Michigan State landed its main target of a potential No. 1 class on Saturday as in-state, five-star wing Miles Bridges committed to the Spartans during a press conference.
The 6-foot-6 Bridges, who plays his high school ball at powerhouse Huntington Prep in West Virginia, is regarded as the No. 11 overall prospect in the Class of 2016 and the versatile lefty power wing can play multiple spots on the floor. Michigan State was able to land Bridges after a heated recruitment that included official visits to his other finalists of Indiana and Kentucky.
Playing with The Family in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer, Bridges cemented himself as a legitimate All-American candidate with his strong play and ability to score from all over the floor. In 22 games, Bridges averaged 21 points, 9.1 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 44 percent from the field.
Joining Bridges in Michigan State’s Class of 2016 is five-star guard Josh Langford, four-star point guard Cassius Winston and four-star big man Nick Ward. While the Spartans haven’t reeled in consistent five-star talent over the last few classes, the last two groups have wielded three potential All-Americans and there is a major talent influx happening for head coach Tom Izzo’s program.
Now the big question becomes if Michigan State can convince five-star wing Josh Jackson to stay in Michigan. Jackson and his family have played things close to the vest during the recruiting process, but the Spartans certainly have an attractive group in place to surround Jackson with.
Indiana eager to get to work with tough schedule ahead
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) The new rule in college basketball allowing teams to begin practice two weeks earlier is one that is being embraced by Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Indiana opens practice for the season on Friday with a pair of workouts and they will be back at work Saturday.
Crean said October will be an important month for his team, which he believes could be facing its most challenging November schedule in his eight seasons in Bloomington. The Hoosiers host Creighton Nov. 19 and then play in the Maui Invitational along with teams including Kansas, UCLA, St. Johns, UNLV, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. On Dec. 2, Indiana will play at Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
In addition, getting into an earlier practice routine should also benefit a team that went through another tumultuous offseason with three players dismissed for “not living up to their responsibilities to the program.” Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea were dismissed in May and Emmitt Holt in August.
Crean said his hope is that his team has learned some lessons in shared responsibility.
“Poor choices don’t necessarily mean poor character,” Crean said. “Poor choices sometimes just mean poor choices. Any parent should be able to attest to that. But I think the bottom line is that they have to understand that there has to be a shared responsibility 24/7 with each of them and that’s asking an awful lot. Most people have a hard time with that because you’re asking people to really look out for one another in a lot of different ways. And yet, that’s where it becomes a family.”
Crean said practice in October will be more about focusing on individual skills rather than planning for specific opponents.
“We really want to make this a great month of training, of building their skills and building their endurance but at the same time try to get them ready for the myriad of things they’re going to see as we get into the season,” he said.
Indiana returns its top five scorers from a team that finished 20-14 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wichita State.
Crean said the Hoosiers are healthy. He did say that sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr., who averaged 15.7 points last season, is still building back up following surgery in July to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee.
After the departures, Crean said that his three freshmen (Thomas Bryant, Juwan Howard and O.G. Anunoby) as well as fifth-year senior transfer Max Bielfeldt will all be counted on right away. Crean said the newcomers have had a great summer and preseason in terms of strength and conditioning.
“Thomas Bryant raising his vertical nine inches in seven weeks is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Crean said. “We’ve had guys who were here four years and got a lot better and didn’t get nine inches in a four-year period.”
As we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, let’s take a look at the head coaches who need to have a good season in order to feel safe. While the list of coaches on CBT’s “hot seat” have had poor seasons and lost their jobs before, keep in mind that the last two No. 1 selections for this list kept their jobs the following season, including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is currently thriving in College Park.
1. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana enters the 2015-16 season with top-25 talent and high expectations, but Crean finds himself atop the hot seat list for failing to meet expectations at Indiana. Crean’s now entering his eighth season as the Indiana head coach, and only once in the previous seven seasons — the 2012-13 season — have the Hoosiers been good enough to be considered a true title contender. That’s not enough, but not only is Crean struggling to find the success the Hoosier fan base craves on the floor, but the dismissal of three more players this offseason hasn’t made life any easier off the floor. Indiana’s president isn’t pleased with the off-the-court developments and many prominent Indiana alums have been vocal about the Hoosiers falling below expectations. A big season would go a long way towards quieting Crean’s doubters.
2. Josh Pastner, Memphis:Much like Crean at Indiana, Pastner has achieved success but faltered compared to a passionate fan base’s expectations. Memphis missed the postseason altogether for the first time in 15 years with last season’s 18-14 record and the team’s best returning player, Austin Nichols, transferred to Virginia, following Nick King and Pookie Powell out the door. Pastner is going to rely heavily on the freshman Lawson brothers to make a postseason appearance immediately, but in a city that became accustomed to the success of John Calipari’s Tigers, will they be satisfied if we’ve already seen Peak Pastner?
3. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech:After a 12-19 season and 14th place finish, Gregory is back for his fifth season at Georgia Tech. He’s never finished above ninth in the ACC. Gregory has coached one team to the NCAA tournament in his last 11 seasons and that came at Dayton in 2010. The local recruiting momentum is also limited for Georgia Tech under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets went 0-for-7 recruiting prospects from Georgia in the Rivals150 in the Class of 2015. In the Class of 2016, that number is 1-for-11.
4. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall:Entering his sixth season at Seton Hall, Willard has finished above .500 twice and owns a 30-60 mark in the Big East. Having never made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the pressure is on Willard to produce even though experienced guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina both transferred out of the program.
5. John Groce, Illinois: Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and that isn’t sitting well with Illini fans. Groce has never finished above seventh in the Big Ten and he hasn’t been able to reel in a lot of big-named recruits that Illinois finds itself a finalist for. Transfers like Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby haven’t lasted and proved to be harmful as replacements for those missed recruits. Illinois fans expect results and Groce needs to make the NCAAs again.
6. Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois:The once proud Southern Illinois program has had to endure Hinson’s three-year tenure. He’s thrown his own players under the bus during a postgame press conference and publicly remarked about his job security this spring. The Salukis own a 40-57 record and 19-35 mark in conference play under Hinson and he lost five transfers this offseason, three of them freshmen.
7. Donnie Jones, UCF:UCF was successful in Conference USA, but its been a rough back-to-back stretch for the program. Jones has never made the NCAA tournament and his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players. Jones was also suspended three CUSA games and the program put on probation. Now he’s 25-36 overall and 9-27 in the American the last two seasons.
8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State:It’s never a good sign when the team’s athletic director and biggest public booster, T. Boone Pickens, publicly have to back Travis Ford, which is precisely what happened in Stillwater this offseason. It’s a far worse sign that Ford owns no NCAA tournament wins since 2009 despite recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who both played for multiple seasons.
9. Dave Rice, UNLV: Rice has proven to be a formidable force on the recruiting trail, but that success has yet to translate on the Thomas and Mack Center court, as the Rebs have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. Rice was feeling the heat a little bit this offseason when rumors of Ben Howland looking at UNLV began swirling, but Howland is now at Mississippi State and Rice landed hometown McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman. Rice still doesn’t own any NCAA tournament wins, and with yet another talented recruiting class, he needs a strong season.
10. Kim Anderson, Missouri:Anderson’s first season at Mizzou was a disaster as the team went 9-23 and 3-15 in the SEC. It’s not looking much better in the future as the Tigers lost some key pieces — namely Jonathan Williams III and Teki Gill-Cesear — to transfer.