Who’s Getting Upset?: Oklahoma at No. 3 Kansas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
I think that Oklahoma has a chance to knock off Kansas in Phog Allen this weekend. If you remember earlier this season, Iowa State nearly beat Kansas before getting bailed out by a banked-in three from Ben McLemore with 1.0 seconds left on the clock. The Cyclones probably deserved to win that game in regulation, however, and the way they did it was fairly simple: They used their perimeter-oriented big men to pull Jeff Withey away from the rim and get him into ball-screen and dribble-handoff actions.
Oklahoma has a pair of bigs that are quite capable of stepping out onto the perimeter and knocking down jump shots. If Lon Kruger can get his team to execute offensively the same way that Fred Hoiberg got his team to, and if the Sooners are knocking down their shots, they’ll have a puncher’s chance.
There’s more to it than that, however. Oklahoma has a kid by the name of Buddy Hield who is an athletic freshman that is one of the better defenders in the Big 12. He’ll likely get stuck on Ben McLemore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did a good job slowing down the uber-talented freshman.
Who else is on Upset Alert?:
- No. 3 Syracuse at Villanova (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU): Villanova just knocked off Louisville at home in another game against a top five team that plays almost primarily 2-3 zone. The Wildcats, if they can hit shots from the perimeter again, should have a chance in their last visit from Syracuse before the Big East finally splits up.
- No. 5 Louisville at Georgetown (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisville gets into trouble when they have problems scoring the ball because it means that the Cardinals can’t get into their press. Louisville is capable of going on these game-changing runs — they’re more like surges than runs, as they slowly wear you down — because they are at their best defensively immediately after a made shot. Georgetown, for all their issues, offensively, is quite good on the defensive end of the floor. That should at least let them keep it close.
- No. 11 Kansas State at Iowa State (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Iowa State may have just lost to Texas Tech, but the Cyclones have talent on their roster and a handful of players that can get hot and go for 20 points on a given night. They also have the kind of versatility on their front line that will make it tough for a Thomas Gibson or a Jordan Henriquez to cover.
- No. 2 Michigan at Illinois (Sun. 6:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net): Given the divergent paths of Michigan and Illinois this year, this seems silly, but hear me out: Illinois ran Ohio State out of the gym when they hosted the Buckeyes because the Illini were able to matchup with them playing small ball. In other words, Deshaun Thomas is essentially a three playing at the four, which was ideal for John Groce’s style this season. Guess what Michigan has: a three (Glenn Robinson III) playing the four for them.
- No. 24 Notre Dame at South Florida (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3): At this point, would a win by the Bulls here even be considered an upset? The only reason Notre Dame is still ranked is because the new rankings haven’t been released yet. Don’t expect this game to reach the 50’s. South Florida plays slow, and I would expect Notre Dame to go back to their Burn Offense.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.
You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.
I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.
But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?
And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?
The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.
But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?
I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:
Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.
Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.
For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.
The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.
The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.
“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”
“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”
Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.
Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.
Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.
John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.
Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.
Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.
In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.
We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.
Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.
KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.
“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”
Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.
“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”
Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.