the “big games from others” who scored between 10 and 15 points. For perspective, Taylor scored 53 in the first nine minutes of the second half.
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DePaul Suffers Alexander Heartbreak But Shouldn’t Lose Faith

Posted by George Hershey on November 16th, 2013

Yesterday DePaul’s basketball program and its fans watched closely as consensus top five class of 2014 recruit Cliff Alexander decided to attend Kansas, turning down his hometown Blue Demons and home state Fighting Illini. The Blue Demons had been in contention as long as anybody in his final grouping and were an appealing team for Alexander because of the proximity to his family. Rumors swirling around in the days leading up to the announcement suggested that he would be deciding between Illinois, Kansas and DePaul, but with top recruits Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones reportedly set to pick Duke over Kansas, there was still plenty of room for Alexander on Bill Self’s team.

Cliff Alexander disappointed a lot of basketball fans in the state of Illinois (The News Gazette)

Cliff Alexander disappointed a lot of basketball fans in the state of Illinois (The News Gazette)

The addition of Alexander would have been the biggest win for DePaul in decades. A player of his caliber is a program-changer for a school like DePaul. The impact goes beyond what he would have brought to the court for his one season, maybe two, in college. The excitement and publicity around the program would have brought spectators and the media out in droves to see him. It also would have helped future recruiting and increased head coach Oliver Purnell’s credibility and stature on the recruiting trail.

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John Groce’s Bad Day Still Doesn’t Change Illinois’ Upward Trajectory

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 15th, 2013

The bad news started early. Quentin Snider changed his mind again, deciding to spurn Illinois and going back to his original verbal pledge to Louisville. This news snowballed on at about 3:15 PM when Cliff Alexander, a potential one-and-done type that could lead a team to the Final Four, decided to leave his home state and go to Kansas instead of the Illini. In a few short hours, Illinois went from having a top five class to one with only one ESPN top 100 recruit (Leron Black). So what I’m advising all the Illini fans out there to do is as follows: Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then hear me out when I say that everything is going to be fine. I’m not just patronizing, I really believe the Illini are a program on the rise with or without Alexander in the fold next season. Here’s why.

Even after losing out on the Cliff Alexander sweepstakes, John Groce still has Illinois on the rise.

Even after losing out on the Cliff Alexander sweepstakes, John Groce still has Illinois on the rise.

If people watched the announcement live on ESPNU like I did, you could see someone who appeared torn up by the decision he was about to make. If Illinois was as close as it was rumored to be, then it shows that Groce is almost ready to kick in the door and end the long trend of top 30 Chicago talents playing elsewhere. He made a distinct impact on Alexander, and for the Illini to get that close when in the past he might not have even considered them, shows Groce is going to get more Chicago elite recruits to stay in state. It’s only a matter of time. He already got a commitment from 2015 wing D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon High School, and has a chance to add two more from in Jalen Brunson and Charles Matthews. What a miss on Alexander means is that it might be a little bit more of a baby-step progression as opposed to the huge leap that would have happened with Alexander on board. Regardless of today’s results, the program is still in great shape for next year and beyond.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Okafor, Jones, Alexander and Johnson Commit in Decision Day 2013…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 15th, 2013

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. The Decision Is In: Okafor and Jones Are Off to Duke

The Package Deal is Done: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are headed to Duke next fall.

In the Champions Classic, Kansas got the better of Duke; today the Blue Devils are back on top. The package deal announcement came in this afternoon as five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star point guard Tyus Jones committed to Duke over Kansas and Baylor this afternoon on ESPNU. The decision bumps Duke up to the No.1 spot in the recruiting rankings and automatically turns the Blue Devils into a title contender next season. The two have long discussed playing together and formed a strong bond through their time as Team USA friends as well as through AAU and camp travel. Okafor is the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 and laid claim to the top spot this past winter when he took over the title from Jones, who is now ranked as the No.4 player overall. Okafor stands at 6’10” and will provide a strong post presence for the Blue Devils, which they are currently lacking. With his size and touch he is almost unguardable in the post and will create a need for constant double teams. Jones stands 6’1” and has been touted as the best true point guard in the land for a few years now. He is a wizard with the ball and has range from the NBA three point line. Every team wants a strong point guard and post presence and Duke just landed both, so in turn they will once again be in contention for a national title in 2014-15. This marks the second year in a row that Coach K has signed the top player from Chicago, with last year’s recruit current freshman sensation Jabari Parker.

2. Big Cliff Off to Kansas

While Kansas lost out on Okafor and Jones, it did land five-star center Cliff Alexander, who played his cards close to the vest throughout the recruitment process and chose the Jayhawks over in-state school, Illinois. The Chicago native is currently ranked as the No. 3 center in the class of 2014 and No. 5 player overall. Other schools in the mix were DePaul and Memphis but the decision ultimately came down to Kansas and Illinois. John Groce was pitching Alexander on being the hometown hero that stayed in the Land of Lincoln, but the lure of playing for the Jayhawks was just too much. Alexander has ties to Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who had recruited Alexander as part of Bruce Weber’s staff for a while. His girlfriend is also a freshman at Kansas and on the women’s basketball team. At Kansas, Alexander will be able to operate in the high-low offense that Self runs and with his ever-expanding offensive game he will be able to score down low on power moves and also show off his improved outside shot. Alexander will join five-star small forward Kelly Oubre (#6 overall, #1 SF) in the class of 2014 in Lawrence. Over the past few years, Alexander has lived in Okafor’s shadow despite playing the Duke recruit to a draw the past two years. While Okafor decided to head to the east coast, Alexander will make a name for himself in Lawrence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kansas Lands Alexander, Misses On Jones & Okafor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 15th, 2013

It’s official. Cliff Alexander, a 6’9″ power forward from Curie (Chicago) High School, is headed to Kansas next season.

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

In a ceremony at his high school on Friday afternoon, Alexander announced his commitment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, joining fellow top prospect and Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, a 6’7″ swingman from Sugar Land, Texas, via Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander is a physical athlete that plays above the rim and will be expected to make an instant impact in Lawrence next season. The Chicago big man was believed to be solid on Kansas just a few short weeks ago, but gained momentum to Illinois as of late when many believe Kansas backed off on Alexander in an attempt to focus their efforts on Jahlil Okafor, Rivals’ number one ranked recruit in this year’s class. It was believed that Alexander’s long-standing relationship with former Illini assistant and current Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend plays basketball for the Jayhawks, would be enough to lure the talented big man to Kansas. If current Kansas center Joel Embiid bolts for the NBA after this season, as many anticipate, Alexander will easily help fill the void and solidify the Kansas frontcourt along side sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor next year. Landing Alexander continues Self’s recent success on the recruiting trail after hauling in the second ranked class in 2013 with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid, among others. The combination of Alexander and Oubre, along with the Jayhawks’ returning talent next season should have Bill Self’s squad poised once again as a legitimate title contender in March 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Okafor, Jones, Alexander & Johnson: Next Year’s Title Contenders Start Today

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 15th, 2013

For any college basketball purists awaking from a decade-long slumber, I have bad news. The senior superstar is an extremely endangered species. I know, I know – the game cannot be the same without them, surely. But the good news? There’s a new breed of players taking over the sport, and if you happened to catch wind of the goings-on in Chicago on Tuesday night, you could be convinced that the raw excitement they bring to the game is every bit as compelling as the nostalgic narratives of their predecessors. We of course are talking about the freshman stars in today’s college basketball world, and it’s a discussion that, quite frankly, has never been hotter. Tuesday night’s Champions Classic gave college basketball and its starring freshmen a rare November national stage, and the kids did not let us down. After that display, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to simply enjoy this season before dealing with the next one, but the reality of the one-and-done era is that this will be our lone ride alongside Wiggins, Parker, Randle and the rest of the gang. So peering ahead, who’s in line to fill their shoes, and where will they be doing it? Today will go a long ways towards answering the second question, as four of the consensus top five players in the class of 2014 (according to RSCI hoops) will announce their college decisions this afternoon.

Jahlil Okafor And Tyus Jones Are The Class Of 2014's Prettiest Package; Today We Find Out Where They Will Be Playing Their College Basketball Next Season

Jahlil Okafor And Tyus Jones Are The Class Of 2014’s Prettiest Package; Today We Find Out Where They Will Be Playing Their College Basketball Next Season

Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have nabbed the majority of headlines heading into this recruiting bonanza day. Okafor’s status as the top player in the class has fairly added to his surrounding buzz, but the duo has found more notoriety from their package deal pledge. Jones and Okafor said they were going to play their college ball together from day one, and there has been little wavering from that stance here in the final days, which all but assures either Duke or Kansas (according to sources) of landing two top-five talents in one fell swoop. Bill Self and the Jayhawks are also a possibility for another talented Friday decision-maker, as Chicago-bred big man Cliff Alexander will choose between Kansas, Memphis, and Illinois. The last top recruit set to announce his decision Friday is California wing Stanley Johnson. The timing of Johnson’s announcement is surprising, as he previously declared he would wait and make his choice next spring. It appears that folks in both Arizona and Kentucky are bullish on the local team’s odds to land the top wing in the class of 2014, while USC also remains a possibility.

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Big Ten M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 15th, 2013

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  1. Friday at 4:00 PM ET marks a huge day for Illinois as five-star forward Cliff Alexander will announce his college decision — he is down to Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, and Memphis. The Chicago native has his decision in mind and most believe it will be either Illinois or Kansas. Kansas has long been the favorite for Alexander, with Jayhawks’ assistant Jerrance Howard recruiting him since he was an eighth-grader. But Illinois and John Groce have made a late surge and have some momentum. If Alexander puts on the Illini hat Friday, it will not only represent Groce’s growing recruiting presence in Chicago, but will also signal that Illinois is ready to get back to being a national power.
  2. Along with Alexander, elite Class of 2014 prospects Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Stanley Johnson will also announce Friday afternoon. Besides Illinois for Alexander, no other Big Ten team is in the running for these three recruits. But that doesn’t mean the Big Ten is done recruiting top prospects this year. Indiana is heavily pursuing point guard JaQuan Lyle, a former Louisville commitment. Minnesota and Rashad Vaughn have mutual interest. Vaughn, a shooting guard from Golden Valley, Minnesota, would be Richard Pitino’s first major recruit during his short tenure as a head coach. Also look out for Ohio State to continue to pursue consensus top five player Myles Turner, a center who has been compared favorably to former NPOY Anthony Davis.  The Buckeyes already have one of the nation’s best 2014 recruiting classes and all that is missing is a talented big man like Turner.
  3. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are coming off a huge Tuesday night victory over Kentucky. Despite the monster win, Izzo is not pleased with his team’s effort on the boards. Adreian Payne battled foul trouble in the second half and that limited his effectiveness. Izzo desperately needs either Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling or Alex Gauna to become a consistent rebounder who the Spartans can lean on to average at least seven boards a game beyond Payne’s production. Gary Harris is another player who Izzo wants to see increase his rebounding activity.  He only averaged 2.5 rebounds per game last season.
  4. Iowa has found a stud player via the transfer hub in Jarrod UthoffWith two scholarships open for the class of 2014, head coach Fran McCaffery said he might turn to the transfer trail to fill them again. Transfers have become increasingly important to college programs, especially when they can get waivers to play right away. Don’t be shocked to see Iowa possibly pick up two graduate students for next season who will be granted immediate eligibility.
  5. There are two major games involving Big Ten teams this weekend. First, #10 Ohio State goes to Milwaukee to take on #17 Marquette Saturday. Look out for the important match-up in the post between Amir Williams and Davante Gardner. Gardner was a first team all-Big East preseason selection and will be a handful for Williams, who has never lived up to his McDonald’s All America hype. On Sunday, #7 Michigan travels to Ames to take on Iowa State. Both teams will each be without a key player, though — Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim is out with a bad left knee and Michigan’s Mitch McGary is not expected to play due to a nagging back injury. It’s not a huge deal now, but each team clearly needs its respective injured player to get healthy by the time conference play starts.
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Morning Five: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2013

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  1. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season Tuesday night will be one of the biggest nights of the season given the amount of attention the sport received with the stars being showcased at the Champions Classic. In a similar way, Friday could be one of the bigger days of the 2014-15 season and will have a bigger impact on next year’s championship picture than Tuesday will have on this season’s championship. In one of the bigger recruiting announcement days that we can remember, four of the top 10 players in the country–Jahlil Okafor (#1), Cliff Alexander (#3), Tyus Jones (#4), and Stanley Johnson (#9)–will announce where they are headed. As Roger Kuznia notes the key will be Okafor and Jones, who have consistently said they are going to be a package. Most recruiting analysts we have heard discuss the class have said that wherever that duo ends up–Duke and Kansas are said to be the favorites–should be the #1 recruiting class and the presumptive favorite to win the 2015 national title. Alexander is reportedly choosing between DePaul, Illinois, Kansas, and Memphis with Illinois and Kansas leading the way. As ridiculous as it sounds there is the possibility that Okafor, Alexander, and Jones all end up at Kansas. As for Johnson, he is choosing between Arizona, Kentucky, and USC with Arizona considered the heavy favorite.
  2. We all know that being a coveted high school prospect doesn’t guarantee you a future as a NBA player just like not being a heavily recruited high school player does not mean you can’t make it to the NBA. What we didn’t realize was how many NBA stars did not even make the Rivals 150 when they were in high school.  Now you can quibble over whether some of these guys qualify as stars, but they are all certainly solid NBA players. The other interesting aspect of the analysis is how many of these guys left college and still were not considered elite players when they entered the NBA based on where they were drafted.
  3. If you are looking to go to a Duke-North Carolina game to cross it off your bucket list, you might want to start saving. According to TiqIQ, the average price of a ticket to this season’s game at Duke is $1,728 on the secondary market. Part of the reason for the ridiculous prices at Duke is their limited supply playing in such a small venue (average ticket price overall is $409) and the rivalry has developed a certain cachet thanks in large part to the coverage that ESPN and other major outlets give it. There have been plenty of other big games over the years, but due to the small size of Cameron we doubt that any other game comes close matching the demand that Duke-North Carolina at Cameron has.
  4. Although this is the second week of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings this season, to us it is really the first week since he now has some data from this season to process. In this week’s edition, Luke goes through his usual number-crunching (we are assuming the Russ Smith/Aaron Craft “Turnometers” will be returning soon), but the numbers that jumped out as us were the disparity in shooting frequency of Chris Jones and T.J. McConnell. Jones has toned down his shooting frequency to 27.8 percent to fit in with Russ Smith while McConnell is only taking 9.5 percent this season. We would be interested to see this trended for different programs to see how much of that is related to the program/offense and how much is related to the player. As Luke points out, the Arizona difference appears to be player-related (Mark Lyons took 27.9 percent last year).
  5. Schadenfreude. If Kentucky fans were not familiar with the word, they should be after their loss against Michigan State thanks to the (dumb) idea that a Kentucky fan had to print “40-0″ shirts before the season even started. With the Wildcats loss on Tuesday, the shirts appeared to lose their value. That is to Kentucky fans. To opposing fans they are a comedy goldmine. This reminds us a little of two college students (New York Giants fans) who sought out the discarded New England Patriots 19-0 shirts by travelling to Nicaragua to get the shirts given away by a humanitarian agency. Obviously, this form of taunting takes much less work.
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Morning Five: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2013

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  1. Well that didn’t take long. Less than a month after suspending Chane Behanan indefinitely and saying that his return to the team was “not probable”, Rick Pitino reinstated Behanan to the team. Pitino has a reputation for overstating his position or changing his mind (or something less euphemistic), but this is a pretty impressive about-face on a national stage. [Ed. Note: We are sure that Big Blue Nation can give a full list of every such instance for Pitino.] Behanan could possibly play as early as tonight in Louisville’s game against Hofstra. Apparently, Behanan did enough during 25 or 30 days (depending on who is counting) to earn his way back onto the team. Or maybe Pitino realized that he needs an interior presence.
  2. At this point we would hesitate to call Harvard a sleeper team even though most of the public probably would not even consider them a threat in the NCAA Tournament, but they took a bit of a hit recently as they announced that Kenyatta Smith (Harvard) will be out indefinitely with a foot injury. Given the depth that the Crimson have they should be able to handle the temporary loss of Smith, 6’8″ center who averaged 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game last season, much better than you would expect. The one game that it might affect them (and could alter their season) is a game at Colorado on November 24. November games are rarely that meaningful, but for Harvard’s hopes of getting a reasonable NCAA seed they need to win that game. Now, Harvard has not set a timetable for Smith’s return, but we are assuming that their definition of indefinite is a little different than Rick Pitino’s.
  3. It is not quite Miami’s “Big Three”, but for college basketball it might as well be. This Friday, three of the top five prospects in the class of 2014–Jahlil Okafor (#1), Cliff Alexander (#3), and Tyus Jones (#5)–are all expected to announce their college decisions. Okafor and Jones have repeatedly said that they will be a package deal and many believe that Kansas and Duke are the leaders with Duke being the slight favorite. As for Alexander, who at one time was considered to be part of a package deal with Jaquan Lyle, he is reportedly down to four schools with one of them being Kansas. We have no idea how Okafor/Jones might coordinate with Alexander, but there exists the realistic possibility that Bill Self could land a haul on Friday that would blow away anything that Andrew Wiggins could be expected to do in his one year in Lawrence.
  4. Most Syracuse fans are probably more focused on the state of their team this year as they adjust to the ACC, but should probably pay attention that was is going on with their class of 2014 signee Chris McCullough, who was dismissed from Brewster Academy for a violation of school rules. We have no idea where McCullough is headed, but for his sake hopefully it is a place where he will be able to finish with enough credits to be academically eligible for the 2014-15 season. If he is not, that would be a huge loss for Syracuse as McCullough, a five-star forward, is expected to be the centerpiece of the incoming Syracuse class.
  5. With the new polls coming out that can only mean one thing: a new year of Gary Parrish’s Poll Attacks. Before we get into Gary’s attack(s) we should point out that it is pretty ridiculous to come out with a new poll after one game especially since most of the games were against cupcakes. Anyways, they decided to do it and some people decided to be dumb with their votes. Gary’s targets this week in the AP Poll was Jon Wilmer who made the curious decision to rank Colorado 16th and not rank Baylor even though Baylor beat Colorado by 12 in the only game either team has played this year. His attack on the Coaches’ Poll is more of an attack on the system that lets Mark Fox rank Georgia 25th even though they are probably a bottom-tier SEC team. Honestly, it is way too early in the year to really care about polls (actually polls are always sort of ridiculous since they do not have any affect on the championship), but it is amusing to see some people be so careless with it or make a mockery out of the entire system.
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Big Ten M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 11th, 2013

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  1. Ever watch a John Calipari interview during a game and think that he tries to be “too” humble? Well, Calipari may be at it again with his comments about the upcoming State Farm Champion’s Classic match-up against Michigan State. Calipari said that it was “unfair” for his team to play the Spartans this early in the season because Tom Izzo has a veteran team. Izzo responded, “I agree, I think he should forfeit. If Johnny doesn’t want to play it, I’ll take a win.” While the Spartans have two seniors, Kentucky will field five freshmen in the starting five. Regardless of the diversity of experience, the game will be very close and the Wildcats come in as the #1 team in the country.
  2. Wisconsin had to deal with terrible news a year ago when Josh Gasser was declared done for the season due to an injury. Traevon Jackson stepped in for Gasser and the Badgers still finished in the top four within the conference. This season, however, Gasser’s services are needed in Madison and the guard made a triumphant return against St. John’s on Friday night. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds to prove that the Badgers will be a handful in the Big Ten once again. It is likely that Bo Ryan will play a three-guard line up with Gasser, Jackson, and Ben Brust, which could be appear to be small on paper. However, Gasser is one of the best rebounding guards and he showed his strength during the season opener.
  3. As we approach the middle of November, we need to keep an eye out for any news about highly recruited forward Cliff Alexander. According to Fox Sports, Alexander’s final decision is down to two schools – Illinois and Kansas. He eliminated Michigan State from his list last week and is expected to make a decision over the next two weeks. Another top recruit, Jahil Okafor, is considering Kansas too. It would be interesting to see if Alexander will choose to play alongside another forward in Kansas, if Okafor chose the Jayhawks. If he chooses to head to Champaign, we may have a contender for the Big Ten title and at least a Sweet Sixteen appearance at Illinois.
  4. The new hand-checking rules in college hoops will be under scrutiny over the first couple of months of the season. The rules could potentially hurt aggressive defenders such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. His head coach, Thad Matta, does not think it will affect his senior guard’s intensity. “Aaron Craft plays defense with his mind,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta told Sporting News, fairly scoffing. Craft may get called for more fouls than the previous seasons, but it is tough to imagine a seasoned guard to struggle with the new rules. If he does take a step back on defense, that will certainly impact Ohio State’s chances to compete for a Big Ten title.
  5. Purdue is not expected to compete for a postseason bid because of the youth on their roster. Matt Painter, however, hopes that the “immaturity” issues are in the rear-view mirror after last season. “At Purdue, we have always been able to, when we have had a successful season, play hard,” Painter said. “And at times last season we didn’t do that. You can be young, but you can’t be immature.” Terone Johnson will play a pivotal role on the offense, but he will have to step up as a vocal leader to coach the young team on the floor, if the Boilermakers hope to compete in the Big Ten this year. Forward A.J. Hammons will also need to avoid picking up silly fouls on the defensive end and learn to stay composed against superior competition because his contributions will be needed against the likes of Indiana and Michigan.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Reid Travis Announcing Today, Kentucky’s Top Class & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 8th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. PF Reid Travis Set to Chose From 3 Schools

Continuing the trend of commitments, four-star power forward Reid Travis is set to make his announcement today at 3:30 PM CST. Travis is a 6’7”, 240-pound power forward from De La Salle (MN) High School who is currently ranked as the No. 7 power forward in the class of 2014 and No. 40 prospect overall. He is set to choose between his hometown Gophers, Duke and Stanford. Coming out of his junior season, Travis was ranked No. 95 in his class but impressed college coaches and scouts throughout the spring and summer in AAU games and camp tournaments. Playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers Nike AAU team alongside Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Travis averaged 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. In today’s day and age, Travis is the rare power forward that likes to work inside-out. Physically, he is one of the strongest players in the class of 2014 and uses his strength down low to overpower opponents for layups or short jump hooks. When not in the post, he also has a nice shooting touch out to 15 feet. When it comes time to choose a college, Travis has three strong options:

  • Minnesota – The hometown school first started recruiting Travis under former head coach Tubby Smith. When Richard Pitino took over the job, Travis became his top priority and the most likely of the Minnesota Big Three (along with Jones and shooting guard Rashad Vaughn) to stay in Minnesota.
  • Duke – Coach K started to recruit Travis after watching him during his scintillating performance at the Nike Peach Jam tournament in July. Last week the Blue Devils lost out on power forward Kevon Looney (#14 overall, #2 PF – 2014), but would love to add the Minnesota duo of Travis and Jones.
  • Stanford – Travis took an official visit to Stanford on October 18 and is attracted to the academics offered by the university. With a commitment, Travis would be the Cardinal’s third Top 100 recruit in 2014 and perhaps the most important.

2. Kentucky Back on Top

North Carolina had claimed the top spot in the 2014 recruiting rankings for quite some time with earlier commitments of five-star point guard Joel Berry (#21 overall, #3 PG), five-star small forward Justin Jackson (#9 overall, #3 SF) and four-star small forward Theo Pinson (#27 overall, #10 SF). With its most recent commitment from Trey Lyles (#8 overall, #1 PF), Kentucky made its way past UNC into the number one spot in the rankings, the spot they’ve held since 2009 when John Calipari first brought in stars John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The Wildcats now have two fivestar players in Lyles and center Karl Towns (#11 overall, #4 C) and two four-star guys in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG) and shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall, #5). All four players are not considered explosive athletes and in turn are not a lock to become one-and-done like most of Calipari’s previous top recruits. What this means is that this talented class could stay in school for a bit longer than normal and could replicate the success of UNC’s top-ranked class in 2006 which eventually won a championship in 2009.

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