By Jon Rothstein
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– Cincinnati freshman Jermaine Lawrence has a chance to be the best player Mick Cronin has ever coached. The 6-9 forward was the best player on the floor last Sunday at the prestigious Mary Kline Classic in Philadelphia, and should immediately start for the Bearcats next season. An offensive threat inside or out, Lawrence is very similar to Shawne Williams, who played at Memphis under John Calipari during the 2005-06 season.
– I’m hearing Ohio State’s Amir Williams had a terrific spring in Columbus. The 6-11, 250 pound big man needs to have a breakthrough junior season if the Buckeyes are to compete for a Big Ten title. Last year as a sophomore, Williams averaged 3.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, and failed to tally a single double-double. His role is beyond huge for Ohio State moving forward into the 2013-14 season.
– College basketball season is again starting off with a bang. On November 8th, Maryland will take on UConn at the Barclays Center and Georgetown will face Oregon in the Armed Forces Classic. There is also a quadruple header in Dallas at the American Airlines Arena with Baylor-Colorado being the headline game. The other three games in Dallas will be Oklahoma-Alabama, Texas-LSU, and SMU-TCU.
– Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said this past week that Germany’s Malik Mueller will be a major key for the Hokies during the 2013-14 season. The 6-3 Mueller will look to fill some of the scoring void that was left after Erick Green’s departure. Green averaged 25.0 PPG last year, and Mueller seems to be the early leader to start for Virginia Tech at the “two”. Johnson is also high on 6-4 freshman Devin Wilson, who should challenge veteran Marquis Rankin for the Hokies’ starting point guard spot.
– Depaul transfer Donnavan Kirk will visit Miami this weekend, per a source. The 6-9 Kirk averaged 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season for the Blue Demons, and played the first two years of his career for the Hurricanes. Colorado State is also under consideration for Kirk’s services. He is eligible to play immediately next season.
– The biggest reason why Tom Moore will have Quinnipiac immediately competitive in the MAAC? The Bobcats’ front court. Quinnipiac’s duo of Ike Azotam (13.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and Ousmane Drame (9.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG) is good enough to compete with most Atlantic 10 baselines, and they’ll be more than capable in the MAAC. Quinnipiac’s perimeter also got a nice boost last week when St. Francis (PA) guard Umar Shannon opted to transfer to the Connecticut school. The 5-11 guard averaged 11.2 PPG last year in the NEC and is eligible to play immediately.
– Don’t be surprised if Providence freshman Brandon Austin winds up being the Big East Rookie of the Year. The 6-6 wing is a tremendous talent and can score the ball in a number of ways. Austin can beat you from the perimeter or take you to the rim. The Philadelphia native isn’t a physically imposing player — he only weighs 180 pounds — but he plays with an edge that will instantly translate to the college game. Look for Austin to start for the Friars on the perimeter next to Kris Dunn and Bryce Cotton.
– Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones could be the most underrated freshman in the SEC. The 6-9 Jones will immediately log major minutes for the Dores up front, and could lead Kevin Stallings’ team in rebounding. If Jones can produce in the paint on a regular basis, Vanderbilt could find themselves among the top four or five teams in the SEC.
– Madison Square Garden is locking up several elite college basketball games for late December. On 12/17, Cincinnati will take on Pitt and Memphis will go against Florida as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Two days later on 12/19, Duke is tentatively scheduled to play UCLA (still not finalized), and on 12/21, Ohio State and Notre Dame will face off in the Gotham Classic.
– An interesting team to keep an eye on next year in the PAC-12? Arizona State. The Sun Devils return their two anchors in point guard Jahii Carson and center Jordan Bachynski, as well as stretch four-man Jonathan Gilling, who made 84 three-point field goals last season. An X-Factor for this team could be red shirt freshman Calean Robinson, a dynamic lefty guard that could give Herb Sendek’s squad another jet in the back court to play alongside Carson.
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