Mohamed Bamba

You’ll want to remember this name: Mohamed Bamba

This year’s recruiting class has been very interesting to watch. Players are finalizing their decisions, committing and signing with schools and looking ahead to their college careers.

One player has stood out though: Mohamed Bamba.

He is the No. 3 prospect in the nation, and he recently chose Texas over Kentucky, Duke and Michigan. The Longhorns’ 2017 class is ranked fifth in the nation according to ESPN’s most recent rankings.

Why he chose texas

If there was one word to describe the Harlem native, it would be unconventional. Bamba is a high-profile recruit who could turn the college scene upside down next year. The 7-footer could be a big contributor to Texas’ high strung press. If he can use his length on defense around the rim, he’ll be hard to stop.

Mohamed Bamba

Mohamed Bamba, No. 3 recruit in the nation (Photo by Getty Images)

The Longhorns were 4-14 in conference play last season and 11-22 overall. They don’t have the best track record in the postseason either. They didn’t make it to the tournament this past season, and they lost to Northern Iowa in the first round of the 2016 tournament. In 2015, they lost to Butler in the second round.

Needless to say, they have a lot of room for improvement.  Texas also has a very competitive conference with West Virginia, Baylor and Kansas. However, why would one of the top prospects choose a team that did so poorly over some of the top teams in the nation?

That’s just who he is. He does things people wouldn’t expect. He’ll be in the spotlight a lot more than he would be at Kentucky or Duke. He would stand out regardless of the school he chose, but he’ll really stand out at Texas. Some people are predicting him to be a top-five draft pick for 2018, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What sets him apart

Mohamed Bamba is distinct for many reasons. The 7-footer has a wingspan of 7-foot-9 and a standing reach of 9-foot-6, which is incredible. As a senior he averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds and 8 blocks per game at Westtown High School. He also brought home two state titles for the school his junior and senior years, the first state titles the school has ever had, in any sport.

“It’s his arms, man … his arms,” said Ayton, who’s taking his No. 1 ranking to Arizona next year. “He will contest every shot. And trust me, he’s going to block you. When I say he dominates the defensive end, it’s crazy. Like, for me to not even go in the post and be out shooting jumpers? It’s like — that’s what coaches want. He takes you out of your game. He’s dominant.”

-DeAndre Ayton, University of Arizona commit

Bamba will be dominant because he takes players out of their comfort zone. He forces them to shoot shots they wouldn’t normally take. He’s also agile, lengthy, athletic as all get out and quick. No doubt he will be a strong force in the conference, and for the Longhorns in general.

other freshman talent

Mohamed Bamba will be joined by signees Matt Coleman, Jericho Sims, Royce Hamm and Jase Febres. Like mentioned before, they are the fifth-ranked class in the nation.

The Longhorns have been out of the spotlight for the past couple years, but this class could be the one to put them back into college basketball conversation.

Coleman especially will have a big impact at the point guard position. That’s been part of the problem for the Longhorns. They haven’t had leadership from the point guard. Coleman should be able to change that.

The freshmen will also have some upperclassmen talent to round out the team. Andrew Jones will be back for his sophomore season. Kerwin Roach Jr. and Eric Davis Jr. will also be returning as guards. Most importantly, the team has Mohamed Bamba. Trust me, you’ll be hearing his name a lot this year.

 

Featured image by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Linebackers

Linebacker is a position that is often overlooked, but very important nonetheless. In the 2017 NFL Draft there were plenty of talented linebackers selected. There are a lot of linebackers in this class that have potential, but will have to play well to justify a high draft pick. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edmunds NFL

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Edmunds is one of three brothers that have played for Virginia Tech and will look to have a big junior year. He has the most draft potential and has great size at 6’5″ and 236 pounds.

Last year Edmunds finished with 94 tackles. He has a great all around game with 16.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, an interception and three passes defended. If he can improve his coverage skills this season and keep consistent production, he will be a highly sought after prospect.

The Hokies play West Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Pittsburgh. Edmunds will need to step up in the game against Clemson for his team to win and if he does, his draft stock will be improved.

Malik Jefferson, Texas

One of the more highly touted linebackers coming out of high school, Jefferson has played early and often for the Longhorns. With solid size at 6’3″ and 238 pounds, he has all the tools to be the first linebacker selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jefferson has 121 total tackles in his two seasons at Texas. He has great athleticism that makes him a well-rounded linebacker. With 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five passes defended and a touchdown scored he makes a lot of plays. Coverage and ball skills are things he will need to work on this season, but what he has already accomplished has made him a top prospect.

Texas has some big matchups this year that will require Jefferson’s best. They play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If he can help slow down the USC and Oklahoma offenses, he could be the first linebacker taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kendall Joseph, Clemson

Joseph may have been overlooked because of all the talent on Clemson’s roster last year, but he will need to be the one making headlines this season. He is a little undersized at 6’0″ and 230 pounds, but makes plays.

Last year was his first season getting a lot of playing time and he broke out. He finished the season with 106 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. If he can have a solid campaign to follow up his breakout season, NFL teams will move him up on their boards.

Clemson plays Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which should give Joseph a lot of opportunities to prove what he can do. He needs to produce against these good offenses this season to hold his ranking.

Skai Moore, South Carolina

Skai Moore NFL

Skai Moore (Photo by: cbssports.com)

Moore is a good prospect, but did miss all of the 2016 season with a neck injury. Staying healthy will be key to preserve and enhance Moore’s draft stock. He has average size at 6’2″ and 220 pounds.

In 2015, the last season he played, Moore finished with 110 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is a good run stopper and coverage linebacker, with 11 career interceptions, but could improve his blitzing ability. If his neck checks out and he has a productive year he will be one of the first linebackers taken.

The Gamecocks have Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson all on the schedule. Moore will be called upon to be at his best this season for South Carolina and will reap the rewards if he answers that call.

 

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Offensive Tackles

The 2017 NFL Draft didn’t have as many highly sought after tackles as in years past. The 2018 class is going to have plenty of tackles to choose from in the first round. Here are the top offensive tackles heading into the 2017 college football season:

Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown NFL

Orlando Brown (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Brown is likely the biggest tackle prospect in this class at 6’8″ and 360 pounds. He may even have to lose some weight in order to deal with fast pass rushers at the NFL level.

He is the son of the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, who had a good NFL career.  Brown was redshirted for one year, but has started every possible game since at left tackle. This season he needs to show he has the mobility and flexibility to stay in front of pass rushers.

Brown will be tasked with protecting Baker Mayfield again at left tackle. He has big matchups against Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. The Ohio State game will pit him against several good defensive linemen for scouts to evaluate him.

Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

With 29 starts in two years, Hyatt has a lot of experience. He has started in two National Championship Games and did a good job of protecting Deshaun Watson. He has average height at 6’5″, but below average weight at 295 pounds.

Hyatt will have to add strength to be able to hold up in the NFL. He finished this past season as a National Champion and as a first team All-ACC member (Media). In their only loss against Pittsburgh, Hyatt left the game with an injury and the team didn’t look the same without him.

Clemson will have key games against Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State. The Auburn and Florida State games will both test Hyatt and give him another opportunity to go against great defensive linemen.

Martez Ivey, Florida

Ivey was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and has played decently, but not up to his ranking. He hasn’t always been healthy, but this season is his time to shine.

He will play left tackle for the first time at Florida now that David Sharpe has moved on to the NFL. At 6’5″ and 305 pounds he has average height and weight, but left tackle feels like his natural position. He won the SEC offensive lineman of the week twice last year.

The Gators play Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State. Ivey will be tested against LSU, Georgia and Florida State, but the key match up for him to prove himself is against Arden Key of LSU.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

McGlinchey could have been the first tackle off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft, but elected to go back to school for his senior season. He is the leader this season in terms of sought after tackles. He has good size at 6’7″ and 310 pounds.

One asset that McGlinchey offers is experience at both tackle spots. He played right tackle to start his career and moved to left tackle last season. He might end up being more of a right tackle in the NFL, due to lack of athleticism, which could hurt his draft stock. Although he is, for the most part fundamentally sound, McGlinchey does need to cut down on the number of penalties he gets this season.

Notre Dame will go up against some good teams and defensive fronts this season. McGlinchey will be tested by Georgia, USC, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami, NC State and Stanford. He will be specifically tested early by Georgia in week two.

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

Had he entered his name in the 2017 NFL Draft, Rankin would have been selected in the second-fourth round range. He has a chance to improve his stock, but it will be difficult to do so with so many good tackles in this year’s class.

Rankin was good as both a pass blocker and run blocker and should get some more good reps with Nick Fitzgerald behind center. He has average size at 6’5″ and 307 pounds.

The Bulldogs will have a few big matchups playing in the SEC West. Rankins will play against good competition against LSU, Georgia, Auburn, BYU, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Connor Williams, Texas

Connor Williams (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

A lot of the national media hasn’t picked up on Williams as much as they should have in terms of being a good draft prospect. If Williams has a good year he could be the first tackle off of the board. He stands 6’6″ tall and is 288 pounds and needs to add some weight to his frame to handle strong pass rushers.

Williams has been the starting left tackle at Texas since his freshman year and brings a ton of experience. He is more athletic and flexible than most tackles in this class and could develop in to a great pass blocker.

Texas will be challenged by a few teams on their schedule this season. The Longhorns play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Williams will get a chance to show what he has against USC and Oklahoma, which are both monumental games for Texas.

 

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National Signing Day 2017: Big 12

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

1. Oklahoma Sooners

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

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

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

2. Texas Longhorns

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

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

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

3. TCU Horned Frogs

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

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

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

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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

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

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

5. Baylor Bears

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

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

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

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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

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

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

7. Iowa State Cyclones

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

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

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

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

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

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

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

9. Kansas State Wildcats

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

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

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

10. Kansas Jayhawks

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

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

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

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Pac-12 Signing Day- Here

SEC Signing Day- Here

 

 

 

College Football Week Four Recap

This weekend’s games didn’t have all of the greatest match-ups as previous weeks, but there was still a lot of good football. Four weeks into the season we have learned a lot of things about plenty of teams, but here are some takeaways from the week:

1. The Big Ten is for real.

A lot of people have been debating whether the Big Ten is the best conference in college football this week, but one thing isn’t in doubt after this weekend: The Big Ten has a few elite teams. Ohio State was off this weekend, but remains number two in both the Coaches’ and AP Polls. Michigan got another blowout win this week, this time demolishing Penn State in the Big House, and remain in the top five of both polls. Michigan State lost to a very good Wisconsin team, but both teams should be pretty good the rest of the way. Wisconsin worked their way up to eight in the polls with the win and Michigan State dropped to a respectable number seventeen in the Coaches’ Poll. Nebraska followed up their win over Oregon this week by beating Northwestern this weekend, while moving up to fifteen in both polls. Polls can be misleading because of schedules and how they were formatted to start the season, but Ohio State went on the road to beat Oklahoma, Michigan got a win over a Colorado team that went on to beat Oregon, Nebraska squeaked by that same Oregon team, Wisconsin surprised an LSU team that at the very least has a lot of talent and Michigan State beat an under-performing Notre Dame team on the road. The Big Ten has challenged itself and has earned the right to be called the best conference in the country.

2. It is really hard to lead a nationally prominent team for a long time.

Les Miles has been fired from LSU after losing to Auburn this weekend. Defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. He previously was an interim coach at USC, after the firing of Lane Kiffin. Miles had a very successful run for the Tigers, winning a national championship and countless other big games. LSU had some of the best recruits in the country every year under Miles, which is something they will wish to continue under their new leadership. In the end though, Miles was fired because he refused to change and was too predictable on offense. Handing the ball to outstanding running back Leonard Fournette every down may sound like a great idea, but teams simply stacked the box because LSU couldn’t find anyone to consistently complete passes. Miles also refused to change the offensive system to open things up for the quarterbacks. He hasn’t had much success against Alabama, which has been frustrating for LSU fans. Now that it is all said and done, Miles had a successful stint as LSU’s head coach, but if you aren’t winning national championships regularly, it is hard to keep people happy.

3. Baylor is the Big 12’s last hope at the College Football Playoff.

The Bears got a big win over Oklahoma State this weekend, which has made them the team to beat in the Big 12. Oklahoma has two losses and is a long-shot to make the playoff. Oklahoma State lost to a MAC team two weeks ago. Texas lost to Cal to weeks ago and has a shaky defense at best. TCU lost to Arkansas in a close match-up, but hasn’t looked good otherwise either. Baylor never plays anyone of note in the non-conference schedule, but they may not need to if every other contender in the conference continues to lose. Even with a lousy schedule, the College Football Playoff Committee will select the Bears if they run the table or, if the circumstances are right, finish with one loss.

 

The State of College Football in Texas

The six premier college teams of Texas all look to be in great shape. Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU all scheduled easy games to begin the season, but all won in a great fashion.

Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

Baylor beat Northwestern State 55-7 in Waco. The most important part of the game was the return of quarterback Seth Russell. Russell is coming back from a neck injury he suffered last year. Russell went 14-20, threw for 163 yards and also threw for four touchdown pass. Baylor is also working with a new head coach. Jim Grobe is the new head coach after the firing of Art Briles. Baylor fired Briles after an investigation that Baylor University allegedly mishandled many sexual assault complaints, many of which included some players for the Baylor football team.

Texas Tech had an easy time with Stephen F Austin. Red Raider junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes II lit up the Lumberjack defense. He had over 500 total yards of offense and six touchdowns. He threw for 483 yards and threw four touchdowns. While on the ground, he ran for 57 yards and scored twice using his legs. Texas Tech ended up winning the game 69-17.

In Fort Worth, the TCU Horned Frogs had a scare against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Before the end of the first half, TCU was down by as much as 10 points. TCU won the game 59-41. Most importantly, new quarterback Kenny Hill had a great game. Hill ran for three scores and threw for two more. He threw for over 400 yards, but head coach Gary Patterson would love for Hill to throw less interceptions. Hill threw two during the game.

As for the other three teams in Texas, they scheduled big time opponents. Houston, Texas A&M and Texas were all underdogs in their games, but they all came out on top.

George Bridges/ AP Photo

George Bridges/ AP Photo

Last year, the Cougars beat the Florida State Seminoles in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Many thought it was fluke, but after Saturday the Cougars showed why they belong in the National Championship conversation. Houston’s first opponent of the 2016 season was the Oklahoma Sooners.

Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver had a great college debut. Oliver is former five star recruit from the Houston area. Oliver is the first five star recruit to go to a non-Power 5 conference. On the field, he showed his worth. He had seven tackles and sacked Baker Mayfield twice on the day. The defense held the Sooners to 70 yards rushing. Senior corner back Brandon Wilson had a 100-yard missed field goal return.

On offense, the Cougars were clicking. Greg Ward Jr. had over 300 yards passing and threw for two scores. Running back Duke Catalon had 88 yards rushing and receiver Steven Dunbar had 125 yards on seven catches. The Cougars would end up beat the Oklahoma Sooners 33-23 and this was their second straight Top 10 victory.

The Texas A&M Aggies hosted the UCLA Bruins for a SEC-Pac 12 match-up. The Aggies were trying out new quarterback Trevor Knight and his first outing was good. He threw for over 200 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, Knight had 31 yards rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. In overtime, Knight’s second rushing touchdown was the game-clinching touchdown.

The Aggie defense picked off Josh Rosen three times during the game. Justin Evans had two of them and Priest Willis had the other one. The defense also got to Rosen five times. Texas A&M won the game 31-24 in overtime.

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The Texas Longhorns beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday. It took two overtimes to do it, but they beat Notre Dame 50-47. It was a battle of the two quarterback systems. It was Notre Dame’s Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer versus Texas’ Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Shane Buechele. Buechele is the first freshman starting QB at Texas since 1944. It paid off for the Longhorns. Buechele threw 280 yards and two scores, while Swoopes was the running quarterback. Swoopes ran for 53 yards and also had three rushing touchdowns. His third rushing touchdown was the dagger. Swoopes leaped over the goal line and ended the game.

This weekend was huge for college football, but it was especially big for the state of Texas. Vince Young’s ’05 Texas team was the last team from Texas to win a National Championship, but that was 10 years ago. All six of these teams want to be the team that brings the state of Texas back to the National Championship game.

Big 12 Landscape Becoming Apparent for 2016-17

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

Kansas Will Win the Regular Season Title…Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCU Will Make the 2017 NCAA Tournament

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma, Texas Will Experience Rebuilding Year

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Sweet 16 Sleeper

It’s beginning to smell a lot like March Madness! Time to pretend that you have been watching college basketball the whole season and know who is going to do well in tournament. You know all of the upsets, the top seeds, and the sleeper team no one is really giving a chance to.

And team that can do some really damage in March Madness is the Texas Longhorns.

(Tom Reel/ San Antonio Express-News) G Isaiah Taylor

If you need to look for a team to shock some people, you look no further than a Shaka Smart coached basketball team. This basketball team is flooded with upperclassmen talent. The Longhorns leading scorer is junior G Isaiah Taylor. He averages 15.5 PPG and is the leading assist man with 5 a game. And senior G Javan Felix is one of the Longhorns’ sharpshooters. He averages 11.1 PPG and has a nice shot from behind the arc.

Chris Covatta/ Getty Images C Cameron Ridley

(Chris Covatta/ Getty Images)
C Cameron Ridley

The upperclassmen big men for Texas are a key on offense and on defense. 6’9” 285-pound senior C Cameron Ridley averages a double double, 12.7 PPG and 10 boards a game. Also add 3.4 BPG game to his double double stat line too. His co-host for the block party is 6’10” senior Prince Ibeh gives Texas 2 BPG. And F Connor Lammert gives the Longhorns great minutes and adds almost 7 PPG and 5.4 RPG, which is second on the team.

Texas guard Tevin Mack (0) shoots after getting past Kansas State guard Justin Edwards, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Texas G Tevin Mack (Orlin Wagner/ AP Photo)

Every good team nowadays needs good freshmen talents to push forward in the tournament. Freshmen Eric Davis Jr. and Kerwin Roach Jr. gives the Longhorns great energy off of the bench. They both average around 7 PPG and almost 3 RPG. And as they get into tournament play, Freshman G Tevin Mack will show his promise. With his 6’6” height at the G/F position and his athleticism he can guard many position and other versatile players.

Joe Lunardi has them as a 5 seed as of February 29, 2016. With the coaching style of Shaka Smart, this Texas team is a very good pick for a Sweet 16 spot. This team has already recorded 4 wins versus top 10 opponents this year, which is tied for a school record. This might be Smart’s most talented team and at VCU he did a lot with considerably less talent. This team’s guard play can match up with most teams projected to come into the tournament. But what I think pushing this team to the Sweet 16 or beyond is their bigs.  Not many teams in the nation are blessed with talented big men.

Orlin Wagner/ AP

(Orlin Wagner/ AP) HC Shaka Smart

Combined with the coaching staff, the talent, and the experience, this Texas Longhorns team is poised for a great run in the NCAA Tournament.

Dark Horses of the 2016 College Football Seasons

Team 1: This team is a pretty obvious pick but a team most people still overlooking. Rocky Top Tennessee Volunteers. They were a really good team in 2015 and is a team that is trending up. Tennessee has a pretty great backfield of Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. Those two players combined to find the end zone 40 times on offense. Their defense will return pretty much intake if juniors don’t leave early.  This is still the same Tennessee team that almost beat the SEC and National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and on October 15, 2016 Bama will travel to Knoxville to revisit their rivalry.

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

As far as scheduling goes on paper Tennessee’s only real test is Bama. They play in the weakened SEC East with the departure of former Florida QB Will Grier and former Georgia head coach Mark Richt. But they do have to go to Athens to play the Bulldogs, so that could be a trap game. After the Oct. 15th game against Bama they will have a well deserved bye week and finish the season with Carolina at Williams-Brice, home to Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, and Missouri. They will finish the regular season in Nashville against Vandy on Nov. 29th.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Vols ranked as the 17th ranked recruiting class for 2016.

The 2016 Vols are posed for great things, most likely a 11-1 regular season. It is very possible that the Vols could end the regular season undefeated. Because after the National Championship, Clemson, in a losing effort, showed the nation Nick Saban can not stop a good spread offense from scoring a bunch a points on his defenses. And with Dobbs and Hurd in the backfield they qualify as a good spread offense.

Team 2: This team was 8-5 in the 2015 season, but they are only remembered for a hellacious beating they took to the hands of Clemson. The 2015 Miami Hurricanes were actually a good team. They have one of the nation’s best signal callers in Brad Kaaya. He threw for 3238 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions. Miami also brings back their top rusher, Joseph Yearby, who ran for 1002 yards. Also Stacy Coley, their top receiving threat, just announced he is staying in school. Miami’s 2016 defense will be anchored by the linebacker crew that was blessed by fire in 2015. So Miami is returning their top three offensive weapons, all of their linebackers, and bring in new head coach Mark Richt. All Mark Richt needs is a good backfield and a weapon on the edge and he has that here in Miami

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

And as far as scheduling goes they have their toughest ACC game is at home against bitter rival Florida State. And they draw the short end of the straw having to go to Notre Dame on Oct. 29th, but they might have a bye week the week before that game since it looks like the school’s fall break is on the week of the 22nd. Just like Tennessee, Miami is trending up in the ACC Coastal, a division that is slowly trending down. They play the ACC’s three traditional road trap teams NC State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, but I really think this Miami team and this Miami coach wants to bring Miami back. And if he does not Warren Sapp will blast him on twitter. Here are some the tweets.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Canes ranked as the 16th ranked recruiting class for 2016. And they are always on the radar to shake up National Signing Day.

This 2016 Miami seems different. It is very likely Miami can go through the regular season 11-1 or 10-2 but both records resulting in a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship against either Clemson or rival, Florida State.

Team 3: This team is really really a dark horse. Now unlike the other two teams this team is not championship ready, but this team will definitely get a great bowl game in 2016. They had a losing record but went out with a bang with a win over a rival on the road. The Texas Longhorns were a sub .500 team in 2016; they went 5-7. At one point in the season, Charlie Strong was on the verge of losing his job but with a season-ending win over Baylor he got to keep his job as HC. They return their dual-QB system of Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes. D’Onta Freeman, their top back is going to be in the backfield for them. On the outside, they are returning freshman John Hurt, their top receiver. The Texas defense is expected to bring back 8 starters on defense and will be lead by their strong defensive line.

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

The schedule is pack with some tough opponents like opening week against Notre Dame. Their notable home games are Notre Dame, TCU, and Baylor. Week 2 they have a game against UTEP, which to most is a tune-up before their trip to the West. They go to California to play the Golden Bears in week 3, have a week 4 bye, and then play Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They also have the pleasure of playing Texas Tech and Kansas State on the road. And don’t think I forgot about the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma on October 8th. We all know Oklahoma didn’t forget the 2015 game.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Longhorns ranked as the 33rd ranked recruiting class for 2016. And don’t expect Texas to finish outside the top 30 maybe even in the top 20.

Now I know I’m probably on a stranded island with the Texas love, but history tells us Texas can’t be down for long. Charlie Strong isn’t a loser, it is not Strong’s blood to be a loser for long. I might be a year too early on this train but I have feeling that Texas will be a team that can win 9 or 10 games.

Stats Courtesy: ESPN

*Team Schedules from FBSchedules.com