UConn could be most talented ‘last four in’ team in history

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Let’s play a modified version of blind resume for a moment.

Suppose you’re a No. 4 or No. 5 caliber NCAA Tournament team.

You’re Wichita State, an upstart mid-major that’s playing their best basketball at the right time.

You’re elated  that you’ve shot up the dozens of bracketology boards.

You’re a real team! A Regional Final contender!

On Selection Sunday, a few hours before the brackets are released, a tipster comes up to you, head coach Gregg Marshall, and says he knows who the Shockers have been paired with for their first round NCAA Tournament game. He can’t reveal the opponent’s name, but can say they possess the following characteristics:

  • Two five-star recruits.
  • Four four-star recruits.
  • Two NBA lottery picks.
  • Winner of three national championships since 1999.

If you’re Gregg Marshall, you’d probably respond with something like, “OK, Mister, that smells a lot like UConn!…Wait, I thought we were going to be a five seed?”

As confounding as it may sound, this is the type of pairing we could see on Selection Sunday.

The UConn Huskies are bad; bad in the dysfunctional sense. From playing uninspired basketball down in Bahamas, to getting laughed out of the KFC Yum Center a month ago, to not even really getting one correct answer during ESPN College Gameday’s “Know Your Teammate” segment, the Huskies have looked like anything but a defending national champion.

Following tonight’s loss at Providence, in which they blew a 10-point second half lead, the Huskies are now truly on the wrong side of the bubble. Because of their name, we’ve given this team a number of chances to redeem themselves by calling every next game in February the “must win” game.

Saturday, their regular season finale at home to Pittsburgh, is a “can’t lose.”  I can promise you that there is zero wiggle room available.

But let’s say that UConn does make the tournament. With a losing record in the Big East, no impressive non-conference victories outside of Florida State to speak of, and only two wins against top 25 teams, the best at-large berth they could earn would be an 11 or 12 seed.

While the First Four has created two extra at-large spots, it’s still the bottom of the barrel for non automatic qualifiers. A place where teams put on a front about their excitement to be part of the Big Dance all while knowing they and have plenty to prove.

This land would be uncharted territory for such a successful program, but that’s where the Huskies may find themselves two weeks from now: matched-up against a higher seeded team that possesses far less talent.

How would a team like Wichita State feel?

Surely they would tell the media they embrace the challenge, but deep down they would have to be ticked that the tournament committee did them no favors.

This was a pre-season top 10 team! And with good reason!

A team like the Shockers could conceivably play a team like the Huskies, a complete flip of the script when it comes to early round NCAA Tournament match-ups.

The Huskies may lack fight, but they’ll be a challenging knock-out if they hear their name called on March 11th.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate returns to school

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The nation’s most entertaining shot-blocker is back for another season.

Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, will return to school for his junior season to anchor West Virginia’s defense for yet another season, according to ESPN.

Konate declared for the draft and went through the combine, and while his shot-blocking and intensity shined through there as it did throughout the season, he’s more of a mid-to-late second round pick than he is a first rounder at this point.

As a sophomore, Konate averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 boards and 3.2 blocks. He also shot 79 percent from the free throw line.

So let’s sit back and enjoy what we get to see for another year:

Luke Maye to return to North Carolina for senior season

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Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Luke Maye is returning to North Carolina for his senior season, meaning that the Tar Heels will have their preseason National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

Who saw that coming?

“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family! Time to finish the right way with two of the best players and leaders that I know! Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

Maye, who averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 boards as a junior, declared for the draft last month, but he did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. The 6-foot-9 forward is a stretch four that will fit perfectly at the four for the Tar Heels this season, with Nassir Little, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams on the perimeter and a trio of sophomore bigs to handle the five.

Getting Maye back was key, but expected. UNC reaching their ceiling this season will depend on whether or not their point guard play is up to par. With Jalek Felton gone and Joel Berry II graduated, that is going to come down to whether or not Seventh Woods can handle the lead guard role or if Coby White can step in and start as a freshman.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.