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
Jul 21, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT
DePaul redshirt freshman forward DeJuan Marrero will play his sophomore season at Chipola.
Malik Newman, Ivan Rabb, Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk among 33 members battling for USA U17 roster spots this week
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
The USA U17 tryouts have a lot of big names and it will also be important for the last week of the July live evaluation period.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Isaiah Briscoe helped lead the New Jersey Playaz to a title at Peach Jam.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Bruce Brown was a promising two-sport athlete, but gave up football to focus on basketball.
Jul 21, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT
Walker is the second commitment for the Cardinal this spring.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Seven additional thoughts on Nike’s Peach Jam, including Ben Simmons’ one weakness, Malik Monk and how college coaches look at parents
Jul 21, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
The whole situation regarding Jacksons recruitment is weird.
Jul 21, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT
Tatum is the best player in the class.
Jul 21, 2014, 1:54 PM EDT
Seven thoughts from my time in Augusta
Jul 21, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT
The Hoosiers will be in shape come September, that’s for sure.
Jul 21, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
The latest in our series of anonymous quotes from coaches on the players they recruit.
Jul 21, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT
Simmons is a much better passer than you’ll see in this video.
Jul 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
After playing sparingly last season, Lucas is hoping to take a significant step forward in 2014-15.
Jul 20, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
Fans may look to compare Gary Payton II to his father, something both hope to avoid this season, but his role as point guard is an important one.
Jul 20, 2014, 7:46 PM EDT
Djambo’s playing time was unlikely to increase had he remained at Clemson, where he played 9.2 minutes per game last season.
Jul 20, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT
McQuaid’s de-commitment leaves SMU with one verbal pledge in its 2015 recruiting class.
Jul 20, 2014, 5:39 PM EDT
Apparently there were some questions at the Peach Jam regarding the possibility of Simmons returning to Australia in 2015 to play professionally instead of attending LSU.
Jul 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Brown won Pac-12 Most Improved Player honors last season, helping lead the Cardinal to the Sweet 16.
Jul 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
The 6-foot-4 Walker played just one season at Stony Brook.
Jul 20, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT
It’s the second commit for Rick Pitino this week.
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- Nike Peach Jam Saturday Recap: Jayson Tatum, DeAndre Ayton and Briscoe vs. Trier 0
- Peach Jam Recruiting Notebook: Jamal Murray plays well, Tyler Davis has big day, Juwan Morgan likes two 0
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- Study says Louisville has the best fanbase for second straight season (4)
- Chris Walker looks like he’s spent some time in the gym (PHOTO) (4)
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