Russ Smith

Is Louisville’s back court of Russ Smith, Chris Jones dynamic or combustible?

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The college basketball newcomer with the most pressure on him entering the season is Andrew Wiggins.

That is pretty much indisputable at this point. When people toss around comparisons to folks like Kevin Durant and LeBron James, you know you’re in a different stratosphere as a prospect.

Second on that list is debatable, but one name that would surely find his way near the top would be Louisville point guard Chris Jones.

Jones is a former top 50 recruit that was once signed by Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. After failing to get the grades to be able to enroll in college on time, Jones ended up at Northwest Florida State, a JuCo where he spent two years becoming one of the most sought-after point guards in the country. Not only that, but Jones will be asked to replace Peyton Siva at the point, joining the entertainingly erratic Russ Smith in Louisville’s back court.

On paper, that doesn’t sound like much, as Siva averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 assists. Those aren’t insurmountable numbers, but what doesn’t show up in the box score is Siva’s leadership and, more importantly, his calming influence alongside Russdiculous. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Siva’s value and importance during Louisville run to the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title has been underrated, and based on early reviews from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, Jones may not be the perfect fit to replace Siva in that way:

There are moments when Jones looks the part of a junior college All-American and future pro. There are, however, others when he looks overwhelmed by the pace of the game, Pitino’s system and having to balance scoring while keeping his teammates content.

[…]

“He’s definitely a point guard. He can run the team,” Pitino said of Jones. “I like him a lot. He’s a competitor. He doesn’t bother me at all. The only issue he’s going to have is the referees. He never thinks he fouls.”

“I have to learn how to keep my emotions inside,” Jones said.

Jones and Smith will form arguably the most exciting back court in the country this season, as both are dynamic offensive talents, but pairing two players like that is a combustible mix.

And playing on a roster that includes Montrezl Harrell, Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock, it will be interesting to see if there are enough shots to go around to keep everyone content.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.