By Jon Rothstein
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1. MARK LYONS DRASTICALLY CHANGES THINGS FOR ARIZONA
For a team that desperately needed a capable lead guard, getting Lyons is like found money for Sean Miller and the Wildcats.
Originally recruited by Miller to play at Xavier, Lyons’ decision to transfer to the Tucson school gives him the opportunity he so desperately desired — the chance to showcase his point guard skills for NBA scouts. After spending much of his Xavier career as a two guard alongside Tu Holloway, Lyons will be able to play immediately for Arizona next season because he’s already graduated.
After losing two point guards in two seasons in Momo Jones and Josiah Turner, Miller finally has a proven perimeter player to run his offense. Lyons has dealt his share of issues and wasn’t brought back to Xavier for a reason but if he wants any chance at being a first round pick, he’s going to have to be on his best behavior during the final year of his college career at Arizona. More importantly, Lyons’ arrival means Nick Johnson will be able to play his natural position off the ball at shooting guard while Jordin Mayes goes back to a reserve role off the bench.
2. TEMPLE IS WELL PREPARED TO JUMP TO THE BIG EAST IN 2013
Like Memphis, the Owls are coming from a conference which they’ve dominated by continually stock piling players that could play a level above — and that will be evident once they join the Big East after next season.
Fran Dunphy has two very good incoming freshmen in combo guard Quentin DeCosey, a bouncy 6-foot-5 wing from St. Joseph’s in Metuchen and talented point forward Daniel Dingle, the brother of former Umass star Dana Dingle. Dunphy will also add St. Anthony’s point guard Josh Brown in his 2013 recruiting class to go with former West Virginia wing Dalton Pepper, a transfer who has two years left of eligibility remaining and will be a senior when Temple jumps to the Big East. The Owls will be facing a different beast when they leave the Atlantic-10, but they’ll be prepared.
3. PAT CHAMBERS IS QUIETLY UPGRADING THE TALENT LEVEL AT PENN STATE
No one is expecting the Nittany Lions to challenge for a Big Ten title anytime soon but Chambers is doing an impressive job building the Penn State roster.
2013 combo guard Geno Thorpe will be a major steal down the road and former Southern Miss guard D.J. Newbill will be an immediate impact player next season after averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds during his one season in Conference-USA. The Nittany Lions also return their top two scorers from a year ago in guards Tim Frazier and Jermaine Marshall and will add quality depth up front in former Duquesne commit Donovan Jack and burly power forward Brandon Taylor, who played his high school ball at Trenton Catholic.
4. CHRIS OBEKPA WILL BE A STARTER WHEREVER HE PLAYS NEXT SEASON
And all signs still point towards the shot blocker winding up at Cincinnati despite Oregon, Providence, and DePaul remaining somewhat involved. After watching the 6-foot-9 big man in person on Sunday in Queens at IS8, Obekpa really reminds me of Theo Ratliff when the former NBA big man was at Wyoming.
A freak athlete with unbelievable timing, Obekpa is perfect for any team that likes to pressure the ball with regularity. Should Obekpa opt to play for Mick Cronin and the Bearcats as many anticipate, he’ll immediately step in for Yancy Gates as Cincinnati’s starting five man.
5. UNLV IS THE BEST FIT FOR ANTHONY BENNETT
The skilled power forward is down to the Runnin Rebels and Oregon and it seems like the Findlay Prep (Nevada) product is a perfect fit for his hometown team. UNLV coach Dave Rice told me recently he’d like to play Mike Moser more at small forward next season and that should open the door for Bennett to potentially start at the four next to Moser and Pitt transfer Khem Birch, who will be eligible in December.
Veteran big man Carlos Lopez will also be in the mix for major minutes in the Runnin Rebels’ front court. For those who haven’t seen Bennett, he’s a bigger, better version of former Boston College and Fairfield forward Rakim Sanders. At 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, Bennett can affect the game in a number of ways and would make UNLV an even bigger threat on the national scene than they already are heading into next season.
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