2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.

1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.

3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.

4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.

Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.

5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.

Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.

6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.

Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.

7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.

8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 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.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://bleacherreport.com)

Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.

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 power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.

Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.

12: 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 No. 1 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.

Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.

13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: Miami Heat: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

The Heat were 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.

T.J. 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.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS, PF, WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON, C, CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: Milwaukee Bucks: Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.

19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. 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.

21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.

He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.

22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California

The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. He has lots of potential to grow offensively.

Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.

23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany

Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.

Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN, PF, PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the 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. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia

Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.

26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL, PF, OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)

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. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.

29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana

Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.

30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, 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 Utah as a solid role player.

Second Round

31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon

32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.

33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.

34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon

37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor

38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida

39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado

40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France

43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke

45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA

46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown

48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso

49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson

50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia

51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain

52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada

53: Boston Celtics: PJ Dozier, SG, South Carolina

54: Phoenix Suns: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

55: Utah Jazz: Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina

56: Boston Celtics: Aleksandear Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

57: Brooklyn Nets: Edmund Summer, PG, Xavier

58: New York Knicks: Sterling Brown, SG, SMU

59: San Antonio Spurs: Monte Morris, PG, Iowa St.

60: Atlanta Hawks: Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State

 

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New Orleans Pelicans NBA draft

New Orleans Pelicans 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 24 of NBA draftmas features the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans made a big splash at the trade deadline this past season, but the season did not end the way most of us thought. Let’s look at the Pelicans season.

Summary

After the Pelicans made the trade for DeMarcus Cousins, it seemed that they had the talent to move up to the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Anthony Davis (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Cousins and Anthony Davis are the most talented frontcourt in the NBA. They average a combined 55 points, 22.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. It still was not good enough to get the Pelicans in the postseason.

The Pelicans as a team did not score much other than Cousins and Davis. They averaged 104.3 points per game, which ranked just 18th in the league. They shot only 45 percent from the floor, which ranked 20th. Their defense was also below average, allowing 106.4 points per game, good for 17th.

They also ranked 13th in rebounds (43.7), 12th in assists (22.8) and had the fifth fewest turnovers per game (12.3).

Most teams don’t have a dominant frontcourt like New Orleans. As the NBA continues to change, most teams are getting faster and better at shooting from behind the arc. Cousins definitely slows the team down and the team does not shoot 3-pointers well, evidenced by the 19th-ranked 35 percent shooting from down town.

The Pelicans are going to have to play differently from the rest of the league. They are going to need to take advantage of the bigs they have and control the pace of the game.

Picks & Needs

After their trade with Sacramento to get Cousins, the Pelicans have just one pick in this draft, which is in the second round.

First round: none

Second round: No. 40

Jrue Holiday’s status is up in the air right now. If he leaves, New Orleans will be without a point guard. The team also does not have a first-round pick to use on a top point guard prospect.

The first round is generally used to address team needs and the second round is usually used on who the best available players are. The Pelicans might actually be able to do both with the 40th pick.

Targets & Thoughts

Pick #40: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

Frank Mason (Photo by: cbssports.com)

The 2017 Naismith Player of the Year might be the best pickup for New Orleans. In his senior season, Mason averaged 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Jayhawks.

Mason shoots the ball very well, evidenced by his 47.1 3-point percentage on 4.8 attempts per game. He is also very athletic as he had a 41 inch max vertical leap at the NBA Combine, which was the fourth best. He is also quick, good in the pick and roll, and shoots with a quick release.

Mason is an undersized player, as he stands barely 6-foot with a wingspan just slightly longer. This will affect his ability to play defense in the league.

What he does not have in size he makes up for with his skill set. He is an experienced point guard with a great shot and athletic ability. He is a hard worker as well. It definitely would benefit Mason if he did not have to start right away in the league, but Cousins and Davis might be able to take some pressure off of him when he first starts.

Other possibilities would be Nigel Williams-Goss from Gonzaga and Edmond Sumner from Xavier. Williams-Goss is a strong, intelligent leader like Mason and a bigger player, but is not as quick. Sumner is even bigger than Williams-Goss. He is a slasher and great finisher at the rim, but isn’t a great shooter and has a history with knee injuries.

Conclusion

New Orleans needs a point guard that can involve Cousins and Davis while also contributing. Ideally they either resign Holiday or sign another starting point guard. If they can’t make that happen they need to address this in the draft. They also should consider drafting one if they do sign one so they have a good backup option.

Frank Mason III seems like the best overall pick at 40th, but Nigel Williams-Goss and Edmond Sumner are other guys to consider as well.

Thanks for checking out the New Orleans Pelicans’ 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 25 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Houston Rockets are going to do.

Day 23: San Antonio Spurs

Day 22: Utah Jazz

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Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

On the 22nd day of Draftmas, The Game Haus presents the Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft profile.

Summary

Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Utah Jazz had a pretty impressive season in which they won 51 games, the most since the 2009-2010 season. Utah also won their first round matchup against the Clippers 4-3. Unfortunately, they ran into the Warriors who were too much to handle as the Jazz got swept. It was still a very successful season and Utah now has some success to build upon.

The number one offseason goal for the Jazz is to keep All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward has a player option that he could decline making him an unrestricted free agent. Many believe he will decline it to test his market and make a possible move. Losing Hayward would be a vital blow to the future success of the Jazz.

Utah was not a great scoring team as they ranked 28th in the NBA in points per game averaging 100.7 per game. Despite not scoring a lot of points, the Jazz shot 46.6 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three, both ranking ninth in the NBA. Their low ranking in points per game is attributed to their pace which was the slowest in the NBA at 93.62. Their offense is very efficient and it works for their players.

Utah was the best defensive team in the NBA if you look at points allowed per game (96.8). The Jazz forced opponents to shoot just 44.3 percent from the field, ranking second in the NBA. They must improve in forcing turnovers as they ranked dead last in the league with 11.5 per game.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No. 24, No. 30

Second Round: No. 42, No. 55

Whether or not Gordon Hayward stays or goes, the Jazz need another capable wing player. Obviously, if Hayward leaves it becomes more critical but they need more depth. At pick 24 there should be a few wings available for the Jazz.

Another need is a point guard who can become a star. George Hill could not come to a contract agreement with the Jazz and is looking for a max deal. The Jazz are smart to not give Hill that kind of contract and will need to replace him in the draft. Dante Exum was drafted fifth overall to be the star point guard but injuries have derailed that plan. Exum has shown a few flashes but if the Jazz continue to wait on the development of Exum they risk team progression. If they can find a point guard in this draft they like the Jazz should jump on him.

Besides needing a wing and point guard there isn’t much the Jazz need. Creating depth is what can turn this team from a playoff team to a legit contender and that is what the Jazz will accomplish in this year’s draft.

Targets & Thoughts

Pick #24: Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft

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

Caleb Swanigan doesn’t fit the need at the wing or the point, but at this point in the draft there won’t be much value for those positions. The next best option is to create depth and drafting Swanigan would be a home run for the Jazz. Swanigan’s motor is unmatched by anyone else in this class. He is a rebounding machine averaging 12.5 per game in just 32.5 minutes per game. Swanigan was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year for his efforts this season.

Pick# 30: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is the heart of Villanova and their amazing tournament runs as of late. Hart can add to the depth the of the Jazz if they end up keeping this pick. There is a high chance they decide to trade it. Last season, Hart averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 51 percent shooting. He also shot 40.4 percent from three. Hart would fit right in with the Jazz and become a solid role player immediately.

Pick # 42: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

Nigel Williams-Goss was a major key in Gonzaga reaching its first ever national championship game. He was a leader and floor general for the Bulldogs. Williams-Goss stuffed the stat sheet averaging 16.8 points, 6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Williams-Goss is a sleeper pick who could develop into a starting point guard one day and even if he doesn’t he can be a solid backup option for Utah.

Pick #55: Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson

This is the pick that the Jazz will throw at the wing position. Jaron Blossomgame has a solid all around game. He was a four year player at Clemson and improved his field-goal percentage every season. With some NBA coaching he could become a very good bench player.

Conclusion

The Jazz are a good team on both ends of the floor. Keeping Gordon Hayward is priority number one this offseason and if they don’t it will set them back a few years. If they manage to keep Hayward then the Jazz will continue to get closer to the Finals.

Utah has a lot of flexibility by having four picks in this draft. They could trade up or down and make this team even better going forward. Utah is on the cusp of contending for a title and this draft may give them the pieces that get them there.

Thanks for checking out the Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 23 of NBA Draftmas to see what the San Antonio Spurs are going to do.

Draftmas Day 21: Toronto Raptors

Draftmas Day 20: Brooklyn Nets

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

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

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

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

1. Kentucky Wildcats 

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

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

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

2. North Carolina Tar Heels 

College Basketball

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

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

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

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

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

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

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

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

4. Louisville Cardinals

College Basketball

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

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

 

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

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs 

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

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

6. Wichita State Shockers

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

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

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

7. Florida Gators

College Basketball

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

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

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

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

8. Villanova Wildcats 

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

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

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

9. Kansas Jayhawks

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

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

10. Duke Blue Devils

College Basketball

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

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

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

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

 

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North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

North Carolina Wins and Berry Bounced Back

If you haven’t heard, the North Carolina Tar Heels and Joel Berry are National Champions 365 days after losing a heartbreaker to Villanova. Justin Jackson made the go-ahead three point play in the final minutes, and Joel Berry put on a performance. It was not a pretty game, as Gonzaga and UNC combined for 45 fouls and 46 field goals.

Yet, a champion had been crowned.

North Carolina gets the win

This is Roy Williams’ third national title and sixth in Tar Heel history, yet North Carolina didn’t play a great game. They shot 29.4 percent from the three point line, which was very evident in the first half.

North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

Joel Berry II celebrates victory over Gonzaga (Photo Courtesy of Sporting News)

The win was a team effort, and players stepped up when they needed to. Isaiah Hicks didn’t play his best against Oregon in the Semifinal, however he added 13 points, which is just above his season average. Speaking of seniors, Kennedy Meeks came up with 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels and was a large presence in the post when he wasn’t in foul trouble.

So what made the difference? UNC grabbed three more offensive rebounds and won the turnover battle 14-4. Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson combined for 38 points while Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski only combined for 24 points for Gonzaga. North Carolina also shot better inside than Gonzaga shot outside. Overall, the Zags had one of their worst offensive showings while the Tar Heels had one of their best defensive performances. Put all of this together and somehow, we have a UNC victory.

The best part for the Tar Heels is they have one more National Championship than Duke. How’s that for bragging rights?

berry got his redemption

It was on this day, just one year ago that Joel Berry II tied the game with Villanova only to lose on a buzzer beater from Kris Jenkins. Needless to say, he has been waiting for this very moment and he didn’t let it slip away. It was a sort of Cinderella moment for him.

North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

North Carolina Tar Heels guard Joel Berry II celebrates beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national championship game Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Berry III was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and when asked about his success, he simply said his teammates had faith in him.

He didn’t just bounce back from last year, he had to bounce back from the previous game against Oregon. Berry II went 2-14 from the field, and 5-9 from the free throw line for a combined 11 points against the Ducks. In other words, he didn’t have the game he wanted but it was enough for his team to be successful.

Fast forward to Monday night, the atmosphere is electric and it’s the junior’s potential last game. Berry went out with a bang to say the least.

He scored 22 points, dished out six assists and threw away only one turnover. Not to mention, he scored or assisted on 34 of 71 points and the Tar Heels came away with a National Title.

As mentioned before, Joel Berry II bounced back, but more importantly North Carolina did.

 

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National Championship

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: The Game That We Wanted and Needed to See

This year’s national championship may not feature Kansas, Duke or Kentucky. It may not have the potential top pick in the NBA draft and it may not be the championship that sports fans wanted to see. However, it’s the championship that we needed to see.

National Championship

UNC looks to avenge their lose in last years National Championship game afer a last second shot by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins (Photo/Greg Nelson).

It’s the championship that we as kids all dream of playing in. We may not be participating in it, but we get to witness it. Two teams with everything to prove, chasing their dreams of being a national champion.

Granted, both teams are in two very different scenarios. On one side you have UNC coming off of potentially the most devastating loss in national championship history last year. On the other hand you have a Gonzaga team looking to make school history and solidify themselves in college basketball history.

UNC is largely the same team that understandably went sobbing into the locker room after last year’s national championship. After Kris Jenkins of Villanova hit what many to believe to be the most iconic shot in NCAA championship game history, UNC was left devastated. We saw Villanova cutting down the nets, not UNC.

They’re not the only one’s who believe they have something to prove.

Gonzaga’s basketball program has been criticized for not playing in a tough conference. Those on the east coast, who don’t get to see them play on a normal basis, believe the program could be bad for basketball. Now after years and years of Gonzaga disappointment in the NCAA tournament, they are finally here.

A league dominated by the Duke’s and Kentucky’s one-and-done players, UNC and Gonzaga tend to do it a little bit differently.

UNC has six returning key players, all upperclassmen, and all apart of last year’s team. Instead of dwelling on the past, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks, Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson continue to look forward.

When asked about last year’s national championship, Pinson said, “It keeps giving us ammo, it makes us want to get here again and again.”

National Championship

Gonzaga players celebrate after their Final Four victory over South Carolina Saturday (Photo/ David J. Phillip).

Gonzaga, on the other hand, has their own motivation factor. Despite the motivation of making school history, the Bulldogs look to their own past for a little motivation.

Gonzaga has players from all over the globe, including Przemek Karnowski from Poland, freshman Rui Hachimura from Japan and Killian Tillie, who is a freshman from France. In order to stay in contact, what else would a bunch of young men in this day in age do? Start a group chat.

Some of it’s inside jokes most people wouldn’t understand. Other times it’s just to stay in touch. It is also for motivation. For instance, junior guard and the leader of this Bulldog team, Nigel Williams-Goss, posted the infamous video of sobbing Adam Morrison after Gonzaga’s loss to UCLA in the Sweet 16 in 2006 and simply wrote “Not this year fellas.”

The tiny Jesuit school versus an all powerful college basketball franchise, it sounds like a David and Goliath scenario. But it’s not.

These are the two best teams in college basketball, and we get it for the last game of college basketball this year. North Carolina is 40 minutes away from redemption. Gonzaga is 40 minutes away from program history. We can’t ask for anything better than that.

 

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Is Gonzaga Really the Best Team in the Nation?

Gonzaga Basketball is rolling. They are now 24-0 with their latest win over Santa Clara. That’s right, no losses. In fact, they didn’t trail for 264 minutes of play (13 halves) during this season. ESPN staff writer C.L. Brown recently put out an article describing why Gonzaga is “proving to be a team worthy of its rank” which you can read here.

In the article, he gives all the statistics as to why Gonzaga is deserving of their high seat in college basketball. Brown remarks on their versatility, balance and experience. I agree with him on those three topics. However, what happens when this team meets the competition of Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon or Villanova?

What the Zags have going for them

The Zags have many positives going for them. They are skilled, experienced and have strong statistical production from many players.

Nigel Williams-Goss of Gonzaga Men's Basketball

Nigel Williams-Goss takes the ball to the hoop (Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times)

Nigel Williams-Goss is the real deal. He is in the top five prospective players for the Wooden award and averages 15.6 points per game. In addition to points, he is adding 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. His stats just showcase his talent for distributing the ball to teammates and being able to get into the paint and finish.

Josh Perkins is shooting 44.1 percent from behind the arc. When Willams-Goss needs a kick out, he is there to make the three. All of Gonzaga’s players that average over 20 minutes per game are also shooting over 40 percent from the field. This includes the freshman Zach Collins and senior Przemek Karnowski, who both dominate in the post.

The Zags’ senior class has made it to the NCAA tournament each year. Last year, they lost to Syracuse by three in the sweet sixteen. Josh Perkins missed a runner at the end in the final seconds before Syracuse hit two free throws to secure the win. Gonzaga lost in the Elite Eight to Duke two years ago, which was just their third loss that season.

Gonzaga also averages 85.4 points per game and only allows 61.7 points per game. Needless to say, they are efficient on both the offensive and defensive ends. The Zags defense has also held many teams to very low shooting percentages from their pressure. Mark Few takes great pride in their defensive intensity, and how they close out on shooters and guard the paint.

why they won’t go far in the tournament

Sports Analyst Eric Rothman in regards to the game against BYU said “this was probably the toughest true road game for the Zags so far this season.” ESPN analyst Adrain Branch agreed with him. The fact that BYU (a non-ranked opponent) is the toughest road game thus far speaks volumes of the competition they are playing.

Their game looks flawless because they haven’t had the best competition. In clips from games against Pepperdine and BYU, their offense looks stellar because the defense is lacking. They might be able to feed the high post in two passes, but it’s because help side is nonexistent. Someone might credit that to Karnowski or Collins’ efficiency in the post, but that is for the viewer to decide.

This is not to degrade Williams-Goss or Coach Few. However, who have they really played this season? UCLA and Kentucky are averaging over 90 points per game. UCLA also shoots 53.5 percent from the field and play teams like Oregon, Kentucky and Arizona. Gonzaga doesn’t have any teams averaging figures that are stellar compared to the rest of the country.

The Zags also have their undefeated record working against them. They have a huge target on their back. While they might have experience in the tournament, this is a new year with new people and greater stakes.

Who will hand Gonzaga their first loss?

No. 18 Saint Mary’s might be the team to end the streak. According to ESPN’s BPI, the Zags only have a 45 percent chance of beating St. Mary’s and above 90 percent for the rest of the games this season.

The Zags have had trouble with St. Mary’s in the past. Last year Gonzaga lost to them twice in two very close games. The Gaels will also be looking for sweet revenge after the 23-point loss this season to the Bulldogs. If you have ever played sports, you know just how satisfying it is to beat a team, let alone an undefeated one.

Matchup wise, Saint Mary’s is ranked second in the nation for points allowed (56.6 per game). Their defense is what propels their offense and ultimately what wins its games.

The offense is pushed by junior Jock Landale, who is averaging 16.9 points per game. He scored 22 points against Pacific in a close victory and 14 against San Diego this weekend. Joe Rahon is a senior that contributes experience and big minutes. Over his two years at Saint Mary’s, he has averaged over thirty minutes because he impacts the game in all areas. Rahon is averaging 8.8 points per game 6.0 assists per game.

Gonzaga will have their work cut out for them. Their perfect season is within reach, but will they be able to take the heat when the going gets tough? Yes, they have versatility and experience, but how will it compare to ACC and Big East teams?

 

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Mark Few and Crew Working toward First Final Four Appearance

Few coaches have been as dominant in their conference as Mark Few. Few entered the year with the highest winning percentage among active coaches. With Gonzaga at 10-0, Few has done nothing to hurt that. Currently at 475 career wins, sometime at the end of this season or the beginning of next he will reach 500. There has only been one season in Few’s tenure that the Bulldogs did not win the West Coast Conference regular season or tournament title. Additionally, he will reach 18 consecutive tournament appearances barring a titanic implosion.

Those are all great stats, but there is one glaring accomplishment missing: A Final Four Appearance. Under Few the West Coast juggernaut has been to six Sweet Sixteens, one of those turning into an Elite Eight appearance. Despite all of the tournament appearances and wins he has amassed, none have begotten a Final Four.

This year is a game changer for him. Better yet, a tournament changer. His team has the ability to go deep into the tournament. A strong combination of new faces and returnees has made this team as balanced as ever.

Przemek Karnowski is more than a big body, he also has grace for the Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy of bustingbrackets.com)

Przemek Karnowski is more than a big body, he also has grace for the Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy of bustingbrackets.com)

Przemek Karnowski’s return to the floor is the biggest impact for the team thus far.  The stand out center played 5 games in 2015-16 before being sidelined with a back issue. Listed at 7-1 and 288 pounds, he is definitely a big body but there is more to him. He is one of the most graceful passers in the WCC.

This year has been no exception as he has done much more than be the team’s second leading scorer at 12.4 points per game. He has added on 6.2 rebounds per contest as well as 2.0 assists thus far. Not to mention he has accomplished everything with a highly efficient 27.7 PER. The numbers, however, do not reflect the precision with which he finds the open man cross court from the low post. Karnowski sends defenses into a tizzy by beginning his approach to the basket then flipping the ball with ease 15 feet away to a teammate.

Other significant returning players include Josh Perkins and Silas Melson.  Perkins averaged double figures for the Bulldogs in 2015-16. With the departures of Domantas Sabonas, Kyle Wiltjer and Eric McClellan he became the team’s leading returning scorer. So far he has 11.7 points per game, but shows versatility by adding in 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. Perkins very much buys into Few’s offense that moves the ball frequently, but he has the ability to hit the shot that the team needs when necessary.  Perkins currently sits at a 53.7% mark from three point land. Silas Melson, on the other hand, averages 7.9 points per game, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He is doing this as the Bulldogs seventh leading scorer. The team legitimately plays eight players. Their depth and balance is one of their main strengths.

Gonzaga would be in a different place without Nigel Williams-Goss (Photo courtesy of emeraldcityswagger.com)

Gonzaga would be in a different place without Nigel Williams-Goss (Photo courtesy of emeraldcityswagger.com)

Much of that depth comes from the plethora of transfers that Mark Few has coaxed over to his Spokane. Starting from the top, there is leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a productive year for the Washington Huskies but decided to bolt for greener tournament pastures. The guard has put up numbers across the board with 13.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Williams-Goss’ defensive numbers have improved as well, allowing 88.8 points per 100 possessions dropping from 104.8 with Washington.

 Jonathan Williams and Jordan Matthews are two additional transfers that have had an impact thus far. Matthews came over from California while Williams came from Missouri. Both players have seen a dip in their production from their previous locations. This does not mean that they are any less important. Each have had their respective impacts. Matthews has reached double figures in five games. This included a season high 17 points and three of five from deep in a trouncing of the Washington Huskies. For Williams it was a 16 point showing against Florida in which he made his mark. He has had a few other gems this year including 20 points against Bryant.

The balance of Few’s team reaches new heights when two freshman enter the discussion. Zach Collins is only playing 16.7 minutes per game, but is still the team’s fourth leading scorer at 10.0 points. Collins is currently shooting 69.4% from the field and has a PER of 30.5.  That is a dangerous weapon for Few to have off his bench. Killian Tillie provided more at the beginning of the year, but he currently is playing 14.7 minutes per game. In his short stints he has provided 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. The scary figure is the six foot ten forward’s three point percentage: 46.7%. Few can insert him at any point in the game and spread the floor. Bigger players will be made uncomfortable playing outside the paint.

Their major strength is their ability to move the ball with extreme accuracy. The Bulldogs love to get out in transition and score quickly. They also possess the ability to slow the game down offensively and create in the half court. The West Coast team also has been efficient on defense, allowing 63.1 points per game to their opponents.

Gonzaga’s diversity and versatility under Mark Few has led to several key wins already. Early in the season they have already beaten the likes of Florida, San Diego State, Arizona and Iowa State. This has led the Bulldogs to a top ten ranking by the Associated Press. This is one of the teams in the country most worth tuning in to see and come April they will be in the mix with the giant programs.