PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN FIRST TEAM
- Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart was the nation’s best freshman in 2012-2013, and made the decision to return to school for his sophomore year despite being a projected top five pick. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s got all the intangibles that make sportswriters spew the typical cliches: he’s a winner, he’s smart, he’s a leader. A 6-foot-4, physical point guard, Smart is a consistent jumper away from being the total package.
- Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith is the prototype for back court players in Rick Pitino’s uptempo system. He’s a terror on the defensive end of the floor and is as aggressive as anyone in the country when getting out in transition. He made the jump from sideshow to superstar as a junior because of improved shot selection, and don’t be surprised to see his game continue to mature as a senior.
- Andrew Wiggins, TBD: Simply put, Wiggins is arguably the best prospect that we’ve seen come through the high school ranks since LeBron James. He’s a skilled, 6-foot-7 wing that can score in any number of ways and is athletic enough to get his head to the rim. It doesn’t matter if he plays for Kentucky, Florida State or Grambling, he’ll likely end up being the Preseason National Player of the Year.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott is a two-time first-team all-american, and he’s heading into a senior season where he’ll be asked to carry the Bluejays into a new conference. With a couple of key pieces from last year’s team graduating, McDermott — who has a chance to score his 3,000th point next season — will need to carry an even bigger load next season.
- Adreian Payne, Michigan State: The Spartans are going to be a national title contender next season, and Payne is going to be the difference-maker. As the only significant front court presence for the Spartans, there is going to be a lot of pressure on Payne’s shoulders to produce. He’s one of the most talented front court players in the country, but he’s battled with bouts of inconsistency. But with his size, athleticism and three-point shooting ability, if Payne puts it all together, he should have a huge year.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN SECOND TEAM
- Shabazz Napier, UConn
- Aaron Craft, Ohio State
- Gary Harris, Michigan State
- Jabari Parker, Duke
- Mitch McGary, Michigan
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN THIRD TEAM
- Jahii Carson, Arizona State
- Semaj Christon, Xavier
- P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
- Julius Randle, Kentucky
- C.J. Fair, Syracuse
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN HONORABLE MENTION
Jordan Adams (UCLA), Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Isaiah Austin (Baylor), Chane Behanan (Louisville), Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado), Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Joe Harris (Virginia), Aaron Harrison (Kentucky), Andrew Harrison (Kentucky), Cory Jefferson (Baylor), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Jordan McRae (Tennessee), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke), Patric Young (Florida)
Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.
Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?
There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.
Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.
Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.
Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.
What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.
Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.
Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.
On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.
One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.
By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:
8. ROB GRAY’S LITTLE BROTHER
He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.
7. JORDAN PEELE
Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.
6. TY JEROME DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR DUMB QUESTIONS
Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:
5. ROBERT WILLIAMS TEAMMATE
I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:
4. MARIAH MUSSELMAN
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:
3. MATT HAARMS’ HAIR
He really does have great hair:
This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.
1. SISTER JEAN
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.
I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …
The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.
ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.
The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.
What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.
Where does Penny fall on this scale?
Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:
Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.
Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.
Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.
Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?
The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.
I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.