Cincinnati stocks backcourt with two verbal commitments

Leave a comment

Many tactics have proven to be effective in college basketball recruiting. Many so-called “blue blood” programs set their targets on top-50 prospects, and often wage battles for those players that extend late in the signing periods. The danger in that tactic is that the runner-ups can come up empty handed, and struggle to complete a roster when other similarly talented prospects are off the board.

Cincinnati is a program that has traditionally not taken such a tactic to heart, as coach Mick Cronin targets high school and junior college players who fit his system. The track record of success for the Bearcats speaks for itself, in recent memory.

That said, Cincinnati landed two backcourt recruits just a few days, as 6-3 combo guards Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson committed within days of each other. While neither is considered a top-50 player, both have the skills to be competent in the Bearcats’ system for years, and should be welcomed with open arms by fans.

Caupain, who hails from Virginia and plays in the strong Team Loaded grassroots program, and Johnson, a player from the backyard at Summit Country Day in Cincinnati, can both handle the ball. While it’s not clear which player will be the primary handler in the future, and which will play off the ball, it is clear that Cincinnati has projected replacements for their senior guards, JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright.

Both Johnson and Caupain are arguably top-150 players, and both received positive reviews during the spring circuit. Cronin and his staff have locked up both backcourt players prior to the July evaluation period, and both seem like solid additions. The key now for Cincinnati will to land a blue chip big man, after missing out on Chris Obekpa in the 2012 class to St. John’s.

One interior star that Cincinnati has their eye on is 6-9 power forward Jermaine Lawrence, a New York City transplant that plays high school hoops in New Jersey. With Caupain and Johnson in the fray, Lawrence is likely to be the subject of a full court recruiting press from the Cincinnati staff going forward. With or without Lawrence, fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the guard core has been replenished with sizable, lengthy and skilled players.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.