SEC M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 22nd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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Quentin Snider Signs With Louisville, Stabilizing Future of Cards’ Point Guard Position

Posted by Ross Schulz on November 16th, 2013

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 Snider elected 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

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.

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John Groce’s Bad Day Still Doesn’t Change Illinois’ Upward Trajectory

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 15th, 2013

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.

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.

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Kansas Lands Alexander, Misses On Jones & Okafor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 15th, 2013

It’s official. Cliff Alexander, a 6’9″ power forward from Curie (Chicago) High School, is headed to Kansas next season.

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

In a ceremony at his high school on Friday afternoon, Alexander announced his commitment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, joining fellow top prospect and Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, a 6’7″ swingman from Sugar Land, Texas, via Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander is a physical athlete that plays above the rim and will be expected to make an instant impact in Lawrence next season. The Chicago big man was believed to be solid on Kansas just a few short weeks ago, but gained momentum to Illinois as of late when many believe Kansas backed off on Alexander in an attempt to focus their efforts on Jahlil Okafor, Rivals’ number one ranked recruit in this year’s class. It was believed that Alexander’s long-standing relationship with former Illini assistant and current Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend plays basketball for the Jayhawks, would be enough to lure the talented big man to Kansas. If current Kansas center Joel Embiid bolts for the NBA after this season, as many anticipate, Alexander will easily help fill the void and solidify the Kansas frontcourt along side sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor next year. Landing Alexander continues Self’s recent success on the recruiting trail after hauling in the second ranked class in 2013 with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid, among others. The combination of Alexander and Oubre, along with the Jayhawks’ returning talent next season should have Bill Self’s squad poised once again as a legitimate title contender in March 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Emmanuel Mudiay a Sign of Things to Come for SMU?

Posted by CD Bradley on November 15th, 2013

In the eight years before Larry Brown arrived at SMU in 2012, the Mustangs had signed one top 100 recruit, and barely. Rivals ranked Cannen Cunningham, a 6’10” junior averaging 11 minutes and six points through two games this year, a lofty #98 in the Class of 2011. Things have, shall we say, turned around since the Hall of Fame coach sauntered into town. Brown signed the school’s first McDonald’s All American, 6’5” shooting guard Keith Frazier, which Rivals ranked #18 in the Class of 2013. On Thursday, he officially signed the highest-rated recruit in school history for the second time in two classes when 6’5” point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Rivals’ #2 player in the Class of 2014, officially agreed to #PonyUp.

Larry Brown has SMU hitting on all cylinders, but can the Mustangs keep rolling or is a breakdown on the horizon?(AP Photo/N. Raymond)

Larry Brown has SMU hitting on all cylinders, but can the Mustangs keep rolling or is a breakdown on the horizon?(AP Photo/N. Raymond)

Admittedly, Brown had a couple of advantages in the pursuit of Mudiay: The prep star plays high school basketball less than 20 minutes from campus, and his older brother, Jean-Michael Mudiay, is a junior backcourt reserve for the Mustangs. Still, when a team that hasn’t won, or for that matter played in, an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades outrecruits heavyweights like Kentucky and Kansas, attention must be paid. Furthermore, Brown is already showing results on the court, too. The Mustangs, who have posted one .500 or better record in the past decade, are off to a 2-0 start with wins over teams from the Big 12 and Atlantic 10. And Tuesday’s 89-58 win over Rhode Island was the team’s first 30-point win over a Division I foe in nearly three years. Given the step up to the AAC, this is almost certainly as good as it has been for SMU hoops in the past half-century, but the question must be asked: How long can it realistically last?

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Pac-12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
  2. On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transfer Gary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
  3. Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanford have signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
  4. Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfield signed three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.pickem_midnov
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A Marquette Transfer and Injury Has Short and Long-Term Impacts

Posted by George Hershey on October 25th, 2013

In the past week, Marquette fans have received quite a bit of bad news via social media. Last Thursday, incoming junior college transfer Jameel McKay went to Twitter to announce his departure from the school before even playing a game. The next day, freshman point guard Duane Wilson sent out a picture of himself on crutches on his Instagram account. It was not announced officially until Monday when the Marquette men’s basketball Twitter account noted that he would miss the start of the season with a stress fracture in his left leg.

Buzz Williams has his work cut out for him. (US Presswire)

Buzz Williams has his work cut out for him. (US Presswire)

McKay was supposed to be next in a growing line of successful junior college recruits for Buzz Williams. Since coming to Marquette, Williams has had five junior college players and four of them have gone on to the NBA, most recently the pair of Dwight Buycks and Jae Crowder. McKay came to the program after starring in the Milwaukee public school league and then went on to Indian Hills Community College, where he was a two-time All-American. He is an athletic forward with great energy and rebounding skills. Popular Marquette basketball website PaintTouches.com recently spoke with McKay about his departure, where he revealed that he was unhappy with his role on the team and is looking for a better situation. A fellow Milwaukee native, Wilson is a high scoring point guard who can get to the rim at will and shoot a high percentage. Marquette fans were pulling for him to win the starting job out of the gate over junior Derrick Wilson. With Duane looking like he will be out eight to 12 weeks, there is little hope that he will crack the starting lineup this season.

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Who’s Got Next? Ben Simmons Joins a Beefy LSU Class, Tennessee Lands a Shooter, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 21st, 2013

whos-got-next

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 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

LSU Stays Hot

Less than one week after adding powerful big man Elbert Robinson from the class of 2014, LSU’s Johnny Jones struck  gold in the 2015 class with the commitment of 6’9” Australian Ben Simmons. In a surprise decision, the five-star forward went with the Tigers over schools such as Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky. Simmons is currently rated as the No. 8 player overall and No. 2 power forward in his class, despite limited time in the United States. Simmons made his first appearance in the United States in early June 2012 in California. In a three-day showcase camp, Simmons took the camp by storm, showing off the skills he honed in Melbourne. In January 2013, Simmons came over to the U.S. for good and enrolled at Montverde Academy (FL), which also happened to be the top high school team in the country. Simmons joined forces with current Florida freshman guard Kasey Hill and Kentucky center Dakari Johnson on the team.

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

The Tigers have been on a roll with their recent big men commitments, but Simmons will provide the team with an added dimension of versatility. In the 2013 class, Jones signed a five-star power forward in Jarrell Martin (No. 14 overall, 2013) and four-star power forward Jordan Mickey (No. 37 overall, 2013), adding to class of 2014 four-star center, Robinson (No. 59 overall, 2014). Martin possesses the most skill of the bunch and has range out to the three-point line, but he is most effective down low. Mickey’s calling cards are his rebounding and defensive abilities while Robinson is a load to handle in the post. Martin and Mickey average 230 pounds while Robinson weighs a massive 320 pounds.

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Morning Five: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s October 15, the traditional date of Midnight Madness, and although nobody to our knowledge is honoring Lefty Driesell by meeting at the campus track and running a six-minute mile illuminated by car headlights at each turn, the feeling is still pretty much the same — college basketball is nearby. This Friday night will feature the annual ESPNU Midnight Madness coverage of a number of prominent schools holding their celebrations, and a mere 21 days later we’ll jump right into the opening games of the season. Despite all that, the unknown is still more interesting than the known to many people, which explains why recruiting chatter and hype dominate the headlines  and social media. The biggest news on this year’s Columbus Day? Class of 2015 superstar forward Ben Simmons, coveted by every major program in America including Duke and Kentucky, verbally committed to LSU. As The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg explains in his background piece, Simmons’ commitment to a school that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2009 makes more sense with the knowledge that Simmons’ godfather/LSU assistant coach, David Patrick, played overseas basketball with his father in Australia and the families are apparently quite close. Regardless of the reasons for the commitment, LSU’s Johnny Jones is loading up on talent, especially in the frontcourt.
  2. Patrick, an Australian himself, was the primary link to a number of Aussie stars (including Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova) that he recruited to play for his former employer, Saint Mary’s College, in Moraga, California. Although he was not personally implicated in any wrongdoing during his three years as an assistant coach there, the NCAA found that the program had committed several recruiting violations and slapped the school with a four-year “failure to monitor” probation last spring. As a result, the Gaels’ head coach, Randy Bennett, received a five-game suspension along with a one-year off-campus recruiting restriction, and those penalties were upheld on appeal Monday by the Infractions Committee. During Bennet’s nearly two-week layoff, which will begin in late December and include the first Gonzaga game in Spokane, he will not be allowed to perform any basketball-related activities whatsoever. Can you imagine a Type A personality like Bennett taking a midseason vacation? The NCAA should seriously consider putting an ankle monitor on him during those days.
  3. Wiggins, Wiggins, Wiggins. Remember the hype we mentioned above? Well, after a week that featured the precocious 18-year old as a Sports Illustrated cover boy in an effort to introduce him to America as the Next. Big. Thing., everybody else is now talking and writing about Andrew Wiggins. Even LeBron James got into the act, telling Rock Chalk Blog before a preseason game in Kansas City over the weekend that his best advice for Wiggins is simply to “live in the present.” For a far more thoughtful analysis of Wiggins’ identity and game, TSN‘s Mike DeCourcy has that covered. It’s a well-deserved read to better understand the young phenom, especially given the notion that Wiggins revealed “his true identity a half-dozen times or so each afternoon with a sequence that perhaps only three people on the planet are capable of executing.” Wow. Finally, Grantland chimes in with a piece from Corban Gable called “Livin’ for Wiggins,” a fan manifesto that attempts to outline how one excitable Jayhawker prone to hyperventilation is going to make it through this season. Hey, whatever works, so long as his boss Simmons stays away from college basketball.
  4. The next huge thing doesn’t just apply to teenagers in sports; it sometimes also figures in the management and administrative components of the games we love. Anybody who has marked the meteoric rises of successful young coaches like Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart and Josh Pastner knows that. Myron Medcalf from ESPN.com writes that with these coaches’ continued success, many administrators, especially at mid-major schools, are becoming less hesitant in pulling the trigger on 30-something candidates who show that they really know and can teach the game. It actually makes a good deal of sense. As he notes, recruiting 365 days a year takes a tremendous amount of attention and energy, something that younger coaches have in spades. But truthfully, this should surprise nobody who works in the business world, a similarly cutthroat environment where strong quantitative and analytical skills combined with greater sophistication with technology give the young guys a leg up on many of their older colleagues.
  5. The AP reported on Monday that the SEC will announce later today that it plans on making Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena its “primary” site for the annual SEC Tournament. The tourney will bounce back and forth between Nashville and several other cities (Atlanta, Tampa and Saint Louis) over the next seven years, but from 2021-26 the Music City will hold exclusive ownership over the event. We’ll have more on this later today, but there’s no question that Nashville’s geographic location nearest the five northern SEC schools that take basketball the most seriously has something to do with this decision. The Big Blue Behemoth is merely three hours to the northeast, and both Tennessee schools along with Missouri and Arkansas also do a good job supporting basketball. This is a win from both a competitive and financial standpoint.
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Morning Five: 10.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. In a week full of trash talk, hype machines and other nonsense, how about this for a heartwarming story of substance? ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz revealed the story of Robert Kirby, a 53-year assistant coach at Memphis who recently donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Virginia Kirk, as she gradually slid toward renal failure. It was similar to the conditions that took their mother’s life some 17 years ago, but she wouldn’t allow any of her 13 children to become a donor. Kirby wasn’t about to allow that to happen to his older sister this time around, so after become approved as a match, he underwent the procedure to remove the kidney on Tuesday and was went back home yesterday. He’ll be back on the sidelines at Memphis very soon, perhaps a few ounces lighter but no worse for the wear. Major props are due for the longtime assistant still looking for his first head coaching job, but if his selflessness in this situation is any indication of his integrity and loyalty, we hope some enterprising school in need of a head coach next April gives him a good look.
  2. While we’re on the subjects of perseverance and selflessness, America’s favorite bench-warmer in last year’s Final Four is well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Kevin Ware, the Louisville guard who broke his leg so horrifically in last year’s Elite Eight contest against Duke, is, according to his head coach, going to be in uniform for the Cardinals’ first regular season game against College of Charleston on November 9. Rick Pitino stopped short of saying that Ware would play in that game, but considering that he’s already been practicing and still has several weeks left to prepare for his return, we’d have to believe that there’s a reasonably good chance that he’ll be play in that game. And while all anybody really wants is for Ware to find his fortitude so that he can contribute again, the fact is that Louisville is a better team when he can bring his energy, speed and defensive intensity off the bench.
  3. For years we’ve derided the fact that what we still call “Midnight Madness” really doesn’t have much in the way of midnight associated with it anymore. For those of you who may not remember how it was named in the first place, it had to do with the NCAA’s mandated start of practice, which for many years was at the stroke of midnight on October 15. In later years the NCAA moved the start date to the weekend closest to October 15, and of course now teams can have it in late September. All this maneuvering has taken some of the fun out of it, so we’re always looking for the new and creative ways that schools choose to celebrate the new season. Cincinnati is one school trying something different. The Bearcats will have their “Midday Madness” next Friday, October 17, at Noon in downtown’s Fountain Square. The event, featuring some light scrimmaging and fan-friendly competitions, will be open to the public and will provide a nice fall afternoon respite for the office drones working nearby. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it is a creative way to reach fans in a way that UC otherwise wouldn’t. We like it, and wish more schools would follow their lead in coming up with interesting ideas.
  4. Over the last five seasons, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program has averaged a total of 27 wins per year as he has built the program into one of the very best in the west. He’s done so on the backs of stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and a host of others, but none of those players were exceptionally rated prospects when they arrived on campus. That may be changing, with news on Thursday that Rivals.com top-20 recruit Malik Pope (Elk Grove, CA) has committed to SDSU. Kansas and Gonzaga were also in the mix for Pope, but the 6’9″ wing (you read that correctly) was impressed with how Fisher’s program didn’t back off of him when he broke his leg twice in the last eight months (the injuries will cost him his senior year). San Diego State’s class is already among the best in program history, and if the Aztecs lock down their final target, Zylan Cheatham, it would be safe to call this group a top 25 class that would benefit the school for years to come.
  5. The last time Kansas did not win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title was in 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence. The Jayhawks finished two games behind a Tony Allen and John Lucas III-led Final Four Oklahoma State team. Ten years later, Big 12 coaches are not about to make the mistake of leaving KU off the preseason top line in the league standings, even if the roster features zero returning starters. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, returns five starters to a young squad led by NPOY candidate Marcus Smart. So what did the coaches do? They split the difference. Kansas and Oklahoma State received the same number of votes (77 total, five first place votes each), ensuring that proper respect was given to both the team with the most returning talent and the team with the most incoming talent. It will be a mighty fun race in the Big 12 this season. Oh, and the Rick Barnes dead man walking watch? Eighth.
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The Double-Edged Sword with All the Andrew Wiggins Hype

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 10th, 2013

Everywhere I turned on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but notice it. On the internet, throughout the Twitterverse, in a story on the cover of the local USA Today at the gas station. Andrew Wiggins, next to Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. As if the hype wasn’t already out of hand, setting a present-day Wiggins next to a classic photo of Wilt in his Kansas days doesn’t exactly temper any of these expectations.  Instead, it magnifies them. With all the mention of Andrew Wiggins also comes exposure for Kansas. Sure Bill Self has lured top talent to Kansas before, but time after time the past few years, Self has been on the losing end of an elite talent recruiting battle to Kentucky’s John Calipari. Another top prospect, headed to Lexington instead of Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong, Self still brought in exceptional talent, just not consistently the cream of the crop.

But Andrew Wiggins was different.

SI's Wiggins/WIlt Comparisons are Fueling the Fire (credit: Sports Illustrated)

SI’s Wiggins/WIlt Comparisons are Fueling the Fire (credit: Sports Illustrated)

A year ago, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the top prospect in the last several years would head to the program churning out lottery picks at a record-setting pace. Wiggins is a fan of the famous rapper, Drake, and Drake is a fan of Wiggins. Both are fellow Canadians. Drake is also a familiar face in Kentucky basketball, so it all seemed to make sense. Except it didn’t happen that way. Wiggins broke the mold, committing to Kansas last spring in a small non-televised event.

Within the last few weeks, it was rumored that Kelly Oubre’s recruitment had come down to Kansas and Kentucky — the first real recruiting battle between Self and Calipari since the Wiggins commitment. Oubre attended KU’s Late Night in the Phog last Friday, and this Tuesday, he cancelled an upcoming visit to Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness to commit to Kansas. Another win for Self against Calipari and perhaps a small turn in momentum along the recruiting front in college basketball. In an interview with KUsports.com, Oubre talked about going to Kansas to replace Wiggins after this season. Make no mistake about it, Wiggins’ footprint at Kansas has already made an impact on the way top shelf talent views Kansas. And it doesn’t stop with Oubre.  Kansas is in the mix for the ultimate package deal in Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, and are rumored to be one of the leaders for top ten prospects Cliff Alexander and Miles Turner as well.

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Is Rick Barnes a Dead Man Walking at Texas?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 10th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

By the start of next college football season, two of the sport’s most high-profile jobs will have new coaches. One of them (USC) already fired its former coach, Lane Kiffin, and has presumably begun searching for a replacement. The other (Texas) has yet to dump longtime coach Mack Brown, but unless the Longhorns can engineer a miraculous midseason turnaround and win the Big 12 – and even that may not be enough to save Brown’s job – it’s all but guaranteed he too will be gone by the end of the season. That seems even more likely after former Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, a longtime supporter of Brown, resigned last week. Both of these job searches will be fascinating to observe; it’s been a long time since two true titans of the sport have undergone head coaching changes. We’re more concerned about the college hoops side of things here, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop talking about coaching turnover. USC hired a new head coach, Dunk City orchestrator Andy Enfield, in April, and Texas enters the season with Rick Barnes’ coaching hot seat simmering. That was the general consensus following Texas’ 16-18 finish (and NCAA Tournament miss) last season, but the possibility seems even greater after comments published in Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel’s recent article on the Texas athletic department shined a critical light on Barnes and Longhorns basketball. One damning assessment came from an unnamed high-ranking Texas official: “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.”

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

There were other harsh statements regarding Barnes included in Thamel’s piece (along with a number of unquoted characterizations from Thamel himself), and taken together, they seemed to paint a picture of a program in desperate need of a coaching change. Over 15 seasons at the school, Barnes has led the Longhorns to three Big 12 regular season championships, made four Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. He has brought in elite high school players like Kevin Durant, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Damion James. His teams almost always – even last season, when it ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage defense – play some of the toughest defense in the country. As C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus points out, Texas has finished in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings in 10 of the last 11 seasons. If that’s all true, why have the Longhorns struggled so much lately?

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