Morning Five: 04.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 24th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday was a big day for Kentucky as both Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson announced that they will be returning to Lexington for at least one more season. Poythress has seen his stock drop during his two years at Kentucky to the point that he would have been a second round pick had he declared, but Johnson had the potential to be a late first round pick so it is somewhat surprising to see him stay. Kentucky still may have issues in the backcourt if the Harrison twins decide to turn pro, but they will have the nation’s deepest, tallest, and most talented frontcourt next season with Poythress, Johnson, Marucs Lee, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Karl-Anthony Towns.
  2. The news around Louisville transfer Chane Behanan is a little less clear. Behanan, who left Louisville after repeated issues with marijuana use, had announced his intent to transfer to Colorado State several months ago, but now reports are surfacing that he may have signed with an agent with plans to enter the NBA Draft. If he were to enter the NBA Draft, Behanan would be a late second round pick at best and most likely would go undrafted particularly with his off-court issues. Colorado State has not really commented on it other than to say that they “will support him in whatever decision he makes” while Behanan offered a vague denial.
  3. Two other big names–Jerian Grant and Jordan Mickey–announced that they will be returning to school next year. Neither player would have been a first round pick (at least not a guaranteed one) coming out this year so it makes sense for them to come back to school. Grant’s season was derailed when he was ruled academically ineligible. Grant had been averaging 19 points and 6.2 assists per game before his suspension so it is possible he would have left South Bend if he had a full season to showcase his game. Mickey posted solid numbers as a freshman averaging 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. While Mickey certainly has potential he was projected as a late second round pick at best so his decision to come back also makes a lot of sense and could help make LSU a second-tier team in the SEC next season.
  4. People can complain all they want about Duke being on national television all the time and there is a degree of truth to those complaints, but Duke is certainly getting its share of prominent non-conference showdowns. In addition to their annual Champions Classic game (against Michigan State this year), a ACC/Big Ten Challenge road game, and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic , Duke is close to scheduling a game against defending national champion Connecticut. The Huskies will be without Shabazz Napier, but could have Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels back and will be adding Rodney Purvis. Duke will look completely different with the departure of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combined with the appearance of their top-rated incoming freshman class.
  5. At this point we are not sure how Craig Robinson still has his job (oh right, the brother-in-law) as Oregon State continues to disappoint. As if losing all five starters from a team that went 16-16 last season was not bad enough, he also will be losing Hallice Cooke, who was supposed to be the team’s top returning player at  8.2 points and 2.6 assists per game last season, after Cooke announced that he was transferring saying “Smh I gotta know what that NCAA tourney feels like ASAP”. We never really bought into the idea that players would want to play for Robinson just because his brother-in-law is the President, but his performance has been fallen short of even our tempered expectations. Now Robinson heads into next season with his top returning player being Langston Morris-Walker, who averaged 4 points per game last season. We are usually hesitant to put anybody on the hot seat, but time seems to be running short for Robinson.
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Morning Five: 04.03.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 3rd, 2014

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  1. Fans in the AAC can start working on their cell phone and texting jokes as Houston hired Kelvin Sampson to be its next coach. Sampson was successful at both Oklahoma and Indiana before a variety of issues that have been documented in great detail before derailed him leading to a five-year show-cause penalty in 2008. Sampson has spent the last six years floating between jobs in the NBA and was serving as an assistant for the Houston Rockets so he might not even have to move for his new job although he might be moving into a bigger house with the upgrade in his salary. Much like the Bruce Pearl hire this has to be considered a huge get for the program, but we have to wonder how long he will stay there..
  2. After what has to be considered a successful first season for Steve Alford things are looking pretty good at UCLA. However, accusations by a spurned sports agent that he provided former Bruin Tyler Honeycutt with impermissible benefits could halt that progress. The school had previously investigated the matter and said that the NCAA ruled the case closed, but with the new documentation they will have to investigate the matter further. This is the second such incident involving UCLA in the past two years (Shabazz Muhammad being the more well-known case), but we wouldn’t consider it an issue with the school. Our bigger question is why do these issues typically arise with mid-level players and not the real stars?
  3. With many of the bigger jobs being filled or in the process of being filled the attention on the coaching carousel shifts to the mid-tier schools. One example of this is North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Morton, who is reportedly interviewing at Florida Atlantic and Marshall. Morton has led the Eagles to better records in each of his five seasons culminating in a NCAA Tournament appearance this season. His move might not move the needle nationally, but it could lead him to an even bigger job in the future.
  4. Chane Behanan cannot seem to avoid getting in trouble. The former Louisville forward, who was kicked off the team for marijuana use, has already enrolled at Colorado State, but took a trip back to Louisville this week. At 1 AM on Wednesday morning he was cited, but not arrested for marijuana possession after a police officer smelled marijuana in a car in which Behanan was a passenger. Behanan reportedly admitted to having a marijuana cigarette. Although he was not arrested he will have a court date later this month. Avoiding the whole social discussion regarding the legalization of marijuana one has to question Behanan’s maturity at this point for getting arrested for something after he has already been through so much.
  5. Next season could be a rough one for Missouri after Jabari Brown announced that he would enter the NBA Draft. Brown joins fellow junior Jordan Clarkson in potentially leaving Missouri early although both could withdraw their names from the Draft by April 15 depending on what they hear. Brown was a first-team All-SEC player this season and led the conference in scoring at 19.9 points per game. Like Clarkson, Brown is also projected to be a second-round pick so it would seem to make sense for him to return, but it would not be the first time that we have seen a player leave early for that type of fate.
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AAC M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on February 12th, 2014

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  1. It’s interesting to see columnists already campaigning for SMU‘s Larry Brown to be considered for National Coach of the Year honors because there are some, myself included, who feel like he may not even win AAC Coach of the Year honors. Let’s not get the meaning of that sentence twisted; what Brown has accomplished in under two seasons in Dallas is nothing short of remarkable, but let’s not simultaneously forget that Cincinnati was considered a bubble-quality team at the onset of the season and now Mick Cronin has the Bearcats riding high (despite a recent road loss to the Mustangs). If the season ended today, the award would be a close race but I think Cronin would deserve the honor because of what he has been able to do with a mediocre offensive team and without even the same pedigree of players of SMU. If the Bearcats come back to Earth in the second half of the AAC schedule and the Mustangs find a signature win or two away from Moody Coliseum, Brown will probably have a shot to pass Cronin. As for the national honor, unless Syracuse or Wichita State loses multiple games over the next five weeks, I think Jim Boeheim and Gregg Marshall are the clear and deserving front-runners in that race.
  2. I am as big an AAC homer as the next guy so I am not going to sit here and say it doesn’t feel good to point to the Associated Press Top 25 poll and mention that the conference has five teams in the poll, more than every other league except the Big Ten (also with five). Still, crowing about the poll as if it is some grand achievement is probably a bad idea too. There are a few things to remember about the conference before we start comparing it to the likes of the Big 12 and ACC. The first is that after the five teams in this week’s poll, the dropoff to the next five is precipitous, and it’s probably fair to observe that those ranked five have been able to feast on the lesser competition to help propel them up the charts, and none of the conference’s teams are considered legitimate national title contenders either. So while I am all for beating the collective conference chest about the Top 25 poll, I wouldn’t go running to my friends to start the argument that the AAC is a better basketball conference than the Big 12 quite yet.
  3. Rick Pitino and his Louisville team have dealt with plenty of injuries already this season so the news that guard Wayne Blackshear has been cleared to play in Thursday’s game against Temple should be music to his ears. Blackshear missed the game against Houston last week after sustaining a concussion, and while he hasn’t had the breakout campaign many expected from him, the Cardinals could ill afford to lose such an important player for an extended period of time. The Cardinals aren’t quite as deep and talented as they’d hoped, but regardless of how he has played, Blackshear is one of the team’s best guards and outside shooters, so his presence in the lineup is a boon for this offense.
  4. While it’s hard to feel bad for former Louisville forward Chane Behanan because the damage he did to his career with the Cardinals was almost entirely self-inflicted, you do get the sense from reading about his life since his dismissal that he isn’t a bad person. He made some poor decisions, was punished for them, repeated those poor decisions, and now seems to finally realize the consequences of his actions. Of course it took an exit from one of the best basketball programs in the country for him to realize the gravity of his mistakes, but you can tell from the article that he misses playing for the Cards and would like to play for them again. That ship has sailed, of course, but Behanan has landed on his feet with his transfer to Colorado State and is spending his time now working out twice per day in Houston with the well-regarded John Lucas. Behanan has found himself as the butt of a lot of jokes and bad publicity — and frankly, he earned all of it — but that doesn’t mean that we can’t wish him well as he tries to finish his collegiate career on a positive note.
  5. Don’t look now but Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan is putting together a solid and well-rounded 2014 recruiting class that got a bit stronger yesterday when the Scarlet Knights secured the commitment of North Carolina big man Ibrahima Diallo. Diallo plays for Quality Education Academy, which is a basketball factory in the Tar Heel State, and his size, athleticism and rebounding abilities make him one of the top 10 recruits in the state. The 6’10″, 230-pound Senegal native is a good finisher around the rim with the length and leaping ability to become a great shot-blocker, but he is still quite raw and will likely take some time to adjust to high-level college basketball. Diallo is the fourth commitment for the Scarlet Knights in this class, and while there aren’t any true headliners, all four players are legitimate talents and depth is one of the weaknesses holding the Scarlet Knights back right now. Jordan may not have the coaching talent and prestige to turn around the program as quickly as Larry Brown turned around SMU, but steadily upgrading his recruiting is a good way to make sure the team is at least competitive in its new conference.
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AAC M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 28th, 2014

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  1. Southern Methodist had high expectations coming into the season, and so far, the Mustangs have lived up to it. After taking down Houston Sunday, Larry Brown’s squad has already surpassed its win total from a season ago with 16. Brown hopes his second year team is far from done. With highly-touted Emmanuel Mudiay set to arrive on campus next season, many thought the Mustangs were a year away from being an NCAA Tournament team. If the season ended today, however, SMU would most likely represent the fifth AAC squad to lace them up in the Big Dance, which would be the first appearance since 1993 for the school. The Mustangs are projected at an average of an 11 seed at bracketmatrix.com finding a spot in 56 out of 67 projected fields. But, it’s only January 28, and SMU still has to play Memphis twice and Cincinnati, Louisville, and Connecticut once more. If SMU can come up with wins in two of those match ups and continue to beat the teams below them in the standings, they shouldn’t have to sweat much on Selection Sunday.
  2. While on the court everything seems to be going right for Larry Brown and SMU, a troubling report surfaced yesterday about a possible grade change in high school for freshman Keith Frazier. A top-50 recruit, Frazier had a least one failing grade changed to passing, according to an internal investigation by the Dallas Independent School District. According to the report, Frazier was behind or failing in three classes in the final days of school in 2013, putting in NCAA eligibility in jeopardy. On May 29, a week after the final days of class for seniors, Frazier’s failing grade in physics was mysteriously changed to passing. The report doesn’t look good for Frazier, and depending what SMU knew of the situation, it could become a problem for the university. Frazier is averaging 5.6 points for the 16-4 Mustangs. SMU issued a press release later in the day refuting what they call the “misinformation” that had been released.
  3. Former Louisville forward Chane Behanan has decided to transfer to Colorado State. Behanan will be eligible after the first semester of school next season. Behanan was dismissed from Louisville in December and then went to Houston to work with former NBA player and coach John Lucas. Lucas runs a drug and alcohol treatment program for athletes and coaches. Rick Pitino previously mentioned Colorado State and head coach Larry Eustachy as being a good fit for Behanan. Eustachy has overcome alcohol issues in his past and has a strong record of accepting and succeeding with transfer. Behanan said he wants to get his degree. Behanan helped the Cardinals demolish Eustachy and Colorado State 82-56 in the round of 32 in last season’s NCAA Tournament in route to the national championship.
  4. Kevin Ollie knows one area where Connecticut has to improve to be successful the remainder of the regular season and into the post season: rebounding. To find the Huskies’ rebounding margin rank on the NCAA’s statistics website, you have to scroll down four pages before landing on the 165th-ranked Connecticut squad. Many of Jim Calhoun’s teams’ best offense was the missed shot, allowing the bigger and stronger Huskies the chance to hit the offensive glass. This team is nothing like that. But that doesn’t mean it has to become a great rebounding team; it only has to become adequate to keep the game close (against the upper AAC teams and in the NCAA tournament) enough to allow Shabazz Napier to do what he does best.
  5. Although the bottom of the league is performing at an astoundingly bad level, the AAC as a whole is performing better than most people predicted. Five teams have strong chance of making the NCAA Tournament, led by surprise leader Cincinnati and Louisville. Memphis and Connecticut are also in or have spent time in the top 25 and SMU continues to win and is projected at an average of an 11 seed at bracketmatrix.com finding a spot in 56 out of 67 projections. Securing NCAA tournament bids for half the teams in the conference would have to be viewed as a success for the first-year league. The American ranks ahead of the SEC in Ken Pomeroy’s power rankings and just behind the Pac-12 and the ACC.
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Morning Five: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday, recently dismissed Louisville forward Chane Behanan announced that he would be transferring to Colorado State. Behanan, who was dismissed from Louisville for repeated rules violations, is expected to be eligible to play for the Rams at the end of next season’s fall semester. Outside of all the jokes about marijuana being legal in Colorado (there are rumors swirling that it was the reason for Behanan’s dismissal), Colorado State would appear to be an ideal situation for Behanan given Larry Eustachy’s own public battles with substance abuse (alcohol–you may remember his infamous photos with coeds), which may help him guide Behanan. Given Behanan’s talent and productivity while at Louisville this could be a big addition for Colorado State if he can get his act together.
  2. We have heard plenty of fans complaining about the new rules and how they have led to more fouls (although the talk has started to get quieter), but we have not seen an analysis as thorough as Dan Hanner’s on which coaches have been most affected by the rule changes. As Hanner notes, the trends do not necessarily correlate with the coaches that have traditionally had more aggressive defenses, but there are some prominent coaches who have seen the number of free throws attempted by their opponents increase significantly. Given those increases we are a bit surprised that we have not heard these coaches be more outspoken in their disapproval of the new rules.
  3. The news that Southern Methodist prized freshman recruit Keith Frazier may have had a failing grade changed to a passing one so he could graduate high school generated quite a bit of attention yesterday. So much so that Southern Methodist quickly issued a statement regarding the “misinformation” that had been circulating. Essentially the investigation uncovered that Frazier had at least one failing grade changed to a passing one in a physics class by a teaching assistant who subsequently left the school. According to investigators the SMU staff and the high school coaches had been inquiring about Frazier’s grades repeatedly because he was on the verge of not graduating/qualifying. Given what has been made publicly available it is going to be very hard to prove that the SMU staff had anything to do with changing the grades so they should be off the hook. We doubt that the NCAA has the time/resources available really look into this so unless the Dallas school district is going to really look into this we doubt that much more will come of this.
  4. If you were hoping to see the Final Four in a new location, you are probably out of luck as based on the NCAA’s release of the finalists for the 2017-2020 Final Fours. The eight finalists–Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Texas, Phoenix/Glendale, San Antonio, and St. Louis–have already hosted 24 Finals Fours and are scheduled to host the next two. Only the Phoenix/Glendale location would be a new site for the Final Four. As we mentioned on Twitter yesterday, we would like to see these played on the coasts a little more often although we understand the appeal of the Midwest (being in the center of the country so theoretically close to everybody). The other limiting factor is the NCAA’s requirement that venues hold at least 60,000 fans and have at least 10,000 hotel rooms in the area. The hotel rooms would not be an issue for most major cities, but the venue size might unless the cities have NFL teams that play indoors.
  5. A month after getting kicked off the Florida basketball team, Damontre Harris is back on the team. Well, sort of. Harris is practicing with the scout team, but will not play for the team or even be on the bench. While Billy Donovan will not let Harris play for the team this season because it ”would completely devalue our core values” it appears that playing for the team next season would not. In any event it is a significant addition for the Gators going forward (assuming Harris can manage to stay on the team) given Harris’ productivity as a sophomore at South Carolina when he averaged 6.8 points (on 55% shooting from the field), 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game despite playing just 25.9 minutes per game.
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Chane Behanan Lands at Colorado State, Looking For a Fresh Start

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 27th, 2014

The 2013-14 season may be lost for former Louisville star Chane Behanan, but his career as a collegian suddenly has new life as Behanan told Bleacher Report‘s Jason King on Monday that he is transferring to Colorado State to play for head coach Larry Eustachy. Louisville and most savvy college basketball fans should already be well-versed in the details of Behanan’s saga, but it’s worth briefly summarizing anyway. After playing a pivotal role in the Cardinals’ run to the National Championship last season, it was widely expected that Behanan would have a breakout junior year as a preseason first-team All-AAC selection. The trouble started shortly thereafter, when Behanan was suspended indefinitely in October for violating university and team rules.

Chane Behanan

Chane Behanan Gets One Last Shot By Transferring To Colorado State

Many expected that he wouldn’t return to the Cardinals until mid-December, if at all. Instead, Behanan missed just one regular season game before getting reinstated by Rick Pitino. Behanan’s triumphant return did not go quite as planned, though, as the burly 6’6″ forward looked like a shell of his former self upon his reinsertion into the lineup. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds  in 12 games this season, bottoming out by failing to score in 20 minutes in the December 28 loss to Kentucky. Two days after that, Louisville dismissed him for good due to a violation of university policy. The Cardinals’ program and Pitino had given him plenty of chances to get his act together, but he never stayed out of trouble for long and ultimately he used up all his lifelines at Louisville.

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 21st, 2014

With New Mexico taking a home loss to UNLV this week and Nevada slipping back to reality a bit, San Diego State is all alone in the driver’s seat, the last remaining undefeated team in conference play. Now with a 15-game winning streak, the Aztecs have earned their way into the #11 spot in the latest RTC Top 25. Beyond Steve Fisher’s club, however, there are a lot of question marks. The Lobos are the clear #2 team in the conference, but questions remain about their long-term NCAA Tournament aspirations. Our resident bracketologist has them firmly in the field, but future home losses to middling teams are not recommended.

Team of the Week

Boise State Got Back On Track This Week, In Part Due With A Home Win Over Utah State (Devin Ferrell, The Arbiter)

Boise State Got Back On Track This Week, In Part Due With A Home Win Over Utah State. (Devin Ferrell, The Arbiter)

Boise State – The Broncos bounced back from a pair of losses with a very good week. They went on the road and handed Nevada its first loss of the season, and anytime you can get a road win in conference play – no matter what conference you’re in, but especially in this one – you’re doing something right. Then on Saturday they handled Utah State and have seemingly righted the ship, at least for now. Derrick Marks led the way with 20 points per game this week, but it was a full-team affair, with Ryan Watkins helping the Broncos control the paint and Anthony Drmic being his usual solid self. And there was even one more Bronco who made a big and surprising contribution this week, who we’ll get to shortly.

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AAC M5: 01.20.14 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on January 20th, 2014

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  1. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell had a huge night with 18 points and 13 rebounds against Connecticut, and his emergence will be crucial if the Cardinals are to make a run at a third straight Final Four. A player who has been mentioned as a potential lottery pick at times, Harrell has stepped up with three double-doubles in his last four games after Chane Behanan’s dimissal from the team. But it’s the sort of varied offensive game he showed Saturday evening – jumpers and hook shots off post moves in addition to his thunderous dunks – that has been missing this season. For UConn, he’s just the latest player to give the Huskies fits. That has been the biggest problem in their recent 5-4 swoon after a 9-0 start: an inability to deal with big, physical inside players. UConn was outscored by 20 and outrebounded by 15 in the paint against a team that has had its own interior problems. The Huskies continue to get worse at keeping other teams off the offensive glass (they rank #289 in the country, allowing foes to grab 34.8 percent of their own missed shots), and they can’t seem to come up with any answers for what has been their biggest weakness this season.
  2. The biggest highlight from Saturday night’s showdown didn’t involve a player but a coach. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie was called for two technical fouls and ejected after his reaction to a second half no-call in front of the Huskies bench. Niels Giffey’s shot fake lured Wayne Blackshear into the air, and the Louisville forward bumped Giffey on his way down, knocking the ball out of his hands. Louisville recovered the turnover, and Ollie went ballistic. It was pretty clearly a foul – the biggest irony is that Blackshear, who Louisville fans believe has never gotten the benefit of a whistle, was spared – and the trigger was a quick one. But UConn was already down nine at that point with Louisville rolling, so it’s a stretch to suggest the missed call cost the Huskies the game.
  3. Louisville won the game without junior point guard Chris Jones in the lineup because of a muscle strain, and it’s unclear whether he’ll return Wednesday when the Cardinals visit USF. Rick Pitino probably won’t try to rush him back, given the more than capable fill-in work of freshman Terry Rozier, who has nine assists and just two turnovers while replacing him in the starting lineup. With Rozier taking Jones’ place, the offense has in some ways appeared more balanced; Rozier has mostly served as a facilitator, which better complements Russ Smith’s aggressive scorer’s mentality, while Jones often also looks to score first.
  4. In non-Louisville and UConn news, conference leader Cincinnati remains hopeful that it will regain the services of freshman forward Jermaine Lawrence this season. Lawrence, who injured his foot in the January 9 win at Memphis, remains in a walking boot; his absence has forced coach Mick Cronin to shift to a smaller lineup and play more zone. While he was only averaging 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, getting back an additional big body would prove invaluable to Cronin come March.
  5. Isaiah Sykes, who leads UCF in scoring and assists, left Saturday’s loss to SMU early in the second half with an apparent head injury. Sykes, also second on the team in rebounding and steals, was taken to the locker room after a collision under the basket, and did not return. While there was no prognosis for his return after the game, any time missed by the team’s best player would obviously be harmful for the Knights, which dropped to 1-4 in the AAC with the loss.
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An Unexpected Detour For PJ Hairston on His Way to the NBA

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 15th, 2014

Most every high school star and prominent AAU recruit dreams of the traditional ascent to the professional ranks. That typically includes playing for a shoe-sponsored AAU team, getting recruited at the highest level, and ending up at a powerhouse program before their name is called at the NBA Draft. However, as history shows us, only a small fraction of these players make the big time, and often it can be some of those who were least expected to do so. For some prominent collegiate stars, there might be a number of road bumps and bouts with adversity standing in the way of their ultimate dreams.

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill (Getty)

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill. (Getty)

Anyone familiar with ACC basketball this season has heard ad nauseam about the P.J. Hairston scandal and the hits that UNC’s basketball program has taken as a result. Regardless of what occurred and how it was handled, it is clear that his collegiate playing days prematurely came to an end. As a result, Hairston and his team of advisors and family recently made it known that he plans to spend the rest of the season in the NBA’s Developmental League (D-League). Hairston is not eligible to be called up to the NBA (if a team was so inclined) in the 2013-14 season, but he will be allowed to put his name among the entrants for the 2014 NBA Draft.

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Conference Play Already Delivering Unexpected Drama

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 11th, 2014

We may still be in the nascent period of conference play, but early developments have hinted that a number of league races may not play out as planned. Heading into another good college basketball weekend, here are a few of the more surprising twists supplied by the early days of conference action.

The American Athletic Conference Is Up For Grabs

Remember when Louisville was supposed to be head and shoulders above the rest of this conference? Or when UConn was the Cards’ only real competition for the inaugural AAC crown? Yeah, me neither. Rick Pitino’s team may still be the AAC favorites, but after a non-conference season featuring just one victory over a top-100 team, the recent dismissal of Chane Behanan, and Thursday night’s home loss to Memphis, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ grasp on pole position has been significantly weakened. As for the Huskies, an ugly 0-2 beginning to conference play (losses at Houston and SMU) has altered the trajectory of their season. Shabazz Napier and company should be able to handle UCF later today, but with a trip to Memphis and a home date with Louisville looming next week, a 1-4 start to conference play is a definite possibility. It’s not the AAC we expected to see, certainly, but this unforeseen parity could give the league one of the better, more entertaining conference races the rest of the way.

It's Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

It’s Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

Butler Still Seeking Its First Big East Win

Expectations were initially modest for Butler this season, but a non-conference campaign with just a pair of minor blemishes – two-point losses to Oklahoma State and LSU – gave hope that the transitions between coaches (Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller) and leagues (A-10 to Big East) might be smoother than expected. Not so much, however, as the Big East has so far proved daunting for the Bulldogs, dropping their first three games: on the road at Xavier, and home games to Villanova and (gasp!) DePaul. Three total overtime periods were needed for those two home defeats, but no number of extra sessions will excuse a loss to DePaul, a program that was 7-86 in the five-plus Big East seasons that preceded their successful trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are better than that Big East record would indicate, but a brutal upcoming schedule has the potential to permanently sink the Butler ship. Georgetown visits Indianapolis tonight, and 11 of the 12 games that follow come against teams in Ken Pom’s current top-75. At least for a season, the Butler faithful may end up missing not only Brad Stevens, but also the Atlantic 10.

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Reviewing Seth Davis’ Stock Report: AAC Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 9th, 2014

The indomitable Seth Davis of SI.com posted his annual Stock Report column on Monday and as is our custom here at the AAC microsite, we used that opportunity to post our own conference-specific version of the stock report. To avoid confusion, we try to adhere to the same counter-intuitive formula as Davis, which means teams that win are less likely to earn “Buy” ratings than teams that are losing. He does a terrific job with this column, especially given how many teams he evaluates, but we don’t always see eye-to-eye on all of his recommendations. So here is where we feel each team that still matters (sorry UCF, Rutgers, Temple, and South Florida) in the AAC stands as we head into the heart of the conference schedule.

Chane Behanan's Sudden Departure Doesn't Bode Well For Louisville Going Forward. (Getty)

Chane Behanan’s sudden departure doesn’t bode well for Louisville going forward. (Getty)

Louisville – Sell

It’s hard not to agree with Davis’ opinion of the Cardinals’ stock. Chane Behanan wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but he was still the team’s best interior player and losing him hurts the squad on both ends of the floor. If Behanan’s departure was the team’s only problem, the team would still be in good shape, but they didn’t look good against a Kentucky team that has underwhelmed and offensive production outside of Russdiculous and Chris Jones has been hard to come by. They are still the best team in the conference, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks they can still repeat as national champs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 M5: 01.09.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 9th, 2014

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  1. On Wednesday morning, Kansas head coach Bill Self encouraged freshman Wayne Selden to be more aggressive on the offensive end in looking for his shot. For Selden, that’s all he needed, as he went on to have a career night against Oklahoma in a 90-83 win: 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including five made threes. “The confidence my teammates and coaches have in me… that’s the main thing and being out there just playing, not thinking,” Selden told the Lawrence Journal-World after the game. As for fellow superfrosh Andrew Wiggins, he would finish 2-0f-9 for the night; it looks like he could use some words of encouragement from Self come Saturday when the Jayhawks welcome Kansas State to town.
  2. Who had the better stat line for Oklahoma State last night? If that’s the question that is asked after last night’s game against Texas, it’s easy to figure out that the Cowboys won. Marcus Smart had 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and a block while Markel Brown scored 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Smart had the better all-around game but it’s pretty rare to see more than one player on a college team put up great numbers in multiple categories. But what now for Texas? They’re 0-fer the state of Oklahoma to start Big 12 play, but their next two opponents (vs. Texas Tech, at West Virginia) are winnable games to push back to .500.
  3. It was a bit of a bummer to hear Bill Self say scheduling a non-conference series with Wichita State is not “best for our [Kansas] program,” but that’s not the only name-brand school in the state of Kansas. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber told The Wichita Eagle that he isn’t “against” the idea of a Wildcats-Shockers series but adds that he would be “smart about it [scheduling].” When told about Weber’s comments, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall said he’d be fine with a possible home-and-home with Kansas State, adding that he’d call Weber about future scheduling. I am all for this. The powers that be took Kansas-Missouri from us. We need something else good to take its place.
  4. When Louisville’s Chane Behanan was dismissed from the basketball team last week, Iowa State was reportedly one of the first schools to reach out to the forward to recruit him to Ames. Now, according to the Ames Tribune, the Cyclones are no longer interested in the junior. We know that ISU took on transfers like Chris Allen and Korie Lucious from Michigan State despite their admitted drug use. Could they have found out about Behanan’s problems in their initial inquiry and decided that he wasn’t worth the effort? We’ll never know. But the most important thing is for Behanan to get himself right, and then, if he so chooses, find a place where he can flourish both on and off the basketball court.
  5. Former NBA and Oklahoma State guard Richard Dumas has had another run-in with the law. Dumas was arrested by U.S. Marshals on December 19 and charged with eight counts of organized retail theft for allegedly stealing almost $800 worth of merchandise from Luke Air Force Base’s exchange store in Glendale, Arizona. Dumas was known for his talent despite an abbreviated career in the NBA due to recreational drug use. A profile piece on Dumas was done in the Arizona Republic in May detailing his long road to redemption and happiness. I have a feeling this story is far from over.
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