Big Ten M5: 01.21.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 21st, 2015

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  1. Freshmen have made much more of an impact this season than last year. Because of this, it’s difficult to truly pick an All-Freshman Team. BTN’s Shon Morris took a stab at it anyway, as he named five guards to his list. Wooden Award Semi-Finalists Melo Trimble and D’Angelo Russell made the cut, along with Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr, Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh, and Minnesota’s Nate Mason. If there was anything to quibble with here, it would potentially be the exclusion of Purdue first-year players Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas. Both have kind of tailed off as of late in terms of production however, as the quintet of guards have had more of an impact in conference play.
  2. Indiana coach Tom Crean doesn’t necessarily have many fans in the media, and articles written about him are usually slanted toward the negative. Things weren’t helped by the train wreck of a 2013-14 season, and the turmoil that surrounded the team before this season even started. The Hoosiers have exceeded expectations in starting 14-4, and Crean deserves a good deal of credit for the way his squad has performed. Indianan has a rough stretch of games coming up, but finishing in the top five in the league and making the NCAA Tournament should not only enable Crean to not have to worry about his job, but also could put him in contention for Big Ten Coach of the Year.
  3. Purdue can pick up another conference win tonight when they take on Illinois in West Lafayette. After a sluggish start against Penn State that took a miraculous shot to force overtime, the Boilermakers are trying to figure out how to get off to better starts. They’ve trailed in each Big Ten game so far, and the catalysts for the poor starts have been a lack of communication on defense and too many turnovers. With Illinois desperate to stay in the hunt until Rayvonte Rice returns, Purdue can’t afford to let Illinois shoot the lights out in the first stanza like they did against Indiana. Locking down on defense for 40 minutes like Purdue teams of old will determine how far this team can go.
  4. Michigan State has struggled at times this season, and whether or not they turn things around by March remains to be seen. That doesn’t mean that fans of the green and white should get too upset according to Graham Couch of the Lansing State-Journal. Being upset at this non-top 25 unit shows just how good the program has been under Tom Izzo. There’s been some recruiting misses of the highly-publicized variety (Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, Tyus Jones), and lesser-hyped players that have become really good (Monte Morris, Tyler Ulis). But the fact that this year’s team could still turn things around, combined with a 2015-16 team that has a chance to be really solid should be enough for fans to tolerate the struggles of this team.
  5. College Basketball Talk listed some of the surprises and disappointments so far this season, and B1G teams made the cut on both lists. Maryland made an appearance as one of bigger surprises, with Coach Mark Turgeon being mentioned as a possible National Coach of the Year candidate. As far as disappointments, both Michigan and Nebraska were considered. Both teams won last night, and have a combined 8-5 mark in conference play right now. But they both started the season in the top 25, losing that distinction by playing poorly in the early going. The B1G as a whole has been disappointing, and the dip from both of these squads has played a large role in its demise.
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State of the Conference: Big Ten Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 20th, 2015

Tonight, the leader of the free world will address Congress in his annual State of the Union. The President will describe the condition of the United States and his agenda for the year to the bicameral legislative body and millions of Americans watching at home. This got me thinking. What would the equivalent from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany sound like? Would he be happy with this season’s performance from the Big Ten? Is there any more conference expansion on the horizon? I decided to put on my speechwriter hat and give it a whirl. For the first time ever, a fictional Delany is ready to address millions of Big Ten fans across the country in his inaugural State of the Conference. Enjoy.

What Does Jim Delany's Latest Move Mean For The Big 12? (US Presswire)

Jim Delany has turned the Big Ten into a dominant conference in basketball for the long term. (US Presswire)

The transcript of Jim Delany’s fictional State of the Conference is below:

My fellow Big Ten fans, the state of the Big Ten is good. While good may be satisfactory for some, it falls short of the level of excellence this conference has come to expect. But I remain confident that, come Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten will surprise many, and I would remind everyone that we have a team in Wisconsin that is still considered a top tier team capable of bringing home the Big Ten’s first national championship since 2000. Likewise, we also have a player who is on the short list for National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky. On the matter of Wisconsin, there’s been much talk about inequality in our conference. That there is one team above all, and the rest of the league is mediocre. But a little over a week ago, I saw this same squad lose to a team most expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten. Rutgers’ defeat of Wisconsin shows us that no game is a gimme. And as a result, we are getting high drama each and every week, which is generating some of the most exciting basketball in the country.

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Big Ten M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 31st, 2014

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  1. Purdue faces an important test in trying to right its crumbling season when the Boilermakers take on Minnesota today in West Lafayette. One of the major aspects of the game that the Boilermakers have to watch for is the Gophers’ keen ability to turn teams over. They lead the Big Ten in turnover margin, meaning that despite the fact that they play at a much faster tempo, they aren’t making too many miscues on the offensive end. Purdue would be wise to feed Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons repeatedly in order to slow things down, making this one a contest that’s instead decided in the half-court.
  2. Another one of the three games on the Big Ten slate today will also feature an extreme contrast in styles. Nebraska wants to play at a slow pace and take advantage of its ability to defend. Meanwhile, Indiana is averaging 86.4 points per game and would love nothing more than to turn things into a track meet. Despite the fact that Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham still aren’t ready to return from their injuries, Indiana doesn’t have anyone who can really punish the Cornhuskers on the interior. Whoever can control the tempo in this one will more than likely have a great chance at starting out 1-0 in conference play today.
  3. Rutgers senior forward Kadeem Jack was benched on Tuesday as the Scarlet Knights lost their Big Ten opener to Northwestern, 51-47. Jack missed a team breakfast, which caused head coach Eddie Jordan to give his starting spot to freshman DJ Foreman. After an 0-of-8 effort from the field, Jack stated that, “I think I was a big distraction,” in seemingly agreeing with Jordan’s decision to bench him. The coach has largely been positive with the media despite the uneven play of his team, but he seems to be losing patience with how things are going, especially on the offensive end. This was a must-win game for his team, and as the schedule progresses, it remains an open question how many Big Ten wins this team can muster in its first season in the league.
  4. Northwestern was dealing with some issues too coming into the game against Rutgers, but it was able to prevail despite several players dealing with the flu. Freshman stater Victor Law Jr. was one of those affected players, but Jershon Cobb returned to action and contributed six points and seven rebounds in the victory. This was a good start for the Wildcats, but they won’t have much time to celebrate a 1-0 start, as their next opponent is versus Wisconsin on Sunday in Evanston.
  5. Whether people really noticed or not in Ann Arbor after some guy named Jim Harbaugh stole all of the headlines, Michigan’s basketball team got off to a solid Big Ten start by knocking off Illinois on Tuesday. The unlikely hero in the contest was freshman Aubrey Dawkins, who canned six out of seven three-pointers on his way to 20 points. Coincidentally, Harbaugh and Dawkins are both alumni of Palo Alto High School in California. The son of Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins had by far his best game of the season, and Michigan way have just found their next formerly unheralded star to turn things around.
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Big Ten M5: 12.10.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 10th, 2014

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  1. Michigan did it again Tuesday night, as the Wolverines once again fell victim to an unheralded foe at home. Eastern Michigan knocked off John Beilein’s team, 45-42, and offensive woes were the culprit in this one after issues on the defensive end caused the loss to NJIT on Saturday. Michigan shot 4-of-21 from the three-point line against EMU’s zone, and put up a pedestrian 0.70 points per possession as a result. They also turned the ball over 13 times, and now, after notching good wins against Oregon and Syracuse, Michigans has two pretty bad losses on its resume that could burn it come NCAA Tournament time.
  2. Speaking of tournaments, it was announced earlier this week that the Big Ten will hold its conference tournament in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 2018. After firmly planting its flag on the East Coast with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers this season, the league’s new foothold along the coast got much stronger with plans to hold its postseason showcase at the Mecca of college basketball. One interesting note about how things will play out is that the tourney will be held a week early to accommodate a pre-existing agreement that MSG has with the Big East. That means conference play will need to start a week earlier during the 2017-18 season in order to have the postseason tournament a week before the rest of the other power conferences.
  3. Want to find a holiday gift for the Michigan hater in your life? Look no further than the NJIT bookstore. Management of the retail outlet says that the bookstore has been “flooded” with calls from fans of Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana looking for some NJIT gear to poke fun at the Michigan fans in their lives. “Typically on a Monday morning we’ll come in and have four or five orders, if that many, and this Monday we had 90,” said manager Pete Maranzano. No word yet on what will happen at the Eastern Michigan bookstore on Wednesday morning.
  4. Purdue made a lineup change on Monday night by putting freshmen Isaac Haas and PJ Thompson in the starting five in place of AJ Hammons and Kendall Stephens. The move seemed to work well, as both Hammons and Stephens had productive games with the change. Hammons put up a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Stephens also produced 13 points from the bench. It remains to be seen whether head coach Matt Painter will stick with that lineup, but given Purdue’s depth, tweaking the lineup to get more out of his players remains an option should he choose to tinker for right combinations.
  5. Minnesota is down to just nine scholarship players after freshman forward Josh Martin decided to leave the program, as the athletic freshman struggled to earn minutes behind Joey King and Charles Buggs at the power forward spot. Martin was only averaging 5.4 MPG through seven games, contributing 1.3 PPG and 1.0 RPG in his little time on the floor. As Minnesota presses more than it did last season, the loss of Martin could harm its depth should King and Buggs get into foul trouble. The team has to hope that freshman Gaston Diedhiou is cleared to return in January after experiencing some problems gaining admission to the school.
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Analyzing Purdue’s Performance in Maui

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 27th, 2014

After three convincing wins against three low-major teams and the impressive debut of freshman Vince Edwards, Purdue entered the Maui Invitational ready to test themselves against their major-conference peers and see if they’re as significantly improved from last season as they have appeared thus far. So what did they find out? They’re definitely better than last year but their season-long trajectory is still yet to be determined. Purdue finished Maui in fifth place with a 2-1 showing. The Boilermakers have proven they can beat teams likely not making the NCAA Tournament (Missouri) or likely to be on the bubble (BYU); but they missed their opportunity to get a resume win or two when they dropped their tournament-opener to Kansas State. But most importantly, they learned they’re a talented group that will need more consistency from their starters and less costly turnovers in order to really make some waves in conference play.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 and 5th place finish in Maui.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 record and 5th place finish in Maui.

Against Kansas State, the Boilermakers effectively lost the game in the first half when they committed 11 turnovers that led to 17 Wildcats points, and subsequently a 15-point halftime deficit. In their second game against Mizzou, Purdue remedied their first half woes by coming out strong and playing physical defense right from tipoff, which led to the Tigers being unable to make a field goal until six minutes into the game. In the final game against BYU, the Boilermakers found themselves in a back-and-forth nail biter that went into overtime, which could have been lost due to a Rapheal Davis turnover, but instead was won on A.J. Hammons hook shot. The last few sequences of the BYU game seems representative of Purdue’s Maui performance: moments of intense frustration from turnovers, that is overcome by the innate talent within this group.

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Big Ten M5: 11.26.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2014

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  1. Frank Kaminsky has emerged as the early clubhouse leader in CollegeBasketballTalk’s player of the year rankings. The Wisconsin senior has showed off a much more complete game this season, as he is leading the Badgers in field goal percentage, points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He’s also at or near the top of all of of these categories in the Big Ten so far as well. We’ll find out more about whether these numbers are sustainable starting today when the Badgers start to play some better competition in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament this week.
  2. Michigan State has looked impressive since their loss to Duke in the Champions Classic, and a big part of that has been their ball movement on offense. On Monday night in their win against Santa Clara, the team notched 22 assists on 29 field goals The ring leader passing the ball was Travis Trice, who had a team-high eight to bring his average to an even 7.0 per game on the season. After setting a program record with 637 helpers last season, they once again have an unselfish team this year with great passers like Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Lourawls Nairn Jr. Without boatloads of NBA-caliber talent at their disposal. having players with high basketball IQ’s on offense will help this team overachieve.
  3. After starting the season averaging 100.3 points per game in their 3-0 start, Illinois struggled on that end of the floor- at least in the first half- in their win Monday night over Brown. The Illini were actually down 35-31 at the halftime break, but went on to shoot a scorching 73.1 percent from the field in scoring 58 points in the second half. Aaron Cosby lead the way with 18 points, and actually pulled off a rare feat by netting seven points in two possessions. Cosby is the team’s leader in threes thus far, as he and fellow transfer Ahmad Starks have been the catalysts for a team that plays much differently on the offensive end as they did last year.
  4. Purdue is off to a 4-1 start, and one of early takeaways from their early play has been just how much of a physical presence 7’2″ freshman center Isaac Haas has been. Haas had a huge impact against Kansas State in a losing effort, scoring 19 points and drawing countless fouls on the Kansas State big men. His sheer size made defending him without fouling almost impossible. Haas followed up Monday’s effort with six points and eight rebounds Tuesday as Purdue soundly defeated Missouri.
  5. Rutgers lost to an 0-4 St. Peter’s team by 18 at home Tuesday night. For those B1G fans who are not that familiar with the program other than last year’s 12-21 record and that they were picked unanimously to finish last in the conference in the preseason, this won’t register much on the shock and awe scale. For some that are more invested in the program, it is another crushing new low point. SBNation’s Dave White has had enough, saying nights like these continue to happen because of continuous failings of the administration in their commitment, or lack there of, to the basketball program. If this team loses to a team without their best player in their own building that hadn’t won a game yet, things could very get pretty dicey once Big Ten play starts.
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Purdue’s Hot Start Brings Hope to Program

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2014

From a distance, this weekend seemed like a relatively unremarkable start for the Big Ten. The teams that were expected to win won, and those that were expected to lose lost. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that one team, with the help of an especially impressive freshman, turned some heads with its dominant weekend play. Purdue looked nothing like the team picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten, as predicted in the Preseason Media Poll, easily disposing of both of its opponents by a combined 60 points. Outstanding performances from certain players, especially freshman guard Vince Edwards, fueled Purdue’s offense to an average of 78.5 points in the two games, giving Boilermakers fans and some prognosticators reevaluating the trajectory of their season.

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Edwards, a little-known freshman, was awarded this season’s inaugural Big Ten Freshman of the Week – ahead of a number of other high-profile freshmen like Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell – after averaging 19.5 points (including a 26-point outing against IUPUI), 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in his first two games. The freshman was so unheralded as a recruit that he failed to make both Scout’s and Rivals’s Top 100 rankings. The Middletown, Ohio, native has been a stat stuffer so far, but he hasn’t been the only major contributor. Sophomore Kendall Stephens has been deadly from the outside, evidenced by his 9-of-13 shooting from deep and 17.0 PPG average. A.J. Hammons already has eight blocks, if little else, and sophomore Raphael Davis and freshman Isaac Haas brought excellent performances to the season opener – Davis chipped in 13 points, while Haas contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. The Boilermakers’ hot start has been an impressive team effort thus far, which is in stark contrast to the underachieving unit we saw come out of the gates last year.

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AJ Hammons: RTC Big Ten’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 12th, 2014

AJ Hammons wasn’t supposed to still be playing basketball in West Lafayette this season — the junior was supposed to have taken his considerable size and skills to the NBA two seasons ago. And although he’s flashed snippets of what had NBA scouts drooling, uneven play and a questionable motor have been the more lasting images of his first two seasons at Purdue. Now with a deeper team surrounding him in what some are calling a make-or-break season for head coach Matt Painter, Hammons needs to produce at consistently high level. Still, even with the up-and-down nature to his play, Hammons managed to lead the Big Ten in blocks last season. We expect his development to result in greater maturity and drive this year, making him our Big Ten microsite Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

AJ Hammons will once again hold the Boilermakers NCAA Tournament hopes in his hands this season. (Purdue Exponent)

AJ Hammons will once again hold the Boilermakers’ NCAA Tournament hopes in his hands. (Purdue Exponent)

Hammons has averaged 2.5 blocks per game in his two seasons in West Lafayette, including a whopping 3.1 rejections per contest despite only playing 25 MPG last season. Among power conference players, only St. John’s Chris Obekpa and UConn’s Amida Brimah logged a better block rate than Hammons’ 13.31 percent. He also finished fifth in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding rate, doing so at a 22.7 percent clip. He was able to manage these numbers without a capable backup, meaning that in many situations he had to worry about foul trouble inhibiting his aggressiveness. With another year of maturity and a security blanket behind him in the name of 7’2″ freshman reserve Isaac Haas, Hammons can finally play aggressively when he’s on the court. This will enable the burly center to contest even more shots at the rim and to hit the glass even harder. Even with his shot-blocking prowess inside, Purdue ranked 101st in defensive two-point field goal percentage at 46.6 percent a season ago. Look for this number to decrease quite a bit this year. Barring injury, Hammons should become the 17th member of the 200-block club within the non-conference part of the schedule, and he only needs 67 blocks to crack the Big Ten’s all-time top 1o.

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Big Ten M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 20th, 2014

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  1. Maryland received some bad news over the weekend when it found out that starting forward Evan Smotrycz will be out of action from four to six weeks with a broken foot. Smotrycz averaged 11.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season after transferring from Michigan. He was expected to be a starter for Mark Turgeon’s team again this season, but now he will probably miss key non-conference games against Arizona State and Virginia if he misses the full six weeks. This puts Jon Graham and possibly freshman Michal Cekovsky in line to pick up some of his minutes, at least in the short term.
  2. Not many Big Ten teams had flashy Midnight Madness spectacles like the Kentuckys and UConns of the world, but a couple of schools held public intra-squad scrimmages over the weekend. Purdue was one such team that did so, and the Boilermakers put forth an intriguing lineup with giants AJ Hammons and freshman Isaac Haas on the floor together at the same time. While this unit would definitely lack in quickness if used during the regular season, it could potentially work in small stretches of game action. The major takeaway from this occurrence, however, is that should Hammons get into foul trouble during the season — a fair assumption, given that he had 12 games of four fouls or more last year — it looks as though Matt Painter won’t hesitate to spell him with the 7’2″ Haas.
  3. Nebraska is in the midst of a highly successful football season right now, as the Huskers currently sit at 6-1 with running back Ameer Abdullah sneaking up the list of Heisman favorites. Despite all of that, Cornhuskers basketball is generating a good deal of its own hype heading into the season. Preseason first team All-Big Ten forward Terran Petteway was quoted at media day as saying “now everybody is going to be coming for us.” The Huskers surpassed expectations and then some last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens when they go from being the hunter to the hunted in 2014-15.
  4. Branden Dawson has to have a great senior season if Michigan State hopes to exceed expectations after losing three talented starters, and playing summer ball against former All-American Draymond Green has helped prepare him to take on a greater burden during this year’s campaign. Head coach Tom Izzo stated that if Dawson can bring consistent energy to the lineup, then he’ll have a big year as a leader. One would think that an all-conference season from Dawson will answer many of the questions people have about Michigan State in a transition year.
  5. Another B1G senior who is under the microscope this season is Ohio State swingman Sam Thompson. Thompson has primarily been known for his highlight reel dunks and incredible athleticism during his previous three seasons in Columbus, but the Buckeyes need offense with their top three scorers no longer on the roster. Thompson’s shooting percentages dropped across the board from his sophomore to his junior season, and as a senior he needs to provide more than just athleticism on a team that ranked 128th in offensive efficiency last year. Fellow seniors Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald all will have different roles on the team from last season, and whether Thompson in particular can blossom into a more complete player may determine if the Buckeyes are capable of making another deep NCAA Tournament run for Thad Matta.
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ACC M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 15th, 2013

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Before we get to the news, someone may want to help find Steve Donahue find Boston College’s wheels.

  1. Virginian Pilot: Bob Molinaro focuses on Virginia Tech‘s football program when talking about the challenges that will face the new Hokies athletic director, but the basketball program may prove just as challenging. James Johnson may very well be the man for the job in Blacksburg, but Virginia Tech has to invest more in its basketball program to overcome its geographical challenges. I liked the James Johnson hire then (though the timing was atrocious), and like it now. But it was a risk and new athletic directors aren’t always the most patient of bosses.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Good reporting from Donna Ditota on player views about getting paid. While most acknowledged that getting paid would be “complicated,” all but Baye Keita (and Joe Harris) thought players should be paid. Harris is particularly interesting, as he would likely benefit from a rule allowing him to make money off of his likeness. Here’s the thing: No one in their right mind should argue against full cost of attendance scholarships. And I have a lot of trouble arguing against athletes being allowed to make money on the side. Yes, it has to be regulated, but having a complex problem to solve doesn’t mean you should just ignore it.
  3. Grantland: I’ll sum up Mark Titus’s ACC preview. He likes Duke; he likes CJ Fair, Jabari Parker and TJ Warren (though I think he underestimates the number of people who know about Warren); and he loves Wake Forest‘s fan meltdown. Titus doesn’t love Virginia, which is surprising, although he may be right after the Cavaliers choked their game against VCU away. But all of Fair’s love and questions about Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis have obscured another big part of Syracuse’s future success: Jerami Grant. Grant’s brother has gotten plenty of love at Notre Dame, but this Grant will be much more important to Syracuse this season than in the past.
  4. Greensboro News & Record: Want to see a newspaper for a decent-sized city use an outdated Excel graph format that looks like it belongs in a paper from 2005? Today’s your lucky day! But Mark Thompson’s article is actually pretty interesting. Thompson looked at ACC fouls last season compared to this season and found that league fouls are up 3.8 fouls per game so far. It would be interesting to see the numbers for every team, although the sample size (and schedule variance) would be an issue. Also interesting is that other conferences have seen a more substantial increase in whistles. All I know is that there was a hideous stretch in the second half of Duke vs. Kansas where neither team could play 12 seconds without picking up a dumb foul. Let’s hope that stops.
  5. Blogger So Dear: In a bizarre last-minute signing day drama, Isaac Haas didn’t sign a letter of intent as expected to play at Wake Forest. All experts now point toward the 7’2″ center signing with UAB. What’s odd is that Haas’ uncle sent an inspirational tweet, prompting fans to wonder whether his scholarship offer was rescinded (according to Dan Collins at the Winston-Salem Journal, it wasn’t). Can’t blame a teenager for changing his mind, but it feels like we’re missing some facts from this story.
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