Trey Burke just finished one of the best seasons that a college basketball player has had in recent memory.
He averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists on the season, hitting 46.3% from the floor and 38.4% from three. He proved himself to be one of the most clutch players in the country — will anyone forget this 30-footer he hit against Kansas anytime soon? — and he had one of the best seasons, from an efficiency perspective, that we’ve seen in the Kenpom era. He led his team to the National Title game, and in the process more-than-likely played his way into the NBA Draft’s lottery.
And to think, Burke was all-but gone last season.
His bags were packed. He was out the door before somehow being convinced to pull his name out of consideration and return to Michigan for his sophomore season.
What a great decision that turned out to be, but it’s not the way that it usually plays out for potential first round picks.
Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III and Jared Sullinger all pulled their names out of the 2011 NBA Draft and returned to school for their sophomore season. All three were top five picks had they left school. Barnes went seventh in 2012. Sullinger went 21st. Jones went 28th. James Michael McAdoo would have been a lottery pick in the 2012 draft. He might have to return to North Carolina for next season. Cody Zeller is probably still a top ten pick this season after returning to school for his sophomore campaign, but that has more to do with the strength of the top of this draft than it does with the season that Zeller had.
Tony Mitchell from North Texas went from being a lottery pick to a potential second-rounder. Mike Moser went from a potential first round pick to having to transfer out of UNLV to get playing time. Frankly, it’s rare to find a guy that pulled his name out of NBA Draft consideration and managed to shoot his way up NBA Draft boards the way that Burke did.
But Burke did it.
He returned to school and he played his way into being a lottery pick.
Does that mean that it’s in the best interest of every potential draft pick to skip out on the draft? No, of course not.
But Burke proved that it’s possible to improve your NBA Draft standing by returning to school for a season.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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
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.