2013-2014 Season Preview: Top 15 Impact Freshmen

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

With each season that passes us by, freshmen become more and more important to the college hoops landscape. The one-and-done rule forces our nation’s most talented prospects to spend one year on campus, showcasing their talents to NBA scouts as they try to play their way into the lottery. This season is no exception, as one of the best classes in recent memory will be passing through college basketball. Here are 15 freshmen that you need to know:

Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid, Kansas: Wiggins is, quite obviously, the biggest name on this list. He’s got freak-of-nature athleticism and, as a 6-foot-8 shooting guard, has been put in the same category as guys like Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose when it comes to being a prospect. The issue with Wiggins is that he’s more of a long-term prospect than an instant impact guy, which means that people expecting him to have the kind of season that Kevin Durant did at Texas may be disappointed. Don’t be surprised if he “only” averages around 18 points per game.

The other reason is that he won’t be alone in this class. Selden is an aggressive, physical and athletic off-guard that can bully his way to the rim and is a perfect compliment to Wiggins on the perimeter. Embiid may be the best long-term center prospect in the class, although his major contributions this season may end up being on the defensive side of the ball.

(MORE: Freshmen outside the Top 15 that will have a major impact)

Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, and James Young, Kentucky: What can be said about this group that hasn’t already been said? That’s an obscene amount of talent, and it’s not even Kentucky’s entire class. Randle will probably be the best of the bunch, as he’s a big, powerful forward that’s currently making the transition to being more of a wing than a bully on the block. He could end up being the best freshman in the country.

The rest of the class is impressive as well. The Harrisons will form one of the biggest back courts in the country, and their ability to lead this team — and, in Andrew’s case, be a distributor more than a scorer — will be the key to whether or not they fully reach their potential. Johnson is yet another big, athletic center coming through Kentucky’s ranks, while Young’s a left-handed wing that can score a lot of points in a hurry when he gets hot.

Aaron Gordon, Arizona: Gordon might be the best athlete in the country, as evidenced by the number of people that compare him to Blake Griffin. The key to Gordon’s season, and the key to Arizona’s chances of winning a national title, will be for Gordon to embrace the idea of playing a “stretch four” role instead of strictly playing the three in Arizona’s lineup.

Andrew Wiggins

Jabari Parker, Duke: Parker hasn’t had quite has much hype entering this season as guys like Randle, Gordon and Wiggins, but there’s a chance that he could end up being the best of the bunch. He’s a combo-forward that is as skilled as they come on the perimeter. It’s refreshing to see a guy make a list like this for his skill set as opposed to simply being an athlete.

Noah Vonleh, Indiana: Vonleh has a ton of promise, and will be an incredibly important piece for a young Indiana team. He’s got the size and the athleticism to be an impact player up front, but just how good he ends up being will be determined by just how much of a mean streak he develops.

Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, Florida: Walker is more of a long-term prospect right now because of his academic issues, but Hill could end up being the x-factor for this team. There are plenty of quality pieces on Billy Donovan’s roster, but a lot of guys are out of action right now, be it the result of injuries or suspensions, meaning Hill has a chance to step in and perform right away.

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis is the key to the Syracuse attack this year. He’s the only point guard on a Syracuse roster that features quote a bit of talent that needs to have their shots set up for them. Is he ready to be a floor general in his first season?

Keith Frazier, SMU: Frazier has the potential to be a prolific scorer at the collegiate level, especially when you consider that he’ll be playing in the AAC. He should be SMU’s primary weapon offensively from Day 1.

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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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.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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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.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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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:


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.


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.


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:


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:


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:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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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 …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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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.