Ranking the 10 Best College Basketball Personalities to Follow on Twitter

With the start of college basketball’s regular season now (mercifully) just three weeks away, it’s time to make sure you’re following all of the right personalities on Twitter.

It’s one thing to watch college basketball games and read college basketball articles, but your full college basketball experience is incomplete without the breaking news and witty analysis you get from following these 10 people on Twitter.

The ranking system is totally subjective, but the general thought process was to ask “Who would I follow for college basketball news and notes if I could only pick one person?” After picking Jeff Goodman at No. 1 and eliminating him from further consideration, the question was asked again and again until a top 10 was created.

Obviously, you need to be following C.J. Moore, Jason King and me, but we excluded all Bleacher Report writers from consideration (because you already know to follow us).

If someone you love to follow isn’t on the list, be sure to mention that person in the comments, so we can make sure we’re following them as well.

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Breaking Down the Twitter Buzz Surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Preseason

The 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers were always going to be a buzz-generating team, and the preseason proved this to be correct. Everyone imaginable took to Twitter and other social media to talk about the various storylines of this Cavaliers squad.

 

Injuries

The only aspect holding the Cavs back—and I mean from owning the preseason—has been injuries. The new Big Three has only played together in a scrimmage and some of the Tel Aviv game.

Point guard Kyrie Irving has missed games with a foot injury while newly acquired forward Kevin Love has missed time with a neck injury.

LeBron James has missed some time so that he can rest, and even the mascot missed some games recently.

It is important to note that these injuries aren’t serious and that the Cavs are committed to resting players when they pick up little knocks. This rest and caution will figure to work in the Cavs’ favor though it does limit their ability to build chemistry.

 

Defense

Defensive commitment and ability have been the biggest question marks for the Cavs, as offensive firepower is a given. The Cavs were a middle-of-the-road defensive team last year, ranking 16th in points allowed and 17th in opponent field-goal percentage.

They added James, who can defend any position and any player better than most, but they also added Love, who has a reputation for lacking defensive acumen. 

The biggest factor for the defensive ability of this team will be effort. When it wants to be good on defense, it can be. Shear athleticism and effort could make this team good enough on defense to win a title.

 

Excitement

Even in the preseason, this team has had no shortage of excitement.

Though their time together has been limited, the plays between Irving and James have produced spectacular results.

Love, in limited playing time, has shown his ability to fill it up, scoring an average of 19 points in games in which he played 20 minutes or more.

The preseason has given us a small sample size of what I believe we will see all season from this team. The excitement and highlight plays will certainly be there in abundance.

But so will stretches of lackluster defense.

This team also, like many other contenders, will not be able to succeed if health becomes a concern.

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Kentucky Big Blue Madness 2014: Recap and Twitter Reaction for Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats have national title aspirations, but Friday night’s Big Blue Madness was all about enjoying the arrival of basketball season and entertaining their legions of fans.

If there was any doubt just how big basketball is in the state of Kentucky, every ticket to the event was snatched within the first 30 minutes of availability on Saturday morning. Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal set the stage:

Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio noted that the Wildcats players weren’t the only big names in attendance Friday:

The women’s team was announced first, and Kentucky Athletics provided fans who weren’t in attendance a glimpse at the accompanying video:

Women’s head coach Matthew Mitchell attempted to steal the spotlight right away when he came out after his team. Writer Jerry Tipton and Alex Forkner of Rivals described the scene as the coach serenaded the crowd with Bruno Mars songs. It was something you only see at Midnight Madness events:

UK Hoops shared a picture of the entertainment and pointed out that the country took notice:

While the ceremony and crowd involvement is certainly a worthy aspect of an event like this, the real value lands in the recruiting department. Kentucky basketball always puts on a show, and Friday’s Big Blue Madness was no exception.

Kentucky sophomore Aaron Harrison recalled his experience at Big Blue Madness as a recruit, via Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal, “It just gave me the whole idea of how serious Kentucky basketball is, and it was just a great feeling, exciting feeling. Once you witness something like that, there’s no way you can not want to play in an atmosphere like that.”

Matt Jones and Steve Jones shared some rather interesting developments:

Back on the actual floor, Steve Jones and Forkner shared the most interesting moment during the women’s scrimmage:

Then it was time for the main event, as the men’s team came out. As to be expected, there was quite the introduction with a video of the program’s greatest moments followed by a hype video for this season’s squad. 

Forkner described the scene, which was capped off by digital national championship banners hanging from the rafters:

Kentucky Athletics provided fans who were not in attendance a glimpse at the video used:

After the players were introduced, Drake took the stage and addressed the crowd before introducing Calipari. Matt Jones and Forkner described the proceedings: 

After the histrionics, the team hit the floor in a number of three-on-three games. It split the crowd’s attention a bit before the five-on-five scrimmage, but the recruits were likely already impressed. The team then transitioned to a five-of-five scrimmage, which let the players demonstrate their incredible ability.

Kentucky Athletics provided some early updates:

The game actually came down to the wire, but Alex Poythress put it away with a three-pointer in the final minute. It put the white team up 40-36, and it eventually won the contest 42-36. Jeff Drummond of AllWildcats.com provided one final update:

Honestly, the most important thing of the entire evening was the fact that the team remained healthy throughout the scrimmages.

Now that Big Blue Madness is in the rearview mirror, it’s time for Calipari’s Wildcats to focus on the upcoming season. If the No. 1 ranking in the initial coaches poll didn’t give it away, this is one of the nation’s best teams.

The freshmen will clearly play a major role, as they almost always do in Kentucky, as Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis should all see significant minutes. However, this team will have a veteran presence as well since Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Poythress and the Harrison brothers all returned.

Kentucky has so many pieces that it will have more talent on its bench at any given moment during a game than most teams will have on the floor. It truly is national championship or bust this season for Big Blue Nation.

 

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Snoop Dogg in Twitter war with Nick Young, Iggy Azalea

For whatever reason, Snoop Dogg decided to launch a full-blown social media assault on Iggy Azalea earlier this week. It all started when Snoop posted a photo on Instagram making fun of what Iggy looks like without makeup on. Azalea later fired back by asking why Snoop was being an “ass” for no reason, and…Read More

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Twitter Reacts to Kevin Durant Injury Announcement and Recovery Timeline

The Oklahoma City Thunder were dealt a major blow Sunday morning, as defending MVP Kevin Durant could miss up to two months with a right foot injury.    

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman passes along the news from the team’s general manager, Sam Presti:

Royce Young of ESPN has more on Durant’s projected timetable for return:

Durant was once again brilliant for the Thunder last season, averaging 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He had truly one of the more epic individual seasons in recent history, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:

With the news of the injury, one common sentiment seemed to be shared—the West looks a little bit different than it did prior to this news. Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com certainly thinks so:

As does Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

And Gary Parrish of CBS Sports: 

Suffice to say, more than a few folks think Durant’s injury will have an impact on the playoff picture in the West. Of course, he shouldn’t miss so much time that the Thunder dig themselves a hole they can’t climb back out of eventually. This is still a very talented team, after all. 

Russell Westbrook will certainly have his moment to shine, as SportsNation cheekily noted on Twitter:

Nobody likes injuries, of course, and the NBA has already been rife with them this fall. Dave McMenamin of ESPN is one of many to notice the alarming trend:

Durant’s injury isn’t just a loss for his team or Thunder fans; it’s a loss for anyone who enjoys watching the game being played at the highest level. Of course, without Durant the Thunder are a pretty good team and maybe even a squad that is capable of reaching the playoffs.

With him, they are always a championship contender. The hope will be both in Oklahoma City and around the league that Durant’s injury indeed doesn’t keep him sidelined beyond the projected six to eight weeks.

 

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Kentucky Wildcats Scouting Combine 2014: Recap, Twitter Reaction and Analysis

Since Kentucky’s basketball program has been a de facto training ground for future NBA lottery picks since John Calipari took over as head coach in 2009, it’s surprising that it took this long for the team to hold a scouting combine for NBA teams and scouts. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported in September that Calipari organized the event, which kicked off on Friday at Kentucky’s practice facility in Lexington, and was using it as a way to give NBA teams an early look at players they will be scouting all year and a way to show future recruits what life as a Wildcat is like:

The event is a chance for Calipari to impress a throng of top high school recruits on campus visits and once again frame his program as college basketball’s best NBA feeder system. Kentucky is expected to be a consensus preseason No. 1 in the polls.

After the combine, Calipari plans to shut out NBA executives and scouts from his practices for several weeks – perhaps even months – into the season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Calipari said during the event, via Aaron Torres of Fox Sports Live, that he understands there will be criticisms of the event simply because he’s doing it:

Jay Bilas, who was calling the action on ESPNU, said on the broadcast just how unique this setting and event were, via David Scott of ESPN Public Relations:

Considering how highly regarded Kentucky is and will likely start the year as the top-ranked team in the country, this was a must-see event. We watched it and have a recap of the unique event, including analysis from around the Internet, coming right now. 

You can understand why there might be a few nerves in the gym, because Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that more than 90 scouts from the NBA were in attendance:

Since it was televising the event, ESPNU was nice enough to tweet out a picture of what drills the Kentucky players would be going through:

One of the great freshman to watch at Kentucky this year is center Karl-Anthony Towns. He didn’t disappoint in the five-minute shooting drill, per Calipari’s official website on Twitter:

Towns, like so many freshman Calipari brings in, doesn’t seem long for Lexington. He’s already ranked third on Chad Ford’s Big Board for ESPN (Insider required). As long as the seven-footer develops like everyone expects, no one in Kentucky will be complaining if he’s one-and-done. 

One of the few Wildcats to return for his junior season, Willie Cauley-Stein is slowly moving up draft boards following his strong performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament. It also helps that he’s a strong defender who can block shots with ease. 

The one big question about Cauley-Stein moving up to the next level is whether his offensive game would develop. It’s just one practice in a controlled environment, but his jump shot did get noticed by Brett Dawson of Rivals:

There’s so much depth on Calipari’s roster that Cauley-Stein doesn’t get the minutes you would expect for a seven-foot player, so it’s imperative that he makes the most of his opportunities, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench. 

Arguably the biggest returning player this season is Aaron Harrison. The sophomore guard became a Kentucky legend last March when he hit three game-winning three-pointers in the NCAA Tournament but still has work to do refining his game for the next level. 

One thing that there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about is how big Harrison is. He’s listed at 6’5″, 212 pounds on Kentucky’s official website, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News talked to a scout who believes the 19-year-old is bigger and more explosive than we’re being told:

If Harrison really is bigger and more physical this year, this roster could be even more dangerous than it appears on paper. We know he has the touch from the outside and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball in a big spot, so there’s not a lot of work that his game needed anyway. 

The biggest takeaway from Kentucky’s showing on Friday, even more than being a nice showcase for NBA executives to look at what these players can do, is Calipari’s roster is stacked with very few weaknesses and as much depth as he’s ever had. 

There are nine players on the roster who were McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school, four players listed at 6’11″ or taller and more talented returnees than Kentucky usually gets back. Its still a young roster that will need to develop as the year goes on, much like last year, but the raw talent is incredible. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.

 

 

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LeBron James Debuts New Hairline With Sneaker Line; Twitter Reacts

LeBron James unveiled his new “Lebron 12″ sneakers for Nike on Tuesday, but that wasn’t the only new line he debuted.
The shoes were supposed to be the main show, but all Twitter could talk about was the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s seemingly rejuvenated hairline.
LeBron released his new shoes…AND HIS NEW HAIRLINE?! http://t.co/00Q1po46Zu—   (@SportsNation) September 17, 2014
i dont know if i can live a life without lebron hair jokes. is chris bosh going to not look like a dinosaur next season if so i quit— DANCESTADAMUS (@dances) September 17, 2014
@AminESPN LeBron moved back to Cleveland, lost weight and his hair grew back. Maybe we all need to move to Clevel… nah— Adam Reisinger (@AdamReisinger) September 16, 2014
LeBron James’ hair is growing back. It’s making a comeback. That’s something he couldn’t do in the NBA Finals.— Danny Elzner (@KETK_DannyE) September 17, 2014
When you’re as famous as James, it’s hard to get away with a change in appearance, no matte…

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Watchability: ‘Greek Freak,’ Jabari and Team Twitter

The worst team in the NBA last season has a new coach and a new rookie star.

      
 

 

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USA vs. Serbia: 2014 FIBA Gold Medal Game Score and Twitter Reaction

There was never a doubt for the red, white and blue.

Team USA destroyed Serbia in the 2014 FIBA World Cup final to the tune of 129-92. Kyrie Irving led the way with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from downtown, while James Harden added 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Irving was named the MVP for the World Cup, while NBA on ESPN shared the entire all-tournament team:

Nikola Kalinic and Nemanja Bjelica each scored 18 points for Serbia. 

The blowout victory in the championship game completed a World Cup where the Americans were never challenged. In fact, their closest winning margin in nine games was 21 points over Turkey in the group stage.

The entire 2014 FIBA World Cup was supposed to be all about a showdown between the United States and Spain in the championship game. France ruined that by shocking Spain in the quarterfinals, and then Serbia knocked out France in the semis.

The Americans would have none of the upset bug.

However, it was Serbia that jumped out to an early eight-point lead in the first quarter. Perhaps Team USA expected to simply roll over Serbia just by showing up, which would explain the slow start. Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press noted that the early deficit was uncharted territory for Mike Krzyzewski’s team:

Grantland’s Zach Lowe and Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk described just how Serbia took an early lead:

Irving then decided to take matters into his own hands. The Cavaliers point guard scored 15 early points and started 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 from behind the three-point line. NBA on ESPN and Duke Basketball gave him a shoutout:

Behind Irving’s efforts, the Americans seized a 35-21 lead after the first quarter.

Team USA extended its lead in the second quarter, but not without some concern. Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried both picked up three fouls in the first half, which meant it was DeMarcus Cousins‘ time to shine.

NBA on ESPN shared a highlight, while Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders noted how critical Cousins’ defense was:

While the interior play was certainly impressive, it was the three-point shooting for the Americans that completely put the game away before halftime. In fact, Irving hit four treys, Harden connected on three from distance, Klay Thompson had two from long range and Rudy Gay and Stephen Curry each hit one.

In all, Team USA shot 11-of-16 from three-point range in the first half.

Duncan offered up some solid advice for Serbia:

Thanks to the barrage of perimeter shooting, Krzyzewski’s squad had an overwhelming 67-41 lead at the half.

Things didn’t look much different in the third quarter. The United States’ NBA superstars were hitting on all cylinders with their shots. It really wasn’t even a fair matchup on paper.

The Americans do deserve credit for coming out of the locker room with some intensity. Duncan suggested as much, while ESPN’s Marc Stein pointed out that the coaching staff was matching the energy: 

Things simply got out of hand for Serbia in the third quarter. The United States stretched its lead to more than 30 points midway through the third and eviscerated the Serbian defense. Zach Harper of CBS Sports thought Serbia should maybe change its defensive look:

While it was easy to criticize Serbia’s defense, ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla told Bleacher Report before the game that Krzyzewski deserved plenty of credit: ”I’d be very surprised if Team USA, because of Coach K’s influence, takes their eyes off the prize. There’s less of a sense of entitlement among these NBA stars than there was eight or nine years ago. To beat this team, you have to play an A+ game.”

The only team playing an A+ game Sunday was the United States. It took a commanding 105-67 lead into the fourth quarter.

Harper summarized how many were feeling, while John Schumann of NBA.com pointed out just how ridiculous the Americans’ effort really was:

With the game well in hand, it was time to watch individual players. Duncan provided some encouraging news for Chicago Bulls fans:

However, Derrick Rose was among the few Americans who hadn’t cracked the scoreboard, as Sam Smith of Bulls.com pointed out:

Fortunately for the United States, plenty of players were stuffing the stat sheet. As NBA on ESPN noted, seven players were in double figures as the game entered its final minutes:

Thanks to a blistering shooting performance from the majority of the team, the fourth quarter was simply a formality. In fact, Serbia outscored Krzyzewski’s team 25-24 in the final frame, but Team USA still won the game by 37 points.

It was yet another dominating performance for Team USA, which hardly had to bat an eye on its way to gold.

 

What’s Next

While the Americans were clearly more impressive than any other team by a wide margin at the World Cup, some may view the triumph with hesitation because it didn’t come against Spain. 

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated commented on that idea:

From an NBA perspective, this experience should prove beneficial for the superstars that played for Team USA. Players like Irving, Davis, Faried and Cousins, who were excellent for much of the tournament, will likely be more confident in their own abilities, while Derrick Rose’s knees passed an extended test.

The Chicago Sun-Times suggested as much during the game:

While NBA fans are certainly looking forward to that, Team USA has some time to revel in its World Cup title.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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Lithuania vs. France: 2014 FIBA Bronze-Medal Game Score and Twitter Reaction

In what was unquestionably one of the most entertaining games of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, France defeated Lithuania 95-93 Saturday in Spain to secure the bronze medal. 

According to Eurohoops.net, it was a landmark victory for the French:

Lithuania received a huge effort from Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, as he finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, but he was neutralized by the 27 points from Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum for France.

While both Lithuania and France suffered disappointment in the semifinals by falling short of their ultimate goal, there was still plenty to play for in Saturday’s game.

Lithuania entered the matchup with hopes of equaling its third-place result from the 2010 FIBA World Cup. Conversely, France was making its first appearance in a medal game in this tournament since 1954.

Prior to the game, Batum made it clear that his squad was ready to put Friday’s semifinal loss to Serbia in the rear-view mirror, per FIBA.com.

“We have to win,” Batum said. “If we don’t find the motivation, there’s no point in competing in this sport. The final, that’s over with, we won’t play it. We can’t dwell on it and we need to move on to something else. Let’s carry on being conquerors.”

There was no love lost between these two sides as they met in the 2013 EuroBasket final in Slovenia, according to FIBA’s official Twitter account:

France won that game convincingly, so Lithuania figured to have a huge chip on its shoulder. The Lithuanians also had a bit of added pressure with national minister of foreign affairs Linas Linkevicius urging them to come away victorious:

It would have been easy for the French to come out flat after losing to Serbia by just five points on Friday, but they looked to be the hungrier team early on. France raced out to a 7-2 lead with all seven points being scored by center Joffrey Lauvergne.

Batum ultimately paced Les Bleus with eight points in the opening quarter, and they led 22-19 entering the second.

Much like the first quarter, the second frame was back-and-forth. The star players for both teams did much of the damage with Batum and Lauvergne excelling for France, while Valanciunas looked great offensively for Lithuania.

According to Eurohoops.net, France and Lithuania were particularly effective in terms of exploiting mismatches:

Lithuania gained some ground in the second quarter as it outscored France 23-21 and pulled to within one point at the break. Valanciunas finished the first half with 12 points to lead the Lithuanians, while the vast majority of France’s offense went through two players, per Euroleague Basketball on Twitter:

The tide started to turn even more in Lithuania’s favor at the start of the second half. Not only did the Lithuanians do a much better job on Batum and Lauvergne defensively, but they also started to heat up from beyond the arc on the offensive end.

In fact, consecutive three-point daggers from Adas Juskevicius and Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas put Lithuania on top just a few minutes into the quarter:

Although Batum started to find his range again as the quarter progressed, Lithuania’s lead continued to balloon. Valanciunas was the main reason for that, as he added six points in the third and helped Lithuania to a 71-64 lead with just one quarter left to play.

France simply had no answer for Valanciunas, which likely has Raptors fans quite excited for the upcoming NBA season. If Valanciunas’ play against the French is any indication, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey could see Toronto utilizing him to greater effect in 2014-15:

Just when it seemed like France was potentially down for the count, it mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter. The French grittiness was on full display as the slight underdogs chipped away at Lithuania’s advantage.

Batum led the way, but San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw finally started to contribute in a big way as well. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Diaw put France back on top 77-75.

Valanciunas refused to be denied, however, as he tied it at 77 with a thunderous dunk and then converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 80-77 Lithuania with about three minutes remaining on the clock.

A 5-0 run put France back on top 82-80, though, and it was punctuated by a Diaw layup with just a minute and a half left.

Diaw extended the lead to four with another basket, and guard Thomas Heurtel added a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left to give France a seemingly insurmountable 86-80 lead.

Closing out the game would prove difficult, though. Juskevicius hit two free throws and then pulled Lithuania to within one point with a bucket and the foul 16 seconds before the final horn. That came on the heels of Heurtel missing two key free throws.

Heurtel would atone for his misses with two makes on his ensuing trip to the line, giving France a three-point lead, per Sportnado:

The cat-and-mouse game continued with both teams trading successful spells at the charity stripe. France held a 90-89 lead with eight ticks remaining after Renaldas Seibutis converted two free throws.

A missed free throw by Batum left the door open a crack for Lithuania with four seconds left. Valanciunas made two free throws to make it 93-92 France. Batum made two free throws to extend the lead to three, and French forward Florent Pietrus smartly fouled Jonas Maciulis with one second left so he couldn’t attempt a three-pointer. The Lithuanian forward purposely missed his second free throw, but France grabbed the defensive rebound to come away with the win.

There is no question that both of these teams have a long way to go before reaching the United States’ level, but they have certainly proven capable of competing with the world’s best teams at the international level.

Lithuania has been among the elite teams in the world for quite some time, and this loss doesn’t change that. A second consecutive bronze in this tournament would have been a great result, but reaching the semis was a big deal nonetheless.

Les Bleus made it this far without Spurs point guard Tony Parker and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, so the sky is the limit. France also upset a full-strength Spanish team on its home court in the quarterfinals in addition to winning the bronze medal, so this tournament was most definitely a success.

Lithuania and France will now look ahead to the 2015 EuroBasket tournament as two 2016 Olympic berths will be on the line. A rematch of the 2013 final between them is a very real possibility, and it would be yet another chapter in what is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in international basketball.

 

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