As we descend the back end of the calendar year, slowly but certainly inching toward cooler weather and the magical return of college basketball, the 24/7/365 behemoth that is Kentucky Basketball continues to play chess while the rest of its competition is playing checkers. John Calipari announced on Tuesday that he plans to offer a first-of-its-kind scouting combine for NBA personnel to assess his boatload of prep All-Americans in a structured environment (and in lieu of endless in-season scouting visits to practice). Several college football programs do something similar for their future professionals, but these so-called “pro days” typically come after the season has completed but before April’s NFL Draft. And if you think there won’t be a recruiting component to this October 10-11 event in Lexington, keep dreaming. Coach Cal continues to think creatively, and his success is to show for it.
The rest of the SEC‘s basketball programs have enough trouble keeping up with the Caliparis on the recruiting trail as it is, but as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish notes in this article, a little-known league rule about junior college transfers further limits the SEC’s 13 other schools from attracting local players who could have been good fits. Marquette’s Jae Crowder — originally from Georgia — is his prime example, citing that the Peach State native and 2012 Big East Player of the Year was precluded from enrolling at any SEC school (including the one in Athens) because he had not spent at least three semesters at his junior college prior to matriculation. It’s an exceptionally odd rule — especially in the loosey-goosey SEC — but it is one that limits the talent pool by a sliver and gives other leagues a bit of a competitive advantage in certain instances.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn’t had the best year-plus in his role as the chief executive of the nation’s favorite drive-through state, but he may have turned the corner in many sports fans’ minds with his announcement this week that the Garden State would allow sports gambling in its race tracks and casinos. This is an obvious last-ditch response to the ongoing implosion of the Atlantic City gaming industry, but the timing of this initiative with the NFL and college football getting under way couldn’t be any better from a quick revenue perspective. The NCAA is on record as very much against this, and it’s unclear as to the ultimate legality of the directive, but Christie is willing to take a shot at it. Could Jersey finally be on a path to become the East Coast’s Vegas through sports gambling? Stay tuned on this one over the next few weeks and as we push on toward the start of college hoops in November.
While in the legal realm — hey, it’s the offseason — the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon name and likeness case announced earlier this week that they would not seek an appeal of any part of district court judge Claudia Wilken’s decision that mostly fell in their favor. The NCAA, of course, is appealing the antitrust holding of the decision — the core issue that will require schools to compensate players for the use of their images — so you may be wondering why the winners would even consider an appeal. The reason is because the O’Bannon plaintiffs didn’t get everything they were hoping for, but they got enough. Now on to the appellate court…
Finally, we’d like to once again put out a feeler to any of our readers — long-timers or newbies — who might want to give a shot at writing about college basketball this upcoming season. We need national columnists in addition to knowledgeable writers for each of the major basketball leagues — the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, along with the Other 26 — to fill out our roster. We invite anybody with an interest to send us some information about yourself and a writing sample to email@example.com. Thanks for your interest.
If you’re a regular reader, even in the offseason, you may have noticed that we have decided to cut back the national M5s a bit during the long summer months. The objective is to get a couple of them published each week, but we might go for three if we’re feeling a little frisky. The biggest news of the last several days in the college basketball universe was the weekend announcement that the settlement between video game maker EA Sportsand over 100,000 former and current student-athletes for the unauthorized use of their likenesses was finalized. The settlement calls for $40 million to be divided among a huge number of class action members, but even if the individual payouts will be relatively small (the named plaintiffs would top out in the low five figures, while most would be in the hundreds), the notion that players deserve some sort of recompense for the use of their images is clear. Note that this settlement does not impact the impending lawsuit between Ed O’Bannon and others against the NCAA, set to begin Monday in US District Court in San Francisco, although some of the evidence from this settlement will certainly come to bear in that case as well.
From a coaching comings and goings standpoint, several high-profile names remained in the news over the last several days as NBA teams seek to fill their open positions. Guys like UConn’s Kevin Ollie and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg appear to the collegiate coaches du jour, but the biggest names are always floating around the periphery of those conversations. Kansas’ Bill Self and Kentucky’s John Calipari said in separate conversations with ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz on Monday that they were both incredibly happy with their current situations and had not been contacted this offseason about any open positions. Cue Mitch Kupchak on line two, coach? In keeping with the theme, Florida’s Billy Donovan last week basically said “never say never,” but as SI.com‘s David Gardner writes, he could probably satisfy his itch to coach the world’s best players by following the Coach K model with the US Men’s Basketball team. There’s certainly something to be said for capstone jobs in all three of their cases, but the competitive drive and instincts that got them there keeps them looking for even better opportunities, hard as they might be to come by.
One current college coach who has had no problem finding a better opportunity just around every turn for the better part of five decades is SMU’s Larry Brown. The 73-year old who has completely rebuilt the Mustangs’ program in Dallas and will be in everyone’s Top 25 next preseason (especially with Xavier transfer Justin Martin en route) is rumored to be in the running for the open Los Angeles Lakers job. A number of other names are also under consideration — including Scott Skiles, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins and Mike Dunleavy — but Brown is perhaps the most intriguing given that he already has an excellent thing working at SMU in contrast with the train wreck awaiting the next coach in LA. With nine NBA franchises already on his resume as a head coach (but none with the Lakers’ pedigree), the job would no doubt be attractive to him, but would the Lakers really want to hire someone that the franchise could only expect to have on board for a couple more years? Let’s hope the itinerant LB sticks around to see through the job in DFW.
One coach that we can’t imagine will be thinking NBA anytime soon, or ever, is Virginia’s Tony Bennett. While a brilliant basketball mind, his system involving shutdown defense and a glacial tempo likely wouldn’t translate very well to the League. Irrespective of that, UVA rewarded its head coach for a #1 seed, 30-win, ACC championship season, with a seven-year extension to his current deal. The new contract locks him into Charlottesville through the 2018-19 season and increases his annual salary to just shy of a couple million dollars per year. Not bad for a guy who was projected to have trouble recruiting ACC-caliber players. Ahem.
This is a neat story from the Chronicle of Higher Education about a young man named Marvin Clark, a Kansas City kid who will be an incoming freshman at Michigan State this fall. The story chronicles the many ups and downs of his year-long recruitment, where he rode a roller coaster of ups and downs as schools from Oregon to Seton Hall and everywhere in-between expressed interest before backing off and picking back up on him again. Raised in a hard-knock situation with no father figure and a mother battling addiction, Clark’s story represents how recruiting can go for many of the kids not rated in the consensus top 25 of the rankings (Clark fell in and out of the top 150), and how perception and relationships can drive as much of the decision-making process as anything else. It’s a good, quality read, and a reminder to most of us readers that, no matter how bad your day might have gone, it probably was better than many of those that Clark faced growing up.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the long summer of college basketball purgatory awaits — June, July and August are fun months for many other reasons, but getting your college hoops fix isn’t one of them. Message boards and social media will remain active, of course, and we’ll do our part here from time to time as well, but at the end of the day, we’re all daydreaming about how next season will play out. The Sporting News waited a little longer than most outlets to release its post-early entry Top 25 for the preseason, but the timing works because it gives us something to chatter about. Perhaps the most surprising selection here is that TSN went against the grain in choosing a team not named Kentucky as its overall #1 team, but there are a few other surprises scattered about the list (particularly at #5). If you need a comparison Top 25, here’s RTC’s version from about a month ago.
One of the teams looking to reload after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to next month’s NBA Draft will be Kansas. With another elite recruiting class headed to Lawrence, however, headlined by star forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, the Jayhawks populate most pundits’ preseason top 10s. Bill Self’s squad might find itself rising in everyone’s mind by October, as Kansas on Wednesday added another impressive piece to the class in Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – good luck pronouncing that one — a tall but talented shooting guard who has been favorably compared with former Michigan star Nik Stauskas. With a ton of frontcourt talent on board as well as Wayne Selden and now Mykhailiuk joining the program, Self only needs to figure out his point guard situation in order to roll out another big-time National Championship contender.
Speaking of one-and-dones, seemingly everyone who has a stake in the game is sick of them. Whether you’re in favor of going back to the preps-to-pros of the multi-year NFL model, people seem to agree that something needs to change. For the good of the game and all that. The Pac-12 on Wednesday took its own shot across the bow of the NBA’s dominion by releasing a letter addressed to ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC schools suggesting as one of its key reforms the following admonition: “Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.” Of course, the NBA, under the new leadership of Adam Silver, appears to have prioritized a two-and-through model for its next round of player negotiations, but there’s certainly no guarantee that such a change in rookie eligibility will occur. But freshman ineligibility as a measure of pushback? It would only serve to further marginalize college basketball as a major American sport.
Remember Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s former VP of Enforcement who was run out of the organization on a rail after the disastrous investigation of Miami (FL) athletics and the influence of Nevin Shapiro? After a 14-month hiatus doing consulting work, she’s back in college athletics, now as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Horizon League. Her new responsibilities will include oversight of the league’s 19 championships, student-athlete development, finances, corporate sponsorship and branding, all interesting and important aspects of an organization that has little to do with her previous role involving enforcement. Still, her breadth of experience and without question also her ties to the inner workings of the NCAA right down the street from HL offices are attractive qualities, and everyone deserves a second chance to prove their value and integrity. We wish her and the conference well on their new endeavor.
Some transfer news from the midweek: Creighton picked up Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow; Michigan State’s Russell Byrdplans to play at NAIA school Master’s College; and the nation’s top returning scorer, Niagara’s Antoine Mason, is on the move for his final season of eligibility. All three will be eligible to play next season (Kreklow and Mason are set to use the graduate transfer exception next season, while there is no transfer penalty for Byrd to drop to the NAIA), but it is the free agency of Mason that might be the most interesting of this group. The 6’3″ guard and son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason will no doubt be a hot commodity in coming weeks for schools seeking to add some immediate scoring punch to their backcourts. The caveat with Mason, of course, is that he’s a high-volume, low-efficiency guy who took as many shots as he liked for a 7-26 MAAC team last season. If a high-major coach can get through to him to cut way back on his three-point attempts (28.6% on 168 attempts last season) and focus on driving the lane to draw fouls and get to the line (where he shoots a much nicer 72.8%), then Mason could become a key contributor on a contender next season.
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, 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 recruitment of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions atThe Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five-star center Myles Turner committed to Texas earlier this week on ESPNU, a surprising outcome given that just one year ago Rick Barnes was on the coaching hot seat in Austin and Turner wasn’t even considered a top 100 recruit. After a successful 2013-14 season that ended in the NCAA Tournament, however, Barnes is back in the good graces of the Longhorns faithful, and Turner has risen to become the No. 5 recruit in the county.
When Turner entered high school he stood at only 6’2”, but after growing steadily throughout his four years he entered the spring AAU circuit in 2013 as a relatively unknown seven-foot commodity. It wasn’t long before his recruitment shot through the roof with almost every big name school expressing interest in the hottest young prospect in the Lone Star State. To his credit, Turner did not shy away from the challenge, as he picked off higher ranked players left and right in nearly every camp and tournament setting. After a strong senior season at Euless Trinity (TX) High School, Turner was selected to participate in the McDonald’s All-American game, the Nike Hoop Summit, and the Jordan Brand Classic. “It’s been a crazy journey,” he said, while in Chicago for the McDonald’s game. “I’ve been all over the country in the past year playing ball, but it’s been a great experience.”
After a lengthy recruitment, Turner was the last of this year’s five-star recruits to make a college decision. He chose the Longhorns over Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, SMU and Texas A&M. While Turner’s height classifies him as a center by position, he is a whole lot more than the position dictates. On the offensive end of the floor, Turner is comfortable from all areas — he can bang down low in the post for a short jump hook or a sweet turn-around shot off the glass. He also has range out to the three-point line and shoots a high percentage from 10 to 15 feet. The mobile big man can cover the floor well with his size 21 feet, and is an imposing presence on the defensive end with a 7’3.75” reach.
Rick Barnes just became a better coach this afternoon. His Texas program just secured the commitment of five-star center Myles Turner — the top uncommitted prospect in the Class of 2014 — which means the longtime Longhorns coach might have the best frontcourt in the Big 12 next season. Turner, a 6’11”, 225-pound senior, picked Texas over SMU, Kansas, Duke, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, with most experts saying it came down to Texas, Kansas and SMU for his services. Turner is ranked ninth overall in his class at Rivals.com but his popularity soared over the last few months as he eventually became the last big-name recruit to commit to a school. A skinny big man with range from deep, it is no surprise that Myles, a native Texan, might now get a chance to replicate his idol Durant’s historic 2006-07 season in Austin. And if Turner does in fact have dreams of spending some time on the perimeter, Texas was clearly the school for him. It’s hard to imagine coaches like Bill Self or Larry Brown throwing Turner in at the three position and sacrificing his defensive prowess in the paint, but Barnes seems more than willing to experiment with that idea.
Myles Turner Makes Texas a Big 12 Title Favorite.
So what does this mean for Texas basketball next season? The Longhorns weren’t supposed to do much this year, as many wondered if Barnes was already on the hot seat before the year began. But five months later, one of the youngest teams in the country had won 24 games and playing in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Everyone on the roster is set to return next season, including sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor, senior forward Jonathan Holmes, junior forward Cameron Ridley, and junior guard Javan Felix. Ridley could become the team’s sixth man with Turner starting at the four while occasionally showcasing his other skills on the perimeter. The trio of Turner, Ridley and Holmes would challenge Kansas for the best frontcourt in the Big 12.
While the ACC took a beating in its reputation over the course of the season, the league ended up with four very good teams (regardless of their early exits in the NCAA Tournament) that all spent some time in the Top 25. The league was top-heavy with a clear upper quadrant this year, but that didn’t stop the bottom from occasionally feeding on the weaknesses of some of the top teams, as Wake Forest beat Duke, Boston College and Georgia Tech beat Syracuse, and UNC lost to Wake and Miami. The ACC has traditionally run through Tobacco Road, but with the inclusion of powerhouses Syracuse and Louisville, the league will have a much more diverse, East Coast feel to it. The new rivalries that will develop among those schools are practically bred for prime time, with some of the sport’s most magnetic and well-known coaching personalities clashing on the sidelines, Hall of Famers with thousands of combined wins at this level. Their players aren’t halfway bad, either.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino has to be pleased (contrary to his facial expressions above) with his well-rounded six-man recruiting class(Getty Images).
Most other basketball conferences will be hard pressed to match the star power and coaching prowess that programs like Syracuse, Duke, UNC, and Louisville will bring to an already tradition-rich ACC. Much of the the league’s success can be laid on the shoulders of the incoming recruits that will provide these future made-for-TV moments. The 2014 recruiting class among the league’s programs seems to be fertile and deep, full of stars and instant impact performers who will enhance the collegiate landscape during their time on campus. The McDonald’s All-American game, played on Wednesday night in Chciago, featured seven future ACC players, all headed to Tobacco Road. While Duke’s top-ranked class has received much of the early accolades, North Carolina also is bringing in a potent blend of athleticism and shooting ability.
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, 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 atThe Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date 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 email@example.com.
Larry Brown has SMU off to a strong 3-2 start in its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference, but in all honesty the Mustangs are really looking forward to next season. That’s when five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, arguably SMU’s best-ever recruit sets foot on the Dallas campus. The 6’4” point guard is currently ranked as the top point guard in the country and No. 3 player overall.
A native of Dallas, Mudiay surpassed Tyus Jones (#4 overall, #2 PG – 2014) as the top point guard in the country last summer due to his unique combination of size and speed. At 6’4” and 190 pounds, Mudiay possesses the physical attributes that NBA scouts love. He is extremely difficult to contain off the dribble and can finish above the rim or dish to teammates for easy baskets. Mudiay is not known for his outside shooting at this point, but so far during his senior season at Prime Prep (TX) he has shown some range in numerous high scoring outbursts. Mudiay’s size and athletic ability make for an easy comparison to John Wall. Given the comparison it was widely assumed that Mudiay would be next in line as a one-and-done point guard for John Calipari at Kentucky. Instead, he chose SMU over Kentucky, Baylor, Kansas, and Oklahoma State on August 24. Why the Mustangs? “He’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Mudiay said, referring to Brown. “He coaches Hall of Fame players. One day I want to play in the NBA. He’s coached at the highest level. I can learn a lot from him.” After six seasons of subpar play under former head coach Matt Doherty, the Mustangs have a newfound confidence which is showing up in the recruiting world. In the 2013 recruiting class, Brown landed five-star shooting guard Keith Frazier (#33 – 2013), another Dallas native. While Frazier is only averaging 5.9 points per game as a freshman, a backcourt of Mudiay and Frazier could develop into one of the top duos in the country next year. With only two seniors on the roster, the Mustangs are a relatively young team that should return its top scorers in Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy next season. SMU last made the NCAA Tournament way back in 1993, but that drought could be over very soon with its recent five-star recruits.
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top high school talent in Chicago faces off against teams from all across the U.S.
In its second year of existence, the Chicago Elite Classic features seven games on Saturday. With the top teams from Chicago going against top teams from across the country, the Illinois-Chicago will feature a plethora of must see match-ups. The first one involves a point guard battle between Kentucky commitment Tyler Ulis of Marian Catholic (IL) and USC commitment Jordan McLaughlin (#38 overall – 2014) of Etiwanda (CA). The night session features the Lawson twins from Memphis going up against the four-time defending Illinois state champion in Chicago Simeon High School. Four-star forward K.J. Lawson (#27 overall – 2015) has committed to Memphis and his younger brother Dedric is ranked as the No. 5 player in the class of 2016. After this game, Kansas commitment Cliff Alexander will look to use his brute strength and force to overpower two of the top junior big men country in Stephen Zimmerman (#3 overall) and Chase Jeter (#19 overall), both of whom play for Bishop Gorman (NV). The nightcap features the top player in the country in center Jahlil Okafor going against a guard-laden St. John Bosco (CA) squad that features five-star Connecticut commitment Daniel Hamilton (#18 overall) and one of the top scoring guards in the class of 2015 in Tyler Dorsey (#7 overall).
2. Kentucky Showing Interest in Vaughn?
In a previous interview with ESPNU, John Calipari indicated that he wanted to add two more players to his No. 2 ranked 2014 recruiting class. It appears as though one of those players might be five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (#13 overall, #2 SG), who was profiled in the latest edition of Who’s Got Next? On Tuesday, assistant coach Orlando Antigua stopped by Findlay Prep (NV) to watch one of Vaughn’s practices. Kentucky offered Vaughn a scholarship last year; however it did not seem as though there was much interest between the two parties until recently. Kentucky signed four-star shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall, #5 SG) and also just missed on five-star wing Kelly Oubre (#6 overall, #1 SF) and four-star shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. (#33 overall, #6 SG). The interest in Vaughn makes sense for two reasons: 1) he is the top-ranked shooting guard on the board, and 2) he has expressed his desire to spend just one year in college. Right now the Wildcats have four players in their recruiting class in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG), shooting guard Devin Booker, power forward Trey Lyles (#8 overall, #1 PF), and center Karl Towns Jr. (#11 overall, #4 C). Vaughn took official visits to Iowa State and UNLV and also has an official visit set up to UNC in February.
Rodney Purvis can’t play this year, but he’s still helping the Huskies get off to a hot start. The former highly-touted recruit who transferred to UConn after a year at NC State has been the star member of the scout team, helping one of the nation’s top backcourts prepare for the likes of Dez Wells and Yogi Ferrell. The full year of practice will be crucial for Purvis, who likely will have to step into the sizeable shoes of Shabazz Napier next season. Of course, it may also be playing a pretty big role in Napier’s blazing start, which will have him in consideration for a number of postseason awards if he can maintain it. Based on the early returns, luring Purvis to Storrs looks to be a pretty major win-win for both he and head coach Kevin Ollie.
Sean Kilpatrick was angry when coach Mick Cronin redshirted him due to a crowded backcourt and a mechanical flaw in his jump shot four years ago. Both he and Cronin have to be pretty pleased with how it worked out, though, as Kilpatrick now ranks #13 on the school’s all-time scoring list as a fifth-year senior. If he keeps up his current pace – he’s averaging nearly 20 PPG through five games – he could end up second on the list to some guy named Oscar Robertson. And while Cronin might have had some inkling that the little-recruited guard would help more down the road than right away, he almost certainly couldn’t have understood just how much. Kilpatrick is posting a ridiculously high 155.2 offensive rating through five games, vital for a mediocre offensive squad like the Bearcats. If he can approach that number during a key three-game swing next month – at New Mexico, then neutral court games with Xavier and Pitt – both he and his team will earn some rightful attention.
Kevin Ware‘s eventful year (life?) continued with a plea deal involving a $268 fine, bringing the latest kerfuffle over a speeding ticket and missed court date to a merciful end. This follows Rick Pitino’s rather pointed press conference on the topic last week after he was apparently blindsided by the news. That all followed on the heels of, shall we say, some colorful tweets from Ware’s Twitter account to Anthony Davis, quickly deleted and attributed to hacking. That followed denials from Ware and Pitino of summer “reports” that Ware had been secretly dismissed from the team. All of that, of course, follows the gruesome injury in last season’s NCAA Tournament which catapulted the quiet reserve to national prominence. That followed an indefinite suspension last spring that lasted one game. Even that followed a recruitment which included a commitment to Tennessee, later withdrawn when Bruce Pearl was fired in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to UCF, later withdrawn in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to Louisville, delayed by a semester due to the NCAA probes. Seems like quite a bit of drama for a junior with a career high of 11 points, no? Whew.
When Louisville went way off the board for the fifth member of its signing class last week, no one knew much of anything about Matz Stockman. He wasn’t ranked by any of the major recruiting watchers, nor had his name been tied to the Cardinals publicly before his papers came through the fax machine. Not even Rick Pitino had seen him play. Now that his team has played a few games on American soil, word has started to trickle out. Jerry Meyer of 247Sports says the seven-foot Norwegian will be a three-star recruit, one who has a good scoring touch near the basket but “will likely need a couple years of development before he is ready to compete at a Louisville type level.” A year ago, Louisville’s thin backcourt ended up with a walk-on as its only reserve in the Final Four, so the recruiting class featured three guards. It’s no coincidence that this year’s Cardinal frontcourt, which got exposed by North Carolina on Sunday, has led to Pitino bringing in three recruits 6’9” and taller.
Another night, another couple of blown opportunities for AAC teams to earn a much-needed yet impossible to find quality win. First, Oklahoma State continued its roll through the conference with a 93-67 win at USF. Then Houston gave Stanford a tough test before falling in Brooklyn. And now the AAC nears the end of November with UConn’s two wins over a mediocre Maryland, and a young, inconsistent Indiana, and that’s about it. This is nice for the Huskies, but less great for the other teams that hoped for a few chances for quality wins in conference play to make up for weak non-conference slates. Now those opportunities might not be there, making it tougher to build an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.
ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan took a look at the early candidates for the Wooden Award, and it’s no surprise that Julius Randle made the list. In fact, Randle was the only SEC player to be named. In a season of big-time talent across the nation, the SEC is a bit short yet again. Put me in the camp that has Randle as the current favorite, though, as he has dominated in a way that freshman typically do not. While Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker are both fine candidates, my money is on Randle. He’s a singular force that changes the way his entire team is defended. Even on nights when his shot isn’t falling, Randle can control a game with his rebounding and brute force. Ultimately, though, the winner of the award will probably be whichever player’s team wins the most games.
It has been far too long since a John Calipari to the NBA rumor came out, so good thing it was reported yesterday that the Knicks are interested in hiring him. From a Kentucky perspective, this would be an unmitigated disaster. Calipari has been insanely successful as the Wildcats’ head coach, and it is doubtful the school could strike gold twice in a row (remember Billy Gillispie?). Odds are that this speculation continues for a while but goes away when Calipari gets a pay bump from his employer. Barring another visit from the NCAA, Coach Cal can stay in Lexington for as long as he likes. In New York, Calipari would be setting himself up for disappointment with a lack of draft picks and a bunch of overpaid fading stars. Right now, it doesn’t seem worth it for Calipari to leave the college game.
Jordan Clarkson has been an early revelation for Missouri this season, and the defending SEC Player of the Week is just getting started. Clarkson sat out last season due to transfer rules, and he spent all the practice time working on his finishing moves. That work has given Clarkson the confidence to keep attacking the rim, which is going to help Mizzou in games where they would otherwise have no business winning. Clarkson can get an entire team’s frontcourt in foul trouble and make a living at the line. The most impressive park of his game thus far, though, is his willingness to avoid the three. He’s only taken eight treys this season, and he seems to be aware it isn’t his strength. That awareness is what is allowing him to flourish.
With Kasey Hill out for at least a month, Billy Donovan has a lot of work to do. In this press conference Donovan talks about how he already had to pull point guard minutes from desperate places when Hill needed rest during games. The problem is that Donovan previously only needed to find 10 minutes per game to spell him, not 40. The bottom line is that without a true point guard the Gator’s offense will suffer. Shooting guards and point forwards are more inclined to look to score and make plays for themselves rather than through the offense.That can lead to bad shots and unhappy players. At least for one night though, the team found balanced scoring in a solid win over Middle Tennessee. Still, they had just 10 assists on 25 made baskets, which just goes to show they really miss having a true point guard.
Ever wonder what a high major recruit could do to JuCo competition? Well new LSU commit Josh Gray is giving us a pretty good idea. Gray, who will be joining Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge next season, scored 61 and 59 points in his last two games. Originally a Mississippi State recruit, Gray actually went to Texas Tech for his freshman season before moving on to junior college, and now LSU gets to enjoy his services next season. A solid rim attacker and distributor, Gray will be an excellent addition to a rising Tigers program next season.
Louisville’s weekend is already off to a spectacular start before the basketball game versus Cornell even tips off this evening. Homegrown Class of 2014 Ballard High School product and four-star point guard Quentin Sniderelected to return to the red and black by signing with the Cardinals Friday morning. Snider, a lifelong Louisville fan, had committed to Rick Pitino’s squad during his sophomore season before rescinding his commitment earlier this year and verbaling to Illinois. Sound familiar? James Blackmon Jr. recently did the same thing with Indiana by first committing, then backing off, then coming back to sign with the Hoosiers. Blackmon Jr. never committed to another team, however, so that makes Snider’s waffling back and forth a bit different.
Quentin Snider Decided to Stay Home After All
The Louisville coaching staff quit recruiting Snider after he decommitted, while the Hoosier staff reportedly kept after Blackmon. Regardless, a practice that before was rare — a player recommitting to a team he had previously decommitted from — has now happened twice in a matter of weeks. Snider originally cited the bevy of backcourt players on the roster and other recruited as a reason to look elsewhere. But, since then, JaQuan Lyle decommitted from the Cardinals, which opened up an opportunity for Snider to slide into his place. He made it official by signing his letter of intent earlier yesterday. He also took to Twitter to break the news. Snider stabilizies the point guard position for the Cardinals for the next few years, which brings a sigh of relief to Louisville fans since Pitino recently said junior Chris Jones would make a good offensive spark off of an NBA bench.
The bad news started early. Quentin Snider changed his mind again, deciding to spurn Illinois and going back to his original verbal pledge to Louisville. This news snowballed on at about 3:15 PM when Cliff Alexander, a potential one-and-done type that could lead a team to the Final Four, decided to leave his home state and go to Kansas instead of the Illini. In a few short hours, Illinois went from having a top five class to one with only one ESPN top 100 recruit (Leron Black). So what I’m advising all the Illini fans out there to do is as follows: Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then hear me out when I say that everything is going to be fine. I’m not just patronizing, I really believe the Illini are a program on the rise with or without Alexander in the fold next season. Here’s why.
Even after losing out on the Cliff Alexander sweepstakes, John Groce still has Illinois on the rise.
If people watched the announcement live on ESPNU like I did, you could see someone who appeared torn up by the decision he was about to make. If Illinois was as close as it was rumored to be, then it shows that Groce is almost ready to kick in the door and end the long trend of top 30 Chicago talents playing elsewhere. He made a distinct impact on Alexander, and for the Illini to get that close when in the past he might not have even considered them, shows Groce is going to get more Chicago elite recruits to stay in state. It’s only a matter of time. He already got a commitment from 2015 wing D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon High School, and has a chance to add two more from in Jalen Brunson and Charles Matthews. What a miss on Alexander means is that it might be a little bit more of a baby-step progression as opposed to the huge leap that would have happened with Alexander on board. Regardless of today’s results, the program is still in great shape for next year and beyond.