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NCAA Daily Links

Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:17pm

December 13, 2011

No Top 25 teams played yesterday, so I will fill you in on the latest news stories and highlight some under the radar players or rising stars. With 345 NCAA Division 1 schools, there are a lot of players and teams deserving some props, so lets get to some of them in today's NCAA Daily. First, we will start with the new #1 team in the nation:

Syracuse Moves To #1 In Latest AP Poll
(Associated Press/Wall Street Journal)

Dion WaitersDion WaitersI am sure many of you had a feeling that after a while, I would have you reading the Wall Street Journal. Sure, it is from the sports section and an Associated Press article, but, my long time readers probably knew this day would come. Well, back to the actual topic, the Syracuse Orangemen are 10-0 and the newly christened #1 team in the nation. Few, aside from NBADraft.net writer Jonathan Wasserman, saw the Orange moving this high in the polls, but after Ohio State and Kentucky both lost games this past weekend, Cuse was the major benefactor.

Jim Boeheim's squad is incredibly deep this season and while they lack star power, having a complete roster can definitely play into ones favor. Syracuse's early season schedule has not exactly been grueling and they probably should run the table into Big East play, barring a fairly monumental upset. The Orange have 7 players averaging over 6.7 ppg and are led by senior wing Kris Joseph, who is averaging 13.7 ppg and 6.1 rpg. Syracuse should probably stay #1 until, at the very least, their first conference game at Seton Hall on December 28. Upsets have happened, but I believe Syracuse's schedule is a major reason why they are at the top of the polls right now.

The Orangemen racked up 51 out of a possible 65 first place votes in the AP Poll, with Ohio State remaining at #2 after holding their own in a loss to Kansas without star player Jared Sullinger. Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina round out the top 5 with each receiving at least 1 first place vote. 6-11 remains the same as last week with Baylor, Duke, Xavier, Connecticut, Missouri and Marquette filling those spots. Indiana jumped into the polls for the first time at 18, not exactly as high as one might think after beating Kentucky, but a decent place to start. Michigan State, Murray State and Vanderbilt were also new top 25 teams, with Memphis, Gonzaga and Harvard being dropped from the poll following losses.

Arsalan Kazemi Continues To Make Iran Proud at Rice
(Luke Winn/CNNSI.com)

Since Rice has not played a game since December 3, it was hard to find a recent article on Arsalan Kazemi. But, I wanted to give this junior from Esfahan, Iran some props and share his story. Kazemi is a 6'7, 220 pound junior combo forward for the Rice Owls. He also holds the distinction of being the first Iranian basketball player to come to the US to play on scholarship. He has excelled ever since stepping foot on the court for the small Texas private school and was named a pre-season All-Conference USA 1st Team selection.

Kazemi has not disappointed in the early season for the 6-2 Owls. Averaging 11.9 rebounds per game, good for third in the nation, he also has chipped in 12.6 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2 spg and 1.6 bpg. In his last game, he came within 2 assists of a triple double. Kazemi has also excelled when competing for Iran, even finishing as the second leading scorer for the mens senior team in 2010, after NBA center Hamed Haddadi. On top of all of this, Kazemi, who is Muslim plays for one of the handful of Jewish coaches in college basketball in Ben Braun. As Braun said back than, coaching Kazemi was, "the ultimate public relations opportunity." So far, it seems to be working beautifully for both coach and player.

Healthy Herb Pope Doing Big Things For Seton Hall
(Brendan Prunty/The Star-Ledger)

After averaging a double-double his sophomore year for the Seton Hall Pirates, Herb Pope had a set back his junior season. After suffering a near-fatal collapse in the offseason, brought on by a previously undiagnosed birth defect known as an Anomalous Right Coronary Artery, Pope struggled to get to full strength. This season, Herb Pope looks to be back to his normal self, much to the delight of coach Kevin Willard and Seton Hall fans.

After finishing 13-17 last season, Seton Hall is off to an 8-1 start this year. This is of course thanks in large part to the rejuvenation of Pope, who has averaged 21.9 ppg and 11.3 rpg. Highly recruited out of high school, Pope originally signed with New Mexico State before transferring to Seton Hall. The 6'8, 236 pound 4 man looks to lead the underdog Pirates to a strong showing in the deep Big East conference. An NCAA appearance would truly be a great way for Pope to go out.

CJ Aiken Becoming Sultan of Swat
(Joe Greenwich/SJUHawks.com)

The blocked shot is definitely not the end all be all of defensive basketball. But, it is basically the defensive version of the dunk. A beautiful rejection can get "Ooh's!" and "Ah's" from the entire crowd. Not to mention, it can indeed shift momentum and adrenaline, not to mention the blocks ability to get into the head of your opponent.

Right now, 6'9 and 190 pound sophomore CJ Aiken of the St. Joseph's Hawks has been averaging 4.8 blocks per game. The lithe big man from Conshocken, PA seems to be blessed with the length and timing that make great shot blockers. He is also scoring 11.4 ppg while pulling down 5.4 rpg, chipping in 11 points and 3 blocks as the Hawks handed Creighton their first loss of the year. Aiken is behind Carl Jones and Langston Galloway in scoring for St. Joseph's, but if he keeps blocking shots the way he has, expect this skill to get attention from basketball fans.

Aziz N'Diaye Out 2-3 Games For Washington
(Percy Allen/The Seattle Times)

N'Diaye suffered a sprained right knee during the Washington Huskies Madison Square Garden tilt with Duke. The injury looked a lot worse than it turned out to be as an MRI did not reveal a torn ligament or any serious structural damage. However, the Huskies now will need to find a way to replace their only experienced center on the roster.

Coach Lorenzo Romar is looking at the possible of sliding 6'8 PF Darnell Gant to the 5 and moving 6'5 combo guard Tony Wroten Jr. into the starting line-up. Other options include the 6-7 Desmond Simmons, 6-9 Shawn Kemp Jr. and 6-8 Martin Breunig. While playing small ball has proven effective for Washington in spurts, I am sure that Romar is hoping for the safe return of N'Diaye soon.

Oregon Ducks Remain Perfect at Home
(Bob Clark/The Register-Guard)

Playing at Matt Knight Arena,Oregon managed to hold off the Portland State Vikings, 79-70. Ducks coach Dana Altman was not satisfied with the way the Ducks finished the game, pointing to the Vikings getting within 3 points with 90 seconds remaining. The 6-2 Ducks managed to hold them off, but definitely have to do a better job closing out games.

The PSU game marked the second contest for senior Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph (older brother of recent San Antonio Spurs draftee Cory Joseph), who finished with 13 points and 6 assists off the bench. The Ducks were led by junior forward EJ Singler (younger brother of recent Detroit Pistons draftee Kyle Singler) with 19 points with senior guard Garrett Sim chipping in 13.

Unfortunately, Ducks senior forward Tyrone Nared was injured in the game and will be out for an undetermined length of time. The Ducks will miss Nared's hustle, but should get more time from Jeremy Jacob and Carlos Emory in his absence. Center Tony Woods also seems to be taking on more of a role as the former Wake Forest big had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in the victory.

Can Murray State Be Unbeaten Going Into the NCAA Tournament?
(Ken Pomeroy/KenPom.com)

With the Racers schedule looking like it is down hill after their victory over Memphis, this becomes a legitimate possibility. They are 10-0 right now and with no team in the Ohio Valley Conference looking like they are close to their equal, we might just see Murray State finish as the first undefeated regular season since St. Joseph's went 27-0 before the A-10 Conference tournament in 2004. Murray State is currently ranked #24 in the latest AP poll and if they keep on winning, it will be interesting to see where they get seeded come NCAA tournament time. I am guessing the Racers could very well lose a game or two in conference play, but if they do not, it will be very interesting to see how high they could go in the polls.

San Diego State To Move To Big West Conference in 2013
(Dan Hayes/North County Times)

The SDSU Aztecs will be moving 14 sports to the Big West Conference in 2013-14, including basketball. The Big West is definitely not considered a basketball power conference, but it would require less travel and coach Steve Fisher envisions San Diego State becoming "the Big West's version of Gonzaga". Already playing 4 ranked teams this season, Fisher says that the Aztecs will continue to play a tough non-conference schedule.

Due to SDSU's Football teams agreement to join the Big East, they are guaranteed four games against the power house conference. Fisher also claims that he has arranged a home-and-home series against UConn. Losing San Diego State is a huge blow for the small but strong Mountain West Conference and it might lead to a realignment with another conference or the conferences disintegration.

Tyshawn Taylor Plays Against Ohio State, Prolongs Surgery
(Austin Meek/The Capital-Journal)

Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor's decision making can madden and incense many Jayhawk fans. He is averaging an incredibly high 4.3 turnovers per game and that does not include his questionable shot selection. On Saturday though, Taylor decided to play against #2 Ohio State, playing with a torn meniscus and sprained MCL. This decision may very well have won Kansas the game, as Taylor passed for a career high 13 assists, the 5th most in Kansas' history. He finally went through with his required surgery on Sunday and is expected to miss one to three weeks. Say what you will about Taylor's decision making on the court, but I think his decision to play against Ohio State was definitely quite courageous and commendable.

Thank you for reading and I hoped you enjoyed today's NCAA Daily. If you have any stories you would like me to address or feel that a player or team deserve somes props, please leave a comment! Have a great day and I will hit you up with more tomorrow!

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