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.

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