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CBT Podcast: Miles Bridges, Allonzo Trier and the Memphis soap opera

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Michigan State got a National Player of the Year candidate back and Arizona got an all-american candidate, making both preseason top five teams. Travis Hines joins me to break that down, then John Martin of 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis joins me to talk about the Lawson family, Tubby Smith and the disaster in Memphis.

Allonzo Trier to return to Arizona for junior year

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Arizona guard Allonzo Trier is returning to school for his junior season.

The 6-foot-3 Trier averaged 17.2 points last season after returning to the lineup. He missed the first 19 games of the season after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA following a positive test for PEDs. Trier won an appeal, but he remained ineligible until the drug had fully cleared his system.

A powerful scorer, Trier’s at his best when he is given the freedom to attack offensively, and he’ll have that next season for the Wildcats. Arizona has a recruiting class that already includes DeAndre Ayton, one of the elite prospects in the class, and Brandon Randolph — and may add Brian Bowen — but Trier’s presence gives them a go-to scorer and a veteran leader.

Don’t be surprised when Trier is a preseason favorite to win National Player of the Year and Arizona is a preseason top five team.

Kansas sharp-shooter Svi Mykhailiuk to test NBA draft waters

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk is entering the NBA draft, but is not hiring an agent and could decide by May 24 to withdraw his name and return for his senior season.

The 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk started 25 games last season, averaging 9.8 points and shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc. The native of Ukraine made at least three 3-pointers in 11 games.

Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday that he supports the decision “100 percent,” and that Mykhailiuk will “get accurate feedback and make an informed decision” whether to remain in the draft.

Jayhawks guard Devonte Graham has already announced that he will return for his senior season, while star freshman Josh Jackson is expected to declare for the draft.

LSU guard Antonio Blakeney declares for draft

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BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU guard and leading scorer Antonio Blakeney says he’s declaring for this summer’s NBA draft after two seasons with the Tigers.

Blakeney, who announced his decision in a written statement released by LSU on Tuesday night, leaves the Tigers shortly after the hiring of coach Will Wade.

Wade, who previously coached VCU, came to LSU after the firing of Johnny Jones, who coached the Tigers the previous five seasons.

Blakeney, a sophomore, averaged 17.2 points this season. He arrived at LSU as a highly regarded recruit, having been named Florida Mr. Basketball while with Oak Ridge High School.

Blakeney says he appreciates the opportunity LSU gave him and that leaving is “bittersweet,” but says he’s also decided it’s time for him to “take the next step” in his basketball career.

Miles Bridges’ return to Michigan State would make Sparty a title favorite

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Miles Bridges’ impending return to Michigan State is the game-changer of the offseason.

It’s not quite done yet.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, who is as plugged in with agents as anyone, Bridges is expected to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season, bypassing the chance to, potentially, be a top ten pick despite being “encouraged” to leave by everyone from Tom Izzo to agents to former Spartans now playing in the NBA. He may take the weekend to think on it.

But if he does come back?

Oh boy.

Michigan State goes from being a Big Ten title challenger to a team that could very well end up being the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

I don’t say that lightly, either. As it stands, we have the Spartans at No. 11 in our Preseason Top 25, but that’s assuming that Bridges, who averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks — a stat-line that hasn’t been posted in 25 years, which is as far back as basketball reference’s database goes — playing predominantly as a small-ball four for a team that saw half their front line rotation miss the year with knee injuries. If Bridges returns, he won’t only be a sure-fire Preseason All-American, he might be the Preseason National Player of the Year.

With Bridges back, this is what Michigan State’s roster breakdown will look like:

  • PG: Cassius Winston, So.
  • SG: Joshua Langford, So.
  • SF: Miles Bridges, So.
  • PF: Jaren Jackson, Fr.
  • C: Nick Ward, So.
  • Bench: Xavier Tillman, Fr.; Matt McQuaid, Jr.; Tum Tum Nairn, Sr.; Kyle Ahrens, Jr.; Gavin Schilling, Sr.; Kenny Goins, Jr.

Assuming the back court takes a step forward, which is what typically happens to freshmen when they become sophomores, that roster is as good as any in college basketball, and that’s before you throw in that they are coached by Tom Izzo, who has a habit of getting the most out of his teams.

And frankly, this could end up being Izzo’s best chance to win a title since his title.

You’re giving him a National Player of the Year candidate in Bridges, one that is just too perfectly suited to playing that role in this system. You’re giving him a center in Ward that averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 boards in less than 20 minutes per game as a freshman. You’re giving a five-star prospect in Jaren Jackson that should slot in perfectly alongside Bridges and Ward.

Izzo can make do with that.

And if Winston and Langford do take that step forward?

Then Bridges’ return would be what makes the Spartans a favorite to win the national title.

Like I said: game-changer.

North Carolina’s Justin Jackson declares for the draft

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Fresh off of an all-american season that earned him the ACC Player of the Year award, National Champ Justin Jackson of North Carolina will declare for the NBA Draft and sign with an agent.

“My family and I discussed my decision with Coach Williams and we agree that declaring for the NBA Draft is best for my career,” Jackson said in a statement on Thursday morning. “I wouldn’t trade anything the last three years as a Tar Heel, especially getting the chance to win a national championship, which was unbelievable. I feel I made a good decision last year to come back for my junior year. That has put me in a much better position as a basketball player and a person. I’m proud to know I will always be a Tar Heel.”

Jackson averaged 18.3 points and 4.7 boards this past season, setting the single-season North Carolina record for made three-pointers. He played his way into potentially being a lottery pick in what is a loaded 2017 draft class.

“Justin explored his draft options after his sophomore season but understood it was in his best interest to play another season of college basketball, and what a year it was for him and our team,” head coach Roy Williams said. “He did what our coaches and the NBA people advised him to do – get stronger and work on making more shots. He responded by investing a tremendous amount of his time in the offseason and came back to school a bigger, better and more confident player.”

“He improved from a 29 percent three-point shooter to setting school records for three-point shooting; his scoring, rebounding, assists, ball-handling and leadership skills all improved, and when we got deep into the NCAA Tournament, he became an elite defender. His last three defensive performances against Kentucky, Oregon and Gonzaga against some of the most talented perimeter scorers in the country were nothing short of spectacular.”