NBA prospects to watch in the 2017 Champions Classic

The Champions Classic is loaded with NBA talent every year because of the level of teams in the event. Every year Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State get together to play in an early season event to signify to everyone that basketball is back. Here are the top NBA prospects to watch in the 2017 Champions Classic:

Duke Prospects

Marvin Bagley, PF, Fr.

NBA prospects in the champions Classic

Marvin Bagley (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

Bagley is a generational talent that will likely be in the running to be the number one overall pick. He can do a little bit of everything and is leading Duke in scoring. He is averaging 24.5 points and 10 rebounds per game on the young season. One thing he can work on is his passing, as he continually will not find the open man and will rather put up heavily contested shots. The good thing for him is that he is good enough to make most of his shots, 65.7%, even when being double teamed.

Projected draft range: Top three pick

Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Fr.

Carter is only averaging 10 points and 6.5 rebounds, but there is so much talent on the Duke roster that stats aren’t the deciding factor for being a great prospect. He has been the rim protector for the Blue Devils so far with six blocks in two games. Carter was the fifth ranked prospect in the 2017 class according to ESPN.

Projected draft range: Top 10 pick

Trevon Duval, PG, Fr.

The number one point guard in the recruiting class was Trevon Duval. He is averaging a double-double in the first two games with points and assists. He averages 11.5 points and 10 assists per game. Duval has shown the ability to drive and score or dish the ball out, but needs to show he can knock down outside shots in order to keep defenses honest.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Gary Trent, SG, Fr.

Trent can be an x-factor for this Duke team this season. He is a good wing player, that with his outside shooting, can take some pressure off of Bagley. In the first two games he has already made seven threes on 13 attempts. His length can make him a good defender, but he will be tested by Michigan State on the defensive end.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Grayson Allen, SG, Sr.

Yes, Allen is still considered to be drafted in the NBA Draft. He gets a lot of criticism due to his attitude problems, but he is a solid player that has learned how to best play in his role every year at Duke. He is the second leading scorer so far, averaging 20 points a game. He has been the Blue Devils’ best shooter so far this season and, like Trent, can take pressure off of other players by knocking down shots. He has made 10 three pointers in 15 attempts.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round pick

Michigan State Prospects

Miles Bridges, SF, So.

Nba draft prospects in the champions classic

Miles Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Bridges surprised a lot of people by deciding to return to school after a great freshman season. He does everything for Michigan State from scoring to rebounding. His athleticism is crazy, and it can be seen in some of his highlight reel dunks. If he can knock down outside shots and limit turnovers, he is a complete player. Bridges will be one of the best college players this season and will get consideration for Player of the Year to go along with being considered a top prospect.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Fr.

The Spartans have a lot of good inside players this season, but Jackson got the starting nod in Michigan State’s season opener. He had 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots against North Florida and he looks poised for bigger things. Jackson was also able to knock down nine of 10 free throws, which is a nice skill to have, being that he will be fouled a lot this year.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Cassius Winston, PG, So.

Winston is one of the best passers in college basketball. He makes plays and shows off his high basketball IQ in the process. Not only can he drive to the basket, he can also knock down outside shots. Winston is not the most sought after prospect right now, but with continued good play, NBA executives will start to fall in love with him.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Kansas Prospects

Billy Preston, PF, Fr.

NBA draft prospects in the champions Classic

Billy Preston (Photo by kuhoops.com)

Unfortunately, the world has yet to see Preston on the college level yet, as he was suspended from the season opener for missing curfew and class. That is a little concerning, but overall not a big deal. He was the 18th ranked recruit by ESPN and will be asked to be one of the few legitimate inside players for the Jayhawks.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round

Legarald Vick, SG, Jr.

Vick has crazy athleticism from the wing. He has been getting significant minutes the last few years at Kansas, despite a crowded backcourt. If Vick can add some muscle and have a good season as one of the lead guys on the Jayhawks’ roster he can get drafted.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Devonte’ Graham, PG, Sr.

Now that Frank Mason is gone, Graham is tasked with running the offense. He is a little undersized for the NBA, but has a lot of desirable qualities. Graham is a great defender and has the ability to play on ball and off of it. He has shown that he can create for his teammates so far this season with 12 assists in one game. Graham can also shoot from deep, with a career percentage of 41% on three point shots.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, SG/SF, Sr.

Svi has gotten an increased role every year at Kansas. He is intriguing to NBA people because of his length and shooting ability. Svi is a 38% three point shooter and at his size, he is a tough matchup. This season he can really prove he is worth an NBA draft pick with his added minutes.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Udoka Azubuike, C, So.

Azubuike’s year ended early last season due to a wrist injury, but now he is back and healthy. He has great length at seven feet tall and is strictly an inside player. With a changing NBA game, where good inside players are devalued, Azubuike has to expand his game. He is still worthy of a draft pick if he plays well.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Kentucky prospects

Kevin Knox, PF/SF, Fr.

NBA draft prospects in the champions classic

Kevin Knox (Photo by seccountry.com)

NBA executives will love Knox because of his athleticism and face up game. He can dribble, shoot and rebound. Knox does need to shoot more efficiently, as in two games he has below a 30% field goal percentage. He will get good experience playing on the perimeter at Kentucky, but needs to start knocking down outside shots to make him the ultra-versatile player that will be drafted really early.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Fr.

Diallo is one of the most athletic players in the draft class. He has been the best player for Kentucky so far. While he can get to the basket almost at will, he does have some areas of his game he needs to improve. These areas include outside shooting, shot selection and on-ball defending. The athleticism is good enough to get him drafted highly, but if he can improve in other areas, he can move up draft boards.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Nick Richards, C, Fr.

Richards is a former volleyball player, whose skills in that sport should help him at Kentucky. He had three blocks against Utah Valley in the opener. Richards can rebound and defend, which is nice, but he will have to show a vastly improved offensive game if he wants to be selected early on in the draft.

Projected draft range: First round pick

P.J. Washington, SF/PF, Fr.

In his first game Washington did not look good, but was great in the second game of the season. He has an inside-out game, that will pique the interest of NBA teams. Knocking down outside shots will drastically improve his draft status.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round pick

*Jarred Vanderbilt will not play in the event due to a foot injury, but is likely going to be drafted as well.

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College basketball preseason top 25: 5-1

It is the end of October so that means college basketball is right around the corner. What teams should be looked at as the best of the best? This is the final installment in the top 25 rundown. For teams 10-6, click here.

5. Kentucky Wildcats

College basketball preseason top 25

Hamidou Diallo (Photo by bostonherald.com)

The Wildcats lost a heart-breaker to UNC in the Elite Eight last season. Like most years they have to replace most of their team. They don’t return much at all and will be led by freshman, but they have a very talented freshmen class yet again that should be able to be successful.

Versatility is going to be the name of the game for the Kentucky bigs. Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt are all capable of playing on the perimeter and in the paint. How they fit in together is a big question. Vanderbilt is currently dealing with injuries and will not be ready for the start of the season. Nick Richards is the tallest on the team and will fight for minutes. The returnees Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Kileya-Jones and Tai Wynyard will fight for minutes. Gabriel started 23 games last season and can be valuable if he knocks down outside shots. Wynyard is a very physical player who can step in if the other players aren’t rebounding. While there are a lot of talented players, Calipari will play the most talented.

Quade Green ad Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are both highly touted recruits who will handle the point guard duties. Whoever does not start will be able to play off of the ball. Hamidou Diallo got to campus last year in the midseason and John Calipari decided to redshirt him. His half-season with Kentucky last year will pay dividends, as well as his summer trip representing Team USA in the U19 World Cup. Diallo is an athletic freak, who needs to shoot the ball better to be a dynamic player. Jemarl Baker was supposed to provide some outside shooting for this team, but Baker had his knee scoped and will likely be out for three months.

As always if the young talent can mesh together, the sky is the limit for Kentucky. They may start off slow, but come March, Kentucky will be a factor once again.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

College basketball preseason top 25

Devonte’ Graham (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Kansas made their second straight Elite 8 last season and can do so again this season. They will have to deal with the losses of Carlton Bragg, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas and, most importantly, Frank Mason. That is a lot to replace, but there is some significant talent returning.

Udoka Azubuike returns after getting injured last season. He will be asked to play way more than his 12.9 minutes per game that he averaged last season. In those minutes though, he showed flashes of being a great player. His per 40 minutes stats are great, as he would’ve averaged 15.5 points and 13.5 rebounds. Billy Preston, no relation to Bill S. Preston Esquire, is a great incoming freshman that is going to be thrust into any minutes Azubuike can’t be on the floor. He is very athletic, but needs to work on his inside game. The only other big on the roster is Mitch Lightfoot, who will see an increased role as the third big. There is not much depth in the frontcourt, so the Jayhawks will have to stay healthy and out of foul trouble.

The backcourt is loaded with talent. Devonte’ Graham returns and will take over at point after the loss of Frank Mason. He is a great defender that showed he could score too last season. He will need to set up teammates and find his own shot this season. Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk return on the wing. Both can knock down the three point shot, while Vick has more athletic ability. Mykhailiuk may need to step more inside to cover up for the lack of bigs on the roster, seeing as he is 6’8″. Two transfers will have to step up for Kansas as well. Malik Newman was a big recruit going into Mississippi State and is hoping his career has new life at Kansas. Sam Cunliffe is an Arizona State transfer who will be eligible in December.

The guards and wings will be hard to match up with, but if Kansas’ frontcourt doesn’t step up it will be hard to reach a third consecutive Elite 8. Luckily they have talent so the sky is the limit.

3. Arizona Wildcats

College basketball preseason top 25

Allonzo Trier (Photo by draftexpress.com)

The Wildcats got upset by Xavier in the Sweet 16 last season, but have a lot of returning talent and incoming recruits to help them get to a Final Four. They lose Kadeem Allen, Chance Comanche, Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons, but this team is actually better. Can Sean Miller reach his first Final Four of his career?

The frontcourt is going to be led by superstar recruit DeAndre Ayton. He can protect the rim and stretch the floor, making him unique. Dustan Ristic started 34 games last season and can play alongside Ayton or back him up. Rustic has a refined inside game that can compliment Ayton. Keanu Pinder is a good role player who will rebound and defend. Behind these three there isn’t much, but the guards on the roster should be able to play big if they need to.

Allonzo Trier is back after leading the team in scoring last season with 17.2 points per game. He could’ve gone pro, but elected to come back for another season. He can do a little bit of everything offensively, as a solid shooter and driver. Rawle Alkins also choose to come back to Tucson after considering the NBA. Alkins will improve in his second season with the Wildcats. Parker Jackson-Cartwright is back at point guard and will likely start every game. Backing these three up will be frehsmen and transfers, but they are talented. Emmanuel Akot, Brandon Randolph, Dylan Smith and Alex Barcello will all be expected to fight for minutes.

Sean Miller needs to get to a Final Four and this season offers his best chance to do so. If Ayton is as good as advertised, the Final Four should be an expectation for Arizona.

2. Michigan State Spartans

College basketball preseason top 25

Miles Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Tom Izzo gets a chance to make his first Final Four since 2015 with this squad. He has a lot of talent and depth, which is something he didn’t have last season due to injuries. If the Spartans can stay healthy, the team is going to be tough to beat.

Miles Bridges returns on the wing. He is going to be the best player in all of college basketball this season. As a freshman he averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He didn’t have a lot of help last season, but will this year. Nick Ward was thrust into playing a lot last year as a freshman and was a physical force on the inside. Jaren Jackson is a very good recruit who will be hard to keep off the floor. Gavin Schilling, Ben Carter and Kenny Goins return to give them some of the best frontcourt depth in the country. They can ride the hot hand this season.

Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairns Jr. is a senior leader now who is a great defender and can set up his teammates. He needs to hit more perimeter shots to be more effective in the offense. Cassius Winston has turned heads with his passing and playmaking ability and will provide Michigan State with a chance to have two point guards on the floor at once. He can also shoot the ball and spread the floor. Mike McQuaid will add a three point specialist to the backcourt. Joshua Langford will also play a bit and is a good wing that can drive and shoot.

With so much talent and perhaps the best player in college basketball, this team can win the National Championship.

1. Duke Blue Devils

College basketball preseason top 25

Marvin Bagley (Photo by accsports.com)

Coach K has had one and dones before, but Coach K has fully embraced recruiting one and dones. He has a roster chalk full of them. A few key players return from a team that lost in the second round, but the freshman are what make this Blue Devils’ squad the best in the country.

Marques Bolden returns at center after a disappointing freshman season. He only played 6.5 minutes a game and needs to improve. He is the only returning player that will see significant minutes. Marvin Bagley Jr. is a dynamic player that is in contention to be the number one overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He reclassified to play at Duke this season and added to their great recruiting class. Wendell Carter is another freshman who can add to the depth on the inside. He is more of a stretch four and should get a lot of minutes, even if he is overshadowed by Bagley.

Grayson Allen is back for his senior season. Love him or hate him, he is a good scorer that has a lot of experience, which is something this team desperately needed. He saw his scoring decline last season as Luke Kennard stepped up, but may be asked to score a lot until the freshmen get into their groove. Trevon Duval is one of the best point guards of the class and will be the best point guard that Duke has had since their National Championship in 2015. If for some reason he fails, or gets injured, Allen can play point guard once again and run the offense decently well. Gary Trent Jr. is a great wing that will play on the wing with Allen, giving Duke a very talented starting lineup. Depth could be a problem, so role players will need to step up.

The only thing that can derail Duke this season is Grayson Allen’s attitude or a lack of depth. If Coach K can get the most out of this team, he may be cutting down the nets in April.

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology 10/26/17

The basketball season is fast approaching and it is never too early to start thinking about the NCAA Tournament. This bracketology will project how teams will finish this season. Here is the preseason bracketology for the 2018 season. Click on bracket to zoom.

First four teams out: Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, VCU

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Five things to watch in week 4 of college football

There have already been a lot of good games in college football with more coming. This week features the start of a lot of conference schedules for teams, which leads to a lot of competitive games and familiarity. Here are the five things to watch for this week:

1. Jalen Hurts vs. Vanderbilt’s defense

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Charles Wright (Photo by vucommodores.com)

As crazy as it sounds, Vanderbilt deserves to be in the top 25 right now. Preseason rankings are keeping some teams in that shouldn’t be, while the Commodores got snubbed. The reason that Vanderbilt has been so good this season is their defense. They have given up only 13 points on the season to some decent competition in Middle Tennessee and Kansas State.

Not only do the Commodores have the number one scoring defense in the country, they also have the ability to get after the quarterback. Charles Wright is tied for the lead in the country with 6.5 sacks. They also were able to limit Jesse Ertz’s effectiveness when they played Kansas State. Both he and Jalen Hurts are running threats, albeit different types of running threats.

Hurts can run with a little more speed than any quarterback Vanderbilt has played this season. He will have to be sure to not turn the ball over in this game and have to make a few plays with his arm. He was unable to do much with his arm against Florida State in the opener and this will be his second test against a solid defense. He will need to get the ball to Calvin Ridley as fast and often as possible, because he is a match-up nightmare.

While Hurts may win this matchup, it might be closer than a lot of people think.

2. Oklahoma State and TCU will light up the scoreboard

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Kenny Hill (Photo by wholehogsports.com)

In one of the best games of the weekend Oklahoma State and TCU will play in their first Big 12 game of their seasons. This has huge Big 12 Championship implications as the winner is in the front seat to lead one of the two championship spots.

Oklahoma State has rolled through its early season competition, putting up 54 points per game. Mason Rudolph looks like one of the few Heisman contenders who are living up to the hype. Their dynamic passing attack will be tough to slow down, especially with Rudolph throwing for 497 yards and five touchdowns against Pittsburgh.

Kenny Hill and the TCU offense may not be as good as Oklahoma State, but they are still averaging 49 points per game. Their attack is a little more balanced, which could create some problems for the Cowboy defense. Can Kenny Hill thrive against good competition? He’ll have a chance to outscore a great offense in this one and get TCU on the right path.

The over/under on this game is 71, but it could end up going way over if both offenses remain efficient.

3. Mississippi State’s offensive line vs. Georgia’s Front

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Martinas Rankin (Photo by twitter.com)

Another one of the big games of the weekend is Mississippi State vs. Georgia. A lot of questions about both teams will be answered like: Is Georgia really the best team in the SEC East? Can Mississippi State contend in the SEC West?

Martinas Rankin has had a wonderful season that includes a 99.9 pass block efficiency (according to CFB film room). The line is a solid unit overall, but the right side of the line has had some struggles. They will need to keep Nick Fitzgerald upright to allow him to scramble or find a receiver downfield.

Georgia’s defense is loaded with talent and looks like they can take over games. Lorenzo Carter is a great pass rusher, who has already accrued 14 quarterback pressures on the season. The task of slowing down Fitzgerald will be tougher than any other they have experienced this year, but they have a veteran defense that should be up for the challenge.

Although the skill position players may be more exciting to watch, the battle will be won or lost in the trenches.

4. Can a 31 year streak be broken?

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Feleipe Franks (Photo by alligatorarmy.com)

The Kentucky Wildcats have not beaten Florida in 31 years. While it’s apparent that Kentucky is more of a basketball school, they have built a solid team under Mark Stoops. Last year they got blown out, but the two previous years they were right in the game until the end. With Florida having a lot of things going on (suspensions, felonies, hurricanes, new quarterback, etc.), this may be the year that Kentucky ends the streak and contends for the SEC East.

In their first two games the Wildcats looked sluggish. They beat Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky (FCS) by a combined 18 points. Kentucky did look much better on the road against South Carolina, winning by ten and controlling most of the game. There theme has been winning the turnover battle, something they will need to continue in order to get the win Saturday night.

Florida has had two tough games to start the season, with one being cancelled in between due to a hurricane. They lost to Michigan and beat Tennessee on a last second bomb of a touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland. While they are 1-1 they have shown they have flaws (mainly on offense) that can be exploited.

The Gators will likely extend the streak for another year at least, but this might be the best opportunity Kentucky has had.

5. The ending of Michigan State and Notre Dame

Michigan State vs. Notre Dame

Photo by isportsweb.com

It might still be too early to tell how good these teams are this season after both struggled last year. Both teams should be better this season. This game one that seemingly always goes down to the wire. Since 2005, six of the ten games have been decided by one possession. Those games include two overtime games, a fake field goal for a win and much more.

Notre Dame was close to beating Georgia at home, but came up just short. That was the theme of last season for the Irish: losing games by one possession. This year they have half the amount of wins they had last year, by beating Boston College and Temple. The rushing part of the offense is working, while the passing game needs some work. The defense is much improved over last year, but that isn’t saying much.

The Spartans are 2-0 and beat a decent Western Michigan team that put up a good fight against USC. The offense hasn’t played a quality defense yet, but has put up over 30 points per game. They need to find some playmakers for this game. Defensively they have allowed more points than they would’ve liked so far, but still give up just 12 points per game.

This will be a big early season win for either school and it might just be one that fans want to flip on when it’s nearing its end.

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Five things to watch in college football week 3

After a great slate of games in the first two weeks, week three doesn’t have the same amount of marquee matchups. There are still some interesting games to look out for and upsets are always possible. Here are five things to watch this weekend in college football:

1. Clemson’s Defensive Front vs. Lamar Jackson

Five things to watch in college football week 3

Lamar Jackson (Photo by si.com)

The biggest game of the weekend is by far Clemson at Louisville. This is a game that can really help to figure out the ACC in terms of the College Football Playoff race. Both teams have won both their games, but there are some visible causes for concern. In this game though the battle to watch is the Clemson defensive line against Lamar Jackson.

Clemson’s defensive line was relentless against Auburn and totaled 11 sacks. They are one of the most talented units in the country and will need to be at their best Saturday. Lamar Jackson won the Heisman last year due to his dynamic dual-threat abilities and has gotten this season off on the right foot. Avoiding the Clemson defense will be a good challenge for him.

This game last year was one of the most thrilling games of the college football season and Louisville will be looking for revenge after falling to Clemson. The winner of this game is in a good position to win the ACC Atlantic Division and may be in line for a CFP spot.

2. Two great quarterback prospects dueling

Five things to watch for in college football week 3

Justin Herbert (Photo by kgw.com)

When Oregon and Wyoming play on Saturday night, two future NFL quarterbacks will be playing against each other. That is not a statement that would have been thinkable too many times, but both teams have recruited very good signal callers to lead their teams.

Wyoming has Josh Allen, who could end up being the number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen is a big, athletic, strong-armed quarterback who has drawn some comparisons to Cam Newton. He did struggle in the Cowboys’ season opener against Iowa, but he still has plenty of football left to prove he is worthy of being the first player selected.

Justin Herbert is only a sophomore, but has shown he can be a great quarterback in the future. He also is big and has a strong arm. Herbert makes throws down the field and has shown the ability to make NFL-level throws. In the Ducks’ game against Nebraska he threw for for 365 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

There will be a lot of scouts in Laramie, Wyoming for this game and a lot of fans should check out what could be future NFL quarterbacks as well.

3. Rematch of a National Championship

Five things to watch in college football week 3

Vince Young (Photo by si.com)

Texas and USC are playing each other in a rematch of one of the best National Championship Games in history. The game concluded with Vince Young running in a game winning touchdown in Pasadena on January 4, 2006. This game still rubs USC supporters the wrong way, as they are now calling it a “vacated loss” as a result of the Reggie Bush scandal. Unfortunately they can’t erase the memory of Vince Young running into the end zone to win it for the Longhorns.

This game may not be very competitive, but is at least a matchup of two historic programs. Texas lost to Maryland in week one, but beat San Jose State in week two. USC has two impressive wins over Western Michigan and Stanford. USC should win this game pretty easily, but they will show plenty of highlights of the 2006 Rose Bowl to keep viewers interested. Plus any chance to see Sam Darnold in action has to be taken.

4. SEC East matchups

Five things to watch in week 3 college football

Feleipe Franks (Photo by alligatorarmy.com)

There are two SEC East games that could mean a lot in a pretty murky division. First Tennessee plays Florida in the afternoon. Tennessee has two wins, but there are a lot of questions still for them. Florida looked really sloppy against Michigan. Their offense was awful and they will need to find some solutions. Their defense should keep this game close. The winner should be able to challenge Georgia for the SEC East title.

Kentucky will travel to take on South Carolina in an under the radar game. With Georgia playing a freshman quarterback, while Jacob Eason is injured and Tennessee and Florida not looking to good thus far, there is a window of opportunity. South Carolina will be relying on Jake Bentley getting the ball to Deebo Samuel. The Wildcats on the other hand will try to run the ball with running back Benny Snell. Whoever is more successful at carrying out their offensive game plan will win the game.

5. Upset alerts in the early games

Five things to watch in college football week 3

Riley Ferguson (Photo by zimbio.com)

The early games on Saturday have a lot of games that could be closer than the experts think. One such game will take place in Memphis with UCLA coming to town. The Tigers have been a solid program, have a good quarterback in Riley Ferguson and have the benefit of being at home. UCLA will have to travel across the country for a very early start. The game will be close and UCLA is favored by just three points.

Oklahoma State will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in the noon EST time slot as well. The Cowboys should win the game, but Pittsburgh should play them tough after keeping the game close with Penn State in Happy Valley last week.

If Michigan plays like they did against Cincinnati, they may lose to Air Force. The Falcons beat VMI 62-0 in their one game so far and are ready for the Big House. If Jim Harbaugh can get Michigan to play up to their potential, this game could be a blowout, but Michigan has yet to get to that point this season.

It may end up that none of these games result in an upset, but at least a couple of the noon games will be interesting to watch.

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Most impactful transfers by position in college football 2017

The position that has the most transfers seemingly is quarterback. This leads a lot of lists of best transfers to focus on the quarterback position. While this list will cover the quarterback position, all offensive and defensive positions will also be covered. Here are the best transfers at each position:

QB: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Stidham has just been named the starting quarterback at Auburn for the 2017 season. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he got significant playing time at Baylor two seasons ago. He then went to junior college before deciding to attend Auburn,

At Baylor Stidham threw for 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in just ten games. He still has a lot to prove, but has some proven results. In his three games as a starter for the Bears he won two games, against Kansas State and Oklahoma State, and lost one, to Oklahoma.

Gus Malzahn has been looking for a quarterback ever since Nick Marshall graduated and Stidham may be the answer. Stidham will have a lot of talent around him and will be expected to lead the team to a good season in the difficult SEC West. The offense is built on running the ball, but he needs to complete passes in order to keep defenses honest.

RB: Chris James, Wisconsin

After spending some time in Pittsburgh, James has decided to follow in Paul Chryst’s footsteps and go to Wisconsin. He sat out last season and is ready to take on some of the heavy workload for Badger running backs.

In his two seasons as a Panther, James rushed for 690 yards on 4.8 yards per carry in limited action. He was stuck behind James Connor, one of Pitt’s best running backs of all time, for the majority of his time in Pittsburgh and never really had a chance to see too much action.

With an opening at running back this season, James will battle Bradrick Shaw for the starting job, but at Wisconsin a lot of running backs are fed the ball consistently. He will get touches and make some big plays for Wisconsin in the 2017 season.

WR: Jeff Badet, Oklahoma

Best college football transfers 2017

Jeff Badet (photo by nkytribune.com)

Badet was in a run heavy offense last season at Kentucky, but still had 670 yards and four touchdowns. His talent is unquestioned while his lack of production is explained by the system he was in and the quarterback play he had. He decided to leave Kentucky for a more pass-happy team in Oklahoma and did not have to sit out a year because he graduated.

He played three seasons for the Wildcats and has 1,385 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. Badet did the most with his opportunities in Lexington and used his time as a Wildcat to get a degree and to move up to a bigger college football program.

Baker Mayfield has to be happy that Badet is on the team. A lot of his offensive weapons are now in the NFL. Tight end Mark Andrews and Badet will most likely be Mayfield’s main targets this season. If Mayfield puts up numbers like he has the past two seasons, Badet will be a huge beneficiary.

OL: Aaron Cochran, Oklahoma State

Cal is having a tumultuous offseason, but Cochran leaving for Oklahoma State is not usually brought up as a reason why. He was also considering Auburn and Texas Tech, but the former Bear decided that being a Cowboy was the best thing for him.

Cochran started 16 games at Cal and provides some good experience. At 6’8″ 350 pounds Cochran is a mammoth of a lineman.He will now leave Pac-12 play to go to the Big 12.

The reason why Cochran’s transfer will be so impactful is that he will be protecting Mason Rudolph and clearing holes for Justice Hill. If he does so effectively the Cowboys could find themselves in the running in the College Football Playoff come the end of the season.

DL: Scott Pagano, Oregon

Pagano got a National Championship with the Clemson Tigers last season and got a degree. What a year for Pagano. He goes from being a rotational guy for the Tigers to a guy who will have to produce more for the Ducks. He saw the writing on the wall in terms of playing time at Clemson and decided to transfer out to finish his last year of eligibility.

In his limited playing time Pagano recorded 20 tackles, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss for the champs. Those stats don’t seem like much, but Pagano was sitting behind a bunch of great defensive line athletes at Clemson that will be good at the next level.

Oregon desperately needed a guy like Pagano, who has experience playing on a great team. The defense has to improve over last year where they ranked 126th in scoring, 121st against the rush and 113rd against the pass. His main objective will be to help the Ducks limit opponents’ rushing yards.

LB: Dakota Allen, Texas Tech

College football top transfers 2017

Dakota Allen (Photo by scout.com)

Does Dakota Allen really count as a transfer? Technically yes. He was at Texas Tech, got kicked out and then went to East Mississippi Community College to play JUCO football for a year. After his season at the JUCO level he was granted a waiver to return to Lubbock.

As a freshman at Texas Tech he demonstrated great potential with 87 total tackles, six tackles for loss and two interceptions. Things looked bright for his career before he was convicted of burglary. He had an impressive season at EMCC and was featured on “Last Chance U”, where he showed the world how much he had changed.

Texas Tech needs all the talent they can get on their defense and they might need to improve to save coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job. They ranked 128th in scoring and gave up a whopping 43.5 points per game. That is an embarrassing number of points allowed, even if they do put up a lot of points themselves. Allen has already become a leader on the team and could be the key to improving the defense.

DB: T.J. Jallow, Purdue

Jallow is yet another player coming from “Last Chance U” at EMCC. Purdue got a great player that will start from day one. The Boilermakers were able to beat out the likes of Louisville and Kansas for Jallow’s services.

He spent two seasons at EMCC, but really proved himself this past season. Jallow recorded 43 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumbles recovered and seven pass break ups. He plays a physical style from his safety position, that should rub off on the rest of the team.

Purdue was solid against the pass last season, but has a spot open for Jallow to start at safety. If the pass defense can stay at a similar level and the run defense can improve, Purdue will be a much better team. If it all goes their way, they could go bowling for the first time since 2012 in Jeff Brohm’s first year as head coach. It may not be likely, but is possible.

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Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC

There are some good running backs in the SEC that many people have heard of. This year those players are Nick Chubb, Sonny Michel, Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Kamryn Pettway, Trayveon Williams and Ralph Webb. One name you may not have heard of yet, or haven’t come to respect enough, but will by season’s end is Benny Snell Jr.

2016 season

Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC

Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr. (photo by kentucky.com)

Coming into the Kentucky program Snell was a three star recruit out of Westerville, Ohio. Snell looked to be behind a lot of talented running backs including, Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp. He did not get a carry in the first two games of the season for Kentucky. In the game against New Mexico State, he got his first chance to play and ran away with it.

Snell finished that first game with 136 yards on 17 carries. He recorded his first rushing touchdown of his career to go along with three others on the day. From that point on he continually got carries all season. He split snaps with Williams and made a good compliment to Willaims’ speed with his power running style.

The season ended up being good for Snell as the lowest average yards per carry he had in a game was 4.6, which happened against Louisville and Alabama. That is still a respectable average. The highlight in SEC play for Snell came in a four game stretch against Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi State and Georgia, when he rushed for 528 yards and five touchdowns. Kentucky plays all of these teams again in 2017, giving him an opportunity to build on that.

He finished the 2016 season with 1,091 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry. Had he not been splitting carries, he could have rushed for over 1,500 yards easily. While he didn’t get a lot of national recognition, Big Blue Nation was and is excited to see his progression in the coming years.

Offseason

Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC

Benny Snell in his first game. (Photo by lex18.com)

Williams left early for the NFL draft, which means that the dynamic duo of 2016 will no longer be in effect. The good news for Snell is that he will now be the featured back in the Kentucky offense and will likely have more carries, yardage and touchdowns.

Unfortunately starting tackle Cole Mosier tore his ACL in practice before this season could start. Mosier was a good offensive tackle that Snell tweeted, “…is one of the best tackles I’ve ever ran behind.” This is a huge loss in for the Wildcats, but they did do a rare thing last season and rotated offensive linemen. With so many having played, and played well, Kentucky will still be above average on the offensive line at the very least.

Snell has shown his confidence this offseason by burning preseason rankings that had Kentucky ranked too low for his taste and taking all of the rankings of best running backs in the SEC with a grain of salt. He has already walked the walk for one season and there is no reason to believe he won’t do so again in 2017.

2017 season

Benny Snell Jr.: the most underrated back in the SEC

Benny Snell (Photo by courier-journal)

This season Snell will be the lead back and the go-to-guy on the Kentucky offense. Snell will get more touches and will capitalize on it. The Wildcats only play one team this season that was elite against the rush last season: Louisville. Snell averaged 4.6 yards a carry against the Cardinals in 2016 in an upset win for the Wildcats. Kentucky plays their fair share of lousy rush defenses this season and with the offensive line and Snell, they should be able to capitalize it.

Snell will have a successful season, but so will the Wildcats. Last year they started the season off slowly, but finished the season well at 7-6. The expectations are higher this year with Mark Stoops being in his fifth full season as head coach. If he can get the most out of this team they are fully capable of wining eight to 10 games this season.

If the Wildcats make some noise this season, it will in no doubt be partially thanks to the talent of Benny Snell. By the end of the college football season, fans are going to know his name.

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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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Kentucky Recruiting Class

Kentucky Lands a Stacked 2017 Recruiting Class

Just when you think the Kentucky Wildcats can’t get any stronger, they do.

The Wildcats recently landed five-star commit Kevin Knox on Saturday. He is the No. 9 prospect in the class of 2017. Knox committed to Kentucky over Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and Missouri.

The addition of Knox adds to Kentucky’s already stacked recruiting class for next year. Kentucky, who already had the No. 1 ranked recruiting class before Knox, will add yet another five-star prospect.

Kentucky

Kevin Knox the No. 9 recruit in the 2017 class is just the most recent addition of John Calipari’s stacked recruiting class (Photo/ Brian Rothmuller).

Knox took an official visit to all five of his finalists as well as another visit to Duke in October and visits to Florida State, Kentucky and North Carolina in January and February.

Missouri came back into the running late when they signed Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 overall ranked recruit. However, Kentucky prevailed as the top dog as usual.

Knox joins other five-star recruits P.J Washington (No. 11), Nick Richards (No. 16), Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 18), Quade Green (No. 23) and Hamidou Diallo.

Diallo enrolled in Kentucky in January and has been practicing with the team ever since, but never appeared in a game. He has also entered his name in the NBA draft, but did not sign with an agent.

“When I decided to enroll in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on school,” Diallo said in a release. “At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process and go through that so I could get a proper evaluation.”

Diallo said his plans are still the same, but he wants to see where he stands among other NBA prospects.

“That plan hasn’t changed, and that’s why I am declaring for the NBA draft,” he said. “I do not plan on hiring an agent at this time. I want to see where my game is and explore my options.”

There is a chance Diallo isn’t with the Wildcats next year. However, if he does come back, it will be another dangerous addition to this 2017-18 Wildcat squad.

On top of the five-star recruits, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 33), Jemarl Baker (No. 63) and a couple of four-star recruits also join the 2017 Wildcat class. There could be more coming too. Mohamed Bamba, the top uncommitted prospect, is still yet to choose between Kentucky, Duke, Texas and Michigan.

Kentucky lost freshmen De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo to the NBA draft. The Wildcats also lost sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries in addition to potentially Diallo.

If there’s one thing we know about Kentucky, it’s that they can restock fast. The 2017 recruiting class is just another example of that.

Come the start of the 2017 season, the Wildcats will most likely be the No. 1 ranked preseason team again and favorite to win the National Championship.

 

(Featured Image by Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos)

 

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The March Madness Narrative: About More than the Champion

The NCAA Tournament is known as March Madness for its fast-paced, unforgiving mad rush to the cutting of the nets over an abbreviated three weekend period. There is so much more to the story than just the one team rushing the court and lifting the trophy. Each weekend hits teams like a hurricane. Within moments of their celebrations ending coaches must have players turn on a dime for the next game less than 48 hours away.

At the end of the tournament, we are left with one winner. This year, that is the North Carolina Tar Heels. However, that is nowhere near the full story. The tournament produces things that can supersede even the Final Four or the champion of the season.  This type of environment forges stronger memories that last. It produces magical runs, heart-pounding and tense action as well as singular moments that capture our hearts. What is made in March lasts forever.

Bryce Drew hit one of the more memorable shots in tournament history. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Throughout the years, many things have surpassed the champions in our memories, but certain moments continue to captivate us. Many people could not name the 1998 Final Four of Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah and Stanford but the vast majority of basketball fans know the phrase “Drew, for the win!” and the Ole Miss loss to Valparaiso that accompanies it. This is now a moment etched in stone. It speaks to the fact that the chaos of March Madness can create a generational memory that lasts far beyond winning a game or the championship.

There are countless examples of this. For small schools, moments such as these can define a program.  They can be the thing that coaches point to when attempting to recruit against bigger schools. Need a better example of this? Look no further than the legendary Davidson run to the Elite 8 with now NBA All-Star, Steph Curry. Big moments for small schools are part of what defines March.

Even Blue Blood programs, however, can also see their drama elevate fan folklore to a higher level. Take what is arguably the most iconic moment in NCAA history: Christian Laettner hits his shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 championship game…the championship game for the region that is. Duke and Kentucky each have amazing programs in their own respects but every time these two share the court together, this is brought up by fans and broadcasters alike. Laettner had a less than stellar career in the NBA and was a forgotten part of the 1992 NBA Olympic “Dream Team” but he is forever immortalized for one shot in a game that was only to make the Final Four. Making the Final Four is certainly something to be remembered, but that game is referenced far more than the Blue Devils championship victory over the Michigan Wolverine’s “Fab Five.”

It is not just moments that capture our hearts, but runs as well. The 1983 run by Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack is a true story that moves far beyond the 40 minutes on the game clock. That year’s title run was capped by one of the more inconceivable upsets of the Houston “Phi Slamma Jamma” team that featured future hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler. This Memory of March moved beyond 1983 into the life of the late Valvano and seemed to mirror his outlook on the impossible battle for his life.

March Madness is just prone to stories such as this. With the tense nature of the one and out tournament, drama is sure to elevate the intensity. Yet, time and time again teams put together seemingly impossible roads to the Final Four. Shaka Smart and VCU became the first team to go from the NCAA’s First Four play in game to the Final Four. Though they were unable to bring home the title, this is remembered just as fondly. George Mason’s historic run to the Final Four in 2006 made a career path for Jim Larrañaga much easier to achieve.

Chris Chiozza (11) lets a prayer fly. (Photo courtesy of fansided.com)

This year’s tournament is no exception in either case. Several moments have grabbed our attention. Thus far there are two points in time that stand out the most. The first is The Wisconsin-Florida ending. The game came down to the final second of regulation and eventually led to overtime.  With Wisconsin leading by two points, Florida had one final chance. Enter Chris Chiozza. Going the length of the floor, Chiozza let a leaning, running, impossible shot fly. Buckets. This gives Florida fans that, “Hey, remember when…?” for years to come.

Luke Maye’s shot to beat Kentucky is an example of just how the tournament can become something wholly other than itself. Maye originally was to be a walk on at North Carolina. With some roster shifting, Roy Williams found one for him and he has torn it up in the NCAA tournament. This season he averages 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. In these past four NCAA Tournament games he sits at 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. This includes arguably the most important shot in the tournament thus far.

The Kentucky and North Carolina game was marred by officiating woes but did not lack in end of game drama. The Wildcats surged back from a nearly double digit deficit with two minutes to go. Freshman Malik Monk’s three tied the game with under 8 seconds to go. Roy Williams commented that the team knows to push the ball with this amount of time left.  It worked. Forward Theo Pinson took the ball 80 feet and used his body to create separation for Maye who drained a mid range jumper with Minimal time left.  He showed up to an early class the next morning and received a standing ovation.

In addition to these brief stops in time, there have been more lengthy runs in this tournament that were less than expected. The South Carolina Gamecocks reached the Sweet 16 this year for the first time in school history,  Then they made the Elite Eight. No reason to stop there, so they made the Final Four. This is a team that was off the radar for so many. South Carolina was picked in 0.6% of brackets to reach the last weekend.

Michigan made do with their practice jerseys. (Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com)

There is one more storied run in this tournament that will go down in the history books. The Michigan Wolverines are the epitome of what March Madness is supposed to be. They got hot coming in to the tournament. Considering the fact that they almost did not make their conference tournament, they are a surprise. The Wolverines plane from campus to the Big 10 tournament skidded off the runway and caused some minor injuries. Due to the nature of the investigation, John Beilein’s squad were forced to play in practice jerseys. Their regular equipment remained on the scene of the incident. They did  not just play well, they won the whole thing. They rode that momentum all the way into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Their last win was over a Louisville team that many experts believed talented enough to make the Final Four.

Now, the Wolverines went on to lose in fantastic fashion to the eventual champion of the region, the Oregon Ducks. Even though they were just inches away from continuing the magic, there is still plenty to rejoice in here. You see, faced with a less than ideal situation the team found a way to put a string of wins together and make something out of it. This is nothing short of the stories that March creates each and every year. This year it happened to be Michigan.

For some schools, just making the tournament is the ultimate goal. So when a school like Lehigh takes down Duke there is more magic present than the powerhouse making it all the way. March is beautiful because of things within it, not just because of the last team left standing’s victory. College sports entail a high level of passion whether it is a family tradition or an alma mater. That is why reaching a little higher than expectations or completing that wonderful play at the end of the game often gets remembered longer.

On title night, there is a reason that it does not end with the presentation of the trophy. There is still one last piece of business to attend to. When “One Shining Moment” plays it is different every year.  New images are now engraved in our minds of that year’s tournament. March is the time when the ordinary becomes extraordinary.  Every moment has the potential to become something eternal, and that is what this month is all about.

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