Michigan v Louisville

Russ Smith on the NBA Draft: “…This is the right time”

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(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

Earlier today, reports surfaced that Louisville’s Russ Smith would enter the NBA Draft.

Well, the All-Big East guard seemingly made it official on Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation radio show, with Mark Packer and Bruce Pearl.

He appeared Tuesday and explained the situation. Smith’s father, Russ Smith, Sr., was quick to pull the trigger on telling everyone his son was leaving, breaking the news right after Louisville won the national championship.

“My dad obviously put it out there [to] say that I’m going to enter the Draft,” Smith said. “We both feel like this is the right time, while coming off the national championship, while the talk about my game is still there.  And it’s just the right time.  You never know what’s going to happen next year.  I’m real lucky to be in the situation I am now so this’ll be the best time and we’ll just see from there.  But, as of right now, I gotta get back in the gym, get my weight back.  I lost nine pounds, 10 pounds, believe it or not, this season and now I have a lot of time to get that weight to stay on me.  So I feel like going into, maybe two months from now I could get maybe 15 pounds back on my body and just develop parts of my game that weren’t there and get healthy again.”

So there it is. Smith is officially going pro. Not sure it’s the best decision, but you can’t blame a guy for wanting to cash in on the splash he made this season. Though one has to wonder how his sub-par performance, at least scoring-wise, in the Final Four will affect his draft stock. He finished with just nine points in the national title game and while he had 21 in the national semifinal against Wichita State, he started the game 1-for-10.

Smith may have to improve his distribution skills if he wants to thrive at the next level. He played some point guard this season, but finished with 116 assists against 108 turnovers. And there are a ton of 6-7 two-guards with his skill set at the next level.

NBA rules state underclassmen have until April 28 to declare for the draft and until June 17 to withdrawal.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.