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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
3-point shot: Oriakhi's crucial impact

By Andy Katz

1. Butler's Rotnei Clarke might be this season's most important traditional transfer, one who sat out a year. But it's hard to argue against Missouri's Alex Oriakhi as the most invaluable immediate transfer. Oriakhi had 18 points, 11 boards and didn't miss any of his 10 free-throw attempts in Missouri's victory over South Carolina. Missouri coach Frank Haith said via text late Tuesday that Oriakhi had been huge for the Tigers, a presence at both ends of the court. Oriakhi's standing has been even more important with the loss of Laurence Bowers to a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. But this is exactly what Oriakhi wanted when he left Connecticut. He wanted to play in the postseason -- but, maybe just as crucial to him, he wanted to be featured more. If Missouri is going to be relevant deeper in March, the Tigers will need Orikahi and a healthy Bowers to go along with tough-to-defend Phil Pressey.

2. No one should be stunned by Alabama's SEC resurgence. This is the same Tide team that looked like an experienced, versatile squad in winning the 2K Sports Classic in November. Alabama doesn't have the overall non-conference resume to get an NCAA bid, but the Tide have a legit chance to finish in the top three in the SEC. That doesn't guarantee a bid -- just ask Pac-12 champ Washington a year ago. Still, the Tide have improved, weathered injuries and are a tough matchup going forward. Meanwhile, let me know when anyone makes sense of NC State (loses to Wake Forest) and, suddenly, Louisville playing poorly, sloppily and without urgency in losing at Villanova.

3. The Big East's departing seven Catholic, non-FBS schools are working on an exit plan, a television deal (sources continue to say Fox has an inside track) and ultimately a commissioner. The current commish who would be a fit is the West Coast Conference's Jamie Zaninovich. He has managed a private-school conference well of late and worked at Princeton, so he is not foreign to the Northeast. He had to deal with expansion in adding BYU and, next season, Pacific. Zaninovich already has contacts in the television industry and credibility within the NCAA tournament selection committee as a member. The committee might need to be lobbied to ensure an automatic berth once the league is formed.