Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood

Weekend Preview: Miami-NC State, Ole Miss-Florida highlight slate

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Game of the Week: No. 14 Miami at No. 19 NC State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Clearly, the best game this weekend is between Michigan and Indiana, but seeing as we already devoted 800 words to that matchup, we’re going to go ahead and highlight some other folks here.

Miami wants to stake their claim as the best team in the ACC, and they did a pretty good job of that when they beat Duke by 27 points to take a commanding two-game lead in the league standings. The Hurricanes have, seemingly out of nowhere, developed one of the stingiest defensives in the country, one that’s strong enough to overcome the fact that they’ve only played about a third of the season at full-strength. Shane Larkin has been a revelation this season, slowly becoming the best point guard in the ACC and a guy that’s going to merit some all-america consideration come March.

And that’s where the problem for the Wolfpack lies. Miami is a tough defensive team with a talented point guard, which is not a good thing for a team that will, in a best case scenario, have a banged up Lorenzo Brown running the show. He sprained his ankle against Virginia and never returned to the game. Can freshmen Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis handle the pressure in his absence?

Five more games you have to watch:

  • No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Louisville (Sunday, 2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisville ended their three-game losing streak on Monday with a win over Pitt at home. But the win was anything but convincing, as the Cardinals needed a 3-12 performance from the line from the Panthers to avoid another late-game meltdown. There is no program in the country that has a better reputation for winning close games in conference play than Marquette. Keep an eye out for Wayne Blackshear. He missed Louisville’s last game with a shoulder issue.
  • No. 16 Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Here’s our chance to get a gauge on both Ole Miss and Florida. The Rebels have a gaudy record, but they are coming off of a home-loss to Kentucky where their star — Marshall Henderson — had one of his worst shooting nights of the season. Throw in the fact that he’s had some of his past issues dug up in recent weeks, and we’ll see just how focused he is. Florida, on the other hand, has absolutely obliterated the SEC this season. A lot of that has come against the dreck at the bottom of the conference, however. Can they do the same to Ole Miss?
  • Ohio at Akron (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The two undefeated teams in the MAC squaring off. Ohio, under a new coaching regime, has one of the nation’s most under-appreciated point guards in DJ Cooper running the show, while Akron has built their team around the presence of the massive Zeke Marshall in the paint. Worth noting: Ohio had their game on Wednesday cancelled when a gunman made his way onto campus.
  • No. 6 Syracuse at Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): ACC basketball doesn’t get better than this.* Syracuse will be a bit shorthanded heading into this game, as DaJuan Coleman and James Southerland will both be in street clothes. That will open room for Jerami Grant to slide into the starting lineup, but it could create a problem for the Cuse: the Panthers look like a Pitt team of old, as they have a massive, veteran front line that attacks the offensive glass. Missing their best shooter and biggest body could end up being an issue.
  • Baylor at Iowa State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): I don’t know how good either of these two teams are. I’ll be honest. But the way they matchup — Baylor’s size and athleticism against ISU’s versatility and three-point shooting — should make this game quite the entertaining watch.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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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.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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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.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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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.

PODCAST: Boeheim’s non-controversy and the coaches we don’t want to fight

Jim Boeheim
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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.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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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.