Kansas has another big day today as Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander are scheduled to make their college decisions this afternoon, and The Sporting News has a solid breakdown of Jones’ and Okafor’s recruitment and what the commitments will mean for the winner of their services.. The rumor mill has led many to believe that the package deal of Okafor and Jones are leaning towards Duke while Illinois is considered the leader for Alexander, a blue-chip prospect from Chicago. Even though Kelly Oubre is already committed to the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, Kansas may need to reload in a hurry with Andre Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid dotting mock drafts throughout the blogosphere.
It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but Iowa State has one big weekend in store. For starters, the Cyclones host top-flight 2014 recruit Rashad Vaughn. Touted as perhaps the best shooting guard prospect in his class, Vaughn has drawn comparisons to Ben McLemore with his shooting stroke and strength in a 6’6″ frame. While a decision isn’t expected in the immediate future, a commitment would send a message that not only can Fred Hoibergland impact transfers, but he can make his presence felt on the prep level as well. The Cyclones top off the weekend Sunday night when they face top-10 foe Michigan at Hilton Coliseum.
Their season is only two games old, but Kansas State hasn’t done much to change the minds of skeptics who are leery of their offense. The Wildcats’ defense has been fine so far, as it held both Northern Colorado and Oral Roberts to less than a point per possession, but Bruce Weber‘s team already ranks eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency. The next opponent on Kansas State’s schedule is Long Beach State, which hasn’t been the least bit impressive, so the 49ers appear to provide the Wildcats with a chance to get right on the offensive end.
Burnt Orange Nation’s Jeff Haley is one of the best there is when it comes to breaking down advanced metrics, and his number-crunching tells us that Jonathan Holmes and Isaiah Taylor have been worth the price of admission through Texas‘ first two games. Haley also points out that the Longhorns have played a fair amount of zone defense, perhaps in an effort to keep Rick Barnes’ inexperienced and thin personnel from getting into foul trouble.
Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler has been a work horse for the Sooners. Playing a key role in Oklahoma’s 3-0 start, Spangler has averaged 13.0 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds per game. Spangler also rejected three shots against Idaho on Wednesday and will look to keep the momentum rolling when the Sooners tip off against Seton Hall tonight in Brooklyn.
Today is November 6 which means it’s time for… bracketology?CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm believes it is and his first bracket only has four Big 12 teams safely into the field of 68, with another team in the ‘first four out’ category. If there’s one thing to look forward to, it’s next week’s Champions Classic, where the four number one seeds — Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Duke, according to Palm — will play each other in Chicago. It should be noted that there are some new bracketing measures that will go into effect this year. Due to conference realignment, the selection committee will allow teams from the same conference to meet in rounds earlier than the regional finals. Previously, the committee only allowed this situation in the event that a conference received nine or more bids to the NCAA Tournament (see: Big East in 2011 and 2012). Sadly, that’s an advantage the Big 12 never had a chance to experience.
Oklahoma lost a lot of the talent that brought it back to NCAAs last season for the first time since 2009. To replace the Sooners’ front line of Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald will be transfers Ryan Spangler and D.J. Bennett.The Oklahoman tells us the story of their commitments to Oklahoma on the same day and their workouts together while they waited to become eligible. Spangler is projected to be a starter while Bennett appears to be a good option for significant minutes off the bench. To have such good chemistry already built between the big men has to be a good thing for Lon Kruger.
Oh look, Fred Hoiberg just snagged another transfer with the commitment of ex-Indian Hills Community College forward Jameel McKay on Tuesday night. McKay had previously committed to Buzz Williams and Marquette but came to the realization in October that their style of play wasn’t particularly conducive to his talents. McKay was a two-time junior college All-American, averaging 18.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and two blocks per game during his sophomore campaign. He’ll enroll at Iowa State for the spring semester and become eligible to play in December, but expect that the Cyclones will apply for a waiver so that he could play immediately.
Can Tubby Smith save Texas Tech? That’s the question CollegeBasketballTalk asks about the Red Raiders program. The case made in the article is that Smith may not be an interesting character like Bob Knight or Billy Gillispie were, but he’s a man who gets results. He took Georgia and Tulsa to Sweet Sixteens, Kentucky to a National Championship, and even though he may have suffered a misguided firing at Minnesota, he took the Gophers into the round of 32 for the first time in a non-sanctioned year since 1990. Is he Tech’s sexiest hire yet? You tell me.
Lost in the shuffle of West Virginia‘s exhibition win Monday night was an inappropriate moment featuring a Fairmont State player on its bench. (WARNING: A NSFW photo with a Fairmont State player giving the “double birds” will appear. Click at your own risk.) According to The Big Lead, they believe the player to be Martins Abele, a Lithuanian center who fouled out at the time of the photo, and in a moment of frustration, took it out on the home student section. Fairmont State athletic director Tim McNeeley said that Abele will be disciplined for his act but decided not to go into specific details as to how or when.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.
Readers’ Take One
Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered. With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.
Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)
The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date. In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.
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Michigan’s Nik Stauskas apparently needed that shoe. He went 0-for-2 for four points in a 69-79 loss to Duke last night.