The Dagger - NCAAB

  • Whether it's leading the nation in home attendance 10 straight years, camping out by the thousands for the right to attend a practice or helping John Calipari surpass 1.3 million Twitter followers, Kentucky supporters are a bit more obsessive than other fan bases.

    Now comes further proof the citizens of Big Blue Nation are different: They have their own matchmaking service.

    BBNMeetup.com launched on Thursday, billing itself as the dating site "with the goal of helping Kentucky fans find love with other Kentucky fans." Users will discover many familiar features other mainstream dating sites possess and one element unique to BBNMeetup: a metric that allows users to rate how passionate a Kentucky fan they are and seek out others who are equally fair weather or fanatical.

    It's fair to wonder if a site devoted exclusively to one fan base can possibly provide a large enough dating pool to keep its clientele happy, but consider that Kentucky isn't like other states. A Mashable study from last year revealed that "basketball" was the most commonly used word on dating profiles among residents of Kentucky.

    BBNMeetup has generated nationwide publicity in the lead-up to its launch, so much so that a torrent of visitors apparently even crashed the site this morning.

    So break out your selfie sticks and your finest throwback Jeff Sheppard jerseys, all you single Kentucky fans, because it's time to snap a flattering profile picture.

    John Calipari's Wildcats fell two wins shy of winning a title this April. Thanks to BBNMeetup, perhaps some of their fans will get rings anyway.

    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Already well positioned next season with its top six scorers returning from a 23-win NCAA tournament team, Cincinnati took a big step Wednesday toward securing its long-term future too.

    The Bearcats landed three commitments in less than 24 hours, a pair from promising recruits Nysier Brooks and Jarron Cumberland and the other from coveted transfer Kyle Washington.

    The most impactful addition might be Cumberland, a muscular 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Wilmington, Ohio, who is Rivals.com's No. 65 prospect in the Class of 2016. Cumberland had interest from the likes of Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Xavier and Butler, but a blue-collar, hard-nosed program like Cincinnati ought to be a good fit.

    A 6-foot-8 big man from New Jersey who thrives on doing the little things, Brooks is another good fit for the Bearcats even if he is less heralded than Cumberland. He seldom scores any other ways besides tip-ins and dump-off passes, but he is an effective interior defender and rebounder.

    The last among the three additions is Washington, a 6-foot-9 forward who transferred from NC State after he averaged 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore. Washington will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in the 2016-17 season and will provide a potential replacement for top big man Octavius Ellis, who will play his final college season next year.

    Next season's Cincinnati team has a chance to contend for the American Athletic Conference crown and advance deeper into the NCAA tournament if young stars Troy Caupain and Gary Clark can become more efficient scorers.

    And with Brooks, Cumberland and Washington all set to debut the following season, there's good reason to believe the Bearcats can sustain their momentum.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Most cold-shooting big men won't deign to dabble with attempting free throws underhand because they're fearful of being ridiculed for it.

    Credit Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku for daring to be different.

    Onuaku, a 46.7 percent free throw shooter this past season, is experimenting with the Rick Barry-esque granny stroke this summer at the suggestion of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The 6-foot-10 sophomore showed off his new approach in the U-19 World Championships over the weekend, sinking 2 of 4 foul shots in the U.S. team's opening victory over Iran.

    Onuaku logged 17.8 minutes per game for Louisville as a freshman, averaging 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and making an impact defensively with his ability to block shots. He is expected to play a greater role for the Cardinals next season with Montrezl Harrell off to the NBA.

    In two games for the U.S. U-19 team, Onuaku has made a limited impact off the bench. He had four points and four rebounds against Croatia and two points and five rebounds against Iran.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • In the first 11 NBA drafts since Rivals.com began ranking high school basketball prospects, ex-Tennessee wing Scotty Hopson had been the only top-five recruit to go unselected.

    Hopson finally has company on that not-so-illustrious list.

    Sixty prospects heard their names called during Thursday night's NBA draft, however, former Kansas big man Cliff Alexander wasn't one of them. The consensus top-five recruit ranked ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell only a year ago will now have to try to latch on with an NBA franchise as an undrafted free agent and win a roster spot in training camp.

    Alexander's draft night tumble comes on the heels of an underwhelming freshman season at Kansas.

    Hailed as an elite power forward capable of overpowering defenders in the paint and dominating the glass, Alexander flashed only occasional glimpses of that potential. A foot injury last summer and a chest ailment during the season hampered Alexander, as did the playing time he lost with his inconsistent production and effort. 

    Things only got worse for Alexander when his season ended amid an NCAA investigation after his mother, Latillia, accepted improper benefits from a third party. Alexander averaged a modest 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, yet he had little choice but to leave Kansas since he was unlikely to be eligible to play right away the following season.

    Many mock drafts still projected Alexander as a late first-round pick when he entered in April, but some red flags began emerging. He measured at just over 6-foot-7 without shoes, he suffered a knee injury that hampered him during workouts and he failed to prove to skeptical scouts that he had good enough footwork, outside shooting or athleticism to make up for being undersized.

    While that certainly explains why no NBA team used a first-round pick on Alexander, it's still shocking that none of them bothered to take a second-round flier on him. This is a kid that many compared favorably with Towns and Jahlil Okafor as recently as a year or two ago.

    Give Alexander credit for his positive attitude after what had to be one of the most disappointing nights of his life.

    Alexander has plenty of company on the bottom Thursday night as he is one of 18 underclassmen who entered the draft early but were not among the 60 players selected. Here's a look at the most high-profile early-entry candidates to go undrafted.

    1. Cliff Alexander, F, Kansas

    Comment: The culmination of a stunning fall for a top-five recruit frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns as recently as a year ago.

    2. Christian Wood, F, UNLV

    Comment: The 6-foot-11 forward is a tantalizing combination of size and length, but his maturity and work ethic are both lacking.

    3. Robert Upshaw, C, Washington

    Comment: Even though Upshaw is the best shot blocker in this draft, concerns about his off-court issues and his heart problems kept him from being selected. 

    4. Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky

    Comment: Had Harrison been selected on Thursday, Kentucky would have been the first school to have seven draft picks in one year.

    5. Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona

    Comment: The one-time highly touted recruit has a nice pick-and-pop jump shot but no other elite skills to set him apart from other prospects.

    6. Trevor Lacey, G, N.C. State

    Comment: Lacey's decision to leave school a year early made sense because of his age even though he was not selected. He'll make a lucrative salary overseas if he doesn't make an NBA roster.

    7. Chris Walker, F, Florida

    Comment: An NBA-caliber athlete who still looks like he doesn't know how to play basketball, Walker had no business leaving school early.

    8. Michael Qualls, G, Arkansas

    Comment: An ill-timed knee injury during workouts wrecked Qualls' hopes of being selected in the second round.

    Related NBA draft video from Yahoo Sports:

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Three months after Jim Boeheim revealed his intent to retire in three years, Syracuse also clarified its succession plan.

    Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Thursday that assistant coach Mike Hopkins has been formally named Syracuse's head coach-designate and will replace Boeheim following the 2017-18 men's basketball season.

    "For more than 25 years, Mike Hopkins has demonstrated the true meaning of Orange pride and loyalty," Syverud said in a statement. "He has contributed so much to the success of the Syracuse basketball program. I know Mike is ready to lead the program into the future and carry forward the success that has occurred under Coach Boeheim."

    The timing of the decision is significant because Syracuse just introduced a new athletic director on Monday. Even though the announcement technically came from Svyerud, it's safe to assume Hopkins also has Mark Croyle's support as the right choice to oversee the transition into the post-Boeheim era. 

    The revelation of Syracuse's succession plan provides some stability to a proud program rocked by NCAA sanctions earlier this year. In addition to last season's postseason ban, the NCAA vacated more than 100 of Boeheim's victories, suspended him for nine games next season and handed down crippling scholarship and recruiting restrictions.

    Setting the succession plan in stone is a smart move by Syracuse because it eases uncertainty among both fans and prospective recruits. Hopkins had been unofficially acknowledged as Boeheim's eventual successor for years, but he also interviewed for the USC job and several others during that period, raising the question of whether he would remain long enough to inherit the job.

    Now that there's a finite time table in place and he has the public support of his administration, Hopkins has less incentive to look elsewhere. That's crucial for a Syracuse program that would not be in an ideal position to hire from the outside while still dealing with scholarship restrictions in 2018.

    A prominent candidate from outside the program might not want to step into that mess. Hopkins, however, apparently has no such fear.

    "I'm honored, humbled and grateful for this special opportunity," Hopkins said in a statement. "Very few people are afforded the privilege to coach at their alma mater. I want to thank Chancellor Syverud, the Board of Trustees and Jim Boeheim for entrusting me with this great program."

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • When Oregon forward Elgin Cook tweeted Jamal Murray last week congratulating him on his commitment and welcoming him to the Ducks, it raised an obvious question.

    Did Cook have inside information that the last uncommitted five-star recruit in the class of 2015 was going to choose Oregon?

    Turns out Cook's since-deleted tweet was erroneous since Murray did not choose the Ducks. The highly touted Canadian point guard instead announced Wednesday evening that he is headed to Kentucky, a huge coup for a program that must replace seven members of its rotation from this past season's 38-1 Final Four team.

    Originally a member of the class of 2016, Murray began strongly considering reclassifying after earning MVP honors for his 30-point, five-assist masterpiece of a performance at April's Nike Hoop Summit. The 6-foot-5 Murray thrives with the ball in his hands but is big enough to guard opposing wings, which will be crucial for a Kentucky team that will also feature returning point guard Tyler Ulis and high-scoring incoming combo guard Isaiah Briscoe. 

    Murray became a critical recruit for Kentucky when John Calipari uncharacteristically swung and missed in his pursuit of a handful of top recruits this spring. Jaylen Brown (Cal), Ivan Rabb (Cal), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas) all spurned the Wildcats, leaving Calipari in jeopardy of taking thinner roster than usual into next season.

    The addition of Murray alleviates much of that concern.

    With him, Ulis, Briscoe in the backcourt, Calipari has a trio of guards who should thrive in a dribble-drive offense and potential capable backups in freshman Charles Matthews and veteran Dominique Hawkins. Highly touted freshman Skal Labissiere and returners Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee should serve as mainstays in the frontcourt.

    It's foolish to ever count out Kentucky in a recruitment, but it's mildly surprising that Murray became the prospect who ended the Wildcats' string of spring misses. Oregon appeared to have the strongest connection between the presence of an assistant coach (Mike Mennenga) who was once co-director of Murray's grassroots program and the addition of Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis, Murray's former teammate on the AAU circuit.

    Alas, it was not to be for Oregon, which knows the pain of finishing second in the pursuit of a five-star prospect all too well. The Ducks have been the runner-ups in the recruitment of Anthony Bennett, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon, among others.

    Elgin Cook's tweet gave Ducks fans hope this time might be different. Instead Murray altered next season's college basketball landscape by choosing Kentucky instead.

    Rivals.com Video of Jamal Murray

    For more Kentucky news, visit CatsIllustrated.com

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • A reserve guard on the Wofford basketball team drowned early Monday morning after apparently diving off a bridge into a South Carolina lake.

    Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah Tate and a fellow counselor at Camp Thunderbird reportedly jumped off the Buster Boyd Bridge into Lake Wylie at around 2 a.m. The other counselor survived the 30-foot plunge. Tate did not resurface until divers pulled his body from the water about two hours later. 

    Tate was a rising junior at Wofford who was majoring in accounting and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Pre-Law Society. He played sparingly his first two seasons for Wofford, appearing in 10 games as a freshman and three as a sophomore and averaging less than a point per game.

    "The entire Wofford College family is devastated and saddened today by the loss of Jeremiah Tate," Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson said in a statement from the school.

    "Jeremiah was such a dedicated, loved and respected member of the men's basketball team. He had a wonderful personality and had many friends on campus extending outside of the athletic department. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with his family. He will truly be missed."

    Tate's Wofford teammates also reflected on his death via Twitter.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The last time Michigan State secured a commitment from an elite prospect, center Caleb Swanigan changed his mind soon afterward and eventually signed with Purdue.

    The Spartans are hoping their latest commitment yields a better outcome. 

    Josh Langford, a 6-foot-6 guard from Madison, Ala., committed to Michigan State on Monday after  taking an official visit to the school over the weekend. Langord, Rivals.com's No. 17 prospect in the class of 2016, chose the Spartans over the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Duke, among others. 

    The addition of Langford will help Michigan State replenish a perimeter corps that lost leading scorer Travis Trice this spring and will lose seniors-to-be Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes next year. Langford could play alongside promising West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, pass-first point guard LouRawls Nairn and deadly shooter Matt McQuaid if all three opt to remain in East Lansing beyond the 2015-16 season.

    What Langford will bring to Michigan State is the versatility to score in multiple ways. He has the size, athleticism and skill to attack the rim off the dribble or score in the post and he has improved the range and consistency of his jump shot too in recent months.

    Langford's decisiion is a punch to the gut for rival Michigan because the Wolverines had a realistic chance to land the wing before accepting a commitment from fellow five-star guard Tyus Battle earlier this year. Battle decommitted over the weekend, leaving the Wolverines no time to get back in the race for Langford. 

    With Langford and fellow top 100 prospect Nick Ward both having committed already, Michigan State could be poised to assemble a special 2016 class. They're also in contention for a pair of top in-state prospects, point guard Cassius Winston and forward Miles Bridges.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • One of college basketball's most creative haircuts belongs to one of the sport's better point guards.

    Bronson Koenig, a key player on the past two Wisconsin teams that have reached the Final Four, posted a photo of himself Tuesday night with a fresh haircut honoring his Native American heritage. The signature element of the haircut is a feather deftly carved into the side of his head.

    The only instructions Koenig apparently gave his barber was to give him a haircut that would reflect his Native American pride. Koenig has spoken previously about his desire to learn more about his heritage and become a source of inspiration to young Native Americans.

    "I'm always curious because I didn't know all that much, and in history classes we'd only talk about it a little bit," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February. "But I would be really interested because that is my people and we don't learn much about them."

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The timing of Minnesota's decision not to medically clear incoming freshman Jarvis Johnson did not sit well with the point guard's family.

    Curtis Johnson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his son felt blindsided when university officials shared the news earlier this month.

    “We felt a little misguided in the way the recruitment went, and then the sudden decision last week," the elder Johnson said. “Under the circumstances, time didn’t allow us to make an educated decision even. We felt pressured by it.”

    Jarvis Johnson had an internal defibrillator installed in eighth grade after his heart stopped during a practice and he was diagnosed with hydropathic cardiomyopathy. Doctors cleared him to play thereafter, enabling him to emerge as one of the state of Minnesota's top recruits and lead powerful DeLaSalle High School to four consecutive state championships.

    It's totally understandable Minnesota would want to protect itself legally by having its own doctors decide whether to clear him to play, but it's a shame that there appears to have been a communication breakdown between the school and the family.

    Johnson's family ought to have been aware this was a prerequisite for Jarvis to be able to play for the Gophers. Perhaps there also might have been a way to accelerate the process so that Jarvis might have time to find other options for the 2015-16 school year.

    Ultimately, if Jarvis Johnson decides to leave Minnesota and seek another program willing to medically clear him to play, there is a precedent for such a move. 

    Virginia Tech wouldn't clear forward Allan Chaney to play as a result of a heart condition, so he resurfaced at High Point in 2012 and played for parts of two seasons until another medical scare forced him to give up basketball in Dec. 2013. A similar second scare ended the career of former top 100 recruit Emmanuel Negedu soon after he transferred from Tennessee to New Mexico because the Lobos agreed to clear him to play. 

    Other similar cases ended without incident. Pepperdine wouldn't clear Will Kimble to play after he collapsed in practice, so he transferred to UTEP, playing the 2004-05  and 05-06 seasons with a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest.

    "Everyone in my circle was comfortable and we had no reservations about it at all," Kimble told Yahoo Sports in 2010. "I believe that this condition is something that can be monitored, and if you have a good crew of doctors looking after you, I believe it's something you can play with. My understanding was my defibrillator is going to protect me. More so, the risk was what is going to be the after effect of the defibrillator kicking in."

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