2013-2014 College Basketball Dream Team

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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.

Every year around this time, we put together a Dream Team of college guys. The parameters this year? The NBA has announced that they’re added a 31st team for just this season and named us as the coaching staff. The only players available to us are guys on currently on college rosters, meaning that we’ve got 13 spots to fill on a team that will be playing 82 games against NBA teams over the next six months.

Here are the guys that made the cut:

G: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State): Smart was the easy pick at the point guard spot. He’s a winner and a leader and the kind of player that will make everyone around him better, which is important considering that this team of college guys will be playing an NBA slate. He’s also got the ability on the defensive end of the floor to stay in front of NBA point guards. His perimeter shooting is a concern, but we’re going to have to hope he put in the work this summer.

G: Gary Harris (Michigan State): Harris had a shoulder that was more banged up than he let on all of last season, yet he still managed to average 12.9 points and shoot 41.1% from three. Now that he’s healthy, we’ll get a chance to see just how good of a basketball player he is. Plus, the kid was also a star on the gridiron in high school. He’s tough, just like Smart. Our back court won’t back down from anyone.

source: APF: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): At this point in his development, Wiggins makes the cut here more for his ability on the defensive end of the floor and for his athleticism than the fact that we need a go-to scorer that can get 20 a night in the league. If he does score like that, however, this team might have a chance to win more than 15 games. Physicality will be an issue, but he’s as ready as anyone to hold his own at the next level.

F: Julius Randle (Kentucky): Like Wiggins, Randle’s physical tools leave him ready for the next level, although the 19 year old’s skill set will lag a little bit behind. That said, his ability to bully people around the basket should allow him to have an impact immediately, and as the season goes on, the hope would be that he’ll develop enough of a face-up game to be a legitimate secondary scoring option.

C: Mitch McGary (Michigan): The center spot is where we ran into a bit of an issue here, as no one in college is really an ideal fit to help in the pivot at the next level right away. We went with McGary because you know what you’re going to get out of him: physicality and toughness in the lane, max effort for 48 minutes, and a presence on the glass.

Bench:

  • Jahii Carson (Arizona State): Carson is our change-of-pace point guard, the guy that we’ll bring in when things get stagnant or when we need an injection of energy into the lineup. He’ll run the floor, but can he defend?
  • Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky): We were enamored with Cauley-Stein’s ability to run, his athleticism and the shot-blocking presence that he’ll provide. He’s coming off the bench because McGary’s more physical.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado): Dinwiddie’s versatility is what earned him a spot here. At 6-foot-6, he can defend multiple positions, but he’s also capable of playing the point or off the ball.
  • Aaron Gordon (Arizona): Gordon’s athleticism is off the charts, and it’s silly to leave a guy at home in a league where your athleticism needs to be off the charts. We’ll use him in four-out, one-in sets, but he’ll be used more as a four than a wing.
  • Doug McDermott (Creighton): You just don’t leave guys that can shoot it the way that McDermott can at home. The concern, obviously, is on the defensive end of the floor, where he could have trouble against wings or big men.
  • Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker’s versatility was just too much to pass up. He’s coming off the bench, but he’ll be used in a lot of lineups on a wing, bumping Wiggins to off-guard.
  • Adreian Payne (Michigan State): We needed a third-string center, and Payne was the pick for two reasons: his size and athleticism and the fact that he can hit a three.
  • James Young (Kentucky): The biggest weakness on this team is perimeter shooting, which is why Young made the cut. We toyed with Joe Harris and Tyler Haws for this spot, but took Young because we believed he was better equipped for the defensive end of the floor.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.