Georgia v Kentucky

Is criticizing John Calipari’s ability to coach unfair?

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John Calipari is an easy coach to dislike.

If the fact that he has slid by unscathed as the programs that he ran prior to Kentucky had Final Fours vacated isn’t enough, the fact that he is the face of Big Blue Nation and completely unapologetic for recruiting players with the main goal being to get them fast-tracked to the NBA while rumors swirl about the NCAA violations he commits on a daily basis is probably enough to put him on your bad side.

Perhaps the harshest criticism that Coach Cal has taken over the course of his career is the fact that he cannot coach. That he’s a recruiter, a coach that simply rolls the balls out onto the floor and allows the talent he has amassed to take over. As one columnist put it, Coach Cal runs “a glorified AAU team.”

And that is, perhaps, the most inaccurate critique of Coach Cal. When it comes down to it, Coach Cal can coach. As Luke Winn (and John Ezekowitz before him in the College Basketball Prospectus season preview) noted, the past two seasons, he has changed the style that his team plays during the season to highlight the strengths of his team. More specifically, he’s slowed down the pace that his team plays at. This season, Kentucky has gone from a team that averaged 70.7 possessions in non-conference play to one that averages 62.6 possessions in SEC games — a massive change — and it has resulted in Marquis Teague becoming a much more effective point guard. He did the same thing last season and it was a key factor in Brandon Knight’s transition form an overwhelmed freshman to the No. 8 pick in the draft.

Calipari took the time to sit down with Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News for a long question and answer session, and he addressed this very topic.

“They’re not ‘all one-and-dones,'” he said. “That is the disclaimer so you don’t have to say, ‘Boy, he really gets guys better. Their program, their style, prepares kids.’ You’re telling me that Eric Bledsoe was a “one-and-done”? You’re telling me Daniel Orton was a ‘one-and-done’? You’re telling me Shawne Williams, when I was in Memphis, was a ‘one-and-done’? Can you tell me who thought that? Because they need to be drug-tested.”

You can dislike the way that Coach Cal runs a program. That’s your prerogative.

But criticizing his ability to develop talent and coach a team is both unfair and incorrect.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.