NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft November 13

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

(courtesy usatoday.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(courtesy carolinablitz.com)

(courtesy carolinablitz.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(courtesy kentucky.com)

(courtesy kentucky.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(courtesy youtube.com)

(courtesy youtube.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

London Perrantes, Virginia, (G)

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

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

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

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

Melo Trimble, Maryland (G)

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

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

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (F)

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

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

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

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

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

Moses Kingsley, Arkansas (F)

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

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

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

Freshman Candidates

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

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

 

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Cap, Gown and Gone: Top Five Most Impactful Graduate Transfers

Transfers in college basketball are a huge part of the way a team can build an identity. The graduate transfer rule has the power to immediately affect the destiny of two teams in each case. As opposed to the normal transfer regulations, players do not have to sit out a year and are eligible to play immediately.  That means they not only have a large immediate impact on the team they are leaving, but also that they have the ability to change the fortune of the program they are headed to in an instant. Many times, players that were under-recruited from smaller schools use this rule to jump to a big conference school.

Several players should have a significant impact as graduate transfers in the 2016-2017 season. Here are five players to watch:

 

Canyon Barry (SG), The College of Charleston to Florida

Canyon Barry was one of the most sought after transfers in the nation. (Photo courtesy of 247sports.com)

Barry was one of the most sought after transfers on the market this off-season.  He averaged a whopping 19.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest last year. He is a perfect example of a player having an excellent career at a small school and utilizing the graduate transfer rule to make it to a bigger school with an immediate impact. Florida loses its leading scorer, Dorian Finney-Smith, to graduation, so a scorer like Barry will be very much appreciated.

L.G. Gill (F), Duquesne to Maryland

Maryland’s roster will look completely different next year. Melo Trimble is one of the only players that is coming back of significant value. Gill is an impact player that adds veteran depth that Mark Turgeon is desperate for at this point. The forward averaged 10.1 points per game as well as 6.1 rebounds. With the departures of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, Gill will have an immediate impact on the boards for the Terps and also bring some scoring ability. He is an efficient shooter at over 43% from the field meaning that he will make good use of looks created by Trimble. The Dukes lose their third leading scorer, as well as team leader in rebounds per game, but it is a huge gain for the team in College Park.

Merrill Holden (PF), Louisiana Tech to Iowa State

Merrill Holden played just over 23 minutes per game for the Bulldogs last year and still averaged 8.1 points, 1.1 blocks and 5 rebounds per game. To put that in perspective, that makes his per 40 minute averages 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds with almost 2 blocks per game. While he does not have a significant amount of range, he does have the ability to impact both sides of the floor for the Cyclones with his shot blocking, rebounding and inside game. He will be an excellent addition for Monte Morris and Steve Prohm in the post-Georges Niang era.

 

Christian Kessee(G), Coppin State to Memphis

Christian Kessee will provide some depth to the Memphis roster. (Photo courtesy of chatsports.com)

Kessee is another example of a small program player making it to a higher level of competition. He averaged 14.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The guard rebounds well for his size and also is an accurate shooter from behind the arc at just under 40%. Last year his three point percentage was actually higher than his field goal percentage, so he needs to work on being a more effective shooter from inside. Kessee is an all around offensive guard that can create opportunities for himself as well as others around him. The same as many other teams on this list, Coppin State loses their leading scorer. Memphis could always use a decent outside shooter and Kessee will be a key piece to the post-Pastner Tigers.

Jordan Mathews (G), Cal to TBD

Things were looking up for the Cal Golden Bears after Ivan Rabb elected to return to school. The announcement by Jordan Mathews was a bit of a surprise in the past week. He suddenly indicated that he would be leaving what would have been an extremely strong Golden Bear team after he graduates to play elsewhere. Initial indications are that Gonzaga is the leader to land Mathews. Mathews is no small loss for Cal. Without Ty Wallace and Jaylen Brown for the upcoming season, he would have been the leading returning scorer. Mathews averaged 13.5 points per game as well as 3.4 rebounds.  He shot over 41% from behind the arc, and that astounding figure was down from the previous year. Mathews’ offensive ability is something that would be a great addition to any team. With Gonzaga losing Kyle Wiltjer to graduation and Domantas Sabonas to the draft, there will be no shortage of room for Mathews to grow if he chooses to transfer there. This late transfer decision is undoubtedly one of the most surprising and impactful this offseason.

A Whirlwind Off-Season for the Iowa State Cyclones

Georges Niang capped off a stellar career with 30 points on better than 50% from the field against the Virginia Cavaliers. (Photo courtesy of iowastatedaily.com)

Steve Prohm’s first season with the Iowa State Cyclones ended with a relatively anticlimactic Sweet 16 loss to the top seeded team in the region, the Virginia Cavaliers. While making the Sweet 16 was an accomplishment, an 84-71 loss was a poor showing for a very talented team.  Iowa State dealt last off-season, with the loss of their coach lovingly nicknamed “The Mayor”, Fred Hoiberg. After a loss to UAB in the first round, Hoiberg jumped ship for a venture into the NBA with one of his former teams, the Chicago Bulls.

This season, the team is staring down another monumental overturn. The difference is roster overhaul is the topic as opposed to a coaching vacancy. Georges Niang decided to come back for his senior season, and ended up finishing as the top scorer in Cyclones’ NCAA Tournament history, as well as the second leading scorer in school history (2,228 career points). His presence on the court will be sorely missed by a team that has been extremely effective on offense during his tenure in Ames.  The team has averaged over 77 points per game every year that he has been there. There were other main scorers, but Niang has been top four on the team since his freshman year, and led the team in scoring his junior and senior year.

His departure is coupled with the exodus of Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay to graduation, as well as the transfers of Hallice Cooke and Jordan Ashton.  Nader and McKay were each double-digit contributors to the Cyclones powerful offense last year and were two of the team’s top three rebounders on the team. The transfers of Cooke, Ashton, and Brady Ernst are not seen as unexpected. They would not likely have seen many minutes due to the returnees for the upcoming season.

However, coming into the off-season, their transfers were not seen as completely certain because there were still major questions to be answered as to who would be coming back to play in Ames.  Recently, several of these matters were put to rest, but there is no shortage of drama for Prohm and company.

The NCAA’s decision on Naz Mitrou-Long and Monte Morris’ return are both huge pluses for the Cyclones. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Naz Mitrou-Long was granted a hardship waiver for next season.  He was recovering from hip surgery in the off-season.  Long attempted to play through the pain but saw it as best to end his year early in hopes of receiving an additional year of eligibility.  His presence was sorely missed by the team. Perhaps he could have been the difference in the sub-par performance against Virginia. Regardless, his veteran presence will be welcomed in the second act of Steve Prohm’s campaign. Additionally, Deonte Burton and Monte Morris have withdrawn their names from the NBA draft. Burton was a transfer from Marquette and a nice boost off the bench last season. Morris was one of the most dynamic players on the roster last year and will undoubtedly be the clubhouse leader with the announcement of his return. He averaged 13.8 points per game as well as 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Morris is the most important returnee for the team.

This week, the frontcourt got better for Iowa State. They added Louisiana State transfer Merrill Holden. Holden averaged 8.1 points per game and 5 rebounds per contest last season. The graduate transfer is an excellent pick-up and immediately eligible to play for Prohm.  He adds to an Iowa State frontcourt that could have been depleted after their losses from the previous season.

The last remaining question involves the completion of the team’s recruiting class. With the transfers completed, the addition of Holden, and the return of Morris and Long the Cyclones have one open spot for a scholarship. There are four recruits coming in for sure (Jakolby Long, Cameron Lard, Solomon Young, and Donovan Jackson). The outstanding commitment is Emmanuel Malou. The junior college transfer from Yuba College is currently being looked at by pro teams, including the Celtics, and is taking a gander at his draft stock.  He would be another addition to what looks to be a young frontcourt, with the exception being Holden.

There was a lot up in the air at the beginning of this off-season for a team that has made some noise in the tournament recently. It seems as though most of the dust has settled, though. For the most part, the program appears to be intact and ready for another season and a new shot at being the first in over a decade to take the regular season Big 12 conference title from the Kansas Jayhawks.