Bomani Jones calls out Colin Cowherd over John Wall talk

One of the worst vendettas in sports media is Colin Cowherd’s multiple years of riding John Wall into the ground.  Cowherd’s rants on Wall ever since he debuted in the NBA is the worst of sports talk radio and enough words have been typed about the subject.  It’s been nothing short of racially charged character assassination.  Over the years Cowherd has called Wall’s pregame Dougie from his rookie season the dumbest thing he’s ever seen,* took shots at his deceased father, and compared him to Michael Vick.
* I’d argue that almost anything Cowherd has spewed on radio, including his thesis on unemployment in the midwest and his desecration of the late Sean Taylor is dumber.
Wall showed his true character this week, the one Cowherd has spent years trying to sully, when he broke down in a postgame interview after the death of a young girl from cancer he had befriended.  It was one of the most touching scenes this year in sports.
After seeing that scene, one couldn’t help but think of what

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King’s Court: Duke’s Tyus Jones Playing Beyond His Years, Keys Win at Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — Outside Kohl Center, front row tickets sold for as much as $5,000. An ESPN crew assembled a SportsCenter set near the court, and more than 30 seats were reserved for the NBA scouts who flocked to town to watch No. 2 Wisconsin take on No. 4 Duke.

Less than a mile away, in his room at the Concourse Hotel, Blue Devils point guard Tyus Jones was unaffected by the hype. When his mother, Debbie, called him about four hours before tipoff, he was in his room watching reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

“Just relaxing,” Jones said.

Such composure would’ve been admirable for any player before a game of this magnitude—but it’s almost unheard of for an 18-year-old freshman preparing for his first true road game against a team that advanced to last season’s Final Four.

“That’s what makes Tyus special,” Debbie said. “He never gets rattled. He never gets shook. The bigger the game, the better he plays.”

That couldn’t have been more obvious Wednesday, when Jones scored a team-high 22 points to spark Duke—which starts three freshmen—to an 80-70 victory over senior-laden Wisconsin before a sellout crowd of 17,279 on a cold night in Madison.

The only thing more impressive than Jones’ performance was his response to it. Moments after his live postgame interview on ESPN, Jones took a seat near his stall in a celebratory Duke locker room and put everything into perspective.

“This wasn’t an NCAA championship game,” he said. “It was a game in December. There’s a lot of season left. It was a good win for us, but we’ve still got a lot of room to improve.”

Jones’ poise and maturity are among the main reasons Duke, 8-0, has avoided the speed bumps that plagued last season’s talented, but young, Kentucky squad all the way up until the NCAA tournament. Those Wildcats lost 10 regular-season games and were given a No. 8 seed.

That won’t happen with this Duke team, which is already in midseason form despite starting freshmen in center Jahlil Okafor, wing Justise Winslow and Jones. Granted, each of them is a potential NBA lottery pick, especially Okafor, the likely No. 1 overall selection.

But even the best players usually take a while to develop chemistry and cohesion with their older teammates. At Duke, it was in place before the Blue Devils ever played their first game.

Some of that is because Jones, Okafor and Winslow spent their high school summers competing alongside one another with USA Basketball. But part of it can be credited to the confidence Jones exhibits during moments when most players would cower.

“He’s an old soul on the court,” senior shooting guard Quinn Cook said. “He doesn’t play like a freshman. He never gets sped up or frustrated. He carried us tonight.”

Indeed, Jones scored 14 of his 22 points after intermission and helped spearhead an 8-2 run in the waning minutes that gave Duke a 71-62 lead and momentum it would never relinquish.

Jones made seven of his 11 shots from the field and was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He was one of four Duke players to score in double figures Wednesday, and that doesn’t include starters Winslow and Amile Jefferson, both of whom had off nights.

As a team, Duke shot a ridiculous 65.2 percent from the field.

“To have as many players (shoot well) on the same night … that’s just not fair,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “They were lights-out.”

Okafor scored 13 points and snared six rebounds. But again, no one was as impressive in big moments as Jones. Okafor laughed when asked if he’s ever seen his longtime friend and roommate get upset or antsy.

“If I go in his room or eat all his snacks, that usually upsets him,” Okafor said. “Or if he’s the driver and I’m not ready on time. But on the court, he’s the same every day. Never too high or never too low.”

That’s not to say that Jones didn’t take a moment or two to relish what he and his teammates accomplished Wednesday. As the final seconds ticked away, he looked into the stands and saw about 20 friends and relatives who had driven about four hours from his hometown of Apple Valley, Minnesota, to see him play.

Parents of Blue Devils players were holding up their keys and taunting the Wisconsin crowd.

“Start up the car,” Okafor’s dad, Chucky, yelled. “Game’s over. Time to go home.”

Jones just smiled.

“It was great,” Jones said. “I’d never experienced anything like that—with the road crowd yelling at you and the student section and everything. It was everything I dreamed of when I imagined a college road game.”

Including the end.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

Report Card

A’s

Jerian Grant: Notre Dame’s standout guard—who missed the second half of last season because of academic issues—scored 27 points in Wednesday’s overtime win against Michigan State and is now averaging 19.5 points.

Miami: The No. 15 Hurricanes continue to be one of the biggest surprises of the young season. Jim Larranaga’s squad improved to 8-0 Tuesday by defeating previously unbeaten Illinois 70-61 in Coral Gables.

Emmitt Holt: A little more than a month after accidentally hitting Indiana teammate Devin Davis with his car, Holt turned in his best performance as a Hoosier by scoring 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting in Tuesday’s 81-69 victory over Pittsburgh.

 

B’s

Javan Felix: You won’t find many backup point guards as good as the Texas junior. Felix came up huge in Sunday’s 55-54 win against defending national champion Connecticut in Storrs by pulling his team within one, 53-52, on a clutch drive and layup with 21 seconds remaining. Jonathan Holmes won it for the Longhorns with a three-pointer on the following possession.

Purdue: It appears the Boilermakers are back on the upswing after missing the NCAA tournament the past two years. Purdue’s 6-1 record includes quality wins over BYU and North Carolina State, the latter of which occurred largely because of a 16-point, nine-rebound effort by Vince Edwards on Tuesday in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Karl Towns: After failing to reach double figures in his first five games, the most highly touted member of Kentucky’s vaunted recruiting class is clearly feeling more comfortable on the court. Towns is averaging 12 points and 8.5 rebounds in his last two games.

  

C’s

Michigan schools: The state’s two flagship programs—Michigan and Michigan State—boast solid teams. But I’m not sure either of them have a chance to be special. The Wolverines (who barely beat a mediocre Syracuse squad Tuesday) don’t have a standout inside presence. The Spartans, coming off losses to Kansas and Notre Dame, have nice complementary players but no stars.

Xavier: Chris Mack’s squad opened the season with five straight wins but has now dropped back-to-back contests against Texas-El Paso and Long Beach State. Not the best way to excite a fanbase.

VCU: The Rams have lost their trademark swagger. One week after a 24-point annihilation at the hands of Villanova, VCU was nearly upset by Illinois State Tuesday night. Shaka Smart’s team battled back from a 12-point deficit to win 66-62, but there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed. VCU, which also lost to Old Dominion, is 5-2.

 

D’s

Ohio State’s Shannon Scott vs. Louisville: A point guard, Scott entered Tuesday’s showdown with the Cardinals averaging a nation-leading 10.4 assists. But he had zero assists in the Buckeyes’ 64-55 loss. He scored just three points and had five turnovers.

Pittsburgh: What we’ve seen from the Panthers is highly uncharacteristic of a Jamie Dixon squad. The Panthers are just 4-3 with losses to Hawaii, San Diego State and Indiana, the latter two of which came by double digits.

Kelly Oubre: The Kansas freshman has logged the fewest minutes by any top-10 recruit since 2005, according to research by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (subscription required). Oubre has netted just 50 minutes in the Jayhawks’ first six games.

 

F’s

Florida State: What’s going on in Tallahassee? The Seminoles, who usually field one of the most athletic teams in the country, are 3-4, with setbacks against Northeastern, Massachusetts, Providence and Nebraska, which led by 18 points early in the second half. Very un-Leonard-Hamilton-like.

Chris Walker: The McDonald’s All-American missed most of his freshman season at Florida because of grade issues and has basically been invisible for the 3-3 Gators so far this year. He’s averaging just 5.0 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench.

North Carolina: Once believed to be an NCAA title contender, the Tar Heels shot just 27.9 percent from the field in Wednesday’s home loss to Iowa. That’s almost as bad as when they were outworked 29-14 on the offensive glass in last week’s setback against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But not quite.

 

Welcome to My Radar

Seton Hall: Kevin Willard, who entered the season on the hot seat, is doing a phenomenal job with the Pirates. Seton Hall will take a 6-0 record into Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Guard Sterling Gibbs averages a team-high 18.3 points.

Big East: Numerous teams from the conference are surpassing expectations. Butler beat North Carolina, Creighton topped Oklahoma, Villanova defeated Michigan, Providence upset Notre Dame, St. John’s bested Minnesota, Georgetown beat Florida and DePaul surprised Stanford.

Ben Jacobson: The coach whose Northern Iowa team upset No. 1 seed Kansas in the 2010 NCAA tournament has put together another Top 25-caliber squad. Should we really be surprised? The man can coach.

Washington: The Huskies’ three-year NCAA tournament drought may end this season, as Washington is off to a 6-0 start thanks, in part, to Nigel Williams-Goss’ 14.7 points and 7.5 assists (both team highs).

D.J. Newbill: The Penn State guard is as under-the-radar as they come. The senior averages 24.1 points and 2.9 assists for a Nittany Lions squad that is 7-1.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs are 6-1 with wins against then-No. 14 VCU, LSU and George Mason (on the road). Guard Trey Freeman averages 18.4 points and 3.1 assists.

 

Predicting This Weekend’s Big Games

Texas at Kentucky: The Longhorns have one of the few frontcourts that can, at the very least, challenge the Wildcats foursome of Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles and Towns. But I still like John Calipari’s squad by double figures. Kentucky 66-53.

Florida at Kansas: Everything seems to be going wrong for the Gators. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith and Eli Carter have been out with injuries, and Walker has yet to make a significant impact. That’s not a good recipe when you’re going into the most hostile environment in all of college basketball. Kansas 72-57.

Gonzaga at Arizona: Not many teams in college basketball are as mentally tough as Arizona, but the Wildcats aren’t anywhere close to reaching their ceiling. Things may change in a month or two but, as of now, Gonzaga is the more polished team, especially on offense with upperclassmen such as Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer. Gonzaga 64-60.

Virginia at VCU: The Cavaliers have played at a high level since the beginning of the season, while VCU has been inconsistent. The Rams have either lost to (Old Dominion and Michigan) or struggled against (Illinois State) teams that aren’t nearly as good as Tony Bennett’s squad. Virginia 58-51.

Wisconsin-Green Bay at Georgia State: Two of the most talented mid-major teams in the country square off Saturday in Atlanta. Georgia State is led by standout shooter R.J. Hunter and former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow. Keifer Sykes averages 18.5 points and 3.8 assists for UWGB. Wisconsin-Green Bay 65-64.

San Diego State at Washington: The Huskies may be undefeated, but they’ve yet to face a team as good as the 15th-ranked Aztecs, whose lone loss is to Arizona. Still, don’t be surprised if Lorenzo Romar’s squad rises to the occasion at home. Washington 70-66.

 

Starting Five: Upperclassmen Who Are Finally Living Up to Expectations

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: Underwhelming during his first three seasons, Blackshear is averaging a career-high 13 points. His 22-point effort Tuesday sparked Louisville past Ohio State.

Joshua Smith, Georgetown: Stymied throughout his career (both at UCLA and Georgetown) by weight issues and academic problems, Smith has been a beast for the Hoyas with 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Norman Powell, UCLA: A complementary player for most of his career, Powell is leading the Bruins in scoring with 17.9 points a game while also contributing 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals.

Robert Upshaw, Washington: The embattled 7’0” transfer from Fresno State is finally getting into a groove after sitting out last season. He’s averaging 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Inconsistent throughout most of his career, the Wildcats’ 7’0” center has been in attack mode all year. He’s averaging a career-high 8.7 points despite playing just 22 minutes per game.

  

Rapid Fire

Surprised they’re this good: Notre Dame

Surprised they’re not better: Memphis

Seat heating up: Brad Brownell, Clemson

Seat cooling off (for now): Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Better than their record: Kansas State and Illinois State

Not as good as their record: Texas Tech and Mississippi State

Win that shocked me: Butler over North Carolina

Win that shocked some, but not me: Ole Miss over Creighton

Needs a hug: Josh Pastner, Memphis coach

Deserves a high-five: Jay Wright, Villanova coach

 

A Dozen Words About My Top 12 Teams 

1. Kentucky: Could the Wildcats be one of the best defensive teams in history?

2. Duke: Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils occupy this slot all season.

3. Wisconsin: Would a healthy Sam Dekker have made a difference against Duke Wednesday?

4. Gonzaga: Anyone who doesn’t take this team seriously needs to watch them Saturday.

5. Arizona: The Wildcats’ trademark defense needs to be at its best against Gonzaga.

6. Louisville: Sophomore guard Terry Rozier is blossoming into a star for the Cardinals.

7. Villanova: A pair of tough nonconference games remain against Illinois and Syracuse.

8. Kansas: Point guard Frank Mason has apparently solidified his spot as a starter.

9. Virginia: All but one of the Cavaliers’ wins have come by double digits.

10. San Diego State: The Aztecs haven’t played since falling to Arizona in Maui title game.

11. Texas: Myles Turner is averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds in last three games.

12. Wichita State: Wednesday’s loss at Utah marked Shockers’ first regular-season defeat since 2013.

 

Press Row Chatter: Recent Topics Discussed at the Pregame Dining Table

The best players to interview in college basketball (2014-15 edition):

  • Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Places I plan to eat at during this weekend’s Chicago-Dallas-Waco trip:

  • Giordano’s Pizzeria in Chicago: Pepperoni, sausage, mushroom with thin crust.
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops in Chicago: Caramel and cheese mix, please.
  • Sissy’s, Dallas: Haven’t been, but I hear the fried chicken is delish.
  • Pepe & Mitos, Dallas: Hard to find good Mexican food in Kansas City, Wisconsin, Illinois and New York City, which is where I’ve been for the past month.
  • George’s Bar & Grill: Planning to go both before and after Baylor’s win over Kansas State Saturday for chicken club tacos, chicken fried steak, crazy wings and, of course, a Big O or seven.

Trendy college basketball phrases and terms that annoy me:

  • Chippy: Weak-sounding word for a term used to describe pushing, shoving and taunting.
  • Score the ball: What else are you going to score?
  • Deceptively athletic: It’s OK to say a white guy is athletic.
  • “The ball was sticking tonight”: Don’t beat around the bush, coach. Your players were selfish.
  • “Are you kidding me?”: Um, no, Mr. Broadcaster. I’m not. What does that even mean?

Best pro wrestling finishing moves:

  • DDT, Jake “The Snake” Roberts: Am I the only one who used to try this on my friends?
  • Sweet Chin Music/Superkick, Shawn Michaels/Chris Adams: So tough to execute without legitimately hurting your opponent.
  • Greetings from Asbury Park, Bam Bam Bigelow: The move was just OK, but I love the name.
  • Hurricanrana off the top rope, Lita/Juventud Guerrero, countless others: Wow. Mad respect for anyone who can pull this off.
  • Off the top rope and through a table, Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray’s “trance” at the end was the cherry on top.

 

Pit Stops

Wing Bucket, Dallas: Dallas used to be weak when it came to wings. Not anymore. This is easily the best bird in the city, and also some of the best in the country. I’ve loved all of the flavors I’ve sampled (regular buffalo, Sriracha madness, sour cream and onion, Jamaican jerk, garlic parmesan, margarita chile—and, yes, even peanut butter and jelly). The wings are cooked perfectly. The skin has just the right amount of crispness without being overcooked. Order the lemon pepper fries and the spicy baked beans, and thank me later. Don’t be surprised if this place adds some new locations soon. One in Kansas City would be nice (wink, wink).

 

Jason King covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR .

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King’s Court: Duke Frosh Tyus Jones Playing Beyond His Years, Keys Wisconsin Win

MADISON, Wis. — Outside Kohl Center, front row tickets sold for as much as $5,000. An ESPN crew assembled a SportsCenter set near the court, and more than 30 seats were reserved for the NBA scouts who flocked to town to watch No. 2 Wisconsin take on No. 4 Duke.

Less than a mile away, in his room at the Concourse Hotel, Blue Devils point guard Tyus Jones was unaffected by the hype. When his mother, Debbie, called him about four hours before tipoff, he was in his room watching reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

“Just relaxing,” Jones said.

Such composure would’ve been admirable for any player before a game of this magnitude—but it’s almost unheard of for an 18-year-old freshman preparing for his first true road game against a team that advanced to last season’s Final Four.

“That’s what makes Tyus special,” Debbie said. “He never gets rattled. He never gets shook. The bigger the game, the better he plays.”

That couldn’t have been more obvious Wednesday, when Jones scored a team-high 22 points to spark Duke—which starts three freshmen—to an 80-70 victory over senior-laden Wisconsin before a sellout crowd of 17,279 on a cold night in Madison.

The only thing more impressive than Jones’ performance was his response to it. Moments after his live postgame interview on ESPN, Jones took a seat near his stall in a celebratory Duke locker room and put everything into perspective.

“This wasn’t an NCAA championship game,” he said. “It was a game in December. There’s a lot of season left. It was a good win for us, but we’ve still got a lot of room to improve.”

Jones’ poise and maturity are among the main reasons Duke, 8-0, has avoided the speed bumps that plagued last season’s talented, but young, Kentucky squad all the way up until the NCAA tournament. Those Wildcats lost 10 regular-season games and were given a No. 8 seed.

That won’t happen with this Duke team, which is already in midseason form despite starting freshmen in center Jahlil Okafor, wing Justise Winslow and Jones. Granted, each of them is a potential NBA lottery pick, especially Okafor, the likely No. 1 overall selection.

But even the best players usually take a while to develop chemistry and cohesion with their older teammates. At Duke, it was in place before the Blue Devils ever played their first game.

Some of that is because Jones, Okafor and Winslow spent their high school summers competing alongside one another with USA Basketball. But part of it can be credited to the confidence Jones exhibits during moments when most players would cower.

“He’s an old soul on the court,” senior shooting guard Quinn Cook said. “He doesn’t play like a freshman. He never gets sped up or frustrated. He carried us tonight.”

Indeed, Jones scored 14 of his 22 points after intermission and helped spearhead an 8-2 run in the waning minutes that gave Duke a 71-62 lead and momentum it would never relinquish.

Jones made seven of his 11 shots from the field and was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He was one of four Duke players to score in double figures Wednesday, and that doesn’t include starters Winslow and Amile Jefferson, both of whom had off nights.

As a team, Duke shot a ridiculous 65.2 percent from the field.

“To have as many players (shoot well) on the same night … that’s just not fair,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “They were lights-out.”

Okafor scored 13 points and snared six rebounds. But again, no one was as impressive in big moments as Jones. Okafor laughed when asked if he’s ever seen his longtime friend and roommate get upset or antsy.

“If I go in his room or eat all his snacks, that usually upsets him,” Okafor said. “Or if he’s the driver and I’m not ready on time. But on the court, he’s the same every day. Never too high or never too low.”

That’s not to say that Jones didn’t take a moment or two to relish what he and his teammates accomplished Wednesday. As the final seconds ticked away, he looked into the stands and saw about 20 friends and relatives who had driven about four hours from his hometown of Apple Valley, Minnesota, to see him play.

Parents of Blue Devils players were holding up their keys and taunting the Wisconsin crowd.

“Start up the car,” Okafor’s dad, Chucky, yelled. “Game’s over. Time to go home.”

Jones just smiled.

“It was great,” Jones said. “I’d never experienced anything like that—with the road crowd yelling at you and the student section and everything. It was everything I dreamed of when I imagined a college road game.”

Including the end.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

Report Card

A’s

Jerian Grant: Notre Dame’s standout guard—who missed the second half of last season because of academic issues—scored 27 points in Wednesday’s overtime win against Michigan State and is now averaging 19.5 points.

Miami: The No. 15 Hurricanes continue to be one of the biggest surprises of the young season. Jim Larranaga’s squad improved to 8-0 Tuesday by defeating previously unbeaten Illinois 70-61 in Coral Gables.

Emmitt Holt: A little more than a month after accidentally hitting Indiana teammate Devin Davis with his car, Holt turned in his best performance as a Hoosier by scoring 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting in Tuesday’s 81-69 victory over Pittsburgh.

 

B’s

Javan Felix: You won’t find many backup point guards as good as the Texas junior. Felix came up huge in Sunday’s 55-54 win against defending national champion Connecticut in Storrs by pulling his team within one, 53-52, on a clutch drive and layup with 21 seconds remaining. Jonathan Holmes won it for the Longhorns with a three-pointer on the following possession.

Purdue: It appears the Boilermakers are back on the upswing after missing the NCAA tournament the past two years. Purdue’s 6-1 record includes quality wins over BYU and North Carolina State, the latter of which occurred largely because of a 16-point, nine-rebound effort by Vince Edwards on Tuesday in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Karl Towns: After failing to reach double figures in his first five games, the most highly touted member of Kentucky’s vaunted recruiting class is clearly feeling more comfortable on the court. Towns is averaging 11 points and 8.5 rebounds in his last two games.

  

C’s

Michigan schools: The state’s two flagship programs—Michigan and Michigan State—boast solid teams. But I’m not sure either of them have a chance to be special. The Wolverines (who barely beat a mediocre Syracuse squad Tuesday) don’t have a standout inside presence. The Spartans, coming off losses to Kansas and Notre Dame, have nice complementary players but no stars.

Xavier: Chris Mack’s squad opened the season with five straight wins but has now dropped back-to-back contests against Texas-El Paso and Long Beach State. Not the best way to excite a fanbase.

VCU: The Rams have lost their trademark swagger. One week after a 24-point annihilation at the hands of Villanova, VCU was nearly upset by Illinois State Tuesday night. Shaka Smart’s team battled back from a 12-point deficit to win 66-62, but there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed. VCU, which also lost to Old Dominion, is 5-2.

 

D’s

Ohio State’s Shannon Scott vs. Louisville: A point guard, Scott entered Tuesday’s showdown with the Cardinals averaging a nation-leading 10.4 assists. But he had zero assists in the Buckeyes’ 64-55 loss. He scored just three points and had five turnovers.

Pittsburgh: What we’ve seen from the Panthers is highly uncharacteristic of a Jamie Dixon squad. The Panthers are just 4-3 with losses to Hawaii, San Diego State and Indiana, the latter two of which came by double digits.

Kelly Oubre: The Kansas freshman has logged the fewest minutes by any top-10 recruit since 2005, according to research by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (subscription required). Oubre has netted just 50 minutes in the Jayhawks’ first six games.

 

F’s

Florida State: What’s going on in Tallahassee? The Seminoles, who usually field one of the most athletic teams in the country, are 3-4, with setbacks against Northeastern, Massachusetts, Providence and Nebraska, which led by 18 points early in the second half. Very un-Leonard-Hamilton-like.

Chris Walker: The McDonald’s All-American missed most of his freshman season at Florida because of grade issues and has basically been invisible for the 3-3 Gators so far this year. He’s averaging just 5.0 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench.

North Carolina: Once believed to be an NCAA title contender, the Tar Heels shot just 27.9 percent from the field in Wednesday’s home loss to Iowa. That’s almost as bad as when they were outworked 29-17 on the offensive glass in last week’s setback against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But not quite.

 

Welcome to My Radar

Seton Hall: Kevin Willard, who entered the season on the hot seat, is doing a phenomenal job with the Pirates. Seton Hall will take a 6-0 record into Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Guard Sterling Gibbs averages a team-high 18.3 points.

Big East: Numerous teams from the conference are surpassing expectations. Butler beat North Carolina, Creighton topped Oklahoma, Villanova defeated Michigan, Providence upset Notre Dame, St. John’s bested Minnesota, Georgetown beat Florida and DePaul surprised Stanford.

Ben Jacobson: The coach whose Northern Iowa team upset No. 1 seed Kansas in the 2010 NCAA tournament has put together another Top 25-caliber squad. Should we really be surprised? The man can coach.

Washington: The Huskies’ three-year NCAA tournament drought may end this season, as Washington is off to a 6-0 start thanks, in part, to Nigel Williams-Goss’ 14.7 points and 7.5 assists (both team highs).

D.J. Newbill: The Penn State guard is as under-the-radar as they come. The senior averages 24.2 points and 3.1 assists for a Nittany Lions squad that is 7-1.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs are 6-1 with wins against then-No. 14 VCU, LSU and George Mason (on the road). Guard Trey Freeman averages 19 points and 2.7 assists.

 

Predicting This Weekend’s Big Games

Texas at Kentucky: The Longhorns have one of the few frontcourts that can, at the very least, challenge the Wildcats foursome of Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles and Towns. But I still like John Calipari’s squad by double figures. Kentucky 66-53.

Florida at Kansas: Everything seems to be going wrong for the Gators. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith and Eli Carter have been out with injuries, and Walker has yet to make a significant impact. That’s not a good recipe when you’re going into the most hostile environment in all of college basketball. Kansas 72-57.

Gonzaga at Arizona: Not many teams in college basketball are as mentally tough as Arizona, but the Wildcats aren’t anywhere close to reaching their ceiling. Things may change in a month or two but, as of now, Gonzaga is the more polished team, especially on offense with upperclassmen such as Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer. Gonzaga 64-60.

Virginia at VCU: The Cavaliers have played at a high level since the beginning of the season, while VCU has been inconsistent. The Rams have either lost to (Old Dominion and Michigan) or struggled against (Illinois State) teams that aren’t nearly as good as Tony Bennett’s squad. Virginia 58-51.

Wisconsin-Green Bay at Georgia State: Two of the most talented mid-major teams in the country square off Saturday in Atlanta. Georgia State is led by standout shooter R.J. Hunter and former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow. Keifer Sykes averages 18.5 points and 3.8 assists for UWGB. Wisconsin-Green Bay 65-64.

San Diego State at Washington: The Huskies may be undefeated, but they’ve yet to face a team as good as the 15th-ranked Aztecs, whose lone loss is to Arizona. Still, don’t be surprised if Lorenzo Romar’s squad rises to the occasion at home. Washington 70-66.

 

Starting Five: Upperclassmen Who Are Finally Living Up to Expectations

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: Underwhelming during his first three seasons, Blackshear is averaging a career-high 13 points. His 22-point effort Tuesday sparked Louisville past Ohio State.

Joshua Smith, Georgetown: Stymied throughout his career (both at UCLA and Georgetown) by weight issues and academic problems, Smith has been a beast for the Hoyas with 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Norman Powell, UCLA: A complementary player for most of his career, Powell is leading the Bruins in scoring with 17.9 points a game while also contributing 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals.

Robert Upshaw, Washington: The embattled 7’0” transfer from Fresno State is finally getting into a groove after sitting out last season. He’s averaging 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 22 minutes.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Inconsistent throughout most of his career, the Wildcats’ 7’0” center has been in attack mode all year. He’s averaging a career-high 8.7 points despite playing just 22 minutes per game.

  

Rapid Fire

Surprised they’re this good: Notre Dame

Surprised they’re not better: Memphis

Seat heating up: Brad Brownell, Clemson

Seat cooling off (for now): Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Better than their record: Kansas State and Illinois State

Not as good as their record: Texas Tech and Mississippi State

Win that shocked me: Butler over North Carolina

Win that shocked some, but not me: Ole Miss over Creighton

Needs a hug: Josh Pastner, Memphis coach

Deserves a high-five: Jay Wright, Villanova coach

 

A Dozen Words About My Top 12 Teams 

1. Kentucky: Could the Wildcats be one of the best defensive teams in history?

2. Duke: Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils occupy this slot all season.

3. Wisconsin: Would a healthy Sam Dekker have made a difference against Duke Wednesday?

4. Gonzaga: Anyone who doesn’t take this team seriously needs to watch them Saturday.

5. Arizona: The Wildcats’ trademark defense needs to be at its best against Gonzaga.

6. Louisville: Sophomore guard Terry Rozier is blossoming into a star for the Cardinals.

7. Villanova: A pair of tough nonconference games remain against Illinois and Syracuse.

8. Kansas: Point guard Frank Mason has apparently solidified his spot as a starter.

9. Virginia: All but one of the Cavaliers’ wins have come by double digits.

10. San Diego State: The Aztecs haven’t played since falling to Arizona in Maui title game.

11. Texas: Myles Turner is averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds in last three games.

12. Wichita State: Wednesday’s loss at Utah marked Shockers’ first regular-season defeat since 2013.

 

Press Row Chatter: Recent Topics Discussed at the Pregame Dining Table

The best players to interview in college basketball (2014-15 edition):

  • Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Chicks from 1980s movies that didn’t get enough credit for being smoke shows—also known as “The Phoebe Cates Category”:

  • Elisabeth Shue: Ali from The Karate Kid, Kris from Adventures in Babysitting, Jennifer from Back to the Future
  • Mia Sara: Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Lori Singer: Ariel from Footloose
  • Amanda Peterson: Cindy Mancini from Can’t Buy Me Love
  • Mary Stuart Masterson: Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Joyce Hyser: Terry from Just One of the Guys

Places I plan to eat at during this weekend’s Chicago-Dallas-Waco trip:

  • Giordano’s Pizzeria in Chicago: Pepperoni, sausage, mushroom with thin crust
  • Garrett Popcorn Shops in Chicago: Caramel and cheese mix, please
  • Sissy’s, Dallas: Haven’t been, but I hear the fried chicken is delish
  • Pepe & Mitos, Dallas: Hard to find good Mexican food in Kansas City, Wisconsin, Illinois and New York City, which is where I’ve been for the past month.
  • George’s Bar & Grill: Planning to go both before and after Baylor’s win over Kansas State Saturday for chicken club tacos, chicken fried steak, crazy wings and, of course, a Big O or seven.

Trendy college basketball phrases and terms that annoy me:

  • Chippy: Sissy-sounding word for a term used to describe pushing, shoving and taunting.
  • Score the ball: What else are you going to score?
  • Deceptively athletic: It’s OK to say a white guy is athletic.
  • “The ball was sticking tonight”: Don’t beat around the bush, coach. Your players were selfish.
  • “Are you kidding me?”: Um, no, Mr. Broadcaster. I’m not. What does that even mean?

Best pro wrestling finishing moves:

  • DDT, Jake “The Snake” Roberts: Am I the only one who used to try this on my friends?
  • Sweet Chin Music/Superkick, Shawn Michaels/Chris Adams: So tough to execute without legitimately hurting your opponent.
  • Greetings from Asbury Park, Bam Bam Bigelow: The move was just OK, but I love the name.
  • Hurricanrana off the top rope, Lita/Juventud Guerrero, countless others: Wow. Mad respect for anyone who can pull this off.
  • Off the top rope and through a table, Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray’s “trance” at the end was the cherry on top.

 

Pit Stops

Wing Bucket, Dallas: Dallas used to be weak when it came to wings. Not anymore. This is easily the best bird in the city, and also some of the best in the country. I’ve loved all of the flavors I’ve sampled (regular buffalo, Sriracha madness, sour cream and onion, Jamaican jerk, garlic parmesan, margarita chile—and, yes, even peanut butter & jelly). The wings are cooked perfectly. The skin has just the right amount of crispness without being overcooked. Order the lemon pepper fries and the spicy baked beans, and thank me later. Don’t be surprised if this place adds some new locations soon. One in Kansas City would be nice (wink, wink).

 

Jason King covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR .

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Jones, Rozier lead No. 8 Louisville past Marshall

Jones scored 18 points and backcourt mate Rozier added 17.

      
 

 

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Terrence Jones Injury: Updates on Rockets Forward’s Leg and Return

Terrence Jones‘ time on the sidelines doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.

According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale admitted that he has no idea when the 22-year-old power forward will return from injury:

Jones hasn’t played since a Nov. 3 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s appeared in four games this season, averaging 14 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. Donatas Motiejunas has been tasked with starting in Jones’ stead.     

The Rockets haven’t labored much with Jones out of the lineup, going 5-1 in their last six games. As long as James Harden and Dwight Howard are healthy, the team won’t suffer a major drop.

One of Houston’s biggest issues, however, is depth, at least when compared with other NBA title contenders. Losing a player like Jones forces McHale to dig deeper into his somewhat thin bench.

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Derrick Jones to UNLV: Rebels Land 4-Star SF Prospect

Small forward Derrick Jones, a 4-star recruit out of Archbishop Carroll High School in Philadelphia, announced his commitment to play college basketball at UNLV on Thursday.

Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news of Jones’ decision:

Jones, who is ranked 41st overall and seventh at his position in 247Sports’ composite rankings, is 6’6″ and just 180 pounds, so he still has considerable room to fill out his frame.

That is an appropriate way to describe his ceiling as a basketball player too because Jones is just beginning to unearth his potential.

Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com accentuated just how much natural ability Jones has:

With transcendent athleticism, Jones has been able to get by with such a raw skill set at the high school level. That’s why UNLV’s coaching staff has to be thrilled to be the group that gets to mold Jones and push him to become one of the NCAA’s best all-around players.

According to Jones’ father, Derrick Jones Sr., the prodigious wing is putting in the work to become great, per CityOfBasketballLove.com’s Ari Rosenfeld (h/t CollegeBasketballTalk.com’s Terrence Payne):

Honestly, Derrick’s always had the talent to do it all. Derrick’s an unselfish basketball player. Going into the summer he’s adapted and said “I have to take more, I have to do more.” Just working on his jump shot more, working on his handle more. I’m watching the kid everyday come home and go out back and work, go to the park and work. He’s really dedicated and really wants to be at that level. I really know in my heart that he belongs.

Jones flashes ability to choose the three-pointer, but the better he becomes at being a jump shooter and a ball-handler, the more lethal he will be off the bounce and finishing at the rim.

Adding strength should be a priority for Jones as well. If he can fill out and still maintain his amazing explosiveness, there’s no telling how good he could be.

With his skill set as it stands, Jones is already a phenomenal rebounder, can bother other swingmen with his length on the perimeter and make up ground fast, with the faculties to become a tremendous shot-blocker.

Although he likely won’t contribute too much as a true freshman and may take a bit longer to develop than other top-tier prospects, few from the 2015 class boast the upside Jones has.

UNLV must let Jones’ minutes increase in an organic way rather than thrusting him into action, where he can just rely on his instincts as opposed to taking the time to polish his game. Should that happen, Jones is bound to be among the elite players in the country.

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How Terrence Jones Can Turn Hot Start into a Breakout Season for Houston Rockets

One of the under-the-radar stories of the Houston Rocket’s season is the hot play of Terrence Jones. That’s largely due to an improved skill set combined with smart shot selection. If he continues playing with the same wisdom, he can turn a great start into a breakout season.

The 6’9”, 252-pound power forward is averaging career highs across the board: 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 blocks and minutes.

While it’s early (insert your favorite small-sample-size disclaimer here), that doesn’t mean that Jones’ start is due for a regression to the mean. Even accounting for the fact that he’s missed three games due to a peroneal nerve contusion, there’s enough basketball to suggest he is legitimately improved. 

In part, that’s because it’s to be expected. Being just 23 years old, he’s at the stage where career slopes are still on the incline.

Beyond that, though, part of the trick of early-season analysis is identifying the difference between anomalous numbers and early trends. And the best way to do that is see if there’s an underlying reason to explain surprising numbers. If a player has developed a new skill, then there’s a good chance those changes are real.

In Jones’ case, there are two things to suggest his success will continue, and they’re seemingly opposites: He doesn’t need to have plays made for him, but he’s also become a guy you can create plays for.

 

Plays Not Designed for Him

Jones is an offensive-rebounding vulture. Per NBA.com/STATS, the Rockets grab 36.0 percent of their offensive rebounds when he’s on the court, which is more than with any other player. He accounts for 14.6 percent by himself, which also is best on the club.

Getting offensive rebounds is important, but making the right decision with the ball afterward can be just as essential. At 82games.com, a study was conducted a few years ago, comparing what happens when a player tips out an offensive rebound versus what happens when he shoots it right away.

What they found is that when a player puts the shot back immediately, the effective field-goal percentage was 50.9, whereas when the team tipped it out, it was 47.0 percent. So, in general, you’re better off taking the shot than tapping the ball out.

There’s a logic to it, as the site explains:

Perhaps the real advantage on the shot following an offensive rebound is that the rebounder has secured a good position near to the hoop?

As we suspected, the vast majority of quick shots after an offensive rebound are from close range, dunks or tips, and that accounts in part for the high overall field goal percentage on these putbacks. The defense is also likely to be off-balance.

That’s especially true when the player goes up for the dunk. On those occasions, the average field-goal percentage was 87.7 percent.

On the other hand, when you tap it out, it gives the defense a chance to set up. Furthermore (and what’s not reflected in the study), there’s the chance that the defense can recover it and turn it into transition points.

This is meaningful in the Jones discussion because of things like this:

Jones isn’t a tapper-outer; he’s a grab-the-ball-and-dunker. Based on data from NBAWowy.com, 24 percent of Jones’ field goals have come from offensive rebounds.

He’s one of those guys who’s going to get a certain amount of offense just by being on the court, and those are going to be fairly consistent buckets.

 

Plays Designed for Him

One of the nice things about the new player dashboards at NBA.com is the addition of more tracking stats. That includes intriguing data on the distance of the nearest defender when a player takes a shot. One type of skill is being able to create and make shots when a defender is on top of you, and now we have a way to quantify that skill.

Last year, within two feet of a defender, Jones was taking just 3.2 field-goal attempts and making just 1.6. This season those numbers have climbed to 4.3 and 2.3 respectively.

Also, he’s making treys at twice the rate this year, going from .4 to .8 per game. Furthermore he’s shooting 42.9 percent form deep compared to 30.7 percent.

Jones has improved both in scoring on contested shots and in shooting from deep. Those two things actually complement one another.

He’s making his threes when no one is challenging him—literally. Every one of them has come without a defender within six feet of him. When opponents do come to challenge him, he attacks the closer.

Since he has great ball-handling skills, speed and footwork for a big, that usually results in a mismatch, and that’s how he’s getting his contested shots.

A pump fake followed by shimmy here, a shake there, throw in a juke or two and leather parts nylon.

Or for those who prefer the eye test, here’s another way of saying it. Because he does this…

…and this….

…he can do this….

…or this.

Jones has an inherent advantage, as well. He’s almost always going to have a mismatch.

He has second-option talent, but on Houston he’s the co-third option, along with Trevor Ariza. Some would argue he’s the fourth option. Regardless, it means that he’s going to be getting less defensive attention than his offensive talents merit.

Defenses aren’t going to give Jones the priority when the more accomplished three-point shooters, Ariza and James Harden, are there. They’re not going to put their most athletic big on Jones with Dwight Howard playing. Therefore, invariably, Jones is going to enjoy the advantage, and that’s going to translate to continued production.

Through the early going, he’s been able to maximize that by making good decisions, knowing when to take the deep shot and knowing when to drive to the rim. Keeping inferior defenders honest is a great way to be an efficient scorer.

The danger here, though, is if Jones starts thinking he’s the next Kevin Love and becomes the next Josh Smith instead. His primary offense needs to come by attacking the rim. Utilizing a little range to keep defenses guessing is great, but he needs to not get carried away.

As long as he continues using discretion and doesn’t fall in love with his three-point shot, look for Jones to have a breakout year.

 

Stats for the article were obtained from NBAWowy.com and NBA.com/STATS.

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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Perry Jones leaves game with injury

Perry Jones is just the latest injury in OKC

More bad luck for the Oklahoma City Thunder as Perry Jones III left Tuesday night’s game vs. the Toronto Raptors with a right knee contusion. The Thunder are already without all stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as role players Jeremy Lamb and Anthony Morrow.
Jones was one of the rare bright spots for OKC as they try to stay afloat early in the season without their stars. The Thunder have just seven active players healthy enough to suit up.
The post Oklahoma City Thunder’s Perry Jones leaves game with injury appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Perry Jones Injury: Updates on Thunder Forward’s Knee and Return

The Oklahoma City Thunder have had perhaps the most accursed injury luck of any NBA team early in the 2014-15 season.

Already without their two superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, one youngster who was filling the void nicely, Perry Jones, went down with a right knee injury in Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors.

The Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry provided further details:

After OKC’s 100-88 loss, ESPN’s Royce Young and Mayberry provided updates on Jones:

Bleacher Report medical expert Dave Siebert weighed in on Jones’ ailment:

Although the Thunder had struggled to a 1-3 start prior to Tuesday’s showdown at the Air Canada Centre, Jones has been a bright spot on the shorthanded squad.

The 28th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft was leading Oklahoma City in scoring among those who had played in all four games with 18.5 points per contest. That promising progress will hopefully not be undone, because the Thunder have a scant number of options to turn to on offense.

For that matter, coach Scott Brooks now has a mere seven players left to work with, so it will take quite a juggling act just to keep OKC respectable in the talented Western Conference.

Such a task has proved to be challenging, but it will be especially so if Jones is out for an extended period of time.

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Miami Heat News: Heat Cut Tyler Johnson, Shawn Jones, and Larry Drew II

The Miami Heat roster now stands at 16 players.
Early Thursday morning the Heat got closer to their final opening night roster — which must be trimmed to a maximum of 15 players — by releasing Tyler Johnson, Shawn Jones, and Larry Drew II. The release of Larry Drew II was expected as the Heat’s intentions were to sign and release him in order to assign him to their D-League affiliate team the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
On the other hand, forward Shawn Jones didn’t seem like he was particularly ready for the NBA level. In 16.5 minutes of play through four games, Jones only averaged 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds and evidently did not impress the Heat organization. Jones is very nitty gritty, however, he will need to be developed further before he’s ready for a NBA team.
The most surprising cut out of the three has to be shooting guard Tyler Johnson. Although a bit out of control at times, Johnson’s athleticism and raw talent were clearly there as he would have been the perfect player to deve…

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