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.
Who is the best team in Kentuckiana?
- (Daniel Martin): Louisville is coming off of a Final Four run and Kentucky plays the role of the villain on the national scene, but Indiana is the best in this trio. Take perhaps the best player in the nation in Cody Zeller, add that to a stellar freshman class, including point guard Yogi Ferrell, and you’ve got legitimate reason to be No. 1 in the nation. The special thing about Indiana being so nationally renowned is that when the Hoosiers are good, it raises the quality of college basketball itself. It’s one of those historic programs like Kansas or Kentucky or UCLA that draws the casual fan because of its connection to the very roots of the game.
- (David Harten): As a lifelong resident of the area, these three teams have consumed my life since birth. Since I moved away, there’s still no way I can escape them, and I don’t want to. Not with this year being the greatest year for basketball in the Bluegrass and the Heartland. Indiana brings back a the National Player of the Year Candidate in Cody Zeller and a cast of role players. Louisville’s defense is some of the best in the nation and they rode it to the Final Four last season. Kentucky, well, Kentucky has John Calipari, who is the nation’s best recruiter and has developed into a solid X’s and O’s coach. This year should put all three in the Final Four.
- (Raphielle Johnson): As much as I like Indiana and agree with the picking of them as the top team in both preseason polls, when it’s all said and done I’ll take the Cardinals due to their interior depth. Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell and more. On the perimeter while it remains to be seen how much Peyton Siva’s improved his jump shot, the addition of Luke Hancock should not be overlooked. He’ll be another facilitator that Rick Pitino can call on, and will help counteract the occasional craziness that comes with Russ Smith. Add in a healthy Kevin Ware and Wayne Blackshear and Louisville has an embarrassment of riches at every position.
- (Eric Angevine): Because, really, who wants to read five identical paragraphs about Indiana? When comparing three top-5 teams, the margins are razor-thin, so I’m going back to first principles to make my selection. College basketball is a guard’s game, and an experienced, quality point guard is crucial to season-long success. Therefore, I’m giving Louisville and Peyton Siva the nod. The fact that they’re loaded at every other position and have Gorgui Dieng as a mistake-eraser seals the deal.
- (Rob Dauster): Since no one else here wanted to pick the Wildcats, I guess I’ll be tasked with making the argument in their favor. Neither Louisville nor Indiana are complete teams. The Cardinals were downright bad on the offensive end of the floor for much of last season and lost their two most efficient scorers to graduation. Indiana struggled on the defensive end of the floor, and many of those same issues look like they could end up arising for the Hoosiers again this season. Kentucky certainly isn’t a complete team right now, either, but they are more of a clean slate. John Calipari will have a ton of talent to mold and blend and turn into a title contender. If Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin can develop into 15 ppg scorers and the trio of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer can find a way to effectively rotate through in the front court, Kentucky has as much raw talent as any team in Kentuckiana.
Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.
The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.
Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.
With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.