2014-15 Season Preview: The Top 20 Perimeter Attacks

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Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics)

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.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

1. Arizona: This was a relatively easy pick for the top spot. It starts with T.J. McConnell, one of those senior point guards whose value doesn’t always get noticed, and continues with Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who are as good of a pair of wings as you’ll find anywhere in the country. Shooting will be a concern, which points to the importance of Kadeem Allen and Gabe York, but good luck trying to run offense against the Wildcats.

2. North Carolina: Marcus Paige is going to have the kind of season that will put him into contention for National Player of the Year, and freshman wing Justin Jackson is one of the most underrated players in the country entering this season. Toss in a pair of point guards — Nate Britt and Joel Berry — as well as two big-time athletes on the wing — Theo Pinson and J.P. Tokoto — and Roy Williams has a myriad of weapons at his disposal.

RELATED: The nation’s Top 20 Frontcourts

3. Wichita State: NBA scouts won’t be lining up at Koch Arena the way they will for other teams on this list, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of guards with more poise and experience than Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker, both of whom will make some Preseason All-American teams. Throw in Tekele Cotton, a defensive monster, and Gregg Marshall’s club will match up with anyone in the country.

4. Duke: The Blue Devils were hard to rank on this list. On paper, they’re as talented as anyone: Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook at the point with Rasheed Sulaimon, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen and Matt Jones on their flanks. The question mark is going to be how playing time and role allocation shakes itself out. There may be some upperclassmen losing minutes freshmen. Will that be a problem in the locker room?

5. Kansas: For what seems like the 10th season in a row, Kansas will enter the year with uncertainty at the point guard spot. That hasn’t kept them from winning Big 12 titles, however, and with the addition of Devonte’ Graham to the mix, the Jayhawks may have found an answer. Even if they didn’t, a team that has Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene, along with a deep bench, belongs high on this list.

MORE: Top 25 Potential Breakout StarsCoaches on the Hot Seat 

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6. UConn: Gone is Shabazz Napier. Running the show in his place this season will be Ryan Boatright. Whether or not he makes the leap that Kemba Walker and Shabazz did in their final years remains to be seen, but he’ll have plenty of help. N.C. State transfer Rodney Purvis is eligible, and top 30 recruit Daniel Hamilton has arrived as well. Throw in Terrence Samuel, Sam Cassell Jr. and Omar Calhoun, and Kevin Ollie has some serious options.

7. Michigan: The Wolverines are going to rely almost entirely on their perimeter this season, and they should be just fine doing so if Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin make the kind of sophomore improvement that Caris LeVert did. One guy to keep an eye on: Kameron Chatman, a versatile forward that will also see some time at the four.

8. Gonzaga: Kevin Pangos was not healthy as a junior. He is now, however, and with the kind of firepower Mark Few has at his disposal, expect Pangos to compete for all-american honors. Gary Bell Jr. is now a senior, and two will be joined by USC transfer Byron Wesley, Kyle Dranginis, and freshman Josh Perkins.

9. Kentucky: This may end up being too low for the Wildcats, especially if the Harrisons twins — particularly Aaron — end up improving as much as some have projected. And that ignores the fact that their best point guard is Tyler Ulis. One concern? They end up spending too much time playing someone out of position — Alex Poythress? Trey Lyles? — at the three.

10. Louisville: The biggest reason that Louisville is ranked this high on the list is that, along with the rest of the college hoops world, we expect big things out of Terry Rozier this season. With Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear back as well, and the likes of Quentin Snider, Shaqquan Aaron and Anton Gill coming off the bench,

RELATED: NBCSports.com’s Mid-Major Power Rankings | Mid-Major All-Americans

  • 11. Stanford: Chasson Randle is perennially underrated, while Anthony Brown is a future NBA wing.
  • 12. Georgia State: Ryan Harrow, Kevin Ware and R.J. Hunter. That’s a super-talented trio for any level.
  • 13. Oklahoma: This may be too low. Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins is a nasty trio.
  • 14. Iowa State: This ranking is dependent on Monte’ Morris having a big year and Bryce Dejean-Jones buying into what Fred Hoiberg is selling.
  • 15. UCLA: Norman Powell is a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year, but this ranking assumes Bryce Alford succeeds at the point and Isaac Hamilton lives up to his reputation.
  • 16. Florida: Michael Frazier is the only known quantity on the Gators, but if Kasey Hill and Devin Robinson pan out, watch out.
  • 17. Villanova: The Wildcats may be hurt by familiarity. We know Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard well by now. Keep an eye on Josh Hart, who could have a big year in the James Bell role.
  • 18. VCU: Briante Weber and Treveon Graham are both first-team all-Atlantic 10 caliber players. Will Melvin Johnson and freshman Terry Larrier join them there this season?
  • 19. Cal: The trio of Ty Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird is the real deal. Who handles the point?
  • 20. Indiana: The sleeper on this list. Yogi Ferrell is a stud, but what comes of James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Troy Williams this year?

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.