In less than 24 hours, we will all finally know the answer to the elephant in the room in every college hoops conversation since Louisville won the 2013 national title: Where will Andrew Wiggins go to college?
On Sunday evening, Wiggins officially announced that he would be making his decision public at 12:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, meaning that at precisely 12:16 p.m. ET on Tuesday, there will be one team and one fan base who just saw their expectations for the 2013-2014 reach a new level.
The four schools still involved in Wiggins’ recruitment? Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky is the easy pick since, well, since they are Kentucky; they always land these recruits. Florida State is the trendy pick and the program many believe to be the favorite. Kansas is the sleeper that is making a late-push. North Carolina is the longshot, but who doesn’t love an underdog story.
Who has the most to gain from landing Wiggins? Who cannot afford to miss on this future star? Just how important is landing a preseason first-team all-american to these four schools? Read on and find out:
Florida State: The Seminoles took a massive step back a season ago, as they struggled to find any kind of consistency on the defensive end of the floor — Leonard Hamilton’s typical trademark — and couldn’t find any kind of consistency in their front court. They finished the year 18-16, a record which was probably better than it should have been thanks to the repeated late-game heroics from Michael Snaer. But the ‘Noles are already bringing in a talented recruiting class — headlined by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a close friend of Wiggins’, and Jarquez Smith — and return a better-than-you-realize core of Devin Bookert, Ian Miller and Okaro White.
Without a doubt, this would be the most intriguing place for Wiggins to land. This kid is regarded in the same vein as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and we all remember what LBJ and the Durantula did in their first seasons out of high school. LeBron averaged 21, 6 and 6 for the Cavs while Durant lit up the Big 12 for 25.8 points, 11.1 boards, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks as a freshman. With that kind of a talent on the roster, FSU immediately becomes a threat to reach the Sweet 16. Without him, this team is likely destined for the NIT.
Kansas: The Jayhawks, who some believe are right behind Florida State as favorites to land the services of Wiggins, are already going to be an interesting team to follow through the 2013-2014 season. We all know about the streak — Bill Self has won at least a share of the last nine regular season titles in the Big 12 — but this group will be losing all five starters from a season ago. Their returnees: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Andrew White and Jamari Traylor. Their newcomers: Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Connor Frankamp, Frank Mason, Brannen Greene. There’s potential there, sure, but there is also a ton of youth. With Oklahoma State and Baylor returning a ton from a season ago, this could be the season that the Jayhawks lose their grip on the league.
But with Wiggins in the mix, it becomes a much different story. He immediately becomes the star and go-to guy that the Jayhawks desperately need. He takes the pressure off of the point guard spot. He makes things easier on their young front line. This group would very-much resemble the 2007-2008 Texas team with Durant. The Jayhawks would immediately become the favorite to win the Big 12 — you simply don’t bet against Bill Self if he gets Wiggins on his roster — and they should be considered a legitimate Final Four contender.
Kentucky: Kentucky, like Florida State, is coming off of a first round exit in the NIT. And like Kansas, the Wildcats are losing a number of pieces this offseason — Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays. The difference is that Kentucky is already bringing in one of the best recruiting classes of all-time, and they still return Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer. This team already goes nine-deep with top 40 recruits. They are already the preseason No. 1 team in the country. They probably don’t need Wiggins to win it all, but in the real world, there’s never a situation where you ‘don’t need’ a talent like Wiggins.
If Kentucky wins this recruiting battle, the talk about the Wildcats going undefeated will commence. And it’s possible. This will be the most ridiculous accumulation of talent on any roster in recent memory. NBA teams will be renting out apartments in Lexington during the school year; it’ll be cheaper than spending all that money on hotels. Think about this: the Harrison twins in the back court, Wiggins on the wing, Julius Randle and Cauley-Stein up front with James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Poythress and Wiltjer coming off the bench.
There are concerns, however — How do minutes get split up? Are the guys on the bench happy being ‘guys on the bench’? Are there too many attitudes and egos on this roster? — but I’m not sure there is a coach in the country better-suited to handling this team than Coach Cal.
North Carolina: Few believe Wiggins will end up at North Carolina, but if he does, he would be the perfect piece to slide into Roy Williams’ system. Think about it like this: the guy is basically the same position as Reggie Bullock, only worlds better than Reggie Bullock. And when North Carolina made their late-season run in 2012-2013, it was when Bullock played in the front court alongside PJ Hairston and James Michael-McAdoo. In that system, I’m not sure there is a player better-suited to being an undersized-four than Wiggins.
With Marcus Paige also returning, and another talented recruiting class coming in this season, the Tar Heels were already considered a borderline top ten team and the biggest challenger to Duke and Syracuse in the ACC. With Wiggins, they would be the favorite to win the strongest conference in the country and a real national title contender.
The deadline to declare for the NBA draft has come and gone, which means we’re now waiting for the next deadline: When underclassmen have to pull their name out of the NBA draft if they are testing the waters.
That day is May 30th.
It is a full five weeks away, after the NBA draft combine and nearly a month before the draft itself.
So there is a long way to go with this process.
But as things stand today, here is a list of all the players that have signed with an agent and that are testing the waters.
There are more than 150 players on that list. So to help you parse it all down, here are the most influential Should-I-Stay-Or-Should-I-Go decisions that are going to be made over the course of the next five weeks.
OMARI SPELLMAN and DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova
Villanova already lost a pair of juniors to the NBA draft as both Mikal Bridges, a potential top ten pick, and Jalen Brunson, last year’s reigning National Player of the Year, declared for the draft and signed with an agent.
Eric Paschall and Phil Booth both opted to return to school for their redshirt senior seasons where, along with returnees Jermaine Samuels, Collin Gillispie and Dhamir Cosby-Rountree and a recruiting class that is as good as any that Jay Wright had landed in his time on the Main Line, has Villanova’s program in a great place for the future.
And frankly, even with just that group of guys, the Wildcats are likely still going to enter the season as the favorite to win the Big East once again, although that might say more about the Big East than it does about Villanova.
But if they get Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman back, we could be looking at a situation where this is once again the best team in college basketball.
Let’s start with DiVincenzo, since I think he’s the more likely of the two to return. On the one hand, he might end up being a preseason first-team all-american if he makes the choice to play for Jay Wright for another season, and as such, he’ll likely end up taking over the lion’s share of Villanova’s offense as a result. But more importantly, at least when it comes to the draft, is that DiVincenzo still has some things that he can improve on that would make him a more palatable first round pick. As dynamic as he was this season, Divincenzo has always been a streaky scorer, a mixed bag as a decision-maker and a questionable ball-handler. Those are things that can be improved upon and, with a weaker draft coming up in 2019, the kind of thing that might be able to sneak him into the lottery.
Spellman is a different story. He’s something of a finished product in terms of an NBA prospect. There are things that he can improve on — his post game, for one, and his ability to drive left, another — but the weight loss that he went through in his two seasons as a part of the Villanova program is what turned him into an NBA player. Given his size, his ability to shoot from three, the way he attacks close-outs and the fact that he can protect the rim and rebound the ball now that he’s shed 50 pounds, there is likely a spot for him in an NBA rotation somewhere. And while DiVincenzo can improve where he’s picked by coming back, I think Spellman is always going to find himself in that range of being a late first rounder or an early second rounder.
As it stands, Villanova is currently the No. 2 overall team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25. With both players officially back, I’ll have to think long and hard about whether or not they should be No. 1.
CALEB MARTIN, CODY MARTIN and JORDAN CAROLINE, Nevada
Should Nevada get all three of these guys back for another season, the Wolf Pack are going to enter the 2018-19 season as a preseason top ten team.
But are they going to get all three of these guys back?
That, at this point, is a major question mark for one, simple reason: They are all staring down the barrel of a redshirt senior season, meaning that it will be the fifth year that the three — all of whom transferred into Nevada — will be in college. If they already have their degree, and they are all turning 23 years old in the next year, is a shot at making the Final Four enough incentive to return to school?
For Caroline it might be. As talented as he is, I’m not sure that he gets drafted if he turns pro. Both Martin twins have an actual chance to end up hearing their name called on draft night — Caleb as one of the best shot-makers in college basketball and Cody as a 3-and-D role player — but it would be as second round picks. If all three are gone, then I think we’re talking about Nevada as a team that is going to have to battle just to make the NCAA tournament.
KEVIN HUERTER and BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
There are so many teams in the Big Ten with so much on the line over the course of the next five weeks, but I’m not sure anyone has more at stake than Maryland, who is still waiting to hear what Huerter and Fernando are going to do.
Let’s pretend, for a second, that both return to school. Huerter — a 6-foot-7 wing that averaged 14.6 points and shot 42 percent from three — joins Anthony Cowan and Darryl Morsell to give the Terps one of the better backcourts in college basketball while Fernando, a native of Angola, would be in line for a breakout sophomore campaign. Throw in a recruiting class that includes transfer Schnider Herard and five-star Jalen Smith up front and promising four-star wings like Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith and Aaron Wiggins, and there is something here for Mark Turgeon to work with.
It’s why Maryland is a top 20 team in our preseason rankings.
But Huerter has some second round appeal this season given his size, length and shooting ability while Fernando, who had some impressive moments as a freshman, is tangentially linked to the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. Fernando and Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa as childhood friends that both have the same American guardian. That guardian allegedly received a payout of at least $20,000 to get De Sousa out from under payments he already received from a rival apparel company when he committed to Kansas; De Sousa, who played for Under Armour sponsored high school and AAU teams, was considered a near-lock to head to Maryland, who is Under Armour’s flagship program.
Without those two, Anthony Cowan will take on the role of Melo Trimble, trying to carry the load for the Terps, and I’m not sure he’s cut out for it the way that Trimble was.
CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
Edwards might end up being the best lead guard in college basketball next season. I would not be surprised to see him end up as a consensus preseason first-team all-american should he end up coming back to school, and if he does, I think Purdue is a borderline top 25 team that will be back in the NCAA tournament. Without him, however, and the Boilermakers will have to replace five starters on a team that really didn’t have much in the way of quality depth. Edwards is the difference between Purdue being a good team and Purdue being in a total rebuild.
ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin
Wisconsin just finished the worst season the program has had in two decades, snapping a 19-year NCAA tournament streak and a 16-year run of top four finishes in the Big Ten. And yet, I feel good about where this team is headed. Much of that, as I noted in this column, has to do with the promising crop of youngsters and the way that they finished last season despite being injured and, you know, young. But much more of it had to do with the idea that Happ, an all-american in 2016-17 and a preseason all-american heading into last season, would be back for his senior year. He is the anchor for this group on both ends of the floor.
JAMES PALMER JR. and ISAAC COPELAND, Nebraska
Palmer was one of the best players in the Big Ten last season, quietly putting together an incredible year that not enough people paid attention to. Copeland had his best season as a collegian last year, and the two of them, the two leading scorers for a team that tied for fourth in the Big Ten last year, are the reason why Nebraska looks like they have a shot to be even better next year. They are a borderline top 25 team that should get Tim Miles back to the NCAA tournament. They are also both transfers that might opt to turn professional with a degree in hand, and if that were to happen, the Cornhuskers are going to be heading back into rebuilding mode.
CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
Michigan is the team that I’ve gotten the most pushback on for leaving out of the NBC Sports preseason top 25. I have them out right now because I’m not convinced that Matthews returns to school and, when combined with losing their two best offensive weapons — Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — to graduation, would leave Michigan very young and without the kind of offensive firepower that they had this year. Matthews coming back would change that outlook and make the Wolverines more of a finished product than they are without him. Matthews, individually, would be a potential all-american — and top 20 picks — if he were to return and show off an ability to shoot more consistently from three.
BRYCE BROWN, JARED HARPER, and AUSTIN WILEY, Auburn
I’m honestly not sure what to do with Auburn here. They are already losing Mustapha Heron to the draft, and it is hard for me to justify to myself ranking the Tigers in the top 15 of the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. They’ll be there so long as they get all three of these players back. If they decide to enter the draft, Auburn will look a lot more like they did in the first three years of Bruce Pearl’s tenure.
KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton
Thomas has a chance to have a nice NBA career. He only stands 6-foot-3, but his 6-foot-11 wingspan combined with the fact that he makes better than 40 percent of his threes makes him an intriguing 3-and-D prospect. I do think there’s a chance that he’ll be a first round pick this year should he opt to declare for the draft, and that should make his return to Creighton all that much more important. The Bluejays already lost Marcus Foster, and losing Thomas — who is the one elite defender on a roster that is built for space, pace and scoring — would be another major blow. With him in the fold and the return of a young core of Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock and Jacob Epperson, the Bluejays suddenly look like the second-best team in the Big East.
UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
Azubuike is on this list now because of the fact that Kansas will, more likely than not, be without the services of Silvio De Sousa following the latest reveal in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption. If Azubuike opts to remain in the draft, that means that the five-spot in the Kansas lineup will be manned by Mitch Lightfoot and freshman David McCormack. The reason that Azubuike is so low on this list is that, without him, I would fully expect Kansas to play a smaller, more versatile lineup, and that might actually make them more difficult to matchup with. Put another way, losing Azubuike would have a bigger impact on how Kansas plays instead of how good they actually end up being.
TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
Battle is a borderline first round pick, a guy that could go anywhere between the 20s and the 40s, depending on which NBA organizations fall in love with him. If he’s back, Syracuse has to be thought of as a potential tournament team because, you know, they were this year without all that much around him. If he’s gone, things could get ugly.
MARCQUISE REED and SHELTON MITCHELL, Clemson
Clemson’s two best players down the stretch of the season, Reed and Mitchell back on campus would likely make the Tigers a tournament team for a second straight season. If they end up leaving school, then Brad Brownell is going to be happy that they were able to relieve the pressure on his him with a trip to the Sweet 16 this past tournament.
2018 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?
Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.
In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.
“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”
Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.
“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”
“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”
Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.
Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.
But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.
Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars
After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.
Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.
Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.
But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.
The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.
And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.
This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.
But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.
Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.
Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia
Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.
The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.
Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.
“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”