It’s the game-winning shot: Who ya got?

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The 2011-2012 has already provided it’s fair share of legendary buzzer-beaters, and there is still three weeks remaining in the regular season.

When the game is on the line. Who do you want taking the final shot?

Does your team have one go-to player, or do they have a handful of guys capable of hitting the big shot? A big shot can erase a lot of early-game mistakes. As the games start to become more meaningful, late-game situations are going to become life-or-death.

Some teams are lucky enough to have more than one guy who is mentally tough enough to take and make the big shot. Some teams are just good at running late-game sets, and some teams have a handful of guys who can make a big shot when put in the position to do so. But some teams just need one guy to take the game over. Sometimes it’s the best player, and sometimes it’s somebody you’d least expect. It’s called clutch. Some guys have it, others don’t.

Creighton
The Hero: Doug McDermott
Back-up Plan: Antoine Young
Strategy: At this point, Young might have to be considered the hero. After all, he hit the game-winner against Long Beach State, and hit a huge three against Northern Iowa that would have won the game if not for UNI’s Anthony James. But clearly, McDermott has to be considered option No.1. Let him seal-off his player and feed him the ball on the high block. If the double-team comes, which it probably will, he can kick it to Young for the dagger.

Duke
The Hero: Austin Rivers
Back-up Plan: Seth Curry/Ryan Kelly
Strategy: The Dukies have shown their late-game moxie in recent weeks, beginning with Rivers’ soon-to-be legendary game-winner against North Carolina and ending with the team’s 20-point comeback to defeat North Carolina State. Rivers is a one-on-one nightmare, and Duke has a plethora of outstanding marksmen. Let Rivers create his own shot. If it’s not there, look for Seth Curry to come off of a screen, or find Ryan Kelly in the corner for a spot-up 3-pointer. Curry and Rivers are the best options on the team, but even Andre Dawkins is capable of hitting a big shot.

Florida State
The Hero: Michael Snaer
Back-up Plan: Deividas Dulkys/Ian Miller
Strategy: The game-plan is simple for if you are on offense or defense. For Florida State, you get the ball to Snaer in transition. Force the defense to collapse and hit Snaer of a 3-pointer on the wing. He did it against Duke and he did it against Virginia Tech. If you are the defense, force one of the other four players to beat you. You need to shut-off Snaer. If Luke Loucks is going to drive to the basket, make him take the tough shot. Just don’t let Snaer get the ball on the wing. Dulkys is a good second option, just ask North Carolina. But Snaer is always the first option to take the big shot.

Georgetown
The Hero: Hollis Thompson
Back-up Plan: Jason Clark/Markel Starks
Strategy: Thompson isn’t one to create his own shot. In fact, Georgetown’s offense isn’t built to do that either. But the junior forward has the confidence and the ability to take and make a tough shot with the game hanging in the balance. If the defense shuts off Thompson, Clark has the tools to create space and hit a 3-pointer, or drive to the basket and sink a mid-range jumper.

Iowa State
The Hero: Royce White
Back-up Plan: Scott Christopherson/Chris Allen
Strategy: Let White create his own shot. He’s a tough assignment for almost anyone. He’s got range, size, strength, and stellar ball-handling. He’s also very good at making off-balanced shots. More times than not, White is going to do it himself. But if the double-team comes and he does pass it, Scott Christopherson  shoots 44% from beyond the arc, and has the mental fortitude to make a big shot.

Louisville
The Hero: Peyton Siva
Back-up Plan: Russ Smith/Kyle Kuric
Strategy: There are not many players in the country that are capable of staying in front of Peyton Siva. It could be argued that he’s the quickest player in the country. If he gets to the lane, he’s got the athleticism needed to make a tough shot. He still makes some questionable decisions handling the ball, but has other options when trouble arises. Russ Smith is an the epitome of “a gunner” and Kyle Kuric seems to thrive in pressure situations. Just ask Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette, Charleston and Vanderbilt.

Marquette
The Hero: Darius Johnson-Odom
Back-up Plan: Jae Crowder/Junior Cadougan
Strategy: Both DJO and Crowder are experienced players with the mental toughness needed to make a big shot. DJO can spot up and hit a big shot, or can take his man off the dribble. If he can’t get a good look, Crowder is as good a second option as you will  find. He’s a match-up nightmare, so he can force a big man to play him on the perimeter where he can beat him one-on-one, or he can back-down a smaller player in the post. Every game Marquette is involved in seems to come down to the final shot, so you know they are battle-tested.

Michigan
The Hero: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Back-up Plan: Trey Burke/Zach Novak
Strategy: Trey Burke is going to be handling the ball. He should give it up to Hardaway and let him create his own shot with Zach Novak spotting up on the wing or in the corner. Another option would be to let Burke drive and create, hoping a double-team comes which frees up Hardaway to take the big shot. But don’t let Burke’s freshman status fool you, he’s capable of making a big shot too.

Missouri
The Hero: Marcus Denmon/Michael Dixon
Back-up Plan: Kim English/Phil Pressey/Matt Pressey/Ricardo Ratliffe
Strategy: While Marcus Denmon might be “The Hero”, he’s certainly not the only go-to option. In fact, anybody on the court in a Missouri uniform can make a big shot. Phil Pressey can handle the ball and create space for Denmon or English to beat their men or take a big shot. Michael Dixon is always capable of beating his man, and Ricardo Ratliffe rarely misses from inside. This team has a wealth of experience in taking clutch shots, so for Missouri, the open man is the best option.

Murray State
The Hero: Isaiah Canaan
Back-up Plan: Donte Poole/Jewuan Long
Strategy: For the past two months, the Racers have taken everybody’s best shot. Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, and Morehead State all had leads against the Racers, but could not put this team away. Why? Because this team can shoot their way back into any game. Isaiah Canaan has made five or more 3-pointers in seven games season and has scored 30 or more four times. If Murray State needs a game-winning shot, he’s going to be the guy to do so. But if for some reason he can’t, Donte Poole and Jewuan Long are good shooters who are capable of making big plays.

Ohio State
The Hero: William Buford
Back-up Plan: Jared Sullinger/Aaron Craft
Strategy: Jared Sullinger may be the best player on the team, but with the game on the line, Buford should be the guy taking the big shot. A smart defense would let Craft beat them, so getting Buford open quickly with space to operate is key. But Buford is capable of making a tough shot, so denying him the ball is a-must. If there is time on the clock to work with, having Sully post-up his man wouldn’t be a bad option. But Buford should be the guy to get it done.

Oral Roberts
The Hero: Dominique Morrison
Back-up Plan: Warren Niles, Rod Pearson
Strategy: Morrison has one of the prettiest mid-range jumpers in the country, and has the ability to hit a tough shot from anywhere. He beat Rice earlier in the season with a nice fade-away stroke, and he’s the type of player that thrives in the clutch. He’s also got two sidekicks like Warren Niles and Rod Pearson, both of whom have sank game-winners earlier in the season. With “DoMo” and company, the Golden Eagles have a bevy of options when the game is on the line. Oh, and that includes big man Damen Bell-Halter, who hit one of this season’s most amazing buzzer-beaters.

UNLV
The Hero: Chace Stanback
Back-up Plan: Anthony Marshall/Mike Moser
Strategy: If the Rebels are playing on the road, it’s likely that they will need some magic in order to win. All four of their losses have come outside of Las Vegas. If you’re an opposing coach, You cannot let Chace Stanback beat you. Sure, Anthony Marshall can make plays in the clutch, and Mike Moser is a tough assignment. But Stanback is an assassin. If you are going to a close game, make sure you force somebody else to beat you.

Washington
The Hero: Tony Wroten Jr.
Back-up Plan: C.J Wilcox/Terrence Ross
Strategy: The Huskies are notorious for post-season magic. Most of it came from Isaiah Thomas, who is in the NBA now, but freshman Tony Wroten Jr. has shown flashes of late-game prowess. He’s a tough assignment one-on-one or without the ball. If you try to show help-side defense, C.J. Wilcox can make you pay. Even if this team isn’t part of March Madness, look for the Huskies to make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Xavier
The Hero: Tu Holloway
Back-up Plan: Mark Lyons/Brad Redford
Strategy: This has been a long season for the Muskies. Sure, this team might not be able to orchestrate a late-game rally like they did against Vanderbilt earlier in the year, but if they are already in a close-game, Xavier has the guys to make the big shots. Tu Holloway’s resume speaks for itself. He hit a careers-worth of big-time shots in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and even though his leadership has been questioned, he still has big-shot capabillities. With as streaky as Holloway has been this season, Mark Lyons might be a better option. he’s field-goal and 3-point % is way up from last year. But the real question is if this team can put themselves in the position to make a game-winning shot.

Honorable Mention
Iona: Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Michael Glover, Scott Machado
Michigan State: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Keith Appling
Northern Iowa: Anthony James
Oklahoma State: Keiton Page
Princeton: Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis
Syracuse: Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine
Temple: Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez
UNC-Asheville: Matt Dickey
Virginia Commonwealth: Bradford Burgess
Weber State: Damian Lillard

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.

Report: One-and-Done rule could be eliminated for 2021 NBA Draft

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The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of ending the infamous one-and-done rule that forces many potential professional basketball players to head to college for at least one season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, citing a league memo sent to NBA teams late this week, the league office is indicating that “eligibility rules” for the NBA draft could change as soon as 2021 or 2022 — but not earlier. The league is currently trying to figure out how the FBI’s investigation into college basketball will play out while also trying to navigate the player development changes that would be needed for high school players to once again potentially enter the NBA. Recently, the NBA has started to allow its teams and front-office personnel to attend elite summer high school events as the Pangos All-American Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp both had an NBA presence to watch elite Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects.

Lowe’s report mentions that the one-and-done rule is not mentioned directly by name, but the NBA is trying to warn its teams before the 2018 NBA Draft. These future changes could be on the horizon and teams need to understand what they are doing with future draft picks in potential trades.

The scenario of a 2021 NBA Draft in which high school players might be eligible is a fascinating subplot for college basketball, and the sport at-large, over these next few years.

As Lowe pointed out in his report, whenever the rule is eventually opened up, it will create one large mega draft in which two elite classes of high school players would be draft-eligible in the same year. With potentially double the lottery-level and first-round talent of a typical NBA draft, it would force a lot of elite college recruits to exam the possibility of reclassifying up in order to get ahead of that mega draft and be in a pool with fewer elite prospects.

It also gives the high school players themselves a unique decision with regard to their potential college futures. If an elite high school prospect is one year away from entering the NBA draft out of school, would some go to college or would they try to go for a postgrad year and follow in the footsteps of players like Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons?

The expanding presence of the NBA’s G-League is also a factor in all of this as salaries for the league are increasing and becoming more respectable — giving high school players a viable professional option in the United States instead of college for one year before moving on to the draft.

There are still way too many moving parts to truly speculate how this will all go down. But at least we know that the NBA appears to be viewing 2021 or 2022 as the potential change to the one-and-done rule. We’ll have to see how elite high school prospects start potentially adjusting to reclassify while colleges also might have to adopt some new and unique recruiting strategies if they rely on one-and-done players to fill out their roster.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

Villanova lands late commitment from four-star prospect

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Villanova made a late addition to their 2018 recruiting class on Friday afternoon as they landed a commitment from four-star prospect Saddiq Bey.

Bey was originally committed to N.C. State, but he asked out of his Letter of Intent in mid-May as the Wolfpack ended up over the scholarship limit. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward is a good fit for the way that Villanova likes to play, as he can guard different positions, plays with the toughness you expect out of a kid from Washington D.C. and is a capable scorer.

Bey is also a product of Sidwell Friends, the same high school that produced former Villanova star Josh Hart.

He will joined a recruiting class that also includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, four star prospects Cole Swider and Brandon Slater and Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo.

The news was first reported by 247 Sports.

Marvin Bagley III, a ‘Nike kid’, to sign endorsement deal with Puma

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Marvin Bagley III will reportedly sign an endorsement deal with Puma in the NBA.

It’s a five-year deal, according to reports, that will pay Bagley and his family quite a bit of money and will allow them to fund an AAU program for Bagley’s younger brother. That program will be coached by Marvin Bagley Jr., and that gets to the heart of what makes this decision so surprising.

Bagley III has always been considered a “Nike kid”. He played for Nike AAU programs throughout his high school career. The last two years, his father ran the program that he played for, originally called Phoenix Phamily but eventually changed to Nike Phamily. That meant that Nike was able to legally pay Bagley Jr. a significant amount of money to fund that program. Eventually, Bagley would up enrolling at Duke, one of Nike’s flagship college basketball programs.

This is not the way that it is supposed to go for a shoe company like Nike. The reason they spend as much money as they do in the youth ranks is to keep as many kids as possible loyal to the brand. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will end up having a chance at being an NBA player as early as 15 years old, but what’s harder to do is to predict who will actually be able to move product. Did anyone think James Harden or Damian Lillard would be worth a signature shoe? So these shoe companies will spend a relatively small amount of money to fly those kids around the country during their high school years, keep them decked out in their gear and hope that lottery ticket eventually pays off.

What is a couple hundred thousand dollar investment when the payoff is hundreds of millions of dollars in shoe sales? All you need to do is land one Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to make the math work.

But that isn’t all that the shoe companies are looking for here.

With the amount of money that they have invested in sponsorship deals with these schools, they need to protect that investment. We saw it with Adidas and Louisville. They funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen, a Nike kid, to get him to an Adidas school not because they thought he would end up being an uber-profitable spokesman but because they needed to protect their investment at the college level.

So while it’s easy to look at this and same that Bagley’s time spent at Duke helped him get a big, fat shoe contract, I think it’s the other way around. He helped Nike — without getting his market value — during his one season at Duke, and what it got him was a shoe contract worth roughly $1 million a year, according to Oregon Live.

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Bagley’s value to these brands is no different now than it was when he was playing for the Blue Devils.

Why is it only now that he’s allowed to cash in on it?