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Five Takeaways from the Nike EYBL Indianapolis

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WESTFIELD, In. — The second session of the April live evaluation period was busy in the Indianapolis area as both the Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association had events near each other. It meant a lot of the nation’s elite players were all in the same vicinity and I’ve now had a chance to watch good chunks of all three shoe company circuits after checking out the adidas Gauntlet last week in the Dallas area.

I’ll have some takeaways from the Under Armour Association on Tuesday but here are five things I learned from the EYBL this weekend.

1. Missouri should try to get Jontay Porter in immediately — I’ll start with this point since it might have the most immediate impact on the college game. Missouri should be working as hard as possible to get Jontay Porter to enter school this year to help his older brother, Michael Porter Jr.

Jontay has been very good in the Nike EYBL so far this spring as he could really help the Tigers for the 2017-18 season with how much he has improved over 2017.

Jumping from the EYBL to the SEC is a whole different ballgame. But as a Class of 2018 forward who is considering the jump to 2017, Jontay has shown an ability to be a versatile threat and potential double-figure scorer as early as next season. Jontay is currently putting up 18.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range.

Over an eight-game stretch, Porter is top fifteen in the EYBL in scoring and top five rebounding and blocked shots while shooting like that from the perimeter. That’s a potentially solid second or third option that Missouri could use when Michael Jr. doesn’t have a lot of help next season. Many seem to believe that Jontay will play at Missouri for next season and he could have more of an impact than what was initially perceived.

2. Marvin Bagley remains the top player in the Class of 2018

As for the Class of 2018 prospects who seem to be staying in that class, big man Marvin Bagley III remains the No. 1 prospect as he continues to look like the clear No. 1 at this point. The top player in the class since he entered high school, Bagley has lived up the hype in the EYBL so far this spring as he’s been a double-double machine while leading the league in points (26.9 points per game) and rebounds (14.7 per game).

The best rebounder in the class by a wide margin, Bagley displays great timing off the floor and his initial and secondary bounces are both elite because of how quickly he gets off the ground. Bagley can also score in a number of ways, although he has a tendency to take too many three-pointers at certain times when he could be dominating on the interior.

Down to a final six schools that includes Arizona, Duke, Kansas Kentucky, UCLA and USC, Bagley is definitely looking like a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and he’ll have a major impact in a class that is weak with star power.

3. But Bol Bol isn’t very far behind Marvin Bagley in 2018

Since moving to California for his junior season, 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, looks like a changed player.

Looking like the most lethal scorer in Indianapolis during the second session of the EYBL, the Class of 2018 five-star prospect had some breaktaking scoring runs over the weekend. In fact, this weekend made it seem like Bol is potentially the second best player in the class behind Bagley.

Third in the EYBL in scoring at 25.4 points per game, Bol elevated his play to a ridiculous level over four games this weekend.

Averaging 29.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.75 blocks per game, Bol was 45-for-60 (75 percent) from the field, 10-for-14 (71 percent) from three and 19-for-22 (86 percent) from the free-throw line. And his numbers from the weekend before weren’t that much different.

Through eight Nike EYBL games, Bol is averaging over 25 points a game on 66 (FG)/53 (3PT)/86 (FT) splits. And he’s also 7-foot-2 and can impact the game on the glass or protecting the rim. Bol’s perimeter jumper looks jaw-droppingly good at times and he’s one of the best perimeter shooters in the country even though he’s one of the tallest players in his class.

There are still times when Bol can slack a bit on defense and chasing after loose balls, but his overall talent and penchant for scoring are undeniable and he currently looks like the second best player in the country behind Bagley.

4. There is solid depth at point guard in the Class of 2018

The Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of star power and there does look like a healthy number of talented lead guards who should stick around college basketball for a couple of seasons. Between the three shoe company leagues, there is a lot of lead guard talent available for top programs in this class.

The Nike EYBL had a number of guys competing for the honor of top floor general in the class as Tre Jones (Tyus Jones’ younger brother), Javonte Smart and Darius Garland all looked like they could be in that conversation at various times over the weekend.

With Tyus watching him from the front row, Tre Jones had a very good weekend as he continues to be one of the top distributors in the country while also playing with more of an edge than his brother did on defense. Tre doesn’t have the same vision and offensive capabilities as his brother at the same age, but he plays with tremendous poise and has a lot of traits college coaches would love to have.

Smart is a bigger guard who plays with more of a scoring edge but his ability to get to the rim is tough to stop. Also good in the passing lanes, Smart needs to work on his perimeter jumper, but he can also score at the basket more effectively than most of the other point guards in his class.

Garland offers an enticing package of perimeter shooting and playmaking for others. Since the Tennessee native can drop in deep jumpers off the dribble, he keeps defenders honest at all times and forces them to play up on him when he crosses half court.

Along with plenty of others from adidas and Under Armour, it looks like the college ranks will get a healthy amount of quality floor generals in this class. It will be one of the fun storylines of this summer to see which of these guards can separate themselves from the pack.

5. North Carolina off to a solid start in the Class of 2018

The defending national champions are already off to a solid start recruiting this Class of 2018 as the Tar Heels own two commitments from guard Coby White and point forward Leaky Black.

Although both are only considered four-star prospects, in a class that doesn’t have a lot of elite players, both White and Black showed flashes of being better than their rankings might indicate. The 6-foot-4 White looked like a possible high-level scorer at the college level with his ability to knife in traffic and change directions. White is putting up over 20 points per game through eight EYBL games while also showing an ability to handle the ball.

The 6-foot-7 Black is more of the enigma, as he is clearly very talented but he hasn’t quite figured out how to play yet. More of a distributor then scorer, Black looks like he could take over a game but sometimes he plays too passively for his own good. Then, Black will make some sort of ridiculous pass or score on a tough finish and you see why the Tar Heels pursued an early commitment.

It’s hard to say if either of these guys will elevate to five-star status, but having two commitments means that head coach Roy Williams and his staff can spend more time evaluating other Class of 2018 and 2019 prospects who can play with these guys over the next several seasons.

Bracketology: Purdue on a dominant run

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How good has Purdue been?

Let’s take a quick peek … the Boilermakers haven’t lost since returning from Atlantis in November.  They are 5-0 in true road games, own a 6-2 mark against the NCAA’s new “Group 1” category, and have won 19 games by an average margin of 22.6 points.  This morning, Purdue ranks No. 1 on the Sagarin index and No. 2 at Ken Pom.  The Boilers also have a favorable Big Ten schedule; they only play Ohio State (home) and Michigan State (road) once.  In other words, without a slip up, Purdue is well on its way toward a potential No. 1 seed come March.

UPDATED: January 22, 2018

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Kansas State vs. USC | South Region
  • Houston vs. Missouri West Region
  • WAGNER vs. NC A&T | East Region
  • FLA GULF COAST vs. ARK-PINE BLUFF | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EAST Boston                 MIDWEST – Omaha            
Pittsburgh Detroit
1) VILLANOVA 1) PURDUE
16) NC A&T / WAGNER 16) FL GULF CST / ARK-PB
8) Miami-FL 8) SAINT MARY’S
9) Alabama 9) Florida State
Boise Dallas
5) Florida 5) Tennessee
12) BUFFALO 12) MID TENNESSEE
4) Ohio State 4) Texas Tech
13) E TENNESSEE ST 13) LOYOLA-CHICAGO
Wichita Nashville
6) Kentucky 6) Wichita State
11) SMU 11) Washington
3) Oklahoma 3) Clemson
14) VERMONT 14) WILLIAM & MARY
Nashville Detroit
7) Michigan 7) NEVADA
10) Butler 10) Arkansas
2) North Carolina 2) Xavier
15) CANISIUS 15) MONTANA
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Atlanta
Charlotte Charlotte
1) Duke 1) VIRGINIA
16) RADFORD 16) PENNSYLVANIA
8) TCU 8) Providence
9) Marquette 9) Texas
San Diego Boise
5) RHODE ISLAND 5) Arizona State
12) NEW MEXICO ST 12) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
4) Michigan State 4) CINCINNATI
13) BELMONT 13) LOUISIANA
San Diego Dallas
6) Gonzaga 6) Seton Hall
11) Houston / Missouri 11) Kansas State / USC
3) ARIZONA 3) AUBURN
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) WRIGHT STATE
Wichita Pittsburgh
7) Creighton 7) Louisville
10) Texas AM 10) Georgia
2) KANSAS 2) West Virginia
15) HAWAII 15) BUCKNELL

NOTES on the BRACKET: Villanova is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Purdue, Virginia, and Duke

Last Four Byes (at large): Butler, Texas AM, SMU, Washington

Last Four IN (at large): Houston, Missouri, USC, Kansas State

First Four OUT (at large): Boise State, NC State, Baylor, Notre Dame

Next four teams OUT (at large): Syracuse, Maryland, UCLA, LSU

Breakdown by Conference …

SEC (9): AUBURN, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas AM, Missouri

ACC (7): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Louisville, Miami-FL, Florida State

Big East (7): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton, Providence, Marquette, Butler

BIG 12 (7): KANSAS, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas, Kansas State

Big 10 (4): PURDUE, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan

American (4): CINCINNATI, Wichita State, SMU, Houston

Pac 12 (4): ARIZONA, Arizona State, Washington, USC

West Coast (2): SAINT MARY’S, Gonzaga

Atlantic 10 (1): RHODE ISLAND

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Middle Tennessee (C-USA), Louisiana (SBELT), Penn (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), S.F. Austin (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), Hawaii (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), William & Mary (CAA), Radford (BSO), North Carolina A&T (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Team Of The Week: Kansas Jayhawks

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Remember all that stuff we said about how this is the year the streak ends and how Kansas is no longer the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title?

LOL

J/K

Kansas is awesome again, apparently.

The Jayhawks managed one of the most impressive comebacks of the season on Monday, erasing a 16-point deficit at West Virginia to pick up a massive road win before hanging on against Baylor at home. Bill Self’s club now holds sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and a win on the home court of the only team that’s within a game of first-place: West Virginia.

Not even losing Billy Preston can put a damper on a week like that.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats thrust themselves into the NCAA tournament picture by knocking off both No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU at home this week. The win over the Sooners was particularly impressive, as TCU held Trae Young to his worst game of the season.
  • SAINT MARY’S: Remember when we said that Saint Mary’s was the favorite to win the WCC this season? That seemed crazy for a while. Not so much now that the Gaels own a win over Gonzaga in Spokane.
  • PROVIDENCE: The Friars are working their way back into the NCAA tournament picture. This week, they picked off Butler and Creighton at home. The Friars have now won four straight – including Xavier – and currently sit just a game out of first place in the Big East.
  • NEVADA: The Wolf Pack moved into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West after they knocked off Boise State in Reno late on Saturday night. Eric Musselman is looking more and more like a guy that can take his team on a run in the NCAA tournament.
  • ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide extended their winning streak to four games after back-to-back wins this week, including a win over Auburn. Most impressive, however, is that both of those wins came without Collin Sexton healthy.

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.