Big East M5: 02.05.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 5th, 2013


  1. Last night’s game between Syracuse and Notre Dame featured two top-25 teams jostling for position in the conference standings, but it also was the first and maybe the only time the Grant brothers–Jerian and Jerami–will get to play against each other in college. This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season and with Syracuse set to leave for the ACC posthaste,  who knows when the next time these two teams will play unless they meet in the Big East Tournament. The brothers are apparently quite close and Jerami even credits his older brother with making sure he didn’t give up when he wasn’t getting playing time early in the season. Jerami and his Orange repaid the older brother by throttling his Fighting Irish. Jerian may have scored more (15 to 14) but Jerami added six rebounds and two assists as Syracuse cruised to a 63-47 win.
  2. Pittsburgh finally got itself a marquee win over the weekend against Syracuse and then avoided the obvious letdown by beating Seton Hall last night for its sixth win in seven games. The Panthers tried their best to let Seton Hall beat them, shooting a season-low 34 percent from the field, but Pirates’ star Fuquan Edwin got hurt in a one-point game and Pitt managed to pull away thanks to its depth and its defense. Seton Hall is headed for a finish near the bottom of the conference, but the win was still huge since the Panthers will play three ranked teams over the course of the next nine days.
  3. The end of the James Southerland saga is now in sight according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports who cited a source to say Southerland’s eligibility appeal will be held Friday. Counting the game last night against Notre Dame, Southerland has missed six games and the team has gone 4-2 in his absence but surely Syracuse fans are excited to get one of their most dynamic offensive players back on the floor. Grant and Trevor Cooney were able-bodied replacements but they lack the scoring punch and athleticism of Southerland. The appeal is being heard by the university and assuming it is granted, the Orange could have Southerland back in uniform as soon as Sunday’s game against St. John’s. But few people know the severity of Southerland’s academic transgressions and even fewer will know the nature of the appeal, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
  4. It has been a good past few weeks for Cincinnati and coach Mick Cronin. The Bearcats have won five of their last six and currently sit just a half-game behind Syracuse in the conference standings. They also recently secured one of the more high-profile recruits of the Cronin era when the Bearcats landed New Jersey native and five-star forward Jermaine Lawrence on Sunday. Lawrence is an athletic power forward with plenty of face-up skills and decent range. He will need to add some meat to his bones but he has the frame to add serious muscle and could make an immediate impact in terms of floor-spacing and natural ability. Perhaps more importantly is that it signifies that Cronin can recruit with the big boys and once he is able to do that with consistency, the Bearcats will be a perennial contender no matter what happens to the Big East.
  5. Steve Lavin has St. John‘s playing tough basketball, which is why freshman point guard Jamal Branch‘s knee injury and presumed sprained MCL is especially inopportune. Branch has been up and down since becoming eligible,  but recently he has been a spark plug for the Johnnies and the team is 5-1 since being inserted into the starting lineup. The Red Storm don’t really have a true backup for Branch and will likely use a combination of Marc Bourgalt and Phil Greene IV at the point in Branch’s absence. Hopefully Branch isn’t out long because while Lavin’s club doesn’t quite have the look of a tournament team, they are headed in that direction in a hurry.
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Big East M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 14th, 2013


  1. The big off-the-court news in the Big East this weekend was the mysterious suspension of Syracuse forward James Southerland for an eligibility-related issue. The Orange were still able to handle Villanova without their second-leading scorer, but if Southerland is going to miss an extended period of time, Syracuse will be in trouble. Southerland is one of the team’s best outside shooters and scorers and replacing his production and athleticism will be nearly impossible, That is why it will be important for freshmen Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney to step up and replace some of that production. As longtime Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Bud Poliquin noted, this marks yet another season marred with off-the-court controversy for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim and the fact that the program has announced what the eligibility issue is that Southerland is being suspended for is rather ominous. This is obviously a story that is still developing and we will have more on where Syracuse goes from here later this week.
  2. After an impressive start in non-conference play, things have gotten markedly worse for Pittsburgh. The losses are one thing but now the Panthers will be without the services of its playmaker and point guard Tray Woodall as the senior suffered a concussion thanks to a head-on collision in the team’s loss to Marquette. The good news is that freshman James Robinson is mature beyond his years and an excellent point guard already. The bad news is that now Robinson will be playing a lot more and could burn out down the stretch, and Woodall is one of the best playmakers and passers in the conference. Coach Jamie Dixon played Lamar Patterson and Trey Ziegler a bit at point guard and both are relatively versatile, so it will be interesting to see if they can adapt. How much playing time Woodall will miss is anyone’s guess at this point, but its likely he will miss a good chunk of the conference schedule, not good news for a Panthers’ team struggling to find its way.
  3. There is no question that one of the main reasons Connecticut is overachieving is because of the newfound consistency of junior point guard Shabazz Napier. The Massachusetts native was terrific in the team’s huge road upset win over Notre Dame this weekend and he has been the heart and soul of the team this year. Napier is leading the team in scoring, shooting as well as he ever has from beyond the three-point arc, and cut down on his turnovers all while leading a young and undersized team with no hope for postseason play this season. Those are all compelling reasons why some folks are outraged that Napier didn’t make the final cut for the Bob Cousy Award. The junior has better statistical numbers than most of the field and has dramatically cut down on the maddening inconsistencies and questionable shot-selection that plagued him last season so it is a little strange that the committee didn’t give Napier the nod. It doesn’t matter much to Napier but it would be nice for the Huskies to have something to look forward to.
  4. The Big East will likely boast the No. 1 team in the country when the new rankings come out as a few top-ranked teams went down over the weekend and Louisville will likely stand alone at the top when all the dust is settled. More importantly, coach Rick Pitino is in rare form already, calling his team a bunch of Michael Jacksons when they don’t talk on defense and finding new and creative ways to motivate his team, which he has done effectively. The top billing is not always a welcome place to be but if any team has the mentality to hold onto it, its Louisville. The Cardinals are deep and their defense is downright scary good. As long as they are giving full effort, there is no one better, in the conference at least.
  5. The start to conference play has been rocky for Cincinnati as well. Coach Mick Cronin felt his team needed to toughen up and they responded by playing the best defense of the season in a 10-point win over Rutgers. The Bearcats do not have a lot of interior scoring options and often struggle offensively, so playing suffocating defense like they did Saturday will be crucial if they want to have success in the Big East. Of course beating the Scarlet Knights by 10 isn’t going to impress anybody for long, it is a step in the right direction for Cincinnati and if they can carry that over into the rest of the season, there is still a chance they can finish atop the conference.
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Back To Earth: Temple Loss Exposes Some Issues For Syracuse

Posted by mlemaire on December 23rd, 2012

Maybe we should have seen this coming just five days after Syracuse blew a 20-point second-half lead against Detroit and only won by four points, but everyone was too enamored with the story of the 900th win for Jim Boeheim and the meteoric rise to stardom of sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams to realize that the Orange were not without their warts. On Saturday afternoon, playing its first worthwhile opponent since its season opening win against San Diego State, some of those warts were exposed as Temple rebounded from an ugly loss to Canisius to upset the No. 3 Orange, 83-79. To be fair to Syracuse, Temple is a veteran and talented basketball team that will absolutely be playing in March if they can survive a brutal conference slate in the Atlantic 10, and senior guard Khalif Wyatt was abnormally brilliant in a winning effort. But the Orange had plenty of chances to take control of this game and just seemingly got outhustled and outplayed at every turn by the gang from Philadelphia.

Syracuse Struggled With the Temple Defense

Syracuse Struggled With the Changing Temple Defense

The Orange came into the game with the second-most efficient defense in the country thanks to imposing length and athleticism at every position, but you would not have known it by watching the Owls get to the free throw line at will and hoist uncontested three-pointers for most of the game. For whatever reason, their lock-down zone defense took the afternoon off. Give the Owls credit for consistently finding the high-post pass to set up a number of options and executing an excellent zone offense. But while Syracuse still created a number of turnovers, they also committed a lot of fouls, were often out of position trying to help defend dribble penetration, and were very nearly outrebounded by a much smaller and less physical team. Most of these issues are easily correctable and some could be attributed to a lack of effort or focus rather than inability, but the Orange have enjoyed a very easy non-conference slate, and if they cannot achieve some consistency on the defensive end, conference opponents will be able to take advantage of those lapses much easier than Eastern Michigan or Monmouth could.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #2 Syracuse

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 11th, 2012

In our St. John’s preview, we stated that the Johnnies went through about as much adversity as one team could in a single season. If that’s the case, Syracuse was a close second. The Bernie Fine scandal would have been enough to derail most teams, but it seemed to put a chip on the shoulder of the Orange, who spent a portion of the year ranked first in the nation after Kentucky lost at Indiana. The Fab Melo saga was harder to overcome, and came to a head in Syracuse’s Elite Eight loss to Ohio State. Syracuse lost four of its main rotation players from last season – guards Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, forward Kris Joseph, and center Fab Melo – but look to plug in a couple of impressive underclassmen and make another run at a final Big East championship and perhaps a Final Four.

Jim Boeheim has been knocking on the door of his fourth Final Four over the last few years.  Will this young Syracuse squad be the one to break through? (AP)


Syracuse doesn’t have too many marquee games on the non-conference slate. Their most intriguing match-up is their first game against San Diego State, which will be played on the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego on Sunday afternoon. SU also travels to Arkansas for the SEC-Big East challenge, and will take on one of the teams filling the void they are leaving in the Big East – Temple – at Madison Square Garden. In the Big East schedule, Syracuse shares home-and-homes with Villanova, Providence, Louisville, and Georgetown. The Hoyas host the Orange in their last ever Big East game, which should be one for the ages.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 2nd, 2012

  1. This evening figures to be an unusual one emotionally for injured senior star Tim Abromaitis once senior night festivities commence prior to Notre Dame’s contest with Providence.  Abromaitis has been forced to watch for the majority of this season due to an ACL tear he suffered in November, and is trying to make peace with the fact that his career at Notre Dame may very well be over. The thing that will keep Abromaitis in a state of emotional flux is the battle between the finality of senior night and the faint glimmer of hope that he may be granted a rare sixth year of eligibility and play for the Irish again next year.  As for tonight, Abromaitis will suit up for show but will not play in any fashion, including warm-ups. To Abromaitis’ credit he is keeping things in perspective and holds no delusions of grandeur when it comes to playing again.  “I’ve kind of looked at it both ways – there’s a chance I’m coming back, so do what I need to do to keep that door open,” Abromaitis told the Chicago Tribune. “But at the same time, I am pretty rational about knowing that it very well could be the last time out there and could be a little emotional for me. I’m just trying to take it in stride and be glad for the opportunities I have had.”
  2. Villanova has not enjoyed tremendous success on the court this season but they could be receiving some good news about their future very soon as top Class of 2013 recruit Allerik Freeman narrowed his choices to Villanova and Kansas according to his Olympic (NC) High School coach Ty Baumgardner.  Freeman, a 6’4” guard who is ranked 13th nationally by and 24th by had been pursued by the likes of Georgetown, Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and others. Freeman has visited both Villanova and Kansas unofficially, meaning he paid his way, and could decide before taking any official visits.
  3. In keeping with the high school scene, rosters for the All-American Championship were announced yesterday.  The event, which started last year, is an all-star showcase that features four teams who will play a doubleheader on April 1 in New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena.  ESPN3 will carry the games live beginning at 3 PM EST and ESPNU will replay at 9 PM EST. Two highly sought-after Big East 2012 recruits, Nerlens Noel and Chris Obekpa, will be playing in the game.  Noel recently trimmed his list but Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut still appear to be in the running.  Obekpa’s list includes Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, St. John’s, Providence and West Virginia. Highly touted high school juniors and brothers, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, will be there as well.  Both are being recruited by Villanova while Andrew also holds an offer from Georgetown. There are also a number of committed Big East players who will appear: Omar Calhoun (Connecticut), Ricardo Ledo (Providence), Dajuan Coleman (Syracuse), Jerami Grant (Syracuse), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and Cameron Biedscheid (Notre Dame).
  4. Perhaps Connecticut fans will be treated to a Willis Reed-like event, but it is not looking like head coach Jim Calhoun will make his return to the sideline on Saturday as hoped when the Huskies take on Pittsburgh.  Calhoun is reported to be feeling better after surgery on Monday to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a spine-thinning condition called spinal stenosis as well as a “large disk fragment” that was found when doctors went in, but was not able to attend practice on Thursday.  Should Calhoun not be ready for Connecticut’s practice this afternoon it renders his chances of coaching on Saturday to virtually nil.  The Huskies (17-13, 7-10 Big East) somewhat remarkably remain in contention for an at-large NCAA berth despite their well-documented struggles. A loss on Saturday would certainly figure to firmly put them on the outside looking in, even in the minds of the pundits.
  5. The Naismith Men’s Basketball Player of the Year is obviously a huge honor and just to be considered is certainly something to be proud of.  To that end, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced its somewhat oddly named ‘Midseason 30’, which is a a list of the 30 finalists for the award.  Four Big East players made the cut: Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, and two from Syracuse in Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters. The Naismith recipient will be announced and awarded during the Final Four, which we presume implies that the second “half” of the season will be played in the next four weeks.
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Who’s Got Next? Gathers Commits, McDonald’s All-Americans Announced And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 10th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Ricardo Gathers Chooses Baylor — Big Get For Bears

Ricardo Gathers Is A Huge Get For Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew.

Top-50 Power Forward Gives Scott Drew A Top-Five Recruiting Class. Three months after backing off his commitment to St. John’s, Class of 2012 power forward Ricardo Gathers committed to Baylor, joining point guard L.J. Rose and centers Isaiah Austin and Chad Rykhoek. The Louisiana native is a terrific fit for Baylor because he’s a double-double machine who can get it done on both ends of the court. He was second in scoring during the Nike EYBL last summer, averaging over 20 points a game while leading the EYBL in rebounding with about 12 a contest. He also recorded 20.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.9 BPG and 2.3 APG as a junior en route to winning the 2011 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year award. An interesting story that has unfolded recently is that Gathers de-committed from St. John’s in the first place to give LSU a chance to land him. According to the player, Tigers’ head coach Trent Johnson didn’t recruit him very hard which turned him off to the program. With the new addition of Gathers, Baylor has a top-five recruiting class featuring two of the best big men in the country (between Gathers and Austin).

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Gathers on committing to Baylor: “The coaching staff made me feel like I was a main priority, and with the signing class they have coming in, we have a really good chance of being a potential national champion. That was one of the biggest things for me.”

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Big East Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 3rd, 2012

  1. Noel mania has surpassed the 24-hour mark now and it rages on at a fever pitch.  In case you were distracted by your favorite football team’s signing of a future fourth string tight end and missed it… late Wednesday night news broke that star prep center Nerlens Noel will reclassify to 2012 and plans to sign with one of seven finalists — Syracuse, Connecticut, Providence, Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina — in the April signing period. The frenzy seemingly resonated nationwide but perhaps nowhere more than in Providence when a story anonymously quoted a coach in Noel’s prep school league as saying Noel, “is leaning towards picking PC.” The news sent Friar fans into a delirious state of social networking madness (see #Nerlens4PC on Twitter).  In the great timing for Providence coach Ed Cooley department, Noel and his Tilton School teammates will be playing in Providence College’s back yard on Sunday as part of the National Prep School Invitational which is being held at the city’s Rhode Island College.  CLICK HERE to vote in our poll and log your opinion on Noel’s destination!
  2. Surprised about the possibility of Nerlens Noel heading to Providence? Do not be. Noel’s relationship with and courtship by Providence is nothing new.  Being from nearby Everett, Massachusetts, Noel has attended several Friar home games and has reportedly developed a respect for head coach Ed Cooley and the Providence staff. Furthermore, Noel has been very thoughtful and deliberate about his recruitment, and it appears the idea of teaming up with fellow top tier recruits Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn and being part of an upstart program in a community where college basketball is the only game in town appeals to him. Noel participated in an online chat last August where Providence represented a prominent part of the discussion.  In fact, Noel revealed at the time (which was also before Ledo committed to PC) that he and Ledo had spoken about attending Providence together.
  3. Speaking of the National Prep School Invitational, which started yesterday and runs through Sunday, fans do not have to be present at Rhode Island College to get a glimpse of some of the best high school talent in the country, including a couple of Big East signees (Steven Adams, Pittsburgh and Ricardo Ledo, Providence) and a host of Big East recruiting targets. Cox Sports will be streaming a number of the contests live, and via replay, for free.  A full schedule can be viewed at
  4. In keeping with the recruiting theme this morning, the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced yesterday.  Not surprisingly the Big East was well represented with three selections: Jerami Grant, who will attend Syracuse, along with the aforementioned pair of Providence signees, Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn.  The trio will fittingly team up on the East squad.  Also featured on the East’s roster is undecided center Tony Parker who is being pursued by Georgetown and Connecticut, among others. The game will take place on April 14 at 7 PM in Charlotte and will be televised on ESPN.
  5. As conveyed here on Wednesday a report surfaced that Louisville is pursuing an exit from the Big East in favor of a spot in the Big 12 (think Fresca).  Since Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their intentions to jump ship for the ACC, Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has been a vocal supporter of staying the course and preserving the future of the Big East. Fittingly, Pitino downplayed the possibility of a move by his school saying, “I doubt it. I think that there was a chance last year but from what I understand some of the members of the [Big 12] conference don’t want to split the revenue and they want to stick at 11, so at least personally I’m hoping we stay put.” Stay tuned on this.

Rick Pitino is Not Swayed by the Power of Fresca (Photo:

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Four Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 23rd, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you (in this case a belated) four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

1. Fab Melo would have helped Syracuse, but he is not the reason they lost.

Fab Melo's Absence Hurt, But It Wasn't Why Syracuse Lost

The former-five-star recruit turned serviceable offensive center and excellent rim-protector has been one of the key reasons why Syracuse has enjoyed so much success this season. When we learned that Melo would not travel to South Bend for Saturday’s tilt with the Fighting Irish, everyone knew the Orange would not be as effective, but even if he had played, there is little chance ‘Cuse could have pulled out a win in this one. Jim Boeheim‘s club finished with just two blocks and was outrebounded 37-24, which shows that the primary effects of Melo’s absence were felt where we expected them to be felt — around the rim and on the glass. But the reason the Orange lost is because they couldn’t shoot the ball effectively, and they basically let Notre Dame have open shots whenever the Fighting Irish wanted them. Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters went a combined 8-26 from the field, including 3-11 from behind the arc, and Notre Dame shot an efficient 50 percent from the floor and from behind the three-point line. To be blunt, you don’t win games that way.

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Big East Recruiting Round-Up: Volume Two

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 2nd, 2011

Big East Recruiting Round-up is a recurring feature that will focus on, well, recruiting.  Rumors, buzz, rankings…..everything potentially shiny and new. 

Nerlens Noel Poll Results!

Nerlens Noel, Heavily Desired by Providence Fans...

When last we met on the recruiting trail, super class of 2013 center Nerlens Noel was a hot topic of discussion.  He had semi-revealed a short list of five schools, four of which reside in the Big East.  So we did what any red-blooded American college basketball site would do and took it to the voters.  The turnout was great and all of the hanging chads have been counted.  They apparently voted early and often in the Ocean State because, as you can see below, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of Providence.  Perhaps we should rename ‘Friartown’ to ‘Nerlenstown.’  If you’d like to get a late vote in, the polls will remain open so go for it!

Will the Bernie Fine Controversy Hurt Syracuse’s Recruiting Efforts?

Syracuse recruits comment on whether or not Bernie Fine allegations impact their decision. It is important to note that this check-in occurred on November 23 which was before the Laurie Fine telephone call recording broke.  Further, with head coach Jim Boeheim now being called into question it is reasonable to believe some recruits will take a wait-and-see approach.  As noted in our previous round-up, Syracuse has signed two highly-rated recruits out of the class of 2012 in DaJuan Coleman (6’10″ center – Jamesville DeWitt – NY – Ranks: Rivals: 27, ESPN: 14) and Jerami Grant 6’7″ – forward – DeMatha – MD – Ranks: Rivals: 60 , ESPN: 43)

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Who’s Got Next? Britt Chooses Carolina, Jones To Duke And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 30th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Britt Chooses Carolina, Gives Tar Heels Top Two Committed Juniors

Nate Britt Will Be A Force In North Carolina's Backcourt. (ESPNHS)

Roy Williams Out To Early Lead In Class of 2013. With junior point guard Nate Britt‘s selection of North Carolina last night, head coach Roy Williams has now received commitments from the top two signed prospects in the Class of 2013 — the other being power forward Isaiah Hicks. Britt has dreamed of being a Tar Heel since the age of 11 and will form a nightmare backcourt with Class of 2012 point guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina) when the two are put together. North Carolina is in great shape at the point guard position over the next few years thanks to the duo of Paige and Britt and won’t suffer a large drop-off after sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall leaves. Britt is such a valuable prospect because of his outstanding ability to score in the mid-range, knock down perimeter shots, and his consistency in getting into the lane. He’s an intelligent player who can finish well around the bucket with both hands. Britt is also a great passer and does a good job of controlling the pace of the game. A couple of other top juniors North Carolina is going after includes small forward Troy Williams and power forward Julius Randle. The Tar Heels have a good shot with Randle, although they aren’t the favorite — that would be Kentucky.

What They’re Saying

  • Junior Matt Jones on selecting Duke: “It’s the way they play and [head] coach [MikeKrzyzewski, everybody respects him and what they stand for with academics on and off the court. They can get me to the next level as a person and a man and as a player to continue to improve my game.”
  • Junior Julius Randle on  how Matt Jones’ commitment affects him: “I have to do what’s best for me and find the best fit. I know Matt pretty well and I don’t think he’s going to put pressure on me. He’ll tell me that if I don’t go to Duke he’ll love me either way.”
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