Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 3rd, 2014
- News from last week’s Media Day is still trickling out and that means that we continue to gather evidence that says SMU coach Larry Brown is ready to take on all comers. The Dallas Morning News published a brief but illuminating interview from the event and it features a lot of Brown at his finest. He called the AAC an underrated conference. He called college basketball the “best minor league system” in the world. He challenged Mark Cuban over whether college basketball or the D-League is better at developing players, and he admitted that he wasn’t “excited” about the precedent Emmanuel Mudiay might have set by opting to play professionally in China. On the topic of college basketball v. D-League, I’m with the folks over at College Basketball Talk on this one. Each player is different and there is no right or wrong place for that player to be. It seems almost a little absurd to have this argument in the first place. The other big takeaway here is that Brown has been around for too long to care about mincing words anywhere, which is going to only make this season even more fun to follow.
- For now, it’s safe to pay only a little attention to news that Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin suffered a recent groin injury. But the Tigers’ other projected starting forward, sophomore Austin Nichols, is dealing with a shoulder strain, meaning that Memphis’ frontcourt is awfully banged up going into its huge season opener against Wichita State. The team expects its junior leader to only miss about a week of practice — and reports are that he should be ready to go when the Tigers square off with the Shockers — but let’s just say that the Tigers absolutely need a healthy Goodwin if they want to be successful this season.
- Temple head coach Fran Dunphy has obviously been keeping close tabs on this microsite because he is clearly cribbing from our analysis when he recently said that his team’s improvement has to start on the defensive end. Okay, so it’s doesn’t take a basketball genius to realize that the Owls were terrible defensively last season, so maybe Dunphy came to the idea independently. At least he was right. The Owls ranked No. 257 in defensive efficiency last season and that is totally unacceptable for any team that wants to sniff the NCAA Tournament. The piece rightly points out that one reason to hope that the team’s defense will be better this year is that they are deeper and more athletic thanks to transfers like Jaylen Bond and healthy returnees like Daniel Dingle. It’s always smart to trust in Dunphy, so if he recognizes that his team needs to be better defensively, they should be able to get at least some things fixed on that end of the floor.
- As Mick Cronin continues to try to rebuild Cincinnati into the type of perennial national contender it once was, one of the next steps is to improve the team’s local gym. The Fifth Third Arena, where the Bearcats play all of their home games, isn’t exactly a beloved venue, and now word has leaked that the university is taking the first steps to rectify that situation. Reports in recent months have said that the university filed paperwork with the state about renovating the arena, but on Friday athletic director Mike Bohn basically told everyone to pump the brakes. The plan has not been approved by the Board of Trustees and Bohn seemed particularly cagey when discussing whether it might be approved at all. A renovation would help modernize the building and make it more fan-friendly, but it will also be really expensive — like $40 to $70 million expensive. It could provide a big boost in recruiting, though, so if Cincinnati is serious about competing in basketball nationally, the school may get it done sooner than later.
- It’s basically old news at this point, but the season still hasn’t started so I am cutting myself some slack. UCF landed a big recruit, both literally and metaphorically, when 7’6″ center Tacko Fall pledged his services to the Golden Knights. A native of Senegal, Fall’s best basketball trait is that he is absolutely enormous and affects the way opposing offenses run just by being on the court. He is hardly fleet of foot, but he does move deceptively well for a man his size and may not be totally hopeless on offense. Now the question is whether coach Donnie Jones will ever get to see this recruiting class on campus — adding incredible size always helps, so long as you can stay around to coach it.
Posted by Will Tucker on February 7th, 2014
- Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs writes that Sean Kilpatrick “out-Bazzed” Shabazz Napier in the Bearcats’ 63-58 victory over the Huskies last night. After a cold start, the Cincinnati senior scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, hitting five of eight threes to help his team defend a two-game death grip on the conference standings. Conversely, Napier scored 16 points on 19 shots, missed 10 of his last 11 three-point attempts, and said he was reluctant to attack the basket in crunch time after failing to draw many whistles on “a lot of cheap fouls.” Kilpatrick’s game demonstrated “what kind of damage strength, length and maturity can do for a guard,” and while sometimes less exciting to watch than Napier or Russ Smith, he’s soundly and methodically outdueled both in the first of two match-ups with each this season. “I think if his team wins the conference, at the end of the day, Shabazz, Russ Smith and Sean are the three guys, Mick Cronin said of the conference POY race. “And if we win the league, obviously [Kilpatrick will] win the award.”
- Yesterday’s College Basketball Power Rankings from SI.com’s Luke Winn include half of the AAC: Cincinnati (#12), Louisville (#14), UConn (#19), SMU (#22) and Memphis (#28). Winn notes that if Cincinnati can make it past UConn tonight without slipping up, they will have gone a full calendar year without surrendering at least one point per possession at home. That’s downright impressive, poor non-conference schedule notwithstanding. He also observes that Louisville’s Luke Hancock has continued to score efficiently despite shooting 30 percent from beyond the arc this year because he’s drawing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, good for top-five in the AAC. Hancock’s teammate Russ Smith joins Sean Kilpatrick and Shabazz Napier among the “next 10 contenders” who didn’t quite make Winn’s early-February All-American team.
- Cincinnati has hired former Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn to replace Whit Babcock as AD. Bohn, who spent eight years at Colorado before being forced out last May, ushered the program’s transition from the Big 12 to the expanded Pac-12 in one of the moves that precipitated the conference realignment frenzy. That experience likely played a role in Cincinnati’s choice of Bohn, as one of president Santa Ono’s top priorities right now is finding a more stable long-term home for Cincinnati athletics. The former Kansas two-sport athlete, who earned his master’s degree at Ohio University, replaces Babcock after the former athletic director left for Virginia Tech on January 24.
- USF’s 79-78 overtime victory over in-state nemesis UCF on Wednesday was “fantastically and gloriously terrible, and it made no sense whatsoever,” writes Voodoo Five’s Ryan T. Smith. Both teams shot over 50 percent, which, if you’re familiar with the I-4 rivals this year, is more indicative of bad defense than anything else. It ended with a free throw prompted by a completely gratuitous foul behind half-court. And while Smith is hesitant to say that the Bulls have “turned the corner,” they’ve at least extricated themselves from the AAC gutter with a strong three-game stretch that nobody saw coming. The second half of their conference schedule sets up much more advantageously than the first, with two games against Rutgers, a rematch in Tampa with UCF, and a date with Temple at home on senior night punctuating likely losses against Louisville and UConn.
- Louisville looks to avoid the curse of the week off after bouncing back from their recent loss to Cincinnati with a pair of wins. The Cardinals got out to a glacial start against the Bearcats last week after an eight-day layoff, and The Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer points out that AAC teams are 0-7 in conference games following breaks of six days or longer. “It’s a weird conference, that’s all I can say,” Rick Pitino admitted. “I don’t understand why we have these eight days off.” One very important silver lining for the Cardinals is that Pitino expects 6’5” junior Wayne Blackshear to make a full recovery from a mild concussion in time to return for next Thursday’s game at Temple. Should his coach elect to plug Blackshear back into the starting lineup at the power forward spot, he would have three games to gain his sea legs at the position before a rematch with Cincinnati on February 22.
Posted by AMurawa on April 27th, 2012
- For the second straight week, the lead story in our Weekly Five is a UCLA recruiting coup, as the Bruins added to their already impressive class by signing 6’9” center Tony Parker – the #20–ranked recruit in the 2012 class – beating out schools like Ohio State, Duke and Parker’s home-state Georgia for his services. After the bizarre 45-minute press conference to announce his choice, ESPNU bumped UCLA’s class up to the top-ranked class in the nation (at least for now, pending other decisions — such as the #7 recruit, Anthony Bennett, possibly choosing Kentucky). One of the controversial parts of Parker’s commitment to the Bruins was his ties to assistant coach Korey McCray, who was hired by head coach Ben Howland last year. That move wound up paying off, as both Parker and former teammate on the Atlanta Celtics, Jordan Adams, wound up committing to UCLA to rejoin McCray. Regardless, the Bruins now feature a deep and talented squad that will not only be on the short list of favorites in the Pac-12, but should be a Top 10 team nationally and a legitimate threat to advance to Howland’s fourth Final Four in his tenure. There are a handful of storm clouds on the horizon though, as Shabazz Muhammad’s eligibility still needs to be sorted out and Kyle Anderson may be on the verge of thumb surgery, a procedure which could keep the point forward sidelined for much of the summer before his freshman season. Elsewhere on the Bruin front, the school announced an agreement for a home-and-home series with Missouri beginning next season at Pauley Pavilion, renewing a matchup that was made famous by an NCAA Tournament classic.
- Washington also just announced a new series with an inter-regional rival with whom they’ve had a couple of Tournament classics, agreeing to begin a two-game series with Connecticut next year (starting the series at either Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center). The Huskies of the Big East will repay the favor to the Huskies of the Pac-12, visiting Seattle in 2013-14. Normally, this would seem to be a game to wait for, but given UConn’s ineligibility for next year’s NCAA Tournament and the mass defections that have come along with that, UW could in good position to score an early road win next season.
- From the northernmost end of the conference to the southernmost, Arizona had some good news pop up on their radar in their search for a stopgap solution at the point guard position, when it was announced this week that Xavier combo guard Mark Lyons would be transferring out of the program and, provided he completes his coursework in time to graduate this summer, could be eligible to play next season. Given Lyons’ ties to current Arizona head coach and former Xavier head man Sean Miller, Tucson is the early favorite to earn his services although his plans are still up in the air. While Lyons is definitely not a true point guard, he is a capable ballhandler that would give the ‘Cats plenty of scoring punch in the backcourt. There was some uglier news out of the Zona program last weekend when outgoing senior Jesse Perry was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence last weekend. Perry maintains his innocence, but this type of story is never welcome news.
- A couple Pac-12 schools landed some other transfers this week, as Arizona State inked Valparaiso forward Richie Edwards and Oregon got a commitment from junior college transfer Coleton Baker. Edwards will have one remaining season of eligibility with the Sun Devils beginning in 2013-14, while Baker will give the Ducks a scoring threat at guard to help replace Devoe Joseph. Meanwhile, we learned the landing spot of outgoing USC transfer Alexis Moore this week, as he announced that he would be heading east to play for Penn, with eligibility starting in 2013-14.
- Lastly, in Boulder at the start of the week, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and athletic director Mike Bohn showed up at a local watering hole to mingle with and congratulate the “OG 50,” a group of 50 students who started a renaissance of the C-Unit – the CU student section – that supported the Buffs from their opening exhibition game against Fort Lewis all the way to their eventual exit against Baylor in Albuquerque in the NCAA round of 32. Bohn promised the group a seat at any Buffaloes home game in the future after the group helped the team outperform expectations all season long, including running through four games in four days in Los Angeles at the Pac-12 Tournament to capture the conference’s automatic bid.