The 6-foot-3 Shuler is a scorer who is at his best playing fast and the way he likes to play should fit in well with head coach Andy Kennedy’s offense. Regarded as the No. 104 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2017 national rankings, Shuler is a plus athlete who is at his best attacking the basket.
If Shuler develops a more consistent jumper, then he can be a very solid overall offensive player. Defensively, Shuler is athletic enough to be a potential impact guy there as well with added work.
Shuler is the fourth commitment for Ole Miss in the Class of 2017 as he joins three-star forward Jatrious Smith, three-star guard Parker Stewart and forward Tirus Smith.
Ole Miss moved to 2-0 at its new home arena, The Pavilion at Ole Miss, with a 72-71 win over Georgia Saturday night. The game-winning shot was made by senior guard Stefan Moody, who drove through the Georgia defense and hit a tough layup with just under five seconds remaining.
Ole Miss nearly turned the ball over before Moody got his hands on it, then splitting three Bulldog defenders on his way to the basket. Some questioned if Moody got away with traveling on the play, and feel free to leave your thoughts on that below. In a tight SEC this is a big win for the Rebels, who are now one of five teams with a 2-1 record in conference play.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis made an impression on Andy Kennedy.
The Mississippi coach heaped praise on Ulis after he had 20 points and 10 assists to help No. 10 Kentucky beat Mississippi 83-61 on Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
“I think he is best point guard in college basketball,” Kennedy said. “He just kind of skates through. When he is making shots, he is very difficult (to stop).”
Ulis set the tone for the blowout, scoring seven of Kentucky’s first nine points. He pounded his chest after connecting on a layup igniting those in attendance, including his parents.
“There was just a lot of energy,” Ulis said. “The crowd was going crazy. I was actually looking for my parents but they had changed seats. I finally found them.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was pleased with the way Ulis performed on both ends of the court.
“He is a good player and also took on a challenge (of facing Ole Miss scoring leader Stefan Moody),” Calipari said. “He is out to prove who he is. I just want a team full of guys that want that.”
Sparked by Ulis, Kentucky (11-2) ended the Rebels’ seven-game winning streak and limited Moody to eight points in the first half, hindering the Rebels’ hopes for an upset.
Jamal Murray made four of Kentucky’s seven 3-pointers and had 18 points. Marcus Lee added 13.
Despite a slow start, Moody led the Rebels (10-3) with 23 points. Sebastian Saiz followed with 12.
The Wildcats held a 14-11 advantage with 10:29 remaining in the first half and put the game away with a 23-3 run, pushing it to 37-14 with 3:40 remaining in the first half.
Murray made two 3-pointers during the decisive spurt and finished with 11 points in the opening half.
Kentucky led 46-22 at the break and didn’t let up in the second half.
Ole Miss struggled from the field, especially in the first half, shooting 23 percent (6 for 26). The Rebels fared better in the second half and finished 20 of 50 from the floor for 40 percent.
A year ago, Ole Miss took the Wildcats to the wire before losing 89-86 in overtime, but failed to duplicate the performance.
“We lost a lot of guys that were part of that run,” Kennedy said. “I thought the moment might have been a little big for them early.”
Kentucky junior guard Dominique Hawkins left with 13:55 remaining and didn’t return after tweaking his ankle while going up for a rebound. Hawkins scored a career-high 13 points against No. 18 Louisville in his last outing. Hawkins played three minutes and didn’t score.
“They say he will be fine,” Calipari said. “I didn’t see it but it was ugly. But he is a tough kid.”
SMITH WOWS CROWD
Jordan Smith, the latest winner in NBC’s “The Voice,” drew a rousing applause after performing the national anthem prior to tipoff. Smith, a native of Harlan County, is a senior at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and has already signed a contract with Republic Records.
Kentucky: Briscoe returned to the lineup after tweaking his ankle during pregame warmups prior to Kentucky’s win over Louisville. He finished with six points. … Murray has hit a 3-pointer in his first 13 games, a school record. … After playing 10 of their first 13 games at home, the Wildcats play their next two conference games on the road, starting Tuesday at LSU. … Kentucky has won nine of its last 10 games against the Rebels. … Calipari improved to 8-1 against Ole Miss as coach of the Wildcats.
Ole Miss: The Rebels fell to 53-2 in games played against the Wildcats in Lexington. Their last victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena came when they posted a 73-64 win in 1998. … Moody has made a 3-pointer in 27 straight games, the fourth-longest in school history. … The Rebels play their first game at The Pavilion at Ole Miss on Thursday. The facility will seat 8,867 fans.
Kentucky is at LSU on Tuesday night.
Ole Miss hosts Alabama on Thursday night.
PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: South Carolina looks to remain undefeated
One of the nation’s best scoring guards will be on display in this one, as senior Stefan Moody leads the Rebels up against Memphis. Moody’s averaging 24.1 points and 4.2 assists per game for Andy Kennedy’s team, and slowing him down is the primary objective of any team. Memphis will counter with a perimeter rotation led by senior Ricky Tarrant, and their top two scorers are forwards Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin. Keep an eye on the free throw numbers in this one, as Memphis is one of the nation’s best when it comes to getting to the foul line (third in free throw rate).
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: South Carolina at Clemson, 7:00 p.m.
Despite being 9-0 on the season, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks have flown under the radar nationally to this point in the season. They boast five double-digit scorers led by senior forwards Mindaugas Kacinas (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (13.0, 4.3), and freshman P.J. Dozier (8.1 ppg) will only get better with time. South Carolina’s gotten the job done thus far with balanced scoring an tough defense (opponents shot 39.9 percent from two), and that will need to be the case when they take on their in-state rival tonight. The Tigers are led by junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 57.6 percent from the field.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. A game that may float under the radar tonight is Southern’s trip to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. Eric Konkol’s Bulldogs are looking to rebound from a 19-point loss at Ole Miss, and they’ll do so against a team that has road wins over Mississippi State, Tulane and Wyoming. The tandem of Alex Hamilton and Eric McCree has been key for Louisiana Tech thus far.
2. BYU is back in action, taking on one of the early favorites in the MAC in Central Michigan. While CMU can put the ball in the basket their issue is defense, as they’re ranked 316th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Can they slow down Kyle Collinsworth and company?
3. Oregon hosts Long Beach State, with the 49ers having already been through a rigorous non-conference schedule. While they’re still awaiting the debut of the injured Dylan Ennis, Oregon’s received steady play at the point from sophomore Casey Benson. His numbers on the season: 31 assists and just two turnovers.
4. Wake Forest faces a Coastal Carolina team that’s expected to contend in the Big South, with Cliff Ellis’ team being a balanced group offensively led by guards Elijah Wilson and Shivaughn Wiggins. The question for the Chanticleers is whether or not they have the power inside needed to deal with Demon Deacon forwards Devin Thomas and Dinos Mitoglou.
5. Grand Canyon heads west to play San Diego State, and this could be a trickier game than one would anticipate. The Antelopes are 8-2 on the season, and the addition of guard Dominic Magee (29 points against Omaha) has given them another guard capable of putting points on the board. The Aztecs will defend, but can they produce enough on the offensive end? That’s been the question all season for them.
6. 8-1 Colorado takes on Nicholls State in a game they should win comfortably. Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes have turned things around after a disappointing 2014-15 season, and while senior Josh Scott has been the mainstay George King’s been good as well. The redshirt sophomore’s averaging 15.9 points per game, shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from three.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
Southern Illinois at Murray State, 8:00 p.m.
Texas State at Washington State, 9:00 p.m.
Louisiana at Pepperdine, 10:00 p.m.
Cal-State Fullerton at Oregon State, 11:00 p.m.
SEC Preview: Kentucky’s favored, but watch for Vandy, Texas A&M
Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the SEC.
As has been the case for much of the recent past, the SEC shakes out like this: Kentucky, and then everyone else. Part of that is a result of just how good the Wildcats are and have been. Part of that is due to the fact that the SEC is a football league with the hoops side of things playing catchup. And while the gap is closing, it may be a few years before the impact is truly apparent.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Kentucky is loaded again … obviously: It’s standard at this point. This group is likely not going to be making a run at 40-0 like last year’s group, but they will be making a run at a national title. Skal Labissiere will be the nation’s best big man. Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe will make up the nation’s best back court. Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress will get their shot, finally.
2. But they may not have the best freshman in the league: That title could end up going to LSU’s Ben Simmons, who, along with Skal, is a favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Tigers are loaded with talent this year. Along with Simmons, they bring in McDonald’s All-American Antonio Blakeney, top 40 recruit Brandon Sampson and Arizona transfer Craig Victor. Throw in returnees like Tim Quarterman, Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby, and LSU, on paper, is a top 15 team. But head coach Johnny Jones has underachieved with talented rosters before. Is this the year they break through?
3. Vanderbilt will be the second-best team in the conference: It’s tough to call them a sleeper at this point because they’re getting plenty of pub, but the Commodores are the odds-on pick to finish second in the conference behind the Wildcats. They’re anchored by Damian James, who may be the most under-appreciated player in college basketball. The 6-foot-10 junior is a legitimate All-American candidate. Throw in talented sophomores Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance, and another promising recruiting class, and head coach Kevin Stallings has more than enough pieces to put together something special in Nashville. Vandy won eight of their last ten regular season games last year after starting SEC play 1-7.
4. Coaching turnover: There has been an impressive influx of coaching talent into the SEC this year, although the league did lose arguably the best coach in the sport.
Billy Donovan left for Oklahoma City, leaving Florida in an interesting spot with new coach Mike White. More on them in a minute.
Former UCLA head coach Ben Howland took over for Rick Ray at Mississippi State and immediately reeled in Malik Newman, a top ten freshman in the class.
Donnie Tyndall was fired due to the scandal he was involved in at Southern Miss, but Tennessee went out and picked up former Texas coach Rick Barnes.
Alabama missed on Gregg Marshall but they did land Avery Johnson.
And don’t forget, in his second season at Auburn, Bruce Pearl has things rolling on the recruiting trail
5. Keep an eye on Texas A&M, too: Billy Kennedy is not a new hire by any stretch of the imagination, but his new assistant coach — Rick Stansbury — is already paying dividends on the recruiting trail. The Aggies have a loaded recruiting class, one that is going to be afforded the luxury of a year’s worth of seasoning as veterans Danuel House, Alex Caruso, Jalen Jones and Alex Robinson lead the way this year. This is a group that can reach the Sweet 16.
Favorite: “Kentucky. For sure. One pro leaves, and any pro comes in. Skal is as good as anyone they’ve had and Jamal Murray can play either guard spot, but Tyler Ulis will make them go. He can lead, and he’s perfect in his role with those other guys around them.
“Mississippi State is under the radar, with Malik Newman and Ben Howland coming in. But they’re starting to get attention, so I’ll go with South Carolina. They have a lot returning. Their ability to shoot is always a question, but [freshman P.J.]Dozier can really open things up.”
“Georgia. They’ve got really good guards and seemingly no one is talking about them.”
Best player: “Skal or Ben Simmons. Simmons versatility and his passing ability — he can use both hands as well as anyone — sets him apart.”
Most underrated player:
“[Mississippi State’s Craig] Sword on the wing. He’s as athletic as can be. His shooting can be streaky at times, he’s kind of hit and miss, but he will be better this year. He’s a really good fit in their system. Also, [Vandy’s Luke] Hornet has grown. He can really shoot it from deep, and with Damian Jones focal point, Luke’s ability to stretch the court will be key.”
“Stefan Moody. Dude is the SEC’s leading returning scorer and can’t even make a preseason watch list.”
PRESEASON SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
I’m still of the belief that Labissiere is the best player on Kentucky and, feasibly, the most talented player in the entire country. He’s a seven-footer with a back-to-the-basket game, perimeter skills and a soft jumper and that shows up when he squares up opponents. The Anthony Davis comparisons are going to flow because the they’re both No. 1 recruits and centers at Kentucky with similar body-types, but Labissiere is much more skilled offensively and much less dominant defensively. Think LaMarcus Aldridge.
THE REST OF THE ALL-SEC FIRST TEAM:
Malik Newman, Mississippi State: Newman is a high-volume scorer that can drop 25 in a half without breaking a sweat. He’ll be playing on a team where he’s going to be asked to take a lot of shots. His efficiency numbers likely won’t be great, but he’s going to score a lot.
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: For my money, Jones is the single-most underrated player in college basketball this season. He may be the best big man in the country this side of Labissiere.
Jamal Murray, Kentucky: I’m still not sold on Murray being a future NBA star, but based on his performance at the Pan-Am Games this summer, I think he’ll end up being a very good combo-guard in college.
Ben Simmons, LSU: Casual fans are going to love watching Simmons play. He’s a 6-foot-9 point forward that is so talented. He’d be the National Player of the Year if he was in a different program.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Tim Quarterman, LSU
Danuel House, Texas A&M
Stefan Moody, Ole Miss
Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
BREAKOUT STAR: Yante Maten, Georgia
Wade Baldwin IV of Vanderbilt was an intriguing pick here, but I’m going with Maten. The 6-foot-8, 240 pound big man was somewhat buried on Georgia’s bench as a freshman last season, averaging just 18.2 minutes while watching Marcus Thornton and Nikola Djurisic. But while his playing time was limited, Maten did manage to average 5.0 points, 4.3 boards and 1.4 blocks. He’ll now step into a starting role in Georgia’s front court.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Kim Anderson, Missouri
This is just Anderson’s second season in Columbia, but things have not gone well for him. The Tigers went 9-23 last season, finished just 3-15 in the SEC and lost their top two players — freshman Teki Gill-Cesear and sophomore Johnathan Williams III — to transfer. Does Anderson have what it takes to turn the program around? If the Tigers don’t show signs of improvement this season, he may not get a chance.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : Kentucky isn’t the only team from the SEC eyeing a run to the Final Four. Ain’t that right, Vanderbilt?
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Watching those freshmen play. Skal Labissiere — assuming he eventually gets eligible — and Ben Simmons could end up going Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2016 NBA Draft, while Jamal Murray and Malik Newman won’t be all that far behind.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats have a very strong argument to be the No. 1 team in the entire country heading into the season. Of course they’re going to be No. 1 in the SEC power rankings.
2. Vanderbilt: It’s hard not to love what Kevin Stallings brings back this season. One of the best X’s-and-O’s coaches in the sport has one of the nation’s best big men at his disposal and surrounds him with a myriad of talented shooters and scorers on the perimeter. I think this is a Sweet 16 team.
3. Texas A&M: The Aggies are in a great spot this year. Not only are they built for the future thanks to Billy Kennedy’s recruiting class, but they have enough veteran talent on their roster that they can make a run in an SEC that isn’t overly strong at the top. Daneul House and Alex Caruso get slept-on nationally.
4. LSU: From a talent perspective, LSU is second only to Kentucky in this league. But talent hasn’t kept Johnny Jones from underachieving before, so until this group proves that they can compete for an SEC title, I’ll expect them to be a borderline top 25 team that won’t feel comfortable about their NCAA tournament prospects until March.
5. Georgia: Georgia returns their veteran back court but graduates key pieces in their front court. The key to their season could end up being the development of YantTagse Maten. If he turns into an all-SEC caliber player, they should end up being a tournament team.
6. Florida: The Gators are one of the most interesting teams in college hoops this season. They lost Billy Donovan to the NBA after a disappointing year, but they also return plenty of elite talent from a team that was far more competitive than their record shows; no one in the country suffered more heart-breaking losses than the Gators last season, as it felt like they kept inventing new ways to lose basketball games. There’s talent, depth and athleticism on their perimeter (Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza, Devin Robinson, KeVaughn Allen, Brandone Francis) and South Florida transfer John Egbunu will sneak up on some people on the interior. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike White led this group to a top four finish in the league. I can also see them heading to the NIT.
7. Auburn: I think Bruce Pearl is still a year or two away from really making Auburn competitive in the conference. That said, to me, Pearl’s presence on the sideline makes the Tigers two or three games better in league play.
8. Ole Miss: Stefan Moody is back for the Rebels this season, but they lose a ton of talent off of last year’s tournament team. Moody will put up some big numbers, but the Rebels would do well to finish in the top half of the conference this season.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have some sleeper potential this season. They return five of their top six players and add top 30 recruit P.J. Dozier to the mix. But will Dozier be the difference between finishing 6-12 last season and reaching the top half of the league this season?
10. Mississippi State: Ben Howland is a terrific coach and he has a dynamic lead guard in Malik Newman, but it’s going to take more than one year and one player to turn things around in Starkville.
11. Arkansas: Mike Anderson lost the underrated Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls to the NBA and had three players get arrested for using counterfeit bills. It was a rough offseason in Fayetteville.
12. Tennessee: Rick Barnes takes over for Donnie Tyndall in Knoxville. The Vols overachieved last season and lost their best player, Josh Richardson, to graduation. Barnes will build Tennessee back up, but it will take a few years.
13. Alabama: Avery Johnson did a great job landing Terrence Ferguson, a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016, but he really could use Ferguson this season.
14. Missouri: The Tigers went 9-23 in Kim Anderson’s first season and then proceeded to lose their two best players to transfer during the offseason. It’s going to be a long year in Columbia.