July Live Period Preview: 15 names that you need to know

Leave a comment
source:
Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Wednesday, July 9th, at 5:00 p.m. will mark the start of July’s live recruiting period, a series of three five-day stretches where coaches are allowed to be on the road evaluating and scouting some of the nation’s top prospects. Over the course of the next three days, we will be getting you prepped with everything that you need to know heading into these 15 days.

First up, 15 names that you’ll want to keep an eye on this month:

CLASS OF 2015:

Jaylen Brown: “No one would blame you if you confused Jaylen Brown with Stanley Johnson: Same size, same build, some power wing style of play, they even have the same haircut. I’m not sure if Brown is the best prospect in this class, but there isn’t a player that works harder or has a more professional mindset and attitude when it comes to preparing. Oh, and he just so happens to be filthy.” – Rob Dauster

Jalen Brunson: “Brunson is the best point guard in the class and the only player in the top 25 that can truly be considered a pure point guard instead of being a scoring guard that wants the ball in his hands. And it doesn’t hurt that Brunson’s recruitment is one of the most intriguing: most had him pegged as following his dad to Temple … before his dad was arrested.” – RD

RELATED: What is the July live period, and why is it important?

Henry Ellenson: “Although the 2015 class is loaded with five-star big men, Ellenson is one of the few that can stretch the floor with consistency. With a brother who recently landed at Marquette via transfer, does the big man stay in his home state, or does his recruitment go national, with recent offers from Duke, North Carolina and UCLA?” – Scott Phillips

Malik Newman: “The top guard in a long list of forwards atop the class, the 6-foot-3 Newman is arguably the most gifted scorer on the grassroots circuit. He lost his top spot in the Rivals Top 150 to Ben Simmons, but can he regain it with a big July? Oh, and what about that package deal with Diamond Stone?” – Terrence Payne

Ivan Rabb: “The native of Oakland is the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, according to some, and the big man could separate himself from the pack with a strong month. Athletically gifted, Rabb needs to be a bit more assertive in July to be a potential No. 1 player.” – SP

source: AP
Diamond Stone (AP)

Ben Simmons: “The Australian native is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward that has already committed to LSU and has claimed the top spot in a front court-heavy Class of 2015. He led Montverde Academy to an undefeated season, and was the MVP of the NBPA Top 100 Camp.” – TP

Ray Smith: “The five-star wing from Las Vegas has vaulted up the Class of 2015 rankings in the last year and he’s one of the few elite small forwards in his class. He’s now ranked in the top ten by Rivals.com. Does his recruitment go national with a big July?” – SP

Diamond Stone: “Stone is a big-bodied center that is supremely skilled offensively, which makes him an elite recruit … and a coach’s dream alongside Malik Newman. I think many tend to take the “package deal” talk with a grain of salt given how fluid of a situation recruiting can be. Will Newman and Stone wind up on the same campus when it’s time to attend college? Who knows, but that won’t stop prominent programs from attempting to make that happen.” – Raphielle Johnson

Allonzo Trier: “Trier started all five games for Billy Donovan and USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. He’s also the leading scorer in the Nike EYBL at 29.4 points per game. Trier, who was a New York Times magazine coverboy at 13, is one of the fastest-rising guards in 2015.” – TP

Stephen Zimmerman: “Zimmerman, the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals.com, is one of the most unique players in the Class. He’s 6-foot-11, he’s left-handed, he’s got 15-foot range, he’s lanky and athletic, and he’s an excellent passer. Zimmerman has cut his list down to eight schools.” – RD

CLASS OF 2016:

Josh Jackson: “The No. 1 player in the 2016 class, Jackson deserves more national media attention because he’s a complete wing that can really get rolling as a scorer. Jackson also defends and rebounds and has some natural passing ability as well.” – SP

Thon Maker: “No wild player comparisons here, but the 7-foot-1 Maker is clearly a player to watch this month. Sure there’s the skill level, which makes him one of the most sought-after players regardless of class, but there’s also the question of which class he’ll be a part of. Will he stay in the 2016 class, or will he reclassify into the 2015 class?” – RJ

Dennis Smith, Jr.: “Smith has been on the receiving end of a lot of praise this spring and summer, and his skill level has made him one of the top players in his class. And given the fact that he’s from North Carolina, ACC programs will make sure to be in attendance for many (if not all) of his games this month.” – RJ

Jayson Tatum: “Tatum’s got all kinds of potential. A smooth and skilled 6-foot-7 wing, Tatum can play and defend multiple positions. He needs to add strength to his frame, but the top five recruit and St. Louis-native will have his pick of colleges.” – RD

Derryck Thornton: “Thornton’s had a very good spring and summer to date, emerging as one of the best distributors regardless of class and winning MVP at the Stephen Curry Point Guard Camp. With the nation’s coaches out and about this month, July could be a big month for a player already held in high regard.” – RJ

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
1 Comment

National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1 Comment

North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.

No. 1 seed North Carolina outlasts No. 2 seed Kentucky to advance to the Final Four

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Luke Maye buried the game-winning jumper with 0.3 seconds left to help North Carolina advance to its second consecutive Final Four as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.

During the insane final 10 seconds of Sunday’s game, Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk tied the game at 73-all with a heavily-contested three-pointer at the top of the key, only to see North Carolina’s Theo Pinson take the ensuing possession down the floor to find Maye for the game-winner on the left wing.

A reserve like Maye knocking down one of the biggest shots in North Carolina history is a huge reason the program was able to reach its twentieth Final Four. North Carolina has relied on many different members of its veteran team this season and its the reason the Tar Heels will face No. 3 seed Oregon next weekend in Glendale.

Heading into 2016-17, many were asking how North Carolina was going to replace Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and not showing respect to the returning Tar Heel veterans who helped them to last season’s national-title game.

Many became enamored by Duke’s overall talent level and jaw-dropping freshman class. However, that Blue Devil on-paper greatness never materialized into anything more than a conference-tournament title.

It was easier to talk about Villanova’s chances to repeat or Kentucky’s new crop of All-Americans than it was to jump aboard the North Carolina national championship bandwagon this season. Even Kansas got more preseason national championship hype than North Carolina, and the Jayhawks have had a recent history of exits before the Final Four.

Through all of that, North Carolina has been the steady model of consistency in the ACC this season as they’re seeing a complete rotation of experienced veterans play with total confidence.

Justin Jackson has turned into a lock first-round pick and one of the country’s most lethal scorers on the wing, while junior point guard Joel Berry II is a premier floor leader on both ends. Last season’s interior depth that was a huge plus for the Tar Heels has remained even with Johnson’s departure. Seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have both played in a lot of important games, while reserves like Maye and freshman Tony Bradley have contributed valuable minutes this season.

Even after the Tar Heels won the deepest league in the country by two full games during the regular season, it felt like other teams were getting more national title love since North Carolina exited the ACC Tournament early. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a bloodbath for the ACC that saw the league lose eight of its nine teams before the Sweet 16. North Carolina was just rounding into form to make another potential run at a title.

Who would have envisioned that North Carolina would be the favorite for the national championship entering Final Four weekend at any point this season? That’s what we’re looking at as we move to Glendale next week, and there were plenty of warning signs about this team’s greatness and ability to handle adversity during Sunday’s win over Kentucky.

North Carolina fans panicked in the first half when Berry went to the locker room to deal with a lingering ankle issue. The Tar Heels were able to withstand until Berry’s return later in the first half as reserves like Maye, Nate Britt, Stillman White and Bradley contributed enough to keep a lead in Berry’s absence.

Finding themselves down by five points late in the second half as Kentucky had all of the momentum, North Carolina’s offense didn’t resort to rushing into bad shots. Just like the Arkansas game in the second round, the Tar Heels regained the advantage in the final minutes by going on a 12-0 run at just the right time.

North Carolina’s defense was also consistently strong on Sunday as Jackson and Pinson were both standouts as perimeter defenders. After seeing Monk and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox combine for 71 points during Kentucky’s December win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, Jackson helped contain Monk to 12 points on Sunday while Fox was limited to 13 points.

In the most important game of the season, the Tar Heels overcame their starting point guard not playing at 100 percent and rallied in the final five minutes to win against a top-10 team.

That being said, there are plenty of storylines to follow in the Final Four that are going to be more fun to track than the Tar Heels returning for a second straight year.

America loves the underdog story of No. 7 seed South Carolina. Gonzaga making it to the Final Four for the first time is another intriguing subplot. Oregon making the Final Four from the west coast means there are two teams trying to break the region’s title-less streak that has been around since 1997.

But it would be foolish to, once again, overlook North Carolina and everything they’ve accomplished to reach this point. Even Sunday’s hero, Luke Maye, went from being a player that Roy Williams wanted to be a walk-on to now having his own “Maye Madness” nickname.

Williams made the mistake of undervaluing his own player and it almost came back to bite him. It’s the same lesson America should apply when appreciating everything that North Carolina has done during back-to-back memorable seasons.

VIDEO: South Carolina celebrates Final Four trip by dousing Frank Martin in water

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four with its win over SEC-rival Florida on Sunday.

The Gamecocks made sure to celebrate properly when head coach Frank Martin hit the locker room after the game by dousing him in water before Martin gave another speech.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/846124174259118080/video/1