2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Preview

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With Belmont moving to the Ohio Valley Conference for the start of the 2012-13 season, the Atlantic Sun race has changed. The Bruins have moved on, but the competition remains at the top of the Atlantic Sun. Both Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast, who finished first and second in the conference, have non-conference wins over high-major BCS opponents this season. Mercer beat both Florida State and Alabama, while Florida Gulf Coast got an early win over now-No. 6 Miami.

As the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in this tournament, the two are the most likely to end up in the conference championship game on March 9, but there are a few teams that can’t be overlooked. Take a look below:

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Hawkins Arena (Macon, Georgia)

When: March 6-9

Final: March 9, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Mercer

Mercer has non-conference wins over Florida State and Alabama, as was mentioned above, but was also one of three teams all year to lose to 3-27 Kennesaw State. Defense is the centerpiece for the Bears, who rank in the Top 15 nationally in opponent points per game, giving up an average of just 57.4. Added to that, 0pponents shoot just 39 percent from the floor against them.

And if they lose? Florida Gulf Coast

FGCU got a huge non-conference win over a Reggie Johnson-less Miami earlier this season and, contrasted with Mercer’s defensive-oriented approach, the Eagles like to put points on the board. Conference Player of the Year Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, and Chase Fieler all average in double figures and the team is in the Top 50 nationally in shooting percentage.

Sleeper: USC Upstate

Led by one of the conference’s best player, Torrey Craig, Upstate has been stuck in the crowded middle of the pack behind FGCU and Mercer. They rebound the ball well, which will be important in tournament games, and share the ball, ranked 23rd in the country in assists.

Studs:

– Torrey Craig (USC Upstate): The reigning conference player of the year has been back at it again this season. The junior averaged 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, perhaps on track for another POY season. Upstate finished 9-9 in the conference slate, but will be looking for the automatic bid.

– Sherwood Brown (Florida Gulf Coast): Brown leads the high-scoring FGCU attack with 15.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The senior leader and three-point shooter will be key for the Eagles in the Atlantic Sun tournament.

– Adam Pegg (Stetson): The 6-9 senior is averaging 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for a Stetson team that is sandwiched between the top-tier FGCU and Mercer teams and the crowded pack of 9-9 teams below it. Pegg had a big 23-point, 12-rebound game against Lipscomb earlier in the year.

Stephen Hurt (Lipscomb): Hurt will likely be named the Atlantic Sun Newcomer of the Year after averaging 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. His team faces a tough first-round matchup with Mercer in this tournament, but the 6-10 freshman will be one to watch.

CBT Prediction: Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast are locked in another battle in the Atlantic Sun championship game, but Mercer’s defense prevails to snag the automatic bid.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.