Kawhi Leonard

The Morning Mix

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We’re eight hours in to Marathon Madness, and we’ve retained most of our sanity thus far. If you’re up for the challenge, there’s a basketball game on TV/your computer right now. Here’s what’s going on in today’s Morning Mix:

 

Tuesday’s Top Games:
6:00 a.m. – Stony Brook @ Rider
8:00 a.m. – Northern Illinois @ Valparaiso
10:00 a.m. – Harvard @ Massachusetts
12:00 p.m. – Temple @ Kent State
2:00 p.m. – Detroit @ St. John’s
4:00 p.m. – Butler @ Xaiver
7:00 p.m. – Vermont at No.23 Connecticut
7:00 p.m. – No.14 Michigan State vs. No.7 Kansas
7:00 p.m. – UNC-Wilmington @ Richmond
7:00 p.m. – George Mason @ Bucknell
7:00 p.m. – Wichita State @ VCU
9:00 p.m. – Lehigh @ Pittsburgh
9:30 p.m. – No.8 Duke vs. No.3 Kentucky
9:30 p.m. – Long Beach State @ USC

 

Top Stories:
New Mexico outlasts Davidson in a shootout at The Pit: The Lobos and Wildcats engaged in an early season “Game of the Year” candidate at The Pit. Davidson got out to a large first half lead, but Kendall Williams and Tony Snell led the Lobos back, and Wildcats did not have the endurance to keep up the pace.

Gonzaga’s talented depth stifles West Virginia: In the opening game of Marathon Madness, Gonzaga showed why they’re expected to make a run at the Final Four by stifling a sloppy Mountaineers squad 84-50.

LIU-Brooklyn falls to 0-2: The Blackbirds are the reigning NEC champions and have the talent and experience to dominate inferior competition. But the squad struggled to defend in the first two games of the season, and the loss of head coach Jim Ferry is starting to show on the court

Youngstown State topples Georgia, moves to 2-0: The mighty Penguins of Youngstown State outclassed the Georgia Bulldogs 68-56 in the first round of the Progressive Legends Classic. With the win, YSU moves to 2-0, having defeated George Washington over the weekend.

Dayton keeps “First Four”, MSG gets regional site: The NCAA announced on Monday that Dayton will continue to serve host to the opening round until 2014-2015. additionally, Madison Square Garden will serve as a regional host for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 53 years.

Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow sick, will not travel for Champions Classic: Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow, who struggled in the season-opener against Maryland, is battling the flu, and will not travel with the team to Atlanta for the Champions Classic. The Wildcats will have to rely on walk-on Jarrod Polson to handle the point against Duke, but the junior played admirably in the season-opener.

 

Observations & Analysis:
– Speaking of creative places to hold basketball games, here’s a solid list of ten places college hoops needs to go to next. (The College Court)

– Worst loss of the day goes to North Texas, who lost to Alabama-Huntsville (D-II) 78-75 in the opening round of the N.I.T. Preseason Tip-Off (The Dagger)

– Doug Gottlieb made four snap judgements from the first weekend in college hoops (Eye on College Basketball)

– All five starters for the Memphis Tigers last night are hometown kids. Something like this does not happen frequently, especially not for a city like Memphis (ESPN)

– After two games in four days, it’s easy to see why Mark Turgeon is confident that his Terrapins squad has the talent and depth to be a force this season (Washington Post)

 

Odds & Ends:
– Wichita isn’t the sexiest location on the map, but it’s a great tournament venue and should not have been snubbed from the 2014-2015 NCAA Tournament. (KFDI FM 101.3)

– The best pictures from the first weekend of college hoops (Eye on College Basketball)

– Despite negative reviews, the Carrier Classic is going to continue in 2013 (ESPN)

– Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t know who Christian Laettner is, never seen video of “The Shot” (The Dagger)

– This is exactly why we ranked St. Joseph’s Ronald Roberts as one of the top-10 dunkers in the country (Philahoops.com)

– After vocalizing his displeasure sitting on the bench, Pittsburgh guard John Johnston has decided to transfer (Cardiac Hill)

 

Tweet of the Day:

@RobDauster: Tony Snell played high school ball with Kawhi Leonard, meaning that team undoubtedly led their conference in lanky arms and cornrows.


Video of the Day:

Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s bassist Flea performed the National Anthem at the opening of the new Pauley Pavillon

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLVVCROoFjU%5D

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)

Top 25 Countdown: No. 11 San Diego State Aztecs

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 26-8, 10-4 Mountain West (t-1st); Lost to NC State in the Opening Round of the NCAA tournament

Head Coach: Steve Fisher

Key Losses: Garrett Green, Tim Shelton

Newcomers: Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II, JJ O’Brien, James Johnson, Matt Shrigley, Skylar Spencer

Projected Lineup:

G: Xavier Thames, Jr.
G: Chase Tapley, Jr.
F: Jamaal Franklin, Jr.
F: Winston Shepard, Fr.
C: DeShawn Stephens, Sr.
Bench: James Rahon, Sr.; Dwayne Polee II, So.; JJ O’Brien, So.; James Johnson, Jr.; Matt Shrigley, Fr.

Outlook: To get a feel for where the Aztec program is right now, think about this: after losing their top four players from the 2010-2011 season — including Kawhi Leonard — SDSU was in full-on, rebuilding year mode heading last season. But the Aztecs won 26 games and took home a share of the Mountain West title, watching as Jamaal Franklin went from a seldom-used bench piece to a starter early in the season to the MWC Player of the Year by the end of the year, racking up averages of 19.5 points and 9.9 boards in league play.

The Aztecs, who prior to 2011 had never won an NCAA tournament game, were knocked off in the opening round of the tournament by No. 11 seed NC State, and instead of enjoying their third straight — and fifth-ever — trip to the Big Dance, the Aztec faithful were upset about getting upset. That should tell you something about the expectations this team has heading into this season, as an influx of talented transfers and a crop of quality freshmen has the Aztecs sitting pretty as arguably the best team on the west coast.

For Fisher’s club, everything starts out on the perimeter, and Franklin’s name is the one to know. It took him a while to break into the starting lineup a year ago, but over the last couple of months of the season, he looked like an all-american. If Franklin had scored seven more points and grabbed just one more rebound in the 13 conference games he played, the 6-foot-5 wing would have averaged 20 and 10. There are two areas that Franklin needs to improve upon: he turns the ball over far too often, and he settles for too many three-pointers. But when he’s putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim, he’s one of the best players in the country.

And he’s far from alone in SDSU’s back court, a junior Xavier Thames and seniors James Rahon and Chase Tapley make-up SDSU’s four-guard attack. Tapley is the leader in this group. He’s SDSU’s best shooter and the guy that often has the ball in his hands in crunch-time. He can do a little bit of everything on the floor and has been through the battles — barring a disaster this year, he’ll be the first player in program history to play in four NCAA tournaments. Thames is SDSU’s play-maker, and his ability to get out and run the floor is one of the reasons SDSU will be looking to push the pace this season. Rahon is a sharp-shooter, but he struggled with his consistency last year, making just 32% from distance.

The front court is where things get interesting for SDSU. Garrett Green graduates, but Deshawn Stephens returns for his senior season to provide Fisher with some bulk inside. He’ll be joined by James Johnson, a former top 100 recruit and a transfer from Virginia, in December. Neither Stephens nor Johnson are particularly promising, but at some point size becomes a necessity.

The three other newcomers along the front line are the ones that have increased the level of hype surrounding this group. We’ll start with Winston Shepard, who is an athletic, 6-foot-8 small forward known for his versatility and playmaking ability. He’s a consensus top 50 recruit that has been labeled s five-star prospect by some outlets, and he should have an immediate and significant impact this year.

He’ll be joined by two sophomore transfers in Dwayne Polee II and JJ O’Brien. Polee is an uber-athletic, 6-foot-7 string bean that had a promising freshman season on the St. John’s team that made the tournament with a roster full of seniors. O’Brien, like Polee, is more of a wing forward than he is an interior presence, but he’s quality player that came on strong late in his one season at Utah.

Predictions?: The Mountain West is loaded this season, and given the strength that a number of the programs have historically had in their home venues, it’s easy to picture a scenario where the league’s champ ends up with four or five conference losses again. I peg SDSU as the favorite. They have the best player in the league in Franklin and the perfect roster makeup to become a team that plays a faster, more-uptempo pace.

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

Steve Fisher: “Right now, it’s not the best team we’ve had”

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The last time Steve Fisher coached a team with this much hype he was 20 years younger in Ann Arbor and his starting lineup consisted of the Fab Five.

Not even in 2010-2011, when his Aztec team went 34-3 and produced two NBA Draft picks, including Kawhi Leonard, has Fisher had a team that entered a season with this kind of expectation.

He brings back four starters from an NCAA tournament while adding three impact transfers and a vaunted recruiting class headlined by Winston Shepard, one of the nation’s top 25 recruits.

With a student fan base that’s rapidly become as rabid as any in the country, you can only imagine the kind of talk that’s going on around campus. Top ten ranking? Final Four? NATIONAL TITLE?!?!?

Fisher’s already been forced to enter ‘slow down, ya’ll’ mode.

“I would say it’s probably the most talked about team that we’ve had,” Fisher told the AP. “To be honest with you, right now it’s not the best team we’ve had. I’ll harken back to the first time we ever got ranked two years ago. I knew how good that team was because they had all those guys at a very high level that had done it the year before and were returning. You might say, `Well you had guys returning from last year.’ We do, but not to that degree in terms of the numbers that we had then, and they were all going to be seniors, too, with the exception of Kawhi, who played like a senior.”

“Yeah, it’s the most hyped-up team. We won’t match the record we had two years ago. 34-3. There is nobody in the country that’s going to do that, but we’re going to have a good team.”

I’ll agree with one thing here: SDSU won’t match that gaudy 34-3 record. They may not make it through conference play with less than three losses. The conference is strong and balanced, and the Aztecs play a a couple of quality opponents in their non-conference schedule.

Beyond that, however, this sounds like Fisher trying to keep his team from buying into their own hype. He brings back experienced players that have been in the program for years, including an All-American in Jamaal Franklin, and adds enough front court strength — Dwayne Polee, JJ O’Brien, Winston Shepard, James Johnson in December — to their vaunted perimeter attack that the Aztecs will be able to play with anyone in the country.

Obviously, there are kinks that are going to have to be worked out with this group. That many news faces will take time to mesh. But if you think that Fisher is anything but ecstatic with the team he has at his disposal, you’re crazy.

San Diego State lands an excellent perimeter defender in 2013 wing Dakarai Allen

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One year after landing one of the best perimeter defenders in the 2012 class in Winston Shepard, San Diego State got even stronger in that regard with the verbal commitment of 2013 small forward Dakarai Allen.

Nephew of former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen, Dakarai committing to a school headed to the Big West next season is a big commitment for Steve Fisher’s program.

Allen is their first 2013 commitment, and he apparently had to disregard some negative recruiting tactics when it came to the Aztecs’ future home during the process.

But that ultimately didn’t matter to neither Allen nor his family, and the end result is a Top 100 prospect heading to Montezuma Mesa.

“We don’t really care about that,” said Von Allen, Dakarai’s father and Larry’s brother. “We don’t get caught up in that. We just wanted my son to go a place where he can grow and thrive.”

From a skill standpoint Allen also said that he takes a lot from watching former San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard, who developed into an All-American and a first round draft pick in his two seasons at SDSU.

But Allen sees himself more like another Aztec: Kawhi Leonard, the first-round draft choice (and rookie starter) of the San Antonio Spurs after two seasons at SDSU.

“Seeing what they did with Kawhi was a big influence,” said Allen, who doesn’t turn 18 until February and, based on doctors’ projections, expects to grow to 6-7. “I see myself trying to be just like him. I try to model my game after his.”

Allen, who attends Sheldon High in Elk Grove, California (just outside of Sacramento), joins a program that already has two Sacramento natives in junior guard Xavier Thames and senior guard Chase Tapley.

Tapley won’t be on campus in 2013 (neither will fellow seniors James Rahon and DeShawn Stephens) but when considering the talent that should be back, adding Allen means that San Diego State will have the pieces needed to remain in the national polls regardless of their conference affiliation.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Juwan Howard is first member of Michigan’s “Fab Five” to win NBA title

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It took Juwan Howard 18 years, but he finally won an NBA title. Not only is it the first title for him, but it’s the first title for the famed “Fab Five” of Michigan in the early 1990s.

Of those five (Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and Howard) three had lengthy NBA careers, but only Howard has been able to bring home a title.

Granted, Howard wasn’t necessarily the reason Miami won the title, considering he’s 39 years old and averaged under seven minutes per game, but he was on a team that won it, none-the-less.

Webber was cursed by having to deal with Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers during his prime early-2000 days, and Rose fell victim to those same Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.

Howard hasn’t played regular minutes since 2009-10 with Portland, but he was a veteran on a Heat team that made use of his experience.

As for the rest of the Fab Five, Rose and Webber are both NBA analysts now, Jackson owns a non-profit organization, and King has battled some legal troubles after a long playing career abroad.

A well-done documentary about the Fab Five aired last year to much critical acclaim, which should help to preserve the rarity of the talented collection of youth at Michigan during the Fab Five era.

Their coach, Stever Fisher, is now at San Diego State, helping to build a contender out West. After surprising people two years ago, led by now-San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, Fisher kept the momentum going last season and is poised to have another contending team in 2012-13.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

San Diego State led state of California in college basketball attendance in 2011-12

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Which major California-based program led the state in college basketball attendance last season? Perhaps historic UCLA? Maybe fellow Pac-12 member California? Perhaps Fresno State?

Nope. It was resurgent San Diego State of the Mountain West.

The Aztecs came in 29th in the country and tops among all California schools, beating out Cal (52nd), Fresno State (79th), and UCLA (84th).

Now, with the strong recruiting class and renovated Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, San Diego State might be in for an attendance battle in 2012-13, but what head coach Steve Fisher was able to do with his 2011-12 squad is impressive.

Following the departure of key pieces that include San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, the Aztecs were still able to finish 26-8, including 10-4 in the Mountain West.

Next year they could be even better, bringing in 2012 recruits Winston Shepard, Matt Shrigley, and Skylar Spencer, along with St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee.

Competition in the conference will increase as well, though, with UNLV adding Top 10 recruit Anthony Bennett, along with guard Katin Reinhardt and transfer Khem Birch. That is in addition to the return of Mike Moser, who averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_