Dec 30, 2012, 5:15 PM EDT
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our Missouri Valley Conference Catchup:
Favorite: No. 3 Louisville
Russ Smith has matured his game and is turning into a go-to scorer. Yes, he still takes a lot of shots and it wouldn’t hurt to shoot better than 43 percent from the field, but he is beginning to take better shots and, along with Peyton Siva, makes up one of the nation’s toughest backcourts.
The Orange suffered their first loss of the season to Temple, due in large part to the Owls’ ability to force Michael Carter-Williams away from distributing and into scoring the ball. Once he gets back to facilitating the offense, Syracuse will keep running like a well-oiled machine.
They climbed as high as 8th in the national polls before a loss to New Mexico. That will likely be as high as they get all season, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a legitimate Sweet 16 contender. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright are dangerous.
The backcourt duo of James Robinson and Tray Woodall is proving to be a good one. Talib Zanna’s development has helped to solidify the Panthers’ inside presence. They don’t turn the ball over much, which will help in Big East play.
Jack Cooley picked up where he left off last season and is averaging a double-double of 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Combine that with consistent guard play from Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins and the Irish are in business.
Yes, we saw an abysmal offensive performance in the Hoyas’ ugly win over Tennessee early in the year, but we should see the Georgetown team we saw in Brooklyn as the year progresses. Otto Porter continues to be the do-everything guy who makes it all work.
Biggest Surprise: Connecticut
A mass exodus of talent from Storrs, a new coach, and a postseason ban should have been enough to sink the Huskies, but Kevin Ollie has gotten his team on the same page and off to a 10-2 start. Ollie was rewarded with a five-year deal worth close to $7 million, which can only help his comfort within the program, giving him some job security.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have proven to be a formidable combo in the backcourt, averaging 16.8 and 16.1 points per game, respectively. DeAndre Daniels has doubled his minutes this season and responded with production, putting up 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.
The true test of Connecticut’s resolve might come as early as mid-January, when the Huskies face No. 21 Notre Dame, then No. 4 Louisville, then No. 24 Pittsburgh in the span of a week.
Biggest Disappointment: Providence
Let me say first that it’s not Providence’s fault. They lost Ricky Ledo to an NCAA ruling at the beginning of the season. Kris Dunn and Vincent Council just recently got into the rotation after working through injury. They’re still 8-4, despite those road blocks, in a conference that has done well overall in the non-conference. Ed Cooley is building a contender at Providence, though. With his presence on the recruiting trail and what he has been able to do with the assets he already has, the Friars are on the upswing in the long-term.
Player of the Year: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
Cooley is averaging a double-double of 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds. He’s been comparable to Mason Plumlee of Duke so far, which is saying something. If Notre Dame wants to make a run in March, he’s going to be the guy who gets them there.
Also of Note: Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), Russ Smith (Louisville), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Otto Porter (Georgetown)
Best Freshman: Chris Obekpa, St. John’s
Obekpa leads not only freshman but the entire nation in blocks with 5.3 per game. He has changed the complexion of Steve Lavin’s defense, allowing the Red Storm to take more chances on the perimeter because Obekpa is around the rim to block shots. He adds a solid 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, as well.
Also of note: James Robinson (Pittsburgh), Omar Calhoun (Connecticut), Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova)
1. Notre Dame will end up as the conference’s fourth best team. Cincinnati and Georgetown are ahead of the Irish right now, but Cooley, Grant, and Atkins shouldn’t be discounted.
2. Connecticut will finish as an NCAA tournament-worthy team, though they can’t qualify. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier make up one of the strongest backcourts in the conference and Omar Calhoun is emerging as a legitimate option in only his freshman season.
3. Otto Porter will make himself a lottery pick by the end of the year. The same Michael Kidd-Gilchrist worked his way to the top of the draft by being a lot of different things well, Porter will do the same to a lesser extent.
Power Rankings (* = tourney team):
1. No. 4 Louisville *
2. No. 7 Syracuse *
3. No. 8 Cincinnati *
4. No. 21 Notre Dame *
5. No. 18 Georgetown *
6. No. 24 Pittsburgh *
8. Marquette *
9. South Florida
11. Seton Hall
13. St. John’s
May 19, 2013, 10:09 AM EDT
Yesterday, news broke that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was in discussions to return as the USA Olympic men’s basketball coach through the Rio 2016 Olympics. On a smaller scale, earlier last week the Providence Journal reported that Providence head coach Ed Cooley will join Marquette head coach Buzz Williams and Tim Ryan, head coach from the College of Central…
May 18, 2013, 7:28 PM EDT
There has been a lot of change at Arizona over the past few months, with several players and even a coach leaving the program. Replacing assistant James Whitford, who became head coach at Ball State, was easy: Wildcat legend Damon Stoudamire came back home to round out the staff. But the personnel situation on the…
May 18, 2013, 5:20 PM EDT
Former Baylor player and current WNBA top draft pick Britney Griner made it quite clear recently that she has no problem talking about her sexuality. She spoke with Sports Illustrated shortly after her college career ended, and was candid about something that is, frankly, not really anybody’s business. We now know why she never mentioned…
May 18, 2013, 4:46 PM EDT
The Atlantic Sun tournament was played in front of a near-capacity crowd at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena last March. Hawkins was chosen as the tourney site ahead of time, and the whole event played out there. The reported crowd of 4,394 was packed with Mercer fans who simply had to roll out of bed and find…
May 18, 2013, 3:42 PM EDT
Since he led Team USA to a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has maintained that it would, in fact, be his last run at the head of the USA Basketball program. That may be changing, however. According to a report from Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, Coach…
May 18, 2013, 2:32 PM EDT
Adreian Payne was a special guest at Dick Vitale’s celebrity gala on Friday night, but he wasn’t the star of the show. Lacey Holsworth was. If you haven’t heard the story by now, watch the video above. In short, Payne has befriended a seven-year girl, Lacey, who has been battling cancer for much of her…
May 18, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT
After appearing in only four regular season games and registering five minutes of playing time with no statistics, Georgetown forward Brandon Bolden has opted to transfer to Kansas State, the Wildcats announced on Friday. The 6-10, 210-pound Bolden will sit out the upcoming 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of…
May 18, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT
Lipscomb has finally replaced long time head coach Scott Sanderson, as they hired Stetson head coach Casey Alexander, according to a report. Alexander led the Hatters to a 15-16 record last season, as they finished 11-7 in the Atlantic Sun. Both records were the best for the program since the 2008-2009 season. But here’s where…
May 18, 2013, 11:09 AM EDT
Oregon State picked up a late 2013 commitment when 6-2 combo guard Malcolm Duvivier opted to sign his letter of intent on Friday after previously being a member of the 2014 class. Duvivier — a native of Toronto — was previously regarded as Rivals’ No. 116 player in the 2014 national rankings before filling an…
May 18, 2013, 10:02 AM EDT
Tennessee sophomore center Yemi Makanjuola has opted to transfer to UNC-Wilmington, per a Tweet from Brian Mull of StarNews. Makanjuola — a 6-9, 250-pound native of Nigeria — will have two years of eligibility remaining after NCAA transfer rules force him to sit out next season. Makanjuola will be eligible in the 2014-15 season and saw action…
May 17, 2013, 9:02 PM EDT
One month after making the decision to return to Washington for his senior season, second team All-Pac-12 selection C.J. Wilcox underwent surgery on his left foot to stabilize a stress fracture that according to the Associated Press lingered for much of the 2012-13 season. The purpose of the surgery was to stabilize the fifth metatarsal…
May 17, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT
Last May 6-7 forward Sheldon Jeter chose to attend Vanderbilt, picking the Commodores over Penn State and Wisconsin and South Carolina with Pittsburgh showing some interest late but never offering the Beaver Falls, Pa. native. Jeter played 17.5 minutes per game as a freshman, averaging 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. And after one…
May 17, 2013, 6:48 PM EDT
In the immediate aftermath of Steve Alford’s decision to leave New Mexico to take over as head coach at UCLA, many wondered how much would he have to pay UNM in order to get out of his contract. While Alford and his representation argued that the coach, who led the Lobos to four Mountain West…
May 17, 2013, 5:50 PM EDT
A good week on the recruiting front for the Xavier coaching staff got even better Friday afternoon. 6-4 guard Remy Abell, who spent his first two seasons at Indiana, announced his decision to transfer to Xavier as reported by multiple outlets. Abell won’t be eligible to play this season per NCAA transfer rules, but he will…
May 17, 2013, 5:23 PM EDT
With three guards, most notably leading scorer DeAndre Kane, deciding to transfer Marshall head coach Tom Herrion was in need of some extra depth for his backcourt in 2013-14. Thanks to a commitment from 2013 combo guard Jaylen Brantley, the Thundering Herd won’t go into next season shorthanded in that area. Brantley, who played at…
May 17, 2013, 4:36 PM EDT
Last month it was reported that Purdue forward Sandi Marcius was running into a major complication in regards to his decision to graduate and then transfer to another school where he would be able to play as a graduate student. That major complication was Purdue’s refusal to pay for the summer school courses Marcius needs…
May 17, 2013, 3:21 PM EDT
Florida Gulf Coast was one of the best stories of the 2013 NCAA tournament, becoming the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet 16 and earning the moniker “Dunk City” (thanks to Troy Machir) with their attractive style of play and penchant for above the rim finishes. And next season the Eagles, under new head coach…
May 17, 2013, 2:29 PM EDT
After two quiet seasons at the University of Texas, sophomore Jaylen Bond made the decision to transfer. Bond, a 6-7 forward from Philadelphia, averaged just 3.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in just under 14 minutes per game during his Longhorn career. Friday, Bond announced his decision to transfer to Temple via Twitter and it’s safe…
May 17, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
In his six seasons as commissioner of the West Coast Conference, Jamie Zaninovich has helped the conference improve its brand in a variety of ways. Whether it’s been the addition of BYU (Pacific joins this summer) or the idea to move the conference basketball tournaments to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, it’s safe to say…
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