15 freshmen to love, this year and next

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Don’t go falling in love with freshmen like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Baylor’s Perry Jones. They head the list of this season’s one-and-done players.

Also included: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kansas’ Josh Selby, N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie, Memphis’ Will Barton, Syracuse’s Fab Melo and Kentucky’s trio of Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones, among others.

If any of those guys return for their sophomore seasons, consider it a pleasant surprise for hoopheads.

Robin Scholz / AP

Who’s that leave? Fifteen talented guys you can watch this season and next.

Vander Blue, Marquette
The 6-3 guard was the Wisconsin player of the year and backed out of playing for Bo Ryan so he could suit up for Buzz Williams. Jimmy Butler will be the Eagles’ go-to guy, which means Blue can focus on doing what he does best – attacking the basket and playing multiple guard spots. You’ll spot Blue by the ink on his arms.

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Think Wayne Ellington, only taller. The 6-6 guard could start for the Heels, who need someone to stretch defenses with a reliable outside shot. The rest of his game needs work, which will be the only thing keeping him in school past his freshman season.

Joe Jackson, Memphis
Forget one or two seasons. Tigers fans are hoping the Memphis native sticks around four years. The 5-11 point guard is lightning quick, savvy and bound to make life easier for his young, talented teammates. Or he’ll just do it himself. There’s a little bit of Allen Iverson in Jackson.

Tobias Harris, Tennessee
This may be a stretch, but I can hope, right? The 6-8 forward is adept in the pain or on the perimeter and rarely slacks off. That’s perfect for Bruce Pearl’s Vols, who thrive with versatile, athletic players. Harris will overmatch nearly every defender he faces, which means he’s not long for the college game. But two seasons? That’s possible.

Ray McCallum, Detroit and Trey Ziegler, Central Michigan
What are a five-star prospect and a four-star prospect doing playing at mid-majors schools? They’re playing for their dads. If that’s not worth cheering, I don’t know what is. McCallum’s heady point guard, while Ziegler’s a shooting guard who could lead the MAC in scoring.

Ian Miller, Florida State
The latest in a series of top-flight talent in Tallahassee, Miller should vie for ACC freshman of the year honors. The 6-3 guard is a solid finisher and aggressive getting to the rim, a godsend for a ‘Noles team that struggles getting the ball in the basket.

Tyler Lamb, UCLA
The 6-4 Lamb is just what the Bruins were missing last season – an athletic guard who can hit from outside or get to the rim. He’ll play, too. UCLA coach Ben Howland’s been impressed by Lamb’s defensive effort.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State
A 6-10 center who thrives on defense, can block shots and rebound? Sounds like a Tom Izzo player to me. Payne figures to spell Spartans post players Delvon Roe and Derrick Nix this season, then step into a more prominent role the next few seasons as his offense develops.  

Phil Pressey, Missouri
The Tigers’ system is built around guards who can push the pace and pressure defenders. That’s perfect for Pressey, a 5-10 blur who also isn’t afraid of challenging taller foes at the rim. He and his brother, Matt, could be Missouri’s backcourt for years to come.

Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Richmond, a 6-7 wing, and Leonard, a 6-10 center, are the gems of Illinois’ 2010 class and could step into prominent roles once Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale graduate this spring. If the freshmen pair can match the consistency and productivity of Davis and Tisdale, the Illini are set.

Terrence Ross, Washington
The early favorite for Pac-10 freshman of the year. The 6-5 guard should thrive thanks to Huskies point guard Isaiah Thomas, who excels at driving the lane and dishing to open teammates around the arc. That’s perfect for Ross, whose best asset is his sweet stroke.

J.T. Terrell, Wake Forest
Here’s all you need to know about the 6-4 guard, courtesy of Dave Telep: “Somebody told me he was shooting it from one step past half court off a ball screen,” Wake assistant Jeff Battle said. “Who would shoot that? They said he makes them, too. I don’t know if coach will let him shoot 50-footers, but he can do it.”

Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Someone’s going to have to pick up the scoring slack with Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins gone. That falls to Kris Joseph and Waiters, a tremendous talent who can step into Rautins’ role as the perimeter threat. Added bonus: Unlike Rautins, Waiters can get to the rim.

Patric Young, Florida
The solution to the Gators’ frontcourt issues. The 6-8 Young grabs rebounds, blocks shots and intimates foes with his imposing build. He’s not polished offensively, but that’s the main reason he’ll be in Gainesville more than one year. Guys with his athleticism are usually NBA bound ASAP.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.