Geno Ford’s Bradley program in a better spot heading into year two

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Upon taking over at Bradley last spring, head coach Geno Ford realized that there was a lot of work to be done with a program that hadn’t accomplished much since a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Sure enough that’s what happened as the Braves finished last in the Missouri Valley, going 7-25 (2-16 MVC) overall and losing 11 of their final 12 games.

But familiarity helps when it comes to building a program, and that seems to be the case with Bradley as they head into the summer.

“When you walked into our gym last spring, you knew we were going to struggle,” Ford said in an interview with Dave Reynolds of the Peoria Journal-Star. “That’s not the feeling I have this spring. Guys are starting to figure out the level of toughness they need to play with. The speed at which the workouts moved and the effort that was consistently given was much higher than (last year).

“We have freshmen who are now (going to be) sophomores and all took steps forward, which you would expect. Also, getting Will (Egolf) back and moving Shayok (Shayok) to the 4 means the bigs are working at a better rate. This spring was a step forward in the right direction.”

Leading scorer Taylor Brown departs but much of Bradley’s young nucleus that took so many beatings in 2011-12 is due back, and the return of forward Will Egolf will also help.

Egolf tore the ACL in his right knee in early June, cutting short his 2011-12 before it even began. And as Ford noted, Egolf’s return should put Shayok Shayok in a better spot.

Brown and Jordan Prosser led the way on the glass for Bradley last season, and a year of experience under his belt should help the 6-8 Shayok a great deal.

Ford and his staff will also be able to spend some time during the summer working with their players given the NCAA now allowing coaches two hours of on-court instruction during the week.

“It was a long time coming,” Ford said of the rule change. “Kids are on campus in the summer, anyway. The whole purpose is to get ’em acclimated. So having access to coaches seems like a good idea.

How much better will Bradley be in 2012-13? That remains to be seen, especially in a tough league like the MVC.

But unlike last spring it doesn’t seem as if the rest of the Valley is getting a head start.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

#CBTtop100: Counting down the Top 100 Players in college basketball

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We’ll be counting down the top 100 players in college basketball all week long. Be sure to check back here throughout the week as the countdown continues over @CBTonNBC.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.