Memphis, not Kentucky, has the most to prove this season

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On Tuesday afternoon, Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com posted a list of his top ten teams with the most to prove this season.

Brennan has Kentucky at No. 1, a number that I’m not sure that I can get behind.

The Wildcats are coming off of an ugly season, one which saw them underperform throughout the year, lose in the first round of the NIT and proceed to shed two of their more disappointing player through transfer. For a program designed to build around a new crop of freshman every season, that’s a tough blow to take.

But it’s also important to remember that Kentucky is now all of 18 months removed from winning a national title using this exact same formula. They’ve already proven that stocking up on McDonald’s all-americans every year can lead to regular season and postseason success; remember, that national title came a year after Coach Cal led the Cats to the Final Four in 2011.

Part of the reason that expectations are so high for this group is that it’s been done before.

The same cannot be said for the folks down in Memphis, TN. (The Tigers were fourth on Eamonn’s top ten list.)

Josh Pastner has quickly established himself as one of the most impressive recruiters in the country, slowly but surely stockpiling enough talent on his roster that preseason top 15 rankings have become the norm.

But what does he have to show for four years of accumulating of prep phenoms? A pair of league titles in the watered down Conference USA, three trips to the NCAA tournament, a single tournament win and zero wins over teams ranked in the top 25. Talents like Joe Jackson and Adonis Thomas that failed to live up to their immense hype. For all the hype and attention the Tigers get, their results, on paper, aren’t that much different from a program like Belmont, a strong mid-major program overmatched against the big boys.

This season, Memphis have arguably their most talented roster in the Pastner-era. They are making the jump to the AAC, which pits them against UConn, Temple and, for one season, Louisville. They have arguably the best back court in the country, a four-headed monster headlined by Jackson and Missouri transfer Mike Dixon. Their front line has big bodies in the middle with a couple of talented combo-forwards to balance everything out.

Pastner and Memphis, on paper, look like a top ten team.

But this is Memphis. Their reputation precedes them.

And this may be Pastner’s best chance to change the perception of his program.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.

Cal promotes assistant Wyking Jones to head coach

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Cal will promote interim head coach and former assistant coach Wyking Jones to head coach, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports.com

A native of Inglewood, California, Jones has been an assistant coach for the Golden Bears for the past two seasons as he replaces former head coach Cuonzo Martin, who departed to take the Missouri job. This promotion comes as a bit of a surprise for some since Jones has never been a head coach at the Division I level.

Jones has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level at places like Cal, Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount — where Jones spent his playing career.

Helping Louisville to the Final Four in 2013, Jones is a respected coach and recruiter who gets a great opportunity for his first head coaching job at the Division I level with Cal.

The Golden Bears made the NCAA tournament last year but finished 21-13 this season as they missed making the field of 68. Sophomore big man Ivan Rabb has already declared for the NBA Draft and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster Jones gets to work with right away.

One of the reasons Jones might have been retained is to help Cal keep its solid five-man recruiting class from bolting. While the Golden Bears don’t have any five-star talents coming in, it is a solid foundation for the program’s future led by a four-star guard in Jemarl Baker.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.