Sean Miller

Arizona receives important messages upon their return to campus

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Classes at many schools begin Monday, which means we’re that much closer to having actual college basketball games to discuss. And with the returns to campus come the team meetings used to establish the course of action in the weeks leading up to the start of practice.

At Arizona, head coach Sean Miller uses the return of his players to campus to remind the team of the importance of handling their affairs off the basketball court. From academics to social situations, many seasons have been derailed over the years thanks to bad decisions that have nothing to do with a shot or turnover.

According to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wildcats have kicked things off with a meeting of this variety.

Arizona basketball players were scheduled to return to campus by this morning, then attend what coach Sean Miller calls a “state of the union” meeting this afternoon. During that, the players will listen to talks by trainers, doctors, police officers, public relations representatives and others.

“We try to give our players a sampling of everything that can happen to them outside of our locker room, first and foremost,” Miller said earlier this month. “A lot of things go on in today’s world — a phone can take a picture, and all of a sudden you know about it quicker and more often. It’s a lesson for all of us that we have to be extremely careful and diligent, and know that we represent a team, a program, a university, and we want to do it in a first-class manner.”

The Wildcats begin classes Monday amidst high expectations, with two McDonald’s All-Americans (Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) and a highly-regarded transfer point guard (former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell) joining a group that includes junior guard Nick Johnson and sophomore big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

But there are some holes to fill as Arizona looks to improve upon its Sweet 16 run of a season ago. Versatile forward Solomon Hill’s now in the NBA, and fellow veterans Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom are gone as well. And there’s also the matter of who will consistently knock down perimeter shots, with freshman Elliott Pitts and sophomore Gabe York being two of the possible answers to that question.

Talent-wise the pieces are in place for Arizona to not only win the Pac-12 but accomplish some things nationally as well. With so much ahead of them it’s a good idea to make sure the players are cognizant of what exactly is at stake, both on and off the court.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.