C.J. Fair played his best game of the season in the biggest game of the year. The 6-foot-8 senior went for 28 points and five boards as Syracuse knocked off Duke in overtime at the Carrier Dome, a win that gave them a three-game lead in the ACC over the Blue Devils and catapulted the still-undefeated Orange to the top spot in the top 25.
What made Fair’s performance all the more important is that it came in a game where Syracuse absolutely needed him to come up huge. If there has been a knock of Fair this season, it’s that he hasn’t made the jump from super-productive to superstar. He puts up numbers, but the guy that has seemingly made all the big plays for Syracuse this season has been star freshman Tyler Ennis. On Saturday, it was Fair that made the biggest shots and that took advantage of the fact that the smaller Blue Devils simply had no one that was going to be able to matchup with him.
Syracuse is somewhat overlooked when it comes to national title contenders. The trendy picks have been Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas with a little bit of Florida added in. If Fair continues to play the way he did on Saturday, that won’t be the case much longer.
They were good, too:
Juwan Staten, West Virginia: The Mountaineers had a 2-0 week, knocking off Baylor and Baylor and Kansas State in Morgantown. Staten starred in both, going for 15 points and nine assists against Baylor and 35 points and five assists in the win over KSU.
Johnny O’Bryant, LSU: O’Bryant was the star as the Tigers won two games this week, going for 29 points and nine boards in a win over Kentucky and 23 points, nine boards and four assists as LSU beat Arkansas.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Kilpatrick had 28 points in Cincinnati’s win at Louisville on Thursday, following that up with 18 points as the Bearcats remained undefeated in the AAC with a win over South Florida
Tyler Haws, BYU: Haws scored 71 points in two wins this week. He’s now averaging 35.5 points in his last four games. That’s not too shabby.
The Wildcats, undermanned under first-year coach Chris Collins, are currently sitting at 5-5 in Big Ten play, which slots them ahead of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. If you try to tell me you predicted that, you’re a liar.
This week, it was a pair of road wins in tough environments that got Northwestern all the attention, as the Wildcats knocked off Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and Minnesota at The Barn extending their road-winning streak to three games; they also beat Indiana at Assembly Hall.
Northwestern has won four of their last five and five of their last seven games. Since giving up 93 points to Iowa on January 9th, the Wildcats have allowed more than 56 points just twice, with one of those games being a 63-60 double-overtime win against Purdue. Winning with defense? I’d think so: Northwestern scores 0.003 PPP more than Grambling, good for 316th nationally. They’re improving, at least. A week ago they were 320th nationally.
They were good, too:
Texas Longhorns: Texas became the first team to knock off Kansas in the Big 12 this season, laying the wood to the Jayhawks on Saturday thanks to 23 points from Isaiah Taylor. The Longhorns are now just a game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
Tennessee Volunteers: If Tennessee makes sense to you, please explain them to me. After getting embarrassed by Florida last weekend, the Vols beat Ole Miss and Alabama this week. Jordan McRae bounced back from a 1-for-15 performance against Florida to average 26.0 points and 4.0 assists this week while Jarnell Stokes posted 35 points and 30 boards in the two wins.
Davidson Wildcats: Davidson beat Chattanooga, who had been undefeated in SoCon play, by 43 points on Thursday, following that up with a win over The Citadel on Saturday. The SoCon title still runs through Steph Curry’s school.
St. Joseph’s Hawks: There isn’t a hotter team in the Atlantic 10 right now. St. Joe’s has won six of their last seven and 11 of their last 13 games. They are 5-2 in the A-10 and the only two losses came on the road. This week will be huge: they host both Saint Louis and VCU, the two teams currently ahead of them in the league standings.
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: UNLV has won four in a row after a disastrous start to the season. They erased an 11-point deficit in the final 3:29 to beat Boise State at home on Saturday.
Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, confirmed the subpoena as Pitino joins Miami head coach Jim Larranaga as coaches to receive a subpoena this week in the FBI’s probe. Those two head coaches join Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC as the six known subpoenas, so far, in the case.
“We’ve already acknowledged that the coach has a subpoena and he’s gathering documents for the … U.S. attorney,” Pence said of Pitino to the Courier-Journal.
While it was known that Pitino had voluntarily spoken with the FBI thanks to an affidavit submitted to the University of Louisville Athletic Association in a packet from Pitino’s lawyers earlier this week, the subpoena was not mentioned, according to the Courier-Journal. The packet also included results of a lie detector test and copies of text messages.
The subpoena for Pitino doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but coupled with the report of Larranaga’s subpoena, it sounds like the FBI is taking the next steps in its case.
Report: Miami coach Jim Larranaga receives grand jury subpoena for FBI’s college basketball investigation
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has received a grand jury subpoena as the FBI continues its investigation into corruption in college basketball. According to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Larranaga received a subpoena for texts, emails and other items.
Larranaga’s attorneys told Fenno that the veteran head coach has done nothing wrong. “There’s nothing there,” Larranaga’s attorney said to Fenno. “We’re trying to get them to admit they made a mistake and move on.”
While Larranaga and Miami have previously cooperated with the FBI in turning over phone records and documents in a report from Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel on Oct. 3, the news of a subpoena makes things far more serious.
FBI documents about the scandal don’t specifically mention Larranaga or Miami by name but the school was identified as one of the universities referenced with Adidas allegedly paying players. Miami confirmed the FBI investigation on Sept. 27, stating, “We have confirmed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that, at this time, it is investigating a potential tie to one member of our coaching staff and a student recruit.”
One wiretapped conversation, according to the FBI’s investigation, included a discussion into how much money it would take for a top recruit — believed to be North Carolina 2018 commit Nassir Little — to play at Miami as part of a bidding war.
Patriot League Preview: Can anyone challenge Bucknell?
Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Patriot League.
The 2016-17 season in the Patriot League was one dominated by the Bucknell Bison, with Nathan Davis’ team winning the regular season title for the sixth time in the last seven years. Led by Patriot League Player and Defensive Player of the Year Nana Foulland, the Bison were the best team in the league with regards to both offensive and defensive efficiency and won the regular season title by three games. After winning 26 games and reaching the NCAA tournament as a 13-seed, the question for Bucknell entering the 2017-18 season is what can this group do for an encore.
The good news for Bucknell is that all four double-digit scorers from last season, led by Foulland and forward Zach Thomas, are back on campus. Foulland averaged 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season, with the versatile Thomas leading the Bison in scoring with an average of 15.9 points per contest. Add in guards Stephen Brown and Kimbal Mackenzie, and Bucknell has a rotation that won’t lack for talent or experience.
Given Bucknell’s recent track record and their returning contributors, there’s a simple question for the rest of the Patriot League: which team is best equipped to make a run at the Bison? One could argue that up to four teams are in the conversation, with there not being much to separate them on paper.
Despite losing an outstanding front court presence in Tim Kempton and another productive senior on guard Austin Price, Lehigh is one of those teams. Head coach Dr. Brett Reed will call upon an experienced backcourt to lead the way, with junior Kyle Leufroy averaging nearly 12 points per game last season and senior Kahron Ross leading the league in assists last season. The Mountain Hawks also add one of the Patriot League’s top newcomers in guard Lance Tejada, who sat out last season as a transfer after playing the first two seasons of his college career at East Carolina. With regard to the front court, the progression of sophomore forward Pat Andree will be key if Lehigh is to threaten Bucknell.
Also in the mix is Colgate, with head coach Matt Langel welcoming back six players who made at least 14 starts a season ago. At the top of that list are sophomore forward Will Rayman and senior guard Sean O’Brien, with Rayman being the Patriot League’s top freshman last season. In Rayman, O’Brien and Jordan Swopshire the Raiders return three double-digit scorers, and if Colgate can become a more efficient team on both ends of the floor look out.
Navy and Boston University should also be heard from in the Patriot League conversation, with the Midshipmen being led by senior guard Shawn Anderson. Ed DeChellis’ team won’t lack for depth, with the team’s top five scorers from a season ago back in Annapolis. As for the Terriers, Boston University has to account for the loss of two of the Patriot League’s best players in Eric Fanning and Justin Alston but the cupboard isn’t bare. Guards Cedric Hankerson and Cheddi Mosely return, as does all-rookie team forward Tyler Scanlon, which should make for a good foundation on which to build a possible contender.
Loyola (MD), Lafayette and Army West Point will look to fight their way into the upper half of the Patriot League standings, with the Greyhounds returning one of the Patriot League’s best guards in senior Andre Walker. Lafayette returns three of its top four scorers, led by the Patriot League’s top returning scorer in senior forward Matt Klinewski. And in his second season as the head coach at Army West Point, Jimmy Allen will look to make strides with a team that won 13 games in 2016-17. Guard Jordan Fox is back for his junior season, and in total five of Army’s top six scorers are back.
American, which won just eight games last season, returns its top two scorers in sophomores Sa’eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini. However, the Eagles do have to account for the loss of one of the top defenders in the Patriot League in wing Charlie Jones. Holy Cross, which won 15 games last season, will have to account for the loss of its top two scorers in Robert Champion and Malachi Alexander. Head coach Bill Carmody will look to juniors Karl Charles and Pat Benzan to step forward, but with no seniors on this season’s roster it will take the Crusaders some time to develop into a Patriot League contender.
PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nana Foulland, Bucknell
Not only was Foulland the Patriot League’s best player in 2016-17, but he was also its best defender. Foulland averaged 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a junior, shooting 63.0 percent from the field.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM
Kahron Ross, Lehigh: Ross led the Patriot League in assists (5.3 apg) last season while also scoring nearly ten points per game. With Tim Kempton gone, Ross will have more opportunities to score within the Lehigh offense.
Andre Walker, Loyola (MD): Walker averaged 14.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per night for the Greyhounds last season, and he also shot 38.0 percent from three.
Shawn Anderson, Navy: The 6-foot-4 senior guard saw his field goal percentage dip as a junior (41.8 percent after shooting nearly 50 percent as a sophomore), but he still averaged 12.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per night.
Zach Thomas, Bucknell: Thomas led the Bison in scoring (15.9 ppg) last season, while also averaging 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per night. His ability to score both inside and out will be key for Bucknell.
Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.
The first is relatively simple. Arizona has three things that, alone, would make them relevant in the Pac-12 title and Final Four discussion:
They have a junior that will be a Preseason All-American, in the mix for National Player of the Year and could end up leading all of high-major basketball in scoring this season. His name is Allonzo Trier.
They have the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and his name is not Allonzo Trier. It’s Deandre Ayton, who has a shot at earning those same accolades that Trier will be in the mix for.
Those two will be coached by Sean Miller, who is the best coach in the country to never reach a Final Four and may be the best coach in the country, period.
But, and this may actually be more important than any of those three things individually, Arizona also has the perfect blend of ridiculous incoming freshmen talent and talented returning veterans that can provide the kind of leadership and experience that you don’t see from 18 and 19-year olds.
The Wildcats will likely start just one freshmen this season. Three of their starters — Trier, a junior, and seniors Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Carterwright — are upper-classmen. Sophomore Rawle Alkins should also slide into the starting lineup.
The best teams during the one-and-done era — Kentucky’s title-winning team in 2012, Duke’s title-winning team in 2015, Kentucky’s Final Four team in 2015 — have all had that blend.
It’s why Arizona will be in the top three of every preseason top 25 you see coming out this month.
Before we get into the off-the-court stuff, let’s talk on-the-court.
The way that I see it, there are four things to be worried about with this Arizona team. Let’s walk through each one of them, in order of the most concerning to the least concerning:
1. Point guard play: There are two point guards on Arizona’s roster as of today. One of them is a freshman named Alex Barcello, a borderline top 100 prospect that, in an ideal world, won’t be playing major minutes for a national title-contending team, at least not as a freshman. The other is Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a senior and former four-star recruit that has spent his entire Arizona career has the second option at the point.
The last two years, he played behind Kadeem Allen, a converted scoring guard and tenacious defender that turned himself into the kind of a player that piqued the interest of the Boston Celtics in last year’s NBA Draft. He was a physically imposing, 6-foot-3 menace that also happened to be a 43 percent three-point shooter. Before that, Jackson-Cartwright slotted in behind T.J. McConnell, another savvy, defensive menace that has carved out an NBA career for himself.
That is not the kind of point guard that Jackson-Cartwright is. He has some of the same skills offensively that McConnell had, and his ability to facilitate at the point without needing shots to be happy will be valuable on a roster that has enough guys that want to score, but can he have an impact defensively? Is he a leader the way that past Arizona point guards have been? The answer to both of those questions may be ‘yes’, but if they are ‘no’, will some combination of Barcello, Allonzo Trier and Emmanuel Akot rotating through those lead guard minutes be enough for Arizona to win a title?
We’ve seen what happens when title favorites — ahem, Duke — have question marks at the point, and until Jackson-Cartwright proves otherwise, he falls into that category.
2. Which Deandre Ayton are we going to see this year?: There has never been a question about the amount of talent that Ayton has. He’s 7-foot with a 7-foot-6 wingspan. He’s athletic, he’s fluid, he’s mobile and he has a back to the basket game and three-point range. He, quite literally, is the prototype for a big man in this modern era of basketball.
But he doesn’t always play like it.
The knock on him has always been his motor. When he decides to show up, like he did at Peach Jam during the summer of 2016, he dominates anyone that gets in his way — Wendell Carter, Mitchell Robinson, Marvin Bagley III — but we’ve yet to see Ayton consistently churn out those kind of performances. His detractors will say it is because he is lazy, or he isn’t competitive, or he doesn’t love basketball; you know the clichés. Others will tell you that it is because he was never challenged at the high school level and that when he was, he showed up to play. That idea is supported by the reports coming out of Tucson, that Ayton has been terrific to date.
The truth is that we won’t know which Ayton we are going to see until we actually see him. He might end up being the best player in college hoops. He also might end up being Perry Jones.
3. Are there enough shots to go around?: Allonzo Trier is going to be Arizona’s go-to guy. He may end up being the best scorer in college basketball this season. He’s going to get his shots. Then there’s Rawle Alkins, a former five-star prospect that averaged double-figures as a freshman and opted to return to school to try and boost his NBA stock. He’s going to need shots, too. Ayton is going to need shots. Dusan Ristic is going to need post touches.
The bottom line is this: the hardest thing to do at this level of college basketball is to convince players to buy into a role. John Calipari is the best at it, but he doesn’t even have a perfect track record. In a perfect world, the No. 1 pick might end up being Arizona’s third option offensively this season. Is everyone going to be OK with that?
4. Who plays the four?: Like the point guard spot, the four is going to be something of a question mark for Arizona this season.
Ayton will likely end up starting there, because Ristic is a senior and because he is much more skilled on the perimeter than the 7-foot Serbian. But I still think that Ayton’s best position at the college level is as a small-ball five, and if he is playing at the five, who does Miller line up at the four? Keanu Pinder might be the answer, but he’s a JuCo transfer that played all of 12 minutes per game last season. It might be Ira Lee, but an all-freshmen front court isn’t always the easiest answer. Maybe Miller plays Akot there and fully dives into the small-ball era?
I don’t know.
And frankly, I’m less concerned about this than I am intrigued. I think Arizona has enough talent and enough different pieces that it should be fine however Miller decides it will come together.
Assuming the season goes as planned, which brings us to …
5. … Arizona’s involvement with the FBI investigation: Arizona is all over the FBI complaints that came down last month. Book Richardson, an assistant coach that had been with Sean Miller for 11 years, was arrested. Richardson allegedly took bribes to influence where players on the roster would invest their money and accepted a $15,000 payment that was earmarked for a Class of 2018 prospect named Jahvon Quinerly. Two players currently on the Arizona roster were mentioned by Richardson during the commission of the alleged crimes, although the FBI did not release their names, and another assistant coach, who was with the program as of last spring, was also involved in a dinner with the uncle of one of Arizona’s top recruits.
And we don’t know if that’s all that the FBI has. All we know is what they have released.
Are there going to be more Arizona players or coaches involved in this scandal? Will Arizona get wind of any potential arrests or players that may be deemed ineligible? Is this a situation where the Wildcats will try to fall on their own sword?
Barring some kind of craziness – and craziness enveloping this Arizona season certainly has a greater-than-zero possibility – Arizona is going to end up winning the Pac-12 regular season title. That became a safe bet after the Pac-12 decided that the Wildcats will only be playing UCLA and USC once, and that both of those games will be played in Tucson.
But Arizona fans probably don’t care all that much about Pac-12 titles at this point.
They’ve been there.
What they want is a Final Four, which is more or less the only thing that Sean Miller doesn’t have on his coaching résumé at this point. The 48-year old currently holds the title of ‘best coach to never make a Final Four,’ something he inherited from Mark Few, who inherited it from Bill Self, who inherited it from Jim Calhoun.
Point being, sooner or later, Miller is going to make that run to the final weekend of the college basketball season.
And with the amount of talent, depth, experience and versatility he has with this group, I fully expect that this will be the year he gets it done.
If, you know, nothing crazy happens.
Five-star recruit Emmitt Williams arrested, charged with sexual battery
Five-star recruit Emmitt Williams, 19, was arrested and charged with felony sexual battery and false imprisonment early Wednesday morning.
Williams, who is a top 25 prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, was booked at 12:40 a.m. by the Orlando police department and held on $3,500 bond. He is a senior at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando. He is scheduled to make an appearance in court this afternoon.
Williams visited LSU last weekend and was scheduled to visit Florida this weekend.