2017 Dream Team: The Biggest Awards in College Basketball

Now that the 2016-17 college season has officially ended, it’s time to hand out the awards. ESPN had their annual College Basketball Hoophall Awards Night this past Friday, and here is who came out on top. All of these awards make up an unofficial dream team, if you will.

John R. Wooden Award

This award goes to college basketball’s most outstanding player, which happened to be Frank Mason III of Kansas. It isn’t by happenstance that he received this prestigious award.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Frank Mason III of Kansas wins the John R. Wooden Award (Photo Courtesy of AndoverLeader.com)

He wasn’t too elated about this achievement, which is understandable given the circumstances. He isn’t the player to be prideful about his individual success, but rather team success. Given that his team didn’t make it to the championship game, he said, “I know right now it probably sounds crazy, but it doesn’t mean much to me right now.”

In other words, his team comes before him, which is shown in his response to the award. Some people might be maddened by his “ungratefulness,” but in actuality, his perspective is purely that of a good leader and teammate.

The award is still well deserved considering his statistics for the season. Mason finished his senior year averaging 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is versatile and shoots well from the outside. His clip is 47.1 percent from the arc and 49 percent from the floor. He led the Jayhawks to many key victories in the Big 12.

Scouts are concerned about his 5-foot-11 height. However, he is one of the deadliest shooters in the college game. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in the draft.

Julius Erving Award

This next award goes to the top small forward in the game, which was Josh Hart of Villanova. Hart was also named Big East Player of the Year for his outstanding play.

Senior Josh Hart of Villanova (Photo Courtesy of SI.com)

The senior averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 33.2 minutes per game for the Wildcats. He shot 51 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point land. He is no doubt an efficient scorer and shows defensive toughness.

His years as a Wildcat have groomed him to be a presence in the NBA. He has worked his way up each year. He was named to the Big East All-Freshman team in 2014. Hart was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore. He helped lead his team to a National Championship during his junior year, which prepared him for a stellar senior season.

Although Villanova didn’t make a deep tournament run, they had a very successful season. Hart will likely be somewhere between the 20th-30th draft pick range. Some have speculated that the Portland Trailblazers will pick him up.

Jerry West Award

Malik Monk is a scoring machine. It’s no wonder he earned the top shooting guard award on Friday. The Kentucky guard was nothing short of incredible this year.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Malik Monk throws down a dunk for Kentucky (Photo Courtesy of thebiglead.com)

Jerry West himself was one of the great guards in his day. He played for West Virginia and led his team to a National Championship. His nicknames include “Mr. Clutch” and “Mr. Outside” for his clutch shooting capabilities and overall strength on the perimeter. Monk definitely fits the bill.

His scoring capabilities allowed him to have four games with 30 or more points, including 47 against North Carolina. He averaged 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Coach Calipari had great things to say about the freshman.

“With Malik you’re talking about a superior athlete with skills and an ability to score that make him truly unique,” Calipari said. “What I love about Malik is that, as the season went on, he learned how to help our team win by doing more than just score. He became an efficient player who I believe will make an immediate impact at the next level.”

Monk earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors as well and declared for the draft just last week. He is predicted to be a top five overall draft pick this year.

Karl Malone Award

The Karl Malone award went to none other than Johnathan Motley of Baylor University as the nation’s top power forward.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Johnathan Motley of Baylor University (Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Motley’s statistics this season were quite impressive. He averaged 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In their most recent Sweet 16 loss, he added 18 points and nine rebounds.

The junior has two things going for him. He is a great offensive rebounder with his length and athleticism. He also protects the basket very well, especially in Baylor’s 2-3 defense. Motley also has outstanding foot speed for his 6-foot-9, 230 pound frame.

Yesterday he declared for the NBA draft, but also will not be hiring an agent. He is expected to go in the top 40.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award

The fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski was named the top center of the year. The Polish big man is a prowess in the post. He stands 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, which is hard to guard. He also has great court vision and has an advantage on anyone in the college game because of his size.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Przemek Karnowski of Gonzaga (Photo Courtesy of newsday.com)

His statistics this year were respectable. He averaged 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The Bulldogs went to him down the stretch in close games for his ability to make strong back-to-the-basket moves.

When asked about the award, Karnowski said, “It means a lot… all the hard work I put in throughout my whole life in basketball is paying off and I’m really happy about it.”

As far as the draft goes, many scouts aren’t truly worried about his basketball abilities. They are worried about his back. Karnowski missed a good chunk of his junior season due to bulging discs in his back, which could be a problem in the future.

All of these players are well-deserving of their awards after some impressive seasons. All are looking ahead to the draft and it will be fun to see where they end up.

 

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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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Way-Too-Early Top 10 For the 2017-18 Season

The 2016-17 season is officially over after what turned out to be a different season from what most people thought. However, isn’t that always the case?

We expected Duke to rein supreme yet again last year with one of the most talented rosters we had ever seen. They were ESPN’s number one ranked team in the way-too-early top 25 without question. College basketball proved for the millionth time that what is expected to happen never happens.

With seven months until the start of the 2017-18 season, we take a swipe at the way-too-early top 10 for next season.

1. Kentucky Wildcats 

You know the drill. We’ve seen this before. Kentucky’s freshmen stars are going off to the NBA (De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo) and being replaced with another bunch of talented studs. The Wildcats have the number one ranked recruiting class in the country yet again, bringing in five ESPN top 100 recruits. They also will have redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo.

Even if these new guys don’t turn out to have the same star power as the players they’re replacing, Kentucky has players like Isaiah Briscoe (if he returns), Wenyen Gabriel and Isaac Humphries who could only step into bigger roles.

There’s no reason coach John Calipari and the Wildcats won’t be national title contender with a stacked incoming class and key returning players.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels 

College Basketball

UNC guard Joel Berry II drives in a game earlier this year (Photo/ Google images)

The Tar Heels are losing a significant amount of players, but hold on for a second. They are losing Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt and most likely ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. However, they’re still UNC.

Many believe Joel Berry II will come back as well as forward Tony Bradley, who is one of the best rebounders in the country. If that’s the case, the Tar Heels would be poised for another late tournament run.

They will also have Elite Eight hero Luke Maye and freshman five-star shooting guard Jalek Felton. Both could have a significant impact on their success.

There are a lot of ifs, but as we’ve seen, Roy Williams can do magical things with ifs.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

Besides losing seniors Tarik Phillip and Nathan Adrian, press Virginia is back. Guard Jevon Carter will take another offensive leading role, while forcing steals on defense. Forwards Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon will be crashing the boards and running the floor both defensively and offensively.

With a Kansas team that will lose a lot of key players, could this be the year Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers take the regular season Big 12 title away from Kansas? It could be.

4. Louisville Cardinals

College Basketball

Louisville forward Jaylen Johnson celebrates their victory over Kentucky earlier this year (Photo/ Adam Creech)

Don’t be fooled by the Cardinals short stay in both the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. They are a prime defensive team and will gain three incoming freshmen from the ESPN top 100 and maintain almost the entire previous group.

 

With the exception of Mangok Mathiang, who is a senior, and Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel, who could leave for the NBA, Louisville is still poised to have another great season in 2017-18. If Mitchell and Adel stay, Louisville will be in a good place.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs 

Enough is enough, Gonzaga is for real. The nation’s top defensive team will look to replace fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski. The Bulldogs will hopefully look no further than Zach Collins, who could potentially leave for the NBA.

If Collins does return along with Wooden Award finalist Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga will be extremely good. Josh Perkins, Johnathan Williams, Killian Tillie and Silas Melson also all return to make a dangerous Bulldog team out for redemption.

6. Wichita State Shockers

The Shockers finished 31-5 and managed to jump all the way up to 15th in the BPI. It looks like they’re just getting started.

After they were given a 10 seed in the tournament, which many believed was highway robbery, the Shockers lost to Kentucky by one bucket in the round of 32. Don’t let that fool you.

Landry Shamet, who could possibly be the most underrated point guard in the country, along side sharp shooter Conner Frankamp, could take the team on another tournament run. This time they won’t be considered a Cinderella.

7. Florida Gators

College Basketball

Florida guard Chris Chiozza hits a game winning shot in Florida’s Sweet 16 victory over Wisconsin (Photo/ Courtney Culbreath)

The Gators are returning one of the best, if not the best, backcourt in the country in KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza. They will look to top their Elite Eight appearance from this year.

Most of the core crew is still intact. They will add a top 10 recruiting class as well as two transfers.

The Gators are dangerous. This could have already been one of the nation’s best teams. With the addition of the incoming freshmen and transfers, they are only getting better. Third-year head coach Mike White doesn’t seem too fazed after following Billy Donovan and the greatest era in Florida basketball.

8. Villanova Wildcats 

Villanova will wave goodbye to a class that helped lift the Wildcats out of their slump in the 2010s, including Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Granted, these two are of major importance and have been throughout their years at Villanova.

However, the Wildcats have an ongoing star guard in Jalen Brunson. They also have Donte DiVincenzo, who improved his numbers immensely from his previous year, and looks to improve them next year as well.

Jay Wright’s team is resilient. What many might believe to be somewhat of a rebuilding year could be another year in the limelight.

9. Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks will lose a lot of players, including national player of the year Frank Mason III and potential top five pick Josh Jackson. That gives room for guard Devonte’ Graham to flourish in an even bigger role.

The Jayhawks return sharp shooter Sviatoslav Mykhailuik on the wing and add top prospects Billy Preston and Udoka Azubuike. They will also add Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, who was one of the top point guards in his class two years ago. Whatever happens, we all know one thing: Kansas will be good. They’re always good.

10. Duke Blue Devils

College Basketball

Duke big man Marques Bolden looks to be the new face of the Blue Devils down low after losing Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson (Photo/ Streeter Lecka)

It won’t be all doom and gloom for the Blue Devils next season. They’re still Duke. However, the Blue Devils are going to lose a lot of players starting with Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles, who were their two top prospects from last year. They will also lose senior captains Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, who have been a source of stability over the past four years.

The Blue Devils do have some top prospects coming in, including Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. There also rests the possibility of both Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard coming back for another year.

If they both chose to leave, the Blue Devils’ starting line up will most likely have no one older than a sophomore. Either way, don’t ever count out the Blue Devils.

 

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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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“From Our Haus to Yours”

The Best Player in College Basketball: Josh Hart

Every year one player in college basketball sticks out above the rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best NBA draft prospect, but this player is dominating the college game. Last year it was Buddy Hield who stole the show. This season the best player in college basketball is Josh Hart, the guard from Villanova.

Hart was a very important component of the 2016 National Champion Villanova Wildcats, but has elevated his game this season. He has led Villanova to a 26-3 record and kept them in position to get a number one seed on Selection Sunday. If the Wildcats are able to go far in the NCAA Tournament again, it will be because of Hart’s play.

Offense

 

Josh Hart

Josh Hart (vuhoops.com)

Overall, Hart does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. Offensively he is best known for his scoring. With an average of 18.7 points per game, Hart leads his team in scoring, but does so efficiently. He is shooting 50% from the floor including 40% from behind the arc. Because of his ability to be strong while driving to the basket, and his ability to shoot from the outside, Hart can’t be completely shut down, as he has yet to score under 10 points in any game this season.

Passing is an underrated aspect of Hart’s game. He doesn’t play point guard, but he does a great job of setting up teammates for open shots. His 3.2 assists per game are very impressive for an off-ball guard. He does however, have a tendency to handle the ball well and calm the team down. Hart only turns over the ball 1.9 times a game, which is minimal in comparison to how many plays he makes.

Defense

 

Josh Hart

Josh Hart and Jay Wright (cbssports.com)

Defensively, Hart doesn’t back down from anyone. His length helps him defend well against other guards. He averages 1.5 steals per game, which is just one facet of his good defense. The most telling sign of his good defense is his defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions). His defensive rating ins 95.7. For a point of reference Kansas guard, Devonte’ Graham, who is known as a defensive stopper has a defensive rating of 103.5. Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox has been compared to a lot of great defensive guards, but his rating, 96, isn’t as good as Hart’s.

 

Clutch

So Hart’s all-around game makes him an elite player, but what makes him the best player in college basketball is his ability to step up in Villanova’s biggest games. Hart scored 24 at Purdue early in the season, 37 against Notre Dame and 30 against Wake Forest. With those type of games against good competition you can count on Hart to deliver when his team needs him the most.

Hart is the biggest reason as to why Villanova has already had a great season and will be the reason that the Wildcats will have another successful March.

 

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Who Will Stop Villanova?

It is no secret that Villanova is the number one ranked team in the country and rightfully so. The Wildcats are 14-0 overall and 2-0 in Big East play. They have a full head of steam heading into conference play. Who will be the one to beat them?

What makes Villanova Tick

They have confidence, plain and simple. We are talking about the reigning national champions. They haven’t lost a game since March 12, 2016 when they lost to Seton Hall by two points in the conference tournament. Winning has become the name of the game for Villanova. Jalen Brunson is coming off the best game of his career. He had 27 points against Creighton on Saturday while playing in front of the third-largest crowd the CenturyLink Center has ever seen.

Sophomore Jalen Brunson of Villanova (Getty Images)

Villanova has the three things that any team needs to succeed. They have experience, leadership, and the ability to finish. As mentioned in my past article, A Blue Christmasthe Wildcats are led by two seniors that know what it takes to finish a game.

Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart have consistently contributed good numbers, especially this weekend against Creighton when they got themselves out of a 10-point deficit. Jenkins scored 21 points and Hart added 18 points against the Bluejays.

In addition, Darryl Reynolds was a solid player last season and he continues to be a strong senior presence. Together, these seniors provide the leadership that this teams needs.

Let us not forget about head coach Jay Wright, who simply said “bang” when Jenkins hit the game-winning shot to win the national title last year. Calm, cool, and collected define Wright’s coaching style. He has 30 years of experience in college basketball. Kentucky offered him a job in 2009, which he turned down. Needless to say, he knows what he is doing and the players respond to him.

The Wildcats run a four-out one-in offense that utilizes all of their offensive weapons to the best of their ability. Coach Wright stresses team basketball. The Wildcats use a lot of high ball screens from Reynolds and sophomore Eric Paschall so Hart and Jenkins can create off the separation from their defenders. This has given a lot of teams trouble and allowed for a lot of open jumpers for the Wildcats.

Sophomores Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges cannot be neglected either. Brunson had a big game on Saturday as previously mentioned which has been a trend this season. He is shooting 43.8 percent from behind the arc. He also has the ability to put it on the hardwood and get to the rack.  Bridges is shooting 59.1 percent from the field and pulling down about 5.1 rebounds per game.

Does Butler have what it takes?

Butler has a decent shot. The Bulldogs have a few things working in their favor. They have the home court advantage, which is often overlooked. Hinkle Fieldhouse is a smaller arena that supports 9,100 fans that are nothing other than loud to say the least. Butler is also relatively even in all of the statistical categories. Villanova averages 79.9 points per game, 14.4 assists per game, and shoots 50.4 percent from the field. Butler is averaging 78 points per game, 14.7 assists per game, and shoots 49.2 percent from the field. However, statistical data only goes so far.

Kelan Martin of Butler University (Indianapolis Star)

The Bulldogs are going to have to pull out all the stops. Junior Kelan Martin will need to put up at least his average of 18.1 points per game. The following highest scorers are Andrew Chrabascz with 11.9, Tyler Wideman with 9.1, and Avery Woodson with 8.4.

All of these players will need to step up because the focus will be on stopping Martin from adding big numbers. Senior Tyler Lewis will be a large factor, based on his sheer ability to create for his teammates. Lewis is averaging 4.8 assists per game and has the senior experience with big time games like this one.

If the Bulldogs cannot get the job done, who is next in line? The fact is, the Big East Conference will not give the Wildcats any breaks. Villanova will take on Marquette on Saturday at home. The Golden Eagles are coming off a loss to Seton Hall by a margin of three points. They will be hungry for a win.

The Wildcats passed the test of winning at Creighton, but now they look ahead to Butler. The Bulldogs have been known for their upsets (recall Indiana in the 2012 Crossroads Classic). If the Wildcats can come out on top of the week at 16-0, it is no doubt that they are made for March. I know it is only January, but bring on the madness!

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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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A Blue Christmas: College Basketball is Being Dominated by Teams in Blue

We all know how the lyrics to Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas go: “I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you, I’ll be so blue thinking about you.” After watching a thriller this weekend between two of the top blue teams in the nation, how could one not be thinking about the game between North Carolina and Kentucky? If we are discussing true blue, Duke is definitely in the conversation as well, and let us not forget about Villanova, the #1 team in the nation.

Kentucky Wildcats

Malik Monk takes on Kenny Williams III (review journal.com

Malik Monk takes on Kenny Williams III (review journal.com

Let’s start with the Kentucky Wildcats. There is one name we all need to be concerned with: Malik Monk. If you have not heard, he put up 47 points for the Wildcats with a 64% field goal percentage on the night. He made his final three-pointer to win the game against Coach Calipari’s wishes, who wanted Monk to drive on the last play. He shot it anyway, and Kentucky came away with the win. How is that for some freshman guts?

However, Monk is not the only talent that deserves recognition. De’Aaron Fox added 24 points on Saturday and he is averaging 15.9 PPG on the season. Isaiah Briscoe also added 10 points and Edrice Adebayo contributed 13 points before fouling out.

Kentucky is 10-1 on the season and still has a lot to prove. This is only their second win against a ranked team this year. They beat #13 Michigan State (who is no longer ranked) early on in November and lost to UCLA by 5 points who is led by standout Freshman Lonzo Ball. This is a key win on their resume as they head into conference play in January.

On Wednesday, the Wildcats will take on Louisville which will be another test of their abilities. Kentucky has won the last three in the series against the Cardinals, but the great part about basketball is that anyone can be beaten on any given day.

North Carolina Tar heels

North Carolina's Joel Berry II (goblueridge.net)

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (goblueridge.net)

Now for the North Carolina Tar Heels, who were equally as impressive, but came up short. Joel Berry II was one point shy of a career high with 23 points. Josh Jackson put up a staggering 34 points and Kennedy Meeks also added 12 points. UNC played a great game, despite the outcome.

The name of the game was free throws and foul trouble. Berry and Meeks fouled out, and the Tar Heels missed seven free throws overall, which would have been the game right there. This is not a large worry for the Tar Heels though. Joel Berry II is just coming back from an ankle injury and they still had good production from their bench (Tony Bradley and Luke Maye added a combined 19 points).

Kentucky’s bench only had five points to add. It also could have been a very different outcome if Kenny Williams’ last second three-pointer hadn’t missed the mark.

This game was March Madness material, so one can only wonder what March will bring and if Malik Monk will be able to create similar performances in the games to come. Joel Berry II will hopefully continue to impress and Josh Jackson has been nothing short of thrilling. I know I will be counting down the days until February 9th when the Tar Heels take on Duke, another top team in blue.

Duke Blue Devils

Our third team up for discussion, the Duke Blue Devils, are 10-1 and the ACC is not going to be a walk in the park this year. Duke will have to take on Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame and of course North Carolina before they can talk about dancing on the big stage come March. Luckily, the combination of Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson has been sufficient to top Michigan State, Florida and Rhode Island early on. They also have Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Matt Jones who are making an impact, and are some names to definitely keep in mind.

I am reminded that the color blue often symbolizes depth and stability. The Blue Devils embody these characteristics and Coach Mike Krzyzewski brings in some of top recruiting classes each year. The point is, Duke is consistently above average and sports fans can look for that to continue this season as well. They are firing on all cylinders and they have depth that should logistically carry them far into the NCAA tournament.

Villanova Wildcats

Josh Hart of Villanova (fox sports.com)

Josh Hart of Villanova (fox sports.com)

This article would not be complete without mentioning the top-ranked team in the nation, Villanova. They sit at 11-0 and one man is doing most of the dirty work. They are led by Senior, Josh Hart who is averaging 20.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.7 APG while shooting 45.3% from behind the arc. Hart is aided by senior Kris Jenkins who is averaging 13.4 PPG and sophomores Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are contributing good numbers as well.

Recall Jenkins is the player who hit the game winning shot against UNC last year to win the National Championship game. Needless to say, these Wildcats have talent and the experience. They also have key wins over Temple and Notre Dame that will only add to their resume when discussing bracketology.

As we approach Christmas, these teams in blue have gotten our attention and will continue to be all the talk leading up to March. It would be a very “blue” Christmas without these teams putting on the performance that they have in preseason matches.

And with that, Merry Christmas to all my fellow college basketball fans, and happy holidays!

 

 

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Who Should Be Considered For The Postseason AP All-American Teams?

There is a lot of talent dispersed throughout the NCAA this year. Knowing that, it is difficult to call anyone a “snub” for not making the AP Preseason All-American team. The guys that did not make it are simply non-selections.  Composed of Grayson Allen, Ivan Rabb, Josh Hart, Monte Morris and Dillon Brooks there is not much room to debate the merit of these picks. There are still plenty of players out there that could be All-Americans by season’s end.  The AP will name a 2nd and 3rd team at the end of the year leaving space for ten more players.  So who will make those teams? Which players have the possibility of slipping into the first team, replacing one of the current five?

London Perrantes, Virginia, (G)

London Perrantes is a very complete ball player.  He is the perfect guy to be at the helm for Tony Bennett’s Cavalier squad. Perrantes is the only returning double digit scorer from the 2015-16 Elite Eight team. While there were notable losses, Austin Nichols is an excellent gain. He provides some scoring while being the defensive specialist that is key to Bennett’s teams. He was 6th in the AAC in defensive rating in 2014-15 before sitting out last season as a transfer.

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Nichols and the rest of the Cavalier roster is full of talented rebounders and defenders meaning that yet again they will only need to score 65 points to win a game. Perrantes went from 6.4 points per game to 11.0 in 2015-16. Additionally his PER escalated from 12.3 in his first two seasons to 18.2, so he can be quite efficient. Without any other returning elite scorers there should be another jump in the scoring element of his game. That is not all that Perrantes does for his team, however. He also provides 4.4 assists per game coupled with 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and a three point average of nearly 49%. Between his efficiency, magnitude of importance on his team and his all-around ability the senior is a lock for a great season.

Melo Trimble, Maryland (G)

Melo Trimble is Coach Mark Turgeon’s guy this year.  The junior is the one saving grace from the mass exodus of Terp talent. He needs to prove that he has NBA ability so it behooved him to remain at school. Trimble’s numbers dropped across the board. Especially prevalent was a 10% decrease in his three point shooting mark from 41% to 31%. This is just a pure lack of precision but his overall field goal percentage dropped as well. Some of that can be attributed to the additional talent on the team inside meaning some of his easy baskets were taken away in favor of Diamond Stone. However his usage percentage was nearly identical to his freshman mark of 25%, but his win shares dropped, mirroring the drop in efficiency seen across the board.

This year, he is the big man on campus and must show that he is worthy of a first round pick. That is exactly why he should be on the All-American watch list: that is what his team needs him to be. He can accomplish this by creating shots for himself, actually hitting those shots that he creates and by assisting others in opportunities for scoring. The Terrapins have a five player freshman class coming in including marksman Kevin Huerter. Huerter’s deep threat should open up the spacing on the floor for Trimble to create for himself or he can run some pick-and-roll in a two man game with Damonte Dodd. Trimble was good last year, but with improved efficiency he can catapult himself into the All-American race.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (F)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

The Clemson Tigers did not experience much roster change this offseason. The three leading scorers and three of the top four rebounders are returning. As it so happens, Jaron Blossomgame led the team in both categories and was rumored to skip his senior season to go pro.

At 18.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds (which was actually a lower number than previous years), Blossomgame was statistically near the top of the ACC in several categories. He was third in the conference in scoring, shooting 51% from the field, he hit a 27.1 PER, good for second in the conference, showing his ability to be efficient with his touches.

Blossomgame finished the year with 5.6 win shares in the 31 games that Clemson played. His presence is critical to his team and will be the deciding factor in Clemson’s season. Blossomgame’s talent will shine through and put him on a fast track to cracking the All-American team.

Moses Kingsley, Arkansas (F)

The senior tripled his minutes for the Razorbacks last year. Simply put: he filled the stat sheet. Nearly averaging a double-double with 15.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds, Kingsley showed a multi-faceted attack. He also tacked on a steal and an assist per game. He was third in the SEC in PER with a whopping 27.4 in 2015-16.

Despite all the offensive numbers, Kingsley actually is also statistically efficient on the defensive end. He rebounded on 23.3% of the opportunities he had on defense which was good enough to be third in the conference. Kingsley also was fourth in the SEC in defensive box plus minus and eighth in defensive rating, allowing 97.1 points per 100 possessions. It is also no small detail that his 76 blocks were good enough for second in the conference.

As a junior, his program asked him to step up and he did just that. This year should be no exception for the stat-stuffer.

Freshman Candidates

An interesting factor this year is age. Even with a very talented freshman class, there are still plenty of players that made the decision to remain at school. Despite the overwhelming amount of talented upperclassmen, the freshman star power cannot be ignored. In past years, the end of season team has featured freshman. 2015-16 saw only Ben Simmons (2nd) and Jamal Murray (3rd). The AP selected two freshman, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, to the first team in 2014-15. Karl Anthony-Towns earned second team honors. Since 2006-07 a freshman has made either the AP voted a freshman to either the first or second team. Between their prevalence in the past and the depth of this class we really should consider them as a legitimate threat to overtake the upperclassmen on these lists.

There is a plethora of guys that could make this list: Josh Jackson is the best player in the class in the eyes of some and a freak athlete. Lonzo Ball is a prolific passer and can score the ball well. Harry Giles Jr., if healthy, could put up both scoring and rebounding numbers. D’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are both freakish athletes for Kentucky. Markelle Fultz is a player that seems to be moving up scouts and analysts draft boards. He is a good lead ball-handler and can create his own shot. Fultz is an NBA talent and will likely be one of the best players in college, undoubtedly considered for the All-American team.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

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.

 

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