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.

Vanderbilt lands five-star forward Simi Shittu

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Vanderbilt continues to build a monster recruiting class under head coach Bryce Drew as five-star 2018 forward Simi Shittu pledged to the Commodores on Wednesday.

The second five-star commitment for Vanderbilt in the Class of 2018, Shittu joins top point guard prospect Darius Garland to form one of the best freshman combinations in the country for next season. The Commodores also have a top-150 forward in Aaron Nesmith.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Shittu is coming off of a monster summer in which he became a major problem and top-ten recruit. The No. 8 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, Shittu is a huge get and an instant starter for Vanderbilt next season.

By landing prospects like Garland and Shittu, Drew is also becoming a major player in a short amount of time as a high-major coach. Always a noted recruiter at the mid-major level at Valparaiso, now Vanderbilt is seeing Drew’s hiring workout as he’s bringing top talent to the program.

If Drew can continue to recruit like this then Vanderbilt could be in position to be in the top half of the SEC as the league has seen some of its rebuilds go poorly over the last few years.

Kansas still without freshman Billy Preston

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Kansas freshman Billy Preston has yet to make his debut for the Jayhawks and it appears he’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.

Head coach Bill Self met with media earlier this week to discuss the Preston situation, saying that nothing has changed about his status quite yet. Preston was previously suspended for violating a team rule when he missed the game against Tennessee State. Before Preston was set to debut against Kentucky in the Champions Classic he was also withheld from the contest after the revelation that Preston had been in a single-vehicle accident the previous weekend.

“I have actually been out, until I just pulled back in, so as of this morning, there was no movement. The last time you guys asked me was Friday and so you don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, so there is nothing new on that situation,” Self said.

“Sure, I’m worried,” Self also added. “I’m concerned and I do think that it can work itself, based on what I’ve been told. I also think that it obviously hadn’t happened yet.”

It’s uncertain when the next step in any of this will play out but Self doesn’t appear to be too concerned over it. Kansas has won without Preston so far but they could definitely use his size, scoring punch and overall depth to a team that isn’t very deep right now.

A matchup nightmare, Preston could help the Jayhawk offense while also giving Udoka Azubuike additional help on the glass and protecting the rim.

(H/t: Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star)

Brian Bowen not allowed to play at Louisville

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Louisville announced on Wednesday that freshman wing Brian Bowen will not be allowed to play at the school. The former McDonald’s All-American will be allowed to remain on scholarship but he can’t participate in any team activities.

Bowen was tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an adidas company executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents.

Bowen hired attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case and seek reinstatement as Setchen had experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami.

With this case, Bowen was not allowed back at Louisville as the school has fired head coach Rick Pitino and most of his previous staff. Athletic Director Tom Jurich also lost his job, so the Cardinals are definitely cleaning house and trying to detach themselves from anyone involved.

It will be interesting to see what Bowen opts to do in light of this news. He’s talented enough that other schools could want him, if he’s eligible, but he’s also a former five-star prospect who could have pro aspirations. But since Bowen won’t be playing this season, he also hasn’t had a chance to spotlight his game to potential pro suitors.

 

President Trump fires back at LaVar Ball on Twitter

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The never-ending war of words between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball escalated to another level on Wednesday morning.

Starting his early-morning tweets with some messages aimed at Ball, President Trump continued to double down on his insistence that he helped play a role in the safe return of three UCLA players arrested in China for shoplifting. LiAngelo Ball, LaVar’s middle son, was one of the three players involved in the international incident as fellow Bruins Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were also arrested. The trio returned to the United States last week after UCLA left China without them following a win over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

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LaVar has drawn the ire of President Trump for downplaying the President’s role in the return of the UCLA trio as Ball maintains that others had more to do with the release. All three UCLA players publicly thanked President Trump and the United States government during their return press conference on Nov. 15. The three players remain suspended indefinitely from all activities with the men’s basketball team.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, LaVar was critical of Trump’s role in the whole ordeal while also questioning why the President would spend so much time bothering for a thank you from the father of one of those arrested.

No. 22 Baylor comes from 12 down to beat Creighton

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It was another rough night for the Scott Drew Can’t Coach crowd.

No. 22 Baylor got 15 points apiece from Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston and closed the game on a 37-19 run as they knocked off Creighton, 65-59, in the title game of the Hall Of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

King McClure led the way for the Bears with 19 points, picking up the pieces for Manu Lecomte, who struggled to deal with the defense of Khyri Thomas.

Creighton jumped out to a 33-24 lead at the break and extended it to 40-28 with 18 minutes left in the game, but that’s when Baylor turned the game around. A couple of tweaks to the way that they played their zone coupled with the Bluejays missing some shots that they were capable of making led to the comeback. Instead of simply writing another ‘See, I told you Scott Drew can coach’ column, I figured it would make more sense to show exactly what I mean when I say that.

Creighton had a smart, simple game-plan offensively on Tuesday night. Get the ball into the paint, whether it was via dribble penetration or finding one of their big guys near the foul line or at the short corner, and then find a shooter on the perimeter, a cutter going to the rim or, simply, score from 8-10 feet out. That’s the best way to beat a zone, especially a zone that has the amount of length and athleticism that Baylor’s does. Notice in the clip below how extended Baylor’s guards are and, as a result, the space it creates:

Once Baylor got down by 12, their game-plan changed. Instead of extending, their defense became more compact. What is usually something of a 1-1-3 zone turned into more of a 2-3, with the focus seemingly being cutting off penetration. Baylor dared Creighton to let Ronnie Harrell be the guy that beat them, and it worked. The result was that the open threes dried up, and the jumpers that Creighton shot in down the stretch were much more contested than the looks they were getting earlier in the game:

That’s coaching right there.

Game-planning is a part of coaching. Player development is, too, as is recruiting. But making in-game adjustments like that, figuring out how a team is beating you, devising a way to stop them from doing that and getting your players to execute those adjustments is arguably the most important part of being a coach.

Here’s another example of what I mean.

Khyri Thomas might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball, and I don’t say that lightly. He essentially eliminated Manu Lecomte from the game. He is to point guards what Darrelle Revis was to No. 1 receivers. Whoever he is guarding is on Khyri Island.

Lecomte is typically Baylor’s closer, but Drew ran actions that allowed Lecomte to be a facilitator and a decoy, taking Khyri out of the play and taking advantage of matchups he thought his guys could win. That involved running a double-high ball-screen, which confused Harrell and Martin Krampelj defensively a couple of times, and resulted in a high-low action between Maston and Lual-Acuil on a number of possessions down the stretch.

But then there was also this set he drew up, using McClure as the ball-handler in that double-high ball-screen and while putting Lecomte in the same side corner. McClure refused the ball-screen, drove straight at the gap where Thomas was not going to help off Lecomte and got a bucket out of it:

That’s coaching!

And I’m not trying to say McDermott got out-coached here. His game-plan worked. Drew’s adjustment turned out to be just a bit better.

But Creighton also has players that can make the tough shots that they were forced into in the second half. If two more of them go down – if the Bluejays shoot 37.5 percent from the floor instead of 34.4 percent, if they go 7-for-30 from three instead of 5-for-30 – then they probably win this game.

Sometimes that’s how basketball works.

It’s why you always hear coaches refer to it as a ‘make or miss game’.

The larger takeaway from this game should be this: Both Baylor and Creighton are good teams. Both landed good non-conference wins during this event. Both are likely headed to the NCAA tournament.

And both took part in a fun, tactical battle between head coaches on Tuesday night that one of them had to lose.