SEC M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Freshman forward Alex Poythress announced his decision to return for his sophomore year at Kentucky on Tuesday. Poythress’ decision comes on the heels of freshman Willie Cauley-Stein and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer announcing their decisions to return to Lexington as well. Poythress isn’t returning just to improve his NBA Draft stock, but says that the team has unfinished business. ”This year didn’t end like we wanted it to,” Poythress said. ”I want to come back and do what we said we wanted to do and that’s win a national title. I want to develop more as a player and the competition coming in next year should help me do that.” Poythress, Cauley-Stein, and Wiltjer add a “veteran” presence for a UK team loaded in talent, similar to the dynamic created by Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb in the national championship year of 2011-12.
  2. Poythress admits he wasn’t prepared for the grind in college basketball, and says he is ready to put the work in to becoming a better player. “It starts in the weight room. We are going to be in there every day in the offseason,” he said. “We have to work on getting stronger and getting our bodies better. We did a great job last summer, but we have to pick it up and go harder. We can’t let this happen again. We have to focus on having a great season next year and if we feel like giving up (in the weight room) we just have to think about what happened this season and push through.” Wildcats coach John Calipari needed a leader in the locker room this season, and perhaps with another year of growth and maturity, Poythress can be that leader with a young team in 2013-14.
  3. Kentucky freshman guard Archie Goodwin has ended his college eligibility with the Wildcats by signing autographs for pay with a local sports company, Lexington Sports Cards. The company is pre-selling $15 tickets to receive an autograph from Goodwin, meaning he is no longer an amateur athlete. Goodwin lashed out at some of his fans on Twitter by saying, “If you can’t respect my decision then that’s your own problem. I’m still living life and blessed.” The backlash from UK fans is odd considering most in Lexington couldn’t wait to see Goodwin go. With as deep as Kentucky is next year, it’s possible Goodwin would not have gotten as much playing time or as many shots as he saw this season, making his decision a no-brainer so long as he remains a first rounder.
  4. Missouri freshman guards Negus Webster-Chan and Dominique Bull have announced they are transferring according to a team spokesman on Tuesday afternoon. Wesbter-Chan averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game including two double digit point performances. However, the 6’7″ guard could have difficulty finding additional playing time next season with the returns of guards Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross and the addition of eligible Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. Bull saw very little action last season, playing in just eight games and only 1.8 minutes per game.
  5. We’re a little late on this, but The Tennessean spent time with Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and asked the head coach 20 questions following the end of the Commodores season. Stallings was excited about what the future, particularly the progress of one of his freshman. “I would say Sheldon Jeter was the guy that improved the most, because he was a guy that when we were in our early practice sessions that really did not… his performance in practice did not warrant being in the rotation. But he improved so much that he became a real factor on our team. I think he’s got a great future here.” Jeter started seven games for the Commodores, a team that should have a lot more experience next season. Vandy, void of any seniors on this year’s roster, won’t lose a single player to graduation.
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SEC Freshman Watch: Breaking Down the “East’s” Most Effective Newcomers

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on February 12th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite Contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland. You can find past editions of the SEC Freshman Watch here (East) and here (West).

The SEC conference slate is more than halfway complete, and the league’s freshmen have begun to stabilize in their fourth month of NCAA competition. As expected, some first-year players are starting to wilt under the grind of the college schedule, while some surprising players are getting stronger as the year goes on. Kentucky has rebounded from early adversity to rejoin the Top 25 rankings, while Georgia, who once sat in the SEC basement with a 1-4 record, has ridden a five-game winning streak to stake its claim as a mid-tier team.

Noel's D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

Noel’s D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

These teams are getting big contributions from freshman play-makers to reboot their seasons. The Wildcats are playing well through Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin’s growing pains thanks in part to the burgeoning defense of Nerlens Noel in the middle. Georgia is riding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to key wins, but Charles Mann has turned into the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer and Brandon Morris is becoming a pesky defender on the wing. Even South Carolina, mired in a 2-8 SEC season so far, can take solace in Michael Carrera’s scrappy production in the Gamecock frontcourt. Let’s take a closer look at how these first-year players have performed since SEC play got underway. This week, we’ll go back and examine how the freshmen of the former SEC East are doing.

Kentucky: Nerlens Noel has stepped his game up defensively for the Wildcats, and that’s been a big piece of Kentucky’s charge back into the Top 25. UK has won five straight heading into Tuesday night’s showdown with Florida, and Noel has averaged 5.2 blocks and 10.2 rebounds in that span. His offense is still a work in progress, but his impact has been undeniable.

Kentucky Freshmen 2/12

Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin have been trending in the opposite direction, as they’ve taken a back seat to Noel as the season has worn on. Poythress’s minutes and scoring have dropped as the athletic freshman has struggled with fouls (four per game in his last six contests). Goodwin has struggled as a shooter and a ball-handler recently. He hasn’t made a three-pointer in his last eight games (0-of-10) and his assists have dropped (while his turnovers have increased) as the Wildcats have faced tougher opponents.

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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

SEC East

uk freshmen

Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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SEC M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday night was a light one for SEC basketball, but the one game on the schedule did not disappoint. Vanderbilt traveled north to take on Xavier and was able to pull out a 66-64 overtime victory in Cincinnati. Earlier in the week, coach Kevin Stallings told media that he needed his team to be more aggressive. “I don’t know that people are trying to define their roles anymore,” he said. “I think that we just have to have guys that are aggressive.” Kyle Fuller was listening. The junior guard scored a career-high 25 points on 8-16 shooting. His resolute play also earned him 10 trips to the line. Xavier, implementing an entirely new starting lineup this season (like Vandy), isn’t as good as they have been in recent seasons, but a road win against a top 100 team (according to Ken Pomeroy) is exactly what the struggling Commodores needed.
  2. Breaking news: This year’s Kentucky team isn’t as impressive as the 2011-12 Wildcats. Beyond the clear disparity in talent, the current players’ commitment to their workouts has been called in to question. However, Willie Cauley-Stein (who has apparently become the spokesman for this freshman class despite being its least important player) believes that his team is starting to turn it around. “There are four of us in the gym and it carried over. Before it was one guy in the gym. It was Archie. Then Julius was in there. Then Alex was in there. Then I was in there,” Cauley-Stein said. “Now it is just collective and everybody is going to start going in there.” Kentucky’s apparently poor work ethic might have gone undetected if they hadn’t put in such a spiritless display last week against Notre Dame. John Calipari’s team has three cupcake home games over the next few weeks as a warm-up for the trip to Louisville on December 29.
  3. Alabama dropped its second straight game this week (at home against Dayton), leading coach Anthony Grant to question his team’s toughness. The words seem pretty harsh for a team that’s started its season brightly, but with the Crimson Tide giving up 81 points (the most they’ve allowed in a home defeat in Grant’s tenure), it’s tough to blame him. “At some point as a basketball player, as a team, you have to have a toughness about you,” he said. “Whether that’s something that can be developed, we’ll find out.” The Flyers made eight three-pointers in 19 attempts against Alabama, and shot almost 50% from the field overall. Point guard Kevin Dillard was the star, scoring 25 points and dishing out eight assists. A weak Alabama interior would be understandable given its lack of depth and injury troubles, but for a team so stacked on the perimeter, the Crimson Tide should be winning the backcourt battle almost every night.
  4. You couldn’t fault Missouri’s Negus Webster-Chan for being a little loud these days. The freshman came to Colombia without a lot of hype, but is now an unexpected starter for the 12th-ranked team in the country. That’s not his style though. “I was mostly quiet on the floor and let my game speak,” he told the News Tribune. “Coach likes his players to talk and I’m talking now.” Webster-Chan’s sub-30% field goal percentage indicates that he needs to work on his shot (or his shot selection), but he’s an energetic player who fits in a Tiger offense that has plenty of other scoring options around him.
  5. In what seems like a daily topic on the M5, let’s talk about another terrible SEC team at the bottom of the conference. Today’s “winner”: Auburn. The Auburn Villager‘s Griffin Gotta published an intelligent piece analyzing the Tigers’ struggles this season. He writes that coach Tony Barbee’s team has been in most of their games at the end, but aren’t able to execute in “winning time” (an expression I’ve only heard of in reference to the fantastic 30 for 30 documentary). Auburn ranks 323rd nationally in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot almost 40% from beyond the arc. In an end-of-game situation, allowing open long-range looks can let a trailing and desperate opponent back in to the game quickly and, when the Tigers are on the comeback trail, a conceded three can completely kill momentum.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by DPerry on November 19th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. We’ve been able to see each team in action, but with vastly different degrees of difficulty as far as scheduling, we’ll need to see more before the rankings truly take form.

A perfect night for Erik Murphy propels the Gators to the top spot.

  1. Florida- The Gators’ offense has shown the potential to be dominant. The lineup is bursting at the seams with skilled scorers, both in the frontcourt and backcourt. In going 10-10 from the field, we’ve probably seen senior Erik Murphy‘s best performance of the season, but he should have no problem improving on last year’s breakout campaign. Turnovers have been a concern, but with the reinstatement of point guard Scottie Wilbekin allowing Kenny Boynton to move to the two, Florida should be able to take better care of the ball.
  2. Kentucky- The loss to Duke isn’t a huge concern. The Blue Devils are a quality, veteran team. No, the real problem with the Wildcats so far is the lack of depth. Jarrod Polson, a star against Maryland, was completely ineffective against a more disciplined defense, and John Calipari only trusted Willie Cauley-Stein enough to give him six minutes. The continued absence of Ryan Harrow leaves Kentucky without a true point guard, a role not suited for Archie Goodwin or Julius Mays. Still, in watching the young Wildcats play, it’s tough to argue that they have the highest ceiling of any SEC team.
  3. Missouri- Frank Haith has used his first few games to assess all the new talent that arrived in Columbia this offseason. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and freshman Negus Webster-Chan have been particularly impressive. We’ll know a lot more about the Tigers after the face three quality opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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SEC M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 12th, 2012

  1. Point guard is widely considered the biggest question mark in Kentucky’s title defense, and Wildcat fans were hoping to see new floor general Ryan Harrow satisfy the skeptics with a strong debut against Maryland. However, with the NC State transfer battling flu-like symptoms, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Jarrod Polson provided fans with a performance that won’t soon be forgotten. The former walk-on played 22 minutes (by far a career-high), scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, and coolly sank two clinching free throws in the dying seconds. Why was a complete unknown able to have such an impact? Practice. “One of the overlooked benefits to all those No. 1 recruiting classes Calipari reels in year after year is the daily competition,” writes John Clay, “where terrific players and accomplished athletes go head to head as a matter of routine.” In Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Harrow, Polson has faced a murderer’s row of opposing ball handlers in his three years of practice in Lexington. With competition like that, Maryland’s Pe’shon Howard couldn’t possibly be a problem.
  2. When Rick Ray was hired to replace coach Rick Stansbury at Mississippi State, he wasn’t only responsible for retooling a basketball team. He was charged with rebuilding a program’s reputation. They’ve had plenty of talent over the last few seasons, but the Bulldogs couldn’t shake the dreaded “underachiever” label. Off the court issues plagued the team as well, with Renardo Sidney’s countless shenanigans the most notable. Fortunately, Ray isn’t seeing any lingering signs of questionable character in his players. “The biggest thing I’m happy about with the team so far is they are giving the effort,” Ray told Starkville Daily News, “That is one thing I have not had to coach here so far.” That effort may be all Ray can count on from a team that returns very little talent and boasts very little depth. These deficiencies were exposed in a 56-53 defeat to Sun Belt also-ran Troy (the SEC’s only opening weekend loss). Ray is optimistic about what he sees from his squad, but consider it a surprise if the Bulldogs aren’t sitting in the SEC cellar by the end of the season.
  3. Tennessee wins the award for most misleading score of the weekend. The nine-point margin doesn’t inspire much confidence when the opponent is Kennesaw State (3-28 last season), but the Volunteers were predictably dominant in their season opener. “You have to take pride in dominating teams when you have the opportunity,” coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game. Tennessee held a 25-point lead midway through the second half, before mental slippage (Martin’s term, not mine) allowed the Owls to chip away at the lead. The Volunteers put on a clinic for their Atlantic Sun opponent, shooting over 60% from the field and hitting 58% from long range. Usual high scoring and rebounding forward Jarnell Stokes displayed his versatility by tallying five assists and five steals, both career highs. Tennessee heads to Puerto Rico next, and with possible matchups against Oklahoma State and NC State in the Caribbean, mental slippage will have to be avoided.
  4. Which SEC team utilized the most guard-heavy lineup on opening night? Has to be Missouri right? Wrong. In Alabama’s buzzer-beating win over South Dakota State, coach Anthony Grant relied greatly on his backcourt options, with guards accounting for 66 of the Crimson Tide’s 70 points. Trevor Releford led the way with 18, while Trevor Lacey’s buzzer-beating three gave Alabama the win over a quality Jackrabbits team. The Trevors lead a deep unit, but Grant will need Devonta Pollard to provide some balance in the form of low-post production. The highly touted recruit hasn’t delivered thus far, but his coach isn’t worried. “He’s going to be terrific,” said Grant, “This is a heck of a game for a freshman to come into.”
  5. Missouri will need Michael Dixon to compete with the elite in the SEC, but his indefinite suspension for the Tigers’ 83-69 win over SIU-Edwardsville gave coach Frank Haith quite a bit of freedom to see his backcourt newcomers in action. Dixon and point guard Phil Pressey have unquestioned starting positions, but with no other returnees, developing chemistry and finding the right rotation is paramount for Missouri. Transfers Earnest Ross and Keion Bell joined the starting five, but in going 2-for-10 and 3-for-8 from the field, respectively, neither impressed. Canadian freshman Negus Webster-Chan made a case for more playing time, however, displaying a nice shooting stroke and active hands on the defensive end.
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SEC Transition Basketball: Missouri Tigers

Posted by EMoyer on July 16th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Missouri.

State of the Program

The Tigers come to the SEC off a 30-5 season and a Big 12 Tournament title. Only two players who saw the court during any of the 2011-12 season return, but this team features a veteran roster  loaded with transfers from high-level Division I programs. Guards Michael Dixon, Jr., and Phil Pressey headline one of the top returning backcourts in all the land. Dixon excelled in a reserve role last season, averaging 13.5 points per game despite never starting. No player in the country, including No.4 NBA Draft selection Dion Waiters, averaged as many points per game off the bench. Pressey experienced no “sophomore slump” as he set the school’s single-season assist record and became a Bob Cousy Award finalist.

Bowers is Back Along With a Host of New Players for Missouri

Senior Laurence Bowers returns to the active roster after sitting out last season because of a torn ACL. In his prior season on the court, he averaged more than 11 points and six rebounds and close to two blocks per game. He ranks fourth on the school’s all-time blocks list and needs just 27 to move in the second spot.

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Who’s Got Next? Indiana Recruiting Violation; Many Commitments and De-commitments

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 13th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. 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 who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Indiana Self-Reports NCAA Rules Violation

Tom Crean Made a Mistake in the Recruitment of Gary Harris.

Indiana Commits Violation While Still On Probation. Indiana, who is still on probation until November 24 for major rules violations under former head coach Kelvin Sampson, self-reported a secondary recruiting violation recently that involved head coach Tom Crean visiting Class of 2012 shooting guard Gary Harris the day after the contact period ended. According to Indiana’s self-report, assistant coach Tim Buckley discovered the violation later that day and reported it to the Indiana compliance office. The school then contacted the NCAA that same day. Indiana docked itself two days on the recruiting trail as punishment for the violation after consulting with NCAA enforcement representative Chris Strobel. Although the potential penalty for a minor violation like this will likely have minimal impact on IU, one can’t help but wonder what was going on in Crean’s head. You know you’re on probation, you know this rule inside and out, and one of your commits has been associated with rules violations within the last six months. When you’ve been in the spotlight this much for potential rules violations, it will only hurt you. The ironic twist in all this is that Crean did this to get an upper hand in recruiting, but in all likelihood it will set him back since multiple prospects have told RTC in the past that they have completely stayed away from schools that were just thought to be committing violations, not to mention schools that were actually penalized like Indiana. By next week’s column, we should have a better idea of any possible sanctions the NCAA may impose.

What Troy Williams Is Saying

Class of 2013 standout small forward Troy Williams talked to Blue Grass Hoops about his visit and why the Wildcats are standing out right now.

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Big 12 Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 10th, 2011

  1. More proof the season has almost arrived: the Big 12 announced its preseason awards last week, and at first glance, there are only a few points of controversy. Keeping in mind that preseason speculation means essentially nothing, it’s worth debating whether or not Texas guard J’Covan Brown should make the All-Big 12 team after starting zero games for the Longhorns in 2010-11. Also, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and KU forward Kevin Young have decent arguments for Newcomer of the Year over Royce White, and Texas guard Myck Kabongo could push LeBryan Nash for Freshman of the Year honors. In the end, though, it’s all meaningless. Wake us up when the real awards come out in March.
  2. In your Surprising Realignment News of the Day, it appears Air Force actually told the Big 12 it was not interested in joining the league. In one of the more candid quotes of the week, AFA athletic director Hans Mueh said he simply “can’t recruit against Texas, Oklahoma [and] Oklahoma State.” Mueh’s programs would probably have trouble recruiting in any power conference, but the Big 12 likely won’t shed any tears after losing out on Air Force. That is, unless the rest of the Big East leftovers turn it down.
  3. For now, it doesn’t look like the Miami firestorm surrounding Missouri coach Frank Haith has affected his staff’s recruiting efforts much. Haith’s Tigers picked up a verbal over the weekend from Negus Webster-Chan, a 6’7″ forward from Huntington, W.V., and most of the credit for this commitment goes to assistant coach Tim Fuller. Webster-Chan pledged to Louisville originally, but when Fuller left the Cardinals for Columbia, he backed out of his commitment. Webster-Chan is the fifth recruit to verbal to MU for the Class of 2012, and while none are traditional blue-chip recruits, it’s at least a sign that players aren’t terrified of Haith’s job status. By the way, may as well throw this out there: Webster-Chan attended the same high school as former USC superstar O.J. Mayo. Counts for something, right?
  4. SLAM magazine published an article on Friday about Baylor’s Perry Jones, and the sophomore stud made some interesting comments to the magazine. He addressed last season’s suspension from the NCAA and also discussed his future plans for the NBA, saying he wants to be a “superstar.” As the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, he certainly has a chance to nab that title.
  5. All anyone ever wants to talk about with realignment is who may be joining; but what about how many should join? Tom Keegan at the Lawrence Journal-World has some advice: and that’s for the Big 12 to stay at 10 teams. After 15 years of having 12 schools, Keegan argues further expansion would disrupt the balance of the league and cause many of the same problems that have plagued the Big 12 since its inception: losing out on BCS bowls because of a league championship game (see: Missouri, 2007) and unbalanced basketball scheduling.  Interesting argument.
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Who’s Got Next? Updating the Class of 2011 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each 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 who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

This week has been full of events ranging from my final class of 2011 rankings to high-profile commitments to big-time performances to much rumor mill chatter. Players being lost in their recruitment, underclassmen making names for themselves and conference champions rescinding scholarship offers from top-five recruits are just a few things that happened in a very eventful week in the world of college basketball recruiting.

What We Learned

Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34 – Duke) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early.

Murphy Heads to Duke a Year Early. Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early (to see why, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below) as he has already passed the necessary courses to graduate and has been in high school for four years. There was speculation since he first committed to Duke that he would reclassify to the class of 2011 and the fact that he never denied it just added to the conjecture. The scouting report on Murphy is that he has a very nice shooting stroke from both the perimeter and mid-range game and is a superb slasher who finishes well around the basket. Given his length and athleticism, he is also versatile and will be able to play either forward position for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. However, he needs to add strength to his frame and become a better rebounder, but there have been rumors that he will redshirt so if true he will have another year to develop both of those attributes.

Kevin Ware is a Knight… I think. Shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Central Florida Monday joining an impressive class including center Michael Chandler, small forward Rod Days and power forwards Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson. However, we don’t know whether Ware still wants to be a Knight. Since he already signed a letter of intent with Tennessee (which they released him from after Bruce Pearl was fired), NCAA rules prohibit him from signing another one in the same year with UCF, so Ware is free to do whatever he wants. The first thing that raised eyebrows about his future college choice was the fact that he was announced as “undecided” in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic over the weekend (although his stepfather later said he filled out the forms before he committed and didn’t feel like changing it). The next thing that made people question his commitment was when a Louisville website reported that Ware told them his recruitment to UCF wasn’t a done deal and that he was “absolutely” still considering Louisville (see the “What They’re Saying” section for Ware’s quotes on this). Also, he reportedly told fans at the Derby Classic while signing autographs that he was still considering the Cardinals. The excuse for all of this that has been picking up steam lately is that Ware was simply afraid of potential backlash from Louisville fans at the event, which is plausible since Ware tweeted he was afraid of a backlash before he left for it. We still don’t know what is going on with him but hopefully by next week we will have a clearer picture of his college choice.

UNC Rescinds Shabazz Muhammad Scholarship Offer. In a surprising move, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pulled the scholarship offer from junior small forward Shabazz Muhammad (#5) this week while at the same time offering his teammate, small forward Rosco Allen (#27). It has seemed as though Carolina was losing steam with Muhammad ever since he didn’t attend the North Carolina vs. Duke game at Chapel Hill (although a reason to why he missed it was never confirmed), and the rumor going around now is that he is close to making a commitment elsewhere. The other schools that he would be presumably choose between are Duke, Kentucky, Texas and UCLA. Muhammad is an impact player who will start from day one no matter the program he goes to since he is such a prolific scorer on the offensive end and is so athletic and versatile. He is a better scorer inside the arc than anyone else in the class of 2012 but needs to work on consistently rebounding and improving his ball-handling to become a complete player.

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