It’s beyond time for college basketball to return to NBA’s early entry calendar

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In 2011 the NCAA made changes to its early entry deadline, moving away from the NBA calendar. With some coaches citing the fact that their roster was in a state of flux during the spring thanks to the NBA’s system, the NCAA moved its early entry withdrawal date to the day before the start of the spring signing period. With that being the case, the general line from supporters was that coaches would know who they’d have back before collecting those final signatures heading into the summer.

However what was seen as a victory for coaches does little to help those who need the assistance the most: the players and their families looking to collect the information needed to make a wise decision.

With this move the option of “testing the waters” was essentially eliminated, with the amount of time a player, his coach and family have to evaluate their options depending largely upon when the season comes to an end. For a player on one of this year’s Final Four teams, accounting for the weekend the earliest they’d be able to truly get going was April 7, a mere eight days ahead of the withdrawal deadline. And with the amount of information that’s out there, some of it inaccurate, going with the NBA’s calendar would be more beneficial to the players and their families.

Consider the example of Washington freshman Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a solid season for the Huskies, averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. And according to a report from Christian Caple of the News-Tribune on April 9 the freshman and his family were considering the option of entering this year’s NBA Draft. Ultimately Williams-Goss decided to return to Washington for his sophomore season, but a quote from his father in the story was particularly eye-catching.

“I didn’t anticipate it,” Virgil said. “And my thing is, you’re only as good as your last game, so I never really put a ton of thought into it. But as the season progressed and it was over and everyone else’s season ended, compare him to the other top point guards in the country, he’s right there.”

While that certainly sounds good, wouldn’t Creighton’s Doug McDermott be the clear top choice if NBA executives were using numbers to determine who they’d draft? It should be noted that Williams-Goss and his family were awaiting more information from the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee at the time of that story, and it’s likely that what they were told impacted the final decision.

Or what about Syracuse’s Jerami Grant? Grant’s decided to leave Syracuse after two seasons to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, and in a story written by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated his father Harvey (who played more than a decade in the NBA) was quoted as saying the family “had no idea” where Jerami would be picked. These are just two examples where using the NBA deadline would help, and in the case of a player who’s set on at least “testing the waters” there would also be the opportunity to go through a couple workouts and truly understand what their prospects are.

And some programs are advising their players to go by the NBA calendar when making these decisions, something Arizona head coach Sean Miller pointed out during the press conference in which Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson announced their intentions to go pro.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matters.”

Of course there will be counter arguments, one of which surrounds recruiting which was the impetus for the rule change back in 2011. But how often are there true surprises when it comes to a player making the decision to turn pro? While many like to hang onto what happens during the NCAA tournament as the be-all and end-all to NBA draft “stock” and whether or not a player should leave school, the fact of the matter is that NBA franchises have been watching prospects all season long. There aren’t many secrets by the time March rolls around.

When it comes to accounting for possible early departures on the recruiting trail, this is something programs have to account for well before the spring. There are evaluations days during the season (130 for the coaching staff as a whole) for programs to send someone out to look at a recruit, meaning that moves can be made as a current player’s chances of going pro strengthen.

And for the folks who’d argue about what “testing the waters” would do to the academic side of things, how does the amount of missed class time in March help “student-athletes” academically?

The move away from the NBA’s calendar was one that didn’t do much to help the prospects of players who need as much information as possible in order to make the “right” decision. Sure it helps coaches to know what they’ll be working with, but when the deadline is just one day ahead of the start of the spring signing period how much of an aid is it? It’s time to move back to the NBA calendar, because that’s what some programs are already going by.

And in a system that claims to be about helping the players, wouldn’t it be most helpful to make sure they have as much information as possible before making a life-altering decision such as this? Yes.

Player Of The Week: Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

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Prior to this week, Saint Mary’s season had been defined by a slump at the most inopportune time.

The Gaels lost to both Washington State and Georgia in the Wooden Legacy, the only two non-conference games they played against relevant opponents, and it put the program behind the eight-ball when it came to trying to earn  bid to the NCAA tournament.

What Saint Mary’s needed to do was win at least won – and quite likely two – games against Gonzaga during the WCC regular season. Consider the first step complete. Landale finished with 24 points, 12 boards, three assists and two blocks on Thursday night as Randy Bennett took his team into Spokane and picked off the No. 13 Zags. Saint Mary’s followed that up with a tougher-than-expected win over Pacific where Landale finished with 32 points and seven boards.

All told, Saint Mary’s is now in sole possession of first place in the league and in the midst of a 14 game winning streak, the final four of which all came on the road.

And Landale, who has quietly been one of the most productive and efficient big men in college basketball, led the way once again. He’s now averaging 22.4 points and 10.2 boards for a team that should get ranked in the top 25 this week. He’s very much in consideration for an All-American team now, and I’m not sure that would have been the case without that win on Thursday night.

THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • SHAKE MILTON, SMU: Milton played the best game of his career in the most important game of the season for the Mustangs, putting 33 points on 11-for-14 shooting and five assists on No. 7 Wichita State and Landry Shamet in a road win. He followed that up with 20 points, five boards and five assists in a win against Tulane.
  • JAMES PALMER, Nebraska: Palmer scored 24 points and hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three against Illinois, following that up with 19 points, four boards and a pair of assists in a blowout win over No. 23 Michigan.
  • DEAN WADE, Kansas State: The Wildcats put themselves firmly in the NCAA tournament picture with a pair of wins over ranked teams this week, beating No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU. Wade, in those two games, averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 boards and 6.5 assists with four steals and two blocks.
  • J.P. MACURA, Xavier: Macura scored 16 points on Wednesday night to help Xavier put away St. John’s before leading the Musketeers with 27 points and five boards in a 73-64 win at No. 19 Seton Hall. The Musketeers had lost their previous two games on the road.
  • PARKER JACKSON-CARTWRIGHT, Arizona: Jackson-Cartwright has gotten plenty of stick this season for his issues on the defensive end of the floor, and it’s not necessarily unfair. But in a game at Stanford with first place in the Pac-12 on the line, Jackson-Cartwright made two massive defensive plays down the stretch to help seal the win.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky drops out of the Top 25

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I’m not sure that this Kentucky season can be considered a worst-case scenario.

Kentucky fans have seen a worst-case scenario.

That came during the 2012-13 season, when a Wildcat team that was trending towards the back end of the top 25 lost their star center Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL in February, dooming them to the NIT, where they lost in the first round to Robert Morris.

That is a worst-case scenario, and barring something totally unforeseen, this Kentucky team is not going to turn into that Kentucky team.

This group looks much more like the team we saw the following year, the one that featured Julius Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins and Willie Cauley-Stein and entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed with a 24-10 record before making a run to the national title game. That team had plenty of talent, but they never quite gelled until March.

This year’s team does not have that same level of talent, but they are running into some of the same problems.

The question is whether or not this group actually has the potential to come together and make a run like that 2014 team.

RELATED: Kentucky just is not that good

And frankly, I still think they do. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as a go-to guy while Kevin Knox had seemingly regained his confidence before a poor performance in the home loss to Florida. Quade Green has returned to the lineup, as has Jarred Vanderbilt, who might be the key to unlock the potential on this roster.

In an ideal world, Kentucky’s length and athleticism allows them to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams while the playmaking of Vanderbilt and Green makes their offense fluid enough that they overcome some of their shooting issues. I can still tell myself a story where Kentucky finds a way to put it all together for six straight games in March.

But that’s not who they are right now.

And with each passing game, I grow less and less confident that the elite will ever come out of this group.

Kentucky is not a top 25 basketball team right now. They are nowhere near one of the favorites to win a national title right now. And, at this point, Kentucky fans would do well to adjust their expectations, as a trip out of the Sweet 16 should be considered a success.

Here is the full top 25.

1. Villanova, 18-1 (Last Week: No. 1)
2. Purdue, 19-2 (2)
3. Virginia, 18-1 (5)
4. Kansas, 16-3 (13)
5. Michigan State, 17-3 (7)
6. Duke, 17-2 (10)
7. West Virginia, 16-3 (4)
8. Arizona, 16-4 (8)
9. Xavier, 18-3 (11)
10. Oklahoma, 14-4 (6)
11. North Carolina, 16-4 (17)
12. Texas Tech, 15-4 (3)
13. Cincinnati, 17-2 (19)
14. Ohio State, 17-4 (22)
15. Auburn, 17-2 (18)
16. Tennessee, 13-5 (23)
17. Wichita State, 15-4 (9)
18. Clemson, 16-3 (20)
19. Saint Mary’s, 19-2 (NR)
20. Gonzaga, 17-4 (16)
21. Nevada, 18-3 (NR)
22. Florida, 14-5 (NR)
23. Rhode Island, 15-3 (NR)
24. Arizona State, 15-4 (14)
25. TCU, 14-5 (25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Seton Hall, No. 15 Kentucky, No. 21 Michigan, No. 24 Miami

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Saint Mary’s, No. 21 Nevada, No. 22 Florida, No. 23 Rhode Island

VIDEO: Northern Colorado wins game with halfcourt buzzer beater

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Northern Colorado knocked off North Dakota on Saturday night thanks to a half court buzzer-beating three from Andre Spight.

Spight is averaging 20.3 points on the season and finished with 34 points and six assists in the 94-91 win.

Clemson’s Grantham tears ACL

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The news on Donte Grantham’s knee was not good.

No. 20 Clemson announced on Sunday morning that Grantham, the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, would miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in a win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

“I’m disappointed that Donte’s career at Clemson had to end this way,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “He was putting together a terrific season statistically, but he really helps this team is so many ways. He’s been a pleasure to coach and it has been fun to watch him mature and grow into the leader of our program.”

Grantham was averaging 14.2 points and 7.1 boards this year.

The Tigers are 16-3 on the season and in line to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.

VIDEO: West Virginia honored Andrew Jones before game vs. Texas

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The West Virginia basketball team donned burnt orange ‘Big 12 Strong’ warmup shirts with the No. 1 on the back in honor of Texas point guard Andrew Jones.

Jones was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this month.

Texas Tech also honored Jones before a game this week, and Texas has raised more than $100,000 for his medical expenses.