NBCSports 2014-2015 College Basketball Season Preview Schedule

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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We will be counting down the top 25 teams in the country, previewing each of the 32 conferences and ranking players at every position. We will also have 42 feature stories on players and teams that you will need to pay attention to.

Below is a schedule for all of our coverage for the next six weeks. Bookmark this page, as we will be posting links to each and every piece of preview content:

source:  POSITIONAL RANKINGS

Oct. 23: Back Courts
Oct. 24: Front Courts
Oct. 27: Lead Guards
Oct. 28: Off Guards
Oct. 29: Wing Forwards
Oct. 30: Big Men

AWARDS

Oct. 15: Mid-Major Power Rankings
Oct. 16: Mid-Major All-Americans
Oct. 21: Best Dunkers
Oct. 31: NBCSports.com Dream Team
Nov. 3: NBCSports.com Preseason All-Americans
Nov. 10-14: Top 100 Players Countdown
Nov. 14: CBT Staff Final Four Picks
Nov. 14: NBCSports.com Preseason Bracketology

LISTS

Oct. 6: Top non-conference games
Oct. 7: Coaches on the Hot Seat
Oct. 8: Programs on the rise and decline
Oct. 9: Breakout Stars
Oct. 10: Key Junior College additions

Oct. 13: X-Factors
Oct. 14: Impact transfers
Oct. 17: Key assistant coach hires
Oct. 20: New head coaches likely to succeed and fail
Oct. 22: Impact freshmen

Nov. 4: Under the radar stars
Nov. 4: Top 68 things to watch for
Nov. 5: College basketball draft
Nov. 6: Potential cinderellas
Nov. 7: Most important players

TOP 25 COUNTDOWN

Oct. 3: Others Receiving Votes
Oct. 6: No. 25 Stanford Cardinal
Oct. 7: No. 24 UCLA Bruins
Oct. 8: No. 23 Harvard Crimson
Oct. 9: No. 22 Michigan State Spartans
Oct. 10: No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes

Oct. 13: No. 20 UConn Huskies
Oct. 14: No. 19 Michigan Wolverines
Oct. 15: No. 18 San Diego State Aztecs
Oct. 16: No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones
Oct. 17: No. 16 SMU Mustangs

Oct. 20: No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners
Oct. 21: No. 14  Florida Gators
Oct. 22: No. 13 VCU Rams
Oct. 23: No. 12 Wichita State Shockers
Oct. 24: No. 11 Villanova Wildcats

Oct. 27: No. 10 Louisville Cardinals
Oct. 28: No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Oct. 29: No. 8 Texas Longhorns
Oct. 30: No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels
Oct. 31: No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers

Nov. 3: No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks
Nov. 4: No. 4 Duke Blue Devils
Nov. 5: No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers
Nov. 6: No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
Nov. 7: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS

Oct. 10: Ivy League – Preview; Tommy Amaker’s unprecedented success at Harvard
Oct. 11: SWAC – Preview
Oct. 12: MEAC – Preview; LeVelle Moton developing UNC-Central’s culture
Oct. 13: NEC – Preview; Can Robert Morris get back to the NCAA tournament?
Oct. 14: Southland – Preview; Jacob Parker, communication and how it helped Stephen F. Austin
Oct. 15: WAC – Preview; Martez Harrison fills a 30 year old void at UMKC

Oct. 16: Big South – Preview; How High Point’s John Brown went from JV QB to NBA prospect
Oct. 17: America East – Preview; Stony Brook works toward NCAAs after DII transition
Oct. 18: Atlantic Sun – Preview; #DunkCity looking to take flight once again
Oct. 19: Big West – Preview; Alan Williams, one of mid-major’s best kept secrets
Oct. 20: Big Sky – Preview; Weber State’s success is recruiting Texas paying off

Oct. 21: Patriot  – Preview;  Improved American team ready to defend Patriot League title in 2014-15
Oct. 22: Summit – Preview; Cody Larson’s growth, from legal troubles at Florida to a star at SDSU
Oct. 23: OVC – Preview; Cam Payne has done a good job filling Isaiah Canaan’s shoes
Oct. 24: MAAC – Preview; Manhattan’s returnees look to build on the achievements of last season’s senior class
Oct. 25: SoCon – Preview; How Wofford went from the NAIA to the SoCon’s powerhouse

Oct. 26: Sun Belt – Preview; Georgia State’s devastating Sun Belt tourney loss leads to a new mentality
Oct. 27: CAA – Preview; Damion Lee is finally healthy for Drexel
Oct. 28: Horizon – Preview; A chip is firmly implanted on Keifer Sykes’ shoulder
Oct. 29: MAC – PreviewToledo gets defensive in quest for first NCAA Tournament appearance in 35 years
Oct. 30: Atlantic 10 – PreviewDayton’s Elite 8 run, Archie Miller’s decision to stay help continue Atlantic 10’s success
Oct. 31: Conference USA – PreviewLouisiana Tech’s Michael White is happy where is at

Nov. 3: WCC – Preview; Deep, talented Gonzaga takes aim at lengthy NCAA tournament stay; Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis
Nov. 4: Missouri Valley – Preview; Fred Van Vleet wants to sustain Wichita State’s elite production
Nov. 5: Mountain West – Preview; San Diego State has major questions offensivelyColorado State is rebuilding through transfers, again
Nov. 6: American – Preview; Nic Moore tries to get SMU on the right track after months of misfortune
Nov. 7: Pac-12 – Preview; Stanford’s Chasson Randle continues to grow as a point guard, leader; Chemistry the biggest factor in Arizona’s quest for a national title

Nov. 10: Big East – Preview; Kris Dunn looks to put injuries behind him as he shoulders heavy load at Providence; The new-look Big East looks to improve in year two
Nov. 11: Big 12 – Preview; To turn Texas around, Rick Barnes first had to change the culture of his team; A heart-to-heart with Bob Huggins changed Juwan Staten’s outlook, career
Nov. 12: Big Ten – Preview; Patience and hard work helped transform Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky into “Frank the Tank”; From under-recruited to team leader, Caris LeVert has seen it all at Michigan
Nov. 13: ACC – Preview; The maturation of Jerian Grant: What one star learned during a season-long suspension; Angel Rodriguez is happy to continue his career where it started: Home
Nov. 14: SEC – Preview; Kasey Hill’s second family gave him a new lease on life

Pac-12 loosens intra-conference transfer rule

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The Pac-12 approved a measure Monday that will lighten restrictions on players that want to transfer to schools within the conference.

Players who now make an intra-conference transfer will no longer be subject to an immediate loss of a season of eligibility, the conference announced.

“This rule change removes one of the last remaining penalties associated with transferring between Conference schools,” the league said in a press release, “and is designed to provide student-athletes with a similar experience to any other student who decides to transfer.”

The league also has passed rules to beef up its non-conference schedule as programs will be required to a non-conference five-year trailing average of opponents’ NET ranking must be 175 or less, no participation in road buy games, no regular season games against non-Division I opponents and no road games versus a non-conference opponent with a five-year trailing average of 200 NET. Those requirements, along with the move to a 20-game conference schedule, come in response to continued struggles by the league in basketball, with last season seeing the league flirt with being a one-bid NCAA tournament conference. Ultimately, its league champion, Washington, received a No. 9 seed with Oregon getting a 12 and Arizona State an 11 and a First Four invitation.

 

Kenny Wooten writes he won’t return to Oregon

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Kenny Wooten took to Instagram on Monday to discuss his future.

“I know I’ve waited a very long time to answer this question,” Wooten wrote in response to a question from a fan, “but I will not be coming back for year 3.”

Presumably that means that Wooten means to continue to pursue a professional career after declaring for the NBA draft after his sophomore season. He competed at the G-Leage Elite minicamp last week in Chicago along with a host of other draft hopefuls.

The 6-foot-9 California native averaged 6.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game while shooting 58.9 percent from the field. At the moment, it’s likely that Wooten would have to pursue a path to the NBA that includes the G-League.

Wooten makes it a loss of seven players from last year’s Sweet 16 squad for coach Dana Altman, who also saw Bol Bol and Louis King go to the draft. Payton Pritchard Jr., who averaged nearly 13 points per game as a junior, has also declared, but has not indicated if he plans to stay in or return to school.

Five-star forward Trendon Watford commits to LSU

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Whatever issues have dogged LSU coach Will Wade over the last few months, they aren’t enough to keep him from landing another five-star recruit.

Trendon Watford, a top-25 forward in 2019, committed to Wade and the Tigers in an Monday afternoon announcement.

“It’s the trust,” he said of his pick of the Tigers, according to AL.com, “the trust I have with those coaches and them helping me reach my potential.”

Watford said he had been leaning towards heading to Baton Rouge, but retreated from that stance when Wade was suspended by LSU after reports surfaced about federal wiretaps featuring Wade discussing making a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit. Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson was also on wiretap discussing Wade, recruit Naz Reid and $300,000. Ultimately, though, LSU has stood by him as it reinstated him from suspension.

“When all that was going on it was definitely a pause in my recruitment,” Watford told 247Sports. “Before that I was going to commit to LSU during the McDonald’s game and that happened so we postponed. He still contacted me throughout that time and would tell me what was up. When he got reinstated they got pushed back to the top.”

Ultimately, the Tigers are landing one of the top players that were left on the board this spring, a 6-foot-9 forward that was also considering Alabama, Memphis and Indiana, where his brother Christian played. He joins James Bishop, a top-150 guard from Maryland, and junior college transfer guard Charles Manning in Wade’s 2019 class. It would also seem there is little immediate concern, at least by Watford, that the NCAA might soon find wrongdoing that was suggested by the evidence and testimony to come out the federal investigation into college hoops.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Nassir Little said about North Carolina at the combine

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One of the storylines that has popped up since the NBA draft combine came to an end last week has centered around a couple of things that potential top ten pick and former North Carolina Tar Heel Nassir Little said.

Before we dive into it, here is what the actual quote was, courtesy of our own Scott Phillips:

“Hesitancy. Not being sure of what I wanted to do at UNC,” Little said when he was asked why he thinks he struggled more in college than he did in the high school ranks. “The coaching staff didn’t really understand exactly what my role was early on, especially in the offense, (which) created a lot of hesitancy which didn’t allow me to play like myself.”

Then we he was asked to elaborate on whether or not being unsure of his role contributed to his hesitancy, Little said, “Just kind of being unsure, playing out of position, created some confusion on the court which caused me to be hesitant.”

Little has taken some criticism for this, and, to be frank, this can be read as something of a criticism of the coaching staff. Without context, one can infer that Little is passing the buck and pinning the blame for his struggles on his coaches.

But the context here matters, and it changes the tone of what he is trying to say.

Let me start with this: Little says that he would not jump straight from high school to the NBA even if he had the chance to do it all over again.

“It was a struggle statistically,” he said, “but on the court I developed, my body developed and became more mature in the weight room there, learning about the game, playing against actual defense – in high school there is no help, you beat your guy, you’re going to get a dunk. Going to college exposes you to what’s helpful for the NBA.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who is bitter that an inability to crack the starting lineup at North Carolina cost him some draft spots.

To me, it sounds like a guy who realized that he didn’t know what he didn’t know before he arrived in Chapel Hill.

The thing about Little is that he was always just a weird fit for North Carolina’s system and the way that Roy Williams wants to play.

In this day and age, basketball is becoming more and more about versatility and your ability to play multiple positions. Think about Giannis Antetokounmpo bringing the ball up the floor for the Bucks or the job that Draymond Green does for Golden State. Little is such an attractive prospect because he has the size, strength and athleticism to be able to guard multiple different positions — which you cannot teach — while having the upside of still needing to learn how to do pretty much everything better offensively.

North Carolina’s offense is not one that preaches versatility. The positions are quite rigid. Williams wants two bigs on the floor that are true bigs. He wants two wings on the floor that are going to be able to get out in transition and make threes on the wing. He wants a point guard that can lead the break. Where Little’s versatility makes him an intriguing prospect at the highest level, he’s relegated to being something of a tweener for a coach that is just two years removed from his third national title.

So when Little says “the coaching staff didn’t really understand exactly what my role was,” he’s not blaming them.

He’s just speaking the truth.

When he says that created a “hesitancy” in him, of course it did. If you walked into a new job tomorrow, and your boss never really gives you clear and concise instructions on what he expects you to do, are you going to be at your very best right away, or will it take you some time to adjust?

Roy Williams is one of the best to ever coach college basketball, and one of his biggest strengths is the ability to find and recruit players that fit into his system. Coby White is the perfect example. Don’t be surprised when Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot have us saying the same thing next season.

Little is not one of those players that fit perfectly into what Williams wanted to do, but as far as I can tell, this was the closest that we came to hearing Little complain about it. He accepted his role, he got better throughout the year and he had some of his best games in big moments — the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the Florida State game at home, the Virginia Tech game in January.

Maybe I’m reading this entirely wrong, but to me, Little doesn’t come off as bitter or angry, he sounds like a mature, self-aware kid that was honestly answering questions about his one season in college.

Javonte Smart’s decision to return to LSU could complicate things next season

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Javonte Smart announced over the weekend that he will be withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to LSU for his sophomore season.

Smart is a 6-foot-4 point guard and a former four-star recruit that averaged 11.1 points, 3.3 boards and 2.4 assists as a freshman. He was one of six Tigers — along with Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor and Emmitt Williams — to declare for the draft. None of the other five have announced a decision yet.

In a vacuum, this is obviously a good thing for an LSU program that has quite a bit up in the air right now.

But there is more to this story than a solid freshman returning to school for his sophomore season, because Smart found himself smack in the middle of the controversy involving the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. In March, Yahoo Sports reported that LSU head coach Will Wade was caught on a wire tap discussing with Christian Dawkins, an ex-runner for a former NBA agent that has been convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison as a result of this scandal, a “strong-ass” offer that he made to one of Smart’s handlers.

“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade reportedly said in the conversation on wiretap with Dawkins. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”

“Dude,” Wade continued to Dawkins, referring to the third party involved in the recruitment. “I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.

“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

Smart was suspended for the final game of the regular season, but he was reinstated prior to the start of the SEC tournament. Will Wade was suspended at the same time, but he was not reinstated until last month.

This might end up being problematic, for Wade, for Smart and, potentially, for LSU. Smart returning to school means that the NCAA can now exert influence over him. They will be investigating everything that has popped up as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, from what was discussed at trial to the things that were reported separately in the media. I have very little doubt that LSU is going to be one of the programs that gets investigated, and since he is back in college, the NCAA will once again be able to hold power over him.

They can call him in to be interviewed. If he does not tell the truth in that interview, he can be suspended. If he does tell the truth, just how much of a headache is that going to be for the coaching staff and the program as a whole?

I don’t have the answer to that question, and based on LSU’s decision to reinstate Smart in March, they must either believe that the player did not know anything about that “strong-ass offer” or that the story is inaccurate in some way.

Either way, Smart’s decision to come back to school is going to complicate things, even if it makes the team better.