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2013 five-star guard Isaac Hamilton commits to UTEP

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Friday was a big day in the future of UTEP basketball, as 2013 shooting guard Isaac Hamilton (Los Angeles, CA/St. John Bosco HS) announced his decision to attend the Conference USA school next season.

The move surprised many as Hamilton, who made the announcement on ESPNU, was dressed in a powder blue sweater and yellow bow tie, colors of the school (UCLA) that made a late rise in his recruitment.

Hamilton chose the Miners over UCLA, San Diego State, Washington and Baylor, becoming the third member of UTEP’s 2013 recruiting class. UTEP announced the receipt of his Letter of Intent on Saturday afternoon.

“This is a great day for UTEP,” Miner head coach Tim Floyd said. “I feel like we have just signed a young man who will play in the NBA. We intend to play Isaac at the point guard position. We see a lot of Seth Curry in him – a big guard who can score. Isaac is not only a really capable scorer and shooter, but has the instincts to make players around him better.

“We feel like with Isaac andMcKenzie Moore, we’re returning to how our teams looked at USC with big point guards like O.J. Mayo [Dallas Mavericks] and Gabe Pruitt [Boston Celtics) who can play together and play off of each other.”

Head coach Tim Floyd already held commitments from shooting guard Andre Speight (Pasadena, CA) and small forward Jake Flaggert (Allen, TX), and his connection to the Hamilton family was just one aspect that Isaac cited in making his decision.

“A lot of people don’t know that Coach Floyd coached my uncle (Kevin Hamilton) years ago and that he has been friends of our family for a long time,” Isaac Hamilton said. “He was very close to my grandmother, who has passed away.”

Floyd also recruited Isaac’s older brother Jordan while head coach at USC (Jordan eventually chose Texas), and younger brother Daniel is one of the better prospects in the 2014 recruiting class.

Could there eventually be two Hamiltons on the UTEP campus? We’ll have to wait and see on that.

A look at the Miners’ rosters shows that this could be a program ready to make a jump and become one of Conference USA’s flagship programs with Memphis (and others) headed to the Big East in 2013.

As noted in Floyd’s quote above Hamilton and McKenzie Moore will be two very good guards for UTEP next season, and one must not forget about current freshman Twymond Howard and sophomore wing Julian Washburn. Add in a front court led by John Bohannon and Cedric Lang and UTEP has (on paper) a pretty good nucleus to call on next year.

Memphis’ imminent departure has opened the door for a program to climb to the top of Conference USA, and the landing of a player the caliber of Isaac Hamilton could provide UTEP with the push they need to do just that.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

We have a new Florida State this year, but will they be improved?

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BROOKLYN – Florida State’s venture into ACC relevancy the last four seasons has centered around their front court. Big bodies; athletic shot-blockers; tough, physical, grind-you-down defense.

You should know the names: Solomon Alabi. Chris Singleton. Ryan Reid. Most recently, Bernard James, a 27 year old veteran who was, quite literally, a man amongst boys. For the past four seasons, every athletic trainer in the ACC has known that a trip to Tallahassee meant packing extra ice packs and advil for the trip home.

The Seminoles are a much different team this season, however, and it’s not necessarily because they lack size. Boris Bojanovsky is 7-foot-3. Michael Ojo is 7-foot-1. Kiel Turpin, who starts at center, is 7-foot. But what all three of those guys have in common is that they are young, raw, and not quite ready to compete at this level. In 61 combined minutes in the first two games, they had a grand total of three rebounds. The seven rebounds they added in Friday’s 88-70 win over BYU wasn’t really an explosion in production.

This season, Florida State’s strength is on their perimeter, and it starts with Michael Snaer.

Snaer isn’t exactly a secret at this point in his career. He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He was Florida State’s leading scorer last season. As a senior, he was named an NBCSports.com Preseason First-Team All-American, thanks to his three-point marksmenship, his penchant for clutch buckets and the fact he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.

But Snaer’s got plenty of help this season.

Talented junior Ian Miller is finally ready to play an entire season, and freshman Devin Bookert, who the Florida State coaching staff loves, looks to be recovered from a preseason knee injury that kept him out of action for about three weeks. That trio combined for 45 points, 11 assists and 16 boards in Friday’s Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal matchup, finishing 15-24 from the floor and 9-14 from three. That kind of efficiency isn’t likely to be repeated on a nightly basis, but BYU is a good basketball team; this isn’t a bad indicator of how good that group can be.

“They’re really skilled on the perimeter,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “In the past you see a front line that’s really athletic and dominant, but their guards are really terrific.”

Throw in Montay Brandon — a 6-foot-7 slasher that is versatile enough that Hamilton used him at the point late in the game, although that resulted in BYU making a run down the stretch to cut into a lead that bordered on 30 — and a pair of quality forwards in Okaro White and Terrence Shannon, and the Seminoles have a chance for success with their rebranded roster.

They do have some issues that need fixing. The 20 turnovers they had on Friday are way too many, even if they were augmented by 20 assists. And the 22 offensive rebounds they gave up are unacceptable. But when taken in concert with the increased pace that Florida State is playing at this season — they had 74 possessions in their first two games, one of which was a loss to South Alabama, and 71 in the win on Friday — you can see the shifting tides.

Florida State’s a new breed this season.

They’re running the floor, they’re spreading the court offensively, they’re shooting threes and, perhaps most importantly for their fans, they are scoring a lot of points.

Whether or not that turns into wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament, we are yet to see.

But if they continue to play like they did on Friday, I don’t think it will be much of a problem.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

College Hoops Week in Review: Player of the Week – Ahmad Starks

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Player of the Week: Ahmad Starks, Oregon State

The Beavers got off to a terrific start in the post-Jared Cunningham era, knocking off Niagara and New Mexico State the season’s opening weekend. There was no bigger star for the Beavers than junior point guard Ahmad Starks. After hitting six threes in the opener, Starks exploded for 33 points, five boards, five assists and four steals against the Aggies.

It will be interesting to see how well Starks is able to continue this level of play. OSU needs a go-to scorer, and Starks — along with Roberto Nelson — was one of the guys expected to make that jump. The irony here is that the five assists that Starks handed out are almost as important as the 33 points he scored. Starks has always been known as a bit of a chucker, and operating as the team’s primary ball-handler this season, it will be important for him to get his teammates involved as well.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

  • G: Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Two games into the season, and Jackson is averaging 19.5 points and 9.5 assists with a total of five steals and just six turnovers. Perhaps more impressive is that Baylor’s three big men — Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers, Cory Jefferson — are shooting a combined 80% from the floor. Much of the credit for their effectiveness falls on Jackson’s shoulders.
  • G: Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova: The Wildcats picked up a huge win on Sunday afternoon as they knocked off Marshall, who was picked by many to be the second best team in Conference USA this season. Arcidiacono was the star, finishing with 25 points — 20 in the first half — while handing out six assists and grabbing four boards.
  • F: Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida: Central Florida can’t play in the NCAA tournament this season, but that doesn’t mean that can’t spoil the season for some rivals. UCF went on the road and smacked South Florida, 74-56, and Sykes was the star — 26 points, 11 boards, eight assists.
  • F: Dwight Powell, Stanford: Powell, a junior, was an elite recruit in the Class of 2010, but he’s never quite lived up to the potential of being an athletic, 6-foot-9 big man with three-point range. Until Friday: Powell had 27 points and seven boards in a win over San Francisco. Powell’s going to have to continue to grow on the glass, however — Stanford was dominated on the glass by USF and finished with just three offensive rebounds.
  • C: Alex Len, Maryland: Len and the Terps lost to Kentucky at the Barclays Center on Friday, but Len made a statement. He completely outplayed the duo of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, finishing with 23 points, 12 boards and four blocks and rocketing himself up NBA Draft boards. Oh, and he’s also now the biggest reason — literally — that the Terps are considered an NCAA tournament team.
  • Other notable performances: Ryan Anderson, Boston College (29 points, 17 boards vs. FIU); Dee Davis, Xavier (22 points, 15 assists vs. FDU); Nurideen Lindsay, Rider (26 points, five assists vs. Robert Morris); Michael Lyons, Air Force (33 points, seven threes vs. The Citadel); CJ McCollum, Lehigh (36 points, eight boards vs. Baylor)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

 

Marquette/Ohio State preview: Season kickoff in the Carrier Classic

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It’s finally here, folks.

The first full day of college basketball games (that actually count) is upon us, with one of the feature games being Marquette versus No. 4 Ohio State in the Carrier Classic at 7 p.m. EST on the NBC Sports Network. The two teams will get down to business aboard the flight deck of the USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Ohio State enters the seasons with very few holes. Maybe none. Gone is Jared Sullinger, but DeShaun Thomas could’ve easily been an NBA draft pick, but he and his 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game returned for his junior season. The nation’s best on-ball defender in Aaron Craft comes back to terrorize any guard he mans up on. He’s probably going to be assigned to make Junior Cadougan and Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett’s nights a living hell.

Marquette has to replace two of the toughest players in the Big East last season, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. The aforementioned Lockett (13 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists with the Sun Devils last season) and Cadougan (5.4 assists per game in 2011-12) will anchor the backcourt, with Vander Blue in the mix. Chris Otule anchors an the front line.

It’s going to be tough-against-tough in this one. Thad Matta’s bunch pride themselves on a half-court attack offensively, where they work the ball from inside-out. Defensively, it’s all about swarming defense that starts with Craft on the perimeter and his 2.5 steals per game. LaQuinton Ross (6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and 6-11 Amir Williams (29 games played in 2011-12) will do their best to fill the void left by Sullinger. Buzz Williams always has a bunch that’s not shy about being in the opponent’s face, leading the Big East last season by giving up only 65.9 points per game.

Also, watch how the outdoor conditions alter the playing style of both teams. The coastal winds will affect how much these team shoot and if that’s the case, the Buckeyes have the edge over the Golden Eagles with the size of Williams, Ross, Thomas and Co. This game is more about honoring our military — Williams has previously said this is “one of the top five things I’ve ever done in my life” — so a crowd of around 5,000 won’t affect the game much.

This should be a lot better than last season, organizationally, being that last season’s game between Michigan State and North Carolina had its kinks. We should all enjoy this one. After all, it’s time to start the season, what’s there to be upset about?

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David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

The Morning Mix

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Barack Obama was re-elected as President of the United States. This is a special day for me not because of any political affiliation but because I got my start in college hoops this very week in 2008. Here’s to four more years of entertaining hoops insight.

For the record, I voted for the  trio of Robert Pack, Calbert Cheney and Rex Chapman for council seats in Maryland.

 

#ReadoftheDay: North Carolina State assistant coach Bobby Lutz provides a phenomenal diary entry about dealing with loss of his father and how his faith and family strengthened his resolve. Read it. (College Chalk Talk)

 

Top Stories:
Battle of the Midway is postponed due to weather: This is exactly why you shouldn’t get overzealous about hosting basketball games outdoors. The first annual event scheduled between San Diego State and Syracuse will be moved from Friday evening to Sunday at 4 p.m. due to an impeding rain storm in Southern California.

Buzz Williams likes taking JuCo transfers and has no qualms about it: The charismatic Marquette head coach defended his philosophy on recruiting JuCo transfers. With guys like Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler and Dwight Buycks all having successful collegiate careers following a stint in the JuCo ranks, the results speak for themselves.

Is Isaiah Canaan the most likely preseason All-American to not meet expectations?: The Murray State superstar made the list of preseason All-Americans most likely to not make the list at the end of the season.

Which preseason All-American snub will make the list at the end of the season?: The talented group of writers here at NBC Sports College Basketball Talk detailed their selections of All-American breakout players.


Hoops Housekeeping:

– Talented Indiana big-men Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin have been suspended for the first nine games of the season due to eligibility issues. The general consensus is that the NCAA got this one wrong. Way wrong. Make sure you read all four of these posts. (Crimson Quarry, Hoosier Scoop, Inside The Hall)

– Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro has suspended sophomores Rakeem Brookins and Trinity Burdine for three games due to unspecified reasons (Albany Times-Union)

– George Mason sophomores Eric Copes and Vaughn Gray have been suspended three games for student-athlete conduct violations (GoMason.com)

– Highly touted Seton Hall commit Aquille Carr has opted against transferring high schools because of his court-issued community service hours (South Orange Juice)

– Florida forward Casey Prather may not participate in the season opener due to receiving his second concussion in seven days (Gator Country)

– Washington sophomore forward Shawn Kemp Jr. will miss 6-8 weeks due to a torn patella tendon (Seattle Times)

 

Observations & Analysis:
– Andy Glockner provides fantastic insight on the mid-major programs on the rise (Sports Illustrated)

– Miami wasn’t the only Division-I program to loss an exhibition game this past weekend. Holy Cross did as well, and while the Crusaders are not at the level of the Miami Hurricanes, an exhibition loss could be a blessing in disguise. (Hoopville)

– College referees are going to make sure that they perfect the block/charge rule this season (Sporting News)

– Last year it was Lehigh, Ohio and Norfolk State. What mid-majors are the most likely to make noise in the NCAA Tournament? (Rush The Court)

– Part two of Rush The Court’s “68 must-see games of 2012-2013” (Rush The Court)

 

Odds & Ends:
– There is a lot to be excited for in the Big Sky Conference this season. (The Upset Blog)

– Where on Earth would you ever need to use baby blue camouflage? Marquette revealed their military-themed uniforms for the Carrier Classic. Personally, I would have gone with midnight blue and gold digital camo. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Georgetown’s camouflage uniforms are much less gaudy and much more realistic. (Casual Hoya)

– ESPN held a fantasy college basketball draft among four hoops experts on Tuesday. They want to know who has the best team. Oh and they drafted coaches and venues too. (ESPN)

– I agree, there is no need to put a lot of stock in preseason lists, polls, and bracketology (Mid-Major Madness)

– I love this. More programs need to follow La Salle’s direction. The Explorers are offering free admission to all veterens for Saturday’s home opener against Delaware. (Pickin’ Splinters)

 

Tweet of the Day:

@DanielJMartin_ NBC News calls election for Obama. For those who wanted a President Romney NCAA tournament bracket, you may never see one

 

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Buzz Williams: ‘I better relate to guys who have had a rough start’

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There are few coaches in the country that are a better quote than Marquette’s Buzz Williams.

It’s one of the few rules I learned when covering my first Big East tournament: when Williams is talking, you better get to listening, because he’ll give you a quote worth publishing.

He’s logical, he’s smart, he’s honest and he references efficiency stats at press conferences. What’s not to like?

Perhaps the most impressive part of Williams’ character, however, is how he backs his players, almost to a fault, while still forcing them to take responsibility for their mistakes. Case in point: Williams made it quite obvious that Todd Mayo was suspended — the third time he’s been suspended as a member of the Marquette program — for his failings in the classroom. But he didn’t kick him out of the program. And Williams also opened up about why he was giving himself a one game suspension this season.

Transparency and loyalty are the two easiest ways to earn respect.

I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll get to the point: I loved this quote from Williams in a Q-and-A that was published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Warning: long blockquote coming):

Q. You’ve raised a few eyebrows by taking on junior college transfers at what is perceived to be a high rate for a school like Marquette. Can you justify the value of transfers?

A. Uh, I’m a JUCO transfer so I probably have the perspective that a lot of people don’t have on those guys. When you look at the guys who have transferred here, let’s go in descending order. Jae Crowder will probably play 25 minutes (a game) for the Dallas Mavericks as a second-round pick. He was player of the year (in the Big East). I don’t know winning percentage-wise, but he would have to rank up there in the history of Marquette student-athletes in a two-year career. Darius Johnson-Odom was a qualifier out of high school, which meant he could have went Division I. He didn’t because of the NCAA Clearinghouse. Not blaming them, but there’s probably more problems with the Clearinghouse than your average follower would know.

Before that, it was Jimmy Butler. He was here for three years and never dropped a class. He never missed a practice. I held him out from starting against South Florida because he had a concussion, but he played in that game, so he never missed a game. He graduated on time, which is the same thing Darius did. He was a first-round pick. Joe Fulce, injury-ravaged career. He was a qualifier out of high school, committed while I was at Texas A&M, signed when I was at New Orleans, went to junior college because I wasn’t there. Came here when I was the head coach. Graduated. Probably didn’t have the career any of us would have thought because of the injuries he sustained. Is the toughest guy I’ve ever coached. He had a lot to do with the fabric of our culture while he was here.

Before that, Dwight Buycks. This is my fifth year, and we’ve had five junior college transfers. Dwight Buycks, from Milwaukee, the first kid from Milwaukee to come to Marquette in a long time. We desperately needed someone with experience you could replace Dominic, Jerel (McNeal) and Wesley. I thought he did really well at that. We were picked to finish 12th the year he arrived as a junior and we went to the NCAA Tournament and we went to the Sweet 16 as a senior.

I have never tried to be somebody I’m not. If you looked at the totality of the people I’ve hired and the people who have signed, they don’t necessarily have a trajectory that says, yes, I’m on my path to Marquette. My career path does not say that. So I do like to infuse our roster and our coaching staff with guys who are unbelievably hungry. I think that once you are hungry and you eat, you’re never full. In some demented way, that’s how I operate. So I’m attracted to and I’d better relate to guys who have had a rough start and a rough middle, for whatever reason.

I love that.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.