When news broke last month that LIU Brooklyn senior forward Julian Boyd re-tore his ACL, the prevailing thought was that Jack Perri’s Blackbirds had enough options remaining in the front court to make a run at their fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The best case scenario for Boyd would be to return to the lineup in January, and at full strength he’s clearly one of the best players in the Northeast Conference (Boyd won NEC Player of the Year honors in 2012).
But with there being no guarantee that Boyd will be ready by then, the last thing the Blackbirds needed was another injury to a member of their front court. Unfortunately that has happened, as it was first reported by Nelson Castillo of Blackbird Hoops Journal that 6-foot-7 freshman forward Nura Zanna is out for the year with a hand injury. According to the report Zanna suffered the injury during a pickup game, hitting his hand awkwardly on the backboard while blocking a shot.
Sophomore E.J. Reed was expected to lead the way for the Blackbirds prior to Zanna’s injury, so that much won’t change. Reed earned NEC All-Rookie Team honors last season, as he posted averages of 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action per game. With the injuries and the graduation of four starters including NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere and All-NEC guard C.J. Garner, Reed will figure prominently in the Blackbirds’ plans in the front court with one of the nation’s best point guards in Jason Brickman running the show.
The question now is who steps up to assist Reed, with relief in the form of Boyd not coming until the start of conference play. In a story by Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets, Perri mentioned junior college transfer Landon Atterberry as the player who’s stepped up in practices thus far:
“I would say Landon Atterberry has been clearly my next best front court guy (after Reed),” said Perri. “He’s athletic, he’s got great hands which is important with (Jason) Brickman, because he catches everything and he can finish around the basket. I’m excited about where Landon is right now, and I think he can certainly help us.”
Another junior college transfer, Chris Carter, and freshman Glenn Feidanga are also expected to be heard from as the Blackbirds look to sort things out ahead of their season opener on November 9 against Saint Peter’s. And given the many health issues LIU’s had to deal with thus far, it would be hard to fault any Blackbird fans who will keep their fingers crossed with the hope that no one else goes down during the preseason.
Monte’ Morris, Iowa State: If the Cyclones have any chance of making it back to the NCAA tournament, it’ll be on the shoulders of Morris. The point guard crop this year is loaded. Half-a-dozen guys could be in this spot, but Morris is our pick to be the best of the bunch.
Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen’s role may reduced a bit with Duke’s talented roster, but we’re betting that he’ll still end up being the No. 1 option on the offensive end of the floor.
Josh Hart, Villanova: The best player and leading scorer for the reigning national champ returned to school. The least we could do was show him some love.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson should match and may better Andrew Wiggins’ numbers (17.1 points) on a Kansas team that is preseason top three, and he’ll do it without the same kind of expectations.
Ivan Rabb, Cal: Rabb was the best NBA prospect to return to school. With Jaylen Brown and Ty Wallace gone, the offense will run through him. Expect a huge season.
SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble’s sophomore season was derailed by a case of the yips and a team that didn’t fit together all that well. We’re betting on him turning that around.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: UCLA could be a top five team this year. They could also miss the tournament. Who knows. But if they end up being the former, it will be because Ball had a ridiculous freshman season.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks is the best player and the leading returning scorer on a preseason top five team. He may not be the best NBA prospect in the country, but he’s a damn good college player.
Bam Adebayo, Kentucky: Picking an all-american from Kentucky this season is tough. We’re going to go with Bam, who is the safe pick and could end up averaging a double-double for the Wildcats.
Thomas Bryant, Indiana: Bryant is in essentially the same spot as Rabb. Potential first round pick returns to school, becomes a bigger part of the offense, shines. If he takes a step forward defensively as well he’ll be a first-teamer come March.
THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists as a sophomore with Washington and spent a year sitting out at a school that turned Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Wiltjer into all-americans during a redshirt year.
Mo Watson, Creighton: Watson was criminally underrated last season and now he’ll be paired in a back court with Marcus Foster. The ‘Jays are sneaky-good.
Jayson Tatum, Duke: We took Tatum over Giles because we think Duke will have two all-americans and because we are concerned about the status of Giles’ knees.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett was the leading scorer for Xavier last season and will be back in school after testing the draft waters.
Austin Nichols, Virginia: Nichols is a perfect fit for Virginia’s front court. He’ll be better than Anthony Gill was last season, and Gill was really, really good.
NEW PODCAST: NBA Draft deadline winners and losers
With the change to the NCAA deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA Draft moving from mid-April to May 25, college programs and fan bases across the country anxiously awaited Wednesday night’s deadline for news on players still going through the decision-making process.
With the dust having settled Thursday morning, the NBC Sports College Basketball Talk crew (Rob Dauster, Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips) got together to discuss the winners and losers. Among those discussed are Oregon, four Big Ten teams (Indiana, Maryland, Purdue and Wisconsin), and USC. It should be noted that Maryland was discussed before news of Justin Jackson’s commitment broke, so their front court looks a little different due to that.
We also touched on our updates to the Top 25, with the Boilermakers making a move up in the rankings, and Marcus Lee’s decision to transfer from Kentucky. As always, you can either click “play” in the Soundcloud player below or listen via iTunes or the Stitcher app. Thanks for listening!
The series between BYU and Utah has been an intense one, with the two programs meeting a total of 257 times with the Cougars holding a slim 129-128 advantage. But after last season’s meeting, a comfortable Utah win mired by the ejection of BYU’s Nick Emery for striking guard Brandon Taylor late in the second half, threatened the future of the series.
Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak wanted to call a halt to things, and sure enough it was announced in January that the Cougars and Runnin’ Utes wouldn’t play each other during the 2016-17 season. But the “break” will only last one season, as Utah announced Thursday that the two teams will meet in Provo during the 2017-18 season.
Athletic director Chris Hill stated in a release that also announced non-conference series with Butler and Xavier set to begin this season that the game will be played in either November or December 2017.
Hopefully the one-year hiatus will be the only hiccup in this series, one that began way back in 1909 and managed to endure changes such as the run of conference realignment that landed Utah in the Pac-12 and BYU in the WCC. As for those games against Butler (November 28) and Xavier (December 10), Utah will host the Bulldogs and visit the Musketeers this season with the return games for both series to be played during the 2017-18 season.
News of the resumption of the BYU/Utah series was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
No coach in the country has had a better 24 hours than Mark Turgeon of Maryland.
The morning after Melo Trimble announced that he will be returning to College Park for his junior season, Turgeon landed a commitment from Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward from Las Vegas by way of Canada. Jackson is a top 50 player in the class of 2016.
Jackson should immediately help the Terps replenish a front court that was decimated by early entry. A versatile athlete with a ridiculous wingspan and a still-developing perimeter game, Jackson will likely spend his freshman season playing a power forward role, maybe even as a small-ball five.
This fits perfectly with the roster that Maryland has for next season. Not only will Trimble be flanked by freshman Anthony Cowan, a now-healthy Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens, the Terps add freshman wings Kevin Heurter and Micah Thomas as well as Duquesne transfer L.G. Gill. They needed depth up front, particularly at the four.
And remember, when Maryland had their most success with Trimble — his freshman year — they went small and spread the floor with Jake Layman at the four. Jackson may not have quite the impact that Layman did that season, but he can play that role for the Terps.
Alec Peters withdraws from NBA Draft, will he transfer?
Valparaiso forward Alec Peters became the final player to announce that he has withdrawn from the NBA Draft on Thursday, waiting until the day after the deadline to make it official.
The 6-foot-9 Peters was one of the best mid-major players in the country this past season, averaging 18.5 points and 8.0 boards while shooting 44.0 percent from three for the Horizon League champs, a team many considered to be the best mid-major team in the sport.
Here’s why Peters’ decision is interesting: He’s a junior that will be eligible as a graduate transfer, meaning that if he leaves Valpo — like Bryce Drew, the coach that recruited him, who left for Vanderbilt — he will be able to play elsewhere in 2016-17.
How many top 25 programs could use a 6-foot-9 forward that can score in the post and posted shooting splits of 50.5/44.0/85.0? Hint: The answer is all of them.