College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

13 Comments

source: Getty Images

Last week, the thing I got the most heat about in these rankings were where I had Syracuse situated: sitting at No. 3, sitting directly behind a Michigan State team that has a loss to a North Carolina team that the Orange have already beaten.

So I figured this week I would explain my reasoning why.

Michigan State has not been at full strength in a long, long time this season. Even now, the Spartans are playing without Adreian Payne, who sprained a foot on top of his planter fasciitis. Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Matt Costello, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice have all dealt with various ailments and nagging injuries this season. The loss to UNC? The Spartans essentially were playing with four of their five starters limited in that game.

But when Michigan State is at full strength? Watch out.

The Spartans top four players are as talented as any team’s top four: Appling, Harris, Payne and Dawson. They’re also veterans, with as much experience as anyone, and they’re coached by Tom Izzo, a guy who deserves the reputation he has for game-planning.

That’s not a knock on Syracuse, mind you. There’s a reason I have the Orange ranked above Florida and Kansas and Villanova and Wichita State. Their zone is a nightmare to prepare for, Jerami Grant is starting to come into his own and Tyler Ennis proves he’s one of the best point guards in the country on a nightly basis.

But all things considered, at full strength, Michigan State might be the most dangerous team in the country.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (18-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats played one game this week and absolutely pasted in-state rival Arizona State. In the last two games T.J. McConnell is now 7-for-10 from three. The scouting report coming in was to let him shoot.

2. Michigan State (17-1, LW: No. 2): The Spartans won a pair of road games this week, taking down Northwestern and Illinois. They’ll get Indiana and Michigan at home this week.

source:  3. Syracuse (18-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange notched a come-from-behind win over Boston College on Tuesday and followed that up by beating Pitt at home, 59-54. Tyler Ennis once again made huge plays down the stretch.

4. Florida (15-2, LW: No. 5): At this point, the Gators are what they are. They still could end up getting Chris Walker this season, but just how much of an impact is Walker going to have? He’s a pure-bred athlete, yes, but will he be able to break into the front court rotation at this point? Who knows.

5. Kansas (13-4, LW: No. 9): The Jayhawks are peaking. Joel Embiid is starting to dominate and Naadir Tharpe is playing out of his mind of late. The problem? In the last two games, those two combined for 21 turnovers.

6. Villanova (15-1, LW: No. 6): The Wildcats keep on rolling, but they’ll get a nice test tonight as they host Creighton and Doug McDermott. Jayvaughn Pinkston has quietly had a sensational season.

7. Wichita State (17-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers just keep winning games, and their bid for an undefeated regular season got just that much more serious this weekend, as they blew out Indiana State by 22 points in Wichita. They’ll head on the road for a pair of games this week.

8. San Diego State (16-1, LW: No. 8): San Diego State put together and impressive win on Saturday, knocking off a UNLV team that bounced back from a slow start to the season with a win over New Mexico on Wednesday.

9. Iowa (15-3, LW: No. 10): Minnesota is one of the most surprising teams in the country, and the Hawkeyes beat them by 21 points on Sunday afternoon. Iowa is legit.

10. Wisconsin (16-2, LW: No. 4): The Badgers got bounced twice this week, losing at Indiana and at home to Michigan. Leaving them in the top ten still may be overrating them, especially if their perimeter defense doesn’t improve, but it’s hard to ignore everything they have done this season.

11. Kentucky (13-4, LW: No. 12)
12. Oklahoma State (15-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Cincinnati (17-2, LW: No. 17)
14. Iowa State (14-3, LW: No. 14)
15. Pitt (16-2, LW: No. 20)
16. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 22)
17. Saint Louis (17-2, LW: No. 24)
18. Michigan (13-4, LW: UR)
19. Duke (14-4, LW: No. 23)
20. Ohio State (15-3, LW: No. 11)
21. UMass (16-1, LW: No. 19)
22. UConn (14-4, LW: UR)
23. Memphis (13-4, LW: No. 18)
24. Creighton (15-3, LW: No. 16)
25. Cal (14-4, LW: UR)

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
2 Comments

Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1 Comment

Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
2 Comments

Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
3 Comments

Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.