By Jon Rothstein
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– Even despite the fact that his team has an 11-5 record in the Big East, South Florida coach Stan Heath still feels like his team can get better. “We’re not playing our best offensive basketball,” Heath said on Tuesday. “We have more weapons than people give us credit for.” The Bulls don’t have one dominant star but freshman point guard Anthony Collins has emerged as South Florida’s most indispensable player. “I didn’t realize how tough or smart he is and how composed he is in pressure situations.” Heath will lead his team into a road tilt at Louisville Wednesday before hosting West Virginia on Saturday in Tampa. A split in those two games should ensure this team a place in the field of 68. “We’re just excited to be playing meaningful games this team of year,” Heath added.
– Miami is at its best when they have senior big man Reggie Johnson in the lineup but without him, they might be still be a nuisance to deal with. Serving an NCAA suspension on Sunday night in the Hurricanes win over Florida State, Johnson sat and watched Miami go to a smaller lineup with multiple guards and small forward Dequan Jones at the “4” spot. Jim Larranaga’s team spread out the Seminoles and were terrific off the dribble. Keep on eye on this team in the ACC Tournament.
– One of the big reasons for Kansas to be optimistic about their prospects for a deep run in March is the tangible contributions they’re starting to get from their bench. While the Jayhawks didn’t receive much from their reserves for the majority of the season, both Conner Teahan and Kevin Young have given Bill Self quality minutes off the pine in the teams last two games. “They’re huge for us,” Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said of Young and Teahan on Tuesday. “When they’re playing like that and Justin Wesley can come in and give us a lift, it makes us a much better team.”
– Former St. John’s signee Norvel Pelle will visit Iowa State this weekend for the Cyclones game against Baylor. Sources say the 6-foot-10 Pelle is intrigued by the idea of playing for a coach with NBA ties in Fred Hoiberg and has also noticed that Iowa State is a program on the upswing. The Cyclones already have 21 wins this season, including 11 in the Big 12 heading into tomorrow’s game at Missouri.
– Georgetown might have suffered early exits from the NCAA Tournament in the last two seasons but something tells me this Hoyas group is different. John Thompson III has altered his starting lineup in the teams last two games and now has Jason Clark as the team’s primary ball handler, giving Georgetown no player on the floor under 6-foot-5. This is a tremendous defensive team, one that will difficult to play because of length and meticulous offensive approach.
– More credit needs to be given to VCU coach Shaka Smart for the job he’s done this year. The Rams lost Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen, and Brandon Rozzell from last year’s team that reached the Final Four and are 25-5 heading into the CAA Conference Tournament. “We’re scrapper and tougher than we were last year,” Smart said earlier this week. “We’re a little meaner too.” . VCU is considerably better defensively than they were a year ago and a big reason why is the presence of freshman guard Briante Weber. A pest on the ball, Weber can single handedly take an opponent’s point guard out of the game with his defense. “He’s the most energetic person I’ve ever been around,” Smart said of Weber.
– The game on Thursday night at the RAC between Rutgers and Villanova may not have a lot of bearing on NCAA Tournament implications but it’s a tremendous battle between two emerging freshman point guards in the Scarlet Knights’ Jerome Seagears and the Wildcats’ Ty Johnson. Seagears has turned into a reliable floor general for Mike Rice and Johnson has anchored Villanova’s perimeter while junior guard Maalik Wayns has battled a knee injury. A win by either team could be a nice confidence booster heading into the Big East Tournament.
– Cal coach Mike Montgomery knows he’s had better teams than the one he has this year in his coaching career but he admits he’s going to miss Bears forward Harper Kamp after this season. “Every program in America would love a player like Harper Kamp,” Montgomery said on Monday. “He does everything the right way the first time. He’s a rarity.” Cal looked like the best team in the PAC-12 for most of the season but has noticeable flaws, starting with their lack of options off the bench. “We don’t have a lot of depth,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to have to defend really well and have our guards play at a high level to have a chance to win.”
– Indiana sophomore guard Victor Oladipo will be one of the best players in America next season. A freak athlete with natural defensive prowess, Oladipo is now starting to show his offensive capabilities. The 6-foot-5 guard has scored in double figures in each of his last seven games going into last night’s game against Michigan State and is a reliable 3-point shot away from being unguardable — think former NBA star Gerald Wilkins.
– I will be in the WFAN studios Friday morning at 11 a.m. talking college hoops with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. Looking forward to previewing the best month of the year with the guys.
Do you think Smart deserves more credit for the job he’s done at VCU? Sound off below…