Rothstein: This And That Around NCAA Basketball; Creighton, Rutgers & More
By Jon Rothstein
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– Creighton is regularly practicing with Doug McDermott as a face-up five man alongside Ethan Wragge as a stretch power forward. The 6-7 Wragge has shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the past two seasons, and drastically changes the Bluejays’ spacing on the floor when he plays next to McDermott up front. Creighton will definitely be able to score the ball in the Big East, but can they defend and rebound? That is the million dollar question for the Bluejays next season.
– Pitt transfer J.J. Moore will be an impact addition for Rutgers, whether it’s this season or in 2014-15 when the Scarlet Knights join the Big Ten. “J.J. gives us someone with experience and discipline at the small forward spot,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said of Moore. “He’s got a great feel when he gets the ball on the wing. He knows when to attack and when to bring the ball out.” The 6-6 Moore, who averaged 8.0 PPG last season, is applying for a waiver with the NCAA to play immediately without sitting out a year. He has one season of eligibility remaining.
– Expect Troy Caupain to eventually emerge as Cincinnati’s starting point guard. The 6-3 Caupain is only a freshman, but I’m hearing his instincts and passing have already made a major impression in the Queen City. If Caupain can be effective, a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance should be within reach for the Bearcats.
– Many people are forgetting about Notre Dame as a potential contender in the ACC. The Irish return three veteran perimeter starters in Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, and Pat Connaughton, and freshman point guard Demetrius Jackson is almost certain to have a major impact. Mike Brey’s squad should be a preseason Top 5 ACC team along with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia.
– UMass coach Derek Kellogg has upgraded the Minutemen’s non-conference schedule in hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament after two straight NIT appearances. UMass will host LSU, BYU, Providence, play Boston College at the TD Garden, travel to Florida State, and play in the Charleston Classic. The Minutemen have won 46 games in the past two seasons, and should have one of the Atlantic 10’s best back courts with Chaz Williams and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon.
– The Old Spice Classic might be wind up being one of college basketball’s best early season tournaments. The eight team field features several programs at pivotal junctures, and should create a fascinating quadruple header for Thanksgiving Day. First round games are as follows: Purdue/Oklahoma State, Washington State/Butler, Memphis/Siena, Saint Joseph’s/LSU.
– Boston College coach Steve Donahue said Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich has lowered his body fat to under 10 percent (he came to BC at 16 percent), and could give the Eagles a third offensive threat behind Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson. The 6-6 Dragicevich averaged 6.6 PPG and made 40 three-point shots two years ago for the Irish, and could be an X-factor for Boston College during the upcoming year.
– Temple’s staff knows they got a steal with freshman guard Josh Brown. The 6-2 Brown wasn’t one of the more highly touted perimeter players on the East Coast, but he’s a perfect fit for the Owls’ program. Brown isn’t a great shooter and may have a hard time generating offense in a half court setting — but he’s a relentless defender that has an uncanny nose for the ball. Fran Dunphy isn’t known for playing first-year players for long stretches, but he may not have a choice with Brown.
– The best freshman in the Big 12 that no one’s talking about may be Kansas State’s Jevon Thomas. Thomas, who initially committed to St. John’s out of high school is a dynamite open floor player that should have an immediate impact for the Wildcats. Don’t be surprised if Thomas winds up starting at point guard for Bruce Weber’s team.
– One of the good things about realignment is teams were forced to upgrade their non-conference schedules. Schools in the American, Big East, and Atlantic 10 have no choice now but to play a tough slate in November and December because they’re not going to get as many high level RPI games in conference play. It’s forced teams to load up early, and that makes college basketball more compelling early in the season.
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