Arizona’s season came to an end on Saturday night with a heartbreaking, overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Elite 8 in Anaheim. The attention will now shift to freshman forward Aaron Gordon, and whether or not he will declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Shortly after the loss, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweeted that sources informed him that Gordon would declare for the NBA draft, “barring a stunning change of mind.”
Gordon averaged 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 block per game in what could be his only season in Tucson, though, moments after Saturday night’s loss he didn’t close the door on returning for his sophomore season.
“You know, I’m not sure,” Gordon told reporters on Saturday night. “I have a great foundation so I’m going to talk to a few people and see how that goes and then make an educated decision.”
MORE: The entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft
All season long Gordon has expected to be a one-and-done given that he’s a lock for the lottery, currently projected as the eighth overall pick by DraftExpress.com. Despite shooting 3-of-11 from the field against the Badgers, he hauled in 18 rebounds (six offensive) against Wisconsin on Saturday night. Gordon helped send the game to overtime when he forced Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson into a contested, step back jump shot.
Gordon might not be the only Wildcat eyeing the upcoming NBA draft. Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, is listed as an early second round pick according to DraftExpress.com.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.