2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the west in two to three years. Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top three prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right handed players. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Issac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/)

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a Dirk-like power forward. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Kings would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(http://www.sportingnews.com)

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well polished and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

TJ Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Kris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Kentucky a presense inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.cbssports.com/)

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Jordan Bell was a second round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

 

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What Cousins Means For The Pelicans

Something was up with DeMarcus Cousins when he logged only two minutes in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. He told the coaching staff he was dinged up and didn’t want to play much, but then it became apparent that the Sacramento Kings had decided to deal the big man and didn’t want to risk (further) injury. Now the Pelicans are putting their faith in Cousins to make the playoffs this season.

The Trade

While the Kings got an awful return for, who some consider, the best big man in the game, the Pelicans now have the best front-court in the NBA. New Orleans will send Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, their 2017 first round pick and their 2017 second round pick to Sacramento for Cousins and Omri Casspi.

The Kings now have no elite players and will once again have to try and rebuild. The Pelicans, on the other hand, now will be looking to compete for a playoff spot in a very difficult Western Conference.

The Team Impact

Boogie

DeMarcus Cousins (Photo courtesy: thebiglead.com)

Like Chris Bosh in Toronto, Anthony Davis has admirably played the five position, even though he is more of a four. He has publicly stated that he feels like more of a four (He even lobbied to play shooting guard in college at Kentucky). The Pelicans have listened to their star player and acquired a center for Davis to play alongside.

While Cousins isn’t known as a great defensive stopper, he is right outside of the top 20 in defensive rating (how many points allowed per 100 possessions) and 15th in the NBA in defensive win shares (how many wins Cousins is responsible for defensively). With him and Davis roaming around the middle, it will be hard for a lot of teams to score in the paint.

Offensively, the Pelicans are going to have to work from the inside-out. They have Cousins and Davis who are both averaging roughly 28 points per game. Passing out of the post will be the key, as teams will likely pack it in on defense and try to stop these stars.

The Pelicans lost about 26 points per game from the back-court in this trade. In order to give some threat of scoring from the guard/wing position, Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore or Quincy Pondexter have to step up. E’Twaun Moore has led this group in scoring with 9.8 points per game.

The good news for the New Orleans is that they have Jrue Holiday. Holiday missed games early in the season to take care of his wife, but has come on strong. The point guard is almost playing as well as he did in 2012-2013, when he went to the All-Star Game as a representative of the Philadelphia 76ers. A lot of responsibility now falls on him to not only feed Davis and Cousins, but to also carry the scoring punch from the guard position.

The Playoff Push

Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

The Western Conference is very tough, but the eighth seed is likely going to have a record that is below .500. New Orleans currently sits 2.5 games outside of the final playoff spot. With this trade, they should be the favorites to clinch the eighth seed in the West.

New Orleans has 25 games left this season, 15 of which are against teams with losing records. With two dominant players like Davis and Cousins, they should be able to win the majority of their games down the stretch.

Possible Playoff Match-up

With the eight seed seeming like the most likely scenario for the Pelicans, they could get a first round series with the Golden State Warriors. This would be the ultimate test of small-ball vs. dominant inside game. The story-lines from this series would be endless.

If the Warriors go to the “death line-up”, Cousins and Davis (if on the court) would match-up with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Golden State would try to run and gun on the Pelicans, while New Orleans would try to bruise their way to the basket.

The Pelicans, with their new big man, will make the play-offs and create one of the most entertaining first round match-ups in the history of the NBA, regardless of who they play.

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Big 12 Landscape Becoming Apparent for 2016-17

With the newest season of college basketball less than 100 days away, predictions for the season are beginning to surface. Several teams are in the midst of overseas tournaments giving us a first look at the newcomers. In the next week or two campuses will be flooded with returning students and then the first preseason exhibitions will be only a few short months away. With the season rapidly approaching, there is a better sense of how each conference will play out. First, it is time to take a look at one of the best conferences from 2015-16, the Big 12.

Kansas Will Win the Regular Season Title…Again

Kansas has won at least a share of the regular season Big 12 title every year since 2006. There is no indication that this trend will stop. The team has a plethora of returning and incoming talent. Bill Self also continues to develop players into better versions of themselves.

Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason will be a force to be reckoned with for Bill Self. (Photo courtesy of kusports.com)

Notable returnees include Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason and Carlton Bragg Jr. Graham and Mason combine to be the best returning guard tandem in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Both are highly skilled on the offensive end of the floor, but their defensive statistics will be what separates them as the best 2-way pair and will make the Jayhawks a lock for the regular season title.

While Graham averaged 11.3 PPG and 3.7 APG, his Defsnsive Box Plus/Miinus of 3.7 shows his positive contributions on the other end of the floor.  2.2 of his 5.1 win shares were defensive, meaning he was nearly as important on defense as on offense. Frank Mason had eerily similar numbers with 12.9 PPG and 4.6 APG along with 4.3 RPG. He also posted a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus of 3.7 indicating a heavy contribution both ways.

Carlton Bragg Jr. played only 8.9 MPG but his stats show yet another bright spot for Self and crew. Even playing as little as he did, he was able to post a 4.7 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. His per 40 offensive averages are astounding at 17.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 1.7 steals per contest. When Bragg plays this year, and he will after the departure of Perry Ellis, he will be able to contribute.

Finally, bolstering this load of talent is a recruiting class that includes the top rated player in the country, Josh Jackson. Jackson is an explosive athlete that is still fine tuning his shooting ability. With all of the other offensive options he should have plenty of help to grow from the raw talent that he is into something more. Also joining the mix will be big man  recruit Udoka Azubuke. There is plenty of depth to shore up any possible flaws that may arise on this team. They will have no problem winning at least a share of their twelfth straight Big 12 regular season title.

TCU Will Make the 2017 NCAA Tournament

Jamie Dixion will coach his alma mater in 2016-17. (Photo courtesy of frogsowar.com)

Jamie Dixon is the main reason that there will be life for the Horned Frogs in basketball. He took the Panthers to 11 NCAA Tournaments in 13 seasons with one Elite Eight and two Sweet Sixteen appearances. Dixon chose to return to his alma mater where he played from 1984-87.

Dixon will undoubtedly make the team better immediately, but there is more reason to think that this team will not repeat its 2-16 Big 12 record. The only losses for TCU were Devonta Abron to graduation and Chauncey Collins, who signed with an agent.

Though the loss of their top scorer will hurt, most of the key pieces remain and will develop under Dixon. Dixon oversaw the development of many players while at Pitt including Lavance Fields and Dejuan Blair. Malique Trent was already a multi-faceted threat but Dixon could develop him into a bona fide star. Additionally Dixon signed 4-star point guard Jaylen Fisher.

With Dixon at the helm,  majority of the team returning and the key addition of Fisher, TCU should make the tournament. They will likely be a bubble team or perhaps a nine or ten seed at best, but they should squeeze their way through the year and sneak in despite the program’s poor recent history.

Oklahoma, Texas Will Experience Rebuilding Year

Oklahoma’s roster will be a immensely different in 2016-17. They lose three of their stars in Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and 1st Team All American, Buddy Hield. The trio combined for 47.8 of the team’s 79.7 points per game. Additionally they were three of the top four leaders in assists and rebounds.

That leaves a significant amount of production with Jordan Woodard as the only remaining key piece. He and Khadeem Lattin are the only players returning that saw over 13 minutes per game. With Woodard being the only returning star, teams will easily be able to concentrate on him, diluting his numbers. He is an efficient shooter now, but his efficiency will not get any better when he has the opposing team’s best defender on him. That is, unless Oklahoma’s recruiting class outdoes expectations. Lon Kruger’s teams do not normally hit the ground running.  He specializes in player development over time as seen in the past year.

The Texas Longhorns will experience much of the same situation in Shaka Smart’s second year. The Longhorns lose their top three scorers, two to graduation and Isaiah Taylor to an early entry in the NBA. Additionally the top three rebounders on the team will need replacements. Kerwin Roach Jr. did have an eye-opening dunk against Kansas, but with him as the remaining leader in points and rebounds at 7.5 PPG and 2.9 RPG this team will take a year to develop an identity.

Luckily Smart seems to have a knack for developing players over time. Players like Brionte Weber and Eric Maynor were not highly touted recruits, but each came into their own at VCU during Smart’s tenure. The Longhorns do have one of the best recruiting classes in the country. However, the one-and-done roster turnover is not Smart’s forte. Thus, he and Texas will have a bit of trouble adapting to the new atmosphere and essentially take the year to figure themselves out in the wake of their losses.

 

 

 

 

2016 NBA Mock Draft June 23

1) Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons SF/PF LSU

LSU may have underachieved this season, but Ben Simmons showed that he is the real deal. The 6’10 Australian averaged 19.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, and showed some of the best passing in the country. Simmons was criticized for not being assertive enough at times, but the fact is he’s the best athlete in the class, and is perfect for a 76ers team that desperately needs a spark.

2) Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram SF Duke

The post-Kobe Lakers need a star to pair with D’Angelo Russell as they look to rebuild in the brutal West. Enter Ingram, the lanky and athletic forward from Duke who was a match-up nightmare in the ACC. The 6’9 freshman showed a knack for creating his own shot, particularly off the pick and roll, and shot 41% from behind the arc. He will need to add strength, which will help him defensively, but Ingram is the clear number two pick here.

3) Boston Celtics: Jamal Murray SG Kentucky

This might not fill Boston’s biggest need, but Danny Ainge has made it clear he is looking for the best player available with this lottery pick acquired from the Nets. Murray is one of the best pure shooters in the class, shown by his 40% three-point mark and his workout where he made 79 out of 100 threes. The Canadian may not be the most athletic guard, but his scoring ability should translate well to the next level.

4) Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender PF Maccabi Tel Aviv

The top international prospect, Bender fills an immediate need for Phoenix. The 7’1 Croatian is quick and effective in transition, and also has exceptional passing skills for a big man. He will need to add strength and continue to improve his outside shooting, but Bender certainly looks the part of a solid NBA stretch four.

5) Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield SG Oklahoma

The reigning Naismith College Player of the Year would provide instant offense for a struggling Minnesota team. Hield hit 147 three pointers this season, the most in college basketball since Stephen Curry, at an incredibly efficient 46% rate. The senior also showed great improvements with his ball handling, which will help him create shots at the next level.

6) New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn PG Providence

The Pelicans desperately need a backcourt star to pair with Anthony Davis, and Dunn would fill that need. The Big East Player of the Year is great on the pick and roll, but will need to cut down on his turnover rate. He is a great athlete who can defend and get to the rim, and would provide a big boost to New Orleans’ playoff hopes.

7) Denver Nuggets: Marquese Chriss PF Washington

One of the biggest boom or bust picks in the draft, Chriss is a freak athlete who plays with a lot of intensity. He has exceptional speed and quickness, which makes him especially effective in transition. However, his fundamentals need a lot of work, particularly rebounding. Chriss is only 19 and has plenty of time to develop, making his potential worth a top 10 pick.

8) Sacramento Kings: Domantas Sabonis PF/C Gonzaga

Sacramento would probably like to add a guard, but Sabonis is the best value here. The Lithuanian will become a fan favorite wherever he goes because of his high energy and passion. Sabonis has great low post scoring and defense, and is very effective at both getting to the line and making his free throws. He plays a little underneath the rim, which will likely prevent him from being a superstar, but Sabonis should be a high impact big from day one.

9) Toronto Raptors: Jacob Poeltl C Utah

The Raptors need help inside, and will find it with the 7’1 Austrian. Poeltl runs the court very well for a big man, and has good agility which leads to solid pick and roll defense. He will need to add more of a low post game, but does show a good touch around the basket.

10) Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown SG/SF California

Physically, Brown has everything you look for in a lottery pick. He is very strong and very athletic, and uses these attributes to get to the basket and finish. Brown is a beast in transition, with a highlight reel of monster dunks. However, he does turn the ball over too often and needs to find more consistency with his jump shot. If Brown can clean up these aspects of his game, he could be a superstar.

11) Orlando Magic: Skal Labissiere C Kentucky

Despite an underwhelming freshman campaign, the seven foot Haitian is an intriguing prospect. Labissiere is long and athletic, and defends the rim very well. However, he needs to add strength and toughness to become an NBA caliber player. He is definitely a prospect, but Frank Vogel has a solid track record of developing big men, and could do wonders with Labissiere.

12) Atlanta Hawks: Malachi Richardson SG Syracuse

A big and athletic guard, Richardson is one of the best slashers in the draft. He is very effective getting to the rim, and has the ability to finish in traffic. Richardson still needs work on his jump shot and has a tendency to force plays, but he could provide an offensive spark to Atlanta.

13) Phoenix Suns: Deyonta Davis PF Michigan St

Phoenix takes a second big man here to add depth inside. Davis is an elite defender, capable both defending the rim and guarding the pick and roll. His offensive game is still raw, but athletic bigs who defend as well as Davis don’t grow on trees. These attributes should lead to a lottery selection.

14) Chicago Bulls: Henry Ellenson PF/C Marquette

The Bulls look to add depth to their frontcourt as it appears Joakim Noah will be leaving. Marquette’s Ellenson has a solid array of post moves and rebounds at a very high level. His ceiling is limited by his marginal athleticism, but Ellenson has good enough skills to contribute right away.

15) Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz SG Anadolu Efes Istanbul

The Nuggets have three first round picks and can afford to draft and stash here. Korkmaz, a Turkish wing is a high level scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the court and create his own shot. He is a big guard at 6’7 who can handle the ball and has experience playing in the Euroleague at 17. The only liability for Korkmaz is his defense, but with his size and quickness he will have plenty of potential for improvement.

16) Boston Celtics: Ivica Zubac C Mega Leks

Zubac, a 7’1 Croatian, is one of the best rebounders in the draft. He also has some decent post moves, and shows good offensive awareness, moving without the ball well. His biggest downside is his limited athleticism, which should keep him out of the lottery.

17) Memphis Grizzlies: Dejounte Murray PG/SG Washington

The Grizzlies need someone to help out Mike Conley Jr in the backcourt. Murray is an athletic combo guard with great ball handling ability. Like many other young guards, he could work on cutting down turnovers and shooting more consistently, but Murray will be able to score in the NBA.

18) Detroit Pistons: Wade Baldwin PG/SG Vanderbilt

Another big combo guard who can attack the rim, Baldwin is an aggressive scorer with good shooting numbers. There are questions about his ability to play the point, as his ball handling looks shaky at times, but Baldwin should at least be a “three and D” player off the bench in the NBA.

19) Denver Nuggets: Ante Zizic C Cibona Zagreb

The second of two possible first round Croatians, Zizic doesn’t quite have the size of his countryman, but he is long and plays above the rim. He also runs the pick and roll very well and has a knack for getting to the free throw line. At just 19, Zizic has plenty of time to bulk up and improve his offensive game before making an impact.

20) Indiana Pacers: Brice Johnson PF North Carolina

Indiana adds frontcourt depth here by adding Johnson, an incredibly productive rebounder who averaged a double double for the Tar Heels. He is also an efficient scorer and one of the best leapers in the draft. Johnson does have a wiry frame that could lead to him getting pushed around by stronger players, but he should be able to play right away due to his rebounding ability.

21) Atlanta Hawks: Timothe Luwawu SG/SF Mega Leks

An athletic wingman from France, Luwawu has a very natural scoring ability. He is particularly effective with his pull up off the dribble. Like most young international players, Luwawu will need to add strength and improve defensively. He is still very raw, but his scoring ability is intriguing enough to warrant a first round pick.

22) Charlotte Hornets: Denzel Valentine SG/SF Michigan St

Concerns about a knee injury will likely push Valentine out of the lottery, but he is a really good value here. As a senior, Valentine doesn’t have the upside of some players in the draft, but he has no real weaknesses, and is a great leader and locker room presence. As long as Valentine physically is alright, he will have a positive impact on whatever team drafts him.

23) Boston Celtics: Cheick Diallo PF/C Kansas

Diallo is a classic project pick who needs a few years of seasoning. At 6’9, Diallo is a little short to play down low in the NBA, but he makes up for it with his length and leaping ability. The Mali native has elite shot blocking skills and can rebound well, but still needs to develop an offensive game. His physical traits will be intriguing to teams drafting late in the first round though.

24) Philadelphia 76ers: DeAndre Bembry SG/SF St Joe’s

A flashy playmaker who played his college ball in Philly, Bembry was a human highlight reel at St Joe’s. He is confident and aggressive with the ball, and a very underrated passer. Bembry was a volume shooter in college, and not incredibly efficient, and will need to improve his shot selection at the next level.

25) Los Angeles Clippers: Malik Beasley SG Florida St

Beasley is one of the best catch and shoot players in the class, and also has shown the ability to create his own shot. He is athletic and plays with a lot of energy, but does not have great size for the NBA. It should be more than enough to land him a spot on an NBA roster, though.

26) Philadelphia 76ers: Thon Maker PF/C Athlete Institute

With three first round picks, Philly can afford to roll the dice on Maker. He is 7’1 with remarkable ball handling and shooting skills which are intriguing to any NBA team. However, he is completely unproven and is far from being physically mature enough to play right now. This makes Maker one of the biggest unknowns, but possibly the player with the highest ceiling in the draft.

27) Toronto Raptors: Diamond Stone C Maryland

A McDonalds All American, Stone’s size, strength and low post moves will interest any NBA team. He has a good shooting form, and his range will likely increase as he gets older. However, Stone was inconsistent in college and took too many players off, which often showed in his rebounding. He is a player with a lot of potential if he can put it all together, though.

28) Phoenix Suns: Demetrius Jackson PG Notre Dame

A tough but undersized guard, Jackson is very efficient with a ball and has great playmaking skills. He also has quick hands and is an above average defender. Unfortunately, due to Jackson’s size and age (22), he likely won’t go until late in the first round.

29) San Antonio Spurs: Taurean Prince SF Baylor

Born and raised in San Antonio, Prince is an excellent defender and physically able to play in the NBA right now. He is athletic, can defend and can shoot threes which will translate well at the next level.

30) Golden State Warriors: Juan Hernangomez PF Asefa Estudiantes

The 6’9 Spanish big man is excellent in the pick and roll, and is consistent with his midrange shot. He has a lot of work to do with his low post game, but is young enough to see plenty of improvement down the road.

NBA Mock Draft 3.0

The deadline has passed for prospects to either remain eligible for the draft or go back to college. This mock draft is updated to account for those player’s decisions.

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: Some say the 76ers are stuck on who to pick and some say they are dead set on Simmons. I believe he will be the number one pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow, but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players, but over time may be the best player drafted in the past 10 years.
    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high of a ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall, but he will be available at number two. He will be an important part of the Lakers rebuild. He will be the best player in the draft.
    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: I still believe the Celtics will trade this pick, so whoever they draft won’t play for them. They are loaded with young talent and need to trade for a star to play with Isaiah Thomas. Whoever they trade with will have the rights to the player the Celtics draft and I believe it will be for Jaylen Brown. He spent time working out with Draymond Green, which will really help him become a good NBA player. He should turn into a very talented defender in the NBA. He has shown the ability to shoot, but is inconsistent.
    (Photo Noam Galai)

    (Photo Noam Galai)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Kristaps Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1”, whose stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent three point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a good player.
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Harry How/Getty Images

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability, Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster by going with Buddy.
    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

  6. New Orleans Pelicans:Kris Dunn G Providence: I originally had the Pelicans taking Jamal Murray here but Kris Dunn at seven was just too low. I tried to find a spot for him in the top five but I couldn’t. A few years back Damian Lillard was drafted around the same point of the draft and I think Kris Dunn can have that kind of same success as Lillard. Anthony Davis is the franchise player but they need a dominate guard to push this team into the playoffs. Dunn is arguably the best point guard in the draft. He would be a great young fit with the Pelicans.
    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: Denver has a lot of work cut out for them if they want to become a playoff team again. Poeltl would create a very solid front court alongside Kenneth Faried. Mudiay will continue to grow as a point guard, but Poeltl will give them a rim protector and a solid scoring option inside the post.hi-res-c4fadaabc17e0e88917b7c1602629b6f_crop_exact
  8. Sacramento Kings: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and is a very good three point shooter. He will be doing his bow and arrow celebration regularly in the NBA and the Kings are trying to create a new “era”. Murray can help lead the way.
    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

  9. Toronto Raptors:Henry Ellenson F Marquette: One of the Raptors flaws in the playoffs was front court depth. Ellenson will be able to provide that, along with his ability to stretch the floor. He will take time adjusting to the NBA game, but would be a good stretch front court player, who could also develop into a good rebounder.
    Washington's Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

    Washington’s Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Marquese Chriss is shooting up draft boards due to his athleticism. Many scouts think Chriss could go in the top five, but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender. He needs a lot of time to develop.
    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college, the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

  12. Utah Jazz: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: It is hard to predict what Utah will do. I think they will look to add depth and talent to their front court. Domantas Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah:A good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got, 100% of the time.
     (USATSI)

    (USATSI)

  13. Phoenix Suns: Cheick Diallo F Kansas: I originally did not have Diallo in my mock draft, but many scouts believe he will go in the lottery. The Suns have three first round picks and can afford to try and hit a home run with one of them. He will be a developmental project, but has a lot of upside and has a good motor.
    (Jan. 1, 2016 - Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

    (Jan. 1, 2016 – Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick, but had an underwhelming season at Kentucky. He has a good shot, but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. The Bulls will most likely let go of Noah, and possibly Gasol, so they will need help in the front court. Labissiere would also be a good fit for Fred Hoiberg’s system.
    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against, but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural born scorer. He is 6’7”, so he may even be able to play some small forward as well as shooting guard. His offensive game is completely well-rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project, but has a lot of upside. Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

  16. Boston Celtics: Stephen Zimmerman JR C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system, with the right coaches.
    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive style. They usually struggle with having a go-to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others, but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point, he would not have to create shots for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

  18.  Detroit Pistons:Caris LeVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long-time starter.
    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

  19. Denver Nuggets: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: This would be Denver’s third pick of the first round. It is possible they use all three picks to trade up, but if they decide to keep all three of the picks, they would try to take the best player available, Devonta Davis. Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA, but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game, but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
     Sean Rayford AP

    Sean Rayford AP

  20. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: Paul George is a superstar and Myles Turner has shown brilliant flashes. For the Pacers to take the next step they need to find a solid point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is a gritty team leader and Indiana would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis
    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    North Carolina's Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

    North Carolina’s Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

  22. Charlotte Hornets: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and is a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA, but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Hornets need to make a deeper playoff run next season.
    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

  23. Boston Celtics: Thon Maker F/C Australia: This would be the third pick for the Celtics and they could afford to take a risk. The Celtics may trade, but if they don’t, I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker. He is a freak athlete at 7’1”, who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst. Only time will tell.
    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  24. Philadelphia 76ers: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what will intrigue teams. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game, as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished, developed and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Clippers will look to add depth and Jackson would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul.
    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

  26. Philadelphia 76ers:Timothe Luwawu G France: There is a chance the Sixers package picks 24 and 26 to move up for a better guard, but if they keep both picks look for them to take Timonthe Luwawu who is a bit of an unknown from France. He stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter.
    Photo: AP

    Photo: AP

  27. Toronto Raptors: Malachi Richardson G Syracuse: A lot of teams have started to fall in love with Richardson. He has the ability to create shots, but needs to develop other parts of his game. This pick may take a while to develop but they may need him sooner if Demar DeRozan leaves this summer.
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

  28. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Bembry G St Joesph’s: The Suns may not have a huge need for another guard, but they have three first round picks. Bembry can score from any part of the floor and would be a good option for anyone needing some scoring.
    Oregon State's Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

    Oregon State’s Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands on the ball defensively and  Gregg Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. Drafting Jones would create a deeper front court for the Warriors.

2016 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

Now that the NBA Draft Lottery results are in, an accurate and more precise NBA Mock Draft can be made. Here’s where I peg prospects in the upcoming draft.

NBA Mock Draft

Andy Lyons /Getty Images

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: Some say the 76ers are stuck on who to pick and some say they are dead set on Simmons. I believe he will be the number one pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players but over time may be the best player drafted over the past 10 years.

    NBA Mock Draft

    Duke’s Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Buffalo’s CJ Massinburg during an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high of a ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall but he will be available at number two. He will be an important part of the Laker rebuild.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: I still believe the Celtics will trade this pick. They are loaded with young talent and need to trade for a star to play with Isaiah Thomas. Whoever they trade with will have the rights to the player the Celtics draft and I believe it will be for Jaylen Brown, who at  6’ 7” can really shoot. He spent time working out with Draymond Green which will really help him in becoming a good NBA player. He should also turn into a very talented defender in the NBA.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (Photo credit: Ciamillo-Castoria)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Kristaps Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1” whose stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent three point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a very good player.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Photo ANDREW DOUGHTY

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (Source: Getty Images)

  6. New Orleans Pelicans: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and a very good three point shooter. The Pelicans need a player who can create pressure on the defense and take away some of the pressure from Anthony Davis. Murray would be a great option for the Pelicans.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Kris Dunn G Providence: The Western Conference is ruled by good backcourts. If the Nuggets want to become a playoff contender they should follow that blueprint. Last year they drafted Emmanuel Mudiay and so far it seems to be a very good pick. Pairing Kris Dunn with Emmanuel Mudiay would create a young and talented backcourt that the Nuggets could build around. Some scouts even see Dunn as a top five pick so if that is true this is really a steal for Denver at pick seven.
    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

  8. Sacramento Kings: Henry Ellison F Marquette: Something tells me DeMarcus Cousins will find himself on another team either during or after the draft. If that does happen they will desperately need front court help and Ellison will be able to provide that with his ability to stretch the floor. Even if Cousins is not moved this would be a good pick to solidify their front court.
     (photo by Chris Reynolds)

    (photo by Chris Reynolds)

  9. Toronto Raptors: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick but had a little underwhelming season with Kentucky. He has a good shot but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. This pick would give the Raptors a deeper front court that could help them take deeper steps into the playoffs.
    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: The Bucks already have a team that is long and drafting 7’1” Poeltl will just add to that. The Bucks tried signing Greg Monroe to help their front court but the signing has proved to be underwhelming. Poeltl is already talented defensively and his offensive game is sure to improve. He would fit in with the current Bucks really well.
    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

  12. Utah Jazz: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of returning to the playoffs but just need more talent. Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Jazz need to make a playoff spot next season.
    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

  13. Washington Wizards: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah. Good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got 100% of the time. The Wizards may not have a desperate need for him but he will be the best player available and the Wizards would be smart to draft him.
    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Thon Maker F/C Australia: The Bulls front office sometimes doesn’t know what they are doing. There really is no consistency in how they draft and there aren’t many small forwards in this draft worth drafting at pick 14. The Bulls may trade down but I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker to possible replace Joakim Noah and/or Pau Gasol. He is a freak athlete at 7’1” who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst, only time will tell.
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY - APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

    ISTANBUL, TURKEY – APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural scorer. He is 6’7” so he may even be able to play some small forward as well. His offensive game is completely well rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project but has a lot of upside and Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
     Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

    Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

  16. Boston Celtics: Stephen Zimmerman C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system with the right coaches.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Malik Beasley (5) dunks the ball past Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the first half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive game. They usually struggle with having a go to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point he would not have to create for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    NBA Mock Draft

    By Brendan F. Quinn

  18. Detroit Pistons: Caris LaVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long time starter.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Dec 9, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Deyonta Davis (23) reacts to a dunk against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the first half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

  19. Denver Nuggets: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: This would be Denver’s third pick of the first round. It is possible they use all three picks to trade up, but if they decide to keep all three of the picks they would try and take the best player available which would be Devonta Davis. Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

  20. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: Paul George is a superstar and Myles Turner has shown brilliant flashes. For the Pacers to take the next step they need to find a solid point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is gritty and a great team leader and Indiana would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    http://thegamehaus.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/NorthCarolinavNotreDameRGxs3qYyJ1Vl-210x300.jpg

    Washington forward Marquese Chriss breaks away for a dunk as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl watches in the second half as the University of Washington Huskies take on the Utah Utes at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle Sunday January 24, 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

  22. Charolette Hornets: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Charolette is a difficult team to predict so I think they will take the best available player and many scouts think Chriss will go in the top 15 but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender.
    https://i2.wp.com/thegamehaus.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/NorthCarolinavNotreDameRGxs3qYyJ1Vl.jpg?resize=210%2C300

    (Feb. 5, 2016 – Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

  23. Indiana Pacers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished and has develop and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Celtics can depth in the backcourt with Jackson.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (Dec. 15, 2015 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

  24. Philadelphia 76ers: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what teams will be intrigued by. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Maryland guard Melo Trimble (2) goes up for a basket during the first half. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Melo Trimble G Maryland: The Clippers will look to add depth because they might not be able to find a true impact player this late. Melo would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul as he is a good ball handler and free throw shooter.
    NBA Mock Draft

    CZBG, Stefan N.

  26. Philadelphia 76ers:Timothe Luwawu G France: There is a chance the Sixers package picks 24 and 26 to move up for a better guard but if they keep both picks look for them to take Timonthe Luwawu who is a bit of an unknown from France. He stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

  27. Toronto Raptors: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: When Jonas Valanciunas got hurt in the playoffs it created a glaring hole in the Raptors rotation. Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. Drafting Jones would create a deeper front court for the Raptors who look to continue to build for a deeper playoff run.
    NBA Mock Draft

    (Photo: Brad Fedie , 247Sports)

  28. Phoenix Suns: Diamond Stone C Maryland: The Suns will take a big man who can run the floor well for a seven footer. He has long arms and is great at grabbing rebounds and the Suns will have a draft full of big men.
    NBA Mock Draft

    Associated Press

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands a ball defensively and Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    NBA Mock Draft

    FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo, Connecticut’s Daniel Hamilton, left, shoots over New Hampshire’s Jaleen Smith, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Storrs, Conn. Isaac, 21, and Daniel, 19, are still the younger brothers, but they are no longer little and have been making names for themselves this season on opposite coasts _ Daniel at UConn and Isaac at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Daniel Hamilton G UCONN: Hamilton will fit the Warriors system of versatile athlete. He is not a great three point shooter and may take time to develop which is why the Warriors would be a great fit for him. They don’t need him to be good right away right away.

Three Takeaways From the 2015-2016 College Basketball Season

This year’s college basketball season was one of the most interesting in recent memory.  Story lines poured out of the action on and off the court. Here’s what I consider the main themes of the 2015-2016 season:

  1. Senior Rebirth

Some of this year’s best teams featured multiple seniors. Many of the Naismith and Associated Press Player of the Year candidates were seniors, unlike in previous seasons. The star power was held by many players who have developed over their years at their respective schools. People still question why these players did not develop faster or declare for the draft earlier. Recent trends have shown, however, that perhaps it is better for players to delay the jump to the pros. No one would say that Buddy Hield is not a complete player at this point, yet many people can pick out the weaknesses in Ben Simmons’ game namely his inability to shoot the jumper.

Buddy Hield and Ryan Arcidiacono were two of this season’s most prolific seniors. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

This year, there was a plethora of entertaining seniors to watch. The more notable players included Denzel Valentine, Marcus Paige, and Jake Layman. The final four teams featured line-ups riddled with seniors. The Oklahoma Sooners had several seniors that saw the floor in addition to their Naismith Candidate in Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. National Champion Villanova had two prominent seniors in Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. Syracuse had an excellent example in player development with former Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. The Tar Heels had a number of seniors on the team in addition to Paige, the most entertaining being Brice Johnson.

The fact that these players stayed for their whole careers shows that the NBA is not completely killing the amateur game. While some players will still make the jump too early and many top recruits will make the obligated year long trip to play school before leaving to make their money, the landscape of college basketball still shows growth and life which is something we saw this year.

  1. Scandal

Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals missed the postseason due to scandal. (Photo courtesy of the LA Times)

Scandal is wreaking havoc on the game. Several schools were under the gloomy cloud of sanctions this year and some will carry this problem into the following season. An SMU team that started hot missed the tournament due to academic fraud. Likewise, two final four teams have dealt with their own problems. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are still in muddy waters and North Carolina could be facing some loss of scholarships and postseason bans due to their school infractions.

The king of kings, however, is Louisville.  Rick Pitino’s future remains uncertain as does the team’s season to come. At this point it seems that academic progress failure and scandal are normal parts of NCAA culture. While the NCAA has gotten many things wrong in the past two decades, it does appear that these schools will face harsh discipline at the expense of the student-athletes.

  1. Parity

Many people indicated that this year’s domination of the final four, elite eight, and sweet sixteen by power conference teams was an indication of the lack of the so called “parity” in college basketball. Even ESPN’s Jay Bilas was in agreement with this train of thought. While I recognize the fact that the numbers show an inordinate amount of teams in the latter stages of the tournament, looking at the topic of parity from this one perspective oversimplifies the subject.

It is difficult to look at the season and tournament as a whole and not see the parity available in college basketball. In early season match-ups, Monmouth took down Notre Dame, an elite eight team, and Northern Iowa defeated North Carolina, the national runner-up. There was even a cry for Monmouth and St. Mary’s to make the tournament. Dick Vitale mentioned in his post season summary that there was no respect for the little guy.

Northern Iowa lost in a devastating manner when Texas A&M rallied from down double digits in the final minute of the second round (Photo courtesy of thegazette.com)

We saw, for the first time in history, a 12, 13, 14, and 15 seed win in the same weekend. Northern Iowa was 35 seconds from the sweet sixteen and Stephen F. Austin was a tip in away as well. We saw Middle Tennessee State take out a team that caused many brackets to be busted.  We saw Hawaii take down a very talented Cal team, Purdue get beat by Arkansas-Little Rock, and Yale take down Baylor. That being said, there was very little representation of the small conferences in the sweet sixteen. However, no one would say that just because Butler made the championship that this was an indication of parity. The opposite indication is represented here. The whole story is more complex and we were a few points away from having a year dominated by the little guy in the end chapters of March Madness, and the overall story includes this change in the winds of college basketball  that should continue to make the opening rounds of the tournament interesting for years to come.

Now as we put a wrap on 2015-2016 we look ahead. There are a few final commitments, a few loose ends to tie up and then it is on to the following season. Every indication is that it should be fantastic, with a host of powerful recruits coming in but some of the tale of this season could bleed into the next. At this point it is very difficult to see what is to come in the vastly changing arena of college basketball.

Final Four Storylines

Well well it’s the Final Four and what can I say? It has been a wonderful year full of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and blowouts. But I did call UNC being in the Final Four. As of right now, my bracket looks like it got hit by an 18-wheeler on the highway. But on Saturday, the games will start no matter how bad my bracket is. It will be the Villanova Wildcats versus the Oklahoma Sooners and the UNC Tar Heels versus the Syracuse Orange.

Here is how we got here. Let’s start with the Wildcats vs the Sooners.

Courtesy of AP

Courtesy of AP

The Wildcats and the Sooners matchup in the tournament will be a rematch from an early matchup this year. In Hawaii, the Sooners crushed the Wildcats 78-55. But that game should not play in this Final Four matchup because the Wildcats went completely frozen from behind the arc. They shot 12.5% from the three, while their season average is around 35%. They also only shot 31.7% from the field, while their season average is closer to 47%. They will shoot the ball better in this game, I promise. But the Wildcat defense will have to find out a way to slow down the Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. In this tournament, Hield has averaged 29.3 points per game. Easy to say that he is on a hot streak.

Prediction: It should be a great game because both teams are riding high since they both just beat 1-seeds in the Elite Eight to get here. But I am going with Oklahoma to win this matchup behind the play of the best player in the nation, the Senior guard from the Bahamas, Chavano “Buddy” Hield.

Now to the other matchup between the second ACC final of the year, Syracuse versus UNC. One team could have been the overall 1-seed while the other team might have been playing in the three-letter tournament. This matchup in the NCAA Tournament will be the 3rd time Syracuse and UNC have played this year. Syracuse lost both games but in Chapel Hill late in the season Syracuse played them close and only lost by 5. To easily beat the zone of Syracuse is to drive to the basket and pass to the wing for a three.

UNC has not been a great three-point shooting team this year at a season average of 32%, but during NCAA tournament play they are around 38%. While during this NCAA Tournament, the Syracuse zone has held teams to a 34% from the three-point line.

Bob Donnan/ USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: UNC goes for the third win against the Orange this year. They might not shoot well from three this game, but UNC will be able to finish in lane against this team with their big men. Brice Johnson and the other great UNC big men will feast down low against Syracuse on Saturday.

On Monday, it will be the two best players in the nation on the same court at the same time. Double-double monster Senior forward Brice Johnson of the UNC Tar Heels versus sharpshooting Senior guard Buddy Hield of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Who Will Make the Final Four?

In the middle of the season I made my Final Four picks. I wish I could stick by them, but three of the teams I selected are in the East Region. My picks were North Carolina, Kentucky, Xavier and Oklahoma, but only one of the first three teams can advance to the Final Four. I now have adjusted my picks to be compatible with the bracket.

Perry Ellis seems like he has been at Kansas forever, giving him the necessary experience to lead a Final Four run. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

  1. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas will emerge from the South Region with ease. The Jayhawks have not lost since January 25 and have gotten the number one overall seed. They have three really experienced players in Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis. These three can definitely lead Kansas to a Final Four appearance. Kansas won’t face too much of an issue until the Sweet 16 when they will most likely play Cal or Maryland. Both of these teams are very talented, but haven’t fully played up to their potential yet, so the Jayhawks should advance. In the Elite Eight Kansas will likely face Villanova or Miami. Villanova is notorious for not performing in March, while Miami is a solid team that also doesn’t have a lot March success. This means that Kansas will win the South Region and advance to Houston.

Buddy Hield has been the best player in the country this season. Photo courtesy sbnation.com.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

There will be two Big 12 teams in this year’s Final Four. The Big 12 was the best conference in college basketball this season making these two teams battle tested. Oklahoma has the front runner for National Player of the Year in Buddy Hield, but also have great players around him in the starting five. Ryan Spangler is a great offensive big man and Khadeem Lattin provides the defense on the inside. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard provide a very talented back court to go along with Hield. The Sooners don’t have a great bench, but will be carried by their starting five. The Sooners are in the weakest region in the bracket. Oregon is the weakest number one seed, having their resume boosted by an inflated rpi number. Oklahoma deservedly got the number two seed. Texas A&M should be the only other threat, but they also benefited from getting a better seed than they deserved. In the weakest region, Oklahoma is the best bet to make the Final Four.

Brice Johnson’s inside play is the key for the Tarheels’ tournament. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

3. North Carolina Tarheels

North Carolina is one of my mid-season Final Four picks and I am sticking with them. They have a roster that has a great combination of talent and experience. Point guard Marcus Paige finally looks like he is regaining the form of the last three seasons that made him a great player. The Tarheels also have a great inside presence in Brice Johnson, who emerged as a First Team All-American this season. The rest of their roster is loaded with good players, who can help them win four games in a row to get to the Final Four. North Carolina has a really tough bracket to get out of, but are more than capable of doing so. Their probable Sweet 16 game willl be against Kentucky. The Wildcats have a great back court, but their inside play is inconsistent. Johnson will take advantage of this and lead the Tarheels to a big win. If they play West Virginia or Xavier in the Elite Eight they will have a more talented roster that can beat the Mountaineers’ press and can expose the Musketeers lack of interest in defense. North Carolina can handle the toughest bracket and reach the Final Four.

Jakob Poeltl is talented enough to carry his team to a Final Four. Photo courtesy latimes.com.

4. Utah Utes

Utah will claim the last Final Four spot out of the Midwest region. The Utes have one of the most efficient players in the country in Jakob Poeltl, who could be in the NBA next season. He handles the inside play with Kyle Kuzma, while Lorenzo Bonam, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor provide great perimeter play. The Utes will likely play Michigan State in the Sweet 16, where Poeltl will have the advantage on the inside over the Spartans and lead the Utes to victory. In the Elite Eight, Virginia will be the probable opponent, where Poeltl will again to be a force on the inside, leading the Utes to victory. Utah will win the Midwest Region and advance to the Final Four.

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