By Jon Rothstein
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- Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told me this week that this is the deepest team he’s had in his coaching career. The Hawkeyes may not have a first-team All-Big Ten player but there are 11 capable pieces on Iowa’s roster that can all impact a game. The X-factor for the Hawkeyes to get to the NCAA Tournament? Reliable outside shooting. McCaffery needs freshman Peter Jok and junior Josh Oglesby to be effective stretching defenses if Iowa is to be a factor atop the Big Ten.
- Xavier is officially the forgotten team in the Big East. The Musketeers return several key components from last year’s team that went 17-14 and add three strong newcomers in guards Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph along with forward Jalen Reynolds. Chris Mack’s team has always had BCS-level talent, but now they’ll face a more level playing field in the Big East versus what they were used to seeing in the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers were picked seventh in the Big East preseason poll.
- Boston College coach Steve Donahue told me that veteran big man Dennis Clifford is still about a week away from returning to practice as he recuperates from a nagging knee injury. The 7-1, 250 pound Clifford was limited last season and is the only true center the Eagles have on their roster. Donahue said if Clifford isn’t on the floor, he’ll likely use Ryan Anderson at the five. Clifford averaged 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.
- Underrated opening night game on 11/8 — Florida Gulf Coast at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are in year two under Tim Miles and will be opening up a new arena in Lincoln. This will be the Eagles’ head coaching debut for long time Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, who replaced Andy Enfield. Nebraska has already sold out every home game for next season.
- Hassan Martin is going to be a factor for Rhode Island. The 6-7 freshman is up to 230 pounds and will be a regular contributor in the Rams’ rotation. Expect Martin to log in the neighborhood of 20 minutes a game for Dan Hurley’s club.
- Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said on Monday that it’s “wide open” for the Beavers at power forward until Eric Moreland returns from his 14-game suspension. “It could be a number of different guys,” Robinson said when asked who would take Moreland’s place in the starting lineup. “Daniel Gomis, Olaf Schaftenaar, Jarmal Reid, and Vic Robbins are all possibilities.” Oregon State will be without Moreland until the third game of the PAC-12 slate but still has enough capable bodies to keep its ship afloat. Robinson said this is clearly the deepest and most talented team he’s had since he’s been in Corvallis, and hopes to play between nine and 12 players on a regular basis.
- I’m hearing Duke has spent a great deal of time early in practice accelerating the pace and pushing the tempo. The Blue Devils want to manufacture as many possessions as possible and utilize the skill they have on the perimeter highlighted by wings Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker along with guards Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, and Rasheed Suliamon.
- Under-the-radar SEC freshman — Missouri’s Jonathan Williams III. Tigers coach Frank Haith said the talented freshman could start for Missouri at power forward — he’s that good. Haith has a strong front court core with Williams, JUCO transfer Keanau Post, senior Tony Criswell and sophomores Stefan Jankovic and Ryan Rosburg.
- Remember the name Amida Brimah. UConn coach Kevin Ollie loves the 7-foot freshman and he will be on the floor in spurts for the Huskies. While Brimah is still extremely raw on offense, he can immediately be a factor defensively because of his ability to protect the front of the rim. Ollie said that UConn plans to rotate Brimah, Tyler Olander, and Philip Nolan at the five-spot for the Huskies. Freshman Kentan Facey could also be in that mix but he’s yet to be cleared by the NCAA.
- Several Ivy League coaches believe Penn guard Tony Hicks will lead the conference in scoring. The 6-2 sophomore averaged 10.4 PPG last year as a freshman and shot 35.5% from three-point range.
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