The opening weekend is in the books and with the exception of Georgia’s surprising home loss to Chattanooga, the SEC emerged unscathed. Nothing is more fun than analyzing microscopic sample sizes, so this edition of Quotable and Notable is chock full of overreactions. Let’s jump right in.
Horace Spencer preserved Auburn’s win over UAB with a block in the final seconds (al.com).
“And I’m not comparing him to them two, as far as he’s as good as them, he’s different.” – John Calipari on comparing Skal Labissiere to Karl-Anthony Towns. And oh boy, could you ever see against NJIT on Saturday why the Haitian big man has drawn rave reviews on the recruiting circuit. Labissiere went off for 22 second half points and scored from seemingly everywhere on the floor. This came after a lackluster opening night effort against Albany, but the freshman’s offensive versatility and touch suggests that Calipari has a player on this year’s roster unlike any he has coached in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how Calipari uses Labissiere and whether his veteran big men, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, can be utilized to shore up any rebounding or defensive issues. Many people are going to harp tirelessly on whether Labissiere’s defense can catch up to his offense, but for now it might be best to sit back and appreciate what he can do. That said, Labissiere becoming an effective player on both ends of the floor would make Kentucky an even tougher team to beat in March.
It turns out that Ben Howland will not be taking the Oregon State job. Instead, the vacancy remains in Corvallis and according to reports Damon Stoudamire might be the favorite for the job. Howland reportedly told the Oregon State administration that he was no longer interested in the job. While Howland is obviously a bigger name and one with a much better track record as a coach than Stoudamire it is worth noting that he would command a much higher salary than Stoudamire since Howland was making $3.5 million a year when he left UCLA while Stoudamire would reportedly settle for less than $800,000. Regardless of that we don’t think this would be the right job for Howland since he will face an uphill battle creating a winner in Corvallis. We are a little more uncertain with Stoudamire since it would be his first job, but we would think that he is a big enough name that he would want to wait for a better option.
A little over two years after a brawl that threatened the rivalry and catapulted Fake Gimel to national fame, the Cincinnati–Xavier rivalry is heading back on campus. Yesterday, the schools after a two-year trial run having games at a neutral site the games will be coming back on-campus. As we have said in this space many times it made no sense to blame the ridiculous behavior of the two teams that day just on the fact that they were motivated by the fans on-campus. While fan behavior might contribute to on-court aggression it would be an issue at any venue with many fans (the neutral site wasn’t far away from either campus) and to play it front of an empty arena would defeat the entire purpose of the rivalry.
There was quite a bit of significant transfer news over the past few days. The three biggest moves in terms of arrivals were Ryan Anderson, who announced he would be transferring from Boston College to to Arizona, Kareem Canty, who committed to South Florida from Marshall after previous reports indicated that he had committed to Auburn and supposedly was going to visit USF just to see another school, and Seth Allen, who transferred from Maryland to Virginia Tech. Anderson, who has one more year of eligibility left averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season and will sit out this season, opted to head to Arizona over Iowa State and Indiana although he did not visit the latter. Canty, who has three more years of eligibility left averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and will sit out this season, had also been considering Auburn and Penn State. Allen, who has two more years of eligibility remaining averaged 13.4 points per game will also sit out this season, picked Virginia Tech over Virginia and North Carolina State.
There was also another notable departure as well as Terry Henderson joined Eron Harris in transferring from West Virginia. Henderson averaged 11.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while starting 17 games for the Mountaineers last season. Henderson has not indicated where he is planning on visiting, but this is yet another early departure for a Huggins’ signee as he is the 12th of the past 16 Huggins recruits to either transfer or never play a game for Huggins. Huggins’ recent run at West Virginia since his Final Four appearance in 2010 doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence so we wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the proverbial hot seat before too long.
We cannot stress it enough to recruits: do not sign a letter of intent. One prime example of doing it the right way is former Tulsa recruit Mitchell Wilbekin, who committed to play for Danny Manning at Tulsa. When Manning ran off to greener pastures at Wake Forest, Wilbekin backed out of his initial commitment. After looking around a bit (and having another Wake commit–Shelton Mitchell–back out of his commitment), Wilbekin decided to reunite with Manning. While this only serves to underscore the importance a coach has in shaping a recruit’s decision we have to wonder about Wake, which is signing a two-star point guard.
Adam Silver promised to make changes when he replaced David Stern and it appears that the first one will have a bigger impact on college basketball than the NBA. According to reports, Silver wants to raise the age limit to 20. This probably would not go into effect until the 2016 NBA Draft at earliest, but it would have a profound impact on college basketball it was passed. Players would essentially need to go to school for two years. That is unless the players decide to go overseas or play in the NBDL (as some owners suggested). There will obviously be push back from certain groups, but if the NFL can get away with making players wait three years we don’t see why the NBA cannot get away with two years.
One of the running themes of the Morning Five over the past few years has been the frequent use of family hardship waivers. It appears that the NCAA has noticed this too as the Division I Leadership Council recommended that players transferring for this reason be granted an extra year of eligibility, but would make the player sit out a year. While unpopular with some (much like the idea of raising the age limit) this would address two key issues: the abuse of the waiver and still allowing the player to get all of his or her years of eligibility. This won’t affect graduate student transfer waivers, but those are much more difficult to cheat with since the athlete should be leaving with an undergraduate diploma at that point.
Tennessee’s search to replace Cuonzo Martin as its men’s basketball coach appears to be focused on Louisiana Tech coach Michael White. When Martin left Knoxville to become the new head coach at California we figured it would be much tougher for them to land a coach than their fans would expect given the way that Martin had been treated. Although White has never made a NCAA Tournament appearance, he has been successful in his three seasons at Louisiana Tech compiling a 74-31 record including going 56-15 the past two seasons. White also has a reputation for being a top-notch recruiter and with his experience at Ole Miss as a recruiter is well-versed in SEC recruiting.
We have heard of short-lived commitments, but Kareem Canty might be in a class by himself. The Marshall transfer, who committed to Bruce Pearl and Auburn on Saturday night, backed out of that commitment less than 24 hours later and will visit South Florida as well. To be fair to Canty, he has not ruled out Auburn as he says he just wants to compare it to another school. Canty averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and will be among the most highly sought-after recruits on the market. Normally we would not give South Florida much of a chance to land a player like this, but much like Bruce Pearl at Auburn, the presence of Orlando Antigua will make them competitive for recruits they previously would not have been in the running for.
St. John’s had a big addition over the weekend, which would not be particularly newsworthy, except that the addition is current/former player Chris Obekpa. Obekpa, who is one of the premier shotblockers in the country, had announced his intent to transfer before changing his mind. It appears that Steve Lavin has accepted him back with open arms although some of that may have to do with how shorthanded the Red Storm might be next year in the frontcourt with Jakarr Sampson already declaring for the NBA Draft.
A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before Memphis, Houston, UCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see Marshall, UTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.
Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.
Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…