Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 21st, 2013
- Somewhat surprisingly, news that Louisville forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely was met with a lot of shoulder-shrugs from analysts who have heard this song and dance from coach Rick Pitino before. It’s true that Pitino has developed an “all talk” reputation when it comes to suspending players, but as yesterday’s column from the Courier-Journal‘s Tim Sullivan points out, this suspension may be different. The column notes that Behanan hasn’t just been suspended from the basketball team, he has also been evicted from his residence hall, a move that’s so rare that school spokesman Kenny Klein couldn’t recall it happening before. The article also hints that the decision may not have been Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich’s decision and makes the good point that “[coaches] wouldn’t normally kick a player out of the athletic dorm if your goal was to get him back in time for a specific game. You would do so to be consistent with how U of L handles similar cases.” So while it’s entirely possible that Behanan will still return some time around Christmas, assuming Pitino is going to bring him back the first chance he gets may be underestimating how serious the offense and subsequent suspension are.
- Although this year’s version of Memphis Madness didn’t have the same kind of star power that last year’s version did, the atmosphere helped the Tigers land two commitments over the weekend. Top-30 JuCo forwards Trahson Burrell and Chris Hawkins both pledged to the Tigers, and they will add valuable depth and experience to a team that will be young again next season. Burrell initially committed to Rhode Island all the way back in 2010 (not a typo), but after bouncing around several prep schools, the New York native ended up at Lee College in Texas where his athleticism caught the eye of the Memphis coaching staff. Hawkins is a more peculiar commitment because while the 6’5″, 250-pounder has talent and size, he doesn’t seem like a great fit for Memphis’ fast-paced style of play. Still, head coach Josh Pastner and his staff rarely hand out offers to guys who can’t help the team in a big way, so it will be interesting to watch Hawkins fit in once he gets to school.
- One of the main reasons folks are so bullish about Connecticut‘s return to the NCAA Tournament this season is because of the breakout year that Huskies’ forward DeAndre Daniels had last season. Daniels came to UConn as a five-star recruit, but he failed to live up to the hype during a trying freshman campaign in which he hardly saw the floor and seemed totally unsure of himself when he was there. As a sophomore, then-first-year coach Kevin Ollie needed to lean on him heavily due to a lack of depth and Daniels responded to the challenge by averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG on the season (including 21.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 3.3 BPG in the final four games of the season). Now everyone is well aware of just how much ability Daniels has but it is his consistency that needs improvement if the Huskies are going to be a threat in their new conference. Everyone knows about how talented the team’s backcourt is, but it is the mercurial Daniels who may be the team’s most important player. UConn is very thin and inexperienced in the frontcourt and although he hardly qualifies as a traditional big man despite his size and length, his rebounding and rim protection will be crucial components of the Huskies’ defense.
- Since we are on the topic of teams without much of a frontcourt, the only AAC team with realistic NCAA Tournament expectations and less frontcourt depth than UConn may be Cincinnati, which makes the development of center David Nyarsuk all the more important. Tragedy struck the Sudanese big man during the offseason when he was informed his father had passed away, but he is coping with the help and support of his teammates and coaching staff, while UC fans are hoping that Nyarsuk’s determination to honor his late father translates on the court. Nyarsuk dealt with knee injuries and the acclimation to Division I basketball last season as he averaged 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game. But the Bearcats have lost nearly every legitimate post player from their roster and Nyarsuk will need to make a much larger impact in an increased role if Cincinnati is to have any hope of holding its own up front. The team has the leadership and ability to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, but it’s Nyarsuk’s development that will help determine how real that shot is.
- We have been saying it all offseason but let’s get it out there one more time — never doubt SMU coach Larry Brown. The elder statesman among AAC coaches still knows how to recruit and he also knows just how to leverage his connections to do it. Two weeks ago, David Robinson stopped by the Mustangs’ practice in Dallas, and on Friday, it was Allen Iverson‘s turn to show his face. You would have to be the most naive person in the world to think that Iverson’s visit at the same time that recruits William Lee, D.J. Hogg and Chris Giles were visiting was a coincidence, and if you still needed convincing about his purpose for being on campus, the former NBA superstar also attended Prime Prep’s Midnight Madness, where SMU commitment Emmanuel Mudiay just so happens to go to school. No recruit is going to choose a school just because some famous former NBA players shows up at practice, but in a world where half the battle is generating buzz, few folks can create more of a buzz with a visit to practice (practice?) than “The Answer.”
Posted by Will Tucker on October 18th, 2013
- Unless you were completely off the grid yesterday, by now you’ve likely heard that Louisville forward Chane Behanan is indefinitely suspended from the university. Doom-and-gloom reactions notwithstanding, The Courier-Journal’s Jonathan Lintner points out that coach Rick Pitino walked into yesterday’s press conference and laid out a blueprint for the Cardinals to remain “legitimate without Chane.” While depth and rebounding remain a concern, Behanan’s absence allows Pitino to start talented sophomore Montrezl Harrell alongside a smaller lineup of Russ Smith, Chris Jones, and wings Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear, rather than have Harrell split minutes at power forward as previously planned. “I honestly believe we’re number 2, 3, 4, 5 –– wherever you want to put us,” Pitino said, “all you’re doing now is putting Montrezl Harrell out there for 34 minutes a game. That’s not the worst thing in the world.” Pitino is as much a master of managing expectations as of exaggerating timetables, so his contention that the Cardinals still belong in the top five is likely either a good sign for Behanan or a genuine vote of confidence in Harrell and Blackshear.
- It was an active day for Louisville coverage on RTC’s AAC microsite yesterday, as Mike Lemaire measured Louisville’s depth post-Behanan and C.D. Bradley considered the future of the Cardinals’ rivalries with Memphis and Cincinnati, as well as the impact of the NCAA’s newly-imposed hand-checking rule on Russ Smith’s defense. On the latter topic, Bradley points out that Smith “stands to gain huge benefits” on the offensive end because of his propensity for getting to the free throw line (and cashing in once he gets there), citing Rick Pitino’s prediction that the change will render Smith “unguardable.”
- Pete Wickham writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer that Temple will begin its AAC basketball tenure uncharacteristically removed from the spotlight. Picked to finish fifth, firmly in the middle of the pack, by coaches at media day, Wickham reiterates that this year’s team scarcely resembles the one that won 24 games in the A-10 last year and tested Indiana in the NCAA Tournament. The five graduated seniors who won’t return to the court this year, including star player Khalif Wyatt, represented 73% of Temple’s offense. Fran Dunphy said he felt fine “laying in the weeds” at the start of the season, and emphasized the importance of balanced scoring as new starters adjust to expanded roles: “We’re going to have to be a team with five players who score in double figures.”
- The Memphis Tigers kick off their season with their Memphis Madness event tonight, and for coach Josh Pastner the theme of the evening is energy. “We’re going to have a tremendous evening. I can tell you that. It’s going to be energized. I’m all about energy. Life is about energy, positive energy,” said Pastner, probably as he caught his breath and chugged another Red Bull; “It’s going to be on the move. You don’t want to miss it. Doors open at 6:30 [PM]. They’ll end by 9 [PM].” Coming off of the most successful season of his head coaching tenure at Memphis, Pastner said nothing short of the program’s first national title would fully satisfy fans, and he wants to keep it that way, adding “We don’t ever want the expectations to change here.”
- SMU coach Larry Brown says that freshman shooting guard Keith Frazier has already “changed the program” by generating more interest among local recruits. The McDonald’s All-American, who was named the Preseason AAC Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, has evidently helped make the Mustangs more competitive on the recruiting trail before playing his first college game. Brown said “we’ve never been successful in recruiting inner-city kids in the Dallas Metroplex. Now everywhere I go, kids are interested in us because of Keith.” Five-star class of 2014 Dallas guard Emmanuel Mudiay credited his commitment to SMU over the summer in large part to Frazier’s decision to stay home.