Friday, December 31, 2010

Kentucky proved to the country that they are the real deal

I don't want to say that Kentucky proved themselves this afternoon, because I've had a feeling that this Kentucky team was flying under the radar a little bit.

But at the very least the Wildcats reinforced the notion that they are, in fact, a team capable of making the Final Four this season.

On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky went into Louisville's brand new KFC Yum! Center (can't forget the exclamation point!) and whooped the Cardinals. They won 78-63 in a game that was never really close in the second half.

As you might expect, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones were impressive. Knight had 25 points on 7-13 shooting while also adding four assists. He's not quite there as a point guard yet -- he did have five turnovers -- but you can see him progressing and growing as a player.


Jones wasn't effective as a scorer -- he had 12 points, the majority of which came late in the second half -- but he played a terrific all-around game. He had eight boards and three blocks, but I was most impressed by his six assists. Louisville paid a lot of attention to him, which meant that Josh Harrellson was far too open on far too many occasions. The Wildcat's senior center had 23 points and 14 boards, six of which came on the offensive end, and also knocked down a three.

Harrellson wasn't he only Wildcat role player that played well, either. DeAndre Liggins showed the nation what people bring up his name when they are talking about the best on-ball defenders in the country, as he completely took Louisville point guard Peyton Siva out of the game. Darius Miller played as well as I have seen him play since he has been in a Kentucky uniform as well.

This Kentucky team may not have the five first round picks that last year's squad did, but I think this may end up being the better basketball team.

They defend, they can shoot, and they have two stars surrounded by some quality role players. Harrellson is not the offensive threat that Enes Kanter would be, but its hard to imagine the Turk being better on the glass or a better positional defender than the man known as 'Jorts'.

Most importantly, however, is that in addition to all of the above, Kentucky is as talented as any team in the country out side of Duke, Kansas, and maybe Ohio State.

Louisville may not be as good as their ranking indicates -- especially without Raheem Buckles and with Elisha Justice and Mike Marra slowed by injury -- but this was an impressive performance from the Wildcats nonetheless.
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Friday's Pregame Beat: Previewing your college hoops weekend

UPSET SPECIAL

Fri. 2:00 pm: Charleston @ Tennessee: To be honest, I'm not sure if this can even qualify as an upset special with the way that Tennessee has been playing of late. After knocking off then-No. 3 Pitt in Pittsburgh in early December, the Vols lost three straight games -- to Oakland, Charlotte, and USC -- before barely hanging on against Belmont and UT-Martin.

Believe it or not, Charleston may actually be the best team Tennessee has played since Pitt. Andrew Goudelock is a mid-major superstar, a scorer that is capable of going for 30 on any given night against any opponent. Jeremy Simmons is solid in the post. Antwaine Wiggins and Donavan Monroe are capable perimeter players. This is a group that has nearly knocked off Maryland, UNC, Clemson, and URI this season (all of those losses are by seven points or less) and also beat UNC last season. Outside of those four games, the Cougars are undefeated, with impressive wins over Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, and Davidson.


There are a number of issues plaguing the Vols right now, but one of the problems they have had of late is that they have been allowing perimeter players to get into a rhythm. That wasn't true against Pitt or Villanova, when Melvin Goins and Scotty Hopson were terrific defensively. If Goudelock gets into a rhythm, anything can happen.


UPSET ALERT

Fri. 12:00 pm: Northwestern @ No. 11 Purdue: First things first -- this is all contingent on John Shurna being in the lineup for Northwestern. The Big Ten's leading scorer had to leave their last game against Mt. St. Mary's with an ankle injury, and he only made it back to practice on Wednesday. That said, with Shurna in the lineup, I think this is a pretty good matchup. JaJuan Johnson is an all-american, but he's not a bruiser like a Jared Sullinger is. That's good for a Northwestern frontline that is far from overpowering. Offensively, they move the ball really well, which is what you need to do against a team that plays the kind of man-to-man defense Purdue does. We finally get a chance to get a sense just how good Northwestern is. If their threes are falling, they have a shot at getting this win.

Sat. 3:30 pm: No. 15 Notre Dame @ No. 5 Syracuse: Is Notre Dame for real? It sure looked that way when they manhandled Georgetown on Wednesday night. I like the way the Irish matchup against the Syracuse zone. They have shooters, especially up front, and they have a lineup that is versatile enough to play really big or really small. They have two legitimate playmakers in the back court and some excellent shooters on the perimeter. They will have trouble with Rick Jackson inside, but who won't this season? A road game against a very good Syracuse team this early in Big East play will be a good guage for the Irish.


Sun. 3:00 pm: Tennessee State @ No. 22 Memphis: Tennessee State is pretty good this season. They are currently sitting in second in the OVC with a win over Morehead State. The team ahead of them, Austin Peay, took the Tigers to overtime. The win over Lipscomb aside, I'm not in a place where Ican trust this young Memphis team to comeout ready to play on a nightly basis.


BEST MATCHUPS

12:00 pm: No. 12 Kentucky @ No. 20 Louisville: Its hard for me to discern the difference between a game that is a must-watch for college hoops die-hards and a game that is a must-watch for the casual fan. That said, I'm certain of the fact that when these two teams that the court, your eyes need to be on the TV screen. I could delve into the reasons why, but its much easier to point you in the direction of Matt Jones who does a great job dissecting this rivalry.As far as this particular game is concerned, Louisville might be in some trouble. Raheem Buckles needed surgery on his finger and will be out, Jared Swopshire looks to be done for the season, and Mike Marra and Elisha Justice are both out as well. What was once a deep, versatile Louisville team is now one that will be playing their run and gun style with a seven man rotation. If the Kentucky freshmen can handle the Cardinal press, they should be fine. One thing to keep an eye on -- neither team is deep. With all the shenanigans of last season's matchup, a tight whistle and foul trouble could end up playing a major role.

Fri. 4:00 pm: No. 13 Minnesota @ No. 19 Michigan State: Watching the Golden Gophers play this season, I've been struck by how much they resemble a typical Michigan State team. They have a number of big, strong front court players that can attack the back boards, they have a couple of talented playmakers in their back court, and their wings are either insanely athletic or dead-eye shooters. The Gophers may be a touch overrated at No. 13 in the country, but this is a very good basketball team, especially with Al Nolen back in the fold. Michigan State has been disappointing this season, but they always seem to turn things around in the new year. Can it start a day early this season?


Fri. 4:00 pm: Washington @ UCLA: This game will be very important when it comes to the Pac-10 race. The way the UCLA played in the second half against a beter-than-expected Washington State team only reaffirmed my belief that the Bruins have a shot at making a run through the Pac-10 this season. If they are going to win the conference, however, protecting their home court is vital. You would be remiss to say anyone other than the Huskies are the favorite in the league, and they also happen to be very tough to beat at home. UCLA needs to win this game if they are going to win the league.

Fri. 4:00 pm: Florida @ Xavier: Three months from now when we are all holding our mock brackets with outlandish predictions of who made and who missed the cut for the NCAA Tournament, this is going to be a game we all talk about. Xavier's has had some serious issues with injuries this season, as they are down to just three back court players. Florida, on the other hand, has had issues with their back court play. Maybe Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton really aren't all that good as a back court tandem.

Sun. 6:00 pm: No. 24 Wisconsin @ No. 25 Illinois: There are a lot of really good early season matchups in the Big Ten this season. This is one of them. Its hard to imagine two teams with such similar roster makeups -- excellent point guard and quality, finesse big men -- playing such differing styles. Illinois is the more talented team, but Bo Ryan has seemingly gotten his players to buy into his system more than Bruce Weber has. You may not love Big Ten hoops, but this game will be a dandy.


BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 6:00 pm: No. 2 Ohio State @ Indiana: Tom Crean has been so disappointed with his front court that he's threatened to start five guards. That could be a problem with Jared Sullinger coming to town.
  • 6:00 pm: South Florida @ No. 4 UConn: UConn will have a chance to get their first Big East win and rebound from a shellacking at the hands of the Pitt Panthers.
  • 6:00 pm: Washington State @ USC: You don't want to start conference play 0-2. It will be interesting to see which of these two teams is the real deal.
  • 8:00 pm: Seton Hall @ Cincinnati: Believe it or not, but this is probably undefeated Cincinnati's toughest test of the season.
  • 10:00 pm: Oklahoma State @ Gonzaga: The game itself is mediocre, but any reason I have to link this is a good one.
Saturday
  • 11:00 am: West Virginia @ Marquette: Marquette always seems to be involved in a dogfight, while West Virginia is a team that is currently reeling without the leadership of Da'Sean Butler.
  • 12:00 pm: San Diego @ NC State: One of these days, Tracy Smith has to return to the Wolfpack lineup, right?
  • 2:00 pm: Valpo @ Butler; UIC @ Cleveland State: Butler looks like they are back on track this season with a win in the Diamond Head Classic, but Norris Cole and Cleveland State appear to be legit this season. Can CSU unseat Butler atop the Horizon?
  • 2:00 pm: New Mexico @ Dayton: Both teams really, really need this win.
  • 5:30 pm: Boston College @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington vs. Reggie Jackson is worth two hours of your New Year's Da recovery.
  • 7:00 pm: St. John's @ Providence: A couple of Big East sleepers square off.
  • 10:00 pm: Arizona State @ Oregon: If ASU gets swept by the Oregon schools (they just lost by 22 to Oregon State) we might as well write them off.
Sunday
  • 1:00 pm: Gonzaga @ Wake Forest: I bet the Zags didn't expect Wake Forest to be so bad when they signed on for this game.
  • 3:00 pm: High Point @ Coastal Carolina: For Big South fans, this game could have a lot of meaning later in the season.
  • 4:00 pm: Penn State @ Michigan: The teams may not be all that good, but Talor Battle and Darius Morris are fantasy studs this season.
  • 4:30 pm: Charleston @ Morehead State: Andrew Goudelock and Kenny Faried. Yes, please.
  • 5:00 pm: Davidson @ Vanderbilt: I wanted to call this game an Upset Alert. Couldn't bring myself to do it.
  • 5:30 pm: LSU @ Virginia: Yuck.
  • 6:00 pm: Charlotte @ Georgia Tech: Ditto.
  • 7:45 pm: Miami FL @ No. 1 Duke: Hangover from Coach K's 880th win? Hangover from New Year's Eve? Nah...
  • 10:00 pm: Arizona @ Oregon State: Most believe Arizona is the second best team in the Pac-10. Hopefully, they won't pull an Arizona State.

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Friday Morning Dump

Light dump today. Everyone have a safe and healthy New Year.

And please, call a cab. Don't drive. It ain't worth it.

- Louisville will be heading into their game with Kentucky this afternoon quite undermanned. Already without Elisha Justice and Mike Marra, and with Jared Swopshire likely done for the year, Rick Pitino just lost Raheem Buckles to a broken finger. Buckles was an important piece for this team, as the combo-forward provided quite a bit of versatility for the Cardinals.

- Speaking of Louisville-Kentucky, Matt Jones argues that its the best rivalry in college hoops. Gotta admit, he's pretty convincing.

- More Louisville -- Pitino will still coach Puerto Rico.

- Seth Davis with his weekend picks. You better be right, Seth, or my landlord will be upset when that rent check isn't in her mailbox on Saturday.

- Jelan Kendrick is headed to Ole Miss. We'll try to get a post up about this today. If it doesn't happen, my thoughts in two words: bad idea.

- I've always felt weird about low-major basketball teams buoying their athletics budget on a couple of guarantee games. It seems like athletic prostitution. Fairfield looks like they are going to get burned as a result of having their game with Florida canceled.

- Title says it all

- I've always loved Keiton Page. He's like watching a cabbage patch kid with a jump shot.

- Kyle Whelliston with a list of one-man shows over at Basketball Prospectus. This could also be titled "Mid-Major hoopers you should know about."

- DeAndre Daniels should be choosing a school pretty soon

- Scores like this are the reason no one cares about women's hoops.

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Friday's Shootaround: Villanova wins a Big 5 battle, Arizona State suffers a hideous loss

This post can also be found at Beyond the Arc.

No. 8 Villanova 78, Temple 74: Nova still has a long way to go before they are the team everyone expected them to be. Mouph Yarou is still learning how to play in the post. Corey Fisher is still struggling with his shot. Maalik Wayns has a tendency to dribble the air out of the ball. Offensively, this team isn't perfect, but they were good enough last night to earn a rugged win against a good Temple team.

Wayns buoyed the team in the first half and played the role of the closer down the stretch, finishing with 21 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals. Corey Stokes added 24 points, including a number of big shots in the second half.

I've said it before, but I think Villanova's strength this season is defense. They ran a 1-2-2 press tonight that completely took Temple out of what they wanted to do offensively. Dominic Cheek and Stokes are both tough, versatile defenders in the mold of Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, but with better offensive arsenals. Combine that with improved muscle up front, and the Wildcats are going to be just fine.

No. 10 Missouri 81, Old Dominion 58: Once again, Marcus Denmon's hot shooting carried the Tigers. He had 22 points, including 14 in the first half, and hit five threes. More importantly, Mizzou battled to essentially a draw on the glass with a bigger, more physical ODU team.

No. 16 BYU 90, Buffalo 82: Jimmer Fredette had a season-high 34 points, including 28 in the second half, as the Cougars won in their second trip to Upstate New York in as many weeks.

No. 21 UCF 68, Princeton 62: Marcus Jordan had 26 points and led the Knights back from a 37-29 halftime deficit against the Tigers.

No. 22 Memphis 88, Lipscomb 70: Memphis got 28 points and 14 rebounds from Wesley Witherspoon, who needed a good game coming off of a couple of bad outings and a knee surgery.

Oklahoma 76, Central Arkansas 73: Things that aren't good -- being unable to put away Central Arkansas at home.

Oregon State 80, Arizona State 58: Other things that aren't good -- losing at Gill Coliseum. Utah Valley State, Texas Southern, and George Washington won there. The Sun Devils lost by 22. That is not a good sign for their Pac-10 hopes. To be fair, Trent Lockett -- ASU's leading scorer and second leading rebounder -- did not play due to a sprained big toe. Regardless, this is a really, really bad loss.

Other Notable Scores:

  • Virginia Tech 64, USC-Upstate 53
  • Cornell 86, Wofford 80
  • Miami FL 94, Pepperdine 59
  • Cleveland State 73, Loyola IL 55
  • VCU 78, New Hampshire 65
  • Ole Miss 100, Alcorn State 62
  • Tulsa 69, TCU 66
  • Iowa State 60, Virginia 47
  • Southern Miss 64, Savannah State 54
  • Oakland 85, Oral Roberts 77
  • Murray State 71, SIU-Edwardsville 46
  • North Texas 81, Arkansas Little-Rock 69
  • UNLV 73, Central Michigan 47
  • Arizona 76, Oregon 57


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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The NCAA is making it illegal to have fun in college

In case you missed it in during the course of Vanderbilt's dramatic win over Marquette on Wednesday night, the Commodore's junior forward Lance Goulbourne sat out as he completed a two-game suspension handed down by the NCAA.

Why was he suspended?

(Takes a deep breath.)

Goulbourne, who was a sophomore last season, bought a parking pass meant for seniors off of a team manager that was a senior. He paid full price for the parking pass. But since the team manager -- who was a student at the school, mind you -- is considered part of the coaching staff by the NCAA, this constituted an illegal benefit. Vanderbilt self-reported the violation to the NCAA (this only came to light because Goulbourne was double-billed for a parking ticket) and Goulbourne was suspended.


Now, I may be a bit out of line here, but this is so utterly, fantastically, and brutally ridiculous, I needed to digest the information for a day because it simply didn't make sense to me that something as innocuous as buying a senior parking pass off of a friend constituted an NCAA violation that was worthy of a two game suspension.

(Takes another deep breath.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the NCAA have much bigger fish to fry (cough, Cam Newtown, cough cough, Sugar Bowl, ahem, Taylor Martinez's dad) than a kid that simply tried to pull one over on his school's parking enforcement?

I could go on a rant here about the NCAA's seemingly selective enforcement and inconsistency when punishing violators. I could bitch about the fact that a parking pass is worth two games while $6,000 in illegal benefits are only worth nine games. Hell, I'm sure if I tried hard enough, I could get something in there about Enes Kanter or Bruce Pearl or Tom Izzo.

But I'm not.

You've read those rants 1,000 times over in the last six months, and there is no need for me to regurgitate what every writer in the country has said because, in all likelihood, they said it better than I can.

My issue with this ruling has nothing to do with any other ruling the NCAA has made.

The goal of the NCAA is to have student-athletes get treated like any other student on campus. The ideal is that the kids that play basketball are students that just so happen to play basketball, like how kids in marching band are students that happen to play an instrument or how kids that act in plays are students that happen to be really good actors.

If my collegiate experience was completely different from the norm (which I sincerely doubt), then I retract everything I am about to say. But when I was in college, I did everything I could to beat the system and took advantage of every hook-up I had.

All of my friends did the same thing.

We were friends with a couple of guys that worked at a bar that students from my school spent quite a bit of time bellied up to. We went there all the time because we knew that the bartenders would let us in without paying a cover or waiting in line and would hook us up with drinks. That happens on every single college campus in the country and at every single bar you have ever been to.

Its called being a regular.

But Tennessee football players got in trouble for taking advantage of a relationship like that.

There was a beer store we went too all the time a few blocks off of campus. The people that owned the place would cut us deals if we bought a lot of booze there and always hooked us up with free swag. Giant inflatable Corona Palm Trees? Hell yeah! Motorized Bud Light coolers? Give me like five!

Along those same lines, there was a pizza place across the street from that beer store that we patronized so much that the owner started to give us discounts on the food we bought.

Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly did the exact same thing at a department store when they bought clothes and were suspended for three and six games, respectively.

The NCAA wants athletes to be normal college kids.

This is what normal college kids do.

They take advantage of every hook-up they can. They try to beat the system at all times. They take every shortcut possible. I know I'm not the only one that made friends with the campus police so that if I had a party get broken up or parked illegally, I could avoid getting into trouble. I also played basketball, which means that I probably violated many NCAA rules during my collegiate career when Mike or Dale let me off with yet another warning.

I understand that it is a slippery slope.

You don't want to turn a blind eye to discounted clothing because the next kid will be getting a discounted TV and the kid after that will be getting a discounted car. I get that. A precedent needs to be set. (I also know how ridiculous it is to talk about "precendence" in regards in NCAA punishments in this day and age.)

But a little bit of common sense could help the NCAA in a big way.

Punish kids that break a rule with the intention of breaking a rule.

Don't punish a kid like Lance Goulbourne, who was simply looking to get around his school's parking regulations the same way any other underclassmen does.
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Xavier will be frying themselves up some Gator against Florida on Friday

In college hoops -- and sports in general -- when you have a big game on your schedule, you hope and expect fans to come up with something original and creative to try and create a home court advantage.

When LeBron James made his first visit back to Cleveland, the Cavs were forced to beef up security because of the outcry they expected from the fans. Maryland fans, if you remember, ran Operation Scheyerface, where they would print out massive pictures of one of Jon Scheyer's reknowned facial expressions, every time Duke visited College Park.

But this?

This is awesome on a whole different level.

On Friday, Florida will be visiting the Cintas Center in Cincinnati to take on Xavier. The Cintas Center concessions stands will have a special meal available during the game for the occasion -- fried gator.

Seriously. Here's a picture:


This is so awesome, and totally worth the $10 it would cost to get four "wings" (although, I'm not exactly sure how you get wings off of a gator).

To all the home courts across the country, the bar has officially been set.

(h/t RTC via John Clay)
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Thursday's Pregame Beat: Some Big 5 action, and a intriguing battle in the midwest

7:00 pm: Temple @ No. 8 Villanova: Big 5 basketball is about as good as it gets in terms of historic rivalries. Temple and Villanova just so happen to be the best two teams in the Big 5 this season, meaning that this matchup tonight has more at stake than just a quality non-conference victory.

Temple is known for the defense, but in terms of efficiency, Villanova is actually the better team this season. The Wildcats have some tough and versatile defenders as well as some size on the interior. When Villanova wants to defend, they are very tough to score on. The issue for both these teams, however, has been the play of their stars. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns were supposed to be the guys that carried the torch for Villanova this season, and both have gotten off to slow starts. For Temple, both Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez have been a bit disappointing this season.

8:00 pm: Old Dominion @ No. 10 Missouri: This will be quite an interesting matchup, to say the least. On one hand, we have Missouri, a team that likes to play press full court and get the tempo going up and down. On the other hand, you have Old Dominion, a group of rugged kids that want to keep the pace slow and love to attack the offensive glass. Missouri isn't that great on the defensive glass, but they force a lot of turnovers and the Monarchs have had problems protecting the ball this season. My recommendation? Never ignore a game that Mizzou is playing in. Not this season, anyway.

10:00 pm: Arizona @ Oregon; Arizona State @ Oregon State: If you are going to start the Pac-10 season on the road, you can't ask for a much easier task than heading to the Oregon schools. Arizona and Arizona State both need a sweep this weekend if they are going to compete atop the league.

Other Notable Games:

  • 7:00 pm: No. 16 BYU @ Buffalo
  • 7:30 pm: Princeton @ No. 21 UCF
  • 8:00 pm; Lipscomb @ No. 22 Memphis
  • 6:00 pm: Pepperdine @ Miami FL
  • 7:30 pm: New Hampshire @ VCU
  • 8:00 pm: Alcorn State @ Ole Miss
  • 8:00 pm: TCU @ Tulsa
  • 8:00 pm: Iowa State @ Virginia
  • 8:00 pm: Savannah State @ Southern Miss
  • 8:05 pm: Oakland @ Oral Roberts
  • 10:00 pm: Central Michigan @ UNLV

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Conference Play Primer: The Big XII

Favorite: Kansas Jayhawks

Much like the ACC and the Big Ten, the favorite in the Big XII is pretty easy to identify. That isn't because Kansas has been blowing their opponents away. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. The Jayhawks struggled to beat both UCLA and USC at home, needed a spark from a near brawl at Cal to finally put the Bears away, and were unable to put away teams like Memphis, Arizona, Colorado State, and Texas-Arlington when they jumped out to early leads. But the talent on this roster is undeniable, and that was before Josh Selby joined the team in mid-December. This team still has a way to go in terms of maturity and meshing and learning to play together, and I think they may actually be better with Thomas Robinson (who didn't start until Marcus Morris was benched after his ejection against Cal) providing a physical low post presence alongside one of the Morrii, but they will get there. And once they do, we are going to hear a lot of talk about Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas being the nation's three best teams.


Player of the Year: Jordan Hamilton, Texas

Hamilton has improved so much since his freshman season, averaging a league-high (until LaceDarius Dunn logs enough games to be eligible) 19.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg while shooting 42.3% from deep. He's still a gunner. That is not ever going to change. Hamilton was made to score points. But he's become much better at knowing what is a good shot and what is a bad shot. He's still a bit of a streaky shooter, but now his off games are 6-15 nights, not 2-15 nights. The Longhorns are a legitimate contender in the Big XII, and quite possibly the second best team in the league. With a freshman starting at the point and at center, Hamilton has been forced into the leadership role for this team, and he has embraced it. Texas fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because this kid is well on his way to the NBA Lottery.

All-Conference Team:

  • G: Marcus Denmon, Missouri: 17.2 ppg, 2.1 spg, 49.3% 3PT
  • G: LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor: 21.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
  • F: Marshal Moses, Oklahoma State: 17.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg
  • F: Marcus Morris, Kansas: 15.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg
  • F: Markieff Morris, Kansas: 13.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg
Biggest Surprise: Texas A&M Aggies

I don't want to say that I wrote off the Aggies in the preseason, because it isn't true at all. I thought this team at a shot of playing their way onto the bubble. But with the number of quality seniors that were graduating, I never expected Mark Turgeon to have this team on the verge of the top 25 this early in the season, especially not after they lost to Boston College early in the season. But with that BC loss looking better (Less bad? More acceptable?) and subsequent wins over Temple, Washington, and Arkansas, the Aggies look like they round out the top six in a talented Big XII conference. The biggest reason why has been the emergence of 6'6" forward Khris Middleton has a potential first team all-conference performer. He's averaging 15.4 ppg on the season, which combined with David Loubeau and Nathan Walkup has given the Aggies a very good front court. Turgeon's next task? Getting senoir point guard Dash Harris's shooting percentage up over 22.8%.


Biggest Disappointment: Kansas State Wildcats

The Wildcats were supposed to be one of the best teams in the country this season. They were supposed to be competing for the Final Four come March. Right now, they don't even look like a team that can finish in the top four of the Big XII. This team is talented, but size and athleticism will only get you so far. Jacob Pullen is the only player on this team that can really create his own shot, and he has not been able to find a rhythm yet this season. The same might be able to be said about Curtis Kelly, but Kelly is dealing with his second suspension of the season right now while Pullen will be returning from this three game suspension the next time K-State takes the court. Frank Martin's club plays hard and physical, but without senior leadership, this team far too often looks like they don't have any direction. What's worse is that this team's flaws look very difficult to solve. K-State may just be a middle of the pack Big XII team this season.

Teams to keep in mind:
  • Missouri: Missouri is the most exciting team in the country to watch. Not just because they play an uptempo brand of basketball, but because every game they play seems to be a nailbiter. They have an excellent back court this season and Ricardo Ratliffe has provided them a solid low-post presence, but I'd argue the most important player on this team is versatile big man Laurence Bowers.
  • Baylor: Its a good thing for the Bears that Kansas State has been as bad as they have been this year because it saved them from being the biggest disappointment. A lot of was expected of this team, but heading into Big XII play, their only win outside of Waco, TX, came in Hawaii against San Diego. They will be fine -- there is too much talent on this team for them not to be -- but its crazy that we thought this team could be better than last year despite losing Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter.
  • Oklahoma State: Keiton Page is one of the most unlikely really, really good scorers in the country, while Marshall Moses has turned into a star. This team could wind up in the Big Dance.
  • Iowa State: Seriously. I don't expect this team to make the NCAA tournament, but with guys like Diante Garrett and Scott Christopherson playing well for new head coach Fred Hoiberg, don't be surprised is the Cyclones catch one of the Big XII's big boys sleeping this season.
Teams to forget about:
  • Colorado: Alec Burks and Cory Higgins are awesome on the perimeter. The rest of the Colorado roster looks like they would be better off playing for Northern Arizona.
  • Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are 10-2, but they also just lost their best player, who left the school to either transfer or head overseas for a contract.
  • Texas Tech: I'm not sure what is going on with this team. With two senior stars leading an experienced group, I expected more than 6-7.
  • Oklahoma: Duh.

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Xavier loses another player

Xavier caught a couple of breaks during the Christmas holiday.

Specifically, Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway, who were both stranded in their native New York by a massive blizzard that blanketed the region and made travel near impossible, were able to make it back to Cincinnati in time for their Tuesday night game against Albany.

But Xavier also caught a bad break this week.

Freshman Jay Canty, a 6'6" wing that was playing 9.5 mpg, will be out at least a month with a broken right foot. He joins Brad Redford (torn acl) and Justin Martin (ineligible) as Musketeers that are unable to play.

The leaves X with just nine healthy scholarship players. Essentially, their back court only goes three deep, with Lyons, Holloway, and Dante Jackson being the only guards in what is now a seven-man Xavier rotation. To make matters worse, those three are generally on the court at the same time, meaning Xavier will not have a scholarship player to back up anyone on the perimeter.

That's scary.
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Marshawn Powell gets suspended

It has been a while since we have heard about trouble coming out of Fayetteville, AR, but apparently it was only a matter of time.

Sophomore Marshawn Powell, who averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.6 rpg as a freshman, has been suspended by head coach Dennis the Menace John Pelphrey. This came on the heels of Powell seeing his playing time severely diminished -- he only played one minute against Texas Southern after playing just 10 minutes at Texas A&M -- and is only averaging 7.4 ppg and 3.6 rpg.

Some of that is a result of Powell battling back from a broken foot he suffered over the summer. Apparently there is something else going on as well:

Pelphrey has consistently declined to comment on the reason why Powell's play was diminished.

Most recently, Powell was late getting back from the Christmas break, reporting that he was involved in a traffic accident in his home state of Virginia.

"We sat down and had a little talk on (Tuesday), after he got back," Pelphrey said. "I think he took it pretty well. He is still a part of this basketball team and I think he knows he needs to do some things to get back out on the floor with the team. It is a fluid situation and can be as short or as long as it needs to be."
It certainly has to be frustrating for Razorback fans.

Arkansas may very well be the best team in the SEC West this season, which, admittedly, isn't saying all that much. Still, with Rotnei Clarke being joined with guys like Julysses Nobles and Delvon Johnson, Arkansas has some pieces this season.

If Pelphrey can get Powell to buy into what he selling, the Razorbacks will be a team to keep an eye on come conference play.
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Thursday Morning Dump

- Andy Glockner was a busy man yesterday. Here, he predicts the future of college hoops, at least for 2011. Glockner also explains how Harvard is getting into a position to win it's first Ivy League title since 1946

- John Shurna practiced today. He's hoping to play on Friday.

- Eamonn's rant about an email from a Kentucky fan is awesome.

- Two good reads from the WWL: Diamond Leung on Chris Fouch and Dana O'Neil on John Flowers.

- Crazy story about a high school team from Chicago. Three funerals in a week, makes coach download CPR iPhone app, saves a kid's life the next day.

- If you weren't already hyped for the Louisville/Kentucky tilt on New Year's Eve, then you'll be happy to know that Gus Johnson will be calling the action. Get hyped.

- Didn't have the time to do a post on this today, but Rick Pitino took advantage of the opportunity to explain why he is taking the gig as the head coach of the Puerto Rican national team while also throwing in a jab at Jeff Goodman.

- Speaking of Pitino, he made it seem as if Jared Swopshire is out for the season.

- An interesting-read on former Tulsa-star Herb Johnson. The 48-year-old is still playing professional basketball. Eat that Brett Favre

- Also worth the read is LostLetterman's top ten players you won't believe are still playing.

- Mark Lyons wasn't the only Xavier guard that had his travel plans get ruined by the blizzard in the Northeast. Tu Holloway had a tough trip back to Cincinnati as well.

- Not sure I agree with everything in this Andy Katz article about teams that will rise or fall on the shoulders of one player, but its a good read nonetheless.

- No rule-change has been as scrutinized as the limited-elbow rule. Syracuse's Rick Jackson was involved in an incident with Providence's Vincent Council last night

- Terrific read from Adam Zagoria on the state of Rutgers hoops.

- Despite the graduation of Ali Farokhmanesh, Northern Iowa, led by Lucas O'Rear, is looking to recapture the magic

- Iowa State guard to transfer

- Well, this would suck. Worst renovation ever?

- And your one non-hoops-related link of the day: The top-24 knockouts of the year

I totally could handle a ball like that when I was 12



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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thursday's Shootaround: Georgetown-Notre Dame, Pac-10 play kicks off, and video of a 60 foot buzzer beater in the MVC

No. 15 Notre Dame 69, No. 9 Georgetown 55: See here.

No. 1 Duke 108, UNC-Greensboro 62: I get it, ok? Coach K coaches at Duke. Dean Smith coached at UNC. Duke and UNC are rivals. Duke fans say Coach K is better than Dean Smith. UNC fans say Dean Smith was better than Coach K. All of that means that Coach K passing Dean Smith for second place on the all-time wins list is a big deal for folks on Tobacco Road.

Me? I could care less. Lifetime achievements don't carry much weight with me. Maybe when Coach K eventually sets the all-time record by passing Bobby Knight I'll care a bit more, but probably not. A record like that is fun to talk about, but its not the best way to determine whether Knight, Smith, or Krzyzewski was the better coach. Now that that is over with, can we go back to talking about whether or not Duke can repeat with Andre Dawkins starting instead of Kyrie Irving?

Moving on.

Vanderbilt 77, Marquette 76: Once again, the Golden Eagles lose a close, hard-fought game. This was a the definition of a back and forth affair. Vandy jumped out to a 16-5 lead before Marquette fought back to go into the break up 37-34. Buzz Williams' boys pushed that lead to seven before a 21-6 Vanderbilt run put the Commodores back in control. But Marquette wasn't going to go away, turning three consecutive Vanderbilt turnovers into three consecutive layups to spark a late run.

Down 75-74 with under 30 seconds left, Marquette moved the ball around before Darius Johnson-Odom found Dwight Buycks, who stepped into what appeared to be a three pointer. But Buycks' step put his right toe on the line, meaning that Marquette would only take a 76-75 lead. It would prove costly, as the 'Dores executed beatifully at the other end, avoiding panic as they moved the ball, eventually finding Andre Walker for a layup with 4.1 seconds left. Johnson-Odom slipped and lost the ball as he tried to drive at the other end, and Vandy left with the win.

Marquette now has four losses this season -- by five to Duke, by three to Gonzaga, by five to Wisconsin, and by one to Vandy. Last season, the same thing happened to the Golden Eagles, but midway through conference play they started figuring out how to win close games. They'll need that to happen again this year.

UCLA 80, Washington State 71: The Bruins jumped on the newly-minted sleeper pick in the Pac-10 in the second half, erasing a double digit deficit as Reeves Nelson (21 points, 11 boards) and Zeke Jones (10 points, 11 assists) both posted double-doubles. This was a huge win for UCLA. If they seriously wanted to contend for a conference title, they needed, at the least, a split this weekend. They are guaranteed of that split now, and have a chance to sweep the Washington schools with a win over U-Dub on Friday.

Washington 73, USC 67 OT: Nikola Vucevic had 28 points and 14 rebounds, hitting two free throws with 1:15 left to tie the game at 55 and force OT, but the Huskies were too much. They overcame a 16-4 deficit early on, getting 18 apiece from Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Terrence Ross, while Justin Holiday had five of his 12 points to spark an early overtime run. This win is important because the Huskie's have not had a significant victory on the road in the league since a January '09 win at Arizona State. Who knows if this win will be meaningful come March, but this is the start U-Dub needed in league play.

No. 3 Kansas 82, UT-Arlington 57: Thomas Robinson started and had 20 points and 10 boards. Josh Selby started and went just 1-9 from the floor with two points.

St. John's 81, West Virginia 71: The Johnnies picked up a nice win at West Virginia, shooting 61% from the floor and beating up the Mounties in the paint. DJ Kennedy had one of the stranger lines I've seen this year, going for 17 points, 11 boards, and 6 assists on just 3-3 shooting. Second good win for St. John's in as many weeks, after they knocked off Northwestern at MSG. For WVU, the question right now seems to be confidence -- they aren't playing with any. The mean streak and the desperation they had every possession last season is gone. And tonight, they took 36 three pointers. That is way, way too many.

No. 25 Illinois 87, Iowa 77: So the Illini shot 13-18 from three and 66.7% from the floor overall, and only beat the Hawkeyes by 10?

Rhode Island 67, Boston College 65: Orion Outerbridge had 12 points in his first game back from suspension as Rhody picked up a solid win against the Eagles.

New Mexico 61, Texas Tech 60: The Lobos overcame an early deficit and held on late as Tech missed some free throws to get out of Lubbock with a win.

Missouri State 58, Northern Iowa 57: This highlight package has a bit of everything -- a 60 foot halfcourt buzzer beater from UNI, and a game-winning three ball from MSU:



Other Notable Games:

  • No. 21 UCF 71, Furman 53
  • Clemson 71, East Carolina 59
  • Richmond 90, Wake Forest 74
  • Dayton 73, George Mason 67
  • South Carolina 56, Jacksonville State 49
  • Southern Miss 91, MVSU 46
  • Colorado 92, UMES 65
  • Gonzaga 83, Lafayette 55
  • Utah State 74, Hawaii 66

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Wednesday's Pregame Beat: Georgetown-Notre Dame highlight the early games, while Wazzu/U-Dub visit UCLA/USC

7:00 pm: No. 9 Georgetown @ No. 15 Notre Dame: I said it in our Big East conference play primer -- I think that the Hoyas are the best team in the conference. They have a terrific back court, an underrated front court, and are as well-coached -- and as receptive to good coaching -- as any team in the country.

If Georgetown is the best team in the league, Notre Dame may as well be dubbed the Great Unknown. Of the Big East teams that actually have a chance at getting to the NCAA Tournament, the Irish are the team that I am having the most trouble pegging. I love their versatility offensively. They can play big with Tyrone Nash and Jack Cooley up front and Abromaitis at the two. Or they can use Scott Martin and Carleton Scott up front with Ben Hansbrough and Eric Atkins in the back court, allowing them to play more of a five out offense. They still play at more of a deliberate pace than we are used to seeing out of a Mike Brey team; call it the Luke Harangody hangover.

But what is this team's identity. Are they a defensive team? Are they a three point shooting team? Are they really as good as they looked in winning the Old Spice Classic, or is the second half against Kentucky (when they scored 18 points) more indicative of this team's potential. Hopefully, I'll be able to figure that out tonight.

9:00 pm: Marquette @ Vanderbilt: This is an interesting matchup between two teams in the middle of the pack of their respective conferences power structure. I don't generally like using the term scrappy to define a team, but its tough to find another adjective that correctly defines Marquette. (Feisty? Pesky?) They are exactly the same as every Marquette team the past five years. Versatile forwards, talented guards, play hard. Vanderbilt is flying a bit under the radar right now. They have size, they have shooting, and they have athleticism, but its never a good sign when your point guard is Brad Tinsley.

9:00 pm: No. 25 Illinois @ Iowa: The Illini kick off their Big Ten season with a trip to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. Illinois should handle this one easily, but they also should have beaten Illinois-Chicago easily.

10:30 pm: Washington @ USC: USC has been much improved over the past three weeks or so, especially now that they have Jio Fontan on the roster. We get a chance to see them play against Pac-10 favorite Washington tonight. We should get a feel for whether or not this team will actually make any noise in league play.

11:00 pm: Washington State @ UCLA: This is one of the most important games of the Pac-10 season. UCLA has the talent to compete for the league title, but if they are going to, winning home games against the other teams near the top of the league -- the Washington schools -- is vital. UCLA got a boost yesterday when it was announced that the Bruins would have Tyler Honeycutt in uniform.

7:00 pm: St. John's @ West Virginia: The Mountaineers looked awesome early in the season, but as Bobby Huggins tries to get this team to play the way he demands, WVU has slipped a bit. They aren't losing game, but they also are not playing as well as many expected. St. John's is a question mark heading into the Big East season. They lost to Fordham and St. Bonaventure, but they looked awesome in the second half against Northwestern, hitting 16-20 from the floor.

Other Notable Games:

  • 7:00 pm: UNC-Greensboro @ No. 1 Duke
  • 9:00 pm: Tx-Arlington @ No. 3 Kansas
  • 7:00 pm: Furman @ No. 21 UCF
  • 7:00 pm: Boston College @ URI
  • 7:00 pm: East Carolina @ Clemson
  • 7:00 pm: Wake Forest @ Richmond
  • 7:00 pm: George Mason @ Dayton
  • 7:00 pm: UT-Martin @ Tennessee
  • 7:30 pm: Wofford @ VCU
  • 8:00 pm: North Carolina A&M @ Arkansas
  • 8:00 pm: North Florida @ Maryland
  • 8:00 pm: MVSU @ Southern Miss
  • 8:00 pm: New Mexico @ Texas Tech
  • 8:05 pm: Missouri State @ Northern Iowa
  • 8:30 pm: Lafayette @ Gonzaga
  • 9:00 pm: Hawaii @ Utah State
  • 11:00 pm: Mississippi State @ St. Mary's

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Conference Play Primer: The Pac-10

Favorite: Washington Huskies

Washington has dropped out of the national top 25. Part of the reason for that is U-Dub once again has started the season slowly, going 8-3 in non-conference play without a marquee win, unless you consider beating Texas Tech or Virginia a marquee win. That said, Washington doesn't have a bad loss year, either. They lost close games to Kentucky and Michigan State in the Maui Invitational before losing by one to Texas A&M, who has climbed all the way into the top 25, on the road. Its enough that Kenpom has the Huskies sitting pretty at fifth in the country. It generally isn't a good idea to argue with Kenpom, either. Washington is deep -- ten guys average at least 13.0 mpg and no one plays more than 27.0 mpg -- and they are balanced -- all ten of those players average at least 5.4 ppg. They have athletes, they have shooters, they have playmakers, and they have defenders. You know about Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, so I'm going to mention Justin Holiday, Jrue's brother, who has been great thus far in his senior season. He's averaging 12.5 ppg and 6.2 rpg and has been just as good as Venoy Overton on the defensive end of the floor.


Player of the Year: Derrick Williams, Arizona

With all due respect going to Klay Thompson of Washington State, Williams is my early season pick for Pac-10 player of the year. It isn't just because of the numbers he puts up. Williams averages 19.7 ppg and 7.0 rpg while scoring at an insanely high efficiency -- he averages more than two points per shot attempt, as he is knocking down 63.2% from the floor and 68.4% from three. Its the fact that he is putting up these numbers without a true point guard on the floor with him. Williams is much improved at getting his own shot. At 6'8", he has enough athleticism and quickness that he will likely be a combo-forward in the NBA, but his perimeter skills are still dragging a bit behind his tools. He's improved -- his three point shooting percentage proves that, and he was also become adept at driving left from the perimeter -- but he's still a guy that would benefit from a point guard that could get him the ball in better spots to score. Thompson's numbers are better, but so is his supporting cast.

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas, Washington: 15.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.8 apg
  • G: Faisal Aden, Washington State: 16.1 ppg, 41.9% 3PT
  • F: Klay Thompson, Washington State: 22.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.3 spg, 42% 3PT
  • F: Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington: 13.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.4 bpg
  • C: Nikola Vucevic, USC: 15.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Biggest Surprise: Washington State

The Cougars finished in last place in the Pac-10 in 2010. Dead last in a conference that many considered to be one of the worst of the decade. With their core basically intact this season, most expected an improvement out of Wazzu, but I doubt many people expected them to become a legitimate contender for the conference crown, a potential tournament team, and a group that is on the edge of cracking the top 25. There are still some concerns that I have -- DeAngelo Casto still isn't much more than a dunker and is a bit of a hot head, Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden are both a bit soft, they don't have much quality depth. Having said that, Thompson's performance in the Diamond Head Classic should help rid him of the "soft" label, and Reggie Moore's return from injury has given this group a big boost. There are not many teams in the country with a perimeter as good as Wazzu's.


Biggest Disappointment: UCLA Bruins

Simply put, there is too much talent on this team for Ben Howland's club to be struggling like this. Their front line, on paper, looks as good as anyone in the country. Joshua Smith is a force on the block when he decides to be, Reeves Nelson is a blue-collar forward that has improved this season, and Tyler Honeycutt has the tools to be a first round pick. Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson are blue-chip recruits. Zeke Jones, Tyler Lamb, and Brendan Lane are all capable players. So why the struggles? This team doesn't defend the way Ben Howland teams should defend. Jones and Anderson -- and the entire back court, for that matter -- have a habit of making the wrong decision in critical junctures. They don't get up for games against lesser competition -- UCLA nearly beat Kansas on the road, then lost to Montana at home, beat BYU, then nearly lost to Montana State and UC Irvine. Can we pin all of that on leadership? Who knows, but with the talent UCLA has, they should be a Pac-10 favorite. Few outside of Westwood currently believe that.

Teams to keep an eye on:
  • USC: The Trojans have been a different team the last month, and that was true before they added Jio Fontan, who is averaging 16.7 ppg and 3.3 apg, to the mix. They knocked off Texas at home by 17 (without Fontan) and they beat Tennessee on the road after coming up a couple of Josh Selby jumpers short of beating Kansas in the Phog. Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson are big enough to compete with anyone up front, and the tandem of Maurice Jones and Fontan has been tough to handle through three games.
  • Cal: There are some decent pieces on the Bears. Jorge Gutierrez is good, as is Harper Kamp. A 25 point win over New Mexico is nice, but I think their five point first half against Notre Dame is probably a better indication of how good this team is.
  • Arizona State: This is charity, because I think Arizona State has some talent. On the perimeter, they are loaded, with guys like Ty Abbott, Rihard Kuksiks, Jamelle McMillan, and Trent Lockett. But up front, they are relying on the undersized Kyle Cain. And that's about it.
Teams to forget about:
  • Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State: These are just not good basketball teams.

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Wednesday Morning Dump

- There is a reason that Gary Parrish is one of the most enjoyable reads when it comes to college hoops. Columns like this are that reason. I would block quote something, but it goes against blogger ethics to block quote an entire column.

- Jeremy Hazell spoke about getting shot on Christmas day. Pretty terrifying stuff. The good news is that he was able to make it to Seton Hall's game against South Florida last night.

- Marcus Morris was thrown out of a game against Cal last week for a series of elbows he sent towards Harper Kamp. The result? The bench. Thomas Robinson will be starting for the Jayhawks up front against UT-Arlington. As will Josh Selby, since Tyshawn Taylor got stuck in New Jersey with the blizzard that hit over the weekend.

- The pearl of Chris Mack's 2011 recruiting class at Xavier has decommitted from the school. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera has decided to reopen his recruitment in an effort to get a better feel for some of the other schools that showed interest. Xavier is still in the running, and as we all learned with Myck Kabongo, that does hold weight.

- I read Play Their Hearts Out. I loved Play Their Hearts Out. I became a fan of Roberto Nelson while reading Play Their Hearts Out. He debuted earlier in December after missing a year and a half getting his grades in order. George Dohrmann, the author of the book, highlights the heartbreaking reason that Nelson's grades went down the drain in the first place.

- Tyler Honeycutt will be in the lineup for UCLA as the Bruins take on the Washington schools in the Pac-10's opening weekend. That's huge for UCLA. If the Bruins really want a shot at the conference title and a tournament berth, they need to get these two wins at home.

- According to this Andy Katz report, Rick Stansbury is trying to work through what actually happened between Elgin Bailey and Renardo Sidney before making any decisions. Apparently, Bailey wouldn't move his feet from the aisle when Sidney tried to walk by, and one thing led to another until the two were throwing haymakers at each other.

- Seth Davis with his midseason superlatives column. There isn't much I can legitimately disagree with in there. Love the dap he sent Norris Cole's way.

- Hopefully, we will know more about Kyrie Irving's toe injury next week.

- Matt Norlander put together a pretty informative breakdown of Florida State and Chris Singleton.

- Well, he needs to do something. Right now, Tom Crean needs results, not recruits. That said, playing five guards probably isn't the answer.

- Derrick Williams is only "quietly" in the player of the year race if you aren't paying attention. Or if you live on the East Coast. Can Big East fans even name all the Pac-10 teams anymore? Didn't they just add Fresno State? Who can keep track of those conferences anymore ... Maybe he is quietly in the race.

- John Shurna's ankle injury could play a big role in Northwestern's chances at the NCAA Tournament.

- This is big. Really big. I'd equate it to Bobby Knight talking about rebounding percentage's in a broadcast.

- Despite an earlier report that he was already committed to Memphis, Seton Hall transfer Ferrakhan Hall is still weighing his options.

- Minnesota freshman big man Maurice Walker is out for the year after tearing his PCL.

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Wednesday's Shootaround: Wisconsin kicks off Big Ten play with a win over Minnesota

This post can also be found at Beyond the Arc.

(A quick programming note: the BIAH morning shootarounds will now also be posted on BTA every morning. Instead of writing the same thing twice about some of the bigger games of the night, we will be linking to any individual post done on those games. Saves us some time. And yes, our time is that valuable. Bloons Tower Defense 4 isn't going to beat itself.)

Wisconsin 68, Minnesota 60: See here.

Purdue 80, Michigan 57: See here.

Syracuse 81, Providence 74: For the second straight game, Kris Joseph set a career-high, dropping 27 points on the Friars (he had 25 against Drexel) as Syracuse remained undefeated. Once again, Rick Jackson was a monster on the glass, collecting 17 rebounds. James Southerland, a sophomore that is finally getting some consistent minutes with CJ Fair's injury, continued to play well, scoring eight points and knocking down a couple of threes. He's another lanky, athletic forward for the Orange, and his ability to knock down threes at the four spot could help create some space inside and as well as answering some of the questions regarding Syracuse's perimeter shooting woes.

Providence, on the other hand, seems to be one of the more overlooked teams in the Big East. Not much was expected of this team, as they lost some valuable pieces in the offseason and have 11 freshmen on the roster, but this is a scrappy group that will be a tough out all season long. Marshon Brooks broke the 25 point barrier for the eighth straight game, while Vincent Council (10 points, 8 boards, 7 assists), Bilal Dixon (11 points, 9 boards) and Gerard Coleman (12 points) all played well, especially in the second half.

Cincinnati 76, DePaul 60: The Bearcats got 20 points out of Dion Dixon has they remained undefeated in their Big East opener.

Xavier 88, Albany 64: Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway should get stuck in snowstorms before every game. Lyons, who rode with Albany from Albany to the game, had 18 points and 5 assists, including five first half threes, while Holloway added 11 points and 9 dimes.

St. Bonaventure 82, Siena 79: Andrew Nicholson had 26 points and 7 boards to lead the Bonnies to another solid win.

Other Notable Games

  • No. 12 Kentucky 91, Coppin State 61
  • NC State 82, Alabama A&M 51
  • Georgia 70, CSU 55
  • Morehead State 76, Kent State 59
  • Seton Hall 64, South Florida 55
  • UNC 78, Rutgers 55
  • Alabama 83, Pepperdine 60
  • Stanford 60, Yale 44
  • Colorado State 69, San Francisco 61
  • Cal 74, Hartford 56

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Conference Play Primer: The Big Ten

Favorite: Ohio State

The favorite in the Big Ten is pretty easy to identify right now. Ohio State is playing as well as anyone in the country -- in fact, they overtook Duke as the No. 1 team in Kenpom's rankings. Offensively, this group is terrific. Their offense is based around the play of Jared Sullinger, the freshman big man that is on the short list for first team all-american. He's a bully on the block that plays with the strength and the savvy of a veteran. Its not just Sullinger, however. David Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler are all capable of going off for 25 points if the situation calls for it. Dallas Lauderdale blocks shots, Aaron Craft has proven to be a solid point guard as a freshman, and DeShaun Thomas is instant offense coming off of the bench. The thing that is so impressive about this team, however, is that every player understands and has bought into their role. The Buckeyes are going to be a tough team to beat.


Player of the Year: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

The a Player of the Year thus far is probably Sullinger, but seeing as I just talked about the Buckeyes, let's mix it up a bit, eh? Northwestern's John Shurna has been terrific this season. He's averaging 23.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 3.4 apg. (Those numbers would be better if he didn't miss half of Northwestern's last game against Mt. St. Mary's with an ankle injury.) He's shooting 61.1% from the field and an absurd 62.3% from three, taking more than five per game. He's a huge reason that the Wildcats have gotten off to this 9-1 start. The problem? Northwestern still hasn't beaten anybody. This is a program that has never made the NCAA Tournament, and with guys like Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford around Shurna, this may be the year. We will get a real feel for the legitness (I know that's not a word, but it should be) of Northwestern after their first three Big Ten games -- at Purdue, home for Michigan State, at Illinois.

All-Conference Team:

  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois: 15.7 ppg, 7.5 apg, 49.2% 3PT
  • G: E'Twaun Moore, Purdue: 19.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 spg
  • F: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin: 19.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 50% 3PT, 1.8 bpg
  • F: John Shurna, Northwestern: 23.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.4 apg
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: 19.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Biggest Surprise: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota had a bit of hype coming into the season, but not enough to warrant much consideration nationally for the top 25. Boy, did we miss on that. The Gophers blew through the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and, at one point in the season, climbed all the way into the top ten. The biggest reason has been the addition of Trevor Mbakwe, a strong, athletic power forward that is a perfect complement to Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson, as he is averaging 13.3 ppg and 9.8 rpg on the season. Minnesota hit a rough patch in December, dropping a home game to Virginia, as they dealt with their starting point guard Al Nolen, their best perimeter defender and distributor, sitting out. With Nolen in the lineup, and guys like Blake Hoffarber and Rodney Williams having good seasons on the wing, this team can compete with anyone in the conference.


Biggest Disappointment: Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans are currently 8-4 on the season. Not a great start, especially by a team that was considered Duke's biggest challenger in the preseason. MSU has a bad habit of starting a season out slowly, and all of their four losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top 13 nationally. The bigger issue, however, is how the Spartans have looked in those losses. They are not playing like typical Tom Izzo clubs. Their defense is not where it needs to be and they aren't competing on the glass like we've come to expect out of Sparty. I have complete faith that Izzo will turn this thing around. There is just too much talent on that roster not too.

Teams to keep an eye on:
  • Illinois: There is talent up and down this lineup, led by Demetri McCamey, who is arguably the best back court player in this league. But Illinois has been, well, Illinois -- they settle for too many jumpers and are too soft on the interior.
  • Wisconsin: Jon Leuer has been unbelievable early in the season, Jordan Taylor's filled Trevon Hughes' shoes, and Bo Ryan is still coaching this team. The Badgers will always be in the discussion with him at the helm.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers have arguably the best 1-2 punch in the conference in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. They defend as well as anyone in the country. If they continue to get solid performances out of their role players, this team will make a lot of noise this winter.
Teams to forget about:
  • Indiana: Tom Crean has been cleaning up on the recruiting trail, landing seemingly every high-major talent in the state of Indiana. The problem with that? He is getting commitments from kids in the class of 2014, while his team is losing games at home to Penn State this season. Cean needs results, not recruits.
  • Penn State: I love Talor Battle. Jeff Brooks has been good this season as well. But a team that can lose at home to Maine is not a team that can compete with the big dogs in the Big Ten.
  • Michigan: John Beilein always has teams that are difficult to play against because of the system that he runs. The problem is that this season, he just doesn't have the talent level to be effective with that system. To make matters worse, his best player -- Darius Morris -- was benched at the start of Tuesday's game against Purdue.

Continue reading...

Billy Gillispie seems like a pretty miserable guy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about Billy Gillispie and a possibility that he could replace Pat Knight at Texas Tech.

I was against this idea. Why? Because, as I wrote, "Gillispie seems like a such a miserable person."

In that post, I linked to some of the past stories that came out about Gillispie. Well, Matt Jones of KSR got a former player to come on his show and talk about some of these instances. Check it out. Its pretty wild stuff:


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Purdue's win over Michigan highlights the performance of the Boilermaker's 'other guys'

Purdue opened Big Ten play this afternoon with an 80-57 win at Michigan.

Road wins in conference play are always impressive. Road wins by 23 points, regardless of opponent, are something that you don't see too often.

Could it be that the Boilermakers, even without Robbie Hummel, can still compete atop the Big Ten?

The issue, as everyone in the country has said since Hummel went down, will be whether or not Matt Painter can find a third scoring option. And over the last three weeks, Purdue, for the most part, has.


This afternoon, it was Ryne Smith, who had 17 points on 5-6 shooting from three, and Terone Johnson, who added 10, that gave the Boilermakers a boost. Against IPFW, it was DJ Byrd chipping in with 15 points. Against North Florida, Byrd, Smith, Johnson, and Lewis Jackson combined for 40 points.

Purdue is going to rely heavily on the combination of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Johnson is playing the best basketball of his life right now, averaging 25.5 ppg over the last four games. Moore isn't playing quite at that pace, but he has hit double figures in every game this season. Combined, the two are averaging 39.2 ppg and 13.7 rpg.

Against better teams, those two are not going to get any kind space without contributions from elsewhere in the lineup.

But with the defense Purdue has played this season (third in the nation, according to Kenpom), its not going to take much for Purdue to win some games.

If their role players continue to step up, this Boilermaker team is going to be one you want to keep an eye on.
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Tuesday's Pregame Beat: Wisconsin and Minnesota kick off Big Ten play

Once again, afternoon hoops has thrown a wrench into the Pregame Beatage. If you missed it, Purdue went into Ann Arbor and lit up Michigan 80-57. But just because the Boilermakers played this afternoon doesn't mean we can't discuss a solid slate of hoops tonight.

7:00 pm: No. 13 Minnesota @ No. 24 Wisconsin: With all due respect to Purdue and Michigan, as well as Indiana and Penn State, tonight is the real kick off of the Big Ten season as the Gophers and the Badgers provide us with our first marquee matchup. Minnesota has been a bit up and down this season. They came basically out of no where to storm through the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament and into everyone's top 25 before struggling through the rest of the non-conference portion of their schedule as Al Nolen battled an injury. Well, Nolen is now back in the lineup, providing Tubby Smith's club with their best perimeter defender and playmaker.

That playmaking ability will be key tonight as Wisconsin one of the most efficient and effective half court teams in the country. They Badgers have yet to really hit their stride this season, but if you now anything about college basketball, you know that Wisconsin never has any preseason hype and is always in the thick of the Big Ten race.

The key in this one is going to be the front courts. Minnesota is big. Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson, and Colton Iverson can matchup inch for inch and pound for pound with just about any front line in the country, but none of those three bigs are a good matchup defensively with the versatile Jon Leuer. Big Ten basketball isn't always pretty, but this one should be a dandy nonetheless.

9:00 pm: Providence @ No. 5 Syracuse: This is an interesting matchup. Providence wasn't expected to do much in the Big East this season, but here they are at 11-2 heading into conference play. Syracuse is as good as anyone in the league defensively, but offensively they are not quite as dangerous as they were last year. If Providence can rebound the ball on the defensive end and push the ball, getting shots before the Orange zone can get set, they have a chance. As an added bonus, if you haven't had a chance to see Marshon Brooks play (which most of the country hasn't), I'd recommend tuning into ESPNU. He's averaging 23.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg.

Other Notable Games:

  • 7:00 pm: Coppin State @ No. 12 Kentucky
  • 4:00 pm: Alabama A&M @ NC State
  • 7:00 pm: CSU @ Georgia
  • 7:00 pm: DePaul @ Cincinnati
  • 7:00 pm: Kent State @ Morehead State
  • 7:00 pm: Albany @ Xavier
  • 7:00 pm: South Florida @ Seton Hall
  • 9:00 pm: UNC vs. Rutgers in MSG
  • 10:30 pm: Hartford @ Cal

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Conference Play Primer: The ACC

Favorite: Duke Blue Devils

I'm not expecting too much of an argument on that one. Not only is Duke the No. 1 team in the country right now -- even without Kyrie Irving -- but the rest of the ACC has been just pitiful. People are legitimately discussing whether or not Duke has a chance to go undefeated this season, and I guarantee that there are more people that think Duke won't lose a game than think the Blue Devils won't win the ACC.


Player of the Year: Reggie Jackson, Boston College

There are a number of legitimate Player of the Year options in the ACC at this point in the season, but I'm going with Jackson. He's second in the conference in both scoring (19.2) and assists (5.0) while grabbing 4.4 rpg and shooting an obscene 50.9% from three. He's also been the catalyst in BC's resurgence under Steve Donahue, carrying the team to a 10-2 mark here early in the season, which includes a win on the road against Maryland in their ACC opener. As crazy as it may sound, BC might just be the second best team in the ACC. And Reggie Jackson is the reason why.

All-Conference Team:

  • G: Nolan Smith, Duke: 17.1 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.6 rpg
  • F: Kyle Singler, Duke: 17.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg
  • F: Chris Singleton, FSU: 14.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 spg, 2.4 bpg
  • F: Mike Scott, UVa: 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg (takes Kyrie Irving's spot)
  • C: Jordan Williams, Maryland: 18.2 ppg, 11.9 rpg
Biggest Surprise: Virginia Tech Hokies

Boston College has probably been the only team in the conference that has been a surprise in a positive way. Since I don't want to talk about the Eagles, I'll go the other direction. This was supposed to be Virginia Tech's year to breakthrough. With senior Malcolm Delaney leading this way, the Hokie's were going to have the supporting cast around the ACC Player of the Year as they gave Duke a run for their money atop the conference. That was the plan, anyway. Then Allan Chaney had a heart condition discovered, JT Thompson tore his acl, and Virginia Tech struggled through the non-conference portion of their schedule before finding out that Dorenzo Hudson, last year's leading scorer, would miss the rest of the season due to injury. Without a quality win, and with very few quality wins available in the ACC this year, it looks as if the Hokies will once again miss the NCAA Tournament.

Biggest Disappointment: Harrison Barnes

Since I'm not going to simply answer "the conference as a whole" (because that would be too correct accurate easy), I'll go with Barnes. Barnes has been far from bad this season. He is the Tar Heel's second leading scorer at 12.3 ppg, which, as an incoming freshman, is commendable. The problem is that with the hype bestowed upon this young man this season, "commendable" is not good enough. Barnes was named CBSSports.com preseason national Player of the Year and became the first freshman to ever be named an AP Preseason All-American. Its not his fault that he had this much hype coming in, but he certainly hasn't lived up to those expectations. Its not an issue of talent, it seems more to be an issue of confidence. Barnes is not playing as aggressive as many expected him to, and he certainly isn't shooting the ball all that well. There is still time for him to turn things around. Personally, I'm hoping he will; Barnes seems like a genuinely good kid.


Teams to keep an eye on:
  • NC State: Don't write off the Wolfpack just yet. If you remember, last year's leading scorer and rebounder, big man Tracy Smith, is still out of the lineup with a knee injury he suffered early on in the season. With as much young talent as Sidney Lowe has on that roster, missing your best and most experienced player was expected to yield some growing pains.
  • Florida State: Chris Singleton is probably the best individual defensive player in the country. With the Seminole's size, they are one of the best half court defensive teams in the country as well. Offense is their problem, as they don't seem to run anything at that end of the floor, but Singleton looked improved on that end at the Diamond Head Classic.
  • Maryland: The Terps have talent on their roster, especially in the front court where Jordan Williams anchors an athletic front line. Their issue is in the back court. Two freshmen and Adrian Bowie have been sharing point guard duties, and it hasn't gone all that well. Maryland has four losses, but all four were winnable games that the Terps cost themselves with poor decision making down the stretch.
  • North Carolina: There is just too much talent on this team to ignore. Will they put it all together? I don't know. But December is too early to write off a team with seven Burger Boys on the roster.
  • Miami FL: Two great guards, a hoss in the middle, and a couple of athletes on the wing? What more does a team need in this conference?
Teams to forget about:
  • Virginia Tech: Injuries and illnesses have just decimated this team's depth and talent level. Malcolm Delaney is a player, but there just isn't enough on this roster.
  • Georgia Tech: The loss to Kennesaw State was bad, as that team as not won a game since then. But then three days before Christmas the Yellow Jackets went to Siena and lost to a Saints team that was without Clarence Jackson and that had a banged up Ryan Rossiter in the second half. Paul Hewitt is lucky he got the contract he did after that Final Four season.

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Albany and Xavier have the holiday spirit

Jeff Goodman, the King of Scoop, snagged a nice bit of scoopage on Monday morning involving Mark Lyons, Xavier's second-leading scorer.

Lyons is a native of Schenectady, NY, a small, blue-collar city near Albany. Lyons was back home for the Christmas holiday, meaning that he was just like everyone else trying to travel on Sunday or Monday -- stuck. Thanks to a snow storm that did this.

While most of us enjoy being snowed in -- no work, no school, nothing but hot cocoa and sweats all day -- Lyons had a game to play in Cincinnati. Ironically, the game was against Albany. So what did Lyons do?

He rode with Albany, taking a 12 hour, overnight trip that put him into Cincinnati early yesterday morning.

"When Coach Mack called me and first told me about it, I said, 'I can't do that,'" Lyons told Goodman. "But it was the only way to get back."

Tu Holloway, a native of Hempstead, NY, which is on Long Island, was also supposed to travel with Albany, but he was unable to catch a train due to the weather.

"I've got him in a headlock right now," Albany head coach Will Brown joked early on in the ride. "One bottle of water and no food for the 12-hour trip. We're letting him watch the movie with our team, though, and I also gave him our scout on Xavier to study."

"It was obviously really, really nice of Will Brown to do this," Xavier head coach Chris Mack told Goodman.

"Hopefully, he doesn't get beat up on the way here."
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Tuesday's Shootaround: Pitt knocks off UConn

This post can also be found over at Beyond the Arc.

No. 6 Pitt 78, No. 4 UConn 63: See here.

Penn State 69, Indiana 60: In the Big East opener for both teams, the Nittany Lions got 23 points from Jeff Brooks and 19 from Talor Battle as they went into Assembly Hall and knocked off the Hoosiers. This is not a good sign for an Indiana program that is trying to rebuild. Just six days ago, the Nittany Lions lost by 10 at home to Maine.

No. 20 Louisville 104, Morgan State 74: The Cardinals got 31 points from Preston Knowles and 25 out of Kyle Kuric, but that wasn't the most impressive thing about last night. Louisville shot a ridiculous 17-23 from three. This coming just days after the Cards went 16-30 from deep against Western Kentucky. All of this happened to coincide with Mike Marra, who leads Louisville in three point attempts but is shooting 27%, getting injured.

No. 10 Missouri 97, Northern Illinois 61: Holy blowout. Mizzou was up 57-17 at the break, and the Tiger's held Xavier Silas, the NCAA's second leading scorer coming in, to just eight points on 2-12 shooting.

Other Notable Scores:

  • No. 2 Ohio State 100, UT-Martin 40
  • LSU 62, Southern 41
  • Clemson 76, Delaware State 41

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