Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Coach of the Year Power Rankings: Miller, Drew, Wright and Few lead the way

Leave a comment

1. Sean Miller, Arizona: Let’s think about this for a second. As of today, Sean Miller has Arizona sitting in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, a league that counts three top ten teams as members, despite the fact that there are very few people that would think that the Wildcats are the best team in the conference (that would be Oregon) or the most dangerous team in the conference (hello, UCLA). And he’s doing that despite the fact that his best player, Allonzo Trier, missed the first 19 games of the season, his star recruit, Terrence Ferguson, went pro in Australia and last year’s star recruit, Ray Smith, tore his ACL for the third time. Should I mention that the Wildcats have as many question marks at the point guard spot as any elite team in the country, or that they rely heavily on a pair of freshmen – Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins – who can be labeled somewhere between inconsistent and erratic?

2. Scott Drew, Baylor: The Scott Drew Coach of the Year Campaign has hit a bit of a snag in the last three weeks, as the Bears have dropped two games off the pace in the Big 12 after losing three of their last five games, but that really shouldn’t put too much of a damper on what Drew has done with this group this season. Baylor is still a No. 1 seed in spite of their recent slump, and a win over Kansas on Saturday puts them right back into the Big 12 title race. Drew is doing all of this with a team of juniors and seniors, none of whom were considered program-changing talents when they got to school. Do people still think Scott Drew can’t coach?

3. Jay Wright, Villanova: Can the reigning national champs have a coach in the running for Coach of the Year? Yes, they can, when you consider that Villanova lost arguably the two most valuable players from last year’s team, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, and seem likely to end up playing this season without Phil Booth, who scored 20 points in the national title game. Should I mention that Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in Saturday’s bracket reveal despite the fact that they start either Darryl Reynolds or Eric Paschall at center?

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

4. Mark Few, Gonzaga: I don’t care how good you are supposed to be or what the caliber is of the league that you play in, if you make it through an entire season undefeated, you belong in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. If you do it with a team that lost Domas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, where your top five scorers played a total of six games your team last season, you deserve to be near the top of that list.

5. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech: No one expected Georgia Tech to do much of anything this season. Avoiding the ACC basement probably would have been considered a successful season. Instead, the Yellow Jackets are 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the ACC with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame, and if the NCAA tournament started to day, they would be in it.

6. Bill Self, Kansas: Self has the Jayhawks primed to win their 13th straight Big 12 title despite everything his team has gone through this season. They Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury, meaning that Landen Lucas is the only effective big man on their roster. Carlton Bragg Jr. has been a bust in between his two suspensions. The Jayhawks seem morally opposed to playing defense despite, which has a lot to do with the fact that the two mid-major recruits starting in their back court are the only two lead guards on the roster. This wouldn’t rank as one of Self’s best coaching performances – he has had a lot of those – but that shouldn’t diminish what he’s done with this team.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24:  Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

7. Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Huggins lost his leading scorer, his second-leading scorer and leading rebounder and the point-man in his press in the offseason and … the Mountaineers got better? Press Virginia has been more effective this season than in any season past, and if they hadn’t choked away a lead at Kansas on Monday night, he might be getting more attention for it.

8. Chris Collins, Northwestern: Collins is on the verge of doing something that no one has done in the history of college basketball: Get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament.

9. Mike White, Florida: Who had Florida as a team that could contend with Kentucky for the SEC title this season? Anyone? Bueller? That’s exactly where Mike White has this group in his second season at the helm.

10. Mike Brey, Notre Dame: Brey isn’t quite at the level of Bo Ryan and Tony Bennett just yet, but he’s quickly reaching the point where, when predicting how good the Irish will be, it’s less important to look at who the team lost than it is to simply recognize the fact that Brey is on the sideline. Two years ago, he lost Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton and made it back to the Elite 8. Last offseason, Demetrius Jackson left and Zach Auguste graduated, and Notre Dame is right in the thick of the ACC title hunt.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

Leave a comment

The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
2 Comments

Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

Chris Steppig/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
2 Comments

For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.