Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (R) drives to the net on Marquette Golden Eagles guard Trent Lockett during the first half in their East Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Washington

2013-2014 Season Preview: The Top 20 Wing Forwards

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Andrew Wiggins (AP) and Jabari Parker (AP)

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.

Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.

We will be ranking:

Wing forwards are players that we feel cannot be designated as a member of the back court yet do the majority of their damage away from the basket. A wing player in basketball is one that requires versatility if a player’s to be considered among the elite at the position. Whether they’re a high-level perimeter shooter or a slasher who’s best when attacking off the dribble, the ability to excel in multiple facets of the game is of high importance.

Here’s our list of the 20 best wings entering the 2013-14 season:

1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): The Huntington Prep product arrived in Lawrence amidst much fanfare, and whether or not he’s in the spot when the season ends will depend in large part on how he handles the attention. The skill and athleticism are most certainly there, with more than a few scouts pegging Wiggins as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft should he enter.

2. Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker was one of the most versatile players in the country coming out of Simeon High in Chicago, as he has the ability to score both inside and out. Given his talent Parker is one of two wings expected to lead the way for the Blue Devils as they look to account for the loss of their top three scorers from a season ago.

3. C.J. Fair (Syracuse): Even with the Orange playing their first season in the ACC, it was Fair who the coaches chose as their preseason ACC Player of the Year. As a junior, the southpaw from Baltimore posted averages of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade.

source: Getty Images
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4. Rodney Hood (Duke): Hood has yet to play a game in a Duke uniform as he transferred in from Mississippi State. But that season spent practicing is expected to pay dividends for Hood, who was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2011-12 (10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg). And he’s already a trusted leader for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, as he’s been named a team captain for the upcoming season.

5. Glenn Robinson III (Michigan): The son of the “Big Dog” is poised for a breakout season with the Wolverines having to account for the loss of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. As a freshman Robinson posted averages of 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he has the skill needed to take advantage of the increased offensive opportunities that will comes his way in 2013-14.

6. Cleanthony Early (Wichita State): One reason why many expect the Shockers to win the Missouri Valley and possibly make some more noise nationally is Early, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-8 forward earned all-MVC and Newcomer of the Year honors, and he’s the early favorite to win MVC Player of the Year as a senior.

7. Kyle Anderson (UCLA): The attribute that would best describe Anderson’s game is “versatility,” with the sophomore being one of the options to run the point for Steve Alford’s Bruins. As a freshman Anderson, who spent the majority of his time off the ball due to the presence of Larry Drew II, led the Bruins in rebounding (8.6 rpg) while also averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.

8. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin): The Badgers may have lost some key veterans but Dekker, who was one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen last year, is back for his sophomore campaign. Dekker shot 48% from the field in 2012-13, averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

9. James Young (Kentucky): For all the talent at John Calipari’s disposal it’s been Young, another of their six McDonald’s All-Americans, whose received the highest amount of praise from observers of the Wildcats’ early practices. Always a good perimeter shooter, Young has the length (6-foot-6) to be a matchup problem for opponents if he attacks the rim with greater regularity.

10. T.J. Warren (N.C. State): With four starters gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team it’s essentially Warren’s show in Raleigh in 2013-14. As a freshman the 6-foot-8 Warren shot 62% from the field, averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

source: Getty Images
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TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • 11. Luke Hancock (Louisville): The reigning Final Four MOP is a versatile player who can make things happen both on and off the ball, and his leadership abilities have proven valuable for the Cardinals as well.
  • 12. Will Sheehey (Indiana): Given the amount of talent Indiana lost from last year’s Big Ten champion squad, Sheehey (9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) will be expected to do a lot more this season. Sheehey shot 49% from the field as a junior.
  • 13. LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State): Is this the year in which Ross puts it all together? He played very well for the Buckeyes in postseason play, averaging 15 points during the NCAA tournament and hitting the game-winning three to push Ohio State past Arizona in the Sweet 16.
  • 14. Treveon Graham (VCU): For as much attention as the Rams’ “HAVOC” system receives, it should also be noted that in Graham they’ve got one of the nation’s best swingmen. Graham averaged 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13, shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc.
  • 15. Dezmine Wells (Maryland): After spending much of last season adjusting to a new program Wells may be poised to take off in 2013-14. The Xavier transfer averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, and he was also second on the team in assists (3.0 apg).
  • 16. JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s): Sampson may be one of the best athletes in the country, and he’ll be a primary scoring option for Steve Lavin’s Red Storm after averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. For his efforts Sampson was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
  • 17. Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall): Edwin is one of the nation’s most underrated players (the Pirates’ lack of success has had something to do with it), and the hope in South Orange is that he receives more attention in 2013-14. As a junior Edwin posted averages of 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
  • 18. Damyean Dotson (Oregon): Dotson played very well as a freshman for an Oregon squad that reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Dotson ended the season with six straight double-digit scoring outings.
  • 19. Branden Dawson (Michigan State): Dawson’s dealt with injuries for much of his career, but he played in all 36 games last season and averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Still a high-level athlete, Dawson’s production will be key if the Spartans are to have a shot at getting to the Final Four.
  • 20. Jabari Bird (California): Losing leading scorer Allen Crabbe is a big deal, but the arrival of Bird is one reason why the folks in Berkeley aren’t panicking. An excellent athlete, Bird earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-America Game and averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior in high school.

WCC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards: Can anyone knock off Gonzaga?

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Nigel Williams-Goss #5 and Josh Perkins #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate a victory over the Iowa State Cyclones at HP Field House on November 27, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
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After making it all the way to its regular-season finale undefeated, Gonzaga has, rightfully, been the storyline in the WCC this season, but it should be noted that the ‘Zags only cleared St. Mary’s for the regular season title by a single game. Gonzaga will probably need to beat the Gaels for a third time, which would come in the title game of the tournament, to stay in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Bracket 

When: March 2-7

Where: Orleans Arena; Las Vegas, NV

Final: Monday, March 7, 9 pm

Favorite: Gonzaga

It looked as though the ‘Zags would be using this tournament to match Kentucky and Wichita State as the two most recent programs to make the NCAA tournament without a blemish, but instead they’ll need it to keep a top seed, most notably in the West region, which would allow them to stay in the Pacific time zone all the way through the Final Four. They should cruise into the WCC finals where either St. Mary’s or BYU should be waiting with an attempt to make things interesting.

Should Gonzaga be able to make it out of Vegas unscathed, it should be enough for the Bulldogs to hold on to a top seed. Their problem, though, is they’ll only be able to record one quality win over their three games while their competition in the Pac-12 can log a multiple resume-boosting victories; and frankly, the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Oregon may already have better overall profiles. If the ‘Zags do get upset, they’ll likely fall out of contention for a No. 1, and even if they win, if, say, UCLA wins the Pac-12 tournament and beats Oregon and Arizona to do it, the Zags may still end up on the wrong side of the No. 1 line.

And if they lose?: St. Mary’s

The Gaels’ strong season has been totally eaten up by Gonzaga’s undefeated run and the WCC’s relative weakness, but make no mistake, this team is legit. They’ve bulldozed their way through the conference with just one of their wins coming by single digits. Jock Landale, currently second in KenPom’s player of the year rankings, is averaging 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the floor. The Gaels are a real threat to Gonzaga.

Other Contenders:

  • BYU: The Cougars are longshots here, but by virtue of handing Gonzaga its lone L, they’ve got to be at least taken seriously by St. Mary’s and the Bulldogs.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • BYU: It’ll probably take a Herculean effort and probably a tournament title to get the Cougars in with an RPI hovering around 70 heading in. A win against St. Mary’s in the semis might move the needle, but in all likelihood, the Cougars need the automatic bid.

WCC Player of the Year: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga

The Washington transfer has been as good as Gonzaga could have hoped, putting up career numbers nearly across the board during a 29-game winning streak. He’s shooting 50/36/90 while averaging 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

WCC Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga

There’s no other option here as Few could very well be the national coach of the year after guiding Gonzaga to wins in its first 29 games of the season.

First-Team All-WCC:

  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga (POY)
  • Jock Landale, St. Mary’s: He’s put up monster numbers for a real contender
  • Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga: Returned from a back injury to have another big season in Spokane.
  • Erik Mika, BYU: After a two-year mission absence, Mike was second in the league in scoring (20.2) and first in rebounding (9.4)
  • Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara: Shot 37 percent from 3-point range while hoisting over eight shots from distance per game

Second Team All-WCC:

  • Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga
  • TJ Haws, BYU
  • Zach Collins, Gonzaga
  • Lamond Murray, Pepperdine
  • Joe Rahon, St. Mary’s

Defining moment of the season:

CBT Prediction: Gonzaga

PHOTOS: Jordan Brand releases new XXXI colorways for March for five college programs

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Jordan Brand released new colorways for the Jordan XXXI lows for the five schools — North Carolina, Michigan, Georgetown, Marquette and California — that they have signed to the brand:

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These things are pretty awesome, I’m not going to lie:

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In addition to the shoes, Jordan has new shooting shirts for each program on the way.

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards: Can the Valley get two teams in?

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Paris Lee #1 of the Illinois State Redbirds picks up a loose ball against Shaquille Morris #24 of the Wichita State Shockers during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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The Missouri Valley Conference tournament — known by Valley fans as Arch Madness because of its St. Louis location — will be especially intriguing this season. As one of the only mid-major leagues with a legitimate chance to get two teams into the 2017 NCAA tournament the Missouri Valley Conference tournament will have a lot of eyeballs on it this week.

Casual college basketball fans are surely familiar with Wichita State after their recent successes but Illinois State was another important story during the conference season. The Redbirds enter this week as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament as they tied the Shockers with a 17-1 mark in conference play (with Wichita State and Illinois State splitting the regular-season series).

Outside of Illinois State and Wichita State the rest of the Valley has seen a down year — which is part of the reason the Redbirds and Shockers are hovering near the bubble.

Can Illinois State and Wichita State both get in the field if they meet for the title?

The Bracket

When: March 2-5

Where: Scottrade Center; St. Louis, Missouri

Final: Sunday, March 5, 2 p.m. EST, CBS

Favorite: Wichita State

The Shockers come in as the No. 2 seed but they are throttling opponents lately during a 12-game winning streak. Wichita State owns a scoring margin of 19.5 this season — second only to Gonzaga — and every win on the current streak has come by at least 15 points. One of the most balanced teams in the country, this year’s Shockers might not have future pros like Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, but they go 10 deep and wear opponents down over the course of a game.

And if they lose?: Illinois State

Illinois State is the No. 1 seed in this tournament as they feature a tough and experienced roster that is also riding a six-game winning streak. Not nearly as dominant as Wichita State when it comes to margin of victory, the Redbirds had to sneak by to win some games the last few weeks as they’ve managed to stay 17-1 in conference play. Illinois State loves to slow down the tempo (308th in adjusted tempo on KenPom) and rely on its No. 10 overall defense (per KenPom) to do most of its damage. The Redbirds have a suffocating defense led by senior point guard Paris Lee and his Valley-leading 2.0 steals per game as they rank fourth in the country in field goal defense as opponents are only shooting 37.7 percent against them.

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Other Contenders:

  • Northern Iowa: Just like last season, Northern Iowa is one of the most confusing teams in the country. The Panthers lost five straight to start conference play, rallied by winning nine of 10 and then lost the final three games to close out conference play. Northern Iowa is talented enough to make noise as the No. 3 seed but they’re wildly inconsistent.
  • Southern Illinois: The Salukis only finished .500 in conference play but they’re sitting at the No. 4 seed thanks to a weak year in the Valley. Southern Illinois might not be as competitive as a typical four seed in this event but they do have some steady seniors in guard Mike Rodriguez and forward Sean O’Brien. Talented sophomore guard Armon Fletcher is also showing signs of breaking out of a recent slump after netting the go-ahead three to beat Loyola last week.

Sleeper: Loyola

Revenge will be on Loyola’s mind this week as they get a crack at Southern Illinois in the quarterfinals before potentially playing Illinois State in the semifinals. The significance of those two in-state games for the Ramblers? Loyola lost to both teams, on the road, by two points each, during the last two weekends of conference play.

In fact, Loyola has seen eight of its 13 losses get decided by four points or less this season. Loyola has to be tired of falling in close games and they get one more chance to make a run here.

The Bubble Dwellers: 2

  • Wichita State: If Wichita State wants to help its computer numbers then they should hope to play Bradley, Northern Iowa and then Illinois State to fully enhance their resume. The Shockers have a gaudy record but only six top-100 games all season (2-4 record), so a title-game rubber match against a top-50 team like Illinois State should help computer numbers — regardless of the outcome.
  • Illinois State: If Illinois State hopes to enhance its NCAA tournament profile in the best way possible they should hope for Evansville, Southern Illinois and Wichita State as opponents during Arch Madness. The Redbirds are slightly higher than Wichita State in current RPI but they’ve played even fewer top-100 opponents (2-3 record). As explained above, it likely helps Illinois State if they play Wichita State in the championship game — win or lose — because it gives both teams an additional top-50 opponent.
FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Missouri Valley Player of the Year: Paris Lee, Illinois State

The senior guard won a tight race over a handful of others as Lee separated himself from the group with another stellar defensive season. The NCAA’s active leader in career steals, Lee led the Valley in assists and steals per game this season as he averaged 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Improving dramatically on the offensive end, Lee upped his shooting percentages across the board, including a staggering rise from 31 percent to 41 percent as a three-point shooter.

Missouri Valley Coach of the Year: Dan Muller, Illinois State

You could make a strong case for Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall but Muller gets the slight edge for this award. Illinois State captured its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season title since 1998 and the Redbirds were able to do so despite missing senior MiKyle McIntosh for five games in the middle of conference play. Muller is now hoping to break another drought started in 1998 by taking his alma mater back to the NCAA tournament.

First-Team All-Missouri Valley:

  • Paris Lee, Illinois State (POY)
  • Landry Shamet, Wichita State: Only the fourth Valley freshman to ever grab first-team all-conference honors, Shamet averaged 11.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting very efficiently (49% FG, 45% 3PT, 81% FT).
  • Milton Doyle, Loyola: Motivated to finish strong after a disappointing junior season, the 6-foot-4 Doyle came through in a big way for the Ramblers as he put up 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
  • Jeremy Morgan, Northern Iowa: Although his junior season was more efficient shooting the ball, Morgan was asked to do it all for the Panthers this season as he led the team in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
  • Alize Johnson, Missouri State: One of 20 Division I players averaging a double-double this season, Johnson put up 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range. The junior is starting to generate some pro buzz.

Second Team All-Missouri Valley:

  • Jaylon Brown, Evansville
  • Markis McDuffie, Wichita State
  • Deontae Hawkins, Illinois State
  • MiKyle McIntosh, Illinois State
  • Sean O’Brien, Southern Illinois

Defining moment of the season: When Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunked on Oklahoma’s Kristian Doolittle back in December, it signified that the Shockers would be just fine playing bigger opponents without Baker and Van Vleet. This is one of the better poster dunks of the year.

CBT Prediction: Wichita State over Illinois State (but both teams get in the NCAA tournament)

It’s March: Start cramming for your NCAA tournament bracket

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Today marks the first day of March, meaning that it is officially the best month of the calendar year.

Time to ring in the madness.

And while you’ve spent the last four months watching football, the NBA, The Bachelor and whatever show The Walking Dead has turned into, we’ve been typing our fingers to the bone and spending hours upon hours a night on the couch, watching and writing and learning all about the college basketball landscape this year just so we can impart that wisdom on you. 

(You’re welcome, by the way.)

Anywho, for those of you that are just tuning into college basketball this season, here are the nine things that you need to know about the sport as we get ready for the Greatest Tournament On Earth.

1. The freshmen are awesome this year: Last season, the biggest star in college hoops and the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Ben Simmons, didn’t end up making the NCAA tournament with LSU, and while there are a couple of potential top five picks that will likely be watching the tournament from the same place you will — a barstool or a couch — the majority of what is a sensational freshman class will be participating in the Big Dance.

Lonzo Ball is the first name to know. He’s the star point guard for UCLA, a Jason Kidd replica and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft. Kansas wing Josh Jackson will push Ball for the title of best freshman in America, but those two have plenty of company. There may not be a more exciting player in the tournament than Kentucky’s Malik Monk, who has proven that he can single-handily win a game all by himself, while Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is a 7-foot forward that shoots 44.4 percent from three. Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac has been terrific, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is the best dunker in college hoops and Duke’s Jayson Tatum is slowly making people think that Carmelo Anthony’s body-double has returned to the collegiate ranks.

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2. Speaking of Duke … : The Blue Devils have been the hardest team in the country to figure out. They entered the season projected as the best team in the country and started out the year great despite playing shorthanded. Then their freshmen stars — Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden — got healthy and they started playing poorly. Then Grayson Allen tripped someone again, the third time in a year that he’s done so, and we all spent the next month over-analyzing every single thing that any of his extremities did during a game. There were alleged trips, and alleged flops, and an alleged shove of an opposing coach. It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in sports, and it all happened while Coach K was out getting back surgery and the Blue Devils were starting ACC play 3-4.

They were a psychologist’s dream, this team of future first round picks that couldn’t seem to find a way to get along on the court. Every step forward led to a step back … until Coach K returned to the floor and the Blue Devils reeled off seven straight wins. That led to a myriad of “Duke is back!” columns which led to even more “Duke is back to not being back!” columns after they lost two in a row last week.

So yeah. Duke has as much talent as anyone in the country, they don’t really have a point guard but they may have a power struggle among the best players on the roster, and their season has played out like the writers of Friday Night Lights decided to make a teen drama TV series about an ACC basketball team.

Your blind guess is probably as good as mine.

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 14: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 14, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jayson Tatum #0 of Duke (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. Duke isn’t the only blueblood that’s awesome. They all are … except Indiana: That’s been the best part about this season to date: All the biggest and best programs in the country happen to be having terrific seasons … except Indiana. Poor Indiana.

  • Kansas has a senior point guard named Frank Mason III who is going to win National Player of the Year and has his own theme song despite the fact that freshman Josh Jackson is probably the best player on the team. They’re deservedly the No. 1 team in the country right now.
  • Kentucky’s Malik Monk is the most entertaining player in the sport, a must-watch talent that scored 47 against North Carolina earlier this year and put up 30 points in a half in a win over SEC rival Florida.
  • Lonzo Ball’s addition to the UCLA roster has turned the Bruins into an offense as high-octane as the Showtime Lakers. Ball is a singularly unique talent in his ability to pass the ball and bury 30-foot threes. The Bruins, when they are at their best, are the best team in college basketball.
  • North Carolina has been overlooked by a lot of people throughout the season, but the bottomline is that this is a veteran team with a deep, talented front line and two guys — Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II — that can take over a game with the best of them. Roy Williams has now won eight ACC regular season titles in the last 13 years.
  • Arizona spent the first three months of the season waiting for Allonzo Trier, their best player, to have the PEDs he accidentally ingested in the offseason clear his system, but now that he has, he joined an Arizona team that already looked like one of the best in the sport.
  • Louisville goes through some long scoring droughts, but they play that typical Louisville defense and they have a guy named Donovan Mitchell who is awesome.

And then there’s Indiana.

The Hoosiers started the season so promisingly, beating both Kansas and North Carolina, but they’ve since been obliterated by injuries and sabotaged by the lack of a point guard, meaning that they are going to likely miss the NCAA tournament in a year where it’s near-impossible to not be good enough for the bubble, and that, in turn, has put Tom Crean’s job status in peril once again.

Poor Indiana.

4. Gonzaga almost had an undefeated season and now may not get a No. 1 seed: The Zags won their first 29 games of the season, including wins over Arizona, Florida and Iowa State, but since they’re Gonzaga and somehow everyone has gotten into their head that the 2013 season — the one where Mark Few’s club was 31-2 entering the tournament, earned a No. 1 seed and lost to Wichita State in the second round — is the norm and not the outlier, they get zero respect for those first 29 wins. This is how bad it is: They enter the WCC tournament with a 29-1 record, the ‘1’ being a lose in their regular season finale to a BYU team that’s beaten them in Spokane three straight years, but they may very well end up dropping to the No. 2 seed line on Selection Sunday.

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Nigel Williams-Goss #5 and Josh Perkins #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate a victory over the Iowa State Cyclones at HP Field House on November 27, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Nigel Williams-Goss #5 and Josh Perkins #13, Gonzaga (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

5. This may finally be the year the West Coast gets back in on the Final Four mix: If we’re being fair, that has less to do with the fact that Gonzaga’s profile is relatively weak than it does with just how strong the profiles are for the other top teams around the country. Villanova, Kansas and North Carolina are close to locks for the No. 1 seeds in the East, Midwest and South, respectively, and one of the three teams at the top of the Pac-12 — Arizona, Oregon and UCLA — would have a very strong argument for the No. 1 seed out west if they win the Pac-12 tournament title.

Where this really gets interesting is that the last time a team west of Norman, Oklahoma, reached the Final Four was 2008, the third in a string of three straight Final Fours by UCLA. The last time a western team not named UCLA reached the Final Four? Arizona in 2001. The Wildcats won the last national title for the left coast as well, and that was all the way back in 1997. The West Coast can claim four of the nation’s top eight teams this season, and it would not be surprising to see three of them get to the season’s final weekend.

6. But the Big Ten, not so much: The West Coast has four national title contenders, the Big Ten has about a third of one. The league is down this year, and it’s not just because Indiana went from looking like a team that could get to the Final Four to a team that can’t even get to the NCAA tournament. Michigan State is young and got off to a rough start to the year. Ohio State, who won five Big Ten regular season titles in a seven-year span during head coach Thad Matta’s tenure, stinks this year. Even teams like Maryland and Minnesota, who are both going to finish in the top four of the league, aren’t really all that good.

The two teams at the top of the conference are Purdue and Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost four of their last five games and, quite frankly, haven’t had the look of a title contender very often this season. Purdue is the one team that might have a chance. They have a National Player of the Year candidate in 6-foot-9 Caleb Swanigan and they surround him with shooters. But they don’t play great defense and they struggle with more athletic teams, which they’ll see in every round after the opening game of the tournament. The Boilermakers are probably destined for a No. 5 seed. Can they get to the Final Four as a No. 5 seed?

VILLANOVA, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Josh Hart #3 of Villanova attempts a shot as Nick Lindner #11 and Kyle Stout #24 of Lafayette defend during the second half of a game at The Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Villanova defeated Lafayette 88-48. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Josh Hart #3 of Villanova (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

7. Villanova is a legitimate threat to repeat: The credit for this one falls on the shoulders of Jay Wright. Not only does he have his team in a position to make another run at a title, but he has them there despite losing Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, arguing the two most irreplaceable players on last year’s team, and while star freshman Omari Spellman and junior Phil Booth haven’t playing this season. Josh Hart has played like an all-american, sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson isn’t all that far behind and, despite going just seven players deep, the Wildcats are going to slot right into a No. 1 seed in the east.

8. Louisville and North Carolina are still waiting on decisions on their NCAA investigation: The NCAA has been in Louisville and in Chapel Hill for investigations in recent years. Louisville was caught having a staff member hire dancers and prostitutes for players and prospects, while North Carolina is still dealing with the fallout of 18 years worth of fake classes provided by the African-American studies department. Neither will be resolved before the season ends despite the fact that two of the most high-profile programs in college sports are involved.

9. The bubble is weird because everyone outside the Big Six leagues stinks: There are teams like Georgia Tech (17-13, 8-9 ACC), TCU (17-12, 6-10 Big 12) and Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8 SEC) on the brink of getting at-large berths to the NCAA tournament this year because everyone outside of the Big Six. The ACC only has two at-large teams (SMU and Cincinnati) because teams like Memphis, UConn and Temple are all down. Unless Rhode Island lands a couple of Atlantic 10 tournament wins, that conference is probably going to send just VCU and Dayton to the tournament as at-large bids. The Mountain West is a one-bid league as San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are all outside the tournament picture. Wichita State, Illinois State, Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State might be able to land at-large bids, but beyond that, there aren’t any mid-major teams with bubble-worthy profiles.

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Naismith Award announces ten semifinalists for college basketball Player of the Year

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks is reacts after making a basket during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Atlanta Tip-Off Club has announced the list of semifinalists for the Naismith Award, which is given to the National College Basketball Player of the Year.

The list is very similar to the top ten in the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings. In fact, I am a voter for the Naismith Award, and this was actually the top ten I submitted last week. I flip-flopped on Josh Jackson and Jawun Evans between then and yesterday, when I updated the Player of the Year rankings.

Here are the 10 semifinalists:

Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Josh Hart, Villanova
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Luke Kennard, Duke
Frank Mason III, Kansas
Jonathan Motley, Baylor
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga