By Jon Rothstein
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– Temple is now in prime position to challenge for yet another Atlantic 10 title after the Owls officially added Boston University big man Jake O’Brien as a transfer this past week. The 6-8 O’Brien will be eligible to play immediately next season since the Terriers are joining the Patriot League and won’t be eligible to compete for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament through the America East Conference. O’Brien averaged in doubles figures in each of his three seasons of college basketball and should instantly give Fran Dunphy a capable third big man who can play next to either Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson or Anthony Lee.
– Kansas freshman wing Andrew White has averaged 13 points per game during the Jayhawks’ first two games on their trip to Europe. Kansas won two close outings against the Swiss National Team and got some quality pop off the bench from White, a capable player that was somewhat overlooked in the Jayhawks’ freshman class.
– Word out of Lexington continues to be about Kentucky freshman big man Willie Cauley. The 6-10 Cauley didn’t come in with as much buzz as other members of UK’s recruiting class, but it seems pretty clear that he’s going to be out on the floor. It will be interesting to see how John Calipari uses Cauley, Noel, and sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer along the baseline next season. Wiltjer, who sacrificed maybe more than anyone last year during Kentucky’s run to the national championship, averaged 13.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in games last year that he played 18 minutes or more. This guy is ready to produce, he just needs minutes.
– George Mason coach Paul Hewitt may have lost three key seniors from last year’s team in Andre Cornelius, Ryan Pearson, and Mike Morrison, but he still is raving about his squad’s potential for 2012-13. “I love my team,” Hewitt told me this past week. The Patriots will be picked behind Drexel in the CAA Preseason Poll but have all the requisites for another 20 win season. George Mason should get a breakout year from sophomore center Erik Copes as well as power forward Jonathan Arledge, who should be a legitimate eight and eight guy if his minutes double. Hewitt is also high on freshman forward Marko Gujanicic, a skilled 6-9 prospect from Serbia and freshman guard Patrick Holloway, who could find his way into the Patriots’ rotation because of his shot making ability.
– UCONN’s inability to play in the 2013 Big East and NCAA Tournaments surely isn’t affecting the Huskies on the recruiting trail. On Wednesday night, UCONN received a verbal commitment from Kentan Facey, a 6-9 power forward from Long Island Lutheran who arguably was the breakout player on the AAU circuit in July. The Huskies are also high on the progress of former Christ The King star Omar Calhoun, a freshman guard who Jim Calhoun has said “should average in double figures next season”.
– Could Long Beach State be better than they were last season? Don’t rule it out. The 49ers lost several key members from last year’s team that reached the NCAA Tournament, but return two solid perimeter pieces in lead guard Mike Caffey and 6-6 wing James Ennis. Dan Monson also has three high level transfers that sat out this past season in Tony Freeland (DePaul), Keala King (Arizona State), and Dan Jennings (West Virginia).
– The Cancun Challenge has put together a solid field with four rising programs. DePaul will play Wichita State and Iowa will square off with Western Kentucky on November 20th with the winners and losers to play on the 21st. The Shockers and Hawkeyes are legitimate NCAA contenders for 2013 and Oliver Purnell is incrementally improving the Blue Demons talent base. Western Kentucky lost key guard Derrick Gordon, who transferred to Umass after the Hilltoppers reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
– Delaware’s Devon Saddler is the best player in college basketball that no one knows about. Built more like a free safety than a combo guard, Saddler has brute strength, can absorb contact, and is the best perimeter player in the CAA next to Drexel’s Frantz Massenat. “The whole country is going to find out how good he is because of the schedule we’re playing this year,” Delaware coach Monte’ Ross said of Saddler, who averaged 18.8 points per game last season as a sophomore. The Blue Hens will have ample opportunities to make a mark during their non-conference schedule with trips to La Salle, Temple, Duke, and Villanova all occurring before conference play begins in the CAA. Delaware will also face off against Fairfield in the Preseason NIT with the winner likely playing top seeded Virginia for the right to play in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Don’t discount this team from making some early noise — they’re that good.
– Cincinnati has released their non-conference schedule and it’s a bear. The Bearcats will host Alabama and New Mexico, play neutral site games against Marshall and Xavier, and square off against Iowa State as part of the Global Sports Challenge in Las Vegas. Cincinnati will then face the winner/loser of UNLV/Oregon the next night after they play the Cyclones. That’s six high level games before the Bearcats hit the Big East.
– Look for Dwight Powell to have a massive breakout season next year for Stanford. With Josh Owens’ graduation, Powell will be the focal point for the Cardinal on the interior and should flourish as a junior. Last season as a sophomore, Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game.
How will Kentan Facey help the Huskies this season? Sound off in the comments section below…