2017-18 Season Preview

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL BOLD PREDICTIONS: What craziness should you expect this season?

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College basketball starts tomorrow. 

Preview season is now officially over.

And that can only mean one thing: IT’S TIME FOR SOME BOLD PREDICTIONS.

We’re not guaranteeing that these things will happen, and we certainly don’t expect all of these predictions to hit.

But with a little bit of logic, a little bit of deductive reasoning and a little bit of gambler’s luck, we think that all of these predictions have a real chance of proving true.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 

A player or coach will be arrested at a team facility or game this year.

The FBI’s investigation into corruption isn’t slowing time. It’s probably safe to assume it’s sprawling as they gather more evidence and potentially get more cooperation. That means more people will come under scrutiny or be sought out for information. The federal government knows this is high-profile, and it knows it can generate headlines – and strike fear into potential targets – if it tracks down a person or people of interest in a high-profile situation. Plus, it’s a spot where the feds will know exactly where a person will be. All they have to do is look at a schedule. – Travis Hines

The SEC gets two teams in the Final Four.

I’ll roll the dice on this league and take Kentucky and Florida to carry the conference banner in San Antonio. Right now I’ll lean towards Kentucky and Florida due to their track record over the last decade or so, but Texas A&M making a run wouldn’t be a surprise either. In order to do that they need J.J. Caldwell to be ready to run the show; point guard play was a major issue for the Aggies last season. Alabama and Auburn are wild cards right now due to off-court issues (and the injury of Braxton Key for Bama), but maybe a team like Vanderbilt or Arkansas can make some noise as well. – Raphielle Johnson

Miami will win the ACC.

I’ve been all-in on Miami all offseason long. I love their trio of athletic guards – Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker – and I fully expect big man Dewan Huell to take a step forward and get himself into the all-ACC conversation. Throw in a head coach in Jim Larrañaga, who has proved that he can lead veteran teams with dynamic back court players to titles, and you’re looking at the nation’s single-most underrated team.

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Bruce Brown (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Mike Daum will be an All-American despite playing at South Dakota State.

Daum’s numbers were already ridiculous last season as a redshirt sophomore. This season, Daum gets more national showcase games with road contests at Kansas, Ole Miss, Wichita State and Colorado. If Daum puts up eye-popping numbers against those teams after the year he had last season, don’t be surprised to hear his name in the All-American mix. – Scott Phillips

The Kansas Big 12 title run ends.

Kansas is the best and most talented team in the Big 12, but the Jayhawks’ roster construction is going to be difficult to manage and they’re going to be replacing an all-program player in Frank Mason. Given that West Virginia, TCU and Texas all look like potential threats for that top spot, plus the fact that the middle of the league (and to a lesser extent the bottom) will be as strong as any year, there are enough obstacles in the way – and enough teams of taking advantage of any missteps – that Bill Self’s 13-year run of owning the Big 12 comes to an end. – TH

And the Villanova Big East title run ends.

The Wildcats certainly have the talent on their roster this season to make a run at a fifth-straight Big East title, but there is quite a bit more quality in the conference than there has been in past seasons. Xavier has arguably the best player in the conference in Trevon Bluiett, and there is enough talent – and coaching – on that roster to unseat Villanova. Seton Hall has a potential first-team all-american in the middle in Angel Delgado, and the amount of veterans that they have playing this season is precisely the kind of ‘old’ college teams aspire to be. And Providence? Well, if you listened to the Big East preview podcast, you’d know that there is a real chance the Friars can make a run at winning the league as well. I don’t know who is going to get it done, but it’s going to get done. – RD

Under The Radar Stars | Impact Freshman | New faces, new places | Hot seat

Minnesota reaches the Elite Eight. At least.

Hey, you said be bold so I’ll get my Canelo Alvarez on and “be bolder” with this one. The loss of Eric Curry to a knee injury hurts, especially if Reggie Lynch continues to struggle with foul trouble. But if he can clean that up Richard Pitino has a team capable of making a run in the Big Ten and nationally. And the opportunity to watch a perimeter that includes Nate Mason, Amir Coffey, Dupree McBrayer and Isaiah Washington…I’m in. – RJ

Miles Bridges does not win national Player of the Year.

I wouldn’t say the preseason choices have been “group think,” but the race for that award may be more competitive than many seem to think. Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Brunson and Angel Delgado are four of the guys I would not be shocked to see winning POY honors. But given there are so many of those awards given out, saying that someone other than Bridges will take home at least one trophy may not be that bold after all. – RJ

The Pac-12 have less than four NCAA tournament teams.

The league will be a major disappointment this season. The league isn’t very deep and the top teams are facing FBI investigations and issues with Chinese police. With so much uncertainty on and off the court, it could be a chaotic year on the West Coast. – SP

Michigan State will make it until at least February without suffering a loss

I love this Michigan State team. They’re experienced, talented and very well-rounded. They’re going to do awesome things this year. There are two potential potholes in their non-conference slate, but one is on a neutral floor against a team with quite a few new pieces (Duke) and the other will be at the friendly confines of the Breslin Center (Notre Dame).The toughest conference games before the end of January are two against Maryland and a home tilts against Wisconsin and Michigan. Get through all that, and we’re talking about the potential of an undefeated national champion in the year’s second month. – TH

Mid-majors ready to crash the dance

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

It’s Ali Farokhmanesh.

It’s Dunk City.

It’s George Mason, Bryce Drew, Butler and Wichita State.

The NCAA tournament’s popularity and icon status is due in no small part to the success of the little guy.

The upsets and the stories that accompany them are what makes March magical.

Here are who you should expect to hear from, likely in dramatic fashion, in four months.

Jock Landale (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

1. St. Mary’s: As described elsewhere, for our purposes, we’re going to classify Randy Bennett’s Gaels as a mid-major. Whatever your thoughts on that, they’ve got a chance to have a breakthrough season this year. And more importantly than that, they have a team built for March.They’re experienced, with nearly everyone back from last year’s 29-win team while also adding fifth-year senior graduate transfer Cullen Neal. They shoot the heck out of the ball, having made nearly 40 percent of their 3s last year. Lastly, they have a game-changing talent in Jock Landale, one of the most productive and efficient offensive players in the country. It’s a profile that will not only rack up a ton of regular season wins, but one that can bulldoze its way to San Antonio.

2. Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies have experience and talent. They’ve got four starters back, headlined by Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes. Plus, Greg Kampe’s squad will be adding Kendrick Nunn, who averaged double figures in back-to-back seasons at Illinois before being dismissed from the team after a domestic violence arrest. Oakland should be plenty motivated after getting knocked out of the Horizon League tournament in their first game last season when they were riding a nine-game winning streak. Shooting could be an issue for Oakland, but the Grizzlies have the pieces to be dangerous to any high-major opponents that may come their way this spring.

3. Yale: After ending a 54-year NCAA tournament drought in 2016, the Bulldogs appeared as though they may go in back-to-back years, but a broken foot cost Ivy League player of the year Makai Mason the season and Yale it’s best chance at returning to the Big Dance. Mason is back, joining last year’s leading scorers Alex Copeland Miye Oni and making Yale a threat as a veteran team. Defending will likely be their biggest issue as the Bulldogs experienced major slippage on that end of the floor last year after being one of the better defenses in the country in their NCAA tournament season.

4. College of Charleston: The Cougars have been on a serious upward trajectory in the first three years of Earl Grant’s tenure and look poised to make another leap – into the NCAA tournament – in Year 4. Offense was a struggle at times last year for Charleston, but getting all its leading scorers back should help in that department. Defensively, the Cougars are constricting, both in terms of slowing the pace and offenses. Offense is a chore against them.

5. Vermont: The Catamounts bring four starters back from a team that went undefeated in the American East and gave Purdue problems in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Trae Bell-Haynes is the reigning conference player of the year and Anthony Lamb is going to be a real problem for teams after a freshman year in which he up 13 and 6 while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. Vermont is balanced, talented and proven winners. That’s a recipe for March success.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

1. UT-Arlington
2. Florida Gulf Coast
3. Grand Canyon
4. Belmont
5. Missouri State

Under The Radar Stars You Need To Know

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

The label “under the radar” can be a tricky one to affix on a player, especially with there being more access to games and statistics thanks in large part to the internet.

What makes an “under the radar” player?

Not being discussed on the national television shows every night that he’s on the court?

Or having one’s contributions overlooked because they may not produce eye-popping numbers in the usual statistical categories?

We’re going to take a shot at this here, naming some players who in our view are floating under the radar heading into the 2017-18 season.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Jaylen Adams (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

PG Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

One could argue that Adams’ backcourt sidekick Matt Mobley deserves to be on this list as well. But the pick here is Adams, as he’s coming off of a junior season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 6.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, Adams is entrusted in producing offense not only for himself but for his teammates as well, and more often than not he gets the job done for Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies. Adams is a key reason why the Bonnies are expected to contend in the Atlantic 10 and could earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 2012.

PF Peyton Aldridge, Davidson

Much to the chagrin of some, Aldridge was not on our list of the top 100 players in college basketball. And with Jack Gibbs out of eligibility, Aldridge has the potential to be one of the most productive offensive players in America this season. As a junior Aldridge averaged 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, producing an offensive rating of 118.5 as well. By March, leaving Aldridge off of the top 100 list could prove to be a major mistake.

PG Kyron Cartwright, Providence

Cartwright receives ample respect within the Big East, which is to be expected considering the fact that he was named the league’s Most Improved Player last season. As a junior Cartwright averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 assists (tops in the Big East) and 3.5 rebounds per game. Look for this to be the season in which Cartwright becomes a household name nationally, as he leads a program aiming not only for its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament berth but a Big East title as well.

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Kyron Cartwright (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

PF Mike Daum, South Dakota State

Daum’s name is one that should be heard more often in 2017-18, given how productive he was as a sophomore last season. The 6-foot-9 power forward averaged 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from three and 86.9 percent from the foul line. A 6-foot-9 forward who attempted just over five of his shots (15.2 FGA per game) per night from three was nearly a 50/40/90 shooter. That’s incredible, and Daum’s name is one that more college basketball fans need to know.

SF/PF Vince Edwards, Purdue

With his size, standing at 6-foot-8, and skill set Edwards allows Purdue head coach Matt Painter to go a variety of ways with his matchups. Given the perimeter options on this team, including Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and freshman Nojel Eastern, Purdue can employ Edwards as a four to force mismatches at that position. Last season Edwards averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, shooting 48.6 percent from the field, 42.3 percent from three and 82.0 percent from the foul line. Efficient offensively and solid on the other end of the floor, Edwards could merit All-America discussion come March.

PG Rob Gray Jr., Houston

The American Athletic Conference is loaded with guards this season, and among the best in the conference is Rob Gray Jr. The 6-foot-1 redshirt senior averaged 20.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for the Cougars last season, earning first team all-conference honors as a result. Gray is certainly given the respect he deserves within the American, but has he received enough respect nationally? Look for that to change this season as he looks to lead the Cougars to their first NCAA tournament bid since 2010.

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Tyler Hall, Montana State Athletics
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SG Tyler Hall, Montana State

Speaking of players who threatened the 50/40/90 mark last season, Tyler Hall did so while averaging 23.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season. Shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three and 83.7 percent from the foul line, Hall produced an effective field goal percentage of 59.5 in 2016-17. The 6-foot-4 guard was a focal point of the Montana State offensive attack in each of his first two years with the program, and that’s unlikely to change in 2017-18.

SG Mustapha Heron, Auburn

With the statuses of Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley undetermined at this point due to the ongoing FBI investigation (and fears of what the NCAA could do down the line), Auburn will begin its season shorthanded. But in Heron the Tigers have a talented shooting guard in Heron who can put points on the board in a flash. As a freshman Heron averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three. If there’s one area where Heron could stand to improve from last season it’s the turnover department, as he averaged 2.4 per night while dishing out just 1.3 assists per game.

PG Aaron Holiday, UCLA

After starting 32 games as a freshman Holiday moved into a reserve role last season to make room for Lonzo Ball, and he handled the adjustment well. Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists per game as a sophomore, with both numbers being improvements on his freshman year numbers (10.3, 4.0). With Ball, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton all having moved on, more will be asked of Holiday alongside the likes of freshmen Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes. And given his abilities on both ends of the floor, Holiday may very well emerge as one of the top guards in the country in the eyes of those who aren’t already rating him that high.

SG Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State

Two years after arriving in Starkville as part of a recruiting class headlined by Malik Newman (who is now at Kansas), it’s Weatherspoon who is entrusted with the task of leading the way for Ben Howland’s program. As a sophomore Weatherspoon averaged 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three with an effective field goal percentage of 53.3 percent. The talent on the roster has improved, which could in turn help one of the top perimeter talents in the SEC become more of a household name nationally.

Others worth considering: Joshua Braun (Grand Canyon), Bryant Crawford (Wake Forest), Terence Davis (Ole Miss), Drew Eubanks (Oregon State), Tra Holder (Arizona State), Shake Milton (SMU), Khyri Thomas (Creighton).

Big East Conference Preview: Villanova looks to hold off challengers

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big East Conference.

Since the Big East’s reconfiguration in 2013, Villanova has served as the standard bearer with four straight regular season titles, two Big East tournament titles and a national title in 2016.

Jay Wright’s team has enough talent and experience to extend the streak to five, but the 2017-18 campaign sets up as one in which there are multiple teams poised to challenge the Wildcats.

Seton Hall, Xavier and maybe even Providence have the goods to push the Wildcats this season.

With the middle of the pack getting stronger and two head coaching changes, one of which being a Big East legend returning to his alma mater, this should be a fun year in the Big East.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Villanova looks to replace three starters and remain atop the conference: With the end of the 2016-17 season came the end of three collegiate careers, with Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds all out of eligibility. All three provided key intangibles for Villanova, with Hart and Jenkins also being two of the team’s top three scorers from a season ago. The question: how will the Wildcats account for those losses, with regards to both production and leadership?

There will be some adjustments to make, but simply put the pieces are there for Villanova to remain atop the Big East. Jalen Brunson, one of the nation’s best point guards, is back for his junior season as are wing Mikal Bridges and forward Eric Paschall. Sophomore guard Donte DiVencenzo, who earned a spot on the Big East’s All-Freshman team and was also the Big 5 Newcomer of the Year, is back for his sophomore season, and Phil Booth is healthy after sitting out most of last season with a knee injury.

Add in freshmen Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree inside, and Jermaine Samuels Jr. on the wing, and Villanova will not lack for talent. And in Spellman, who sat out last season, they have a big who can get them points on the block on a consistent basis. For that reason this team will be different from last year’s group, which may make the Wildcats even tougher to defend.

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Khadeen Carrington (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all worthy challengers: Due to its track record and combination of returnees and newcomers, Villanova has earned the right to be preseason favorites. But this season may provide the best group of challengers to the throne since the reconfiguration of the Big East.

Xavier brings back an experienced group led by an All-America candidate in senior forward Trevon Bluiett, and the experience gained by Quentin Goodin as a result of Edmond Sumner’s injury could pay off for the sophomore in 2017-18. Add in a talented freshman class led by wing Paul Scruggs, and grad transfer Kerem Kanter, and it would not be a surprise if Chris Mack’s Musketeers won the Big East.

A similar argument could be made for Seton Hall, as Kevin Willard has a squad led by four tough, talented seniors. Angel Delgado is the nation’s best rebounder, a big man who was near automatic when it came to racking up double-doubles last season. Wing Desi Rodriguez can get hot offensively on a moment’s notice, and forward Ismael Sanogo deserves more respect nationally for his abilities as a defender. The key for the Pirates: how Khadeen Carrington, a talented guard who can make plays off the bounce as well as hit perimeter shots, adjusts to the shift to the point. If he handles it well, Seton Hall can be a major factor.

As for Providence, Ed Cooley has a senior point guard in Kyron Cartwright to trust with the offense. Cartwright averaged nearly seven assists per game last season, and that number could be even higher given the improvements made by the other options on the roster. Rodney Bullock has the potential to be an all-conference player if he becomes more efficient offensively, and forward Alpha Diallo appears poised to take a significant step forward. Makai Ashton-Langford is one of the key pieces in a good recruiting class, but the key may be the health of senior big man Emmitt Holt.

Holt’s been dealing with an abdominal issue during the preseason, and if he’s limited even more will be asked of freshmen Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens.

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Khyri Thomas (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

3. The conference’s “midsection” should be improved: Given the fact that seven teams reached the NCAA tournament last season, this may feel like a weird thing to read. But with the combination of newcomers and returnees at many of the Big East schools that populated the middle portion of the standings last season, those matchups are going to be even tougher this season.

Creighton welcomes back guards Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas, and they’ll add a transfer at the point in former Syracuse guard Kaleb Joseph. The key for Joseph will be to regain the confidence that he seemingly lost during his two seasons at Syracuse, but the combination of sitting out a year and being in a system that gives guys the freedom to make plays should help.

Marquette, which won 19 games and reached the NCAA tournament last season, has a very good perimeter tandem in Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard, with the latter being one of the best shooters in the country as a freshman. The question mark for the Golden Eagles is how productive their big men will be, with SMU transfer Harry Froling set to join the likes of junior Matt Heldt and freshman Theo John in December.

Butler will be led by senior forward Kelan Martin, sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin and a new head coach in LaVall Jordan (more on the Bulldogs below), and St. John’s may be the ultimate “wild card.” Guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett Jr. return, and the additions of transfers Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon will help immensely. If the pieces mesh, Chris Mullin has a roster that could turn heads in the Big East.

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Kamar Baldwin (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

4. LaVall Jordan looks to build upon the “Butler Way”: While the Brad Stevens era was critical with regards to the growth of the Butler basketball program, which reached the national title game two consecutive years and moved from the Horizon League to the Big East, the “Butler Way” began well before that point. Among those who played a role in the success is LaVall Jordan, who played on three NCAA tournament teams between 1998 and 2001 for Barry Collier and Thad Matta.

After brief stay at Milwaukee that was preceded by a six-year stint on John Beilein’s staff at Michigan, Jordan has returned to his alma mater to fill the vacancy left by Chris Holtmann’s move to Ohio State. Jordan won’t be operating with an empty cupboard either, as Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Kamar Baldwin (10.1, 3.7) return from a team that won 25 games a season ago. Butler did lose three starters from that team, most notably forward Andrew Chrabascz, but do not expect this program to simply fall off of a cliff.

5. Patrick Ewing, arguably the most important player in Big East history, makes his return to Georgetown: To say that Ewing was “arguably” the most important player in league history may be an understatement; as the crown jewel of a 1981 class that included the likes of Chris Mullin (St. John’s) and Villanova’s “Expansion Crew,” Ewing helped usher in an era of dominance for the Big East in the 1980’s. The Georgetown teams he led were both feared and respected, and with his return to The Hilltop as head coach the goal is the bring back those glory years.

Ewing, in his first head coaching job after spending well over a decade as an assistant in the NBA, has some talent to work with inside as Marcus Derrickson (8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Jesse Govan (10.1, 5.0) both return. But there are a lot of holes to fill on this roster, especially on the perimeter with the losses of Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak. Look for freshman wing JaMarko Pickett to get plenty of opportunities in his debut season, one that could be difficult for the Hoyas once they begin conference play.

Angel Delgado (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

Only one player in college basketball (Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan) had more double-doubles than Delgado last season. The senior big man averaged 15.2 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season, shooting 54.3 percent from the field. On a team expected to contend in the Big East, Delgado will once again be a focal point for the Pirates. And if he can improve on the turnover count (3.0 tpg last season) Delgado will be even tougher to slow down.

THE REST OF THE BIG EAST FIRST TEAM

  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova: One of the best point guards in college basketball, Brunson will have more leadership responsibilities on his plate in 2017-18.
  • Marcus Foster, Creighton: Foster’s first season in a Creighton uniform was a productive one, as he averaged 18.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
  • Trevon Blueitt, Xavier: Bluiett should be heard from with regards to both Big East Player of the Year and All-America honors. Last season he averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
  • Rodney Bullock, Providence: Butler’s Kelan Martin would be a solid choice here as well, but if he can be a more efficient player offensively Bullock will have a good shot at a first team spot as well.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Kelan Martin, Butler
  • Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
  • Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges, Villanova
  • Marcus LoVett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
  • Khyri Thomas, Creighton

BREAKOUT STAR: Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova

DiVincenzo is the biggest reason that I’m not that worried about Villanova trying to replace Josh Hart this season. I don’t know that he turns into the player Hart was this year, but he’s already proven that he had the ability to be an explosive scorer – he reached double-figures 14 times and scored at least 19 points four times coming off the bench – and he has the kind of toughness and defensive intelligence that he fit in with Villanova seamlessly on that end of the floor as well.

The only real concern about having DiVincenzo on this list is how good Villanova will be. They’re quite deep on the perimeter and return Phil Booth from injury. He could end up being a much-improved player with a markedly better season and end up with numbers that don’t look all that dissimilar from this season’s.

Donte DiVincenzo (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Chris Mullin, St. John’s

With John Thompson III being replaced at Georgetown during the spring, there really isn’t a coach in the Big East that’s truly on the proverbial hot seat. The pick here is Mullin, whose teams have improved in the win column in each of the last two seasons. So why Mullin? Because with the talent on this season’s roster, expecting the Red Storm to at the very least challenge for an NCAA tournament berth would be reasonable.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

Four teams have credible hopes of reaching the Final Four.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT

the impact that Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II can have for St. John’s. The Red Storm can be an NCAA tournament team this year.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • November 13, Minnesota at Providence
  • November 22-24, Villanova at Paradise Jam
  • November 28, Baylor at Xavier
  • December 3, Seton Hall at Louisville
  • December 5, Gonzaga vs. Villanova (in New York City)

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @BigEastTourney

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: The Wildcats are once again favored to win the Big East, thanks to the combination of newcomers and returnees. The return of Phil Booth, and the additions of Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, will certainly help matters for Jay Wright’s team.
2. Seton Hall: With four senior starters, the Pirates are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball. And if new point guard Khadeen Carrington can balance scoring with getting other guys the ball in good spots, look out.
3. Xavier: Trevon Bluiett will once again lead the way, with J.P. Macura being another senior capable of making an impact on a game. If the talented recruiting class, led by Paul Scruggs, is ready and Quentin Goodin takes another step forward the Musketeers can win the league.
4. Providence: In Kyron Cartwright the Friars have a special point guard. He’s surrounded with talented offensive option, including Rodney Bullock, and the arrival of Makai Ashton-Langford should give Cartwright the occasional respite. The Friars will certainly be head from this season as they look to make a 5th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
5. Creighton: In Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas the Bluejays have one of the top perimeter tandems in the country, much less the Big East. If Kaleb Joseph is ready to run the show at the point, Creighton is capable of contending.
6. Marquette: With Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard among the returnees, it’s known that Steve Wojciechowski’s team can put points on the board. But can they be more effective defensively? If so, the Golden Eagles should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
7. St. John’s: The Red Storm are the “wild card” in this race. With the additions of Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II, St. John’s has the talent needed to make waves in the Big East race. But will this be a cohesive unit when the games truly matter?
8. Butler: LaVall Jordan has some talent to work with in his first season leading his alma mater, including guard Kamar Baldwin and forward Kelan Martin. What may make things more difficult for Butler are the loss of three starters and the improvements made by other teams in the league.
9. DePaul: Will the Blue Demons escape the Big East cellar for the second time in the last three seasons? Yes, thanks to the return of Eli Cain and the additions of Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus.
10. Georgetown: Patrick Ewing’s return as head coach will be a difficult one, given the strength of the Big East and his team’s lack of perimeter shooters. That being said, having Jesse Govan and Marcus Derrickson back in the front court should help matters.

College Basketball’s Impact Freshmen

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

This season’s freshman class isn’t quite as deep as last season’s bunch — which saw a ridiculous group that is already contributing at the NBA level — but the star power at the top of 2017 might actually be better than last season’s guard-heavy group.

While this class is very focused on big men and bigger wings, there are talents at all positions to keep track of. Another interesting wrinkle for this season is some of the new schools that five-star prospects are choosing.

Traditional bluebloods like Arizona, Duke and Kentucky are still cleaning up on five-star talents but some other schools have entered the mix for some of the nation’s best young talent.

Watch out for these 20 names this season, and there will also be plenty of other freshmen to keep tabs on throughout college basketball.

Marvin Bagley III (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

TEN NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW

These are the studs, the best players in the class, the guys that are going to be at the top of draft boards and in the all-american conversation all season long.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: Capable of being the best player in the country this season, Porter might be one of the most polished freshman scorers that college basketball has seen over the past several seasons. And unlike a lot of his peers who teamed with other five-star super talents, Porter is going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Tigers this season. Yes, Missouri has some four-star talents like younger brother Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon coming in with Michael, but if the Tigers want to make noise in the SEC then Porter might have to have a Kevin Durant/Michael Beasley type of season to make it happen.

Marvin Bagley, Duke: Even if Porter Jr. has a monster season, the 6-foot-11 Bagley might be the best long-term prospect and No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. A gifted and fluid athlete with a very high skill level for his size, Bagley’s August commitment to the Blue Devils made them the preseason No. 1 team in the eyes of many. Bagley is a double-double machine capable of snaring almost any miss above rim level and his ability to handle the ball and pass makes him deadly pushing off of a rebound. And with elite off-the-floor athleticism, Bagley can make plays around the rim that others can only dream of.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: If exhibition games are any indication, then Ayton should still be considered a potential No. 1 pick and possible All-American. In only 24 minutes against Eastern New Mexico, Ayton had 31 points (13-for-16 FG), 10 rebounds, two blocks and two assists. If Ayton is focused and playing with a high motor, then he is one of the most physically-gifted 7-footers that college basketball has seen in the last decade. With unique touch for a player of his size and athleticism, Ayton can be a special player for Arizona this season if they get him enough touches and keep him engaged. And with the help of another double-double threat in senior big man Dusan Ristic, defenses can’t take a break defending against Arizona’s talented interior scorers. That should wear down a lot of teams this season.

Deandre Ayton (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Collin Sexton, Alabama: Watching Sexton should be a very unique experience this season as head coach Avery Johnson tries to reign in the 6-foot-3 guard’s hyperactive intensity. Sexton is the kind of electric talent who led the Nike EYBL in scoring by a full nine points per game a few years back but he also plays with such energy (both good and bad) that it has to be harnessed correctly or things can go poorly. Thankfully, Sexton has become better about playing in level-headed ways as he’s also capable of getting others involved by drawing in multiple defenders. Sexton should be one of the biggest weapons with the ball in his hands in the country this season. Don’t be shocked to see Sexton among the nation’s leaders in attempted free throws.

Mohamed Bamba, Texas: It will likely only be one season in Austin for this 6-foot-11 center and it’s hard to predict what type of player Bamba can be for the Longhorns. With a 7-foot-8 wingspan and tremendous lateral quickness for his size, Bamba is a completely distinctive prospect because he can do so many uncharacteristic things on the defensive end. Bamba is long enough to challenge and swat at nearly any look while also being quick and instinctive enough to switch onto some wings and shut them down. And offensively, Bamba is also trying to figure out how to use his unique gifts as he can limited on that end because of his developing strength and skill level. Bamba will have to show he’s able to score outside of the paint if he’s going to be a consistent factor on offense. Even with some limitations, Bamba is a scary prospect and one who should help Texas immensely at times this season.

Wendell Carter, Duke: It’s scary to think that Carter could be a top-five pick — even though Bagley is playing in the other frontcourt spot. The 6-foot-10 Carter is another monster on the interior who can impact a game on the glass, score on the block or stop opposing big men one-on-one in the paint. A little bigger and stronger than Bagley, Carter is also underrated from a skills perspective as he’s a gifted passer and solid jump shooter. Watching to see if Carter has any kind of extended range is going to be a major factor early in the season as Duke seeks consistent spacing from anyone besides Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr.

Wendell Carter (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State: The ceiling is the roof for the 6-foot-11 Jackson as he’s skilled enough to shoot 40 percent from three-point range but long and athletic enough to be a menacing rim protector. That’s why Jackson has shot up NBA Draft boards over the past year as he’ll give the Spartans a big man who space the floor. Armed with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Jackson can also be a major impact on the glass and defensively as he should be a great compliment to the bruising low-post game of sophomore Nick Ward. If Jackson has a monster season then Michigan State might have the scariest collection of talent in the country.

Trevon Duval, Duke: Nobody is doubting the physical tools and lead guard skill that Duval can potentially bring to Duke this season. The 6-foot-3 Duval is nearly impossible to contain off the bounce and his slick handles and passing ability is also noted. But Duke needs Duval to tone down his streaks of wild play and make sure that he’s a floor leader who can get others looks in the half court. For all of the talent that Duke has this season, it might be up to Duval to see this team’s true ceiling because he can make things so much easier on everyone else. Duval’s jumper will also be something to watch for as he’s never been consistent in that department. It’s not just that Duval is inconsistent, he can be flat-out bad shooting the ball sometimes. If Duval can handle point-guard responsibilities adequately then Duke won’t have to worry as much about the jumper but how Duval handles having the ball in his hands early is something to monitor.

Kevin Knox, Kentucky: A surprising spring signing for the Wildcats, Knox might have the best upside of a loaded Kentucky recruiting haul. The son of former Florida State receiver Kevin Knox, the younger Knox is a mega-athlete on the wing who is capable of scoring and rebounding at a high level. The 6-foot-8 Knox showed an improving jumper during his senior season and that could be a huge key for his freshman success and Kentucky’s season. Since the Wildcats don’t have a lot of consistent perimeter threats, Knox knocking down jumpers would keep a lot of defenses honest and make the Wildcats very tough to beat.

Lonnie Walker, Miami: Now that it looks like he’ll be fully recovered from a torn meniscus suffered this summer, the 6-foot-5 Walker joins a Miami team with very high expectations. A natural scorer with a developed pull-up game and ability to get to the basket, Walker will have a lot of weapons around him, so he might be an immediate tough cover in the ACC. If Walker can knock down three-pointers on a consistent basis then he’ll continue to generate pro interest as he’s been rising up boards since the spring all-star circuit.

Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky Athletics

FIVE POTENTIAL D’ANGELO RUSSELLS

Here are five players ranked outside the top ten that might play their way onto an all-american team or into the NBA Draft lottery.

Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky: Redshirting the second semester of last season, Diallo has already experienced the highs and lows of practices and preparing for game days. Now the ultra-athletic 6-foot-5 Diallo gets a chance to play under the bright lights of Big Blue Nation. With tremendous athletic gifts and a ridiculous 6-foot-11 wingspan, Diallo could be one of the nation’s elite perimeter defenders this season and he’s also capable of above-the-rim plays that could lead top-ten highlight lists on a nightly basis. If Diallo becomes more consistent scoring away from the rim then he could be a force this season.

Troy Brown, Oregon: Highly-touted since he dominated the LeBron James Skills Academy as a high school freshman, the 6-foot-7 Brown is a very polished wing who can do a bit of everything. Capable of handling the ball, distributing and scoring, Brown has a chance to play a major role for an Oregon team that is losing a lot off of last year’s Final Four team. Brown should be one of the Pac-12’s better offensive players this season.

Trae Young, Oklahoma: It isn’t very often that the Sooners get a local five-star point guard but that is the case for the 6-foot-2 Young. Nobody on this list can match Young’s long-range shooting ability as he has the ability to rise and fire off the dribble from Steph Curry range. While he doesn’t own Curry’s consistency from three-point range (but, really, who does?), the sheer threat of Young knocking down deep jumpers makes him that much more of a threat off the bounce, where he’s a deceptively good floor leader.

Kris Wilkes, UCLA: The Bruins won’t have the magic of Lonzo Ball at point guard this season but they’ll still have a high-octane offense with a lot of weapons. Among the better options for the Bruins will be this 6-foot-8 wing from Indiana as Wilkes is a very good scorer. Very tough to stop in the open floor and also skilled enough to score at multiple levels in the halfcourt, Wilkes is a potential mismatch problem on the wing who is versatile enough to play a few different roles.

Brandon McCoy, UNLV: Coming off of an 11-21 season, the Runnin’ Rebels need this five-star 6-foot-11 center to produce immediately. The McDonald’s All-American is a solid athlete who brings a lot of natural size and ability at center for UNLV. It also helps McCoy that he’ll have two senior guards to get him the ball and some of the nation’s best junior college players joining him in the frontcourt. UNLV will have a lot of new pieces but McCoy will be one of the few freshman asked to produce for them right away.

Mo Bamba (AP Photo)

FIVE MORE NAMES THAT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT IN MARCH:

They may not be the superstars, but these guys will be relevant in the tournament.

Paul Scruggs, Xavier: A rugged two-way guard who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, the 6-foot-3 Scruggs could play his way into more minutes if he’s able to be a threat on offense. Strong at getting in the paint and attacking the basket, Scruggs can play on or off the ball, although he needs to improve the consistency on his perimeter jumper.

John Petty, Alabama: If Alabama envisions themselves as an NCAA tournament team then they’ll likely need a good season from this potent four-star shooting guard. The 6-foot-5 Petty is capable of some big scoring outbursts as he’s equipped with a streaky perimeter jumper and college-ready transition game. Cutting back on bad shots and turnovers could be key for Petty but he’s never had this much talent around him.

Matt Coleman, Texas: Without a point guard last season, the Longhorns struggled to take good shots and generate consistent offense. A true floor leader who has played for some high-level teams during a storied prep career, Coleman is hoping to be the piece that helps fix the Texas offense by making everything easier on everyone else. Coleman’s perimeter jumper needs work, but he’ll get plenty of good looks for others to make up for it.

Rayshaun Hammonds, Georgia: Some serious frontcourt depth means that the 6-foot-8 Hammonds doesn’t have to shine early. But if Hammonds can play like a top-50 prospect, then it gives the Bulldogs one of the best frontcourts in the country as he’ll join senior Yante Maten and junior Derek Ogbeide. Versatility will help for Hammonds as he’s capable of knocking down jumpers while also providing rebounding and defense at multiple positions.

Makai Ashton-Langford, Providence: Jumping late from UConn to Providence, the Friars are thrilled to be gaining such a talented floor general. The 6-foot-3 Ashton-Langford is very poised and does a great job of attacking off the dribble. Ashton-Langford could be a valuable change-of-pace from senior point guard Kyron Cartwright or he might force his way into the lineup if he plays up to his potential.

NEW FACES, NEW PLACES: Which college hoops hires are set up for success … and failure?

AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo
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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Making a coaching hire is more than just winning the press conference.

A jolt of energy and excitement into a program is nice, but ultimately fit between coach and program – from personality to style to recruiting footprint – will decide which programs flourish and which flounder.

Here are five coaches and programs that are set up to succeed with their new arraignment …

… and five that look destined for trouble.

TOP FIVE

1. ARCHIE MILLER, Indiana: Plenty of programs came calling for Archie Miller over the years as he piled up wins and NCAA tournament bids, but none could. Until Indiana came open, offering more than $3 million and the chance to take the reigns of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the history of college basketball. The Hoosiers and Miller are a match that seems destined to work.
The Hoosiers aren’t likely to contend atop the Big Ten this year as the roster just isn’t built for instant success, if it were, Tom Crean would likely still be installed in Bloomington, but this ranking is based on instant success. Indiana was only able to get Miller to leave Dayton because it offers one of college basketball’s best jobs, and Indiana only wanted Miller because he’s proven to be one of the sport’s best young coaches.

The only question is if Miller can recruit at a level commensurate to his new position, something he didn’t have to do in Dayton. Given his reputation and the resources available to him at Indiana, that seems like a sure bet.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

2. CHRIS HOLTMANN, Ohio State: Holtmann is in much the same situation as Miller, taking over at an accomplished program with a huge athletic department budget but a slump success recently. Holtmann took over the Butler program in 2014 amid difficult circumstances when Brandon Miller took a medical leave of absence, and keep the program humming along, going to three-straight NCAA tournaments as a single-digit seed as the Bulldogs navigated their transition to the Big East.
Ohio State has missed back-to-back NCAA tournaments, but Thad Matta’s program has proven that winning at an elite level in Columbus can be done with regularity and over an extended period of time. The Buckeyes’ recruiting footprint has a plethora of talented players living within it, and it’s one Holtmann is well acquainted with having spent nearly his entire career in the midwest. This pairing is a natural fit, and one that should pay major dividends.

3. BRAD UNDERWOOD, Illinois: The third Big Ten coach on here, but Underwood is another proven winner with the chops to get it done. Underwood maxed out Oklahoma State in his lone season in Stillwater, getting Jawun Evans into the NBA draft and helping Jeffrey Carroll blossom into an all-Big 12 player. He’s shown he can develop players at a high level and has the Xs-and-Os acumen to accumulate a 109-27 in his four years as a head coach.

Underwood has already experienced the good and the bad of recruiting his new home state as the Illini pulled five-star point guard Ayo Dosunmo from Chicago, but that reportedly caused their recruitment of another Chicago kid, four-star wing Talen Horton-Tucker, to go sideways. Whatever the truth about what really happened, it illustrates the potential politics and landmines that exist when recruiting the Windy City. If Underwood can do that, and getting Dosunmu suggests that he and his staff can to at least some degree, Champaign could become a destination and Illinois could regain its place among Big Ten contenders. That is, of course, assuming that there’s no carryover to Underwood from his former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans’ arrest by the FBI last month.

4. MIKE RHOADES, VCU: VCU has proven itself to be one of the best jobs outside of a Power 5 conference over the last decade-plus. Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant had enough sucess to jump to a high-major job after four and three seasons, respectively, and Shaka Smart became one of the most sought-after coaches in the country after just a pair of seasons before jumping to resource-rich and expectation-light Texas after five-straight NCAA tournaments. Most recently, Will Wade turned VCU into LSU after just a pair of seasons.

Rhoades seems primed to take advantage of the situation, not in that he’ll look to make a jump from Richmond to a Power 5, but to use the foundation already in place to keep VCU atop the Atlantic 10 and relevant nationally. He’s a former Smart assistant that spent a decade coaching in the DIvision III ranks. Seemingly any coach VCU hires is set up for success, but Rhoades appears to be a seamless fit.

5. CUONZO MARTIN, Missouri: Missouri may have slid into mediocrity – and under Kim Anderson well past it – for much of the past decade, but the Tigers’ job is one with plenty of potential. And Martin looks poised to make the most of his fourth head coaching job in 10 years by taking the shortcut to success that was hiring Michael Porter, Sr., which landed him a potential No. 1 draft pick in Michael Porter, Jr. and five-star Center Jontay Porter. Plus Missouri landed Jeremiah Tilmon, an Illinois defection.

Landing the highly-talented sons of an assistant coach may not be the most sustainable way to success, but it’s a heck of a jump start. If you can get the two Porter brothers, you do it and figure out the future later. Nothing breeds success like success, and Martin’s strategy should bring some immediately to Columbia.

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview | SEC Preview
Patrick Ewing (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

BOTTOM FIVE

1. MIKE BOYNTON, Oklahoma State: Brad Underwood bounced from Oklahoma State after feeling like the Sooners were skimping on him financially, declining to give him a significant raise from the below-market $1 million salary after taking the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. In response…Oklahoma State apparently went the fiscally conservative route of simply elevating Boynton from assistant to the head job for a similar amount of money.

Whether or not Boynton is the man for the job is hard to say, but the perspective here is that Oklahoma State just went the cheap route, declining to invest in its hoops program. That’s a tough way to start a tenure, but making it even more difficult is that outside Jeff Carroll, there’s not a ton of talent in Stillwater. Oh, then there’s the small matter of an FBI investigation into corruption that has ensnared Oklahoma State and resulted in the firing of assistant Lamont Evans. Not ideal for anyone’s first head coaching gig.

2. WYKING JONES, California: Jones’ circumstances aren’t that far off from Boynton’s. They both succeeded coaches who found themselves on the better end of these two lists, and both are going to be making $1 million a year (a relatively small number by Power 5 standards) to try to improve a basketball situation that is less than ideal. Again, tough spot to start your head coaching career.

Jones’ roster is almost completely turning over, making this pretty much a full-scale rebuild. The Bears will need some serious recruiting wins in the next year or two for Jones to get things pointed in the right direction.

3. BRIAN DUTCHER, San Diego State: Dutcher was right by Steve Fisher’s side for all 18 years that Fisher was in southern California, turning the Aztecs into a relevant program. SDSU went to six-straight NCAA tournaments from 2010-15, including get a two-seed in 2011.

Fisher’s retirement, though, comes on the heels of back-to-back NCAA tournament misses in which the Aztecs fell from 28 wins to 19. Dutcher certainly has the resume that warrants getting this job, but it’s also fair to wonder if the program needs a breath of fresh air.

4. PATRICK EWING, Georgetown: Ewing is very respected in coaching circles after spending his post-playing career under some of the top NBA minds, but returning Georgetown back to prominence will take a lot more than being a bright basketball thinker. Ewing has never recruited, and that will be his biggest hurdle in trying to get the Hoyas in the mix both in the Big East.

There’s also the strangeness of the whole situation, which is really what makes this a tough spot more than anything. Ewing is succeeding John Thompson III, the son of the man, John Thompson II, who turned Georgetown into a national power and coached Ewing as a Hoya. That’s awkward. It’s even more awkward if Georgetown doesn’t win big relatively quickly. There’s reason for optimism (though pulling out of the PK-80 would suggest maybe not this year), but there’s a ton of expectation on an unproven head coach who has to navigate some tricky politics. It is D.C., after all.

5. BRIAN GREGORY, South Florida: Gregory turned a solid run at Dayton into a gig at Georgia Tech, where he missed the NCAA tournament each year and just twice was over .500. It’s difficult to see how he’ll have much better luck with the Bulls. The AAC got stronger this year with the inclusion of Wichita State while Houston and SMU continue to build their programs to compete with the historical powers like Memphis and UConn, who are both down now but seem unlikely to stay that way. South Florida hasn’t been above .500 since Stan Heath’s last year in 2012, and the program doesn’t appear set up to succeed any time soon.