College Hoops is here! Official practices start today

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Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to college basketball season.

Thanks to a rule change implemented this season, official practices now begin a full six weeks before the first day that teams are allowed to schedule games. And with the real season kicking off on November 8th, that means that today, September 27th — a point in time usually reserved for Fantasy Football freakouts and the culmination of baseball pennant races — is the official beginning of the college hoops season.

Y’all ready?

I am.

(MORE: To read through all of this year’s CBT Season Previews, click here)

Coaches will be allowed 30 days worth of practice over the course of the next 42 days, which will do a couple of things:

  • It will allow coaches to spread out their early season conditioning, which can help to reduce some of the crush of injuries that come with the brutal two-a-days that usually coincide with the start of the season. We use to call it “hell week”, largely because our morning practices didn’t involve a basketball. It got you into shape, but by the end of it, you were so tired and banged up that practice was less about improving and learning and more about just getting through it. Spreading that process out will make those first practices more effective.
  • There is more time for players to learn what a coach wants out of them. The extra two weeks will make it so that coaches can implement more offense earlier in the season. The way coaches work is that they get their defense set in the first few weeks of practice, and then slowly but surely integrate their offense. With three-and-a-half weeks of preseason practices, the offense that gets put into place for the first couple of games is a simple framework of what is in place by January. Might this make those marquee November matchups more palatable?

The difference, however, is that Midnight Madness won’t be happening all at once this season. They will be spread out, with different schools hosting their events throughout the preseason. The concept of Midnight Madness has changed. When it was originally created by Lefty Driesell at Maryland, it was done so because the coach wanted to practice at the first possible second that it was allowed by the NCAA.

Now?

It’s a party, a recruiting tool that’s used to entertain the fan base, introduce the freshmen to the students and to provide a break to the monotony of a six-week preseason.

ESPN’s annual coverage of the event will be on October 18th, with powerhouse programs like Kentucky, Syracuse, Michigan State and Maryland hosting their events that day along with schools like Florida-Gulf Coast. Kansas will be hosting Late Night in the Phog on October 4th, as will Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria.

The season maybe beginning, but if you’re waiting on Midnight Madness for the year to actually begin, you’ll be waiting a while longer.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”