Getty Images

Four Final Four X-Factors

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

You know all about the stars of the Final Four at this point. Shabazz Napier and Julius Randle were all-americans. Scottie Wilbekin was the SEC Player of the Year. Frank Kaminsky is no longer the secret weapon for Wisconsin after he shredded Arizona and star forward Aaron Gordon over the weekend.

Those are going to be the guys that get the most attention and the most spotlight, but here are the four biggest x-factors as we head into the final weekend of the college basketball season:

DeAndre Daniels: Daniels has the talent to be a lottery pick. That’s not me speculating, that’s a fact. He’s 6-foot-9 and athletic with three-point range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish above the rim, and the length to be an excellent defender at every level. He absolutely dominated Iowa State in the Sweet 16, playing a major role in UConn’s win on a night where Napier had a (relatively speaking) off-night: 27 points, 10-for-15 shooting, 10 boards, two blocks. But he can also go through stretches where he completely vanishes offensively, and those are the nights that UConn struggles.

Against a powerhouse like Florida, UConn is going to need Daniels playing his best basketball. If I’m Kevin Ollie, I go to him early and often. A motivated DeAndre Daniels could be the difference between celebrating a trip to the Final Four and having a chance to play for the national title.

Wisconsin’s defensive rebounding: Kentucky is the best offensive rebounding team in the country. Part of that is common-sense, as no one in the country — let alone in this Final Four — has the kind of size and athleticism to matchup with Kentucky on the front line. But there’s more to it than that: Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom, grabbing 42.5% of their misses.

Wisconsin is a good defensive rebounding team — No. 12 nationally — but that doesn’t mean things are going to be easy against the Wildcats. Wisconsin likes to play three small guards, the biggest of which, Josh Gasser, gives up three inches to the smallest player in Kentucky’s perimeter. Sam Dekker starts at the four, and he’s a 6-foot-7 small forward that will be tasked with blocking out Julius Randle. Nigel Hayes, who plays alongside Kaminsky and Dekker when the Badgers want to go big, may end up being the most important player for Bo Ryan on Saturday.

Kentucky’s three-point shooting: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young shot a combined 35.1% from three this season. In the NCAA tournament, they have combined to go 22-for-49 from deep, or 44.9%. It’s more than just that, however: in each of their last three wins, the biggest shot of the game — the eventual game-winner — was a three-ball from one of those three. Against Wichita State, Young gave Kentucky the lead for good with a three with just 1:40 left. Against Louisville, it was Aaron Harrison hitting the go-ahead three-pointer with 40 seconds left on the clock. And on Sunday against Michigan, Aaron Harrison hit four threes in the final eight minutes, the last of which came with just 2.3 seconds left on the clock.

Dorian Finney-Smith: UConn has a top ten defense nationally, but if there is a weakness, it is their ability to defend the three-point line. Michael Frazier can shoot the cover off of the ball, and you can bet that the Huskies are going to do everything they can to keep him from showcasing that ability on Saturday night. Scottie Wilbekin is Captain Clutch, meaning that UConn will be expecting him to take and make his open threes. Finney-Smith is the guy that can be a difference-maker. He’s a streaky shooter, a guy that can hit three or four in a row but that also went weeks in between made threes at one point this season. When he’s hitting, he gives the Gators another look in their ball-screen offense with his ability to pick-and-pop.

UNLV to host NBA scouting combine

Dave Rice
AP Photo
Leave a comment

UNLV is the latest to join in the trend of hosting their own NBA scouting combine, following in the footsteps of Kentucky and LSU.

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

The Runnin’ Rebels once again have a stockpile of pro talent on their roster. Stephen Zimmermann is projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, while the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw, Dwayne Morgan Jr. and Derrick Jones are talented enough that they will get plenty of attention from NBA scouts during the upcoming season.

Kentucky hosted their scouting combine over the weekend, with as many as 70 NBA scouts reportedly in attendance. LSU is holding their combine this week. was the first to report the news.

Ivy League Preview: Can Columbia, Yale or Princeton earn title?

Maodo Lo, Orlando Sanchez
AP Photo
Leave a comment

Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ivy League.

The Ivy League is the most underrated conference in the country, particularly at the top of the standings. In recent years, Harvard has been the best team in the conference, winning a pair of NCAA tournament games in the last three years, but the league itself has been much more competitive than anyone has given it credit for.

This year, Tommy Amaker’s club is headed for rebuilding mode. Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi have both graduated, while star point guard Siyani Chambers tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. That leaves a team that struggled at times with depth without their top three players from a season ago. Amaker has stockpiled some talent — juniors Zena Edosomwan and Corbin Miller, freshman Tommy McCarthy, sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield — but there will be a lot of new faces in new roles with new responsibilities this season.

That leaves the Ivy wide open this season, and three teams appear primed to knock the Crimson out of the top spot.

The easy pick would be Yale. The Bulldogs missed out on the Ivy regular season title in utterly heartbreaking fashion last season — seriously, Yale fans, DO NOT click this link — and then fell to Harvard in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the NCAA tournament. The Elis lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but they return Justin Sears, the best player in the conference. The key may end up being the development of Makai Mason, who the staff expects to develop into one of the best point guards in the conference this season.

Yale certainly will be a major factor in the race, but the favorite on paper is Columbia. The Lions are led by German point guard Maodo Lo, who may be the best guard in all of mid-major basketball. Coming off of a year where he averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 boards and 2.3 assists, Lo will get help in the form of 6-foot-7 Alex Rosenberg. Rosenberg missed all of the 2014-15 season with an injury, but he averaged 16.0 points in 2013-14. If he returns playing anywhere near that level, the Lions are going to be very dangerous.

Princeton should also end up in the league title race as well. The Tigers have pulled in three terrific recruiting classes in a row, and with a young core built around juniors Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook and sophomore Amir Bell, Mitch Henderson has a bright future in front of him. Their freshman Devin Cannady should be the best newcomer in the league, but if they don’t get tougher on the defensive end, they could be looking at a third-place finish.

The two sleepers to keep an eye on are Brown and Penn. Penn has the talent — they underachieved the last few years — and a coach in Steve Donahue that dominated the Ivy League for three seasons when he was still at Cornell. Brown is led by Cedric Kuakumensah, who might be the best big man in the conference this side of Sears.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Columbia. Maodo Lo is the best guard in the league hands down, and with Alex Rosenberg back they have the best 1-2 punch in the league. The key is just how good Rosenberg will be after taking a year off.”
  • Sleeper: “Penn. They have plenty of talent and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together after underachieving for the last couple of years. There’s a big drop from the top four to the bottom four unless Steve Donahue can get Penn back into it.”
  • Star to watch: “Lo and [Yale’s] Justin Sears will be the Player of the Year. Lo’s great, not a pure point guard but he can flat out play. But I’d go with Sears. He is going to be the best offensive and defensive player in the league.”



Sears is the most dominant front court presence in the Ivy League and has been for quite some time. That’s important for Yale, as the Bulldogs are built around physical play and rebounding the ball. His numbers actually dipped a bit as a junior, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, but that had as much to do with opponents focusing on Sears as anything else.


  • Maodo Lo, Columbia: The German-born lead guard has already scored more than 1,000 points and will, barring injury, become Columbia’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. It’s impossible to ignore his performance in international play for Germany this summer.
  • Spencer Weisz, Princeton: A rising junior, Weisz was Princeton’s best player last season. At 6-foot-4, Weisz is a do-it-all guard that was amongst the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season.
  • Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown: At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, the native of Togo averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 boards, 2.5 blocks and shot 34.7 percent from three.
  • Alex Rosenberg, Columbia: Rosenberg was arguably Columbia’s best player prior to missing the 2014-15 season. He’s a typical Ivy League big: High basketball IQ that’s skilled with size and range.



1. Columbia
2. Yale
3. Princeton
4. Harvard
5. Brown
6. Penn
7. Dartmouth
8. Cornell