Real, live college basketball games start on Friday, and with all of our glorious preseason content finally finished, this week we will be providing you with water cooler fodder as we roll through a series of Burning Question. You can read them all right here.
Which player on one of the NBCSports.com All-American teams is the most likely to flop this year?
Mike Moser, UNLV (Rob Dauster): Moser is coming off of a fantastic season for the Rebels, and under normal circumstances, I’d be trumpeting his potential heading into the season. But this isn’t a normal year for UNLV; the Rebels have a front line that’s absolutely stacked, so much so that Moser may end up playing the three this year. That would take away the mismatch advantage he has as a power forward. If he struggles with a move to the wing, he’ll have to share even more minutes with Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch. Will that cut into his production?
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
- (Raphielle Johnson): I think the word “flop” in this question is a bit harsh, because I can’t see Canaan’s game pulling a “Vlade Divac” this year. However the loss of perimeter helpers Jewuan Long and Donte Poole, as well as Zay Jackson’s driving in a Walmart parking lot (he can’t play this season as a result) means that Canaan will have even more eyes focused on his every move. I’m expecting some teams to throw junk defenses (box and 1, etc.) at the Racers in hopes of slowing Canaan down, but the bigger issue will be the loss of some important sidekicks.
- (Troy Machir): It’s close to impossible for Isaiah Canaan to replicate the success he and the Murray State Racer had last season. They were the last unbeaten team in the country. Only the National Championship-winning Kentucky Wildcats had less losses than Murray State. A lot of things will have to bounce Murray State’s way in order for Canaan and the Racers to meet the lofty expectations awaiting them. Murray State lost four important pieces over the off-season, three to graduation and one, sophomore Zay Jackson, to a season-long suspension. I do think Canaan will have a very strong year, but he won’t be able to surprise us like he did last year, and I don’t think he has the talent around him to do something truly special.
Michael Snaer, Florida State (David Harten): He’s as legit a shooter as there is, and he’s on a team that values him. He’s one of the best players in the ACC, averaging 14 points per game. But that’s not all that matters when it comes to being an All-American. The team itself plays a part. Big man Bernard James is gone. As is Snaer’s backcourt mate Luke Loucks. Unless another scoring threat emerges (it’s worth noting Ian Miller’s 10.3 ppg returns), Snaer could face a ton of double teams. And his production could drop.
Peyton Siva, Louisville (Daniel Martin): Siva was chosen to be the Big East Preseason Player of the Year and, considering his performance in the 2012 Big East and NCAA tournaments, that’s warranted. But we saw two different Sivas over the course of last season, one who led Louisville to the Final Four in March and the one who struggled through some doldrums during the middle of the year. Which one will predominate in 2012-13? The fate of the Louisville offense depends on his production, but there is the possibility that he could run into struggles at some point this year. As goes Siva, so go the Cardinals.
Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.
Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.
The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.
Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.
The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.
When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.
Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.
The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.
Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.
“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”
Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.
Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.
Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.
With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.
In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.
Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.
The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.
Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.
UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.
Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.
Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.
With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.