Big 12 M5: 12.18.2014 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1.  Iowa State‘s defense will get a lift this weekend from transfer Jameel McKay, who is finally eligible after transferring from Marquette and sitting out the last two semesters. A 6’9″ forward, McKay possesses a 7’4″ wingspan, which should come in handy for a Cyclone team that’s currently dead last in the conference in blocks percentage and offensive rebound percentage. Prior to his short stint with the Golden Eagles, McKay played alongside Cyclone forward Dustin Hogue at Indian Hills Community College. According to Fred Hoiberg, McKay will come off the bench, but even as a secondary member of Iowa State’s rotation, McKay’s ability to alter shots and preserve possessions with his offensive rebounding should give the Cyclones’ attack a new dimension.
  2. Perhaps the biggest name to hit the transfer market recently is former Duke forward Semi Ojeleye, who is now getting the full-court press from Kansas State. There are two major connections between Ojeleye and the Wildcat program: He hails from Ottawa (Kan.), which is just 80 miles from Manhattan, and his brother, Victor Ojeleye, was a walk-on from 2008 to 2012. There’s just one issue for Kansas State – They don’t have a scholarship available. The Wildcats inked three high school commits from the 2015 class to prepare for the loss of Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams and outgoing transfer Jack Karapetyan. Sometimes, these things have a way of working themselves out, but since Ojeleye and his AAU coach have also received inquiries from the likes of Wisconsin, Kansas and Wichita State, something would have to develop quickly for him to end up a Wildcat.
  3. Everyone is still getting used to the idea of TCU being a competitive team, including its local media. The Horned Frogs are one of just nine undefeated teams left in Division I, but they’ve partially arrived at that point by way of easy scheduling by head coach Trent Johnson. Still, these are games that previous TCU teams were losing, so credit is due. Their chances of making the NCAA Tournament will boil down to how they fare in conference play, and in that regard, their backs will be against the wall as they were in their first two seasons of Big 12 membership, but even this level of relevance can be nothing but a good thing for the conference.
  4. While Kansas‘ offensive struggles are a touch misplaced (they currently rank 14th in the country in adjusted offense), they could stand to improve, and as the Lawrence Journal-World‘s Tom Keegan writes, freshman big man Cliff Alexander could be the answer, or at least an answer as the Jayhawks look to get better over Winter Break. Alexander can be foul-prone, but it’s been frustrating to also see his minutes limited by Bill Self’s preference towards experience even though guys like Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas are less talented. We’re anticipating Alexander to get more chances with Kansas’ non-con schedule softening up as it nears its end, but it’s up to him to make the most of those opportunities.
  5. The Big 12 roars into the weekend on an absolute tear, having won its last 22 games by an average of 19.6 points. While some of the conference’s opponents in that time never stood a chance to be competitive, the streak also includes some impressive road wins over power conferences and victories over solid mid-major teams, too. There are three big threats tomorrow, though: Maryland pays a visit to Oklahoma State; A Washington team on the rise which will square off against Oklahoma in Las Vegas tomorrow, and a solid NC State team will take a crack at West Virginia at Madison Square Garden. Given the strength of the conference, everyone else should have no trouble taking care of business.
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Morning Five: 12.15.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 15th, 2014

morning5

  1. Prior to Friday, this season had already been disappointing for Florida State, but things got worse on Friday as they announced that Aaron Thomas, the team’s leading scorer this season at 14.8 points per game, had been declared ineligible for the rest of the season. The exact reason for the decision has not been disclosed, but according to reports it is not due to academic reasons and it was made by the school not the NCAA. Thomas’ absence will put even more of an onus on Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who sat out last season as a partial qualifier. In reality, the season is probably over for the Seminoles who are 4-5 after losing their ACC opener at Notre Dame on Saturday.
  2. Missouri‘s season has not gone much better than Florida State’s so far, but at least they moved in the right direction this weekend as they added highly-touted JaKeenan Gant. Gant, a 6’8″ freshman power forward, was Mr. Basketball in Georgia in 2013 before transferring to a high school in Missouri for his senior year of high school. Gant, who sat out nine games while the school looked into reports that he had received impermissible benefits, was a four-star recruit rated #52 overall in last year’s graduating class. Although the Tigers lost in his first game back, he made quite an impact scoring 13 points in 15 minutes coming off the bench in a 74-58 loss to Xavier.
  3. Continuing the trend of teams off to poor starts, Memphis will be without guard Markel Crawford for at least four games after he injured his left knee in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. While Crawford’s mother initially said it was “a torn ligament”, Josh Pastner says it is a “sprained knee”. If Crawford, who is averaging 5.5 points in 21.8 minutes per game this season, returns from injury as expected, his first game back would be the team’s AAC opener against Houston on New Year’s Eve. While Memphis might have enough depth on the perimeter to handle Crawford’s absence, they have much bigger issues as Saturday night’s loss dropped them to 3-4 against what has admittedly been a decent schedule, but one where they have not been close in their losses.
  4. There were also a couple of notable transfers from the weekend. Duke announced that sophomore forward Semi Ojeleye will be transferring. Ojeleye, who has 2.5 years of eligibility left, would typically be considered a highly-touted prospect, but at Duke he was the only member of the regular rotation (10.5 minutes per game) who was not a McDonald’s All-American. Having said that he was a borderline top 25 recruit coming out of high school so despite his meager production (3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season) we would expect to see him at a top-tier program in a year. Tennessee sophomore forward Dominic Woodson announced that he will be transferring citing a desire to join a program that is a better fit and one where he can play a bigger role. The 6’10” forward, who averaged 3.5 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes per game, has only been in Knoxville after transferring from Memphis this summer. Losing Woodson will hurt a Volunteer team that already had issues with depth on the inside. As for Woodson, we have no idea where he will end up. Obviously, there is a market for 6’10”, 280-pound players, but with Woodson’s background–initially committing to Baylor before going to Memphis where he was suspended and now leaving Tennessee–we aren’t sure how many suitors he will have.
  5. One of the more interesting trends in college sports (and sports in general) is the recent trend for people to prefer to stay home rather than go to games. There are many factors driving this with the primary one in our eyes being convenience (not having to drive to a game, deal with traffic or lines, and being able to sit on your own couch) as well as the ability to switch between games and having a great view particularly with high-definition televisions. The one thing that you definitely miss is the atmosphere at games (particularly big games) and that is what schools are counting on with their attempt to sell “experiences”. These experiences range from a few hundred dollars and stuff like playing golf with a non-revenue sport coach to several thousand dollars with sideline access and exclusive pre-/post-game access. As the article notes, these auctions are not that well publicized so they probably aren’t bringing as much money as they could. We will be interested to see if schools go to this well more as they face revenue issues.
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Tonight’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge Main Event: Previewing Duke at Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins on December 3rd, 2014

As the ACC and the Big Ten teams get together on the hardwood this week, ACC and Big Ten microsites writers Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins have teamed up to break down the match-up between Wisconsin and Duke, the main event on the final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Frontcourt

Alex Moscoso: Duke has a special player in center Jahlil Okafor, the likely #1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft. But as far as the best frontcourt in basketball, I submit there’s no unit with a better combination of talent and experience than the Badgers’ group of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. All three will play in the Association and are familiar with one another’s tendencies from a full year together on the floor. For the season, they’re combining to average 42.9 PPG (57.5 percent of the team’s output) and 20.6 RPG. While Kaminsky and Dekker are likely to be Naismith finalists, Hayes has also garnered widespread acclaim for his improved play as a sophomore – specifically, his newfound ability to hit the deep ball on occasion (35.7%) and better defensive play in the post. His transformation from talented prospect to contributing factor has made this frontcourt almost invulnerable. The trio will certainly have its hands full with the athletic duo of Okafor and Justise Winslow, but the Wisconsin big men should wear these young Blue Devils out by hitting some threes and forcing them to guard the entire half-court – from the rim out to the three-point line.

Frank Kaminsky (yes, it's true) exploded for 43 points on Tuesday. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky  and the Badgers “are coming” for Duke on Wednesday night, in what is one of the best non-conference games this season. (Getty)

Brad Jenkins: To say this is a match-up of Duke’s young talent versus Wisconsin’s veteran frontcourt is an oversimplification. The Badgers’ big guys are not only experienced but they are extremely skilled and more athletic than most realize. Duke’s two freshman starters up front, Okafor and Winslow, are both considered one-and-doners, and they play the game with a physical and mental maturity rarely seen in college rookies. On the one hand, Okafor has good footwork around the basket that should force Wisconsin into more double-teaming than normal. On the other hand, Winslow is a bit of a wild card in this game, as the Badgers don’t have a player who can match his combination of size and athleticism on the wing. The veteran Dekker, a tall forward with decent lateral quickness, will probably get the assignment, but he has been nursing a nagging ankle injury and may not be at 100 percent. Look for Winslow to aggressively attack the Badgers off the dribble as a way to create offense when the Blue Devils are otherwise stymied. Wisconsin normally protects the defensive glass as well as any team in the country, but watch out for Amile Jefferson on the weak side if Okafor demands major attention. So far this season, the 6’9” junior ranks third nationally with a 21.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Duke Gets a Passing Chemistry Grade… So Far

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2014

Duke has been very impressive so far this season, winning handily over Presbyterian on Friday and stomping Fairfield on Saturday. Both of those games were played in the cozy confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but before the Blue Devils face their first stiff challenge of the young season against Michigan State tonight in the Champions Classic (ESPN 7:00 ET), let’s look at what we have learned about Duke so far.

Freshman Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke's Early Games. (Mark Dolejs - USA Today Sports)

Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke’s Early Games. (Mark Dolejs – USA Today Sports)

  • Jahlil Okafor is the real deal, but so is Justise Winslow. Okafor has been every bit as good as everyone expected. In the first two games of his career, the Chicago big man has averaged 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game while making an outstanding 17-of-20 shots from the field — these proficient numbers earned him the first ACC Freshman of the Week award this season. In the future, Okafor’s primary competition for that honor may be his teammate Winslow, who is also playing very well on both ends of the floor. He has scored on frequent aggressive drives and shown a better than advertised outside shooting touch, going 3-of-5 on three-point shots. He also gives Duke an athletic lockdown wing defender, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Durham since Nate James. A great thing about being on press row in Cameron Indoor is how close you are to the action — up close, the maturity of Winslow in both physique and focus in his eyes is obvious when he’s in a defensive stance. That’s why he’s already been showing up in a handful of 2015 NBA mock drafts as a first-rounder. In fact, the whole freshmen class has an impressive level of maturity. Point guard Tyus Jones is off to a solid ball-handling start — passing for 12 assists while only committing three turnovers — and Grayson Allen is excelling in Duke’s up-tempo style with his great athleticism.

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ACC Team Preview: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2013

Duke had a successful 2013-14 season but it will be remembered as three seasons in one. Led by the senior trio of Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, Duke got off to the best start in the country, winning its first 15 games against a very tough schedule. Then Kelly went down with a foot injury and the Blue Devils dropped to merely a good team, going 9-4 without him in the lineup. Kelly’s dramatic return in a 79-76 win over eventual ACC champion Miami gave hope to Duke as a national title contender, but they couldn’t quite get there, losing to a superior Louisville team in the Elite Eight.

Duke Preview 2013

Ordinarily, losing three quality starting seniors would indicate a worse season to come, but thanks to a pair of highly regarded new forwards, Duke is expected to remain a national contender. Mike Krzyzewski has also made it clear that a change in style is coming. Duke will not have the veteran post players it had last year, but it will be a much more athletic and deeper team so look for the Blue Devils to push the tempo on both ends of the court. It’s been said that the makeup of this team is similar to Coach K’s 2012 USA Olympic team. That team lacked a true post scorer and was built around versatile play-making forwards on offense and a switching pressure defense. Look for Krzyzewski to use that experience to build this Duke team in the same fashion.

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Who’s Got Next? Decision Looming For An Injured Jabari Parker…

Posted by CLykins on December 19th, 2012

whos-got-next

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, 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 dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking 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: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Duke and Michigan State Await Jabari Parker’s Decision

With every second, minute and hour that passes, so does the ever-growing anticipation regarding the impending collegiate decision from Jabari Parker. In a press conference that will be held on Thursday afternoon at Simeon Career Academy (Illinois) and televised on ESPNU at 4:00 PM ET, the nation’s No. 2 overall ranked player will decide between BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.

Through three games, Jabari Parker is averaging 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds while still recovering from a summer injury

Through three games, Jabari Parker is averaging 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds while still recovering from a summer injury

As Parker continues to weigh every option imaginable with each program, four of the five schools listed have set out to make their final efforts in securing the 6’8″ small forward. Florida conducted an in-home visit on Monday night, followed by Duke on Tuesday and Michigan State will be front and center at the Parker household on Wednesday. He also heard from BYU earlier this week. While Parker insists that each school is still in the mix, virtually everyone with a beating pulse will tell you that it’s either Duke or Michigan State at the end. Both schools have been actively pursuing Parker since he was a freshman in high school and have made him their top priority from the class of 2013 ever since.

Depending on what you’ve read or heard throughout the week, both sides feel extremely confident with their position in this recruitment. The Parker family has done an outstanding job at not showing any favoritism toward any one school and has been extremely tight-lipped leading up to Thursday’s announcement. Information indicating who has surged ahead of one another is purely speculation between school insiders and basketball analysts. Although chances are high that Parker has already decided on a school, this recruitment is still considered a toss-up between the Blue Devils and Spartans until the final words are spoken from the young man himself.

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The Line That Is Dotted: Who Signed Yesterday In The ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on November 15th, 2012

The beginning of the early signing period is a beautiful time for nervous fans and coaches. When a recruit signs that official letter of intent, everything feels a little more real than the mere assurances of a player’s word. On the other hand, in practice, for a lot of players and schools, the signing is just a formality; a bit of paperwork that simply emphasizes a decision that may have been truly made months (or years) ago. For the ACC, signing day brought few surprises this year. Most of the big names who signed had already committed in advance, while the numerous undecided players stayed undecided.

Consensus No. 1 Prospect Andrew Wiggins Makes Move to 2013 Official

The Charlotte Observer put together a nice, comprehensive list of those who followed through on their previous verbal commitments by putting pen to paper. The more interesting part of this story, however, lays with those who have yet to commit. These top undecided prospects could have big impacts for four teams in the ACC that already have very strong incoming recruiting classes.

  • Florida State: The Seminoles have already put together a great recruiting class with Jarquez Smith and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The question for Leonard Hamilton’s team is whether it can turn this great recruiting class into a truly legendary category. Since the reclassification of Andrew Wiggins to this class and the commitment of Wiggins’ longtime friend and teammate Rathan-Mayes, Florida State may have the inside track on landing potentially one of the brightest overall talents in years. Still, to land Wiggins, Florida State is going to have to beat out John Calipari and Kentucky, no easy task. As icing on the cake (or perhaps as consolation), Florida State also has a shot at point guard Stevie Clark, and a longer shot at sensational scoring guard Keith Frazier.
  • North Carolina State:  For the second year in a row, Mark Gottfried is scheduled to have one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, even with some expected recruits still outstanding. Center BeeJay Anya is likely to make the Wolfpack his choice in the next couple days (especially considering that there doesn’t seem to be any other schools in play) and Julius Randle, one of the top talents in the class seems excited to visit Raleigh to watch NC State play against North Carolina in late January. Obviously that likely means that Randle’s decision is months off, but the signs are encouraging for the Wolfpack.
  • Duke:  The Blue Devils only have one piece outstanding and they know they are going to have to wait. Jabari Parker is their man and he has made it clear that he won’t make his decision during the early period. Still, with or without Parker, Duke has a nice pair of incoming players with Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones.
  • North Carolina: The Tar Heels have a solid pair in Nate Britt and Isiah Hicks, but they have two outstanding and uncommitted prospects. Kennedy Meeksa big center from Charlotte has narrowed his choices down to UNC or Georgetown, but it’s unclear which way he is leaning and when his decision will come. While at least one reputable analyst thinks UNC has the edge, this is far from done deal, though an answer seems more likely to come sooner than later. The other outstanding piece for North Carolina? None other than Andrew Wiggins. For Roy Williams, landing Wiggins is probably a long shot, but North Carolina is still on the top prospect’s short list.
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Who’s Got Next? Pollard Picks Bama, Harrell Chooses Cards And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 8th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Top-30 Senior Devonta Pollard Commits To Alabama

McDonald's All-American Devonta Pollard Is A Huge Pick-up For Alabama. (Photo Credit: Kelly Kline)

Small Forward Is Lone Crimson Tide Commit. Class of 2012 small forward Devonta Pollard (#27) was the top unsigned prospect left in the senior class going in to Friday, but the Mississippi native became the latest top 75 player to come off the board when he committed to Alabama. The McDonald’s All-American chose the Crimson Tide over Georgetown, Missouri and Texas and is a guy with great athleticism and length and is a terrific finisher. He is very good in transition and is great above the rim. He is also able to finish with both hands and has a good pull-up jumper in the mid-range game. Pollard is a great shot-blocker as well for a wing and impacts the game on the defensive end. However, one of the biggest things he can improve on is his perimeter shooting. He can develop better range from beyond the three-point line and become more consistent from outside too. The 6’8, 192-pound wing is the lone commitment in the Class of 2012 for Alabama head coach Anthony Grant.

What They’re Saying

  • Standout senior Savon Goodman‘s high school coach, Rob Moore, on who leads for his prized player: “Looks like SMU and UNLV are leading the pack. He loved [SMU head] coach [Larry] Brown. This late in the game he could commit at any time.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Tony Parker Commits, Ripple Effect of Greenberg Firing

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Tony Parker Joins Adams, Anderson and Muhammad at UCLA

Parker Choose UCLA Over Duke, Georgia And Ohio State. (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Tony Parker Gives UCLA Top Recruiting Class.  Class of 2012 power forward Tony Parker committed to UCLA Monday over Duke, Georgia and Ohio State, joining point guard Kyle Anderson and small forwards Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad in head coach Ben Howland’s stellar 2012 recruiting class. Parker brings a tremendous inside presence to Westwood and is someone who will be able to rebound as soon as he steps onto campus. He is an elite big man with a great skill set in the low post and has the ability to score through a variety of moves in the paint. He can make a hook over both shoulders and is able to play facing the basket, although he’s at his best with his back to the basket. The biggest knock on Parker has always been the same — that he’s out of shape and lacks stamina. However, the Georgia native has worked hard to dispel that notion and although he can still improve his conditioning, he’s definitely gotten better at running the court and has an improved motor. Once Parker gets to UCLA, he’ll join a crowded frontcourt that already includes sophomore power forwards David and Travis Wear and sophomore center Josh Smith. Every single person in the UCLA’s 2012 recruiting class worked hard on recruiting Parker and Adams even predicted back in December that the Bruins would land him. UCLA fans should remain cautiously optimistic, though, because as we’ve pointed out at RTC, having a highly ranked recruiting class doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, borne out by UCLA’s 2008 recruiting class. Although, there are some differences between this year’s recruiting class and the one four years ago.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Marshall Wood on asking for a release from Virginia Tech: “I need to get my release so I can review all my options. If somebody gets the job at Tech that recruited me or something and I have a really good relationship with [him], I possibly could still go back. But right now I just want to get the release so I can have more options to look at.” Read the rest of this entry »
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