Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:06 am

Podcast: Full-fledged Louisvile-Kentucky preview

By Matt Norlander

On Saturday at noon on CBS, one of college basketball's best rivalries -- some, including today's guest, say it's the best -- will be renewed when Louisville heads into Rupp Arena to face Kentucky. Plenty aren't giving U of L much of a chance. Is that fair? Kentucky Sports Radio's Matt Jones joins me to discuss how this week has been down in the Bluegrass State.

Jones, a former writer here at the blog, is based out of Louisville and has become the fan's voice for UK hoops. We did some podcast collaboration last season, and with this big game upcoming, it felt right to wrap up 2011 by getting him back on. Good news Louisville fans: he doesn't totally mock you or your team! Surprising how reserved he was, in fact.

We resolve to discuss:
  • From the beginning: Jones did used to write for the blog, so we get reacquainted to start things off, then talk about how much Kentucky fans hate Goodman and Parrish.
  • 6:01: It's pretty fair to say Kentucky is not playing as completely as it could be. Why is that? How are the fans reacting to this season so far? They seem balanced, surprisingly.
  • 10:50: What's up with Terrence Jones?
  • 14:39: Talking U of L-UK, and so much of it is Pitino vs. Calipari. The two purely hate each other. Jones offers up some anecdotes.
  • 18:00: Normally, the UK players get up for this game, but it's not something that consumes them. This year, that doesn't seem to be the case.
  • 23:58: Talking national hoops with Jones. There's a group of 11 he sees as the most likely to make the Final Four. Beyond that, it's a big drop-off in terms of New Orleans expectations.
  • 29:52: Wrapping it up with some NYE talk and the Duke-UNC/UK-Louisville rivalry comparison.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

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Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:24 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 1:26 pm

Rosario likely to play against old team Thursday

By Gary Parrish

Looks like Mike Rosario will get to play against his former school after all.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday that the reserve wing -- who spent his first two seasons at Rutgers -- participated in practice Monday and went full-contact on Tuesday, according to the Gators' official Twitter feed. Rosario had missed Florida's past two games with a back strain, and Donovan had previously listed him as "doubtful" for Thursday's game at Rutgers.

But that's changed now.

Which adds a storyline to the week.

Rosario averaged 16.2 points as a freshman and 16.7 points as a sophomore at Rutgers.

The 6-foot-3 New Jersey native transferred after his sophomore season.

He's averaging 9.4 points for the 10th-ranked Gators this season.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 7:52 pm

Stokes picks Tennessee

By Gary Parrish

MEMPHIS -- Jarnell Stokes publicly committed to Tennessee on Thursday.

He plans to enroll in Knoxville in January and play this season.

Stokes' announcement ended a long and intense recruitment that featured other programs such as Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida, Arkansas and Memphis vying for his services. The 6-foot-8 forward spent months interacting with followers on Twitter and greatly increased his profile with fans, and the recruitment took a turn in recent weeks when the TSSAA ruled the Memphis native ineligible to play high school basketball this season because of a transfer from Central High to Southwind High. Once that happened, Stokes decided to graduate early and enroll in college mid-semester. Sources told CBSSports.com he settled on Tennessee in recent days and stuck to that choice despite late pushes from various coaching staffs.

This is big for first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin.

CBSSports.com ranks Stokes as the 16th-best prospect in the Class of 2012. He represents the first elite-level recruit to leave the city of Memphis for Tennessee since Tony Harris signed with the Vols before the 1997-98 season. Stokes is also the first primary target within the city that Memphis coach Josh Pastner has missed on since he replaced John Calipari in April 2009, though it should be noted that Pastner signed Shaq Goodwin out of Georgia last month.

CBSSports.com ranks Goodwin as the 21st-best prospect in the Class of 2012.

He plays the same position as Stokes.

Tennessee is 4-6 heading into Friday's game against East Tennessee State.

The Vols play at Memphis on Jan. 4.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:04 am

Stokes announcing college choice Thursday

By Gary Parrish

Jarnell Stokes, a high school prospect from Memphis, said on Tuesday that he will announce his college decision Thursday night, which is noteworthy because Stokes plans to enroll in college early and maybe play this season.

Stokes' list of possible destinations includes Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Memphis and Tennessee, but multiple sources have told CBSSports.com that it's really down to just Florida, Memphis and Tennessee. The 6-foot-8 forward Tweeted Tuesday that he remains undecided.

"I'm saying my prayers 24/7," he Tweeted, "and waking up Thursday with an answer!"

CBSSports.com ranks Stokes at the 16th-best prospect in the Class of 2012, but he's not playing high school basketball this season because the TSSAA ruled him ineligible after he transferred from Central High to Southwind High. Consequently, Stokes started weeks ago exploring the possibility of graduating high school early and enrolling in college early. He told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that that's exactly what he'll do, and when asked whether he wants to redshirt this season or play immediately Stokes said, "Of course I want to play."

That could be a problem for the hometown Tigers.

Memphis does not have a scholarship available for this season. And though Stokes could get enough financial aid and academic scholarship money to basically go to Memphis for free, he would almost certainly not be allowed to play at Memphis this season because he would be considered a "recruited walk-on" thanks to an official visit he took to Memphis earlier this year, and the NCAA does not allow "recruited walk-ons" to play in their first year on campus.

Meantime, Florida and Tennessee both have scholarships available. Multiple sources told CBSSports.com that Gators coach Billy Donovan and Vols coach Cuonzo Martin have each made it clear to Stokes that he can play for them this season, and that is, again, something Memphis coach Josh Pastner simply cannot offer because of an obscure NCAA rule.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 12:01 pm

Donovan signs extension with Florida

By Gary Parrish

Florida announced Friday that Billy Donovan has signed a three-year extension that places him under contract with the school through the 2015-16 season.

"Billy Donovan has built one of the elite programs in the country at the University of Florida, he and his family have given 16 incredible years to this institution and community," said Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley. "His accomplishments speak for themselves. ... We’re thrilled that he will continue to lead our program for years to come."

As is the case with all contracts in college sports, Donovan's extension doesn't necessarily mean he'll lead Florida's program "for years to come." I mean, he probably will and I have no reason to think he won't. But if Donovan wants out he can get out at any time just like every other coach in America. Simply put, these announcements never mean what a coach or school wants you to think they mean. They're usually announced just to offset opposing schools telling recruits that a coach is leaving for this job or that job "because he doesn't even have an extended contract." That's why Donovan being extended through the 2015-16 season makes sense. Now he can tell high school seniors that he has a contract that'll keep him in Gainesville "through their senior years of college."

Anyway, this is no time to pick apart coaching contracts.

I can do that whenever.

I'd rather spend the rest of this space reminding everybody just how unbelievable Donovan has been at Florida because sometimes I think that gets overlooked. When fans talk about the sport's best coaches I usually hear names like Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Bill Self and Brad Stevens, and those names all make sense. But Donovan belongs on any short list. For proof, consider this: Florida had just five NCAA tournament appearances and one SEC championship in the program’s 77-year history before Donovan arrived in 1996. Since his arrival, the Gators have made 11 NCAA tournaments, three Finals Fours and won two national championships, and they've won four SEC regular-season titles and three SEC tournament titles.

Bottom line, I don't know if Donovan will really lead Florida "for years to come."

Again, that's not necessarily what the extension means.

But I do know this: He's been damn-good leading Florida since the moment he got to campus.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:49 am

Florida's guards remain a double-edged sword

Matt Norlander

If you aren’t an only child, then you know what I’m about to describe.

When you’ve got a brother, or a sister, or a couple of brothers or sisters (or some combination of siblings) it’s a wonderful thing. Growing up with them truly is one of the greatest gifts anyone could ask for. Those who grow up solo miss out on a linkage that would take so much longer to describe than this blog post will allow.

But you know what? Your bros and sisses can be real pains in the a--, too. There’s resentment that builds up over years of fights and competition and all the other dynamics that make families the haywire mess of dysfunction we all know so well. But most times, no matter the faults, you accept your siblings, issues and arguments and all. It’s because you have no choice to. You were born into this circumstance, and you’d likely never change it.

Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are family at Florida. And they are the brothers with the problems. The ones who can make a situation harder than it needs to be. But Florida’s going to have to learn to live with them. Just how it’s going to be.

The Gators got good news Monday. Erik Murphy is expected to return for Wednesday’s home game against Arizona. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be back for the game after that. With Murphy, Florida’s a much different team. Plus, Brad Beal won’t be asked to play the 4, something he had to do against Syracuse. Beal had a bad offensive night in that role. Murphy’s unlike any other player they have, and with him, the guards aren’t looked to as much for offense.

But it doesn’t mean Boynton and Walker won’t still seek to give Florida that offense as much as they can.

On about eight occasions last Friday night I watched those two put up a shot or make a play that was an “oh, no!” kind of moment. Half the time, that sequence was a quick-trigger 3. On some occasions, the 3 feel through the hoop. I turned to SI.com's Andy Glockner and we exchanged looks of acknowledgment: that’s so Boynton. And so Walker. That’s so Florida. It’s who they are. It’s how they’ll lose and how they’ll win more times than not this season. It’s what happened last year, and it’s why Florida made it to the Elite Eight, before falling to a less-talented Butler team.

A similar fate awaits the Gators this year, I think.

You can’t deny the numbers right now, though. In fact, it’s a good sign — Florida’s scoring almost 1.2 points per possession, the best in college basketball right now (according to KenPom.com, the national average is .99 points per possession). It’s shooting the ball well (57.5 effective field goal percentage), not turning it over (giving it away on just 17.6 percent of possessions).

Boynton has an O rating of 134.5. That’s really great. Walker’s sits at a firm 123, also fantastic. And to be fair, Walker isn’t taking as many shots as Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario when he’s on the floor. Rosario is also a guy who wants his.

Florida is getting by quite well despite the 5-2 record.

Those two losses have come to Ohio State and Syracuse. North Florida, Wright State, Jacksonville — these are the types of teams UF’s beaten so far. The backcourt play hasn’t been an issue against the patsies. But for as nice as the numbers look, I know what my eyes see. They see players who too often can pass up a 3 out of an offensive sequence because it’s tempting to them like a brownie is tempting to me. I don't think Florida will have issues with 90 percent of its schedule.

In tight moments, I remain skeptical, because the shots can't always fall, especially not when Rosario, Walker or Boynton are bringing our their catapult, convention be damned.

One month into the season, it’s clear Florida can’t change its stripes with Boynton and Walker. I asked Donovan to address his backcourt situation after seven games. He dodged the question like the veteran coach he is. The legitimate question of “How can Florida share the ball with those three?” remains on the table. They’ll win plenty, they’ll win dramatically, but I can’t shake the feeling when the Gators lose, it’s not going to be because on the hands of Patric Young, Murphy or Beal.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:06 pm

Florida expects Erik Murphy back for 'Zona game

By Matt Norlander

After initially indicating it would be "pushing it" to have junior forward Erik Murphy back for his team's Wednesday game against Arizona, Florida head coach Bill Donovan said Murphy is good to go.

The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

Murphy sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee in practice Nov. 24, and missed games against Jacksonville, Stetson and No. 3 Syracuse.

Donovan says Murphy worked out Sunday and felt fine after running. He says Murphy will have limited contact in practice Monday and Tuesday, adding that a setback is the only thing that would prevent Murphy from playing against the Wildcats.

So the possibility remains Murphy still won't play against 6-2 Arizona. The Gators are 5-2, coming off a close loss on the road to Syracuse Friday night. Murphy is big to Florida's system because he's a 6-10 guy who can step out and shoot; he's a matchup problem for a lot of teams, and with him on the floor, the Gators are much more dynamic.

Murphy missed the team's previous three games with a right-knee injury. He is averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game this season.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 9:40 am

Podcast: This one's all over the place

By Matt Norlander

Jason McIntyre has built up the most successful independent sports blog in Internet history. He runs TheBigLead.com. He also happens to be a fanatical college hoops fan.  (Fun fact: I did a couple of hoops posts for TBL back in '08, and almost became a freelance writer on the site until he greedily and rightfully wanted to take on that endeavor himself prior to the '09-10 season. Now look who's coming on whose podcast.)

In what's one of the more fun podcasts we've had so far, Jason and I go back and forth on a number of topics. Some hoops, some not -- the whole thing really flies by. The man's got his opinions; his polarity is what's made his blog a must-read on a daily basis for so many. And why he's well over 31,000 Twitter followers.

It was a pleasure to finally get Jason back on after a glitch in the recording of a previous podcast prevented it from publishing. It's good to step outside the realm of talking strictly hoops and go after some other subjects, and we do that here.

The roundup:
  • From the beginning: Introducing Jason to the podcast.
  • 2:50: Coach K and Pat Summitt earned the Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year. Right choice? And did you ever notice how SI, in retrospect, almost always picks the right person for this?
  • 4:45: All thoughts on UNC-UK, and why the argument being propped up against a title game rematch in hoops (like LSU-Alabama in football) is beyond foolish.
  • 9:40: Lots of draft talk/potential here. Barnes, Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, Perry Jones, Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Brad Beal, plenty more. Looking big picture can be fun, even if it's early.
  • 15:55: NBA draft and the age limit.
  • 18:45: Tables get turned on me, and J-Mac tosses some questions my way. We talk about media-type stuff, and he fluffs CBSSports.com up and mentions the big hires we've made. I was completely awkward talking about this, but it's that kind of awkward energy that I know you're looking for when you tune in. There's also talk of how we do what we do here at the blog, the method behind it, etc. 
  • 28:04: The college basketball season is one month old, and here's the big debate. Big Ten the best conference? I think so. McIntyre says the Big East. And he hates tempo-free stats. And Wisconsin. Oh, yes. It's about to get ugly up in this piece.
  • 35:09: How can someone be a fan of Syracuse and Georgetown? Listen as McIntyre tries to persuade you.
  • 38:50: Our favorite announcers in the game wraps up the chat.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts go up here and on iTunes. The Wednesday show is dedicated to keeping the egos of CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish inflated. Mondays and Fridays are for the real people to come on. Here's the iTunes link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. If you're still going strong and hanging on to a Zune, then, yes, you can listen on that as well.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com