New Mexico St. v Indiana

Were Cody Zeller and James Michael McAdoo smart to return to school?


In the five days since Thursday’s NBA Draft, perhaps the biggest talking point has been the fall of Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones.

The consensus seems to be that the two cost themselves a great deal of money by returning to school. Considered by many to be locks for the lottery — if not the top five — after their freshmen campaigns, the two players returned to school and had, frankly, incredibly similar seasons. The result of those seasons combined with injury concerns that leaked out prior to the draft were that Sully fell to the 21st pick and PJ3 dropped all the way to 28th.

(It wasn’t all bad, however. Sullinger landed in Boston, where he’ll get a chance to learn behind a roster full of former all-stars and future hall-of-famers in the same place that made Big Baby a quality NBA player. Jones will be playing in Oklahoma City, which is about as ideal of a landing spot as there is for a first round pick. There is a legitimate argument to make that while they lost out on some first round money, they set themselves up for a bigger second contract.)

The same question can be raised with Harrison Barnes and Terrence Jones. Barnes fell slightly from being the potential No. 1 pick to No. 7, while Jones went from being a late lottery pick to the 18th pick. Returning to school likely cost them some money, as well.

The question that Mike DeCourcy asked today was, given the result of returning to school for Sullinger and Jones, did James Michael McAdoo and Cody Zeller make the correct decision to keep their names out of the 2012 NBA Draft?:

So there’s a natural question about what their experience should teach Zeller and North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, each of whom was regarded as a lottery pick following his freshman season but chose to stick around college a second year.

The answer: not a thing.

In my opinion, the situation is different for McAdoo and Zeller. McAdoo was projected as a late lottery pick, meaning that with a successful season as a sophomore, he could potentially climb up into the top five. Monetarily speaking it is worth the risk to return to school. A fall to the late first round would not be a major hit financially, while climbing up into the top five could double or triple the money he would have been guaranteed. Beyond that, the fact that McAdoo will have a chance to be UNC’s featured big man after playing behind Tyler Zeller and John Henson should set him up for a breakout season.

Zeller, on the other hand, had a chance to be a top five pick. He could still end up being a top five pick after this season, and based on the way that his workouts were described by Tom Crean — apparently, he’s up to 240 lbs with a vertical of 39″ while benching 185 lbs 20 times — that probably won’t change. And to his credit, Zeller seems to be making a decision based on the fact that he’s not ready to “pay bills and own a house”, which is probably smart given the fact that he’s not yet allowed to legally drink.

But what Zeller needs to be aware of if that teams won’t be as accepting of his flaws after a second year in school. Instead of focusing on what he’s capable of doing, the focus will be on what he’s not able to do.

There is no question that it is a risk, but if it is one that Zeller is willing to take, who are we to argue with him?

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

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.