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Your college hoops weekend recap 🏀
As the season nears, there's plenty to cover - Pitt suspends Dior Johnson, Iowa State loses a likely starter, and two notable recruits commits. Plus, what awaits BYU?
We are officially four weeks from tip-off. Practices are in full swing, programs are hosting preseason hype events and excitement is building among fan bases across the country.
However, not all news has been good news. Injuries, of course, have already reared their ugly heads. But more disheartening have been off-court problems. That’s where we’ll start today.
1. Pitt’s Dior Johnson facing charges
News broke on Friday that local authorities had filed Pittsburgh’s Dior Johnson with numerous charges. While the story is still developing, the charges are serious.
Johnson is facing counts of “aggravated and simple assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and strangulation in connection with the incident,” per WTAE Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Friday evening, Pitt’s athletic department announced Johnson’s indefinite suspension.
For Jeff Capel and Pitt, Johnson always came with risk due to his unpredictability. He attended 10 different high schools and de-committed from both Syracuse and Oregon before giving his final pledge to the Panthers.
Capel, on the other hand, is entering a make-or-break season — in his four-year tenure at Pitt, the Panthers have never won more than six games in ACC play. Thus, it’s easy to see why he would take a chance on Johnson, a top-40 recruit who at one time ranked in the top 10 of his class. The 6-3 lead guard could have brought a balance of shot creation and playmaking to the Pittsburgh offense.
2. BYU’s West Coast curtain call
We’re highlighting some of non-power conference programs this week, with a focus on those primed for a March run or could be a disruptor in their league. For more, you’ll want The Almanac.
This upcoming year marks BYU’s last in the WCC before it makes a sizeable jump to the Big 12. Will this final season deliver a bounce-back campaign?
Consider where the Cougars were a year and a half ago: they had just notched their second consecutive top-20 KenPom finish and their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2015. Preseason hype ensued when All-WCC guard Alex Barcello announced his return for a fifth year. However, after a stellar start to 2021-22, injuries — particularly along the frontline — derailed BYU’s quest for national relevancy.
Turning to this season, though, questions surround the Cougars’ backcourt. Coach Mark Pope acknowledged as much in his interview for The Almanac.
Pope didn’t dance around the looming challenge of replacing Barcello at the point of attack. A fearless bulldog, Barcello’s fierce competitive streak buoyed an already refined arsenal. To start, he knew Pope’s playbook like the back of his hand and puppeteered the offense with instinctual flow. He could also bury an opponent’s spirit with backbreaking pull-ups or timely tough takes to the hole.
The lead guard burden will fall upon Coastal Carolina transfer Rudi Williams — a 6-3 redshirt senior who averaged 14.4 ppg and 3.4 apg while shooting 44 percent from deep in 2022. He’s not the proven, stone-cold killer that Barcello was — but if he can quickly adjust to the uptick in competition, BYU could re-emerge as the best team in the West Coast Conference not named Gonzaga.
To read more on BYU’s outlook, purchase The Almanac here.
3. Iowa State loses key transfer to injury
TJ Otzelberger’s perimeter unit took a massive hit over the weekend as Temple transfer Jeremiah Williams suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
In two years with the Owls, the 6-5 Williams spent much of his time at point guard and flashed quality play on both sides of the court. Last year, in particular, he excelled, ranking sixth in the AAC in assist rate, 20th in block rate and 16th in steal rate in conference-only games, per KenPom. For an Iowa State team seeking stability at the point, he could have provided a steady hand. Plus, with his ability to guard multiple positions and create turnovers, he would have fit perfectly into Otz’s aggressive scheme.
Per The Almanac prognostications, Williams was in line to start; without him, Otzelberger will have to lean heavily on St. Bonaventure transfer Jaren Holmes and hope 3-star freshmen guards Eli King and Tamin Lipsey can contribute immediately.
4. ‘Cruiting Corner
As usual, a handful of recruits chose their next destination over the weekend. Silas Demary Jr., a 4-star combo guard, became the most notable name to commit, as he selected the USC Trojans.
Demary boasts advantageous positional size at 6-5, and he looks most comfortable getting into the lane and finishing around the basket. On the other end of the floor, he teems with potential as a defensive disruptor, thanks to his length and instincts.
The Trojans will lose Drew Peterson and likely Boogie Ellis at the conclusion of this season. Thus, Demary will be in a prime position for early and ample playing time when he arrives on campus.
He wasn’t the only notable guard to commit this weekend.
Trey Fort, a transfer from Copiah-Lincoln CC (MS), picked a program led by someone who knows a thing or two about JUCO Johnnies.
After starting his career in a reserve role at UT-Martin, Fort moved down to the JUCO ranks and promptly averaged 26.3 ppg at Copiah-Lincoln. He will spend the next season at Howard College (TX) before boomeranging to Division I in 2023.
On the court, Fort showcases spring-loaded athleticism and a scorer’s mentality — he gets plenty of buckets with an old-school mid-range game and doesn’t shy away from tough shots. Judging by his highlights, he just feels like the type of player who succeeds under Chris Jans.
Also in recruiting news:
Northwestern landed a commitment from 2023 forward Blake Barkley.
American reeled in 2023 wing Greg Jones.
5. Creighton’s sixth man?
Creighton has remained a fixture in college basketball headlines this offseason — from articles touting their breakout potential to others tempering expectations, few teams have commanded as much attention as the Bluejays.
Of course, much of the discourse has centered around returning studs like Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, along with coveted transfer Baylor Scheierman. But is it possible that Creighton has another big-time contributor flying under the radar?
The Omaha World-Herald spotlighted redshirt freshman Mason Miller. The piece detailed the progression of the former top-75 recruit and son of NBA champion Mike Miller (but not our Mike Miller). Like his father, the younger Miller profiles as a lights-out shooter in a long, lanky frame.
However, coming into Creighton, his lack of strength led to a redshirt distinction. His uncle Ryan Miller shared his thoughts on last year’s decision:
“Mentally he probably felt ready, and skill wise he probably felt ready. But he understood that there’s a physical component to it that he had to get right. And to his credit, he took it really well.”
Per the World-Herald, Miller consumed six meals a day to put on somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds this past year. Now with added size, he could flourish as a catch-and-shoot assassin and pick-and-pop threat. He certainly has the surrounding playmakers to serve him open looks.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Huggy Bear reunites with the Huggy Bearcats
Over the weekend, Bob Huggins returned to Cincinnati to be honored alongside the 1992 Final Four team. Now flaunting a Hall of Fame demarcation, the grizzled coach seems to be enjoying the much-deserved recognition.
THE FAST BREAK
Links to click as you peruse all the new tweets mixing videos and photos:
Vermont’s Dylan Penn, a two-time All-ASUN selection at Bellarmine, will miss four to six weeks with a broken bone in his hand.
Rumors of Kennesaw State joining Conference USA are heating up.
The Pac-12’s media rights are back on the menu, baby. The conference wasn’t able to re-up on deals with ESPN and Fox Sports, meaning it can negotiate its rights on the open market.
Daimion Collins measured an alien-like 46.5-inch vertical and a 7-3 wingspan at Kentucky’s pro day.
THE DTF PODCAST
The essential Big East preview
You’ve read The Almanac’s Big East content? Good to hear. Still need more? Good news. Rob Dauster, Terrence Oglesby and Big East savant John Fanta have more insight into the sleepers, the potential POY, and life for the league after Jay Wright.
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