By Jon Rothstein
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– Miami is a major dark horse to compete for an ACC title, and the main reason why is the Hurricanes will finally have a healthy Reggie Johnson. The 6-10, 285 pound center only played in 23 games last season after battling a knee injury and finally looks like he’s close to hitting vintage form. “He’s so much better because he’s so much quicker,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said this week of Johnson. “He’s got legitimate lift and legitimate bounce. He’s 50 percent better than he was last season.” As a junior, Johnson averaged 10 points and seven rebounds a game. If he stays on the floor for all of next season, Johnson could easily be a first team All-ACC caliber player.
– St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said he has no timetable on when he’ll hire an assistant to replace Mike Dunlap, who left the Red Storm to coach the Charlotte Bobcats. Lavin has spoken to several people about the position, which has received over 100 inquiries. Multiple sources say the frontrunner is former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin, who played 14 seasons in the NBA.
– Clemson coach Brad Brownell said on Thursday he’s still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether or not BYU transfer Damarcus Harrison will a receive a waiver to play this season without sitting out a full year. Harrison, who’s originally from Greenwood, South Carolina averaged just 3.2 points in 8.8 minutes per game last season as a freshman but did have 12 points in the Cougars’ win over Iona in the NCAA Tournament. Harrison has three years of eligibility remaining.
– JUCO transfer D’Montre Edwards is going to have a real chance to start at small forward for Tennessee. The 6-6 Edwards was a major factor on the backboards during the Volunteers’ trip to Europe and could give them a potentially devastating front line along with Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. Cuonzo Martin’s team isn’t getting a lot of preseason publicity like other teams in the SEC but they do have the requisites to finish in the league’s top four or five and reach the NCAA Tournament.
– Gregg Marshall has led Wichita State to an average of 27 wins over the last three seasons and the buzz surrounding the Missouri Valley Conference school is palpable. “We’ve had a few good years in a row,” Marshall said. “But now that becomes the expectation.” The Shockers lost a huge chunk of their team from last season but do return a potential star in power forward Carl Hall, who averaged 8.4 points and five rebounds per game last season. “We need him to have a breakout year,” Marshall said of Hall. “He wants to be a pro.” There’s a legitimate chance Hall could be Wichita State’s sole interior presence if the Shockers opt to play smaller. “That’s a real possibility,” Marshall said of going with a quicker lineup. “We lost a 7-footer last year with Garrett Stutz and have more perimeter pieces than anything else.”
– Brad Stevens is more than ready for the questions regarding whether or not Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke can play point guard for Butler during the upcoming season. “He’s not just a point guard, he’s a good point guard,” Stevens said of Clarke on Thursday. “He makes plays for other people and he’s a great fit for us. He’s made a huge jump in the weight room and he’s constantly working on his game. Rotnei is the type of guy that’s always going to go down swinging. That’s the kind of guy I want on my team.” Clarke, who averaged 15.3 points per game two seasons ago at Arkansas will lead the Bulldogs as they make the jump this year from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10. “I’m excited about it,” Stevens said of the conference change. “It’s definitely a move up. We have an understanding of what’s ahead. From now on we’re going to be playing the best from November to March.”
– Loyola’s decision to leave the MAAC after this year and join the Patriot League for the 2013-14 season signals the end of the Jimmy Patsos era in the conference. College basketball is a game of characters and there’s none bigger than the Greyhounds’ boisterous coach. Patsos, who built Loyola’s basketball program brick by brick, reached the apex last year by winning the MAAC Conference Tournament and advancing to the field of 68. “I will really miss the MAAC coaches,” Patsos said this week when discussing the move to the Patriot League. “We’re going to try and play MAAC schools as much as we can during our non-conference schedule.” The one good thing about the Greyhounds’ departure is they’ll still be able to play in the postseason to defend their title. Thanks to MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor, the conference doesn’t prohibit teams leaving the league from playing in their conference tournament in their final year. With Patsos’ final season on the horizon, expect a big time farewell tour for one of the sport’s dynamic personalities.
– Oklahoma is a major sleeper in the Big 12 thanks to Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye. “He’s been great,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said of the 6-9 M’Baye who averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game two seasons ago with the Cowboys. “Amath got as much out of the transfer year as anyone. He’s got versatility. He’s the type of guy that’s most comfortable in the mid range area.” With M’Baye and underrated freshman guard Buddy Hield, Oklahoma may have gotten leading scorer Steven Pledger the supporting cast he needs so that the Sooners can compete for an NCAA bid.
– Manhattan finalized their non-conference schedule this week by adding a game at Harvard on 11/16. The Jaspers won 21 games last season in Steve Masiello’s first year as head coach but they’ve got a treacherous road before they begin play in the MAAC. In addition to Harvard, Manhattan will travel to Louisville, Dayton, and Fordham while also playing South Carolina, George Washington, and NEC favorite LIU in games at neutral sites. There aren’t many games on the Jaspers’ schedule you circle as a surefire win.
– Fairfield’s Coaches Clinic will take place on 10/28. Clinicians include Pete Carril, Pete Gillen, and Williams coach Mike Maker. For more information, call Kyle Koncz at 203-254-4000, ext. 2791.
What do you think of Miami’s chances? Let Jon know in the comments below!