By Jon Rothstein
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– The NCAA’s decision to grant Missouri transfer Michael Dixon a waiver to play immediately without sitting out a season instantly makes Memphis better — on paper. Dixon is a major talent and averaged 13.5 PPG two seasons ago at Missouri, but he replicates a lot of the same skills that Memphis already possesses with Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson. It’s easy to understand why Memphis coach Josh Pastner took Dixon. He’s a very good college player and one that can score the ball with anyone. But if we’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that chemistry is always the key. It will be interesting to see how Pastner balances his veteran back court, Dixon, the second-ranked recruiting class in the country, and jumping from Conference-USA to the American Athletic Conference.
– Stanford freshman Marcus Allen is going to be a factor. The 6-2 guard is a terrific athlete and will give the Cardinal a jolt athletically that they haven’t had on their perimeter. Allen, sophomore Rosco Allen (no relation), and sharp shooter John Gage should provide Johnny Dawkins with three capable reserves to go with a veteran starting five of Aaron Bright, Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, and Dwight Powell. The pieces are in place for the Cardinal to make the NCAA Tournament, but they still have to prove it. Stanford finished 19-15 last year and lost in the NIT.
– 2014 shooting guard Jared Terrell will announce his college choice on Saturday and likely commit to either Oklahoma State or Rhode Island. If Terrell opts to play for the Rams, it will be the second consecutive year that Dan Hurley landed a Top 100 caliber player (URI freshman E.C. Matthews was ranked in the Top 100 in the Class of 2013). Terrell’s AAU teammate Abdul Malik-Abu will also announce his college decision on Saturday and likely select either Florida or NC State.
– Steve Alford’s first game as head coach of UCLA will be November 8th at Pauley Pavilion against Drexel. That’s not going to be pretty. The Dragons are consistently one of the better defensive teams in the country and play the game at a tortoise’s pace. Bruiser Flint’s squad also has three veteran guards in Frantz Massenat, Chris Fouch, and Damion Lee that should all average in double figures during the upcoming season. This is a tough opener for Alford and the Bruins, and it’s guaranteed to be ugly.
– Iowa State is going all in on 2014 shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. The Cyclones will send all four of their coaches to Findlay Prep at the start of the fall recruiting period to watch the five-star prospect. Minnesota and UNLV are also involved. Fred Hoiberg has proven he’s one of the top X’s and O’s coaches in America, but getting a talent like Vaughn to commit to Iowa State would put the Cyclones in a completely different stratosphere. Hoiberg is aiming to take his alma mater to their consecutive NCAA Tournament, but Iowa State suffered a setback last week when veteran guard Bubu Palo was dismissed from the team. Without Palo, even more onus will fall on the shoulders of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, who is a lock to start for the Cyclones at point guard.
– Seton Hall’s Eugene Teague has dropped 28 pounds since the end of the season. The fifth-year big man has completely changed his body and should average close to a double-double this year for the Pirates. Teague averaged 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds last season. “He’s doing things now he couldn’t do last year,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said of Teague after Wednesday’s workout in South Orange. “He’s much more agile, much more explosive”. With Teague, Brandon Mobley, and Fuquan Edwin, the Pirates should be able to match up with any front court in the Big East. Still, this team’s season will hinge on their two young and unproven guards — Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs — and how they handle competition at the collegiate level.
– The biggest thing I took away from watching Delaware workout on Tuesday is the Blue Hens’ potential on offense. Monte Ross’ team lost a borderline pro in big man Jamelle Hagins, but this group will play differently and should have better spacing. Jarvis Threatt and Devon Saddler return in the back court and give Delaware a pair of guards that could start and average double figures at the BCS level — they’re that good. Veteran wing Kyle Anderson is also back in the fold, and the addition of Mississippi Valley State transfer Davon Usher gives this team a different dimension at power forward. The 6-6 Usher averaged 18.8 PPG and 6.1 RPG last season is eligible to play immediately due to APR issues at Mississippi Valley State. Don’t count this team out in the CAA. They should be right in the mix for a league title along with Towson, Drexel, and Charleston.
– There’s strong buzz out of Columbus regarding Ohio State’s Amadeo Della Valle. The 6-5 wing only played in 15 games last season as a freshman but could add some much-needed outside shooting for the Buckeyes as a sophomore. Thad Matta would prefer to play with a traditional post presence like Amir Williams or Trey McDonald, but he showed last year he’s more than comfortable playing a smaller lineup with five players that can face the basket. Della Valle made 10-of-26 three-point shots last season and will be counted upon along with 6-7 freshman Marc Loving to replace some of the shot making the Buckeyes lost with Deshaun Thomas.
– I’m hearing Georgetown freshman Reggie Cameron is down 15-20 pounds and has worked relentlessly to change his body. The 6-8 Cameron is tailor-made for the Hoyas’ style and should immediately have an impact due to his uncanny ability to make shots. Georgetown has the best back court in the Big East with Markel Starks, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Jabril Trawick, but they still need either Cameron or sophomore Stephen Domingo to add some offense off the bench.
– One of college basketball’s best kept secrets is William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton. The 6-4 guard averaged 18.8 PPG last season and shot 43.5% from three-point range while making 93 shots from deep. The Tribe return their top four scorers from last season’s team that went 13-17 in Thornton Tim Rusthoven, Brandon Britt, and Kyle Gaillard.
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