2011-2012 Big 12 Preview: Can Baylor unseat Kansas?

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AWARDS

Player of the Year: Thomas Robinson, Jr., Kansas

Robinson has not had an easy time since he’s been in Lawrence. In addition to being stuck behind The Morrii on the Jayhawk’s depth chart over his first two seasons, Robinson had to spent last season coping with the fact that his mother and both of his grandparents passed away within the span of a month. In the aftermath, he was forced to spend time and energy figuring out who his younger sister was going to live with. Through it all, Robinson had an incredibly productive sophomore campaign, averaging 7.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg in limited minutes. Robinson will be the focal point in the paint this season, and he won’t have the benefit of a clone to help him. At 6’9″, 237 lb, he’s a big, physical post presence that can potentially average a double-double if he continues to rebound the ball at a similar rate to what he did as a sophomore.

And a close second goes to…: Perry Jones, So., Baylor

Jones is probably the most talented player in the Big 12. Standing just a shade under seven feet, Jones is some kind of combination of a face-up four and a small forward. While his height and leaping ability makes him an ideal target for players dumping the ball off inside, Jones is also a terrific pick-and-pop option due to his skill-set on the perimeter and fluidity of motion. The biggest issue that Jones faced last season was that he probably didn’t get quite as many touches or attempts as he should have LaceDarius Dunn was a gunner and AJ Walton is turnover prone and doesn’t display much shot selection. This season, as the primary offensive option with a season of college ball under his belt, expect Jones to thrive as the No. 1 option offensively for the Bears.

Breakout Star: Rodney McGruder, Jr., Kansas State

Last season, McGruder — and, frankly, everyone else on Kansas State — went into Witness mode late in the year. That’s what is generally going to happen when a player as talented as Jacob Pullen puts the team on his back. But that doesn’t mean that McGruder didn’t show up. He had a couple of his best games of the season during a late stretch where the Wildcats won eight of nine games. McGruder can do it all. He shoots it well enough from deep to keep defenses honest, he’s able to get to the rim when he wants to, he is a terrific rebounder for his size (6’4″ and led the team) and he can get after it defensively. But the end of the year, you are going to know who Rodney McGruder is.

All-Conference First-Team:

POY: Thomas Robinson, Jr., Kansas
G: Marcus Denmon, Sr., Missouri
G: Tyshawn Taylor, Sr., Kansas
F: Khris Middleton, Jr., Texas A&M
F: Quincy Acy, Sr., Baylor
C: Perry Jones, So., Baylor

All-Conference Second-Team:

G: Myck Kabongo, Fr., Texas
G: Rodney McGruder, Jr., Kansas State
F: Quincy Miller, Fr., Baylor
F: Royce White, So., Iowa State
C: Ricardo Ratliffe, Sr., Missouri

Newcomer of the Year: LeBryan Nash, Fr., Oklahoma State

Nash is the perfect piece to fit into the void left by Marshall Moses as he has a lot of the same skills as the former Okie State forward. Like Moses, Nash is an undersized, energetic and supremely athletic combo-forward, big enough to score in the post but quick enough to get by his defender on the perimeter. With his ability to play both forward spots and also run the floor, he becomes the perfect power forward piece in Okie State’s uptempo attack.

All-Freshmen Team:

G: Naadir Tharpe, Kansas
G: Myck Kabongo, Texas
G: Jamal Branch, Texas A&M
F: Quincy Miller, Baylor
F: LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State

Five summer storylines

– Expansion or defection: With the decision of Colorado and Nebraska to move to the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, respectively, a year ago, the Big 12 was already on unstable ground. Then came along this year’s announcement of the Longhorn Network, which set off an entirely new round of expansion rumors. Its started Texas A&M, who eventually made the decision to make the leap to the SEC. That led to a flurry of news, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State being heavily involved with the Pac-12 while Texas seemingly approached every league in the country about the possibility of becoming a member. Eventually, instead of departing, the Big 12 got rid of commissioner Dan Beebe and became stronger by snagging TCU from under the nose of the Big East.

– Kansas player’s eligibility: The Jayhawks have had as many issues as any team in the country when it comes to the eligibility of freshmen. Currently, they are waiting for the NCAA to rule on Ben McLemore and Jamari Taylor. The latest, as of October 12th, is that both players have been cleared to start attending class and are allowed to play in unsupervised pick-up games and take part in unofficial team workouts, but they cannot practice or receive coaching until they are cleared by the NCAA. (UPDATE: McLemore and Traylor have both been ruled ineligible for 2011-2012. Its a huge blow to the Jayhawk’s depth, as Bill Self will likely be forced to use a seven-man rotation. Foul trouble will be a major issue.) They’ve already lost Braeden Anderson, a big man that had some issues with a decision he made to transfer from Canada to a school in North Carolina. Its a shame, really. Anderson truly is a student, with ambitions of heading to Law School and a 1,450 on his SAT.

And none of that even factors in the drama that occurred between Steve Fisher and Self when Self swooped in and enticed Aztec commit Kevin Young to become a Jayhawk.

– Billy Gillispie is back to his old ways: There is no question about it — Billy Clyde Gillispie is a terrific basketball coach, especially when he is coaching in Texas. Billy Clyde rebuilt two programs in Texas. He turned UTEP from a 6-24 team to a 24-win NCAA Tournament team in the span of one season. That got him to Texas A&M, where he laid the groundwork for the Aggie’s current success despite taking over a team that went 0-16 in the Big 12 the year before he got there. The problem is that Gillispie, the person, is a miserable drunk that is not easy to deal with. Cue Sports by Brooks, who reported earlier this summer that Gillispie’s attitude had already driven out three longtime members of the basketball program, one of whom was in a physical altercation with the coach. Oh, and he was the victim of not one, but two different Ponzi Schemes that cost him millions of dollars. I’d probably be difficult to deal with, too.

– Other coaches on the move: Texas Tech wasn’t the only head coaching position that came open in the spring. Missouri head coach Mike Anderson made the move to return to Arkansas, where he had spent years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson. In his stead came the somewhat surprising hire of Frank Haith from Miami, a move that appeared to back fire when Haith went on the hot set immediately after a Yahoo report claimed he knew about the purchase of a player back in 2008. Lon Kruger was the second hire made, as he was picked up by Oklahoma after the Sooners made the decision to get rid of Jeff Capel. The final change came with Texas A&M, the team on their way out the Big 12 door. Mark Turgeon took the job at Maryland, and in his stead the Aggies went with Billy Kennedy, a homerun hire. Kennedy comes from Murray State, one of the most successful mid-majors at producing high-major coaches, and is a native of Louisiana, a place where he still has connections with the high school coaches.

– Late signees for Texas: Rick Barnes made a couple of huge pickups late in the offseason. He snagged power forward Jaylen Bond, a former Pitt commit, to help bolster his front court. He also landed former Maryland-signee Sterling Gibbs, the younger brother of Ashton. UT is still going to be a team with a short bench

Five storylines heading into the season

– Expansion or defection part two: Its all come down to Missouri. Are they staying or leaving? Does the SEC want them to join or not? If Mizzou does decide to stay, the addition of TCU seems to have finally steadied the conference. If the Tigers leave, the Big 12 will be forced to make a move, bringing in either one team or three teams. Louisville, West Virginia, BYU and a smattering of other schools have had their names thrown out there. Here’s to hoping Missouri doesn’t go anywhere. I’m sick of writing about conferences realigning.

– True round robin: With ten teams in the conference this season, the Big 12 will be playing a true round robin in league play. Every team plays each other twice, meaning that there will be a brutal 18 game schedule. The Big 12 is not as top-heavy as it normally is with Kansas, Texas and Missouri all dealing with some missing pieces. But the league is balanced. Teams like Iowa State and Oklahoma State may end up finishing 7th or 8th overall, but I would be shocked if they didn’t notch a couple of wins against the top of the conference. Playing this schedule is the ideal for any basketball league if you truly want to determine who the best team — the regular season champion — is.

– Will Iowa State’s transfer pan out?: The Cyclones have become a haven for players cast off by different programs around the country. Joining the team this season is Royce White (Minnesota), Chris Babb (Penn State), Chris Allen (Michigan State) and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). That doesn’t include Korie Lucious (Michigan State) and Will Clyburn (Utah), who are both sitting out this season after transferring. That’s a risk Hoiberg has to take to try and make this team relevant again. Will it work? Who knows. On the one hand, that is a lot of head cases on one team, and combining all of those head cases has the makings for a disaster. But what if the players buy into the fact that this may be their last chance? I’m sure there is still hope of making the NBA. What better way to prove you are over your issues than by taking a slumping program and turning them into a competitor?

– Can anyone knock Kansas off pedestal?: This is the year to do it. The Jayhawks are going to be as down as they will ever be. With five key pieces — including the Morrii and two back court starters — leaving during the offseason and a recruiting class that wasn’t a typical Bill Self class before players started to get ruled ineligible, there just isn’t the kind of talent on Kansas we are used to seeing. Texas A&M and Missouri both have a shot of taking the throne heading into the season. The most likely team to keep the Jayhawks from winning an eighth straight league title? Baylor, but that’s only if …

– Baylor’s PG play improves: That’s going to be the determining factor for this team. They have size, they have perimeter scoring, they as much athleticism along their front line as most NBA teams and they have two future lottery picks in Perry Jones and Quincy Miller. All they need is a facilitator, a guy that can get a bucket upon occasion, but that understands his role of picking his spots, creating opportunities for his teammates and focusing on the fact he needs too limit his bad shots and turnovers. AJ Walton couldn’t do the latter last season. With JuCo all-american Pierre Jackson and Cal transfer Gary Franklin, a former top 100 player, Walton will have to step up his game if he wants to keep that job.

Power Rankings

1. Baylor: The Bears were simply never able to find a rhythm last season. The season started with LaceDarius Dunn getting suspended over a domestic disturbance and ended with Perry Jones being suspended for the Big 12 Tournament due to improper benefits he received from his AAU coach in high school. In between, the Bears struggled after coasting through the easy part of their non-conference schedule. They finished 7-9 in the Big 12 — good for seventh — and were smacked by cellar dweller Oklahoma in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament.

The biggest issue that Baylor faced last season will be their biggest question mark heading into this season. Scott Drew was never able to find a suitable replacement for the point guard play of Tweety Carter. There will be options this season. AJ Walton returns, although he is turnover prone and displayed poor shot selection running the team last season. He’ll be competing with Pierre Jackson, who was a JuCo all-american at the College of Southern Idaho last season, and Gary Franklin, who started at Cal as a freshman before transferring out midway through the year. Franklin will be eligible in December. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle at the point this year, as finding a player that can create and run a team with as much raw talent on it as Baylor has will be vital if the Bears want to get back to the level of their 2010 Elite 8 club.

The talent on this roster in undeniable. We’ll start in the front court, where Drew has a front line with as much size and athleticism as anyone in the country, perfect for his 2-3 zone. Perry Jones, when he gets back from his five-game suspension to start the season, and Quincy Miller, when he gets back to 100% after tearing his acl, are both future lottery picks. Jones is taller and more of a face-up four while Miller is a 6’9″ slasher that’s drawn some comparisons to Kevin Durant. Anthony Jones is a 6’10” lefty with three-point range while J’Mison Morgan is a lumbering, 6’11” center that moved into the starting lineup late in the year. Quincy Acy became the team’s 6th man even though he played starter’s minutes. He’s one of the most athletically powerful players in the country and Baylor’s best rebounder and shot blocker. Brady Heslip, a high-scoring combo-guard that transferred in from Boston College, and Deuce Bello, who may be the best dunker in the country, will split minutes at the off-guard spot. Baylor has as much raw talent as any team in the country, but whether or not Drew can fit all the pieces together will determine whether this group wins the conference or finishes in the middle of the pack. I can see both scenarios happening.

2. Kansas: With the amount of turmoil that Kansas endured throughout the season, its quite impressive that they finished the year 35-3 while winning both Big 12 titles. It started with Josh Selby’s eligibility, as the team didn’t find out until right before the start of the season that their star recruit would be suspended for nine games. That wasn’t the end of the Selby soap opera, either, as the freshman exploded for 21 points and the game-winning bucket in his first game, but never came close to repeating that kind of performance. Tyshawn Taylor was suspended mid-season for “violating team rules” while Mario Little was suspended for an off-campus assault. And, of course, there was the tragedy of Thomas Robinson and the passing of both his grandparents and his mother. That is a lot for one team to go through in a season.

This is going to be a new look Jayhawks team in 2011-2012. Selby and both of the Morris twins entered the NBA Draft. Senior stalwarts Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar both graduated. What that means is the Jayhawks will be bringing back just one full-time starter and only three other players that were consistently in Bill Self’s rotation. The guy that most people are predicting will carry this team is Robinson, a 6’9″ specimen of a power forward. Robinson only played 14 mpg, but he still managed to average 7.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg, which made him one of the most productive players in the country. He’ll need to continue that kind of production playing more minutes next season as the Jayhawks will have a thin front line. Braeden Anderson has already been ruled ineligible. Fellow freshman Jamari Traylor, as well as small forward Ben McLemore, are both still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether or not they will be cleared to play. If they aren’t, that means that seven foot junior Jeff Withey and Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young, who averaged double figures as a freshman, will be it in terms of front court depth.

In the back court, Tyshawn Taylor returns for his senior season. He’ll be counted on for a big year as the Jayhawk’s primary ballhandler and senior leader. The uber-athletic Elijah Johnson, who shows flashes of major talent but no where near enough discipline to see extended minutes under Self, and redshirt junior Travis Releford will also return on the perimeter. Both players will be counted on for big seasons as well, as the Jayhawks will be looking for a go-to scorer on the perimeter. Freshman point guard will be there to provide some depth and will allow Self some flexibility in the lineups he puts on the floor, but if McLemore doesn’t end up getting cleared, the Jayhawks will have a relatively short bench in their back court as well. This will be a bit of a rebuilding year for Kansas made more difficult due to the fact that their recruiting class, which isn’t up to the usual standards for the school, has players that may end up ineligible. Its important to remember that guys like Johnson, Releford, Withey and Robinson — the upper-classmen that have toiled in reserve roles the past couple of seasons — were all highly-regarded recruits as freshmen. There is still talent on this roster, and the Jayhawks will still be competing for the Big 12 regular season title. But if anyone is going to snap their string of seven consecutive regular season titles, this is the year to do it.

3. Texas A&M: The Aggies have become one of the most consistent programs in the Big 12. Starting with Billy Gillispie and continuing with Mark Turgeon, A&M has become a program that has prided themselves of stingy defense and a disciplined offense that scores just enough to win games. With Turgeon now at Maryland and Billy Kennedy running the show in College Station, that much shouldn’t change. While the intricacies of the system will differ, Kennedy and Turgeon have similar enough coaching styles that the roster that Kennedy inherits — one that returns a number of critical pieces from a team that won 24 games and finished third in the league — should be able to adapt fairly easily.

The star of this A&M team will be junior wing Khris Middleton. Middleton stands 6’7″, but he’s got a unique flare to his game. He’s not overly explosive and he’s not a lights-out shooter, but he does have a smooth mid-range game, excelling in that 5-15 foot range where so many players these days struggle. He hit a bit of a late-season slump once defenses started keying on him, but with a more consistent jump shot, he should be able to handle that defensive focus better as a junior. Perhaps the most important addition for the Aggies this year is Elston Turner, a transfer from Washington. The Aggies badly needed a three-point sniper, and Turner has the potential to be a double-figure scorer next year. Junior Naji Hibbert should also see some time on the wing, as will freshman Jordan Green — who is an insane athlete. The biggest position battle will probably end up being at the point guard spot. Dash Harris is a terrific on ball defender, but offensively he’s a liability. He can’t shoot — 26.8% from the floor, 16.7% from three — and he turns the ball over too much. That could create an opportunity for freshman Jamal Branch to earn quite a few minutes and possibly start.

The front court will be anchored by David Loubeau, who has developed himself into a solid scorer in the post. He needs to improve the rest of his game — he turns the ball over four times for every assist, he’s not a great rebounder and he’s certainly not a shotblocker — but having a player that can score with his back to the basket is a good thing. Sophomore Kourtney Roberson can also be a scoring threat on the block and may end up being a more productive player than Loubeau, which is meant as a compliment to Roberson more than a shot at Loubeau. Junior Ray Turner also returns inside while sophomore Keith Davis and freshmen Grant Jolly and Daniel Alexander will be in the mix for playing time as well. If Turner can provide a secondary scoring threat on the perimeter, the Aggie’s front line becomes more adept at scoring and rebounding in the paint and A&M gets more consistent point guard play, this team will have a very real shot at winning the league’s regular season title. They are that good.

4. Missouri: Its been a rough offseason for the fans of the Missouri basketball program. Their old head coach, Mike Anderson, took the head coaching job at Arkansas. Their new head coach, Frank Haith, run into plenty of trouble in his short tenure at Missouri, not only committing a violation by speaking with a reporter about a recruit that had not signed with the school, but also because of his involvement with the Nevan Shapiro case that Yahoo broke in August. As if that wasn’t enough, the school has been in constant limbo since conference realignment began last summer, having flirted with both the Big Ten and, this summer, the SEC in an effort to break away from the Big 12. Perhaps most importantly, however, is in the injury suffered by Laurence Bowers.

There is an argument to be made that Bowers was the most important player on Missouri. Last year, he was the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder as well as their most versatile defender, the kind of player that could guard three or four different positions. To make matters worse, the Tigers were already exceptionally thin up front. Sure, they still have Ricardo Ratliffe, a physical low-post presence that can score and rebound on the block, but the rest of their front line is limited. Steve Moore is a 6’9″, 270 lb senior that has played limited minutes in his Missouri career. Kadeem Green is a redshirt freshman with some promise, but there is no guarantee he’ll be a major contributor. And that’s it for the front court.

Missouri’s perimeter attack, however, is going to be loaded. It starts with Marcus Denmon, an explosive scorer and sharpshooter at the off-guard spot. Denmon is one of the more underrated guards in the country and a guy that the stat gurus love. He was the 19th most efficient player in the country a season ago thanks to he sniper-esque 44.8% from long range, his impressive shot-selection and the fact that he doesn’t turn the ball over. He averaged 17.2 ppg as a junior, so it will be tough to ask him for more, but the Tigers may end up needing it. Joining him on the perimeter will be Kim English, a 6’6″ wing that had a season-long shooting slump last year. Mizzou will be counting heavily on him to return to his sophomore year form. If English can iron out the kinks in his jumper, he gives Missouri three players that are capable of going for 20 points on a given night. English may also be counted on to play bigger this season, as there will probably be times when he has to play the four spot if Haith is forced to use four guards. Another senior, Matt Pressey, rounds out the perimeter rotation. Missouri also has two quality point guards on their roster in sophomore Phil Pressey, Matt’s younger brother, and junior Michael Dixon. Pressey is smaller, but quicker, and a better on-ball defender and playmaker while Dixon is the better scorer and has more size. They are a quality combination and will likely share the court. With Bowers, Missouri had a very good shot at making a run to the Big 12 title. Without him, they still have that chance, but its going to be a much tougher road.

5. Kansas State: The 2010-2011 looked like it was going to be a disaster for the Wildcats. They struggled in their three marquee non-conference games and they kicked off Big 12 play with a 2-5 start which, combined with a three games suspension for Jacob Pullen, nine games worth of suspensions for Curtis Kelly and the mid-season defections of Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla, left the preseason No. 3 team in the country on the garbage heap. That’s before Jacob Pullen took over. The senior guard went for 38 points as the Wildcats knocked off then-No. 1 Kansas at home and proceeded to carry the Wildcats to wins in eight of their last nine league games, which was enough to get K-State dancing.

The bad news is that the Wildcats lose Pullen to graduation, which is a hole that will be impossible to fill. But they also graduate Curtis Kelly which, when combined with the four transfers Kansas State has lost over the last year, should mean that Kansas State head coach Frank Martin now has a roster full of players that want to play for him. The star of this year’s team will, in all likelihood, be Rodney McGruder. A 6’4″ shooting guard with a solid offensive arsenal, McGruder was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer, leading rebounder and second on the team in assists last year. He should be primed for a big junior season. Sophomore point guard Will Spradling should also have a good year. He impressed at times as a freshman. St. John’s transfer Omari Lawrence, Shane Southwell and Martavious Irving will give K-State some depth on the perimeter. The x-factor may end up being Nino Williams, a top 100 recruit that enrolled at Kansas State early but redshirted last season after getting two concussions. JuCo transfer Jeremy Jones and freshman Angel Rodriguez may see minutes as well.

The front court for Kansas State may be a bit of an issue. Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts do both return. Samuels is an athletic power forward that can really get after it on the glass and has the ability to step out onto the perimeter and knock down a jumper. Henriquez-Roberts is a 6’11” center that was a terror in the paint last season. He blocked a lot of shots and he got a lot of rebounds while playing just 13.4 mpg. If he can bring the same kind of energy and production for 25-30 mpg, he’ll be a very good player. After that, however, the front court is young. Two freshmen — Adrian Diaz and Thomas Gibson — and a JuCo transfer — James Watson — join the seldom-used Victor Ojeleye. The Wildcats should still compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but replacing Pullen is not going to be an easy thing to do.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones finished last season with a 16-16 record and a 3-13 mark in the Big 12. And while those numbers weren’t nearly as bad as they seem on paper — Fred Hoiberg’s club lost a lot of close games — they are also fairly irrelevant, as the team that will be on the floor in Ames next season will look completely different from the one that played last season. Three of the Cyclones top four scorers graduate, and that includes star point guard Diante Garrett. That production should be replaced as Hoiberg brings in four Division I transfers, a JuCo transfers and three freshmen.

The name that everyone is going to recognize on this roster is Royce White, a former top 30 recruit who flamed out at Minnesota when he couldn’t handle playing in his home city and found himself in trouble with the law. White hasn’t played basketball in two seasons, but based on his performances in summer leagues — averaging a triple double? — and during Iowa State’s trip to Italy, its obvious that the 6’8″, 270 lb power forward can still play. Also joining the team this season is Southern Illinois transfer Anthony Booker, another former top 50 recruit. Booker is a bit bigger and more athletic than White, although he doesn’t have the same level of skill offensively. Melvin Ejim, an undersized-but-energetic forward, averaged double figures as a freshman and led the team in offensive rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Railey and freshman Percy Gibson round out the front court.

The perimeter attack will be flush, as Hoiberg will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. It starts with all-Big 12 honorable mention Scott Christopherson, who is one of the deadliest shooters in the country and the leading returning scorer for the Cyclones at 13.4 ppg. He’ll be joined on the wing by Chris Allen and Chris Babb. Allen started off and on during his three seasons at Michigan State before getting kicked off the team last year. Babb was a double-figure scorer at Penn State. Both players have an all-around game, but base their ability to get to the basket off of their jump shot. JuCo transfer Tyrus McGee will also see time. He is another guy that comes in with the reputation of being a big-time shooter — sense a trend here? Iowa State lived by the three in Hoiberg’s uptempo system, thriving off of the ability of Darius Garrett to create. With Garrett gone and a legitimate scoring option on the block in White, the Cyclones will not need to rely on the three-ball as much, but finding consistent point guard play to allow them to continue to run will be important. Freshman Tavon Sledge, who went to the same high school as Tobias Harris, and local product Bubu Palo, a former walk-on that spelled Garrett last season, will be responsible for filling that role. What kind of product Hoiberg’s club puts on the floor this season is unclear; its difficult to build a mercedes with pieces you pull off of the scrap heap. The talent is there to finish in the top half of the league, however.

7. Texas: For the second straight season, Texas played their way to the top of the national rankings only to fall apart late in the year. In 2009-2010, the Longhorns started the season 17-0 and earned their first No. 1 ranking ever before losing 10 of their last 17 games and flaming out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Longhorns won their first 11 Big 12 games and once again climbed into the top five, but after losing five of their last 10 games, UT found themselves heading home after losing to Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

I think its safe to say that no program in the country was hit as hard by early entry to the NBA Draft as Texas was this past season. Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph left school with a combined eight seasons of eligibility left, leaving the Longhorns without much talent on their roster. The strength of this team is going to be in their back court, and whether or not they are able to compete with the big boys in the league is going to depend quite a bit on what kind of player Myck Kabongo ends up being. He’s a pure point guard and a leader, but Texas needs a guy that can take over a game this season. Kabongo has drawn some comparisons to Chris Paul, and while he makes his teammates better, is there enough talent around him that he will be able to take this team to the tournament? The only back court returner is J’Covan Brown, who will have to be a big time scorer for the Longhorns this season. Freshmen Ashton Gibbs, Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis were all highly-regarded recruits that are going to have to perform immediately.

The front court may end up being a major issue for the Longhorns. Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman both return, but neither is much of a low-post scoring threat. Both players are better-suited to being role players and energy guys than the anchor of a front line. Jaylen Bond is a former Pitt commit and was a late signee, and his addition helps, as will Jonathon Holmes, another freshman big man. That’s it, however. Someone is going to have to step up and be a playmaker in the paint for the Longhorns. For a program that has been able to recruit the way Texas has over the past four years, its astonishing to think that this team may end up being in the bottom half of the Big 12.

8. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys simply never appeared to be on the same page last season. Anywhere. Offensively, the Pokes struggled when Keiton Page, JP Olukemi and Marshall Moses were missing shots, as they simply didn’t have the offensively talent surrounding those two. Part of the issue was, likely, the lack of consistency in the lineup and the rotation. Head coach Travis Ford lost his top two point guards by season’s end, with Fred Gulley needing shoulder surgery and Ray Penn getting kicked off the team. Darrell Williams was suspended in February due to a sexual assault allegation, and his trial won’t be until January. Matt Pilgrim was suspended multiple times during his tenure at Oklahoma State and had issues with dedication to the team. That lack of continuity showed, especially on the road. The Pokes went 6-2 at home in Big 12 play, but 0-8 away from Gallagher-Iba.

There will be a lot of new faces for Oklahoma State next season, but that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. Penn has transferred out of the program. Pilgrim graduated. Williams probably won’t suit up until his legal issues are cleared up, and its unclear when, exactly, that happens. And while losing Moses is going to hurt, his production should be made up for by the addition of LeBryan Nash. Nash is a physical specimen, a chiseled, 6’7″ combo-forward that looks like he could be playing tight end in the NFL. He’s a freak athlete and an aggressive rebounder, but he’s developed his perimeter game to the point that its evident his future is as a small forward. But, like Nash, the rest of OSU’s front line is unproved. Philip Jurick was once a Tennessee commit and a four-star recruit, but that was in the Class of 2008. He’s redshirted a year and spent two at JuCos since then. Michael Cobbins, a top 100 recruit last year, was called a “future player of the year” and a “skinny Marcus Morris” by Marshal Moses, but he’s a 190 lb redshirt freshman right now. Seven foot freshman Marek Souček should also see minutes.

Ford has always wanted to bring a more uptempo style to Stillwater, and this may be the year to do it as he finally has some depth — and some young, talented players — on the perimeter. At the point, sophomore Fred Gulley should be fully recovered from his shoulder surgery this season, and even if he isn’t, junior Reger Dowell played well when he got a chance late in the season. Keiton Page also returns, and while he is less of a point guard than he is a scorer that handles the ball, he would still be an effective option in an uptempo system. Olukemi proved to be an effective slasher on the wing, averaging 11.2 ppg last year, while Markel Brown had a promising freshman campaign. Throw in a handful of couple freshman — Cezar Guerrero, Brian Williams — and Ford has options if he wants his club to get up and down the floor, particularly if Nash proves to be effective on the defensive end if he slides over to a big man spot. If anything, the most important aspect for this team is going to be improving their assist-to-turnover ratio (.74:1 last year) and their three-point shooting (29.5%, 333rd in the country). If those areas improve, the Pokes will become a better road team and sneak up on a couple of opponents.

9. Oklahoma: The Jeff Capel era didn’t last very long in Norman. He lost 36 games in two years in the post-Blake Griffin era, may some massive mistakes on the recruiting trail that ended up costing him his job. Capel had the all-headcase back court of Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin in 2009-2010 leave school as well as Tiny Gallon, a lumbering, 6’9″ forward that got caught up in a scandal over $3,000 that was wired to him by a financial investor in Florida. Without those three, the Sooners were left with a roster full of inexperience, and it showed. They finished 10th in the Big 12 and only won a tournament game because Baylor learned about the news of Perry Jones’ suspension the day of the game.

The Sooners brought in Lon Kruger during the offseason, but success certainly won’t be immediate as the Sooners lost their leading scorer in Cade Davis. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare, however. The strength of Oklahoma is going to be on their front line. Andrew Fitzgerald was probably Oklahoma’s most consistent player a year ago. At 6’8″, he’s a solid option on the block and does have the ability to score with his back to the basket. He’ll be joined by Mississippi State transfer Romero Osby, another hefty 6’8″ post player that Capel repeatedly said was one of the best players in the program last season as Osby sat out due to transfer rules. Osby should be able to help out on the glass, an area that is not Fitzgerald’s strong suit. It will be interesting to see if Kruger can develop some depth up front. Senior CJ Washington and sophomore Tyler Neal both saw minutes last season, as did senior Barry Honore. JuCo transfer Casey Arent should get time as well.

The back court also has some pieces returning. Point guard Carl Blair, a transfer from the University of New Orleans, was one of the best assist men in the conference a year ago, and that shouldn’t change this season. Blair, a junior, does need to cut down his turnovers, however. Senior Steven Pledger will be counted on to up his scoring to fill the void left by Davis, and it will be nice if he can become a more consistent shooter from beyond the arc as well. Cameron Clark could end up being an x-factor for this team. He’ll likely be playing more of a wing role this season — he was essentially the four last year — and he is certainly a talented kid. Can he become a go-to scorer on the perimeter? The back court won’t be all that deep this season. JuCo transfer Sam Grooms and sophomore Calvin Newell should be the first two guys Kruger turns too. Oklahoma will be more experienced next season, which should lead to a couple more victories. But they lack the star power and the overall talent level to truly compete at the top of the league.

10. Texas Tech: Pat Knight knew he was going to lose his job. During the summer, he said that his contract should not be renewed if he couldn’t get his Red Raider team to the NCAA Tournament in 2011. With a talented group of seniors that were coming off of a trip to the NIT quarterfinals in a season where they cracked the top 25, Knight’s club lost seven games in non-conference play and then started league play with four straight losses. Tech would go on to end the year with a 13-20 record and a 5-11 mark in league play. Knight, to his credit, handled it extremely professionally, telling the school to announce their decision before the Big 12 Tournament started so as to make their search for a replacement go that much quicker.

The replacement they got, as we mentioned earlier, was Billy Gillispie. Personal issues aside, Tech is a perfect fit for Gillispie. He built both UTEP and Texas A&M into the programs they are today, and did so quickly. There is no question that this guy knows how to coach in Texas. It may take a while before he is able to rebuild this program, however. Only three players return from last year’s team. Robert Lewandowski is a 6’10’ senior that started 26 games and was the team’s fifth-leading scorer. Sophomores Javarez Willis and Jaye Crockett both came off the bench and had their moments. After that, its all newcomers. Gillispie brings in nine freshmen and three JuCo transfers. Some of them are fairly talented as well — Kevin Wagner, Terran Petteway, Jordan Tolbert and Todrick Gotcher. I would not be surprised to se Gillispie turn this program around. I just don’t expect it to happen this season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Ohio State’s Seth Towns detained by police at Columbus protest on Friday

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One day after he officially graduated from Harvard, Ohio State transfer Seth Towns was detained by police in Columbus during a protest over the death of George Floyd.

A source confirmed to NBC Sports that Towns was taken into custody, but that he was released as of Friday night. Video of the incident was obtained by Eleven Warriors, who broke the news early on Saturday morning.

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Columbus police announced that five people were arrested on Friday, the second day protests in the city, but according to the source, Seth Towns was not one of the five arrested. He was protesting peacefully when police asked him to move off the street, and Towns refused. He was handcuffed, moved and released.

“In a span of just 24 hours, I walked across a Harvard virtual graduation stage into the back of police van alongside other peaceful protestors—both of which I am equally proud of,” Towns said in a statement. “To those who are silent, speak up—to those who are hurting, unite; and for those who are fighting with the weapons of love and justice, keep going. I’m right there with you!”

Ohio State AD Gene Smith tweeted, “Proud of you, Seth,” on Saturday, while Tommy Amaker, the head coach at Harvard, released a statement in support of his former player.

“We fully support out players’ right to peacefully protest,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “In the time I’ve gotten to know Seth, it’s clear that he has a heart for social justice. As I said in my statement yesterday morning, we will continue to openly discuss this within our program.”

Towns, who is the most socially conscious player in the Ohio State program, last played for Harvard during the 2017-18 season, when he was the Ivy League Player of the Year. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 16 points and shot 44.1 percent from three as a sophomore for the Crimson. He is eligible to play this season, and has two years of eligibility remaining.

2020 NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Where will Obi Toppin get picked?

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Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft. Who are the best 2020 NBA Draft prospects?

One thing that needs to be mentioned before we get into the meat of this 2020 NBA mock draft is that the only thing certain about the draft is that, eventually, it is going to happen.

When will the 2020 NBA Draft happen? Right now it is scheduled for June 25th, but that seems likely to change at some point. We can’t hold the draft until we have a draft order, and we won’t have a draft order until the NBA season finishes. If you haven’t noticed, it seems pretty unlikely that the NBA will start again until at least May.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

There are also questions about the way the pre-draft process will play out. Prospects will not be flying around the country to participate in workouts. They will not be going from team-to-team to conduct interviews. It seems unlikely that there is going to be a combine in mid-May, if at all. There is a real feeling amongst NBA teams that they have scouted these prospects in person for the last time.

What does that mean for the players that have declared, or will declare in the coming days and weeks?

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Well, they won’t be able to convince teams that they were capable of doing things that they weren’t allowed to do within the confines of their college team. They won’t be able to spend eight weeks doing nothing but perfecting a three-point shot to look good at the combine or during workouts. They won’t be able to show out during the NCAA tournament and turn themselves into a first round pick.

This is all new and unprecedented.

So with that in mind, a couple programming notes:

First and foremost, I am not projecting which teams will be picking in specific slots. There are just far too many question marks about right now, particularly when you consider that the NBA changed the way their lottery works this season. So for now, this is just a ranking of who I believe are the best available players.

Secondly, I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a 2020 NBA Mock Draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.

Hey, at least I’m being honest about it.

So without further ado, here is the NBC Sports 2020 NBA Mock Draft.



2020 NBA MOCK DRAFT

1. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia, SG

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 40% FG, 29% 3PT

Edwards is the best scorer in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level bucket-getter that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. Ask Michigan State. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.

But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settled for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hit a couple in a row, but he shot 29 percent from three as a freshman. That speaks for itself, although part of that inefficiency absolutely stems from the load he was asked to carry. Edwards was not getting too many easy looks created for him.

There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.

2. LAMELO BALL, Australia

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-7, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 17 ppg, 7 apg, 7.5 rpg

I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be you thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.

But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-7 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star feature guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every read you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.

Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality. There are risks here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class.

The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence. He may have a high ceiling, but there’s also some bust potential at play. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

3. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Details: 19 years old, 7-foot-1, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg

Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.

The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to quit on his Memphis team in December, halfway through a suspension for break (admittedly silly) NCAA rules.

My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.

4. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 bpg, 63% FG, 39% 3PT

Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that, if I were an NBA GM, I would want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.

The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that is versatile offensively — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game, he’s a capable and willing passer. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter. And while there is some value in being capable of guarding fours or fives, there are some valid questions about whether or not he’ll be above average guarding either.

I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.

I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:

5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 1.2 spg, 72% FT

For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produced at the college level, both as a scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 15-for-35 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-19 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line on 143 free throws.

Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.

6. ISAAC OKORO, Auburn

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 29% 3PT

Okoro is another guy that I would want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that better fits that role than Okoro.

I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball. He definitely is a capable and willing playmaker.

The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.

Here’s a breakdown from January:

7. TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 175 lbs
Key Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg, 41.9% 3PT

Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.

If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level?

I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.

8. COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 35% 3PT

I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for during the season.

I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.

The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He plays like Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?

What I will say is this: Anthony did become a better passer later in the season, as he gained more confidence in his teammates and after he went through a stretch where he was shooting the Tar Heels out of games. That’s a good sign, but I still have my doubts.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

9. TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 29% 3PT

Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.

And while he would show flashes of being the dominant scorer Kentucky needed him to be, the Wildcats late-season surge was a direct result of Immanuel Quickley’s improvement, not Maxey finding consistency. We spent the entire season saying “just wait until Maxey finds his stroke” and he never really did. He needs to be able to make that shot because the rest of his game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.

10. SADDIQ BEY, Villanova

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-8, 216 lbs
Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 45% 3PT
Full Scouting Report

Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I would want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.

Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He hit 45 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game, and he finished in the 98th percentile nationally in spot-up shooting, according to Synergy. He has shown some playmaking ability, and while he’s not much of an off-the-dribble shooter at this point in his development, he is capable of playing as the handler in ball-screen actions. Most importantly, as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.

But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they were the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who was a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.

So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all four of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.

11. R.J. HAMPTON, Australia

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-5, 188 lbs
Key Stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 31.7% 3PT

Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. Again, that will come with time.

The biggest concern I have with Hampton — who played this past season in Australia — is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet.

12. DEVIN VASSELL, Florida State

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 180 lbs
Key Stats: 12.7 ppg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 42% 3PT

Vassell was one of the breakout stars of the ACC, leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooter. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and he’s proven to be a playmaker on that end of the floor — he averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s precisely what you look for as a 3-and-D wing. In a 2020 NBA Mock Draft where it’s hard to find sure things, Vassell, on paper, seems to be as close to a known quantity as you are going to get in this range.

13. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.1 spg, 33% 3PT

The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he did make some threes this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.

But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He was a freshman this season and he is just two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who was a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.

14. NICO MANNION, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 33% 3PT

I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes shots and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.

My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt, which is a problem for an NBA point guard. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what he does that truly sets him apart, and the fact that he was the leader of an Arizona team that kept losing games they shouldn’t lose is concerning.

15. AARON NESMITH, Vanderbilt

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 213 lbs
Key Stats: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 52.2% 3PT, 8.2 3PAs

Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this. That’s the kind of leap that Buddy Hield made heading into his senior season. Nesmith is just a sophomore.

That said, Hield won at a significantly higher clip than Nesmith did, and Hield did it against Big 12 competition. Nesmith’s season was cut short before he really got into the teeth of SEC play. But I’d be willing to roll the dice on his shooting carrying him to a role in the league.

16. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 77% FT

What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?

I also think Stewart is the kind of guy that will be hurt by the fact that there won’t be any workouts. He’s an impressive interview that could show off his shooting and, at least in theory, prove what he can do defensively.

17. PATRICK WILLIAMS, Florida State

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 32% 3PT

The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams was coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. No one ever puts up huge numbers in a Leonard Hamilton program. What they do is incubate players that project as role guys in the league. At 6-foot-8, Williams is a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and that can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed. And while the shooting stroke was somewhat inconsistent this past season, the potential is there — he did shoot 84 percent from three this year.

18. JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-10, 200 lbs
Key Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 bpg, 34% 3PT

On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page. His ‘wow’ moments pop.

On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet with slender shoulders and skinny legs. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And during Pac-12 play, all of the red flags came to the forefront. Emotional outbursts led to far too many technical fouls. He led the Pac-12 in fouls and turnovers. He averaged just 11 points during conference play. He was benched for the last ten games, and Washington wasn’t definitively better with him on the floor.

He’s a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.

19. JALEN SMITH, Maryland

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 37 3PT%

Stix Smith was one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that stsrted to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. Defensively, he can protect the rim, but will that translate to the NBA, where every five he goes up against will have 20 pounds on him? And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.

All that said, over the course of the last eight weeks of the season, Smith’s potential turned into production. It was the biggest reason Maryland looked like one of the best teams in the country down the stretch. I’m willing to bet on him at the back end of the first round.

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20. TRE JONES, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 36.1% 3PT

Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. He was the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. His box score numbers were impressive, and his impact on basketball games goes well beyond the box score.

But more importantly, his jump shot showed real, tangible improvement. Jones made 36 percent of his threes and shot four of them per night. In catch-and-shoot situations, he made 40 percent of his jumpers and hit them at a 1.18 points-per-possession clip (or a 59% eFG, which was in the 82nd percentile nationally). His pull-up game isn’t there yet, but if he went from being a guy that teams flat-out did not guard beyond 12 feet as a freshman to a 36 percent shooter as a sophomore, whose to say his pull-up game won’t be next?

If Jones never gets any better, if this is who he is for the rest of his basketball career, he’s a backup point guard in the league until he doesn’t want to play anymore. If he continues to develop his shot, however, he could end up being a starting point guard. I find it hard to believe this kid isn’t going to keep getting better. In a draft like this, that’s great value this late.

21. JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-4, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 43% 3PT

I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.

But he’s a bouncy athlete that can play in transition, shoots the cover off of the ball and should be able to attack closeouts. The two major question marks are on the defensive end of the floor and shooting off of the dribble, but those are things that can be improved with time. He’s not the player that I thought he would be, but he’s still good enough that using a top 25 pick on him makes sense.

22. KIRA LEWIS Jr., Alabama

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 165 lbs
Key Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 spg, 37% 3PT

Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore — he enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old and won’t turn 19 until April — and he put up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. He also shot 37 percent from three for the second consecutive season. He’s slender, he’s turnover prone and part of the reason he produced as much as he did this season was because of the pace that Alabama played at. He’s worth a first round pick, especially considering his age.

23. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 43% 3PT

Winston did not have the season many of us expected him to have as a senior — understandably, given the death of his brother in November — but he still put up All-American numbers for a team that won a share of the Big Ten regular season title. He was playing his best basketball down the stretch, and he still have the highest basketball IQ of anyone in this 2020 NBA mock draft. He’s an elite passer and shooter that thrives in ball-screens. Yes, the defense and athleticism are concerns, but we said the same thing about numerous point guards that have made careers out of being backup point guards. Winston is the next in that pipeline.

24. JOSH GREEN, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-6, 210 lbs
Key Stats: 12.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 36% 3PT

Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he was limited as a scorer in the half court — 1.19 PPP in transition vs. 0.825 in the half court — and part of that is due to the fact that he shot just 33.3 percent on jumpers in half court offense.

25. VERNON CAREY, Duke

Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-10, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 38% 3PT

Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. To be frank, I’m not really all that concerned about the offensive side of the ball with Carey. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?

26. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-8, 245 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.2 spg

I may be out on a limb here, but I truly believe that Tillman is worth a first round pick, especially in this year’s draft class. There’s really two reasons for this: For starters, he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman. But he is also an excellent defender that can really read the game. Talk to people around the Michigan State program and they’ll tell you he ran everything defensively. It was his voice that teammates heard. Now, the major question mark is his size. At just 6-foot-8, can he defend fives? Is he quick enough to play the four? If we knew for a fact that the answer to both of those questions would be ‘yes, and he can do it very well,’ I would have him slotted as a top 20 pick.

27. DANIEL OTURU, Minnesota

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-10, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 20.1 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 37% 3PT

In a league where seemingly every team had a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center in the Big Ten. The numbers that he put up speak for themselves. He was one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better than some of the bigs slotted in front of him.

28. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-11, 240 lbs
Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg

Nnaji is the most explosive big in this 2020 NBA mock draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?

29. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 18.1 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 spg, 31% 3PT

At some point it just becomes impossible to ignore the production. Dotson averaged 18-4-4 for the best team in college basketball, showcasing the ability to get to the rim almost at will while playing tough, aggressive on-ball defense for the best defensive team in the sport. There are some concerns — he’s very right hand-dominant, he shot 31 percent from three, he’s not physically imposing — but he’s worth a flier in this draft class.

30. UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

Details: 20 years old, 7-foot, 250 lbs
Key Stats:13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 75% FG, 44% FT

I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that Doke helped his professional outlook more than any player in college basketball this season. He was the most dominant defensive force in the sport. His ability to control the paint was unmatched, but he shed enough weight and improved his footspeed enough that he was able to shutdown pick-and-roll actions playing drop coverage, something we are seeing more of in the NBA.

The big question is if he is quick enough to be able to do that at the professional level as well, because he is never going to be a threat to do anything offensively more than four feet away from the rim and he’ll always be a Hack-a-Doke risk given his free throw shooting.

But a year ago, I would have said there was no chance that Azubuike could play in the NBA. None. And now I think that he’ll be an effective piece for a team that is creative in the way they use him in certain matchups.

31. CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-6, 193 lbs
Key Stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 36% 3PT

Stanley is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class. He’s a guy that projects as a plus-defender as a result. If you assume that his 36 percent three-point shooting is for real, he’s a solid 3-and-D wing prospect that could find a way onto a roster. His shooting mechanics are a little funky, and he was flat-out bad shooting off the dribble, but he was in the 87th percentile nationally on all jump shots at 1.099 PPP and the 93rd percentile nationally on catch-and-shoot jumpers at 1.312 PPP, according to Synergy.

32. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-6, 215 lbs
Key Stats: 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 35% 3PT

Pons is the best athlete and the best defender in this entire 2020 NBA mock draft class. You often hear things like “he can guard all five positions” which tends to be an exaggeration. Not for Pons. He can, quite literally, guard any point guard, any center and anyone in between. He can play the four, and at times even the five, in small-ball lineups in the NBA to great effect. What makes him even more intriguing is that he shot 42 percent on unguarded catch-and-shoot threes. I think this is the most important number when it comes to his three-point shooting, because these are the face-up, step-in threes that he’ll be shooting at the next level.

The thing about Pons is that he played the three as a sophomore. As a junior, he was Tennessee’s four, which meant that instead of coming off of screens to get a shot, he was stepping into them as a trailing big or catching and shooting as a floor-spacer. This is the role he would play in the league.

Put it all together, and I’ll buy on a player that has an elite NBA skill with the potential to fill out his game to be effective in a role.

33. PAUL REED, DePaul

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 220 lbs
Key Stats: 15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 1.9 spg

Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been two high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle and Nerlens Noel. Noel is the only other high-major player to average 1.9 steals and 2,5 blocks. While Reed is shooting just 16-for-52 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 75 percent free throw shooter the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in, even with DePaul’s late-season swoon.

34. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-5, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 30% 3PT

Dosunmu is a tough player to project. On the one hand, he has all the physical tools to be a capable combo-guard in the NBA, and he proved himself as a slasher and clutch-shot maker as a sophomore. On the other hand, in a year where he was trying to prove to NBA scouts that he can be a consistent three-point shooter, his numbers dipped from 35 percent to under 30 percent. He has a reputation for being a worker and a good locker room guy, and given his ability to defend both backcourt positions, I certainly think it’s reasonable to bet on him getting better as a shooter in the second round.

35. MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Key Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.5 rpg, 37% 3PT

Flynn is in a tough spot. On the one hand, he just finished his fourth season in college by having an All-American campaign while leading the Aztecs to a 30-2 record and the brink of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. He turns 22 in May. It makes sense for him to leave now, striking while the iron is hot.

But just how hot is that iron, so to speak? Flynn is a plus-shooter that shines in ball-screens and thrived in an offense that was built entirely around his ability to do those two things. But he’s 6-foot-1, somewhat limited physically and looking at being a preseason first-team All-American if he returns to school.

At this point, I think that he is what he is as a player — a career NBA backup with a chance to get a couple of contracts in the NBA doing just that.

36. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

Details: 21 years old, 6-foot-7, 225 lbs
Key Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 40.2% 3PT

Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.

37. GRANT RILLER, Charleston

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
Key Stats: 21.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 36% 3PT

Riller is just a bucket-getter. He’s crafty off the bounce, he can finish around the basket and he is a capable three-point shooter. He also has positional size to play lead guard in the NBA. What’s the downside of drafting him in the second round and seeing what he develops into?

38. MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

Details: 23 years old, 6-foot-9, 224 lbs
Key Stats: 13.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 36.4% 3PT

Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that was used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.

39. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs
Key Stats: 14.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 42.5% 3PT

Wesson is the guy that was helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.

40. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

Details: 22 years old, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs
Key Stats: 21.0 ppg, 2.9 apg, 30.6% 3PT

Powell’s efficiency numbers were way down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.

College Basketball Preseason Top 25

college basketball preseason top 25
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Today, we are unveiling the NBC Sports college basketball preseason top 25.

As always, there are plenty of caveats here.

For starters, we are still in the process of figuring out who will and will not be returning to school and where the myriad transfers are going to end up this year.

Given the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the way recruiting and the predraft process will work, it is hard to know how and where these guys will end up, which is why every college basketball preseason top 25 published right now is going to have plenty of assumptions, projections and moving parts.

So with that in mind, here is the current iteration of NBC Sports college basketball preseason top 25:

college basketball preseason top 25
(Getty Images)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL PRESEASON TOP 25

1. VILLANOVA

  • GONE: None
  • COMING BACK: Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels, Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Cole Swider, Brandon Slater, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
  • WAIT AND SEE: Saddiq Bey
  • NEW FACES: Caleb Daniels, Eric Dixon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Bryan Antoine, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

There’s a chance, albeit a fairly slim one, that Villanova can return everyone from a team that won a share of the Big East regular season title last season while adding Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels (16.9 ppg) and a healthy Bryan Antoine. There is enough talent on this roster that I think they are the clear No. 1 team in the country if everyone returns. And while Saddiq Bey is their best player, I think he is not only more likely to declare for the draft than Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, but I also think that he will be easier to replace. Villanova has a roster full of talented wings and perimeter weapons. Bey is the best of the bunch, but having to force Caleb Daniels or Bryan Antoine over him is a better option than having to play Dhamir Cosby-Rountree or Eric Dixon instead of JRE. Luckily for Villanova, JRE announced in April that he will be returning to school.

RELATED: College basketball preseason top 25 (link)

2. GONZAGA

  • GONE: Admon Gilder, Ryan Wooldridge, Killian Tillie
  • COMING BACK: Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zakharov
  • WAIT AND SEE: Filip Petrusev, Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi
  • NEW FACES: Oumar Ballo, Aaron Cook, Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, Filip Petrusev

The Zags should once again be a powerhouse next season, but they are in the unique position of waiting on a freshman to decide if he is going to go pro. The player in question is Jalen Suggs, who would be a perfect fit next to Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert on Gonzaga’s perimeter. As much as I like Ayayi as a player, I’m not sure he’s the guy to be a full-time point guard on a team competing for a national title. That spot is really the only question mark if Suggs opts to skip college and play overseas, because Gonzaga’s frontcourt is going to be absolutely loaded, especially if Filip Petrusev returns, because Drew Timme and Oumar Ballo both have WCC Player of the Year upside.

Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

3. BAYLOR

  • GONE: Freddie Gillespie, Devonte Bandoo
  • COMING BACK: Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital, Tristan Clark, Matthew Mayer, Jordan Turner, Flo Thamba
  • WAIT AND SEE: Jared Butler, MaCio Teague
  • NEW FACES: Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, Dain Dainja, Zach Loveday, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital, Tristan Clark

The Bears should get all three of their guards back, assuming Jared Butler does not go pro, and with Mark Vital slated to return, they’ll once again have two of the best defenders in college basketball on the roster (Davion Mitchell). They’re coming off of a 26-4 season, and there are plenty of bench options at Scott Drew’s disposal — Matthew Mayer, Jordan Turner, Adam Flagler — but the big question is going to be at the five. Which Tristan Clark are we going to get next season?

4. VIRGINIA

  • GONE: Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key
  • COMING BACK: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kody Stattman, Justin McCoy
  • WAIT AND SEE: Jay Huff
  • NEW FACES: Sam Hauser, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Carson McCorkle, Reece Beekman
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, Jay Huff

The Cavaliers should be much better offensively with Sam Hauser replacing Mamadi Diakite in the starting lineup, and while Diakite is a significantly better defender than Hauser, it’s hard to imagine Virginia ever being a bad defensive team, especially when Hauser has had a year to learn the system. Kihei Clark and Jay Huff are both back, and I would expect Casey Morsell to take a step forward this season. Throw in a strong freshman class, and UVA should be competing for an ACC title once again.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft

5. MICHIGAN STATE

  • GONE: Cassius Winston
  • COMING BACK: Rocket Watts, Aaren Henry, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall, Marcus Bingham, Julius Marble, Thomas Kithier, Foster Loyer
  • WAIT AND SEE: Xavier Tillman, Josh Langford
  • NEW FACES: Joey Hauser, Madi Sissoko, A.J. Hoggard
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Rocket Watts, Gabe Brown, Aaron Henry, Joey Hauser, Xavier Tillman

Rocket Watts showed down the stretch of last season that he was ready to take over the reins offensively, and with Joey Hauser getting eligible, he should have a second scoring threat on the floor with him. That will allow Aaron Henry to play his jack-of-all-trades role, and with Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham all, in theory, taking a step forward, there’s plenty of weaponry. The key, however, is going to be Xavier Tillman. I think he’s a first round pick, and considering that he’s a married man with two kids already, he certainly could use the income. He’s the piece that brings it all together.

6. KANSAS

  • GONE: Udoka Azubuike, Devon Dotson, Isaiah Moss
  • COMING BACK: Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Christian Braun, Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson, Mitch Lightfoot, DaJuan Harris, Silvio De Sousa
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Bryce Thompson, Tyon Grant-Foster, Gethro Muscadin, Latrell Jossell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson, Ochai Agbaji, Tristan Enaruna, David McCormack

When it comes to the amount of talent on the Kansas roster, there are certainly enough weapons here. They are incredibly loaded on the wing — Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson, Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Tyon Grant-Foster, Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson, sheesh — and David McCormack showed enough flashes last season that I expect him to be able to do an adequate job replacing Udoka Azubuike. Assuming Self (correctly) plays small-ball again, they should be really, really good. The problem? Other than Garrett, there is not a point guard on the roster that has played a second of college basketball. The best Jayhawk teams have had a killer at that position, and I’m not sure Garrett qualifies as such.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

RELATED: College basketball preseason top 25

7. DUKE

  • GONE: Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., Cassius Stanley, Jack White, Alex O’Connell, Javin DeLaurier
  • COMING BACK: Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Mark Williams, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman, Patrick Tape
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Wendell Moore, Jalen Johnson, Mark Williams

The Blue Devils lose quite a bit of talent off of last season’s roster if, as expected, Tre Jones, Vernon Carey and Cassius Stanley all head to the pros. But with six top 50 prospects coming into the program — headlined by a potential lottery pick in Jalen Johnson as well as point guard Jeremy Roach and scoring guard D.J. Steward — there will be quite a bit of talent on display. A starting lineup that includes those three freshmen and Wendell Moore will be fun. Duke is going to be very young, however, and a frontline that includes a bunch of freshmen and a grad transfer from Columbia is less than ideal.

8. IOWA

  • GONE: Bakari Evelyn, Ryan Kreiner, Cordell Pemsl
  • COMING BACK: C.J. Frederick, Joe Weiskamp, Joe Toussaint, Jordan Bohannon, Connor McCaffery, Jack Nunge
  • WAIT AND SEE: Luka Garza
  • NEW FACES: Tony Perkins, Ahron Ulis, Patrick McCaffery
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Joe Toussaint, C.J. Frederick, Joe Weiskamp, Jack Nunge, Luka Garza

I’m assuming Luka Garza will be back for his senior season, which is a helluva way for Fran McCaffery to anchor a roster that looks as good as anyone in the Big Ten, but that’s no guarantee. I think Joe Toussaint has a chance to be one of the breakout stars in college basketball next year, which is a pretty good sign for a team that also returns the preseason Player of the Year along with talents like Joe Weiskamp and C.J. Frederick.

9. TENNESSEE

  • GONE: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden
  • COMING BACK: John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Drew Pemper
  • WAIT AND SEE: Yves Pons
  • NEW FACES: Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer, Corey Walker, Victor Bailey, E.J. Anosike
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Keon Johnson, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson

Last season, one of the biggest issues with Tennessee was a lack of firepower on their perimeter. This year, they will be adding five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer to Josiah Jordan-James and Santiago Vescovi. They’ll have weapons, and that’s before you add in John Fulkerson, who was one of the best bigs in the SEC down the stretch of the season. Yves Pons will be the best defender in college basketball. If Vescovi can handle full-time point guard duties better with an offseason under his belt, the Vols are going to compete for an SEC title.

10. TEXAS TECH

  • GONE: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Chris Clarke, Davide Moretti, T.J. Holyfield, Russel Tchewa
  • COMING BACK: Kyler Edwards, Terrance Shannon Jr., Davide Moretti, Kevin McCullar, Avery Benson
  • WAIT AND SEE: Mac McClung, Jamarius Burton
  • NEW FACES: Nimari Burnett, Micah Peavy, Marcus Santos-Silva, Joel Ntambwe, Chibuzo Agbo, Esahia Nzyiwe
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kyler Edwards, Nimari Burnett, Terrance Shannon, Joel Ntambwe, Marcus Santos-Silva

The Red Raiders should have a roster that is a much better fit for the way that Chris Beard wants to play. Kyler Edwards and Nimari Burnett are both build in the mold of a classic Texas Tech lead guard, while Terrance Shannon will be on quite a few of the breakout sophomore lists you’ll find. The two major questions with this group is whether or not Edwards can takeover full-time point guard duties, and if VCU transfer Marcus Santos-Silva or Joel Ntambwe can handle the five spot better than T.J. Holyfield did this past season. There are enough talented perimeter weapons for me to buy-in, but without an anchor at the five a la Tariq Owens, their ceiling is somewhat limited.

11. HOUSTON

  • GONE: Nate Hinton, Chris Harris
  • COMING BACK: Quentin Grimes, Caleb Mills, Marcus Sasser, Fabian White, Justin Forham, Brison Gresham, Cedrick Alley
  • WAIT AND SEE: DeJon Jarreau
  • NEW FACES: Tramon Mark, Jamal Shead, Kiyron Powell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Sasser, Caleb Mills, Marcus Sasser, Quentin Grimes, Brison Gresham

We all know that Kelvin Sampson can coach, and he will be bringing back a roster where his top six scorers were all underclassmen from a team that finished top 15 on KenPom. They are going to be loaded in the backcourt — Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes might end up being their third or fourth best guard — and there will be some veterans in their frontcourt. The Cougars look to be the favorite in the American.

12. NORTH CAROLINA

  • GONE: Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Jeremiah Francis
  • COMING BACK: Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, Andrew Platek, Anthony Harris
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Caleb Love, Walker Kessler, R.J. Davis, Day’Ron Sharpe, Puff Johnson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Caleb Love, Anthony Harris, Leaky Black, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks

The Tar Heels will lost Cole Anthony, but with Caleb Love entering the program, they will once again be led by a five-star lead guard perfectly suited to running Roy Williams’ system. The Tar Heels will also have arguably the best frontline in college basketball, as Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot will be joined by five-stars Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. The key to this team is going to be on the wings, where Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Puff Johnson, R.J. Davis and Andrew Platek will be asked to carry the load. If I had more confidence in that group the Tar Heels would be ranked in my top eight.

RELATED: Coaching Carousel

13. FLORIDA STATE

  • GONE: Trent Forrest, Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, Dominik Olejniczak
  • COMING BACK: M.J. Walker, Balsa Koprivica, Anthony Polite, Malik Osborne, Raiquan Gray, Wyatt Wilkes, Nathanael Jack
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Scottie Barnes, Sardaar Calhoun
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Polite, M.J. Walker, Scottie Barnes, Raiquan Gray, Balsa Koprivica

Florida State is a tough one to project because it’s hard to know exactly what is going to happen with Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell gone to the draft. Both are projected to go somewhere in the first round. With Scottie Barnes coming in and M.J. Walker returning, Florida State still has some dangerous weapons. The Seminoles are a machine at this point, and I think the system will continue to work. And even if both Vassell and Williams had decided to come back, it doesn’t answer the most pressing question of Leonard Hamilton’s team: How do they replace Trent Forrest?

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14. WISCONSIN

  • GONE: Brevin Pritzl
  • COMING BACK: D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter, Aleem Ford, Tyler Wahl, Trevor Anderson
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Ben Carlson, Lorne Bowman, Johnny Davis, Jordan Davis, Steve Crowl
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter

After winning a share of last year’s Big Ten regular season title, the Badgers are on track to essentially return everyone of note. Their frontline of Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter will be as good as anyone in the Big Ten, D’Mitrik Trice has developed into a solid shot-maker and Tyler Wahl is waiting in the wings as a super-sub. Throw in Brad Davison, and the Badgers will compete for the league title once again.

15. KENTUCKY

  • GONE: Immanuel Quickley, Nate Sestina, Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards, Ashton Hagans, Johnny Juzang
  • COMING BACK: Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen
  • WAIT AND SEE: Olivier Sarr, E.J. Montgomery
  • NEW FACES: B.J. Boston, Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew, Isaiah Jackson, Lance Ware, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Davion Mintz
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Devin Askew, Terrence Clarke, B.J. Boston, Keion Brooks, Isaiah Jackson

Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards are all heading to the NBA. E.J. Montgomery declared as well. Nate Sestina graduated. Johnny Juzang is transferring. What that leaves is another loaded recruiting class and Keion Brooks. I love the combination of Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston on the wings, and Devin Askew should be able to step in and handle point guard duties along with Davion Mintz. This will be another season for the Wildcats where they have talent but not necessarily a great fit on their roster. The key to their season is going to be whether or not they can get Olivier Sarr a waiver to be eligible immediately.

16. WEST VIRGINIA

  • GONE: Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler
  • COMING BACK: Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver, Miles McBride, Emmitt Matthews, Gabe Osabuohien, Jalen Bridges, Sean McNeil
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Isaiah Cottrell, Taj Thweatt, Kedrian Johnson , Jalen Bridges
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Miles McBride, Kedrian Johnson, Emmitt Matthews, Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe

The Mountaineers are going to be exactly what they were last season: Big, physical, overpowering defensively and on the glass and able to win games when Miles McBride and Emmitt Matthews are able to made enough shots to keep defenses from collapsing.

17. CREIGHTON

  • GONE:  Ty-Shon Alexander, Kelvin Jones, Davion Mintz
  • COMING BACK: Mitchell Ballock, Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop, Denzel Mahoney, Jacob Epperson
  • WAIT AND SEE: Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney
  • NEW FACES: Antwaan Jones, Ryan Kalkbrenner
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Zegarowski, Mitchell Ballock, Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney, Christian Bishop

Creighton’s ranking depended on what their talented backcourt of Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski decided to do. With both of them back, I had the Bluejays as a top four team. Without Alexander, they’re more of a back-end top 25 team. The other question is going to be what happens at the five spot. Christian Bishop was adequate in his minutes last season, and with four-star recruit Ryan Kalkbrenner and a (hopefully) healthy Jacob Epperson in the mix, there will be options to answer that question.

18. ARIZONA STATE

  • GONE: Rob Edwards, Romello White, Mickey Mitchell
  • COMING BACK: Kimani Lawrence, Taeshon Cherry, Jaelen House, Khalid Thomas, Jalen Graham
  • WAIT AND SEE: Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge
  • NEW FACES:  Josh Christopher, Marcus Bagley, Holland Woods
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge, Josh Christopher, Taeshon Cherry, Jalen Graham

This ranking is dependent on Remy Martin making the decision to return to school for the 2020-21 season, but if they do, the Sun Devils have a chance to be really, really good. Losing Romello White is going to hurt, but Alonzo Verge had a breakout season, and they added Josh Christopher, a five-star prospect from California.

19. RUTGERS

  • GONE: Akwasi Yeboah, Shaq Carter
  • COMING BACK: Geo Baker, Ron Harper, Myles Johnson, Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell, Jacob Young, Mamadou Doucoure, Paul Mulcahy
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Cliff Omoruyi, Dean Reiber, Oskar Palmquist, Mawot Mag
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Geo Baker, Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell, Ron Harper Jr., Myles Johnson

The Scarlet Knights return basically everyone from a team that would have made the program’s first NCAA tournament since 1991. In total, eight of their top nine players are returning, and only Akwasi Yeboah (9.8 ppg) is gone.

20. MICHIGAN

  • GONE: Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske
  • COMING BACK: Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Adrian Nunez
  • WAIT AND SEE: Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown, Nojel Eastern
  • NEW FACES: Hunter Dickinson, Mike Smith Terrance Williams, Zeb Jackson, Jace Howard
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson

The Wolverines are going to have one of the better frontlines in college basketball in 2020-21, as they seem likely to return Isaiah Livers in addition to Franz Wagner. Throw in a recruiting class that includes Hunter Dickinson, and the Wolverines will be loaded. Their guards are old, but there are some questions about the upside of Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith and Eli Brooks. Can transfers Chaundee Brown or Nojel Eastern get eligible?

21. TEXAS

  • GONE: None
  • COMING BACK: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Kai Jones, Jericho Sims, Jase Febres, Kamaka Hepa, Royce Hamm, Donovan Williams, Gerald Lidell, Will Baker
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Greg Brown
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Greg Brown, Jericho Sims

The Longhorns bring back all 12 players from last year’s team, including 11 of whom started at least one game last season. Plus, they add top ten recruit Greg Brown to a team that won five of their last six regular season games. That’s a good thing! Keeping everyone happy on a roster this deep when there are 13 guys available for just five spots on the floor and 200 combined minutes a night? That’s not going to be easy to deal with.

22. LOUISVILLE

  • GONE: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Steve Enoch, Fresh Kimble, Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry
  • COMING BACK: David Johnson, Samuell Williamson, Malik Williams, Josh Nickelberry, Aidan Ighiehon, Jaelyn Withers
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Carlik Jones, Charles Minlend, D’Andre Davis, J.J. Traynor
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Carlik Jones, David Johnson, Charles Minlend, Samuell Williamson, Malik Williams

The Cardinals are going to build around sophomores David Johnson and Samuell Williamson as well as senior Malik Williams this season. The addition of Radford grad transfer Carlik Jones should help out quite a bit as well. Johnson and Williamson have both shown flashes of having star potential. The addition of San Francisco grad transfer Charles Minlend should help add some depth on the perimeter.

23. UCLA

  • GONE: Daishen Nix, Prince Ali, Alex Olesinski
  • COMING BACK: Chris Smith, Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, Jake Kyman, Jules Bernard, David Singleton
  • WAIT AND SEE: Johnny Juzang
  • NEW FACES: Daishen Nix, Jaylen Clark
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyger Campbell, David Singleton, Chris Smith, Jaime Jaquez, Jalen Hill

After turning their season around and finishing second in the Pac-12 regular season standings, UCLA returns everyone that played a major role in their rotation down the stretch of the season, but they will be without Daishen Nix, a five-star point guard that is heading to the G League. A number of Cronin’s young pieces — Jaime Jaquez, Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, David Singleton — really played well down the stretch. The biggest question mark: will Chris Smith return to school?

24. RICHMOND

  • GONE: None
  • COMING BACK: Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Andre Gustavson, Jake Wojcik, Tyler Burton
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Isaiah Wilson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jacob Gilyard, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Grant Golden

Chris Mooney did not have a senior on the roster of a team that finished 24-7 overall and 14-4 in the Atlantic 10. With Obi Toppin gone, the Spiders will likely be the class of the conference heading into next season. Jacob Gilyard has a chance to be Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.

25. STANFORD

  • GONE: None
  • COMING BACK: Daejon Davis, Bryce Wills, Spencer Jones, Lukas Kisunas, Jaiden Delaire, James Keefe
  • WAIT AND SEE: Tyrell Terry, Oscar da Silva
  • NEW FACES: Ziaire Williams, Noah Taitz, Max Murrell, Brandon Angel
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrell Terry, Daejon Davis, Bryce Wills, Ziaire Williams, Oscar da Silva

Getting Ziaire Williams was huge, as this group will return at least five of their top six guys from a top 45 team on KenPom. But their ceiling will be determined by Tyrell Terry’s decision. If he returns to school, Stanford will have a shot to win the Pac-12.

FIVE THAT JUST MISSED THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL PRESEASON TOP 25

OREGON

  • GONE: Payton Pritchard, Anthony Mathis, Shakur Juiston
  • COMING BACK: Will Richardson, Chris Duarte, C.J. Walker, Francis Okoro, Chandler Lawson, Addison Patterson, N’Faly Dante
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Amauri Hardy, Jalen Terry, Eric Williams, Eugene Omoruyi
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Will Richardson, Chris Duarte, Eric Williams, Eugene Omoruyi, C.J. Walker

OHIO STATE

  • GONE: Kaleb Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Andrew Wesson, D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney
  • COMING BACK: Duane Washington, Luther Muhammad, C.J. Walker, Kyle Young, E.J. Liddell, Justin Ahrens, Alonzo Gaffney, Ibrahima Diallo
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: Seth Towns, Eugene Brown, Zed Kay, Justice Suenig, Abel Porter
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington, Seth Towns, E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young

INDIANA

  • GONE: De’Ron Davis, Devonte Green, Justin Smith
  • COMING BACK: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk, Al Durham, Rob Phinisee, Jerome Hunter, Race Thompson
  • WAIT AND SEE: Justin Smith
  • NEW FACES: Khristian Lander, Trey Galloway, Jordan Geronimo, Anthony Leal
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Khristian Lander, Rob Phinisee, Al Durham, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk

UCONN

  • GONE: Christian Vital, Alterique Gilbert, Sid Wilson
  • COMING BACK: James Bouknight, Josh Carlton, Akok Akok, Jalen Gaffney, Tyler Polley, Brendan Adams, Isaiah Whaley
  • WAIT AND SEE: None
  • NEW FACES: R.J. Cole, Andre Jackson, Javonte Brown-Ferguson, Richie Springs, Adama Sanogo
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: R.J. Cole, James Bouknight, Andre Jackson, Akok Akok, Josh Carlton

LSU

  • GONE: Emmitt Williams, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor
  • COMING BACK: Charles Manning Jr., James Bishop
  • WAIT AND SEE: Trendon Watford, Darius Days, Javonte Smart
  • NEW FACES: Cam Thomas, Josh Leblanc, Jalen Cook, Shareef O’Neal, Mwani Wilkinson, Bradley Ezewiro
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Javonte Smart, Cam Thomas, Charles Manning, Josh LeBlanc, Darius Days

NCAA makes Johnny Juzang eligible at UCLA for next season

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LOS ANGELES — Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang can play basketball for UCLA this winter.

The NCAA on Wednesday approved a transfer waiver of the year in residence requirement, which typically forces a transfer to sit out one season before becoming eligible. As a result, Juzang is eligible to play what will be his sophomore season in 2020-21.

“We’ve very excited that Johnny will be able to play for us next season,” coach Mick Cronin said. “Johnny is a talented player who can definitely make an impact for us.”

Juzang started two of 28 games for Kentucky as a freshman. He averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. At Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake as a junior, he averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

Juzang joins fellow guard Jaylen Clark from Rancho Cucamonga, California, in next season’s recruiting class. Clark averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a high school senior, leading Etiwanda to a 30-4 record and a berth in the CIF-SS Open Division regional final.

The Bruins recently lost out on guard Daishen Nix from Las Vegas. He had signed a national letter of intent with UCLA in November, but decommitted in April to sign with the G League. He was Cronin’s first signing since being named the Bruins’ coach a year ago.

Bobby Hurley accused Arizona State AD in booster scandal

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley sent an email to Ray Anderson about a booster scandal last season alleging the Arizona State athletic director minimized sexual harassment allegations by the wives of three athletic staff members in response to allegations made against Bart Wear.

In the email obtained by Yahoo Sports, Hurley accused Anderson on Dec. 8 of disregarding the safety of and showing no sensitivity toward the women.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Bobby Hurley wrote in regards to the booster scandal.

Hurley also accused Anderson of coming up with a numeric scale to judge the harassment claims by the women, including Hurley’s wife, Leslie.

“You have chosen to create your own numeric scale on what sexual assault mean(s) which is disturbing,” Hurley wrote.

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Anderson responded by telling Hurley his email includes false and baseless allegations.

“Your approach here is puzzling,” Anderson wrote.

In a statement released by the program on Wednesday night, Hurley said, “my relationship with Athletic Director Ray Anderson today is strong. We will work together, alongside my outstanding coaching staff, toward the continued success of Sun Devil Men’s Basketball.”

Arizona State previously had an outside investigation conducted into the school’s booster scandal that determined booster Bart Wear subjected the three women to unwelcome comments and physical contact. In February, the school acknowledged to Yahoo that the situation could have been handled more quickly after waiting months to investigate.

The school canceled Wear’s season tickets and warned him security may remove him from the premises if he attends any future Arizona State events.