Who benefits the most by landing Andrew Wiggins?

4 Comments

In less than 24 hours, we will all finally know the answer to the elephant in the room in every college hoops conversation since Louisville won the 2013 national title: Where will Andrew Wiggins go to college?

On Sunday evening, Wiggins officially announced that he would be making his decision public at 12:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, meaning that at precisely 12:16 p.m. ET on Tuesday, there will be one team and one fan base who just saw their expectations for the 2013-2014 reach a new level.

The four schools still involved in Wiggins’ recruitment? Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky is the easy pick since, well, since they are Kentucky; they always land these recruits. Florida State is the trendy pick and the program many believe to be the favorite. Kansas is the sleeper that is making a late-push. North Carolina is the longshot, but who doesn’t love an underdog story.

Who has the most to gain from landing Wiggins? Who cannot afford to miss on this future star? Just how important is landing a preseason first-team all-american to these four schools? Read on and find out:

Florida State: The Seminoles took a massive step back a season ago, as they struggled to find any kind of consistency on the defensive end of the floor — Leonard Hamilton’s typical trademark — and couldn’t find any kind of consistency in their front court. They finished the year 18-16, a record which was probably better than it should have been thanks to the repeated late-game heroics from Michael Snaer. But the ‘Noles are already bringing in a talented recruiting class — headlined by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a close friend of Wiggins’, and Jarquez Smith — and return a better-than-you-realize core of Devin Bookert, Ian Miller and Okaro White.

Without a doubt, this would be the most intriguing place for Wiggins to land. This kid is regarded in the same vein as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and we all remember what LBJ and the Durantula did in their first seasons out of high school. LeBron averaged 21, 6 and 6 for the Cavs while Durant lit up the Big 12 for 25.8 points, 11.1 boards, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks as a freshman. With that kind of a talent on the roster, FSU immediately becomes a threat to reach the Sweet 16. Without him, this team is likely destined for the NIT.

Kansas: The Jayhawks, who some believe are right behind Florida State as favorites to land the services of Wiggins, are already going to be an interesting team to follow through the 2013-2014 season. We all know about the streak — Bill Self has won at least a share of the last nine regular season titles in the Big 12 — but this group will be losing all five starters from a season ago. Their returnees: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Andrew White and Jamari Traylor. Their newcomers: Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Connor Frankamp, Frank Mason, Brannen Greene. There’s potential there, sure, but there is also a ton of youth. With Oklahoma State and Baylor returning a ton from a season ago, this could be the season that the Jayhawks lose their grip on the league.

But with Wiggins in the mix, it becomes a much different story. He immediately becomes the star and go-to guy that the Jayhawks desperately need. He takes the pressure off of the point guard spot. He makes things easier on their young front line. This group would very-much resemble the 2007-2008 Texas team with Durant. The Jayhawks would immediately become the favorite to win the Big 12 — you simply don’t bet against Bill Self if he gets Wiggins on his roster — and they should be considered a legitimate Final Four contender.

Kentucky: Kentucky, like Florida State, is coming off of a first round exit in the NIT. And like Kansas, the Wildcats are losing a number of pieces this offseason — Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays. The difference is that Kentucky is already bringing in one of the best recruiting classes of all-time, and they still return Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer. This team already goes nine-deep with top 40 recruits. They are already the preseason No. 1 team in the country. They probably don’t need Wiggins to win it all, but in the real world, there’s never a situation where you ‘don’t need’ a talent like Wiggins.

If Kentucky wins this recruiting battle, the talk about the Wildcats going undefeated will commence. And it’s possible. This will be the most ridiculous accumulation of talent on any roster in recent memory. NBA teams will be renting out apartments in Lexington during the school year; it’ll be cheaper than spending all that money on hotels. Think about this: the Harrison twins in the back court, Wiggins on the wing, Julius Randle and Cauley-Stein up front with James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Poythress and Wiltjer coming off the bench.

Yuh. Ikes.

There are concerns, however — How do minutes get split up? Are the guys on the bench happy being ‘guys on the bench’? Are there too many attitudes and egos on this roster? — but I’m not sure there is a coach in the country better-suited to handling this team than Coach Cal.

North Carolina: Few believe Wiggins will end up at North Carolina, but if he does, he would be the perfect piece to slide into Roy Williams’ system. Think about it like this: the guy is basically the same position as Reggie Bullock, only worlds better than Reggie Bullock. And when North Carolina made their late-season run in 2012-2013, it was when Bullock played in the front court alongside PJ Hairston and James Michael-McAdoo. In that system, I’m not sure there is a player better-suited to being an undersized-four than Wiggins.

With Marcus Paige also returning, and another talented recruiting class coming in this season, the Tar Heels were already considered a borderline top ten team and the biggest challenger to Duke and Syracuse in the ACC. With Wiggins, they would be the favorite to win the strongest conference in the country and a real national title contender.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Aaron Holiday’s value on full display as No. 23 UCLA beats Wisconsin

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the trio of Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton starting on the perimeter, UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday was forced into a supplementary role as a sophomore last season. With all three of those players gone and another highly-regarded freshman class on campus, Holiday is in a position of leadership for a UCLA program that saw its depth vanish due to the suspensions of three players who were caught shoplifting in China earlier this month.

Holiday’s been the leader the Bruins needed at this point in the season, with Tuesday’s 72-70 win over Wisconsin (2-3) in the third-place game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City being his best outing of the season to date. Holiday capped the game with a layup with eight tenths of a second remaining to give UCLA (4-1) the win, but it was his play throughout that afforded the Bruins the opportunity to avoid suffering a second defeat in as many nights.

Holiday was efficient throughout, scoring 18 points (14 in the second half) on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and dishing out five assists without committing a turnover. The junior led five Bruins in double figures, and on a night in which a few of his teammates struggled to take care of the basketball — Prince Ali and G.G. Goloman were responsible for 11 of the team’s 19 turnovers — Holiday’s work with the ball in his hands was critical.

UCLA trailed by as much as 12 late in the first half, with their 5-0 spurt to finish the stanza giving Steve Alford’s team a boost of sorts heading into the locker room. Holiday’s layup just before the buzzer was the final basket of that run, and he would make one three-pointer and assist on another as UCLA managed to regain the lead before the first media timeout of the second half.

A dogged defender on the perimeter, Holiday’s offensive skill set and poise were incredibly important for UCLA Tuesday night and will continue to be throughout the season. While there are some veterans on the roster in addition to Holiday, most notably Thomas Welsh, UCLA will have to rely on newcomers in key positions as well (Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes, especially).

Having Aaron Holiday to call upon gives UCLA a safety net of sorts; he rarely gets out of control and puts in the work on both ends of the floor night in and night out. That was the case Tuesday night at a time when UCLA needed him most, and thanks to Aaron Holiday’s play down the stretch the Bruins found a way to escape Kansas City with a win.

No. 19 Louisville doubles up Southern Illinois, 84-42

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Three games wasn’t too soon for No. 19 Louisville to enjoy a blowout after winning its first two the hard way.

Jordan Nwora came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points, Deng Adel had 16 points and the Cardinals coasted past Southern Illinois 84-42 on Tuesday night.

After scraping past George Mason and Nebraska-Omaha, the Cardinals (3-0) had a surprisingly easy time against the Salukis (2-1) once they got past the early moments. They turned a 9-6 deficit into a 29-18 halftime lead before putting put it out of reach, leading 65-30 with 6:47 remaining.

Louisville still has work ahead trying to develop chemistry with seven newcomers and a first-time coach. But the Cardinals finally saw how it looked with everyone in sync and focused.

“We wanted to come out and play well for 40 minutes and get a win,” said Louisville interim coach David Padgett, whose team shot 59 percent in the second half and 45 percent overall.

Credit the Cardinals’ youngsters for shifting things into high gear on both ends of the court.

Though the teams combined to shoot just 11 of 47 from behind the arc, Louisville’s freshmen found their mark late to help the Cardinals finish 8 of 26. Nwora had 12 career points coming in but made 4 of 6 shots in the first half for 10 points and set the tone along with Adel (12).

Louisville’s defense created offensive chances in the second half that allowed many to benefit.

“We weren’t shooting the ball well and just let the offense come to us,” said Nwora, who finished 7 of 10 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds.

“We were a little sluggish. We just knew we had to keep playing defense. He (Padgett) just said the offense will come.”

Dwayne Sutton had eight points with two 3s, guard Darius Perry had 10 points and forward Lance Thomas (five points) added one from deep for Louisville.

Louisville held SIU to a season-low 27 percent shooting, including just 3 of 21 from long range. The Salukis’ 42 points tied for their eighth-lowest total all time.

Armon Fletcher had 14 points and seven rebounds for SIU while junior center Kavion Pippen, nephew of NBA great Scottie Pippen, had 10 points.

“Their press was kind of different,” Fletcher said. “Those guys, they’re long and athletic. . We needed to run our patterns that we’d practiced. When we did, we got good shots on the other end. We’ve just got to finish around the basket.”

BIG PICTURE

Southern Illinois: Despite missing their first 11 shots, the Salukis regrouped to grab a 9-6 lead. That didn’t last long as Louisville outscored them 16-2 over 5:17 and 23-9 the rest of the first half. Inside scoring was tough against the taller Cardinals, who won that category 40-24. SIU managed to stay close on the glass for a while before eventually being beaten there 49-40. Sixteen turnovers leading to 19 Louisville points also hurt.

Louisville: The Cardinals still have a lot of rough edges, but showed much more intensity from the first two games. “That’s what our defense is capable of,” Adel said. “The first two games, it wasn’t there. … We are going to need that type of defense the whole season.” They dominated bench scoring 49-10, which they have needed in hopes of finding depth. Adel had another good game against SIU, scoring in double digits with seven rebounds after registering 12 points and 12 rebounds last December for his first career double-double.

BIRTHDAY GIFT

Louisville is 6-0 all time on Nov. 21, the birthdate of longtime sports information director Kenny Klein.

UP NEXT

Southern Illinois faces another Kentucky school on Saturday when it visits Murray State.

Louisville hosts Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) on Friday night to conclude its season-opening, four-game home stand.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

No. 16 Aggies win Progressive Classic behind Williams

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 16 Texas A&M to a 98-87 victory over Penn State in the championship game of the Progressive Legends Classic on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Duane Wilson led the Aggies (4-0) with 22 points while Tyler Davis chipped in 15, Admon Gilder had 14 and Tonny Torcha-Morelos finished with 11.

Despite getting a career-high 31 points from Tony Carr, Penn State (5-1) lost its first game of the season. Lamar Stevens added 25 points for Penn State.

The Aggies took a 42-40 lead into halftime due to Williams’ two-hand follow jam with 4 seconds left in the half. Seven of the eight players who got into the game in the first half for Texas A&M scored, led by Williams’ 12.

And the Aggies needed every point, as Carr was a one-man offensive onslaught for the Nittany Lions. Carr had 21 points in the opening half on 7-of-8 shooting including 2 for 2 from 3-point range. He made 5 of 6 free throws.

Texas A&M took a 63-51 lead on Wilson’s scoop layup 6:41 into the second half. Wilson’s layup was the culmination of a stretch in which the Aggies outscored the Nittany Lions 21-11.

Following Wilson’s layup, Penn State coach Pat Chambers called time out. DJ Hogg hit a 3 for the Aggies, Gilder made two free throws and Williams finished a 2-on-1 break with a two-handed jam off an alley-oop pass which pushed the lead to 70-53.

Penn State used an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 70-61.

After a layup by Gilder pushed the lead to 72-61, the Nittany Lions scored the next five points on a layup by Carr and three free throws from Stevens. That was as close as they would get.

Williams was named tournament MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Wilson, Carr, Stevens and Oklahoma State’s Jeffrey Carroll.

BIG PICTURE:

PENN STATE: The positive for Penn State is that Carr and Stevens combined for 56 points. The negative? The rest of the Nittany Lions totaled 31.

TEXAS A&M: The defensively stout Aggies were able to flex their offensive muscle against Penn State. Texas A&M made 33 of 54 shots (61 percent) from the field and knocked down 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) free throws.

NOTABLE:

PENN STATE: In the Chambers Era, the Nittany Lions are 4-3 all-time in games played in New York City, and 2-2 at games held at Barclays Center.

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies improved to 4-0 all-time against the Nittany Lions. Texas A&M is 2-0 at neutral site venues against Penn State.

UP NEXT:

PENN STATE: Hosts Oral Roberts on Friday.

TEXAS A&M: Hosts Pepperdine on Friday.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Trayvon Reed ends up on wrong end of Udoka Azubuike dunk

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Listed at 7-feet, 280 pounds, Kansas redshirt freshman Udoka Azubuike is an imposing figure on the basketball court. If he gets his defender pinned underneath the basket, there’s a good chance that Azubuike is going to finish things off with a powerful dunk.

That’s exactly what happened in the first half of Kansas’ home game against Texas Southern, with 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed being on the receiving end of a vicious poster-worthy dunk. Had this been on a fast break maybe Reed has the opportunity to make a “business decision.” No such luck in a half-court set, however.

Jalek Felton serves up first poster dunk of collegiate career

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

The final seconds of No. 9 North Carolina’s 96-72 win at Stanford Monday night proved to be far more eventful than many anticipated, thanks to freshman guard Jalek Felton. The nephew of former Tar Heel point guard and 2005 national champion Raymond Felton, Jalek drove towards the basket with Stanford’s 6-foot-11 sophomore big man Trevor Stanback standing in the way.

The attempt to stop Felton at the rim did not work out well for Stanback. And someone on the North Carolina bench was so fired up about the dunk that he broke into a full sprint towards the baseline.

North Carolina played the game, with Stanford being coached by one of Roy Williams’ former players in Jerod Haase, ahead of its trip to Portland for the inaugural PK80 event.