Morning Five: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 18th, 2013

morning5

  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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SEC M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Missouri barely escaped in its exhibition game against Central Missouri over the weekend. Missouri’s big men struggled all night, which prompted Frank Haith to use a four-guard lineup. That lineup led the Tigers’ late rally and avoided an embarrassing loss. Missouri fans should be encouraged, however, because Haith’s best team featured four guards on the court at almost all times. With Jordan Clarkson’s ability to attack the rim and create space, having an extra shooter on the floor will make their offense much more effective. Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown will love the open looks they get when Haith uses a four-out/one-in offense. If Missouri’s inexperienced group of big men cannot prove themselves early, look for Haith to ride his guards for most of the season.
  2. Jeff Goodman’s list of the top 25 breakout players for the upcoming season featured two SEC players. Dorian Finney-Smith of Florida and Eric McClellan of Vanderbilt both made the list at #8 and #21, respectively. Once Finney-Smith returns from his suspension, Billy Donovan will be counting on him to play a big role inside. Finney-Smith is expected to be one of the most versatile players on the Gators and help Patric Young shoulder the rebounding role inside. McClellan might not be the starter for Vanderbilt at point guard right now, but in the article Goodman quotes a Vanderbilt coach who thinks he might be the team’s leading scorer. The key for McClellan will be setting up his teammates, though, because he’s already anticipated to be a solid scorer.
  3. Kentucky crushed Division III Transylvania Friday night, although they were sloppy early. Obviously the large margin of victory makes it hard to criticize the Wildcats, but don’t tell that to John Calipari. Calipari understands the importance of getting his players to match their talent with energy, as it was what made his 2012 National Championship team so special. Last season Kentucky struggled to play with consistent effort every game, so this is a great chance for Calipari avoid that same problem. In 30 to 35 of their games this season, Kentucky will already be so talented that the opponent cannot overcome it. However, Calipari wants to win those other games too, and knows the way to do it is to force his team to play with relentless effort no matter the opponent.
  4. Now that he has true point guard talent back on campus, Calipari is bringing back the dribble-drive offense this season. Last seen at Kentucky with John Wall running the show, Calipari feels as though his guards are skilled enough this season to run the system. Look for Andrew and Aaron Harrison to attack the rim aggressively in the offense, and kick out to the wings when necessary. Those drives will leave James Young with great looks in the corner, with the option to attack the baseline as well. The article also mentions that Calipari has been putting Julius Randle at the free-throw line in this offense. That will serve two equally scary purposes. First, he will draw double teams and result in easy dunks for Willie Cauley-Stein. Second, Randle is vicious attacking off the dribble, so slow defenders will never have a chance.
  5. Ole Miss is trying to find some leadership this season, and it showed Friday night. With a number of key leaders from last season gone, and Marshall Henderson starting the season under suspension, Andy Kennedy needs some players to step up. The key here is that Kennedy wants someone other than Henderson to lead this team. Given the unpredictability of his behavior, this is a smart move. Having a player willing to rescue the team when Henderson is having an off night is even more important. What made Ole Miss an NCAA Tournament team last season was the fact that players other than Henderson were leading the team and making big time shots. Henderson is a fun sideshow, and his energy is contagious during the best times, bu it is not the same when things aren’t going well and Andy Kennedy does not want his team’s play to be solely dictated by Henderson’s heat checks.
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Morning Five: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. With a little over a week until the start of the season, Iowa State might have just suffered the biggest injury setback after Melvin Ejim hyperextended and bruised his left knee during Wednesday’s practice. Ejim is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks, which would also include a game against Michigan. Ejim’s injury will place an extra burden on sophomore Georges Niang and will force Fred Hoiberg to try to find a serviceable replacement to support Niang on the inside and keep the Cyclones in contention for the NCAA Tournament when Ejim returns.
  2. Zay Jackson‘s time at Murray State has been nothing if not eventful. Last year, Jackson was arrested after running over two people with his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He was subsequently suspended by the team for the season before returning and was expected to start before hearing his ACL in early October. Yesterday, he announced that he would be transferring from the school. We have no idea where Jackson is headed, but we can guess that Steve Prohm will be much less stressed going forward.
  3. We are sure that Florida will be fine by the time that March rolls around, but that probably won’t make Billy Donovan feel any better right now. On Tuesday, he found out that Michael Frazier would be out indefinitely with mononucleosis. Yesterday, the school announced that Scottie WilbekinDamontre Harris, and Dorian Finney-Smith had been suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. The Wilbekin and Harris/Finney-Smith suspensions appear to be separate incidents, but this will still be another big blow for a team that is getting weaker by the day. Based on what Andy Hutchins at Alligator Army has found out it appears that Wilbekin will be out for at least six games and Harris/Finney-Smith will be out for at least three games. Even if that includes the team’s exhibition game against Florida Southern, the three would probably also be out for the team’s trip to Wisconsin turning what was once a promising match-up into a mismatch.
  4. It seems like we have updates on transfer waivers everyday. Today’s update has one approval and one denial. The approval comes out of Baylor where Denver transfer Royce O’Neale was granted a waiver that will allow him to play for Baylor this season. O’Neale, a 6’6″ guard who averaged 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore at Denver, transferred to be closer to his ailing grandfather. On the other end of the spectrum, Isaac Hamilton was denied his waiver to play for UCLA this season. Hamilton was attempting to have his National Letter of Intent that he had signed with UTEP voided by the NCAA after Tim Floyd refused to release him. As a result, Hamilton will be allowed to practice with the Bruins, but will not be allowed to play for them until the 2014-15 season.
  5. Yesterday, was also a big day for high school recruits with three top-25 recruits announcing their commitments. Kevon Looney, a 6’9″ power forward, led the group off by committing to UCLA. The Bruins were able to beat out Wisconsin, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Tennessee with the Volunteers reportedly coming in second for his services. The announcement was a bit of a surprise as many recruiting analysts had the Bruins below Duke, Florida, and Tennessee for his services, but with how frequently Steve Alford has lost recruits at UCLA we wouldn’t be shocked to see Looney back out either. Looney was followed by Devin Booker, a 6’6″ shooting guard, committed to Kentucky with the Wildcats beating out Michigan State, Michigan, and Missouri. While having a top recruit commit to Kentucky is certainly not surprising it is worth noting that Devin’s father, Melvin, was a first-team All-American at Missouri in 1994 leading them to a 14-0 Big Eight record. Finally, James Blackmon Jr., a 6’2″ shooting guard, committed to Indiana (again). Blackmon’s decision is particularly notable because he originally committed to Indiana before backing out and was said to be considering Kentucky (where his father played) before recommitting to the Hoosiers.
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ACC M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 11th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Andrew Carter’s midseason look at the ACC is a good read, although one phrase stuck out when he described Mason Plumlee. Carter justified Plumlee as the conference player of the year (a reasonable choice) by saying: “Plumlee is the most important player on the conference’s best team.” We’re halfway through the season, Miami owns a dramatic win over the Blue Devils and won (in a great game) at the school responsible for Duke’s other loss. It’s high time Miami was considered the conference’s best team. Plumlee may be the ACC Player of the Year (he’s arguably more important to Duke’s success than any one player on the Hurricanes), and I think Duke has a slight edge at home. But that doesn’t undermine Miami’s success. The Hurricanes are the best team until proven otherwise.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of Duke, a bit of controversy popped up around the Cameron Crazies when they allegedly chanted “How’s your grandma?” at NC State’s Tyler Lewis last week (whose grandmother died recently). If the chant happened, it was obviously boorish, unnecessary and cruel. I’m not going to pile on the Cameron Crazies, but I’m not going to defend them either. The Crazies get a lot of polarized publicity from the media, but like most stories the truth isn’t so black and white. The Crazies are passionate fans that make Cameron Indoor Stadium one of the best atmospheres in the country. They’re also college students. They make the same stupid mistakes other student sections around the country do. Theirs are often more visible, as they get more coverage than the average student section, and I’m not sure there’s any more story here.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: A little less than two years ago, arguing the prognosis of Virginia and Virginia Tech hoops teams would’ve been an interesting discussion (and Virginia Commonwealth would be irrelevant). Now, the discussion is hugely one-sided (and the Rams are anything but irrelevant), but the difference is more subtle than it looks. The Hokies lost two major talents, Montrezl Harrell and Dorian Finney-Smith, each of whom would have added a lot of talent and depth to this year’s team. That still wouldn’t make up the difference between the two teams this season, but it’s amazing how much can change in a short period of time.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Alex Len is one of the country’s most improved players this year, but he still lacks the consistency required to be a top-flight performer. Last year, only his athleticism and upside impressed. This season his flashes of brilliance consist of longer stretches, but he won’t finish first team all-ACC nor will he live up to his All-American tools. The biggest issue for Len appears to be physicality. He’s much stronger than last season, but teams have found that they can pop him in the mouth and aggressively force him out of position. If he comes back next season, it’s possible that he’d become one of the top players in the country; it’s also likely that he’d expose his fatal flaw and cost himself a large sum of money come NBA Draft day.
  5. Tallahassee Democrat: It’s weird to read this article. Leonard Hamilton‘s team — the squad led by arguably the most competitive player I’ve ever seen live — lacks effort. Sure it would help if this team had more bangers in the paint and a little more experience running the show, but that’s not this year’s problem. This team, on paper, may be more talented than last year’s ACC championship squad. Those Seminoles were the best of the Hamilton era: effort, experience and toughness defined. This year’s squad doesn’t make you cringe quite as much as Hamilton’s teams of yore (other than their turnovers), but the intensity just isn’t there enough of the time.
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SEC M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 21st, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Jabari Parker’s commitment was the lead story in college basketball yesterday, and to the chagrin of almost everyone, the Chicago product chose to attend Duke. He had narrowed down his choices to five schools before his announcement, with Florida serving as the SEC’s only representative. Any program would benefit greatly by adding a talent like Parker, but the Gators will still have one of the nation’s best incoming classes. Billy Donovan will bring in Chris Walker and Kasey Hill, both consensus top 10 recruits, in addition to South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Of all the spurned schools on Parker’s final list, Florida is probably in the best position going forward.
  2. Tennessee has gotten back on track with wins over Wichita State and Presbyterian, but after a miserable start to the season, Volunteer fans are still counting the days until they see Jeronne Maymon back on the floor. Unfortunately, it may be a while. Maymon’s rehabilitation from knee surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Vols had hoped. The ambitious diagnosis had the senior forward returning to action as early as this month, but as Maymon continues to limp around Tennessee’s training facility, the possibility of a medical redshirt has been explored. “He’s open to everything,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One thing about Jeronne, he’s a coachable guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team. If that means coming back (for a redshirt season), he’ll come back. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost, then our team.” Coming back for only a few games surely isn’t the smart move, but in a season filled with high expectations in Knoxville, getting Maymon back on the court is absolutely essential in Tennessee’s efforts to meet those goals.
  3. Texas A&M has had an especially unremarkable season. Outside of a slight upset of Washington State on a neutral court (maybe?), the Aggies have beaten every inferior team and lost in both games against superior competition. This is progress, however, for second-year coach Billy Kennedy, who struggled mightily in his first season, posting a 4-14 record in the Big 12. He’ll hope that the SEC schedule is kinder as he enters a new conference, and he may be in luck. The middle of the SEC is weak, and A&M has the talent to take advantage. Senior Elston Turner has improved on his shooting percentages, and at 16.1 points per game, he’s the type of player who can make a difference as the Aggies take on the SEC’s many mediocre teams.
  4. In the wake of the Michael Dixon situation, off-the-court news hasn’t been especially kind to Missouri this season. That changed on Thursday, however, as the Tigers revealed that the basketball team had achieved their highest collective GPA (over a 3.0) in over a decade. “I’m so proud of our guys and their efforts in the classroom,” coach Frank Haith said. “We demand a lot from them throughout the year and they delivered in a big way, which deserves recognition.” Tigers’ leading scorer Laurence Bowers is one of the stars in the classroom as well. The senior forward has already finished his undergraduate degree, and is a semester away from a master’s in Health Education and Promotion.
  5. “Going Big”, the ESPN Films documentary about former Kentucky great, Sam Bowie, premiered on ESPNU last night. Every basketball fan knows the basics of Bowie’s tale, but director Tom Friend utilizes an unfamiliar perspective to tell his story: the perspective of Sam Bowie. It’s impossible to ignore the Michael Jordan factor with this subject, but any true connection between Jordan’s success and Bowie’s struggles with injury are the product of a fabricated narrative (a compelling one, to be fair). For the former Kentucky center, getting over the Jordan comparisons was tough, but the support of the Lexington community made it possible. “I always knew when the [NBA] season was over that I was immediately going to go back to Kentucky, because that was a safe haven for me to get away from the Michael Jordans, from the critics,” Bowie said. “And that’s a beautiful thing, because when you’re getting beat up like I was getting beat up, you run for cover. And my cover was getting back to Lexington.”
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by EMann on October 18th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Virginia Tech finally escaped the the wrong side of the bubble last year… by coming nowhere near the bubble. The Hokies’ 2011-12 season was a massive disappointment, as the squad finished below .500 and 4-12 in the ACC. However, Virginia Tech was probably a better team than their record indicated. In ACC play (including the ACC Tournament), the team was 5-9 in games decided by five points or less, so it was clear that luck was not on their side. This season, more importantly, was the final nail in the coffin for Seth Greenberg, one of the ACC’s most vocal coaches. Greenberg was fired in April, not just due to his team’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament (only once in his tenure), but also due to his inability to retain assistant coaches and retain continuity in the program.

Johnson faces many challenges in his first year as a Division I head coach. (USA Today)

Before his firing, two members of Greenberg’s staff left during this offseason, and it was the second time in three years he had to replace multiple members of his coaching staff. Greenberg’s firing, which shocked the man himself, also made it very difficult for Virginia Tech to hire the best coach available in the coaching carousel and also drastically hurt their player retention/recruiting due to the strange timing of the move. New coach James Johnson was an assistant under Greenberg for five years before taking an assistant coaching job at Clemson. Johnson had held the position at Clemson for all of 2 1/2 weeks before the Virginia Tech job became vacant. Virginia Tech hopes that Johnson can help provide the continuity (and the urge for a more difficult non-conference schedule) that eluded Greenberg, while also building on Greenberg’s positive moves towards making Virginia Tech a viable threat to perennially contend towards Tournament bids, a difficult task for a coach at a school where football is certainly prioritized.

Newcomers

This is where Virginia Tech’s suddenly thin roster is apparent. Three-star forward Marcus Wood is the only scholarship freshman on the team, following the de-commitment of Montrezl Harrell (who later chose Louisville) in the wake of Greenberg’s firing. Wood should see immediate playing time as an athletic forward who can hopefully replace the role of the transferring Dorian Finney-Smith (they have nearly the same build, 6’8” and just under 200 lbs.). Virginia Tech also added a walk-on guard, Marcus Patrick, a high school teammate of Wood, who could compete for some bench minutes on this scant roster. Adam Smith, who transferred from UNC Wilmington, will sit out the 2012-13 season. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by mpatton on July 17th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia Tech.

Where They Stand Now

Virginia Tech surprised most people last year. The Hokies were picked in the middle of the pack by pretty much everyone. It was supposed to be a “down year” in the sense that people expected Seth Greenberg‘s perennial bubble team to not be one of the last teams out on Selection Sunday. Non-conference play went as expected: the Hokies lost all three games they played against tough competition and won the other 11. Then the ACC slate hit like a dump truck.

Virginia Tech started 1-6 in conference play with losses to league cellar dwellers Boston College and Wake Forest. Until beating Clemson by five in their final regular season match-up, the Hokies’ three wins came by a total of five points. No conference team played opponents as consistently close (Virginia Tech saw all but four of its conference games decided by single figures), but no team saw fewer conference wins either. It was the last straw for the athletic department brass, which waited until April 23 to let Greenberg go.

Erick Green

Erick Green Has First Team All-ACC Potential this Season.

In his stead is last year’s Assistant Head Coach, James Johnson. Johnson is a great choice for the job, though he failed his first assignments. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell de-committed from the program to go to Louisville, and rising star Dorian Finney-Smith transferred to Florida. Still, Johnson knows the Virginia Tech team well and he knows the program.

Who’s Leaving

Long story short: a lot of people. The Hokies lose Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila to graduation; they lose Allan Chaney and Finney-Smith to transfer; and they lost Harrell’s commitment along with their head coach Greenberg.

Hudson and Davila were the team’s second and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. They combined to average 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. While Finney-Smith was still very raw offensively, he contributed a lot on defense and by crashing the glass. He was highly rated coming out of high school (#18 by ESPN, #27 by Scout and #31 by Rivals), largely thanks to his potential.

Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC Weekly Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 22nd, 2012

  1. The University of Kentucky athletic department announced its decision to increase ticket prices by as much as $10 for a single game ticket next season. In addition, the K Fund donation required to buy season tickets has increased by as much as $1500. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the jump in prices were due to several factors including: the increasing cost of tuition, additional travel costs due to SEC conference realignment, and the rising costs of paying upper echelon coaching salaries like John Calipari’s $5.2 million dollar annual salary (it is worth mentioning at least some of which is paid through annual endorsements). However, when you are coming off a 2012 National Championship and have the most passionate fan base in all of college basketball, fans in the Bluegrass State will pay whatever the asking price to watch their Cats in Rupp Arena.
  2. Talent wins championships, and while the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats have plenty of talent, there is something missing from next year’s roster — experience, particularly in Calipari’s system. Basketball pundits clamored over UK’s one-and-done stars from last season, but it was senior Darius Miller who stepped out of the spotlight to quietly lead his team.  “He does everything the team needs him to do. He completes everybody. He’s not competing, he’s completing,” Calipari said of Miller towards the end of the 2012 season. “If he needs to rebound, defend (he will). He plays some guard, he plays some four (power forward). Whatever position we ask him, he just completes.” It is clear that Calipari’s Cats have the talent to compete for a repeat performance next year, but the question (asked by Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue) becomes, who replaces Darius Miller? And at this point, the answer is, it’s too early to tell.
  3. New LSU head coach Johnny Jones has added David Patrick to his staff to serve in the role of assistant basketball coach. Patrick has served as an assistant with Saint Mary’s and Nicholls State before his most recent stint as player personnel scout for the Houston Rockets. “We are definitely excited about the addition of David Patrick to our staff,” said Jones. “He will not only be able to help us with game planning and practice preparation, but we look forward to him helping to raise our level of recruiting at LSU, both regionally as well as nationally. With his background in both Division I and professional basketball, he brings a level of experience to our program that will help us to move forward.” Jones has built a lot of momentum since being announced as the head man for the Tigers in April. In addition to luring Patrick to Baton Rouge, he initially recruited former UNT assistants Shawn Forrest and Charlie Leonard and added former Georgetown assistant Robert Kirby over a month ago.
  4. A couple of SEC players made Eamonn Brennan’s list of 10 potential breakout players for 2012-13. Okay, so these lists aren’t exactly news, but it’s at least a conversation starter. Brennan puts Arkansas guard BJ Young, who briefly considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman year, on the list. Can a guy who averaged over 15 points per game really be a breakout player? Regardless, Young and his young teammates (see what we did there) could elevate Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks back into the Top 25 this year after a long hiatus from the national college basketball landscape.The other SEC player on Brennan’s list is Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer saw just over 11 minutes per game last year, but when he was on the floor he took the highest percentage of shots on the team. Wiltjer isn’t afraid to hoist the ball up there, and we are likely to see even more shots from him this season.
  5. Incoming Florida transfer Dorian Finney-Smith has ties to the Florida program and he wasn’t going to choose against the Gators again. Finney-Smith is close friends with former Gator center Vernon Macklin. “Vernon is like a brother to me,” Finney-Smith said. “I saw how successful he was at Florida and that played a role in my decision.” It’s a decision that Finney-Smith seems happy with. “Coach Donovan said we’re going to be going up-and-down the floor, every day,” he said. “I like that. It will be fun.” It isn’t sounding like much fun for the rest of the SEC though. Florida’s 2013-14 front line is coming together with the addition of several quality transfers. In addition to the 6’8″ Finney Smith, Billy Donovan added 6’9″ Damontre Harris earlier this summer, a transfer from South Carolina. Both big men will sit out this season, but will be able to practice with the team.
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SEC Weekly Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on June 15th, 2012

  1. On Thursday, multiple outlets reported that ACC All-Freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith would leave Virginia Tech for Florida. Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7 rebounds for the Hokie, but left after Seth Greenberg was fired. Finney-Smith will be eligible to play for the Gators beginning in 2013-14.
  2. As Missouri winds down its countdown to joining the SEC, a story broke this week surrounding Levi Coolley’s involvement with the team. Coolley “who had previously flown on the team plane and received complimentary tickets from players was arrested by the FBI at the Tigers’ hotel in Omaha, Neb.” as the Tigers were about the Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament. Following the arrest, Missouri launched an internal investigation and “found Coolley had no improper influence on players and did not give players gifts in exchange for the complimentary tickets.”
  3. Former Kentucky star Terrence Jones passed on turning pro a season ago citing a desire to win a national title. However, in a Monday story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Wildcats coach John Calipari  said Jones “had a second motive: to refine both his game and attitude, improving his NBA draft position in the process.” Based on how Jones capped his sophomore season, he looks to have to secured his spot in the lottery, possibly as high as seventh.
  4. As more non-conference games get finalized, Tennessee and Xavier announced the start of a home-and-home  series that will begin in Knoxville in December. For the Musketeers, this game represents their second against an SEC foe this upcoming season. They will face Vanderbilt in a return contest following last year’s overtime contest played in Nashville.
  5. With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, there exists the real possibility that the SEC could have players selected 1-2-3 with Anthony Davis as the presumed top pick followed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal going to Charlotte and Washington in some order. No league has even boasted the top two picks since 1999 when Elton Brand (Duke) and Steve Francis (Maryland) out of the ACC topped the draft. The ACC was also the last league to have the top three picks of any one draft. In 1986, Brad Daugherty (UNC) went No. 1 to Cleveland; Boston selected Maryland’s Len Bias followed by NC State’s Chris Washburn going to Golden State.
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Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2012

  1. You’re probably reading this post approximately 8-12 hours after textapocalypse went into effect in college basketball last night. As the midnight bell tolled, a new NCAA rule went into effect allowing coaches to bombard high school sophomores and above with as many phone calls and text messages that they can muster. You might recall that one of the very first posts on this venerable site back in 2007 suggested that the NCAA’s decision to ban text messages in light of news that Billy Gillispie (then at Kentucky) was knocking out 8,000 messages a month was a good idea. Even in those short five years, how people communicate with one another has changed significantly (texting has essentially replaced phone calls between young people), but that doesn’t mean that middle-aged coaches will do any better with it now than they did then. One thing is certain — with social media like Twitter and Facebook today existing side-by-side texts on everyone’s smart phone, there’s bound to be lots of texting hilarity that will ensue from just the auto-correct function alone.
  2. Cincinnati and Xavier decided on Thursday that all the on-court fun the players have had at the Crosstown Shootout (now re-branded as the Crosstown Classic – lolz) in recent years shouldn’t be limited to the student-athletes punching each other on the floor. With the choice to move the game to a neutral site downtown and tickets split down the middle, this two-year move will allow fans to get in zip each other up while enjoying the game from the stands. Look, we understand the logic behind moving the game away from home sites where the vitriol heaved upon the visiting team produces a volatile situation, but is college basketball turning into a sport where only games at neutral sites are those worth having? Between the Kentucky-Indiana ridiculousness and now this, we have to wonder if the sport is losing one of the very things that makes it special (home-and-home rivalry games). What’s next — Duke and Carolina on a Charlotte/Greensboro/Raleigh rotation?
  3. It didn’t take long for former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler to find a landing spot. Kansas announced on Thursday that Sadler, who has a 149-107 record as a Division I head coach, would take over as the Jayhawks’ Director of Basketball Operations. He replaces Barry Hinson, who left KU after the season to become the new head coach at Southern Illinois. Sadler continues a trend of high-major college coaches keeping their name fresh in the industry by taking assistant positions when they come available. For example, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is currently an assistant at Florida, biding his time until another choice job comes available and an AD is willing to take another chance on him.
  4. Speaking of the Gator program, Florida fans received some excellent news on Thursday when Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith announced that he would transfer to Gainesville in light of Seth Greenberg’s firing. Finney-Smith joins Damontre Harris as transfers heading south to play for Billy Donovan, giving the two-time national champion head coach a leg up already on his 2013-14 roster. The 6’8″ player averaged 7/7 last year in 30 minutes per game for Virginia Tech, but he clearly needs to spend the off year working on shot selection (33.2%) and bulking up. Finney-Smith is already an elite per-minute rebounder, but with another 30 pounds on his frame he could easily average double figure boards in two years for the Gators.
  5. The biggest knock on Bruce Weber at Illinois was his recruiting (or lack thereof), especially in the talent-rich Chicago area. As the new head coach at Kansas State, he faces a more difficult recruiting situation in that the nearest major city is Kansas City, a town not exactly known for its prep basketball talent in the same sense as the Windy City. As a result, Weber went on record Thursday stating that he plans to branch out to more places, even as many as all places. Well, except the West Coast. Weber said during a Big 12 coaches’ teleconference that he wants to recruit the Midwest, Texas, the East Coast, and of course, Chicago. All we can think is that Illinois fans must be snickering in their cereal this morning.
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ACC Weekly Five: 05.14.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on May 14th, 2012

  1. ESPN: Andy Katz has a report with details about next season’s new conference schedule.  With each team set to now play 18 conference games while the conference membership stays at 12, the 2012-13 schedule will be fairly unique. Each team will play a home-and-home series with seven teams, while playing the four other teams only once. According to associate commissioner Karl Hicks, the schedule will be designed explicitly for balance in the coming season, with no plans to set a rotation for future years. Frankly, as a fan: This is great. Unbalanced schedules aren’t a particularly fun part about college basketball yet they have played a big role in shaping tournament seeding in recent years. More conference games and more balance? All for it, assuming Hicks does a good job.
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Money, money, money. The ACC renegotiated its television contract with ESPN to extend to 2026-27. The deal is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.6 billion dollars and essentially means a 33% increase in revenue to each of the anticipated 14 member schools. The deal was brokered to factor in the new additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, both expected to participate in ACC play by the 2013-14 season. It’s refreshing to see that money is being kept out of amateur athletics and that the ideal of the student-athlete remains untainted by commercial interests.
  3. USA Today: Of course, not everyone is happy about the deal. Florida State, defending ACC Tournament champion, former football powerhouse and currently cash-strapped institution, has been muttering discontentedly over the recent television deal. Granted, a lot of the muttering appears to stem from misconceptions or misunderstandings, but the fact remains that the Seminoles want (and need) more money. While the new television deal is expected to bring in $17 million dollars a year, the current year’s athletic department budget has a projected shortfall of $2.4 million dollars. The temptation in Tallahassee is to seek membership with the Big 12 Conference, a league currently in negotiations for a contract that would deliver well over $20 million per year (particularly with the added draw of Florida State). While the school currently remains committed to the ACC, it’s hard to see a world where the Seminoles wouldn’t be thinking long and hard about this move.
  4. The Daily Press: James Johnson might well remember why he left Virginia Tech in the first place. The new Hokies head coach finds himself with a problem as VT continues to take big hits from transfers. Dorian Finney-Smith, an all-freshman team selection as well as perhaps the biggest recruit in Virginia Tech history, is requesting a transfer (Memphis or Florida seem to be the likely destinations). On top of losing Finney-Smith, incoming freshman Montrezl Harrell won’t be coming in after all — the top-100 recruit has requested a release to attend a different school.
  5. The News and Advance: On a positive note, Virginia coach Tony Bennett has survived the Wahoos’ rash of transfers to secure a more permanent place for himself in Charlottesville, earning a five-year extension at the school. In the turnover-wracked conference, it’s nice to see a guy putting down some roots. Bennett led the Cavaliers to one of its best seasons in a long time in 2011-12. The rest of the ACC can look forward to facing the tough and cramped pack line defense for years to come!
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Morning Five: 05.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2012

  1. Most national college basketball writers are aware of the sensitivity of Kentucky fans so you would think that a local newspaper would be cognizant of the sensibilities of their readers. Apparently The Lexington Herald-Ledger was not aware of that (or didn’t care) as it published an editorial cartoon making fun of John Calipari and some of the accusation that follow him. Outside of being unoriginal it seems like a rather idiotic decision to alienate your subscriber base (if the paper has a substantial one even before this). We would have expected something like this out of The Indianapolis Star, but for the local newspaper to do it to poke at their always irritable fan base seems to be a poor move all around.
  2. With the NBA Draft a little over seven weeks away, fans of both NBA and college basketball are beginning to focus in one how their favorite teams and players will get paired. By now we know who the top picks will be regardless of what order teams select them in, but the real intrigue is who the “value picks” will be. For that, NBADraft.net takes a look at this year’s NBA Draft and some recent NBA Drafts to find a poor man’s version of more highly rated players. Of course, as the NBA Draft approaches every year you can count on at least one column bemoaning the current age limit. The latest version of this article comes from Steve Kerr and speaks in favor of a 20-year-old age limit. We agree with Kerr on some of the points he makes, but picking 20, which is an arbitrary number seems a little capricious. Personally we would prefer an age limit of 22 years-old out of personal greed (3 more years of Anthony Davis? Sign us up!), but it will be hard to make the case as long as NBA owners and GMs continue to draft talented freshmen. Even if you disagree with Kerr’s premise it is a worthwhile and relatively short read.
  3. As we have seen several times in the barely one month old offseason, coaching changes very often lead to player transfers. The latest such case is Dorian Finney-Smith, who is transferring from Virginia Tech. Finney-Smith did not provide new coach James Johnson with a reason for his decision except to say that it was not due to the firing of Seth Greenberg, which may or may not be the case. Finney-Smith, one of the most highly sought-after recruits that the Hokies ever brought to campus, had a decent if not great freshman year averaging 6.3 points and 7 rebounds per game. The move, which was a shock to Johnson and the Hokie program, is a pretty big blow as they try to regroup under new leadership. Finney-Smith has not announced what schools he is looking at, but there should be no shortage of schools chasing after him.
  4. The North Carolina athletic department has no shortage of scandals recently and now it appears that there is a brewing academic scandal involving classes that are made up of largely basketball and football players. The classes being investigated are in African and Afro-American Studies and are said to involve unauthorized grade changes in classes without the instruction of professors. To be fair to the athletes the investigation has not shown that the players were shown any favoritism in the grade changes although the high percentage of athletes from the two sports in the classes (39%) will lead many to infer that they were put there to maintain their eligibility. Obviously, there are quite a few other potential explanation for the high prevalence of these athletes in these classes like the race of the athletes or that they were often held in summer sessions when athletes are a relatively larger percentage of the student body. While some may think this matter needs further investigation the school does not appear to think so as UNC System President Tom Ross stated that he felt it was “an isolated situation” (the famous words of many administrators before the walls came crumbling down).
  5. We know what you were probably expecting us to lead with the Nerlens Noel piece in The New York Times, but honestly it isn’t even worth mentioning at this point except to say that it is not a story. The NCAA tends to investigate a lot of situations like this and invariably nothing ever comes of it. This only becomes a story now because it is Kentucky and it is Pete Thamel, which will inevitably spiral into another ridiculous Internet feud given the history between the two with Thamel’s penchant for hunting down stories regarding Kentucky. If something is found, then it would be a big story, but for right now our response is “meh”.
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