By Jon Rothstein
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– The commitments of Andrew and Aaron Harrison only enhance the empire that John Calipari is building at Kentucky. The Wildcats are now more than a basketball program — they’re about to border on being a potential dynasty in terms of recruiting. No one in the history of the sport has put together consecutive recruiting classes as strong as Calipari has during his first few years in Lexington. Kentucky is still in the mix for several top prospects in the Class of 2013, including Julius Randle and the top rated player in the class Jabari Parker. Parker will take an official visit to Florida from November 2nd through 4th.
– The buzz surrounding the Atlantic 10 was palpable during the league’s media day at the Barclays Center on Thursday. The new brand for the conference with the additions of Butler and VCU is exceptionally strong and it seems like a legitimate possibility that there could be five or six bids from this league on an annual basis to the NCAA Tournament. It will be real interesting to see how the attendance is in March when the Atlantic 10 takes over the Barclays Center for their conference tournament while the Big East plays their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
– Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said this week that he’s going to play junior wing J.J. Moore in spurts at power forward during the upcoming season. “He’ll have an opportunity to play both forward sports,” Dixon said of Moore. “J.J. gives us more space on the perimeter because of his shot making ability”. The amount of time Moore plays at power forward for Pitt will depend on how well freshman center Steven Adams rebounds the ball in the Big East. The 7-footer has all the requisites to be the best big man Dixon has ever coached and should be the difference in this team’s hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament.
– Ole Miss freshman point guard Derrick Millinghaus is going to be a factor for the Rebels. “He gives us something we didn’t have because of his speed,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said of the 5-10 Millinghaus. “He’s a fireplug that’s fired out of a shotgun. A Devan Downey type that can really push things.” The Rebels have been on the cusp of the field of 68 for a few years under Kennedy and this could be the year they break through thanks to their depth. “We’ve got 13 guys who can play and they’re all completely different,” Kennedy said. “It’s exciting to have this level of competition every day”.
– Looking for a mid major that’s slightly under the radar? Try Illinois State. The Redbirds have an underrated first-year coach in Dan Muller as well the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference not named Doug McDermott in forward Jackie Carmichael. The 6-9 Carmicheal nearly averaged a double-double last season and he and senior guard Tyler Brown should be a potent inside-outside combo. Illinois State will miss last year’s starting point guard Nic Moore, who followed former head coach Tim Jankovich to SMU, but have all the other pieces in place to have a successful season.
– UNLV could have a potentially devastating starting back court with freshman Katin Reinhardt and Bryce Jones,even though neither has played a game yet for the Runnin Rebels. Reinhardt, who thrived on the prep level at Mater Dei has been compared to Jimmer Fredette, whom UNLV coach Dave Rice coached when he was an assistant at BYU while Jones was said to be UNLV’s best player in practice last season when he was sitting out after transferring from USC. If this team gets good guard play, look out. Rice has top five or ten talent in his second year on the job and a roster that’s going to be real tough to match up with regardless of this team’s opponent.
– Look for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg to use Utah transfer Will Clyburn in point forward situations similar to how he used Royce White last season. Junior guard Bubo Palo’s suspension leaves the Cyclones with no legitimate backup point guard right now for Korie Lucious and that will put even more pressure on Clyburn, who will only have one season of eligibility remaining. Two years ago at Utah, the 6-7 Clyburn averaged 17.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
– Illinois coach John Groce said graduate student Sam McLaurin has emerged as the likely candidate to start for the Illini at power forward. “He’s separated himself in the last two or three weeks,” Groce said of McLaurin, who averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds last season at Coastal Carolina. “He’s found his niche. He’s going to add toughness”. McLaurin, who was eligible to play immediately after transferring since he had already graduated, could be an x-factor for a team that a lot of people have seemed to forgotten about in the Big Ten.
– There is no clear cut first round pick like Tony Wroten or Terrence Ross on Washington’s roster but Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar likes his team’s balance. “There’s no household names,” Romar said this week. “But it’s a team. Everyone is on the same page”. Washington returns a veteran perimeter in Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox, and Scott Suggs, who red shirted last season. “Those guys will give us a great amount of confidence,” Romar said. “They’ve been through it before.”
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