Elsa/Getty Images

Why Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago will (or won’t) win a national title

Leave a comment

VILLANOVA

WHY THEY WILL WIN: They’re college basketball’s best team

It really is that simple, I think. We’ve known just how good this team can be on the offensive side of the ball all season long. They are unselfish, they have an unbelievable amount of floor-spacing and they just so happen to be led by the nation’s best player in point guard Jalen Brunson. There is a reason that this team was college basketball’s most efficient offense.

But there is more to it than just the scoring, because Villanova has been excellent defensively all through March. That was the issue with this group all season long. They were capable of putting up 100 points on anyone, but on the nights where they put up 70 — on the nights where their threes weren’t falling — they struggled to find a way to defend at a level that allowed them to win. That’s no longer the case, at least not based on the evidence we saw against Texas Tech on Sunday.

WHY THEY WON’T WIN: They won’t be able to take advantage of those mismatches

One of the things that makes Villanova so hard to guard is their versatility. They have big men that can make threes and a point guard that plays in the post. They can switch 1-through-4 without much of a problem, and they have at least three players on the floor at all times that can operate in ball-screen actions. They are the essence of small-ball.

But here’s the issue: Both Michigan and Kansas can matchup with that. Kansas essentially plays four guards while the Wolverines, who still need to get past Loyola-Chicago to get a shot at Villanova, play small as well and have a center that may actually be more versatile than Villanova’s Omari Spellman. Now it’s fair to wonder if it’s possible to out-Villanova Villanova, but taking advantage of mismatches is one of the strong suits for the Wildcats. That option won’t be there, at least not on Saturday night.

KANSAS

WHY THEY WILL WIN: The Jayhawks have gotten this far without Devonte’ Graham

OK, that might be overselling it, but outside of the game against Penn, Graham — the first-team all-american representative for Kansas — has not been all that good. Even against Penn, he was inefficient. Through four NCAA tournament games, Graham is shooting 34 percent from the floor and averaging just 16 points. Take away the 29 points he scored on 24 shots against Penn and he’s averaging just 11.7 points in the last three games.

I do not think that is something that can possibly last. Devonte’ Graham is just too good, and when he wakes up, with the rest of this roster — specifically Malik Newman — playing the way that they’ve been playing, the Jayhawks can hang with anyone.

WHY THEY WON’T WIN: Who is Udoka Azubuike going to guard?

Udoka Azubuike has been a monster this season, so much better than I thought that he was going to be. But here’s my concern: Against Villanova, he is going to have to chase around Omari Spellman on the perimeter, a guy that bangs threes and that beats bigger defenders off the dribble. That does not seem like an ideal situation, not if the Jayhawks are trying to keep their best big man out of foul trouble. And if the do manage to find a way to beat Villanova, Azubuike is going to have to try and slow down Moe Wagner, who is a monster on the perimeter in his own right.

Bill Self is a genius when it comes to things like this, but these are matchups that would worry me quite a bit if I was a Kansas fan.

MICHIGAN

WHY THEY WILL WIN: Their defense is just so good

This is by far the best defensive team that John Beilein has ever had at Michigan. They are just unbelievable defensively. It starts with Zavier Simpson, who is one of the most annoying and pesky players on the defensive end of the floor in all of college basketball. Throw in a roster that is filled with lanky, tough and athletic wings and a center in Moe Wagner that has dedicated himself to being able to clear the defensive glass, and what you have is a team that can take anyone out of what they want to do on that end of the floor.

They are in the Final Four because their defense has been elite.

A John Beilein-coached team is winning because of their defense.

How about that?

WHY THEY WON’T WIN: They are too streaky shooting the ball

Michigan has played three tortuously-ugly basketball games in the NCAA tournament and one game where they looked like absolute world-beaters. The ugly games came when they played teams that could matchup with their versatility, which caused Michigan to struggle with their ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. When they played a team with two big men, they made 14 threes.

And in this tournament, they are not going to be playing teams that play two bigs the way that Texas A&M played two bigs. That doesn’t mean there is no chance that Michigan can win — Purdue didn’t play two bigs in the Big Ten title game, Michigan State didn’t in the semifinals, etc. — but it is easier for them to take advantage of what they do best when they are playing someone that has bigger bodies along the front line.

LOYOLA-CHICAGO

WHY THEY WILL WIN: It’s destiny

Someone needs to investigate Loyola-Chicago for accepting impermissible benefits, because I think that Sister Jean has some kind of deal with a higher power. They’ve won on three buzzer-beaters. Three of the four teams they’ve faced had a star player dealing with a major injury. Against Tennessee, the game-winning shot bounced off the rim and/or backboard a half-dozen times.

There is something going on here, and I’m not sure that it’s done yet.

WHY THEY WON’T WIN: The talent gap is just too big

With all due respect to the teams that Loyola-Chicago has beaten thus far in the tournament, but they are not the most talented. Miami was missing their best player. Tennessee wins more on defense and effort than by being the most talented team on the floor. (I had Loyola in the Sweet 16, NBD.) Nevada was probably the most talented team they’ve played, but they play iso-ball. Kansas State was missing their best player.

And now, the Ramblers have to face-off with a Michigan team that has a pro in the middle, one of the best defenses in the sport and a masterful tactician on the sideline. Win that, and they get a No. 1 seed. I’m not saying they can’t win, but this is the first time where they are clearly the inferior team.

2018 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
8 Comments

Here is a full list of the players that have signed with an agent, declared and are testing the waters and those that have decided to return to school.

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until 11:59 p.m. on May 30th to remove their name from consideration.

The NBA Combine will be held May 16-20 this year. 

The full list of early entrants, from both the collegiate and international ranks, can be found here.

DECLARED, SIGNING WITH AGENT

TESTING THE WATERS

  • ESA AHMAD, West Virginia
  • MIKE AMIUS, Western Carolina
  • KOSTAS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Dayton
  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • SEDRICK BAREFIELD, Utah
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • LAMONTE BEARDEN, Western Kentucky
  • BRIAN BOWEN, Louisville
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • JORDAN BRANGERS, South Plains
  • BARRY BROWN, Kansas State
  • BRYCE BROWN, Auburn
  • TOOKIE BROWN, Georgia Southern
  • TROY BROWN, Oregon
  • C.J. BURKS, Marshall
  • JORDAN CAROLINE, Nevada
  • HAANIF CHEATEM, FGCU
  • KAMERON CHATMAN, Detroit
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • CHRIS CLEMONS, Campbell
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ISAAC COPELAND JR., Nebraska
  • BRYANT CRAWFORD, Wake Forest
  • MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State
  • JON DAVIS, Charlotte
  • JORDAN DAVIS, Northern Colorado
  • SHAWNTREZ DAVIS, Bethune Cookman
  • TERENCE DAVIS, Ole Miss
  • TYLER DAVIS, Texas A&M
  • NOAH DICKERSON, Washington
  • DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova
  • TORIN DORN, N.C. State
  • NOJEL EASTERN, Purdue
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • JON ELMORE, Marshall
  • JACOB EVANS, Cincinnati
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JARREY FOSTER, SMU
  • MELVIN FRAZIER, Tulane
  • WENYEN GABRIEL, Kentucky
  • KAISER GATES, Xavier
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • ADMON GILDER, Texas A&M
  • MICHAEL GILMORE, FGCU
  • JESSIE GOVAN, Georgetown
  • TYLER HALL, Montana State
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • ZACH HANKINS, Xavier
  • ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • MALIK HINES, UMass
  • ARIC HOLMAN, Mississippi State
  • JALEN HUDSON, Florida
  • DEWAN HUELL, Miami
  • KEVIN HUERTER, Maryland
  • TRAMAINE ISABELL, Drexel
  • DEANGELO ISBY, Utah State
  • JUSTIN JAMES, Wyoming
  • ZACH JOHNSON, Miami
  • CHRISTIAN KEELING, Charleston Southern
  • DEVONTE KLINES, Montana State
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • KALOB LEDOUX, McNeese State
  • MARQUEZ LETCHER-ELLIS, RICE
  • ABDUL LEWIS, NJIT
  • MAKINDE LONDON, Chattanooga
  • DOMINIC MAGEE, Southern Miss
  • FLETCHER MAGEE, Wofford
  • CALEB MARTIN, Nevada
  • CODY MARTIN, Nevada
  • ZANE MARTIN, Towson
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • LUKE MAYE, North Carolina
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • MARKIS MCDUFFIE, Wichita State
  • CHRISTIAN MEKOWULU, Tennessee State
  • AARON MENZIES, Seattle
  • ELIJAH MINNIE, Eastern Michigan
  • SHELTON MITCHELL, Clemson
  • TAKAL MOLSON, Canisius
  • JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana
  • MATT MORGAN, Cornell
  • TRAVIS MUNNINGS, Louisiana-Monroe
  • RENATHAN ONA EMBO, Tulane
  • JOSH OKOGIE, Georgia Tech
  • JAMES PALMER JR., Nebraska
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • JALON PIPKINS, CSUN
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • MARCQUISE REED, Clemson
  • TRAYVON REED, Texas Southern
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • CODY RILEY, UCLA
  • KERWIN ROACH II, Texas
  • JEROME ROBINSON, Boston College
  • AHMAAD RORIE, Montana
  • QUINTON ROSE, Temple
  • ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, Tennessee
  • MICAH SEABORN, Monmouth
  • RONSHAD SHABAZZ, Appalachian State
  • TAVARIUS SHINE, Oklahoma State
  • CHRIS SILVA, South Carolina
  • YANKUBA SIMA, Oklahoma State
  • FRED SIMS, Chicago State
  • OMARI SPELLMAN, Villanova
  • MAX STRUS, DePaul
  • DESHON TAYLOR, Fresno State
  • KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton
  • REID TRAVIS, Stanford
  • JARRED VANDERBILT, Kentucky
  • LAGERALD VICK, Kansas
  • CHRISTIAN VITAL, Connecticut
  • JAYLIN WALKER, Kent State
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • QUINNDARY WEATHERSPOON, Mississippi State
  • ANDRIEN WHITE, Charlotte
  • DEMAJEO WIGGINS, Bowling Green
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • AUSTIN WILEY, Auburn
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN, Hofstra

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

 

Former Texas center James Banks III transfers to Georgia Tech

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After playing sparingly in two seasons at Texas, 6-foot-10 center James Banks III made the decision to transfer. Tuesday night Banks announced his next stop, with the Decatur, Georgia native committing to Georgia Tech.

After sitting out the 2018-19 season per NCAA transfer rules, Banks will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

In 46 total games at Texas, Banks averaged 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 10.7 minutes per game. As a freshman Banks appeared in 32 games and averaged 12.4 minutes per appearance, contributing 1.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. With the additions of Mohamed Bamba and Jericho Sims, Banks’ playing time decreased in 2017-18, as he appeared in 14 games and averaged 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game.

Georgia Tech currently has four scholarship front court players for the 2018-19 season, with one being rising redshirt senior forward Abdoulaye Gueye. Rising redshirt junior Sylvester Ogbonda and rising sophomores Evan Cole and Moses Wright will have eligibility remaining when Banks becomes available to compete at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Villanova basketball team snaps photo with Meek Mill prior to 76ers game

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers was a big one for both teams, as the visiting Heat were looking to stave off elimination and the 76ers were one win away from their first playoff series victory in six years.

What added to the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center was the release of hip hop artist Meek Mill, who due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling was released from prison. Among those also in attendance were the reigning national champion Villanova Wildcats, who along with comedian Kevin Hart, Meek Mill and the artist’s lawyers took a photo prior to the game.

Villanova was originally scheduled to handle the pregame ringing of the replica Liberty Bell, but they were bumped due to Meek Mill’s release.

City prosecutors were of the belief that Meek Mill, who had been imprisoned without bail since November, was entitled to a new trial after being found guilty of a probation violation stemming from a conviction handed down in 2009. This was a factor in the Supreme Court’s decision to grant Meek Mill, who rang the bell prior to the start of Tuesday’s game, his freedom.

Meek Mill received a groundswell of support throughout his incarceration from members of the 76ers and Super Bowl champion Eagles and other public figures, including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Ohio State lands grad transfer Keyshawn Woods

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With three of the team’s top five scorers from this season, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, moving on Ohio State entered the offseason in need of players who could potentially have an immediate impact in 2018-19.

Tuesday evening the Buckeyes picked up a commitment from a grad transfer, as former Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods announced that he will play his final season at Ohio State.

Woods appeared in 28 games for the Demon Deacons in 2017-18, averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.7 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was used primarily as a reserve this past season, making just five starts for Wake Forest. Woods began his collegiate career at Charlotte, playing the 2014-15 season there before transferring to Wake Forest.

During the 2016-17 season, the first in which he was eligible to play at Wake Forest, Woods started 22 of the 33 games he played in and averaged 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Woods shot 49.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three during that campaign, and the hope in Columbus is that he can get back to that level in his lone season as a Buckeye.

Ohio State’s best returnee on the perimeter next season will be rising junior C.J. Jackson, who averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore. Ohio State also adds a talented freshman class that includes guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad. Florida State transfer C.J. Walker will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming campaign per NCAA transfer rules.

Memphis to recruit in style with new souped-up van

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Traveling during live recruiting periods isn’t the most enjoyable process for college basketball coaches, with many having to work their way through airports and car rental lines in order to keep tabs on players they’re recruiting. For the programs at the top of the sport a private plane may be available, which certainly helps.

In the case of Penny Hardaway’s Memphis program, the coaching staff will be hitting the road in style as he showed off a new, souped-up van via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

Notice the “One Cent” logo in the headrests, making it clear whose van it is and what Hardaway’s accomplished in the game of basketball as a player. For those too young to be intimately familiar with his playing career, Hardaway’s work with the Bluff City Legends (named Team Penny when he was in charge) on the Nike EYBL circuit and at Memphis East HS will likely register.

Since Hardaway’s hiring he and his staff, which includes assistants Tony Madlock and two-time NBA champion Mike Miller, have made Memphis a player on the recruiting trail. Will the van reel in top prospects? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s no denying the fact that Hardaway and his staff have already managed to connect in a way that the prior coaching staff was unable to.

Now we wait for the anonymous complaint from another athletic department to the NCAA about Hardaway and Memphis having this van, because that’s generally the way in which these things work.