The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement by Emmanuel Mudiay that he was committing to Southern Methodist. Outside of being a shock to the fans of the top schools–Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State–that were reportedly in the running for his services, it is also surprising that he would choose SMU and may validate to a degree the decision by the school to hire Larry Brown, who may not even be there when Mudiay arrives on campus. Many in Big Blue Nation are still in shock that a second top recruit in a few months would spurn them (Andrew Wiggins being the other) as Mudiay had reportedly narrowed his choices down to SMU and Kentucky, but for us the bigger story (outside of the fact a top-5 recruit in the class of 2014 is headed to SMU) was the fact that Texas was not even a consideration for a top Texas recruit and it speaks volumes about the state of Rick Barnes’ program.
For all of Gonzaga‘s success over the past 14 years they have often remained off the radar for many elite recruits for a variety of reasons (location, offers from bigger names, etc) so when Josh Perkins, a class of 2014 point guard who is ranked in the top 25 overall in his class, commits to Gonzaga it is pretty big news. Perkins, who was also seriously considering UCLA and Minnesota, has been Mark Few’s #1 target for this coming season and should fit in well when Kevin Pangos is ready to leave Spokane. Although there have been some other Gonzaga commits over the years who have been as highly sought after (Austin Daye comes to mind), but it is still quite a coup for Few.
We are just a few weeks from the start of the college basketball season, but Texas Southern has managed to pick up one of the best available transfers on the market as the school announced that Aaric Murray will be headed there. Texas Southern will be Murray’s third school as he transferred from La Salle, where he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season, to West Virginia, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, but battled disciplinary issues as he was arrested in December 2011 for marijuana possession and was suspended in a separate incident for an undisclosed disciplinary violation. Murray, who is eligible to play immediately as he graduated from West Virginia this past spring, should make Texas Southern, which went 16-2 last season, but was barred from postseason play, a strong contender for the SWAC’s automatic bid.
Dave Rice’s job of keeping UNLV competitive this season despite the loss of several key players just got a little tougher as the school announced that Savon Goodmanwill not play this season after news surfaced that he was facing two felony charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny. Despite Goodman’s paltry production last season–3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game–he was expected to be a much bigger part of the team’s game plan with the departures of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser. Now Rice and the UNLV staff will have to scramble to find a replacement for Goodman, who would have been the team’s starting power forward. That role will probably fall to Jamal Aytes, a three-star recruit who committed to the school just one week ago.
We are not sure how D.J. Haley, who averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at VCU last season, will fit in with “Dunk City West” after it was announced that he will be transferring to USC, but we guess playing in the Havoc defensive scheme should be good preparation for a frantic style of play. The 7-footer will be eligible to play immediately after graduating early from VCU and will be enrolling in USC’s engineering school. Despite his limited production last season Haley does have quite a bit of experience and actually started for the Rams during their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four and his experience should help a Trojan frontcourt that is not very deep and lacks experience.
Michael Litos of CAAHoops.com is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can find him on Twitter @caahoops.
Reader’s Take I
The conference has seen Eric Maynor, then Charles Jenkins, win back-to-back player of the year awards. This year, it’s a wide-open race.
Encore Performance? Last season was undoubtedly the best in conference history. In addition to VCU‘s incredible Final Four run, George Mason and Old Dominion gave the CAA three NCAA Tournament teams for the first time ever. The obvious question becomes: How in the world do you follow that? The CAA is better top-to-bottom this year, which is great for competitiveness but lousy for at-large bids.
Disabled List, Midseason “Call Ups” A Factor: The CAA is going to look very different in January, as some of the conference’s best players will miss parts of the nonconference season for varying reasons. Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore, a first team All-CAA selection, is expected back in December from a foot injury. Ditto Drexel’s leading scorer Chris Fouch (knee). William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell, another first teamer, is battling knee problems as well. Old Dominion’s Richard Ross and James Madison’s Devon Moore return from academic suspensions after the first semester, and Blaine Taylor also gets Clemson transfer Donte Hill eligible.
Be Very Quiet. I’m Hunting Dragons: Speaking of Drexel, it will be interesting to watch how the Dragons react to being a conference favorite. Drexel has won at least ten conference games in eight of its ten CAA seasons, but has never entered a season with such lofty expectations. That changes this year, as Drexel is the only CAA team to return its scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks leader. What’s more, Bruiser Flint’s lack of success in March is glaring: Despite those successful regular seasons, Drexel has played in the CAA tournament semifinals just once since 2003.
One Tribe, Y’all: Despite finishing 4-14 last year, CAA eyes are trained on William & Mary and its cadre of young guards. One year removed from an NIT season, Tony Shaver’s team lost eight CAA contests by five or fewer points, and seven of those were by four or fewer. Shaver played six freshmen or sophomores regularly, and that experience will pay tremendous dividends. Plus, senior Quinn McDowell is a player of the year candidate. If the Tribe can get a beastly performance on the boards from sophomore Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary may shoot up the standings.
What Does Shaka Smart Have In Mind For An Encore After VCU's Run For The Ages?
Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parentheses)
Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.
No one team had a more impressive day yesterday than the Ohio State Buckeyes. Their tremendous play may be due the emergence of freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who dished a career-best 15 assists. Craft, who comes off the bench, plays starter’s minutes for Thad Matta’s squad.
Once thought to be an afterthought on John Calipari’s Kentucky team, big man Josh Harrelson has made a huge contribution in leading the Wildcats to the Sweet 16. If Kentucky wants to continue its run, Harrelson needs to keep putting up solid numbers.
After their second-round upset over Syracuse, former bubble team Marquette is headed to the Sweet 16. Head coach Buzz Williams, a man known for his wide variety of emotions, could not be happier with his squad.
While Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes mostly lit up the stat sheet, Dexter Strickland served as a defensive menace in North Carolina’s win over Washington. Strickland was key in the Tar Heels’ comeback, as he was handed the assignment of guarding Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.
Following Washington’s loss to North Carolina to end its season, many are beginning to wonder if junior guard Thomas will return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Last week, coach Lorenzo Romar acknowledged that he would encourage Thomas to at least test the waters. The Huskies have turned Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson to the league in recent years, so in that regard, another early departure would hardly be surprising.
Who would have thought at the midpoint of the season that Butler would be headed to another Sweet 16? Right now, their upset win over #1 seed Pittsburgh is gaining great acclaim across the country.
While Florida is happy with its Sweet 16 berth, its ultimate goal is beyond the Sweet 16. This should not be surprising, as the program knows how it feels to win college basketball’s ultimate prize.
After their healthy win over Gonzaga, BYU finds themselves in the Sweet 16. One Salt Lake Tribune columnist argues that the Cougars have a chance at the Final Four.
Wisconsin has recently held the reputation of being a quality team that gets quality contributions from a variety of guys. This tournament, it seems as if their role players are stepping into a more important position.
Florida’s advancing to the Sweet 16 was hugely influenced by the hot shooting of guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. The two guards, who have struggled with inconsistency in their careers, look to be on a hot streak for Billy Donovan’s Gators.
The MAAC conference tournament gave us another buzzer-beater last night. Saint Peter’s guard Desi Washington rushed down the court and nailed a trey to eliminate Fairfield 65-62 on Washington’s THIRD game-winning buzzer-beater against the Stags this season.
Clown, thy name is UCSB fan. Although players and coaches alike are expected to behave professionally, fans also have a responsibility to contain themselves. Incidents like last night’s approach by a rabid UCSB fan are dangerous for everyone involved.