SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round-LSU-Georgia

Johnny O’Bryant III’s decision to return a step in the right direction for LSU

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Tuesday featured two college basketball players announcing their intentions to remain in school for one more season, Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson and LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III.

O’Bryant III’s decision to return to Baton Rouge puts head coach Johnny Jones’ program (19-12, 9-9 in 2012-13) in prime position to at the very least return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, with the Second Team All-SEC selection being just one reason why.

In 29 games this season the 6-9 O’Bryant III averaged 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, leading the Tigers in both statistical categories. But on a team that boasted five double-digit scorers, he was the lone interior scoring option.

That will change in 2013-14.

LSU welcomes two highly-touted front court players in McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and wing Tim Quarterman is no slouch himself.

Add in junior college transfers John Odo (6-10, 230; practiced with the team during the spring semester) and Deng Deng (6-8, 215) and 7-foot freshman Darcy Malone and LSU will have the interior depth they lacked a season ago.

And you can’t mention LSU without considering their returnees on the perimeter as well, with guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer and wing Shavon Coleman being the headliners. All of these pieces factored into O’Bryant III’s decision to return to school.

“I definitely thought about the team next year. We will have a great team next year,” O’Bryant III said during his press conference Tuesday. “I think me coming back will help the guys. I think I have to be a leader to get that team rolling.”

Much of the focus in the SEC entering next season will be focused on Kentucky and Florida, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have the best incoming recruiting class in the country and the Gators return some key pieces and add freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.

But for the conference to improve its national standing after a rough 2012-13 other programs will need to step up. And in his second season in charge of his alma mater, Johnny Jones has a team that appears capable of doing so.

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

VIDEO: Utah Valley’s Mark Pope dances, lip syncs with daughters

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New Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope made quite an impression on fans at the team’s Midnight Madness celebration last night. That’s because Pope did a dance and lip sync routine with his four daughters that turned out to be pretty impressive.

The former BYU assistant looks to be the leader in the clubhouse for best coach dance so far this preseason. We’ll see if any other coaches pull out elaborate routines at madness celebrations the next few weeks.

UConn commit tears ACL for second time

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UConn commit Juwan Durham, a four-star big man in the Class of 2016, has torn the ACL in his right knee for the second time in seven months. The Florida native committed to the Huskies and head coach Kevin Ollie back in September. The 6-foot-9 forward is regarded as the No. 31 overall prospect in the national Class of 2016, so he can really be a force when he’s healthy.

In a report from’s Bob Putnam, UConn was notified of the injury immediately and there is no change in plans with the commitment. The Huskies also own commitments from four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert and three-star power forward Mamadou Diarra in the Class of 2016. Having Diarra, an active, rim-protecting presence, helps with Durham’s recovery, since he can provide some more front court depth.

If Durham rehabs back to full speed, UConn has a very talented power forward who was just hitting his stride in the Florida state playoffs last February. UConn has a nice class so far with this group, especially if Durham can recover, With a year to recover until next season, Durham can hopefully play during his freshman season in 2016.