Kevin Jones

Late night snacks: Crashing after the marathon

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It took 24 hours and countless games, but the unofficial beginning to the college basketball season came and went with an overwhelming bang. Let’s recap, shall we?

Games of the Night

1.) Duke 75, Kentucky 68 – The classic matchup didn’t disappoint. Seth Curry dominated. Alex Poythress was a monster. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski threw post-game barbs at each other. The vitriol may not be there, but the on-court product and the tension was high and it was awesome.

2.) Michigan State 67, Kansas 64Keith Appling had a coming out party and Sparty rebounded after a season-opening loss to UConn. Tom Izzo will always have the edge when it comes to big games.

3.) UMass 67, Harvard 64 – One of the first true “dagger” games of the day. A last-second basket proved to be the difference for the late-morning game. More on that later.

4.) New Mexico 86, Davidson 81 – It seemed like this outcome was impossible. The Lobos trailed for a majority of the game, Davidson was bonkers from three and New Mexico had a start that could only be eclipsed in its awfulness by the loser of the game before theirs, West Virginia. Then Tony Snell caught fire with 25 points, the big men started to show up and the Lobos escaped with a win at home.

Starred

Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso – Teams like Valparaiso don’t get a ton of, if any, national attention. So when they do, they need to take advantage. Broekhoff did with 20 points on 4-of-8 three’s in a 69-46 win over Northern Illinois. From personal experience, it was nice to hear Broekhoff’s string music on my television as I went in-and-out of sleep this morning.

Seth Curry, Duke – He came to Duke to play on this stage four years ago when he transferred from Liberty. The fifth-year senior dropped in 23 points, including 3-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the win over Kentucky. Some have wondered when the youngest of the sharpshooting trio (dad Dell, older brother Steph, and him) would truly arrive. He’s showing his elite-level game now.

Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State – Hit game-winning step-back jumper in the closing seconds to lift the Shockers to a 53-51 victory at VCU. Scored 11 points total.

Sampson Carter, UMass – Carter made his only bucket of the game count, a three from the corner in the final seconds to deliver the death-blow for the victory over Harvard in the mid-morning matchup. Carter actually had more fouls (four) than points (three).

Struggled

Butler – How far has Brad Stevens‘ program fallen? The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins hurt, but going into a game against what everyone thought was an undermanned Xavier team, albeit on the road, the Bulldogs laid a colossal egg, losing 62-47. Only one player, reserve Kellen Dunham, finished in double-figures with 11 and prized transfer Rotnei Clarke had seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, including just 1-for-7 from three-point range. In a game that could’ve put them back on the map, they flopped. Hard.

Virginia – It’s been a tough early season for the Cavaliers already. This time it’s in the form of a 59-53 loss to Delaware at home in the NIT Tip-Off semifinals. The Blue Hens stole the Wahoos the chance at going to Madison Square Garden. Man, Tony Bennett, you got some work to do.

Ray McCallum, Jr., Detroit – The day was somewhat uncharacteristic for the consistent son of the Titans’ head coach. Yes, 23 points is the norm for the junior. But it took him 23 shots (eight makes) and he was 4-for-12 from three in a 77-74 loss at St. Johns. He’ll no doubt get his all season. But considering the stage, volume shooting wasn’t what McCallum needed.

Josh Smith, UCLA – He air-balled a lay-up. He got dominated by far-inferior talent in the post. He finished with five points, five rebounds and four steals in a win over UC-Irvine. Off the court, he seems like a great person. On the court? He seems like another Renardo Sidney.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State – The Aztecs made extremely easy work of San Diego Christian, 97-51. Franklin lived up to the preseason conference player of the year hype, pouring in 28 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kid’s on his way.

Fanbases that can take a breath

Kansas State – This is more of a reason for the Wildcats to laugh than to be relieved. They avoided, um, narrowly, being the next victim of the Alabama-Huntsville Pain Train, taking down the Division II squad 87-26. The Chargers beat North Texas last night.

Pittsburgh – The Panthers put in one of the more underrated performances of the night, mainly because it went toe-to-toe with the Kentucky-Duke game. Pitt took down C.J. McCollum and Lehigh impressively, 78-53 at home, scoring 43 in the second half. Travon Woodall scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, while the Mountain Hawks’ McCollum was “held” to 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Fanbases that can take a seat

West Virginia – It’s your first game of the 2012-13 season. It’s your first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. It’s the first game of the ESPN 24 Hours of College Basketball, aka Marathon Madness. So what do you do!?…You shoot 27.3-percent, 11.5-percent (3-for-26) from three and tank the game 84-50. Mountaineers fans, blame Denniz Kilicli’s shaving of his beard. Or the loss of players like Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones. But man, your team needs a better effort to contend in the Big 12 this season, much less in non-conference.

UCLA – Oh what am I saying? We all were waiting for this. This program has a ton of individual talent, with or without Shabazz Muhammad, but we all wondered, ‘how would it all coalesce?’ Well, the Bruins avoided a near disaster against UC-Irvine in the form of a 80-79 overtime win which had a crazy ending to the extra period. It’s a long season, but those that were waiting to hate on UCLA now have their first — maybe second, if you count Muhammad’s indefinite suspension — bullet in the chamber. Let’s see how Howland manages all those stars in their first taste of adversity.

Now everyone, go get some sleep.

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

Big 12 Preview: Death, taxes and Kansas winning the league?

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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 Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

When it comes to the Big 12 there’s been one constant in the standings of late: Kansas at the head of the pack. Bill Self’s program has won eight straight Big 12 regular season titles, and even with the departure of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor it’s reached a point where you simply pick the Jayhawks to win the league until someone proves otherwise.

Seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey will be asked to lead a large but talented group of newcomers, and if they can do that a ninth straight title is well within Kansas’ reach. But they won’t lack for challengers either, with Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears looking to be the team best equipped to take down Kansas. Point guard Pierre Jackson was one of the best lead guards in the country last season, and if the young bigs are ready to contribute Baylor will once again factor into the Big 12 race.

Kansas State has a new head coach in Bruce Weber but a number of their key contributors from last season are back, and there’s reason for optimism at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia as well. And if Iowa State can properly account for the many things that Royce White provided last season the Cyclones will be heard from as well. Here’s a look at the Big 12 in 2012-13.

Five Things to Know

1. Realignment. The Big 12 will once again be a ten-team league, but replacing Missouri and Texas A&M (both are now in the SEC) are TCU and West Virginia. West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins coached a season in the Big 12 at Kansas State before returning to his alma mater, and Trent Johnson takes over at TCU after coaching the last four years at LSU.

2. Only three players who made the league’s all-conference teams at the end of last season are back in 2012-13: Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson, Kansas center Jeff Withey and Kansas State shooting guard Rodney McGruder.

3. Texas Tech ended the Billy Gillispie saga this fall, with Chris Walker gets the promotion to interim head coach. Luckily for the Red Raiders forward Jordan Tolbert, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, returns for his sophomore campaign but it’s going to be a tough 2012-13 season for a team that doesn’t match up talent-wise in the deep Big 12.

4. Kansas returns three starters from last season’s national runner-up (Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey), but outside of those three the cupboard is bare from an experience standpoint. Freshmen Perry Ellis and Andrew White are two of the newcomers expected to contribute immediately and the same goes for Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, who had to sit out all of last season for academic issues.

5. Oklahoma State still has the ability to be a promising team this season, thanks in part to the arrival of freshman Marcus Smart. But with Brian Williams (wrist) done for the season and J.P. Olukemi both recovering from a torn ACL and hoping to be cleared by the NCAA to play this season there are questions in regards to backcourt depth.

Impact Newcomers

Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis (Kansas)
The Jayhawks are going to need contributions from their freshmen in order to win a ninth consecutive Big 12 title, and McLemore and Ellis are two of the key first-year players. McLemore has the advantage of being a part of the program last season even though he wasn’t cleared to play, and the versatile shooting guard was a Top 20 prospect coming out of high school. Ellis was one of the top prospects in the 2012 class and should earn major minutes with Thomas Robinson now in the NBA.

Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers (Baylor)
Baylor lost a lot in the paint from last season, but two of the reasons why the Bears are seen by many as Kansas’ biggest challenger are Austin Gathers. Austin is a 7-footer who is more comfortable facing up, and he’s got range out beyond the three-point arc. As for Gathers, his frame makes him an incredibly difficult match-up for opponents and should serve the Bears well this season.

Georges Niang (Iowa State)
Two of Niang’s high school teammates at both the Tilton School and BABC: Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden. That led to far too many people overlooking the Cyclone freshman, who would simply go about his business in regards to both points and rebounds. Fred Hoiberg has himself a player who could eventually be an All-Big 12 player before his career ends.

Amath M’Baye (Oklahoma)
One thing that Oklahoma sorely needed last season was depth, especially in the front court. Enter M’Baye, who began his college career at Wyoming and is expected to have a significant impact in his first season of play at Oklahoma. As a sophomore the 6-9 M’Baye averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and he’ll form a nice partnership with senior Romero Osby inside.

Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten (West Virginia)
With Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones out of eligibility the Mountaineers needed players ready to step up. So how about two experienced transfers from the Atlantic 10? Murray, who began his career at La Salle, was a bit of an enigma at times in Philadelphia but there’s no denying his talent. And former Dayton point guard Staten is capable of hitting the ground running this season.

Other newcomers of note: F Will Clyburn and G Korie Lucious (Iowa State), C Aaron Durley (TCU), G Javan Felix and C Cameron Ridley (Texas), G L.J. Rose (Baylor), F Andrew White (Kansas).

Breakout Players

F Romero Osby (Oklahoma)
Osby averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his first season with the Sooners after starting his college career at Mississippi State. Even with the presence of M’Baye and senior guard Steven Pledger, Osby is talented enough to become an All-Big 12 player in his senior campaign.

C Jeff Withey (Kansas)
Withey is well-known, and his work on the defensive end was one reason why the Jayhawks were able to get to the Final Four. But with Robinson and Taylor gone there will be more on his plate offensively, something Withey prepared for this offseason. If Withey can adjust to the changes he’s a player who can earn All-America honors.

G Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State)
After Frank Martin left to take the head coaching job at South Carolina, there was some concern that Rodriguez would leave as well. But the point guard decided to remain in the Little Apple, and along with Rodney McGruder forms one of the best guard tandems in the Big 12. If Rodriguez can improve his turnover percentage (28% last season) there’s no doubt that the Wildcats can return to the NCAA tournament in Bruce Weber’s first season.

G Sheldon McClellan (Texas)
With J’Covan Brown gone who gets to assume the role of Texas’ primary scoring option on the wing? That will likely be McClellan, who averaged 11.3 points and shot 44.8% from the field in his freshman campaign. More will be asked of both he and Myck Kabongo as the Longhorns look to make a move in the Big 12 standings.

F Melvin Ejim (Iowa State)
No more Royce White, who was not only the Big 12’s top newcomer but also Iowa State’s leader in just about every statistical category. That’s an awful lot to replace and one player who will be asked to provide more is Ejim, who accounted for 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season. The Cyclones have other guys who can handle the distribution role (Korie Lucious being one) left vacant by White’s departure, but when it comes to rebounding Ejim should be first in line.

Coach under pressure: Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) 
To be fair Ford did lead the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament in each of his first two seasons in Stillwater. But if Oklahoma State were to miss the Big Dance for the third straight season with this group the natives may begin to ask questions. Unfortunately Oklahoma State lost their best perimeter defender in Brian Williams and there’s still no word on JP Olukemi’s appeal, but with the talent remaining Ford has a group that many will expect to earn an NCAA bid.

Player of the Year: PG Pierre Jackson (Baylor)  
Jackson hit the ground running in his first season in Waco, averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 assists per game in helping to lead the Bears to the Elite 8. With names such as Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller gone Baylor will be young inside, which likely means even more scoring responsibilities for Jackson on the perimeter. He’s more than capable of handling a heavier workload this season.

All-Conference Team 

G Pierre Jackson (Baylor)*
G Rodney McGruder (Kansas State)
G/F Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State)
F Romero Osby (Oklahoma)
C Jeff Withey (Kansas)

Predicted Finish

1. Kansas– A lot of new pieces but three key veterans return, and at this point it’s difficult to pick anyone but the Jayhawks to win the conference
2. Baylor– The Bears lost an awful lot inside but the combination of a deep backcourt and some talented freshmen make Baylor the biggest threat to Kansas
3. Kansas State– Bruce Weber has a nice stable of talent at his disposal in his first season in Manhattan
4. Oklahoma State– the backcourt depth has taken a serious hit, but the presence of Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown make the Cowboys a tough out
5. West Virginia– Huggins has both Aaric Murray and Deniz Kilicli inside, and if Juwan Staten can mesh with the returning guards (including Jabarie Hinds) WVU will dance again
6. Texas– If the freshmen are able to contribute Rick Barnes has a team capable of finishing in the top half of the standings
7. Oklahoma– Lon Kruger wants his team play faster, and unlike last season the Sooners have the talent and depth needed to do so
8. Iowa State– Korie Lucious will run the point for the Cyclones, who will need to account for the departure of Royce White
9. TCU– Trent Johnson picked up a big win on the recruiting trail with Karviar Shepherd, but those wins will be few and far between on the court this season
10. 9. Texas Tech– Jordan Tolbert remaining in Lubbock may not be enough to get the Red Raiders out of the Big 12 cellar

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

Gonzaga looks to be the early Old Spice Classic favorite

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The bracket for the 2012 Old Spice Classic was released on Thursday, and while the games scheduled for Orlando offer quality there’s a chance the best game could be the one that isn’t part of the bracket.

That would be West Virginia’s trip to Spokane to take on Gonzaga on November 12, which is also a part of ESPN’s 24-hour marathon to celebrate the start of the season.

Here’s a quick look at the Old Spice Classic, which will be played on November 22, 23 and 25.

Old Spice Classic Schedule (all times Eastern)

November 22
Noon West Virginia vs. Marist (ESPN2)
2 PM Vanderbilt vs. Davidson (ESPN2)
7 PM UTEP vs. Oklahoma (ESPN2)
9 PM Clemson vs. Gonzaga (ESPN)

November 23
12:30 PM Semifinal #1 (ESPN)
3 PM Consolation #1 (ESPNU)
5:30 PM Consolation #2 (ESPN2)
7:30 PM Semifinal #2 (ESPN2)

November 25
11:30 AM 5th place game (ESPNU)
2 PM 7th place game (ESPN3)
4:30 PM 3rd place game (ESPNU)
7 PM Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Vanderbilt vs. Davidson
Unfortunately that WVU/Gonzaga game can’t be counted as a quarterfinal, but the Commodores and Wildcats should be entertaining as well. Vanderbilt does lose a lot with Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins all in the NBA (lost six seniors total), but Kevin Stallings has some talented youngsters at his disposal.

Kedren Johnson, Rod Odom and Dai-Jon Parker are three of those players, and they’re going to have their hands full (and then some) with a Davidson team poised to repeat as SoCon champs.

Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks were one of the least-publicized front court tandems in America last season, and 6-4 guard J.P. Kuhlman is another outstanding player for Bob McKillop’s squad.

Best individual match-up (that we know will happen): Elias Harris (Gonzaga) vs. Devin Booker (Clemson)
With Clemson losing their top two scorers from last season Booker will need to be a major cog in the attack on both ends of the floor. Whether or not he’s able to do so once the Tigers reach ACC play will likely be known after their weekend in Orlando.

As for Harris, if he can remain healthy the senior is more than capable of going out with a bang. While some criticized Harris for his play last season, a look at his numbers shows an improvement from his sophomore year. Gonzaga has many weapons, but a Harris at his best makes the Bulldogs a much tougher team to beat.

Best individual match-up (that you want to see): Cohen (Davidson) vs. Aaric Murray (West Virginia)
Murray was one of the best big men in the Atlantic 10 while at La Salle, and while he may not be as versatile as the departed Kevin Jones he’ll have an impact on the Mountaineers.

Cohen was mentioned above, and he’s one of the key figures Davidson will need to play well should they match up with a West Virginia team that has some size in the paint.

Winner: Gonzaga
This isn’t the greatest in-season tournament field, with a number of the teams having some major questions to answer about themselves. The closest thing to a “finished” product is Gonzaga, who have the talent needed to account for the losses of Robert Sacre’ and Marquise Carter.

Clemson could be tricky and a possible semifinal match-up with Oklahoma could be as well, but Gonzaga’s biggest challenge likely comes in the title game. Is it West Virginia? Davidson? Either way it’s difficult to pick against the Zags in this one.

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

Kevin Jones has reportedly been given a 1st round guarantee in NBA draft

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After four years at West Virginia, Kevin Jones’ future in the NBA looks bright, according to a report by Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.

Zagoria quotes Jones’ agent as saying he has received a commitment from one NBA that he will be drated in the first round of Thursday’s draft.

“A team in the first round has committed to him,” Bill Neff told SNY.tv. “The question is, what does that mean? I never trust anything other than what happens on draft night.

“He’ll get drafted,” Neff continued. “It’s either them in the first or early second.”

Granted, much of the back-room politicking and hints meant to throw other teams off the trail of a scent happen all the way up until the final pick is taken in the NBA draft, but Jones is an interesting case.

He is one of those players who was a very solid player the college level, many arguing he should have won Big East Player of the Year this past season, but questions arise as to whether his game translates to the professional level.

His athletic test results were not overly impressive at this month’s NBA Draft Combine, but scouts see his 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this past season and have a good idea of what they’re getting.

Draft Express projects Jones to go in the middle of the second round.

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

Seniors rule our preseason All-America team

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Who says everyone jumps early to the NBA? Our 2010-11 college basketball preseason All-America team is filled with upperclassmen.

Among the five teams (25 spots), there are 10 seniors – four of whom are on the first team – and eight juniors. What can I say? I’m a believer in experienced players.

Who on it? Click here to see the spiffy slideshow.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

A case for Kevin Jones as Big East's best

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Reuters

Big East writers have no doubts about the five best teams in the Big East. Pitt, Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown and West Virginia were listed in that order on nearly every ballot. Pitt was picked no lower than second on any ballot.

If only picking the player of the year were as simple.

As tabulated by Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard, seven different players received at least one vote for player of the year. Georgetown’s Austin Freeman eventually got the nod by virtue of being named on six ballots. The rest?

Other players receiving mention as Player of the Year candidates included Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, Villanova’s Corey Fisher, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker. Those four plus Freeman comprised the writers’ preseason All-Big East first-team.

West Virginia’s Kevin Jones also received two Player of the Year votes, but wound up on the writers’ second team. Similarly, Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell picked up one vote for Player of the Year, but also found himself on the second team.

There’s really no wrong answer in that group. The best players from the five top teams, along with perhaps the best pure point guard (Walker) and the league’s best scorer (Hazell). Any of ’em could take top honors.

But if I had to pick one, I’m picking Jones.

Only Joseph can match Jones’ mix of size and athleticism. Jones is bound to put up better overall stats and earn himself plaudits by being more valuable to his team. Sure, defenses can focus more attention on Jones without De’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks around, but he can handle it. Jones was a marvelously efficient scorer last season who also hit the boards and hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers. I expect him to score 20 points and grab 10 boards a game.

Not enough? Let’s try a different approach. Check out this simple equation: No Butler and Ebanks + Joseph’s better supporting cast = Jones primed for better year.

Math rules.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.