Elston Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein

Five Weekend Storylines: Kentucky’s rematch with Texas A&M


Kentucky’s rematch with Texas A&M: Kentucky has had a number of lowpoints this season, but I don’t think there’s been a worse moment for UK fans than when they lost at home to Texas A&M on a night where Elston Turner lit up the Wildcats for 40 points. Every other loss has an explanation — they’re young, they were on the road, they were playing a talented team — except for this one.

And on Saturday night (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Wildcats get their shot at revenge. But it’s more than just a payback game. Kentucky looked they best they have all season long on Tuesday night in their win over Ole Miss. Kyle Wiltjer dominated. Alex Poythress took over for 10 minutes in the second half. Nerlens Noel owned the game while scoring just two points. That’s something that they need to build on, because that was the first time all year long where we sat back and said, “Hey, maybe this team actually is getting better.”

Oh, and there may be a special guest in attendance. That should be fun.

What is going on with Missouri? The No. 17 Tigers host Auburn on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3) just three days after they lost their third SEC game of the year. But instead of the loss coming at the hands of a league favorite, Missouri fell at LSU. In a game where Laurence Bowers was back in the lineup.

What gives?

Is this group actually any good?

Because if they are, than that loss is unacceptable. Good teams simply do not lose to the bottom of their conference, especially when they play in a conference as weak as the SEC. If Missouri is a good team, that lose could end up lighting a fire under them, and Auburn could end up being the unknowing victims of a pillaging on Saturday.

We’re about to find out if the Johnnies are for real: Pop quiz hotshot: Who is all alone in third place in the Big East? Any guesses? Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that, at 6-3, St. John’s is sitting in third place by themselves, a half-game in front of four teams in the Big East standings? Steve Lavin’s group has been a revelation early on this season. They’ve won four straight games and have already knocked off Cincinnati and Notre Dame this year.

Now it gets serious. On Saturday, they’re at Georgetown (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS). They host UConn on Wednesday and then follow that up with trips to Louisville and Syracuse. If this group is really going to compete for a tournament spot, we’ll know in two weeks.

Philly hoops is a confounding mess: Villanova lost by 18 to Columbia at home and has since beaten both Syracuse and Louisville. La Salle beat Butler and VCU, on the road, and then lost at home to UMass. Drexel is, well, Drexel.

But the two teams in the city that have confused me the most are Temple and St. Joseph’s, who square off on Hawk Hill on Saturday (6:00 p.m. ET, CBS). St. Joe’s was picked to win the A-10 in the preseason, but got off to a 1-3 start in league play before winning their last two games. Temple beat Syracuse in the Garden earlier this year, but they’ve been the epitome of inconsistency since that win.

If anyone wants to take a shot at explaining any of those five teams, please, the comments section is below. Don’t hesitate.

When do we write off Illinois?: The Illini host Wisconsin on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten) in what has become a must-win game for them. Yes, they’ve beaten Gonzaga, Butler and Ohio State. Those wins are great. They’re also 2-6 in the Big Ten with a stretch coming up that consists of Wisconsin, Indiana, at Minnesota and Purdue, with trips to Ann Arbor and Columbus left on their schedule as well.

Yes, they have plenty of chances to right their ship, but with each loss, it gets harder and harder for a team to turn around their season. Lose this game, and the Illini are staring 2-9 in the Big Ten in the face. They cannot afford a slip-up here.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Details of Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State contract released

Gregg Marshall (AP Photo)
Gregg Marshall (AP Photo)
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Back in the spring, back before Alabama had hired Avery Johnson and Texas had decided upon bringing in Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall was the hottest name on the coaching carousel. He had turned Wichita State into a top 15 program, one that had reached a Final Four and won 35 straight games in the previous three seasons.

There was speculation that the Longhorns would make a run at him, but it was Alabama that tried first, reportedly offering Marshall a blank check, telling him to tell them what he was going to get paid.

Marshall turned it down, accepting a deal to remain at Wichita State that was reported to be worth $3.3 million annually for the next seven years.

This week, the Wichita Eagle obtained a copy of Marshall’s contract. The details:

  • Marshall will be getting paid $3 million annually until 2018, when that number jumps up to $3.5 million. He’s under contract through 2022.
  • He has performance bonuses that could reach more than $450,000.
  • Not that Marshall would ever be fired by Wichita State, but his buyout is massive: $15 million until he’s owed less than $15 million on his contract, at which point the Shockers would have to pay him the remainder of his salary.
  • But if Marshall decides to leave, he only has to pay the school $500,000.

So if you were wondering why Marshall decided not to leave Wichita, it’s because he’s making more than Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan and slightly less than Indiana head coach Tom Crean this season.

Arkansas returns to underdog role after offseason arrests

Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson (AP Photo)
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says he was “blindsided” by a tumultuous offseason for the Razorbacks, one that included the arrests of three players on allegations of using counterfeit money.

Still, entering his fifth season at Arkansas – his 22nd overall at the school, including 17 as an assistant – Anderson remains optimistic the program can build on last year’s second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference.

Led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis, the Razorbacks finished 27-9 last season and reached their NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.

The excitement-filled season was the culmination of four years of rebuilding for Anderson, though the school took a step back afterward following the early departures for the NBA of Portis and second-leading scorer Michael Qualls.

That was only the first step in a difficult offseason for the Razorbacks.

Starting point guard Anton Beard, forward Jacorey Williams and transfer Dustin Thomas were arrested by Fayetteville police in July, accused of using counterfeit $20 bills and exchanging counterfeit $50 bills for $100 bills.

Williams was dismissed in August, while Beard and Thomas have been suspended from the team and remain enrolled in school awaiting trial.

“I think if you’re in it long enough, you’re going to have some of those things take place,” Anderson said. “I was kind of blindsided by some of it, I’ll say that. … When it happens, I think the measure of, not only the person but the program, is how you deal with it. And I think we’re dealing with it in the right way.”

With Portis and Qualls’ departures, as well as the graduation of Ky Madden and Alandise Harris, Arkansas enters this season without four of its top five scorers from a year ago.

The lone returner in that mix is senior shooting guard Anthlon Bell, who averaged 7.9 points per game last season while shooting 35.1 percent on 3-pointers.

Bell’s outside ability is something the Razorbacks expect to use often this season without the interior scoring touch of Portis, and because the revamped roster features several top shooters – including Texas Tech transfer Dusty Hannahs and heralded freshman guard Jimmy Whitt.

Anderson said they’re also likely to run more this season in order to try and manufacture easy offense through defensive pressure.

“We’re still going to play Hog basketball, 40 minutes of Hell,” Bell said.

Anderson wouldn’t comment in detail on the arrests of Beard or Thomas, but he did say he talks with the two while they’re on suspension. He also said they are continuing to work out on their own, with the hope of being reinstated after the legal process plays out.

In the meantime, Anderson is embracing a return to the underdog role after last season’s breakout – calling the reversal a “challenge” and insisting “We’re not going backward.”

“It’s unfortunate that we had some individuals that, No. 1, they (did) some things that hurt the team,” Anderson said. “But at the end of the day, let’s see how these other guys respond.”