Aaron Craft ready to play more of an attacking role

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UNION, N.J. — The knock on Ohio State for much of the 2012-2013 season was that they relied far too much on Deshaun Thomas on the offensive end of the floor. They didn’t have a second option, and on the nights when Thomas wasn’t hitting his shots, the Buckeyes weren’t winning games.

That changed down the stretch of the season, however.

Ohio State won their last five regular season games before taking home the Big Ten tournament title and coming within a game of making the Final Four, a feat that no one thought possible last January. The reason for that surge? The play of point guard Aaron Craft, who became a much more aggressive player on the offensive end of the floor over the last month-and-a-half of the season. He had 21 points and six assists in a regular season win over Michigan State. He went for 15 points, four assists and four steals in a win over Indiana. He had 20 points, nine assists and four steals against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. He went for 18 points and six assists — including the game-saving charge and game-winning three — in a win over Iowa State to reach the Sweet 16.

And if the Buckeyes are going to make a run at a Big Ten regular season title in 2013-2014, they are going to need that kind of play out of Craft the entire season.

“I’ve gotta continue to lead the team, the biggest thing [to improve on] would be being aggressive on offense,” Craft told NBCSports.com at the Nike Skills Academy on the campus of Kean University. “Without having a guy like DT where you can throw him the ball and let him do his thing. We’re going to have to find a way to create shots and get open ones, so if I can attack better, I think it will help us out.”

And therein lies the biggest question mark when it comes to the Buckeyes next season. As good as Craft is, his entire career at Ohio State has been built around his leadership and his defense. He’s not a dynamic playmaker, he’s a facilitator. He picks his spots well and he’s aggressive when he needs to be, but he hasn’t been the kind of point guard that can beat his man one-on-one and create a shot for himself or his team on any possession. He’s not Trey Burke.

But there were times where he was as effective as Burke was last season, especially late in the regular season, and it’s those moments that Craft will be looking to build off of.

“Guys like Kyrie [Irving] are always in attack mode,” Craft said. “It’s not always for him to score, it’s for everybody. It’s for his entire team, whether he’s getting a good shot or he’s helping somebody else get a good shot. Just trying to be aggressive and be in attack mode, not trying to go to fast but to make quick decisions. We can make adjustments from there.”

The good news is that there will be some talent surrounding Craft next season. Shannon Scott showed flashes of serious potential as a sophomore. Lenzelle Smith has some big scoring games. LaQuinton Ross played his way into some 2014 mock drafts with his play in the postseason.

None of those guys have shown any kind of consistency, however.

Craft has.

Which is ironic, really.

While Scott, Ross and Smith will be looking to improve their consistency next year, Craft, who has built a career out of consistently playing at a high level, will be looking to break out of his mold.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

California transfer Charlie Moore commits to Kansas

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Kansas has again struck gold in the transfer market, landing a commitment from former California point guard Charlie Moore, according to Scout.com.

Moore, a former top 40 recruit from Chicago, averaged 12.2 points and 3.5 assists as a freshman with the Golden Bears. He’ll sit out the 2017-18 season and have three years of eligibility remaining. He’ll likely be in line to start at the point for the Jayhawks when Devonte’ Graham graduates this season.

Moore is the fourth sit-out transfer and fifth transfer overall that Bill Self has recruited in recent years. Malik Newman, who began his career at Mississippi State, will start in the back court this year while Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe will be eligible in December. Dedric and K.J. Lawson, brothers that transferred out of Memphis, will be redshirting this year as well.

One interesting note: Assuming that Svi Mykhailiuk returns to Kansas, Kansas does not currently have a scholarship available, meaning that, as it stands, there is not an available scholarship for Trevon Duval.

Michigan adds grad transfer point guard from Ohio

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Michigan added a veteran presence to their back court on Tuesday when they landed a commitment from Jaaron Simmons, a graduate transfer from Ohio that started his career at Houston.

Simmons averaged 15.9 points and 6.5 assists per game last season for the Bobcats and should fit well into the point guard role that John Beilein asks his players to play. He’ll likely battle rising sophomore Xavier Simpson for the starting point guard spot.

Even with Simmons in the fold, however, Michigan’s ceiling next year is going to be determined by whether or not they get D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner back from the draft. Both players declared without signing with an agent.

The one complicating factor with Simmons: He has declared for the NBA Draft as well, meaning that his status as a Wolverine is still somewhat up in the air.

The 15 Most Important NBA Draft Testing The Water Decisions

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The deadline to enter the NBA Draft came and went at midnight on Sunday night, meaning that if your favorite team’s best player does not have his name in the draft as of today, he will be back in school.

But thanks to a rule change that came down last year, the players with their names currently in the draft aren’t locked into remaining in the draft. They have until May 24th — 10 days after the NBA combine — to pull their name out and return to school so long as they don’t sign with an agent.

The NBA’s official early entry list won’t be out for a couple more days, but here is the current list of players that we have entering the NBA Draft, signing with an agent and already planning on returning to school.

Too many names to get through?

I got you covered. Here are the 15 teams with the most on the line over the course of the next four weeks:

Johnathan Motley (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

1. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel, Louisville: As it stands, Louisville is the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 for the 2017-18 season. That’s the case because I am assuming that both Mitchell and Adel will be returning to school for their junior seasons. As good as Adel was in stretches at the end of the season, the bigger story here is Mitchell, who had a legitimate case to be named the ACC Player of the Year. He was sensational for a month-long stretch in the middle of ACC play last year, but he may have just been inconsistent enough to scare off NBA teams from guaranteeing him a spot in the first round of the draft.

If Mitchell does return, he’ll be on a short list — with guys like Miles Bridges, Allonzo Trier and a few of the names on here — for Preseason National Player of the Year. He’ll be a virtual lock to be placed somewhere on every outlet’s preseason all-america. If both return, Louisville will have a real chance to win a national title. If Mitchell — and, to a lesser extent, Adel — leaves, we could be looking at a situation where the Cardinals will have to fight to finish in the top two of the ACC.

2. Johnathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was Baylor’s best player a season ago, a second-team all-american for a Bears team that outperformed everyone’s expectations. Motley has a shot of being a late-first round pick, but he’s also a redshirt junior that will be 22 years old by the time the NBA combine happens. With him back in the fold, Baylor, who returns the majority of their key pieces, might be able to give Kansas a run for their money in the Big 12 again. Without him, they’re still a back-end top 25 team, but it significantly changes their ceiling.

3. Joel Berry II, Tony Bradley and Theo Pinson, North Carolina: This is obvious, isn’t it? The Tar Heels lost Justin Jackson to the NBA already. Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt have graduated. If these three remain in the draft, the Tar Heels — who are the reigning National Champs — will be without their top seven from that title winning team. Pinson is a key role player, but both Berry and Bradley will be expected to star next season. Berry should be a Preseason All-American while Bradley will make preseason all-ACC teams. Of the three, only Bradley has a real shot to be a first round pick.

4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan was the runner-up last year for National Player of the Year, averaging a ridiculous 18.5 points, 12.5 boards and 3.1 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from three. With the Boilermakers returning essentially everyone else from a team that won the Big Ten regular season title, it’s hard not to see what Swanigan’s return would mean: Preseason National Player of the Year, preseason Big Ten title favorite, preseason top ten nationally. The problem? I just don’t see Swanigan returning to school, not after what he did last season and not when there really isn’t all that much more that he can do to improve in college.

Trevon Bluiett (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

5. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett was the best player in the NCAA Tournament not named Tyler Dorsey, and with the Musketeers, who made a run to the Elite 8 without Edmond Sumner, already losing their star point guard to the draft, getting back the guy that would be the Big East Preseason Player of the Year would help keep them in the mix for the Big East title. Without him, they’re probably more of a borderline top 25 team.

6. Semi Ojeleye, SMU: The Mustangs already have some solid pieces on their roster coming back next season, with the added boost of Shake Milton’s decision to return to school, but Ojeleye is the difference maker. He was incredible last season, so good, in fact, that he may have played his way into the NBA Draft’s first round. He’s a redshirt junior that turns 23 in December. If he’s back, SMU if a top 15 team, but I don’t expect him to come back.

7. Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love this Seton Hall team and I am going to end up overhyping them all offseason. It’s inevitable at this point. That said, my love affair with the Pirates stems from the fact that I am assuming both Carrington, the team’s most explosive back court scorer, and Delgado, arguably the nation’s best rebounder and the best big man in the Big East, return to school. They’re a top 20 team and a sleeper to win the Big East with them in the mix. They may not make the tournament without them.

8. Mo Wagner and D.J. Wilson, Michigan: The major blow that Michigan is going to take this offseason is to their back court. Derrick Walton Jr. was unbelievable in the last two months of the season, and he graduates. John Beilein added grad transfer Jaaron Simmons, who averaged 15.9 points and 6.5 assists at Ohio last season, to fill in at the point, but Michigan’s ceiling is going to be determined by whether or not they get their two stretch-fives back. Wagner and Wilson are perfect big men to play for Beilein — think Kevin Pittsnoggle with athleticism and mobility — and if they return, the Wolverines are a sneaky pick to finish top three in the Big Ten.

Aaron Holiday (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

9. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh, UCLA: As it stands, UCLA is losing their top seven players from last season’s team. They are bringing in a talented freshman class, but it’s hard to picture a team made up of just freshmen and G.G. Goloman competing with Arizona and USC atop the Pac-12. Throw Aaron Holiday, who was one of the most under-appreciated players in the country last season, and Welsh back into the mix, however, and suddenly there are some veteran leaders on the roster to provide Steve Alford with an anchor. Neither are projected as first round picks.

10. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky: Should Diallo opt to return to school for what would be his redshirt freshman season, he would be one of the veterans on Kentucky’s roster. He hasn’t played a second for the Wildcats, but given that this will be Kentucky’s youngest and most inexperienced team in John Calipari’s tenure, having another guy — one that is, you know, a top ten recruit and a freak athlete and defender — that’s been through three months of practices with the team is a bonus Kentucky can’t really pretend they don’t need.

11. Frank Jackson, Duke: In a vacuum, ranking Jackson this low probably seems silly. He was a borderline top ten recruit last season that played his best basketball down the stretch of the year and eventually unseated Grayson Allen from the Duke starting lineup. But he’s also a guy that’s testing the waters to protect himself in case Trevon Duval commits to Duke. If Frank Jackson stays in the draft, does that mean Duke is getting Duval? If he’s back in Durham, does that mean they missed on Duval? For a team in need of a point guard, which is the better option to have?

12. Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, Indiana: It’s really this simple for Indiana: If Archie Miller gets all three of these guys to return to school, Indiana is probably going to be a preseason top 25 team. If all three of them stick in the NBA Draft, Indiana is going to have to scrap to make the NCAA tournament.

13. Markis McDuffie, Wichita State: I think McDuffie is one of those guys that has flown under the radar as a talent, largely due to the fact that he plays on a team that spends less time on national television than Rutgers. That said, he’s the leading scorer of a team that’s going to be on everyone’s preseason top ten next season. Losing him would be a major blow for the Shockers.

14. Tacko Fall, UCF: UCF actually has a shot to be an NCAA tournament team next season — Johnny Dawkins has a better roster than you realize — but that hinges somewhat upon Tacko Fall and whether or not he’ll return to school for his junior year. The 7-foot-6 Fall made massive strides this season, but he still has a ways to go before he’s ready to handle the rigors of being a professional basketball player.

15. Braxton Key, Alabama: Alabama is going to pop up in the preseason top 25 this season and Key led the team in scoring as a freshman. So why is he so low here? Because Alabama is top 25 due to the fact that they bring in a loaded freshman class headlined by a pair of five-star scorers in Collin Sexton and John Petty. Key’s numbers will take a hit.

2017 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who is staying and who is going?

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RETURNING TO SCHOOL

Jalen Adams, UConn
Grayson Allen, Duke (story)
Tyus Battle, Syracuse
Marques Bolden, Duke
Mikal Bridges (story)
Miles Bridges, Michigan State (story)
Bruce Brown, Miami
Jalen Brunson (story)
Jeffery Carroll, Oklahoma State (story)
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Marcus Foster, Creighton
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas (story)
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
Shake Milton, SMU
Chimezie Metu, USC
Allonzo Trier, Arizona (story)
Robert Williams, Texas A&M (story)

DECLARING, SIGNING WITH AN AGENT

Bam Adebayo, Kentucky (story)
Jarrett Allen, Texas (story)
Ike Anigbogu, UCLA (story)
O.G. Anunoby, Indiana (story)
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State (story)
Lonzo Ball, UCLA (story)
Jordan Bell, Oregon (story)
Antonio Blakeney, LSU (story)
John Collins, Wake Forest
Zach Collins, Gonzaga (story)
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon (story)
P.J. Dozier, South Carolina (story)
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State (story)
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky (story)
Markelle Fultz, Washington (story)
Harry Giles III, Duke (story)
Isaac Humphries, Kentucky (story)
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State (story)
Justin Jackson, North Carolina (story)
Jaylen Johnson, Louisville
Luke Kennard, Duke (story)
T.J. Leaf, UCLA (story)
Tyler Lydon, Syracuse (story)
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona (story)
Malik Monk, Kentucky (story)
Austin Nichols, Virginia
Justin Patton, Creighton (story)
L.J. Peak, Georgetown
Ivan Rabb, California (story)
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Devin Robinson, Florida
Kobi Simmons, Arizona (story)
Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State (story)
Edmond Sumner, Xavier (story)
Jayson Tatum, Duke (story)
Melo Trimble, Maryland (story)
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga (story)

DECLARING WITHOUT AN AGENT

Shaqquan Aaron, USC
Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
Deng Adel, Louisville
Jashaun Agosto, LIU-Brooklyn
Rawle Alkins, Arizona
Mark Alstork, Wright State
Jaylen Barford, Arkansas
Joel Berry II, North Carolina
James Blackmon, Indiana
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Tony Bradley, North Carolina
Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Thomas Bryant, Indiana (story)
Rodney Bullock, Providence
Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
Jevon Carter, West Virginia (story)
Jason Chartouny, Fordham
Donte Clark, UMass (story)
Chance Comanche, Arizona
Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky (story)
Vince Edwards, Purdue
John Egbunu, Florida
Jon Elmore, Marshall
Obi Enechionyia, Temple
Drew Eubanks, Oregon State
Tacko Fall, UCF
Brandon Goodwin, FGCU
Isaac Haas, Purdue
Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State
Frank Jackson, Duke (story)
B.J. Johnson, La Salle
Darin Johnson, CSUN
Robert Johnson, Indiana
Andrew Jones, Texas
Kerem Kanter, Green Bay
Marcus Keene, Central Michigan
Braxton Key, Alabama
Kyle Kuzma, Utah
William Lee, UAB
Daryl Macon, Arkansas
Yante Maten, Georgia
Markis McDuffie, Wichita State
MiKyle McIntosh, Illinois State
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Eric Mika, BYU
Johnathan Motley, Baylor (story)
Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas (story)
Semi Ojeleye, SMU
Cam Oliver, Nevada
Randy Onwuasor, Southern Utah
Theo Pinson, North Carolina
Maverick Rowan, N.C. State
Corey Sanders, Rutgers
Jaaron Simmons, Ohio
Jaren Sina, George Washington
Zach Smith, Texas Tech
Elijah Stewart, USC
Caleb Swanigan (story)
Stevie Thompson, Oregon State
Trevor Thompson, Ohio State
Mo Wagner, Michigan
Tevonn Walker, Valparaiso
Thomas Welsh, UCLA
Thomas Wilder, Western Michigan
Johnathan Williams III, Gonzaga
D.J. Wilson, Michigan
Omer Yurtseven, N.C. State

YET TO DECIDE

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Jacob Evans, Cincinnati
Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt
Jessie Govan, Georgetown
Donta Hall, Alabama
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
D.J. Hogg, Texas A&M
Justin Jackson, Maryland
V.J. King, Louisville
Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Anas Mahmoud, Louisville
De’Anthony Melton, USC
Jerome Robinson, Boston College

Report: Chris Collins to receive lengthy contract extension

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Chris Collins and Northwestern have reportedly agreed to a lengthy contract extension on Monday morning.

According to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, Collins, 43, and the university have come to terms on a deal that will run through the 2024-25 season.

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise. Collins, in his fourth year in Evanston, took Northwestern to the first NCAA Tournament in school history. The Wildcats defeated Vanderbilt in the first round and had eventual national finalist Gonzaga on the ropes in the second round before a controversial call swung all the momentum they had.

In four seasons, Collins has a 73-60 (30-42 Big Ten) record, with back-to-back 20-win seasons.

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald is also reportedly in line for an extension, according to the Tribune.