NCAA Daily Links

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 11:59am

December 16, 2011

Well, it is here. The NBA pre-season kicks off with 4 match-ups tonight. Weeks ago, we were unsure whether there would be a season and now it is only a countdown until we are given the Christmas present of the 66th NBA season. Luckily, we have a college basketball season that has been filled with excitement in the early going and we will break down the most recent stories with this Friday version of NCAA Daily:

Pitt Freshman Khem Birch To Transfer
(Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Khem BirchKhem BirchKhem Birch, will seek to transfer from Pitt. Many Pitt Panthers players were tweeting up a storm to confirm these rumors that had been swirling around for a while. The 6'9 and 220 pound Canadian import was a McDonald's All-American (only the second under coach Dixon) and considered one of the better incoming big men in his 2011 HS class.

Birch is a long limbed athlete who was thought to make an immediate impact as far as rebounding and shot blocking, though he was still very raw as an offensive player. Current and former Pitt players seem to confer that Birch was unhappy with his minutes and wanted more of a role. He had been starting for the Panthers, but only averaging 15 minutes per game while putting up 4.4 ppg, 5 rpg and 1.9 bpg. Historically, Jamie Dixon brings younger players along slowly and has a deep front court rotation.

It is sad to see that Birch's tenure at Pitt is coming to an end and we will more than likely have to wait a year until Birch transfers to another school. Birch has a major upset, but he definitely needed seasoning and it was highly unlikely that he was going to be getting major minutes as a freshman. This situation shows that once you get to campus, it does not matter where you were ranked in high school.

#10 Mizzou Overcomes Slow Start to Stomp Kennesaw State
(Vahe Gregorian/

The Kennesaw State Owls had a 29-28 lead on the Missouri Tigers with 12:35 remaining in the first half after a three pointer from Delbert Love (who finished with a game high 27 points). This was almost the total amount of points the Owls had in an 85-31 romp when they faced Wisconsin and now they had a lead on an undefeated Missouri squad at home. Well, that last shot seemed to awaken the Tigers, who finally played defense to match their scoring punch and won the game 104-67.

Coach Frank Haith's team is now 10-0 on the season and amongst the nations leaders in both scoring (3rd in the NCAA/87.3 ppg) and field goal percentage (4th/51.9%). They shot 60% in this contest, led as usual by forward Ricardo Ratliffe who scored 18 points on 8-10 FG attempts. Sixth man Michael Dixon also had 18, while Marcus Denmon chipped in with 17. Flip Pressey dished out 10 assists and the Tigers also pressured the Owls into 18 turnovers.

The Tigers have looked like a team possessed in the early going and will look to carry on their success into Big 12 conference play. They are a guard heavy squad led by senior leadership, in particular Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe and Kim English. Denmon is an incredible scoring threat and has averaged 20.9 ppg for the season. If a guard shoots 50-40-90 (from FG, 3PT, FT), that is usually deemed as excellent. Denmon is at 55-49-91 for the season, which shows the level he is playing at. Ratliffe is shooting an unreal 76.5% from the field, while Kim English is playing at an incredible efficiency this season and has ideal size for a guard at 6'6. With this trio leading the way, Missouri may indeed be the champs of the Big 12 conference.

#14 Wisconsin Doubles Up Savannah State During Stoll at Kohl
(Brian Mason/UW Athletic Communications)

Jared Berggren had a game high 13 points, including a huge put back dunk that got the crowd on their feet, in the Badgers 66-33 victory. Holding Savannah State to 32.6% shooting and not allowing a single player to score in double figures, Bo Ryan's squad is now 10-2. PG Jordan Taylor and wing man Ryan Evans each scored 12 points for the Badgers, who shot a fantastis 56.7% on the game. Wisconsin now has a nice long break until a week from today when they square off against Mississippi Valley State. After that, they begin Big 10 conference play with a December 27 clash with Nebraska.

#13 Florida Takes On #22 Texas A&M In Match-Up of Future SEC Foes
(Rachel George/Orlando Sentinel)

The 8-1 Texas A&M Aggies are going to Florida to take on the 7-2 Gators. While the Aggies are in the Big 12 this season, they join the Southeastern Conference next season, with Florida giving them a glimpse of what life will be like. Aggies first year coach Billy Kennedy likes his team chemistry, but he knows that he will have to make changes to hang with the SEC's best.

"We've got to get more athletic to compete at the level we want to for recruiting, so it will be a big test from that standpoint but we already know the answer," he said. "We're not athletic enough right now to where we want to be to compete in the SEC, but I do like my players."

Luckily, the Aggies have star junior Khris Middleton available for the trip. The 6'7 wing had 24 points in his return to the court from injury. They will need all of the fire power they can muster with the line-up of guards Florida brings to the table. The Gators should be definite favorites to win as Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal provide a big time scoring punch against a Texas A&M team that has struggled to put up points.

#4 Louisville To Host Memphis For 86th Meeting Between Teams
(Michael Jones/

The Louisville Cardinals will hope to continue their home dominance as they meet the Memphis Tigers at the KFC Yum Center. Rick Pitino's Cardinals have won 17 straight at home and historically have won 30 of 31 contests against Memphis in Louisville. The Cardinals are also have the nations 6th ranked field goal percentage defense, which could be bad news for a Memphis team that has struggled with their half court offense. The Cardinals are 9-0 on the season and are led by waterbug quick PG Peyton Siva, SF Kyle Kuric and big man Gorgui Dieng. Meanwhile, Josh Pastner hopes that his star wing Will Barton will get some help, as this would be a big time quality win for the 5-3 Tigers.

Purdue Boilermakers Play Butler Bulldogs Kicking Off Inaugural Crossroads Classic
(Pete DiPrimio/The News-Sentinel)

Indiana and basketball go hand in hand, so their should be a big crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse to watch the first game of the Crossroads Classic. Purdue coach Matt Painter does not necessarily buy the hype that this is a rebuilding year for Butler's Brad Stevens. The two coached together this summer, leading the USA to a tourney tying best 7-1 record for the World University Games. As Painter exclaims:

“You could argue he's the best coach in America. He's a well-rounded guy. He has great rapport with his players. He has the whole package.”

Stevens led mid-major Butler to the past two NCAA Title games, coming national runner-up both times. While he has lost some of the star power that got his team to such heights, he still has a dangerous basketball mind. Meanwhile, Painter's squad is 9-2 and could easily be 10-1 had they not blown a 19-point lead over highly ranked Xavier. The Boilermakers have a few stars with nagging injuries, particularly Robbie Hummel with knee issues, but it will take some Brad Stevens magic to get this win. When you are playing in-state rivals, anything can happen.

#18 Hoosiers Face Fighting Irish in Second Classic Contest
(Tony Krausz/The Journal Gazette)

Basketball fans will be in for an incredible treat for the second game at Conseco as the undefeated Indiana Hoosiers play Notre Dame. Tom Crean has the Hoosiers back in the national spot light as they combine strong shooting with the inside presence provided by freshman Cody Zeller. Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish have somewhat struggled after the loss of star senior Tim Abromaitis, but the level of emotion should be high against a rival of Indiana's caliber. Notre Dame's Jerian Grant and Indiana's Victor Oladipo were teammates at famed DeMatha High School and there match-up should be very intriguing.

Like Father, Like Son: Alonzo Mourning III Swatting the Competition
(Dave Krider/

Alonzo Mourning was a star at Georgetown and later went on to great NBA success. Now hisson, Alonzo Mourning III aka Trey, is blazing his own path. The 6'7 high school sophomore blocked a school-record 15 shots for Ransom Everglades (Miami), completing the triple double with 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 74-53 victory. As his current coach, Claude Grubair puts it:

"Trey is very long and wiry like his dad. He's very smart. He wants to be a big guard. He's a tremendous post player, but he doesn't want to have to live in the post. He's able to step out and be a defensive nightmare. We project him growing to either 7-foot or 7-2."

Well, if he is anything like his father, than college coaches had better watch closely. For now, it seems like the apple has not fallen to far from the tree and if Trey does indeed keep growing, we may be hearing the name Alonzo Mourning a lot more often. The youngster is the spitting image of his father and is averaging 12.5 ppg, 9 rpg and 5 bpg for his Class 4A Florida school.

Recruiting Watch: City of Palms Classic Has Rich History
(David Dorsey/

Fort Myers, Florida will be a hot spot this weekend for some of the most talented potential recruits in high school basketball at the 39th annual City of Palms Classic. The Classic has historically produced an incredibly high level of talent amongst its competing teams. Since 1990, no McDonald's All-American game has been without someone who has participated. Also, over 530 NCAA players have played in the tournament since 1988 and 46 alum's are currently on NBA rosters.

This year's classic features 16 teams, 6 of whom are nationally ranked in the USA TODAY's Super 25. Last year while coaching St. Patrick's (Elizabeth, NJ), Kevin Boyle's team claimed the tournament title, featuring current Kentucky Wildcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This year, Boyle coaches Monteverde, a school in Florida that should be competitive in the tournament. The tournament also features the nations #1 2012 prospect, Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman, as well as big PF Tony Parker of Miller Grove. Grace Prep has 7 foot Baylor commit Isaiah Austin and star sophomore Emmanuel Mudiay, while Prestonwood Chrisitan is another Texas institution featuring top junior Julius Randle.

UNLV Will Try To For Upset Against #19 Illinois

(Taylor Bern/Las Vegas Sun)

Last year, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were taken out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by the Illinois Illini. This year, the underdog 10-2 Rebs will look for sweet revenge and try to hand the 10-0 Illini their first loss of the season. It will definitely not be easy, as the Illini has athletes and size that could stifle the Rebels.

But, the Rebels were a team that defeated a than #1 ranked North Carolina team and have a big time rebounder in PF Mike Moser. Illinois center Meyers Leonard will probably play a crucial role on the boards and it is imperative that the Illini not allow UNLV to get hot in the early going. UNLV has struggled in their last few contests, but if they play with the energy they are capable of, this could turn into a close contest.

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend! I will be back with all of the latest and greatest action on Monday!

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