Morning Five: 04.14.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2014

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  1. California will have to move on in their coaching search after Chris Mack decided to stay at Xavier. Mack, who is 111-57 in five seasons at Xavier including four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Sweet Sixteens, cited a desire to continue to coach the players he has worked with as his reason for staying. Xavier will be without Justin Martin, who averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, but decided to transfer after his junior year and will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver. Former Arizona State assistant and NBA coach Eric Musselman was reported to be next in line, but it appears that he is no longer in the running for the coaching vacancy. It is unclear who the administration is targeting now, but the two names who have been mentioned the most are California associate coach Travis DeCuire (Mike Montgomery’s recommendation) and UC Irvine coach Russell Turner.
  2. It appears that Georgia State is becoming a popular destination for discarded guards from the state of Kentucky. A year after Ryan Harrow left Kentucky to be with his father, who suffered a stroke, former Louisville guard Kevin Ware has decided to also transfer to Georgia State. Ware will also seek a hardship waiver and when combined with his medical redshirt from last season could be eligible to play for two more seasons at Georgia State. When combined with a backcourt that already has Harrow and R.J. Hunter, they should be the dominant team in the Sun Belt once again.
  3. It was an interesting weekend for Iowa State on the transfer front. Abdel Nader, a transfer from Northern Illinois transfer who sat out last season after averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds at Northern Illinois, was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for a DUI late on Saturday night. Iowa State got better news on Sunday when Bryce Dejean-Jones announced that he would be transferring to Iowa State. Dejean-Jones, who led UNLV in scoring last season at 13.6 points per game, will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver.
  4. Creighton will be taking a step back next year, but the addition of Maurice Watson Jr. could help ease the transition. Watson, a transfer from Boston University after a sophomore season in which he led them in scoring (13.3), assists (7.1), and steals (2.1 per game), will serve as Grant Gibbs’ replacement assuming Gibbs is unable to figure out to work out a couple more years on the Creighton campus (honestly, he is approaching Tommy Boy status at this point). Shockingly, Watson does not appear to have any transfer waiver ready so he will be able to play during the 2015-16 season.
  5. Ohio State picked up a potentially important transfer in Trevor Thompson. Thompson averaged 5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, but did show flashes of becoming something more including a 15 point, six rebound performance against Duke. Thompson joins Anthony Lee, a Temple transfer among those joining the Buckeyes next season. According to reports, Thompson will also be seeking a transfer waiver due his father’s medical condition (no idea what that condition is). With his height (6’11″) and potential, he could be a valuable addition to Ohio State.
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AAC M5: 04.01.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 1st, 2014

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  1. Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News writes that Russ Smith cemented his legacy as “a competitor and gentleman” with the gracious post-game remarks he delivered after Louisville’s disappointing 74-69 loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. The senior guard’s wide-ranging comments, a transcript of which WDRB (Louisville) columnist Eric Crawford posted on Twitter, expressed gratitude to everyone from his teammates, coaches, managers, trainers, to UK’s program and current team, whom he described as “a great group of guys” and praised individually by name. He also credited Rick Pitino for shaping him into a man and apologized to Louisville fans, saying, “I wish I could have given them the win. I’m so sorry.” DeCourcy declares that Smith “leaves the game better than he found it because of how he performed and how he carried himself.”
  2. With Connecticut playing for its first Final Four of the post-Jim Calhoun era, Tim Layden writes for Sports Illustrated that Kevin Ollie’s Huskies have clawed their way back from the “brink of irrelevance.” After “disappear[ing] into a grave partly of its own making and partly from the odd and capricious forces of modern college athletic,” writes Layden, “the Huskies are back because senior Shabazz Napier is a truly transcendent college guard, a tough and spectral offensive player descended directly from his former teammate, Kemba Walker.” Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel credits Napier’s coach with his team’s display of scrappy physicality and mental stamina against a much bigger Michigan State team on Sunday, describing the Kevin Ollie coaching experience as “an endless, relentless confidence-building exercise via motivational vignettes that couldn’t have found a more perfect home than a program that was under siege.”
  3. A day after Louisville’s NCAA Tournament elimination, it was widely reported that junior guard Kevin Ware would transfer. Ware told ESPN that he’d like to be closer to his family home in Atlanta, and observers have pegged Auburn as a likely destination after the Tigers hired Bruce Pearl, who originally signed Ware at Tennessee. Still, the timing seems bizarre: Ware had tweeted last week that he was “never leaving this place,” and his stepfather told The Courier-Journal that while he had been aware of Kevin’s plan to leave, “We just didn’t know he was going to tell someone today, the day after the team was eliminated.” While Ware was sidelined early in the season with injury, his experience and awareness of Rick Pitino’s defenses figured to give Ware the edge for a job in the Cardinals’ core rotation, if not their starting lineup.
  4. In other AAC transfer news, Temple redshirt junior Anthony Lee has committed to play at Ohio State next season. Lee, a two-year starter for Fran Dunphy who averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season, is set to graduate this spring, and wanted an opportunity to play in front of his relatives in the Midwest before the end of his college career. He will spend his last year of eligibility as a Buckeye while enrolled in a graduate program. As expected, USF freshman Josh Heath has also elected to transfer after his father’s firing earlier in the month.
  5. With or without Lee, Temple is already eager to rebound after failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. “It’s motivation, that you were on the team that kind of let everybody down, didn’t live up to the expectations everybody’s used to seeing,” said junior guard Will Cummings, who described the grueling 9-22 campaign as the season of “almost.” Coach Fran Dunphy agreed with that assessment, adding, “We were almost there. We didn’t have a lot of margin for error. It’s that kind of thing where a season can change on a game, a game can change on a play.” Daily News writer Mike Kern offers the example of Villanova’s swift turnaround as a blueprint for the Owls’ rebuilding effort, pointing out that over a span of three years, Jay Wright’s teams went from a program-record 19 losses to a program-record 28 regular-season wins.
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Morning Five: 03.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2014

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  1. The Final Four field is set and now all we have to do is wait five days for the national semifinals. The first semifinal will feature Florida against Connecticut, which is a rematch of the game in Storrs on December 2 that the Huskies won on a last-second Shabazz Napier jumper. This time Florida will be completely healthy and it will be at a neutral site, but it will be interesting to see if the Gators can beat the last team to beat them this season. The other semifinal features Wisconsin and Kentucky. Despite the fact that Wisconsin is a #2 seed and Kentucky is a #8 seed the Wildcats opened as two-points favorites in this one.
  2. Four teams were sent home earlier than they would have liked over the weekend and three of the fan bases acted in an appropriate manner. Arizona was the exceptions where students rioted leading to stand-offs with police and subsequently arrests. Fortunately no injuries were reported, but it was a bad way for the Wildcats to go out particularly when the coaches and players conducted themselves so well after a frustrating loss. While we understand the idiot of protests and riots in terms of political and civil issues, we don’t understand doing it in front of people (Arizona staff and Tucscon natives) who presumably agree with you.
  3. Now that the season is over for all, but four teams we are starting to transition into the part of the college basketball season where NBA Draft decisions are being made. Two of the biggest ones will come from Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins both of whom are almost certainly expected to turn pro. They are expected to officially announce as early as today. On the other hand, Juwan Staten tweeted out on Saturday night that he would be returning for his senior year at West Virginia. Unlike the other two Staten is most likely a borderline draft pick so it makes sense for him to return. The other two are probably top-five picks so it makes sense for them to go after the guaranteed contract.
  4. Some players are headed to the NBA while others are just leaving school. The biggest news was out of Louisville where news broke that Kevin Ware was transferring. It was just a year ago that Ware became a symbol of the Cardinals on their march to the championship following his compound fracture in the Elite 8. Neither Ware nor his family have given any indication of where he will be transferring, but some sources suggest that he could be headed to Auburn to play for Bruce Pearl since Ware committed to play for Pearl at Tennessee before the barbecue/cookout  fiasco. The other major transfer announcement was Tyler Lewis who will be leaving North Carolina State. Whereas Ware had issues coming back from injury, Lewis had no such issue and was starting making his transfer even more confusing. Like Ware, Lewis has not listed any potential destinations.
  5. Finally, we get to the coaches who are part of the ever-revolving coaching carousel. The biggest news of the weekend was based on the lack of movement as Tommy Amaker turned down Boston College to stay at Harvard and Dave Rice turned down South Florida to stay at UNLV with Rice possibly getting two more years added onto his contract. In terms of potential news, Mike Montgomery is expected to announce later today whether he will remain the coach at California or retire.
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AAC M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 27th, 2014

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  1. Connecticut should feel right at home in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Having played in the Big East for three decades, the Husky program has all kinds of history in the building. Under Jim Calhoun, Connecticut cut down the nets in the Garden a total of seven times after winning the Big East Championship. Calhoun’s squad also won an NIT title in the building in 1988. Perhaps most improbably, MSG was the start of its incredible NCAA Championship run in 2011. Throw in the 2009 six-overtime game, and you get the point. But even more recently than that, UConn secured two victories at the Garden in November versus Boston College and Indiana. With all of this history and recent familiarity, the advantage for UConn will extend well beyond having the most fans in the stands tomorrow night.
  2. While the Huskies may have the fan advantage at the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, attendees will have to pay a pretty penny to see the first NCAA tournament game in the Garden in 53 years. Nosebleed section tickets were going for around $435, while front row seats reached a total of between $3,000-$5,000. One site offered eight club sideline tickets in Section 6 for $12,500. That’s per ticket, not total. The average price for a ticket for tomorrow night’s double-header, according to Tiqiq.com, is $1,753. A ticket to Suite 11 on www.greatseats.com had an asking price of $61,600. “The Final Four is less expensive right now,” Jay Mullarkey, vice president at TicketNetwork, said. “This is really big.”
  3. Last year at this time Louisville’s Kevin Ware was preparing for what turned out to be one of his best games in the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis. We all know the story of the devastating injury that came next for him in the regional final two days later. One year removed from that emotionally draining day, the Cardinals are returning to Indianapolis for the Sweet Sixteen but Ware is nowhere to be found. According to his mother, Ware has trouble watching his teammates play as he sits out the rest of the season with a medical redshirt. But since the coaching staff and Ware himself have made few comments on the matter, it’s led to speculation that there’s more to the story and some fans question whether he, like his best pal Chane Behanan, has worn a Louisville uniform for the last time.
  4. Louisville may be the team better equipped to win a national title, but Tim Sullivan said Kentucky’s size will make a victory on Friday night a tall task for the Cardinals. In the first meeting, Kentucky hauled in eight more rebounds, scored 11 more second chance points, and drew 25 fouls on the Cardinals. And if anything, the Cardinals have gotten smaller since that game with the departure of Chane Behanan occurring after that game. Of the 16 teams remaining, UK ranks first in rebounding percentage and drawing fouls. The Wildcats left an impression on Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “These guys are like a total eclipse when you go in there,” he said. If it’s worth anything, at least Louisville won’t be surprised by anything they see.
  5. The key for a Louisville victory rests with Montrezl Harrell, who would be playing for Virginia Tech (or not playing, as it were) if it weren’t for the firing of former coach Seth Greenburg. His development in the wake of Chane Behanan’s departure has morphed the Cardinals from a nice team with limited potential into the second betting favorite to win the national championship. Harrell (along with many of the Louisville players) struggled in the team’s first two NCAA tournament games, but Louisville fans hope he will reawaken in a big way to hold serve against the massive Kentucky front line.
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AAC M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Cincinnati took care of business last night against Temple in the only conference game played, and everyone who ordered themselves a $70 ticket earned a $10 ticket credit toward a package next year because the Bearcats once again held their opponent under 70 points. The team actually allowed the Owls to shoot better than 40 percent from behind the three-point arc, but they also forced 15 turnovers and Temple made just 9-of-18 free throws to keep Temple away from the magic number. They have now held their opponents under 70 points in 25 straight games, and boast one of the country’s 10 most efficient defenses according to KenPom. Under Mick Cronin, defense has become the program’s identity as it has finished among the top 25 in efficiency in each of the past three seasons. This year’s team has never really had a second scoring option behind Sean Kilpatrick, yet they do have several long and physical athletes who have bought into what their coach is teaching them. It will be interesting to see how this defense-first approach will work in March, but it’s the primary reason why the Bearcats will be playing in March at all.
  2. Devout college basketball fans don’t need to be told that Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin has vastly improved his game from last season, but just in case you weren’t paying attention, Josh Pastner doesn’t mind telling you how much different sophomore Goodwin is from freshman Goodwin. When folks talk about Memphis, they usually start by mentioning the four senior guards, but Goodwin’s emergence as an all-conference caliber player has been just as big a reason for the team’s success. The article astutely recognizes that Goodwin isn’t just a polished offensive player and solid rebounder, but he is also one of the best passing big men in the conference,  instrumental in helping his teammates get open looks and freeing up space for fellow forward Austin Nichols to get easy looks. I hope he stays in college for at least one more season because I don’t think his game translates well to the NBA just yet, and also because he is a lot of fun to watch. The Tigers found out against Cincinnati that shooting a ton of threes is not the best way to win, as Goodwin took just five shots in that game. The unit’s firepower obviously resides in the backcourt, but the offense also needs to go through Goodwin sometimes to keep opposing teams honest.
  3. Since we are on the subject of Josh Pastner talking about things, it’s worth mentioning that in the UConn Blog for the Hartford Courant there was a little note tucked in where Pastner is quoted saying that the AAC is “one of the three best conferences in the country” and should get as many as six bids to the NCAA Tournament. We have no context for the quote but if he was asked a question about where the conference stood, it shouldn’t be surprising that he decided to toe the party line. That said, uhhh Josh, we probably appreciate the conference enthusiasm as much as anyone, but you can’t just say things like that when they clearly aren’t true. The Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and ACC all are clearly better conferences and plenty of people would argue that the Big East and Atlantic-10 are better top-to-bottom as well. As for six bids, Pastner better hope that Houston stays hot because the Cougars are pretty much the only hope the conference has for a sixth bid. Did we mention that this team has lost to San Jose State already and has beaten just one team (UConn at home) of any consequence? At least he didn’t try this nonsense next season.
  4. Admittedly, I have never really considered Rutgers swingman J.J. Moore as a combo forward and have always thought of him as someone who could play guard and forward. It turns out that he can play both positions, as he has been great at guard for the Scarlet Knights ever since Jerome Seagears went down with an ankle injury. The Pittsburgh transfer is third on the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game and adds value defensively with his ability to defend multiple positions. Unfortunately, his talents will be lost in Piscataway because the Scarlet Knights will be very lucky to make any postseason tournament. I am sure he had his reasons for transferring, but the Panthers are among the ACC’s best teams and I bet Jamie Dixon would enjoy having Moore at his disposal for this stretch run.
  5. Kevin Ware‘s feel-good comeback story stalled weeks ago as he struggled with a shin injury and has played sparingly and made very little impact on the team this season. Well now it looks like the story has come to a full stop, as sources are telling the Louisville Courier-Journal that the shin injury may cause Ware to miss the rest of the season. Ware wasn’t on the bench during the team’s recent win over SMU after re-injuring it, and it looks like his season is over. The silver lining is that the sources seemed to refute message board buzz about Ware leaving the program permanently, and it also seems likely that Ware will apply for a medical redshirt which would allow him to retain another year of eligibility.
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AAC M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 10th, 2014

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  1. In a rivalry game that had huge implications for the AAC race, Memphis handed Louisville its first home loss since last January, dominating the last several minutes to win 73-67. According to KenPom’s win probability chart, Louisville had essentially iced the game with less than four minutes left, at which point the likelihood of a Cardinals victory was between 90% and 95%. The tables quickly turned as Memphis then went on a 14-3 run to end the game, with Shaq Goodwin, Geron Johnson, and Joe Jackson all making it to the line repeatedly and hitting almost every free throw. The Tigers looked decisive and dialed in, particularly in their half-court defense, whereas Louisville surrendered easy drives to the basket and failed to run coherent plays on offense down the stretch. “You can’t win when you let the other team shoot 51 percent,” lamented Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “We got confused on defense a couple of times at the end. I don’t know why. We didn’t get confused one time last year. We just aren’t as good on defense as we were last year.” Louisville’s loss gave Cincinnati sole possession of first place in the conference and deprived the Cardinals of what would have been their first top-25 win this season.
  2. Rick Pitino revealed prior to last night’s game that junior guard Kevin Ware would miss the remainder of the season as he recovers from a leg injury suffered in a recent practice. Watching Ware play early in the season, it was clear he wasn’t back to full speed, and with the weapons in Louisville’s backcourt there was little he could really contribute this season beyond narrative fulfillment. He’ll have an opportunity to make much more of an impact next season after Russ Smith and Luke Hancock graduate, so redshirting Ware and ensuring his leg heals properly is a no-brainer. Nonetheless, losing Ware and dismissed forward Chane Behanan – two significant cogs in last year’s championship season – seems likely to affect the team psychologically to some extrent.
  3. In case you’re not terribly familiar with the Louisville-Memphis rivalry, look no further than the scene after the buzzer in the Yum! Center last night for sociological context. Dan Lyons of RTC and College Spun compiled a quick rundown of the spectacle that unfolded on the floor and in the tunnel, which apparently culminated with Memphis coach Josh Pastner exchanging insults and invitations to fight with Louisville fans and at least one player’s father. A Memphis reserve had reportedly stoked the flames by brandishing a pair of middle fingers on his way off the court, and it seems Pastner ended up defending his team against one or more fans who had called his players “thugs.” (And if that’s the case, big ups to coach Pastner: let’s go ahead and retire that word from sports, forever.) The debacle reflected the long and vitriolic shared history of the two teams, and some fans of the rivalry — myself included — wouldn’t have it any other way.
  4. In a battle of the hitherto winless, USF went to Philadelphia last night and claimed their first AAC victory, knocking off the favored Temple Owls 82-75. In doing so, the Bulls handed Temple an 0-3 league record and the program’s worst start since the 2003-04 season. If you haven’t been reading Voodoo Five’s “American Inventions” series, you missed the elaborate historical metaphor that prophesized the Bulls’ come-from-behind road win: “[T]he Liberty Bell serves as inspiration for the downtrodden and 0-2 folks everywhere. If Philadelphia can morph a useless hunk of metal into a usable bell that became a symbol of American freedom, why can’t the Bulls snap the losing streak tonight in the City of Brotherly Love and inject some life into the Bulls’ still-young season?” The jury is still out on whether the Bulls will generate any real momentum from knocking off a paper-thin Temple team, but we’ll find out soon enough. USF plays their next six games against Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, and SMU.
  5. Cincinnati freshman Jermaine Lawrence is out indefinitely with a sprained toe, according to coach Mick Cronin. The 6’9”, 205-pound Lawrence, a four-/five-star prospect and the crown jewel of Cronin’s 2013 recruiting class, has averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in about 17 minutes per game this season. He sat out Tuesday’s close win over Houston, and there is apparently no timetable in place for his return. Looking at the Bearcats’ upcoming schedule, which is about to enter a butter-soft stretch until a visit to Louisville on January 30, it’s unlikely that Lawrence’s absence will be a difference maker. But Cronin could certainly use the athleticism and extra fouls Lawrence provides in the second half of the AAC schedule, especially considering starting forwards Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson are committing 5.0 and 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively.
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AAC M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on December 31st, 2013

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  1. The Chane Behanan saga is finally over at Louisville. Behanan was dismissed from the team yesterday for a violation of university policy. It follows an early season suspension for a similar violation, but the difference is that no return to the team is available this time. Behanan averaged seven points and six rebounds per game off the bench after starting 37 games each of the past two seasons. The Cardinals’ hopes of defending their national title certainly aren’t dashed by the news, but they’re severely damaged. There was already a serious question of whether Louisville had enough size and talent in the frontcourt to make a Final Four run, and that was before this news. As much as it hurts this year’s squad, it could be devastating for the 2014-15 Cardinals. Montrezl Harrell will most likely turn pro following this season and Stephan Van Treese will graduate, leaving a very thin frontcourt for the school’s inaugural season in the ACC. Next year’s team would have been Behanan’s team, but he squandered that opportunity. Pitino said that he can either transfer to another school or prepare for the NBA Draft.
  2. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie shifted Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan out of the starting line up, and so far, the move has paid off as both have brought great energy off of the bench. Calhoun had two of the biggest buckets of the game in Saturday’s win against Eastern Washington, knocking down a couple of threes to help the Huskies’ lead blossom to 16. Ollie said it was a gut feeling to make the switch based on who has played better together in practice. The two were replaced in the starting line up by Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah. The Huskies open AAC play at Houston later today.
  3. As mentioned above, Niels Giffey continued his strong play by starting the game against Eastern Washington on the floor instead of the bench. Giffey said his mindset did not change because of the switch, just that he’s trying to take the right shots and play consistent, aggressive basketball. Kevin Ollie added that Giffey does everything that’s been asked of him. So far this season the senior is 21-of-32 from three-point land (65 percent) and took and made his only trey over the weekend. Whether he continues to start or returns to the role of spark off the bench, Giffey will be an integral part of the Connecticut rotation throughout the AAC season and beyond.
  4. Louisville guard Kevin Ware will likely sit out the remainder of the season as he recovers from a kick in the same shin of which he suffered the horrific compound fracture in last season’s Elite Eight game against Duke. No definitive decision has yet been made, but a possible redshirt year could be in store for the junior guard. He has only averaged 5.9 minutes and 1.7 points per game this season, so it shouldn’t alter the Cardinals’ ultimate outlook in any way, rather unlike the Chane Behanan news.
  5. On a sad note, one of Houston’s all-time great players, Cecil Rose, passed away last Friday. Rose played from 1974-78 under legendary head coach Guy V. Lewis., scoring 1,244 points as a Cougar, ranking 23rd in school history. He helped lead Houston to an NIT championship game appearance in 1977 and the NCAA Tournament the following season. Rose’s brother, Lynden, also played for Houston from 1980-82. Rest in peace, Cecil.
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Morning Five: New Year’s Eve 2013 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 31st, 2013

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  1. It did not take very long for Louisville’s title defense to turn into a mess. On Saturday, the Cardinals lost to their in-state rival Kentucky in a game in which the Wildcats played for long stretches without Julius Randle, their best player. Yesterday, they lost something even bigger as they dismissed Chane Behanan from the team for an undisclosed violation of university policy. Unlike Behanan’s previous indefinite suspension we think this one will stick regardless of how much sleep Behanan gets. It goes without saying that it is a big blow for the Cardinals who now face an uphill battle in their quest to repeat as Behanan’s departure means an even bigger void on the inside.
  2. Kevin Ware‘s potential redshirt is not as devastating to Louisville’s title defense chances as Behanan’s departure, but it serves as another setback for a team that is essentially living off last season’s reputation this year. Ware, whose injury and comeback served as a symbol for Louisville’s title run, had battled back to return to the court earlier than many expected. Unfortunately, it appears that a kick that he received to the same area as the fracture has caused enough damage that he might sit out the rest of the season.
  3. This has not been the typical Gonzaga season so far and things appear to have gotten even tougher with the news that Gary Bell Jr. will be out “for a while” with a broken right hand. In addition to being much lower in the rankings than they are accustomed to, Gonzaga is also already dealing with injuries to Kevin Pangos and Sam Dower so Bell’s injury only exacerbates a growing problem. Fortunately for Gonzaga it seems like they will only have two teams–BYU and St. Mary’s–to deal with in the WCC and they play them at home first so if they are able to weather the storm in January they could be in good position if they are healthy by February.
  4. On some levels Luke Fischer‘s decision to transfer from Indiana is not particularly notable, but the speed at which he did and how much of a higher level program Indiana was than the rest of his offers is interesting. We won’t pretend to know that much about Fischer or his game, but when a player has one offer from an elite program and a bunch of offers from good, but not elite programs it makes you wonder. Either the elite program is jumping on a hidden gem or maybe everybody else knows that the player might not be as competitive at that level. In any event, we suspect that Fischer will probably end up at one of the other schools that offered him a scholarship in high school.
  5. Finally, with all the injuries, suspensions, and transfers that we have been talking about recently now seems like the perfect time for Seth Davis and his annual Jigsaw Man column. If you are not familiar with the concept, Davis tries to find a “relatively obscure” player who would fill a void on teams that seem to be missing one key element. The most common complaints with the column tend to be on how to define “relatively obscure” since we probably are familiar with almost every significant player in the country. After looking at this for years the best way to do it is just to accept any player who would not be considered a star on his team.
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AAC M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on December 23rd, 2013

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  1. The American had a pretty nice weekend, posting an 11-1 record with 11 straight wins over the past four days before South Florida dropped its Las Vegas match-up against Mississippi State on Sunday night. We will take a closer look once the non-conference slate wraps up (mostly) next weekend, but the AAC has posted only a so-so 79-31 overall record, fifth in winning percentage behind the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East. Worse, it ranks ninth in conference RPI, indicative of the problems some AAC members might have come Selection Sunday.
  2. UConn coach Kevin Ollie suggested as much before Sunday’s match-up with Washington, and before tip-off it was announced that the Huskies’ starting lineup had indeed changed. Indeed, freshman Amida Brimah got the start in the Sunday win, with Phil Nolan losing his spot there. Both performed relatively well; Brimah managed four points, three rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes, while Nolan ended up with eight points and five boards in 13 minutes. The Huskies have been a terrible rebounding team all year, ranking outside the top 200 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and it’s understandable why Ollie might want to mirror Louisville’s Rick Pitino in starting a raw freshman at center who might improve more quickly over a limited veteran. Still, Nolan’s only a sophomore, and he’s been a better rebounder than Brimah thus far.
  3. Sean Kilpatrick continued his move up Cincinnati’s all-time scoring list, sliding into eighth place with 23 points in Saturday’s win over Middle Tennessee. He now has scored 1,650 points in his career, 16 behind Ron Bonham for #7. If he stays on his current pace, he’ll finish with more than 2,000 points, only the second Bearcat in the history of the program to pass that threshold. The other guy who reached that milestone, the school’s all-time leading scorer, remains out of reach; it’s some guy named Oscar Robertson, who managed 2,973 points in his career and was the leading scorer in college hoops history when he graduated in 1960. Still, Kilpatrick, who’s off to a great start this season, has been a very important player for the program, and particularly for coach Mick Cronin, whose job was in some danger when Kilpatrick arrived.
  4. Louisville rolled over Florida International on Saturday night short a couple of reserves. Kevin Ware, whose gruesome leg injury in March made him a national celebrity, suffered a shin injury against Missouri State on Tuesday night and was wearing street clothes on the bench. Freshman forward Akoy Agau also missed the game after being suspended for not “acting the way a University of Louisville basketball player should,” as coach Rick Pitino put it. It was unclear if either will be available for Saturday’s massive tilt at Rupp Arena against hated rival Kentucky, but it also probably matters very little. Agau, a little-used reserve, is unlikely to see the floor in such a high-level contest anyway; and while Ware might have gotten some run, he’s been a pretty distant fourth in the Cardinals’ guard rotation behind Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier.
  5. Two AAC schools, Temple and Houston, have something major in common despite the differences inherent in being located more than 1,300 miles apart. They are both struggling to achieve relevance in their hometowns, where they not only face competition from other college programs but also professional squads in all major sports. Houston appears to be ahead of Temple in its local efforts, and may therefore offer a blueprint. “We’ve had to fight, scratch, and claw to become relevant, not just in this city but in the state,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “By no means do I think we’ve conquered that. But we’ve made inroads.”
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AAC M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 19th, 2013

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  1. We weren’t the only folks who thought Memphis‘ effort Tuesday night was commendable. The Tigers played very well in a one-possession loss to almost-full-strength Florida and came back from multiple large deficits to make a game of it. Rob Dauster is right; this loss shouldn’t feed in to the “Memphis can’t win the big game” narrative because the Tigers are much better and tougher and experienced than they have been in the past. Their recruiting class outside of Austin Nichols has done little this season, but that hasn’t been a big deal because all of Memphis’ veterans are playing so well. Joe Jackson was terrific and he has outplayed expectations slightly this year as the leader of Josh Pastner’s band. The Tigers showed a lot of moxie in fighting back against one of the most athletic teams in the country and they proved they are a legitimate Top 25 team along the way.
  2. UConn was anxious to get back to work last night against Stanford after 12 days off and maybe the extended break wasn’t a good thing as the Huskies couldn’t shoot the ball at all in the second half as the Cardinal held on late for a two-point win. UConn’s high-wire act was bound to bite them at some point and Stanford is a good team, but it was still disappointing considering the Huskies led by as much as 13 in the game. Shabazz Napier had his worst game of the season offensively and neither Omar Calhoun nor Ryan Boatright picked up any of the slack. The Huskies need to shoot well to win and that unpredictability is why many still don’t consider them a true national title contender despite the fact that they have still only one loss. You’ve got to give uneasy credit to whomever put together UConn’s schedule this season, because things don’t get any easier when the Huskies cross the country this weekend to play at Washington.
  3. I agree and disagree with what Kevin Ware had to say about the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry being “old and boring.” The larger point he is making is true. The rivalry is about the fans more than anything else, and the media obviously overhypes it. The fringe of both fan bases is the closest thing to SEC football lunacy in college basketball and I’m not sure there have been more “that’s sounds like it could be true” rumors that have passed through the ether of the message boards. I am not complaining, it’s a fantastic rivalry to write about and watch, but I’m not buying Ware’s “most players aren’t from here” remarks. The players may hail from the Southwest or the Northeast but I just can’t believe that this game doesn’t mean more to them than any other non-conference game, and nearly all conference games as well. I will buy that players don’t hate each other as individuals, but they are competitors and they will be more hyped to play the Wildcats than they were to play Missouri State, even if they couch their quotes in feigned indifference.
  4. When Richard Pitino took the job at Minnesota, you just knew that father and son were going to find a way to play each other. Well now it’s happened sooner than most expected as the two teams will open next season on a military base in Puerto Rico and the Pitino family television pieces are already writing themselves. The two have played each other before when Louisville thumped Florida International last season, but the younger Pitino should have considerably more talent at his disposal in Minneapolis next season. Yeah, it is a little bit cheesy and the novelty will wear off eventually, but I am all for a little father-son rivalry, so maybe I will be secretly pulling for the Golden Gophers.
  5. Cincinnati’s offense this season can be best summed up by coach Mick Cronin explaining that he thought it was better in the team’s 44-43 win Tuesday over Pittsburgh because they rebounded more of their missed shots. Offensive rebounds are nice and all, but the Bearcats aren’t going to win a lot of games by fiercely grabbing offensive rebounds only to be followed by another missed jump shot. They aren’t exactly an offensive machine, but Cronin also hinted that some of his inexperienced players like Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas need to become more confident shooters. Of course it would also be nice if senior leader Justin Jackson played with some consistency too.
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AAC M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on December 3rd, 2013

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  1. Shabazz Napier bailed out Connecticut again. The senior guard, who flirted with the NBA before returning this season, has definitely made the most of it so far. Napier, like former Husky Richard Hamilton before him, collected his own miss and launched the game-winning jumper just before the buzzer sounded last night for a strong non-conference win at home against Florida, 65-64. Nappier also drew comparisons to a more recent Connecticut star, Kemba Walker, who was known for his late game heroics leading the school to its third national championship. As long as Connecticut handles Maine Friday evening, they will most likely be in the top 10 next week, but with three victories by only a single point (and another by 2), it’s hard to say exactly how good the Huskies really are. One thing that’s easy to say is, with the game on the line, there’s no one in college basketball I would want to have the ball more than Shabazz.
  2. The Tampa Bay Times writes that South Florida’s loss Saturday night to Detroit could be a bubble-buster when March rolls around. Stan Heath’s squad needs to worry about getting into bubble consideration first, and losing to 4-4 Detroit is not the ideal way to do so. The Bulls gave up an eight-point lead early in the second half and were unable to bounce back. It didn’t help that Detroit was nearly perfect from the free throw line down the stretch making 11 of 12. Heath said he hopes the loss sends a message to his group, who now face George Mason (tomorrow) and Alabama (Saturday). If the Bulls want any hope of a postseason after the AAC Tournament in Memphis, they can ill-afford to drop another non-conference game.
  3. SMU coach Larry Brown said maturity was the main reason the Mustangs took out in-state rival Texas A&M Saturday in the team’s biggest win of the young season. Brown said his team would have never won a game like this a year ago. The Mustangs did all of the things down the stretch needed to pull out the win: hit free throws, grab rebounds, and got stops. Senior guard Nick Russell did all three. SMU continued to show maturity by beating McNeese State by 29 last night, improving to 7-2.
  4. Gary Parrish wrote yesterday about the significance of the big Memphis win over Oklahoma State for the basketball crazy town. Parrish said the bar was set with John Calipari’s last four years in Memphis, and while Josh Pastner hasn’t touched that unbelievably lofty bar yet, he has done a lot of good things in his own right. Something no one ever talks about is how Pastner’s teams have had zero off-the-court issues, which Parrish called “close to a miracle” for Memphis basketball. He has also won ball games. A bunch of them, but none bigger than Sunday night. First and foremost, he changed the narrative of not being able to beat teams with equal or better talent by beating a top 25 team, ending the 0-13 vs. AP top 25 opponents talk. And while Pastner didn’t openly talk about the significance of the win, his players did by saying the wanted to get the win for their coach.
  5. Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s popularity following last season’s horrific knee injury and his response to it, and his team’s ensuing national championship, put him near the top of the most-searched American athlete list for 2013. Ware fell in line fourth behind Tim Tebow, Lindsey Vonn, and Tiger Woods. Strong numbers for a guard who averages 2.2 points per game this season (and only 4.5 points per game last season). But just the fact that he’s on the court after that injury is impressive. The next highest searched basketball player was LeBron James, who came in sixth.
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Chane Behanan’s Final Four Ring Becomes Louisville’s Latest Distraction

Posted by Will Tucker on November 27th, 2013

It looks like Christmas has come early for Kentucky fans this year. On the heels of Louisville’s first loss since February, reports emerged last night that Chane Behanan’s 2012 Final Four ring was up for auction on a high-end sports memorabilia website called Grey Flannel.

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Grey Flannel quickly suspended the auction, and added an explanatory note to the listing

The ring was quickly removed from auction after Behanan’s mother, Heaven Warren, notified Grey Flannel that it had been stolen. In subsequent interviews with local media this morning, Warren indicated that she had stashed the ring at her mother’s house in Cincinnati to ensure its safekeeping. She told the Courier-Journal’s Adam Himmelsbach that she thought the auction listing was a hoax when she first saw it last night, and had discovered otherwise only after she called Behanan’s grandmother to have her look in her jewelry box. Warren speculated that the ring was likely taken by someone passing through her mother’s house, which is apparently a congregating place for friends and extended family, and said Behanan was “distraught” by the news. Another source close to the team told the Courier-Journal that the junior forward was “just as surprised as anyone,” and Behanan himself reportedly denied any involvement in a Facebook post last night.

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