Morning Five: 01.20.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2015

morning5

  1. Most fans probably missed the most significant news in college basketball from over the weekend when the so-called schools from Power 5 conferences voted nearly unanimously (except Boston College) to pass a rule that will allow them to pay student-athletes between $2,000 and $4,000 per semester depending on the school towards a cost-of-attendance stipend. The rule extends beyond just the schools in those five conferences so beginning in August all schools will have the option of providing this to their student-athletes. It will be interesting to see how student-athletes who attend schools that decide not to provide this stipend react. It was also noteworthy that 15 of 80 votes on the measure came from student-athletes themselves (three each from the five power conferences).
  2. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times… Well, Southern Methodist might find out the hard way as the NCAA has opened up an investigation into reported academic improprieties at the school. We might not consider this that noteworthy or ignominious except this might end up being the third time that Larry Brown could leave a school with NCAA violations. We aren’t sure of the details of the investigation, but we do know that Brown’s time at the school has certainly made life a lot busier for the reporters covering the SMU basketball beat. In a one week span, Xavier transfer Justin Martin announced that he was leaving the program and turning pro, assistant coach Ulric Maligi (the program’s top recruiter) too an indefinite leave of absence, and former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier was ruled academically ineligible. And now they have this. With all of the noise surrounding Brown and the relative lack of success he has had (still impressive given the program he inherited) we have to wonder how much longer he will be around at the school.
  3. Michigan‘s rough season got a lot worse over the weekend after Caris LaVert breaking his left foot and will miss the rest of the season. For LaVert it will be another surgery for the same foot he broke in May and required surgery on at that time. The season has been nothing short of the disastrous for the Wolverines so far and with this injury (LaVert leads them in points, rebounds, assists, and steals) they can forget about making the NCAA Tournament. It remains unclear what LaVert’s plan will be after the season as he could theoretically come back in time for draft workouts and would likely be a first-round pick even with any concerns about that left foot.
  4. Notre Dame got a huge boost late last week when they announced that Zach Auguste was eligible to play again after missing one game (against Georgia Tech) due to unspecified academic issues (a suspension by the school not the program). Auguste, who is the team’s only reliable big man, only played 9 minutes in their win over Miami, but he is indispensable for the team going forward. While Auguste is valuable offensively (second on the team in scoring) they could probably function reasonably well offensively without him. That isn’t the case on the defensive end where they need his size if they want to make a deep run in March.
  5. There were also a couple notable transfers late last week. The more prominent one was the expected decision by Kuran Iverson to transfer from Memphis. We aren’t sure about what exactly went into Iverson’s transfer, but we are guessing the decision to part ways was mutual after Iverson retweeted a tweet critical of Josh Pastner after Iverson has been suspended for violating team rules. Although Iverson was highly touted out of high school he only averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game this season. The other transfer news, which gathered less headlines but might be more impactful, was that Marcus Marshall had decided to transfer from Missouri State. The decision by Marshall, who led the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game (second in the Missouri Valley Conference), came after he had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Marshall will be a highly coveted transfer this off-season at the very least at the mid-major level and will probably get some looks from lower-tier high-majors.
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AAC M5: Welcome Back Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 9th, 2015

  1. AAC_morning5_headerIt’s been a while since a morning roundup has appeared on our fine microsite but we are bringing it back as a regular feature. We start in Dallas where, in the only conference game last night, SMU walloped Memphis, 73-59, and it was never really close. Things are getting so bad in Memphis that coach Josh Pastner is actually trying to pretend that saying things like this makes sense. We should also note that Tigers’ forward Shaq Goodwin must see Mustangs’ forward Markus Kennedy in his nightmares, because Kennedy has eaten him for lunch every time the two teams have squared off. In the three meetings between the two all-conference caliber forwards, Kennedy has averaged 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game (including 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting last night) while Goodwin has averaged 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. The Tigers will get one more crack at Kennedy and the Mustangs at home, but they have too much to fix between now and then to be looking that far ahead.
  2. Unfortunately for Memphis, last night’s loss was just the latest bit of disappointing news coming out of the program, as sophomore forward Kuran Iverson has washed himself in drama thanks to his lack of a social media filter. To recap: Iverson got caught retweeting criticism about his head coach and one day later was suspended for at least two games. He sat out last night’s game but folks in the know seem to think that Iverson has played his last game as a member of the team. Once perhaps the Tigers’ most promising recruit, Iverson has struggled to stay on the floor and has been a total dud for the better part of two seasons. It would be one thing if he was having a breakout season and felt the need to criticize his coach, but all he has really proven he can consistently do on the basketball court is turn the ball over, so I don’t think Pastner will lose any sleep if Iverson and the program cut ties.
  3. I wouldn’t go as far as to call UConn‘s start to the season a disappointment, but it’s safe to say that Huskies’ fans were hoping for better results thus far. The good news is that the Huskies have barely scratched the surface of their potential and now, finally, with a full complement of players, coach Kevin Ollie has some depth and flexibility to work with. Just getting everyone healthy won’t be enough, though, as almost everyone on the roster other than Ryan Boatright has been wildly inconsistent this season. But as long as the injury bug has passed and all of his players stay eligible, this team will continue to get better as conference play wears on. There should be little doubt that the Huskies remain one of the favorites to win this conference.
  4. Earlier this season, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was quoted as saying that freshman forward Gary Clark had offensive rebounding instincts “in his DNA” and thus far Clark has proven his coach prophetic. The Charlotte native not only ranks second in the AAC in rebounding, snagging almost eight caroms per game, but he also boasts one of the 35 best offensive rebounding percentages in the entire country. He is quietly having one of the best freshman seasons in the conference and has put himself in elite company when it comes to former Bearcats’ greats. His offensive game needs further development, however, as almost all of his points are a result of his yeoman’s work on the offensive glass, but once again Cronin and his staff have unearthed a gem and turned him into seemingly the next great two-way forward for the program.
  5. This has been pointed out ad nauseam elsewhere but there have really only been two bright spots for UCF this season: freshman guard Adonys Henriquez and classmate and fellow Orlando native B.J. Taylor. Each would be front-runners for the all-Freshman team in the AAC and both are legitimate candidates for Newcomer of the Year in the conference as well. A big reason why they have been so good is because they have been downright lethal from behind the three-point arc. The pair aren’t just one of the best shooting freshman combinations in the conference, they are one of the best shooting combos in the conference, period. Henriquez is second in the conference in three-point shooting and Taylor is just one spot behind his friend. Both are shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc and contribute in other ways as well. Despite how bright their futures are, I’m not sure it is bright enough to save head coach Donnie Jones’ job, which is a bummer for Jones, because the new coach will be inheriting some serious talent if he does get canned.
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Morning Five: 01.09.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 9th, 2015

morning5

  1. Illinois suffered a huge loss when Rayvonte Rice, the team’s leading scorer, broke his left hand in practice on Monday. Rice, who was averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, is expected to miss the next three to six weeks, but that all depends on how he responds to the surgery. For Illinois, which managed to knock off Maryland in its first game without Rice, they now face an uphill battle if they hope to make it to the NCAA Tournament. While their win against Maryland (and the relatively weak Big Ten this year) might give Illinois fans a reason to believe they will be able to survive Rice’s absence, the reality is that they probably lack the firepower now to be competitive with the top of the conference.
  2. It takes a lot for a rehearsed recruiting announcement to catch our attention, but when you announce that you are committing to a different school than you actually are, we notice. So when Carlton Bragg, a five-star forward in the class of 2015, announced that he was going to Kentucky, but put a Kansas cap on (he is going to Kansas…we think) it caught our attention. Bragg could find himself in a crowded Kansas frontcourt, but for now he does not appear to have any issues with that saying, “I don’t really care for minutes, I just want to be part of the team.” For what its worth, Bragg isn’t the first Kansas commit to confuse people during his announcement as Cliff Alexander faked out Illinois fans last year by reaching for their hat before going for a Kansas hat. Unlike last year, we doubt that there will be much sympathy for Kentucky fans who finally missed out on a big-name target.
  3. If Syracuse fans were hoping that DaJuan Coleman could be the missing piece to help turn their season around, they can forget about that now as the junior center has opted to officially redshirt this year. The news should not be that big of a surprise since Coleman has not played in a year after injuring his knee on January 7, 2014. Although Coleman’s prior production (4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season) might not seem worth noting, he was a big-time prospect coming out of high school and a great deal of his poor production can be traced back to his injuries. His redshirt could help Syracuse going forward by giving them more experience in the frontcourt in coming years.
  4. It looks like we may have seen the last of Kuran Iverson in a Memphis uniform. The 6’9″ sophomore, who had been averaging 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, was suspended for two games earlier this week for an unspecified violation of team rules. He compounded that infraction by retweeting a tweet critical of Josh Pastner although he subsequently deleted that retweet. We don’t know much about Iverson’s background in terms of legal issues and his interactions with Pastner, but we would be surprised to see him in a Memphis jersey again.
  5. Proponents of increasing benefits for student-athletes appear to have received a small victory as the NCAA is trying a pilot program where they will pay for travel for the families of players competing in the men’s and women’s Final Four. The families of players competing in the college football title game will also be provided with this benefit. The football players will be allotted $3,000 (from the College Football Playoff not the NCAA) to cover their family’s expenses (travel, accommodations, meals, etc) while basketball players will receive $4,000 from the NCAA for those expenses. We are not sure how this will be enforced as players can definitely find ways to take advantage of this particularly if their families live near the venues, but overall it appears to be a victory for student-athletes albeit a very small subsection of them.
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AAC M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on February 14th, 2014

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  1. It has been a roller-coaster freshman campaign for talented Memphis big man Dominic Woodson. The 6-foot-10 and 300-pound center has a lot of talent and moves extremely well for a man his size, but there have been plenty of not-so-subtle hints that Woodson hasn’t quite figured out the whole maturity thing and still has a lot to learn. Yesterday, coach Josh Pastner let it be known that Woodson has been suspended from the team indefinitely for cussing from the bench during the team’s win over Central Florida. Pastner kicked him off the bench during the second half of the game and while it seems petty to suspend a player for curse words, it’s not hard to understand that cussing is just part of the problem for Woodson. It seems unlikely that Woodson will be suspended for the rest of the season, although he doesn’t play a lot to begin with, but it does sound like Pastner is sending a serious message for his big man to clean up his act. Hopefully Woodson receives the message loud and clear because if his behavior doesn’t show marked improvement Pastner probably won’t put up with much more.
  2. In contrast, Tigers’ freshman Kuran Iverson is handling the transition to college basketball much better than Woodson. Iverson might have been even more highly touted than Woodson coming out of high school in Hartford, Connecticut and yet he is playing less than 10 minutes per game and has yet to make a real difference for the team this season. Iverson gets a chance to return home this weekend as Memphis travels to player UConn and he said that he will have plenty of family in attendance, which is understandable since the XL Center is apparently just “two minutes from his house”. Unfortunately (primarily for sportswriters), the traditional storyline about a hometown player returning to wreak havoc on the nearby team that spurned him doesn’t quite fit in this situation as Iverson didn’t really want to go to UConn and the Huskies never seemed seriously interested in Iverson either. Hopefully he does get a chance to play in front of his friends and family and his attitude seems positive, so hopefully the playing time will come down the road as well.
  3. Four players from the conference — Memphis’ Joe Jackson, UConn’s Shabazz Napier, Louisville’s Russ Smith, and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick — were named to the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 list yesterday. The folks picking this list got it right, at least in regards to the AAC, as those four have easily been the conference’s four best players and it’s not really close. When I first started to think of anyone who got snubbed, I was quickly surprised to realize just how far these four have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Jackson’s statistics don’t quite measure up to the other three’s numbers, but he has arguably meant more to his team than anyone other than Kilpatrick and so he deserves to be on the list just as much as the other guys. That said, when you look at the combination of value to the team and all-around numbers, it is clear that Kilpatrick has the best chance of any of these players to actually win the award. He probably won’t, because there are far more high-profile candidates having fantastic seasons, but he is the only one with a real shot at winning the award.
  4. Louisville wanted to play Thursday’s game against Temple in Philadelphia. But the Owls, hoping to maximize fan turnout against one of the conference’s best teams, decided to postpone the game until Friday evening due to weather conditions. Cardinals’ coach Rick Pitino is anxious to get back on the court because his team hasn’t played in nearly 10 days and a Courier-Journal reporter didn’t help matters when he told Pitino that teams coming off a six-day layoff or more in the American Athletic Conference are 0-8 in their first game back. Pitino did point out that the extra day would help guard Wayne Blackshear shake the cobwebs from his concussion, but it’s still obvious that the Cardinals aren’t pumped to spend another full day in Philly. Both sides have a point in the matter, but it’s Temple’s home game so ultimately it’s their call. And frankly, it all seems to be much ado about nothing because the Owls are terrible and will need more than help from the weather to beat the Cardinals.
  5. Now that CBSSports.com has caught on, am I allowed to pat myself on the back for mentioning that the best AAC teams feasting on the terrible AAC teams is a big reason why the conference has as many ranked teams as any other conference in the country? Parrish deserves more credit since I just mentioned it in passing and he actually fleshed out the argument and used numbers to back it up but he illustrates the point well — the bottom half of the American is awful and it’s helping the other teams in the conference. Parrish does give credit where credit is due by pointing out that SMU and Cincinnati are much better than anyone expected and that is another reason why so many of the conference’s teams are ranked. But folks picking NCAA Tournament winners should be wary of pumping up the AAC because the teams that will make the tournament will undeniably have inflated win totals thanks to consistently dominating the conference’s worst teams.
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Memphis vs. Florida: Four Key Storylines at The Jimmy V Classic

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013

Here’s a look ahead to the Jimmy V Classic game between two Top 25 teams in Memphis and Florida.

Shaq Goodwin will have his hands full with Patric Young tonight.

Shaq Goodwin will have his hands full with Patric Young tonight.

  1. The Tigers have one very obvious Casey Prather-sized problem heading into tonight’s match-up. Prather has been an offensive revelation this season and is the Gators’ leading scorer. He will be the Gators’ primary small forward tonight and that spells trouble for Memphis. The senior is too big, strong, and fast for any of Memphis’ three guards to defend, but his athleticism and length make him a problem defensively for the Tigers’ smaller guards. Prather still isn’t much of a shooter, so the Tigers would be wise to cut off his penetration at all costs. Memphis matches up with Florida nicely at every other position on the floor, so finding a way to exploit or at least not get exploited in that specific match-up will be important to the team’s success.
  2. Get excited to watch two of college basketball’s better big men battle it out in this game because Patric Young and Shaq Goodwin are going to be seeing a lot of each other this evening. Goodwin has emerged as the Tigers’ best and most consistent player, and Young knows a thing or two about consistency as well. The two players are not entirely alike, however, as Goodwin has been the much more refined offensive player this season while Young has the edge in strength (as he always does) and athleticism. Young’s shooting percentages are well below his career marks and the Gators have better offensive options to look to first, but Goodwin hasn’t faced an opponent with Young’s combination of size and athleticism (apologies to LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant) so he will need to be more creative and active on the glass if he wants to get the better of this match-up. Read the rest of this entry »
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AAC M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on October 31st, 2013

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  1. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, suspended Memphis freshman Kuran Iverson for the Tigers’ first regular season game against in-state foe Austin Peay for playing basketball in two different cities this summer. Iverson, a Hartford, Connecticut native, played summer league games in both Memphis (the Bluff City Classic) and Waterbury, Connecticut (the Hartford Pro Am). The NCAA limits players to one team in one league during the summer, and Memphis self-reported the violation. “He assumed he could (play in the Hartford summer league) because it was in his backyard, in his neighborhood, and he grew up watching the league” Memphis coach Josh Pastner told the Commerical-Appeal. “He didn’t think anything would be against it.” Iverson can play in preseason exhibitions and scrimmages, will sit against Austin Peay (ranked #283 in the country by Ken Pomeroy) and will return for a road trip to Oklahoma State, who Pomeroy ranks #4. The timing is convenient for the Tigers, who shouldn’t have much trouble with Austin Peay, but will need all the help they can get against Marcus Smart and the Cowboys.
  2. Speaking of Memphis preseason games, coach Josh Pastner said he is trying to focus on defensive pressure ahead of this weekend’s “secret” scrimmage against Baylor. The Tigers’ defense has improved each year under Pastner; in 2009-2010, his first season, the team ranked #163 in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Defense at 101.2 (which roughly translates to allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions against the average D-1 offense). The team rose to #60 in the ranking in 2010-2011 (96.4), #16 in 2011-2012 (91.6) and #13 last season (90.0). The defense played the crucial role in Pastner’s first NCAA tournament victory, when the Tigers snagged nine steals and limited St. Mary’s to 33% shooting. Maintaining a stout defense this season (Pomeroy projects the Tigers to rank #15 at 92.5) will be particularly crucial with the step up in competition to the American.
  3. A year ago, Connecticut had only thing left to play for: “Pride,” junior guard Ryan Boatright said to USA Today. “Pride and proving the world wrong.” Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had just retired in the face of the Huskies’ ineligibility for the NCAA tournament due to academics. Kevin Ollie was named the interim coach, “but I looked at it like I had a lifetime deal,” Ollie, a former Connecticut point guard, told USA Today. “I look that way at every aspect of my life, everything. That’s how I want my players to look at things. Sometimes you’ve got to believe in the dark. You don’t know the outcome, but you just keep believing in one another.” Playing for pride, and believing in one another, carried Connecticut to a 20-win season and now has them ranked #19 in the preseason coaches poll. Ollie got a new contract, and now finds himself as one of brightest young coaching stars in the game. Once Louisville leaves of the ACC, Connecticut will be the clear face of the league, and Ollie’s early success has them well poised to for that role.
  4. The major obstacle to Connecticut’s success this year certainly appears to be its thin frontcourt, and Wednesday’s easy exhibition win over Southern Connecticut State can’t be too comforting on that issue. The Huskies were outrebounded by their Division II foes 48-43, and managed only five offensive rebounds compared to SCSU’s 18. “I wasn’t happy with the rebounding effort, and they’ll understand that when we get back Friday,” Kevin Ollie said after the game, but singled out sophomore Phil Nolan for praise. “He as six rebounds in 11 minutes, that’s pretty damn good. If he does that, he’ll play.” For his part, Nolan said the rebounding would improve. “We’ll get back in the lab and work on rebounding, and you’ll see improvement next time,” Nolan said, adding that “People say we have a small team, but you look at it, we’re pretty big. We can do a lot of things.” The American promises to be a perimeter-oriented league, but the Huskies must improve their rebounding (they ranked #278 in offensive rebounding percentage and #319 in defensive rebounding percentage last year, according to Pomeroy) if they want to live up to their lofty preseason ranking.
  5. Temple coach Fran Dunphy has been a head coach in college for 24 years – with 15 NCAA tournament trips – but thinks this year might be his toughest yet. “I think this is as challenged as I’ve been as a basketball coach,” Dunphy told CBSSports.com. “It should be a very interesting experience for us this year to see where we wind up. There’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of apprehension at this point.” That’s reasonable, as the Owls find themselves in a new league with many new faces in their team photo. The team lost five seniors off a squad that won 24 games, including one in the tournament. Those five combined to average 52.9 points per game while the team averaged 72.8. Dunphy’s first team at Temple finished 12-18; the next six (also the last six) have each won 21 games and made the NCAA tournament, so it’s tough to count him out. But facing a tough non-conference slate and a stronger league, it seems highly unlikely that Temple will be dancing in March.
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Morning Five: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 31st, 2013

morning5

  1. Many times interviews with players tend to be essentially fluff PR pieces so we have to commend Andy Katz for his excellent interview with controversial Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson. Henderson’s exploits both on and off the court have been well-documented, but it was interesting to see him be so open about his missteps publicly. Henderson will have to sit out three games this season (season opener then the team’s first two SEC games), but otherwise appears to have avoided any more significant punishment. Hopefully, Henderson can stay focused enough to have a long basketball career whether it is in the NBA or abroad.
  2. Maryland was dealt a significant setback when it was announced that starting point guard Seth Allen had broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will be out 8-10 weeks. The injury, which occurred at the end of Tuesday’s practice, will lead the Terrapins to shift Dez Wells to the point guard position and should create issues for the team during Allen’s absence particularly with their opener coming a little over a week against a Connecticut team that boasts one of the best backcourts in the country. Allen should be back in time for the majority of the team’s ACC schedule so the Terrapins still have some hope of recovering from what is a poorly-timed injury.
  3. Yesterday we mentioned that Kansas would be without Naadir Tharpe for their opener due to the discovery that he had played in a summer league game. It turns out he was not the only one as the NCAA suspended Kuran Iverson for Memphis’ opener for playing in an unauthorized summer league game too. Iverson’s situation is a little different than Tharpe’s in that he had not played a season before committing the violation (playing a summer league game near his home and near his college) that he self-reported. He will be forced to sit out the team’s season opener against Austin Peay, but will be able to play in the team’s second game of the season, which will be a much stiffer test against Oklahoma State
  4. The beginning of this season already promised to be a rough one for Billy Donovan with his Florida team with multiple players out with injuries, Scottie Wilbekin potentially missing games due to a suspension, and Chris Walker still in academic limbo. Unfortunately things just got tougher as sophomore guard Michael Frazier will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The combinations of injuries/illnesses and suspensions will likely force the Gators to start freshman Kasey Hill and sophomore DeVon Walker at the guard positions for the season opener against North Florida before they go on the road to take on Wisconsin on November 12.
  5. Billy Donovan did get some good news yesterday as 5-star forward Devin Robinson committed to play at Florida. The addition is particularly big for the Gators as Robinson (a Virginia native) is their first out-of-state 5-star recruit since 2011 (Bradley Beal) and only their second since 2004 (Corey Brewer). In the end (we are assuming this is the end of Robinson’s recruitment although we might be speaking too early), Florida beat out Indiana, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State for Robinson’s services. Robinson will join two other top-50 recruits (Brandone Francis and Chris Chiozza) to comprise what is shaping up to be a very impressive class of 2014 for Florida. With Florida’s high turnover coming after this season (four players are seniors including three interior players) Robinson should expect to see playing time fairly early.
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AAC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 24th, 2013

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  1. It is a bit surprising to see a list of college basketball’s Top 30 freshman and not see any of the players from Memphis‘ fabulous recruiting class make the list. In fact, only three players from the AAC made the list at all; Louisville’s Terry Rozier (#24), SMU’s Keith Frazier (#26) and Cincinnati’s Jermaine Lawrence (#27) are the conference’s only representatives. Judging the country’s best 30 freshmen before the season starts is clearly an exercise done for entertainment and debate purposes, so I will humor them and argue that it’s hard to believe that Austin NicholsKuran Iverson, or Nick King couldn’t make this list, especially given their importance to the Tigers’ frontcourt this season. Josh Pastner lost a lot of production out of his frontcourt and the trio of freshmen are going to be his best bets to replace some or all of that production. Rozier may be more talented and college-ready, but he will have to scratch and claw for minutes in a loaded backcourt. Nichols and Iverson are good candidates to begin the season in the starting lineup and they will have ample opportunities to prove themselves on the court, which is why I believe one or both of those players belong on any list of top freshmen.
  2. At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised when Louisville coach Rick Pitino shows up on a television program that has nothing to do with basketball and says something that makes headlines anyway. But it was still a bit baffling to watch Pitino call the government “totally dysfunctional” while chopping it up about politics with a couple of hosts from CNBC. It’s not that Pitino shouldn’t be allowed to talk about politics in a televised forum as he is a smart guy with plenty of smart things to say about the government. It was just a bit amusing to watch the CNBC hosts do their best to tie basketball into the political questions they were asking and it was even more amusing to watch Pitino effortlessly weave his experience as a basketball coach with what he thinks should be done in Washington, D.C. There is nothing wrong with trying to garner a little publicity by going outside of the usual channels, it was just odd to watch a man who is gearing up to repeat as National Champions explain to CNBC hosts why term limits for congressmen are important.
  3. If you were looking for reasons why the offseason scandal at Rutgers is going to affect the program less than some might think, look no further than juniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack. Without trying to compare the actual scandals, one of the primary reasons that Penn State football was able to rebound so quickly was because the majority of the players banded together and decided to stay with the Nittany Lions. A similar situation has unfolded in Piscataway as players were granted a free release after the school fired coach Mike Rice for verbal and physical abuse and some players understandably left for greener pastures. But players like Mack, Jack, Jerome Seagears, and Wally Judge all stuck around to, “finish what I started”, as Jack put it. Not only does the return of these four players mean that new coach Eddie Jordan won’t need to start entirely from scratch, it actually means he has a pretty good nucleus of talent to work with as the team enters a new conference. The Scarlet Knights are still probably not an NCAA Tournament team, which makes the decision of those four players to stay all the more noble. In a sport where leadership is important both on and off the court, Jordan now has a number of mature young men to point to as examples of what leadership looks like.
  4. Everyone already knows about the dynamite backcourt trio of Shabazz NapierRyan Boatright, and Omar Calhoun. They also probably know about multi-talented forward DeAndre Daniels and the expectations on his shoulders. But if the Huskies are going to return to the NCAA Tournament this season, it will be because some of the team’s newcomers stepped up and made impactful contributions. Kevin Ollie‘s first real recruiting class didn’t garner any national attention or win any accolades, but Amida BrimahKentan Facey (assuming he is eligible), and Terrence Samuel will all be expected to play a role on the team this season and their development and early success will be crucial to determining exactly how good this UConn team can be. Brimah and Facey will probably get the most chances to make an early impression because of the team’s stark lack of depth in the frontcourt, but the newcomer most ready to contribute however is George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah. The athletic 6’6″ wing was a double-digit scorer in his career in D.C. and he has all the tools to be a shutdown defender who can guard multiple positions. Ollie has a tough task ahead of him as he tries to find playing time for all of his talented backcourt and wing players without sacrificing too much size, but the added depth and talent are part of the reason why so many expect the Huskies to be back in the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Count me among those who aren’t fans of college basketball’s new emphasis on hand-checking. It’s not surprising as every sport is continuously making small tweaks to the rule book that benefit offense in part to make the sport more watchable and exciting, but increased foul calls don’t make college basketball more exciting, they make it more boring. Even the Big 12’s coordinator of officials admitted that players will no longer be able to “guard full-court, man-to-man, in-your-face like we’ve allowed”. Maybe a few years down the road as players get used to the rule and how officials call it, the game will be more exciting and explosive, but I would expect this type of rule to take some time to get adjusted to, which means we will be seeing a lot more ticky-tack fouls called and we will be seeing teams shoot a lot more free throws. Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy astutely pointed out that fans aren’t paying to watch their favorite players foul out of a game and he even brought up Louisville, citing their intense pressure defense as something that will longer be as effective with this new rule. Hooray for the dawn of this new era of offensive basketball…I guess.
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American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 15th, 2013

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 

Louisville

When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.

Connecticut

If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Cincinnati

As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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Morning Five: 07.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. There were a couple of big moves involving players that will be eligible to play next season. The biggest involves Memphis who announced that incoming freshman Kuran Iverson had been cleared academically by the NCAA to play this season. Iverson, a 6’9″ forward who is ranked in the top 40 by most recruiting services and happens to be the cousin of Allen Iverson, can add quite a bit to the Tigers lineup that is still waiting to hear if Michael Dixon and Rashawn Powell will be eligible to play. At this point it seems like neither will be eligible to play, which makes the addition of Iverson even bigger. The other move, which is also pretty significant, but is of a shorter duration involves Arizona State, which picked up Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall, who will be graduating next month and can play for the Sun Devils this coming season. Picking up a player of Marshall’s talent (averaged 15.3 points per game in the Big Ten) is a huge addition for a team that has hopes of contending in the Pac-12 next year. It will be interesting to see how committed Marshall is to the team since he initially was planning on going to Europe rather than look at another college. If his minutes dwindle or he struggles to fit in with his new teammates, we wonder how long it will take him to start looking at international flights out of Phoenix.
  2. Coming off a surprising Final Four appearance Wichita State appears to be flying high. Their hiring of Steve Forbes as an assistant coach might not register with casual fans, but it is quite a pick-up. You may remember Forbes from his time at Tennessee as an assistant before he received a one-year show-cause penalty for being evasive when NCAA authorities tried to investigate Bruce Pearl’s meeting with Aaron Craft at a cookout. Forbes had served as head coach at Northwest Florida State (a junior college) and becomes the first member of Pearl’s former staff to get a Division 1 job. Wichita State should benefit from Forbes’ experience as one of the top recruiters in the nation.
  3. This past Friday a US District Court Judge ruled that the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon case can amend the lawsuit to include a current NCAA athlete as a plaintiff. Of course, the obvious concern for any athlete would be that the NCAA will single out this individual for additional investigations that the individual would not otherwise be subjected to. Yesterday, the lawyers leading the anti-trust lawsuit sent the NCAA a letter asking the NCAA to agree that no such actions will be taken against such an individual and that joining the lawsuit would not jeopardize the individual’s eligibility. In theory this is nice, but we have a hard time believing that the NCAA would give a current athlete blanket immunity and since they will not we suspect that they will miraculously stumble upon evidence that leads to an investigation of that individual.
  4. Winning international titles might have been a foregone conclusion for the US National Team for years, but as we have seen in recent years that is not necessarily the case particularly when we are not sending our “A” team. So the Under-19 team winning the World Championship is certainly worth celebrating even if it will not get mentioned in most sports sections. The team, which was led by Billy Donovan, Shaka Smart, and Tony Bennett, defeated Serbia 82-68 to win the gold medal. Arizona fans will be particularly pleased with the performance of Aaron Gordon who was named Tournament MVP. Gordon was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Jahil Okafor (class of 2014; uncommitted). We expect several players from this team–primarily rising freshmen and sophomores–to have big seasons including Marcus Smart, who did not make the All-Tournament Team, but will probably be a Preseason First-Team All-American.
  5. With the World University Games going on most college basketball fans will be paying attention to the performances of some college stars, but as Andy Glockner points out the more interesting aspect might be the shot clock. It seems like we hear every year about how scoring is down in college basketball and how decreasing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 24 seconds would speed up the game and increase scoring. As Glockner points out international competitions use the 24-second shot clock and from the comments of many college players and coaches it seems that they prefer the 35-second shot clock. It may seem obvious that they would prefer something that they are used to, but the argument that Colorado coach Tad Boyle makes about a shorter shot clock making the game more homogeneous in terms of playing style is an interesting one. In the end, the NCAA should probably base their decision on the length of the shot clock around what makes it a better product for the public, but we are guessing that coaches will prefer to keep the status quo even if it hurts the popularity of the game.
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Who’s Got Next? Austin Nichols Stays In Memphis; Jarrell Martin Picks Hometown LSU…

Posted by CLykins on November 6th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. 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 discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Austin Nichols Stays Local, Picks Memphis

There’s no place like home. At least according to 6’8″ Briarcrest Christian (Tennessee) power forward Austin Nichols, who ended his college recruitment on Monday by committing to the hometown Memphis Tigers. The No. 12 ranked player in the class of 2013, Nichols will join an already loaded recruiting class that includes fellow ESPN 100 prospects small forward Kuran Iverson, small forward Nick King and point guard Rashawn Powell as well as three-star shooting guard Markel Crawford. He chose the Tigers over Auburn, Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

2013 No. 12 ranked prospect Austin Nichols completes a stellar recruiting class for Memphis

“At the end of the day, Austin wanted to stay at home and play with some talented guys who he knew very well,” said his father, Mark Nichols. Once back home after completing his last official visit to Auburn, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner showed up at the Nichols residence for one final recruiting pitch. Rumored by many to be fading down the stretch to the likes of Duke and long-time favorite Tennessee, Pastner never wilted and kept pushing to land what he considers a “future Memphis basketball icon.”

With his recruitment shut down for a week once Pastner made his last attempt, the Nichols family spent Sunday night pondering the important decision. Mark Nichols then presented Austin with a 58-page report from KenPom.com to review advanced statistics of each of the six teams he was considering. The innovative approach factored into Nichols selecting the Tigers, which was decided as the perfect place for his future. The allure of playing in the area he grew up and in front of family and friends at the collegiate level proved to be all he could have ever wished for. “I’m just honored, I can’t even explain it,” Nichols said. He intends on signing his national letter of intent during the early signing period, which runs from November 14-21.

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Around The Blogosphere: August 30, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on August 30th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Maryland Adds 7-2 Ukrainian Olexiy Len to 2011 Roster: “Remember those rumblings about Maryland and Mark Turgeon adding a Ukrainian big man to their 2011 roster? Well, they weren’t as wrong as they appeared; they just had the wrong big man. Per InsideMDSports, the Terrapins are adding 7-foot-2 Olexiy “Alex” Len to this season’s roster:” (Testudo Times: News and Analysis)
  • Kentucky adds two walk-ons: “Coach Cal has added two new walk-ons, Sam Malone and Brian Long. Malone is a point guard from Scituate, Massachusettes. He is not the owner and bartender on Cheers. Long is from New Jersey.” (Kentucky Sports Radio: News and Analysis)
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