By Jon Rothstein
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– Dorian Finney-Smith’s decision to transfer to Florida is just another example of a quality player the Gators didn’t get out of high school but eventually landed. In addition to the former Virginia Tech forward, the Gators have landed Mike Rosario (Rutgers), Vernon Macklin (Georgetown), and Damontre Harris (South Carolina) as impact transfers during Donovan’s time as head coach. Like Harris, a shot blocker that should add a great deal to the Gators’ baseline in the 2013-14 season, Finney-Smith must sit out next season before becoming eligible to play. The 6-foot-8 skilled forward averaged 6.3 points and seven rebounds per game last year as a freshman for the Hokies.
– Just think about this for a second — Rutgers could conceivably win 20 games next season. The Scarlet Knights went 14-18 last season and return most of their key components. Mike Rice’s team lost Gilvydas Biruta, who transferred to Rhode Island but replaced him with Kansas State import Wally Judge, a 6-foot-9 behemoth who looks primed to average 10 points per game and grab seven or eight rebounds per contest. Rutgers also has a manageable non-conference schedule with home games against George Washington, Texas Tech, and Boston University while playing Iona at Madison Square Garden and traveling to Tulane and then Ole Miss as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.
– People that are dismissing UCONN all together next season are foolish. The Huskies will not be allowed to participate in any sort of postseason due to their low APR but they still have the perimeter pieces to win their share of games in the Big East. Jim Calhoun returns a team that doesn’t have great size but does possess two very good back court players in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright as well as capable role players in Niels Giffey, Deandre Daniels, and Tyler Olander. “The thing that really excites me is the different ways we can play,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to play small and quick and be a bit of pest at times.” Calhoun also is high on incoming freshman guard Omar Calhoun as well as RJ Evans, a fifth-year transfer from Holy Cross who will be eligible to play immediately.
– Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told me this week that his back court next season of Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick, and Jaquon Parker will be by far the best perimeter trio he’s ever had as a head coach. The Bearcats don’t get the attention of most teams in the Big East but they’ve slowly built a perennial factor in the conference. Over the last two seasons, Cronin has led Cincinnati to 52 wins in the past two yearsincluding a Sweet 16 appearance last season. It’s time for more people to take notice of the brand of round ball being played in the Queen City.
– We’re hearing that Pitt’s Lamar Patterson has completely transformed his body and could wind up being the Panthers best player next season. Word is the 6-foot-5 Patterson has also refined his outside shot and could start at shooting guard next year for Jamie Dixon’s team, who should be vastly improved with the additions of freshmen Steven Adams and James Robinson as well as Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler. We’re hearing Robinson has been terrific for USA Basketball’s Under 18 team and could be the team’s starting point guard next week when competition begins in Brazil.
– It was extremely refreshing to see former Nebraska coach Doc Sadler take the Director of Basketball Operations position at Kansas. Sadler was relieved of his duties with the Cornhuskers after the season but showed no ego by joining Bill Self’s staff with the Jayhawks. With Sadler in the fold, Kansas now has three former head coaches under Self in Joe Dooley who was the head coach of East Carolina and Norm Roberts who spent six years as the head man at St. John’s.
– Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy has narrowed his list to Auburn, Boston University, Florida, Georgia Tech, and Rhode Island. The 6-foot-9 big man has three years of eligibility remaining and could be a potential all-conference player wherever he ends up.
– Don’t be surprised if Danny Hurley has Rhode Island in the middle of the pack of the Atlantic-10 by his second season. Hurley has three quality transfers sitting out in Gilvydas Biruta (Rutgers), Jarelle Reischel (Rice), and Biggie Minnis (Texas Tech). All three of those players are eligible in 2013-14 and will be joined by scrappy guard Billy Baron and incoming freshman forward Jordan Hare.
– Ask yourself this question. Is the Atlantic-10 better from top to bottom than the ACC and the PAC-12? We’re starting to think so too.
– 2013 Pope John XXIII forward Jermaine Lawrence is considering Florida, Rutgers, St. John’s, and Cincinnati. We’re hearing the Scarlet Knights are leading for the 6-foot-8 forward’s services thanks to the relentless work put in by Rutgers assistant Van Macon.
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