Eric Angevine

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Mathieu likely to claim Gophers’ point guard spot

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If you were looking forward to a backcourt of Hollins & Hollins at Minnesota this season, it’s starting to look unlikely.

According to Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5-foot-9 juco transfer Deandre Mathieu has claimed a starting slot for the Gophers.

Deandre Mathieu should be the Gophers’ starting point guard,” Rayno wrote. “After a single exhibition game and a public scrimmage, I think it’s apparent. With Mathieu in the lineup, the Gophers simply seem faster, more efficient and more dynamic.”

That means 6-foot-2 Andre Hollins can slide over to the off-guard spot and spend a little more time attacking, and 6-foot-4 Austin Hollins can play the wing. The three-guard look fits very well with the aggressive tempo favored by first-year Minnesota head man Richard Pitino.

One area he needs to improve in order to fully claim the job is maintain that intensity. Pitino pointed to Mathieu as the one player he thought looked visibly tired as the game went on. Playing with such vigor and aggressiveness takes a lot of energy. More conditioning will surely be in store.

Minnesota was picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten in the preseason media poll, which would be a lot worse if there actually were ten schools in the league. If the Gophers are to move up, the Mathieu experiment will have to pay big dividends, and quickly.

 

UConn’s Daniels is prepping for a breakout season

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It’s easy to imagine that all athletes are extroverts who enjoy the limelight, but it’s not always a fair assumption. Take UConn’s DeAndre Daniels, for instance. According to a recent article in the Hartford Courant, the junior forward’s struggle to assert himself on the court mirrors his reluctance to stand out in his personal life.

The newspaper spoke to Daniels’ roomate, Ryan Boatright:

Said Boatright: “He’s done an unbelievable job at becoming outspoken. When I first met him, man, he was so quiet. He literally stared at his phone all day. He didn’t say two words all day. I’m sure he’ll be the one to tell you, we’ve been living together three years, he acts exactly like me now. K.O. will probably say, ‘You’ve been around Boat too much, you’re talking too much.'”

For Daniels, the words simply followed the results, and experience. “It’s just more confidence in myself,” he said. “Talking to K.O., that’s the main thing he’s telling me to do. Just talk. Talk on defense. Once you step between the lines, your personality has got to change. That’s what I’ve been focusing on.”

K.O. would be head coach Kevin Ollie, of course.

I like Daniels’ message: don’t change who you are at heart, just find you equilibrium. Talk when you need to talk.

With all of the stories about kids struggling to grow into their roles and act with maturity during their college sports careers, it’s nice to hear about a coach, player and his teammates finding some balance and learning from one another.

Hey, Linus! Marcus Lee is the Great Pumpkin! (PHOTO)

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Halloween is over, but I’m not quite ready to let go yet.

The Sporting News published some awesome photos of current DI players in their childhood Halloween costumes this week, and one in particular tickled my funny bone for some reason. There were photos of young Sam Dekker as a cowboy, Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble as Barry Sanders, and Georges Niang looking like Jake Lamotta, but it was Marcus Lee in the pumpkin patch that caught my eye:

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Marcus Lee was an orange roundie for Halloween one year. (photo courtesy Sporting News)

With a figure like that, it’s a wonder Lee didn’t end up at Syracuse, hanging out with Otto the Orange.

Rhody’s Hurley: “I don’t know what a foul is” under new rules

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When a veteran coach like Dan Hurley doesn’t know how to adapt to a rule change, you can bet we’re in for a bumpy ride as the season opens.

Randy Peterson of USA Today put it succinctly when he wrote “College basketball officials are supposed to call hand-checking a foul as they transition the sport from ‘no harm, no foul’ to ‘no touching.'”

It’s pretty much a 180-degree swing, and that’s causing some major problems for college coaches and their players. Following a 93-77 exhibition win over Southern Connecticut State, second-year Rams head man Hurley put it bluntly: “Right now, I don’t know what a foul is on the perimeter. I just don’t know,” he told the Providence Journal . “Going into the season, it’s scary because you just don’t know what a foul is.”

The rule changes, intended to ease the physicality of defense in DI hoops, is supposed to (eventually) speed the game up, but early on, the whistles will likely have the opposite effect.

The Rams were called for 28 fouls, the same number as Southern Connecticut. The teams attempted a combined 71 free throws with the Rams winning out at the line, 25-14. Even with no TV timeouts the game took a shade more than 2:15 to complete.

Hurley said his team was whistled for “even more fouls” in a closed scrimmage last weekend against Manhattan. He battled with the officials most of the way Friday night and picked up a technical foul in the second half.

As a devotee of the defensive side of basketball, I’m curious how this is all going to play out. Will Wisconsin games start to look like the NBA All-Star contest, instead of the grind-fest we’re all used to from Bo Ryan? Or will we simply find ourselves watching an equally boring parade to the foul line every night?

Every season is a strange new beast these days, and this one will be no different.

Duke debuts faster pace in preseason victory

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This year’s Duke team is younger than what we usually see in Durham. That’s tough, because everyone’s still learning how to play the right way. It’s also a great opportunity, because everyone’s still learning how to play the right way.

That means a clever coach can introduce a new style of play without as much resistance.

Exactly how Mike Krzyzewski has changed his team won’t be obvious until we get to see them in person, but the Hall of Fame coach himself admitted his squad is changing things up, following a convincing 103-67 exhibition victory over DII CIAA champs Bowie State today.

“The older guys are learning and aren’t teaching as much,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of having a young team. “When you have older guys who’ve played a system that you’ve played, you put younger guys on the spot. We’re all learning this new way of playing, a faster way of playing.

Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood had an auspicious season debut at Cameron Indoor Stadium, leading the Blue Devils with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Jabari Parker also stood out, tallying 16 points and five assists. Amile Jefferson and freshman Matt Jones scored in double figures as well.
It’s intriguing to hear Coach K talk about a faster way of playing. In recent seasons, the ball often went inside to a back-to-the-basket big man on most possessions, even if it came back out to the perimeter later in the shot clock. In this exhibition, the starting lineup was a more mobile five: Parker, Hood and Jefferson were teamed with Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon for the opening tip.
The new lineup will meet a stern test early on. The Blue Devils take the floor against Davidson on November 8th, then travel to Chicago to take on Kansas on November 12.

Assigned reading: St. John’s grew up this summer

photo courtesy St. John's Sports Information
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photo courtesy St. John’s Sports Information

It’s always helpful to remember that famous people are human. That goes double for college athletes, who are, after all, college kids.

Every time I read a tut-tutting expose about a college basketball player’s off-court indiscretions, one thought runs through my mind: thank god nobody was watching me that closely when I was 19.

That’s what I love about “Taking Europe by Red Storm,” an inside look at the St. John’s basketball team penned by Reid Forgrave for Fox Sports. Not only is it a lovely travelogue of the team’s time in Paris this summer, but it reveals the humanity behind some players who have acquired a bad, bad rep in the national press in the past.

Take the story of D’Angelo Harrison, for instance.

What everyone knows about Harrison is this: A bad attitude got him kicked off the team last season, despite being the team’s leading scorer and despite St. John’s being on the cusp of an NCAA tournament bid when Lavin booted his leading scorer. He was painted as a bad apple. Meet Harrison, though, and you’ll realize the bad-apple tag doesn’t ring true.

He’s charismatic and funny, smart and cocky, yet also the type to notice when someone is sitting alone and go bring the loner back into the fray. When the team visited the St. John’s campus in Paris, Harrison befriended a nun and bought a rosary from her. He’s a natural leader, the type of player you root for, yet someone with plenty of demons.

Do I believe that superb athletes catch breaks they shouldn’t from time to time? Yes. I also believe that college coaches quite often are doing their best to teach these raw college kids humility and responsibility while they still can. Stories like this one help us hit a more realistic middle point on the lionizing-demonizing scale that dominates our national conversation too often.

As I noted, it’s also a nice look at what goes on during an overseas trip. For a young team like St. John’s, this kind of trip can pay real dividends in team chemistry. It’s a good image to have in the back of your mind when you watch the Red Storm take the court this season.