By Jon Rothstein
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THIS AND THAT:
– Kentucky coach John Calipari told me this week that Wildcats freshman big man Marcus Lee has been impressive with his motor. “He’s a high-energy guy that I’m going to have to find minutes for,” Calipari said of the 6-foot-9 Lee. Calipari also said he feels like he has seven starters with Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Alex Poythress, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein.
– Miami is building for a strong 2014-15 season. The Hurricanes’ decision to redshirt Angel Rodriguez for the upcoming year ensures that Jim Larranaga’s team will have a high-level backcourt a season from now with Rodriguez and Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan. 2014 recruit Jaquan Newton should also be an immediate perimeter contributor in ’14-15, along with Belgium native Manu LeComte, who will start for Miami at point guard this season.
– After watching George Washington practice earlier this week, I’m convinced the Colonials’ starting five is as good as any they’ll face in the Atlantic 10. Mike Lonergan will likely start Joe McDonald, Indiana transfer Maurice Creek, Patricio Garino, Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen with Kethan Savage used as GW’s sixth man. The big question surrounding this team? Their depth after those six players.
– I’m hearing Iowa State sophomore guard Naz Long has looked strong early on in practice. The Cyclones’ staff believes Long could fill a “Chris Babb-type role” for this team during the upcoming season. Babb wasn’t a great ball handler, but he made open shots and was a terrific perimeter defender. Iowa State is hoping Long will exude the same qualities moving forward.
– Two under-the-radar games on Georgetown’s schedule: Wright State on 11/13 and Elon on 12/17. Both of those teams will likely be the favorites in their respective conferences and should push for bids out of the SoCon and Horizon for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
– It will be real interesting to see how Fran McCaffery manages Iowa’s rotation this season. The Hawkeyes don’t have a single player that’s likely to be a first-team All-Big Ten selection, but they’ve got 11 guys who can all affect a game at a high level. This very well may be the deepest team of McCaffery’s coaching career.
– For Seton Hall to have an overachieving season, they need a big year out of Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs. A shooting guard trapped in a point-guard’s body, Gibbs has shot the daylights out of the ball so far this fall, but he’s yet to prove he can deliver when the lights come on. Gibbs needs to be for the Pirates at shooting guard what Allan Ray used to be at Villanova. The 6-foot-2 Gibbs averaged 2.6 PPG in 7.5 MPG two years ago in Austin.
– There’s palpable buzz out of Iona surrounding JUCO transfer Isaiah Williams. The 6-foot-7 Williams is a lethal three-point shooter and should give the Gaels another high-level offensive threat. Don’t be surprised if Tim Cluess’ team averages 90 PPG. Seriously.
– Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is bullish on Bearcats senior forward Justin Jackson, who has put on 20 pounds since the end of last season. “I’m excited about him,” Cronin said of the 6-foot-8 Jackson. “He’s bigger. He looks like Eric Hicks right now.” Jackson will likely play the five-spot up front for Cincinnati, as Cronin will opt to play without a traditional five-man in an effort to be better defensively with traps and pressure.
– Memphis coach Josh Pastner isn’t pulling any punches. He hopes his team plays faster than any other squad in America this season. “We want to play in the 90s,” Pastner said. “We want to push the pace.” The Tigers have incredible perimeter talent with Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson and freshman Kuran Iverson, but there will be an adjustment jumping from Conference USA to the AAC. Pastner is aware of it. “It’s still college basketball,” Pastner said. “We’re not joining the NBA.”
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