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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National Championship

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: The Game That We Wanted and Needed to See

This year’s national championship may not feature Kansas, Duke or Kentucky. It may not have the potential top pick in the NBA draft and it may not be the championship that sports fans wanted to see. However, it’s the championship that we needed to see.

National Championship

UNC looks to avenge their lose in last years National Championship game afer a last second shot by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins (Photo/Greg Nelson).

It’s the championship that we as kids all dream of playing in. We may not be participating in it, but we get to witness it. Two teams with everything to prove, chasing their dreams of being a national champion.

Granted, both teams are in two very different scenarios. On one side you have UNC coming off of potentially the most devastating loss in national championship history last year. On the other hand you have a Gonzaga team looking to make school history and solidify themselves in college basketball history.

UNC is largely the same team that understandably went sobbing into the locker room after last year’s national championship. After Kris Jenkins of Villanova hit what many to believe to be the most iconic shot in NCAA championship game history, UNC was left devastated. We saw Villanova cutting down the nets, not UNC.

They’re not the only one’s who believe they have something to prove.

Gonzaga’s basketball program has been criticized for not playing in a tough conference. Those on the east coast, who don’t get to see them play on a normal basis, believe the program could be bad for basketball. Now after years and years of Gonzaga disappointment in the NCAA tournament, they are finally here.

A league dominated by the Duke’s and Kentucky’s one-and-done players, UNC and Gonzaga tend to do it a little bit differently.

UNC has six returning key players, all upperclassmen, and all apart of last year’s team. Instead of dwelling on the past, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks, Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson continue to look forward.

When asked about last year’s national championship, Pinson said, “It keeps giving us ammo, it makes us want to get here again and again.”

National Championship

Gonzaga players celebrate after their Final Four victory over South Carolina Saturday (Photo/ David J. Phillip).

Gonzaga, on the other hand, has their own motivation factor. Despite the motivation of making school history, the Bulldogs look to their own past for a little motivation.

Gonzaga has players from all over the globe, including Przemek Karnowski from Poland, freshman Rui Hachimura from Japan and Killian Tillie, who is a freshman from France. In order to stay in contact, what else would a bunch of young men in this day in age do? Start a group chat.

Some of it’s inside jokes most people wouldn’t understand. Other times it’s just to stay in touch. It is also for motivation. For instance, junior guard and the leader of this Bulldog team, Nigel Williams-Goss, posted the infamous video of sobbing Adam Morrison after Gonzaga’s loss to UCLA in the Sweet 16 in 2006 and simply wrote “Not this year fellas.”

The tiny Jesuit school versus an all powerful college basketball franchise, it sounds like a David and Goliath scenario. But it’s not.

These are the two best teams in college basketball, and we get it for the last game of college basketball this year. North Carolina is 40 minutes away from redemption. Gonzaga is 40 minutes away from program history. We can’t ask for anything better than that.

 

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Cinderella Basketball

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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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. 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, but it depends on who wins the lottery. 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.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is 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, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. 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 the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

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. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

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, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five 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: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

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

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

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. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, 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 overall 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 under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

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.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

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. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. 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.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. 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 the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

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: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

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.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: 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.

27: 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. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

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

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

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: 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.

30: 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.

 

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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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Duke-UNC: The Best Rivalry In College Basketball

Duke-UNC is not just the best rivalry in college basketball. It is arguably the best rivalry in all of college and professional sports. Just 10 miles apart down Tobacco road, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels prove time and time again why it is truly one of the greatest sports traditions of all time. For a sports fan, attending a Duke-UNC rivalry game must be at the top of their bucket list.

Saturday marked the 244th meeting between The Duke Blue Devils and The North Carolina Tar Heels, with UNC leading the overall series 135-109. These two historic college basketball franchises are top-five in all-time wins in college basketball history with UNC at three and Duke at four.

This past Saturday’s matchup was the final ACC regular season game for both teams as usual. The fifth-ranked Tar Heels defeated the 17th-ranked Blue Devils 90-83 in another hard fought classic.

Duke-UNC Basketball

Luke Kennard and Justin Jackson fight for a loose ball during their first matchup on Feb, 9th (Photo Courtesy of The Fayetteville Observer)

It was an important game for both teams in terms of seeding for the ACC and the NCAA tournament. What makes Duke-UNC so special is that none of that matters.

Duke-UNC isn’t about records, seeding or win-loss records coming into the game. It’s about pride. The thing about Duke-UNC is that one team could be undefeated coming into the matchup and the other team could have lost every single game up to that point. For that one game, it will be played like it is the last basketball game to ever be played.

Blood, sweat and tears is the definition of Duke-UNC. Blood, sweat and tears are usually evident in every single game, or at least one of those.

Neither team has actually met in the NCAA tournament before. Every game they have ever played, with the exception of some ACC tournament games and an NIT game back in the 70s, has been in the regular season. Regular season games are important, but the postseason has historically brought out a different level in athletes. A level in which you see in every Duke-UNC game.

It shows why this rivalry is so special. The postseason atmosphere of win or go home is in every Duke-UNC matchup, even though it isn’t a win or go home game. All that matters in the two games they play each year is winning and nothing else.

The rivalry has produced powerful moments like when Gerald Henderson punched Tyler Hansbrough in the face resulting in a bloody nose and a plethora of heated exchanges. Jeff Capel hit a half court shot to send the game into overtime. Jerry Stackhouse’s had a reverse slam in Cameron Indoor Stadium that silenced the previously rowdy crowd. Austin Rivers hit a game-winning shot over Tyler Zeller to cap a comeback in Chapel Hill.

Whether you like basketball or not, people tune in to watch Duke-UNC. On March 8, 2008, Duke played UNC in Durham, which would go on to be the most viewed college basketball game in history. An estimated 5.5 million watched the game. Even those who don’t prefer sports can appreciate the magnitude of Duke-UNC.

The series has involved some of the greatest basketball icons of all time, including the great Michael Jordan. The likes of Vince Carter, Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Antawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace and many more have gone on to have successful careers in college and professionally.

Either way the tide turns, Duke or UNC, it’s unlike anything else in college or professional sports.

 

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Why is no one talking about Florida State basketball?

Florida State basketball has put together an impressive tournament resume. The Seminoles are 18-2 and at the top of the ACC (tied with Notre Dame and North Carolina). The last time they made an appearance in the tournament was in 2012. If you recall, Jeremy Lin made his debut with the Knicks and #Linsanity was trending. Essentially, it was a long time ago.

With all the success the Seminoles are having, let’s delve into why Florida State isn’t being talked about.

The seniors have never made it to the dance

This senior class has consistently “missed it by that much” and they have yet to partake in the tournament. In 2012, the Seminoles lost to Cincinnati in the third round. After that class graduated, there hasn’t been much excitement.

This senior class made it to the NIT their freshman and junior years. I probably should not mention their sophomore year when they neglected to go further than the regular season.

However, that has been part of their success. They have a younger team and there are only two seniors on the team: Michael Ojo and Jarquez Smith. The older two are playing an average of 13 minutes a game. The young guys are the ones putting up big numbers to lead the charge against respectable ball clubs like Duke and Louisville.

Seminoles have Young personnel

Let’s start with Dwayne Bacon. Yes, his last name is Bacon, which automatically makes him special. The sophomore is averaging 17.4 points per game for the Seminoles and a few rebounds.

If young guns are going to be mentioned, then freshman Jonathan Isaac needs to get some credit. His specialty is shooting without question. The kid is shooting 54 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point land, and 82.4 percent from the free throw line. Let’s not forget he is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game and 13.3 points per game. Those are a lot of stats, and good ones for a freshman.

Junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes leads the team with 4.7 assists per game and provides some leadership on the court. Michael Ojo also adds experience on the court and contributed 10 points in the win over Louisville this past weekend.

In addition, Terrance Mann is a crafty guard who really does it all. He is shooting 60 percent from the field and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game (second on the team). He also uses his great ball-handling skills to take players to the rim.

Deep bench

Head coach Leonard Hamilton does it differently than most Division I college basketball teams. He rotates 12 players throughout the game and utilizes his bench well.

PJ Savoy of Floria State Seminoles (Photo Courtesy of Seminoles.com)

He has four players averaging over 20 minutes a game, but pulls other players into rotation. Jarquez Smith is averaging less minutes and points per game than in past years, but contributes more than just stats. He is a senior that provides composure on the court when Coach Hamilton needs it. Braian Angola-Rodas is also coming off the bench and adding decent minutes.

Earlier this year in their win over Notre Dame, the bench came up big to beat Notre Dame by three in the final minute.

Two of the Seminoles’ starters struggled throughout the game. Terrance Mann was held scoreless and Michael Ojo added just two points (the opening dunk). Sophomore PJ Savoy scored 12 points. Overall, the bench scored 39 points (just under half of their points) in the victory.

tournament hopes and what is to come

The tournament is within reach for the Seminoles for the first time in awhile. The upperclassmen have ownership on their lack of performance in the past. The young guys are adapting well to the pace of college basketball and knocking off good teams in the process.

Florida State has notable wins, but they still have a tough schedule ahead. They are 6-1 in conference play right now, but the second time around is always tougher. Notre Dame will be looking for revenge after a close loss. Duke will also be hungry for a win after losing to the Seminoles by a margin of 16 points when Rathan-Mayes scored 21 points.

Georgia Tech, Syracuse, and Miami will not be easy games either. Regardless, Florida State has set themselves up well to make a tournament appearance this year and possibly make a run. They have the young guys to make it happen if they can keep getting quality wins until March (which is still asking a lot, but manageable).

 

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Here is Your New Year’s Resolution: Watch More College Basketball

So you have not thought of a New Year’s resolution yet? No problem. Here is an easy one for you: watch more college basketball. Not only will this be significantly more enjoyable than anything else you can think up, but you only have to keep it until April! Kick off 2017 with a sense of accomplishment and renewed interest in the sport. There are plenty of reasons for you to watch:

Great Players

Markelle Fultz has is the top freshman prospect thus far this year. (Photo courtesy of espn.com)

This season is jam packed with young talent. There are dozens of players whose mere presence on the court merits tuning in for a game. Perhaps one of the best examples is Washington’s Markelle Fultz. He is currently topping many NBA mock drafts and is widely considered the top overall prospect. Despite the fact that the Huskies are a lackluster 7-5, Fultz makes it worth your time.

He is an elite scorer with 22.0 points per game so far as a freshman while adding 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists. He has the size and athleticism of an NBA guard and will surely be a top pick in the draft.  For now, he is a contributor to the attention of college basketball fans.

Other stellar freshman include UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kansas’ Josh Jackson. Ball is a lights out shooter with extreme precision. He averages 13.7 points per game, but shoots over 52% from the field and over 42% from deep. He also is one of the nation’s best passers and it shows with his 8.1 assists per game.  Ball uses his lanky size to grab 5.6 rebounds per contest.  There are a few questions about his game, but he is another college player beyond his cohorts and a good reason to make this resolution.

Josh Jackson, in turn, is a freak athlete. Jackson stands at six foot eight and 207 pounds of lean muscle. He has the ability to jump out of the gym. The scary part is that now his shot is coming around.  He is at 52.9% from the field.  His range could use some work, but as a guard averaging 1.5 blocks per game and 6.5 rebounds there is little lacking in his game. He came into the year as the top overall recruit and has lived up to that honor.

Other young players like Jayson Tatum of Duke, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo of Kentucky, Miles Bridges of Michigan State and Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac are coming along nicely. So far this is a deep recruiting class.

Let’s not forget the guys that came back, though. Ivan Rabb makes California games more than watchable. The six foot ten power forward was projected to be a back end lottery pick, but made the decision to return under Cuonzo Martin. Rabb is nearly averaging a double-double with 14.7 points per game and 9.8 rebounds. He supplements those figures by throwing in 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. The tremendously talented sophomore is the center of the Bears offense and worth this New Year’s Resolution on his own.

Other players that made the tough choice to return, but also are worth watching include Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, Indiana’s Thomas Bryant and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson.

Great Teams

So tuning in to see one player is not your thing? No problem. There are plenty of great teams to meet anyone’s tastes.

Creighton and Villanova just finished off 2016 with a titanic clash in Omaha. Villanova had several players return after their adrenaline-inducing tournament run. This year there is no hangover from their dramatic finish. Without Ryan Arcidiacono (graduation), Daniel Ochefu (graduation) and Omari Spellman (eligibility) the team is still kicking on all cylinders. The Wildcats move the ball well and have some great finishers in Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins.

Jalen Brunson has been terrific in his new role as the team’s main point guard, leading the team with 4.0 assists per game. Nova has eight players averaging more than 5.7 points per game and that has led them to a team average of nearly 80. Yes, Josh Hart does a lot of the scoring (20.5 points per game) but there is still plenty of unselfishness. Their tenacious defense and deep seeded athleticism has allowed them to be one of the best defensive teams in the country, only giving up 61.5 points per game. Additionally the team is 17th in the nation in turnovers. There is a reason they are the number one team in the land.

Maurice Watson Jr. currently leads the nation in assists per game. (Photo courtesy of foxsports.com)

Despite Creighton losing this game at home by ten, they are still one of the best teams in the country. Creighton was supposed to be good, but the level that they have been playing at is totally unexpected. Before the match-up against Villanova, the Bluejays stood at 8th in the country with a whopping 89.8 points per game. Nine players average more than four points per game.  This team is a lot deeper than last year thanks to transfers Marcus Foster (Kansas State) and Maurice Watson Jr. (Boston). They are now the two leading scorers on the team which has caused some returnees to take a back seat.  This only makes the team deeper than ever. Watson Jr. helps the Creighton offense flow with his 9.1 assists per game. Creighton is 22nd in the nation as a team in assists, which they have on 56% of their made field goals. There are too many contributors to speak about on this team and it is one of the reasons for their success thus far.

There are plenty of other teams worth making a resolution to watch more of. West Virginia and Virginia each have suffocating defenses that keep games tight from beginning to end.  Gonzaga is making a lot of noise out west with a combination of returnees, transfers, and freshman. North Carolina is coming around health wise and now is returning to the form that they were at in Maui. The Tar Heels are an elite team and every game is full of action. Justin Jackson is one of the best players in the country, Kennedy Meeks and freshman Toney Bradley help North Carolina be a top 5 rebounding team in the country and Joel Berry’s return will make this team even better still.

Great Games

The conference season is just beginning and so is your resolution to watch those games. Creighton and Villanova was just one example of the type of game that college basketball has to offer in 2017. There are still plenty of games to come this year.

Duke and North Carolina will face off twice this year, with the first game on February 9th. Their second game is in the final week of the regular season. Both teams are slated to be high seeds come March. These two match-ups will shape the college basketball playing field to see who the best team in the ACC is.

The way things are right now there are several other in conference games with potential.  Kansas and Baylor will square off for the first time February 1st. Despite all of the madness that has transgressed at Baylor this year they have still managed to compile the beginnings of a great basketball season. Kansas boasts some of the top players in the country in Josh Jackson and Frank Mason. An injury to Udoka Azibuke is a set back for the Jayhawks, however, and should make the interior game quite interesting being headed by Landen Lucas who has struggled thus far. Jonathan Motley is a physical presence for the Bears with 9.1 rebounds per game. Miami transfer Manu Lecomete leads the Baylor offense into battle.  he currently averages 5.3 assists and only 1.8 turnovers per game.

As Dillon Brooks returns to form, so do the Oregon Ducks. (Photo courtesy of collegebasketball.ap.org)

UCLA and Oregon will face off again on February 9th.  Their first contest ended with Dillon Brooks hitting a game winning shot and UCLA being dealt their first loss of the season. There is no reason to think that the second chapter will be any less exciting. UCLA is one of the most prolific offenses in the country, averaging 93.9 points per game, second in the country. Had Thomas Welsh not missed some time, the Bruins may still be close to 100 points per game as they were at the beginning of the season. They do not just score, though, they pass as well.  They lead the nation in total assists as a team, doing so on 66.3% of their field goals.  The Ducks, on the other hand, had a slow start after making the top five in many preseason lists. The Ducks lost to Baylor early (which does not look as bad now) and dropped their first game in Maui. They have not lost since.  In addition to their victory over UCLA, they took down the red hot, previously undefeated USC Trojans. The Ducks are beginning to look like the team they were picked to be as star Dillon Brooks returns to 100%.

After the regular season contests are over there will be so much more fun with conference tournaments and that little known tournament labeled March Madness. So if you have not yet made a New Year’s resolution or you would like another one, just put more college basketball on your calendar.

 

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2016-17 Big East Basketball Preview

On the heels of Big East media day there is a lot of buzz surrounding the conference that produced the 2015-16 champion, Villanova. A conference compiled of non-FBS football schools finally had its major breakthrough.  However, there is still plenty to talk about 2016-17.

They’re Back!

So you thought Villanova was a one time deal? Wrong.  Despite the major losses of Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono the Wildcats are still very much a threat.  They were the overwhelming pick for the top spot in the preseason poll. Jay Wright’s reigning champions return the preseason player of the year in Josh Hart, championship hero Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson. Jenkins was voted preseason First Team All-Big East and Brunson was given honorable mention.

Kris Jenkins and the Wildcats cut down the nets in Houston. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Kris Jenkins and the Wildcats cut down the nets in Houston. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

The team returns six players that played in all 40 games.  This includes sophomore Mikal Bridges. A highly touted recruit, Bridges could be the one to replace Arcidiacono’s production after a productive first tour. The team did take a serious blow in their quest to fill the void left by Ochefu.  Five star recruit Omari Spellman likely would have been in the starting five for the Wildcats, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible. This makes Eric Paschall the only notable addition to the team.  A Fordham transfer, he is the former 2014-15 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. He did practice with the team last year, thus is familiar with the system.

Despite the departed pieces of the current champs, Nova will have a successful season.  There is no reason that they should not win the regular season conference title. Even with all of the talent concentrated at places like Duke, Kentucky and Oregon, the Wildcats should be in the running for another NCAA title. At minimum they should make the Elite Eight. Anything other than that would be a let down.

Other Contenders

The Xavier Musketeers finished second in the preseason poll, right where they did in the 2015-16 standings. The Musketeers had an early exit from the NCAA Tournament due to Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig’s fall-away jumper in the second round. Chris Mack’s team loses two big bodies in Jalen Reynolds and James Farr, as well as former Indiana transfer Remy Abell.

Trevon Bluiett (5) and Edmund Sumner (4) are two of the best returnees in the Big East. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Trevon Bluiett (5) and Edmund Sumner (4) are two of the best returnees in the Big East. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

The team does return Big East preseason first teamers Edmund Sumner and Trevon Bluiett. The two were the leading scorers on the team in 2015-16. Bluiett showed improvements in several statistical categories including a seven percent increase from deep to 39.8%. Sumner is an excellent distributor and will lead the team at the one this year while still grabbing more than three boards per game. Another key returnee would be Myles Davis, however his status for the season is uncertain as he is under an indefinite suspension. The team did add three  four star recruits, as well as Florida A&M transfer Malcom Bernard who averaged 14.4 points and 7.0 rebounds along with 2.3 steals per game. Bernard could help the Musketeers on both ends of the floor in place of Abell.

Third in the poll are the Creighton Blue Jays who added Marcus Foster from Kansas State. After sitting out the 2015-16 season, Foster is ready to contribute. Foster would be on the receiving end of Maurice Watson Jr. The former transfer is a prolific creator for those around him. Watson Jr. led the Big East in assists last season after transferring from Boston.

With no notable recruits Foster, Watson Jr. and fellow returnee Cole Huff will be counted on to lead the team in 2016-17.  All three are transfers which have become a key part of Greg McDermott luring players to Omaha. Senior Isaiah Zierden will also play a key role.  He was among the teams leading scorers last year and his advanced stats show that he also had an impact on the defensive end.

Creighton Blue Jays Transfer Players
Player Former School
Maurice Watson Jr. Boston
Marcus Foster Kansas State
Cole Huff Nevada
Kaleb Joseph* Syracuse
*Not eligible for 2016-17 season.

Georgetown, Seton Hall and Butler are all possible contenders, but not likely to make much noise.  Seton Hall won the Big East tournament but lost Isaiah Whitehead early to the NBA. John Thompson’s Hoyas did not even crack the AP top 25 last season. Butler lost two program staples in Roosevelt Jones and Kellan Dunham to graduation.  Of these three, Butler had the most success last year, but also lost the most going into this season.

Off the Map

The Providence Friars were a power packed team in 2015-16. Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn left early for the NBA as they should have. Dunn was one of the most prolific point guards in the country as a junior. Bentil stepped up and led the team in scoring and rebounds.

With their exit, Providence loses nearly half of its 74 points per game. They will rely on Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright for their team identity.  The only other notable addition is four star recruit Alpha Diallo. Diallo possesses the ability to move the ball on the wing, but will need to improve his shot if he wishes to impact the Friars season. The degree of difficulty to replace two talents like Bentil and Dunn likely means a rebuilding year for Providence.

 

Why the AP Preseason Poll Deserves More Attention

The Associated Press’ NCAA Basketball Preseason Poll has a dual nature in that, it is both meaningful and not meaningful simultaneously. Every year the poll comes out creating a buzz about who should be higher and who should be lower. As with any preseason poll, power ranking or vote basis is complete speculation. So why should you care? Aside from bringing attention and excitement at the approaching season what does it provide us with? History shows that the AP Preseason Poll provides us with a gaze into the future and that we should give it significantly more attention.

Every year in the NCAA tournament brings with it new surprises, bigger upsets and more underdogs advancing. However, the trends found between the AP Preseason Poll and the NCAA Tournament can’t be ignored.

Despite Ben Simmons choosing LSU, the Tigers were the only team ranked in the preseason not to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of thebiglead.com)

To begin, a high volume of teams appearing in AP Preseason Poll make the NCAA tournament.  The 2015-16 season preached having no definitive power. Still, only one team in the preseason Top 25, LSU, did not make the Big Dance. Over the past ten years, an astounding 85 percent (214/250) of teams in the preseason poll make it to March Madness.  In addition, two teams counted against the percentage were Syracuse in 2014-15 and Connecticut in 2012-13.  Syracuse made a self-imposed ban so they became ineligible. UConn became ineligible due to Academic Progress Reports. Removing those two blemishes moves the 10-year average to 86 percent. Even the most inaccurate year, 2009-10, was still extremely predictable before the season began. Essentially, the Associated Press is able to make an educated guess about one-third of the NCAA field before the season begins.

Percentage of Teams in AP Preseason Poll to Make Tournament
Year Percentage
2015-16 96%  (24/25)
2014-15* 84% (21/25)
2013-14 92% (23/25)
2012-13^ 84% (21/25)
2011-12 84% (21/25)
2010-11 92% (23/25)
2009-10 72% (18/25)
2008-09 80% (20/25)
2007-08 92% (23/25)
2006-07 80% (20/25)
*=Syracuse self-imposed ban.
^=Uconn APR ban.

Not only do they predict who the teams who will be in the tournament well, but in general they are able to identify the very best teams in the tournament. At the end of the year, out of 350-plus teams, we watch four play in April. The majority of those teams are included on the AP’s radar.

Shaka Smart and the 2011 VCU Rams were one of the biggest surprises in the past decade. (Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com)

Over the past decade of basketball, an average of 90 percent of the Final Four has appeared in the poll. Only four teams in the decade were not in the poll, but made the Final Four. Two of them were the surprising runs of VCU and Wichita State to the Final Four in 2011. The poll of the 2007-08 preseason contains a nice surprise.  The top four teams in the poll are the four teams that made the Final Four. That was also the only year since tournament expansion that all four Number One seeds made the Final Four.

Moreover, 81 percent of the teams in the Elite Eight and 68 percent of teams in the Sweet 16 made appearances in the poll. Every year, of course, there are schools like Davidson that make a run. It is difficult to predict those runs during your bracket challenge in March, but the point is, the AP has their finger on the best teams in October.

Teams in Each Round that Appeared in AP Preseason Poll
Year Final Four Elite 8 Sweet 16
2015-16 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 75% (12/16)
2014-15 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2013-14 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2012-13 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2011-12 100% (4/4) 100% (8/8) 87% (14/16)
2010-11 50% (2/4) 62% (5/8) 62% (10/16)
2009-10 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2008-09 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 75% (12/16)
2007-08 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2006-07 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 62% (10/16)

Not only does the AP know about the best teams, but also about the best team. In the past decade, only three champions began the year outside the top ten. Only one began the year unranked. Having the champion ranked at the top spot twice shows that the writers have a deep insight. The average rank for the champion in the preseason, not including the unranked Huskies in 2011, is 5.7.

Preseason Ranking for Champion
Year Team Rank
2016 Villanova 11
2015 Duke 4
2014 Connecticut 18
2013 Louisville 2
2012 Kentucky 2
2011 Connecticut NR
2010 Duke 9
2009 North Caroilna 1
2008 Kansas 4
2007 Florida 1

While the Associated Press may not always rank the Final Four as the top four teams, this is still impressive. The AP shows the ability to weed out the teams not up to par before teams play their first game. This is weeks before teams have even scrimmaged or had an exhibition.

In the next month or so, the AP will release the 2016-17 Preseason Poll. This ranking should be given serious consideration. Remember that history proves this ranking to be quite informative.

 

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