|Perry Jones' return to action will be a major boost to Baylor's chances this season. (AP)|
Now that the season is in full swing and I've had a chance to recover from 10 days in New York City (I don't recommend staying in the heart of Times Square for that long to my worst enemy), it's time to unveil a new feature that will hit this space each and every Tuesday. We'll call it Good 'N Plenty -- and it'll be loaded with info.
Baylor legitimately becomes a Top 10 team this week -- and may be even a Final Four contender when Scott Drew gets PJ3 back.
That's Perry Jones III.
Jones has served his time, a six-game NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits from his AAU coach. He sat out the Bears' loss in the Big 12 tournament and the first five games this season. When he steps onto the court for the first time Tuesday night against Prairie View A&M, Drew will have as much talent as just about anyone in the country. He'll have a pair of likely lottery picks in Jones and freshman Quincy Miller.
Miller already has emerged as a producer (15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and not just a potential guy, but now it'll be interesting to see how Anthony Jones, Quincy Acy and Miller react with Jones -- who will eat up plenty of minutes -- back in the fold. Miller, Anthony Jones and Acy all are averaging between 28 and 30 minutes. With Perry Jones back -- and starting -- someone likely won't be quite as satisfied with his role.
Drew doesn't sound overly concerned.
"We're blessed to have high-character guys," Drew said. "Obviously, playing time is an issue at a lot of places -- and could be for us. ... But it's nice to have options."
The knock on Perry Jones III is that he wasn't strong and tough enough throughout his freshman season. He still put up numbers (13.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg), but Drew said the difference will be that he won't be overpowered now that he's bigger and stronger (he's at 235 pounds) than a year ago at this time.
"Now he should be able to hold his own against the elite players," Drew said. "Physically, he's tougher -- and usually that makes you tougher mentally as well."
Baylor gets Jones back this week -- and then will also welcome yet another potential starting point guard, Cal transfer Gary Franklin, on Dec. 17 against BYU.
That'll give Drew four options at the position: Holdover A.J. Walton, junior college transfer Pierre Jackson, BC transfer Brady Heslip and Franklin.
"We'll learn, like the fans will, because none of these guys -- except for A.J. -- had any experience with us," Drew said.
Just imagine this starting five: Mike Moser, Drew Gordon, Chace Stanback, Kendall Williams and Matt Carlino.
Not bad. Probably a group that could find a way into the NCAA tournament. Also a unit that would give the current starting group in Westwood a run for their money.
In fact. I might take that group of ex-UCLA Bruins over Ben Howland's current crew.
The 6-foot-8 Moser, who averaged 4.7 minutes as a freshman for Howland, is putting up astounding numbers. He's averaging 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds (second in the nation), 3.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game at UNLV after sitting out last season. His teammate, Stanback, is averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 boards per contest.
It's not as if those guys are feeding on cupcakes, either. That duo combined for 44 points and 28 rebounds in UNLV's upset over previous No. 1 North Carolina this past weekend.
Then you've got Gordon and Williams -- teammates at New Mexico. Gordon left Westwood disgruntled after a year and a half and is nearly averaging a double-double (11.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) while Williams, a one-time UCLA commit who was basically told he wasn't good enough to play for the Bruins, is averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 assists for the Lobos.
I'm not sure what BYU guard Matt Carlino, who becomes eligible Dec. 17, will do for the Cougars. But with those four other guys, does it really matter?
Jeremy Lamb is a laid-back kid, fairly quiet and unassuming.
Lamb averaged 15½ shots through the first four games of the season, but became a role player down the stretch in UConn's 78-76 overtime win over Florida State in the consolation game down in the Bahamas. He was an efficient 7 of 9 from the field, but was nearly invisible down the stretch -- taking just two shots in the final nine-plus minutes of the game. That can't happen.
Shabazz Napier is an alpha dog who has no fear and that's exactly what this UConn needs after the loss of Kemba Walker, but Lamb needs to be more involved down the stretch. He needs to demand the basketball at times when the game is on the line.
"Sometimes I need to be more aggressive," Lamb admitted after the win.
But it's going to take time in his new role. Remember, this is a kid who didn't even start at a junior in high school -- and only played nine minutes in the sixth game of the year last season.
"The first half of the season I didn't play much," Lamb said.
Each week we'll talk to an NBA scout and get their anonymous thoughts and observations on a specific player. This week we focus on North Carolina's junior big man John Henson, who many project as a lottery pick:
"He's extremely overrated when it comes to the next level. He's not a scorer, he can't shoot or score in the post at the NBA level. He's long and a shot-blocking specialist, but he can't guard his man at our level. He's basically a weak-side defender and that's all -- and that's not enough. He's not a good passer, ballhandler and he's not strong enough to guard his own man in the NBA. Against guys similar size, he'll bounce off them. He bothers shots, but he'll get put in the rim guarding his own man in the NBA. He's supposed to be a defensive stopper, but I think he's just a weak-side defender."
|Notre Dame's Abromaitis' waiver|
Tim Abromaitis will put in for an NCAA waiver in an effort to secure a sixth-year of eligibility, but he isn't certain whether he'll take advantage of it.
Notre Dame's fifth-year senior, who actually graduated after his junior campaign, tore his ACL last Friday in a 2-on-2 drill in which he was driving to the basket and felt his right leg buckle.
"It felt weird," Abromaitis said. "I knew it wasn't supposed to go that way, so I figured right away it was pretty serious."
Abromaitis has had a tough month or so, beginning with the NCAA-imposed suspension for playing in an exhibition game his sophomore year and then taking a redshirt (only freshman are allowed to play in exhibitions and then redshirt) and now the season-ending injury.
"It definitely wasn't the season I wanted to have," he said. "I shed a few tears getting the MRI, but a lot of people haven't gotten the opportunity I've gotten -- and have gotten hurt early in their career. I've accomplished a lot -- and this is my first major injury. This isn't the end of my career, so there's no use feeling sorry for myself."
Abromaitis did a one-year master's program last season and was just an unclassified graduate student this year, taking electives he hadn't gotten to thus far while at Notre Dame. He said he'll put in for the waiver, sit down with an academic advisor to see what classes he could take next year -- if the waiver is approved and he elects to return to the Irish.
"There's no sense not at least trying for the sixth year," Abromaitis said. "But a lot probably depends on my rehab."
|Toughest guard tandem|
After watching Xavier's overtime win at Vanderbilt on Monday night, it was clear to me that there's not a "tougher" backcourt than the Musketeers duo of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. Both have huge cojones and both get after it on the defensive end. It also got me thinking to who are the toughest guard tandems in the nation.
|Here are my Top 6 Toughest Backcourts|
1. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, Xavier
2. Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb, Kentucky
3. Darius Johnson-Odom and Vander Blue, Marquette
4. Aaron Craft and William Buford, Ohio State
5. Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb, UConn
6. Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks, Oregon State
A stat geek I am not. I have always been a proponent of my eyes in favor of a bunch of numbers.
However, when coaches from throughout the industry relentlessly rave about the data that Ken Pomeroy (KenPom.com) has published over the years, it was time for me to take a closer look. Therefore, I spent about a half-hour getting my first lesson from Pomeroy earlier in the week and while I am not yet a full-fledged Pom Pom waver -- such as Luke Winn and Matt Norlander -- I must admit it's intriguing and has already been extremely helpful.
I know Wisconsin's defense is always stingy, but I had no idea that the Badgers D was so effective thus far this season -- or that they get to the line so infrequently (just 17 times per 100 field goal attempts).
Pomeroy has predictions for every single game based on the data. It's actually pretty cool. He's got Wisconsin knocking off North Carolina on Wednesday night, 65-64. But he also throws caution to the wind this early in the season -- especially since many high-majors (including Wisconsin) have lived on bottom-feeders thus far.
"Their defense is insanely good," Pomeroy said. "They have the best defensive efficiency in the country and the best defensive rebounding percentage (which means they are causing opponents to miss more shots than anyone else). They have video game-type numbers. It's ridiculous, but we're just six games into the season -- and their strength of schedule is pathetic right now."
Pomeroy said one thing that is likely to happen in the game, based on his numbers, are that Wisconsin will take a lot of 3-pointers. As previously mentioned, the Badgers don't get to the line much -- and North Carolina is third in the country at keeping teams off the charity stripe.
Pomeroy, who started his ratings back in 1999 but got into college basketball about six years ago, said his player ratings feature should be up next week. "That's earlier than normal," Pomeroy said.
The price for his service? A bargain at $20 per year.
|Coaching stock watch|
Five guys who haven't exactly jumped out of the gates well -- and need to turn it around:
1. Chris Lowery, Southern Illinois: It's been a rough go from the start for the Salukis, who are 1-3 this season.
2. Darrin Horn, South Carolina: He gets Bruce Ellington back from the gridiron, but the early losses to Elon and Tennessee State can't be erased.
3. Mike Davis, UAB: The Blazers have gotten off to a miserable 1-4 start with the last setback coming against Tennessee-Martin.
4. Herb Sendek, Arizona State: The Sun Devils are 2-4, with the last loss coming at the hands of Big East doormat DePaul.
5. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were fortunate just to get to NYC, but then lost a pair to Stanford and Virginia Tech.
Five guys who were feeling some heat entering the season, but have gotten off to solid starts:
1. Tom Crean, Indiana: The Hoosiers haven't beaten any big-time teams yet, but Crean got a much-needed victory over Brad Stevens and Butler.
2. Frank Haith, Missouri: Haith's initial hiring caught some heat -- and then the allegations down in Miami didn't help -- but fans in Columbia are loving the Tigers quick start and the routs over ND and Cal.
3. Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State: He said he wasn't feeling any heat entering the season, but the wins over Arizona and Texas A&M and the 7-1 start certainly helped things in Starkville.
4. Craig Robinson, Oregon State: His team is off to a 5-1 start, fared well in New Jersey and has a chance to crack the top half of the Pac-12.
5. Derek Kellogg, UMass: The Minutemen have lost a pair -- to Florida State and College of Charleston -- but there's no shame in a 5-2 start.
|Ivy League snub|
They thought he was nuts when he took the Harvard job. By they, I mean Tommy Amaker's friends, family and peers.
"They sure did," Amaker admitted shortly after his team won three straight to claim the Battle 4 Atlantis championship, a tournament that also featured UConn and Florida State. "But we had a vision and a brand in Harvard."
Harvard didn't make its way into the Top 25 for the first time in program history earlier this week. I say it was a snub. Amaker says it's really not a big deal.
"Sure, it would have been neat," Amaker admitted. "But in some ways, it might have been the best thing for us."
What Amaker means is that now he doesn't have to be concerned quite as much with his players getting ahead of themselves, looking past the next opponent, Vermont, and being swept up in the hype leading into the Dec. 8 matchup in Storrs against UConn.
"We know what we're going into Thursday at Vermont and what we're coming off of," Amaker said. "It's really, really tough to win up there."
Amaker said that despite it being difficult for his team to score -- especially against Florida State -- he doesn't worry about the offensive end.
"Florida State clamps everyone down," Amaker said. "We score a lot. That was unusual for us, honestly. Our guys really play unselfish and have bought into our style. That's part of our identity."
An identity that has clearly changed at Harvard.
|Jarvis, FAU a year away from dancing?|
Mike Jarvis doesn't have false illusions regarding his FAU team this season.
"We're still a year away," Jarvis said last week after watching his team's dramatic win over Hofstra. "Next year we'll have all the pieces."
Jarvis will lose Alex Tucker, who made the game-winning basket with a couple seconds left to beat the Pride, and also fellow senior Shavar Richardson. Both are replaceable. Jarvis is excited about adding 5-foot-9 Stefan Moody, a freak athlete who many programs shied away from because they anticipated him playing football.
"He flies," Jarvis said. "I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone as athletic."
FAU will also have the services of Baylor transfer Dragen Sekelja, a 7-footer who is sitting out this season.
"This year we have a good team," Jarvis said. "Next year we have the potential to be really, really good."
Jarvis said he is at peace with his career and where he's at, down in Boca Raton, despite the mess that went down at St. John's.
"My wife is happy again -- and that's what is important to me," Jarvis said. "And I'm happy."
|Herrion's Marshall plan|
No one has ever questioned whether Tom Herrion could coach. This is a guy who averaged 20 wins in his four years at the College of Charleston.
Herrion, who was out of the business for a year before joining Jamie Dixon's staff at Pittsburgh, is doing it again. He won 22 games last season at Marshall and is 5-0 this year -- including a road victory at Cincinnati.
The victory didn't mean quite as much since Mick Cronin's Bearcats had already lost to Presbyterian -- and fallen out of the Top 25. However, it should still be a significant victory down the road -- especially if the Thundering Herd could pull the upset against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Dec. 6.
"It was a great win," Herrion said. "But in order for it to have shelf-life, we need to keep it in perspective."
That means not pulling a Long Beach State, which beat Pittsburgh and then lost a pair to San Diego State and Montana. Marshall has Ohio at home, then goes to Syracuse before facing two of the nation's top mid-major teams: Iona and Belmont.
"We have tough kids," Herrion said. "They are resilient and battle."
• Miami big man Reggie Johnson (knee) practiced full-contact for the first time on Sunday, but still could be a month or so away from being able to play in games.
• South Carolina's Darrin Horn got Bruce Ellington back at practice for the first time Monday. Ellington elected to play both football and basketball this year and is coming off his best performance on the gridiron -- with three catches for 71 yards and his first receiving touchdown against Clemson. Horn said he is hopeful that Ellington will play this week against either Providence or at Clemson.
• Texas A&M is optimistic that star Khris Middleton, who suffered a knee injury in the opener on Nov. 9, will return next week.
• Vanderbilt is hopeful that big man Festus Ezeli, who hasn't played this season due to an NCAA suspension and a knee injury, will return on Dec. 19 against Longwood.
• Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy will gain the services of Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick beginning on Dec. 10. Kendrick was booted off the team at Memphis before ever playing a game.
• Oregon lost talented freshman Jabari Brown, who opted to transfer, but Dana Altman will get some help when Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph is eligible on Dec. 10 against Fresno.