Coaches in first year with team who can make the NCAA Tournament

Coaching changes happen every year and usually expectations for new coaches are pretty low. That’s the way it is supposed to be though, when a team searches for a new coach. Getting to the NCAA Tournament in a coach’s first year at a school is very rare, but if it does happen, puts the coach ahead of schedule. While it doesn’t happen often there are some coaches that can do it this season. Here are five such coaches:

Cuonzo Martin, Missouri

Martin left California after last season and took the job at Missouri. He recruited well at Cal, but couldn’t put it all together. The Golden Bears were disappointed to only make the NCAA Tournament once under Martin and they didn’t win a game in the one tournament. Martin was able to experience NCAA Tournament success at Tennessee, his job before he left for Cal, making it to a Sweet 16.

Although he had limited success at Cal, Martin is now at Missouri and has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The roster wasn’t loaded with talent, but freshmen Michael Porter Jr., Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon and Blake Harris decided to go play for Martin. These players will join Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett to create a solid roster.

It won’t be easy for Martin, but if top recruit Michael Porter Jr. can get some help, they can make the tournament. After failing to do damage in the NCAA Tournament at Cal with top level recruits, this season will be an indicator of Martin’s coaching proficiency.

David Padgett, Louisville

The Cardinals are going through a lot of change with the FBI scandal. Rick Pitino is out and David Padgett is in. If Louisville ends up being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, which is very much in doubt, Padgett just has to do a decent coaching job to get the Cardinals to the Tournament. Can they avoid the distraction of the FBI investigation and get to the big dance?

Brian Bowen will not play for Louisville as a result of the investigation. He was a great recruit, but Louisville has a talented roster even without him. Deng Adel is a star in the making that will improve on his 12.1 points per game. With V.J. King, Quentin Snyder, Raymond Spalding and Anas Mahmoud returning, the incoming freshmen will just have to be role players.

Padgett will likely not be the head coach after the season due to his connections with Pitino, but he has a talented enough roster to get the Cardinals to the NCAA Tournament. The only question is: Will they be eligible?

LaVall Jordan, Butler

Teams with first year coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament

LaVall Jordan (Photo by indystar.com)

Chris Holtman left Butler to take the job at Ohio State, but Butler is in a better position to make the NCAA Tournament. LaVall Jordan steps into the head coaching role after playing and being an assistant coach at Butler. While his first head coaching job lasted an uneventful year at Milwaukee, there is enough talent on the roster to make the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Kelan Martin is one of the best forwards in the Big East. He is coming back after averaging 16 points per game as a junior. Kamar Baldwin and Tyler Wideman return to give Butler a few more solid starters. Everyone else on the team just needs to step in and fill their role. A lot of freshmen will be getting key minutes, so Martin will need to lead the team well in order for them to make the NCAA Tournament.

Jordan has some work cut out for him with a lot of freshmen, but he has enough returning talent to make a run to make the NCAA Tournament.

Anthony Grant, Dayton

Archie Miller and a lot of talent left Dayton, but they might still have enough talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Anthony Grant takes over at his alma mater and has his work cut out for him, but can coach this team well enough to get the job done.

Darrell Davis and Xeryius Williams return after averaging 20 minutes per game. They will need to look for their shots more this season to make this team successful. Three other players return after playing more than 10 minutes per game, so they will also have to do well in their expanded roles. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother is now eligible to play after redshirting last season. If he brings a little bit of talent that runs through his bloodlines, Dayton will have a star for the college game.

Grant probably has the most work to do of anyone on this list, so it won’t be easy. Making the NIT should be the expectation for Grant, with the hope that more is possible.

Brian Dutcher, San Diego State

Teams with first year head coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament

Brian Dutcher (Photo by mighty1090.com)

Steve Fisher decided to step down after last season and his long time assistant Brian Dutcher now takes over. Dutcher has been with Fisher back to his Michigan days when Fisher coached the “Fab Five”. He has a roster that is capable of making the NCAA Tournament and can definitely make the tournament and compete for the Mountain West title.

Trey Kell is a talented player and scorer, although inconsistent. He and Jerem Hemsley create a backcourt that can score. Devin Watson and Malik Pope both should have impacts for the Aztecs this season. They have depth with a lot of transfers on the roster, including Watson. Kameron Rooks and Max Hoetzel also join the program as transfers. Rooks played for Cal and Hoetzel played for Indiana. They have a hodgepodge of a team, but if they can mesh, the team can go dancing.

Dutcher finally gets to take over for Fisher after waiting for a long time. He may find success early in his career, much like his predecessor did.

 

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Ohio State

What’s Going on With Ohio State Basketball?

What has happened to Ohio State basketball? After a national championship runner-up finish in 2007 and seven straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2009-2015, the Buckeyes haven’t made the tournament for two straight years.

Ohio State went 21-14 last year and failed to make the tournament. This year they went 17-15, which is their worst record under Thad Matta since he started in 2004. Now with the news that JaQuan Lyle has quit the team, the Buckeyes are in a tough spot.

It was reported earlier this week that Lyle actually quit the team back in April. It was also reported that Lyle was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors in his hometown of Evansville, Indiana. He was later released on a $150 bond.

With Lyle’s departure, Ohio State now has no players from their 2015 recruiting class, which consisted of five guys including Lyle. Austin Grandstaff transferred to DePaul, Daniel Giddens transferred to Alabama, A.J Harris transferred to New Mexico State and Mickey Mitchell went to Arizona State.

Ohio State

Ohio State coach Thad Matta (Photo/ Kirk Irwin).

Matta also only signed one player in the ESPN top 100 class of 2016 and so far only has one this year for the class of 2017.

That leaves only three guards on scholarship for the Buckeyes, leaving a large hole in the backcourt. C.J Jackson, Kam Williams, and incoming freshman Braxton Beverly are the only three guards Ohio State has on scholarship. That could change if Williams decides to stay in the NBA draft. He has until May 24 to withdraw his name and retain eligibility for next year.

Buckeye fans shouldn’t have worried about these past two seasons on the court because bad seasons happen. It’s what is happening off the court that fans should be worried about. When a team has had a bad season like the Buckeyes have had these past two years, they try and make up for it with recruiting. Ohio State has not done that.

For many, that is a reason to dislike Matta and want him gone. But Matta has earned the right to coach at least next season. He is a well-liked coach; many people think he is still the man for the job. At only 49 years old, he still has many coaching years left if the stars align.

Att the moment, there aren’t enough players coming in. Transfers, decommitments and players leaving for the NBA are a normal thing. However, people don’t seem like they want to play basketball at Ohio State right now.

Matta has earned the right to try and turn it around, and he probably will be given that chance. If things don’t turn around soon, then there could be a few changes.

 

Featured photo by Charlie Neibergall

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UNLV Basketball Is Making A Comeback

It’s been a good offseason for Runnin’ Rebels fans after a difficult season. UNLV finished 11-21 and missed the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

However, the Runnin’ Rebels look to get the program back on top, starting with a good recruiting class for next year.

The class is highlighted by recent commit Brandon McCoy, who is the No. 4 ranked center and No. 15 overall ranked player in ESPN’s top 100 recruits. He committed to UNLV over Arizona, Michigan State, Oregon and San Diego State. He was also a McDonald’s All-American and played in the Jordan Classic earlier this year.

UNLV

Brandon McCoy committes to UNLV via twitter (Photo via Bleacher Report)

“I felt very comfortable with the coaching staff and loved the campus,” McCoy told ESPN. “I want to get UNLV back the way it was in the 1990s.”

Getting the program back to what it was in the 90s seems like a tall task. It is even tougher considering that a lot of people believe that the 1989-90 UNLV squad was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, college basketball team of all time.

If one thing is for certain in college basketball, it’s that anything is possible.

On top of McCoy, the Runnin’ Rebels added five more recruits, including former Oklahoma State commit Amauri Hardy, who committed to UNLV just a day after McCoy. Hardy, who is the No. 23 ranked point guard and No. 82 ranked player in ESPN’s top 100, will also look to get UNLV back to where it once was.

UNLV has a top 25 recruiting class, which shouldn’t be surprising. Despite their lack of performance the past couple of years, they have had top 25 recruiting classes. Their recruiting class ranked 11th in the country in 2014 and 16th in 2015. They went 18-15 both years.

Former coach Dave Rice was usually able to get a consistent recruiting class that usually fell within ESPN’s top 25. The problem wasn’t recruiting, but execution. UNLV had the players. They just didn’t use them to their full potential.

UNLV

2nd year head coach Marvin Menzies looks to revamp UNLV, starting this year (AP Photo).

That could have very well attributed to the departure of three UNLV players. Late in March, Troy Baxter Jr., Zion Morgan, and Jalen Poyser all said that they were leaving UNLV. It might have seemed like an issue at the time, but it helped open up six scholarship spots for next season.

Now the question is: will this year be different?

Under second-year head coach Marvin Menzies, UNLV looks to finally capitalize on their prime time talent, and it starts with McCoy. Landing the big man is a statement by UNLV, making sure that college basketball still knows the Runnin’ Rebels are there to compete.

Accompanied by an already talented roster, McCoy and Hardy are joined by incoming freshmen Jay Greene, Cheikh Mbacke Diong, Tervell Beck and Shakur Juiston. So don’t count out the Runnin’ Rebels just yet, because we could see them winning games once again, just like they did in the old days.

 

Featured Image by CSNbbs

 

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Georgia Tech

The Bright Future of Georgia Tech Basketball

When I ask what you think of ACC basketball, what comes to mind? Obviously Duke and UNC, and maybe you’ll say Notre Dame or Louisville or any number of teams that are at the top of the ACC year after year.

Usually one of the last teams to be mentioned, especially before this year, is Georgia Tech. People may not know a lot about Georgia Tech basketball except that they are in the ACC and they are good for an upset or two every year. But really, the Yellow Jackets have a rich history and the program is looking up after a successful 2016-17 season.

Georgia Tech Basketball

First year head coach Josh Pastner led Geogia Tech to a 21 win season and a runer up finish in the NIT (Photo/ David J. Griffin).

They have seven Sweet 16 appearances, four Elite Eight appearances, two Final Fours and one national championship game in 2004 against the University of Connecticut in which they lost 73-82.

Georgia Tech is often overlooked because of the ever-powerful programs in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have struggled the past few years, as they hadn’t had a 20-win season since 2010, until this year, which was also the last time Georgia Tech made the NCAA tournament.

Even though they didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year, they finished runner up in the NIT tournament to Texas Christian University officially reigning in the Josh Pastner era.

It seems somewhat theatrical that Josh Pastner, who was awarded ACC Coach of the Year in what many believe to be the best conference in the country, was basically paid to leave his last job as head coach at Memphis.

Coach Pastner was paid $1.25 million to leave Memphis in order to avoid the $9.3 million Memphis would have owed him if he was fired. So Pastner landed in Atlanta in Georgia Tech and the two seem to fit.

The Yellow Jackets finished 21-16 overall and 8-10 in the ACC, just missing out on a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Georgia Tech does not necessarily have names that will jump out at you. They don’t have the Josh Jackson’s or the Jayson Tatum’s, but they do have a group of guys that can get things done.

The Yellow Jackets are led by Ben Lammers, who was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He returns next year for his senior season after averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game last season. He was second to Wake Forest’s John Collins as the most improved player in the ACC.

Georgia Tech Basketball

Tadric Jackson (1) takes the ball up the floor in their win against Clemson in January (Photo/ Curtis Compton)

Also returning for his senior season is Tadric Jackson. Jackson averaged 12.1 points per game and finished second in voting to Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen for Sixth Man of the Year.

But the brightest spot from the Yellow Jacket roster might be Josh Okogie, who just finished up his freshman year this past season. Okogie, who came out of nowhere after not even being in ESPN’s top 100 recruits, averaged 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He could turn out to be a key contributor for the Yellow Jackets and an all ACC performer.

On top of a solid core, Pastner will be adding two four-star prospects in Curtis Haywood II and Jose Alvarado. Georgia Tech also has landed 6 foot 9 power forward, Moses Wright who can also contribute immensely to the Yellow Jackets potential success next season.

Coming off of a season where the Yellow Jackets won 17 games at home, coach Pastner and crew look to build off of the momentum. Anyone involved in Georgia Tech whether as part of the team of as a fan should be excited about the future of the program and where they’re headed.

 

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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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Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing Reigns in the New Era of Georgetown Basketball

It’s a new era for Georgetown basketball; an era that has been a long time coming. Patrick Ewing, a Georgetown great, took over as head coach earlier this month and is looking to bring the program back to the glory and success that we are all used to.

Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing in his press conference earlier this April (Photo/ Nick Wass)

John Thompson III was relieved of his head coaching duties earlier this March. The son of Georgetown great head coach John Thompson Jr. had been at the realm since 2004. Georgetown, with the hire of Ewing, keeps the head coaching job in the Georgetown family.

“If it was any other university, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Ewing said at his introductory news conference earlier this month. “But it’s my alma mater. It’s Georgetown. I’m a Hoya. I just thought it was a great opportunity to come back and try to rebuild the program.”

Ewing’s resume speaks for itself. He had three All-American seasons with the Hoyas, including three national championship appearances in 1982, 1984 and 1985. He captured the title in 1984. He basically put a small catholic school on the map as a college basketball powerhouse.

Ewing was then the first overall pick in the 1985 draft. He was drafted by the Knicks where he spent 15 of his 17 years in the NBA. He put the Knicks back into serious contention for a championship.

He was an 11-time All-Star and calibrated a Hall-of-Fame career. He spent the next 15 years after his retirement in 2002 as an assistant coach for the Wizards under Doug Collins, the Houston rockets under Jeff Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic under Stan Van Gundy and most recently Charlotte Hornets under Steve Clifford.

Despite the impeccable resume, Ewing still has a tall task in front of him.

The Hoyas have missed the NCAA tournament three times in the last four years. They made it to the Final Four in John Thompson III’s third season, but have only made it past the round of 32 once since then.

For a program that has the 31st most wins in college basketball history out of the 347 Division I teams, the Hoyas haven’t seen that type of wining mentality in the past few years. They are looking to regain the top ranks of college basketball with Ewing in charge.

After spending the past 15 years in the NBA as an assistant, the main concern with Ewing was recruiting. As an assistant coach in the NBA or any coach in the NBA, you don’t recruit. You don’t have to ask players to come play for you because they get paid to play for you.

Recruiting is one of the biggest parts to college basketball and is essential in rebuilding a program or keeping it successful. In the past 30 years that Ewing has been in college, it might be safe to say recruiting has gotten a little different.

Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing and coach John Thompson Jr. after their National Championship win in 1984 (AP Photo)

Ewing doesn’t see that as a dilemma.

“What I’m going to do is put around myself a great staff who has the ability to go out and recruit and teach me all the things I need to know until I get up to speed in terms of recruiting,” Ewing said. “But I don’t see anything different. It’s all about going out and selling your program. I think that I’m a great salesman.”

Ewing knows he has work to do with kids in high school who have probably never seen him play. “Maybe they know me from Space Jam,” he joked.

All the support is in place for Ewing to succeed. Ewing gets the next best thing after waiting years for an NBA head coaching job. There is no doubt from his supporters that he and the program will succeed.

“He is certainly used to the pressure and he is totally ready as a coach,” Stan Van Gundy said. “The adjustment will be recruiting. That’s the challenge that will determine his success. He will do a great job coaching.”

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the west in two to three years. Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top three prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right handed players. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Issac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a Dirk-like power forward. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

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

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well polished and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

TJ Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Kris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Kentucky a presense inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.cbssports.com/)

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Jordan Bell was a second round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has.

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

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

 

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Oregon

The Oregon Ducks Reach Their First Final Four Since 1939

Quack quack, the Oregon Ducks are going to Glendale, Arizona to play in the Final Four.

If this feels a little bit weird, it’s because it is. It’s not weird in the fact that Oregon is this far along in the tournament.  They’re definitely a good enough team to be here. People may find it weird because the last time the Ducks made the Final Four was before World War II.

Oregon

Oregon seniors Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis celebrate their victory over Kansas Saturday night. (Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The last time Oregon was in the Final Four was in the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1939. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that 1939 was a long time ago.

The University of Oregon, which has predominately been a football school, seems to have switched into a basketball-dominate school. The football program still continues to be the main breadwinner of Oregon athletics with their flashy uniforms and electrifying athletes.  However, the basketball program has been high above the football program these past couple years in terms of success.

How did this happen? How did Oregon basketball, a rather quiet program up until the 2000s, become such a powerhouse?

It all starts with the coach Dana Altman, who has a program record of 187-69. The Ducks have made five straight NCAA tournament appearances in the last seven years since Altman became head coach. That includes an Elite Eight last year and a Final Four this year. The Ducks have also won two straight regular season Pac-12 titles.

Oregon

Since Altman took over in 2010 Oregon has made the tournament five out of seven years, including five straigh apperances. (Photo/USA Today)

Ernie Kent was Oregon’s coach before Altman. The Ducks only made the NCAA tournament five times in Kent’s thirteen years with only one regular season conference championship. The Ducks have become supreme under Altman in the ranks of college basketball.

Gonzaga is also making program history with their first Final Four apperance.  So what makes Oregon’s run different? Oregon wasn’t picked by many to be here despite their three seed.

Gonzaga was expected to be here as they are almost every year now. Oregon’s road to Arizona was seen as more difficult than most.

The trouble started before the tournament for the Ducks.  It was announced before the tournament that senior forward Chris Boucher would be out the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. What was seen as a huge blow to Oregon’s championship chances turned out to be just a bump in their road to the Final Four.

Oregon cruised past their first round opponent Iona 93-77 under the leadership of senior and Pac-12 player of the year Dillon Brooks. The clutch play from junior Jordan Bell and sophomore Tyler Dorsey helped the Ducks squeak by their next opponents. Oregon won their next games against Rhode Island and Michigan by a combined four points. Next in the Elite Eight was the gauntlet: Kansas.

The Ducks handled Kansas 74-60, who many thought to be the tournament favorite rather dominantly Saturday night.

Now the Ducks are in the Final Four, which is an incredible accomplishment for any basketball program. With a rather unusual Final four, the Ducks look to win their first championship since the inaugural tournament in 1939.

 

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Which March Madness Cinderella is Staying?

The Sweet 16 is an amazing accomplishment in it amongst itself. It’s an accomplishment that many college basketball programs don’t see very often. High expectations come with it.

Winning in college basketball is hard, and winning in the NCAA tournament is even harder. Time after time we’ve seen favorite teams go down. Some top teams don’t even make it past the round of 64.

Winning two games in the NCAA tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a fluke. The teams in the Sweet 16 deserve to be there because they all won two games (sometimes three if they were in a play-in game). That is a hard thing to do in the NCAA.

We’ve now officially gotten to the point where we find out which teams are for real. We will find out in this next round what the Cinderella teams are made of and if they are here to stay.

Cinderella teams are traditionally defined as teams that are seeded ten or over. All of these teams are not necessarily “Cinderella” teams, but they are by no means the favorite to win or even be here in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the teams that most people didn’t expect to be here and how they might fair along the rest of the way.

Xavier

March Madness Cinderella

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett goes up to score against Florida State Defender in their game last weekend. (Photo/ Getty Images)

The Xavier Musketeers make their eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 as the highest seed (11) left in the tournament.

A victory over Maryland in the first round and nearly a 30-point victory in the second round over third-seeded Florida State puts the Musketeers a step closer to their third appearance in the Elite eight in program history.

Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who averages 18.5 points a game, helped Xavier finish 21-13 overall with a conference record of 9-9. That was good enough for an 11 seed after losing to Creighton in the Big East tournament.

They now face their toughest task yet, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats come in as a two seed and a favorite for many to win the entire tournament. Xavier will look to become the highest seed to ever win the tournament after their two big wins.

Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines are arguably the team with the most momentum and burst into the Sweet 16 as a seven seed. The Wolverines are coming off of a Big Ten tournament championship after their plane skidded off the runway en route to Washington D.C. for the tournament. They are poised, hungry and very good.

They beat Oklahoma State in the first round and a really good second-seeded Louisville team in the second round. The Wolverines had a rocky regular season, but with the leadership of senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and the outbreaking stardom of sophomore forward Moritz Wagner from Germany, Michigan is in good shape to move onto the next round.

With a matchup against the Oregon Ducks, who lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher before the start of the tournament, many believe this game to be the one where the underdog prevails.

South Carolina

March Madness Cinderella

South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Duke on Sunday with their coach Frank Martin (Photo/Bob Donnan)

South Carolina advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 1973 with a big win over second-seeded Duke. The Gamecocks look to advance to their program’s first Elite Eight.

With another tough matchup against third-seeded Baylor, the Gamecocks look to their leader, Sindarius Thornwell, to lead them to victory. The Gamecocks are not always your most flashy and good-looking team, but they get the job done.

Baylor may be the perfect opponent for the Gamecocks due to both teams’ scrappy and fast-pace play. That will make an interesting and entertaining matchup.

Wisconsin 

Wisconsin comes in on a high after taking down tournament number one seed Villanova. Many believe the Badgers were underseeded and should have gotten a better seed. Nevertheless, here they are.

With a matchup against the Florida Gators, who are also coming off of an utterly dominant victory over Virginia, the Badgers are actually favored by many despite being the lower seed.

The Badgers look to win their first NCAA championship since 1941, and they very well could.

 

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Wisconsin Basketball

Wisconsin Basketball is a Force to be Reckoned With

It is no question that the Wisconsin basketball program has been one of the most successful programs in college basketball over the past decade. Their upset victory over the number one overall seed Villanova on Saturday has the Badgers looking for another long run into the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin Basketball

Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes, makes a game-winning layup against Villanova on Saturday. (Photo/ M.P King, State Journal)

Wisconsin basketball is not one of the marquee programs when you mention the top college basketball programs, but it should be. The Badgers have by no means been as historically successful as the other top tier franchises like Duke and Kansas. However, they have been at the top of college basketball along with the rest since 2000.

They had only two NCAA tournament appearances before 1994 with one of those being a national championship in 1941. Since 2000 they have made every single tournament and have appeared in eleven sweet sixteen’s, four elite eights and three final fours. They were runner-up to Duke in 2015.

They have also won three Big Ten conference tournaments since 2000 and four regular season championships.

The Badgers finished second in the regular season this year in what was a rather strange season for the Big Ten. The Badgers then lost in the Big Ten tournament championship to a surging and emotional Michigan squad, which resulted in an eight seed in the NCAA tournament.

It was a rather controversial eight seed considering Wisconsin’s Big Ten foe Minnesota drew a five seed even though Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice during the season. The Badgers didn’t let it faze them after a solid ten-point first round victory over Virginia Tech. They definitely didn’t it let them faze them after a three-point win over tournament-favorite Villanova.

All four senior starters played a part in the 2015 runner-up experience. The Badgers are riding their experience into their sweet sixteen matchup against the Florida Gators. The Gators, who are coming off of dominating 65-39 victory over Virginia, look to make their eighth elite eight since 2000.

The Gators come in as a four seed. Many think they are the favorite against the Wisconsin team, who many thought would not be here. But Wisconsin is here, and they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Wisconsin

Sophomore forward Ethan Happ looks for a shot in a game against Michigan in January. (Photo/ Amber Arnold)

Led by seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, the Badgers look to compete again this year for their first NCAA championship since 1941.  With the help of key sophomore Ethan Happ, the Badgers have one of the most dangerous rosters in the NCAA.

The one and done era is evidently upon us, but Wisconsin is one of the few teams to be led with this much experience.

The bottom line is that this team knows how to win. In late game situations, they know what to do and they know how to do it without panicking. That’s a talent that you can’t teach. It’s talent that the Badgers have. It’s a talent that can win you a national championship.

Anyone who draws the Wisconsin Badgers in this upcoming tournament shouldn’t judge them by their seed, and consider themselves lucky because the Badgers are here to win.

 

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