By Jon Rothstein
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Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin told me this week there’s a strong chance that both Antonio Barton and freshman Darius Thompson could be on the floor in end of game situations. Martin verbalized last spring that he felt he got a steal in the 6-4 Thompson and Barton has never really gotten an opportunity to be a starter after spending the first few years of his career at Memphis as a backup to Joe Jackson. Barton only logged 16.7 minutes per game last season and has been waiting his entire career to get the opportunity he’s about to get this season with the Volunteers. The most underrated thing about the 6-2 Barton? In each of the past two seasons, he’s shot 40% from three-point range.
– I’m hearing Iona coach Tim Cluess is toying with the idea of using 6-8 forward David Laury as the Gaels’ point guard. Laury averaged a double-double last season (13.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG), but only played half the year because he had to sit out the first semester for transfer reasons. The skilled forward has Royce White like ability and could give Cluess a potentially devastating lineup with Sean Armand, JUCO transfer Isaiah Williams, Rutgers transfer Mike Poole, and Tre Bowman on the wings. This might be the year where Iona averages close to 90 PPG.
– Minnesota will likely use Andre Hollins off the ball more this season with either Maverick Ahanmisi or JUCO transfer Dre Mathieu operating at point guard. The 6-1 Hollins averaged 14.6 PPG last season as a junior, and should be one of the better scorers in the Big Ten under Gophers’ first-year coach Richard Pitino. An accelerated pace should create more opportunities for Minnesota in the open floor, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of conference adjusts to such a high-octane style. The Big Ten is known for a lot of things, but playing faster definitely isn’t one of them.
– An under-the-radar early season non-conference game? Towson at Villanova on November 17th. The potential CAA champion takes on the underrated Wildcats in what feels like a second-round NCAA Tournament game. This one will be worth the trip for anyone in the Northeast.
– The production level of Pitt’s wings is a major X-Factor to the Panthers’ season. James Robinson should emerge as one of the better floor generals in the ACC as a sophomore, but either Cam Wright or Durand Johnson needs to become a reliable scorer for Pitt. Wright and Johnson each averaged 4.3 PPG last season, but only combined to make 29 three-pointers.
– San Francisco looks like a legitimate sleeper in the WCC after Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s. Rex Walters’ team returns two potential all-league players in forward Cole Dickerson and guard Cody Doolin as well as several key role players from last year’s group that finished 15-16. The Dons beat St. John’s last year on their home floor and will play at Carnesecca Arena on 12/18/13.
– Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said this week that Kadeem Jack will see time at center this season when the Scarlet Knights opt to go with a smaller lineup. The 6-9 Jack averaged 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season but only logged 18.2 minutes per contest. Don’t be surprised if Jack averages close to a double-double with expanded minutes.
– UConn’s suspension of veteran big man Tyler Olander this week for a DUI puts even more pressure on Huskies’ sophomore Philip Nolan. The 6-9 Nolan averaged just 1.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last year as a freshman and will need to produce with regularity for UConn. Kevin Ollie’s team may very well have the best back court in college basketball with Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, and George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah — but their front court is a serious question.
– Looking forward to heading out to the West Coast next week to visit with several schools in Arizona and California. Check back to this space next week for updates from Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Long Beach State.
– Howard Garfinkel’s annual clinic will be Saturday, September 28th at Fordham Prep. The list of clinicians include Kentucky coach John Calipari, Pete Gillen, Seth Greenberg, and Mike Fratello. For more information, call 646-275-9818.
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