Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't pin hopes on midseason additions

The Philadelphia Phillies made it to the World Series in 2009 largely on the shoulders of their midseason acquisition, Cliff Lee. In 2010, they tried to do the same with the addition of Roy Oswalt. It didn’t work.

College basketball’s semester break is similar to the trade deadline in professional sports. It is usually the time that new players become eligible, whether as a result of transferring from another school, sitting out because of a suspension or academic ineligibility, or coming back from injury. Many of these new players receive plenty of hype and anticipation – and the majority of them disappoint. Of course, there are a few who make an immediate impact on their new team and help them in the postseason, but the majority are busts – there was a reason they left their former team or were suspended in the first place. Let’s take a look at some of the major additions in the past two weeks:

  • Josh Selby, Kansas (freshman): Had 21 points and the game-winning shot in his debut against USC; scored 18 in his second game.
  • Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State (freshman): Averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds before getting suspended for fighting with a teammate.
  • Jio Fontan, USC (transfer from Fordham): Averaging 16.3 points and 3.3 assists in three games, including a win over Tennessee.
  • Drew Gordon, New Mexico (transfer from UCLA): Averaging 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in three games.
  • Mike Holmes, Coastal Carolina (transfer from South Carolina): 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in three games, including wins over LSU and East Carolina.
  • Dominique Ferguson/Alex Legion, Florida International (freshman/transfer from Illinois): Legion is averaging 14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds, while Ferguson is averaging 7.0 points and 3.5 rebounds.
  • Greg Echenique, Creighton (transfer from Rutgers): In three games, the big man is averaging 11.3 points and 4.0 rebounds.
  • Roberto Nelson, Oregon State (freshman): Inconsistent first four games: four points, 13 points, three points, 14 points.
  • Charles Hinkle, American (transfer from Vanderbilt): Averaging 5.3 points and 3.0 rebounds; scoreless in 11 minutes against Pittsburgh.
  • Jon Kreft, Florida State (transfer): Playing 8.0 minutes per game; averaging 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds.
  • Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee (transfer from Marquette): Making his biggest impact on the boards, averaging 5.3 rebounds in three games.
  • Olek Czyz, Nevada (transfer from Duke): Putting up 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds, although Nevada is 1-3 since his addition.
  • Nikita Mescheriakov, Wake Forest (transfer from Georgetown): 5.0 points in four games since his arrival.
  • Diamond Taylor, Southern Illinois (dismissed from Wisconsin): Scored seven points in his debut against Northern Illinois.
  • Tevin Baskin, Quinnipiac (freshman): Played two scoreless minutes in his debut.
  • Jesse Morgan, Massachusetts (newcomer): Played four minutes and scored one point against Central Florida.
  • Teeng Akol, Western Kentucky (transfer from Oklahoma State): Has scored five points in 12 minutes since his arrival.

Obviously, this is a very small sample size and many of these players are still getting into game shape and becoming used to how their systems are being implemented in an actual game. However, many of these touted arrivals are struggling in their new environments.

Fontan is going to be the key for USC to contend in the Pac-10, while Selby is going to be the main cog in the Jayhawks’ title run. Holmes and Gordon might be the difference for their teams making the NCAA Tournament, and Echenique should help Creighton in the Missouri Valley. As for Sidney, well, we'll see what happens. However, many of these players are not going to have a huge impact on their respective teams – or a Cliff Lee-esque impact.

Like I said, it is a small sample size and it is still very early to judge what sort of impact these players will have on their new teams, but the bottom line remains the same: semester break additions – like their trade deadline counterparts in professional sports – are, more often than not, overhyped disappointments that don’t make a noticeable impact as the season progresses.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Week Ahead

The last few days of December and the first weekend of the New Year is always an exciting one for college basketball. It still features some marquee non-conference games that could not fit in the previous calendar year, but it also marks the first full week of conference play for nearly every conference around the country. It is the week where teams begin to show their true colors – if they are a contender or a pretender. This year is no different, as this week is absolutely loaded with must-watch games, both inter-conference and intra-conference. Also, don’t look now, but there’s just ten weeks until Selection Sunday – the stretch run starts now. Note: Doesn’t include the Connecticut and Pittsburgh game from Monday night.

No. 12 Purdue at Michigan (Tuesday): Purdue still somehow looks like a team that can contend for a Big Ten title, while Michigan has won seven in a row.

No. 14 Minnesota at Wisconsin (Tuesday): Can one of these teams hang with Ohio State near the top of the standings? Minnesota is out to prove its non-conference performance was no fluke.

Providence at No. 5 Syracuse (Tuesday): Providence has only two losses on its resume, but heading to the Carrier Dome in Big East play is a different animal.

St. John’s at West Virginia (Wednesday): St. John’s has not lived up to its preseason hype, while West Virginia has had an up-and-down couple of months.

Boston College at Rhode Island (Wednesday): If you say Boston College is the second-best team in the ACC right now, who am I to argue? A road win would be impressive.

No. 9 Georgetown at No. 15 Notre Dame (Wednesday): Georgetown might be the best team in the Big East, while Notre Dame has been a pleasant surprise so far.

Marquette at No. 24 Vanderbilt (Wednesday): Marquette lost Reggie Smith to transfer earlier this week, but he wouldn’t make a difference at the Commodores anyway.

Washington at USC (Wednesday): Is Washington the clear-cut favorite in the Pac-10? USC has been playing well since Jio Fontan became eligible after his transfer.

Washington State at UCLA (Wednesday): Washington State is finally playing to its potential after a disappointing campaign last year; UCLA has been hard to figure out.

Saint Mary’s vs. Mississippi State (Wednesday): Saint Mary’s has positioned itself for a shot an at-large big again, while Mississippi State is an utter disaster right now.

No. 25 Temple at No. 8 Villanova (Thursday): The two best teams in the Philadelphia area go head-to-head. Both teams have some question marks heading into conference play.

Iowa State at Virginia (Thursday): A couple of surprising BCS-conference teams. A win for either team would provide nice momentum heading into league play.

Old Dominion at No. 10 Missouri (Thursday): Aside from a loss to Delaware, Old Dominion has been solid this season. Missouri is absolutely must-see TV.

Smith-Rivera opens up recruitment

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera seemed content when he committed to Xavier back in late October.

However, after only a few weeks, Smith-Rivera and his family started to rethink the decision.

“[It was] a little over a month before we started to talk about being uncertain,” his mother, Kelana Rivera, said. “Just felt like we’d rushed it a little. So over the past few weeks, we just continued to talk it out.”

A normally dull recruiting period over the holidays was spiced up with the news of Smith-Rivera’s decommitment on the Sunday after Christmas.

There was a reason for the timing, though.

“We thought about it just as his high school season started,” Rivera said. “But with the season getting underway, we didn’t want this to be a distraction to his team. So we gave it until Christmas break to be sure. With not many games, by the time they really resume, the newness of it will be done. His team can stay focused on what they need to do.”

When Smith-Rivera, a 6-foot-3 combo guard from North Central (Ind.), originally made his decision, he chose the Musketeers over Georgetown and Wake Forest, with Miami (Fl.) and Ohio State also in the running.

Expect plenty of new programs to enter the mix now that he is back in the market.

“The schools that were recruiting him before [are still involved] and we’re open to new schools as well,” Rivera said. “Xavier is still very much a factor.”

Schools have already begun to make Smith-Rivera a priority during his second trip through the recruiting process.

“There are some that weren’t as active in his recruiting before, that I guess plan to be now,” Rivera said.

She went onto pinpoint two schools getting an early start on his recruitment.

“Georgetown and Florida are two that will be there to watch his game this week,” Rivera said. “Georgetown was a factor before, but hadn’t been as involved as long or as much as X or some others.”

This time around, Rivera said her son isn’t looking for anything different – just a fresh perspective.

“[We] decided that he should go through the whole process and get to know more schools,” she said. “Just wants to take his time. And give himself the opportunity to get to know some other programs.”

Smith-Rivera had missed much of the summer and fall with a knee injury, but he has bounced back and picked up where he left off.

North Central is 5-0 with wins over teams featuring Marquis Teague, Jeremy Hollowell, DeJuan Marrero and Gary Harris. Smith-Rivera is averaging 30 points per game, but is still looking to improve his outside shot and explosiveness.

The injury has not hampered him one bit.

“We thought it would take him a little while to trust it and get his legs under him after being off five months,” Rivera said. “But he’s adjusted well.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Barber could've been two-sport stud

When watching Anthony Barber on a basketball court, it’s hard not to notice his nose for the basketball and his energy.

Not surprisingly, Barber gets a lot of his aggressiveness from another sport.

“That’s him all the time, he’s never tired,” said his father, James. “He used to play football, stopped when he was 13 or 14.”

Barber, a 6-foot-2 guard from Hampton (Va.), is one of the top prospects in the class of 2013.

His father said that he is playing well so far during his sophomore; more importantly, he is improving.

“He’s playing real good,” he said. “As his father, I always think he can upgrade, but his skills are better. His goal is to just bring it to them.”

As far as recruiting, Anthony’s father admits it’s very early in the process.

“He’s got two more years, he’s only in 10th grade,” he said.

With that said, he did say that nearly everyone is coming at his son right now. When we spoke with Anthony at the NIKE Peach Jam, he mentioned Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Kentucky as three schools that were showing interest.

“The home state teams are coming at him the hardest,” his father said, presumably referring to Virginia and Virginia Tech.

His father said Anthony plans to take his time with the process.

“I might check some [schools] out, but I’m not pushing my son,” he said.

Justin Jackson has plenty of suitors

The Houston Hoops program has been a hotbed for college prospects over the years, and the next big-time prospect out of the area is likely to be Justin Jackson.

Jackson, a long and athletic guard from HCYA (Tex.), is a match-up problem due to his height and skill set. He can shoot from 3-point range and also finish in traffic around the basket. Jackson is also deadly with his mid-range shot and has terrific basketball IQ and knowledge of the game.

Even though he’s just a sophomore, it comes as no surprise that college coaches are constantly on hand to watch him this season.

Jackson said Texas, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma and Washington have already stopped by for a game or practice this year.

Unfortunately, Jackson is not content with his team’s performance.

“It’s going pretty well, not as well as I would like,” he said. “Individually I’m doing well, but the team isn’t doing as well as expected.”

Colleges have not let that slow down their recruitment of Jackson, though.

In addition to the schools that have watched him, he said he has also received interest from Marquette, Georgetown, Miami (Fl.), Utah, Stanford, George Mason and Kansas.

Despite so many suitors, Jackson has not really started the recruiting grind yet.

“It’s so early in the process,” he said. “I want to leave all options open and hope to attract more before I narrow them down.”

Jackson said he might take a couple of unofficial visits when the calendar turns to 2011, but he has not decided which schools he wants to check out.

“I’m just trying to stay focused on my game and getting better,” he said.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ashley's injury doesn't slow recruitment

Any time a top-10 prospect suffers a knee injury, it has the potential be very bad news.

Luckily for Brandon Ashley, his recent injury turned out to be minor.

“It was just a bone bruise,” Ashley said. “Nothing too serious.”

The 6-foot-8 power forward from Bishop O’Dowd (Calif.) missed about two weeks, including one tournament.

“I’m back now,” he said. “The season is going pretty good so far.”

Not surprisingly, the injury has not slowed down his recruitment at all.

His list includes nearly every high-major school in the country, including California, Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Arizona and every Pac-10 school. Moreover, schools like Texas, Kentucky, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Kansas, North Carolina and Wake Forest are among the others heavily invested in Ashley.

“Pretty much all the same schools,” he said. “I haven’t really cut down my list and haven’t really added anybody.”

Although Ashley has only played a couple of games this season, coaches are still coming through to check out his development.

“Oregon has come to a practice, North Carolina to the alumni game, and Cal to my first game back,” he said.

Expect the Bishop O’Dowd gym to be like a revolving door for college coaches in the coming months.

Poythress continuing to improve

One of the fastest-rising players last summer was Alex Poythress, a player who is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Poythress is a versatile frontcourt player who is still expanding and refining his offensive game, but is a menace on the glass and can defend effectively.

“Schools started paying more attention to me when I performed well,” he said. “I was doing what I’ve always been doing, but coaches started to see once I started doing it a lot – and better.”

More importantly, Poythress knows he has the capability of getting better.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-8 power forward from Clarksville Northeast (Tenn.) said his team is struggling so far this season, but they are continuing to get better in practice.

Poythress’ recruitment certainly isn’t struggling, though.

“I know Virginia was there recently,” he said when asked what schools have stopped by to watch him. “Vandy and Memphis and Austin Peay were there too.”

Although he also holds offers from Cincinnati, Miami and many other schools, the six he mentioned were Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Memphis

“I haven’t really narrowed it down yet,” Poythress said. “I’m still all open right now.”

Poythress, who holds a 3.8 GPA, is interested in a school with good academics, player development and coaching staff.

He has taken trips to Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt so far.

“They were all good,” he said. “I like those schools a lot.”

He has no more visits planned, and is taking his time with his recruitment.

“I’m just going through the process and I want to take my official visits,” Poythress said. “But I want to make my decision before my senior year of ball.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday, Dec. 21 Predictions

Prediction Record: 76-31 (ATS: 43-48-5)

  • UNLV at Kansas State (-3.5): Prediction: Kansas State 67, UNLV 61
  • USC at Tennessee (-9): Prediction: Tennessee 73, USC 65
  • Northwestern at St. John’s (-3): Prediction: Northwestern 68, St. John’s 64
  • VCU at UAB (-5): Prediction: UAB 72, VCU 69
  • BYU at Weber State (+12.5): Prediction: BYU 91, Weber State 75
  • Stanford at Oklahoma State (-9.5): Prediction: Oklahoma State 74, Stanford 54

Macon working through process -- again

Elijah Macon made waves last spring when he backed off his commitment to West Virginia. However, little has been heard from the 6-foot-8 Marion-Franklin (Ohio) product since then.

When we caught up with him back at the Boo Williams EYBL, Macon said he just wanted to “see what else is out there.”

Now, the junior forward has seen the other options and is going through his recruitment for a second time.

Cincinnati, Tennessee, Marquette and Dayton are currently pursuing him, as well as the school from which he decommitted, West Virginia.

Macon said West Virginia, Cincinnati and Tennessee are coming at him the hardest.

“I’m going to make a top-five after this season,” he said.

Macon recently took an unofficial visit to Xavier. “It was alright,” he said. “I just walked around campus with the coaches and my mom.”

He might take an unofficial visit to Tennessee next week.

“[I’m looking for] a team that likes to run non-stop and just a good environment,” Macon said.

Although the season is young, Macon has been doing his best to keep his name out there.

In front of coaches from West Virginia and Cincinnati, he put up 19 points and 11 rebounds in his first game, followed by a 20-point, 12-rebound performance in his second outing.

“I bring energy,” Macon said. “Once I get going I think I’m unstoppable.”

Movin' on up

As many of you know by now, I was recently brought on by Jeff Goodman as a contributor to his coverage at

I will be helping him out with the Nightly Awards, mid-major and freshmen stories as well as other timely and interesting articles. Essentially, I will do my best to make the college basketball blog a one-stop shop for everything that’s going on in the world of college hoops.

In order to catch up on everything I’ve done for so far, check out the links below.

“Iona’s Glover has finally become difference-maker”

“Denmon battling through tough week”

Debut and Nightly Awards, Dec. 13

Nightly Awards, Dec. 14

Nightly Awards, Dec. 15

Nightly Awards, Dec. 20

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Week Ahead

Finals are behind us. College football’s regular season is behind us. Following an exciting weekend that saw five ranked teams lose to unranked squads, will this week be able to keep that momentum going? Despite a relatively “short” week until the weekend because of Christmas and Christmas Eve, there are still several quality contests to keep an eye on while wrapping those holiday gifts.

Top Games

No. 22 UNLV at No. 6 Kansas State (Tuesday): A couple of teams that could really use a win to get back on the right track. UNLV beat Southern Utah on Saturday, but had lost to Louisville and UC Santa Barbara before that, while Kansas State is coming off a 44-point performance against Florida. Whose frontcourt will step up?

No. 22 Texas at No. 14 Michigan State (Wednesday): Both teams have been difficult to figure out all season. Texas has wins over Illinois and North Carolina, but also a blowout loss to USC. Michigan State is not playing like its typical self, although Tom Izzo-led teams are usually at its best late in the season.

No. 12 Illinois at No. 13 Missouri (Wednesday): A rivalry battle between two of the Midwest’s best teams. Some touted Illinois as a dark horse Final Four team, but a three-point loss to Illinois-Chicago brings that into question. Missouri has only an overtime loss to Georgetown keeping it from an undefeated campaign.

No. 10 Georgetown at No. 16 Memphis (Thursday): One team has been exceeded expectations, while the other is taking awhile to get going. Georgetown has looked like a legit Final Four threat, with some of the best offense around. Because of injuries, Memphis is playing with almost all new players – and it’s showed.

Diamond Head Classic: One last big-time tournament before we get into conference play. The semifinals and finals should be some of the best around, as we could see Butler vs. Florida and Baylor vs. Washington State. A Baylor – Florida State finale would feature some of the biggest and deepest frontlines in the country.

Other Games to Watch

USC at No. 7 Tennessee (Tuesday): In its first game with Jio Fontan, USC almost went into Kansas and knocked off the Jayhawks. Tennessee is coming off losses to Oakland and Charlotte after winning at Pittsburgh last weekend.

Mississippi State vs. Washington State (Wednesday): Renardo Sidney’s debut had some highlights and lowlights, but Mississippi State still isn’t the same without Dee Bost. This is the best first-round game at the Diamond Head Classic.

Drexel at No. 5 Syracuse (Wednesday): Drexel was able to waltz into Louisville and defeat the Cardinals at the Yum! Center last week; can the Dragons do the same to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome? Don’t expect offensive fireworks.

Xavier at Gonzaga (Wednesday): Two of the best non-BCS programs of the past decade go head-to-head. Despite injuries and personnel problems, Xavier is still 7-2 and one of the favorites in the Atlantic-10. Gonzaga beat Baylor over the weekend.

Oakland at No. 2 Ohio State (Thursday): Oakland has played one of the nation’s toughest schedules the past couple of weeks, although it did beat Tennessee. Ohio State might be the best bet of anyone to make a run at Duke for the title.

Keep an Eye On

Morgan State at No. 5 Syracuse (Monday): Morgan State is the favorite in the MEAC, and they have thrown scares into major-conference teams before. Syracuse could have some trouble.

VCU at UAB (Tuesday): VCU has had some highlights this season, with a win over UCLA, but also a questionable loss to South Florida. UAB has a gaudy 8-2 record this season, and could compete in C-USA.

No. 16 BYU at Weber State (Tuesday): Two of the best scoring guards in the country will be on display in this intrastate game, as BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and Weber State’s Damian Lillard go head-to-head.

Stanford at Oklahoma State (Tuesday): Stanford got absolutely stomped by Butler over the weekend, and it will need to improve its offense if it wants to beat a 10-1 Oklahoma State playing its best basketball.

Harvard at No. 4 Connecticut (Wednesday): First of all, I’m not sure Connecticut is anywhere near the fourth-best team in the country. Secondly, Harvard has blown out Colorado and taken Michigan to the wire – look out, Huskies.

Dayton at Seton Hall (Wednesday): Both teams have been highly inconsistent this season, and can’t afford a loss if they still have at-large hopes. With that said, both teams might be in NCAA trouble already.

New Mexico at Colorado (Wednesday): New Mexico is sitting at 9-1 right now, with only a loss to California. Plus, it got UCLA transfer Drew Gordon over the weekend. Colorado has won five in a row since a 2-3 start.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend Preview

After easily the least enticing week of the college basketball season thus far, we have several marquee match-ups this weekend. Furthermore, conference play is around the corner and non-conference games are winding down – finally. For many fans, we are reaching the point of the college basketball season where things really start mattering – the meat and potatoes of the season. Before we get there, though, there are still some loose ends to tie up in 2010. While there are only a couple of days left for Christmas shopping, don't forget to tune into a ton of college basketball on Saturday. It might be tough to find your last-minute gifts, but that can wait. There are not many games next week, so be sure to get your fill of college hoops with the handful of must-see match-ups and dozens of other quality contests this weekend.

Top Games

Cleveland State at West Virginia (Saturday, 2:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Cleveland State has the most wins in the country right now, but its undefeated season might end this weekend. West Virginia has had its struggles, but it will need to corral Norris Cole. Prediction: West Virginia 68, Cleveland State 59

No. 8 Kansas State at Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM, FSN): Two teams that have not truly lived up to lofty preseason expectations thus far. Kansas State has had problems in the frontcourt, while Florida has inconsistent playmaking and scoring. Prediction: Kansas State 66, Florida 64

No. 22 Texas at North Carolina (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS): Two young but talented teams have had some growing pains this season. The key should be at the point guard position – can Larry Drew play consistently, and who will step up for Texas to run the offense? Prediction: North Carolina 81, Texas 75

Gonzaga at No. 9 Baylor (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN2): Gonzaga has been one of the biggest disappointments in the country so far this season. The Bulldogs need to start beating big-time teams in order to get back in the at-large hunt. Baylor is looking like a potential Final Four team. Prediction: Baylor 82, Gonzaga 72

Arizona at North Carolina State (Sunday, 4:30 PM, FSN): This game will likely come down to who plays for NC State – will Tracy Smith and Ryan Harrow suit up? That remains to be seen. If they play, the Wolfpack have the personnel to match-up with Derrick Williams and the Wildcats. Prediction: North Carolina State 75, Arizona 71

Other Games to Watch

USC at No. 3 Kansas (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPN): This game will be the debut for two potentially season-changing additions – freshman Josh Selby for Kansas and Fordham transfer Jio Fontan for USC. Prediction: Kansas 83, USC 69

UCF at Miami (Fl.) (Saturday, 1:00 PM, FSN): UCF has already defeated South Florida and Florida; a win here would be another intrastate victory. Donnie Jones has this program on the rise. Prediction: UCF 64, Miami (Fl.) 61

South Carolina at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Ohio State might be the national title favorite if Kyrie Irving is indeed out. South Carolina only has one loss this season, to Michigan State. Prediction: Ohio State 79, South Carolina 61

Arkansas at No. 25 Texas A&M (Saturday, 2:00 PM, ESPN2): This seems like a Cotton Bowl match-up from the 90s. It will be a contrast in styles; when that happens, A&M usually gets its way. Prediction: Texas A&M 61, Arkansas 53

Stanford at Butler (Saturday, 2:00 PM, CBS): Butler has had its struggles this season, although the Bulldogs have looked better with Ronald Nored healthy. Led by Jeremy Green, Stanford has some quality offensive pieces. Prediction: Butler 65, Stanford 53

No. 10 BYU at UCLA (Saturday, 5:30 PM, FSN): BYU is ranked in the top-10 by nearly every poll and ranking in the country, and looks better every game. UCLA has won two in a row after losing four straight in late November-early December. Prediction: BYU 82, UCLA 72

Mississippi State at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 8:00 PM): Both teams have a lot of work to do to get to the NCAA Tournament, although Mississippi State will get a boost with the addition of Renardo Sidney down low. Prediction: Virginia Tech 66, Mississippi State 58

Upset Watch

Oakland at Michigan (Saturday, 12:00 PM): Oakland knocked off Tennessee on Tuesday, but don’t right off Michigan just yet. The Wolverines have been playing well, winning five in a row heading into this one. Prediction: Michigan 71, Oakland 68

Iona at No. 5 Syracuse (Saturday, 7:00 PM, Regional TV/ESPN FullCourt): Iona has won seven straight since losing its first three games, behind the outstanding play of Mike Glover. Syracuse might have the personnel to stop him down low though. Prediction: Syracuse 90, Iona 74

UC-Santa Barbara at No. 11 San Diego State (Saturday, 10:00 PM): San Diego State is looking like a legitimate Final Four threat, despite its conference affiliation. UCSB is coming off an impressive win at UNLV. Prediction: San Diego State 72, UC-Santa Barbara 60

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stokes closing in on decision

Followers of New York City basketball have heard the name Shaq Stokes for what seems like a decade.

Well, the 6-foot point guard is only a few weeks away from ending what has been a wide-ranging and unpredictable recruitment.

“After I sit down with my family and coaches,” Stokes said. “Might be late January or early February.”

Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and an assistant came to watch Stokes on Tuesday, while TCU, UNLV, Colorado State and Hofstra have also offered.

While he insists he has no favorites, Stokes said that he wants to visit TCU and Iowa next month.

“Looking for a family environment and great academics,” he said.

As for the current campaign, Stokes has led Lincoln (N.Y.) to a 6-0 record, including a win Thursday night over Boys and Girls, a team many pegged as the top team in the city. Stokes went for 20 points and six assists.

“The season is going great so far,” he said. “The team is playing well, from the starters to the bench.”

Stokes is averaging 18 points and six assists on the season.

Siyani Chambers focused on winning

Despite being a top-20 point guard by most accounts, one of the more underrated prospects on the circuit all summer was Siyani Chambers.

Chambers is a lefty speedster who loves getting out in the open floor and leading the fast break. He adjusts speeds effectively and can find teammates in transition, while also showing an ability to score at the rim or in the mid-range.

With the school season underway, Chambers is looking to keep the positive momentum going.

“It’s going good. We are working hard as a unit to get better everyday,” the Hopkins (Minn.) product said. “I’ve been playing alright.”

Chambers currently holds offers from Santa Clara, Nebraska, Central Michigan, UC-Davis, Saint Louis and Cal Poly, with interest coming from Butler, Minnesota, Harvard, Stanford, Wichita State and Florida State.

He is not sure which schools have come to watch him play so far.

“I don’t know,” Chambers said. “When we have a game, we try to focus on the task at hand and not worry about who’s watching.”

In terms of visits, he has taken trips to Butler, Notre Dame and Central Michigan.

“I liked them all,” Chambers said. “No one school stood out more than the others. Right now I’m wide open.”

The 6-foot-1 jet said he is looking for a school with a good combination of academics and basketball.

Said Chambers: “I do not have an exact time, but I will probably be making a decision by the end of this summer or by the beginning of next year’s high school basketball season.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekend Preview

After an exciting week that featured plenty of top-notch battles between top-25 teams, another jam-packed weekend of quality contests is upon us. With final exams starting up at universities around the nation, there is a huge lull in interesting games next week – you can already tell by the relative lack of teams in action this weekend. However, there is still plenty of hoops to keep an eye on this weekend.

Top Games

No. 20 UNLV at No. 24 Louisville (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPNU): Going into the season, I pegged Louisville as an NIT team. However, the Cardinals are using a balanced offense and an aggressive defense to get victories. UNLV has the makings of an Elite Eight team. Prediction: UNLV 74, Louisville 70

Wisconsin at Marquette (Saturday, 2:30 PM, ESPN2): An intrastate battle between two versatile teams who can hurt opponents in a variety of ways. Look for the match-up between Jon Leuer and Jimmy Butler to be highly entertaining. Prediction: Marquette 66, Wisconsin 61

No. 11 Tennessee at No. 3 Pittsburgh (Saturday, 3:15 PM, ESPN): Arguably the best game of the weekend, Pittsburgh is looking like a Final Four-caliber group. Tennessee might be playing the best of any team in the SEC currently. Prediction: Pittsburgh 73, Tennessee 67

No. 21 Washington at Texas A&M (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN2): I’m in love with this Washington team; the Huskies can score in plenty of ways and they push the rock. A&M will try to slow them down and beat them in a half-court contest. Prediction: Washington 79, Texas A&M 71

Arizona at No. 18 BYU (Saturday, 6:00 PM, BYU Television): Last year, Jimmer Fredette set a record by scoring 49 points at Arizona. There won’t be a repeat this season, as Arizona is a far better team than last year. Derrick Williams has to dominate for ‘Zona. Prediction: BYU 84, Arizona 76

VCU at Richmond (Saturday, 7:00 PM): Another intrastate battle by two teams looking to control the city of Richmond. VCU can pressure the ball and force turnovers, but Richmond counters with one of the nation’s best point guards in Kevin Anderson. Prediction: Richmond 72, VCU 66

Gonzaga at No. 23 Notre Dame (Saturday, 8:30 PM, ESPN2): Gonzaga has been a supreme disappointment this season, while Notre Dame has been a pleasant surprise. Gonzaga hasn’t been able to stop anyone this season, so Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis could be in for big days. Prediction: Notre Dame 82, Gonzaga 74

Conference Clashes

Boston College at Maryland (Sunday, 4:00 PM, FSN): Both of these teams are playing as well as any ACC team outside of Duke. Boston College has turned its season around after a rough start, while Maryland has three tough single-digit losses on its docket to Pittsburgh, Illinois and Temple. Prediction: Maryland 75, Boston College 64

Clemson at Florida State (Sunday, 6:15 PM, FSN): Don’t expect a ton of offensive output in this one. Clemson is still getting used to its personnel and system, while Florida State has only been able to score the ball against mediocre teams. Can the Seminoles figure it out? Prediction: Florida State 61, Clemson 52

Other Games to Watch

Oakland at No. 7 Michigan State (Saturday, 12:30 PM, Regional TV): If Oakland was using a women’s ball against the Spartans, the Golden Grizzlies might have a chance. Prediction: Michigan State 85, Oakland 65

Dayton at Old Dominion (Saturday, 4:00 PM, Regional TV): Two of the best non-BCS teams going into the season, Dayton has been disappointing while ODU has a loss to Delaware. Prediction: Old Dominion 64, Dayton 59

Indiana at No. 17 Kentucky (Saturday, 5:15 PM, ESPN): Two of the best programs in college basketball history go at it. Indiana only has one loss on the season, but Kentucky is far too talented for them. Prediction: Kentucky 82, Indiana 67

Colorado State at No. 4 Kansas (Saturday, 6:30 PM, ESPN2): Don’t sleep on Colorado State this year; the Rams have some pieces. Kansas, however, is playing as well as anyone in the country. Prediction: Kansas 94, Colorado State 74

Missouri State at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, Regional TV): Missouri State will be a contender in the Missouri Valley, while Oklahoma State has only a loss to Virginia Tech marring its resume. Prediction: Oklahoma State 70, Missouri State 63

East Tennessee State at Mississippi State (Saturday, 8:00 PM): East Tennessee State has an impressive win over Dayton, while Mississippi State is desperately waiting for Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney. Prediction: Mississippi State 77, East Tennessee State 67

Witherspoon out five weeks

An already young Memphis team will be without one of its veterans for the next five weeks, as forward Wesley Witherspoon is undergoing surgery this morning.

Witherspoon suffered a meniscal tear in his right knee on Nov. 17, but has played through the pain.

“He hasn’t practiced in two and a half weeks,” head coach Josh Pastner told Jeff Goodman of

The 6-foot-7 junior is averaging 13.0 points and 4.6 rebounds this season, but will miss games against Georgetown and Tennessee.

Sullinger sets scoring record in memory of uncle

Over the years, we have seen several stars step up or dedicate their performance to a loved one who recently passed away.

The most memorable recent one came in 2002, when high-school stud Chris Paul scored 61 points the game after his grandfather died – one point for every year his grandfather lived.

Add another one to the laurels.

Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger missed the Buckeyes’ pregame shoot-around on Thursday to attend a viewing for his uncle, Harold Sullinger Jr. “Briefcase” died on Dec. 3 from a massive heart attack.

Hours after paying his last respects, Sullinger put up 40 points and 13 rebounds in a 75-64 comeback win over IUPUI. The 40 points set an Ohio State freshman record. 26 of those points came in the second half, many of them as a result of his 16-of-23 performance from the free-throw stripe.

“That was for you Uncle Brief,” Sullinger tweeted after the game. “I love you dude.”

With Kyrie Irving possibly missing the rest of the season, Sullinger’s emotionally-laden performance might have pushed him to the head of the national freshmen pack.