Another Year, Another Doughnut: What’s Wrong With the Big 12?

Posted by Kory Carpenter on April 10th, 2014

The Big 12 has a problem. It spent most of the regular season perceived as the best conference in the country but went another year without a national champion. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1984, only two Big 12 teams have won the national title. Both teams were Kansas (1988 and 2008). That represents fewer titles than any other Big Five conference and just one more than UNLV. In the last decade, in fact, Kansas is the only school to make a Final Four appearance as a member of the Big 12 (West Virginia made the Final Four in 2010 while still in the Big East). Since then, the ACC has sent five schools to the Final Four, the SEC seven, and the Big Ten eight. Even the one year-old American Athletic Conference has had a national champion, thanks to Connecticut. This is partly a Kansas problem, as the Jayhawks have missed good opportunities for Final Fours at least four times in the last 10 years. But without the Jayhawks the rest of the Big 12 would resemble Conference USA. It has been full of teams that were good but never considered great, and there is no better example of that than this season.

For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Big 12 failed to send a team to the Final Four.

For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Big 12 failed to send a team to the Final Four.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Texas spent time together in the Top 25 this season, but only the Jayhawks were considered legitimate threats to go deep in March. Iowa State, for example, cruised to a 13-0 start with a few good wins over Michigan and Iowa, so when they lost to Oklahoma, it meant the Sooners must be good. Or so we thought. And after Kansas State — which lost to Northern Colorado and Charlotte in November — beat a couple of ranked teams like Oklahoma State and Texas, people thought the conference was full of really good teams beating up on one another. But after another disappointing March, it’s time to realize that the Big 12 has one great program and a bunch of other ones capable of playing well for a few weeks at a time. Michigan State has Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. North Carolina has Duke and Syracuse. Kentucky has Florida. Kansas has a handful of teams capable of upsetting them in their building and disappearing a week later. This is most evident in the fact that Kansas has won 10 straight regular season titles. Bill Self is a future Hall of Fame coach and is on one of the best regular season runs we have seen in decades, but would he have 10 straight titles in any other major conference? Not a chance. And with Self’s prowess on the recruiting trail lately, it’s hard to see any Big 12 team ending the Jayhawks’ run of conference titles.

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Joel Embiid Headed to the NBA: What Does Kansas Do Next?

Posted by Taylor Erickson on April 9th, 2014

Joel Embiid officially declared his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Embiid is projected as a top three pick in the upcoming draft despite missing seven games at the end of this season because of a stress fracture in his lower back. Given how rare it is for big men to come along with a demonstrated ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, it should come as no shock that the seven-footer from Cameroon has decided to leave Kansas after just one abbreviated season.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

The most optimistic Kansas fans, however, were holding out hope that Embiid’s comments to ESPN earlier this year would convince him to stick around in Lawrence for another season. In that January article, Embiid talked about studying other talented big men and cited how many years they stayed in school as a contributing factor to become the best at his position one day. But make no mistake about it, the game isn’t the same as when Olajuwon, Duncan, and Shaq were dominating college campuses. Players now more than ever are drafted on potential, and in Embiid’s case, he has it in spades. In the end, this announcement comes down to making a sensible business decision, and capitalizing on the opportunity to make life-changing money — something that could be significantly hindered if he were to return to campus and experience another year of back problems.

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SMU Seeks to Build in Sudden Return to Relevance

Posted by CD Bradley on April 4th, 2014

SMU fell just short of the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, then fell just short of an NIT title in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. And yet the Mustangs exceeded everybody’s expectations for this season and suddenly have a bright future, an unusual place to be for a squad with no discernible success in decades. All of that, of course, is thanks to the surprising decision of Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown accepting the top job two years ago. The Mustangs had one winning record in the nine years before he arrived, and his 15-17 record last season suggested more of the same. That all changed this time around, when the Mustangs became a national story with the type of success that merited stories in the ;New York Times. It was probably the biggest story involving SMU athletics in the national paper of record since the program received the death penalty for Porsches, polos and ponies in the mid-1980s.

Associated Press Larry Brown coached SMU to the NIT Final at MSG, where he used to coach the Knicks. He hopes to get to another place he's coached: the Final Four.

Larry Brown coached SMU to the NIT Final at MSG, where he used to coach the Knicks. He hopes to get to another place he’s coached: the Final Four. (AP)

A late season swoon (and a weak non-conference schedule) cost SMU its first NCAA Tournament trip since 1993 – the Mustangs were the last team left out this year – but the turned right around and made the most of their #1 seed in the NIT. That earned them the chance at three more home games at the newly renovated Moody Coliseum, where they had suffered only one loss all year, and they won all three. They then mounted a huge rally to knock off Clemson in the NIT semifinals before falling to Minnesota in a close loss in the championship game. Even though it ended in a defeat, the season was a landmark campaign for the school. SMU finished 27-10 overall and 12-6 in the AAC; those 27 wins were the second-most in SMU history, and the 12 conference wins tied for the most in any conference it has played in. They unveiled the “new” Moody to rave reviews and sellout crowds, and they played their first season in the AAC, which offers plenty of future TV opportunities and marquee match-ups with the likes of Final Four entrant UConn (who SMU swept this year), Memphis and Cincinnati.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Duke and Florida Going All Out For Recruits On Saturday, Arizona Adding 7’1″ Dusan Ristic?

Posted by Sean Moran on March 7th, 2014

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Big Saturday Night in Durham

In the last weekend of regular season hoops, Durham, North Carolina, will be the center of attention on Saturday night. Between a visit from archrival UNC, Senior Night festivities, and ESPN Gameday in attendance, there will be quite the buzz going on in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In order to take advantage of the big night, Duke has invited a plethora of big name recruits and top targets to campus. The biggest name on the list is five-star center Myles Turner. The 7’0” center is the top unsigned target in the 2014 class and the No. 2 prospect overall, and the Blue Devils are trying to add him to their already No. 1 ranked recruiting class. From the junior class, five-star power forward Chase Jeter (#18 – 2015) will make his official visit, as will five-star guard Luke Kennard (#14 – 2015). In addition, Coach K will have several players on campus for unofficial visits, including top sophomore Harry Giles, five-star wing Josh Langford (#15 – 2016), and four-star point guard Junior Smith (#26 – 2016). Several of the players noted above, including Jeter, Kennard, Giles, and Smith, are also considering North Carolina. With a win, the Blue Devils will look to continue their recruiting momentum with more five-star signatures. A loss, however, could certainly be devastating. Last year, UNC was in the exact same spot and brought Andrew Wiggins and five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (#13 – 2014) to Chapel Hill. Duke jumped out to a 15-0 lead and the recruits quickly lost interest in the game they were brought in to see.

Myles Turner is visiting Duke on Saturday. Will the Blue Devils impress him enough to join No. 1 Jahlil Okafor?

2. Florida Celebrates SEC Championship

Florida has the SEC Championship locked up, but they will be looking to end the season with an 18-0 conference record. Going against rival Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Billy Donovan is bringing in his 2014 commitments along with plenty of other recruits for 2015 and 2016. While not on the level of Duke’s haul, Florida will play host to 11 players in total. Four-star Devin Robinson (#24 – 2014), Chris Chiozza (#44 – 2014), and Brandone Francis (#37 – 2014) will all be suiting up for the Gators next year, and they will be joined by a pair of four-stars who are receiving strong interest from the Gators. Guard Antonio Blakeney is one of the Gator biggest targets in the class, ranked No. 39 in the country. He will be joined by 6’3” four-star guard Austin Grandstaff (#47 – 2015), who recently de-committed from Oklahoma State, and 6’8” Noah Dickerson (#49 – 2015). Alonzo Mourning’s son, Trey, will also be in attendance, as will four-star wing KeVaughn Allen (#84 – 2015) while on an official visit. The Gators will be celebrating their regular season accomplishments and will try to impress a few more players who will help them continue the tradition.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Okafor vs. Big Cliff, Turner Calls SMU A “Darkhorse” and Alford Checks Out Rabb

Posted by Sean Moran on February 21st, 2014

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Jahlil Okafor vs. Big Cliff

On Friday night, two of the top players in the country will clash in order to claim Windy City bragging rights. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor (#1 – 2014) and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander (#5 – 2014) face off in the Chicago Public League Championship tonight. Along with this must see individual match-up, the two teams involved are also considered the top teams in the state of Illinois. Alexander’s Curie (IL) squad is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation and Okafor’s Whitney Young (IL) team is ranked No. 15 by MaxPreps.


The match-up has already been called the “Game of the Decade” by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Henricksen and has now been picked up for viewing by ESPN3. From the time Okafor and Alexander started playing in high school the attention has shined brightly on them both; however it’s fair to say that Alexander has always been in Okafor’s shadow. A top 5 player in his class since 2011, Okafor has always been a load to handle download with his rare gifts of size and strength. Alexander meanwhile has slowly but surely risen up the class rankings until he exploded over the summer in AAU play. He continued his dominant play over the past few months and has one final chance to emerge from Okafor’s shadow on Friday. Back in November both players were ready to make their college selections and it was the higher ranked Okafor who received first dibs on national TV. Okafor went with Duke and Alexander appeared next and selected Kansas, which also happened to be Okafor’s second choice. Both players will have a major impact at their respective schools next year and could be competing for the No. 1 draft spot in 2015. DraftExpress currently has Okafor in the No. 1 slot and Alexander in the No. 3 slot. It’s rare for two elite players to match-up in a city playoff game, but both Okafor and Alexander will go head to head for the third time in their high school careers and one will come out as the King of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Rabb Moves Up To #1, Rashad Vaughn Goes With UNLV, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on February 14th, 2014

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. New #1 In The Junior Class

On Tuesday, Scout.com released their updated Top 100 rankings for the class of 2015. In a similar fashion to ESPN, five-star junior forward Ivan Rabb jumped up to the #1 spot formerly held by guard Malik Newman. The 6’9” Rabb has put together an impressive junior campaign for Bishop O’Dowd (CA) High as they get ready for a state title run in California which currently stands at 18-4 and. Rabb has always been an impressive athlete while drawing comparisons to Chris Bosh for his ability to finish down low and step outside for a 15 foot jump shot. After an up and down summer with the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, it seems Rabb has turned the corner. Josh Gershon of Scout.com noted, “This season, Rabb has taken his game to the next level. His motor, skill level, rebounding and production are all at an all time high. He’s proven himself game and game out, making his selection as Scout.com’s top prospect in 2015 an easy choice.” Schools from all over the country are knocking on Rabb’s door and in an interview from late January his high school coach noted that Arizona, North Carolina, and California have showed him the most attention. Given Sean Miller’s success the past few years with kids from the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, the Wildcats would have to be the presumed leader at this point in time.

 

2. Rashad Vaughn Headed to UNLV

Five-star junior shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is headed to UNLV. On Tuesday night, the 6’5” Vaughn announced his college choice on CBS SportsNet and chose the Rebels over Iowa State, UNC, and Kentucky. The No. 13 ranked player in the country was one of the last five-star players to make a commitment and now he will join five-star small forward Dwayne Morgan (#20 overall) and four-star center Goodluck Okonoboh (#39 overall) in Las Vegas next year. ESPN.com currently has UNLV with the No. 6 ranked recruiting class in the country. This past summer Vaughn was looking to transfer from his hometown high school in Minnesota to a national prep powerhouse for better competition and landed in Henderson, NV with Findlay Prep. The close proximity helped the Rebels get involved late in the Vaughn recruitment and UNLV’s assistant coach Todd Simon is the former head coach of Findlay Prep. Vaughn will give the Rebels a scorer from the get-go next year and the Rebels will be expected to improve on this year’s disappointing campaign (so far). “I can see that they are missing a shooter or a scorer,” Vaughn said. “I just feel like they don’t have any shooters to spread the floor. I know we’ve got a couple shooters coming in. With me and my scoring ability, I feel we can pick up the pace. With Goodluck and with Dwayne, I feel we can do something special.”

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Who’s Got Next? Top McDonald’s All-American Match-Ups

Posted by Sean Moran on February 3rd, 2014

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Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

This past week 24 of the top high school seniors in America were selected for the most prestigious prep event in the country, the McDonald’s All-American game. After moving around to different spots for a number of years, this game is now held each year at the United Center in Chicago and gives college basketball fans a chance to catch the soon-to-be top incoming college freshman. NBA general managers and front office staff also descend on the Windy City in order to watch the team practice sessions held the two days prior in order to assess the prospects that will start to enter the NBA Draft in 2015 and beyond. This year’s event features many interesting personnel match-ups that will take place in the practice sessions and in the nationally-televised game. There were also several surprise selections to the rosters and a few noticeable omissions, all of which we’ll cover below.


Top Game Match-Ups

1) Jahlil Okafor, 6’11”, C (#1 overall) vs. Myles Turner, 7’0”, C (#2 overall)

The top two players in the country will face-off at opening tip on April 2. The two big men matched up back in August during the championship of the Adidas Nations tournament in Long Beach, California, but this time around the stage will be much brighter. Jahlil Okafor, the hometown favorite, has been groomed for this day from the time he first stepped on the court for Whitney Young (IL) as a freshman. Myles Turner, on the other hand, was not even a top 100 prospect one year aga, but a scintillating summer and high school season vaulted him up the recruiting rankings and to the top of many NBA Draft boards. Okafor’s game is based on power and a soft touch close to the basket while Turner is a long, lean and versatile center. Okafor has been frustrated this season with the constant double- and triple-teams and will finally face a man-to-man defense when going up against the superb shot-blocker, Turner. Okafor committed to Duke in the fall and Turner is the top uncommitted prospect in the country with the Blue Devils in his final six along with Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Texas.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Chase Jeter’s Official Visit, HoopHall Classic, Myles Turner and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on January 17th, 2014

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Chase Jeter Sets First Official Visit

On Tuesday night, five-star power forward Chase Jeter announced that he will be making the trip to Duke on March 8 for his first official visit.


The No. 19 ranked prospect in the junior class (2015) is off to Durham for Duke’s senior night against UNC. The decision by Jeter to make Duke his first visit is a huge score for the Blue Devils. Not only does Coach K get the first visit from the 6’9” junior, but he also gets Jeter to make the coast to coast trip from his home state of Nevada. Heavily recruited by Pac-12 schools over the past year and a half, the Blue Devils started showing serious interest this past fall after several viewings during the July recruiting period. Jeter plays at Bishop Gorman (NV) High School and ended his first two years of high school with state championships in each year. As a freshman he was in the shadow of Shabazz Muhammad and as a sophomore it was his big man counterpart in Stephen Zimmerman (#3 – 2015) who garnered most of the attention. Despite the relative lack of attention, Jeter improved rapidly over the past year while putting in hard work in the weight room in order to achieve his goal of getting stronger. Now a junior, colleges such as UCLA, Michigan, Oregon, Louisville, Arizona, and North Carolina are showing strong interest in the up-and-coming Jeter, but it is Duke that nabbed the first visit.

2. HoopHall Classic Preview

The crown jewel of high school tournaments kicks off in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Saturday featuring a plethora of five-star players and highly ranked teams. The first big match-up features Bishop O’ Connell (VA) vs. Rainier Beach (WA). O’Connell features high scoring Maryland commitment Romelo Trimble (#35 – 2014) and Rainier Beach features Louisville wing Shaqquan Aaron (#34 – 2014). The prime time game on Sunday features two prep powerhouses and a point guard delight when five-star Emmanuel Mudiay (#3 – 2014) squares off against four-star and Gonzaga commitment Josh Perkins (#25 – 2014). Come Monday, ESPNU will broadcast four games that will showcase UNC commitment Theo Pinson (#27 – 2014), the top ranked player in the country in Jahlil Okafor, and five-star prospect Stanley Johnson (#7 – 2014). The biggest game will feature man-child Cliff Alexander (#5 – 2014) against the top ranked team in the country in Montverde (FL) which features five-star junior Ben Simmons (#8 – 2015) and five-star guard D’Angelo Russell (#16 – 2014). Each year this tournament hosts the top players in the country and this year is certainly no different.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Winslow to Duke, Turner Plans to Visit Stillwater, and More

Posted by Sean Moran on November 22nd, 2013

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Dukes Scores Again With Winslow

Justise Winslow brings a powerful game to Duke’s #1 ranked recruiting class.

The Duke recruiting run is still going strong with this week’s commitment of five-star forward Justise Winslow. One week after landing the package deal of Jahlil Okafor (#1 overall – 2014) and Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Duke picked up the No. 10 ranked player in the class of 2014 and No. 4 small forward. Over the past year rumors popped up about Winslow joining both Okafor and Jones in college as they were all familiar with each other from USA Basketball. Winslow did his due diligence on schools in taking over 20 college visits including official trips to Duke, Florida, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona. Winslow stands 6’5” and with big, broad shoulders he is one of the strongest kids in the high school ranks. A jack of all trades, he also averaged 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game throughout the spring and summer AAU season. With the commitment, Winslow gives Duke three players in the top 10 as well as four-star shooting guard Grayson Allen (#36 overall) in their 2014 class. With the clear cut No. 1 recruiting class the Blue Devils are more than ready to compete for national titles over the next few years.

2. Myles Turner Schedules a Trip to Stillwater

Seven-foot center Myles Turner, the top uncommitted prospect in the class of 2014, scheduled his second official visit for Oklahoma State on December 6 when the Cowboys take on South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC challenge. The No. 2 overall player in the country had a meteoric rise to the top of the rankings this spring and summer when the five-star Texan came out of nowhere and started dominating the AAU circuit. Turner has a 7’3” wing-span and is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. He can run the floor, post up, and shoot from all parts of the court as well. His first official visit was to Ohio State and he is also considering Kansas, Texas, Duke, and Kentucky. Oklahoma State is a guard-oriented team this year with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown but with their impending departures, Travis Ford would have no problem making next year’s team revolve around the talented Turner.

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Kansas Lands Alexander, Misses On Jones & Okafor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 15th, 2013

It’s official. Cliff Alexander, a 6’9″ power forward from Curie (Chicago) High School, is headed to Kansas next season.

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

In a ceremony at his high school on Friday afternoon, Alexander announced his commitment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, joining fellow top prospect and Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, a 6’7″ swingman from Sugar Land, Texas, via Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander is a physical athlete that plays above the rim and will be expected to make an instant impact in Lawrence next season. The Chicago big man was believed to be solid on Kansas just a few short weeks ago, but gained momentum to Illinois as of late when many believe Kansas backed off on Alexander in an attempt to focus their efforts on Jahlil Okafor, Rivals’ number one ranked recruit in this year’s class. It was believed that Alexander’s long-standing relationship with former Illini assistant and current Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend plays basketball for the Jayhawks, would be enough to lure the talented big man to Kansas. If current Kansas center Joel Embiid bolts for the NBA after this season, as many anticipate, Alexander will easily help fill the void and solidify the Kansas frontcourt along side sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor next year. Landing Alexander continues Self’s recent success on the recruiting trail after hauling in the second ranked class in 2013 with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid, among others. The combination of Alexander and Oubre, along with the Jayhawks’ returning talent next season should have Bill Self’s squad poised once again as a legitimate title contender in March 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Big Blue Madness, Visits for Top 10 Recruits, & Georgetown vs. Indiana…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 18th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Big Blue Madness

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Since the arrival of John Calipari at Kentucky, Big Blue Madness has been the event to visit as a recruit. Last year it was current Kentucky freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, and Marcus Lee that showed up in Lexington and this year it will be a new batch of fresh faces. Attendees expected at Rupp Arena include some of the biggest names from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes, including one of UK’s 2014 commitments in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG). Ulis and Big Blue Nation will do their best to impress senior small forward Stanley Johnson, power forward Trey Lyles, and shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. Johnson is the top small forward in the country; however he still has a ways to go with his decision. Right now the big fish for Kentucky are Lyles and Blackmon, both of whom committed to Indiana early in their high school careers and later de-committed after their junior years. Lyles is a 6’9” power forward who is ranked seventh in the country and is the most fundamentally sound post player in the senior class. Blackmon stands at 6’3” (#56 overall, #10 SG) and is one of the best long distance shooters in the class. Kentucky is thought to be the leader for both of the Indiana natives.

2. Stanley Johnson – Making the Rounds

As noted above, Stanley Johnson is taking his official visit to Kentucky for its Midnight Madness this Friday. Johnson is currently the top rated small forward in the country and No. 6 overall. The California native also took an official visit to Arizona last week for their Red-Blue game and watched former AAU teammate and soon to be freshman sensation Aaron Gordon win the team slam dunk contest. The other three schools still in contention for Johnson’s services are Oregon, Florida, and USC. While schools such as Arizona, Kentucky, and Florida are used to getting top 10 recruits, a commitment for the Trojans or Ducks would represent a landmark victory for either of those programs. Johnson is a bulldozer in the open court and considered one of the strongest perimeter players in high school. With his strength and improved ball-handling ability, he can get to the rim at will. Along with his skill set, he is also a winner. In 2012 he won a Nike AAU championship with the Oakland Soldiers and followed that up by leading Mater Dei to a California state championship. All five schools will take their best shot at landing Johnson over the next few months.


3. Myles Turner Off to See Columbus

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Kentucky’s Unusual Position: How to Build a #1 Class After Recent Misses

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2013

While Jayhawk fans celebrated Kelly Oubre’s commitment to Kansas on Tuesday, the announcement left Kentucky and its fans in a situation they are not accustomed to — one in which they are left wondering which recruits are still available. It also comes as the third consecutive major commitment — Andrew Wiggins and Emmanuel Mudiay were the other two — that Kentucky has missed out on, which is a highly unusual development in the Calipari era. Now this is not to say that the Big Blue Nation should go into panic mode and their first glimpses of Julius Randle and the Harrison twins next week will certainly help to alleviate any pending anxiety. Still, for the first time since John Calipari rolled into Lexington in 2009, Kentucky is now in danger of not having the top recruiting class in the country.

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year's Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year’s Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Of course, Kentucky will be getting its share of incoming stars, but it probably will not be the type of ridiculous haul that Wildcat fans have enjoyed over the past four seasons. Calipari already has received commitments from 7’1″ Karl Towns, Jr., a top-10 recruit according to nearly every major recruiting service, and Tyler Ulis, a strong point guard prospect despite his 5’9″, 150-pound frame. The Wildcats are still in the running for eight more five-star recruits in the class of 2014 — big men Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Trey Lyles, and perimeter prospects Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker and James Blackmon, Jr. – but a closer look suggests that their prospects of landing each are less promising than they might first appear.

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