Creighton’s McDermott heads our mid-major All-Americans

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MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Doug McDermott, So., Creighton

McDermott is an easy pick for the mid-major player of the year. Coming off of a season where he averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg for a Bluejay team that made the finals of the CBI, McDermott has shown up on a number of preseason all-american teams. He made the USA’s U19 team and averaged 11.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg on the team’s trip to Latvia this summer. With Creighton bringing back the majority of their roster from a season ago, the Bluejays are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley and a borderline top 25 team. As an all-american candidate playing on a team that will be a national name this season, McDermott’s name will come up quite a bit this year.

MID-MAJOR FIRST TEAM

G: Casper Ware, Sr., LBSU – Ware is a high-scoring, play-making point guard will be the catalyst for a team that returns quite a bit of talent and will be the hands-down favorite to repeat as Big West champs. Ware is coming off of a year where he averaged 17.2 ppg, 4.4 apg and 1.6 spg.

G: Damian Lillard, Jr., Weber State – Lillard had a disappointing season in 2010-2011, playing just nine games before seeing his season end when he broke his foot. In 2009-2010, Lillard averaged 19.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.6 apg. While his numbers may not be as impressive this season, they won’t need to be; the Wildcats are the favorite to win the Big Sky.

F: Orlando Johnson, Sr., Santa Barbara – Johnson is a prototype for a mid-major scorer. He’s 6’5″ with enough strength and athleticism to overwhelm smaller opponents but the jump shot and perimeter ability to blow by bigger defenders. That’s why he was able to average 21.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg and shoot 40.5% from the floor for the Gauchos.

F: Michael Glover, Sr., Iona – Glover is a basketball nomad with an intriguing story. Originally a Seton Hall recruit, the man they call Optimus Prime on the streets of the Bronx was never cleared as a freshman in 2007-2008. After attending two different high schools and nearly landing at both St. Francis in Brooklyn and Hofstra, Glover finally wound up with Iona, where he averaged 18.4 ppg and 10.1 rpg in his first season.

C: Arsalan Kazemi, Jr., Rice – Kazemi may be the unlikeliest member of this group simply because he is the first native Iranian to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He’s quite talented, as well. The 6’7″ forward averaged 15.2 ppg and 11.0 rpg as a sophomore, despite being the focal point of every defense the Owls faced.

MID-MAJOR SECOND TEAM

G: Reggie Hamilton, Sr., Oakland – After transferring to Oakland from UMKC after a year anda half as a Kangaroo, Hamilton exploded as a junior with the Grizzlies. Playing alongside Keith Benson, Hamilton averaged 17.6 ppg and 5.3 apg. This year, he’ll have the show to himself.

G: CJ McCollum, Jr., Lehigh – After leading the Mountainhawks to the NCAA Tournament as the most productive freshman in the country, McCollum was forced to carry an even heavier load last season after Lehigh graduated three starters. He responded by posting averages of 21.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 2.5 spg. He’s a 6’3″ guard.

G: Nate Wolters, Jr., SDSU – Wolters exploded in the second game of his sophomore season, going for 25 points and nine assists as the Jackrabbits knocked off Iowa. He didn’t slow down all season, as he ended the year aveaged 19.5 ppg, 6.1 apg (and just 2.2 t/o’s) and 4.6 rpg.

F: Kyle Weems, Sr., Missouri State – The reigning MVC Player of the Year almost didn’t return to Missouri State. With everyone else in the rotation from last season graduating and his coaching staff heading to Tennessee, Weems, who had graduated, received overtures from a number of high-major programs. But he’s back with the Bears and ready to try and defend their MVC title.

C: Andrew Nicholson, Jr., St. Bonaventure – Nicholson is one of the most productive big men in the country at any level. He can score at will in the post, and this season added range out to the three point line. If he improves on his physicality in the paint, Nicholson, who averaged 20.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg as a junior, is a first round pick come June.

MID-MAJOR THIRD TEAM

G: Alex Young, Sr., IUPUI – The third Summit League player on this list, Young is a 6’6″ swingman that simply produces. He averaged 19.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg last year, and if he improves his jump shooting and cuts down his turnovers, those numbers will go up this year.

G: Kevin Foster, Jr., Santa Clara – How about this for a stat — Kevin Foster shot 67 more threes than Jimmer Fredette did last season. And while he didn’t hit them at quite the same clip as the Jimmer, he did have some big games, including a 36 point explosion in a win over Gonzaga. With Marc Trasolini out with a torn acl, expect Foster’s 20.2 ppg average to go up this year.

G: DeAndre Kane, So., Marshall – Kane is a major reason why Marshall is a trendy pick to give Memphis a run at the top of Conference USA. A 6’5″ guard, Kane excels at using his strength to draw fouls and get to the line. He’s a good rebounder and creator for his size, but he needs to cut down on turnovers and improve his shooting percentage. He averaged 15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 3.4 apg.

F: Keith Wright, Sr., Harvard – Wright is the reigning Ivy Player of the Year and one of the biggest reasons why the Crimson are expected to make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season. The burly, 6’8″ post player is a load to handle defensively and a nightmare to keep off the glass. He averaged 14.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg last season.

C: Greg Mangano, Sr., Yale – Mangano actually has a legitimate chance to make the jump from the Ivy League to the NBA. A skilled, 6’11” center, Mangano has three point range, can score with his back to the basket, rebounds the ball well and is a dangerous shot blocker. He averaged 16.3, 10.0 rpg and 3.0 bpg as a junior.

MID-MAJOR FOURTH TEAM

G: Derek Needham, Jr., Fairfield – Needham has been one of the best players in the MAAC in his first two seasons with the Stags. Playing for a grind-it-out head coach in Ed Cooley, Needham averaged 14.1 ppg and 4.5 apg as a sophomore, which was down from 16.4 ppg and 5.2 apg as a freshman. Those numbers should go in a more free-flowing system under Sydney Johnson.

G: DJ Cooper, Jr., Ohio – Cooper may be the most entertaining player on this list to watch play. The 5’9″, left-handed point guard averaged 15.8 ppg and 7.5 apg for the Bobcats last season.

G: Matthew Dellavedova, Jr., St. Mary’s – Dellavedova is going to have big shoes to fill with Mickey McConnell graduating. He should be up for the job, however, as he has put up some impressive numbers in his two seasons in Moraga. Dellavedova averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.3 apg as a sophomore despite playing the off-guard spot.

F: Brad Burgess, Sr., VCU – Burgess was the perfect fit for VCU last season, a sharp-shooting, defensive-minded small forward that didn’t mind playing a role for the Rams. He did it very, very well, however, averaging 14.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg. More impressive? When Burgess took 14 or more shots in five games last season. In those five games, he averaged 24.6 ppg and hit 17-26 from beyond the arc.

F: Javon McCrea, So., Buffalo – As a freshman, McCrea came off the bench and played only 21.6 mpg, but he put up some very impressive numbers — 11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 1.3 spg, 65.7 FG%. He’s an efficiency lover’s dream. With more playing time this year, McCrea should have a monster sophomore season.

MID-MAJOR HONORABLE MENTION

Kent Bazemore, Sr., Old Dominion
Julian Boyd, Jr., Long Island
Kyle Casey, Jr., Harvard
Will Cherry, Jr., Montana
Ian Clark, Jr., Belmont
TyShwan Edmondson, Sr., Austin Peay
Chris Gaston, Jr., Fordham
Samme Givens, Sr., Drexel
Justin Greene, Sr., Kent State
Rob Jones, Sr., St. Mary’s
Momo Jones, Jr., Iona
Ken Horton, Sr., CCSU
Dario Hunt, Sr., Nevada
Scott Machado, Sr., Iona
Julian Mavunga, Sr., Miami (OH)
Ray McCallum, So., Detroit
Tony Mitchell, Fr., North Texas
Dominique Morrison, Sr., Oral Roberts
Kevin Murphy, Sr., Tennessee Tech
Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State
Brockeith Pane, Sr., Utah State
Ryan Pearson, Sr., George Mason
Rakim Sanders, Sr., Fairfield
Tony Taylor, Sr., George Washington
Trey Zeigler, So., Western Michigan

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Four-star forward commits to Ohio State

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Ohio State is on the board with regards to the 2018 recruiting class, as Chris Holtmann’s program received a much-needed verbal commitment from four-star forward Jaedon LeDee. The 6-foot-9 Houston native announced his decision via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

In receiving a verbal commitment from LeDee, Ohio State beat out California, Houston, Iowa State, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA. The Buckeyes hosted LeDee for his official visit the weekend of September 9, which coincided with the football team’s matchup with Oklahoma. Originally scheduled to visit Cal this past weekend, LeDee instead visited Texas A&M.

With LeDee’s commitment to Ohio State, visits to LSU (September 30) and UCLA (October 6) are likely off the board.

Currently attending the Kincaid School, LeDee played for the Texas PRO grassroots program on the adidas Uprising circuit this summer. The four-star prospect will likely be a combo forward for Ohio State, playing either the three or the four depending on the matchup.

With Jae’Sean Tate beginning his senior season and Keita Bates-Diop being a redshirt junior, Ohio State had a need to address in the front court. In landing a verbal pledge from Jaedon LeDee, the Buckeyes have done just that.

Among the front court players who will have eligibility remaining beyond the 2017-18 season are Bates-Diop, current sophomores Micah Potter and Andre Wesson, and freshmen Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young.

The Pac-12 is foolish for scheduling Arizona-UCLA once during the regular season

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Last month, I wrote about one of the more troubling trends in college basketball: Teams steering away from playing the games that fans are going to care about the most.

It was the result of Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing stating publicly that he was “not thinking about Maryland” after the rivalry between the DMV’s two most well-known programs went by the wayside.

Ewing isn’t the only coach that is culpable here. Kansas and Missouri don’t play. Kansas and Wichita State don’t play, either. Duke and Maryland don’t play. Ohio State doesn’t play Cincinnati, Xavier or Dayton. It goes on and on.

But the blame can no longer only be given to the coaches that schedule to protect themselves and/or their program.

The conferences deserve some criticism as well. Take, for instance, the Pac-12, who released their schedule recently after deciding that Arizona, a contender for the preseason No. 1 team in the country, should only play UCLA and USC, the only two teams that have a realistic chance of upending the Wildcats for the Pac-12 crown, once apiece.

Not only that, but the games will be played in Tucson, an incredible advantage for Sean Miller’s club as they pursue the league’s regular season title.

Look, I get it. There are 12 teams in the league and there is an 18-game schedule. Each team in the league is going to play four of their 11 league foes just once. It’s simple math. But the answer should never, ever be to schedule the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once.

The reasoning is simple: Arizona and UCLA are the two biggest brands in the league. When they play it will draw more interest than when any other two teams in the conference play, and that’s something the conference should be trying to capitalize on. It takes a lot to convince anyone on the east coast to stay up to watch a Pac-12 basketball game. I cover this sport for a living and I have a hard time making it all the way through a 10 p.m. ET tip. When a two-year old is going to be screaming at me to make breakfast at 6:30 a.m., do I really want to stay up to watch Arizona blow out Washington or UCLA to beat up on Cal?

The Pac-12 should do everything they can to ensure that Arizona and UCLA play twice every season.

That is even more true this year. Arizona might be the best team in the country and they might have the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster in Deandre Ayton. UCLA is a top 15 team that just so happens to have Liangelo Ball, the worst of the three Ball brothers and potentially the last one to matriculate through the college ranks. The seemingly inevitable LaVar Ball blow-up is something we all will be watching patiently to see.

Should I mention the simmering hatred between Sean Miller and Steve Alford as they continually compete for the best prospects on the west coast?

And that’s before you factor in that USC is the second-best team in the league, and anyone that UCLA plays twice, USC will also play twice.

I’ll be sure to watch a number of Oregon games this season, and I think that Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado all have the pieces to sneak up on some people this year. I’ll be sure to check in on them a couple times as well.

But the games that I’ll have circled on my calendar, the games I’ll be excited about watching, are between Arizona, UCLA and USC.

By scheduling the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once during the regular season, the Pac-12 cost themselves a third of that inventory.

That doesn’t seems like the smartest way to run a business conference.

But hey, if conference realignment and the development of conference-only networks taught us anything, it’s that major college athletics are all about competitive balance over those advertising dollars.

Vanderbilt lands commitment from Aaron Nesmith

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Vanderbilt landed their first commitment in the Class of 2018 with four-star wing Aaron Nesmith.

Nesmith is a native of South Carolina, and the Commodores beat out South Carolina for his services. At 6-foot-6, Nesmith is the kind of defensive presence and athlete that Vandy will need to replace Jeff Roberson, who will be graduating this season.

This is a critical class for Bryce Drew, who is squarely in the mix for five-star guards Darius Garland and Romeo Langford. Nesmith isn’t on that level, but he will be a nice piece for Vandy for four years.

Svi Mykhailiuk drops 20 pounds, makes weird Kansas roster even weirder

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Kansas is a weird team this season.

They’re talented, they’re probably going to win the Big 12 again and I fully expect them to be in the national title picture come March, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re … weird.

25 percent of their scholarship players are transfers sitting out the year. That doesn’t include Sam Cunliffe, who won’t be eligible until December. So that’s unusual, as is the fact that Bill Self, a coach that had steadfastly remained dedicated to playing two big men together despite the gradual shift to small-ball, has three big men on his roster in total.

One of those three is Mitch Lightfoot, which means that there are just two big men on the roster that a potential Final Four team should feel comfortable having as a major part of their rotation. That would be sophomore Udoka Azubuike and freshman Billy Preston.

That makes it seem pretty clear that the Jayhawks will be going with another small-ball look, just as they did last season, right? But they don’t really have a piece to replace Josh Jackson, who was a perfect fit as a college four in a small-ball lineup. He was a natural wing that was athletic enough to block shots and tough enough to battle bigs on the glass.

So who plays that role this season?

Some thought it could be Svi Mykhailiuk, the 20-year old Ukranian senior, but he’s never really been that guy. Oh, and he just so happened to lose 20 pounds this offseason.

“I’m trying to stay light-weight this year, so it’s going to help me a lot,” Mykhailiuk told the Kansas City Star. “I feel like I’m faster with the light weight. I’m more athletic. It just helps me overall in the game.”

Which means … what, exactly?

Losing 20 pounds isn’t exactly going to help a player that has some question marks about his toughness and physicality battle with college fours in the paint. Does it mean he’ll be playing more on the wing? If so, who plays at the four? Will LaGerald Vick — all six feet, five inches and 175 pounds — be playing in the Josh Jackson role?

Or is Self going to use Preston as his new Perry Ellis, hoping that this five-star freshman becomes what his last five-star four-man — Carlton Bragg — never could?

My guess is that it will likely end up being all of the above, depending on matchups.

But it doesn’t make the Jayhawks’ weird roster any clearer.

Four-star forward commits to Wake Forest

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Danny Manning added another four-star recruit to his 2018 recruiting class.

Isaiah Mucius, a 6-foot-7 forward, committed to Wake Forest on Monday evening, giving the Demon Deacons another top-rated prospect alongside top-25 prospect Jaylen Hoard in 2018.

“I’d like to thank my family and my friends for having my back throughout all the tough times and good times,” Mucius said in a social media post. “I’d like to thank all the college coaches that recruited me through this process and believed in me and my talents.

“I’ll be attending Wake Forest University.”

Mucius, a consensus top-100 recruit, visited Wake Forest, which he visited this past weekend, over Xavier, which he visited earlier this month. The Brewster Academy product also had offers from the likes of Connecticut, Minnesota and LSU, among others.

Manning’s 2018 class now includes Mucius, three-star guard Sharone White and Hoard, a 6-foot-8 four-star forward who committed to the Demon Deacons last month.

“I am trying to win an NCAA Championship,” Mucius told Scout.com, “and I think having Jaylen (Hoard) on the wing with me, and we are trying to help get a point guard, and I think we can win a championship.”