NCAA Basketball Tournament - Purdue v Kansas

Purdue should get added shooting and leadership from freshman Dakota Mathias

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Purdue will have a new look to its backcourt for the 2014-15 season as main contributors Terone Johnson graduated and Ronnie Johnson transferred to Houston.

Even with that duo in the lineup last season, the Boilermakers still struggled to knock down perimeter jumpers around imposing rising-junior center A.J. Hammons as Matt Painter’s team only shot 32 percent from three-point range last season.

Rising-sophomore wing Kendall Stephens returns, and he knocked down 64 three-pointers last season on the way to 37 percent from the field, but Purdue doesn’t have a lot of other perimeter scoring options. Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman are both working to be better perimeter scorers, but the two of them combined for five made three-pointers last season.

That makes the incoming freshman class that much more important for next season. Purdue brings in a five-man class with center Isaac Haas, forward Jacquil Taylor, wing Vince Edwards, guard Dakota Mathias and point guard P.J. Thompson, but Mathias, in particular, should really help the Boilers space the floor around Hammons.

In a recent article from Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Mathias and his leadership and shooting prowess are the main focus.

The 6-foot-4 native of Elida, Ohio won’t wow anyone with his athleticism next season, but he’s very skilled and shot 48 percent from the three-point line last season. His gym-rat mentality has also impressed his future head coach.

“It’s his craft and he’s worked many hours on it,” Painter said to Baird about his incoming freshman guard. “It’s a frustrating thing to do as a coach, to be honest with you, when you have to plead with certain guys to get in the gym and shoot. My answer to that is to recruit guys who already get in the gym. He’s a guy that always gets in the gym.”

Having gym rats like Mathias entering Purdue should help lift the work ethic of a team that struggled to a 5-13 finish in the Big Ten and 15-17 record overall. Mathias’ perimeter shooting also gives Painter another reliable wing with Kendall Stephens to help space the floor around Hammons.

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.