Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Morning News: Caleb Swanigan To Purdue, New Rule Changes, Sterling Gibbs To UConn, Seton Hall Lands Derrick Gordon, And More

Purdue has some serious size and length.
Caleb Swanigan Chooses Purdue This saga was going on for a couple of weeks, made particularly confusing by some vague Dan Dakich tweets, but now the original rumors of Swanigan choosing Purdue have come to fruition. Originally a Michigan State commit, the McDonald's All-American gives Purdue a massive front line with AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas. Of course, the question becomes, how do you give all three of those guys sufficient playing time and how do you get them to play together? All three love to play in the paint. And that will be the challenge for Matt Painter.

As we saw with Texas this past season, you get diminishing returns from big men when you have too many of them, with star one-and-done recruit Myles Turner often being stuck on the bench in crunch time simply because there was no room for him in the lineup. As Texas lacked backcourt options this past season, Purdue will need to find improved backcourt play this coming season if they are really going to be in contention for a Big Ten title.

New Rule Changes The NCAA basketball rules committee has recommended a number of rule changes which are likely to be enforced next season, including a 30 second shot clock. If you missed it, I gave my thoughts on them, and their perception.

Sterling Gibbs Chooses UConn This move had appeared to be in the works for a couple of weeks. As I wrote last week, the transfer of Terrence Samuel seemed to be driven by Samuel expecting to lose a lot of playing time to the incoming Gibbs. How much does Gibbs improve this team? Well, Gibbs is a potential AAC Player of the Year, so it's a huge addition. The Top 25 hype that the Huskies are getting seems unjustified, but Gibbs should at least make them a Tournament team.

Seton Hall Lands Derrick Gordon Gordon averaged 9.8 points per game for UMass this past season, though it came with a 40.5 eFG%, meaning he was more of a volume scorer than anything. Seton Hall certainly lacks depth, but considering the number of shots that Isaiah Whitehead will be taking, I'm not sure this is an addition that is going to do a ton for Seton Hall. Still, Gordon is eligible immediately and will help a team that has a reasonable chance of ending up on the Tournament bubble. 

Indiana Boots Hanner Mosquera Perea And Devin Davis The two players were caught with marijuana in their room, though only Davis was actually charged with possession. Mosquera Perea is the more serious loss, having been the team's only rim protector this past season, though the incoming Thomas Bryant should be able to fill that role. Devin Davis did not play this past season after being hit by a car, and he was a relatively minor contributor off the bench as a freshman in 2013-14, so his loss is probably more seen as another scholarship opened. Crean had, unfortunately, already run off three players, so with these two losses he's now at two under his maximum scholarship allotment. Look for Crean to add at least one more player this summer.

Auburn Adds Tyler Harris Bruce Pearl continues to upgrade the talent level at Auburn, now adding Tyler Harris, who averaged 9.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game for Providence this past season. He'll be eligible immediately for his final year of eligibility. Auburn returns very little from a team that was terrible this past season, but Pearl adds Harris to a very strong and deep recruiting class. There is going to be some hype for Auburn as a bubble team, but I think the smarter projection is to see how well all of these pieces fit together before believing that Auburn can make that large of a jump in a single season.

Stanford Robinson To Rhode Island Robinson wasn't a great player off the bench for Indiana this past season, and he has to sit out the 2015-16 season due to the transfer, but this is yet another coup in the transfer market for Dan Hurley. It remains to be seen just how long Hurley is going to stick around at Rhode Island before leaving for a major conference school, but they are a serious contender for the A-10 title and an at-large bid this coming season, and should stay a contender for both of those things for the foreseeable future.

Monday, May 18, 2015

New Rule Changes Won't Stop The Whining


Jay Bilas still hates college basketball as much as he did last week.
The NCAA basketball rules committee announced some new rule recommendations on Friday which, while not officially new rules, will likely all be passed for next season. The most noticeable being the 30 second shot clock.

This gets a lot of press because the sport of college basketball is masochistic. The loudest voices in the sport love nothing more than bashing it. Jay Bilas will tell you multiple times in every game he calls, as well as every analyst panel he is on, as well as every newspaper that calls him, how the sport is unwatchable and dying and sucks in every possible way. And he's ESPN's lead college basketball announcer. Every newspaper, from the NY Times to the Washington Post writes annual articles decrying the death of the sport, all reciting the same talking points.

As I've described before, this whining about college basketball has been going on for at least 30 years now. Guys "can't shoot anymore" and "the game is too physical" and "too ugly" and the "NBA Draft is bleeding the college game of talent". Yeah, you'll read all of those phrases again next season, just like you read them in 1992. Nothing changes. It's a #narrative, so it's here to stay.

In general, there is a strong belief that casual sports fans like higher scoring sporting events than lower scoring sporting events. That's why football (both pro and college) as well as the NBA have changed rules to make it much harder to play defense and much easier to score. Yet can fans actually tell the difference?

It's easy to watch Ole Miss and BYU play a 94-90 game and be entertained while decrying Wyoming and San Diego State playing a 45-43 game, but the rule changes don't turn 45-43 games into 94-90 games. It's easy to show highlight packages making it seem like every game in 1981 was 94-90 while every game nowadays is 45-43, yet the reality is that over the last 35 years scoring has dropped in Division I college basketball from around 70-71 points per game to 66-67.

Is a drop of four or five points per game over 35 years noticeable? No. When there are thousands of games played every year, with wide fluctuations from team to team and game to game, it's simply impossible for the human brain to notice the difference. Even if scoring increases from 66 to 69 points per game next season, it's going to be so washed out by the 45-43 and 94-90 games that you won't be able to tell the difference.

The NIT, CBI and CIT experimented with a 30 second shot clock this past season, and I probably watched all or pieces of around 25-30 of those games. The most noticeable thing to me? I forgot that there was a 30 second shot clock. I never noticed it unless announcers pointed it out. I doubt you will either.

As for the other changes, such as the refs focusing on stopping physical play, the reality is that the game is probably less physical than it has ever been. The media simultaneously argues that the quality of college basketball is down due to NBA defections, that "AAU culture" means nobody knows fundamentals anymore, that nobody can shoot the ball anymore, and that defenses play more physically than ever before, yet somehow don't realize that this contradicts the fact that offensive efficiency has been steadily increasing for decades.
The fact is, college basketball is fine. Attendances are near all-time highs, and tv ratings were fantastic this past season. Jay Bilas, of course, tried to make excuses for college basketball's great tv ratings:
Bilas was then conspicuously silent when Kentucky was eliminated and the title game still hit an 18 year ratings high.

Do the new rule changes make the game worse? Probably not. I don't think any of the changes will be noticeable. And the game certainly could use a reduction in the number of timeouts (fans won't notice the 30 second shot clock, but they'll certainly notice the next time one of their games has seven tv commercials in the final sixty seconds). But as a whole, the game is healthier than ever, and better than ever. But if you believe that these rule changes will cause the media's opinion that the game is unwatchable and dying to change one iota, you'll quickly see the error in your ways.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Morning News: Rasheed Sulaimon To Maryland, Michael White To Florida, Anton Grady To Wichita State, Caleb Swanigan Decommit, And More

Rasheed Sulaimon could lock up #1 in the preseason polls for Maryland
Rasheed Sulaimon To Maryland Sulaimon averaged 11.6 points per game as a freshman at Duke in 2012-13, though he plateaud after that and was actually down to 7.5 points per game as a junior before being booted off the team for (allegedly) an alleged sexual assault (Sulaimon denies that the sexual assault allegation is the reason why he was booted, but he hasn't given an alternative reason). That said, he's still a significant addition for Maryland and will be eligible right away. The media hype for Maryland was already nearing a fever pitch, and this addition might lock them up as the media preseason #1:
That said, as I've been warning for months now, Maryland's luck in close games this past season (12-1 in games decided by six points or fewer) is wildly unsustainable and means that they are certain to be overrated preseason. And there were even more signs of "luck" in Maryland's success last season than their record in close games, such as leading the Big Ten in FT% defense in conference play. So is this a Top Ten team preseason? I think so. Sulaimon helps provide the two-way wing player that they lost in Dez Wells, though it remains to be seen if he's actually an upgrade over Jared Nickens, who is a better scorer than Sulaimon. It's not impossible to think that Sulaimon will come off the bench next season. That said, having a player as good as Sulaimon potentially come off the bench is a sign of a team with a ton of depth. Maryland will, at the very least, be very much in the Big Ten title hunt.

Florida Hires Michael White Michael White was a logical choice, and one of the names initially suggested as Billy Donovan's replacement. He has a lot of SEC experience, having played at Ole Miss and then being an assistant there for seven seasons, and he's had a successful run as head coach of Louisiana Tech. The criticism of him for not making the NCAA Tournament are a bit silly since he's won at least a share of the Conference USA title in each of the past three seasons. I've talked about this many times before, but one-and-done tournaments are crapshoots. You don't judge a coach based on a few lucky tournament wins, you judge a coach on season long success, like regular season titles. And White had Louisiana Tech so good these past couple of seasons that they've actually been on the edge of the tourney bubble out of a bad league.

That said, White is still an unproven head coach at the major conference level. So it's not like Florida just landed Bill Self, or even Rick Barnes. There's risk, as there always is with a coach moving from a mid-major to a major. But the first task for White is to hang onto Florida's recruiting class and to try to find some summer additions to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament.

Antony Grady To Wichita State Wichita State has perhaps the best backcourt in the country in Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet. And while they have a lot of good young front court prospects, they didn't have a single front court player with significant proven Division I success. That changes with the addition of Anton Grady, an all-around tremendous player for Cleveland State this past season. He will plug right into Wichita State's starting lineup and, barring any offseason injuries or transfers, will make Wichita State a certain Top 25 team preseason. They could even sneak into the Top Ten.

Caleb Swanigan Decommits From Michigan State Less than a month ago, the addition of Caleb Swanigan made Michigan State a potential preseason #1 team in the nation. He was the second McDonald's All-American in their 2015 recruiting class. But now he's gone, and while the rumors of him going to Purdue are so far unverified, the real story here is that Swanigan never signed his letter of intent, which would have locked him into Michigan State and kept him from playing for another team this coming season. Players "committing" but not formally signing their letter of intent is an increasingly popular strategy by top commits, and it's easy to understand why. It gives them the flexibility to change their mind, knowing that the door will always be open for them wherever they want to play.

Marcquise Reed To Clemson Reed scored 15.1 points per game for Robert Morris this past season, earning NEC Freshman of the Year. He has to sit out next season, but he will have three years left and will provide Clemson with something that they have lacked for almost the entirety of the Brad Brownell era: an efficient scorer. He can create his own shot and get to the hoop while also hitting 41% on threes, while the best shooter in the Clemson regular rotation this past season was at 34%.

Oregon Picks Up Dylan Ennis While they're not yet quite Iowa State, Oregon has been very aggressive in the transfer market under Dana Altman, and Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis is just the latest. Ennis, who averaged 9.9 points per game this past season, is a graduate transfer eligible to play immediately. Ennis will provide Oregon with something that they lacked this past season, a true point guard, and give the Ducks a proven backcourt scorer as well. Oregon was already a likely Tournament next season, but this addition puts them in a good position to be Top 25 preseason.

Terrence Samuel Leaves UConn Terrence Samuel was a regular contributor off the bench for UConn this past season, but his transfer might be good news for UConn fans if it's a sign that Sterling Gibbs is going to choose the Huskies as his transfer destination. If Gibbs does come, it would've meant a significant decrease in playtime for Samuel, who isn't anywhere near the player that Gibbs is. So stay tuned.

Horizon League Adds Northern Kentucky The Horizon League was looking for a tenth team, and they got it in Northern Kentucky, just that latest team to bolt from the Atlantic Sun. Northern Kentucky began the transition from Division II to Division I in 2012, and this coming season will be their last where they are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. This move won't matter much for postseason implications for a while, as Northern Kentucky is a long way as a program away from contending for a Horizon League title, but it could presage additional Horizon League expansion down the road.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Morning News: Jaylen Brown To Cal, Billy Donovan To The NBA, Terry Larrier Leaves VCU, And Nigel Williams-Goss To Gonzaga

Jaylen Brown has got California fans excited

California Lands Jaylen Brown Cuonzo Martin (and his assistant Yanni Hufnagel) have been doing work on the recruiting trail, landing not one but two McDonald's All-Americans. Brown, a 6'7" wing, will complement 6'11" Ivan Rabb, as well as returning guards Tyrone Wallace and Jordan Mathews. The team will be significantly improved. That said, the media has a tendency to overreact to big signings like this:
Personally, I'd recommend holding back on that a little bit. The reality is that California was not even a KenPom Top 100 team this past season and they lose two of their top six players. I know that Tyrone Wallace was "considering" the NBA Draft, but he wouldn't have been drafted if he had gone. He scored 17 points per game because he took 14.8 shots per game, not because he was particularly efficient. And while Rabb and Brown are both big time recruits, it's asking a lot for both to become top tier Pac-12 players as true freshmen. So California likely has a Tournament team right now, but I still can't fathom how they can be projected as a better team than Arizona.

Billy Donovan To Oklahoma City This was coming down the pipe for a while, so it's not a big surprise, but it's still big news. And with so many players leaving Florida this past offseason, you have to wonder if the players had some inkling that Donovan was looking to finally make that move to the NBA even before Scott Brooks was fired. Florida doesn't seem to be in a rush to hire a new head coach, as they appear to be worrying more about the bigger picture than their 2015 recruiting class. But that means it might be wise not to expect too much from the Gators in 2015-16. Even if the new coach can hold their entire 2015 recruiting class together, just making the NCAA Tournament will be an uphill battle.

Terry Larrier Leaves VCU The roster churn continues at VCU as Terry Larrier will look for somewhere else to use his final three years of eligibility. Larrier didn't do a whole lot off the bench as a true freshman in 2014-15, but he was a big time recruit with a lot of potential. Look for him to be highly sought after. As for VCU, Will Wade continues to add new pieces even as so many of Shaka's players leave. But he's going to need to add at least one or two more pieces this summer to realistically get VCU back to the NCAA Tournament. By my count they have three scholarships still available for this coming season, so they can be aggressive.

Nigel Williams-Goss Chooses Gonzaga Williams-Goss will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, and he will join a crowded backcourt, but this is still a major addition for Gonzaga. Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore this past season for Washington. Assuming Josh Perkins comes back good as new, and with Silas Melson and Jesse Wade as prospects, the Zags should finally have a rebuilt backcourt for 2016-17. The question for them that season will be a front court that will be loaded in 2015-16 but then will lose Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski, along with likely losing Domantas Sabonis to the NBA Draft. So Mark Few now has to work toward landing multiple quality big men in his 2016 recruiting class.

Durand Johnson To St. John's Chris Mullin continues to add players at St. John's. Durand Johnson, a 6'6" wing, averaged 8.8 points per game for Pitt in 2013-14 but is coming back from a torn ACL. He'll be able to play immediately, though, and at the very least will add depth to a roster that now finally seems to have a seven or eight man rotation in place. Whether Chris Mullin will be able to coach and develop these guys remain to be seen, but it's certainly been a successful first month of recruiting for him.

Pittsburgh Adds Rafael Maia It's not all bad news for Pitt, who have now added a second significant graduate transfer. A week ago it was Sterling Smith from Coppin State, and now it is Brown's Rafael Maia. Maia led the Ivy League in rebounding the past three seasons, including 8.7 per game in 2014-15. Perhaps Pitt's biggest problem this past season was front court defense and rebuilding, so Maia should be a significant addition in that area. And while Pitt is still likely to be a bubble team, at this point I am leaning toward projecting them as an at-large team in my next bracket.

Jernard Jarreau Chooses Oklahoma State Jarreau, who left Washington via transfer, will be eligible to play immediately at Oklahoma State. The 6'10" Jarreau doesn't have any real offensive game yet, but he's a significant force on the defensive end, both as an individual defender and as a defensive rebounder. Oklahoma State is in need of players all over the court after heavy graduation losses, but they are particularly thin on the interior (front court depth has always been a problem during Travis Ford's tenure, honestly). This addition doesn't make the Cowboys a likely Tournament team, but it gets them closer.

UNLV Adds Ike Nwamu UNLV has grabbed a graduate transfer in Ike Nwamu, who led Mercer with 15.1 points per game this past season. Nwamu will likely fill in for the position vacated by Rashad Vaughn, who left for the NBA Draft. With stud recruit Stephen Zimmerman also coming in to replace Christian Wood, Dave Rice has done a nice job coming up with one-for-one replacements for his NBA defections. If Jerome Seagears, the Rutgers transfer, is able to fill in ably at point guard, then UNLV has an excellent chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

UTEP Takes A Gamble On Dominic Artis After being booted out of Oregon for a sexual assault, Dominic Artis will get a second chance at UTEP. With Vince Hunter off to the NBA Draft, Tim Floyd was going to need a big addition to have a realistic chance of getting to the NCAA Tournament. Artis, a blue chip recruit when he originally signed with Oregon, is just that type of raw talent.

Stony Brook Gets Ahmad Walker Back Ahmad Walker started 31 games for Stony Brook in 2013-14 as a freshman, averaging 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. But after spending 2014-15 at a junior college, he's back. I talked in my America East preview about the incredibly snake bitten Stony Brook program, and how this coming season might be their best chance to finally get over the hump and get to the NCAA Tournament. I projected them as the favorite this coming season, and Walker's return just makes them appear even stronger.

Anton Gill Will Play For Nebraska Anton Gill has not been particularly effective in two seasons off the bench for Louisville, but he was a highly touted recruit out of high school, so he has the potential to develop at Nebraska. He'll take the 2015-16 season off because of the transfer and then will have two years of eligibility remaining. Tim Miles has so far proven to be more effective developing players defensively than offensively, but it will be interesting to see what he can do with Gill down the road.

Illinois State Adds Quintin Brewer It's not just power conference teams adding graduate transfers from smaller schools. Illinois State, a likely bubble team this coming season, has added Brewer, who averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game this past season for Bethune Cookman. Illinois State already has monster shot blocker Reggie Lynch and Dontae Hawkins, but Brewer will be a significant addition next season. If the Redbirds don't make the Big Dance next season, the reason will likely be the backcourt, particularly in the realm of perimeter shooting. Paris Lee is their only proven returner, and they don't have any highly touted incoming perimeter players.

Nebraska's Tarin Smith Chooses Duquesne Tarin Smith will have to sit out this coming season, but averaged 4.5 points per game as a freshman at Nebraska, so he should be a significant contributor at Duquesne when he does become eligible. Jim Ferry is far from having a roster capable of contending near the top of the Atlantic Ten, but this move certainly makes them stronger.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Morning News: Cheick Daillo, Brandon Ingram, Malik Newman And Nick Nostkowiak Sign, Plus Much More


Cheick Diallo makes Kansas a plausible preseason #1 team in the nation

We're finally done with NBA Draft decisions, but there are still a few big prospects available for offseason additions, and I'm going to start today's Morning News post with some of those:

Cheick Diallo To Kansas We entered yesterday with two consensus Top Ten recruits left available, and one of them was taken off the board. Diallo chose Kansas over Kentucky and other schools, and he gives Kansas another exciting front court option. Aside from Perry Ellis, the other Kansas front court returners were relatively mediocre this past season (Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson), but Diallo joins Carlton Bragg in the 2015 recruiting class to give Bill Self a ton of options. Kansas will likely be the Big 12 favorite again next season, and with teams like Virginia and North Carolina suffering NBA defections you can make the case for Kansas being in the mix for #1 in the country preseason.

Brandon Ingram To Duke The 6'8" forward joins Duke just a few days after they added Derryck Thornton, giving Coach K two new blue chip recruits to replace his one-and-done defections. Duke's only front court returners are Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson, but Ingram joins 6'10" blue chip recruit Chase Jeter as well as 6'9" Sean Obi (11.4 points per game for Rice in 2013-14). That is five good options, which will be plenty for Coach K. Teams with so many new pieces are always a bit of a question mark, so it's tough to project Duke ahead of Virginia and North Carolina, but the Blue Devils will have to at least be a part of the preseason ACC title conversation.

Malik Newman Selects Mississippi State This was already a poorly kept secret when I did my last Morning News post, but it's official now. We knew that Ben Howland was going to have to completely rebuild this Mississippi State roster, and this is his first big signing. The McDonald's All-American chose the Bulldogs over schools like Kentucky and Kansas. That said, one stud recruit by himself doesn't make this an NCAA Tournament team. This is just the first big piece of what will probably be several as Ben Howland gets comfortable in Starkville.

Nick Nostkowiak To Iowa State Nostkowiak originally committed to Marquette when Buzz Williams was there. A point guard, Nostkowiak will presumably be the backup to Monte Morris next season. But he's good enough that he should play significant minutes off the bench as a true freshman, despite Iowa State's perimeter depth. And while I doubt too many will pick Iowa State preseason to win the Big 12 (I currently have Kansas as the projected favorite), the Cyclones will certainly be in the mix.

Mychal Mulder To Kentucky John Calipari only has three high school players signed in his 2015 recruiting class (though two of the three are McDonald's All-Americans), but he added a big Juco recruit here in Mychal Mulder. Mulder is a shooting guard and will presumably be a contributor off the bench this coming season. It's not a program-changing addition, but after losing seven guys to the NBA Draft the fact is that Kentucky needs depth. And Calipari still has at least three more scholarships to hand out, though the options available are starting to dry up.

Sterling Gibbs Leaves Seton Hall This seemed inevitable, even after Sterling Gibbs insisted he was coming back for another season. It's no secret that stud 2014 recruit Isaiah Whitehead and the other freshmen in that 2014 recruiting class clashed badly with the upperclassmen this past season. Gibbs and Whitehead visibly yelled at each other on the court, and Jared Sina transferred out even before the season came to a crashing halt. Gibbs is a stud, though, and is good enough to be a key player on any roster. He'll be highly sought after on the transfer market. Meanwhile, Isaiah Whitehead had better turn into a star next season, or he's likely going to get Kevin Willard fired.

Eli Carter Leaves Florida It's been a tumultuous offseason for Florida, and it could get worse as the rumors swirl about Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder job.  Eli Carter seemed to always be carrying an injury at Florida (after originally transferring from Rutgers), but when he played he was a key contributor. The Gators now only return two backcourt scholarship players with playing experience at the Division I level (Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza). Brandone Francis and KeVaughn Allen give them two talented backcourt additions, but the Gators are likely going to lack offensive playmakers unless Kasey Hill can develop an outside shot this summer.

Mark Tollefson To Arizona Arizona has gotten in the graduate transfer game, picking up 6'9" Mark Tollefson from San Francisco. Tollefson led San Francisco with 14.0 points per game, and with a 38.9 3P% and a 60.3 eFG% he has the outside shot to be a an efficient (if likely low-usage) scorer in the Pac-12. He joins Ryan Anderson, Dusan Ristic and Kaleb Tarczewski to give Arizona now four proven front court players. 6'10" Charles Comanche and 6'8" Ray Smith also join as part of their 2015 recruiting class. Arizona was already the Pac-12 favorite, and this addition just means that the gap between them and the field is growing.

Shannon Evans Chooses Arizona State This always seemed to be the likely destination for Shannon Evans, who decided to leave Buffalo after head coach Bobby Hurley took the Arizona State job. Evans will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but he'll be a key player for the Sun Devils for the two seasons after that. It will be interesting to see how Evans is balanced with Tra Holder, the incumbent starting point guard for Arizona State, who also will have two seasons of eligibility left after 2015-16.

Anthony Collins Joins Texas A&M Collins was South Florida's starting point guard this past season, and he'll be eligible immediately to use his final year of eligibility. And he's a good fit with a Texas A&M team that is likely heading to the NCAA Tournament. Collins will likely take the starting point guard job next season. Alex Caruso was something of the de facto starting point guard this past season, though he's not really a pure point. Alex Robinson is more of a true point guard, but he was awfully inconsistent as a true freshman. Collins will lock that position down.

Jernard Jarreau Leaves Washington Jarreau was not a big scorer, but he started 21 games this past season as Washington's best defensive big man aside from Robert Upshaw. With Nigel Williams-Goss already gone as a transfer, this has been a fairly bleak offseason for the Huskies, who seem unlikely to make a serious at-large run next season.

Tulsa Adds Junior Etou Once a hyped prospect, Etou was relatively ineffective despite starting 31 games for Rutgers this past season. He will hope to turn things around at Tulsa. He'll have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but it's the 2016-17 season where he'll be needed anyway. Tulsa's top seven minute earners this past season were all juniors, so they're going to be stacked for a tourney run next season but will be in desperate need of reinforcements the year after.

Manhattan Adds Zavier Turner Turner will not be eligible for 2015-16, but he is a significant addition. He earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors at Ball State after averaging 12.1 points and 3.7 assists per game. It's expected that Tyler Wilson will move into Manhattan's starting point guard role in 2015-16, but he'll only have one more year of eligibility after that, so Turner is likely Manhattan's starting point guard of the future.

Memphis's Nick King To Alabama Nick King averaged 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game off the bench for Memphis this past season. He'll have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but has a real chance to be a starter with two years of eligibility remaining to start 2016-17. Nobody expects anything of Alabama in Avery Johnson's first season, but he is starting to put together his 2016-17 roster.

Tennessee Picks Up Ray Kasongo Kasongo was originally an Oregon commit, but was denied admission and had to go the Juco route. Rick Barnes didn't have a ton of scholarships to work with, but I believe he still has one left, as he tries to put together a roster that could plausibly earn an at-large bid in his first season.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Morning News: Kris Dunn Returning, Christian Wood Gone, Damion Lee To Lousiville, And Much More

Kris Dunn will torment Big East opponents for at least one more season.

Kris Dunn Returning For His Junior Season As a potential first round draft pick, Dunn had been on the NBA Draft fence. Dunn was the engine that made everything go for Providence this past season. He was incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an absurd 50.0% assist rate, but his high turnover rate also cost Providence quite a few games. But if he had gone pro, Providence would have lost four of five starters and been due for a rebuilding season. With him back, Providence has an excellent chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Christian Wood To The NBA Draft UNLV had great news a week ago when they picked up 7'0" McDonald's All-American Stephen Zimmerman, but that good feeling didn't last long as Wood will join Rashad Vaughn in the NBA Draft. Even without Wood, UNLV does still have plenty of front court depth, with 6'10" defensive monster Goodluck Okonoboh joining Zimmerman and 6'8" Oregon transfer Ben Carter, among others. But Wood was the one proven frontcourt scorer, and UNLV doesn't have much of a backcourt to speak of right now. Unless they can add another significant backcourt contributor, UNLV is looking most likely at an NIT bid next season.

Louisville Adds Damion Lee We knew that Louisville's roster was headed to significant turnover, with almost every player from their regular rotation leaving, but Damion Lee was arguably the most sought after player on the transfer market. The 6'6" wing was easily the best player on Drexel this past season and will be eligible to play immediately, with one year of eligibility remaining. Along with Trey Lewis and a deep recruiting class, Louisville is going to have a talented team next season, but it's going to be difficult in the offseason to project just how well all of the pieces will work together.

Derryck Thornton Reclassifies, Will Join Duke Derryck Thornton had been considered one of the top prospects in the 2016 recruiting class, but he has reclassified to 2015 and will be joining Duke. This will help very much in replacing Tyus Jones, and giving Duke a legitimately strong starting point guard next season. With North Carolina and Virginia both losing a legitimate player to the NBA Draft in the past week or so, Duke is inching closer to seriously contending for the ACC title next season.

VCU Adds Korey Billbury VCU's roster is in flux after the loss of Shaka Smart, and they suffered decommits from their entire 2015 recruiting class, but this is a significant pickup for new head coach Will Wade. Billbury was an explosive scorer for Oral Roberts this past season, averaging 14.4 points per game. He was a bit of a volume scorer, so he might not average those numbers next season in the Atlantic Ten, but he will be eligible immediately and could be the difference if VCU is able to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh Adds Sterling Smith  Sterling Smith is yet another "graduate transfer", a successful player from a smaller school looking to have one final year at a big program. Smith scored 13.9 points per game this past season for Coppin State, and he will provide much needed backcourt depth. His defensive skills will also buoy a Pitt defense that was a tire fire this past season. He's far from guaranteed an NCAA Tournament berth at Pitt, but the Panthers should at least be in the bubble hunt.

Eric Paschall Joining Villanova Paschall will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but he was the 2014-15 Atlantic Ten Freshman of the Year, so this is a significant addition for Villanova. The year of seasoning will probably be a benefit anyway, as Paschall was talented but raw as a true freshman. He has the potential to turn into one of the better Big East players by the time he graduates.

George Washington Adds Jaren Sina And Alex Mitola Mike Lonergan added two significant transfers on the same day, though one of them will have to sit out next season. Sina, a starter for Seton Hall who fit into the stereotypical "glue guy" mold will have to sit out next season but will then have two years of eligibility. Mitola, who led Dartmouth in scoring this past season with 12.4 points per game, has one year of eligibility and will play right away. Mitola will fit in nicely on a roster that returns its top four scorers and also adds Tyler Cavanaugh from Wake Forest, and which needed backcourt depth more than anything else. They should definitely be in the tourney bubble mix next season.

Ricky Tarrant To Memphis Tarrant was Alabama's second-leading scorer (13.1 per game), so this is a significant pickup for Memphis as Josh Pastner tries to save his job by getting back to the NCAA Tournament. With Tarrant joining the Lawson brothers onto a team that returns almost all of its key players, Memphis should certainly be improved next season. But considering the lack of respect the AAC got this past season, I'm not sure Memphis can possibly be confident on the bubble.

Shannon Evans Leaving Buffalo With Bobby Hurley gone, the exodus of players from Buffalo has begun with Shannon Evans, their best perimeter player. With Justin Moss still set to return, Buffalo has to still be considered a significant threat to win the MAC, but at this point I've got to back off my preseason projection of Buffalo as MAC favorite. For now, I think Central Michigan is the new favorite. As for the next destination for Shannon Evans, it would be hard to bet against Arizona State.

Anton Grady Leaving Cleveland State It seems like Cleveland State gets hit hard by graduate transfers every year, and Anton Grady is the latest.  They had already lost Trey Lewis to Louisville, and now star big man Anton Grady is gone as well, though he hasn't yet decided on a destination. Certainly these two defections will seem to end any realistic chance of Cleveland State challenging for the Horizon League title next season.

Nigel Johnson Transfers To Rutgers Nigel Johnson was perhaps the best player off the Kansas State bench this past season (he also started seven games), so he'll immediately become one of the best players on Rutgers. He won't be eligible for the 2015-16 season, but Rutgers is going to stink this coming season anyway. With relatively strong 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes, Rutgers does appear to slowly be upgrading its talent level under Eddie Jordan, but there's still no sign that they're going to be seriously competitive in the Big Ten anytime soon.

Manu Lecomte To Baylor The Miami transfer didn't wait long to make his decision, going with Baylor. He'll have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but he'll provide Baylor with the type of shooting threat that Scott Drew loves to surround his big guys with. Lecomte hit 46% of his shots from behind the arc this past season.

Chris Walker Leaves Florida The former McDonald's All-American has been a massive disappointment for Florida, never being a significant contributor off the bench in two seasons. And next season he'll be at another school. Walker is still a talented kid, and so he'll have plenty of Division I suitors, but it's hard to expect too much of him with how little he's developed at the Division I level.

Evan Payne Joins Long Beach State Payne averaged 18.0 points per game for Loyola-Marymount this past season, so this is a significant addition for their conference rivals. That said, Payne will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, so he won't be able to help Long Beach State challenge UC-Irvine for the 2016 Big West title.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Morning News: Jakob Poeltl Returning, Justin Anderson Gone, Bobby Portis Goes Pro, NC State Hit Hard, Illinois Lands Thorne, And More

The Utah big man will return next season.

Jakob Poeltl Returning To Utah This is huge news for a Utah team that was looking at something of a rebuilding season, and it's also surprising news considering the fact that Poeltl was considered a borderline lottery pick and is unlikely to improve on that very much with another season in college basketball. With Delon Wright and Dallin Bachynski gone, Utah seemed most likely to be a bubble quality team next season, but Poeltl makes them a likely NCAA Tournament team. For them to actually contend with Arizona again, however, Poeltl will need to take a significant step forward offensively and some of the younger players on the roster will need significant offseason improvements.

Justin Anderson Off To The NBA Draft We saw this past season how the Virginia offense tailed off when Justin Anderson was hurt. The offense was still very good and significantly underrated by the media, but it was not anything like the top five offense in the nation that it was with a healthy Anderson. But they won't have Anderson at all next season. That said, while this drop's Virginia from being the #1 team in my projected bracket, they are still an ACC title contender and a very strong squad. The media will continue to be pacist and will underrate this Virginia team preseason. But sleep on them at your own peril.

Bobby Portis And Michael Qualls To The NBA Draft Portis is a borderline lottery pick, so he was expected to leave, but Qualls is more of a prospect, and is likely heading off to the D-League in the fall. But the loss of both stars puts the next Arkansas season in serious doubt. They were a nearly certain NCAA Tournament team with both of them while I projected them as an 11 seed assuming that Qualls would be back. With both gone, they are likely looking at a preseason NIT projection.

Trevor Lacey And Kyle Washington Leave NC State North Carolina State was ready for quite a bit of preseason media hype, but the loss of Trevor Lacey to the NBA Draft and Kyle Washington to transfer will change that. Still, this should be a Tournament quality team. The Lacey loss is significantly more important, and not just because he's the better player. The fact is that NC State was going to be loaded in the front court, led by Beejay Anya, Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman. But in the backcourt, the Wolfpack don't really have a bench right now behind Anthony Barber and Terry Henderson, the transfer from West Virginia. Mark Gottfried is going to have to get a backcourt player or two this summer.

Illinois Lands Mike Thorne The 6'11" big man from Charlotte was one of the most coveted transfers in the nation, and he'll be eligible right away for Illinois, where he'll have just one year of eligibility remaining. Thorne is a perfect fit for an Illini team with a clear Tournament-quality backcourt of Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate and a couple nice 2015 recruits. But this looked like a bubble team because of a front court that didn't return a single player over 6'7" who averaged double digit minutes per game this past season. Illinois was just narrowly out of my preseason projected bracket, but at this point I'd lean toward moving them into my next projected bracket.

UConn Lands Shonn Miller Illinois wasn't the only potential bubble team to land a big graduate transfer in the past few days, as UConn picked up First Team All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller. UConn already had plenty of big bodies for next season, but they lacked offensive creativity, which is what Miller provides. Miller can play on the perimeter and be one of UConn's top scoring options, if not their leading scorer.

Olivier Hanlan To The Draft Hanlan's impressive raw counting stats were driven by a high usage rate (a 32.1 shot%), and so his First Team All-ACC selection this past season was unjustified, but he was still far and away the best player on Boston College. Considering the fact that they were in the mix for last place in the ACC even with Hanlan, it's going to be a long season on Chestnut Hill.

California Picks Up Ivan Rabb The 6'11" McDonald's All-American is the biggest recruit that California has landed in a long time, and gives significant hope to Bears fans after a frustrating season. Depending on where you look, this is a borderline Top 15 recruiting class that Cuonzo Martin has in place.

UNLV Lands Stephen Zimmerman Zimmerman, a 7'0" McDonald's All-American, chose to stay with his hometown UNLV Runnin' Rebs. UNLV still waits on another hyped big man, however. 6'10" Christian Wood is still reportedly on the NBA Draft fence. If Wood comes back, this UNLV team probably projects to be an NCAA Tournament team. If Wood chooses to leave then UNLV's 2015-16 fate will likely come down to how much Stephen Zimmerman is able to live up to the hype as a true freshman.

VCU's Entire Recruiting Class Is Gone Shaka Smart had a very nice 2015 recruiting class lined up at VCU, but with Shaka off to Texas that entire class has now decommitted. That's not to say that VCU fans need to panic. This sort of player movement is typical during a coaching transition. New head coach Will Wade will need to add some good pieces this summer to get the team back to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, but he'll really be judged on his 2016 recruiting class. If he can get that in place and keep positive momentum for the program then the future should still be bright for the Rams.

Marcus Foster To Creighton Foster will have to sit out this coming season, and there were behavioral reasons that he was booted from Kansas State, but he's a huge talent if Greg McDermott can figure out a good way to use him. Foster was one of the most talented freshmen in the nation in 2013-14 before struggling a bit this past season.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Morning News: Kentucky Loses Seven To The Draft, Nigel Williams-Goss Leaves Washington, Bobby Hurley To Arizona St, And Much More


I will have Morning News posts periodically throughout the offseason, with this being the first one. Each time I'll cover important stories that have broken since my last post. For now, I'm only going to talk about stories that relate to my bracket projection (here is the one I released on Tuesday). So, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow declaring to go pro are not stories... we all knew that was coming, and that was already taken into account in Duke's projected seed.

Kentucky Loses Seven To The Draft Well, we knew Karl Towns, Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein were gone,  but the other guys were question marks. Now it turns out that the Harrison twins are gone, along with Dakari Johnson and Devin Booker. This means that Tyler Ullis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Dominique Hawkins and Derrek Willis are the only returning scholarship players. And it means John Calipari is going to be very aggressive on the recruiting trail. He already has Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews signed, but that won't be enough if they're going to be a national title contender again next season. Expect at least one or two more signings.

Nigel Williams-Goss Leaves Washington This is a really bad blow to Washington. The Huskies were unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament next season anyway, but Williams-Goss was their do-everything playmaker and all around best player. If things go south next season, Lorenzo Romar might find himself fired a year from now.

Bobby Hurley To Arizona State This is, in my opinion, a better hire than Jeff Capel, who was the first guy that Arizona State went after. It's going to be a rebuilding season for Arizona State unless Hurley can pull a miracle this summer, but this does give Sun Devils fans hope for the future. For Buffalo, the question is who the next coach is and whether he can hold the roster together. I rated Buffalo as the MAC preseason favorite, but that status will change if the roster starts losing key pieces.

Miami Loses Manu Lecomte And Deandre Burnett To Transfer Lecomte started 23 games last season and Burnett scored 7.0 points per game off the bench, so these are two significant young players on the way out. And if there were thoughts about Miami contending for an ACC title, this might end that, but this is still a Hurricanes team that should be improved and back to the NCAA Tournament. The Miami backcourt, despite these two losses, still returns Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan (two returning starters) along with James Palmer off the bench and star 2014 recruit Ja'Quan Newton. If you want to include Davon Reed as a "shooting guard" also, it's easy to think that too much competition was a significant reason both Lecomte and Brunett left.

JP Tokoto To The Draft This was a surprise to many, but it's a significant loss for a North Carolina team that many were projecting to be #1 preseason (though I had them narrowly behind Virginia). That said, Tokoto was far from North Carolina's most important player, and the Tar Heels remain a national title contender.

Michigan State Picks Up Caleb Swanigan Swanigan joins Deyonta Davis to give Michigan State not one, but two McDonald's All-Americans in their 2015 recruiting class. And if you were wondering what would come of Michigan State's front line with the loss of Branden Dawson, they now have two of the best big man recruits in the nation. With Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello returning, the Spartans will have plenty of size. They were already my Big Ten favorite, but with Swanigan they have a potential to move up to a 1 seed in my next projected bracket.

Darien Williams To St. John's The 6'8" Juco wing was originally slated to go to Iowa State, but after decommitting he is the first big piece that Chris Mullin has added to his 2015-16 roster. Assuming that Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa do return (which at this point seems likely), the Johnnies should at least be competitive next season. But without a blue chip high school recruit yet signed (they had one signed in Brandon Sampson, but he decommitted when Steve Lavin was fired), the Johnnies are still a good player or two away from being in serious at-large contention.

Shelton Mitchell Transferring Out Of Vanderbilt Mitchell made 11 starts and played 20 minutes per game as a true freshman. That 2014 Vanderbilt recruiting class had an incredibly successful true freshman season, with all five players earning at least 19 minutes per game, and setting the Commodores up to be projected as a borderline Top 25 team next season. The loss of Mitchell also makes it a serious question who will be Vanderbilt's backup point guard next season (assuming that Wade Baldwin, another one of those 2014 recruits) is the starter. Riley LaChance (yet another 2014 recruit) is listed as a point guard, but as a freshman he was much more of a spot-up shooter than an offensive creator.

Shaqquan Aaron Leaving Louisville A lot of people are going to tune into a Louisville game early next season and wonder who all of the players are. There might still be another transfer also. Though that doesn't mean Louisville won't be a tourney team next season. Trey Lewis is coming on board and Rick Pitino has a strong recruiting class already signed up.

Vince Hunter Going Pro UTEP's chances of contending for a Conference USA title are probably over with 6'8" star Vince Hunter leaving for the NBA. I don't know whether UTEP's official twitter account criticizing his NBA potential helped shove him out the door, but it probably didn't help.

Jaron Hopkins Leaving Colorado Hopkins, a wing more known for his defense than his offense, started 17 games for Colorado this past season. He's far from the most important player on the roster, but the margin of error for Colorado is thin if they're going to earn an at-large bid next season. This certainly is not helpful.

Ricky Tarrant Transferring Out Of Alabama Player movement after a coaching change is always expected, though this is a significant loss. Tarrant was second on the team with 13.1 points per game this past season. That said, the reality is that Alabama was unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament next season regardless, and that was going to be Tarrant's last season of eligibility. In the end, Avery Johnson will be judged on his first recruiting class and what new core he is able to build. Nobody expects him to have much success next season.

Hawaii Hires Eran Ganot This seems like an odd hiring move considering what an incredible job Benjy Taylor did as interim head coach, taking a team that was a dumpster fire to the brink of making the NCAA Tournament. But that doesn't mean that Ganot, an assistant coach at St. Mary's, won't do a good job. It would be nice to see Benjy Taylor get his own Division I program to run soon, however.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Preseason BP68

The title game finished fewer than 21 hours ago, which makes this the quickest I've ever gotten out a preseason bracket projection (also the quickest I've been able to go into my post-conference previews hibernation)

Speaking of conference previews, they are all here. If you are wondering why I have a team where I have them, and which player transfers I am assuming (and which players I am assuming will be off to the NBA), all of those details are in the relative conference previews.

The next bracket projection will be posted in early July, the week of the NBA Draft. In between then and now I'll post occasionally Morning News posts (they won't be daily.... maybe once every week or two). These will have updates on coaching hires, NBA defections, transfers, et cetera. When the new bracket projection is posted in July, I will take all of that new information into account. But for now, the bracket below is my starting projection.

I have two more things to note to help clear up potential confusion. First of all, remember that I am basing these projections on advanced metrics in addition to player transfers. Whenever anybody is doing preseason projections, they start with a rating for each team and then move that team up or down based on who is coming and going and staying. But so if you believe Maryland was a top ten team this past season then you will probably have them in your top five preseason (as the media will). But if you believe Maryland was actually more like the 30th best team in the nation, as I do, then you will have the Terps a bit lower (though still improved over this past season, certainly). Examples of teams with bad luck in close games this past season that I will have rated higher than most preseason projections you'll see in the media are Vanderbilt and Florida.

Second, if you're new to my website or you were confused by this in the past, the teams listed outside the Field of 68 are listed alphabetically, first by conference and then within each conference. So each ACC team is listed before each Big East team, etc. Doing it alphabetically makes it easier to find teams, and it's also pretty pointless to debate whether Creighton or California is the 33rd team out of the field. Nobody cares. I separate the teams instead into larger groups, so you can tell which teams I think are legitimate bubble teams and which are much longer shots.

Without further ado, here is my projected bracket for Selection Sunday, 2016:

1. VIRGINIA (ACC)
1. KENTUCKY (SEC)
1. North Carolina
1. KANSAS (BIG 12)

2. MICHIGAN STATE (BIG TEN)
2. ARIZONA (PAC-12)
2. VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)
2. Oklahoma

3. Maryland
3. GONZAGA (WCC)
3. Iowa State
3. SMU (AAC)

4. Miami-Florida
4. Indiana
4. Texas
4. Duke

5. Purdue
5. UCLA
5. Xavier
5. NC State

6. DAVIDSON (ATLANTIC TEN)
6. Wisconsin
6. Baylor
6. WICHITA STATE (MVC)

7. Cincinnati
7. Texas A&M
7. Oregon
7. Dayton

8. Vanderbilt
8. Michigan
8. Georgetown
8. Notre Dame

9. LSU
9. SAN DIEGO STATE (MOUNTAIN WEST)
9. West Virginia
9. Ohio State

10. BYU
10. Louisville
10. Rhode Island
10. Butler

11. Illinois State
11. TCU
11. Florida
11. Arkansas
11. Temple

12. Syracuse
12. Boise State
12. BUFFALO (MAC)
12. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (SOUTHLAND)
12. VALPARAISO (HORIZON)

13. UAB (CONFERENCE USA)
13. IONA (MAAC)
13. BELMONT (OVC)
13. UC-IRVINE (BIG WEST)

14. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (SUMMIT)
14. GEORGIA STATE (SUN BELT)
14. HOFSTRA (COLONIAL)
14. HARVARD (IVY LEAGUE)

15. STONY BROOK (AMERICA EAST)
15. WINTHROP (BIG SOUTH)
15. NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
15. MONTANA (BIG SKY)

16. NORTH FLORIDA (ATLANTIC SUN)
16. CHATTANOOGA (SOUTHERN)
16. LEHIGH (PATRIOT)
16. ROBERT MORRIS (NEC)
16. NORFOLK STATE (MEAC)
16. SOUTHERN (SWAC)

Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Tulsa, Florida State, Pittsburgh, George Washington, Richmond, VCU, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Old Dominion, Central Michigan, Northern Iowa, UNLV, Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, Pepperdine

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Connecticut, Memphis, Clemson, Georgia Tech, St. Bonaventure, Creighton, St. John's, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, UTEP, Akron, Kent State, Evansville, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State, California, Washington, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Saint Mary's

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Vermont, Houston, Boston College, Virginia Tech, La Salle, UMass, St. Joseph's, DePaul, Nebraska, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Hawaii, Northeastern, William & Mary, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Cleveland State, Oakland, Princeton, Monmouth, Siena, Western Michigan, Loyola-Chicago, Fresno State, Wyoming, Murray State, North Dakota State, Arizona State, USC, Washington State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Portland, Santa Clara

2015-16 Preview: ACC

Atlantic Coast Conference


I've talked in the Big 12 and Big East previews about why the ACC was overrated this past season. The fact that the bottom half of the league was so bad does have to matter as long as the top teams play Boston College and Georgia Tech as often as they play Virginia and Duke. But that said, the ACC certainly did have the strongest top of the league of any conference. That the league's second best team won a national title is a testament to that, as well as Notre Dame and Louisville both coming so close to a Final Four themselves.

In addition, the ACC should expect to be stronger and deeper next season. Particularly if you look at the teams at the bottom of the league which dragged down the ACC's computer ratings, most of them were fighting through rebuilding seasons and expect to be significantly better next season.

We have to start with a Duke team that was basically constructed like a John Calipari team, getting the vast majority of its production from freshmen, nearly all of whom will be one-and-done. Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow are certainly gone, and for the sake of this preview I'm going to assume Tyus Jones goes as well. With Quinn Cook graduating, that leaves as returners Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. In addition, Coach K has already signed Chase Jeter (Scout: 7 C, Rivals: 9) and Luke Kennard (Scout: 6 SG, Rivals: 25). They also add 6'9" Sean Obi, who averaged 11.4 ppg and 9.3 rpg as a freshman at Rice in 2013-14. It's certainly a very talented roster yet again, but I don't know if any of those players will have the star power or dominance of Okafor or Winslow, and Duke might not be quite as good overall next season.

The best team in the ACC during the regular season was Virginia, though the Justin Anderson injury really sapped the life out of their season. The dumb media criticism of Virginia (just as it was of Wisconsin before last season and of any other team that plays a slow tempo) is that they played great defense but couldn't score. Yet the day Anderson was injured (February 7th), Pomeroy rated Virginia the 5th best offense in the nation. The offense wasn't the same without him, though, and slid to 24th by the end of the season. Still, Anderson was starting to get healthy in the NCAA Tournament, and Virginia could have gone far if not for brutal three-point shooting luck against Michigan State (the Spartans shot 6-for-12 while Virginia shot 2-for-17 in a game decided by six points).

That all makes Justin Anderson's NBA Draft decision crucial. But he's considered a borderline first round pick at best, so for the sake of this preview I'm going to assume he returns. And if he does, that means Virginia will return every scholarship player other than Darion Atkins and the lightly used bench player BJ Stith. Atkins is a fabulous defender and "glue guy", but that would put Virginia in great shape with Anderson, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte returning to the front court, and with London Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon and Marial Shayot in the backcourt. If there's one young player who didn't contribute much this past season but could do so next season it's probably 6'7" Isaiah Wilkins, a 2014 recruit. In addition, they'd add 6'4" Darius Thompson, who averaged 2.5 ppg and 2.4 apg as a freshman at Tennessee in 2013-14, as well as Jarred Reuter (Scout: 30 C, Rivals: 141). It's certainly a roster built to make another run for a national title.

Notre Dame was the biggest positive surprise in the ACC this past season. They were undersized and not particularly good defensively, but they had the second rated offense in the nation according to Pomeroy and came within a single possession of knocking off Kentucky and making a Final Four. They lose two crucial starters to graduation in Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, and also wait on the NBA decision of Demetrius Jackson. For the sake of this preview I'm going to assume Jackson returns, which will be crucial to the Irish having success next season. Steve Vasturia is going to be a very good player, but he's not a point guard, and the only other guard on the roster (Matt Ferrell) barely played as a freshman, though they also add 6'4" Rex Pflueger (Rivals: 99). Notre Dame's front court is more certain, returning Zach Auguste, VJ Beachem and Bonzie Colson. Colson, in particular, really exploded late in the season and has Irish fans very excited for the future.

North Carolina fans are very excited for next season for an obvious reason: every player from their ten man regular rotation is set to return. An NBA defection is still possible, from one of a few different players, but for the sake of this preview I'm going to assume that they all return. Their top returners are the same as their best players this past season: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, etc. If there's one young player on the bench to get significantly better next season, I'd bet on 6'6" Theo Pinson, a talented 2014 recruit. What about additions? Roy Williams has only added 6'8" Luke Maye so far, but he still has one more scholarship to give out.

There were five elite teams in the ACC this past season, and Louisville was the fifth, but the Cardinals are going to have a very different roster next season. Wayne Blackshear is the only graduation, but Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier are off to the NBA while Anton Gill has left via transfer. Rick Pitino has suggested publicly that another player or two might leave transfer as well, though at the time this post is going live none have been announced. The three returners (for now) who played significant minutes this past season are Mangok Mathiang, Quentin Snider and Chinanu Onuaku. Shaqquan Aaron and 7''0" Anas Mahmoud were two other players further down the bench who will return. That said, Louisville has a number of big additions. They add 6'2" Trey Lewis, who averaged 15.8 ppg this past season with Cleveland State and will be eligible to play right away. They also add Donovan Mitchell (Scout: 4 SG, Rivals: 32), Raymond Spalding (Scout: 7 PF, Rivals: 40) and Deng Adel (Scout: 6 SF, Rivals: 51).

The sixth and final NCAA Tournament team out of the ACC was NC State, perhaps the most inconsistent team in the nation. They beat Duke, Villanova, Louisville and North Carolina (with only the Duke game coming at home), but also lost to Wake Forest, Clemson, Wofford and Boston College. But they head into next season losing just Ralston Turner from their regular rotation. The front court will be loaded with Abdul-Malik Abu, Beejay Anya, Lennard Freeman, Kyle Washington and Caleb Martin, all of whom played well this past season. The backcourt has an excellent pair of starters in Trevor Lacey and Anthony Barber, and they also add 6'4" Terry Henderson, who averaged 11.7 ppg as a sophomore at West Virginia in 2013-14. They have no 2015 recruits signed yet, but have what I believe are three scholarships still to give. I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Gottfried goes out shopping for more backcourt depth.

Miami failed to make the NCAA Tournament, but they took the NIT seriously and made it all the way to the title game. And they head into next season returning their top ten minute earners, led by point guard Angel Rodriguez and big man Tonye Jekiri, along with wing scorer Sheldon McClellan. If there's one young player on the bench expected to do more next season it's point guard Ja'Quan Newton, a highly touted 2014 recruit who didn't do much as a true freshman.Their biggest addition is 6'8" Kamari Murphy, who averaged 6.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg as a sophomore at Oklahoma State in 2013-14.

Syracuse is in a really tough situation with the impending scholarship reductions, which won't hit next season but could begin the season after that. Next season's team should be fine, but long term it's incredibly difficult to win when you have to hit on basically every scholarship, and particularly when everybody knows that Jim Boeheim will be retiring sooner rather than later. For next season, they are losing Rakeem Christmas, Chris McCullough, BJ Johnson and Ron Patterson, though they will be getting back DaJuan Coleman (4.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 2013-14), who missed the 2014-15 season with injury. They'll return Kaleb Joseph and Trevor Cooney in the backcourt along with Tyler Roberson and Michael Gbinije in the front court. Yet while scholarship restrictions are coming soon, Syracuse already had a big 2015 recruiting class coming on board: Malachi Richardson (Scout: 7 SF, Rivals: 31), Tyler Lydon (Scout: 13 PF, Rivals: 66), Moustapha Diagne (Scout: 12 PF, Rivals: 69) and Franklin Howard (Scout: 23 SG, Rivals: 82). Syracuse actually should be better and deeper next season, but it'll probably be the best team Jim Boeheim coaches the rest of his career.

There are quite a few teams from the bottom of the ACC that have a reasonable chance to make the NCAA Tournament next season. For the sake of a pinch of brevity, I'll stick to just Florida State and Pitt. Florida State was a young team that improved as the season went along. They saw flashes of brilliance was the talented freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes (who just needs an outside jump shot to become of the best players in the ACC). From the nine man rotation that they finished the season with, only Kiel Turpin graduates. Devon Bookert and Robbie Berwick join Rathan-Mayes in the backcourt while the massive front line of Michael Ojo. Boris Bojanovsky, Jarquez Smith, Montay Brandon and Phil Cofer showed significant improvement, but should be better defensively and on the glass than they are. They could use more backcourt/wing depth and athleticism, and will get it from a deep 2015 recruiting class led by Dwayne Bacon (Scout: 5 SF, Rivals: 23), Malik Beasley (Scout: 20 SG, Rivals: 45) and Terance Mann (Scout: 19 SF, Rivals: 95).

Pittsburgh heads into next season losing just Cameron Wright from their regular rotation. Their entire front court of Michael Young, Jamel Artis, Chris Jones and Sheldon Jeter is back, along with Durand Johnson (who scored 8.8 ppg as a junior in 2013-14 but was suspended for 2014-15), but it's a front court that was awful defensively. Pitt's defense was rated 202nd in the nation by Pomeroy (compared to an offense rated 30th). The only front court addition so far is 6'11" Juco transfer Rozelle Nix, but Jamie Dixon has scholarships available and he's in the mix for several possible bigs. Pitt's backcourt has a pair of nice returners in James Robinson and Josh Newkirk, but needs some depth. They add Damon Wilson (Scout: 8 PG, Rivals: 94).

Finally, if there's one deep sleeper for next season in the ACC, I think it's got to be Wake Forest. They lose just Darius Leonard off of what was a very young regular rotation. They have one of the better inside-outside combinations in the ACC with Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas, and they got big contributions out of 2014 recruits Mitch Wilbekin and Kostas Mitoglou. Throw in a couple of big time recruits in Doral Moore (Scout: 19 C, Rivals: 50) and Bryant Crawford (Scout: 10 PG, Rivals: 80), and this is a team that could surprise a lot of people next season.

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

1. Virginia - Before Justin Anderson got hurt, Virginia was a clear #2 team in the country in the computers behind only Kentucky. The fact that they should be even better next season should scare a lot of opposing teams.
2. North Carolina - The Tar Heels will likely be a consensus top five team in the nation in the preseason human polls. The ACC certainly will be in the mix for multiple 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament yet again.
3. Miami - The Hurricanes return everybody from their regular rotation and also add Kamari Murphy off a team that finished in the Top 50 in the computers. With Jim Larranaga at the helm, they should be Top 25 next season.
4. Duke - Duke could easily slide up this ranking if they add more recruits, but for now they have some holes and they lack a top end offensive creator/scorer.
5. NC State - This team will be stronger next season, but they have to play more consistently to be one of the top three or four teams in the ACC.
6. Notre Dame - Assuming Demetrius Jackson comes back, the Irish should get back to the NCAA Tournament, though they probably won't be quite as strong as they were this past season.
7. Louisville - Rick Pitino has enough talent to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but it's tough to project a roster that will be so completely different next season.
8. Syracuse - The Orange have a chance to be improved next season, but next season might also be their best chance to make the NCAA Tournament for a while.
9. Pittsburgh - Pitt should be improved next season, but their front line has to play defense better for them to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
10. Florida State - With the size they have, these Florida State teams appear at first glance like the dominant Leonard Hamilton defensive teams from a few years back, but that's certainly not how they play. Still, they have a great chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
11. Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons might still be one more year away from the NCAA Tournament, but they're trending in the right direction.
12. Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets had horrible luck in close games (0-13 in games decided by seven points or fewer against ACC opponents), but they also lose a pair of starters. They have a couple of decent transfers (Nick Jacobs from Alabama the most interesting), so there's reason to think that they can be as good next season as they were this past season. If some of that bad luck evens out, they could be more successful overall.
13. Clemson - This program feels like it's sitting in neutral. They play hard defense, but are never able to score efficiently enough to win consistently. If they get to the NCAA Tournament bubble next season, it'll likely be because Jaron Blossomgame took the next step as a scorer and became a borderline All-ACC player.
14. Boston College - This team was basically cobbled together with transfers this past season, and they lose four key players to graduation. So even assuming Olivier Hanlon doesn't go pro and comes back for another season, I don't see why this team should be any better than they were this past season.
15. Virginia Tech - Buzz Williams has a pretty good recruiting class coming in, along with a couple of transfers, but he's basically starting this roster over from scratch. Adam Smith was probably their best player, and he's leaving via transfer. Buzz gave a lot of minutes to a deep 2014 recruiting class that mostly struggled as true freshman. Perhaps as sophomores they will give this team the lift to get out of the ACC basement.

2015-16 Preview: Big East

Big East Conference


A few years ago, the old Big East was the media darling. I've talked about this many times before, but the media loves big, top-heavy conferences. Those are the leagues with the most Top 25 teams, the most Sweet 16 teams, and the most national title contenders. The fact that Creighton finished in last place in the Big East but would have been favored on a neutral court against almost half of the ACC is not relevant to any public "which is the best conference?" discussions, even though the schedules are balanced. Duke and Virginia get to inflate their conference records playing Boston College and Virginia Tech, while every game in the Big East (except maybe against DePaul) is a battle.

The biggest loser in this perception is Villanova. They unfortunately had an atrocious shooting performance that knocked them out against NC State (their 38.5 eFG% was their second lowest of the entire season), causing all the usual "I told you Villanova sucked all along" nonsense. Of course, the fact that Xavier finished 6th out of 10 teams in the Big East and still pushed Arizona to the final minute with the Elite 8 on the line didn't come up. When you have a narrative, you will pick and choose the anecdotes you want to use to promote it. The fact is, the Big East is going to need some Elite 8 teams and a Final Four team or two over the next few years in order to shift the narrative.

Can Villanova be a national title contender again next season? It's possible, but doesn't seem particularly likely. They lose three starters, with star Darrun Hilliard and big man JayVaughn Pinkston graduating, and with combo guard Dylan Ennis transferring. The inside-outside combo of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu will be back, as well sharpshooters Phil Booth, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Booth, in particular, is going to be expected to take the next step in his development to replace a lot of Ennis and Hilliard's minutes. They should add 6'7" wing Mikal Bridges, a 2014 recruit who took a redshirt season. So far they have just one blue chip recruit signed in Jalen Brunson (Scout: 1 PG, Rivals: 16), but Jay Wright has scholarships to work with if he wants to add more depth.

Xavier was the most successful Big East team in the NCAA Tournament, making the Sweet 16 and pushing Arizona to the final minute there. Fan favorite Matt Stainbrook graduates, as does point guard Dee Davis. Myles Davis and Remy Abell both return, but neither is really a point guard. A lot will be expected of Edmond Sumner, a hyped 2014 point guard recruit who had to miss the entire 2014-15 season with an injury. Larry Austin, another 2014 recruit, also plays point guard, but he could barely get off the bench as a true freshman. The front court returns Trevon Bluiett and 6'10" Jalen Reynolds, with James Farr off the bench. 6'9" 2014 recruit Makinde London took a redshirt season and could be a productive bench piece next season. They also add Kaiser Gates (Scout: 27 PF, Rivals: 124). So Xavier has enough raw talent to repeat this season next year, but it's going to require a lot of contributions from young, untested players.

Georgetown managed to escape the popular upset pick of Eastern Washington in the Round of 64, but a loss in the Round of 32 is still an unfulfilling season for a program that hasn't reached the Sweet 16 since 2007. They are hit hard by graduation, too, losing four of five starters, including leading scorer D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera to the NBA Draft. Their starting front line of Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins are gone, too. Georgetown returns four players that earned regular minutes this past season, and all of them were true freshmen, meaning it's going to be a talented but young starting lineup. LJ Peak has shown flashes of being a star, while Isaac Copeland is already an effective big man. Shooting guard Tre Campbell and 6'8" Paul White are the other two bench returners. JTIII also has two blue chip recruits coming: Jessie Govan (Scout: 15 C, Rivals: 46) and Marcus Derrickson (Scout: 16 PF, Rivals: 91). They will also have the midseason addition of 6'8" Akoy Agau, who played sparingly in 1.5 seasons at Louisville. It's certainly a thin roster, but it's going to be talented in the starting lineup, and JTIII still has a couple of scholarships left to hand out this summer.

Butler fans certainly enjoyed the first half-season of Chris Holtmann at the helm, and he signed a nice extension that should keep him at the school long term. And next year's team should have a good chance to get right back to the NCAA Tournament. They lose Kam Woods and Alex Barlow from the starting lineup, but return every other key contributor. On the wings they return Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham for one more season, as well as Austin Etherington. The point guard role will be filled by Tyler Lewis, who averaged 4.4 ppg and 3.8 apg as a sophomore at North Carolina State in 2013-14. They will also add 6'3" Jordan Gathers (who averaged 8.2 ppg as a junior at St. Bonaventure in 2013-14) as well. The front court is more unproven, with Andrew Chrabascz and Tyler Wideman the top returners. 6'8" 2014 recruit Jackson Davis hasn't played much, but could see a much larger role next season. 6'9" Nate Fowler (Scout: 35 C) is Butler's top recruit. But considering how important rebounding was to Butler this past season (they led the Big East in both OR% and DR%), the loss of Woods is a really serious problem, as good as Butler's backcourt is likely to be.

Providence is hit pretty hard by losses. LaDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers graduate while Tyler Harris will transfer out. If Kris Dunn leaves for the NBA Draft, and for the sake of this preview I believe he will, then that means the Friars will lose four of five starters. They do return a nice crop of rising-sophomores in point guard Kyron Cartwright, 6'7" wing Jalen Lindsay, 6'8" Ben Bentil and 7'2" Paschal Chukwu. The Friars have a big 2015 recruiting class, but with no true blue chippers. The highest rated recruit is probably Alex Owens (Scout: 29 C, Rivals: 110). So assuming Dunn goes pro, this looks very much like a rebuilding season for a very young Providence squad.

Personally, I'm unimpressed by the Chris Mullin hire at St. John's. Steve Lavin isn't the greatest coach on Earth, but he has a history of success, while Mullin has never coached anywhere before. And if you weren't sure it was a bad hire, you just have to see how much the NYC media was tripping over itself to declare how much Mullin won the opening press conference. You never, ever want to hire a coach based on "winning" the opening press conference, whatever that means. The Johnnies are heading into a rebuilding season either way. D'Angelo Harrison, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene and Jamal Branch all graduate. Meanwhile, Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa are both rumored to possibly want to leave to go pro, or to transfer. And their one blue chip recruit, 6'4" shooting guard Brandon Sampson, has now decommited. Mullin has plenty of scholarships to work with, so he'll presumably sign some more recruits this summer, but he'll have to work miracles to get this team back to the NCAA Tournament in year one.

If there's a dark horse to make a run from the crop of non-NCAA Tournament teams this past season, it's got to be Marquette. They lose three starters (Matt Carlino, Derrick Wilson and Juan Anderson), but Steve Wojciechowski is remaking this roster with recruits anyway. 6'11" Luke Fischer, the former Indiana transfer, is a big talent, while combo guard Duane Wilson was effective as a freshman. 6'7" Steve Taylor is probably their best overall returner. But the future at Marquette is going to be built around Wojo's 2015 recruiting class, his first full class as head of Marquette. It's headed by blue chippers Henry Ellenson (Scout: 2 PF, Rivals: 18), Haanif Cheatham (Scout: 27 SG, Rivals: 70) and Matt Heldt (Scout: 16 C). Ellenson's brother, 6'6" Wally Ellenson (1.9 ppg and 1.3 rpg over two seasons at Minnesota) also joins the squad.

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

1. Villanova - Villanova won't dominate the Big East the way they have done the past two seasons, but they're still the favorites, in my opinion.
2. Xavier - The Musketeers have a lot of raw, unproven talent, but Chris Mack has enough on this roster to legitimately challenge for a Big East title. He needs to figure out who his primary playmaker and/or point guard will be, for one.
3. Georgetown - This will be a very young, but also very talented team. It will be interesting to see how JTIII handles this roster, and if he perhaps loosens up on what can be a complicated offensive system for freshmen.
4. Butler - Butler has depended on rebounding so much over the last decade, and they are going to need to find some rebounders on this roster to try to replace Kam Woods.
5. Marquette - Wojo put together a good first recruiting class. Now we get to see if he can put this roster together in a way that works.
6. Seton Hall - Sterling Gibbs says he is going to stay for another season, and if he does then this Seton Hall team will have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament. Of course, they had enough talent to make the tourney this past season as well. Isaiah Whitehead either needs to be more efficient, needs to shoot less, or needs to figure out how to get along with Gibbs.
7. Providence - Unless Kris Dunn comes back, this will be a rebuilding season for the Friars.
8. St. John's - Even if both Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa come back, this Johnnies roster is going to need multiple quality additions this summer to have any chance of getting back to the tourney bubble.
9. Creighton -The Bluejays lose five players from a ten man rotation, but add two big transfers (Maurice Watson from Boston University and Cole Huff from Nevada), also get back 2014 recruit Ronnie Harrell from a redshirt, and also have a big, deep 2015 recruiting class coming in. So this will be a very different roster next season, but a potentially pretty talented one. It's not inconceivable that they could be significantly improved next season.
10. DePaul - Nobody is excited about rehiring Dave Leitao, are they? Step number one will be upgrading this roster, which just doesn't have many players who would be good enough to earn minutes on teams in the top half of the Big East.