Tag Archive | Kansas

Duke Nails Top Prospects

By Christian Pierre-Louis

In the mere span of a few seconds Friday afternoon, Duke became the likely favorite for the 2014-15 national championship. That’s what happens when two of the five best high school players in the country announce their decision to be Blue Devils. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both headed to play for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. They chose the Blue Devils over Kansas and Baylor.

The two players always thought to be a package deal, never really wavered in that aspect of each one’s recruitment. Okafor and Jones didn’t play high school or AAU basketball on the same team, but represented USA Basketball together and became close friends from playing at elite camps and tournaments around the country. A couple of teams attempted to split them up, but it never worked. Despite various rumors to the contrary, Okafor and Jones followed through on their package deal.

 

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor made a splash and signed with Duke (Via Adidas and AP)

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor made a splash and signed with Duke (Via Adidas and AP)

Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center from Whitney Young (Ill.), is ranked No. 1 in most rankings including the 247Sports Composite, Rivals, and ESPN. He is an absolutely dominant force on the inside, and is the best back-to-the-basket player to come across the high school landscape in a very long time. He can get position on the interior, and then is able to score in a variety of ways. Okafor is also capable of passing out of double teams. He has terrific hands and is an outstanding rebounder.

Meanwhile, Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.), is among the top five in all the major recruiting rankings. It became clear a couple of years ago that he would be the best pure point guard in the country, given his high-level basketball IQ and ability to run an offense and control tempo. Jones is a great passer with vision, but he’s also very adept at scoring in his own right. He has good range to the 3-point line and while he isn’t overly explosive, Jones can change speeds effectively.

Okafor and Jones join previous commit Grayson Allen in Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Regardless of who stays and who goes pro from this year’s Blue Devil team, it’s certainly not a stretch to say that Duke will be the favorite heading into next season. Okafor gives them the most dominant big man in the country, while Jones is clearly one of the top point guards in the nation. Even if Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood decide to go pro, Krzyzewski will have the pieces to win a national title.

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Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.

This Weekend in College Basketball

Recapping the most important news from this past weekend

By Jared Bursky 

Future Stars Make Their Decision

Last Tuesday, we were able to get a glimpse of how dynamic freshmen can make an immediate impact in college basketball. We also saw extraordinary talents in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle who represent the future of the NBA. Five ranked teams were in action Friday, including number one to be Michigan State, but that was hardly on the minds of many college basketball fans. Friday featured seismic announcements from four of the top high school basketball recruits in the country.

Committed to Duke

1. Jahlil Okafor (6-10, 265) ESPN 100 # 1

Chicago, Illinois

Whitney Young H.S.

Center/ Power Forward

2. Tyus Jones (6-1, 171) ESPN 100 # 4

Apple Valley, Minnesota

Apple Valley High School

Point Guard

Analysis

Duke will be loaded next year with Okafor and Jones coming in as a package deal. They are the perfect compliments. A pass first, true point guard and a dominant low post big man along with returners mean big things for Duke next year.

Jahlil Okafor and Tyrus Jones both chose Duke on Friday (Via ESPN, IconSMI)

Jahlil Okafor and Tyrus Jones both chose Duke on Friday (Via ESPN, IconSMI)

Committed to Kansas

1. Cliff Alexander (6-8, 225) ESPN 100 #3

Chicago, Illinois

Curie High School

Power Forward

Analysis

Illinois or Kansas? His choice was Kansas, but not before he mistakenly picked up the Illinois hat at first at his announcement. You know this one is hurting in Champagne, Illinois but for now, Kansas will plan on doing great things with Alexander.

Committed to Arizona

1. Stanley Johnson (6-6, 220) ESPN 100 #9

Fullerton, California

Mater Dei High School

Small Forward

Analysis

Arizona got Aaron Gordon in last year’s recruiting class, now they have another stud to follow. Johnson is a great scorer and has the tools to make an immediate impact in an Arizona program that seems to be back near the top.

Friday Action

MSU Survives Columbia

Michigan State, coming off a huge win in Chicago against #1 Kentucky, struggled with a tricky Columbia squad for thirty-five minutes. The Spartans were able to pull away in the final minutes and finished with a 64-53 win. The fact that this game was this close is shocking.

Saturday Action

Wisconsin Rallies against Green Bay

The Badgers overcame a seven point second half deficit to defeat Green Bay on Saturday. Green Bay junior Keifer Sykes scored a career high 32 points but it wasn’t enough against Wisconsin, who was lead by Frank Kaminsky’s 17 points.

Battle of Defense: #10 Ohio State shuts down #17 Marquette

52-35? Sounds like Peyton Manning just lead the Broncos to a win. However, Ohio State limited Marquette to 35 points due primarily to the great performance of Aaron Craft (10pts 7 reb 10ast 2stl). Marquette shot just 19% from the field in the defensive struggle.

Sunday Action (Upset City Edition)

Indiana State over #21 Notre Dame

The Sycamores had five players score in double figures as their balanced attack outlasted Notre Dame 83-70 in South Bend. Notre Dame received solid production from their starters but the bench could not contribute much as the Irish were sent to their first loss.

Belmont shocks #12 North Carolina

Another upset on the road. Belmont went into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 83-80 on the shoulders off J.J. Mann (28 points). UNC got a terrific effort from James Michael McAdoo who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. This was one of three home losses on the day for teams in the ACC.

#7 Michigan Falls in Ames

Not that this was not an upset; Michigan is a very good team, but Iowa State does have something brewing in Ames. #7 Michigan’s Mitch McGary made his season debut Sunday but in a losing effort, as the Cyclones defeated them 77-70. Melvin Ejim led Iowa State with 22 points.

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Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10

Tuesday Preview: The Champions Classic

By Jared Bursky

How great is it that the Final Four begins tonight? Hold on a minute. It’s only November 12th. You would hardly know with the matchups in Chicago tonight. At 7:30 #1 Kentucky takes on #2 Michigan State, followed by #4 Duke and #5 Kansas, in what may be a preview of this year’s Final Four. Here is what you should be looking for in the two matchups:

#1 Kentucky v. #2 Michigan State (7:30 ESPN)

Quick Notes

  • The game will be the earliest ever matchup between #1 and #2. Previously the earliest was November 29th.
  • Kentucky’s freshman class, regarded by many as the best class ever, battles against its first ranked opponent.

For Michigan State to win it must:

TAKE CARE OF THE BALL. Michigan State opening the season with major problems in the turnover department has seemed to become an annual event. Oddly, as March approaches these problems are typically solved, but to beat a team with the talent of Kentucky, turnovers cannot happen. Easy baskets will feed confidence to this young Wildcat team, and that’s when they will really start rolling. Michigan State needs to be efficient on offense lead by the evolving Keith Appling on the point guard position. Making life tough on Kentucky may show their inexperience.

For Kentucky to win it must:

REBOUND. We all know Michigan State will rebound at a high rate on both sides of the ball. Kentucky’s toughness will be tested most on the boards. For the Wildcats to win, they MUST compete on the boards, especially on the defensive end. If Michigan State imposes its will on the offensive boards, Kentucky will have a hard time. Extra possessions for the likes of Harris and Payne are bad news. The Wildcats have the athletes to rebound effectively, but with their inexperience, they have yet to see a machine like they will see tonight. Expect the team that controls the boards to have the inside track to win this game.

Key Matchup:

Branden Dawson/Adreian Payne vs. Julius Randle

Randle is undoubtedly the pulse of this Kentucky team, posting double-doubles in both of his first two games. If Michigan State can contain him and make him work on the defensive end it can be successful. On the flip side, if Randle gets into a rhythm early and attacks the boards like he has been, Kentucky could build confidence early and turn that into success.

X Factors:

Michigan State- Keith Appling, PG: This year will be Appling’s third year at the point. Entering his sophomore year he transitioned from the off guard position. If he can take care of the ball, provide some scoring, and distribute to Harris and Payne, Michigan State can come out of Chicago with a win.

Kentucky- Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, C: One seven foot center is dangerous, who knows what the possibilities are when a team has two. Kentucky does. You know Izzo wants to establish his guys in the paint early. If these two can provide rebounding and rim protection, Kentucky will be in great shape.

#4 Duke v. #5 Kansas (9:30 ESPN)

Quick Notes

  • Coach K 3 – Bill Self 0: Self has lost all three matchups against Duke.
  • Another 1 v 2: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, the top two recruits coming into this year, battle for the first time at the college level.

For Duke to win it must:

APPLY PRESSURE ON THE BALL. Kansas has an inexperienced backcourt with Duke being the exact opposite. Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton need to make life hard for Kansas’ guards. Duke once again has an uncanny ability to make shots from beyond the arc. Open looks for Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Cook and Thornton would prove to be a nightmare for Kansas. If Duke pressures the ball to create turnovers and bad possessions, the running game and three point shot could get going early and often. Duke also does not have Mason Plumlee as a rim protector anymore. They do not have great size in the frontcourt. Preventing easy entries into the post will be critical to Coach K and the Blue Devils

For Kansas to win it must:

HAVE SECONDARY SCORING. Kansas cannot rely on Andrew Wiggins to carry them. Duke will attack in waves with different players. Having point guard Naadir Tharpe back from a one game suspension will surely help the Jayhawks, but Kansas needs a group effort. Cue Perry Ellis and Tarik Black. Ellis really started to come on toward the end of last season while Tarik Black, a transfer from Memphis, has the potential to dominate a game in the paint. If Kansas can feed these two guys on the block and score early, Kansas can open up opportunities for Wiggins and fellow freshman Wayne Seldon Jr. to make plays.

Key Matchup:

Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker

Hold on a minute. We get to see #1 and #2 play at 7:30, and it might get better at 9:30? Wiggins and Parker may be the BEST matchup of individuals we will see all year long. Parker was the number one recruit for so long until Wiggins skyrocketed past him. Does a small rivalry exist here? Maybe. What we do know is that two of the best freshmen and players in America will matchup against each other tonight in Chicago, and the winner of this matchup puts his team in a great position to get a meaningful early season win. This is a must see, period.

Wiggins and Parker will go head to head in this early season matchup (Via USA Today Sports)

Wiggins and Parker will go head to head in this early season matchup (Via USA Today Sports)

X Factors:

Duke- The Bigs: Discounting Parker whose versatility will have him in different spots, Duke’s big men accounted for only 15 of its 111 points in its opening game win vs. Davidson. Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston in particular, need to provide rebounding, toughness, and more offensive output. With incredible scoring and versatility from its guards, Duke will cruise if this happens.

Kansas- Andrew White III, G/F: This 6-6, 210 sophomore chipped in 12 points in Kansas’ first game. More importantly he nailed 3-5 attempts from beyond the arc. Kansas does not have a bevy of shooters to rely on, so if White can come off the bench and make shots, pressure will be taken off the shoulders of Wiggins. If White is in rhythm and Kansas decides to attack from the inside out, Tarik Black and Perry Ellis will have a great spot up option to kick out to.

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Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10

The Final Four In November?

By Christian Pierre-Louis

The kind of college basketball that fans will be treated to tonight in the third annual Champions Classic isn’t supposed to happen until early April. Only a few days into the college basketball season, the Champions Classic might just be a sneak preview of the Final Four. Top-ranked Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan State is the marquee matchup in the tournament tonight at the United Center in Chicago. It’s the earliest in the season the top two teams have faced each other, and the first game between Nos. 1 and 2 since 2008. Duke and Kansas play in the nightcap, giving the tournament four of the top five teams in the country. Before we delve deeper into the individual matchups, it’s worth looking at some of the numbers surrounding this event. Kentucky, Kansas and Duke are three of the four all-time winningest programs, and the four schools have 17 national titles between them. Furthermore, the Wildcats, Spartans, Jayhawks and Blue Devils have been to 24 Final Fours in the past 21 years. It’s safe to say we are talking about college basketball royalty here.

Kentucky vs. Michigan State

Kentucky leads the all-time series against Michigan State 12-10, but the Spartans won the last meeting in the 2005 NCAA tournament in a double-overtime classic. Both teams dominated their respective season opener, with the Wildcats throttling UNC-Asheville and the Spartans handling McNeese State. The battle for the top spot in the country is a classic showdown between experience and raw talent. John Calipari assembled arguably the best recruiting class in the history of the sport and will be relying on those freshmen all season, while Tom Izzo’s trio of Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne give the Spartans leadership that is needed to succeed in marquee contests.

Once again, Coach John Calipari has built a team that can win (Via USA Today Sports)

Once again, Coach John Calipari has built a team that can win (Via USA Today Sports)

Were this matchup to take place again in March, Kentucky’s incredible depth and ability could be enough. However, it is going to take some time for the Wildcats to reach their full potential with so many young players on the floor at once, and Michigan State will take advantage. Look for Appling and Harris to suffocate the Harrison brothers on the defensive end, forcing critical turnovers in the process. The Spartans will convert the subsequent opportunities in transition into easy baskets.

But it’s not just the harassing defense Michigan State plays that will give Kentucky trouble. You would be hard pressed to find a more physically dominant squad in the country and on the boards than Izzo’s bunch. Between the Spartans’ defense and proclivity for contact, the young Wildcats will grow frustrated by late in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan State 78, Kentucky 72

Duke vs. Kansas

Duke leads the all-time series against Kansas 7-2, a mark which includes a victory in the most recent matchup in the 2011 EA Sports Maui Invitational title game. You’ve heard all the cliches—there’s no “I” in team, basketball is a team game, it’s not about individual matches, etc. In fact, if you talked to Bill Self, Mike Krzyzewski or either of their prized freshmen in the days leading up to this game, you would probably hear those same cliches again. But fans don’t have to live in the boring world of coach speak. The headlines following this matchup will undoubtedly focus on the battle between Wiggins and Parker. And how could they not? We are talking about the presumed No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft in Wiggins and a freshman who was already on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school and called the best prospect since LeBron James in Parker.

While the freshmen showdown may be the story, the talent surrounding Parker will make the difference in this game. Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood and even Amile Jefferson are a more formidable surrounding cast at this point of the year than Andrew White III, Wayne Selden, Tarik Black and Perry Ellis.

The Jayhawks, in a similar fashion to Kentucky in the first contest, are very talented but don’t quite have the experience to win this game at this point in the year after replacing all five starters (the story will be different in March for both squads).

Prediction: Duke 81, Kansas 73

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Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.