AAC Bests and Worsts From Last Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 24th, 2014

“Bests and Worsts” is a new Monday feature where we will recap the best and worst from the previous week of college basketball in the AAC. 

It was not a great week for the AAC as all of the expected top teams in the conference lost in uninspiring fashion and the conference still doesn’t have a marquee win to hang its hat on — unless you count UConn beating Dayton. But we never pretended that the AAC would be the best conference in the country, just that it would be an entertaining season to follow, and that much still holds true. While other conferences have seen teams emerge from the pack, the American is still totally up in the air and that’s what makes it interesting for us to cover.

Best Reason for UConn Fans Not to Panic: UConn basketball fans aren’t quite as unhinged on Twitter as say, Kentucky fans, but they can be pretty active. So obviously it wasn’t long after UConn‘s disappointing loss to West Virginia in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that the Huskies’ faithful started speculating on what the loss meant. The Huskies were very bad from downtown (3-of-17) and turned the ball over a lot (19), but the tweet that best summed up how UConn fans should feel about the loss came from our friends at the Bleed Blue Blog.

Bleed Blue

Nothing proves a point better than some well-placed snark. Also, Bleed Blue makes a larger point, even if they weren’t trying to. It’s easy to overreact to early season games because there is nothing else to go on. But none of the teams around the country as anywhere near as good as they will be in January and February, so reading the tea leaves of an early-season loss to West Virginia isn’t the best way to evaluate the Huskies’ chances of repeating.

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AAC Bests and Worsts From Opening Weekend

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 17th, 2014

“Bests and Worsts” is a new Monday feature where we will recap the best and worst from the previous week of college basketball in the AAC. 

For as long as I can remember, DC Sports Bog has been doing its “bests and worsts” piece as an easy and fun way to recap Redskins’ games. I’ve always really loved the recurring feature and think it is an excellent way to summarize, in detail, everything that happened on Sunday. And because I am nothing if not unoriginal, I’ve decided to misappropriate the idea and use it for what I expect to be a weekly recap of the week in AAC basketball. So now that I have properly cited my inspiration, let’s get started, because the opening weekend in the AAC was a lot of fun.

Best Way To Start A Post About Bests and Worsts: There are pencil mustaches and then there are true odes to facial hair like the immaculate ‘stache that South Florida coach Orlando Antigua rocked in this old Harlem Globetrotters photo that was unearthed this weekend. That thing is clean.

antigua

This picture is great for a lot of reasons, we can’t stop staring at Orlando Antigua’s mustache.

Worst Way To Make A First Impression: Congratulations to all the Temple fans who purchased a ticket and willingly subjected themselves to the Owls’ 40-37 win against American – you are officially the country’s most loyal supporters. Now please, go home and take a bath or whatever will wash off the stink of that game. The Owls did win, so that’s nice, but they also had twice as many turnovers (15) as assists (7) and shot an offensive 22.9 percent from the field. Literally, people are offended by that shooting display. Forward Daniel Dingle played 38 minutes and made half of the six shots he took, good for 27 percent of the team’s made field goals.

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AAC M5: Welcome Back Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 22nd, 2014

  1. AAC_morning5_headerWe are admittedly off to a slower start than some of the other microsites this season. In our defense, though, we were waiting for big AAC news to mark our triumphant return and we got that news on Monday when it was reported that SMU forward Markus Kennedy is still working to get academically eligible this season. The Mustangs are considered one of the league favorites, and Kennedy, a junior, is arguably the team’s best and most important player. The big man averaged more than 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and was a unanimous preseason all-AAC selection last season, so it goes without saying that if SMU wants to win the league, it will need Kennedy’s services. Admittedly, coach Larry Brown was the source of the news and he didn’t sound totally pessimistic, so Kennedy likely isn’t doomed just yet. But this isn’t the kind of news that preseason league favorites usually welcome.
  2. This is not exactly the peak season for recruiting news, but apparently rapper Rick Ross has some pull because just two days after he performed at Memphis Madness, Maryland native and three-star Class of 2016 point guard Randall Broddie committed to Memphis. It’s too early to put the “Broddie to the Tigers” headline in permanent marker but the 6’3″ guard is considered one of the top 150 players in the country, according to Rivals, and would help the program replenish some of the backcourt depth it lost due to graduation.
  3. It’s hard not to laugh when you read the first of the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s five questions facing the Cincinnati Bearcats entering this season. Bill Koch, who will without question make regular appearances in the the Morning Five this season, actually dares to ask if the Bearcats will be a better offensive team without Sean Kilpatrick in the lineup. The reason the question seems ludicrous is because Cincinnati didn’t just lose Kilpatrick, who was undoubtedly the team’s best offensive player, the Bearcats lost their three best and most efficient offensive players (with the notable exception of returning guard Jermaine Sanders). Promising talents like Shaquille Thomas and Troy Caupain may very well step up and shoulder some of the offensive burden this year, but it is still tough to imagine the Beacats actually improving on that end of the floor this season.
  4. We will start our own AAC preview this week and next, but one of our favorite league sources, the UConn Blog, kick-started its own league preview by profiling the teams they expect to be at the bottom of the league. It seems almost embarrassing to bother picking nits with these sort of customary season previews, but the blog’s decision to pick Houston to finish seventh proves once and for all that we like the Cougars better than most pundits do. There is no doubt that the losses of TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House hurt a lot, but the middle of the league looks soft and from a talent and coaching standpoint, the program is well-positioned to surprise some folks this season. New coach Kelvin Sampson is a proven winner, but the team’s success will depend more on the contributions of ballyhooed newcomers Torian Graham and Devonta Pollard than the coaching ability of Sampson.
  5. File this name as yet another player flying under the radar: Sam Cassell Jr. The Maryland transfer may very well establish himself as a key member of UConn coach Kevin Ollie’s rotation despite most of the preseason attention being heaped on backcourt mates Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton. Another big guard who can handle the ball and create his own shot, Cassell Jr. has plenty of offensive ability and wasn’t exactly a no-name coming out of high school. It must be nice to be Ollie. Sure, the Huskies are replacing one of the best players in program history in Shabazz Napier, but Ollie has an embarrassment of riches to choose from when it comes to his backcourt and there are plenty of teams across the league and the country that would love to have to make the decisions he will be making.
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AAC M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 22nd, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. For Cincinnati to be more than just competitive this season, they needed versatile forward Justin Jackson to become an offensive threat, and although the Bearcats’ first four opponents have been exceptionally overmatched, Jackson has answered the bell. His athleticism is unquestioned, but Jackson has always been more athlete than basketball player and his offensive efficiency proved it. After posting an uninspiring 82.5 offensive rating last season, his offensive rating this season is all the way up to 112.0. Part of the reason for the sudden surge is that he is much more involved offensively and is probably the team’s second scoring option behind star Sean Kilpatrick, but he also seems to be using his size and speed to create better shots. The best part is that he is still stuffing the stat sheet and a game-changing defensive player for the Bearcats, so if he can continue his offensive production, the team might make more noise than everyone expected.
  2. Connecticut held on to knock off Boston College by two points  in the 2KSports Classic last night and it also received good news off the court right before tip when Sam Cassell Jr. and Daniel Hamilton signed agreements to play for the Huskies next season. Cassell and Hamilton aren’t just your run-of-the-mill recruits; Cassell is currently starring at Chipola College in Florida and looks like someone who can come in and contribute right away, while Hamilton is the younger brother of NBA player Jordan Hamilton and his athleticism and versatility have made him one of the most highly regarded high school players in the country. Ollie’s first full recruiting class wasn’t bad — Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah look like multi-year contributors — but this class has the potential to be much better. The obvious critique is to point out that neither of these players are big men, which is what UConn needs the most right now. But if Ollie wants to compete for a national title, he should be recruiting first for talent, not for need.
  3. Speaking of the Huskies, there is only one possible explanation for the play of DeAndre Daniels in the last two games and that is that he knew he had to pick up his game after reading our recent post questioning his play. It makes perfect sense. OK, so maybe we jumped the gun about getting all up in arms about Daniels’ play — after all, it was just three games. While the rest of his team seemingly took the night off against BC, Daniels scored 25 points in a variety of ways and is the primary reason why the Huskies ended up beating the Eagles. Since Daniels seemed to respond well to our criticism last time, we will pick nits again and point out that the Eagles do not have a single player who can even passably match up with him and that the 6’9″ forward still seemed only occasionally interested in crashing the glass. But if Daniels plays like this for the rest of the season, UConn is going to be a lot better than most people expected.
  4. It must be nice to be 7’2″ and 240 pounds like Louisville commitment Matz Stockman. With size like that, Rick Pitino didn’t even need to see Stockman play to offer him a scholarship. Pitino finally got the chance to see his new signee play in New York and who knows whether Stockman impressed his future coach. His numbers weren’t great, but high school seven-footers usually don’t drop 30 and 15 every night, so what really matters is how he moved and what kind of shot-altering defensive presence he was. It’s clear that Stockman is going to be a project, which is familiar territory for Pitino and probably part of the reason why Stockman ultimately picked the Cardinals as his destination. It may be a few years before we get to see what he is made of, though.
  5. In today’s edition of facts you probably didn’t know if you don’t read our blog and we didn’t read other blogs is that Louisville has switched back from introducing the starting lineups with the Chicago Bulls’ theme music to introducing the lineups with Pitbull’s “Hotel Room Service.” As Card Chronicle points out, the Bulls’ theme song “helped” Louisville to back-to-back Final Fours and a national title. The article even includes this sentence, “there’s no question that “Hotel” provides a sensational clapping experience for the home fans.” I am all for fan experience, but didn’t they come to the game to watch the Cardinals win, not to experience a song they can clap to?
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ACC Weekly Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on September 17th, 2012

  1. Sports Illustrated: In minor news that is of little interest to anyone, Notre Dame will be joining the ACC as a full member in all sports but football, where it will remain an independent but still schedule five ACC teams each year. This is strong news for the conference on the basketball side of things as Notre Dame has been ready to contend in most recent years. Though it’s likely to be a year or two before the Fighting Irish fully join the conference, once they are here, they will be here to stay. The ACC also approved a new exit fee for schools looking to leave the conference and the price tag is a little north of $50 million. In other words, get comfortable, Florida State.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Somehow, the story is still about Notre Dame, even when it’s about North Carolina. In the wake of the internal audit that revealed inappropriately paid for personal trips by UNC’s chief fundraiser Matt Kupec, Tami Hansbrough has joined Kupec in resigning her position. The story is pretty simple: The two were romantically involved and used the university’s money to pay for trips to watch former Tar Heel and Tami’s son Tyler Hansbrough play a couple of NBA games, but mostly to pay for trips to watch Tami’s other son, Ben Hansbrough, play for Notre Dame. It’s unclear whether this news is better or worse now that the Fighting Irish are headed to the ACC, though it remains, undeniably, really stupid.
  3. Daily Press: When the ACC was taking submissions for conference tournament sites for the years 2016-21, they get at least one unusual candidate: Consol Energy Arena, located in Pittsburgh, a bit farther north than the tournament is customarily held. The ACC Tournament has never been held farther north than Landover, Maryland, but the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins is going to take a shot at getting it. With the conference’s center of gravity now gradually shifting north after the recent realignment additions, the possibility makes a good deal of sense, particularly to those not as enamored of the charms of Greensboro, North Carolina.
  4. CBS Sports: Sam Cassell, Jr., has been ruled ineligible to play college basketball this season, a disappointing conclusion for a Maryland team that had hoped to benefit from the services of the son of one of the ACC’s finest. Meanwhile, Sam Cassell, Sr., energetically ripped into the NCAA for, in his mind, unfairly punishing his son. Although the elder Cassell’s biases are obvious, he does have an interesting point regarding who the NCAA has the power to punish:

They do whatever they want. It doesn’t even do any good to fight it. The NCAA just wants kids to fail. It’s not these kids’ fault. The NCAA can’t penalize Notre Dame Prep, so they are squashing the kids’ dreams.

5. ESPN: Mark Gottfried’s recruiting continues to impress as the NC State Wolfpack secured the services of one of the best point guards in the entire 2013 class. Anthony “Cat” Barber signed on to wear red in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack just got a little scarier. Hopefully that will help ease the agony of the still-unresolved situation with Rodney Purvis.

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Morning Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2012

  1. In the wake of last week’s announcement by Notre Dame that it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports except football, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said on Friday that his league is not dead, and as a matter of fact, is still “the strongest basketball conference in the country.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that when he made reference to conference strength he was talking about the upcoming season only — before he loses the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from his lineup of stalwart programs. At the end of the day, much will be written about the relative strength of the two leagues once all the realignment moves have propagated, but from our view a top eight of UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State and NC State looks equal to or better than Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova and Temple. Of course, the bottom half of the Big East is where the ACC really increases its lead — UCF, SMU, Rutgers, DePaul and the rest have no business competing with programs like Virginia, Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.
  2. Right on cue, Luke Winn last week analyzed a similar comment made by Aresco (“We’re still the strongest top-to-bottom basketball conference in the country.”) in his own inimitable way. Winn used KenPom efficiency data to compare leagues based on their current configuration and their new configurations, and with the caveat that past performance does not accurately predict future success, the Big East as a whole falls from the second-best basketball conference over the last 10 seasons to sixth. As he notes, “realignment has made the Big East the weakest top-to-bottom major conference, not the strongest.” He also shows a chart exhibiting that only four of the top 11 leagues have improved themselves on the hardwood through conference realignment — the WCC, ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC. Each of these leagues has added at least one solid basketball school to its mix.
  3. Sam Cassell caused a commotion upon his entry to the ACC two decades ago with his brashness, outspoken demeanor, and his talent on the court. Late last week some of those same characteristics came to bear as the now-Washington Wizards assistant spoke to Jeff Goodman about the NCAA’s rejection of his son’s appeal to play as a freshman next season at Maryland. Comparing the organization to “neighborhood bullies” and accusing the governing body of wanting “kids to fail,” Cassell is clearly unhappy with the NCAA’s decision to invalidate courses his son took at Notre Dame Prep as a high school junior even though other players such as Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch and Marquette’s Todd Mayo took the exact same courses and were eligible to play last season. Cassell, Jr., has not made a decision on what his next step will be, but
  4. The other player hurt by the NCAA’s decision to invalidate those Notre Dame Prep courses may not have a famous father to speak on his behalf, but Myles Davis will sit out next year at Xavier — paying his own way — and he’ll have some additional company doing it. Jalen Reynolds, another member of Chris Mack’s incoming recruiting class, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA on Friday for a similar issue, and he too will have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while paying his own tuition at XU. With these two losses and the recent expulsion of Dez Wells, Xavier is now down to only eight scholarship players — none of whom were significant contributors on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. The Musketeers’ first season in a revamped Atlantic 10 boasting new instant impact programs Butler and VCU will certainly be interesting with such a young and inexperienced squad — Mack will need to find a way to work miracles on the banks of the Ohio River if he plans on keeping Xavier’s NCAA Tournament streak of seven straight seasons alive.
  5. College basketball is legitimately just around the corner, and what better way to get your juices flowing than to read an interview with Gus Johnson. Johnson, of course, is spending his time nowadays as the lead college football announcer on Fox while also doing some Big Ten Network work on the side. This Q&A with Johnson isn’t necessarily ground-breaking in its breadth, but there were two college basketball takeaways that came out of it. First, and perhaps unsurprisingly since Johnson is a Detroit guy and given his obvious enthusiasm during games, he said he has long admired Dick Vitale as a sportscaster. Next, out of all the great games he’s covered over the years, his favorite? The 1996 NCAA Tournament Princeton upset over the defending national champions, UCLA. Give us more Gus, anytime.
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Morning Five: 09.13.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 13th, 2012

  1. There were obviously two huge stories yesterday and we could lead with either one, but for us the imminent retirement of Jim Calhoun is the top story. Over the next few days you will see an endless stream of stories recounting Calhoun’s spectacular work turning a program that was essentially nothing into one of the top programs in the country. You will also see a number of anecdotes from media members about some of their memorable interactions with Calhoun. For now we will just focus on the near-term future for the Huskies, who will apparently name Kevin Ollie as their interim coach. Ollie certainly has his work cut out for him taking over a team that was expected to struggle next season even with a legend like Calhoun at the helm. We hope that the school grades Ollie on a curve here because otherwise his position will probably last only one season before the school looks elsewhere. If that does happen, it will certainly test the rankings we released last year for the most desirable coaching spots in the country. Will the brand appeal of Connecticut be enough to overcome the location and the current condition of the program for potential coaches?
  2. We are guessing that most sites will go with Notre Dame moving to the ACC in all sports except for football with the expected moved happening in 2014 at the earliest. While this is certainly another significant loss for the Big East it doesn’t come close to the significance of losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse especially since the real prize of Notre Dame’s athletic program is its football program, which isn’t exactly a revelation to anybody. The ACC was able to get Notre Dame to play a certain number of football games (five) against other schools within the conference, but Notre Dame was still able to keep its ludicrous lucrative contract and BCS privileges. Having said that, the Irish do bring a solid if unspectacular basketball program to the conference that will add more depth and strengthen its claim as the best in the country again [Ed Note: Many ACC fans would have you believe that they always were the best conference in the country.] For us, the more interesting facet of the story is that Notre Dame becomes the 15th basketball team in the conference, which as you may notice is an odd number. The ACC has insisted that there are no plans to expand to 16 teams, but it seems more than a little naive to think they won’t be looking out for another school to add to reach an even number. More on this later today.
  3. After a disappointing year in 2011-12 (and any Brad Stevens team that doesn’t make the Final Four is by definition, disappointing), Butler was looking to rebound with a strong 2012-13 season, but those hopes were dealt a significant blow when the school announced that Chrishawn Hopkins had been dismissed from the basketball team. Hopkins was one of four returning starters on a team that is also adding Arkansas sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke and was expected to be a tough out in next year’s NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for the Bulldogs they have some depth on the perimeter, but anytime you lead the #3 scorer from the previous year it has to hurt at some level. We are still not aware of which team rule Hopkins broke, but the fall term at Butler just started on August 22 so whatever he did was probably not related to grades.
  4. Another player who will not be seen on campus any time soon is Maurice Jones, who announced yesterday that he was transferring from USC after having been ruled academically ineligible. Jones, who was supposed to be the leading returning scorer for the Trojans, will certainly draw some interest despite his 5’7″ frame, but it will most likely be in the form of mid-majors where a smaller guard could be even more successful. Assuming Jones is able to get his academics in order he could be an excellent addition for a top mid-major and can give his new school two more years of eligibility. A potential destination somewhere in Michigan would not be out of the question given that is where Jones hails from, but with his skill set he should be able to look broadly.
  5. While the NCAA continues to fall behind on investigations into the wrongdoing of schools and their administrators it continues to excel at chasing after teenagers with questions regarding their eligibility. Two highly touted incoming freshmen – Sam Cassell, Jr., and Myles Davis – have been ruled ineligible by the NCAA as the result of classes they took at Notre Dame Prep, the same school that produced Michael Beasley, Lazar Hayward, and Ryan Gomes, among others. As Jeff Goodman points out, there are eight other individuals currently cleared by the NCAA to play who took those same classes. The entire situation appears to revolve around classes they took last academic year that at least Davis’ family claims were cleared by the NCAA until it was too late to change and maintain their eligibility. While this case will probably start out of the mainstream media for the most part it will be interesting to follow to see if the NCAA backs down or if the eligibility of the other students in those classes is questioned.
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ACC Summer Recess: Maryland Terrapins

Posted by mpatton on July 19th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Maryland.

Where They Stand Now

Mark Turgeon’s Second Year Doesn’t Look Any Easier Than His First.

Unfortunately it appears to be “two steps forward, two steps back” for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. Last season Maryland became a darkhorse contender on the backs of a solid coach, Terrell Stoglin, Alex Len‘s improvement, and a very good recruiting class. Then Stoglin was suspended for violating team rules, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the sophomore guard who had many public confrontations with Turgeon last season went pro rather than sit out next year. Maryland also suspended Mychal Parker, who took his talents to Loyola though he probably won’t be academically eligible there. With a disappointing 17-15 season in the rearview mirror, Turgeon’s Terrapins need immediate improvement to keep the suits in College Park from getting nervous. Speaking of suits in College Park, keep an eye on athletic director Kevin Anderson, who was reportedly headed to Stanford before everyone denied the claim and leading to this tepid retraction.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 28th, 2012

  1. Durham Herald-Sun and Inside Carolina: The ACC is very involved in the race to get Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi. According to Jeff Goodman, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Florida, Temple, Xavier, UCLA, Missouri, George Mason, Virginia Tech, Virginia and UNC Charlotte have all reached out to the rising senior big man. Additionally, Kentucky, Florida and Missouri may not be able to recruit him because the SEC has a rule against one-year transfers. I’d be a little surprised if Oriakhi ends up at North Carolina (though he should definitely wait a couple weeks to see who will be coming back) or Virginia Tech, but Duke and NC State certainly have a lot of need and Virginia would have tons of minutes too.
  2. BC Interruption: Speaking of Connecticut and Oriakhi, apparently the suits in Storrs aren’t interested in Oriakhi transferring to Boston College, according to Eric Hoffses. I haven’t seen this from any major media outlets yet, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Huskies holding a grudge against the former Big East member. Unfortunately, Boston College is the closest to home Oriakhi could get at a major conference school, as he grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  3. CSN Washington: It sounds like everyone may have jumped the gun on Sam Cassell, Jr.‘s, commitment to Maryland. That is to say, he’s not committed. But the younger Cassell definitely made it sound like he was on Twitter. This makes me think his father told him to take his time and take more visits to try and inform his final choice. I’d be a little surprised if he doesn’t end up in College Park, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: One assistant on Tobacco Road was tapped for a head coaching gig, but it wasn’t Chris Collins. Jerrod Haase, a longtime assistant for Roy Williams, will be moving on to coach UAB. Haase played for Williams in the mid-1990s at Kansas before joining his staff in 1999. The new question is who will replace him. Jackie Manuel and Bobby Frasor are putting some time in with the team now, but I’m not sure their couple years of experience each merits an assistant coach position already.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: The Leonard Hamilton updates have disappeared recently. First he was tied to the Illinois coaching opening; then he was receiving a contract extension. But neither has been confirmed or even furthered so far. Instead, it looks like business as usual for Hamilton, whose stoic on-court demeanor carries over to his laconic disposition when addressing things pertaining to himself. No news is probably good news for Seminole fans (as is Hamilton’s age), but here’s to hoping he stays in Tallahassee.
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