Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post-Draft BP68

This is my first bracket projection since April and it will be my last until Midnight Madness. The goal here is to take into account everything that has happened since April, including coaching changes, transfers, NBA defections, suspensions, signings, etc.

There are a few changes since the last bracket. The biggest is Kentucky moving to #1 overall. I've talked before about how I'm still not a total believer in this Kentucky team because Calipari is going to have to pull some kind of magic act to keep all of his players happy. But at this point, the safe pick is putting them #1 overall. I can say with pretty high confidence that they'll be #1 in the preseason media polls.

As for the teams making up the Field of 68, there have been two changes. Elfrid Payton's defection to the NBA has flipped the Sun Belt favorite from Louisiana Lafayette to Georgia State. Meanwhile, Colorado State (the first team out of my last bracket) moved into the field while UNLV dropped out after the losses of Khem Birch and Deville Smith.

There are other teams that moved up and down in terms of seed, but one change that didn't get made is Kansas/Texas for the Big 12 favorite. I've talked about this already on the blog, but while the media is likely going to pick Texas as the Big 12 preseason favorite, I'm sticking with Kansas. As much of a strong prospect as Myles Turner is, Texas is already well-stocked in good big men who need to play in the paint. They need another perimeter player, or they need significantly improved shooting from Isaiah Taylor, to finally stop Bill Self's reign of terror atop the Big 12.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday 2015:

1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
1. DUKE (ACC)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12)

2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. North Carolina
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Texas

3. Florida
3. Virginia
3. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)

4. Oklahoma
4. GONZAGA (WCC)
4. SMU (AAC)
4. Louisville

5. Utah
5. Michigan
5. Ohio State
5. Iowa

6. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)
6. West Virginia
6. Iowa State
6. Dayton

7. UConn
7. Pittsburgh
7. Illinois
7. Colorado

8. Stanford
8. Xavier
8. UCLA
8. Nebraska

9. Georgetown
9. Cincinnati
9. Syracuse
9. Maryland

10. Miami-Florida
10. Northern Iowa
10. BYU
10. Oklahoma State

11. Richmond
11. Michigan State
11. HARVARD (IVY)
11. Arkansas

12. Tennessee
12. Colorado State
12. Butler
12. Oregon
12. TOLEDO (MAC)
12. UC SANTA BARBARA (BIG WEST)

13. CLEVELAND STATE (HORIZON)
13. UTEP (CONFERENCE USA)
13. SIENA (MAAC)
13. DREXEL (COLONIAL)

14. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
14. DENVER (SUMMIT)
14. FLORIDA GULF COAST (ATLANTIC SUN)
14. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)

15. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
15. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (PATRIOT)
15. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)
15. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)

16. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
16. STONY BROOK (AMERICA EAST)
16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. WOFFORD (SOCON)
16. ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN (NEC)
16. ALABAMA STATE (SWAC)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Memphis, Tulsa, Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Creighton, Providence, Minnesota, Purdue, Baylor, Kansas State, Illinois State, UNLV, California, Georgia, Saint Mary's

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Houston, Temple, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, George Washington, UMass, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Indiana, Northwestern, UC-Irvine, Northeastern, Louisiana Tech, Green Bay, Iona, Western Michigan, Missouri State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, San Francisco

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duquesne, Penn State, Texas Tech, Delaware, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Northern Illinois, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Boise State, Wyoming, Oregon State, USC, Washington State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Portland, San Diego

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Previewing The 2014 NBA Draft

It's that brutal time of the year.

The NBA Draft? Nah, that's kind of fun. I mean the run-up to the NBA Draft.

As with all things, there's a sensible middle ground. When I criticize Chad Ford-type draft analysts for being too impressed by how high guys can jump or how good they look in workouts against chairs, the typical pushback I get (on twitter at least) is that potential and athleticism matter and you can't just pick the best college players. And my response to that is: Yeah. No kidding. Nobody anywhere thinks Doug McDermott should get drafted before Andrew Wiggins just because he was better in 2013-14.

But at the same time, college performance matters, too. Throw out straight-out-of-high-school guys and European guys, and ask yourself how many guys you can think of who were non-elite college players yet who went onto become elite NBA players. You can have all the athleticism in the world, but if you can't translate it into quality play in college, why are you going to magically translate it into performance in the NBA? Particularly if you're buried on the end of the bench?

Every year there are one or two lottery guys who just tickle the fancy of draft analysts. They jump through the roof, they dominate every drill, and they look fantastic in an open gym... and everything that gets written about them in the run-up to the draft confuses the hell out of everybody who just watched them play actual basketball games in the NCAA. Last year that guy was Alex Len. And this year, we have a tie for the winner of the draft analyst love affair award between Joel Embiid and Zach LaVine. You think "love affair" is too strong of a phrase? Well...
Let's just say, Joel, that if you get some flowers with an anonymous card, we've got a leading candidate.

Anyway, I do these draft previews every year. Here is last season's, and from there you can find links to previous ones. As usual, I'm only going to talk about college players, as I have nothing educated to say about the European picks. So let's do this:


Green Room Guys:

Underrated:

TJ Warren - The full list of Green Room invites appears to be here. Warren turns 21 years old between the draft and the start of the regular season, which is a concern, but he did improve significantly between his freshman and sophomore seasons, so he doesn't appear to be close to peaking yet. If you didn't watch a lot of ACC basketball, you might not have seen Warren much prior to the NCAA Tournament. But be assured that what you saw of him in March was what he did all season long. The 37.3% of his team's shots he took while on the floor were third most in the nation, and he managed to do it efficiently (a 54.8 eFG%) and while physically dominating his opponents.

Warren is far from a sure thing. He's not a prolific rebounder, so he might have a bit of a "tweener" body. But he's a guy who, if he was on a more prominent team and fit better into media narratives, could easily be talked about as a Top 5 pick. He has superstar upside. Anywhere outside the top ten he'll be a good value. And right now, many are projecting him out of the lottery altogether.

Marcus Smart - It's funny that Smart ended up here since he was one of the most overrated players in the nation as a freshman. But narratives can be powerful, and the perception that he hasn't progressed blew up with all of his flopping and the shoving incident. But let's debunk these in reverse order. The shoving incident was dumb, but he's a very young guy and he had a momentary lapse in judgment - there's nothing else that we know about him that makes him seem like a troublemaker or thug. Can't give up on a kid over one small incident like that. As for the flopping... did you see Lebron and Dwyane Wade in the playoffs this past season? Elite NBA players flop. And as for the idea that he didn't progress? Well, between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smart shouldered a significantly larger fraction of OSU's offense while shooting better, scoring more efficiently, assisting on more baskets and dropping his turnovers. But other than that...

Outside of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, Smart is the surest commodity in the draft. You can plug him into just about any NBA starting lineup right now. If he goes anywhere lower than third overall (which he surely will) he'll be a good value.

Aaron Gordon - Because he's not a big scorer, Gordon is unlikely to ever be an NBA superstar. He gets compared to Blake Griffin, but I think that's just because he physically looks like Blake Griffin. He even wears the same facial expressions as Griffin. But their games are very different. Griffin was a much bigger college scorer. But Gordon is a fantastic defender, and he clearly has NBA size and athleticism. But even if Gordon probably will never be 1st team All-NBA, I'd bet on him starting in the NBA for the next dozen years. And that will make him a good value late in the top ten, which is where he's projected to go.

Overrated:

Joel Embiid - The thing with Embiid is that it looks like he might plummet in the draft now that a stress fracture was announced last week, which is a bit bizarre. His back injury this past season should be seen as a much more significant red flag than a freak foot injury. Maybe it's all a case of recent-ism.

Anyway, I've talked about this plenty, so I'm going to repeat myself here, but the Joel Embiid Phenomenon this past season was a narrative blown out of control. Andrew Wiggins was hyped up as the greatest prospect since Lebron James, meaning that there was no way that there wouldn't be media narrative blowback anytime he had a down game (everybody has down games, but nobody has each one dissected more than Wiggins). And part of the blowback was the over-hyping of his teammate. Embiid was a pretty good player, but via Ken Pomeroy, here were his top freshman statistical comps: Tony Mitchell, Eric Moreland and Joel Bolomboy.

An additional concern is that Embiid played smaller than his height as a freshman. He repeatedly struggled against teams like Texas, Baylor and Florida that had NBA-sized big men, while he piled up his best performances against undersized teams like Iowa State and Oklahoma State. There's a big difference between looking good in the paint against 6'7" guys and against 6'11" guys, and in the NBA you're not going to see much of the former.

I feel like the Joel Embiid Crazy is summed up by this tweet, which isn't coming from Skip Bayless or Chris Broussard, but from ESPN Stats & Info:
If you really believe the worst case scenario for Embiid is Yao Ming, who made 8 All-Star games, 5 All-NBA teams and averaged 19 points per game over his NBA career, he's a no-brainer #1 overall pick. But that's not the real worst case. The real worst case is Sam Bowie. The fact is that Embiid ticks every "draft bust" box. He's 7-feet tall, he's super raw, he struggled most against NBA size, he's media hyped and he has a significant injury history. Ask yourself: How many raw 7-footers with injury history have ever gone top ten in the NBA Draft and paid off? I can't think of one. But I can think of a lot of busts.

Zach LaVine - The thing with Joel Embiid is that as much as I think he's going to be a bust, at least he was one of the two or three best players on one of the best teams in the nation. Zach LaVine was something like the sixth or seventh best player on UCLA. Meh. If you draft him, be aware that he's almost guaranteed to play in the D-League as a rookie. He's just so incredibly far from being a quality NBA player.

Ask yourself why all the draft analysts who harp on one or two down games that Andrew Wiggins had never mention that LaVine averaged 4.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game over six Pac-12 and NCAA tourney games, or that he had at least as many fouls committed as points scored in four of their final seven games. Yet every mock I've seen lately has him going before TJ Warren, who as a sophomore absolutely carried NC State to an NCAA tourney win? Please. Take the Warren, leave the LaVine.

Rodney Hood - Hood was a very overrated college player, too. He scores a lot, and he's a good shooter, but he's a 6'8" guy who doesn't rebound and is a poor defender. It's ironic that Jabari Parker gets hammered all the time for being a zero-defense guy, yet Parker is a defensive monster compared to Hood. It's pretty tough to play in the NBA if you're 6'8" and don't rebound or play defense. To overcome that, you need to be an explosive scorer, but Hood is more of a jump shooter. Only 18.9% of the shots he took from the field at Duke were at the rim. Late in the lottery, you can do a lot better.


Late 1st/Early 2nd Round Guys:

Underrated:

PJ Hairston - I'm going to put a little bit of an asterisk here because I haven't seen Hairston play a game in more than a year. It's possible that his training went off the rails during his year of ineligibility. But Hairston was an incredibly efficient scorer for North Carolina as a sophomore, showing dramatic improvement in all aspects of his game. He has a nice outside shot and he can also beat his man off the dribble and finish at the hoop or draw fouls. There are enough question marks that you'd want to lay off him in the first 15 picks, but he'll be a really nice value late in the first round.

Kyle Anderson - Anderson is a hard player to figure out because he doesn't fit into any mold. He's a 6'9" player who looks so slow when you watch him run, yet he put up the stats of an elite point guard. When you watch him play, he seems to glide as he moves in apparent slow motion past his man to the basket... yet he always beats his man to the basket. He needs to fall into the right situation, but if he gets a coach who knows what to do with him and how to fix his flaws, he has the raw potential to be an NBA star someday.

Mitch McGary - This is a risky pick, of course. Back injuries for big guys are something that can ruin a career. But of course, Joel Embiid had one, too, and you're going to have to use a really high pick to get him. Later in the first round, if you have a chance to get a guy who has NBA All-Star potential, you absolutely have to take him. Remember, McGary was going to likely be a top 5 draft pick a year ago. He's physical, he's a strong rebounder, and he's an effective finisher around the rim. He might end up a bust, but late in the first round that's a risk you've got to be willing to take.

Khem Birch - This is another "upside" pick, which if you haven't noticed the trend, is what I think NBA teams should be picking late in the first round and into the second round. At his size, Khem Birch needs to develop a mid-range jump shoot to be anything more than a defensive specialist, but he's a big time defender with NBA size and length, and he's a strong rebounder as well. Think of him as a poor man's Serge Ibaka, and remember how Ibaka quickly turned into an elite player once he developed a mid-range jump shot.

Overrated:

Jordan Clarkson - If you're a poor outside shooter who hasn't improved your shooting in three seasons, you need to be elite at something else to become an NBA point guard. But what is Jordan Clarkson elite at? He's not even much of a passing point guard either. He'd make a better shooting guard than point guard if he could shoot, but he can't. Seems bizarre to use a first round pick on him when a guy like Shabazz Napier could easily still be on the board.

Jerami Grant - Most mocks have Grant very narrowly behind his college teammate Tyler Ennis. Huh? Ennis has a significantly higher ceiling and has proven to be an elite college point guard. Grant's reputation seemed to grow because of the mistaken media narrative that Syracuse fell apart when he missed a couple of weeks. Jerami Grant is a solid player, but he wasn't an elite college player and he doesn't have an elite skill. He's a 6'8" guy who doesn't shoot well, yet who will likely never be physical enough to play in the paint in the NBA. Ennis deserves to be a borderline Top 20 pick. His teammate does not.

Patric Young - It's weird to think of a four year player at an elite program as a "workout guy", but that's what Patric Young is. He looks fantastic - he's the most physically imposing player in college basketball jogging out of the tunnel. But he's just never been elite, and he never improved much over his four seasons, meaning that there's little hope for a dramatic improvement from him in the NBA. Most mock drafts seem to have Young going in the early second round, and that's just an uninspired pick in that location, in my opinion.

Everybody Else:

Underrated:
 
Jordan Bachynski - Once you get past the lottery, you're probably not getting an NBA starter with your draft pick. So you want to go with upside guys, or else you want a guy who has a clear NBA skill. And Bachynski is the latter. He's never going to be much of a scorer, but he might have been the best shot blocker in the nation this past season, and at a legit 7'2" he's likely going to be able to continue that in the NBA. Bachynski is a guy who probably will play 10-15 minutes per game in the NBA, and late in the second round that's excellent value.

Bryce Cotton - Cotton doesn't have the profile for a guy you want to draft. He doesn't have superstar upside and he doesn't have an obvious NBA skill (he's very good at everything, but not elite at anything). The fact that he was a four year player at Providence (and honestly it felt like he played for six years) means that you'd generally lay off of a guy like him. But first of all, Cotton was very young for his year. He's 21 years old, and younger than Mitch McGary. Second, Cotton is such an incredible basketball player. He never sat on the bench, and gave maximum effort at all times, absolutely carrying a Providence team that had very little of anything else. If anybody in his situation can find a way to adapt and become a useful NBA rotation piece, I'd bet on Cotton. He's worth a flyer in the latter half of the second round.

Overrated:

Johnny O'Bryant - Is O'Bryant supposed to be an upside guy? He didn't improve much over three seasons at LSU. He's only 6'8.5" in shoes, yet he has no outside game and isn't much of a paint scorer. And he's not a great rebounder or defender either. He's a big, strong guy, but that means a lot more for 6'8" guys in college than it does in the NBA. I just don't see what anybody sees in Johnny O'Bryant as a prospect.

James Michael McAdoo - There was a running joke I had going the past two seasons, which was to watch out for the announcer of every North Carolina game to say that this was a "disappointing" or "sub par" performance from McAdoo. There were maybe one or two games in his entire career that you didn't hear it. In a sensible world, these repeated disappointments would cause the media to lower their estimation of how good McAdoo was. But they didn't. McAdoo was not a particularly good college play and he has no specifically elite skill either. You look at him wearing a uniform and he physically looks like he should be a superstar, but he's not.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Morning News: Catching Up On A Month Of News

"Wassup, guys?"

It's been close to a month since I had a Morning News post, so it's time to catch up on some of the bigger news stories in college basketball that I haven't covered yet. As a side note, be aware that I'll have an NBA Draft preview post up later this week. I'll also post another complete bracket projection sometime during the week following the draft. So stay tuned for those two posts.

Jerian Grant Officially Returning To Notre Dame There had been talk about this for a few months, but it's now official that Jerian Grant will be back. This is really big news for them, of course. The Irish were never one of the 25 best teams in the country this past season (though they were ranked in the official polls briefly in November), but their season went into a total tailspin after they lost Grant, and they ended up just 6-12 in the ACC. Getting Grant back doesn't mean the Irish will be elite again next season (the loss of Garrick Sherman will be huge), but it should at least get them back to the Tournament bubble.

Byron Wesley To Gonzaga USC basketball was obviously a dumpster fire this past season, but the one bright spot was Byron Wesley, who was legitimately one of the better players in the Pac-12. He now takes his talents to Gonzaga, where he'll have one year of eligibility left which he will use right away. This fills a bit need for a Gonzaga team that is going to have a lot of size and length but needed perimeter ball handling after the loss of David Stockton. I already had Gonzaga as a 4 seed in my projected bracket, and I'm not going to move them higher than a 3 seed now, but this strengthens their position as a clear Top 25 team and a dark horse Final Four contender.

Oklahoma Adds Houston's TaShawn Thomas This transfer may or may not matter for next season since, as far as I'm aware, Thomas is still awaiting word from the NCAA whether he'll be immediately eligible or not. But if he can play, he'll provide Oklahoma with an explosive front court scorer, as well as a very strong paint defensive presence. And while most see next season's Big 12 as a battle between Texas and Kansas (the media will likely choose Texas while I'm choosing Kansas), TaShawn Thomas would have the ability to put the Sooners right into that discussion. They'll likely be Top 25 to start next season even if Thomas is ineligible.

Bruce Pearl Adds KC Ross-Miller And Antoine Mason Mason was the nation's leading scorer at Niagara last season. Ross-Miller, a point guard, was one of the best players on New Mexico State last season. And Auburn had already added Kareem Canty from Marshall. We knew Bruce Pearl would upgrade the talent level at Auburn, and he certainly has. Should Auburn fans start printing NCAA Tournament tickets? Well, no. But they'll have a supremely more entertaining team, and they should if nothing else be competitive in SEC play after five consecutive seasons of winning fewer than 40% of their SEC games, and no NCAA Tournament appearances in more than a decade.

Lots Of Maryland News It feels as if Maryland has had total roster turnover. They've had something like eight players transfer out and five transfer in (that might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight). I've already covered plenty of Maryland news already this offseason (see here for links to all of that). What are the newest Maryland updates? Well, they have added Richard Pack from North Carolina A&T and Robert Carter from Georgia Tech, while losing Charles Mitchell to Georgia Tech. And Nick Faust, who was already announced as a transfer, is officially going to Long Beach State.

Faust will have to sit out next season, so while that's a big pickup for Long Beach State, it will have no bearing on next season. Robert Carter also will have to sit out next season. The change for Maryland here is losing Mitchell while getting Pack eligible for next season. Mitchell was the team's best rebounder this past season, so that's a significant blow for the Terps heading into the Big Ten. Pack was a monster scorer at North Carolina A&T, though a big part of his game was getting to the free throw line, and that's the sort of ability that often doesn't translate from the lowest tiers of college basketball to the highest tiers. I've basically thrown up my hands at figuring at Maryland, though. The roster is just too different. If I have to guess? I'll say they're a likely Tourney team, but unlikely to be Top 25. But nobody really knows.

The Charles Mitchell pickup, by the way, is really nice for a Georgia Tech team that had to get totally rebuilt this offseason. They lost four of the top six players from a team that was pretty poor to begin with. But Brian Gregory has aggressively gone after transfers, and Mitchell will join Demarco Cox, Nick Jacobs and Josh Heath. It's not a Tournament team yet, in my opinion, but they should at least be competitive in the ACC next season.

USC Adds Elijah Stewart Stewart, a shooting guard, joins point guard Jordan McLaughlin as cornerstones of a very strong 2014 recruiting class for USC. This has led to another round of fawning articles about Andy Enfield (like the one I linked to), but as regular readers know, I continue to be skeptical about him. The reality is that Stewart and McLaughlin are good recruits, but they're not Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. And this USC team lost the only good player from an awful team that went 2-16 in Pac-12 play. Enfield also adds Katin Reinhardt, who started at UNLV as a freshman in 2012-13, but again... what roster are they adding these guys to? Enfield still needs to add a whole lot more talent. At some point, he has to win games or the media will start to forget about him.

Creighton Adds Ricky Kreklow From California With basically everybody graduating, Creighton was in need of a massive influx of talent to stay in the top tier of the Big East. The problem is that while Kreklow will play right away, he'll have only one year of eligibility left and the other two prominent Creighton transfers (Cole Huff from Nevada and Maurice Watson from Boston University) will likely have to sit out next season. So I don't think this move is going to win Creighton any Big East titles. But it gives the Bluejays just a little bit of hope of sneaking back into the NCAA Tournament.

LSU Transfer Anthony Hickey Will Be Eligible For Oklahoma State We already knew Hickey would be heading to Oklahoma State, but now he knows that he'll be eligible to play immediately. The point guard will provide a significant boost to a Cowboys team that will likely be in the vicinity of the Tournament bubble after significant offseason losses. With Stevie Clarke gone for good (and with Marcus Smart off to the NBA), point guard was a particular need.

Eron Harris To Michigan State This is an important transfer, but not for next season, when Harris will have to sit out. Harris, a sharpshooting combo guard, was the second best player on West Virginia this past season. He'll be a weapon immediately after becoming eligible in the Big Ten.

Deville Smith Leaves UNLV Deville Smith is no superstar, but he was UNLV's starting point guard this past season. And that makes it official that the Runnin' Rebs will lose their entire starting lineup, despite only one leaving via graduation. Dave Rice does have a really nice recruiting class coming in next season that features three blue chippers, highlighted by Rashad Vaughn, who might have been the top shooting guard recruit in the nation. But without much of anything returning from last season, UNLV will be a bubble team at best.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Morning News: Oregon Situation, LSU Loses Three, Ryan Anderson Transfer, Kareem Canty, And More

Welp.
Once again I'm piling up a week's worth of news into one Morning News post. Hey, it's the offseason...

Dominic Artis, Damyeon Dotson And Brandon Austin All Officially Done At Oregon This seemed inevitable, and now it's official. I talked about this story last week. Really, the only question left is figuring out what happened here. Oregon is claiming that while they knew about the sexual assault prior to the Pac-12 tournament, they were told by police not to move to suspend the players (huh?). The other confusing part of Oregon's story is their claim that they didn't know about Brandon Austin's previous sexual assault at Providence (nobody bothered to ask him why he'd been kicked off the team prior to offering him a scholarship?). The whole thing is a mess.

LSU To Lose Anthony Hickey, Two Others Three players are leaving LSU via transfer, including starting point guard Anthony Hickey. With a roster already due not to return much of its starting rotation, this might be the death blow to whatever at-large hopes they had. Johnny Jones is only heading into his third season, so it would be silly to give up on him already, but there isn't a lot of positive momentum with the LSU program.

Arizona Lands Boston College's Ryan Anderson Ryan Anderson was Boston College's best big man this past season, and the 6'9" transfer has decided that he's heading to Arizona. He'll have to sit out next season, but he likely wouldn't have gotten much playing time behind Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski anyway. He only has one year of eligibility left, but expect him to be a key piece for Arizona in 2015-16.

South Florida Lands Kareem Canty Marshall's primary playmaker and best player from this past season is the first big signing for new South Florida coach Orlando Antigua. He'll likely have to sit out next season, but he'll have three years of eligibility left, and will be a cornerstone to build around.

Brian Williams Transfers To Louisiana-Lafayette After losing Elfrid Payton to the NBA Draft, Louisiana-Lafayette was desperately in need of another perimeter player to stay the favorite in the Sun Belt. Brian Williams isn't the level of offensive playmaker that Payton was and he only has one year of eligibility left, but he has a level of athleticism not often seen in the Sun Belt, and he'll be a key piece next season. Still, right now I'm leaning toward moving Georgia State into the spot of preseason favorite, particularly if Louisville transfer Kevin Ware is eligible to play right away.

Seth Allen To Virginia Tech Buzz Williams has his first non-Marquette transfer at Virginia Tech, and it's Seth Allen, from Maryland. He won't be eligible next season, but Virginia Tech isn't going anywhere next season anyway. Buzz's top priority is putting together talent to try to compete for a postseason appearance in 2015-16, and Allen could be the starting point guard on that team.

Jamal Jones Leaves Texas A&M The Aggies were due to return nearly their entire roster from last season, with a chance to make a run at an at-large bid. But the offseason is off to a bad start, as leading-scorer Jamal Jones will transfer out. I'm not sure this is a huge problem, though, as Jones was more of a volume-scorer than a particularly efficient basketball player. But the Aggies need to find some scoring this summer to go Dancing next season.

Ronnie Johnson Transfers To Houston We knew Kelvin Sampson would upgrade the talent level at Houston. After signing Juco transfer Torian Graham  he now adds Ronnie Johnson, who had been Purdue's starting point guard. Johnson will have to sit out next season, and Sampson is going to need a lot more than him to get the Cougars competitive again, but there's definitely some positive momentum for the program.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Morning News: Oregon Suspensions, Craig Robinson Fired, Myles Turner, And Much More

Craig Robinson celebrating his semifinal win in the 2009 CBI. Oregon State's CBI title that season was the highlight of Robinson's tenure in Corvallis.
It's been almost a week since my last Morning News post, so let's catch up on the news of the last few days:

Oregon Loses Dominic Artis, Perhaps More This story just broke late last night, so I might have to come back to it another Morning News post later this summer. But it looks very bad for Oregon in multiple ways. Artis has been accused of rape, along with Damyeon Dotson and Brandon Austin. All three have been suspended indefinitely, and Artis has already announced his transfer. If the story is true and can be proven in court, all three will be looking at jail time... although we all know how this tends to go with star athletes, unfortunately. But even if the three avoid jail time, I doubt we'll see any of these three guys suit up for Oregon next season.

The fact that this was reported to police even before the Pac-12 tournament tips off means that Dana Altman is going to have to answer some hard questions about why these players were not suspended during the season. Stay tuned.

Oregon State Fires Craig Robinson Robinson was fired yesterday, which is the only part that makes it a bit odd. Many people, including myself, thought Robinson would be fired after six seasons of zero positive program momentum and with a likely terrible team next season. But instead, the school gave him a vote of confidence... and then fired him a month later when it's much harder to find a new coach. Perhaps it took them this long to find a booster willing to pay his buyout.

There's an argument to be made that Robinson did a good job... namely that it's incredibly hard to win at Oregon State. In fact, his winning percentage (.469) was the best by any Oregon State coach since Ralph Miller, who was also the last Oregon State coach to have consistent success of any kind. Oregon State's last NCAA Tournament trip was in 1990, the year after Miller retired. That team was led by Gary Payton, who was a senior. Grasp how long ago that was. But still, there was no sense that Robinson was going to get this team to the NCAA Tournament at any time in the foreseeable future. So the next coach could easily be worse than Robinson... but maybe they swing and hit a home run hire. We'll have to see who they get.

Nick Faust Transferring To Oregon State Or... maybe he isn't. This news broke a few days ago, which means that we now have to see if Faust is going to stick it out with the new coach. Faust would be one of the best players on Oregon State (his one season of eligibility will come in 2015-16) if he does stay.

Texas Lands Myles Turner Turner was the last significant 2014 recruit who had yet to sign, so the big 7-footer is a coup for Rick Barnes. That said, this is the type of move that isn't going to pay off as much next season as the media is making it out. There's always this misperception that if a team has a quality X and adds player with a quality Y that the new team will be (X+Y) good. It doesn't work that way.

Texas was a team that already had a physically dominant front line. They led the Big 12 in offensive rebounding percentage but were dead last in 3P% and second to last in eFG%. Turner's minutes will just eat into the minutes of Cameron Ridley, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh, none of whom can play outside the paint. And even Johnathan Holmes can't really play with two other bigs, even though he can hit jump shots from the perimeter. Texas still is in need of significantly improved backcourt play to win a Big 12 title. Isaiah Taylor is a great prospect, but they need more than just him.

Southern Miss Hires Doc Sadler With Donnie Tyndall taking the Tennessee job, this seems like a reasonable hire for Southern Miss. It's easy to see Sadler as a failure at Nebraska considering what Tim Miles has accomplished, but I don't think that's quite fair. Miles is one of the best coaches in college basketball and he also benefited in a big way from the move to the Big Ten, a new arena, and a significant increase in the basketball budget. Sadler should be a solid hire for Southern Miss.

Big Ten/Big East Announce Series Of Games The Big Ten and Big East have announced an annual series of eight games each year. So not every team will play every season, but the more quality games the better. It's always good to have a sport, unlike college football, that rewards tough schedules. It means more entertainment during non-conference play.

Naadir Tharpe Transferring Tharpe was the starting Kansas point guard this past season, but there was a reasonable chance that he was going to be replaced next season, which might be the primary motivation for this transfer. Frank Mason could take over the point next season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kansas go without a true point guard in a guy like Conner Frankamp. Despite this loss, I still think Kansas has to be the preseason Big 12 favorite. I wouldn't be surprised if the media goes with Texas, but see my comments above on Myles Turner for why I believe Texas will be overrated.

Desmond Simmons To Saint Mary's The Gaels needed an influx of talent to challenge Gonzaga and BYU atop the WCC, and Simmons joins Aaron Bright as a key pair of transfers. Simmons isn't much of a scorer, but he's an awfully athletic 6'7" and he should give St. Mary's a lot of rebounding if nothing else. The WCC is going to be very strong next season, and I had St. Mary's only 5th in my 2014-15 previews, but these two signings will potentially get them right back onto the Tournament bubble.

Maryland Loses Seth Allen The Terps are now up to four transfers this offseason, and this is the most worrying of the bunch. Mark Turgeon had oversigned, and three players had to transfer originally, but there was no reason for Allen to go. Also, Allen was the team's starting point guard as a sophomore and has a bright future at the position. With Roddy Peters one of the other transfers, the Terps don't return a single scholarship point guard from this past season. Maryland was looking like a Top 25 team, but they're treading closer and closer to looking like a bubble team.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Morning News: Jordan Adams And Chane Behanan Go Pro, Missouri Hires Kim Anderson, And More

How many college basketball fans know who this guy is?
With the NBA Draft declaration deadline passed, it's time for a discussion of the final player decisions, as well as some other college basketball news from the last few days:

Jordan Adams Goes Pro Adams had announced a week ago that he was staying at UCLA, but... yeah. UCLA now loses Adams in addition to Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine to the Draft. Steve Alford has three blue chippers coming in and gets Isaac Hamilton back, but that's going to be a very young team without much experience returning. I previous had UCLA projected as a 6 seed, but they're going to have to drop several lines now.

Missouri Hires Kim Anderson Taking the pulse of the average fan, this seems to be a pretty underwhelming hire. Kansas fans, in particular, are making a lot of fun of it. Kim Anderson is basically a total unknown. That said, you never know here... Bo Ryan is an example of an in-state non-Division I head coach who made the step up to the big leagues and had a ton of success (although Ryan did coach two seasons at Wisconsin-Milwaukee between his DIII job and Wisconsin).

Considering the fact that it's not exactly like Missouri's previous coach was John Wooden, we might as well give this new guy a chance. The key test will be to see if he can add any players over the summer. Without an infusion of talent, it's hard to see an NCAA Tournament trip in season #1.

Chane Behanan Goes Pro This was basically leaked a couple of weeks ago, but Behanan finally made it official on Monday. He was due to join Colorado State after transferring from Louisville. The thing is, he has continued to have off-the-court problems, and was very likely going to face a hefty suspension. As a guy who is at best 50/50 to be drafted (and I'd argue his odds are actually worse than that), this is probably more a case of a guy just going pro because he doesn't think he's going to be eligible to play college ball this coming season. He'll likely be on his way to the D-League or Europe.

But this is still a blow for a Colorado State team that I think is likely to be right on the bubble. Behanan would have given them a real rebounding threat.

Jon Horford Transfers To Florida This was rumored as soon as he announced he was leaving Michigan. With Mitch McGary going pro, Horford would have been in line to start at Michigan, but it seems as if there were some personal reasons where he either didn't get along with his teammates or John Beilein.

With Horford eligible to play right away, do not sleep on Florida to win the SEC title. Yes, Kentucky is likely going to start the season the #1 team in the country, but... we've seen this movie before. And I already had Florida as a 3 seed prior to adding Horford (who will be eligible to play right away). So if Kentucky stumbles a little bit, Florida will be right there waiting for them.

Nimrod Hilliard To NC Central This isn't any news that is going to impact the bubble, but this is a big pickup for NC Central. With Lamar banned from postseason play next season over APR issues, all of their players can transfer without sitting for a season, and Hilliard was their best player - a point guard who also could score efficiently. In my 2014-15 MEAC preview I said that NC Central was my narrow favorite because I figured they'd find a point guard. They've now got that point guard, and are the fairly clear MEAC favorite.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Morning News: Kentucky Super Team?, Mitch McGary, Northwestern Vote, And Much More

A tearful goodbye to Khem Kong
I was going to wait until Monday to do another Morning News post, but way too much stuff happened yesterday for me not to compile the news of the last few days:

Kentucky To Return Harrison Twins, Dakari Johnson And Alex Poythress We already knew Willie Cauley-Stein was coming back as well. And this creates a fascinating situation for a number of reasons. Right now, Kentucky returns six players from last season's rotation as well as Marcus Lee, a former Top 20 recruit who sat most of the year as a true freshman but had a couple of big games in the NCAA Tournament. They have four more blue chippers coming in, giving Calipari an astounding nine McDonald's All-Americans and 11 guys expecting regular minutes.

The immediate concern is that roster crunch. How does Calipari keep one or more of those players from leaving? And if he gets them all to stay, how does he get them all to buy in and to stay happy? He can probably talk Tyler Ulis or Devin Booker to sit on the end of the bench like Marcus Lee this past season, but Karl Towns and Trey Lyles almost certainly won't (both are expected to be "one-and-done" guys). Assuming Lee won't sit on the end of the bench two years in a row, that gives them six front court guys who will need extended minutes. That's going to be a heck of a problem for Calipari to figure out. But if he can, and if he can avoid any transfers, he now has the deepest, most talented NCAA basketball team perhaps ever assembled, and they'll be the unanimous #1 to start next season. Ready for dumb "40-and-0" hype to start all over again?

One side note that a couple of people who follow me on twitter brought up is an interesting one: the impact on future Kentucky recruiting. Announcers always talk about how good teams would be "if nobody left pro early" under the false assumption that all of the same recruits would have shown up. It doesn't work that way. Recruits come with playing time expectations in mind, and Calipari spends a lot of time reassuring recruits that certain players will go pro to open up playing time. Surely at least one of the recruits who signed up this year is now upset at all of these returning players, and that's the kind of thing that can ripple down to future recruits who might not believe Calipari when he says that certain players are going to leave. Although history says that Calipari will still find a way to bring in four or five blue chippers every single season.

Mitch McGary Going Pro On a busy day of news, this story managed to somehow have the most #HOTSPROTSTAKES. Those aside, this is a very important basketball problem for Michigan,  which now returns exactly zero regulars from their front court. The Jon Horford transfer out is now magnified in a significant way.

If McGary came back, Michigan would have been the clear top contender to Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Now, Wisconsin will likely enter next season the unanimous media pick to win the conference. One could go several ways in picking the second best team in the conference, but my pick will be an Ohio State team that I think is going to be significantly underrated. Michigan will have a lot to prove with an extremely young front court.

Union Appears To Lose Northwestern Vote We won't get the official numbers for several years (if ever), but it appears that as expected the Northwestern union vote lost heavily. This isn't a big surprise, as there was no evidence that this union effort ever really had significant support from Northwestern players. The school is being sued by the Steelworkers Union - Kain Colter was always just a spokesman to give the union a more appealing public relations face.

It seemed pretty clear that the union was a bad path for the players. Reforms like guaranteed scholarships and a stipend for players to fill in scholarship gaps are ideas I'd likely support, and there is a lot of support at the NCAA for both ideas as well, but those reforms can happen outside a union. Unionizing the players haphazardly at some schools but not others would be a legal mess which would benefit only lawyers and tax accountants. Any reform needs to apply to all athletes at all schools.

Don't expect this to go away. Lawyers are swarming the NCAA and there will be all sorts of new lawsuits, and don't be surprised if another school tries its hand at a unionization vote. Basically, there is too much money involved in the NCAA for a lot of other powerful interests to not want a cut.

The problem, as I see it, is that 98% of the people getting a benefit from NCAA sports are not a factor in these discussions. Nobody hears from the Division II baseball player or the woman's volleyball player, or any of the other 150,000+ kids getting scholarships from the money that the NCAA generates. Nobody knows their names, so nobody is advocating on their behalf.

Spencer Dinwiddie To The NBA This was always considered likely. As I wrote in my Pac-12 preview, though, Colorado should still expect to be significantly better next season. Remember, Dinwiddie missed almost all of last season's Pac-12 season as well. And while Colorado wasn't nearly as good as their final record (arguably the second worst at-large team in the entire NCAA Tournament), they return everybody from their end-of-season rotation. They should get back to the tourney, and I currently have them as a 7 seed.

Tennessee Hires Donnie Tyndall Donnie Tyndall was at Southern Miss the last two seasons, and previously was at Morehead State. To me, this is a fairly uninspiring hire for Tennessee. There were a whole lot of media reports that Tennessee was in on Louisiana Tech's Michael White first, but White didn't like the contract offer and turned them down. White is certainly the hotter "up and coming" coach.

Tyndall had success at Morehead State after Kenneth Faried showed up, and used that success to get the Southern Miss job, where he spent two seasons using a lot of Larry Eustachy's players, unable to get them back to the NCAA Tournament. So Tyndall's only NCAA experience in eight seasons came when he had a 1st round NBA Draft pick in the Ohio Valley Conference. Maybe he'll be a good coach, but Tennessee could have done better if they were willing to open up their wallet more.

DeAndre Daniels Is Going Pro This wasn't a certainty, but most insiders expected Daniels to leave. I assumed he would leave when I put together my 2014-15 AAC preview a few weeks ago. This Huskies team still has a lot of talent, but the question without Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels will be finding a second scoring option aside from Ryan Boatright. If they can do that, they should get back to the NCAA Tournament, though SMU will remain the fairly clear AAC favorite.

Khem Birch Going Pro It's sad that this is the last we'll see of Khem Kong. Also, with Roscoe Smith gone as well, UNLV will now be down their one elite interior defensive presence and (by far) their two best rebounders. 6'10" Christian Smith played well in very limited minutes as a freshman, and if he improves a lot then UNLV will still have one quality option down low, but this UNLV roster is going to be much younger and with much more turnover than they thought they were going to have a couple months ago. Dave Rice has a really nice recruiting class coming in, but UNLV will now drop from the 10 seed I had them at in my preseason bracket projection.

Matt Carlino Transfers To Marquette With everything else going on yesterday, this news basically got lost in the shuffle. But it's a big pickup for a Marquette team desperate for some early positive momentum under their new head coach. So far, the only news had been recruits decommitting. Carlino isn't enough to get Marquette back to the Tournament bubble, but it's a good sign for the direction of the program. As I've said a few times before, if Marquette can improve throughout the season as a basketball team and Wojo can put together a strong 2015 recruiting class, that will be a successful season for Marquette in and of itself.

Jeremy Hollowell To Georgia State Ron Hunter has turned Georgia State into a transfer hotbed. And right on the heels of landing Louisville's Kevin Ware, he now has former Indiana player Jeremy Hollowell. Keep in mind that Hollowell won't be eligible next season, so he'll be unable to take part in Ryan Harrow's final season with the program, but Kevin Ware is appealing for a waiver to play right away, so we'll have to keep an eye on that.

Jerian Grant Back To Notre Dame Jerian Grant, if you recall, was suspended with an academic issue right around Christmas and missed the entire ACC season. Garrick Sherman was Notre Dame's most important all around player this past season, but Grant was probably their best offensive weapon, and his return is essential for the Irish to get back to the NCAA Tournament. In my most recent bracket projection I assumed Grant would be back and still had Notre Dame missing the Field of 68, but they're in the first group out. They were one of the first teams out of the field, and could easily work their way back into my projected bracket before next season even tips off.

Sim Bhullar Going Pro This news has been something of a stop-and-start variety, as there were rumors of him going pro nearly a month ago that were quashed. But now it's official. And while you can't blame the guy for wanting to go pro, it would have been fun to see him play with his 7'3" brother, who is joining New Mexico State next season. That team was already the tallest in the nation, and might have been the tallest ever next season. New Mexico State will remain the WAC favorite, but the gap between them and the rest of the league will shrink, and their odds of winning a game in next year's NCAA Tournament are obviously significantly lower as well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Morning News: Frank Haith To Tulsa, Jabari Parker To The NBA, And Much More

Wassup, Tulsa.

Frank Haith To Tulsa This was a stunner when the news first broke... but in retrospect, I think the stunner is that Tulsa would want Haith and would give him the type of contract (7 years at $1.85 Million per year) that even most SEC coaches don't have. Haith had a lot of success in his first year at Missouri coaching Mike Anderson's players, but the team had been in decline ever since and was due to be even weaker next season with the loss Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. Haith was going to be at risk of being fired after next season, honestly. You'd think Tulsa would want a young up-and-comer rather than a retread who has shown no signs of brilliance so far. They have a roster built to make a good run at an at-large bid next season, but will it just be a repeat of Missouri?

Missouri fans are mostly excited by this news. After all, Haith did this once before when he left Miami for Missouri just before his seat got too warm, and Miami fell backwards into Jim Larranaga. Honestly, I doubt Missouri gets a coach of the quality of Larranaga here, and I don't understand why the media trolls teams like Missouri by floating coaches like Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart that obviously aren't coming, but there's no reason Missouri shouldn't think they can get a coaching upgrade here.

Jabari Parker To The NBA Well, I guess we all got fooled a bit. A month ago it was a no-brainer that Parker, like Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, would be a one-and-done player. But he seemed to convince all of us over the last couple of weeks that he was actually really considering coming back for another season. Parker might not be the best NBA prospect, but he's the most NBA ready player now. And I'll talk about this when I do my NBA Draft preview, but Parker is just a wildly underrated player, particularly by the Duke fans that ragged on him all year while he utterly carried that team on both ends of the floor (yes, he was the team's best defensive player, too).

If Parker came back, Duke would have been a clear preseason #1. Even without him, they're still probably the narrow ACC favorite, though I wouldn't be surprised to see North Carolina end up earning the preseason favorite nod from the media. Both teams should be in the mix for 1 seeds next season.

USC's Byron Wesley Will Transfer A bleak year is looking even bleaker for USC as their far-and-away best player is going to leave via transfer. Andy Enfield's miracle Sweet 16 run with Florida Gulf Coast earned him a total honeymoon with the fans and the media in his first season at USC. But another season going something like 3-15 in conference play, which is what it looks like we're heading toward, will start putting the pressure on him.

St. John's Gets Chris Obekpa Back St. John's, coming off a rough season, looked to be getting fairly decimated by NBA and transfer defections. Chris Obekpa ended up being buried on the bench late in the season despite being one of the best shot blockers in the nation. But after announcing his transfer, he's decided to come back. This alone doesn't get St. John's back to being a likely bubble team next season, but it at least buoys the ship for a little while and changes the momentum of the program.

AJ Hammons Chooses Not To Go Pro Yet This is a good move all around. Purdue needed Hammons back to have any realistic shot of earning an at-large bid next season, while the reality was that Hammons isn't ready for the NBA yet. Even if he got drafted, he'd be a second rounder sent immediately down to the D-League. He's just not NBA ready yet. He's got the talent to get there with another year or two of seasoning at Purdue, though.

Boston College Gets Back Oliver Hanlan One of the reasons why Steve Donahue was pushed out the door at Boston College was because Oliver Hanlan and several others players were threatening to  leave. Ryan Anderson will still transfer, but Hanlan is the gem of the bunch. He's a fantastic playmaker and scorer who will likely end up in the NBA eventually. Boston College's defense needs to be significantly improved to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but Hanlan's return means that BC's offense should again be fairly good.

Ahmed Hill Decommits From Marquette Of the four player class that Buzz Williams originally signed at Marquette, only one (Sandy Cohen) is currently saying that he'll stay. Ahmed Hill was the highest rated of Marquette's recruits, and he's now off to Virginia Tech, along with Satchel Pierce, another Marquette recruit. For a Marquette team that was going to struggle to make the NCAA Tournament even if Buzz Williams had stayed, this portends a rough season. But the task for Steve Wojciechowski will be to have a first season that shows positive momentum. If he puts together a nice 2015 recruiting class and plays solid basketball in year one then it will be seen as a success, even if they don't go Dancing.

Butler Loses Elijah Brown And Three Others Four players have decided to transfer out of Butler in the last few months, with Brown being the most important. That said, I don't think there's reason for panic at Butler. All four players were freshmen or sophomores, and it's not uncommon for young players to want to leave after a coaching transition - seniors are more likely to prefer to just stick it out at the place they've spent years at. Also, besides Brown, the other three were not significant contributors this past season.

And Brandon Miller has two quality transfers coming back, in Indiana's Austin Etherington and NC State's Tyler Lewis. And while Lewis won't be eligible next season, he's a significantly better player than any of these transfers out. Throw in Roosevelt Jones coming back after missing this past season with injury and Butler still looks to have a bright future.

Arizona State Gets Another Year of Shaquielle McKissic The NCAA has given McKissic another year of eligibility, which was considered likely but was not a given. This is good news for an Arizona State roster that otherwise wasn't going to return much. They had a mediocre offense even with Jahii Carson, who is off to the NBA, running things. McKissic is a quietly efficient scorer, though, with a 53.1 eFG% and a high free throw rate. But Herb Sendek still has work left to do to make this a plausible at-large team.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Morning News: Cuonzo Martin To California, Plus A Slew Of Draft Decisions

Thompson-Boling has at times been less-than-friendly for Cuonzo Martin

During the offseason, I'll have occasional Morning News posts. Unlike the regular season, these won't be daily. I'll post them whenever a few interesting pieces of news pile up. Follow me on twitter, or click on the bottom right of the page to follow the blog. Either will let you know when new posts are up.

Cuonzo Martin To California In a sense, this came out of nowhere. California seems like a lateral move from Tennessee. But really, it's because the fans and administration were not supportive of Martin as coach. For a while this season, even as his team was borderline Top 15-20 in the computers, there were continued calls for his firing, including a huge petition to bring back Bruce Pearl. These tweets from his former players say it all. Is Cuonzo Martin a brilliant coach? Probably not. But a fan base that doesn't support its coach is going to find itself in a situation like this, and they're going to find it hard to hire their next coach.

It will take some time to settle out the direct effects on next season. We have to see who Tennessee hires, how many Tennessee recruits decommit, and whether Cuonzo Martin can hold the entire California roster together. But California is a team that is really just one more solid player away from earning an at-large bid next season, while Tennessee was going to be right on the bubble even with Cuonzo. Assuming a few decommits, I'm likely going to drop Tennessee from my next bracket projection.

Willie Cauley-Stein Returns To Kentucky This is big news for a Kentucky team that looks to again be in serious contention for a 1 seed. As always with Kentucky, it's wise to wait until we have a roster that is more firmed up. We still need to figure out the draft status for the Harrison twins and Dakari Johnson, for example, and John Calipari is still in the mix for another recruit or two. But if nothing else, this Kentucky team will not lack for height and length on the front line next season.

Jerami Grant To The NBA Draft This is a significant loss for a Syracuse team already losing Tyler Ennis and CJ Fair. Trevor Cooney is the only returning Syracuse player to be any kind of offensive threat this past season. A year ago we were all wondering where Syracuse would find some offense, and then Tyler Ennis happened. This season, Kaleb Joseph will have even less to work with (at least Ennis had Grant and Fair returning). Unless Joseph turns into Ennis, it could be a long season offensively for the Orange.

Michigan Loses Stauskas And GRII, Still Waiting On McGary Honestly, there's not a whole lot here quite yet. We all knew Stauskas was going pro. Glenn Robinson III is a significant loss, but only because the Jon Horford transfer now makes the Mitch McGary decision a huge one. If McGary goes pro, Michigan will not return a single front court player who got even 100 minutes this past season. If he leaves, Michigan will plummet down my bracket projection.

Montrezl Harrell Returning This is big, fairly surprising news for Louisville. Most analysts expected Harrell to leave. Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear give Louisville proven backcourt options to fill Russ Smith's loss fairly well. Harrell's return gives Louisville a proven front court offensive threat, and will substantially reduce the pressure on Rick Pitino's big 2014 recruiting class.

Bryce Dejean-Jones To Iowa State This isn't a surprising transfer pickup. I actually talked about it in my 2014-15 Big 12 preview. This has become the Fred Hoiberg modus operandi at this point. Is Dejean-Jones the next DeAndre Kane? Probably not. But Hoiberg was going to need a transfer or two to get his team back to the Top 25, and this is a big one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Preseason BP68

The thing about putting a bracket together just four days after the national title game is that the rosters are still going to change a lot. We still have guys deciding on the draft, we still have transfers in and out, we still have recruits to sign, etc.

But this bracket serves as a starting point. You can click on my conference previews, where I go through all 32 conferences and tell you who I think is coming in and leaving, and why I have teams where I have them.

From here on out, we'll see what happens with certain players. For example, at this point I'm assuming Jabari Parker and Mitch McGary stay. If either one chooses to go pro, their team will drop in the next bracket. But we need to start somewhere, so let's start here.

As for the next bracket, it will be posted around the NBA Draft. After that I'll have a bracket around Midnight Madness. After that will be the "W-17 BP68", 17 weeks from Selection Sunday.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday 2015:

1. DUKE (ACC)
1. WISCONSIN (BIG TEN)
1. ARIZONA (PAC-12)
1. KENTUCKY (SEC)

2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. North Carolina
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Michigan

3. Texas
3. Florida
3. Virginia
3. VCU (ATLANTIC TEN)

4. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)
4. Oklahoma
4. GONZAGA (WCC)
4. SMU (AAC)

5. Utah
5. Ohio State
5. Louisville
5. Iowa

6. WICHITA STATE (MISSOURI VALLEY)
6. UCLA
6. West Virginia
6. Dayton

7. UConn
7. Pittsburgh
7. Illinois
7. Colorado

8. Iowa State
8. Stanford
8. Maryland
8. Syracuse

9. Xavier
9. Nebraska
9. Georgetown
9. Cincinnati

10. UNLV
10. Miami-Florida
10. Oregon
10. Northern Iowa

11. BYU
11. Richmond
11. Michigan State
11. HARVARD (IVY)

12. Arkansas
12. Oklahoma State
12. Butler
12. Tennessee
12. TOLEDO (MAC)
12. UC SANTA BARBARA (BIG WEST)

13. CLEVELAND STATE (HORIZON)
13. UTEP (CONFERENCE USA)
13. SIENA (MAAC)
13. DREXEL (COLONIAL)

14. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
14. DENVER (SUMMIT)
14. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
14. FLORIDA GULF COAST (ATLANTIC SUN)

15. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
15. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (PATRIOT)
15. EASTERN WASHINGTON (BIG SKY)
15. STONY BROOK (AMERICA EAST)

16. HIGH POINT (BIG SOUTH)
16. LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE (SUN BELT)
16. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (MEAC)
16. WOFFORD (SOCON)
16. ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN (NEC)
16. ALABAMA STATE (SWAC)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Memphis, Tulsa, Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Providence, Minnesota, Purdue, Baylor, Kansas State, Illinois State, Colorado State, California, Georgia, Texas A&M

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Temple, Florida State, NC State, George Washington, UMass, Creighton, Marquette, Seton Hall, Indiana, Northwestern, UC-Irvine, Northeastern, Louisiana Tech, Green Bay, Iona, Western Michigan, Missouri State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, San Francisco

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Houston, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duquesne, St. John's, Penn State, Texas Tech, Delaware, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Columbia, Princeton, Northern Illinois, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Boise State, Wyoming, Oregon State, USC, Washington State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Portland, Saint Mary's, San Diego

2014-15 Preview: ACC

Atlantic Coast Conference


With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and the impending addition of Louisville, there was a lot of hype about the ACC becoming the new basketball power. And it didn't quite work out in year one, though it would be silly to be too down on the ACC. After all, the league had three legitimate contenders for a 1 seed, landing one in the end with Virginia. But still, most of the league ended on a disappointing note. Virginia ended up going down in the Sweet 16, Duke went down to Mercer, Syracuse faded badly... But so it goes. Adding the team that was arguably the best in the nation this past season means that the ACC is primed to be even stronger next season. And maybe they'll get back to being the nation's strongest conference.

Let's start with the Virginia team that earned the outright ACC regular season title. I've been a big Tony Bennett fan for years, and it was nice to see him finally break through and win a conference title, and to finally begin shedding the stereotypes that his teams can't score or don't have enough talent to compete at the highest levels. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell graduate, but everybody else should be back. Malcolm Brogdon was the team's leading scorer, and he'll start in the backcourt again with point guard London Perrantes, who had a really nice freshman season. They need more backcourt depth, but could get it from 2013 recruit Devon Hall or BJ Stith (Scout: 16 SF, Rivals: 48). The front court is a bit more of a concern. Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson are all good players, but none is much of a scorer. Of the three, Gill was the most efficient scorer this past season, finishing with a 58.7 eFG%. The Cavaliers also add 6'8" Isaiah Wilkins (Rivals: 107).

Duke is a tough team to figure out because it really does seem like Jabari Parker is on the fence about entering the NBA Draft. Rodney Hood is likely going pro, and the team loses Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston to graduation, but if Parker returns they'll very likely be the #1 team in the country preseason. Aside from Parker, who are the key returners? The backcourt will again be strong, returning Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, and likely getting a lot more from 6'4" Matt Jones, who struggled at times as a true freshman. Coach K adds Tyus Jones (Scout: 2 PG, Rivals: 5) and Grayson Allen (Scout: 7 SG, Rivals: 34). The front court will be a bigger question mark if Parker leaves, as he really was the only productive true front court player (Rodney Hood was basically a 6'8" shooting guard). Marshall Plumlee could be more of a factor next season, though he's still not much of an offensive player. 6'6" Semi Ojeleye didn't play much as a true freshman, but he was a blue chip 2013 recruit. And the team adds 6'10" Jahlil Okafor (Scout: 1 C, Rivals: 1) and Justise Winslow (Scout: 4 SF, Rivals: 9). Parker was forced to play center all season because the team didn't have any other real bigs, but if he somehow comes back and can shift to power forward with Okafor at center, he will suddenly look a lot better defensively and make this Duke team just filthy deep and talented.

Syracuse had a crazy string of luck, winning their first eight games decided by six points or less before losing five of their final six. We were deluded with the insane stats that Tyler Ennis had in the clutch (like this), but then Ennis made several key mistakes and missed several key shots late in close games late in the season. It's just the zillionth example of "clutch stats are random and should not be treated like a repeatable skill". But this Syracuse team was, if anything, a little underrated by the end of the season. They have several key losses, though. CJ Fair graduates and Tyler Ennis is off to the NBA. Jerami Grant is 50/50 on going to the Draft, but for the sake of this preview I'm going to assume he stays. The key returner is Trevor Cooney, who shot out of his mind earlier in the season before regressing to the mean later on, so it's not totally clear what type of player he'll be next season. They also return Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije, and also get back DaJuan Coleman, who missed most of the season with injury. Also look for 6'7" Tyler Roberson and 6'7" BJ Johnson, both 2013 recruits who played sparingly as true freshmen, to contribute more next season. They also add Chris McCullough (Scout: 3 PF, Rivals: 16). But while the Orange will have a ton of size and likely a good defense again, the question comes back to offense. They magically found offense early in the season with the emergence of Tyler Ennis as a star point guard and playmaker. Next year they'll be back (likely) to another freshman point guard: Kaleb Joseph (Scout: 16 PG, Rivals: 55). If he doesn't play really well right off the bat, Syracuse could be in big trouble scoring the ball.

Louisville is the ACC newcomer, coming off two seasons of arguably being the best team in the nation with arguably the best player in the nation (Russ Smith). But this is perhaps the end of an era for Louisville, with the loss of Russ Smith. Luke Hancock also graduates, as does Stephen Van Treese, and most people think that Montrezl Harrell will go pro. That would leave only Chris Jones back from the starting lineup. Off the bench, Louisville returns combo guard Terry Rozier, shooting guard Wayne Blackshear and 6'10" Mangok Mathiang. Of the three, Rozier is the one most likely to develop into a star player next season. Shooting guard Anton Gill, a 2013 recruit, is another player expected to take a step forward next season. But Louisville's success next season will come down to the play of a gigantic 2014 recruiting class, led by Shaqquan Aaron (Scout: 11 SF, Rivals: 27), Quentin Snider (Scout: 7 PG, Rivals: 31), Jaylen Johnson (Scout: 14 PF, Rivals: 56) and Chinanu Onuaku (Scout: 9 C, Rivals: 65).

North Carolina is a team that finished the season very strong, including that late 12 game winning streak, and they should be even better next season. James Michael McAdoo is going pro, and with his physical size and strength he should be an okay pro, but I don't think it's a huge loss for North Carolina. It was a running joke that almost every North Carolina game I saw the announcers would bemoan that McAdoo was having a tough game... if that's the case every game, maybe it's just that everybody's expectations for him were too high. The real superstar for North Carolina this past season was Marcus Paige, and he says he'll back, along with Brice Johnson. The one graduation is Leslie McDonald. Kennedy Meeks will be back, and he along with Brice Johnson both look like really special players who could be an awfully good starting front court next season. Look for 6'8" Isaiah Hicks, a highly touted 2013 recruit, to be a much bigger part next season with McAdoo gone. Roy Williams has two blue chippers coming on board in the front court, too: Justin Jackson (Scout: 3 SF, Rivals: 10) and Theo Pinson (Scout: 10 SF, Rivals: 19). In the backcourt, starters Paige and JP Tokoto return. Nate Britt is the one returner off the bench, and they add Joel Berry (Scout: 3 PG, Rivals: 25). If Jabari Parker goes pro, expect a lot of people to project UNC as the ACC favorite.

Pitt was an underrated team all season long, finishing with a nearly identical efficiency margin in conference play (+0.05 PPP) to North Carolina (+0.07), and deservedly being a big Vegas favorite in their 8/9 game. They lose do-everything star Lamar Patterson, along with Talib Zanna. They have a couple of good offensive creators in James Robinson and Josh Newkirk, so I wouldn't expect their offense to fall off a cliff. Their front court will be anchored by Michael Young, and they also get back 6'6" Durand Johnson, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in early January. Off the bench, 6'7" Jamel Artis seems like the best sleeper to take the next step to being a quality ACC player next season. Jamie Dixon's 2014 recruiting class is deep, but without any blue chippers. The most talented of the bunch, 6'11" Shaquille Doorson, is considered a project. So I'm not sure I'd bet on Pitt getting back to the Top 25, but they have to at least be in that discussion.

The final NCAA Tournament team out of the ACC this past season was NC State... for some reason. They were far and away the oddest at-large team chosen. Though whether it's motivation from being trashed all week or what, that last team in always seems to do well, and NC State won their play-in game and would have taken out St. Louis if not for a brutal collapse late in that Round of 64 game. They lose Jordan Vandenberg to graduation, star TJ Warren to the NBA, and Tyler Lewis to transfer. The backcourt returns Anthony Barber, Ralston Turner and Desmond Lee from the regular rotation, and they add Trevor Lacey (11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 3.2 apg as a sophomore at Alabama). Twins Caleb Martin (Scout: 13 SF, Rivals: 59) and Cody Martin (Scout: 26 SF, Rivals: 106) could play in the backcourt as well. The front court is going to be very young next season, as all of the top returners were freshmen this past season, led by 6'8" Leonard Freeman. Their highest rated 2014 recruit is 6'8" Abdul-Malik Abu (Scout: 12 PF, Rivals: 50). The concern for the team is definitely going to be offensive playmaking, though. Trevor Lacey is going to have to be a star for this team to be better.

Florida State went through a fun four year run from 2008-09 to 2011-12 where they were arguably the best defense in the nation every year, featuring probably the most imposing front line in the nation. Then everybody graduated and the defense was pretty bad in 2012-13. But now, Leonard Hamilton has a new bunch of impressive defensive bigs, and while the overall team defense wasn't great this past season, you can see the pieces of a potentially strong defense next season, led by Boris Bojanovsky, Michael Ojo and Jacquez Smith. And they should get back 7-footer Kiel Turpin, who missed the season with injury, and would give Florida State three 7+ foot players in their regular rotation. That said, Okaro White graduates, as does point guard Ian Miller. Devon Bookert and Aaron Thomas are the top two backcourt returners, but I don't think they really going to scare anybody in the ACC. A big need will be shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, their top 2013 recruit, who was academically ineligible to play this past season. 6'7" Montay Brandon, a wing player, also looked a lot better late in the season and should be improved next season.

Clemson was a team that played in a whole lot of ugly games. Their defense was strong, but their offense was brutal, particularly shooting the ball. They were dead last in the ACC in 3P% and 2nd to last in eFG%. And the one guy on the team who could score consistently, KJ McDaniels, looks like he's more likely than not leaving for the NBA Draft. But with everybody else back, the defense should still be strong. Rod Hall and Damarcus Harrison are a solid backcourt, with Landry Nooko anchoring the paint defensively. 6'7" Jaron Blossomgame is a freshman who came on strong late in the season and should be better next season. They will get back shooting guard Patrick Rooks, a 2013 recruit who took a redshirt. Also look for a lot of playing time for 6'8" Donte Grantham (Scout: 21 SF, Rivals: 66), who should immediately be one of the best offensive players on the roster.

While you can't quibble too much with Tony Bennett getting an ACC Coach of the Year award, I believe that the team which outperformed its roster the most this past season was Miami. They lost everybody from their 2012-13 team other than Rion Brown. That said, they got Garrius Adams back and added Donnavan Kirk as a transfer, and those three all started this past season and now all graduate. So Miami is losing three starters again. They also lose Erik Swoope off the bench. But Jim Larranaga has some good young returning talent, and is again bringing in some transfers. The top returners are 5'9" Manu Lecomte, 6'7" James Kelly and 7-footer Tonye Jekiri. They should get back shooting guard Deandre Burnett, a 2013 recruit who missed the season with injury. The transfers are Angel Rodriguez (11.4 ppg and 5.2 apg as a sophomore at Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (13.5 ppg and 3.9 rpg as a sophomore at Texas). The 2014 recruiting class is led by Ja'Quan Newton (Scout: 10 SG, Rivals: 35). They'll definitely have more offensive weapons next season, but the question is where the big man depth and talent will come from.

Danny Manning absolutely could not have walked into a better situation than Wake Forest. I actually perfectly predicted the Jeff Bzdelik tenure at Wake Forest four years ago. Bzdelik is a fairly good coach, but he's not a quick-fixer-upper. Coming into a totally screwed up situation where the few good players had to be jettisoned for bad behavior, it was always going to take him four or five years to get the team back to the NCAA Tournament. Throw that in with his slow style of basketball and I figured Wake Forest fans and the media were going to hate him too much to let him complete his rebuild. Which is exactly what happened. This Wake Forest team actually was fairly decent this past season, finishing just outside the Top 100 in the computers. With everybody by Coron Williams and Travis McKie coming back, this Wake Forest team is primed to make a run at an at-large bid next season. And now Manning walks in with tons of media love after winning an at-large bid with Tulsa. He has to be the preseason pick for ACC Coach of the Year. Their star is Codi Miller-McIntyre, and he'll be back along with 6'9" Devin Thomas. They should get back 6'6" Greg McClinton, their top 2013 recruit who missed the season with a torn ACL. Their top 2014 recruit is 6'3" Shelton Mitchell (Scout: 15 PG, Rivals: 67). Expectations are going to be incredibly low for this team next season, but expect them to be exceeded. Is Manning a better head coach than Bzdelik? I don't think we can know that yet, as Manning has only coached for two seasons. But the visceral hatred the entire campus had for Bzdelik will give Manning a nice several-year honeymoon in Winston Salem.

In the end, here's how I see the ACC playing out:

1. Duke - If Jabari Parker comes back, Duke will be the preseason #1. Even without him, they'll contend for the ACC title.
2. North Carolina - If Parker goes pro, I wouldn't be surprised to see North Carolina the preseason ACC favorite. I really like Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson to be stars next year.
3. Virginia - This team was a lot more than Joe Harris. They'll again be great defensively, and have a likely first team All-ACC player in Malcolm Brogdon.
4. Louisville - It's hard to figure out where to put this Louisville team. They'll have blue chip recruits out to their 8th and 9th men, but so much of next year's projection is just potential. They lose a ton.
5. Pittsburgh - They lose Lamar Patterson, but Pittsburgh's offense is always good (even if they never get credit for it because their tempo is too slow). I'm concerned about their depth, though.
6. Syracuse - This Syracuse team feels a whole lot like last year's team. If Kaleb Joseph turns into Tyler Ennis, this is a borderline Top Ten team. But if he isn't particularly good, the Syracuse offense will be just awful.
7. Miami - I'm not sure any team in the country is landing two transfers as skilled as Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellon. Rodriguez could end up first or second team All-ACC.
8. Notre Dame - Assuming Jerian Grant comes back, the Irish should be improved next season. It can't be overstated how important Garrick Sherman was to this team, though. He'll be very missed.
9. Wake Forest - This team probably needs one more player to make the NCAA Tournament, but they have to be in the discussion. Danny Manning is a huge unknown after only two seasons. This hire could end up blowing up in their face, but it could be brilliant. We can't know for a few years.
10. Clemson - Assuming KJ McDaniels is gone, it's going to be another year of ugly, low scoring games for Clemson.
11. Florida State -  I might be too low on the Seminoles here, but I'm concerned about their lack of depth and playmaking ability.
12. NC State - This is a team full of highly rated recruits, but Mark Gottfried isn't exactly known for getting the most out of talented recruits. The loss of Tyler Lewis is quietly a really brutal one, as he would have been their primary playmaker after the loss of TJ Warren.
13. Boston College - I kind of have to assume that Jim Christian will retain this roster. After all, a big reason Steve Donahue was fired was because of the players threatening to leave. If Christian can hold this roster together, it actually has some really talented offensive players on it. They just need to get (a whole lot) better defensively.
14. Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets lose three of their top four players off a team that wasn't good to begin with, and don't really have the top level talent to compete with the top half of the league.
15. Virginia Tech - I'm sure Buzz Williams will upgrade the talent level, but it's going to take time to get new players in here. And in the short term, as is often the case in coaching transitions, he's actually starting to lose players. Trevor Thompson has already announced that he's leaving via transfer.