Freeze Frame: Analyzing Kentucky’s Porous Defense

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 16th, 2013

Kentucky started out the season with delusions of a perfect 40-0 season, a fantasy even more preposterous as we look back now. The fact is that this young team is a work in progress with imperfections that need to be addressed and a resume that needs polishing. In its three losses this season, Kentucky’s defensive struggles were highlighted and exposed for the nation to see. Luckily for these Wildcats, John Calipari has been here before and he has a lot of time to work out his team’s inefficiencies on the defensive end.

Willie Cauley-Stein is an elite defender with or without his blonde hair. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky247sports).

Willie Cauley-Stein is an elite defender with or without his blonde hair. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky247sports).

To analyze the trends ailing this inexperienced squad and to quantify their individual performances on the defensive end of the floor, I have charted every defensive possession in all 11 Wildcats’ games thus far. The analysis below represents the good, the bad, and the ugly in Kentucky’s defensive score sheet this season.

The Good News 

Kentucky’s interior rim protection has been a bright spot, erasing a multitude of mistakes in the Wildcats’ perimeter defense. Both Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle have an impressive defensive rating, a metric calculated to represent the number of points allowed by an individual defender over 100 possessions. Cauley-Stein and Randle lead the team with 91.1 defensive ratings, with Cauley-Stein as a high usage defender involved in nearly 25 percent of the Wildcats’ defensive possessions.

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SEC M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 20th, 2013

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  1. For the first time in eight seasons, Alabama scored more than 100 points in a game. All it took was playing Division II Stillman to pull it off. Two things worth noting really stood out in the box score. First, the Crimson Tide attempted 31 free throws while Stillman took just nine. Clearly, Alabama was more aggressive offensively, and were able to take advantage of the new NCAA rules. Second, and perhaps more remarkable in the age of the three-pointer, but Alabama made just five threes for the game. They made 32 two-point field goals, yet another testament to their aggressive mentality on offense. That is the mentality Anthony Grant needs from his team when they play better opponents the rest of the season.
  2. Frank Martin is concerned that his team is suffering from a lack of leadership, and it is showing with the team’s bad start. Martin felt that a lack of preparation led directly to the Gamecock’s inability to run their offense against Clemson, in true coach’s fashion Martin hated the team’s defense too. With seven true freshman on the roster, this really shouldn’t come a surprise. While Martin can lean on sophomore Michael Carrera for leadership, that is a lot to ask of a player with just one year of NCAA experience under his belt. As the season goes on, South Carolina will work out their issues, and a leader will emerge. In the meantime, enjoy Frank Martin’s brilliant quotes throughout the article, which include complimenting his team’s defense by calling it “not pathetic”.
  3. When a team is as deep and talented as Kentucky is, someone suffers a loss of playing time. At the start of the season it looked like Marcus Lee and Dominique Hawkins would not be in the Wildcat rotation. Flash forward to five games into the season and the picture has already changed. Lee started his second straight game last night, scoring 10 points and three blocks. Hawkins only scored 3 points, but played 13 minutes in a blowout win. John Calipari likes the way Hawkins brings energy when he plays, something the Wildcats have struggled with at times this season. Lee adds a versatile defensive element that Calipari loves. Lee can lead a press and also protect the rim in half court situations. Exactly what the rest of the country wanted, for Kentucky to find even more depth.
  4. LSU has one of the most talented front courts in the country this season, and their rebounding numbers reflect that so far. Even without start freshman Jarell Martin, the Tigers averaged 53.5 rebounds in their first two games, and added 56 last night. Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey have been dominating the glass, and even 5-9 guard Andre Stringer has been contributing quite a few rebounds. This is an advantage that LSU should continue to exploit all season long. Not only will it keep them in contention against Kentucky and Florida, but it will cause major issues for teams like Missouri that don’t have much size inside.
  5. Speaking of Martin, his return is still up in the air right now. While there was speculation he might return last night, precaution won out and Martin sat out again. It’s hard to determine the impact of Martin’s injury since he has only played 33 seconds and the LSU big men haven’t missed a beat without him. Still Martin is a five-star recruit and expected to make a major impact whenever he does get back from his injury. The sooner he comes back and develop chemistry with his teammates the better. In the meantime, fellow freshman Jordan Mickey has been a revelation for LSU and added 16 points and 11 rebounds last night.
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SEC M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on November 13th, 2013

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  1. The Preseason Wooden Award list was announced yesterday afternoon and the SEC occupied seven of the fifty spots. This was the first year freshmen and transfers were included and not surprisingly Andrew Harrison, James Young, and Julius Randle were among them. They are joined by teammate Willie Cauley-Stein, and Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae. The “snub” discussion is too tempting after any list is put out there, and there’s a good argument Trevor Releford should have been included. He’s the SEC active leader in points, assists and steals. Releford (career: 12.6 points, 2.9 assists, 16.5 TO%, 20.2 PER) is comparable to Memphis point guard Joe Jackson (career: 11.5 points, 3.9 assists, 22.1 TO%, 18.3 PER), who is on the list. Patric Young might have an argument too.
  2. LSU’s heralded freshmen class had a relatively rough go at it in the Tigers’ season opening loss to UMass. Jarrell Martin turned his ankle on the team’s first possession and didn’t return. This proved especially costly when Johnny O’Bryant picked up a third foul late in the first half, and a fourth midway through the second half. Jordan Mickey played well overall (16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 10 rebounds), but missed a couple point blank layups and more importantly allowed the Minutemen far too many easy looks at the rim. Johnny Jones probably had to play Mickey far more (38 minutes) than he wanted in this game because of the circumstances. Tim Quarterman got the start, but the offense moved much better when Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer were the primary ballhandlers.
  3. South Carolina nearly toppled #23 Baylor in Waco in what would have been the signature win of Frank Martin‘s young tenure. Three things from this game stand out going forward. Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell is emerging as a legitimate go-to offensive option as he scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. His 6’5” size and perimeter skills will be a tough match-up for most teams. Second, the Gamecocks interior defense, led by the undersized Michael Carrera, was impressive against one of the more talented frontcourts in the country as Isaiah Austin and Corey Jefferson scored only 21 combined points. Finally, high foul counts are a theme of the season thus far, and Frank Martin’s aggressive style play was no stranger to this. The Gamecocks were whistled 29 times, leading to 43 Baylor free throw attempts. The Bears were atrocious from the line (51 percent), and had they been better the game would’ve been very different.
  4. Billy Donovan has a lot of nice pieces at Florida this season. He has a frontcourt that goes four deep and two distributors in Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill. But for perimeter scoring he is relying on two players transitioning from bench players to main contributors, one of which is sophomore Michael Frazier. “My team is going to need me to have an increased role this year,” Frazier said. “I knew that going into the summer. I’ve been really trying to expand my game.” The three-point shot is a big part of Frazier’s game (46 percent last year), but he struggled in only shooting 29 percent from three during a stint with the Team USA U-19 team this summer. He began the season with a career high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting against North Florida, so it doesn’t appear his summer struggles had a lasting effect on his confidence.
  5. John Calipari might be beginning damage control with Marcus Lee. “‘But this program is going to be about you Marcus Lee. I just need you to get better. I’m going to coach you and I’m going to develop you, and understand right now these guys are ahead of you, but that doesn’t mean anything’. You know what he responds? Greatest kid. Tried to leave the locker room, he forgot shoes he was walking out with bare feet. I said, ‘what are you doing?’ He said, ‘oh, I forgot my shoes,'” said Calipari. It was inevitable that someone in Kentucky’s historic recruiting class would have a tough time getting on the court; there are only so many minutes to go around. Lee appears to be the guy thus far, and he played less than a minute against Michigan State last night. Media blitzes like this are part of what makes Calipari such a great coach because he understands better than probably anyone how to manage emotions and personalities.
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2013-14 RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 7th, 2013

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And so it begins. The time of year where we hear familiar voices on the television, see the faces on the floor, and our favorite teams finally playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With the games commencing on Friday evening, we officially unveil RTC’s 2013-14 Preseason Top 25. Starting November 18, you can expect our weekly poll to come out every Monday morning. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives deeper into how the teams shake out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2012-13 preseason poll — we nailed some (Louisville, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas), and swung and missed on others (Kentucky, NC State, Missouri, UCLA). We promise to do better this time around.

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Quick n’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • A Majority Likes Kentucky – Four out of our seven pollsters are in agreement that Kentucky is the top team in the country, while the other two teams that were picked first were Louisville (one #1 vote) and Michigan State (two #1 votes). It is really difficult to argue with any of the three selections, but Kentucky reigned supreme due to the star-studded recruiting class of Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson that John Calipari was able to lure to Lexington. Do not forget that Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein also return for the Wildcats. Defending national champion Louisville is once again loaded with talent, led by preseason All-American Russ Smith and 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock. Michigan State is a squad that was helped immensely when both sophomore Gary Harris and senior Adreian Payne bypassed the NBA Draft to return to East Lansing.

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SEC M5: 04.05.2013 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 5th, 2013

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  1. Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson stayed in the spotlight this season for rude, crude, and controversial behavior, but it never seemed that he was aware that he was acting a fool. Well, apparently he was. Henderson issued an apology to Ole Miss fans saying, “I take responsibility for my actions this season and apologize to anyone I offended,” Henderson said. “However, my edge on the court has made me the player that I am. I can’t change that, but I do understand that I can take things too far.” He also seemed to confirm that he would return to Oxford next season claiming, “With only nine hours left to earn my degree, I want to help build this program and that means I need to be a leader for my teammates both on and off the court.” Watch out SEC. Marshall Henderson is coming back and he is looking to get paid.
  2. Will Patric Young stay? Or will he go? The debate is on, and the good folks over at Alligator Army weigh in with a summary of reports. One comment from Young seems to suggest that he is staying in Gainesville. According to comments he made to the Palm Beach Posts’ Jason Lieser, Young spoke about next year saying, “to make sure we can have another spectacular season.” Next season could be special indeed for UF, especially if Young progresses in the middle with the additions of Chris Walker and Kasey Hill along with the return of Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin, and Casey Prather.
  3. While much of the conversation this week has been on current student athletes who are making decisions on whether or not to return to the University of Kentucky, last night was all about the high school athletes who have signed to play in Lexington next year. The McDonald’s All American game on Wednesday night featured six future UK athletes, and Kentucky fans are excited after seeing the future backcourt in action. Projected starting point guard, Andrew Harrison scored 10 points to go along with four assists while his brother Aaron Harrison, the projected starting shooting guard, added six points and five assists. The duo connected on an alley-oop lob that resulted in a slam dunk for Aaron. The Harrison twins were impressive, but they weren’t the only future Kentucky stars doing good work. Julius Randle contributed 11 points and seven boards and center Dakari Johnson added 12 points and five rebounds.
  4. The future University of Kentucky athletes know that in order to see playing time this year, they will have to battle future NBA players for it. Several players predicted physical practices that would prepare them for the college and pro level, and they know they will be better players because of that intensity. “I think at this point it’s, ‘Who else do I want to play against in practice?’ I feel like the practices are going to be a lot harder than the games at this point,” incoming freshman forward Marcus Lee said. “Going against (Julius) Randle and all these other major players, I think it’s more, ‘Who wants to fight to be on the court?’ than it is, ‘Who are we fighting against?'” Perhaps UK should enter a second team into SEC play this year so the reserves can see playing time as well.
  5. Former standout Alabama high school star Ricky Tarrant is transferring from Tulane University and is potentially interested in returning closer to home. The sophomore point guard confirmed the news saying, “I will not be attending nor playing basketball for Tulane University next year.” Originally, Tulane was not going to allow Tarrant to transfer, but have now granted him permission to contact other schools. The rumor at this point is that the former Pleasant Grove star would be interested in playing basketball at the University of Alabama, though his father says he has not made a list of potential destinations just yet.
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Who’s Got Next? Kentucky Receives Commitment From Dakari Johnson

Posted by CLykins on January 8th, 2013

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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 ranking

Top Center Dakari Johnson Announces For Kentucky

Whether you love them or you loathe them, there is no denying the pure dominance on the recruiting scene in recent years from the Kentucky Wildcats. Since head coach John Calipari took the position in 2009, he has secured the No. 1 recruiting class in three of the past four years — Kentucky’s 2012 class was ranked No. 2 by some outlets — and 12 five-star recruits during that span. However, the Wildcats’ 2013 class is shaping up to be arguably the best recruiting class ever (at least on paper). Entering this past Saturday, Kentucky had a five-man class while still in the mix with four prospects ranked inside the top 15. As the day concluded, that five-man class turned into six as the Wildcats gained a verbal commitment from Dakari Johnson out of Montverde Academy (Florida).

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Dakari Johnson joins a historic recruiting class for Kentucky in 2013

Johnson, the No. 1 center and No. 12 overall ranked prospect, picked the Wildcats over Georgetown and Syracuse following Montverde’s game against Simeon Career Academy (Illinois) at the Cancer Research Classic, in which he notched 18 points and 15 rebounds in the victory with Calipari in attendance. The 6’10”, 250-pound center cited winning, honesty with Calipari and his staff, and his pursuit to develop into the best player that he can become  as the deciding factors in his recruitment. “I just want to win a national championship,” Johnson said. “The coaching staff told me this was not the place to come if I didn’t want to work hard. But I want to work and I want to get pushed. And I think Kentucky is the place for me.”

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Who’s Got Next? Karl Towns Chooses Kentucky Over Duke, Stevie Clark Signs With Oklahoma State…

Posted by CLykins on December 4th, 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

Kentucky Lands Top Sophomore Karl Towns, Jr.

Right on cue. Tuesday was considered decision day for Karl Towns, Jr. and as expected by virtually everybody that follows high school basketball recruiting, Kentucky was the choice. Previously the nation’s No. 1 sophomore, Towns also revealed that he would be reclassifying into the class of 2014, a move that had been speculated upon for the past couple of weeks. The 6’11” center out of St. Joseph High School (New Jersey) unofficially visited Kentucky for its game against LIU-Brooklyn on November 23, just days after revealing his announcement, further enforcing the belief that Kentucky was the front-runner in this recruitment. Towns had limited his list down to eight in the coming weeks before narrowing it down to two just prior to the announcement. He chose the Wildcats over Duke, with the likes of Florida, Indiana, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Seton Hall also in the mix. “The first thing I have to say is that I’m going to reclassify to the year 2014,” the 17-year old Towns said. “The second decision I have to make is my university. The university I’ve decided to play for in the year 2014 is the University of Kentucky.”

Standout sophomore Karl Towns, Jr. becomes the fifth Kentucky commitment in the last two months

Towns has already gained valuable tutelage under his future collegiate head coach John Calipari while he was a member of the Dominican Republic national team over the summer. His participation allowed him the opportunity to hone his skills and to strengthen an ever-growing post game against players at the professional level, including Dominican Republic teammate and Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford. Along with a refined post game, what really grabs the attention of analysts is Towns’ ability to play on the wing. With arguably the best outside skill set of any high school prospect at his position in the country, he is a constant threat from deep. He is consistent from three and is capable of taking opposing defenders off the dribble with either hand and scoring from the mid-range. His all-around game has drawn many comparisons to that of NBA superstar Kevin Durant.He is currently in tremendous academic standing at St. Joseph High with a 4.0-plus GPA and his move to the junior class was discussed at length in the last two weeks.  Towns decision to reclassify will immediately impact the class of 2014 rankings as he will now be slotted behind the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, Tyus Jones and fellow center Jahlil Okafor.

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SEC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 15th, 2012

  1. Preseason tournaments aren’t always just about the basketball, as teams travel to exciting destinations like Maui, Puerto Rico, or New York City. So is Anthony Grant planning anything fun for his team’s visit to the Big Apple for the 2KSports Classic this weekend? “Yes,” claims the Alabama coach. “We are going to play basketball.” The Crimson Tide are all business on this trip. Oregon State will be joining them at Madison Square Garden, and although the Beavers don’t have a history of scaring anyone, they appear to have their best team in years. The Pac-12 foe has a post game that can exploit Alabama’s interior weakness, but their lax perimeter defense should provide the Crimson Tide with plenty of open looks from deep. These contrasting strengths will produce some open-ended basketball. Maybe the Crimson Tide will even be allowed some off-the-court fun in the big city if they can take care of the Beavers Thursday night.
  2. I wrote yesterday that Florida’s offense could struggle against Wisconsin with star guard Kenny Boynton playing out of position, creating a mini-ballhandling crisis. The Gators did have trouble in taking care of the ball by committing 20 turnovers against the Badgers, but you don’t need to make the most of your possessions when you shoot as well as Florida did in its 74-56 win. Erik Murphy in particular put in a masterful performance — the senior forward, still recovering from an illness, shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for 24 points, not to mention the eight boards (four offensive) he tallied. Murphy’s offensive versatility was on full display against a Badger team that ranked 7th nationally in defensive efficiency last season. The Gators’ 62% field goal percentage clearly isn’t sustainable for the long haul of the season, but when suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin regains his eligibility, the Florida offense has all the pieces to become a juggernaut.
  3. Kentucky’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class moved a few steps closer to becoming official yesterday, as Marcus Lee and Derek Willis signed national letters of intent. But the good news didn’t stop there. Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who had originally intended to wait until April to sign, will instead sign with the Wildcats before the end of signing period, according to the twins’ father, and James Young is expected to follow suit. While there was no reason to think that the Harrison twins were wavering in their decision to come to Lexington, Wildcat fans will love to see the pen hit paper. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being touted as one of the best ever, and Calipari is still in the running for almost every other top uncommitted player.
  4. In AJ Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli, Kevin Stallings has become accustomed to having a reliable center patrolling the paint at Memorial Gym. He may have to do without that this season, but he won’t wait much longer than that after Damian Jones became Vanderbilt’s first 2013 commitment. The 6’9” defensive specialist from Baton Rouge spurned nearby LSU to sign with the Commodores. “I really like the coaches and players, and they have a really good work ethic,” Jones said when asked what attracted him to Vanderbilt. “That’s what I like and what I’m used to. Coach Stallings makes sure they work hard.” According to 247Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, Jones may not have the offensive skill set of Ogilvy or Ezeli, but he is an elite athlete who will be a dominant rebounder. Stallings doesn’t have a ton of talent in Nashville at the moment, but Jones makes for a great start in his efforts to fix that with his next recruiting class.
  5. Auburn will face several quality players in the conference season, but they might just have their toughest individual test of the year against Isaiah Canaan and Murray State tonight. Coach Tony Barbee isn’t taking the challenge lightly. “Murray State is a very talented team. The guys they have returning with Isaiah Canaan being a preseason first-team All-American and how great he was last year from the point guard position. He has the ability to score and get everyone involved.” Dexter Fields and Stacy Wilson join Canaan in a backcourt that will have a distinct advantage over the Tigers, so don’t be surprised if Barbee encourages his team to feed center Rob Chubb early and often. The 6’10″ senior will enjoy a height advantage over the Racers’ frontcourt, and has shown that he can score if his guards can find him in advantageous positions. With an off shooting night from Canaan and Barbee finding the right matchups to exploit, the Tigers could give themselves some momentum early in the season.
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Who’s Got Next? Andrew Wiggins Reclassifies to 2013; Indiana Lands Troy Williams…

Posted by CLykins on October 30th, 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.

Andrew Wiggins Reclassifies into Class of 2013

It’s official. After many months of rampant speculation regarding the consensus No. 1 prospect in the nation, Andrew Wiggins is reclassifying into the class of 2013. A native of Canada and a student at Huntington Prep High School (West Virginia), he will assume his rightful spot at the top of the national rankings in the 2013 class. Confirmed by Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford, Wiggins and his family announced on Thursday after a decision had been reached. “It just happened,” Fulford said. “Andrew didn’t even know for sure until a little earlier today when his parents got him word. He was waiting on his parents. That was the real wait with it. It was just a family decision.”

Consensus No. 1 Prospect Andrew Wiggins Makes Move to 2013 Official

With the decision, which has been a work in progress for months, Wiggins’ move will make the class of 2013 one of the more impressive top-to-bottom classes in recent memory. The 6’7″ small forward is coming off an outstanding summer with his most notable performances coming while playing at the Nike EYBL with CIA Bounce AAU and at the LeBron James Skills Academy. After those two important events, he received high praise as the clear-cut No. 1 high school prospect in the land.

When scouting his overall game, he has the complete package on the basketball court. He is an explosive athlete with tremendous size on the wing. He can hurt you in a variety of ways with his shooting ability, whether it’s from the mid-range or from deep. One of the more impressive traits of Wiggins’ game is how he can effortlessly get to the rim and consistently finish under contact. While using that great size, he is also a ferocious rebounder. His ball-handling is one of his best traits and he excels in an up-tempo environment. Regarding any specific weakness to his game, his shooting touch could be a little more refined. Also, he has a work ethic that has been in question at times, as he sometimes seems “bored” during game. Developing a work ethic to match that of some of the best basketball players at the college and professional levels will separate him from his peers.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 18th, 2012

  1. The USA Today Preseason Poll came out yesterday, sign #217 that actual games are quickly approaching. As expected, both Arizona and UCLA were ranked in the Top 15, but the Wildcats ranked two spots ahead of the Bruins came as a surprise to most. It appears that more and more of the voters/national media are under the impression that Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will miss significant time in 2012-13 due to the current NCAA investigation. Following Arizona and UCLA at #11 and #13, respectively, is Stanford, who comes in at #37 in the “Also Receiving Votes” category. The Cardinal certainly have the talent to be there, but seeing no California or Colorado along with those two was interesting. Be sure to check back later today as Kevin will break down the Pac-12’s involvement in the poll.
  2. One of the top Class of 2013 power forwards will take an official visit Arizona this weekend. Aaron Gordon, out of Archbishop Mitty High School (CA), will attend the Washington-Arizona football game on Saturday before taking in the Red-Blue game Sunday afternoon. The younger brother of former UCLA and New Mexico star Drew Gordon, Aaron’s athleticism makes him the most sought after player on the west coast. He is most comfortable at the four, but can also score from the wing if needed. Gordon won’t announce his college decision until spring, but it looks as if he has narrowed down his choices to Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, and Kentucky. He will take an official visit to Lexington sometime later in the year.
  3. Shabazz Muhammad. Kyle Anderson. Adria Gasol? The latter might not be as well-known as the rest of the Bruin freshmen class, but being the brother of Pau and Marc, he certainly draws interest. Gasol will walk on with UCLA this season, but it is unlikely that he sees any meaningful minutes in his first year with the program. The Dagger’s Jeff Eisenberg describes him as appearing “lost on the court” and “shows a serious lack of basketball fundamentals.” So, not exactly words that ooze Pac-12 basketball player, but he will be a fun story to follow throughout the winter.
  4. Yesterday we told you power forward Marcus Lee would be choosing between California and Kentucky in the morning, and unfortunately for Pac-12 fans, the Deer Valley High School (CA) prospect is headed to the Bluegrass State. We knew things didn’t look good when Lee decided to forgo his visit to California this weekend after attending Big Blue Madness last Friday. Lee is the fifth member of John Calipari’s 2013 recruiting class, joining the likes of the number one point guard in the nation along with the top two shooting guards.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a sure to be entertaining Thursday night affair between Oregon and Arizona State, and that means it is time for Drew and I to renew our prognosticating battle. Drew has come all the way back to tie our competition up through seven weeks of play, so every game is even more important from here on out. Last week’s results leave both of us at 39-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Oregon at Arizona State Oregon 49-21 Oregon 47-31
    Stanford at California California Stanford
    Colorado at USC USC USC
    Washington at Arizona Arizona Arizona
    Utah at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
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Kentucky in 2013-14: Recruiting This Year’s Freshmen Now is Key to Winning Title Next Year

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 18th, 2012

“For the next four years I’ll be attending the University of Kentucky,” is a common phrase spoken by the top high school seniors these days. In fact, four top 25 recruits from the class of 2013 have committed to Kentucky in the past three weeks (two of whom used the same phrase). Most recently it was four-star center, Marcus Lee who chose to pledge his allegiance to the Wildcats on Wednesday. But in a revolving door of one-and-done commiments, what if someone actually did finish their eligibility at Kentucky? The recent pledges to play at Kentucky caused us to think about how dominant UK could be in that instance. Did Lee mean it? Not likely. But for John Calipari and the Cats, it is actually the young men who stayed past their freshmen year that have been the most influential.

John Calipari is on a recruiting roll, and it doesn’t look like anyone can stop him.

Scout.com’s Evan Daniels views Lee as a prospect on the rise. “He grew a couple of inches, he got more fluid, he became a better athlete, he developed some on the offensive end,” Daniels said. “He’s a guy that I think can really impact a game with his ability to run the floor, his ability to contest shots, his ability to rebound. […] He has a lot of tools and there’s a lot to like about him.” Lee joins James Young and Andrew and Aaron Harrison in what could turn out to be the best recruiting class ever. With a fourth commitment in a span of several weeks, it is no surprise that many are already considering the Wildcats as the favorite to win it all in 2013-14.

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Morning Five: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2012

  1. Wednesday was a huge media day around the world of college basketball, with not one, not two, but three power conferences holding their Media Day yesterday. Why conferences don’t think to stagger these a little better to dominate the entire national spotlight seems like really poor planning to us, but nobody asked for our opinion on marketing best practices either. The ACC Media Day (“Operation Basketball”) took place in Charlotte; the Big East in New York; and, the Big 12 in Kansas City. Let’s take a brief look at some of the storylines from each one. In Charlotte, the ACC media cartel mimicked the coaches earlier this week in rating NC State as the preseason favorite to win the league, with 26 first-place votes. Duke followed in second place with 21 first-place votes, while North Carolina was picked third. The preseason all-ACC first team includes UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, Florida State’s Michael Snaer (unanimous), Duke’s Mason Plumlee, and NC State’s  Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie (unanimous, POY). The Wolfpack are certainly the school du jour this preseason in the ACC, but can a 9-7 team from last season really get over its losing tendencies to overtake Duke and North Carolina this season? We certainly shall see.
  2. A few hundred miles up the eastern seaboard, the Big East did its thing in NYC, with the media sniffing around for angles related to the last season for conference stalwarts Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Louisville made immediate headlines for its unanimous selection by conference coaches to win the league this season, but it was the Cardinals’ loquacious coach who caused the biggest stir with his comments that his team “could have the best 10 players in America” — including Big East preseason player of the year, Peyton Siva — and that, according to Zagsblog, he still truly believes that the additions of Temple and Memphis next season can adequately replace the losses of the Orange and Panthers. Jim Boeheim, quite naturally, vehemently disagreed with Pitino’s assessment (“I think he’s full of s–t.”). Boeheim’s team was picked to finish second in the league standings, with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Pittsburgh following the Orange in the top six. Joining Siva on the preseason first team were Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, Providence’s Vincent Council, and Siva’s Louisville teammate, Gorgui Dieng. Pitt’s Steven Adams was selected as the preseason Rookie of the Year. In one other significant announcement from Big East Media Day, the league announced an extension with Madison Square Garden that will keep the Big East Tournament there through 2026.
  3. Moving to the Midwest and Kansas City specifically, the Big 12 emphasized a league in transition with the additions of West Virginia and TCU replacing the dearly departed schools of Missouri and Texas A&M. Throw in new coaches at Kansas State and Texas Tech, and there were quite a few get-to-know-you introductions going around the Sprint Center on Wednesday. We plan on having a more detailed post on what happened there a little later today on our Big 12 microsite, but to whet your appetite, take a look at this quasi-live-blog from the Charleston Daily Mail‘s Mike Casazza. His descriptions of the day’s events have a definite “we’re not in the Big East anymore” feel to them, as the Mountaineers are a minimum of 870 miles from the nearest Big 12 school (Iowa State). Here’s hoping that WVU hedged on jet fuel when it was at its lowest market rate.
  4. And now to today’s Kentucky segment, as the defending national champion is pretty much a daily newsmaker for one thing or another. On Wednesday during an ESPN segment with Hannah Storm, head coach John Calipari said without reservation that superstar recruit Nerlens Noel is in fact eligible to practice and play this season (video clip here). Additionally, the Wildcats picked up their fourth commitment from a top 30 player in the Class of 2013 yesterday when power forward Marcus Lee picked UK over California. Calipari of course still has his eyes set on adding top 10 prospects Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and/or Aaron Gordon to his mix, a group of which — on paper at least — would represent the best recruiting class of all-time. Finally, on Wednesday evening ESPN played its first All-Access piece on Calipari’s Wildcats — which basically comes off as a half-hour infomercial promoting his program. Remember when UK fans once complained that Coach K’s AMEX commercials were an unfair advantage? We wonder what those people are saying now.
  5. We’re hoping that this is the last time we mention this player’s name in this space, but former UCLA malcontent Reeves Nelson‘s defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated was thrown out of a Los Angeles court on Wednesday. Defamation suits often turn on the status of the plaintiff as a public or private figure, and Nelson’s notoriety as a prominent college basketball player at one of the nation’s elite programs qualified him as a “limited public figure” that would require a clear showing of malice toward him by the magazine. In the absence of evidence that author George Dohrmann made up some of the anecdotes involving Nelson in the March story about UCLA’s out-of-control program, “Not the UCLA Way.”  Nelson’s case was destined for failure. The judge said that the story was well-sourced and that Dohrmann had “spent a lot of time” on it.
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