College Basketball Nation: Scootie Randall

Thanks to finals week, there hasn't been a ton of action in the Atlantic 10, and thus not much movement in the overall rankings. Anyway, you know … enjoy while it lasts. It appears we've reached Peak A-10. Where we eventually go is anyone's guess.

1. Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams took over the top spot in these rankings last week, and their only action since was a victory at Old Dominion, which is an uncharacteristically bad team this season. But it does appear -- as it did during VCU's impressive run in the Battle 4 Atlantis -- that this athletic, hassling headache of a team is the best in the conference both with and without the ball.

2. Butler: The nation will have another high-profile chance to check out the Bulldogs this weekend, when they take on No. 1 Indiana in the Crossroads Classic, but it would be unwise to sleep on their tidy victory at Northwestern last Saturday. A road win at a Big Ten foe (even one as inconsistent as the Wildcats) is nothing to sneeze at, which is why I've given them the slight nod over Saint Joseph's and Temple. Let's see what they cook up for IU on Saturday.

3. Temple: Sure, Temple got smoked by Duke on Saturday, 90-67, but are we really supposed to punish a team for losing to the Blue Devils in East Rutherford, aka Durham North? I say no. And while Temple's schedule hasn't given us a great opportunity to evaluate the Owls otherwise, Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall did handle Villanova at Villanova, which is more than we can say for the next team in the rankings.

4. Saint Joseph's: Tuesday's loss to Villanova hurt. It hurt not only because it was a loss to Villanova, the Hawks' hated Holy War rival, though that would be enough. It hurt not only because of the now-infamous Halil Kanacevic double-bird (and subsequent two-game suspension). It also hurt because it was an entirely winnable game against a just-OK Villanova team, and all of a sudden that 29-point blowout at Creighton and neutral-court loss to since-exposed Florida State are not painting a very flattering portrait.

5. Charlotte: Nothing new here. I bumped Charlotte a handful of spots not only because its fans had been clamoring for love, but also because the 49ers deserved it -- a 9-0 start with a win at Davidson is good stuff, even if the other eight wins are decidedly blah. But the most significant test of the season comes Friday night at Miami. Ultimately, I'm reserving judgement until we see those 40 minutes (and anything less than a complete blowout won't change my opinion much). You can't knock the work to date.

6. Saint Louis: Nothing new for St. Louis since we last convened. I think the Billikens are better than sixth in this league when all is said and done -- first things first: get Kwamain Mitchell back on the court -- and they're already playing some of the best per-possession defense in the league. They'll be fine.

7. Xavier: The Musketeers' 7-2 record has both high and low points. There was the home drubbing of Butler, followed shortly by a neutral-court loss to Pacific. There was the victory at Purdue, followed immediately by a home loss to Vanderbilt. Xavier bounced back with a win over Kent State on Sunday, and I have long since learned to never, ever, ever count this program out of an A-10 or NCAA-tourney bid race, but Xavier just isn't defending all that well right now -- its defense ranks No. 138 in the country, per KenPom. If that doesn't improve we could see inconsistency all season.

8. Dayton: Did somebody say inconsistency? Hey-oh! That's the recurring theme of Dayton over the past few seasons (and in the first few weeks of these power rankings) -- weirdly enough, both before and after Archie Miller was hired -- and it has played out that way thus far this season. How a team loses to Weber State at home seven days before winning at Alabama, I'll never know. Anyway, the Flyers handled Miami (Ohio) at home last Saturday and should rack up another win over Florida Atlantic this Saturday. But then again, you never know.

9. La Salle: La Salle is a bit difficult to judge at this point. They snuck out of Northeastern with a 66-64 win on Saturday, which was an escape as much as a hard-fought road victory, and they've played some promising offense thus far. Ramon Galloway is still the star, but sophomore D.J. Peterson boasts a 141.6 offensive rating on just 9.1 percent usage -- he needs more touches. This weekend's trip to play Mike Muscala at Bucknell is the big one.

10. Richmond: Three years ago, a home win over Wake Forest would have been totally laudable thing. Alas, it is not three years ago. Now, a win over Wake means just another unimpressive win on your resume. The Spiders are playing some really efficient offense, but until they get a win against an identifiably good opponent, we can't be sure.

11. Duquesne: Against my better instincts, I happen to think West Virginia is a good team -- or, rather, that within a few weeks it is going to be good. There is too much talent to believe otherwise, despite the lack of evidence to date. Which is why Duquesne gets a boost here for knocking off (ha, "knocking off") the Mountaineers at home Tuesday night. Credit where it's due, you know?

12. Massachusetts: UMass hasn't played since last week's rankings, so nothing much new to report here. Saturday's home tilt against Elon won't help us sort much. Next Wednesday, when Ohio comes to town, we'll see if this team can beat solid-to-good opponents, or if it destined for a 17-win-ish sort of season.

13. St. Bonaventure: A three-point loss on the road is always hard to judge harshly -- it is hard to win on the road, almost regardless of the situation. But a three-point loss at Arkansas State is something of an indictment, particularly for a team that looked like it was going to struggle anyway. Cleveland State comes to town Saturday.

14. George Washington: Three consecutive losses for the Colonials since Dec. 4: at Bradley, versus Kansas State, at Rutgers. Not horrible, but not great, considering that 4-6 record also includes losses to Youngstown State and Mount St. Mary's. The Colonials actually defend pretty well -- they're No. 68 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency -- but they can't score. Alas.

15. Rhode Island.

16. Fordham.

Nothing new on either Rhody or Fordham -- Rhode Island is 2-7, Fordham is 1-8 (with a tough schedule, but still) -- and until either team springs a big win or rips off a couple in a row, we'll keep this last bit brief.

Jason King's Wooden Watch

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
11:00
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When college basketball opened play last week, Doug McDermott of Creighton and Indiana forward Cody Zeller were touted as the leading candidates for the Wooden Award. Two games into the 2012-13 season, nothing has changed.

Yet.

Zeller is averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds. Foul trouble limited McDermott to five points in Wednesday’s win over UAB, but it’ll take more than one poor showing to knock one of the game’s most competitive, highly skilled players from his perch.

Still, even though Zeller and McDermott are the leaders, plenty of other players turned heads during college basketball’s opening week. Based on their performances thus far, here are 10 standouts that Wooden Award voters may want to watch in the coming weeks and months.

Keith Appling, Michigan State -- Four days after scoring 17 points in a season-opening loss to Connecticut in Germany, Appling helped the Spartans bounce back with a 19-point effort in a 67-64 victory over Kansas. The guard hit two clutch shots in the waning moments -- a 3-pointer with 1:35 remaining and an acrobatic lay-up with 13 seconds left -- to clinch the win.

Isaiah Austin, Baylor -- The 7-foot-1 freshman center couldn’t have been more dazzling in his college debut last week. Austin had 22 points, four rebounds and two blocks in just 17 minutes in a victory over Lehigh. Showing his versatility, Austin mixed in a pair of 3-pointers with a few nasty dunks. Austin sprained his ankle midway through the second half and did not return.

Trey Burke, Michigan -- The Wolverines’ first three wins have come by an average of 35 points, and Burke is the main reason. The preseason All-American is averaging 18.8 points and eight assists. His turnovers (3.7 per game) are a bit high, but that should change as Michigan develops more cohesion.

Seth Curry, Duke -- The ninth-ranked Blue Devils got a massive boost from Curry in Tuesday’s 75-68 win over No. 3 Kentucky. Curry scored 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including a 3-of-5 mark from 3-point range. He’s averaging 19 points through two games and is connecting on 50 percent of his field goals and 3-point attempts.

Brandon Davies, Brigham Young -- A forward, Davies is averaging 22 points and eight rebounds for the 2-0 Cougars, but even more impressive is that he’s shooting 74 percent from the field while also chipping in three assists per game. He’ll face a good test when BYU takes on Florida State Friday.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina -- The future NBA lottery pick is flourishing in his increased role after playing behind John Henson and Tyler Zeller last season. McAdoo is averaging 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds through two games. We’ll get a better look at him during next week’s Maui Invitational.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh -- Anyone who watched Lehigh’s game against Baylor understands why McCollum was tabbed as a preseason All-American. The guard lit up the Bears for 36 points despite being heavily guarded by defensive standouts such as A.J. Walton and Deuce Bello. McCollum is averaging 24 points through three games and is shooting 50 percent from the field.

Phil Pressey, Missouri -- The player who some feel is the nation’s top point guard is off to a solid start for the 2-0 Tigers. Pressey is averaging team-highs in points (20.0) and assists (5.5). Missouri has yet to be tested, but that will change next week when they open against Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The tournament also features Duke, Memphis, Minnesota, Louisville and others.

Scootie Randall, Temple -- Randall missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he hardly showed any rust when he returned the court for the first time on Tuesday. The guard scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting to spark the Owls to an 80-66 victory over a Kent State squad that was high on momentum after upsetting Drexel.

Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida -- Forward Keith Clanton is generally regarded as the Knights’ top player but, through two games, 6-foot-5 Sykes has commanded most of the headlines. Sykes had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a mild upset of South Florida in the season opener. In two games, he’s averaging 24.5 points. 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.

Ramone Moore changes his mind on draft

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
1:56
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Temple leading scorer Ramone Moore has decided not to enter the NBA draft after a change of heart, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A day after the 6-foot-4 guard junior guard told the paper he would declare for the draft, he thought better of the decision, according to the report.
"It was basically a family decision," Moore said in a statement about changing his mind. "We talked it over this morning and I realized that my main focus was to stay in school, earn my degree, and play my senior year at Temple."

According to a source, Moore "decided to enter his senior year at Temple without any distractions. He didn't want to make coach Fran Dunphy mad.

"He didn't want to make it seem all about him and his dream to make it in the NBA. That would have distracted from the team and the team's goal."

Moore's return is great news for Dunphy and Temple coming off a 26-win season that ended with the Owls taking San Diego State to double-overtime in the NCAA tournament. Along with Moore, they return double-digit scorers Juan Fernandez, Scootie Randall and Khalif Wyatt. They should get 6-foot-11 Micheal Eric back in the lineup after he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a practice in February.

Temple also should be very interested in an upcoming draft decision, with Xavier leading scorer Tu Holloway undecided on whether to remain or withdraw from the draft and return to play for the defending A-10 regular season champs.

Preview: Saturday in Tucson

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A look at Saturday's games in Tucson:

No. 7 seed Temple (26-7) vs. No. 2 seed San Diego State (33-2), 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT)

Temple and San Diego State both had a story and a game on Thursday. Both won games, so both stories are no longer front-and-center.

When Temple beat Penn State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, it won its first tournament game since 2001 and ended coach Fran Dunphy's record 11-game tournament losing streak. And when San Diego State beat Northern Colorado, it won its first tournament game. Period.

Those issues behind them, when the second-seeded Aztecs and seventh-seeded Owls meet today, it will only be about advancing to the Sweet 16. It will be about basketball.

"As soon as we walked out of the locker room we knew it was time to turn the page on this chapter of San Diego State basketball and start focusing on what's possible in the future," SDSU point guard D.J. Gay said. "And that's Saturday."

Oh, there is one other angle: Revenge.

In the 1994-95 season, Dunphy took his Penn Quakers to Ann Arbor and beat then-Michigan coach Steve Fisher, now the Aztecs coach.

"I think the referees cost us the game," Fisher quipped.

By the way, Fisher and Dunphy are good buddies.

The setup: San Diego State wants to run. Temple doesn't. The Aztecs are bigger in the frontcourt. The Owls are bigger in the backcourt. San Diego State is deeper. Five Temple players played 30 or more minutes against Penn State, and forward Lavoy Allen never left the game. Eight Aztecs played at least 10 minutes against Northern Colorado and just three played 30 or more minutes. Of course, SDSU won in a blowout. And it would help the Owls if they can get quality minutes out of forward Scootie Randall.

Who to watch: San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard is a force inside and averages a double-double, but he's merely the headliner for one of the nation's top frontcourts. Team captain and point guard D.J. Gay has a 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For Temple, Juan Fernandez hit the game winner against Penn State and scored 23 points, as did Ramone Moore, who dominated the second half. Allen is the key figure inside for the Owls.

Why to watch: This will be a big-stage test against a quality foe for San Diego State to prove it deserves a No. 2 seed and is a legitimate Final Four contender. It's also a test of basketball styles. You might even wonder if fans will start competing chants of "East Coast" and "West Coast."

What they're saying:

Gay on Temple trying to slow down San Diego State's fast tempo: "We definitely try and play an uptempo game, try to speed it up. When teams try to slow it down on us, we might come out more aggressive on the defensive end. Try to cause more turnovers or do anything to help speed the game up. But I think speeding the game up can be done on the defensive end."

Fernandez on slowing down the Aztecs: "Well, like I just said before, we're a team that tries to slow down the ball a little bit, play more halfcourt offense and defense. That is where we feel more comfortable. On the other hand, they prefer to play an uptempo game and go up and down and try to get as many fast-break points as they can. So we will have to try to establish ourselves and play our rhythm."

Fernandez on his game winner against Penn State: "That shot was big yesterday. But we already celebrated. There is not too much you can do about it now. We just got to win tomorrow."

Moore on if San Diego State is similar to a team Temple has played: "I would say they're unique. I can't remember any teams that we played similar to the style of play they like to play."

Dunphy on Leonard: "He is a tough matchup for us. Especially if we have to play three guards, and [freshman] Aaron Brown will probably start on him and that's going be a tough matchup for Aaron Brown. We'll need to help him greatly. When Scootie gets in, he'll probably play him and Scoot's not used to playing over the last month. So he is a very difficult matchup for us, there's no question about it."

Dunphy on Scootie Randall's health: "I think yesterday we gave him the opportunity, as I said before, he deserved that opportunity to get in there yesterday. He had actually run full court on Tuesday and looked pretty good. Wednesday a little bit  we didn't run real hard on Wednesday, but gave him a little bit of a run there. And he ran a little bit full court again today. And we just finished our practice. So we'll do the same thing, put him in midway through the first half and see if he's more comfortable out there and he's helping us, then he can stay out there."

No. 5 seed Kansas St. (23-10) vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8), approx. 8:40 p.m. ET (TNT)

As point guard showdowns go, it doesn't get much better than Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor versus Kansas State's Jacob Pullen.

Taylor averages 18 points and 4.7 assists. Pullen averages 19.5 points and 3.7 assists. Both earned first-team all-conference honors, Taylor in the Big Ten and Pullen in the Big 12. Pullen is the first Wildcat to earn first-team honors twice and was one of two unanimous picks this year. Taylor leads the nation with a 4.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Both said the round of 32 tilt between the Badgers and Wildcats is not about them. But both admitted to being aware of the matchup. And if they weren't, reporters were there to graciously remind them.

"Any time you play players like that, it definitely bring out the best in you," Taylor said. "You definitely have to bring your A-game. But at the end of the day it's about the team. They're not going to say Jacob Pullen moved on or Jon Leuer or Jordan Taylor moved on. So you definitely relish the challenge. It makes it fun to play against players like that. But, at the same time, it's all about what's on the front of your jersey."

While it's not really about a battle of point guards, it sort of is. Both are the engines of their respective teams on both ends of the floor. Pullen, in fact, seemed like a one-man team at times this season -- see his 27-point average over the final six regular-season games when the Wildcats were fighting for a spot in the tournament. And Taylor is the fulcrum of Bo Ryan's "swing offense."

Further, tempo will be critical in the matchup. The Wildcats and Pullen want to play fast. The Badgers and Taylor want to slow it down. And each will be trying to push his counterpart out of his comfort zone.

"We've got to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping [Taylor] in a position where he doesn't know what kind of defense we're playing, whether we're trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen," Pullen said. "The other thing is we really got to make him guard. Whoever he is guarding, we got to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game. We got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends not only on offensive end."

One problem for Kansas State: It isn't easy to dictate tempo to Wisconsin, though many have tried, and Kansas State coach Frank Martin said as much.

"If you can speed up a Bo Ryan team, it will probably be the first time in 30 years that happens," Martin said. "Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable. To not let him get in rhythm. And No. 2 is to keep him out of the paint. Because when he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters."

As for defending Pullen, Ryan doesn't see it that way exactly. While the Badgers largely play man-to-man defense, just like the Wildcats, it's still more team than individual.

"We don't get into a lot of, 'It's you against you, or you got to take him and you got to shut him down,'" Ryan said. "We don't do that because our defense is predicated on help. We always want to get five guys guarding three guys. That is our goal all the time. Learned that at a night clinic in Valley Forge, Pa., in the early '70s, and it still works."

Who to watch: Other than the point guards? There are a couple of bigs of note. For Wisconsin, it's Leuer, who leads the Badgers with 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He'll be matched with Curtis Kelly, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Why to watch: It's another interesting contrast of styles, with the Wildcats hoping for a fast-paced frenzy, and the Badgers preferring the half-court game. Both will try to impose their will on the other. The Badgers turned the ball over only 229 times this season versus 479 from Kansas State. And the Badgers are better at the free throw line, leading the nation with an .827 percentage versus .647 for the Wildcats. Of course, the Wildcats hit 86 percent of their free throws in their win over Utah State.

What they're saying:

Taylor on hearing that K-State will try to speed things up: "I think we have to do exactly what they're trying to do, play at our own pace. Play at the pace that we're comfortable with."

Leuer on Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels: "From what I've seen, they can do a lot. They're both very active and long and athletic. They have good touch around the basket. They're physical. And we're going to have to do our best to try to limit their touches and not let them get into a rhythm. And the more we can keep the ball out of there and not let them get deep post position... that's what you want to do against anybody, not let them get deep post position. But those guys, especially because they're going to make it hurt if they get it down there."

Ryan on Kansas State's physical offensive rebounding: "Well, contact's a good thing. You got to enjoy contact, physically to block people out. We're not going to outjump them. I don't think lengthwise we're going to be any longer than them. So you just got to do what you do every day in practice. Require guys to put a body on somebody. Don't let somebody get an angle. And be willing to dig in. I'm sure the other teams that play against them have said that, too. Then you got to go out and do it."

Pullen on the KSU scoring record: "When I'm done playing basketball at Kansas State and I get a chance to actually sit down and look back, I think it will mean a lot then and I'll really cherish it more. But right now I don't want to jinx myself and I don't want to know how close I am because that is the wrong focus."

Martin on narrowing his player rotation: "My job is to help our team win. And if guys don't deserve to play, it's not charity. You know, they better practice well or they're not going to wear a uniform."

Martin on his team: "Our kids acted this season like I wish our society would act. That means that when things get hard, they don't pass blame. They don't run away from it. They don't roll their eyes. They don't quit. Which is a great word in today's society, 'quit.' Contrary, our guys handle stuff with loyalty, with honesty, with commitment. Those are the words I grew up on. And, unfortunately, our society's turned some in today's day and age. I'm just happy our kids didn't pay attention to society and they stuck to the values that I believe in."

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