Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.
Who else made Resolutions? Click here to find out.
WHAT DOES KENTUCKY PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Play defense
- Why it will happen: With the exception of last season’s disaster, John Calipari’s staple as a basketball coach has been his ability to get his teams to defend. During the seven season stretch from 2005-2006 through 2011-2012 — when Cal’s Memphis and Kentucky teams were in the top ten of KenPom’s rankings every season — the Wildcats only once had a defense that was worse than 9th in defensive efficiency: the 2011 team that finished 15th. This season Kentucky is currently sitting at 46th.
- Why it won’t happen: Who on this Kentucky team is a defensive stopper? When Kentucky desperately needs a stop, who does Coach Cal know will lock his man up? Willie Cauley-Stein is a shotblocker and a game-changing presence around the rim. Everyone else? Do you really think the Harrison twins are willing and able to be lockdown defenders? James Young? Can Dominique Hawkins stay with someone like Jahii Carson or Semaj Christon? The issue with Kentucky isn’t a stylistic one — they’ve never really forced turnovers under Calipari and they’ve always been susceptible to offensive rebounders — it’s an effort one. Chasing someone around a screen or laying out to get that loose ball. That’s not a skill that can be learned.
WHAT DOES KENTUCKY SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Ignore Julius Randle in the post
- Why it will happen: Outside of Jabari Parker and Doug McDermott, Randle may be the best offensive weapon in the country. He’s a bull in a china shop on the block, scoring and getting rebounds and drawing fouls. He doesn’t have the kind of offensive repertoire that Georges Niang does and he’s not the kind of athlete that Joel Embiid is, but as Randle is relentless. Good things happen when he touches the ball, and they will only happen more often as he learns to read double-teams better.
- Why it won’t happen: Randle needs to have the ball given to him on the block. He’s not Kobe or LeBron. He’s not simply going to dribble into a post-up. He needs to seal his man and have one of Kentucky’s perimeter players throw him an entry pass. But those perimeter players aren’t always willing to make that pass. Both Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and James Young as well, are score-first players. If they get into a rhythm and Kentucky is struggling, they’ve already shown a tendency to try to take over instead of continuing to pound the ball where their breads gets buttered.
With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.
Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.
Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.
The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.
After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.
Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.
Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.
With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.
As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.
At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.
Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.
University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.
Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.
In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”
Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.
Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.
She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.