2018 NBA mock draft May 17

The NBA Draft Lottery has finished and now teams can start putting their plans into place. With the NBA Draft in just over a month, who will some of these teams be targeting? Here is the 2018 NBA mock draft May 17:

1. Phoenix Suns- DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

Ayton has said it would be cool to play with Devin Booker and how good of a one-two punch it would be. The Suns have a nice crop of young wing players in Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, but they lack an inside presence. Ayton would give them that presence and then some. Ayton is a well-built and athletic big. He is a great rebounder, who often comes up with the ball with plenty of players around him.

2. Sacramento Kings- Marvin Bagley III, F, Duke

The 6’11” big man is athletic and can do everything on a basketball court, which includes shooting from deep at 39.7%. Sacramento was a lucky team in the lottery and can now get a real impact player. Bagley can slide in nicely with the Kings young core of De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield.

3. Atlanta Hawks- Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia

Doncic has the size of a wing player in the NBA but actually plays on-ball a lot for Real Madrid. He stands 6’6″ and is an excellent passer and playmaker. His three-point shooting has gone down over the last few years, so Doncic will have to work on that. The Hawks don’t have much talent on the roster and can play Doncic alongside Dennis Schroeder.

Michael Porter Missouri

Michael Porter Jr. (Photo by cbssports.com)

4. Memphis Grizzlies- Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri 

Porter can play the three or the four for the Grizzlies. He came back from his back injury and was rusty, but showed flashes of why he was rated so highly coming out of high school. Memphis has an aging roster and could use a young star like Porter, who can do almost anything asked of him on the court.

5. Dallas Mavericks- Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

The Mavs tried to tank, but it backfired with the lottery results. Jackson is an athletic player, who protects the rim well. He can also stretch the floor, hitting nearly 40% of his threes over his one year at Michigan State.

6. Orlando Magic- Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

The Magic need good guard play and have a void after trading Elfrid Payton. Young brought life to college basketball with his electrifying play. He drives, passes and shoots like Steph Curry, but does turn the ball over too much. He also has struggled on defense, but the offense should make up for it.

7. Chicago Bulls- Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Sexton is one of the best point guards in the class and is able to drive and distribute the ball well. This ability would fill in well with Lauri Markkanen for the future of the franchise.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers- Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

Carter can play the four and the five and presents a player who can even stretch the floor with his shooting. The Cavs will likely try to select Trae Young or Collin Sexton to get a point guard but may need to trade up to do it.

9. New York Knicks- Mo Bamaba, C, Texas

Bamba will be able to defend the paint, as he averages 5 blocks per 40 minutes. He has been compared to Rudy Gobert, with his good defense, and he’ll have to develop his offensive game. The Knicks can play him next to Kristaps Porzingis in what could be a dangerous frontcourt.

10. Philadelphia 76ers- Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

Knox has good size and can shoot well. He is inconsistent though, as he can go off in some games and disappear in others. The 76ers can get another freakish player with this pick and Knox will help open up the game for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

11. Charlotte Hornets- Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova 

Bridges will walk in the door as a legitimate “3 and D” prospect but has a chance to develop into much more. He’s got good length but does need to add some more strength. The Hornets need to find pieces to fill in between Dwight Howard and Kemba Walker.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Kentucky

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by 94feetreport.com)

12. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

He is a lanky point guard, who has a long wingspan, which helps him play good defense. SGA will need to work on his shooting and add some weight, but the length will get him selected early. The Clippers have Partick Beverly but need a point guard of the future.

13. Los Angeles Clippers- Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Williams displayed what he is capable of in the NCAA Tournament. He has great athleticism for a big but doesn’t have the best motor. The Clippers could use another productive big with the departure of Blake Griffin.

14. Denver Nuggets- Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Bridges is an athletic wing who already has an NBA body. He can shoot and drive and could fit in nice with the Nuggets’ young core.

15. Washington Wizards- Lonnie Walker IV, PG/SG, Miami

Walker doesn’t fill the biggest need for the Wizards, but he is a good value here. He didn’t produce a lot in his freshman year at Miami, but shows flashes of potential, making him worthy of consideration here.

16. Phoenix Suns- Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, USA

Simons has created some buzz after deciding to declare for the NBA Draft out of prep school. He can shoot and get to the basket well. The Suns will need a better point guard than Payton for the future.

17. Milwaukee Bucks- Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Robinson sat out this year to prepare for the draft after initially signing with Western Kentucky. Milwaukee could use a young developmental big.

18. San Antonio Spurs- Khyri Thomas, PG, Creighton 

The Spurs need a point guard to take over and lead the team. Thomas can get his own shots but needs to learn how to set his teammates up better.

Zhaire smith dunk

Zhaire Smith (Photo by blazersedge.com)

19. Atlanta Hawks- Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

In the NCAA Tournament, Smith electrified the crowd with his dunks, but he can also hit the three-point shot at a high percentage of 45%.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves- Gary Trent, SG, Duke

The Timberwolves need to spread the floor more and find some good shooters. Trent is a knockdown shooter who needs to improve his defense to see the floor in Minnesota.

21. Utah Jazz- Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Jazz have some young pieces but could use another wing player. They can also afford to have a draft and stash if Musa fits that bill.

22. Chicago Bulls- Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri

Porter doesn’t get as much publicity as his brother but had a solid season at Missouri. They got a guard with their first pick and can now get some depth for the frontcourt.

23. Indiana Pacers- Troy Brown, PG/SG, Oregon

Brown is a tall, athletic guard, but doesn’t shoot well from three-point range. He needs some development but could be a good player next to Victor Oladipo.

24. Portland Trail Blazers- Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV

The Trail Blazers don’t have a lot of size and can get McCoy and help him develop.

Jacob Evans NBA

Jacob Evans (Photo by downthedrive.com)

25. Los Angeles Lakers- Jacob Evans, G, Cincinnati

Evans is a “3 and D” player, who could find his way as a solid role player in the NBA.

26. Philadelphia 76ers- Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova

DiVincenzo can stay in Philly to help the 76ers spread the floor even more.

27. Boston Celtics- Trevon Duval, PG, Duke

The Celtics have good point guard play, but who knows how much longer they can keep Terry Rozier in a bench role behind Kyrie Irving after his performance in the playoffs. Marcus Smart will also likely not be retained.

28. Golden State Warriors- Tony Carr, PG, Penn State

Carr broke through this season and now has a chance to be drafted in the first round. He is a big guard, who can shoot and take over for Shaun Livingston.

29. Brooklyn Nets- Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Hutchison was a star at Boise State who did a little bit of everything for the Broncos. With the right coaching, he can turn into a solid NBA player.

30. Atlanta Hawks- Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Brunson won multiple Player of the Year awards. He is fundamentally sound and uses that to his advantage.

 

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2018 NBA Draft big board

The NBA Draft is under two months away and there are going to be a plethora of prospects to pick from. This post will highlight the top 50 NBA Draft prospects to watch out for and will be updated until the draft. Check back for updates when players go through the combine, testing and some go back to school.

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona, Fr. – 7’1″ 250 lbs

2017-18 stats: 20.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 61.2% FG, 34.3% 3pt FG

While this isn’t a time in the NBA that will be known for its dominating centers, Ayton has too much game to pass up. His size, athleticism, rebounding and scoring will entice a GM to take him very early in the NBA Draft. He couldn’t be defended well in college because he was a lot bigger and stronger than his competition, but he still showed a light enough touch, shooting a great percentage from the field.

2. Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke, Fr.- 6’11” 234 lbs

2017-18 stats: 21 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 61.4% FG, 39.7% 3pt FG

The Duke star reclassified to play in college last year and now is eligible for the NBA draft a little earlier than expected. He has a good stroke and can post up, making him a natural four-man in the NBA. He will have to add some strength to play against some of the bigger interior players in the NBA, but his length can deter shorter offensive players from going to the rim.

3. Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia- 6’6″ 218 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 46.4% FG, 30.2% 3pt FG

Doncic very well could be the number one overall pick and does a great job of setting up his teammates. There are some holes to his game, as he isn’t the greatest scorer or shooter. His three-point shooting is inconsistent at best, but that can be improved. He fits the mold of a shorter Ben Simmons, who does a little bit of everything, but his own offense needs to be worked on.

4. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri, Fr.- 6’10” 215 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 33.3% FG, 30.0% 3pt FG

Porter is a supreme talent, but had to miss the vast majority of his college season at Missouri after having spinal surgery. That will be a concern for teams thinking about drafting him and his three-point shooting may hold him back a little as well. His athleticism, height and ball-handling abilities will get him drafted, but teams will have to go all the way back to high school to see good tape of what he can do.

5. Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State, Fr.- 6’11” 242 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 51.3% FG, 39.6% 3pt FG

Michigan State was loaded with talent, so Jackson played just over half of most games. His per 40 minutes stats jump off the page: 20.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game. His elite protection of the rim can get him on the floor early in his career. His offensive game needs to develop a little bit but is already solid.

6. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma, Fr.- 6’2″ 180 lbs

2017-18 stats: 27.4 ppg, 8.7 apg, 42.2% FG, 36.0% 3pt FG

He lit up the college basketball world by leading the nation in scoring and assists, but Young struggled down the stretch. Turnovers were his main issue and he also lost his great shooting touch. The spacing in the NBA actually could help his turnover problem but he could be successful off-ball with his shooting if the turnovers continue.

7. Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama, Fr.- 6’3″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 19.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.8 rpg, 44.7% FG, 33.6% 3pt FG

Sexton made Alabama into an NCAA Tournament team this season. He is very effective at getting to the basket and at times could do it at will in college. His defense isn’t great, but he has the skillset to improve.

8. Mo Bamba, C, Texas, Fr.- 6’11” 225 lbs

2017-18 stats: 12.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.7 pg, 54.1% FG, 27.5% 3pt FG

If teams are looking for a premier rim protector and miss out on Jackson, Bamba could be their pick. He’s been compared to Rudy Gobert for his rebounding, shot-blocking and limited offensive game.

9. Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke, Fr.- 6’10” 259 lbs

2017-18 stats: 13.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 56.1% FG, 41.3% 3pt FG

He was overshadowed by Bagley at Duke, but Carter had a good year in his own right. He has a good post game and can stretch the floor with his three point shooting. His limited athleticism leaves him a little lower on this list, but he should go in the top ten picks.

10. Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M, So.- 6’9″ 237 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 63.2% FG, 0% 3pt FG

Williams could have left after his freshman year, but decided to return for a second year as an Aggie. He is athletic and will find a nice home on the inside. His motor has come into question in the past.

11. Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova, Jr.- 6’7″ 191 lbs

2017-2018 stats: 17.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 51.4% FG, 43.5% 3pt FG

Bridges is the typical “3 and D” prospect that is valuble to NBA teams. In order to be more than that, he needs to work on his ball-handling and creating his own shot.

12. Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky, Fr.- 6’9″, 215 lbs

2017-2018 stats: 15.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 44.7% FG, 34.1% 3pt FG

Although he models his game after Kevin Durant, Knox is an inconsistent shooter. When he gets hot, he can light up the scoreboard, but at Kentucky there were many stretches where he would miss a lot of shots or wouldn’t take as many shots as he needed to. With his size and scoring ability, he should be a lottery pick.

13. Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State, So.- 6’7″ 230 lbs

2017-18 stats: 17.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 45.7% FG, 36.4% 3pt FG

Bridges is another sophomore in the draft class that could have left after his freshman season. He’s athletic, has an NBA body and does a little bit of everything well.

14. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky, Fr.- 6’6″ 180 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 48.5% FG, 40.5% 3pt FG

He wasn’t the best freshman walking in the door at Kentucky this season, but he is one of the best ones walking out. His length and height for the point guard position is uniquely large. He excels at running the pick and roll and has a nice shot. He will need to add some strength to his frame.

15. Lonnie Walker IV, G, Miami, Fr.- 6’4″ 192 lbs

2017-18 stats: 11.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 41.5% FG, 34.6% 3pt FG

His only season at Miami didn’t yield the best results, but Walker was able to show off his potential. He didn’t set up his teammates the best and if he wants to play point guard in the NBA will need to improve in that area.

16. Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech, Fr.- 6’5″ 195 lbs

2017-18 stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 55.6% FG, 45.0% 3pt FG

Smith is the highest player on the list that hasn’t hired an agent. That may change soon, as his athletic ability will be hard to pass on. He had highlight reel dunks in his lone season in Lubbock, but also shot the ball well. Teams will be intrigued with his upside.

17. Mitchell Robinson, C, USA, HS- 7’0″ 223 lbs

2017-18 stats: N/A

He initially committed to Western Kentucky, but left the school before the season ever started. Since that time he has been preparing for the draft. Robinson is a former five star recruit, but a team will have to take a risk on drafting a player whose highest level of competition was high school.

18. Anfernee Simons, PG, USA, HS- 6’3″ 181 lbs

2017-18 stats: High school

Simons is heading to the NBA draft straight from prep school. He is eligible for the draft because he spent five years in high school. He was thought to be one of the best point guards in the recruiting class and now will be selected mainly on potential rather than results.

19. Troy Brown, G, Oregon, Fr.- 6’7″ 215 lbs

2017-18 stats: 11.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 44.4% FG, 29.1% 3pt FG

Brown is a big and athletic guard, but needs to improve his shot to be truly successful at the NBA level.

20. Dzanan Musa, G/F, Bosnia and Herzegovina- 6’8″ 195 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.9 apg, 42.9% FG, 36.4% 3pt FG

Musa might be the first draft and stash candidate selected in this draft. He’s only 18 years old and needs to develop his game a little more before getting NBA minutes.

21. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton, Jr.- 6’3″ 200 lbs

2017-18 stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 53.8% FG, 41.1% 3pt FG

He wasn’t the leading scorer on Creighton, that accolade belonged to Marcus Foster. Thomas’ skill-set figures to be more of an NBA fit. He still has the option to return to school, as he hasn’t hired an agent.

22. Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke, Fr.- 6’6″ 209 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 41.5% FG, 40.2% 3pt FG

Trent would have had bigger stats had he not chosen to go to Duke, but was able to prove that he can stretch the floor with his shooting.

23. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV, Fr.- 7’1″ 250 lbs

2017-18 stats: 16.9 pts, 10.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 54.5% FG, 33.3% 3pt FG

There are a limited number of big men in the class and McCoy can go in the first round because of this. He didn’t play the best competition in the MWC, but there still quite a few solid teams in that league.

24. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA, Jr.- 6’1″ 185 lbs

2017-18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 46.1% FG, 42.9% 3pt FG

Holiday has the NBA bloodlines with his brothers Jrue and Justin already being in the league. He has the shooting and playmaking ability to make it himself, even if he doesn’t quite have the athleticism or length desired to play in the NBA.

25. Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri, Fr.- 6’11” 240 lbs

2017-18 stats: 9.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 43.7% FG, 36.4% 3pt FG

Yes, the brother of Michael, Jontay was able to play a full season for Missouri. He is more of an inside player than his brother, but was effective. He likely would move up draft boards if he went back to school to develop.

26. Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State, Sr.- 6’7″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 47.5% FG, 35.9% 3pt FG

Hutchison was a do-it-all player for the Broncos throughout his career. He likely will see a huge hit to his numbers in the NBA, but can be a viable role player.

27. Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College, Jr.- 6’7″ 181 lbs

2017-18 stats: 20.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 48.5% FG, 40.9% 3pt FG

ACC competition is tough and Robinson played well despite not having the best support.

28. Tony Carr, G, Penn State, So.- 6’5″ 204 lbs

2017-18 stats: 19.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, 40.8% FG, 43.3% 3pt FG

Penn State hasn’t had a player of Carr’s caliber in quite some time. He’s a big point guard who really came into his own in his second season as a Nittany Lion.

29. Bruno Fernando, PF/C, Maryland, Fr.- 6’10” 240 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 57.8% FG, 33.3% 3pt FG

Fernando isn’t the most polished and is a project, but a team will take a chance on him in the late first or early second.

30. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova, Jr.- 6’3″ 199 lbs

2017-18 stats: 18.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.1 rpg, 52.1% FG, 40.8% 3pt FG

Brunson is good fundamentally and has championship experience, which teams will love.

31. Bruce Brown, G, Miami, So.- 6’5″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 11.4 pg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 41.5% FG, 26.7% 3pt FG

32. Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona, So.- 6’5″ 220 lbs

2017-18 stats: 13.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 43.2% FG, 35.9% 3pt FG

33. Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova, So.- 6’5″ 200lbs

2017-18 stats: 13.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 48.1% FG, 40.1% 3pt FG

34. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC, So.- 6’4″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: N/A- Sat out for FBI investigation

35. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke, Fr.- 6’3″ 186 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 5.6 apg, 42.8% FG, 29.0% 3pt FG

36. Grayson Allen, G, Duke, Sr.- 6’4″ 195 lbs

2017-18 stats: 15.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 41.8% FG, 37.0% 3pt FG

37. Chimezie Metu, PF/C, USC, Jr.- 6’11” 215 lbs

2017-18 stats: 15.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 52.3% FG, 30.0% 3pt FG

38. Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan, Jr.- 6’10” 210 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 52.8% FG, 39.4% 3pt FG

39. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky, Fr.- 6’5″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 42.8% FG, 33.8% 3pt FG

40. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State, So.- 6’4″ 179 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.2 apg, 48.9% FG, 44.3 3pt FG

41. Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati, Jr.- 6’6″ 210 lbs

2017-18 stats: 13.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 42.7% FG, 37.0% 3pt FG

42. Melvin Frazier, G, Tulane, Jr.- 6’5″ 200 lbs

2017-18 stats: 15.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 56.6% FG, 38.5% 3pt FG

43. Shake Milton, G, SMU, Jr.- 6’5″ 195 lbs

2017-18 stats: 18.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.4 apg, 44.9% FG, 43.4% 3pt FG

44. Omari Spellman, PF, Villanova, Fr.- 6’9″ 260 lbs

2017-18 stats: 10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 47.6% FG, 43.3 3pt FG

45. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas, Sr.- 6’2″ 172 lbs

2017-18 stats: 17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.2 apg, 40.0% FG, 40.6% 3pt FG

46. Keita Bates-Diop,  F, Ohio State, Sr.- 6’7″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 19.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 48% FG, 35.9% 3pt FG

47. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland, So.- 6’7″ 225 lbs

2017-18 stats: 9.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 36.6% FG, 25.0% 3pt FG

48. Tyus Battle, G, Syracuse, So.- 6’6″ 205 lbs

2017-18 stats: 19.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 43.3% FG, 32.2 3pt FG

49. Elie Okobo, G, France- 6’2″ 180 lbs

2017-18 stats: 12.8 ppg, 4.5 spg, 2.6 rpg, 46.8% FG, 38.6% 3pt FG

50. Kevin Huerter, G, Maryland, So.- 6’7″ 190 lbs

2017-18 stats: 14.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 50.3% FG, 41.7% 3pt FG

 

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2018 NBA mock draft April 30

The NBA regular season is now way behind in the rearview mirror and teams who aren’t in contention for the title are looking ahead to next year. Here is how the NBA Draft could look come June.

1. Phoenix Suns- DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

Ayton has said it would be cool to play with Devin Booker and how good of a one-two punch it would be. The Suns have a nice crop of young wing players in Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, but they lack an inside presence. Ayton would give them that presence and then some. Ayton is a well-built and athletic big. He is a great rebounder, who often comes up with the ball with plenty of players around him.

2. Memphis Grizzlies- Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke

The 6’11” big man is athletic and can do everything on a basketball court, which includes shooting from deep at 39.7%. While there have been some strains in the relationship between Marc Gasol and the organization, he should be on the team next season making Bagley fit in nicely next to him on the floor.

2018 NBA mock draft April 30

Luka Doncic (Photo by slamonline.com)

3. Dallas Mavericks- Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia

Doncic has the size of a wing player in the NBA but actually plays on-ball a lot for Real Madrid. He stands 6’6″ and is an excellent passer and playmaker. His three-point shooting has gone down over the last few years, so Doncic will have to work on that. The Mavs have Dennis Smith Jr. so they will have to play with two play-makers on the floor, which isn’t a bad thing.

4. Atlanta Hawks- Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

Porter can play the three or the four for the Hawks. He came back from his back injury and was rusty, but showed flashes of why he was rated so highly coming out of high school. The Hawks need to take the best player available regardless of position.

5. Orlando Magic- Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

The Magic need good guard play and have a void after trading Elfrid Payton. Young brought life to college basketball with his electrifying play. He drives, passes and shoots like Steph Curry, but does turn the ball over too much. He also has struggled on defense, but the offense should make up for it.

6. Chicago Bulls- Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Sexton is one of the best point guards in the class and is able to drive and distribute the ball well. This ability would fill in well with Lauri Markkanen for the future of the franchise.

7. Sacremento Kings- Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

Zach Randolph started at power forward this season, but likely doesn’t have much more left in the tank. Carter can play the four and the five and presents a player who can even stretch the floor with his shooting.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers- Mo Bamba, C, Texas

Tristan Thompson’s contract is awful and the Cavs need a legitimate inside presence. Bamba will be able to defend the paint, as he averages 5 blocks per 40 minutes. He has been compared to Rudy Gobert, with his good defense, and he’ll have to develop his offensive game.

9. New York Knicks- Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky

Knox has good size and can shoot well. He is inconsistent though, as he can go off in some games and disappear in others. The Knicks need to take the best player available in this draft regardless of position.

10. Philadelphia 76ers- Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

Ben Simmons has shown that he can make all the plays for the offense. The 76ers need to surround him with shooters. Bridges will walk in the door as a legitimate “3 and D” prospect but has a chance to develop into much more. He’s got good length but does need to add some more strength.

11. Charlotte Hornets- Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Bridges is an athletic wing who already has an NBA body. He can shoot and drive and could complement the two key pieces the Hornets do have in Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard.

2018 NBA mock draft April 30

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by mycn2.com)

12. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

He is a lanky point guard, who has a long wingspan, which helps him play good defense. SGA will need to work on his shooting and add some weight, but the length will get him selected early. The Clippers have Partick Beverly but need a point guard of the future.

13. Los Angeles Clippers- Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Williams displayed what he is capable of in the NCAA Tournament. He has great athleticism for a big but doesn’t have the best motor. The Clippers could use another productive big with the departure of Blake Griffin.

14. Denver Nuggets- Gary Trent, SG, Duke

Denver has some good young players at almost every position and can take the best player available. Trent can provide even more shooting to a team that ranks fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage.

15. Washington Wizards- Lonnie Walker, PG/SG, Miami

Walker doesn’t fill the biggest need for the Wizards, but he is a good value here. He didn’t produce a lot in his freshman year at Miami, but shows flashes of potential, making him worthy of consideration here.

16. Phoenix Suns- Anfernee Simmons, PG/SG, USA

Simons has created some buzz after deciding to declare for the NBA Draft out of prep school. He can shoot and get to the basket well. The Suns will need a better point guard than Payton for the future.

17. Milwaukee Bucks- Mitchell Robinson, C, USA

Robinson sat out this year to prepare for the draft after initially signing with Western Kentucky. Milwaukee could use a young developmental big.

18. San Antonio Spurs- Khyri Thomas, PG, Creighton

The Spurs need a point guard to take over and lead the team. Thomas can get his own shots but needs to learn how to set his teammates up better.

19. Atlanta Hawks- Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

In the NCAA Tournament, Smith electrified the crowd with his dunks, but he can also hit the three-point shot at a high percentage of 45%.

2018 NBA Mock draft April 30

Donte DiVincenzo (Photo by sportingnews.com)

20. Minnesota Timberwolves- Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

The Timberwolves need to spread the floor more and find some good shooters. DiVincenzo fits that bill and is also extremely athletic.

21. Utah Jazz- Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Jazz have some young pieces but could use another wing player. They can also afford to have a draft and stash if Musa fits that bill.

22. Chicago Bulls- Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri

Porter doesn’t get as much publicity as his brother but had a solid season at Missouri. They got a guard with their first pick and can now get some depth for the frontcourt.

23. Indiana Pacers- Troy Brown, PG/SG, Oregon

Brown is a tall, athletic guard, but doesn’t shoot well from three-point range. He needs some development but could be a good player next to Victor Oladipo.

24. Portland Trail Blazers- Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV

The Trail Blazers don’t have a lot of size and can get McCoy and help him develop.

25. Los Angeles Lakers- Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Wagner is a bit of a matchup problem with his size and shooting ability and can benefit from playing with Lonzo Ball.

26. Philadelphia 76ers- Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

The 76ers have their playmaker in Ben Simmons and can continue to help spread the floor for him to make plays with this pick.

27. Boston Celtics- Trevon Duval, PG, Duke

The Celtics have good point guard play, but who knows how much longer they can keep Terry Rozier in a bench role after his performance in the first round of the playoffs.

2018 NBA mock draft April 30

Tony Carr (Photo by post-gazette.com)

28. Golden State Warriors- Tony Carr, PG, Penn State

Carr broke through this season and now has a chance to be drafted in the first round. He is a big guard, who can shoot and take over for Shaun Livingston.

29. Brooklyn Nets- Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Hutchison was a star at Boise State who did a little bit of everything for the Broncos. With the right coaching, he can turn into a solid NBA player.

30. Atlanta Hawks- Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Brunson won multiple Player of the Year awards. He is fundamentally sound and uses that to his advantage.

 

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A recap of the 2017-2018 college basketball season

The 2017-2018 college basketball season was nothing short of unpredictable. Whether it was crazy upsets or scandals that seemed to drop out of nowhere there could not have been more of an unpredictable season. As the young freshmen were the focal point of many of the preseason polls in September, it was a back-court of upperclassmen that cut down the nets a week ago today in early April.

The Craziness:

This season, many teams struggled. The good teams hiccuped early and the depth of college basketball showed. A lot of teams seemed to be able to beat anyone if they were given their home court. Teams like Arizona State rose to the top five in the AP poll after not being ranked at all in the preseason. Then proceeded to free fall and almost play their way out of the field of 68. Notre Dame lost two home games against Ball State and Indiana and played their way out of the NCAA tournament.

Teams with fantastic freshmen like Duke struggled to defend at times but then would seemingly turn around and win by 30 in the next game they played. In every single game that Duke lost this season, they followed it up with a double-digit victory in that next game. And finally, a team of just three Crimson Tide,  led by standout freshman Collin Sexton, almost knocked off the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Heading into 2018, there wasn’t a single team that was undefeated, which just goes to show the depth and talent in all of division one college basketball.

The college basketball regular season was a roller coaster ride with ups, downs and unpredictability. The draw it had was that any team could win at any given moment. Like anything, college basketball’s unpredictability made it more interesting and in turn made March even more crazy and exciting than it normally is.

NCAA Tournament:

College Basketball

(USA Today).

This is a year that will go down in the history books. First off, in the tournament’s history, there had never been a number one seed losing to a 16 seed. As of this March, college basketball fans were blessed and some cursed, with the first win for a 16 seed over a one. But not only was it just “another one seed” it was THE one seed. A unanimous number one pick, the ACC regular season and tournament champion. A team with the number one ranked defense that although historically disappointing in the NCAA tournament, seemed like a lock to win against a UMBC team that lost to the University of Albany 83-39. The Cavaliers gave up 53 second-half points to the Retrievers (One less than their entire game average) and went into the history books for all the wrong reasons.

Loyola-Chicago emerged as the Cinderella destined to dance after a young Kentucky team couldn’t get out of a bracket that had an 11, seven and nine seed in front of them. Let me repeat that again. An 11, nine, and seven seed all made it to the sweet sixteen, and they were all in the same region. Ultimately the big dance stopped when the Ramblers ran into the sizzling hot Michigan Wolverines who went on to face Villanova for a chance at the throne.

Villanova:

Through all of that was Villanova. Through all the unpredictability and upsets was the 2016 National Champions. A team that dropped just four games all season and the highest scoring offense in the country. A team so balanced that they may have slid under the radar. With six 10+ point scorers, the Wildcats were incredibly balanced. Led by Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson Villanova had the best identity in college basketball.

The Wildcats did everything this season in convincing fashion. Out of their 36 wins this season, only one was by less than eight points and of their four losses never lost by more than eight. Villanova proved themselves as both the most consistent basketball team as well as one of the most explosive ones.

Through all the unpredictably and all of the noise, one thing that ended up making sense was the Villanova Wildcats cutting down the nets last week. Even though the story is that offense wins games and defense wins championships, in the end, defense didn’t win Virginia a game and offense won Villanova a championship.

Featured image from Beinsports.com.

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2018 NBA mock draft April 6

The college basketball season is now over and prospects are looking forward to the draft. Here is the 2018 NBA mock draft April 6.

2018 NBA mock draft April 6

DeAndre Ayton (Photo by uproxx.com)

1. Phoenix Suns- DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

Ayton has said it would be cool to play with Devin Booker and how good of a one-two punch it would be. The Suns have a nice crop of young wing players in Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, but they lack an inside presence. Ayton would give them that presence and then some. Ayton is a well-built and athletic big. He is a great rebounder, who often comes up with the ball with plenty of players around him.

2. Memphis Grizzlies- Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

The 6’11” big man is athletic and can do everything on a basketball court, which includes shooting from deep at 39.7%. While there have been some strains in the relationship between Marc Gasol and the organization, he should be on the team next season making Bagley fit in nicely next to him on the floor.

3. Atlanta Hawks- Mo Bamba, C, Texas

Dennis Schroeder is the best thing the Hawks have going for them and they need to find players on the interior to help him out. Bamba will be able to defend the paint, as he averages 5 blocks per 40 minutes. He has been compared to Rudy Gobert, with his good defense, and he’ll have to develop his offensive game.

4. Orlando Magic- Luka Doncic, G, Spain

Doncic has the size of a wing player in the NBA but actually plays on-ball a lot for Real Madrid. He stands 6’6″ and is an excellent passer and playmaker. His three-point shooting has gone down over the last few years, so Doncic will have to work on that. The Magic need good guard play and have a void after trading Elfrid Payton.

5. Dallas Mavericks- Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

The Mavs have guards and wings and now need some bigger players for the future. Dirk Nowitzki is the only really productive big on the roster and will be gone in a few years. Porter can play the three or the four for the Mavs. He came back from his back injury and was rusty, but showed flashes of why he was rated so highly coming out of high school.

6. Sacramento Kings- Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

Zach Randolph is the leading scorer on the Kings and is playing out his last few NBA years. By selecting Jackson, the Kings could replace Randolph and add another young player with potential to the starting lineup. Jackson has been a monster on the inside for Michigan State this season. Per 40 minutes, he is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. He also is a good rim protector.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers- Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

Well, LeBron James has already talked about how good Trae Young is. The Cavs just got George Hill, but he is aging and could help develop Young. They can also play Young off-ball. Young brought life to college basketball with his electrifying play. He drives, passes and shoots like Steph Curry, but does turn the ball over too much. He also has struggled on defense, but the offense should make up for it.

8. Chicago Bulls- Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

Bridges will walk in the door as a legitimate “3 and D” prospect but has a chance to develop into much more. He’s got good length but does need to add some more strength. The Bulls have some good guard play and Lauri Markkanen but could use a solid wing defender.

2018 NBA mock draft April 6

Collin Sexton (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

9. New York Knicks- Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

The Knicks selected Frank Nitilikina last year and traded for Emmanuel Mudiay, but neither have been great. They’ll need a legitimate point guard if they are ever going to compete. Sexton is one of the best players available, who is able to drive and distribute the ball well.

10. Philadelphia 76ers- Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky

Knox is still deciding whether he will enter his name into the draft, but if he does, he is a lottery pick. The 76ers don’t have too many needs and can elect to take a player like Knox, who can be a key role player before potentially breaking into stardom.

11. Charlotte Hornets- Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Bridges is an athletic wing who already has an NBA body. He can shoot and drive and could complement the two key pieces the Hornets do have in Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard.

12. Los Angeles Clippers- Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

Will DeAndre Jordan be with the Clippers much longer? He says he wants to be there, but they are rebuilding. Carter would present good value here and could play next to Jordan if the Clippers decide to keep him.

13. Denver Nuggets- Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke

Denver has some good young players at almost every position and can take the best player available. Trent can provide even more shooting to a team that ranks fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage.

14. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

He is a lanky point guard, who has a long wingspan, which helps him play good defense. SGA will need to work on his shooting and add some weight, but the length will get him selected early. The Clippers have Partick Beverly but need a point guard of the future.

15. Phoenix Suns- Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, USA

Simons has created some buzz after deciding to declare for the NBA Draft out of prep school. He can shoot and get to the basket well. The Suns will need a better point guard than Payton for the future.

16. Phoenix Suns- Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

He hasn’t produced a lot in his freshman year at Miami, but shows flashes of potential, making him worthy of consideration here. The Suns can fill a few different needs with their first-round picks.

17. Washington Wizards- Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Williams displayed what he is capable of in the NCAA Tournament. He has great athleticism for a big but doesn’t have the best motor. The Wizards need an inside player for John Wall and Bradley Beal to play off of.

2018 NBA mock draft April 6

Zhaire Smith (Photo by aol.com)

18. Atlanta Hawks- Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

In the NCAA Tournament, Smith electrified the crowd with his dunks, but he can also hit the three-point shot at a high percentage of 45%.

19. Utah Jazz- Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Jazz have some young pieces but could use another wing player. They can also afford to have a draft and stash if Musa fits that bill.

20.  Chicago Bulls- Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri

Porter doesn’t get as much publicity as his brother but had a solid season at Missouri. They got a wing with their first pick and can now get some depth for the frontcourt.

21. San Antonio Spurs- Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

The Spurs will need better guard play with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili winding down their careers. Brown is a tall, athletic guard, but doesn’t shoot well from three-point range.

22. Indiana Pacers- Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton 

Indiana needs a point guard to add to Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner.

23. Philadelphia 76ers- Mitchell Robinson, C, USA

Robinson sat out this year to prepare for the draft after initially signing with Western Kentucky. The 76ers had depth at center for years when they were “trusting the process”, but now need to find someone behind Joel Embiid.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves- Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

Minnesota is 19th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage and Allen can help them off the bench in that category.

2018 NBA Mock draft april 6

Caleb Martin (Photo by Nevadaapeal.com)

25. Los Angeles Lakers- Caleb Martin, SG/SF, Nevada

Martin played well at Nevada this season and the Lakers could use more wing players.

26. Portland Trail Blazers- Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV

The Trail Blazers don’t have a lot of size and can get McCoy and help him develop.

27. Boston Celtics- Chimezie Metu, PF/C, USC

Boston should be better next year with all their players healthy, but don’t have many young bigs.

28. Golden State Warriors- Tony Carr, PG, Penn State

Carr broke through this season and now has a chance to be drafted in the first round. He is a big guard, who can shoot and take over for Shaun Livingston.

29. Brooklyn Nets- Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

The Nets need to acquire more talent but are stuck with the second to last pick in the first round. Wagner presents good value and could help fill their need of an interior player.

30. Atlanta Hawks- Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Brunson won multiple Player of the Year awards. He is fundamentally sound and uses that to his advantage.

 

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Way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

The college basketball season has just ended, which means it is time to look ahead to next season. Who are the teams that will be looking to cut down the nets in the 2019 NCAA Tournament?

25. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

The Ramblers do lose Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson, but return a lot of key players. This includes their two leading scorers, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes. Custer won MWC Player of the Year and will be a frontrunner to win the award again next season. The Ramblers have also been able to keep their head coach Porter Moser for the time being, who should keep the ball rolling.

24. Clemson Tigers

Clemson outdid expectations this year to earn a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mark Donnal, Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham are headed out the door, but they were successful after Grantham went down with an injury. Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas will lead the team next season as seniors. Reed led the team in scoring and looks like he could break out next season.

23. Cincinnati Bearcats

Gary Clark and Kyle Washington are lost to graduation, but to add insult to injury Jacob Evans has declared for the draft and doesn’t plan on returning. The Bearcats still have talent and should be the favorites to win the AAC again. The backcourt play will be great with Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome returning. Cincinnati will have to find productive frontcourt players to really be a threat to great teams, but they are solid as is.

Way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

Mike Brey (photo by cbssports.com)

22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame seems to lose about two or three key players a year and do fine anyways. This year’s departing class will be a little harder to replace though, as the Fighting Irish lose point guard Matt Farrell and star Bonzie Colson. They do however have T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and Martinas Geben returning, along with a solid recruiting class, which should help them compete in the ACC.

21. TCU Horned Frogs

The guard play should be good for the Horned Frogs next season as Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher return. Their two leading scorers, Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky, are both graduating and other players will need to step up to help make Jaime Dixon’s third year at TCU successful.

20. UCLA Bruins

Thomas Welsh graduates and Aaron Holiday has declared for the NBA draft. They do have a good incoming recruiting class, ranked third in the country by 247 sports, and some returning talent on the roster to work with. Holiday should be the only player who keeps his name in the NBA Draft, meaning Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands will be returning leaders.

19. LSU Tigers

Will Wade did an admirable job in his first season as LSU’s head coach. It was a program that wasn’t in the best shape and they finished with 18 wins. Tremont Waters and Skylar Myers will make the backcourt really good and they have the fourth best recruiting class (247sports). With two five-star big men coming in, they have a chance to compete again in the SEC.

18. Maryland Tigers

Maryland didn’t have their best season in 2017-2018 but have their top five leading scorers returning. This team will be headlined by Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando. Assuming they all return to school, Maryland can make some noise.

17. Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs had a nice run in the NIT and will return all key players from the team. To go with that, they have the ninth-best recruiting class, which should help push them into the NCAA Tournament. Ben Howland has plenty of experience of winning at UCLA and now has the players to do so at Mississippi State.

way too early college basketball rankings 2018-19

Terance Mann (Photo by news-press.org)

16. Florida State Seminoles

Leonard Hamilton led the Seminoles on a dream run to the Elite Eight. They used their length and athleticism well and created havoc. Phil Cofer and Braian Angola are moving on, but their best player, Terance Mann returns. With a lot of key players and length returning, the Seminoles should have a better regular season than this past season.

15. Virginia Tech Hokies

Justin Bibbs is gone, but the rest of the notable Hokies will return. Virginia Tech had a really good offense and should be able to fill the void left by Bibbs. Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. will be senior leaders who will be able to lead the team to a lot of wins after being two of the three top leading scorers from last season.

14. Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State surprised some by making the NCAA Tournament, then surprised everyone by making the Elite Eight. They don’t lose any key players either, which should lead them to compete in the Big 12, although it will be tough to beat out their in-state rival. Dean Wade and Barry Brown will be starring in the conference next season.

13. Oregon Ducks

Troy Brown is reportedly leaving for the NBA Draft. He could still return, but they will lose MiKyle McIntosh to graduation. Other than that the Ducks should return everyone from a 23 win team. They have the second-best recruiting class in the country, which includes a unique talent in Bol Bol, son of Manute Bol. Payton Pritchard took a huge step from year one to year two and should take another step forward in year three.

12. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers had a young team this year and will return everyone. Rick Barnes has done a fantastic job early in his tenure at Tennessee. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield will lead the team again with their great physical play. They are not expected to add anything special in the recruiting class because they aren’t losing anyone.

11. Michigan State Spartans

A lot has to be figured out with the situation at Michigan State, but as of now, they look like a good team heading into next season. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are going to the NBA. Gavin Schilling and “Tum Tum” Nairn will graduate, but a lot of talent should be returning to East Lansing. Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford should all be returning to school and will work with the 11th best recruiting class.

way too early 2018-29 college basketball rankings

Caleb and Cody Martin (Photo by twitter.com)

10. Nevada Wolfpack 

Nevada has five of their six key players who could potentially be coming back for next season. Caleb and Cody Martin could leave for the NBA, but the smart decision would be to come back to school. With those two, head coach Eric Musselman and Jordan Caroline returning and teaming up with some new recruits should make the team even better next season.

9. Auburn Tigers

The FBI investigation could have derailed Auburn’s season, but they outdid expectations. They return all key players and should have Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley returning at some point next season. If the FBI investigation doesn’t progress too much further Auburn is a contender to cut down the nets at the end of the season. Mustapha Heron and Bryce Brown will create a great backcourt.

*Heron has since declared for the NBA Draft and hired an agent.

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson are both graduating. If Killian Tillie returns, Gonzaga is in store for another successful season. Four of their top five leading scorers would return and Mark Few can get another top seed. Making the Final Four isn’t out of the picture again for Gonzaga.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

Losing Joel Berry and Theo Pinson is going to be tough to deal with early in the season, but UNC has a lot of returning talent. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams all averaged double figures and will have a chance to be leaders of the team next season. The Tar Heels will also have two five star recruits coming in with Nassir Little and Coby White.

6. Michigan Wolverines

This ranking depends on Moritz Wagner coming back to school. He isn’t projected to be a lottery pick and could go back to school as he loves playing for Coach Beilein. With Wagner, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson back, they have the necessary pieces to be good again. Jordan Poole will take on a bigger role and the 16th best recruiting class is coming in.

5. Virginia Cavaliers

The sting of being the first one seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament will be there for a while, but they only lost three games all season. Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall leaving will hurt, but Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter should be able to lead Virginia to success.

4. Villanova Wildcats

Villanova is now a perennial contender and will be back next year. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely be in the NBA next season, but there is so much talent returning outside of them. Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman will be stars next season. They also have the 12th best-recruiting class in the country including a five-star point guard in Jahvon Quinerly, who should be able to take over point guard duties from Brunson.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

The majority of Kentucky’s team should be back next season after securing a five seed and reaching the Sweet 16. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox should probably go to the NBA but are reportedly torn on what to do. Even if they leave, the Wildcats will have a great team next season. They have the sixth-best recruiting class in the country to pair with the vast returning talent.

way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

R.J. Barrett (photo by espn.com)

2. Duke Blue Devils

While most, if not all, their starters leaving, Duke will have a lot to replace. Fortunately, they have the top three recruits in the class coming in. All three were highly coveted and hyped. R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish will have NBA scouts going to Cameron Indoor Stadium often. Five-star Tre Jones was also signed to play point guard. Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’Connell are the leading returning players and need to grow up fast.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas will feel some growing pains while trying to replace Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. If Malik Newman, Udoka Azabuike and/or Lagerald Vick decide to go pro, Kansas will fall down these rankings a bit. Assuming they all return, Kansas should be one of the best teams in the country. They have those key players returning and the fifth-best recruiting class. To add to it, they have the Lawson twins, who were highly productive at Memphis, transferring in.

 

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National Championship Game Live Thread

College basketball fans, tonight it all ends. Tonight’s title game should give fans the show they deserve after a wild March Madness Tournament. The hottest team in the nation will square off against the undisputed most talented team in the country.

Destiny vs. Dynasty.

Defense vs. Offense.

I’ll be continuously blogging my thoughts on the game so feel free to follow this channel and enjoy the ride with me! Before we get underway though, here are a few of my pregame thoughts:

  1. Michigan does a fantastic job of running shooters off of the three point line. Those of you who are expecting to see a repeat of Villanova-Kansas will be disappointed. This game should resemble the Villanova-Texas Tech Elite Eight showdown as Michigan’s defense is very similar to Tech’s.
  2. Michigan needs Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to get going early. He was critical in the Big 10 Tournament with his three point shooting and playmaking off of the dribble.
  3. How will Michigan guard Brunson in the post? Simpson gives up three inches to Brunson and has difficulty staying out of foul trouble. Kansas tried to double him, but that did not work as he passed through the double too well.

Under 16 Timeout – 13:56, Michigan 11, Villanova 8

Michigan’s defense is giving Villanova all sorts of problems so far. Coach Beilein has chosen not to double Brunson in the post and stay with the Wildcat shooters on the perimeter instead. Brunson has 4 early points, but the story of the game is Moe Wagner so far. He has 9 of Michigan’s 11 points so far and has scored in the post, off the dribble and behind the arc. Abdur-Rahkman looks locked in early on both sides of the ball though.

Under 12 Timeout – 11:51, Michigan 18, Villanova 14

DiVincenzo knocked down Villanova’s first three pointer of the game. He looks poised to have a big game. However, Michigan’s defense is definitely giving the Wildcats problems early on. They are struggling to find space on the perimeter and all of their shots are being contested. Abdur-Rahkman is forcing the issue early on offense for Michigan. Jordan Poole had a nice and-one off the dribble.

Under 8 Timeout -7:32, Michigan 21, Villanova 18

Villanova keeping plays alive despite not making shots. DiVincenzo’s hustle is paying dividends as Michigan is struggling to contain him on the boards. Jordan Poole has continued to make plays for the Wolverines on the perimeter as he had a nice pick and roll assist to Wagner. There was a bit of a scuffle between Wagner and Paschall as the two big men hit the deck going after a loose ball. Emotions are running high! Michigan’s offense seems to be falling into a little bit of a drought here. Their defense is good enough to keep them in it, but they need to find their rhythm again.

Under 4 Timeout – 3:59, Villanova 30, Michigan 26

Donte DiVincenzo has completely taken over this game. DiVincenzo has 16 of Villanova’s 30 points and is the only player consistently hitting shots. The Wildcats are find their offense by creating second chance opportunities off of hustle plays. Michigan needs to get back into a groove on offense. Abdur-Rahkman has tried to force the issue by taking it to the rim. The Wolverines need more of that moving forward.

Halftime – Villanova 37, Michigan 28

This game is in danger of getting away from the Wolverines. They did a great job of limiting the Wildcats as a whole, but DiVincenzo carried their offense for a solid 10 minutes. DiVincenzo finished the half with 18 points. Wagner started out really hot from the field, but Villanova did a great job of limiting his touches in the second part of the first half. Michigan needs Charles Matthews to find a groove on offense. Matthews is 1-5 with 2 points after scoring 18 against Loyola in the semifinals.

Michigan Timeout – 18:03, Villanova 44, Michigan 30

Hold onto your hats, folks. Villanova is getting ready to blow this game open. Wagner opened up the half with a nice move to the bucket, but Simpson, rather than box out, watched Villanova miss a three. This allowed Bridges to track down the loose ball and finish the second chance shot. Paschall then knocked down a three and blew past Wagner for a layup capping off of a 7-0 run. Michigan needs to get back to the basics and take the ball to the hole and communicate better on defense.

Under 16 Timeout – 15:24, Villanova 48, Michigan 33

This game is close to being over. Michigan’s offense is dead in the water. There is no movement, no confidence and no swagger. Villanova’s defense, the underrated part of their team, is winning them this game right now.

Under 4 Timeout – 3:21, Villanova 74, Michigan 54

Well it’s safe to say that the Villanova Wildcats will win their second national title in three years behind a fantastic performance from Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo currently has 29 points off of the bench. Villanova has not missed a beat with Brunson on the bench with four fouls, which really shows you how talented this Wildcat team is. Villanova has completely rampaged the competition in this NCAA Tournament and that is a testament to how good of a coach Jay Wright is. This is not a knock on Michigan though. Abdur-Rahkman has 19 points and played his heart out. This Wolverine team played with fire and heart from February until now and they have no reason to hang their heads after this game.

Final – Villanova 79, Michigan 62

That’s it! Villanova is your 2018 national champions! Congratulations the Wildcats and Coach Jay Wright!

Featured image by SportsRook. 

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Final Four Preview and Predictions

The day has finally arrived! Four teams have a shot to achieve their dream this weekend in San Antonio at the Alamodome. This NCAA Tournament has provided fans with everything they could have wanted. Fans saw the greatest upset in Tournament history when UMBC took out top overall seed Virginia. The lovable Loyola-Chicago Ramblers won over the hearts of the nation with Sister Jean as they will attempt to become the first double-digit seed to win it all.

While the left side of the bracket was pure chaos, the right side was pure chalk. Top-seeded Villanova and Kansas took care of business in the East and Midwest to meet and have a chance to cut down the net in San Antonio. This begs the question: who will move on and meet Monday night and play for ultimate glory? Let’s look at the matchups and find out!

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago

This game should shape up to a defensive battle. Both the Wolverines and the Ramblers attempt to dictate the pace of play with their defensive pressure. Each offense is capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but each is prone to occasional stagnation.

We all know Marques Townes and Loyola have a flair for the dramatic (AP Photo/John Amis).

It is safe to say that most casual fans in the nation will be pulling for Loyola-Chicago to continue to shock the world tonight. The showdown between Loyola’s offense and Michigan’s defense will decide the winner of the game tonight. Loyola’s offense does a fantastic job of putting a defense on its heels with their ball movement. The Ramblers average 16 assists per game and are the definition of unselfish.

However, these Wolverines might be up to the task of halting Loyola’s highly efficient offense. Michigan sports three of the best on-ball defenders in the country with Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. These guards are long, athletic and quick laterally. Michigan does a great job of maintaining physicality with their body and hands without picking up fouls.

The key for Michigan is to stay at home against Loyola’s pump fakes. Loyola does a good job at getting their defender in the air since they are such a good jump shooting team. This helps the Ramblers invert the defense as Clayton Custer, Donte Ingram or Marques Townes are all capable of taking their defender off of the dribble and creating plays in the middle of the defense. When the defense collapses Loyola will kick the ball back out and proceed to shoot, take it back in or swing the ball on the perimeter.

Loyola has a way of demoralizing opponents with their use of the shot clock as well. Their ball movement allows them to use all 30 seconds of the clock and get a good look at the rim. The Ramblers, as a team, shoot 50.9 percent from the field. Michigan’s defenders need to work on pressuring the Ramblers and contesting their attempts from the field without fouling.

Moe Wagner needs to have a big game to keep Michigan dancing (Harry How/Getty Images).

On the opposite side of the ball, Moe Wagner figures to cause all sorts of trouble for Coach Porter Moser and this Rambler defense. While the Ramblers are ultra-versatile, they lack the big man who can step out to the perimeter and guard Wagner effectively. Cameron Krutwig has done a masterful job of locking down the paint for Loyola, but he will be in uncharted territory tonight.

Wagner is so dangerous because he not only has the ability to consistently knock down three-pointers but also utilize his lateral quickness and take the ball to the rim. Wagner is two inches taller than Krutwig and 15lbs lighter. If I were Moser, I would not leave Krutwig on an island against Wagner.

Michigan’s offense is very hit or miss. The Wolverines showed the world what they are capable of doing to good teams when their offense is clicking, as they rampaged their way through the Big 10 Tournament. But they have struggled to find the same consistency throughout the Tournament.

Michigan wants to utilize on and off ball screens to free up shooters and create open passing lanes to the basket. Loyola needs to stay disciplined when they face these screens and communicate effectively on their switches. If they fail to do so, Michigan will run them out of the building.

One thing to keep an eye on is free throw shooting down the stretch, Michigan is a notoriously poor free throw shooting team. The Wolverines only shoot 66.2 percent from the line and Loyola will target Simpson (51.1 percent) and Matthews (57.4 percent) near the end of the game. If Michigan cannot put Loyola away, the Ramblers showed the world what they are capable of doing to teams at the buzzer (just ask Miami, Tennessee and Nevada).

Ultimately, this game will be a battle of willpower with defense ruling the day on both ends. Michigan’s defense, despite Loyola’s passing attack, is difficult to break down and Michigan will struggle to get open looks from the outside. In the end, Michigan is still a top 15 team in the nation and has too many weapons on offense to hold down all game. Michigan’s defense will keep Loyola in check.

Prediction: Michigan 66, Loyola 63

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas

This game should be the exact opposite of Michigan-Loyola. Two blue-bloods with top-5 offenses that play fast-paced should have fans on the edge of their seat from start to finish. This showdown will also feature two Wooden Award finalists going head-to-head with a chance to further cement themselves as legends within their respective programs.

What is interesting about this game is that both teams have a distinct advantage when they are on the offensive end. This does not mean that either team plays poor defense, but that each team presents unique challenges on the offensive end that have troubled defenses all season. For Villanova, it is their positionless versatility. For Kansas, it is their four-guard lineup with a 7-foot, 280lb matchup nightmare in the middle.

Omari Spellman’s versatility is critical for Villanova (Yong Kim/The Daily Inquirer).

Let’s start with Villanova. Coach Jay Wright usually plays six players significant minutes throughout the game. All six of these players can spread the floor, knock down three-pointers and attack the rim in different ways.

The engine of the Wildcat offense is Jalen Brunson. The unique aspect of Brunson’s game is that he can run the offense on the outside or in the paint. Brunson is the best post-up point guard in the nation. He excels at using his strength to back down opponents while using his exceptional court vision to find open teammates if the opposing team brings the double team. Brunson can also attack the rim from the perimeter while consistently knocking down three-pointers and mid-range shots.

Omari Spellman looks to give Kansas problems too. Wright has done a wonderful job with the development of Spellman this season. Spellman, a 6-foot-9, 245lbs freshman, has turned into a dual threat on offense. Spellman has the highest three-point percentage on a Wildcat offense that lives off of the three at 44.6 percent. Spellman does a great job of flexing out to the corner/wing and hitting threes consistently. He presumes to be a huge matchup problem for the Jayhawks.

Throw in potential NBA lottery pick Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall and any opposing defense has serious problems. If Bill Self chooses to remain in man-to-man, Villanova will have a serious height advantage against the Jayhawk four-guard lineup. Self would most likely put Malik Newman, who completely shut down Grayson Allen in the Elite Eight, on Brunson. However, who would guard Spellman? Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa do not have the lateral quickness to stay with Spellman on the wing. Self could bring in Mitch Lightfoot to shadow Spellman, but look for him to draw up a hybrid zone that is designed to guard the three-point line.

Changing focus to the other side of the ball, Kansas does a great job of decimating opposing teams in transition. Devonte’ Graham has fantastic court vision and touch as a passer when running the break. Kansas’s wings tend to flank out and widen the court while their big men charge down the middle looking for the lob. This gives Graham the option to throw the long lob or hit Malik Newman, LaGerald Vick or Svi Mykhailiuk on the wing where they can either shoot the three, throw the lob or attack the rim.

Graham’s playmaking ability is critical for Kansas on offense. He averages over 7 assists per game and can shoot the rock or take it to the rack. Graham has struggled with his efficiency throughout the Tournament so that bears keeping an eye on.

The duo of Newman and Graham need to light the lamp offensively tonight for Kansas (Getty Images).

The MVP of the entire Tournament to this date is Malik Newman. Newman is an absolute assassin from three and is an underrated defender on the other end. Self likes to run Newman on the baseline off screens to get him open looks from the corner. Newman is capable of creating his own shot off of the dribble as well. If Kansas wants a shot to move on to the title game, they desperately need Newman to score at least 20 points.

Despite all of this, Udoka Azubuike is where Kansas’s advantage lies. There is not a single player on Villanova who can handle Azubuike’s physicality in the paint. “Dok” is the most efficient player on the floor, shooting 77.2 percent from the field. His size allows Graham and Mykhailiuk to throw entry passes over the defense to him as well. Spellman, while a serviceable defender, does not have the strength or size to stop Azubuike. Wright needs to decide whether he will send the double off of a player like Vick or play him straight up.

However, Wright may not even need to decide if Azubuike gets into foul trouble. Azubuike has had extreme difficulty staying out of foul trouble and this limits his playing time severely. Kansas cannot take advantage of this mismatch if Azubuike is on the bench.

Ultimately, look for Self to fall into a creative zone that fixates on defending the perimeter, but this will not stop the Wildcats from putting up big numbers. Kansas will score as well, but Azubuike will fall into foul trouble once again. Villanova’s defense is the reason they slipped by a pesky Texas Tech team in the Elite Eight and that’s the reason they will move on to the title game Monday night as well.

Prediction: Villanova 84, Kansas 79

 

Featured image by WILX.

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Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Final Four

Final Four team breakdown: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

The 2018 Final Four has been set. Fans are buzzing and pundits are predicting who will cut down the nets in San Antonio. Throughout this week, I am going to highlight each of the four remaining teams and break down their roster and their chances to win it all. Today, we will be focusing on the South Regional champions: the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. Let’s do this!

offense

The Ramblers are defined by balance, passing and efficiency. The lore of this Cinderella squad has almost masked the fact that this Loyola team is actually really talented. The Ramblers are currently riding a 14-game winning streak into the Final Four and as Sister Jean herself said, San Antonio better watch out.

Loyola lacks a truly dominant scoring threat on offense, but has five different players that average over 10 points per game. Their leading scorer, Clayton Custer, only averages 13.2 points per game, but shoots 52.7 percent from the field and 45.4 percent from three. As a team, Loyola shoots 50.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.

What differentiates Loyola from their competition is how they play as a team. If any team in the nation could be classified as unselfish, it is these Ramblers. They average 15.9 assists per game and are always looking for the extra pass. 6-foot-9 freshman center Cameron Krutwig is critical to their offense in this sense. Krutwig has fantastic vision when he gets the ball in the high post and has a knack to finding cutting teammates on the baseline or on the wing.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Final Four

Clayton Custer’s all-around play is key if the Ramblers want to cut down the net again. (Photo by Action Images)

This selfless play enhances Loyola’s offensive versatility. In all four of their tournament games, the Ramblers had a different leading scorer. Their four-guard lineup allows coach Porter Moser to space the floor and create mismatches on the wing.

Passing is great on offense, but meaningless passing can actually hurt a team’s offensive rhythm. Proper, purposeful passing can lead to unhinging a defense and getting open looks at the basket. Loyola can dissect a team’s half-court defense better than any of the three remaining teams through its inside-out passing attack. Loyola’s passing and basketball IQ led to them not shooting below 47 percent from the field in any of their four tournament games.

To top it all off, Loyola is clutch. They hit three game-winning shots with under seven seconds to go in the first three rounds. The even more crazy part about that is that a different player hit each shot. Donte Ingram hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer from NBA range to sink Miami 64-62. Clayton Custer’s jump shot, that seemed to touch every part of the rim, with less than five seconds left, knocked off Tennessee. Marques Townes hit a dagger 3-pointer with six seconds to end Nevada’s run in the Sweet 16.

It is difficult to highlight a single player on this Loyola team, but Clayton Custer can do it all. Custer has shown that he can light it up from the field when he is hot. Custer led Loyola in scoring in their 64-62 win over Miami with 14 points and scored 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting in their 69-68 win over Nevada.

One area of concern for Moser’s crew could be lack of efficiency. Loyola is not a team that throws up a high volume of shots per game as they only average 49.5 shots per game. Loyola utilizes this to their advantage due to their ability to make a high volume of these attempts. But this style of play leaves little room for error. The Ramblers cannot afford an off day from the field against any of the three remaining teams.

defense

Loyola is primarily known for their lockdown defense. The Ramblers rank 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom. They tend to exclusively play man-to-man and are content to sit in the half court rather than apply full-court pressure.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Final Four

Will Sister Jean’s magic carry into the Final Four? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

However, they have actually struggled to contain teams from the field throughout the NCAA Tournament. Miami shot 51 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three against Loyola. To continue this trend, Loyola’s opponents have actually shot 42.5 percent from the field this tournament against them. Aside from Loyola’s exquisite all-around performance against Kansas State where they held the Wildcats to 34.8 percent, Loyola’s opponents all hit more than 40 percent from the field.

However, it is worth noting that Loyola is a pack line defensive team. What this means is that the Ramblers will sacrifice crashing the offensive glass in favor of falling back on defense. This prevents opposing teams from getting out on the break and attacking Loyola before their half-court defense is set.

One potential problem that looms large for Loyola in their matchup against Michigan is defending on and off ball screens. Loyola’s versatility allows them to switch at will against screens, whether they are on or off ball. Coach John Beilein of Michigan runs his offense through screening, so Loyola’s communication will be critical to slowing down this attack.

How Moser plans on slowing down Moritz Wagner is another issue in itself. Cameron Krutwig is not as athletic or quick as Wagner and will struggle defending him on the perimeter. Wagner is at his best when he creates these mismatches and can take advantage of slower defenders with his quickness and skill. Keep an eye on that matchup.

x-factors

Ben RichardsonRichardson showed the world what he is capable of doing in Loyola’s 78-62 demolition of Kansas State. Richardson rained in 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 6-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. Richardson also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists in that victory as well. This was arguably the best performance from an individual player on Loyola throughout the tournament.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Final Four

Ben Richardson could spark Loyola to a national title. (Photo by John Amis/AP)

Before that offensive eruption, Richardson was averaging a mere 4.7 points per game in the tournament. If Richardson can find a way to contribute in a similar manner to his performance against Kansas State, Loyola will have another incredibly dangerous offensive weapon at their disposal.

Shot efficiency: Michigan is no slouch defensively. The Wolverines rank fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom. They have three stifling on-ball defenders in Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Their man-to-man defensive pressure will be a unique challenge to Loyola’s offense.

Loyola’s offense is predicated on ball movement and efficiency from the field. However, if they cannot break down this Wolverine defense the way they have been able to do against every other team they have faced, their shots may not fall. Loyola’s game provides them with little margin for error. If the Ramblers want to play Monday night, they need to hit outside shots and keep their efficiency high.

conclusion

If you think Loyola is here completely due to luck, you are wrong. This Rambler team is dangerous on both sides of the ball. They feed off of their defense and have the ability to break down any opposing defense in the nation. However, the remaining teams are bigger and more athletic than what Loyola is used to seeing. Does Sister Jean’s darling squad have anymore upsets left? We cannot wait to find out.

 

Featured image by Lukas Keapproth.

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Kansas Jayhawks Final Four

Final Four team breakdown: Kansas Jayhawks

The 2018 Final Four has been set. Fans are buzzing and pundits are predicting who will cut down the nets in San Antonio. Throughout this week, I am going to highlight each of the four remaining teams and break down their roster and their chances to win it all. Today, we will be focusing on the Midwest Regional champions: the Kansas Jayhawks. Let’s do this!

offense

This Kansas offense can be described in one word: deadly. These Jayhawks were expected to take a step back after losing reigning Wooden Award winner Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas. However, Bill Self proved to the world, once again, that he is a Hall of Fame head coach with the development of Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and countless others.

The offense starts with Graham, a Wooden Award finalist. Graham’s development has been nothing short of incredible this season. Graham entered Kansas as a fringe Division I recruit. He slowly grew into a reliable 3-point shooter, and now he is Self’s top all-around player. Graham has averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season.

Kansas Jayhawks Final Four

Malik Newman’s scoring and defense propelled Kansas to San Antonio. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

The tournament has been a different story for Graham though. Aside from his explosion against Penn with 29 points, six rebounds and six assists, Graham has struggled to score consistently. He has averaged 11.7 points per game on 31 percent shooting, excluding his performance against Penn. But Graham has found other ways to be effective as he has averaged over 6.3 assists per game in the tournament and has made big plays late in games.

The best player for Kansas this tournament has unquestionably been Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman. Newman has developed into Self’s secondary playmaker on offense and his most reliable 3-point shooter. Newman’s ability to rise to the occasion in big moments cannot be overstated as he scored all 13 of Kansas’ points in overtime in their 85-81 win over Duke.

Newman is shooting 44.8 percent from three in the tournament and is averaging 21.8 points per game. His ability hit threes from NBA range and create his own shot off of the dribble results in the ultimate nightmare for the defender that draws him.

After only playing three minutes against Penn, Udoka Azubuike has returned to form after spraining his left MCL before the Big 12 Tournament. Azubuike was the key to Kansas’ win over an underrated Seton Hall team in the Round of 32 as he went toe-to-toe with Angel Delgado. Azubuike’s 7-foot, 280-pound frame helps Kansas control the paint on offense. He is a fantastic finisher in the paint and especially adept at snagging lobs from Graham over the top of the defense.

As a whole, Kansas plays its offense similarly to Villanova. They usually roll out four guards and a center and decimate teams from behind the arc. Three of Self’s four starting guards shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range. Kansas has the ability to shoot most teams out of the game within a span of minutes if they get hot.

However, Kansas is at their most dangerous when they get out on the break. Graham has fantastic court vision and Kansas’ wings and bigs run the floor very well. Not only that, but when Kansas pushes the pace, their shooters tend to widen the court. What this means is that Newman, Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick will sprint out to the opposing corner to await a pass from Graham to either shoot a three or attack the rim. Kansas also loves throwing fast break lobs to either Azubuike or Silvio De Sousa.

However, Kansas can find itself in trouble if or when Azubuike gets into foul trouble. Azubuike has had difficulty staying on the court throughout the season as he seems to always find ways to pick up fouls early in the contest. While De Sousa has proven himself a more than capable reserve, Kansas is a much better team with Azubuike on the court.

defense

Kansas is by far the worst defensive team in San Antonio, and that could be problematic as they face Villanova, the nation’s top offense. The Jayhawks are ranked 40th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.

Kansas tends to stick with their traditional man-to-man defense against most teams. While this group can play at elite levels from time to time, the Jayhawks are prone to falling asleep on defense, especially if they have a lead. Whether it is lazy closeouts or a lack of communication on ball screens, Kansas lacks the full 40 minutes of intensity that is required of a top-notch defense.

Kansas Jayhawks Final Four

Svi Mykhailiuk’s defense against Marvin Bagley sparked the Jayhawks in the Elite Eight. (Photo by Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

Regardless, Bill Self is a mastermind at wiggling Kansas out of supposed defensive disadvantages. Look at their matchup against Duke in the Elite Eight. Kansas faced a monumental size disadvantage going up against Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. Self tasked Mykhailiuk with guarding Bagley (who is three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier) and doubled their bigs off of Trevon Duval, who struggles from the outside. This strategy resulted in Duval having a big game, but Mykhailiuk held Bagley to his worst performance of the tournament and Newman completely shut down Grayson Allen.

Self will have his work cut out for him against Villanova though. Omari Spellman is much more versatile than Azubuike or De Sousa as both of these players are limited from the outside. Both figure to struggle staying with Spellman on the perimeter, which is critical as Spellman shoots 44.6 percent from three.

Self should avoid daring Spellman to beat them from the outside, just ask West Virginia what he is capable of doing. Self’s strategy of doubling off of another player may not work either as all of Villanova’s main rotational players are capable of knocking down outside shots consistently. Based on his recent performance, the most likely candidate would be Phil Booth, but Booth has the potential to light it up from the outside at any time.

Self will need to get creative with his defensive scheming to slow down the versatile Wildcats. Whether this means sitting back in a hybrid zone that is predicated on guarding the 3-point line or trapping at the mid-court line, Kansas will have its work cut out for them.

X-factors

Kansas Jayhawks Final Four

Udoka Azubuike’s ability to stay on the court is key for Kansas. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Udoka Azubuike’s fouling: As stated above, Azubuike is a game changer for Kansas. That is, when he is on the court.

In both games that Azubuike played without minute restrictions (Clemson and Duke), he was limited to 25 and 19 minutes respectively due to foul trouble. It is worth noting that Azubuike fouled out of both games. Despite only playing 25 minutes against Clemson, he recorded a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds and scoring 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

There is not a single player that matches up to Azubuike’s physicality remaining in the Final Four. If Azubuike can find a way to stay on the court for over 25 minutes, he will provide Kansas with a serious edge in rebounding and scoring in the paint.

Silvio De Sousa: De Sousa played his first game of the season on Jan. 13. He struggled to find his role until the Big 12 Tournament, where he filled in for the injured Azubuike serviceably. De Sousa’s sound play continued in the NCAA Tournament. He played 26 big minutes against Duke and grabbed 10 rebounds.

If Azubuike gets into early foul trouble, Self will most likely call upon De Sousa to step up and play significant minutes in San Antonio. He will be relied upon to hold his own and control the glass.

conclusion

This was the Kansas team that was not supposed to reach the Final Four. However, Bill Self showed the world how great of a coach he truly is. The Jayhawks have the offensive firepower to outgun any of the remaining opponents outside of Villanova. The key for Kansas will be how they adjust to Villanova’s ultra-versatile lineup with Azubuike or De Sousa on the floor. If Kansas can slip by Villanova, they should be favored to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

 

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