Morning Five: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2012

  1. Yesterday was the first day of the early signing period, which runs from November 14 through 21. As we have said before we would think that at some point in the future the elite recruits would avoid signing at all and just enroll at schools so as not to put themselves in a situation of having signed at a school and have the coaching staff leave them for a better situation. Having said that there were a couple of big story lines with the most obvious being the success of the SEC, which has loaded up on the most highly rated recruits. We have already talked about the potentially ridiculous class that Kentucky is putting together, but it is also worth pointing out that Florida may end up with the second best class in the country when the dust settles. We will have much more on this later in the day so be on the look out for more details on what has gone down so far.
  2. When the NCAA declared Shabazz Muhammad ineligible it was not a matter of if, but when UCLA would appeal. The when turned out to be yesterday as UCLA formally filed its appeal to the NCAA to have Muhammad reinstated. Muhammad’s case has been discussed online ad nauseam, but a report suggesting that the NCAA may have already prejudged Muhammad came out yesterday based on a conversation overheard on a cross-country flight in which the boyfriend (possibly soon to be ex-boyfriend) of Abigail Grantstein, the NCAA’s lead investigator in the Muhammad case, allegedly told another passenger on August 7 that the NCAA was going to find Muhammad ineligible and not allow him to play this season, which contradicts the earlier NCAA statement that they had waited until they received all of the evidence (almost 3 months later) before deciding on Muhammad’s eligibility. Attorneys for Muhammad and UCLA are using this report as support to ask the NCAA to drop its investigation into Muhammad and reinstate him immediately. After criticizing the speed at which the Muhammad family provided it with information we wonder how quickly the NCAA will collect evidence on this one.
  3. Speaking of Muhammad, Arizona senior Solomon Hill has some advice for him: don’t go to college. Ok, maybe it isn’t that simple, but Hill has come out and said that he thinks that with the way that the NCAA is handling investigations into played eligibility he can see a day where top recruits skip college and just hire an agent out of high school rather than deal with NCAA investigations. While this is not a new idea we found this quote particularly interesting: “If you don’t want to be investigated, just don’t go to college. If you take money early, make the decision that you’re not going to attend college and you’re going to seek training. There’s nothing bad with that decision.” In addition, Hill also suggested that if Muhammad was not cleared by December he should just start preparing for the Draft. On the surface this seems like a perfectly reasonable idea, but we imagine that the UCLA fans and staff would prefer that Hill keep his ideas of the subject to himself.
  4. After just one weekend of college basketball there are already several notable injuries to report. The most significant are Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele, who will be out for six weeks with a fractured right wrist, and Providence guard Vincent Council, who will be out for four to five weeks with a hamstring injury (original article require registration). Two other stars who also sustained injuries, but should miss less time are UCLA guard Kyle Anderson, who is a game-time decision (right wrist contusion) for today’s game against James Madison, and Georgetown forward Otto Porter, who missed last night’s win over Liberty with a concussion and has no definitive timetable to return.
  5. Finally, in a score that is straight out of the Big Ten, Fresno State defeated UC Riverside 39-30, which might actually be a blowout given how low scoring the game was. The box score is full of interesting/horrifying stats in a game that was actually 35-27 before some window dressing made the final score slightly more respectable. The  Fresno State media release is billing it as a defensive stalemate, which is a euphemism they must have borrowed from some old Big Ten press releases. Perhaps the most important statistic is that only 806 people (plus the players and coaches) had to watch it although some people apparently watched it online and are using it as an example of the beauty of college basketball.
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Lost and Found Again: Unearthing Providence Guard Bryce Cotton

Posted by mlemaire on November 13th, 2012

On the heels of transfer announcements from Gerard Coleman and Bilal Dixon, the rumors started swirling at Providence in early April that yet another guard — then-sophomore Bryce Cotton — asked for his release and was set to leave the program. The thought was that with Vincent Council returning for his senior year and at least two superstar guard recruits entering the program, Cotton saw the writing on the wall and was headed for a place that offered more playing time.

The Friars Have A New Star Of The Show, But The Team Should Be Happy It Has Him At All

Friars’ fans did not take the news well  but the discussion was never about losing a starting guard, it was about losing “depth” and a solid player who could back up Council and uber-freshmen Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo. Never mind that the then-sophomore was coming off a season in which he had averaged 38.6 minutes and 14.3 points per game, the message was already clear. Cotton was a nice player, but he wasn’t Council, or Dunn, or Ledo.

Fast forward to present day and you can bet that the Providence faithful is thanking its lucky stars that Cotton decided to stick around.   The backcourt logjam that was supposed to eat into Cotton’s minutes never materialized. In fact, the backcourt has gone from an area of strength to an area of weakness almost overnight. First Dunn had shoulder surgery, then Ledo was ruled ineligible, and then, early in the team’s season-opening win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Council injured his hamstring, leaving him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Opening Weekend: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Posted by mlemaire on November 12th, 2012

College basketball tipped off Friday and as the weekend drew to a close, all but two Big East teams have played and only two of them lost. From Connecticut’s shocking win over Michigan State to South Florida’s disastrous debut against Central Florida, Big East fans who weren’t able to get to their televisions this weekend missed a lot of good action. Rather than recap each game individually or only focus on some of the games, we figured the best way to get the uninformed up to speed was with a broad look at some of the best and worst from conference programs this weekend.

The Good

UConn’s Surprising Victory in Germany Represented a Big East Highlight of the Weekend

  • Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie’s debut. The first year coach couldn’t have scripted a better start to his career than his team’s gritty 66-62 win over No. 14 Michigan State in Germany. Not only did the rookie head coach beat a legend in Tom Izzo, but his team played with passion and determination, especially considering they don’t have a postseason to look forward to. The good Shabazz Napier (25 points and zero turnovers) showed up for the Huskies and the defense held the Spartans to just 37.5 percent from the field for the game. Ollie isn’t going to earn a long-term contract after one game, but if he can get his team to play that hard all season, he may win over the decision-makers in Storrs.
  • Jack Cooley’s first game as Notre Dame’s offensive focal point. The team effort wasn’t great and if it wasn’t for the all-around performance of Cooley (19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks) the Fighting Irish may have lost their season opener to Evansville. The obvious elephant in the room is that the Aces didn’t have anyone in their frontcourt remotely capable of dealing with Cooley’s size and strength, and that will definitely not be the case every week. But Cooley was ruthlessly efficient, active defensively and on the glass, and smart with the ball in the post. The Fighting Irish will need to be better on the perimeter if they want to meet expectations this season, but it is always nice to have an anchor in the post if they need it. Read the rest of this entry »
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After the Buzzer: On Aircraft Carrier Games, Kevin Ollie’s Debut, Top Five Dunks of the Weekend…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 12th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. It’s time to put all that preseason chatter on the backburner, and start drawing first impressions, because the 2012-13 season officially got underway Friday night. Unlike the murmuring fizz of an opening that usually christens a new college hoops campaign, we were treated to several high-profile clashes over the weekend. College basketball set out to establish a definitive starting point, and this year (more than any other in recent memory), it succeeded. There are inherent risks to overanalyzing single-game sample sizes, but even after just one weekend’s action, we were able to learn quite a bit about some of the teams headlining the opening weekend. 

Your Watercooler Moment. Stick to Dry Environments (or, Why Naval Ship Games Need to Only Take Place in San Diego).

Things Started Off Well, But Quickly Deteriorated With These Games

When inclement weather forecasts pushed the Syracuse-San Diego State game from Friday to Sunday, you knew this year’s slate of naval ship games were off to a bad start. That game, which concluded Sunday evening with Syracuse pretty much dominating the hometown Aztecs (62-49) in one of the Orange’s rare non-conference games outside the state of New York, was played under gorgeous 60-degree San Diego skies. The two other scheduled match-ups – Ohio State-Marquette in South Carolina and Georgetown-Florida in Jacksonville – did not proceed as planned, as both games were called off when officials noticed condensation developing on both playing surfaces. The Florida-Georgetown game tipped off and ran into the half with minimal fuss. Up the coastline, though, the slick playing surface aboard the USS Yorktown prompted coaches and players from Ohio State and Marquette to mop the court in the hope that some good old-fashioned clean-up work could diffuse mother nature’s influence on their much-hyped shipside season-opener. As both teams quickly learned, the condensation kept coming back, and officials then made the logical move of calling the game off. Spiritually, emotionally and patriotically, the outdoor aircraft carrier games are an excellent idea. Last season’s Carrier Classic, played before gorgeous vistas and naval troops, and featuring two of the nation’s most respected programs in North Carolina and Michigan State, was a definite win. And there have been few times when a college basketball non-conference game to begin the season has drawn so much national attention. It was a special night. Logistically, though, playing basketball games outdoors in November on the East Coast is fraught with risk, and event organizers learned as much Friday. If the aircraft carrier trend is to continue, the games must be played on the West Coast, where a more favorable late fall climate will increase the chances of staging contests without conflict.

Also Worth Chatting About. Give That Man a Contract (Or, Kevin Ollie Has His Squad Playing Hard).

Kevin Ollie Cannot Escape His Former Coach’s Shadow, But With Wins Like These, He May Not Have To (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The long-term status of UConn’s head coaching job remains unresolved for the moment, but we gained some clarity on the issue Friday night. Its leading candidate, former assistant Kevin Ollie, made a resounding statement to open his one-season job trial by knocking off Big Ten contender Michigan State 66-62 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Huskies lost the core of last season’s underachieving yet talented team, including two first round draft picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) and two transfers (Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith). Backcourt mainstays Ryan Boatwright and Shabazz Napier carried the torch Friday night against the Spartans, with Napier pouring in 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and Boatwright adding 13. Highly-touted freshman Omar Calhoun logged 25 minutes but finished with just one point, two rebounds and two assists. The season could not have begun in a better way for Ollie, who faces the massive burden of proving athletic director Warde Manuel he’s the right man for the job, the right personality to succeed the legend that preceded him in Storrs. There were concerns as to whether UConn would lack motivation this season, given their ineligibility for the postseason, but that was hardly the case Friday night. The Huskies played inspired basketball against a top-tier Big Ten foe known for its toughness and grit. If I were to grade Ollie’s job candidacy one game into the season, nothing less than an A+ would suffice.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #11 Providence

Posted by Will Tucker on October 18th, 2012

Friars coach Ed Cooley made waves in the national recruiting scene last summer when he snagged five-star point guard Kris Dunn out from under Jim Calhoun and other elite suitors. Providence looked like a Big East Contender days later, when Cooley convinced Ricardo Ledo to shun offers from the likes of UConn, Kentucky, Louisville and Syracuse in favor of the hometown program. But that blockbuster recruiting class may never materialize on the court, after Ledo was ruled ineligible to play next season by the NCAA and Dunn had shoulder surgery that could sideline him for most of the season. Despite these disappointing setbacks, Cooley fields a team that managed to beat vulnerable Louisville and UConn teams last year, and acquitted themselves well in several close loses. Bryce Cotton, Vincent Council, and highly touted Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson will carry the load until Dunn arrives.

2011-12 Record: 15-17, 4-14
2011-12 Postseason: None

Bryce (aka Ice) Cotton: great name, great responsibility. (credit


The Friars benefit from a manageable non-conference schedule, highlighted by UMass, Mississippi State, Boston College and Rhode Island. Cooley’s squad should enter a brutal Big East schedule with an attractive record, but early losses against Louisville and Syracuse in the first half of January will temper their confidence. Despite a scheduled home-and-home with Syracuse, Providence’s conference slate has limited exposure to this year’s heavy hitters. Winnable two-game series against Seton Hall, UConn and Villanova punctuate the 2012-2013 schedule.

Who’s In

Preseason First Team All-Big East point guard Vincent Council (39 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 7.5 apg) is complemented by productive upperclassmen LaDontae Henton (37 mpg, 14.3 ppg) and Bryce Cotton (39 mpg, 14.3 ppg). That nucleus should give the Friars the physical tools and experience necessary to anchor a serviceable Big East team. The returning starters are complemented by blue chip Connecticut point guard Kris Dunn, who could become conference Rookie of the Year despite being sidelined early in the season by rehab from shoulder surgery. 6’5” 3-star Hampton, Virginia sharpshooter Josh Fortune brings additional length to the Friars’ wings. But Cooley’s greatest recruiting coup to date also happens to be the roster’s biggest question mark; Providence’s prodigal son and major NBA prospect Ricky Ledo is academically ineligibility this fall. If his NCAA appeal goes well and he gains eligibility in the second semester, Providence could easily finish strong and break into the top half of the conference. PC also gains an injection of frontcourt talent in Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson. A promising 4-star power forward recruit out of high school, Johnson only played seven cumulative minutes before getting in hot water for a violation of team rules and eventually transferring. Johnson remains an unproven commodity, which is a common thread when looking over Providence’s frontcourt.

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Big East M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 17th, 2012

  1. The biggest news of the morning is the release of the preseason Big East coaches’ pollLouisville was almost unanimously pegged as the conference top dog as the Cardinals received 14 of 15 first-place votes. The other first-place vote went to Notre Dame even though the Fighting Irish ended up behind Syracuse in the overall voting. Peyton Siva was tabbed as the preseason conference player of the year, and joined by teammates Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan on the First Team and Honorable Mentions lists, respectively. Syracuse (CJ Fair and Brandon Triche) and Notre Dame (Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant) each placed two players on the team.
  2. To piggyback on the Media Day honors and rankings, it’s pretty wild for a player on the last-place team make the First Team All Big East list. If anything, it demonstrates the respect shared around the league for Providence senior Vincent Council, who has become somewhat of a conference institution despite his team’s performance over his tenure. But this evaluative disparity also underscores the opinion that Ed Cooley’s star freshmen won’t be around enough to make any real traction. As FriarBlog speculates, Providence hasn’t placed a player on the preseason First Team since Ryan Gomes in 2004.
  3. Georgetown will apparently square off on October 28 against North Carolina, in what is being uncomfortably described as a “secret scrimmage.” The Hoyas made the same trip a year ago, under an NCAA provision that allows a team to replace one of its preseason cupcakes with another Division I team so long as the game is privately held and no official score is kept. The lost (and newly found) Dream Team practice tapes have nothing on these games.
  4. UConn issued a press release on Tuesday announcing that the school has secured the initial funding necessary to break ground on a new basketball facility. In light of a $2 million gift from Mark and Rosalind Shenkman, the UConn Foundation revealed that it has raised 75% of the $32 million it needs to complete construction, and that the remaining $8 million will be sought through financing. The creatively named UConn Basketball Development Center will abut Gampel Pavilion on the former site of the now-razed Memorial Stadium. The new facility should foster a greater sense of geographical continuity for UConn basketball.
  5. Highly touted class of 2013 point guard Roddy Peters made his college decision yesterday morning, electing to take his talents to Maryland to play for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. Georgetown and Rutgers were among the impressive list of recruiting also-rans, which additionally included Kansas and UCLA. On Thursday, Georgetown gets another opportunity to bag a top-50 recruit when Memphis big man Johnathan Williams III makes his college choice.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Providence Friars

Posted by mlemaire on July 19th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. First up is Providence.

1. Setbacks to the much ballyhooed 2012 recruiting class.

Questions About The Eligibility Of Ricardo Ledo Continue To Swirl

First it was five-star guard Kris Dunn announcing he would miss at least five months after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Then it was fellow point guard recruit Ian Baker tearing his ACL, which will likely keep him out for all of next season. Throw in the continued eligibility concerns about top shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and Providence fans have reason to be concerned about their once highly-anticipated recruiting class.  Ed Cooley continues to remain positive that Ledo will become eligible, and the Friars still have enough backcourt depth to survive the absences of Dunn and Baker, but it is still a major disappointment considering the hype surrounding this recruiting class and the hope it gave to the program’s future.

2. The Big East didn’t do them any favors when it came to scheduling.

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Two of Nation’s Top Point Guards Facing Potentially Serious Injuries

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

It’s been well documented that the point guard position was not a strong suit of Division I basketball last year, and the same applies for the incoming class of freshmen players. The last thing we need is for some of the country’s elite lead guards to suffer setbacks this offseason heading into 2012-13, but it appears that’s exactly what has happened over the past week. NC State’s rising junior Lorenzo Brown is set to undergo knee surgery this week, and incoming Providence stud Kris Dunn suffered a recent shoulder injury that could require surgery as well. Brown’s procedure is notable as only ‘exploratory’ and should not leave him sidelined for more than several weeks, but knee surgeries are never good news for quick guards. It often takes far longer than the required rehab time before a player returns to 100% health and regains the trust to rely on his knee for all the cuts required during games. Dunn’s status, meanwhile, remains unknown but could become a far more serious issue that requires several months of rehabilitation. Both players could also end up fine for the upcoming season — still over four months away — but their teams could also become affected during parts or all of the year.

Lorenzo Brown is a versatile guard for NC State and hopes to avoid a serious knee injury after exploratory surgery this week (AP Photo/C. Burton)

Brown averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore last season for a late-surging Wolfpack team that made a strong run to the Sweet Sixteen. The heady guard has terrific size at 6’5″ that enables him to see the floor well and defend at a high level; he even averaged half a block per game last year. He’s the leader of a preseason top 15 team who led the squad in minutes played last season. Luckily, Mark Gottfried’s team also has incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Tyler Lewis as its backup point guard, but he is not ready or able to handle all the responsibilities that Brown does — Lewis would fit much better as a rotating reserve to start his career. Hopefully, Brown’s surgery doesn’t reveal anything particularly damaging and the veteran can re-join the team long before the season starts, but having a procedure to “discover the source of pain” leaves reason for temporary concern.

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