College Basketball Nation: Kenneth Faried

Editor's note: It's the offseason edition of The Watercooler. Eamonn Brennan and Myron Medcalf discuss "The Avengers," UNLV's loaded frontcourt, Larry Brown, Arizona buzz and more.

Eamonn Brennan: Good morning, Myron. Two weeks after our last Watercooler and I'm finding a dearth of topics for us to discuss. Instead, I'm pining for the season, when we had no shortage of fun topics. This offseason is killing me. Thank goodness for the NBA playoffs and "The Avengers," which I found to be almost exactly what I expected when I went and saw it Sunday night. How are you holding up?

Myron Medcalf: I'm surviving, Eamonn. I'm with you. I'm searching for ways to get through it. The NBA playoffs have been interesting, but they're not enough. C'mon, Indiana and Kentucky, stage an offseason exhibition since we'll never see the real thing. Just saw "The Avengers" too. First, it's as good as advertised. "Dark Knight Rises" should watch its back. Great movie. Although that part at the end … I won't spoil it. Since we're talking superhero movies, which players would earn a spot on your "Avengers" squad for the 2012-13 season? I'll go with Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Doug McDermott, Peyton Siva and Trey Burke. You?

[+] EnlargeMike Moser
Damen Jackson/Icon SMIUNLV's Mike Moser is part of what should be one of the country's best frontcourts next season.
EB: It's awfully hard to argue with that list. Fearsome stuff. Here's my pivoting question: Does UNLV have the best frontcourt in the country? Anthony Bennett's commitment over the weekend puts him alongside Mike Moser to start the season, and former Pitt transfer (and 2011 No. 1-ranked center) Khem Birch will be eligible in December.

MM: Yes. Simple answer. That frontcourt had firepower without Bennett. Adding a phenomenal athlete such as the Canadian standout enhances that potency. Moser should be a Wooden Award candidate. Birch and Bennett too. Wow. … Hold on a minute, Eamonn, while I check this report. … Virginia Tech loses another player? Kind of shatters the whole continuity mission, right?

EB: Yeah. With the exception of continued expansion around the smaller leagues, I thought that was the story of last week. The Dorian Finney-Smith transfer was reportedly in the works for months, but the Montrezl Harrell NLI release was bad news too. New coach James Johnson will have eight scholarship players for next season, and you have to wonder whether Tech wouldn't have been better off taking another crack at this thing with Seth Greenberg in charge. It's a bit of a mess.

MM: Hard to feel sorry for Va. Tech. When you fire an established coach, albeit one who couldn't quite crack the success bubble, in late April, you must have a plan. It was just a sloppy process. You get a Greenberg staffer, you keep the recruits and returning players, right? Wrong. Johnson is going into a tough first season. Larry Brown, however, is grabbing transfers like … can't think of a good metaphor, but he's signed Josiah Turner and Crandall Head. Can Brown win at SMU?

EB: I'm assuming SMU is willing to take this coming season with a grain of salt, choosing to wait for the transfers to come online in Year 2 of the Larry Brown project. I think Turner will turn it around there. I'm not sure how good Head is in the first place. I (sort of) wrote this last week: I really don't know how the Brown thing is going to go. How long will he stick around, anyway? If they aren't winning by the end of his second season, is he gone? How much talent can his name brand (plus his good assistant corps) land him in that time? SMU woke up one day and realized it should care about basketball, and this is the result. I have no idea if it works or not.

MM: I agree. He definitely has a talented staff, but it's hard to know how long it will take SMU to make a dent in the Big East. It might never happen. … Arizona has made some offseason moves that will position Sean Miller to win now. Mark Lyons and that top-three recruiting class. Nice. I think Arizona deserves more offseason buzz.

EB: I have my lingering doubts about Lyons as a teammate -- he comes with a lot of baggage from his days under Chris Mack at Xavier. But maybe a fresh start is just what he needs? Arizona's recruiting class has it back on the map, and UCLA has made itself a likely top-five team heading into the season. The rest of the conference might still be stuck in 2011-12 mode, but at least the two dominant Pac-12 programs will be back on the map in 2012-13. I don't recall a head-to-head matchup in the league this good in quite some time. Desperately needed.

MM: You're right about Lyons. Definitely a wait-and-see situation in Tucson. But this is his last shot. Maybe he needs a change of scenery, but his attitude will influence those youngsters. So Miller needs Lyons to get his mind right. Arizona could reach the Final Four or it could implode again if the chemistry is jacked up. I think the Wildcats will find success next season. And yes, the Pac-12 needs UCLA-Arizona. We need it. … My parting shot for this edition of our Watercooler chat is that Kenneth Faried's success at the next level should change the way college coaches view "undersized" forwards.

EB: Energy and effort go a long way. It helps to be freakishly athletic too. He is going to be a solid pro for a lot of years. One example of why staying in college for four years, or even three, can be a massive benefit to certain guys. Faried is one of them.

Anyway, we'll be keeping an eye on the various college hoops stories bound to bubble up these next two weeks. Until the next alternate Monday, Myron?

MM: Yep. Until next time. … On a side note, chances are that "Avengers" references will seep into our future Watercooler posts. Our readers should definitely see the film. Now.

EB: You've been warned, people. No excuses.

Jimmer and friends resurrect hoops tonight

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
2:10
PM ET
There's a basketball game on national television tonight, and Jimmer is playing in it.

For fans lulled to sleep by the NBA lockout and the lengthy college offseason, the Jimmer's All-Stars event on the BYU campus will feature the professional debuts of numerous NBA draft picks, including host Jimmer Fredette, fellow team captain Kawhi Leonard and national champion Kemba Walker.

The exhibition features numerous storylines that developed after Team Fredette coached by BYU's Dave Rose and Team Leonard coached by San Diego State's Steve Fisher conducted a draft to fill in the eight-man rosters.

Fredette and Walker, the native New Yorkers who led the nation in scoring last season, will be on opposite sides and square off for the first time.

Fredette and Leonard, whose college teams had epic showdowns last season that raised the profile of the Mountain West and resulted in a shared conference championship, will face off again.

Fredette's team includes fellow Sacramento Kings draft pick Tyler Honeycutt, whose former UCLA teammate Malcolm Lee is on the other side and has the distinction of holding Fredette to a season-low of 25 points in games BYU lost last season.

Former BYU guard Jackson Emery also returns to the Marriott Center for possibly his one and only professional game, as he'll team up with Fredette one more time after recently deciding to step away from basketball.

And for NBA fans looking to get a glimpse of first-round picks Bismack Biyombo, Chris Singleton, Tobias Harris, Nolan Smith and Kenneth Faried, here's your chance.

"The draft was a lot of fun and helped continue the buzz about the game on Thursday," Fredette said in a statement. "I'm excited about my team and I know Kawhi feels like he has a great squad as well. Personally, I'm really looking forward to playing one final game with Jackson in front of our home fans. We had so many great memories during our career at BYU and it will be fun to enjoy one last game night experience together at the Marriott Center."

The game originally scheduled in Salt Lake City as part as what was to have been a two-game exhibition series was canceled, so tonight's the night to tune in to BYUtv.

Basketball is being played again, and that's reason enough for excitement.
It's the day after the draft. For me, that means sitting at my desk, staring at my computer screen, and wondering if what I saw last night unfold last night is really how things went down. In other words, I'm still processing all this.

You know what else the Draft Day Plus 1 means? Listicles. Lots and lots of listicles.

You know what I always say: If you can't beat them -- if you can't think of a similarly efficient content delivery format that doesn't rely so heavily on lists, basically -- join them. Without further ado, here's one of a few college hoops-inclined looks at last night's action. Last but not least: The biggest feel-good picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.

1. Jimmy Butler comes full circle: By now, you've almost certainly heard the story of Jimmy Butler. Still, no matter how many times you read Chad Ford's excellent profile of the newest Chicago Bull -- it's like "The Blind Side" of basketball -- the story doesn't get any less affecting. Still, even before anyone knew his backstory, most college hoops fans respected Butler as an unselfish, versatile worker, a guy who agreed to sublimate his own scoring talent and play out of position in order to help his team win. If you felt some strange twinge of second-hand pride at seeing Butler land a guaranteed contract, well, you weren't the only one.

2. Kenneth Faried's contagious spirit: Watch five minutes of Kenneth Faried playing basketball, and you'll immediately develop an appreciation; Faried competes with the kind of drive few players ever possess, let alone harness. When our own Dana O'Neil spent time with Faried and his family in February, she learned the source of that drive. Faried had a challenging upbringing in rundown Newark and Jersey City. His mother, Waudda, fights an off-and-on battle with lupus that has hospitalized her for months at a time. His transition to college was marked by his effect on others, including a professor who cried when O'Neil asked her about Faried, and who easily recalled an essay he wrote as a freshman on his dream of playing in the NBA. On Thursday night, Faried achieved that dream, doing so in his hometown, surrounded by his family, with his young daughter in his arms. It doesn't get much better than that.

3. Isaiah Thomas proves there's no such thing as Mr. Irrelevant: Year after year, the brash, undersized Washington point guard has listened to people tell him why he wouldn't succeed. Year after year, he's only proved them wrong. Chalk Thursday night up as another chapter in Thomas's saga: Derided by many as too small for the NBA, and criticized by some for leaving school after his junior year, Thomas was indeed drafted anyway. The twist? He had to sweat it out, waiting all the way until the very last pick of the draft to hear his name called. Thomas's next step? Proving he belongs. Would you bet against him?

4. The Morris family's big, bittersweet night: The Morii haven't always been the most sympathetic characters in college hoops, and they certainly weren't shy about their confidence in the weeks before Thursday night's draft. But perhaps only the staunchest Missouri fans could have viewed the twins' back-to-back selections with an acid eye. Surprisingly, Markieff Morris was the first of the two to be selected at No. 13 by the Phoenix Suns. Markieff and his brother hugged, did their patented handshake, and just as Markieff took the stage to shake hands with NBA commissioner David Stern, the camera panned to Marcus, sitting in his chair, crying his eyes out. It was a bittersweet moment. For the first time, the twins -- who have always played, lived, and gotten tattoos together -- will separate. As happy as he must have been, Marcus, who was public in his discomfort with the separation, seemed to be processing that fact for the first time.

Then, with the very next pick, the Houston Rockets selected the other Morris. In that way, the NBA draft was just like the rest of the Morii's lives: They did it together.

5. The Purdue duo reunites: Both Purdue players in the draft, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, were selected by the Boston Celtics Thursday night. Why is this so cool? It's not just because the two close friends get to keep being teammates. It's also because now, Moore and Johnson -- both of whom are high-character, mild-mannered workers -- will have the chance to chase a title together in the NBA, something Robbie Hummel's cruel ACL tears robbed them of in two straight collegiate seasons at Purdue. Thus far, the Celtics seem intent on keeping both players around, at least for the immediate future. If so, the two could be key role players in Boston's last-ditch attempt at an NBA title run in 2012. How cool is that?

Morehead St. shirt celebrates Louisville win

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
3:11
PM ET
The front of this Morehead State T-shirt includes an Eagle and the red feathers of a Cardinal it has just devoured, along with the date and final score, 62-61.

The back of the shirt reads: "YUM! TASTES LIKE VICTORY!"

The Morehead State bookstore is selling the shirt following the team's upset win against Louisville in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, earning bragging rights over the powerhouse program that has the brand-new KFC Yum! Center and Big East affiliation.

With the two schools about a two-hour drive from each other, Morehead State was bound to rub it in the face of Louisville after Demonte Harper's game-winning 3-pointer and Kenneth Faried's game-ending block on Mike Marra.

The win for the Eagles also gave them notoriety as a school and a program. Coach Donnie Tyndall said after the win that an administrator told him that the school received 3,000 applications for admission after the win.

Morehead State eventually lost to Richmond and fell short of the Sweet 16, but the future appears bright.

"I really feel like our program is on solid ground," Tyndall said. "We'll have 10 of our 11 guys will have graduated once these three seniors graduate in May. So we're doing a lot of good things in the community, on the floor, in the classroom. I'm very, very proud of what we've accomplished to this point. I really feel like the sky's the limit in continuing to grow our program.

"Five years ago I don't think anyone would have predicted we'd be 40 minutes away from the Sweet 16."

Rapid Reax: Richmond 65, Morehead St. 48

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
7:48
PM ET


DENVER -- Richmond advances to its first Sweet 16 since 1988, beating No. 13 seed Morehead State 65-48. The Spiders were led by forward Justin Harper, who had 19 points and six rebounds. Guard Kevin Anderson had 14 points while center Dan Geriot had 13 points and seven rebounds. Kenneth Faried had 11 points and 13 rebounds, but had trouble facing double-teams in Richmond’s match-up zone.

Turning point: Geriot buried a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 56-43 with 4:30 left, and it signaled the end for Morehead State. The Eagles’ band members who began the game chanting, “We believe,” began chanting “We still believe” after the play.

Key player: Harper, Richmond’s leading scorer, was 9-for-18 from the field and found his shooting touch after struggling against Vanderbilt. At 6-foot-10, Harper is dangerous with his jump shot and kept working when Faried battled with him inside. He came up wincing on one play after Faried blocked his shot in a vicious collision, but Harper came back to score on the ensuing possession.

Key stat: Morehead State point guard Demonte Harper, after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in an upset against Louisville, was held to four points on 2-for-15 shooting. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Despite 11 rebounds and four assists, the senior had a forgettable day.

Miscellaneous: Geriot was wonderful, as he stood tall in the face of Faried in the post and also shot the ball well, finishing 6-for-10 from the field. When the double-team came against Faried, it bothered him and he had trouble at times passing out of it. As a result, Morehead State was never able to find its rhythm on offense.

What’s next: Richmond moves on to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio to face the winner of the Kansas-Illinois game.

Preview: Saturday in Denver

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
2:38
AM ET

No. 13 seed Morehead State (25-9) vs. No. 12 seed Richmond (28-7), 5:15 p.m. ET

How they got here: Both 12th-seeded Richmond and 13th-seeded Morehead State staged comebacks against power-conference teams on Thursday. The Spiders beat Vanderbilt 69-66, with guard Kevin Anderson making big shot after big shot and finishing with 25 points. The Eagles defeated Louisville 62-61, with Demonte Harper making the game-winning 3-pointer and Terrance Hill getting hot from beyond the arc as well, scoring 23 points.

Storyline: One of these two double-digit seeds will get to go to the Sweet 16. Richmond, which has a history of big upsets, now takes on the role of the favorite. The Spiders lost to Saint Mary’s in that position last season and now have a chance to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988. For Morehead State, it‘s a chance to make history again with its first trip to a regional semifinal. “This game is really important because Coach [Donnie Tyndall] told us we have a chance to make it to the Sweet 16 before the season even started,” Harper said.

Players to watch: Think Tyndall likes his chances with Harper and star forward Kenneth Faried? He called Faried his Gordon Hayward and compared Harper, who has shown his ability to take the last shot, to Shelvin Mack of Butler. For Richmond, Anderson proved himself to be a shot-maker against Vanderbilt. Leading scorer Justin Harper struggled with his shot, and the Spiders could use a big day from their senior.

What to look for: Faried is one of the stars of the tournament so far, and he didn’t even have a great offensive game against Louisville. But Faried is so dominant a rebounder and such an athletic presence in the middle that he impacts the game in so many ways.

“We know he doesn’t give a lot of second shots on the offensive end,” Anderson said of the nation's leading rebounder. “It’s going to be tough to stop him."

Richmond could try containing Faried with the 6-foot-10 Harper, relying on his ability to shoot from long range. But lest we forget: Anderson will be a tough matchup for Morehead State, as well.

No. 11 seed Gonzaga (25-9) vs. No. 3 seed BYU (31-4), approx. 7:45 p.m. ET

How they got here: BYU was the only favorite in Denver that did not get upset in the first day of action, as the Cougars dispatched of Wofford with a 74-66 win. Jimmer Fredette scored 32 points, and he also got help with Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock and Logan Magnusson scoring 10 points apiece. Gonzaga dominated St. John’s with an 86-71 win in which Marquise Carter scored a career-high 24 points and Steven Gray and Elias Harris also had big nights.

Storyline: Not since Danny Ainge was leading Brigham Young have the Cougars been in the Sweet 16, and now it’s Fredette who will try to take them there 30 years later. BYU has won its first tourney game in each of the past two years, but now wants to make a deeper run. For Gonzaga, the perennial dangerous underdog, the Zags want to continue proving themselves as a team and program to be reckoned with. A win against BYU and the national scoring leader Fredette would be yet another milestone victory.

Players to watch: Again, look for Fredette to carry the scoring load despite the opponent’s best efforts to contain him. And in a game with huge ramifications, expect a big dose of him. But Gonzaga does have the advantage of having 7-foot center Robert Sacre to try to exploit a BYU frontcourt missing the post presence of Brandon Davies. Sacre, after helping the Zags dominate St. John’s on the glass, indicated he was looking forward to the matchup against BYU. “A little bit, but they still have Jimmer,” he said.

What to look for: While limiting the damage Fredette does is a must, this game could come down to how well Gonzaga can exploit its height advantage with Sacre, along with the 6-5 guard Gray and 6-7 forward Harris, who are both dynamic players.

“They’re a very big team,” Fredette said. “They got to the offensive glass very well. They get a lot of second-chance opportunities, which gives them a lot of energy.”

Gonzaga will have to continue to get good guard play as well from Carter and point guard Demetri Goodson in order to slow down Fredette and Jackson Emery.

Morehead State continues the dream

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
6:29
PM ET


DENVER -- Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall was having trouble sleeping at 2:30 a.m. when he made the decision. If the Eagles had the ball on the final possession against Louisville, they were going to go for the win.

Faced with that scenario, the way Demonte Harper heard Tyndall telling that story in the huddle before the biggest shot of his life, there was no way he wasn’t going to take the 3-pointer confidently.

Harper buried the shot at the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left and Kenneth Faried blocked Mike Marra’s jump shot attempt on the other end at the buzzer to lift No. 13-seeded Morehead State to a 62-61 win on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, easily the most significant victory in the program’s history.

[+] EnlargeMorehead State's Demonte Harper
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesMorehead State's Demonte Harper watches his game-winning 3-pointer sail toward its target with seconds to play.
A senior who experienced a loss to in-state power Louisville two years ago when the Eagles were a No. 16 seed and the Cardinals had future NBA players all over the floor, Harper saw his shot to make his coach’s vision come true.

“Coach said, ‘I dreamed about this last night. I know exactly where I'm going to. I'm going to put it right in your hands, Demonte. I don't want you to drive it to the hole. I want you to pull up and win the game off a 3-pointer. I want you to pull up and win the game.’”

The Cardinals used a 9-0 run to take a four-point lead with 1:20 left and the hopes of an upset started to wane. But despite a tough day on offense for Faried (finished with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting), Morehead State -- which trailed by eight at one point -- delivered the ball to its dreadlocked big man in the post, and he came through with two subsequent free throws to cut the lead.

With Louisville leading scorer Preston Knowles knocked out of the game in the second half with a sprained foot, it was left to Elisha Justice in crunch time. The freshman had hit a 3-pointer to give Louisville the lead with 2:13 left, but missed the front end of a one-and-one after Faried’s free throws gave MSU the ball with 23.8 seconds left.

Harper unleashed his dagger, beating Peyton Siva with a crossover and burying the shot. Faried blocked Marra’s attempt at the other end, and the school’s cheerleaders rushed the court to celebrate. In Tyndall’s new reality, he approached a cheering section and repeatedly pumped his fists as his face reddened.

“We played for 40 minutes, and that’s what it takes to beat a team like Louisville,” Tyndall said.

Morehead State surprised UL by racing off to a 7-0 lead, using a swarming defense to get the Cardinals out of sorts and force them into 10 of their 16 turnovers in the first half. The Eagles’ Terrance Hill buried a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to leave the two teams tied at 33, and it was a sign of things to come.

Hill scored 13 second-half points, repeatedly hitting 3-pointers to bring the Eagles back and keep them within a reasonable distance. Chris Smith led Louisville with 17 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

“I could live with losing last year. They were much better, Cal,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, referring to last season's first-round loss to Pac-10 champion California. “This is a tough one to lose. This is a tough one.”

Pitino’s team surprisingly tied for a third-place finish in the Big East in the face of injuries and without returning a single starter. But with Faried gathering 17 rebounds, it was apparent the Cardinals missed leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles despite a solid game from Terrence Jennings, who blocked four shots and had eight rebounds.

“We are what we are,” Pitino said. “We’re just too small, and unfortunately it hurt us on the backboard.”

And it was Faried, the nation’s leading rebounder, who made his 6-foot-8 presence felt at the end of the game. Marra pulled up for a shot, and Faried threw his arms up and said he got all ball.

“This is a dream,” Faried said. “Did we just beat Louisville?”

Rapid Reaction: Morehead St. 62, L'ville 61

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
4:23
PM ET
DENVER -- Morehead State pulled off the stunner against Louisville, winning 62-61 in such an upset that the cheerleaders stormed the court and coach Donnie Tyndall pumped his fists at the crowd. Demonte Harper hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left, and Kenneth Faried blocked a potential Mike Marra game-winning attempt at the buzzer. Terrance Hill led Morehead State with 23 points, hitting five 3-pointers.

Turning point: Louisville leading scorer Preston Knowles left the game for good with 8:51 left, apparently due to a sprained left ankle. He had his shoes off and left the court in crutches. The Cardinals missed him, especially since it was freshman Elisha Justice who was left on the court and missed on the front end of a one-and-one to give Harper the chance for the game winner.

Key player: Hill was money from beyond the arc, tying his season high with five 3-pointers in six attempts. He also had eight rebounds and three steals, going 6-for-9 from the field overall.

Key stat: Faried went 4-for-17 from the floor, but made his presence felt with 17 rebounds. The nation’s leading rebounder used a couple of those boards to kick out for 3-pointers.

Miscellaneous: Terrence Jennings did a fine job guarding Faried, holding him to four field goals. He also had two straight buckets down the stretch and gave the Cardinals a four-point lead with a dunk with just over a minute left. Peyton Siva played with such heart down the stretch, dishing the ball off to Jennings for easy baskets.

What’s next: Morehead State moves on for a chance to play in the winner of the Vanderbilt-Richmond game.

Yes, the 2011 John R. Wooden Award finalists are here. The award is organized by the Los Angeles Athletic Club and voted on by "nearly 1,000 members of the media that cover college basketball," and if you're surprised at the idea that there are 1,000 college hoops writers in the world, well, you're not the only one. (Lots of those ballots go to columnists and generalists who don't specifically cover the sport year-round ... but that's a topic for another blog post on another day.)

Who made the cut? The list is below, and it includes pretty much everyone you'd expect from a list of college hoops' best and brighest individual stars. The rundown:
Well, done, Los Angeles Athletic Club. That is a borderline peerless list.

But it isn't perfect. The most notable omission (perhaps the only notable omission) is Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who has been one of the best players in the country throughout the season. Ken Pomeroy's latest player of the year award list ranks Jones as the eighth-most productive player in the country this season, and while Pomeroy's POY metric doesn't account entirely for the defensive side of the ball, player of the year awards are never all that concerned with the defensive end -- Brooks and Burks probably wouldn't be on the list above if they were -- so Pomeroy's list is as good a statistical look as we have. And, well, yeah: Jones should be among the Wooden candidates. There's really no getting around it.

That said, his omission isn't criminal. Jones deserves some POY consideration, but let's be real: He's not winning the award. Nor are 19 of the players listed above. Unless something radical changes, Fredette is going to win the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards. If the voting does change anytime soon, the award is likely to go to Walker, Smith, or Sullinger.

In other words, this list has all the usual suspects. We'll see if any of the candidates has time to unseat the Jimmer in the weeks to come. It's unlikely ... but, hey, you never know.

A look at Kenneth Faried's place in history

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
5:41
PM ET
A college basketball player who fans do not know enough about is Morehead State's Kenneth Faried, the nation's leading rebounder at 14.3 rpg. The Eagles are the No. 2 seed in the Ohio Valley tournament, thanks in no small part to the senior power forward.

Before Faried's semifinal game tonight against Austin Peay (ESPNU, 9 ET), check out where he ranks on some eye-opening lists.

Most Career Rebounds
Careers beginning 1973 or after


1,607 -- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
1,570 -- Tim Duncan, Wake Forest*
1,537 -- Derrick Coleman, Syracuse*
*Picked first overall in NBA draft

Most Career Double-Doubles
Division I history


87 -- Tim Duncan, Wake Forest
84 -- Ralph Sampson, Virginia
83 -- Derrick Coleman, Syracuse
83 -- Lionel Simmons, La Salle
82 -- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
80 -- Malik Rose, Drexel
79 -- Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati

Most Doubles-Doubles
2010-11 season


25 -- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
24 -- Ryan Rossiter, Siena
23 -- Jordan Williams, Maryland
20 -- Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State

Players with 17 ppg, 14 rpg, 60.0 FG pct
Last 15 seasons


Kenneth Faried (17.6 ppg, 14.3 rpg, 63.7 FG pct), 2010-11
Blake Griffin* (22.7 ppg, 14.4 rpg, 65.4 FG pct), 2008-09
Tim Duncan* (20.8 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 60.8, 1996-97
*Picked first overall in NBA draft

If Faried is able to manage 50 more points this season, he would become just the 11th player in Division I history to total 2,000 points and 1,500 rebounds in a career. The exclusive club: Elvin Hayes (Houston), Dickie Hemric (Wake Forest), Elgin Baylor (Seattle), Tom Gola (La Salle), Joe Holup (George Washington), Ralph Sampson (Virginia), Derrick Coleman (Syracuse), Jeff Cohen (William & Mary), Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) and Malik Rose (Drexel).

Murray St. races to win in OVC showdown

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
1:41
AM ET


MURRAY, Ky. -- The chant rang out from the Murray State student section with 79 seconds left on the clock, and the Racers wrapping up their biggest victory of the season.

“Over-rated!” they shouted at Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried as he stood at the foul line, waiting to shoot two free throws. “Over-rated!”

Faried is the best player in the Ohio Valley Conference, and then some. Last week he set the modern-day career record for rebounds in Division I, knocking a guy named Tim Duncan out of the record books. He’s the reason there were seats assigned for two NBA scouts at the CSFB Center on Murray State’s campus.

But Thursday night was not Faried’s night, even though he finished the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds. He’d been harassed by the Murray defense -- held to two points at halftime and unable to control the paint. Morehead was losing this heated in-state rivalry battle for sole possession of first place in the OVC, and the frustration was bubbling up inside the 6-foot-8 senior from Newark, N.J.

So after making both free throws, Faried fired a pair of waist-level, one-finger salutes at the Murray student section. It wasn’t an overt flip-off, but neither was it subtle enough to avoid detection. Many in the crowd of 6,096 -- a season-high, even with tornadoes in the area -- reacted loudly to the gesture.

Asked about it afterward, Faried tried a pump fake before owning up.

“I wasn’t trying to give them the finger,” he said. “I was trying to give them a peace sign.”

Pause.

“I want to apologize for that.”

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy certainly did not need an apology from Faried. If anything, he offered an indirect apology to the Morehead star for the fans’ chant.

“For those who don’t know, Kenneth Faried is not overrated,” Kennedy volunteered after the Racers’ 70-62 victory. “His effort and energy is unmatched throughout the country.”

Faried certainly is a player more deserving of respect than mockery. And the ironic thing about the “overrated” cheer from the Murray students is that, if anything, it could have been aimed at their own team for much of this season.

Murray State entered this year with eight key contributors returning from a 31-5 juggernaut that went 20-1 against OVC competition, upset Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament and took eventual national runner-up Butler to the final gun in the second round. A lot of people thought this Murray team could be a top-25 squad and an at-large NCAA selection.

It hasn’t played out that way.

The Racers played an ambitious schedule and lost early and often, sitting at 4-4 after a loss at Morehead State on Dec. 4. Then there were home losses in league play to Austin Peay (a good team) and Eastern Illinois (not so good), and a road loss last week against Southeast Missouri (also not good).

At a school that has won relentlessly over the years -- 24 straight winning seasons, spanning six different coaches -- everyone wanted to know what was wrong with the Racers. They were 21-7 and it felt like a disappointment.

“Chemistry, role play,” Kennedy said, citing the culprits. “With the expectations and hype, we haven’t handled that well. That’s my responsibility. I didn’t get that message in. I thought I did, but I didn’t.”

Maybe it was too much to ask a team that didn’t have anyone average even 11 points per game last year to be that unselfish for a second straight season. Players who gave it up for the good of the team a year ago succumbed a bit to My Turn Syndrome, and the overall product suffered.

“It’s hard to go back-to-back,” said guard B.J. Jenkins. “Look at the Lakers right now. We knew this wasn’t the same team as last year. We were 31-5, had three game-winning shots, hit a shot from the knees (Isaiah Canaan’s memorable half-court heave). … Stuff like that don’t happen all the time. It just was a special team.”

Thursday night against Morehead State, the Racers started to look special again.

Their super-quick, athletic and physical defense frazzled the Eagles. Their perimeter shooting was locked in (9-of-17 from 3-point range). And they shared the ball impressively.

“It’s the most talented, deepest team in the league,” Morehead coach Donnie Tyndall said. “The backcourt is one of the 10 best in college basketball. … They’re a great defensive team, the way they converge on you. They keep you sped up, they keep you hurried.”

Murray hurried Morehead into a near-total meltdown in the final 2 minutes of the first half and the first six minutes of the second. In that time, the Racers laid a crushing 31-4 run on the Eagles, going from six down to 21 up and putting the game out of reach.

Jenkins was the catalyst, stroking four 3-pointers in a matter of 2 minutes and 14 seconds of game action. The senior guard finished with a career-high 25 points and added seven rebounds -- just one of several Racers who can explode at any time, if they’ll let the game come to them.

On Saturday, Murray State can clinch the OVC title outright with a victory over Eastern Kentucky. But even that is mere prelude to do-or-die time in the OVC tourney in Nashville next week.

This is a one-bid league, which means the pressure is immense. But even if the season hasn’t lived up to immense expectation, you have to like Murray’s chances to get back to the Big Dance after this performance.

“This is the first game going into it I can say our guys got it,” Kennedy said. “They understood what we were playing for. They raised their level up. That hasn’t always been that way this year.”

Katz's five observations from the week

February, 21, 2011
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Five observations from the week that was:

1. Spoke with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried after he snapped Tim Duncan’s modern-day career rebounding record Saturday at Indiana State (he’s now at 1,576). Faried could not be more humble. He was incredibly awed that he had broken a record held by someone as esteemed and respected as Duncan. Faried almost couldn’t believe that his name would be in the same sentence as Duncan. This guy is a special talent who loves to do the dirty work and said he simply loves to board. He cherishes his college experience, too. He said he can’t wait to get Morehead State back to the NCAA tournament. If he can do that at the expense of quality OVC teams like Murray State and Austin Peay, then the nation will be treated to one of the hidden gems before his name is called early in the NBA draft in June.

[+] EnlargeNebraska coach Doc Sadler
Bruce Thorson/US PRESSWIRENebraska coach Doc Sadler's team got the attention-grabbing win he coveted by beating Texas.
2. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler told me Saturday night that the Cornhuskers had been so close, so many times to knocking off an elite team (notably at Kansas earlier this season). He realized until the Huskers could do that, nobody would take them completely seriously. “To get it to another level here, you’ve got to get a win like this one and it’s the first one we’ve had,’’ Sadler said. Nebraska looked like it couldn’t score when I saw the Huskers in Puerto Rico in November. I had no faith that this team would eventually compete for an NCAA tournament bid. There has been some attrition, but the Huskers have grown on Sadler and others and are poised to make an interesting run here as the bubble continues to soften.

3. Harvard could make history on March 5 and it needs to send a thank you note to Brown. The Bears upset Princeton on Saturday to allow the Crimson and Tigers to be in a first-place tie in the loss column. Now all Harvard has to do is win at Brown and Yale next weekend and then take out Penn on Friday, March 4, to set up a potential monster showdown with Princeton. If the Tigers also win out against Cornell, Columbia and at Dartmouth, then the Crimson have a chance to win the Ivy title outright on March 5 at home regardless of what happens between Princeton and Penn on March 8. If Harvard does all of this and beats the Tigers, it would mean the first NCAA tournament berth since 1946 and the second-ever in the history of the program.

4. If you’re looking for a team that could find its way into contention as a possible at-large berth, then check out Michigan. The Wolverines have top-50 wins over Harvard (yes, the Crimson are No. 43), at Michigan State and won road games at Clemson, Penn State and Iowa (Michigan State couldn’t beat either of the final two on the road). The Wolverines have one bad loss, by 17 at Indiana. But they have a favorable schedule down the stretch after beating Iowa on the road Saturday. Michigan hosts Wisconsin, goes to struggling Minnesota and finishes at home with a chance to sweep Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan could go into the Big Ten tournament needing one more quality win to secure a possible bid if it wins its two remaining home games.

5. We debated coach of the year on the site a few weeks ago and I pushed for Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, who took a team picked 10th in the Big East during the preseason to 12-0 in the nonconference with an all-American at guard in Kemba Walker and a cast of freshmen. One thing hasn’t changed a few weeks later -- the national coach of the year probably should come from the Big East. Any list of finalists should include Calhoun, Steve Lavin (St. John’s), Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Rick Pitino (Louisville). I still see tremendous value in looking at Texas’ Rick Barnes for the honor and I understand any and all love bestowed upon San Diego State’s Steve Fisher, BYU’s Dave Rose and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. But all were expected to be near the top of their respective conferences. And none are having to deal with a gauntlet that is the Big East.

Kenneth Faried, the next Dennis Rodman?

December, 2, 2010
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Waudda Faried is on the rebound. She suffers from lupus and this summer, her son Kenneth was home in Newark, N.J., when the good news came. A donor kidney was suddenly available and Waudda would be the recipient of that life-saving transplant.

Waudda has been a strong influence on her son’s life in so many ways. He calls her, "a strong, intimidating woman.” She is positive with a dose of discipline.

“I love her to death,” Kenneth said.

‘Strong’ and ‘intimidating’ are also words that describe Morehead State's Kenneth Faried when it comes to pursuing rebounds on the court.

Faried credits both of his parents, Waudda and Kenneth Lewis for, “Showing me how to be the man I am today. How to make my own path, create my own destiny, pursue my own dreams. I dedicate every game to my parents. They taught me to be strong and not to accept defeat,” he said.

Early on, he learned a very valuable lesson from his mom when he once complained about not getting the ball enough, “If you want to score then go and get a rebound.”

Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/Al BehrmanIn three games last week, including trips to Florida and Ohio State, Morehead State's Kenneth Faried averaged 20 ppg and 16.7 rpg.
Faried has followed his mother’s advice well and scored 20 points and snatched 18 rebounds in a 61-55 loss at Florida on Sunday. Faried said he felt, “ecstatic” about his stat line but disappointed in the loss. He backed up that performance 48 hours later with 15 points and 12 rebounds along with five steals and two blocks in a 64-45 loss at No. 3 Ohio State. And then at SIU-Edwardsville, the 6-foot-9, 228-pounder turned in a cool 25 points and 20 boards.

Look, Faried is the best rebounder in the college game today. Period. If you do not believe me, just ask Florida coach Billy Donovan.

"That's Dennis Rodman all over again," Donovan said. "If I was an NBA general manager I'd be taking him with my pick. That's what a next-level guy looks like. He just totally destroyed our frontcourt. ... That was definitely an incredible performance by a terrific player."

Faried remembers Rodman’s Chicago Bulls beating the Knicks in the playoffs as he watched on TV with his dad. He remembers Rodman’s hustle, toughness and grit. He identifies with those qualities and still admires how Rodman accepted his role to help the Bulls win championships. Upon recalling those memories, he smiled and said, “Me too.”

Morehead State has experienced unprecedented recent success with 24- and 20-win seasons and an OVC championship in 2009 under coach Donnie Tyndall, who signed Faried, a little known 6-7, 190=pound forward out of Newark, N.J. Marist was the only other NCAA D-I program to even offer Faried a scholarship.
He has averaged 13.0 rebounds per game over the past two-plus seasons and his numbers will probably go up this season as he will see more playing time. Faried is asthmatic, but recent nose surgery has relieved some of the symptoms. Tyndall wants more out of his star player, and he will get more.

“I want to be the best in the nation at rebounding.” Faried said with conviction.

Faried is a young man who cares more about others than himself. He smiles a lot, even during games, and lists Dwight Howard as his favorite NBA player. Faried says, “Dwight Howard is always smiling and having fun instead of acting like playing in the NBA is a job.”

Faried has a childlike passion for the game. He is a strong and relentless rebounder who does his job with a smile on his face. He is an All-American talent and soon-to-be NBA player. The next Dennis Rodman?

I wouldn’t bet against it.
NBA draft boards are safe.

Saturday’s NCAA-imposed deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft (international players still have until June 14) didn’t produce any last-minute decisions that will affect the first round, but that’s not the case for the preseason top 25 in men’s college basketball.

[+] EnlargeJaJuan Johnson
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBoth JaJuan Johnson (left) and E'Twaun Moore will be staying in Purdue.
None of the players who were still mulling over decisions would have affected the first round of the NBA draft. On Friday night, the official decisions of Kentucky freshmen Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe put two more undecided early-entrants in the first round. But on Saturday, the most anticipated decision came out of West Lafayette, Ind., where JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore told coach Matt Painter they will return for their senior seasons. The Boilermakers, with the return of Robbie Hummel, will have what is likely the most experienced and productive trio returning of any power-six club.

Staying in the Big Ten, Illinois desperately needed Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey to come back to school after a season in which the Illini just missed out on the NCAA tournament. Losing one of their productive forwards and their most experienced guard would have crushed Bruce Weber's team, even though there is an influx of young talent there. Neither Davis nor McCamey were considered first-round draft picks.

With these decisions, the Big Ten likely will receive considerable hype as the nation's best conference for the second preseason in a row. Purdue could be a preseason No. 1, Michigan State will be right on its heels, and Ohio State (with its loaded recruiting class), Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern (which gets back Kevin Coble from a season-ending foot injury) are all capable of contending and making the NCAA tourney.

In the ACC, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney decided Friday night to return to school. It was a good move. He wasn't a first-round pick, but he’s certainly one of the top guards in the conference and gives the Hokies, who return nearly their entire team, a chance to be a top-25 team next season.

New Mexico figured it would lose leading scorer Darington Hobson, and it did, meaning the Lobos will have to start the season again having to prove themselves as a Mountain West title contender. Xavier figured it was going to go into next season without Jordan Crawford, and it will, meaning the Musketeers will need to find another headline act. But the Musketeers’ program hardly lacks for talent and it's never wise to overlook this team in the preseason.

Richmond received news that it can still be competitive in the A-10 with conference player of the year Kevin Anderson's return. The Spiders would have had to rebuild had they lost both Anderson and senior David Gonzalvez. Temple would have faced a similar situation had Lavoy Allen not come to his senses and returned to school.

Alex Tyus' father and uncle both told the local press recently that they felt Tyus was a natural small forward, that he was being underutilized at Florida and that he should declare -- even go overseas if he wasn't drafted. He apparently didn't listen. Tyus, who wasn’t a first-round pick and might not have been a second-round pick, will return as a solid role player for a team that will challenge for the SEC East title. Florida may not have cried if Tyus had left, but it would have taken another system player out of the mix. His return allows the Gators to go through the offseason without a distraction, unlike when Marreese Speights left early in 2008 and Nick Calathes bolted for Greece in 2009.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Faried’s decision to stay at Morehead State means one of the better talents in the country will shine more of a spotlight on the Ohio Valley next season. Faried had a shot to alter the draft board in the latter part of the first round, but is just one less name for NBA personnel to sweat over during the next six weeks.

Inside Thursday's box scores

January, 29, 2010
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Five things to know from Thursday’s action:
  1. Courtney Fortson scored 33 of his career-high 35 points in the second half in Arkansas’ win over Mississippi State. Coming into the game a 32.6-percent shooter, Fortson was 9-for-17 from the field and 14-for-18 from the line. With two SEC wins, the Razorbacks have matched their total from a season ago. For Fortson, who sat out the first 14 games of the season, it was just the fourth win in the last 22 games in which he has appeared.
  2. Don’t look now, but South Florida has won back-to-back Big East games (and three of four) for the first time since joining the conference. The Bulls are a win away from matching last season’s total of four conference wins, their most since joining the Big East. After beating Seton Hall Thursday, the Bulls have won back-to-back overtime games by a combined six points. This comes after being 1-16 all-time in Big East games decided by five points or fewer. The biggest reason is Dominique Jones. The junior played every minute in both OT games and is averaging 28.6 ppg over his last seven.
  3. Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried became the seventh player this season to register a 20-point, 20-rebound game in a win at Tennessee State. Morehead State has now won 11-straight games, the second longest active win streak in the nation. Over that span, Faried has registered at least 12 rebounds in every game and is averaging 17.4 ppg and 15.5 rpg. He is the nation’s leading rebounder at 13.7 rpg playing on a team that ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding differential.
  4. After crushing Duquesne 86-50, Xavier has won 28-straight conference home games, the second longest streak in A-10 history. For the Dukes, it was the same old story, shooting just 4-for-24 from 3-point range. Duquesne is the worst 3-point shooting team in the nation at just 24.8 percent. The Dukes have only shot better than 30 percent from long distance five times this season, and they are 5-0 in those games. Yet, Duquesne is still averaging over 20 attempts per game, and every player in the starting lineup in averaging at least two attempts. To make matters worse, the Dukes are also the seventh worst free throw shooting team in the nation.
  5. Not too long ago Arizona State was 4-2 in the Pac-10 heading into a three-game homestand that could have separated them from the pack. But after losing to California, the Sun Devils have lost their first two games of the homestand, as their notoriously strong defense has failed them. Prior to this losing streak, Arizona State had the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing only 54.7 ppg. They’ve since given up 77 and 78 in back-to-back games where their opponent shot over 50 percent. It hasn’t all been their fault though. Arizona and Cal combined to shoot 90.5 percent from the line in those games.

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