Looking Forward: Catching up on the Big 12’s offseason


With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Earlier, we took an early look at the ACC. Today, we’re Looking Forward at the Big 12:

READ MORE: The NBCSports.com preseason top 25 | Coaches on the hot seat


1. Will Fred Hoiberg be in Ames next season?: Fred Hoiberg will stay at Iowa State for the rest of his collegiate coaching career, but just how long he remains in the college ranks has always been a question mark. He’s a former NBA player with front office experience that has always been considered a favorite to take over for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago if — when? — Thibs gets the axe. The Cyclones have the talent to remain relevant if Hoiberg is gone, but his ability to get castoffs from other programs to buy-in and his unique ability to exploit mismatches is what has made Iowa State a true title contender.

2. What kind of success will Shaka Smart have in Austin?: Shaka Smart taking over at Texas is the single-most intriguing new hire in college basketball. Smart turned VCU from a CAA program into a perennial top 25 team, but he did it using a full-court pressing system called ‘HAVOC’ that I do not believe can work at an elite level. Will he adjust the way that he plays with the Longhorns — he has to in the short term as he doesn’t have the personnel to pressure full court for 40 minutes — or will he be able to tap into the myriad of elite-level athletes in the state of Texas and turn this program into the second-coming of Nolan Richardson’s ’40 Minutes of Hell’ Arkansas teams.

3. Kansas looks like the favorite to win their 12th straight Big 12 title: Everything broke right for the Jayhawks this spring. Cliff Alexander declared for the NBA Draft, which is addition by subtraction, while Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis both decided to return to Lawrence for another season. And in addition to landing top 25 recruit Carlton Bragg, the Jayhawks picked up a commitment from top five big man Cheick Diallo, the kind of aggressive and athletic big they have lacked to last two seasons. If Frank Mason can continue to play the way he played as a sophomore and if Svi Myhailiuk can showcase the potential that he has, the Jayhawks will likely once again emerge as the favorite in a top-heavy conference.

READ MORE: Eleven potential Breakout Stars in 2015-16 | Eight intriguing coaching hires


  • Cheick Diallo, Kansas: I think Diallo is somewhat limited as a prospect. He’s not overskilled, rather he’s more of a guy that thrives because he plays harder than anyone else. But that’s what Kansas desperately needed along side Perry Ellis and Carlton Bragg. He’ll be what we all wanted Cliff Alexander to be last season.
  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans is my favorite point guard in the Class of 2015. He’s a ballhawk defensively that understands how to run an offense, a pure point guard in the sense that he always makes the right decision. He’ll remind Oklahoma State fans of Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis.
  • Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach, Texas: The Longhorns have plenty of bigs to rotate through, but they really needed depth on the perimeter, particularly given the way Shaka Smart likes to play. Keeping them interested in coming to Austin was a priority.


  • Kansas State’s back court: It was fairly obvious by the middle of the season that Marcus Foster was going to be transferring out of Kansas State. What wasn’t as expected was that Bruce Weber would also be losing Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson, the two veteran point guards on his roster. The Wildcats will be in major rebuilding mode next season.


  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (Player of the Year)
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State
  • Rico Gathers, Baylor
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas
  • Isaiah Taylor, Texas


1. Kansas: Kansas upgraded Cliff Alexander to Cheick Diallo, added Carlton Bragg and returned everyone other than Kelly Oubre. They’ll be a contender.

2. Iowa State: With Monte’ Morris and Georges Niang back in the fold, the Cyclones will be as deadly as ever offensively. Can they improve defensively?

3. Baylor: Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince will anchor one of the sport’s best front lines. How good they are depends on how they replace Kenny Chery.

4. Oklahoma: Buddy Hield coming back is huge, but a lack of depth and losing Tashawn Thomas keeps the Sooners from being among the Big 12’s top three.

5. Texas: Can a coaching change improve the fortunes of the most disappointing team in the country from last season?

6. West Virginia: Losing Juwan Staten hurts, but WVU should still find a way to be competitive with their depth and the style Bob Huggins has adopted.

7. Oklahoma State: Perimeter of Phil Forte, Jeff Newberry, Tavarius Shine and Jawun Evans will be good. But can the frontcourt compete with league’s best?

8. Kansas State: Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson graduated. Marcus Foster, Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson transferred. What’s left in Manhattan?

9. TCU: The Horned Frogs lose their two leading scorers from a team that went 4-14 in the league last season.

10. Texas Tech: There’s not much to get excited about on the Red Raider roster.

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.