Oklahoma’s TaShawn Thomas Ruled Eligible With Huge Big 12 Implications

Posted by Chris Stone on November 17th, 2014

On the eve of Oklahoma’s first regular season game, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports announced via Twitter that the NCAA issued a ruling regarding the eligibility of Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas. In a move that has massive implications for the top of the Big 12, the NCAA granted Thomas a waiver to play immediately, ruling him eligible for the entire 2014-15 season. The addition of the 6’8″ power forward will be welcome in Norman after the team lost seniors Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal from last year’s 23-10 team. Thomas, who transferred from Houston after the termination of head coach James Dickey, figures to be a starter for the Sooners in a loaded Big 12 race despite a subpar four-point, four-turnover opening game on Sunday.

TaShawn Thomas was ruled eligible by the NCAA on Saturday night

TaShawn Thomas was ruled eligible to play for Oklahoma by the NCAA on Saturday night

For head coach Lon Kruger, the addition of Thomas provides the Sooners with a talented forward to pair with junior Ryan Spangler in the frontcourt. During his junior season at Houston, Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, so he will provide Oklahoma with a legitimate go-to scoring option on the blocks. According to hoop-math.com, Thomas took nearly 60 percent of his field goals at the rim last season and converted a superb 73.1 percent of them. The second team All-AAC forward also brings a defensive presence that should significantly help the Sooners in the paint. Thomas averaged 2.7 blocks per game last year, rejecting a robust 8.5 percent of opponents’ shots while he was on the floor. That rim-protection will be valuable for a team that finished 91st in adjusted defensive efficiency and blocked only 10.2 percent of opponents’ shots last season.

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Big 12 M5: 11.17.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 17th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Oklahoma finally got resolution to a major question mark heading into the season when TaShawn Thomas was declared immediately eligible by the NCAA on Saturday night. Thomas nearly did it all in his three years at Houston as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. Now that he will play alongside Ryan Spangler, these two will make yet another lethal frontcourt in the Big 12. On paper alone, one could make arguments as to why Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Iowa State each have legitimate chances of making a run to this year’s Final Four.
  2. Last week, we previewed a Texas team facing a potential dilemma in bringing back most of its core while trying to find enough playing time for highly-touted freshman Myles Turner. Turner was impressive in his collegiate debut on Friday night versus North Dakota State and was equally efficient (10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, seven boards, six blocks) off the bench in a subsequent win over Alcorn State on Sunday. At the same time, we should manage our expectations of Turner’s output given the light competition in the first two games. Must… resist… superlatives!
  3. Kansas’ own sparkling freshman Cliff Alexander scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 12 minutes in Friday’s opening win against UC Santa Barbara. Alexander, however, is already dealing with an injury early into his college career. He hurt his right wrist on a dunk in Kansas’ second exhibition game and was icing it after the game Friday. Hopefully this doesn’t become a serious issue as the season wears along. Jayhawks fans wouldn’t want to deal with a similar experience to Joel Embiid’s back injury that got progressively worse late last year.
  4. I’m mildly surprised that it took Georges Niang until his junior year to cross 1,000 career points at Iowa State, although he would have definitely passed it in March had he not suffered a season-ending injury. Niang hurdled the 1,000 mark with a 30-point performance on 9-of 15 shooting against Oakland on Friday night. Assuming he continues at his 14.3 PPG pace over the next two years, Niang will reach the 2,000 point milestone in his 138th college game. I’d say that that was food for thought but [/puts sunglasses on] Niang has gotten better with portion control.
  5. The father-son coaching matchup that you may not have heard quite so much about also went down on college basketball’s first weekend. Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith defeated his son, GG Smith, the head coach of Loyola (MD), 71-59 in Lubbock Friday night. Viva The Matadors named freshman forward Norense Odiase as its star of the game, and with good reason, as Odiase put up 16 points, 10 rebounds (six offensive) and three blocks for a squad with very few big men to choose from. Other newcomers like Keenan Evans (10 points, 2-of-3 from three) and Devaugntah Williams (13 points on 4-of-6 from the floor) also made their presences known. Competition will ramp up quickly as Texas Tech travels to LSU as a part of the 24-hour hoops marathon on Tuesday.

 

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Big 12 Predictions: Player and Newcomer of the Year

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2014

It’s been a fun run-up to the season here at the Big 12 microsite, with plenty of discussion on the strength and depth of the conference and whether any team is poised to knock Kansas from its perch at the top of the standings. We finish things off with the group’s selections for Big 12 Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Player Of The Year

The new and improved Georges Niang will be the Big 12's best player. (Nirmalendu Majumdar)

The new and improved Georges Niang will be the Big 12’s best player, according to three of our four experts. (Nirmalendu Majumdar/AP)

  • Kory Carpenter: Georges Niang, Iowa State - I wanted to go with Juwan Staten here, but I think he’ll have to be even better than he was last season for the media to give him the award again. Niang averaged 16.7 PPG/4.5 RPG/3.6 APG last season and looks to have gotten into great shape this offseason while recovering from foot surgery. He lost about 25 pounds and re-tooled his diet. That, along with the wide-open attack of Iowa State, should lead to plenty of buckets for the svelter forward this season.
  • Brian Goodman: Niang – A Cyclone will take home the hardware for the second straight year as Niang will pace Fred Hoiberg’s balanced attack. Though he may get more attention from opposing defenses with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane now gone, he has a great ball-handler in Monte’ Morris who will be able to get him touches in spite of that. Niang will take care of the rest from there. I also look for the junior to deliver better rebounding numbers due to his improved conditioning. 

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Big 12 Season Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 11th, 2014

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Oklahoma.

Strengths: Guards Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Jordan Woodard return for the Sooners, giving them potentially one of the best backcourts in the Big 12. Hield averaged 16.4 PPG and shot 38.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, both major improvements from his freshman season. The 6’4″ junior was a second-team All-Big 12 selection and was second in the conference with 1.4 steals per game. Jordan Woodard saw significant minutes (28 MPG) as a freshman and landed on the Bob Cousy Award watch list heading into this season after averaging 10.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 2.2 RPG last season. Isaiah Cousins was named the team’s most improved player last season after averaging 11 PPG and 4.2 RPG, and along with Hield and Woodard will give the Sooners one of the most experienced backcourts in the Big 12. They will be joined by junior forward Ryan Spangler, who started every game last season and led the Big 12 with 9.3 RPG. There are definitely holes to fill from last year’s team, but a lineup with Hield, Cousins, Woodard, and Spangler in it is a good place to start for head coach Lon Kruger.

Lon Kruger has talent this season, but will depth become a problem?

Lon Kruger has talent this season, but will depth become a problem?

Weaknesses: The loss of Cameron Clark could be huge for Oklahoma this season. Clark, a 6’7″ forward, might have been the most important player on last year’s team. He was certainly the most important big man. His departure leaves plenty of question marks down low for the Sooners. Spangler should be improved and will help, but that’s about it. There’s senior forward D.J. Bennett, I guess. But Bennett only averaged 9.1 MPG last season, so it’s hard to say what kind of impact he will have in 2014-15. The presumed fifth starter alongside Spangler looks to be Houston transfer Tashawn Thomas. That’s if he is ruled eligible by the NCAA. Thomas averaged 14.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG in three seasons at Houston. He elected to transfer this summer after Houston coach James Dickey left the program, and is waiting to see if the NCAA will let him play immediately for Lon Kruger. If that is the case, it would go a long way in solidifying an otherwise thin rotation for the Sooners. If not, we’ll see just how much of a load Spangler can carry.

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Houston’s Season Already in Serious Trouble Even Without L.J. Rose

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 22nd, 2014

In a perfect world, Houston would be contending for the AAC title in new coach Kelvin Sampson‘s first season. Danuel House would be throwing down vicious dunks, TaShawn Thomas would be owning the glass, and L.J. Rose would be feeding shooters like Jherrod Stiggers and Torian Graham for open triples. Alas, the college basketball world is rarely perfect, especially during a coaching change. CBSSports.com reported earlier today that junior L.J. Rose, the team’s starting point guard and arguably its best player, has broken his foot and will be out until at least Christmas. That information completes the trifecta of bad news that will have Houston struggling to stay relevant this season instead of competing for a league title. Say what you want about the coaching deficiencies of previous head coach James Dickey — and there were plenty — but it would be difficult to criticize his recruiting abilities. House, Thomas and yes Rose (by way of Baylor) were all highly coveted recruits who ended up at Houston. Last year’s team wasn’t very good, but it didn’t lack for talent either, and it’s not a coincidence that Sampson chose to make his triumphant return to the head coaching ranks with the Cougars. Sampson was probably drooling over the thought of inheriting a veteran and talented roster.

Sampson's Rebuild Took a Hit With the Loss of LJ Rose to Injury

Sampson’s Rebuild Took a Hit With the Loss of LJ Rose to Injury

That dream started to fall apart when the team’s two best players and leading returning scorers, Thomas and House, both announced their intentions to transfer. Both players were all-league talents who would have been among the best at their positions in the AAC. If Houston was going to make a surprise run at the conference title, it would have been in large part because Thomas and House were doing a lot of the heavy lifting on both ends of the floor. Once it was clear they weren’t coming back to campus, expectations for Houston dropped precipitously. Those two transfers were definitely not a part of Sampson’s master plan. Sure, he kept things positive at the team’s media day and I’m sure if someone asked him about the offseason exodus he would say all the right things about coaching the guys who “want to be here.” But any lingering doubt that Sampson wouldn’t be happier with Thomas and House still in the fold should be erased after reading how hard Houston fought to keep their two stars from transferring.

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Five Takeaways From the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2014

We’re a little over a month away from the first games of the 2014-15 season, and that means the typical roll-out of preseason coaches polls, all-conference teams and all of the other fun stuff that comes with the countdown. This morning, the Big 12 Conference released its annual preseason coaches poll. You can find the complete rankings here, but here are the five biggest takeaways from the release.

  1. Kansas picked to lead the pack (again), though narrowly: Death, taxes, the sun shining in the east, Adam Sandler making terrible movies, and the Jayhawks winning the Big 12. Sometimes, there’s just no need to complicate life’s certainties. Kansas’ roster isn’t without questions, but whose isn’t? Until someone knocks the Jayhawks off the mountain, any predictions in favor of other teams are simply bold picks. The Longhorns are right behind the Jayhawks with three first-place votes to Kansas’ six in this poll, and have one of the best combinations of talent and depth in the country, but don’t count on the Jayhawks to give up their crown this season.
  2. Sooners on the rise: Oklahoma checks in after Texas and was one of the bigger overachievers in college basketball last season. Lon Kruger returns nearly everyone from a young roster that racked up 23 wins, a second-place finish in the Big 12, and an NCAA Tournament bid. While the team’s defense will need to improve, the offensive firepower should still be there, and the squad can catch a huge break if Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible. Combine all of that with Kruger’s track record and there are plenty of reasons to believe the Sooners will build on last year’s success.

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

    Andrew Wiggins is a pro, but Bill Self has reloaded Kansas once again. (KUSports.com)

  3. Is the Big 12 selling Fred Hoiberg short?: Before the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the league’s coaches penciled Iowa State in the bottom half of the standings, and both times, Fred Hoiberg exceeded expectations. Last year, the coaches appeared to finally smarten up, as they tabbed the Cyclones to finish fourth, but Iowa State still outperformed those projections, finishing third in the league and winning the Big 12 Tournament. The departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim appear to have given the coaches pause this season in sliding the Cyclones down to fifth, but we’ve seen The Mayor rebuild too many times to believe he can’t muster a top-four finish, possibly top three if things break right for his club. Look for Bryce Dejean-Jones, Georges Niang and Monte Morris to do some big things in 2014-15.
  4. What to make of the perceptions of Kansas State and Baylor: Both the Wildcats and Bears face significant roster turnover from last season’s NCAA Tournament teams, but Bruce Weber’s team was tabbed fourth and Scott Drew’s team sixth. It appears as though the league’s coaches are looking for Wildcats guard Marcus Foster to make a big leap as a sophomore and for Baylor to continue its every-other-year pattern, because I just don’t see what else can explain the 17-point difference in the preseason vote tally.
  5. At 7th and 8th place, Bob Huggins and Travis Ford face big seasons: West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12 has been a rocky one. The Mountaineers are just 49-49 over the last three seasons, and while it’s tough to picture Bob Huggins’ seat getting too hot in Morgantown, it’s time for him to produce. Juwan Staten could be the best player in the Big 12, but his amazing talent will be wasted if West Virginia doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, in Stillwater, Travis Ford looks to pick up the pieces from one of the most disappointing seasons by a Power Five conference school in recent memory. To his credit, he’s made some inroads on the recruiting circuit, but it’s hard to see freshmen like Joe Burton and Mitch Solomon being good enough complements to Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte for the Cowboys to make a run.
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Morning Five: 04.11.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2014

morning5

  1. California has targeted Xavier coach Chris Mack to replace Mike Montgomery. Mack has some experience replacing a successful coach as he took over for Sean Miller when Miller left Xavier to take over at Arizona. Mack has led the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in his five years as a coach as well as two Sweet Sixteen appearances. He would appear to be an ideal candidate for the job except that Montgomery has been pushing for Travis DeCuire, an assistant at Cal, to get the job.
  2. Tennessee junior Jarnell Stokes is expected to announce that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Stokes, who averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, has scheduled a press conference for this afternoon to make the announcement. Despite Stokes’ output he is considered to be a late second round pick, which would make us question his decision to enter the NBA Draft. It is possible (ok, probable) that he wouldn’t improve his stock by returning since the main concerns about his game are his size, but he should be prepared to spend some time in the D League or overseas next season.
  3. Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas and Kentucky freshman Julius Randle are both denying reports that they will enter this year’s NBA Draft. From our perspective we would expect both to do so as they are both definite first round picks. Stauskas is expected to be a mid-first round pick while Randle might even end up in the top five. Many expected that Randle would enter this year’s NBA Draft even before he played a college game while Staukas was much less certain, but with his rapid improvement this year it would seem reasonable that he would leave early too.
  4. While Staukas’ immediate plans are unclear another Michigan player–Jon Horford–is leaving the program as he announced that he will be transferring for his final season of eligibility. Horford, who is best known for being the son of former NBA player Tito and brother of current NBA player Al, is expected to graduate in May so he will qualify for the graduate transfer waiver meaning that he will be eligible to play immediately. Although it is not particularly surprising to see someone transfer this late in his career particularly one who averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game last season it is strange to see someone who was a co-captain last season transfer.
  5. So the Kelvin Sampson era at Houston is off to a bit of a rough start. A year after losing their top scorer (Joseph Young) to transfer when his father was reassigned (not under Sampson’s watch), this year’s top two scorers–TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House–have announced their intent to transfer, but were reportedly denied. Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while House averaged 13.6 points per game last season. We are not completely clear on what they mean by denied (to certain schools? all schools?), but one catch here is that the school did allow Jaaron Simmons, a much less productive player, to transfer. We can understand the program’s frustration with all of the transfers, but that probably says more about the program than the players and as always the school never ends up looking good in these situations.
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Your Way Too Early 2014-15 AAC Preview

Posted by Mike Lemaire on April 7th, 2014

As we anxiously wait to see whether UConn can deliver a title to the American Athletic Conference in its very first season of existence, it’s important to take some time to wildly speculate about how the conference will shake out next season. We don’t yet have a complete list of who is heading to the NBA Draft and we haven’t watched even one minute of East Carolina or Tulane basketball this season, but that won’t stop us from sticking our necks out with everyone’s predicted finish for next season.

With Larry Brown Back, SMU Will Push Forward (Photo credit: LM Otero/AP).

With Larry Brown Back, SMU Will Push Forward (Photo credit: LM Otero/AP).

  1. SMU. Every top team in the conference is losing at least two important pieces except for the Mustangs. Graduating senior Nick Russell was a valuable contributor this season, but SMU has guys like Keith Frazier and Sterling Brown waiting in the wings. Markus Kennedy and Nic Moore will continue to get better and don’t forget about incoming uber-recruit Emmanuel Mudiay who could be in the starting lineup from Day One.
  2. Connecticut. People thought Kemba Walker was irreplaceable until Shabazz Napier stepped up, but unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Huskies have another superstar guard ready to fill the void. Napier’s departure will leave the biggest hole, but Niels Giffey was an efficient offensive player and Lasan Kromah was dependable as well. The team’s success will likely hinge whether DeAndre Daniels decides to turn pro. If he stays for his senior season and Omar Calhoun turns around a once promising career, those two and Ryan Boatright form a solid nucleus to rebuild around. Read the rest of this entry »
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Houston’s Smartest Move: Hiring Kelvin Sampson

Posted by Mike Lemaire on April 4th, 2014

It has been rumored for some time but multiple reports have seemingly confirmed it – former Oklahoma and Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson is making his return to the college basketball ranks as the head coach for Houston. Sampson doesn’t even have to change area codes for his new job as he has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach right across town with the Houston Rockets. Why was he coaching in the NBA when he has such a proven track record at the collegiate level? Well, if you are a college basketball fan, you should have at least some idea how to answer that question.

Kelvin Sampson is a Strong Hire for Houston

Kelvin Sampson is a Strong Hire for Houston

Sampson made headlines in 2008 when he was hit with a five-year show-cause penalty for basically calling and texting recruits even after the NCAA had repeatedly told him to stop doing so. He was also at the center of the Eric Gordon recruiting saga after bringing the star to Indiana despite Gordon’s verbal commitment to Illinois. There may be some hand-wringing over Houston’s decision to bring a repeated NCAA felon on board, but he has served his time away from the collegiate ranks and if other coaches like Bruce Pearl are being given second chances, there is no reason Sampson doesn’t deserve one as well. Frankly, the marriage looks like a savvy move from both parties.

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AAC M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 8th, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Much has been made of the sellout crowd on hand for the first time in more than a decade in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum during SMU’s recent upset of UConn. But during a recent radio segment, a Dallas Morning News columnist posed the question of whether SMU can sustain the same attendance numbers and energetic atmosphere against lesser visiting opponents. It’s a timely question, given that the Mustangs’ next three opponents are USF, Hofstra and Rutgers. Those games should help us gain a better sense as to whether the UConn crowd was simply lightning in a bottle or indicative of long-term community engagement. Meteoric shifts in fan behavior don’t typically occur overnight, especially for small, long-neglected programs like SMU, but stay tuned.
  2. Memphis strength and conditioning coach Frank Matrisciano has left the program for unspecified reasons after spending two and a half seasons on the Tigers’ staff. The Commercial Appeal reports that the coach was fired by Josh Pastner due to “philosophical differences in strength and conditioning,” but there seems to be more to this story. Did we mention that Matrisciano is Pastner’s brother-in-law? The coach, whose preferred title at Memphis was reportedly “Life Changer,” said that he had originally envisioned spending about a year on the Memphis staff, and felt he had “met all [his] obligations. I felt I blew this place up and turned it on to a whole different level of fitness that they’d never seen before,” he added, somewhat bizarrely. It’s not unreasonable to infer from the abrupt timing and icy comments from both parties that there’s some personal drama underlying Matrisciano’s departure, and it couldn’t come at a worst time with a trip to Louisville looming this week.
  3. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy will have seven scholarship players at his disposal when the Owls take on USF tomorrow night. Recent injuries to 6’7” sophomore Daniel Dingle and 6’8” freshman Mark Williams have been the latest setbacks for a rebuilding Owls team already beset by inexperience and poor depth. While Williams is day-to-day with a sprained ankle and could be available for Saturday’s game against Memphis, there is no timetable in place for Dingle’s return after he underwent surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Dingle and Williams were logging 20 and 18 minutes per game, respectively, and have each started at various points in the season, with Dingle showing signs of major progress before injuring his knee in late December.
  4. Cincinnati and Louisville remain the only AAC teams undefeated in conference play after the Bearcats escaped Houston on the road last night, 61-60. The biggest storyline of the game may have been how well Houston acquitted itself in the second half, clawing back into the conteste despite trailing 40-24 at halftime. It was then that the American Athletic Conference’s most accurate three-point shooting team lived up to its billing, hitting 7-of-10 threes as James Dickey’s squad strived to prove it belongs among the league’s upper echelon. Cincinnati’s press clearly rattled Houston’s players early in the game, as the Bearcats built a 10-0 advantage in steals, but the Cougars steadied once TaShawn Thomas said “we realized we can handle the pressure and play with these guys.” Cincinnati moved to 3-0 in league play and extended its lead in the all-time series versus Houston to 23-1.
  5. With junior Anthony Collins hampered once again by knee problems and no viable backup for Corey Allen, the Tampa Bay Times’ Joey Knight reports that Stan Heath may burn his son’s redshirt for the sake of the team’s point guard depth. Josh Heath earned all-state honors at Tampa Prep last year and has shown a natural grasp of the elder Heath’s offense in practices, according to senior forward Victor Rudd. Knight points out that having the freshman run the point would allow Allen to generate offense more effectively from the two-guard position. “I know he’s not going to be ready ready,” said coach Heath, “but there are some things I think he can do from just making decisions and making plays to make things better and take Corey off the ball a little bit.”
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Three Questions Heading into Houston vs. Cincinnati

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 7th, 2014

After tonight’s game, Houston and Cincinnati will already be a sixth of the way through their AAC conference schedules. The winner will join Louisville as the only undefeated team left in the conference race, a surprising fact for only January 7, and for the time being, that team will take sole possession of first place. After losses to New Mexico and Xavier, it appeared Cincinnati was destined for a mediocre season, but since then, the Bearcats won against Pittsburgh in an ugly affair and notched an impressive 16-point road win Saturday at Memphis. Houston came into the season with moderate-to-high expectations given the return of its core nucleus, but after five non-conference losses the Cougars appeared to be just another disappointing team. It now looks like Houston has put its non-conference woes behind them and is starting fresh with the AAC season. The Cougars began conference play with a win against Connecticut and then went on the road to defeat South Florida by nine. It all sets up for a better-than-expected conference season showdown at 9:00 PM in Hofheinz Pavilion, where a few of the following questions will hopefully be answered.

Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

TaShawn Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

  1. Has Houston really turned a corner? A lot was said about the Cougars’ toughness from both the media and head coach James Dickey following Houston’s big win over Connecticut, but we’ll see how tough they really are after playing against the best defensive team in the AAC. Cincinnati ranks sixth in the country in scoring defense and third in defensive efficiency. If Houston is serious about competing for a top three spot in the conference standings, they’ll need to protect the home court tonight and pull off the win. Read the rest of this entry »
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AAC M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 7th, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Temple is experiencing a “Murphy’s Law season” after dropping another close loss,78-76, to UCF over the weekend. Discounting a 14-point loss to Clemson, the Owls have been competitive in every game they’ve played this season, as their other six losses have been decided by an average of 3.2 points. On the road against the Knights last Saturday, not even an explosive 31-point performance from junior point guard Will Cummings could put Temple over the top. Philadelphia Daily News writer Dick Jerardi points out that Fran Dunphy’s team is “a play here and a play there away from maybe 10 wins.” Instead, the Owls are stuck at 5-7 and winless in the AAC, facing a January schedule that includes a home-and-home with Cincinnati, a trip to UConn and a home game against Memphis.
  2. With a road trip to Louisville looming on Thursday, Memphis coach Josh Pastner says there’s no time for his team to have a “pity party” over its 16-point loss to Cincinnati in the FedEx Forum. His players seem to be absorbing that message, as veterans from Joe Jackson to David Pellom to Chris Crawford reiterated the sense that they “can’t let it soak in on us.” Following their marquee match-up in the Yum! Center and a night spent in Louisville, the Tigers fly straight to Philadelphia for a game at Temple on Saturday afternoon. Returning from that road trip with a 1-3 AAC record is by no means out of the question right now, and would place Memphis in a deep hole just one week into league play.
  3. Adding to the excitement of UCF’s first league win as members of the American, Isaiah Sykes entertained the home crowd with a near-triple-double stat line during the Knights’ close win over Temple last Saturday. The 6’6″, 220-pound senior logged a double-double before halftime, and finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists, matching a career-high for scoring. Sykes also helped contain Temple point guard Will Cummings in the second half, limiting him to 11 of his 31 total points after halftime. “Coach Jones asked me to step up and check [Cummings],” Sykes recalled. “My focus was just to slow him down and contain him and my teammates did a good job being there on the help side and putting me in good position to stay in front of him.” It’s the type of game Donnie Jones needs to see this season from the big, versatile guard in order for his team to finish in the top two-thirds of the league.
  4. Heading into tonight’s road game against Houston, Cincinnati players aren’t overlooking the Cougars after watching them knock off UConn on New Year’s Eve. “If you beat Connecticut, that’s a good quality win. That obviously makes you a pretty good team,” said three-time reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Week, Justin Jackson. Though Houston star TaShawn Thomas poses a particular challenge for Cincinnati given that freshman Jermaine Lawrence is doubtful for the game, Mick Cronin expressed total confidence in his senior Jackson: “If you’re going to compete for a league championship, you need two all-league players, not one… Right now we’ve got two guys playing at that level in Justin and Sean Kilpatrick.” Both teams sit atop the AAC at 2-0, alongside Louisville, and the Bearcats look to earn a 3-0 start in league play for the first time since 2004-05, their Conference USA farewell campaign.
  5. College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips picked out some interesting quotes from a New York Daily News piece on Larry Brown, in which the 73-year-old coach related the rebuilding project at SMU to what John Thompson encountered at Georgetown in the early 1970s. “[Though] I know I am not John Thompson, I see there’s potential for the same thing here. We’ve got a good city. It’s a fine school in an improving (conference). There’s a lot of talent in the area.” Brown also noted that when he first arrived, he had been “stunned” by the apathy with which the local community seemed to regard the SMU program. That problem seems like it’s taking care of itself now that the Mustangs are improving their facilities, recruiting, and on-court performance.
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