Titus Rubles, Kyree Jones

Christmas Wish Lists: Titus Rubles’ production tops Cincinnati list

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Titus Rubles is the fourth scoring option 

In Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker the Bearcats have a very good perimeter trio on which to rely. However, when considering the fact that Mick Cronin’s big men aren’t serious interior scoring threats, the Bearcats need a fourth perimeter factor to emerge. Enter Titus Rubles, who is averaging 8.1 points in just under 20 minutes of action per game. In the Bearcats’ three toughest games to date (Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama) the Blinn College transfer averaged 11.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest, but he shot a combined 4-of-13 in wins over Arkansas-Little Rock and Maryland-Eastern Shore. If Cincinnati is to get back to the Sweet 16 (or go even further) they’ll need consistent production from Rubles.

Stocking stuffer: Cleaning the glass at a higher rate 

Cincinnati has been the best team in the Big East when it comes to attacking the offensive boards, as they’re corralling a league-best 42.2% of their missed shots. But the Bearcats have been a middle of the pack squad when it comes to keeping opponents from doing the same, as their defensive rebounding percentage ranks seventh in the conference (70.6%). With the bulk of the scoring coming from the perimeter, players such as Justin Jackson (6.2 rpg), Cheikh Mbodj (4.9) and David Nyarsuk (4.4) will have to lead the way on the boards. It does help matters that Kilpatrick (6.1 rpg), Rubles (5.4) and Parker (4.6) are all good rebounders, but those big men will be needed if Cincinnati is to make waves in both Big East play and March.

Planning on re-gifting: Non-conference strength of schedule

According to realtimerpi.com the Bearcats enter Friday with a strength of schedule ranking of 246, while Yahoo! Sports calculations have them sitting at a slightly better ranking of 223. But with wins over Iowa State and Oregon (that win over Alabama may take a hit due to the Crimson Tide’s injury issues) and a game against Xavier on the horizon, the are some solid results on Cincinnati’s resume. Conference play will give those numbers the boost they need to look good come Selection Sunday, but you have to wonder if the non-conference number could cost Cincinnati a seed line when the time comes.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.