(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

In the kind of story that may motivate us to create a new "in a
completely unsurprising turn of events" tag, former La Salle University
center Aaric Murray has announced his intent to leave Coach John
Giannini's Explorers following the completion of his sophomore year.
Widely recruited as a high school senior out of Glen Mills by a number
of top programs, Murray ultimately chose La Salle after developing what
he deemed a special bond with Dr. G during the process. As a matter of
related fact, Murray and Giannini even filmed a piece for this
season's Comcast Sportsnet City 6 College Basketball Preview special, a
segment meant to highlight the strength of their relationship. Methinks
the duo doth pretend too much.

Strains in the continued viability of such a pairing were easily
visible all year. Each wild shouting fit from the coach was met with, at
least what appeared to be, a continually greater level of disinterest
from the player. Following the Explorer's ouster in the second round of
this year's Atlantic 10 conference tournament, a fellow attendee of G's
post-game presser leaned over to me and whispered, "Do you find it at
all strange that he refuses to mention Murray's name in discussing his
plans for next year?" Now, just two weeks later, it does indeed appear
as though the writing was on the wall.  Comments from John Giannini and more on the future of Aaric Murray after the jump...

In a piece from the Inquirer's Ray Parrillo:

"This
was a very difficult decision for me, and I wish Aaric the very best
for his future," head coach Dr. John Giannini said. "I know Aaric always
tried to do his best for La Salle, and we did all that we could to help
him as a person and as a basketball player. We will continue to support
Aaric in this process of finding another university."

Giannini
said Thursday night Murray was given his release at this time so he
could maximize his options as he begins the search for another school.
He said Murray plans to complete the spring semester at La Salle.

Parrillo goes onto to aptly remind us that regardless of Murray's
next point of harbor, he will be by rule required to sit out a full
season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Such a scenario can only be
circumvented due to a change in a program's coaching staff or as
a result of health issues incurred by a student-athlete. Murray
qualifies for neither exception. 

So, where's next for the 6'10 center with averages of 15.2 points and
7.7 rebounds per game in the 2010-11 season? West Virginia, Florida,
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Auburn are all rumored to be interested, and
are all a massive upgrades from his former digs on Olney Ave (no
offense, guys). Rumblings are also beginning to grow louder that Murray
is expected to send an application to another area school, one located
on North Broad St. If you need a hint, head south on Broad from Olney,
and you'll start to see a whole bunch of "][" logos as you're getting
close.

Now, do I believe Aaric Murray might actually wind up in a Temple
uniform come opening night 2012? No. With the NBA more than likely
headed for lockout, the opportunity to head for the draft is as an
unsure as it it unlikely. As such, I do anticipate Murray returning to
school. But, because he'll have lost a year of attention as a result of
his mandatory sit out, he'll want to maximize his own on visibility upon
return. Though Temple has consistently cracked the Top 25 the last
three seasons, the Atlantic 10 lacks the media coverage of a "power six"
conference, a fact Murray, by now, knows well. If he hopes to quickly
become re-relevant in draft circles when he does return to play, the
6'10 center's best bet is at a big name program. Moreover, there is no
guarantee that Temple head coach Fran Dunphy would even want Murray as
an addition. Either way, though it's possible Murray could submit an
application, I wouldn't get too worked up about it.

Update: We were able to get some clarification on Murray's
eligibility and transfer options. Though unlikely to begin with, due to
Atlantic 10 transfer rules, Murray would have sit out two seasons if
he intended to transfer within the conference. Word regarding spikes in
eligibility still seems to vary between losing one year and losing
none, while a move outside the conference would allow him two retain his
full two years. This link,
from the Pac-10 complicance web page, states that Murray would not lose
any eligibility in the event of an intraconference transfer.

As for the direction of La Salle Explorers moving forward, John
Giannini's hot seat has to be getting hotter. With a record of 98-115
over seven seasons, the doctor has posted only two winning seasons. And,
despite his (details undisclosed) contract extension last Spring, it's
not totally out of the realm of possibility for the University to begin
to consider other options. That said, the cost of a potential buy-out
might also be more than than administration is willing to swallow.

Any La Salle grads/students/fans out there to chime in on their program's future?

Eagles-Bengals Week 13: What they're saying

Eagles-Bengals Week 13: What they're saying

The Eagles have left themselves little to no room for error. 

A second consecutive loss dropped the Eagles (5-6) under .500 for the first time this season and pushed them a game and a half behind the Redskins (6-4-1) for the second wild card spot, with a number of teams still vying for that sixth and final position.

Now the Eagles will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive as they travel to Cincinnati to face the struggling Bengals (3-7-1). Cincinnati is currently riding a three-game losing streak and hasn't won a game since Oct. 23. 

The last time these two teams met was all the way back in 2012, when the Bengals routed Nick Foles and the Eagles at the Linc, 34-13.

To find out more about the A.J. Green-less Bengals, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 13 opponent heading into Sunday.

Starting slow …
The Bengals' problems this season have started on their first defensive drive. While Cincinnati boasts an average scoring defense at 17th overall (22.3 points per game), opposing offenses have scored with ease against the Bengals to open games.

In seven of the Bengals' first 11 games, the opposition has scored on its opening drive, with a touchdown coming six times of those times. In over half of their games the Bengals have trailed after the first quarter, in which they have gone 1-5.

According to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, if Cincinnati's defense could get off to a fast start it could help turn around the Bengals' fortunes down the stretch.

"On one hand, this seems like it should be easy enough to do. It’s just one possession," Owczarski wrote. "And, the Bengals are allowing 20.0 points per game over their last five games – a number that would be 10th in the NFL – and allowing 18.7 over their last three. But for some reason, opposing teams have been able to carve up the Bengals defense on the first drive and score touchdowns to give their team an immediate advantage. If the Bengals can avoid that defensively, it may create the change at the end of the game the team needs."

… finishing slower
While their defense has came up small at beginning of games, the Bengals' offense has sputtered at the end of games.

In fourth quarters Andy Dalton and company have mustered just one touchdown and 13 points overall in the past six weeks. For the season, the Bengals are averaging 4.1 points in the final quarter (31st overall) and are tied with the Giants for the most total punts in fourth quarters.

According to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals' offensive output in fourth quarters has been historically bad compared to the rest of the Marvin Lewis era.

"The Bengals are on pace for 66 fourth quarter points on the season. The dreadful number lags far behind all but one season in the Marvin Lewis Era. Only the debacle of the 2008 season with a Carson Palmer injury saw a smaller output," Dehner Jr. wrote. "... The defense owns a fair share of blame in the fourth quarter failure, though much of their mystery comes with the first drive of the game where they have allowed a touchdown in six of the last eight weeks. As for how the final quarter came to this epic fail, like anything, theories are abound though they matter little anymore."

Red Rocket coming back down to earth
Following a strong 2015 campaign that saw him throw 25 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions and boast a 106.2 quarterback rating, Andy Dalton has come back down to earth this season. Dalton has 12 touchdowns compared to six interceptions and a quarterback rating of 89.7.

Dalton is currently riding a streak of four games where he hasn't posted a quarterback rating any higher than 81.8 and it certainly hasn't helped his cause that star wideout A.J. Green has been out of the lineup for the past game-plus with a hamstring injury.

Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com listed Dalton as one of the six Cincinnati players to watch Sunday, as he'll be going against a capable defense that's looking to back on track.

"Dalton told ESPN that his shoulder was fine despite being on the injury report for two straight weeks," Terrell wrote. "But something is amiss, whether it’s his shoulder, his receivers or his offensive line. He hasn’t had a passing rating of more than 80 since Oct. 23, and the Bengals offense has struggled with only one touchdown in the last six quarters."

Predictions
Vegas has this game even as a pick-em and that was reflected in this week's national prediction roundup, with the Bengals gaining just a slight edge overall. 

ESPN: Six of nine experts picked the Bengals

CBS Sports: Five of eight experts picked the Bengals

FOX Sports: Four of five experts picked the Eagles

Eagles-Bengals: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Bengals: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (5-6) have lost six of their last eight games and travel to Cincinnati to face a Bengals team that dropped to 3-7-1 last week. 

Judging by the records, this is a game the Eagles should win easily, but of course it's not that easy. And these two teams aren't that far apart (see story)

The Eagles are absolutely desperate. They would likely need to win their last five games to make the playoffs. 

It'll have to start with a win in Cinci this weekend. Here are five matchups to watch. 

Wendell Smallwood vs. Bengals' run D
With Ryan Mathews (knee) out again this week, expect to see plenty of rookie Smallwood on Sunday afternoon (see story). He carried the ball just nine times against the Packers, but the Eagles barely ran the ball. On Friday, Doug Pederson said Smallwood wasn't the reason why. 

There should be some decent opportunity for Smallwood this weekend against a Bengals defense that has given up 120.5 yards per game on the ground, the fifth worst average in the NFL. They've given up 100-plus yards on the ground if four of the last five weeks. 

Allen Barbre vs. Carlos Dunlap
Dunlap leads the Bengals with 6½ sacks and he'll get to face off against Barbre, who's a veteran but is now out of position. With rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai still out with his knee injury, Barbre is the new right tackle. 

Another matchup will be Geno Atkins vs. the Eagles' guards. Atkins lines up on both sides of the line, but he'll likely see plenty of Stefen Wisniewski instead of Brandon Brooks. 

Tyler Eifert vs. Malcolm Jenkins/Nigel Bradham
With the injury to A.J. Green, whom Eifert said was the Bengals' best player, Eifert has become Cincinnati's No. 1 target. 

He was targeted 11 times and had five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown last week against the Ravens. 

He'll see a mix of Jenkins and Bradham on him this Sunday. 

Cedric Ogbuehi vs. Brandon Graham
The Bengals have one really good offensive tackle on the left side of the line (Andrew Witworth) and Ogbuehi on the other. So far this season, Ogbuehi, according to ProFootballFocus, has given up eight sacks, three quarterback hits and 29 quarterback hurries. Only three offensive tackles have given up more sacks than Ogbuehi this year. 

With Witworth likely shutting down Barwin and with Fletcher Cox likely getting double-teamed inside, Graham vs. Ogbuehi might be the Eagles' best opportunity to create pressure. 

Jeremy Hill vs. Eagles run defense
The Eagles, at times this season, have had trouble with running backs who run hard. And they've at times had trouble with missing tackles. 

That could be a problem against Hill. This could be a grind-it-out type of game for both teams, which means Hill could play a huge role. Of his 644 rushing yards this year, 404 have come after contact. To put that into perspective, Ezekiel Elliott leads the league in rushing yards after contact, but 62.7 percent of Hill's yards have come after contact, compared to 57 percent of Elliott's.