NBA Draft picks by school

Which school is really putting out the most NBA talent?

This new draft class is full of high expectations and has been called the most stacked class since 2003. It is full of exciting players like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox. Most of these top picks all came from dominating schools with the exception of Fultz, who won just nine games at Washington last season.

Tatum is from Duke. Fox is from Kentucky. These schools have been putting out a lot of draft picks the last several drafts. Kentucky has had 26 players drafted since 2011. Duke has had 19. These schools put out a lot of prospects, but how are those prospects doing? Let’s take a closer look at how the players drafted from 2011-15 are doing.

I decided not to include the 2016 draft because those players have just experienced one season and still have a lot of work to do and potential to grow. The 2017 draft hasn’t played an NBA game yet. I started back in 2011 because those guys have all played six years and it creates a nice-sized pool of players to look at. Here is what I found.

Kentucky

Out of the 26 players drafted from 2011-15, only three of them have been successful. Those players are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker.

NBA Draft picks by school

Anthony Davis is dominating the NBA, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t exactly panned out as the No. 2 pick in the draft. (Photo from BoomsBeat)

Davis and Towns were both first overall picks while Booker was a 13th pick. Davis is known as one of the top players in the league today. In his five seasons with New Orleans, he has been selected to four All-Star games, two All-NBA teams and two All-Defensive teams. He has also averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over that stretch.

Towns has had a hot start to his career. The 2016 Rookie of the Year has averaged 21.7 points 11.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his first two seasons with the Timberwolves. Booker’s future is also looking bright as he averaged 22.1 points per game in his second season.

Players that just did not live up to the hype include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Julius Randle and James Young. For the amount of players they put in the draft and that one-and-done culture, you’d expect Kentucky to have more stars in the NBA.

Duke

Duke really only has Kyrie Irving and possibly Jabari Parker if it weren’t for his injuries. Irving was a No. 1 pick and Parker was a second pick.

Irving got to work right away in Cleveland, winning Rookie of the Year and hitting the game-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals to help the Cavs beat Golden State. He also has been named to four All-Star games and one All-NBA team while averaging 21.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

Parker played just 25 games during his rookie season, but bounced back his sophomore season with 76. He then only played in 51 games this past year. Injuries have bothered the 22-year-old forward.

When he has played, he has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He just finished his best season statistically with 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Hopefully for the Bucks, Parker does not become an injury prone and can help Giannis Antetokounmpo take the Bucks to a deep postseason run.

Notable Duke flops include Austin Rivers, Miles and Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler.

Kansas

Kansas always been a good basketball program and has put out two stars in the 2014 draft with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

NBA Draft picks by school

Andrew Wiggins has proven he can score in the NBA, but Joel Embiid is still trying to prove he can stay healthy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Wiggins is developing into a good scorer with the Timberwolves. He won 2015 Rookie of the Year and has also averaged 20.4 points per game over three seasons.

Embiid played great in the 31 games he was able to this past season. He didn’t get to play until this past year due to injuries and was again halted by an injury. If he can ever stay healthy, look out for this man.

Kansas has had other stars in the past like Thomas Robinson and Ben McLemore that did not pan out, but Kansas is not known as an NBA factory like Kentucky and Duke either.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels dominate college hoops, but haven’t put out a star in the NBA in years. Harrison Barnes is the best player they have put out between 2011-15. Barnes still has an empty NBA resume with the exception of his title he won with Golden State. However, this past season as a top offensive option in Dallas, he averaged 19.1 points and five rebounds per game.

Tony Bradley Jr. is the first one-and-done player the Tar Heels have put out in over a decade. Brandon Wright was the last player before Bradley and his NBA career was below average. Hopefully for the Jazz, Bradley’s career is more eventful than Wright’s.

Summary

Other stars from this draft period include Kemba Walker from UConn, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Jimmy Butler from Marquette and Isaiah Thomas from Washington. And that was just from 2011.

The point is just because all these schools like Duke and Kentucky are making noise with their recruiting doesn’t mean that will translate to NBA stardom. NBA talent comes from everywhere. Stars can come from little schools or big schools.

This statement may seem obvious, but the media can really make it look like Kentucky and Duke are the NCAA’s NBA factories. By the amount of draft picks, it surely looks like they should be. But when it comes to NBA talent, that is a different story.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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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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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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National Signing Day 2017: Big 12

The Big 12 was locked out of the College Football Playoff last season, but the way to get back is through recruiting. This page will be updated today for National Signing Day. Here are how the classes in the Big 12 are looking:

1. Oklahoma Sooners

Signees: 27, 5*: 0, 4*: 17, 3*: 10, Other: 0

The Sooners have leveraged all of their recent success to gain another great recruiting class. Corner back Justin Broiles enrolled early and could help a secondary that isn’t great. Athlete Ryan Jones Should also be able to create an impact early in his career. There will be more good signings for the Sooners throughout the day.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Justin Broiles (4*), RB Trey Sermon (4*)

2. Texas Longhorns

Commitments: 18, 5*: 0, 4*: 7, 3*:11, Other: 0

Texas has the second best class in the Big 12, but it is good, not great nationally. They will need to get some key signees to move up the ranks. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger impressed enough to be invited to the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp. Toneil Carter could see playing time at the wide receiver position early in his career. Tom Herman has a solid recruiting class to build off of.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Toneil Carter (4*), QB Sam Ehlinger (4*)

3. TCU Horned Frogs

Commitments: 19, 5*: 0, 4*: 6, 3*: 8, Other: 4

Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs were a trendy pick to win the Big 12 last season, but fell short. Fortunately TCU has some recruits to look forward to. Shawn Robinson is a good dual threat quarterback that should be a good fit for TCU’s offense. Jalen Raegor is an exciting wide receiver prospect, who can help recreate the high-powered offense that the Horned Frogs used to have.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Jalen Raegor (4*), OG Wes Harris (4*)

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Commitments: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 4, 3*: 15, Other: 2

Oklahoma State was a few games away from a College Football Playoff appearance. They have a solid recruiting class that should help them maintain their current level of success. Wide receivers Tylan Wallace and Shamond Greenwood are a pair of four star receivers that will catch passes next season. It is an offensive-loaded class for the Cowboys, so Mike Gundy will need to figure a way to outscore all of their opponents, because the defense needs work.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Tylan Wallace (4*), RB Chuba Hubbard (4*)

5. Baylor Bears

Commitments: 27, 5*: 0, 4*: 3, 3*: 24, Other: 0

Matt Rhule has done a fantastic job of turning nothing into something with this recruiting class. Wide receivers are the main coup for the Bears in this class. They have Trestan Ebner and R.J. Snead should both see the field at some point in their careers. Offensive line prospect Xavier Newman is one of the best interior linemen in the class.

Top Prospects Signed: WR R.J. Snead (4*), WR Trestan Ebner (4*)

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Commitments: 18, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*: 16, Other: 0

The Red Raiders are known for their offensive skill positions, but they have a class of good defensive players and offensive linemen. Offensive guard Jack Anderson is a top five guard in the class. Two JuCo corners in Octavious Morgan and Jaylon Lane are great finds for Texas Tech and can help out their bad defense.

Top Prospects Signed: OG Jack Anderson (4*), CB Octavious Morgan (4*)

7. Iowa State Cyclones

Signees: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*: 19, Other: 3

Iowa State targeted a lot of JuCo players for their class. Their class is headed by wide receivers Matthew Eaton and Joshua Johnson, who should have an impact soon after arriving to Aimes.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Matthew Eaton (4*), WR Joshua Johnson (4*)

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

Commitments: 21, 5*: 0, 4*:0, 3*: 20, Other: 1

Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have a talented recruiting class, but has a knack for findins diamonds in the rough. Kelby Wickline is an offensive tackle from JuCo who should get a chance to play. Wide receiver Reggie Roberson is their best skill position prospect.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Kelby Wickline (3*), WR Reggie Roberson (3*)

9. Kansas State Wildcats

Commitments: 19, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 14, Other: 5

Bill Snyder has lost his grasp on recruiting. The Wildcats have a couple of defensive ends leading the class in Anthony Payne and Wyatt Hubert. Safety Elijah Walker is a good JuCo safety prospect for the Wildcats. They will need to have some of these players outdo expectations.

Top Prospects Signed: DE Anthony Payne (3*), S Elijah Walker (3*)

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Commitments: 19, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 17, Other: 2

The Jayhawks are at the bottom of the Big 12 again. They, with some other struggling teams, have to target a lot of JuCo prospects. Quarterback Peyton Bender is a JuCo guy that they hope pans out. A lot of these three stars will need to be great to help Kansas hop out of the bottom of the Big 12.

Top Prospects: QB Peyton Bender (3*), RB Octavious Matthews (4*)

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Pac-12 Signing Day- Here

SEC Signing Day- Here

 

 

 

2016 Champions Classic: A Tale of Two Games

There were two completely different narratives for our top two teams in the nation on Tuesday. One team showed its prowess and already looks ready to compete at late-season form.  The other battered, bruised and war torn team showed some gutsy revival skills, but ultimately fell short.  What did we learn through the progression of these two games that we can take into the context of the whole season?

#2 Kentucky 69, #13 Michigan State 48

The Wildcats moved to 3-0, while Michigan State fell to 0-2 on the season with their first loss coming against Arizona on a last second shot in Hawaii.  The Spartans traveled a lot of miles this weekend to arrive at Madison Square Garden for the clash of titans and were slightly gassed.

The game went through a very frenetic pace through the first few minutes. There were a lot of looks in transition and fast break plays. The overall snapshot of the game really comes from when it was tied at 12 with 14:17 to go in the first half. That was the last tie of the game.

Malik Monk then hit his first of several threes. Monk shot with precision, hitting seven of 11 looks from behind the arc and finishing with 23 points. He hit four in the first half that helped the Wildcats establish and keep the lead. Bam Adebayo, one of the players to watch in this game, was also huge in helping the Cats control the glass and thus the game as a whole.

Wenyen Gabriel (left) with one of Kentucky's eight blocks. (Photo courtesy of kentucky.com)

Wenyen Gabriel (left) with one of Kentucky’s eight blocks. (Photo courtesy of kentucky.com)

The real story of this lead, however, was the suffocating defense of Kentucky. Kentucky showed amazing quickness on defense no matter the personnel on the floor. The Wildcats were beat a few times, but recovered very well. Their quickness will make them able to run with the best on defense. As a team, they had eight steals and forced 20 turnovers. They also had eight blocks. Some of these came in a one on one setting. Others came from players coming over to help. They utilized several defensive strategies including double teams and switches. This was definitely the biggest take-away for this team as it is the reason for the huge scoring gap.

The first half did end with the Spartans making up some ground. Tom Izzo’s team went on a 9-2 run and the lead was cut to four. However the half ended with momentum sputtering. Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe hit a last second layup in traffic for two of his 21. This late half inbound play was indicative of how the whole game had gone and would go.

The second half was full of more of the same which led to the anti-climactic ending. Michigan State really never put any pressure on Kentucky in the second chapter. This game was completely different from the other Champions Classic match-up.

One bright spot that Spartan fans can take away is Cassius Winston. He had only 2 assists in the game, but passed the ball effectively. There were several times where he found open players that were unable to convert. Also, Mile Bridges quietly had 12 rebounds. He had an underwhelming performance with nine turnovers and only six points, but it was his athleticism that scouts will be drooling over. He had a missed dunk in the game that he skied to the rim for. Bridges had a very freshman night but does not have freshman athleticism. Even thought the Spartans are 0-2 there is plenty to be hopeful about after a bit of roster overhaul.

Kentucky can take away from this game that they are the team to beat. Isaiah Briscoe improved his shooting tremendously. Through three games he is shooting 54.8% from the field and 75% from the charity stripe. He finished 2015-16 at a 46% clip from the free throw line. Even though it is early, this is great for the Wildcat offense. Still, it is the defense that should be the thing exciting fans.

#7 Kansas 77, #1 Duke 75

Duke came into the game leading the AP poll in votes, but were without their top three recruits from the 2016 class (Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden). Despite that they still expected to compete and win this contest. Kansas brought top player and freak athlete Josh Jackson to showcase his talent at the Champions Classic, and did he ever.

Grayson Allen (3) had a strange landing and left the game before returning to start the second half (photo courtesy of newsday.com)

Grayson Allen (3) had a strange landing and left the game before returning to start the second half (photo courtesy of newsday.com)

The game started with a weak offensive showing from Kansas.  They made only three of their first 11 field goals. After Duke took advantage of this and gained an early lead, Kansas went on a 10-1 run despite the heavy amount of fouling early in the game. Momentum shifted in Kansas’ direction especially after a scary landing that sent Duke guard Grayson Allen to the locker room for evaluation. Already having a quiet night, this did not do him nor Duke any favors.

The second half opened with more of the same for Kansas. Josh Jackson showed both the ability to get to the rim as well as shoot from mid range during a 19-6 run for the Jayhawks.  The game was noticeably in the control of Bill Self’s squad as Jackson scored seven straight points for his team.

Grayson Allen remained noticeably quiet during this time as he was during the whole game.  It was an off night for him only hitting on one of his seven attempts from deep, four of 15 overall. The tide began to turn as foul trouble set in late in the game. There were 48 total team fouls in this game and one very important one came in the first half when Josh Jackson was given a technical for slapping the ball out of Amile Jefferson’s hands. That cost Jackson a personal foul and was a big reason why he was disqualified from the game with 5:08 remaining. Kasnas was up 65-55 at the time but Duke had one last run in them.  They could have used his athleticism on both ends of the floor during the end of the game. Despite that Jackson still finished the game with 15 points.

Frank Mason III rises up to hit the eventual game winning shot. (Photo courtesy of kansascity.com)

Frank Mason III rises up to hit the eventual game winning shot. (Photo courtesy of kansascity.com)

Duke’s Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson each hit key shots down the stretch to bring Duke back within reach and eventually tie the game at 75 with under 20 seconds to go. Frank Mason III gave the blue Devils nightmares in the second half scoring 17 of his 21 in this second chapter. The 17 points after the break included yet another basket plus a foul, converting through contact which is something that he has shown a knack for so far this year. He has also been the unquestionable team leader, even in the loss to Indiana this past weekend. He had one final trick up his sleeve, hitting a pull up jumper to break the tie over Matt Jones with 1.8 seconds to go.  The Blue Devils had no timeouts left and a half-court heave fell short.

Both teams have plenty to take away from this game: Kansas found out that Frank Mason III is their go-to late-game guy. They got to see that Josh Jackson’s athletic ability sets him apart from the rest of the competition. They also got to see the type of domination they as a team can bring, especially with Udoka Azibuke in the game who grabbed 12 rebounds in just 15 minutes on the floor. The Jayhawks do need to improve from deep range and at the charity stripe. They hit only two of their 17 looks from downtown. the Jayhawks were 9/19 from the free throw line.

Duke saw what they have aside from Grayson Allen and their top recruits. Frank Jackson showed excellent poise late in the game and hit a huge three for the Blue Devils. Second year players Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter each displayed the progressions that they have made. Kennard made his own plays to put up 22 points as well as drove to open up the floor for others, nabbing five assists with five boards to boot. Jeter had quite a few hustle plays and finished with three blocks. The Blue Devils were drastically outplayed on the offensive boards 14-6. This will undoubtedly be a point of emphasis as second chance points and resets aided the Kansas offense in controlling the game.

Defensively each team has plenty of time and reason to improve.  Both teams switched to zone from time to time to shake things up. Each team had the athletes to shake the man-to-man defense from time to time. Dribble penetration was effective for both teams in creating open looks as defenders over-committed to help. Kansas was the winner on this level from a statistical base.  They forced 16 turnovers from Duke and controlled the glass.

 

Five Prospects To Watch At The 2016 Champions Classic

The Champions Classic is a two game event in its sixth year. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State are paired up and play each other on a rotating basis every year. The event is littered with NBA Draft prospects due to the caliber of teams competing. This year is no different and some of these players will hear their names called early in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Game One: Kentucky vs. Michigan State, 7 P.M.

1. Miles Bridges, G/F, Michigan State

(courtesy twitter.com)

(courtesy twitter.com)

Bridges got of to a stellar start in his college career in a big game against Arizona. He totaled 21 points, seven rebounds and and two assists. The scoring ability is apparent, but Bridges needs to work on a few facets of his game. He only hit one three on six attempts and had four turnovers to add insult to injury. Kentucky could throw a number of defenders at Bridges. If the Wildcats use Derek Willis to defend Bridges, he should be able to blow right by him and get to the rim. Kentucky goes small with three guards, so they may use Isaiah Briscoe to guard Bridges. He is a great on-ball defender. The advantage Bridges has here is his size. At 6’7″ he should be able to shoot over Briscoe or back him down in the post. Either way his match-up will be favorable.

2. Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky

It doesn’t take an NBA scout to see that Adebayo has one of the most NBA-ready bodies in the freshmen class. He has better size than Dwight Howard did when he entered his name into the NBA draft (Bam is 6’10” 260 pounds, Dwight was 6’10” 240 pounds). Adebayo could not really be list height or weight, but even if he isn’t, he is all muscle. He hasn’t had the best games so far, averaging 9.5 points and six rebounds per game. With Michigan State’s interior troubles (Gavin Schilling is injured and out), Adebayo should be able to show some good post moves and rebounding in this game.

3. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

(Courtesy chatsports.com)

(Courtesy chatsports.com)

The choice between Fox and Monk for the last prospect in this game was tough, but Fox has had the more impressive start so far. If he keeps up his current stat line of 16.5 points per game and 7.5 assists per game he will be an All-American. He has also helped out in the rebounding department with four rebounds per game. His main asset is his speed, but he will have a tough match-up against a few different defenders on Michigan State.

Game 2: Duke vs. Kansas 9:30 P.M.

4. Josh Jackson, G/F, Kansas

(photo courtesy kansascity.com)

(photo courtesy kansascity.com)

Jackson is the best wing player in the freshmen class. He has the chance to be an elite defender. Getting to the rim is one of his strengths, but much like Bridges he needs to show he has a consistent outside shot to keep defenders honest. He only had nine points in Kansas’ first game Duke will likely put Matt Jones, their best on-ball wing defender, on Jackson. It won’t be an easy task, but if Jackson can succeed it would be impressive.

5. Grayson Allen, G, Duke

Duke will likely be without Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, but they still have a lot of talented players to choose from. Allen is now a junior and has turned into a good college player, but still could improve his draft stock. He can play both point and shooting guard, which is increasingly important as the NBA moves to players who are more versatile. His shooting stroke is pure and he can drive really well (averaging over 20 points for the second consecutive year), but he has a few areas of his game he needs to improve. Those include cutting down on turnovers, making players around him better (roughly has a three to two assist to turnover ratio) and defense. There have been players drafted high in the NBA Draft with more problems than Allen.

 

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Big 12 Landscape Becoming Apparent for 2016-17

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

Kansas Will Win the Regular Season Title…Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCU Will Make the 2017 NCAA Tournament

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma, Texas Will Experience Rebuilding Year

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Stay or Go: Why Melo Trimble Should Remain at Maryland

There are many players testing draft waters at the moment, but Melo Trimble is an excellent case study.  Maryland was a team that started off hot, at 15-1, but they finished the regular season losing five of their last eight.  They did make it to the Sweet Sixteen, only to be subdued by the Kansas Jayhawks, the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

With the season over, the choice of NBA or NCAA looms for Melo and other players that are not sure first round picks.  Many players will make this decision based on the money aspect, but I do believe that Trimble could improve his odds of ending up on a team if he stays in school.  A year of improvement would likely make him more desirable to a team and give him more of a chance to sign a big contract.  Another legitimate counter argument would be the possibility of injury.  However, we have seen star players have devastating injuries (Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel) and still be drafted early.  Trimble has the capacity to excel to be that caliber of a player.  This past year did not do well for his future in the NBA.

Trimble was a top 100 recruit but could use another year before leaving for the NBA. (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Tribune.)

Trimble’s numbers were vastly affected by the roster changes.  Most notably were the additions of Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon and star recruit Diamond Stone.  Due to these alterations, many players, including Trimble, saw a decrease in their numbers as an effect of the extra offensive options.  Jake Layman saw statistical drops in several categories, however, his shooting percentage improved while his turnover margin and rebounding averages remained similar.

This type of trend did not manifest itself  in Melo Trimble’s game.  In fact, Trimble had a ten percent decrease in three point percentage and a three percent drop in overall field goal percentage.  As a freshamn, he averaged 16.2 points per game, shot 41% from three point range and 41% from the field.  This years averages were, 14.8 points per game,  31% from deep, and a 41% overall shooting mark.  Diamond Stone took away some of his easier looks inside and caused an increase in jumpers, but the extra options should have meant more open shots because team defenses had more players to concentrate on than just the sophomore point guard.  Trimble did have a large bump in assist per game, almost two more per game, but it does not appear that he had significant growth in his overall game.

A junior campaign with the Terrapins would solidify him as a first round draft pick.  With Diamond Stone hiring an agent, he is now unable to return to school.  This could affect Trimble with the lack of an excellent high pick and roll option.  However, with Sulaimon graduating, that should allow Trimble to touch the ball more and cause his numbers to increase next season.  With Jacob Layman leaving as well, it will be up to Robert Carter, Trimble, and Damonte Dodd to become the most polished offensive options and the go-to players on the team.

Melo Trimble and Damonte Dodd could be an excellent duo for the Terrapins in 2016-2017. (Photo courtesy of 247 Sports.)

Dodd and Carter will need to work well with Trimble due to the fact that, with the exits of big-men Layman and Stone, they are the best legitimate options in the post.  Mark Turgeon and Maryland have no star recruits in the Forward or Center department.  They do have a new option at point guard in freshman Anthony Cowan.  This would likely take some pressure off of Trimble and allow him to play a bit off the ball as a two guard, but he would still do majority of the ball handling and receive most of the minutes.  Recruit Kevin Huerter, a knock down shooter, will likely space the floor and give Trimble an option to rack up assists.

If Trimble decides to return, this is his team.  He is in control of it, but that also means that he would take much of the blame if they are unsuccessful.  Overall, it is highly probable that his averages would increase.  He has proven himself to be a shooter, and those averages would likely return to that of his first year at Maryland, planting him as a sure mid first round pick or better.

Trimble’s lack of hiring an agent at this point, unlike Stone, means that he is mulling this over and aware of the benefits to both sides.  As he sees himself mostly placed in the early second round in mock drafts, he will return.  He would need to have a very good showing at the NBA Combine  to drastically affect that.  I see Trimble as a returnee, which would be a big win for the fans in College Park.

 

Who Will Make the Final Four?

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

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

  1. Kansas Jayhawks

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

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

2. Oklahoma Sooners

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

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

3. North Carolina Tarheels

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

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

4. Utah Utes

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