Noel, the 6-10 center who re-classified from the class of 2013 to 2012 and committed to the Wildcats in the spring, is the man who’ll step into Anthony Davis’ considerable shoes this season. Noel already earned a rep as the best shot blocker in a generation – yes, even better than Davis – and is seen as a guy whose offensive game can only get better.
But Jason Greenberg at Rant is convinced that Noel won’t match Davis’ production. He says Noel’s offensive game was lacking at the adidas Nations event earlier in June (only scoring off putbacks and dunks) and was outplayed by other prospects such as Isaiah Austin and Steven Adams. Worse yet, he got pushed around.
Here’s the thing: Greenberg is right about one thing. Noel probably won’t match Davis’ production. Not many guys – let alone freshmen – lead their team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, win a national title and take all the major awards in the process. That’s a remarkable season. But to use Davis’ performance as a way to call Noel overhyped – and throw in references of Bowie vs. Jordan, Oden over Durant – misses the point. (Is Shabazz Muhammad MJ or Durant in this scenario? I’m confused.)
Noel doesn’t have to be the next Davis. If he hits the averages Greenberg expects (eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks) then he’ll still be incredibly valuable. Three blocks a game usually means he’s altering another five or six. That’s game-changer in the frontcourt from a defensive standpoint, which is what Davis was most of the season for the ‘Cats. (Remember that at least one scouting site ranked Austin Rivers as 2011’s top recruit.) Noel will be surrounded by enough scorers and shooters that the points will come. Probably off putbacks and dunks. Concerns about Davis’ build also lingered throughout the season, but somehow didn’t matter in the end (having Terrence Jones down low helped a lot).
But hey, who hasn’t trotted out a sensational headline every now and then? Just don’t make it a habit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.