Oregon

The Oregon Ducks Reach Their First Final Four Since 1939

Quack quack, the Oregon Ducks are going to Glendale, Arizona to play in the Final Four.

If this feels a little bit weird, it’s because it is. It’s not weird in the fact that Oregon is this far along in the tournament.  They’re definitely a good enough team to be here. People may find it weird because the last time the Ducks made the Final Four was before World War II.

Oregon

Oregon seniors Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis celebrate their victory over Kansas Saturday night. (Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The last time Oregon was in the Final Four was in the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1939. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that 1939 was a long time ago.

The University of Oregon, which has predominately been a football school, seems to have switched into a basketball-dominate school. The football program still continues to be the main breadwinner of Oregon athletics with their flashy uniforms and electrifying athletes.  However, the basketball program has been high above the football program these past couple years in terms of success.

How did this happen? How did Oregon basketball, a rather quiet program up until the 2000s, become such a powerhouse?

It all starts with the coach Dana Altman, who has a program record of 187-69. The Ducks have made five straight NCAA tournament appearances in the last seven years since Altman became head coach. That includes an Elite Eight last year and a Final Four this year. The Ducks have also won two straight regular season Pac-12 titles.

Oregon

Since Altman took over in 2010 Oregon has made the tournament five out of seven years, including five straigh apperances. (Photo/USA Today)

Ernie Kent was Oregon’s coach before Altman. The Ducks only made the NCAA tournament five times in Kent’s thirteen years with only one regular season conference championship. The Ducks have become supreme under Altman in the ranks of college basketball.

Gonzaga is also making program history with their first Final Four apperance.  So what makes Oregon’s run different? Oregon wasn’t picked by many to be here despite their three seed.

Gonzaga was expected to be here as they are almost every year now. Oregon’s road to Arizona was seen as more difficult than most.

The trouble started before the tournament for the Ducks.  It was announced before the tournament that senior forward Chris Boucher would be out the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. What was seen as a huge blow to Oregon’s championship chances turned out to be just a bump in their road to the Final Four.

Oregon cruised past their first round opponent Iona 93-77 under the leadership of senior and Pac-12 player of the year Dillon Brooks. The clutch play from junior Jordan Bell and sophomore Tyler Dorsey helped the Ducks squeak by their next opponents. Oregon won their next games against Rhode Island and Michigan by a combined four points. Next in the Elite Eight was the gauntlet: Kansas.

The Ducks handled Kansas 74-60, who many thought to be the tournament favorite rather dominantly Saturday night.

Now the Ducks are in the Final Four, which is an incredible accomplishment for any basketball program. With a rather unusual Final four, the Ducks look to win their first championship since the inaugural tournament in 1939.

 

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Which March Madness Cinderella is Staying?

The Sweet 16 is an amazing accomplishment in it amongst itself. It’s an accomplishment that many college basketball programs don’t see very often. High expectations come with it.

Winning in college basketball is hard, and winning in the NCAA tournament is even harder. Time after time we’ve seen favorite teams go down. Some top teams don’t even make it past the round of 64.

Winning two games in the NCAA tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a fluke. The teams in the Sweet 16 deserve to be there because they all won two games (sometimes three if they were in a play-in game). That is a hard thing to do in the NCAA.

We’ve now officially gotten to the point where we find out which teams are for real. We will find out in this next round what the Cinderella teams are made of and if they are here to stay.

Cinderella teams are traditionally defined as teams that are seeded ten or over. All of these teams are not necessarily “Cinderella” teams, but they are by no means the favorite to win or even be here in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the teams that most people didn’t expect to be here and how they might fair along the rest of the way.

Xavier

March Madness Cinderella

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett goes up to score against Florida State Defender in their game last weekend. (Photo/ Getty Images)

The Xavier Musketeers make their eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 as the highest seed (11) left in the tournament.

A victory over Maryland in the first round and nearly a 30-point victory in the second round over third-seeded Florida State puts the Musketeers a step closer to their third appearance in the Elite eight in program history.

Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who averages 18.5 points a game, helped Xavier finish 21-13 overall with a conference record of 9-9. That was good enough for an 11 seed after losing to Creighton in the Big East tournament.

They now face their toughest task yet, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats come in as a two seed and a favorite for many to win the entire tournament. Xavier will look to become the highest seed to ever win the tournament after their two big wins.

Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines are arguably the team with the most momentum and burst into the Sweet 16 as a seven seed. The Wolverines are coming off of a Big Ten tournament championship after their plane skidded off the runway en route to Washington D.C. for the tournament. They are poised, hungry and very good.

They beat Oklahoma State in the first round and a really good second-seeded Louisville team in the second round. The Wolverines had a rocky regular season, but with the leadership of senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and the outbreaking stardom of sophomore forward Moritz Wagner from Germany, Michigan is in good shape to move onto the next round.

With a matchup against the Oregon Ducks, who lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher before the start of the tournament, many believe this game to be the one where the underdog prevails.

South Carolina

March Madness Cinderella

South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Duke on Sunday with their coach Frank Martin (Photo/Bob Donnan)

South Carolina advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 1973 with a big win over second-seeded Duke. The Gamecocks look to advance to their program’s first Elite Eight.

With another tough matchup against third-seeded Baylor, the Gamecocks look to their leader, Sindarius Thornwell, to lead them to victory. The Gamecocks are not always your most flashy and good-looking team, but they get the job done.

Baylor may be the perfect opponent for the Gamecocks due to both teams’ scrappy and fast-pace play. That will make an interesting and entertaining matchup.

Wisconsin 

Wisconsin comes in on a high after taking down tournament number one seed Villanova. Many believe the Badgers were underseeded and should have gotten a better seed. Nevertheless, here they are.

With a matchup against the Florida Gators, who are also coming off of an utterly dominant victory over Virginia, the Badgers are actually favored by many despite being the lower seed.

The Badgers look to win their first NCAA championship since 1941, and they very well could.

 

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College Basketball

Winners and Losers of This Past Week in College Basketball

It was a busy week in college basketball with the conference tournaments coming to an end yesterday afternoon. With what is shaping up to be another classic NCAA tournament, we take a look at the winners who benefited from this past week and the losers who didn’t fair so well.

Winners:

Duke:

Arguably the biggest winners over the weekend, Duke became the first team in ACC tournament history to win four games and capture the ACC tournament championship. A projected four seed at the beginning of the tournament Duke jumped themselves into an official two seed by the end of the weekend.

But what is more important for Duke is that they might finally be the team that everyone thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season. Despite being ravaged by injuries at the beginning of the season Duke was considered the best team in the country by far with arguably the most talented roster in the country.

And with the tournament starting later this week the Blue Devils are peeking at the right time.

Michigan:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Geoff Burke)

The Wolverines had a rough start to this past week after their plane skidded off of the runway on their way to the Washington D.C. The Wolverines weren’t even able to use their game jerseys in their first game against Illinois, they were forced to use their practice jerseys.

Not only did they win their first game but they actually ended up winning the entire Big Ten tournament. It’s hard enough to win the Big Ten tournament being an eight seed, but doing it after a plane crash is something among itself.

 

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island was on the bubble the entire week, most of the week being one of the first four teams out. So they made sure there wasn’t any question about their right to be in the tournament.

Ranked at the beginning of the season Rhode Island was a team on the rise. But throughout the season had to deal with multiple injuries that almost kept them out of the NCAA tournament. But, to no avail the Rams, with a four seed in the A10 tournament, won their first A10 tournament championship and a trip to the big dance since 1999.

Losers:

Oregon:

Oregon did have a decent weekend in terms of wins. They did beat UCLA and they came in second in the tough PAC-12 tournament, which is an accomplishment.

But the Ducks lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher for the rest of the season in their game against California with a torn ACL. The 6-11 Boucher averaged 11.8 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and a Pac-12 leading 2.5 blocks. His absences could very well have an impact on Oregon’s performance in the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Getty Images)

The Orange were knocked out in the first round of the ACC tournament earlier this week after losing to Miami.  A few days later they didn’t make the NCAA tournament.  That should be enough of a bad week, but the Orange weren’t done there.

Jim Boeheim single handedly made enemies with the entire city of Greensboro after their loss to Miami in a post game press conference. After asked what he thought about the ACC tournament being in Brooklyn he responded, “There’s no value in playing in Greensboro. None.”

Greensboro responded as any proud city would.

Illinois State:

In yet another mid major snub, the Illinois State RedBirds fell short of a NCAA tournament at large bid.  The Red Birds finished 27-6 overall and 17-1 in their conference, losing to Witchita State in their conference tournament championship game.

Many believe mid major teams like Illinois State should be able to receive at large bids more often and this years Illinois State team would be the team to do it.  But the committee didn’t see it that way, as the Red Birds were left out yet again, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

 

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Can the Flying Ducks Keep Their Streak?

Oregon basketball has started a streak. They have won their past nine games of this season and have a 33-game win streak at home. The last time the Ducks lost at home was on March 14, 2015, against Arizona, who was ranked fifth in the nation at the time.

Since their last loss at home, winning has been a commonplace for Oregon. The Ducks finished their 2015-2016 regular season at 14-4 in conference play and earned a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They knocked off Holy Cross, Saint Joseph’s, and Duke to make it to the Elite Eight. The moral of the story is that this team knows what they are doing.

This raises two new questions: Who got them to this point? More importantly, what is to come?

PERSONNEL


Oregon has five players putting up double figures as they enter conference play. First on the stat sheet is senior Chris Boucher, who is averaging 14.1 PPG while playing 26.4 MPG. However, Boucher currently has a boot on his right foot (ankle injury) and is not expected to return until later in conference play. He leads the team in blocks with 35 on the season, which ranks 10th in the nation overall.

The void of Chris Boucher being gone has been filled quite well by Jordan Bell. He had a career-high 23 points against Fresno State last Tuesday. He also chipped in 16 points against UNLV (the first game Boucher was out). Bell is averaging 10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG and has 33 blocks in total this season.

The absence of Boucher also allowed Dillon Brooks to make his first start of the season against UNLV and contribute 20 points to the victory. He also added nine points against Fresno State. He is a 6-7 threat who averaged 16.7 PPG last season and as a junior, he has the experience and knowledge to impact the game greatly.

Scorers for the Ducks are coming from all classes in addition to Brooks and Bell. Tyler Dorsey is a sophomore and he is averaging 13.5 PPG just behind Chris Boucher. Senior Dylan Ennis distributes the ball well and averages 3.3 assists per game. Finally, Payton Pritchard, who is playing 27.5  MPG, a rather large amount for a freshman on an experienced team.

Experience is the name of the game for the Ducks. However, the UCLA Bruins’ combination of fresh talent and experience could be road block to this long home win streak.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS


Oregon opens conference play against the UCLA Bruins on Wednesday. They do not get a “warm-up” game. They are taking on the second team in the nation that is led by freshmen. TJ Leaf averages 17.5 PPG and Lonzo Ball is adding 13.7 PPG in addition to 8.3 APG. Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford provide the experience for the team and contribute major points as well as high free-throw percentages, which will be key in late-game situations.

Oregon basketball

UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (USA TODAY Sports)

UCLA has the personnel to end this streak. The meeting of these two teams is a rivalry with some bad blood in the past. From 1970 to 1976, UCLA had a home-game win streak of 98 games which included four National Championships. This streak was ended by the Ducks.

This however, is what great games are made of. First, there are two teams with history. Second, both teams have a lot at stake. UCLA puts up 95.8 points a game and leads the nation with 23.6 APG. Their untarnished record for this season would also dissipate. The Ducks risk a 33-game win streak and a win could would be tremendous for their overall ranking.

A win against UCLA does not mean the road gets any easier. After UCLA, the Ducks will take on USC just two days later. USC and Oregon are relatively close in many of the statistical areas. The Trojans are averaging 83.2 PPG while the Ducks average 78.3 PPG. Field goal percentage, rebounds per game, and assists per game are relatively the same. The teams are quite evenly matched and the Trojans are also on a 13-game win streak.

The Ducks can keep their streak if they can contain the Bruins’ large scoring margins by limiting the damage done by impact players like TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton. If they can handle UCLA at home and gain some confidence going into USC, then the Ducks should maintain their streak for another week.

 

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Five Lessons from Feast Week 2016

Thanksgiving week is a time for family, food, football and of course basketball! Over the past week, dozens of NCAA teams have made apparent their strengths and weaknesses. Here are the five most important insights that fans can pull from the plethora of Feast Week tournaments:

The Tar Heels are Elite

North Carolina won a not so climactic Maui Invitational and moved to 7-0. They won it with an average margin of victory of 30 points. Granted, one of those games was against Division II opponent Chaminade. Despite that, they obliterated the two Division I teams they faced, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, by 32 and 15 points respectively.

These are not normal, run-of-the-mill teams. Wisconsin was on the preseason top ten list for many behind Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Jawun Evans leads the Oklahoma State Cowboys as an elite scorer at 24.7 points per game. Evans was one of only two Cowboys in double figures against the Tar Heels.

Freshman Tony Bradley (5) is an excellent back-up for Kennedy Meeks. (Photo courtesy of newsobserver.com)

Freshman Tony Bradley (5) is an excellent back-up for Kennedy Meeks. (Photo courtesy of newsobserver.com)

North Carolina currently has five players averaging over ten points per game. They can spread the ball well and do not rely on one player to stay above water. Returnees Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks have made it business as usual for Roy Williams. Five star recruit Tony Bradley is a nice addition at 10.7 points per contest and 6.3 rebounds.

This is a very long Tar Heel team that possesses the ability to frustrate defenses by tipping balls away. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks dominate the boards, keeping teams from getting too many second chance points. Each also possesses the ability to protect the rim with good size and length. North Carolina is not one-dimensional.  They are a threat to the two-headed monster of Duke and Kentucky come Phoenix in April. Their next test is Wednesday against Indiana.

Oregon is a Work in Progress

Dana Altman’s team was elite last year, achieving a one seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. With the big three returning for the Ducks, fans and analysts expected much of the same. With the early pre-season injury to Dillon Brooks, that has not been the case.

At the Maui Invitational, the Ducks dropped their first game to the Georgetown Hoyas. Rodney Pryor had 26 points and 10 rebounds for a stellar offensive performance against the Ducks. Despite that, Oregon’s problem has been offense, not defense. With Brooks still not at 100 percent, the team has struggled to put up points while holding every opponent below 70. That is including an overtime game against Tennessee.

Chris Boucher (25) had 13 blocks in three games at tghe Maui Invitational. (Photo courtesy of fox5vegas.com)

Chris Boucher (25) had 13 blocks in three games at the Maui Invitational. (Photo courtesy of fox5vegas.com)

Chris Boucher is the face of Oregon’s defense. He averages a whopping 3.0 blocks per game so far after setting the school record in 2015-16 with 110. As a side note, Boucher also leads the team with 15.0 points per game. That should change as Brooks transitions back into the line-up. As of now, Brooks has only 18.7 minutes per game. The most he has played all year is 25 against Tennessee which included overtime.

The bright spot in all of this is the development for the Ducks players in Brooks’ absence. Freshman Payton Pritchard has amassed a mountain of minutes, getting used to the collegiate game speed. His 29.7% three point mark is not the best but this should rise. As Pritchard’s role decreases and Brooks gets back into the swing of things, the freshman will see better looks with less defensive attention.

Despite the Ducks dropping a game to Georgetown and struggling against the Volunteers they showed some promise during Feast Week. Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey are each looking like their old selves, Brooks is settling in, and the Ducks have proven the ability to gnash their way to a win in a physical game. As Altman’s boys continue to mesh, watch for them to climb back up in the rankings.

 

Virginia Maintaining Identity without Austin Nichols

Examples of things that are certain in life: death, taxes and the Virginia Cavaliers as a defensive based team. Tony Bennett coaches this team year after year to the same sort of style. This year he has the added stress of doing it without key transfer Austin Nichols. Nichols played in only one game before being released by the team. He had previously violated team rules in October.

Virginia took down Providence for the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. (Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

Virginia took down Providence for the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. (Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

Regardless of the reasons for his dismissal, Virginia still looks like the top tier team that they have been over the past few years. Since Nichol’s discharge, the Cavaliers have been nothing short of brilliant. The team’s Feast Week exploits consisted of a dominating performance at the Emerald Coast Classic. They held their opponents to 42.3 points over the three game span of the tournament. While Grambling State is lesser competition, Iowa and Providence do not operate in the same category.

Better yet for the Emerald Coast champs are the two contests they played outside of Feast Week show their consistency. Virginia held Yale and St. Francis (NY) to under 40 points. Their points allowed average since Nichol’s left is 39.4 points.

The one detriment to the Cavaliers is that they do not score. Their 72.8 points per game through six games ranks them 214th in the NCAA. The only game which holds that average above water is the 90 point showing against Grambling State. Additionally only one player averages double figures in scoring: Darius Thompson at exactly 10.0 points per game. Virginia does play ten players, but they need someone to step up. Balance is great but they have no go-to player at this point. London Parrentes should turn into that player at some point this season.

UCLA is an Offensive Juggernaut

Okay, so with the exception of Texas A&M, UCLA has not exactly played anyone yet. Still, the offensive accomplishments and efficiency the team has put together is daunting. Putting up the numbers they have against anyone is impressive.

Lonzo Ball (2) has been one of the most impressive freshman in the country. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Lonzo Ball (2) has been one of the most impressive freshman in the country. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Lonzo Ball is the major recruit of this class for Steve Alford and he has not disappointed. Nothing short of brilliant, he averages 16.0 points, 9.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.  Nearly averaging a double-double as a freshman is impressive. What about having two freshman nearly averaging a double-double on the same team? T.J. Leaf was the other stellar recruit for the Bruins and he sits at  17.1 points (leading the team), 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

Additionally, four other players are averaging double-digit scoring figures totaling six for the team as a whole. Bryce Alford is second on the team with 17.0 points per game. He also is first in shots made from behind the arc with 19 and is shooting at 44.2%.

There is a laundry list of personal accomplishments, but the team’s overall statistics are the most astounding. Through six games the team is second in the nation in field goal percentage, sixth in three point percentage and first in total assists. They average 96.9 points per game. UCLA has 249 made field goals and 169 assists meaning they assist on 67.8% of their baskets. Not only are they extremely efficient, but they also share the ball well.  That should be more than apparent with the aforementioned six players in double figures.

NCAA Champions Points Per Game
Year Team Points Forced Points Allowed
2015-16 Villanova 78.0 63.6
2014-15 Duke 79.3 64.2
2013-14 UConn 71.8 63.2
2012-13 Louisville 74.5 58.8
2011-12 Kentucky 77.4 60.6
*UCLA 96.9 Forced, 75.3 Allowed

The one caveat would be the lack of defensive efficiency. Sure, the team does not rely on one player for its scoring. However, they currently allow 75.3 points per game. They may have a high powered offense, but their defense needs to improve when they do hit the tougher schedule. Generally, championship teams do not allow that many points.

The Bruins won a lackluster Wooden Legacy tournament during Feast Week. The only game that caused them any trouble was the grind-it-out match-up Texas A&M. The Aggies have some surprising new faces contributing, but are not of the same caliber as the Bruins. December 3rd they will face Kentucky in Lexington. This will be the first true test for Alford and company.

Michigan State is Still Difficult to Trust

Tom Izzo’s teams are the epitome of March basketball. Right now they are searching for a legitimate identity. Between a rough early schedule and some early individual struggles the Spartans they have yet to establish consistency.

Michigan State started off the year 0-2 after a last second loss to Arizona and a less than stellar performance against Kentucky. After a 100 point performance against Mississippi Valley State, the Spartans won a controversial game against Florida Gulf Coast 78-77.

Miles Bridges (22) is the most dynamic athlete for the Spartans. (Photo courtesy of zagsblog.com)

Miles Bridges (22) is the most dynamic athlete for the Spartans. (Photo courtesy of zagsblog.com)

Tom Izzo’s squad spent their Feast Week at the Battle 4 Atlantis. They took down St. John’s 73-62 to start. They were then dominated by Baylor 73-58. Miles Bridges was the only player in double figures for the Spartans with 15 points. Bridges is the highest rated member of a stellar Spartan recruiting class. Bridges has had some up and down games, including struggles against Kentucky and Florida Gulf Coast, but is still the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game. His dynamic athleticism has him averaging 1.7 blocks per game and defensive win shares. Bridges decision making is still a point of weakness with 3.4 turnovers per contest, also leading the team.

Michigan State finished up with a 77-72 win against Wichita State, but the Shockers nearly willed their way to a win in this one. Bridges led the team with 21 points, but this time four other players also achieved double figures. Senior Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer, has had the most inconsistent year. In the contests against Arizona, Kentucky and Baylor this year he averaged 4.0 points. On the flip side he had 31 against FGCU. The Spartans will need Harris this year to have a deep tournament run and find some sort of team identity.

2017 NBA Mock Draft November 13

1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)- Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas, Fr.

(courtesy usatoday.com)

Josh Jackson on team USA. (courtesy usatoday.com)

Jackson was the best wing player in the 2016 recruiting class. His athleticism and length make him look like and Andrew Wiggins clone wearing the Kansas uniform.

2. Philadelphia 76ers- Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State, Fr.

Most teams don’t draft by position need in the draft, but the 76ers really need a point guard.

3. Los Angeles Lakers- Markelle Fultz, G, Washington, Fr.

Fultz is a combo guard that could compliment D’Angelo Russell down the road.

4. Denver Nuggets- Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke, Fr.

Denver has Emmanuel Muddiay and Jamal Murray at the guard spots and some good players down low so taking the talented wing from Duke makes sense.

5. Phoenix Suns- Harry Giles, PF, Duke, Fr.

A lot of guard play still for the Suns, they need more good post players.

6. Sacrament Kings- Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA, Fr.

What a mess the Kings have. If they keep Demarcus Cousins for the rest of the season, they need a point guard to feed him the ball.

7. Orlando Magic- Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State, Fr.

Isaac is a lot like Brandon Ingram, but probably has a lower ceiling.

8. New Orleans Pelicans- Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

The Pelicans need more perimeter players to surround Anthony Davis with. Ntilikina is a big, athletic, play-making point guard.

9. Miami Heat- De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky, Fr.

Fox is already getting compared to John Wall. He is one of the fastest players in the class.

10. New York Knicks- Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky, Fr.

A lot of scouts think that Adebayo is the most NBA-ready player in college basketball. His body is a lot like a young Dwight Howard’s.

11. Milwaukee Bucks- Grayson Allen, G, Duke, Jr.

(courtesy carolinablitz.com)

(courtesy carolinablitz.com)

The Bucks need guys who can hit shots. We know what Allen is, some freshmen we don’t know a lot about will pass him up by season’s end.

12. Washington Wizards- Ivan Rabb, PF/C, Cal, So.

Rabb has some good post moves, but needs to work on his rebounding for NBA-level competition.

13. Chicago Bulls- Marques Bolden, C, Duke, Fr.

He has really good control of his body on both ends of the floor, but needs to add strength.

14. Houston Rockets- Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Germany

Porzingis’ great start in the NBA helps out all verastile European big men in the eyes of scouts, including Hartenstein.

15.Charlotte Hornets- Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse, So.

Lydon has the shooting ability to stretch the floor for NBA teams.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves- Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson, Sr.

He isn’t great at anything, but Blossomgame is solid at every facet of basketball.

17. Dallas Mavericks- Edmond Sumner, PG, Xavier, So.

There are a lot of big point guards in this class and Sumner could be the most athletic in the class.

18. Detroit Pistons- Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky, Fr.

(courtesy kentucky.com)

(courtesy kentucky.com)

Fran Fraschila has compared Monk to Russell Westbrook already. He might have a better three point shot and lack some of Westbrook’s athleticism.

19. Atlanta Hawks- Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona, Fr.

Alkins got off to a slow start at Arizona, but will have plenty of chances due to their thin roster.

20. Oklahoma City Thunder- Terrance Ferguson, G/F, USA

OKC needs wing players and Ferguson is a good shooter that can also slash to the basket.

21. Indiana Pacers- Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

Bridges scored 21 points in his debut game, but needs to hit more jump shots to move up draft boards.

22.Denver Nuggets (via Memphis Grizzlies)- Moses Kingsley, PF/C, Arkansas, Sr.

In order to be a very effective at the next level he needs to develop more on offense, but does have great energy and production.

23. Portland Trail Blazers- Malik Pope, PF, San Diego State, Jr.

Pope needs a jump in production to earn a first round grade from scouts, but stretches defenses with his shooting touch from deep.

24. Utah Jazz- LeGerald Vick, SG, Kansas, So.

Vick has potential, but has to fight for time on the court at Kansas.

25. Nets (via Celtics)- V.J. Beachum, G/F, Notre Dame, Sr.

He has great size and a good shooting touch, but needs to work on his ball-handling.

26. Toronto Raptors- Tyler Roberson, F, Syracuse, Sr.

Roberson isn’t a great shooter, so therefore needs to add some strength to play on the inside in the NBA.

27. Toronto Raptors- Monte Morris, PG, Iowa State, Sr.

(courtesy youtube.com)

(courtesy youtube.com)

The best quality that Morris has is how well he protects the ball. His assist to turnover ratio last year was 3.67/1.

28. San Antonio Spurs- Thomas Bryant, PF/C, Indiana, So.

In his first game against Kansas, Bryant came out of the gates hot. He can score, but isn’t really athletic and needs to work on his defense.

29. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)- Chris Boucher, PF/C, Oregon, Sr.

Defense and Rebounding are issues, but he is a decent shooter, with decent size.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jarrett Allen, C, Texas, Fr.

Allen has potential, but has to work on his passing from the post.

 

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Draft Deadline Decisions: Dropouts and Draftees

The deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA Draft and remain eligible for collegiate competition was Wednesday, May 25th. Some decisions were made that will greatly affect the upcoming season of college basketball. Here is a list of some of the most notable draft decisions and the effects that the player staying or leaving will have on the school:

 

Josh Hart, Villanova

Hart’s return means that Villanova is in excellent shape for the upcoming year. They certainly will miss Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. Arcidiacono was the team’s leader in assists as well as the third leading scorer. Ochefu was the team’s leading rebounder as well as fourth leading scorer. What the team brings back with this decision, though is a multi-faceted guard. Hart averaged 15.5 points per game, 6.8 rebounds and also 1.2 steals per game.  He is a very dynamic player on both ends of the floor. He will be complimented by Kris Jenkins decision to return as well as the continual growth of Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Top recruit Omari Spellman could also play a role. Villanova is in a good spot for the upcoming season, and with this return, is a top ten team to start the season.

 

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

Isaiah Whitehead is a devastating loss for the Pirates. (Photo courtesy of nytimes.com)

Whitehead’s decision to stay in the draft was the second most important decision in Big East play, next to Josh Hart’s. Last season, Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He also averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals each contest.  Seton Hall loses one of their most dynamic players and will be a completely different team without the guard returning for his junior season.

 

Malik Newman, Mississippi State

Malik Newman was set to be one of the first one and done players in Starkville.  Now, not only is that no longer a reality, but also ESPN’s Jeff Goodman is reporting that Newman is looking to transfer from Mississippi State.  He came in under Ben Howland as one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation, but had a relatively lackluster, injury plagued freshman season. Newman’s return would bolster the recruiting class that Howland put together along with other returnees Quinndary Weatherspoon and I.J. Ready. At this point, Newman has asked for a release to transfer.

 

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

Much like Villanova, Nigel Hayes’ return completes a prolific off-season for the Badgers. There were a lot of questions about this team last season with the retirement of coach Bo Ryan, but a Sweet 16 run put a stop to those. Wisconsin returns several key players, in addition to Hayes: Bronson Koenig was the second leading scorer on the team and also added shooting range that kept defenses spread out. He demonstrated this in the tournament game against Xavier. Ethan Happ is looking to build on a phenomenal freshman year in which he averaged 12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Hayes returns as the clubhouse leader in scoring and assists and he is also the second leading rebounder behind Happ. Wisconsin is a complete team and will be in the top 5 in the preseason rankings due to this return.

 

 

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson

Clemson should be ecstatic to return a player the caliber of Jaron Blossomgame. (Photo courtesy of foxsports.com)

The aptly named player had a flourishing junior campaign and will grace the ACC with one last run.  He showed improvements across the board.  Blossomgame averaged 18.7 points per game to go along with 6.7 rebounds as well as 1.3 blocks. Not to mention that his percentage from behind the arc skyrocketed from 28.8% to above 40%.  Clemson will return three double-digit scorers in Blossomgame, Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes as well as third leading rebounder Sidy Djitte. While the team may not be the most powerful in the ACC, the Tigers will undoubtedly have something to roar about come Tournament time.

Melo Trimble, Maryland

Melo Trimble was not projected to be a first round pick but coming back may not have been the best decision for him. Trimble was the team leader in scoring and assists, but he is the only of the top five scoring options to come back to College Park. After the losses of Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon per eligibility as well as Robert Carter and Diamond Stone to the NBA draft, Mark Turgeon’s squad looks extremely depleted in comparison to the team that began last year at a fiery 15-1. Trimble will attract a significant amount of attention from opposing defenses and it will be left to the incoming freshman class to carry the weight of the team.

 

Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher, Oregon Ducks

There should be some sort of celebration in Eugene because the Oregon Ducks are one off the biggest winners at the Draft Deadline. Their core of Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, and Chris Boucher all three declared and all three have decided to return to school. This immediately makes Dana Altman’s team the team to beat in the PAC-12 for the upcoming season. The team is losing Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin, but this decision gives them three of their top four scorers on a team that already achieved a number one seed. These are also three of their top 5 rebounders, and Boucher was second in the NCAA in blocks this past season. The bar will be set very high for them next season.

Coach Dana Altman Faces Big Changes to the Oregon Roster

Last year, the Oregon Ducks trounced the Utah Utes in the Pac 12 title game and achieved the first one seed in school history. This offseason, the Ducks are looking at the possibility of three of their key players forgoing their remaining eligibility for the NBA draft.

Dana Altman coached the Ducks to the highest seed in school history. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

The team is losing forwards Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook to graduation. Altman does have several recruits coming in, including junior college transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams to shore up the interior of his team. The recruiting class also includes an ESPN top-100 recruit, Payton Pritchard, who is a point guard. The rest of the class includes small forward Keith Smith and center Michael Cage Jr. Cage and Bigby-Williams are each listed at six foot ten and will provide considerable size for the Ducks.  However, it is important to take into consideration the possibility that Oregon may be facing the loss of three key players to early entry into the NBA Draft:

  1. Dillon Brooks

Brooks is a small forward from Canada who participated in competition with the Canadian national team.  Brooks has a smaller wingspan and is not overly athletic but is a more than capable shooter.  This year he averaged 16.7 pts on 47% shooting from the field.  He also provided a handful of assists (3.1) and rebounds (5.4) per game.  Brooks’ exchange with Coach Krzyzewski after the Sweet Sixteen game against Duke became a huge topic of discussion.  The sophomore showed that he can shoot from deep.  Brooks does not appear in the first round of most mock drafts and is looked at as a mid-second round selection at this point.

  1. Tyler Dorsey

Tyler Dorsey (left) and Dillon Brooks (right) would be a huge loss for the Ducks if they were to remain in the draft pool. (Photo Courtesy of CSNNW.com)

Tyler Dorsey came in as a 4 star recruit from Los Angeles with notable size and athleticism for his position.  In his freshman year, Dorsey averaged 13.4 points per contest and 4.3 rebounds as well.  Dorsey had a few notable games this year, including dropping 23 points with nine rebounds against the Utes in the Conference Tournament Championship.  He is seen as an early second round draft pick prior to the NBA Combine.

  1. Chris Boucher

Boucher was a transfer from Junior College and has not played organized basketball for long.  He is quite tall but does not have size to fill out an NBA body.  Regardless, he is being strongly considered as a prospect after 1 year in Eugene.  In his first run at division 1 basketball, the Forward averaged 12.1 points per game with 7.4 rebounds.  Boucher even showed the ability to shoot from deep range.  He also had nearly three blocks per game on the defensive end.  He had several double-doubles this year including a 26 point, ten rebound performance against Arizona State.  There are mixed feelings about him considering his small sample size at this point.

If Altman is able to retain all of these players, the Ducks should be in excellent shape to contend for another Pac 12 regular season or Tournament title.  The loss of more than one would cause a huge roster overhaul in terms of valuable playing experience.  These are players that achieved a one seed and were one step away from a Final Four, not to mention that they were responsible for more than 40 points combined per game last season.  It is yet to be seen what sort of team will take the floor next year in the Yellow and Green.

Early College Basketball Top Five for 2016-2017

The college basketball season was very competitive and had a lot of drama that lasted through the championship game. Now the wait is on. Seven months without college basketball. It is never too early to start talking about next season. Here are my top five teams for next season:

Grayson Allen will try to lead Duke to another championship next season. Photo courtesy espn.go.com.

  1. Duke Blue Devils- Duke lose Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee, but returns every other key player. Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard can light it up from the floor. Amile Jefferson will be back for another year and fill the role of glue guy in the post for the Blue Devils. Chase Jeter and Derryck Thornton will be expected to make huge strides this off-season. In addition to all these players coming back for Duke, they will also have three top recruits that will help them next season. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are the top two recruits in the country and should be solid forwards for Duke. Frank Jackson is a shooting guard who should be able to provide the Blue Devils with depth in his first year.

    Isaiah Briscoe will need to improve his shooting before next season. Photo courtesy kentucky.com.

  2. Kentucky Wildcats- Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere and Alex Poythress are all gone for the Wildcats, but everyone else should return to school for another year. Guard Isaiah Briscoe will bring defense, toughness and driving ability to the team next season. Dominique Hawkins will also be a defensive force at the guard position for the Wildcats. Charles Matthews is the only true wing returning and should be much improved next season. There will be a lot of big guys on Kentucky next season and hopefully a few of them can step up. Derek Willis will be back to stretch the defenses with his three point shooting. Marcus Lee needs to add a post move or two this off-season, but will be an athletic big at the very least next season. The Wildcats will have two physical big guys in Isaac Humphries and Tai Waynard. In addition to these role players the Wildcats also have the number one recruiting class in the country. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will see a lot of playing time with the loss of Ulis and Murray and are more than capable of being successful. Bam Adebayo is a power forward who is the most physically ready for college basketball out of the entire recruiting class.

    If Trevon Bluiett goes back to school, the Musketeers will be tough to beat. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

  3. Xavier Musketeers- Only two players should be leaving the Musketeers this off-season. James Farr and Remy Abell are both graduating. These are two important players, but Xavier will be fine without them. Jalen Reynolds and Trevone Bluiett have their names in the draft, but will probably elect to come back to school. Bluiett is a star, who can take over a game with his offensive game. Reynolds is a physical force on the inside, but needs to keep his head in the game in order to be great. Myles Davis and J.P. Macura will provide great outside shooting. At point guard Ed Sumner will create match-up troubles with his size and driving ability. Sean O’Mara will have to step up and play well behind Reynolds. The Musketeers were very deep last season and should be again next season, if players like Kaiser Gates, Larry Austin and Makinde London can all take a step forward.

    Bronson Koenig was clutch last year for the Badgers and should see continued success next season. Photo courtesy stack.com.

  4. Wisconsin Badgers- The Badgers literally lose no key players from their team heading into next season. The problem is, as of now, they aren’t bringing any in either. Wisconsin had a rough start to the season with a lot of distractions of Bo Ryan retiring, but once Greg Gard got the team they settled in and made it to the Sweet 16. Bronson Koenig is one of the more underrated point guards in college basketball and should be a great floor general yet again. On the wing Nigel Hayes has turned into a good all-around player. The most important player for this ranking is Ethan Happ, who really came on late in the season for the Badgers and provided a good inside presence.

    Dillon Brooks returns and will lead the Ducks to another great season. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

  5. Oregon Ducks- Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook are graduating, but two other seniors should get another year of eligibility. Chris Boucher, their best big man, got a waiver from the NCAA for an extra season. Dylan Ennis is also applying for an extra year of eligibility after only playing 21 minutes this season due to injury. Those two guys are good, but the main reason Oregon is on this list is that they return Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, both of whom are stars for an Oregon team that received a one seed this season.

Stay tuned for the rest of the top 25!