Top 25 Countdown: Others Receiving Votes

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Listed alphabetically.

Arizona State:

  • Last Season: 22-13, 9-9 Pac-12 (t-6th); Lost in NIT 2nd round
  • Key Losses: Carrick Felix, Evan Gordon, Chris Colvin
  • Key Returnees: Jahii Carson (18.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.7 rpg), Jordan Bachynski (9.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg), Jonathan Gilling (9.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.8 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jermaine Marshall, Egor Koulechov, Chance Murray, Shaquielle McKissic, Sai Tummala
  • Outlook: The big news for Herb Sendek’s club this offseason: Jahii Carson returned to school. Arguably the most exciting player in the country, Carson is the engine that makes the Sun Devils go. He’s an all-american candidate. Adding Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall should help offset some of the perimeter punch that was lost with Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon departing, and Jordan Bachynski’s return provides a defensive menace around the rim. Missing the NCAA tournament (again) would be a major disappointment.

Baylor:

  • Last Season: 23-14, 9-9 Big 12 (6th); Won the NIT
  • Key Losses: Pierre Jackson, AJ Walton, Deuce Bello, LJ Rose
  • Key Returnees: Isaiah Austin (13.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Cory Jefferson (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg), Brady Heslip (8.6 ppg, 38.6% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Kenny Chery, Ishmail Wainwright, Allerik Freeman, Johnathan Motley, Royce O’Neale*
  • Outlook: The good news is that the Bears have one of the best front lines in the country, as Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson are as long and athletic as any duo in the country. They averaged a combined 26.3 points, 16.3 boards and 3.6 blocks last season. The issue, however, is that a lot of that scoring came off the creativity of now-graduate Pierre Jackson. Can JuCo transfer Kenny Chery fill that role? Scoring guard Allerik Freeman and versatile wing Ishmael Wainwright can contribute as well. One interesting storyline will be Denver transfer Royce O’Neale’s pending eligibility.

Boise State:

  • Last Season: 21-11, 9-7 MWC (t-4th); Lost in the NCAA First Four
  • Key Losses: Kenny Buckner
  • Key Returnees: Anthony Drmic (17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 39.2% 3PT), Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 42.3% 3PT), Jeff Elorriaga (10.3 ppg, 44.7% 3PT), Ryan Watkins (8.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Darnell Taylor, Dezmyn Trent, James Webb
  • Outlook: The Broncos were supposed to be “a year away” last season, and yet they managed to put together a campaign strong enough to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. This year, Leon Rice’s club will have one of the best perimeter attacks out west. Derrick Marks is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and he’s the team’s second-leading returning scorer, trailing Anthony Drmic. Jeff Elorriaga is almost automatic from three when he gets his feet set, and Mikey Thompson and Igor Hadziomerovic provide a nice pop off the bench. The key? Finding some help for Ryan Watkins in the paint.

Cal:

  • Last Season: 21-12, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Allen Crabbe
  • Key Returnees: Justin Cobbs (15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.5 rpg), Ty Wallace (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Richard Solomon (8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jabari Bird, Jordan Matthews, Kameron Rooks, Sam Singer, Roger Moute a Bidas
  • Outlook: Cal loses a lot with Allen Crabbe headed to the pros, but Justin Cobbs should anchor a perimeter attack that will rival any in the Pac-12. Ty Wallace is in line for a breakout sophomore season, Ricky Kreklow is finally healthy and Jabari Bird and Jordan Matthews anchor a solid incoming class. The key will be in the front court. Can Richard Solomon find a way to maximize his talent? Can David Kravish make the jump to the next level? Cal is a tournament team that is a sleeper to make a run at the Pac-12 title.
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Creighton:

  • Last Season: 28-8, 13-5 MVC (1st); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Gregory Echenique
  • Key Returnees: Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 49.0% 3PT), Grant Gibbs (8.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.1 rpg), Ethan Wragge (7.7 ppg, 44.6% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Zach Hanson, Darian Harris, Toby Hegner, James Milliken, Devin Brooks
  • Outlook: The big news for Creighton is that they got their two-time first-team All-American, Doug McDermott, back for their inaugural season in the Big East. The better news was that playmaker Grant Gibbs was granted a sixth season of eligibility, anchoring a back court that has played together for a couple of years. Losing Gregory Echenique will hurt, however, as he had the kind of size and strength to battle with anyone in the post. The Bluejays need an interior presence. Who steps up?

Harvard:

  • Last Season: 20-10, 11-3 Ivy (1st); Lost in the NCAA Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Christian Webster
  • Key Returnees: Wesley Saunders (16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg), Siyani Chambers (12.4 ppg, 5.7 apg), Laurent Rivard (10.4 ppg), Kyle Casey (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg in ’11-’12), Brandyn Curry (7.9 ppg, 4.9 apg in ’11-’12)
  • Key Newcomers: Zena Edosomwan, Hunter Myers, Matt Fraschilla
  • Outlook: The Crimson will be as talented as any Ivy League team in the history of the conference. They lose one player from a team that won the conference outright and knocked off New Mexico in the Round of 64 while adding a top 100 big man in Zena Edosomwan. and bringing back two all-Ivy caliber seniors in Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Siyani Chambers was one of the most under-appreciated point guards in the country, and Wesley Saunders is a stud. Keep an eye on this group.

Iowa:

  • Last Season: 25-13, 9-9 Big Ten (5th); Lost in the NIT title game
  • Key Losses: Eric May
  • Key Returnees: Roy Devyn Marble (15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Mike Gesell (8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg),
  • Key Newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok
  • Outlook: This is the year for Fran McCaffery’s club. The Big Ten is a bit down compared to where it was a season ago, and the Hawkeyes have a nice blend of talent, youth and experience. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White provide a solid core while sophomores Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury should take the next step this season. Keep an eye on Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, who has sat out the last two seasons as a redshirt and a transfer. Expect Iowa to pull off a couple big wins at home and to get into the NCAA tournament.

La Salle:

  • Last Season: 24-10, 11-5 Atlantic 10 (t-3rd); Lost in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Ramon Galloway
  • Key Returnees: Tyreek Duren (14.2 ppg, 3.3 apg), Tyrone Garland (13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg), Jerell Wright (10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tony Washington, Amar Stukes, Khalid Lewis
  • Outlook: Losing Ramon Galloway hurts, here’s no way around that fact, but Dr. John Giannini still has enough talent that a return to the NCAA tournament isn’t out of the question. Tyreek Duren has spent his career being underappreciated, while Tyrone “Southwest Philly Floater” Garland should see a bump in production with more shots and minutes available. Sam Mills and Jerell Wright also return, and keep an eye on Delaware transfer Khalid Lewis in the back court.

LSU:

  • Last Season: 19-12, 9-9 SEC (t-8th)
  • Key Losses: Charles Carmouche
  • Key Returnees: Johnny O’Bryant III (13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Anthony Hickey (11.2 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.9 spg), Shavon Coleman (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Andre Stringer (10.4 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, Tim Quarterman, John Odo, Brian Bridgewater, Darcy Malone
  • Outlook: Is this the year that the Tigers finally make that return trip to the NCAA tournament? They lose one player off of a team that won 19 games while bringing in a loaded recruiting class. Johnny O’Bryant should anchor a young-but-talented front line, while Anthony Hickey is once again back to terrorize opposing point guards. Quality depth — are freshman Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman ready to contribute immediately? — could determine the Tiger’s tournament chances.

Maryland:

  • Last Season: 25-13, 8-10 ACC (t-3rd); Lost in the NIT semifinals
  • Key Losses: Alex Len, Logan Aronhalt, Pe’Shon Howard
  • Key Returnees: Dez Wells (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), Nick Faust (9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Seth Allen (7.8 ppg, 2.3 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Damonte Dodd, Roddy Peters, Evan Smotrycz
  • Outlook: Losing Alex Len to the NBA took Maryland out of any real contention for a run at an ACC title in their final season in the league, but there are enough pieces here for Mark Turgeon to get his group into the NCAA tournament. The Terps will have plenty of perimeter options with Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Seth Allen returning, and with Roddy Peters joining the mix, Maryland might actually have a real point guard on the roster. Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman will spread the floor with Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell taking up space inside.

Missouri:

  • Last Season: 23-11, 11-7 SEC (t-5th); Lost in the NCAA Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Laurence Bowers, Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell
  • Key Returnees: Jabari Brown (13.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jordan Clarkson, Wes Clark, Johnathan Williams III, Shane Rector, Torren Jones, Keanau Post
  • Outlook: The Tigers lose quite a bit off of last year’s team, but there is reason to be hopeful in Columbia. Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross both return, and Frank Haith landed a talented recruiting class, headlined by Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark. But the guy to watch will be Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. The Tigers think he is the real deal, a talent that could make the all-SEC first team. Youth at the point and in the paint is a tough thing to overcome, but that trio on the wing could be enough to earn a tournament berth in a weak SEC.
source:
AP/Getty Images

Oregon:

  • Last Season: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd); Lost in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: EJ Singler, Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory
  • Key Returnees: Dominic Artis (8.5 ppg, 3.2 apg), Damyean Dotson (11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Ben Carter (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Mike Moser, Jordan Bell, Jason Calliste, Elgin Cook, AJ Lapray, Richard Amardi, Joseph Young*
  • Outlook: Dana Altman has become a master of the transfer market, this year landing Mike Moser and Jason Calliste as graduate transfers eligible immediately to bolster his roster. If Houston transfer Joseph Young gets a waiver from the NCAA as well, the Ducks will have one potent perimeter attack, as Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson return as well. But who steps up in the front court to replace Arsalan Kazemi and Carlos Emory? Waverly Austin, Ben Carter and Richard Amardi should all get a shot at major minutes.

Saint Louis:

  • Last Season: 28-7, 13-3 Atlantic 10 (1st); Lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis, Cody Remekun
  • Key Returnees: Dwayne Evans (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Mike McCall Jr (9.3 ppg, 40.2% 3PT), Jordair Jett (9.0 ppg, 3.2 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tanner Lancona, Mike Crawford, Reggie Agbeko
  • Outlook: The Billikens will be an interesting group to watch in the Atlantic 10 next season. They lost some talent with Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis graduating, but Dwayne Evans could end up winning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Jordair Jett is one of the league’s more underrated players and the Billikens run a system where parts can be replaceable. They may not be getting a top four seed this year, but a trip to the tournament should be expected.

San Diego State:

  • Last Season: 23-11, 9-7 MWC (t-4th); Lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, James Rahon
  • Key Returnees: Xavier Thames (9.5 ppg, 2.4 apg), JJ O’Brien (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Winston Shepard (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Josh Davis, Dakarai Allen, D’Erryl Williams
  • Outlook: The Aztecs are in for a bit of a rebuilding season, as they lost their most talented player (Jamaal Franklin) and their most important player (Chase Tapley). Bringing in Josh Davis from Tulane should help them sustain the blow, but it will be the development of Winston Shepard as a sophomore and the impact of Dakarai Allen as a freshman that will determine if SDSU can be more than just a “tournament team”.

St. John’s:

  • Last Season: 17-16, 8-10 Big East (11th); Lost in the NIT’s 2nd Round
  • Key Losses: Amir Garrett
  • Key Returnees: D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Phil Greene (10.1 ppg, 2.7 apg), JaKarr Sampson (14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Chris Obekpa (6.2 rpg, 4.0 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper
  • Outlook: The Johnnies will be the most intriguing team in the Big East next season. They are deep, they are talented, they have athletes up and down their roster. JaKarr Sampson might end up being a lottery pick. D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan will be one of the most dynamic back courts in the country. Chris Obepka defends the rim like he’s got skis for arms. Will they put all the pieces together? Can Steve Lavin coach a winning team? He’ll have every chance this season.

Stanford:

  • Last Season: 19-15, 9-9 Pac-12 (t-6th); Lost in the NIT’s 2nd Round
  • Key Losses: Andy Brown
  • Key Returnees: Dwight Powell (14.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Chasson Randle (13.6 ppg, 2.6 apg), Josh Huestis (10.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Aaron Bright (9.3 ppg, 3.4 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Malcolm Allen, Marcus Allen, Schuyler Rimmer
  • Outlook: This may be a make-or-break season for Johnny Dawkins. For the third straight season, he’ll have his core of Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle, Josh Huestis and Aaron Bright intact, but does that mean that he’ll end up playing in the NIT for the third straight season?

UNLV:

  • Last Season: 25-10, 10-6 Mountain West (3rd); Lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Anthony Bennett, Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Mike Moser, Justin Hawkins, Quintrell Thomas
  • Key Returnees: Bryce Dejean-Jones (10.3 ppg, 2.3 apg), Khem Birch (7.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Roscoe Smith, Jelan Kendrick, Deville Smith, Jamal Aytes, Christian Wood, Kendall Smith, Kevin Olekaibe
  • Outlook: The Runnin’ Rebels will undergo a major roster overhaul this season. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Khem Birch are the only returnees, but Dave Rice replaces the six rotation players he lost with a loaded class of recruits and transfers. How they come together, however, will be interesting to watch. Roscoe Smith was a top 30 recruit but left UConn. Jelan Kendrick is a McDonald’s all-american that flamed out of two schools in a year and a half. Deville Smith transferred from Mississippi State after one season. Rice has been able to amass talent out in Vegas. Can he finally get them to come together?

Virginia:

  • Last Season: 23-12, 11-7 ACC (t-4th); Lost in the NIT quarterfinals
  • Key Losses: Jontel Evans, Paul Jesperson
  • Key Returnees: Joe Harris (16.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Akil Mitchell (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Mike Tobey (6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Justin Anderson (7.6 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: London Perrantes, Devon Hall
  • Outlook: A couple of ugly losses early in the season cost the Cavs a chance at the NCAA tournament, but Tony Bennett brings the majority of his roster back from a team that was better than their postseason tournament would indicate. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell might be the best 1-2 punch in the country you’ve never heard of. Mike Tobey is a trendy pick as a breakout star. Justin Anderson is the perfect wing for Bennett’s system. Replacing Jontel Evans’ leadership won’t be easy, but the Cavs are a sleeper ACC title pick.

Kentucky lands commitments from two more elite prospects

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John Calipari is getting his work done early in the 2020 recruiting class, as he added two more commitments over the weekend.

On Thursday, it was Lance Ware, a 6-foot-10 post player from Camden, New Jersey, that announced his commitment. Ware is a top 50 recruit that held offers from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Miami. The bigger news, however, came on Saturday afternoon, when Terrance Clarke announced that he will be enrolling at Kentucky whenever he ends his high school tenure. Clarke is currently a member of the Class of 2021, but the plan is for him to reclassify and graduate high school this year.

Clarke is a consensus top three player in 2021 – and he may be the No. 1 player in that class, depending on who you ask – and should immediately vault into the top five of the 2020 recruiting class. An athletic, versatile wing that stands 6-foot-6, Clarke is a potential lottery pick given his physical tools and the way that he projects as multi-positional defender with the ability to create off of the dribble. Ware, like Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery before him, projects as the kind of player that will spend 2-3 years in Lexington.

Clarke and Ware join top ten prospect B.J. Boston and another top 50 recruit, Cam’Ron Fletcher, in Kentucky’s 2020 class. That’s three wings in the class with Johnny Juzang, Kahlil Whitney, Dontaie Allen and Keion Brooks currently on campus. Throw Montgomery into the mix, and that’s eight players that fit somewhere into a lineup as a wing or a face-up big man, and it seems rather unlikely that all five of the guys currently at Kentucky will leave the school this offseason. Put another way, this looks like the end of Kentucky’s pursuit of the likes of Jalen Green and Josh Christopher.

Calipari is still recruiting Cade Cunningham despite the fact that many expect Cunningham to end up at Oklahoma State, where Mike Boynton hired his brother Cannen, but Cade has skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings as he has transitioned to playing the point. Kentucky is still in the mix for a handful of other forwards, including Scottie Barnes, Isaiah Todd and Greg Brown.

Tony Bennett turns down raise, signs contract extension

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Virginia announced that they have signed head coach Tony Bennett to a contract extension, keeping him under contract through the 2025-26 season.

This is not unexpected. He just won the national title. I think he earned a new deal.

What is unique here, however, is that Bennett turned down a raise. He asked for more money for his assistants and for some cash to be put towards improvements in both his program and the other Virginia sports teams, but he passed on getting more money put into his own bank account.

“[My wife] Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past I’ve had increases in my contract,” Bennett said in the news release. “We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA.

“… I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”

That’s the dream scenario right there, being rich enough to turn down more money.

NCAA urges California governor not to sign ‘fair pay’ bill

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NCAA Board of Governors wants California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject a new attempt to pay college athletes.

And it is prepared to take the fight to court if necessary.

In a six-paragraph letter released Wednesday, the board urged Newsom not to sign the legislation known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, likenesses and images. The move comes two days after approval of the measure by the California Assembly, with the state Senate expected to consider the measure later this week.

The board warned that California schools may be declared ineligible for NCAA competition if the bill becomes law because they would have an unfair recruiting advantage.

“We’ve explored how it might impact the association and what it might do. We believe it would inappropriately affect interstate commerce,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, told The Associated Press. “It is not intended to be a threat at all. It’s a reflection about the way California is going about this.

“I’m not saying there will never be a day we would consider that (legal action), but it is not meant to be a threat,” Remy said.

The NCAA said the measure would affect more than 24,000 athletes in the nation’s most populous state.

Should the bill pass, Newsom would have 30 days to sign or veto it. If he does nothing, the bill would become law. It would be the first measure of its kind and the outcome is being closely watched as one of the biggest challenges in years to the NCAA’s longstanding and far-reaching model of amateur sports. Over the past decade, that model has come under increasing pressure – and attacks in court – as critics push for big-time college athletics to clear the way for the athletes themselves to benefit financially.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from profiting off their athletic skills. The organization, however, has recently begun considering rules changes to loosen those restrictions, though NCAA President Mark Emmert – and the board again on Wednesday – insist that players cannot be paid or become the equivalent of a university employee. Formal recommendations are expected to be made at the board’s October meeting.

It appears there is an appetite for significant changes.

Board members met with the working group studying these issues in August but neither Remy nor board member Denis McDonough would discuss specific proposals.

“The rules that we operate under, many of which date to 1975, may not be suitable for us in 2021 with the challenges and opportunities student-athletes face,” said McDonough, the White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama. “So we are and have been taking a very close look at how we can modernize those rules. We’re hoping the state of California would recognize that modernizing those rules for student-athletes across the country is the best way to do that.”

Supporters think those changes are already overdue and believe California’s elected officials should act now.

“The NCAA’s assertions are purposefully misleading,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association. “The 9th Circuit upheld a ruling concluding that the NCAA’s ban on player name, image, and likeness compensation does not bring forth a level playing field. The Big 12 commissioner stated competitive equity is `largely an illusion.’

“NCAA amateurism is a fraud. It’s a $14 billion a year industry with millionaire coaches. An NCAA ban on California colleges would amount to an illegal group boycott that would violate federal and California antitrust laws.”

The NCAA believes the California measure would violate the federal Commerce Clause and may not withstand a legal challenge; Remy cited a previous case in California in which the state tried to inhibit the NCAA from enforcing its rules. The NCAA won that case.

Should the measure pass, Remy said, the NCAA would penalize the schools, not individual athletes.

“There are two parts to this and part of this is the membership and that includes the California schools,” Remy said. “Schools and universities agree to comply with the rules of (NCAA) membership and there are a set of eligibility criteria that go along with being member institution. The California schools have consented to that criterion. So in that context it would be the schools that would directly impacted.”

Road To Redemption: How Virginia went from losing to 16 seed to winning title

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Over the course of the next month, we will be taking a look at some of the most memorable and important things that happened during the 2018-19 season and what kind of impact those moments are going to have on the 2019-20 season.

We’ll start with the obvious: Those Virginia Cavaliers.

Without question, the single best and most memorable moment from the 2018-19 college basketball season was The Redemption.

Less than 13 months removed from suffering what will go down as the most humiliating and demoralizing defeat in the history of college basketball – if not sports, period – Virginia went out and won the Whole. Damn. Thing.

And oh buddy, was it a roller coaster ride.

In the opening round, in their first game against a No. 16 seed since they became the first team to lose to a No. 16 seed, Virginia dug themselves a 14 point first half hole against Gardner-Webb before pulling their collective heads out of their, ahem, keisters and rolling to a win. The ‘Hoos handled Oklahoma with relative ease in the second round to advance to the second weekend, where that postseason roller coaster ride got an injection of Dominic Toretto’s NoS.

In the Sweet 16 against Oregon, Kihei Clark ended an 18-5 Duck run by burying a three and, two possessions later, finding Ty Jerome for another triple, giving UVA a lead that they would never surrender after they blew a lead they shouldn’t have lost. Virginia’s Elite Eight win will go down as one of the best NCAA tournament games of the decade. UVA survived Carsen Edwards going Super Saiyan while lighting up college basketball’s best defender in De’Andre Hunter for 42 points, and they did so thanks in very large part to one of the best and most instinctual plays you’ll ever see a college kid make:

Again, it was Clark coming to the rescue, as Virginia found a way to not only beat Purdue, but cover a 4.5 point spread in the overtime period.

Not that I’m still bitter or anything.

That brings us to the Final Four, the first of Tony Bennett’s illustrious career, where those Wahoos did their very best to make everyone believe they had not left their inner choke artist behind. Thanks to a couple of bone-headed fouls by Ty Jerome followed Auburn’s Bryce Brown making a pair of critical three-balls, Virginia blew a 57-47 lead in all of 3:16. In the blink of an eye, they found themselves down 61-57 with 17 seconds left after a pair of Anfernee McLemore free throws.

This time, it was Kyle Guy coming to the rescue. He buried a three with nine seconds left to cut the lead to one, and after Jared Harper missed one of two free throws, Guy was – controversially, but correctly – fouled while shooting a three with just 0.6 seconds on the clock. He would step to the line and swish not one, not two, but all three free throws, sending Virginia to the national title game, where they would face off with Texas Tech, a matchup that was billed as the worst national title game of all-time.

And that prediction turned out very, very wrong.

It took a while to get going, but by the time the final ten minutes rolled around, the battle between the two best defenses in all of college basketball was as intense and as physical as any game this year. We knew that was coming. What we didn’t know was that it would be the offenses for both those programs that would take over, as the shot-making and execution in the second half reached a level we rarely see in the college game. That said, Virginia again blew a double-digit second half lead, getting to overtime when Jerome found Hunter in the corner for a game-tying three with 12 seconds left:

Virginia would take the lead in the extra frame on another Hunter three with 2:10 remaining, pulling away to win 85-77 and cut down the nets for the first time in program history.

It was a wild ride, one that ended the opportunity for the dummies out there to criticize Tony Bennett’s coaching acumen because of a couple of fluky, unlucky tournament results.

But for my money, what made the turnaround so memorable – and what truly cemented Bennett’s standing as arguably the best in the game today – has everything to do with how Virginia changed the way they play after UMBC.


(Getty Images)

Before we get into the changes that Virginia actually made, I think it is important to put into context what actually happened in that loss to UMBC.

As Hunter has been quick to remind his teammates – over and over again – he did not play in Virginia’s loss to UMBC. He fractured his wrist before the start of the tournament, and the hole that he left in the lineup was drastically bigger than his 6-foot-7 frame. You see, Hunter was the guy that made Virginia matchup proof. He was the best, most versatile defender in all of college basketball as a sophomore. When Virginia won at North Carolina earlier this year, Hunter was, at different points throughout the game, matched up on lottery pick point guard Coby White, lottery pick wing Cameron Johnson and All-American power forward Luke Maye.

That’s who Hunter was as a freshman, too.

He was and is a monster defensively. 

Back to UMBC, the America East champs had a team that, in 2018, played a lineup with four guards and often had five players on the perimeter. It would not have been an issue to throw Hunter on any of them, especially since he was good enough offensively to be able to take complete advantage of that matchup on the other end of the floor. He was, after all, the No. 4 pick in June’s draft. He would have been a mid-first round pick had he left a year earlier.

But without Hunter on the floor, Bennett ran into a problem: He needed to play two bigs because of the offense that he ran, but none of Jack Salt, Isaiah Wilkins or Mamadi Diakite were going to be able to duplicate what Hunter could do. They couldn’t stay with those little UMBC guards, and they weren’t good enough offensively to take advantage of the mismatch on the offensive end. When UVA went small, it just meant that Nigel Johnson had to play more and, well, that was not ideal.

Now, look. Hunter’s absence is not a valid excuse for this loss. Virginia was still a much, much better team even without their best player. They played their worst game on a night where UMBC absolutely caught lightning in a bottle. It got into their heads. Jairus Lyles played the game of his life. UMBC ran away with the win. Weird things happen when college kids play sports. What can I say.

But Hunter’s absence and the slight matchup advantage that gave UMBC over UVA certainly played a major role in how this game played out, and I think it is fair to say that this game would have been much closer, and, in all likelihood, had a different result, with Hunter on the floor.

Here’s the proof.

These two clips are the same play. In the first example, Jerome finds Hunter for a game-tying three in the national title game. In the second example, Jerome finds Wilkins, who is not a shooter and the play results in yet another missed three in Virginia’s loss to UMBC:

“That situation made me take a look at a lot of things,” Bennett told me during last year’s Final Four. “From a basketball standpoint, that was such a pivotal moment.”

As I reported then, what Bennett did was reach out to former Wisconsin Badger Kirk Penney, a man he calls “a little brother to me.” Penney had played in the NBA and all over Europe before finishing out his career in New Zealand, so Bennett asked him, “In all your experiences, did you run any stuff that opens up the court more?”

Turns out, Penney had.

He knew exactly what Bennett needed.

You see, Bennett had spent the majority of his time in Charlottesville running the Blocker-Mover offense that his father created. That offense is fairly simple – there are three perimeter players on the floor, the “movers”, that continuously run off of screens that are set by the two bigs, the “blockers”:

But as effective as Virginia has been running Blocker-Mover in the past, running that offense with his 2018-19 roster makeup didn’t make sense. And again, this was because of De’Andre Hunter.

Hunter was the prototype college four. At 6-foot-7 and a strong 225 pounds, he’s big enough to guards fours while simultaneously taking advantage of them with his ability to shoot and beat slower defenders with straight-line drives. But he was also far and away the most talented player on the Virginia roster, and running Blocker-Mover would put Bennett in a position where he was forced to either play Hunter in a role where he was predominantly a screener or put him in a position where he was going to be defended by college threes doing something – specifically, running off of pindowns and flare screens – that is not his forte.

Enter Penney, who helped Virginia install a Ball-Screen Continuity offense, what Virginia called their “Flow Continuity.”

Again, the concept of this offense is fairly simple. The goal is to get open-side ball-screens, which just means having a big screening for a guard on one side of the floor with three players – preferably shooters – spacing on the opposite side. If nothing comes of the first ball-screen, the offense is designed for the ball to end up in a second ball-screen with the sides of the floor reversed. It’s run until a they get a shot, hence “continuity.”

It’s easier to show it than to explain it:

This is not something that Virginia has ever really run before this season.

Which brings me back to that game-tying three in the national title game.

While it’s not exactly the continuity ball-screen, it is a high-ball screen for Jerome. He did what he does so well: He got into the paint, he drew defenders and he found the guy everyone forgot about.

Now, one of the reasons that this worked so well for Virginia is that they had the players to execute it. Hunter was the best basketball player not named Zion Williamson in college basketball last season. Jerome was as good as anyone as the handler in a ball-screen, and he also happens to be an elite shooter that can run off of screens just as effectively. Guy was one of the very best shooters in the country. Clark is a defensive menace that allowed Jerome to move off the ball when necessary.

That changes next year.

Hunter, Jerome and Guy are all on NBA rosters. They will be replaced by Braxton Key, Tomas Woldetensae, Kody Stattman and Clark. Clark proved himself to be much better than I ever gave him credit for last season, but being effective in last year’s role and taking over full-time point guard duties for an All-American like Jerome are two very different things. Woldetensae and Stattman can both shoot, but they are not the shooters that Guy was. And most important, Key is a good player and can play the same position that Hunter played, but he’s not the player that Hunter was. If Hunter is Kraft Mac and Cheese, Key is whatever brand they carry at Aldi.

That puts Bennett in a tough position this season.

Because he doesn’t really have the guards to run his flow continuity offense as effectively as he did last year, but the guys that project as his starting bigs – Jay Huff and Diakite – fit a ball-screen heavy offense better than they do the Blocker-Mover. Huff is 7-foot-1 with ridiculous length, and he shot 14-for-31 from three this past season. He’s more or less the perfect five for ball-screen actions because he can catch a lob as a roll-man as effectively as he can bury a three when he picks-and-pops. Diakite can make threes as well, and he’s even more effective as a roll-man.

So I really don’t know what Virginia is going to look like next season.

Like Villanova last year, they are not exactly built to withstand that many critical pieces leaving with eligibility remaining.

My best guess? We see a lot of lineups with Key, Diakite and Huff on the floor at the same time as Bennett figures out exactly how he is going to be able to work in a guy like Woldetensae, who has never been asked to defend near the level he will have to defend with Virginia, and how he can effectively use Clark.

But I certainly expect Bennett to figure something out.

That’s just what he does.

The ‘Hoos will have some growing pains, and asking them to compete with Duke, Louisville and even North Carolina in what appears to be a three-horse race for the ACC title is tough, but I’d be shocked if they enter the NCAA tournament as anything other than a top four seed.

Boston College guard Wynston Tabbs to miss season due to knee surgery

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Boston College sophomore guard Wynston Tabbs will miss the entirety of the 2019-20 as he will undergo surgery on his left knee, the school announced on Wednesday.

This is an injury that has been plaguing Tabbs since last season, when he averaged 13.9 points but played in just 15 games.

“While I won’t be able to play this season,  I know that it is a temporary setback and I will be back stronger than ever before,” Tabbs said in a press release from the school.  “I want to thank my family, the Boston College Basketball program, and all our fans for their continued support. I’ve overcome obstacles before in my life and will work tirelessly to overcome this one. I am built for this.”

Tabbs has all-ACC potential and was going to be counted on to help fill the void left by Ky Bowman.