San Diego State's Skylar Spencer (AP Photo)

Mountain West Preview: Boise State, SDSU to contend

5 Comments

Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Mountain West.

While the Mountain West did manage to get three teams into the NCAA tournament a season ago, 2014-15 also served as a wakeup call of sorts. The league put together an out of conference strength of schedule that was ranked 25th out of 33 leagues, and there was a price to be paid Selection Sunday. San Diego State received an eight-seed and Boise State, which shared the regular season title with SDSU and was the top seed in the Mountain West tournament, landed in the First Four where they got to take on Dayton, whose home arena hosted those games.

The Broncos and Aztecs are two of the teams expected to contend this season, with a talented UNLV squad looking to get into the mix and Fresno State and Utah State also capable of making a run. But even with the amount of talent possessed by those programs, what they do in November and December will have a major impact on how much respect they’re given in March. The Mountain West learned this the hard way last season.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. UNLV brings in the conference’s top recruiting class in what is a big season for Dave Rice: According to Rivals.com the Runnin’ Rebels have a class that’s the 11th-best in the country, with big man Stephen Zimmerman being the crown jewel of that group. Add in transfers such as Jerome Seagears (Rutgers), Ben Carter (Oregon) and Ike Nwamu (Mercer), and a sophomore class expected to take a step forward, and there’s no denying that Dave Rice and his staff have a lot to work with. But can they take advantage of it? Not only will the answer impact this season, but it could also impact the direction of UNLV basketball in seasons to come.

2. Nevada and Utah State made head coaching changes: There were two head coaching changes in the Mountain West this offseason, and the two hires are in far different situations. Eric Musselman, who has plenty of experience at both the college and NBA levels, takes over at Nevada and he’s already had success on the recruiting trail. The other move occurred at Utah State, where longtime assistant Tim Duryea slides over a seat to take over for the retired Stew Morrill. And with all five starters back, led by Player of the Year candidate Jalen Moore, Duryea could have a Mountain West contender on his hands.

3. San Diego State has some issues to sort out offensively: You know that Steve Fisher’s Aztecs are going to bring it defensively; that hasn’t been in question for a long time on Montezuma Mesa. But what is up for questioning is this group’s productivity on the offensive end, with their best perimeter shooter from last season out of eligibility (Aqeel Quinn) and the player expected to be that option (Matt Shrigley) sidelined with a torn ACL. Can Malik Pope develop into the talent that has some NBA Draft types discussing him as a possible first round pick? Is freshman Jeremy Hemsley the answer at the point? Those are two key questions SDSU faces heading into the season.

4. Anthony Drmic returns to the court after redshirting last season: When Boise State lost Anthony Drmic for the season in January due to a back injury, it was assumed that the Broncos were in trouble. Well everyone else got healthy, Derrick Marks emerged as the conference’s best player and James Webb III took off in conference play. While Marks is now playing professionally, Drmic returns for his final season, joining a highly experienced perimeter rotation on a team that can win another Mountain West title.

James Webb III
AP Photo

5. Colorado State, Wyoming looking to account for major personnel losses: Colorado State had a good case that it should have been in the NCAA tournament last season, as they won 26 games and finished third in the conference. But that senior-laden group landed in the NIT, and now Larry Eustachy has to account for the loss of his top three scorers from a season ago (J.J. Avila, Stanton Kidd and Daniel Bejarano). As for Wyoming, Larry Shyatt has just one starter returning (Josh Adams) from a team that got hot in Las Vegas and won the Mountain West tournament.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE:

  • Favorite: “I think you have to start two places. I think you have to start with Boise State, being the defending champs and having three elite players back in Webb, Duncan and Drmic. Those are three of the better players in the league on the team that won it. And I think the other place you have to start in this league is San Diego State. They’re the most physically gifted team in the league in terms of size and athleticism and length, and defensively they are the gold standard in this league.”
  • Sleeper: “I think that has to be Fresno State. Marvelle Harris, one of the top two or three players in the league is back, and Paul Watson’s good as well. I think they have a chance to be really good. They started out last year without their full contingent of players, and once they got everyone back they were extremely hard to guard. I think they’ll be (in the race) all year because they’re explosive offensively and put a lot of pressure on you defensively. They’re very athletic. I know they took a foreign tour this summer that I’m sure they think puts them in a good spot experience-wise.”
  • Best player: “I think, for the effect that they have on the game and for the efficiency they plays with, James Webb III from Boise State and Marvelle Harris from Fresno State. One of those guys is “1A” and the other’s “1B” because  they both have a huge impact on the game. In different ways, but both really affect the game so those are the two guys who come to mind right away.”
  • Most underrated player: “I thought Marvelle Harris (was underrated last year). There are a lot of similarities between he and Derrick Marks, and I think he’s a guy who could have a breakout year this year. I think he’s as good as anybody in the league, is a pro prospect and could have a special year.”

PRESEASON MOUNTAIN WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: James Webb III, Boise State

While Boise State getting healthy was a big factor in them getting hot in conference play, so was the emergence of Webb. In his first season in a Boise State uniform Webb averaged 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three. A versatile offensive weapon at 6-foot-9, Webb could take off in 2015-16.

THE REST OF THE ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FIRST TEAM:

  • Marvelle Harris, Fresno State: The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 16.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game last season.
  • Jalen Moore, Utah State: Moore’s added some weight to his frame after playing well enough to earn second team all-conference honors a season ago, and he could be in the Player of the Year conversation in 2015-16.
  • A.J. West, Nevada: One of the nation’s best rebounders, West grabbed 11.0 caroms per contest to go with 12.1 points and 2.6 blocks.
  • Josh Adams, Wyoming: Adams will have a lot on his plate with the Cowboys losing four starters from last season’s team. He averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as a junior.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Stephen Zimmerman and Jaylen Poyser, UNLV
  • Skylar Spencer, San Diego State
  • Anthony Drmic, Boise State
  • Emmanuel Omogbo, Colorado State
  • Cullen Neal, New Mexico

BREAKOUT STAR: Malik Pope, San Diego State

After dealing with two major injuries on the tail end of his high school career, Pope showed some flashes of his array of skills as a freshman. The next step for the 6-foot-10 forward is consistency, which could come with a season spent working on his body and game as opposed to having to focus on rehab. If he can do that, SDSU has its feature scorer and Pope’s name will continue to circulate amongst those who put together mock drafts.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Dave Rice, UNLV

Rice is the clear choice here, given UNLV’s underachievement in recent years. While many choose to focus on UNLV’s lack of national success when airing their frustrations, consider this: since Rice took over in 2011 UNLV’s finished no higher than third in the Mountain West in any of the four seasons he’s been in charge. Expectations are high in Las Vegas, with UNLV having the talent to be a factor both within the conference and nationally. Anything less could spell trouble for Rice.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : Are any of these teams capable of getting to the second weekend?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Seeing if a player can step forward in the same manner that Derrick Marks did for Boise State last season.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • November 19, Boise State at Arizona
  • November 26, San Diego State vs. California (Las Vegas Invitational)
  • November 29, Utah State at Duke
  • December 9, UNLV at Wichita State
  • December 22, Kansas at San Diego State

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @GeoffGrammer

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Boise State: Derrick Marks has moved on, but the Broncos have a good mix of experience and newcomers to rely on. And James Webb III is going to be a star this season.
2. San Diego State: If Jeremy Hemsley is the answer at the point the Aztecs can win the league outright. But they still need to find dependable perimeter shooters.
3. UNLV: The raw talent is definitely there for the Runnin’ Rebels. But can Dave Rice make all the pieces fit together?
4. Utah State: With all five starters back longtime assistant Tim Duryea could be in for a big year in his debut as head coach.
5. Fresno State: With their entire rotation back, led by Marvelle Harris, this could be a big year for the Bulldogs.
6. New Mexico: The Lobos enter this season with hopes of avoiding the injury bug that derailed their 2014-15 campaign even before conference play began.
7. Colorado State: Larry Eustachy lost a lot from last season, but they’ve added some quality players to make up for that. One name to remember: Emmanuel Omogbo.
8. Wyoming: Larry Shyatt finds himself in a similar situation personnel-wise, with senior guard Josh Adams being surrounded by many new faces.
9. Nevada: While Eric Musselman’s first season at the helm may not churn out too many wins, he and his staff have done a good job on the recruiting trail thus far.
10. Air Force: Dave Pilipovich’s team was one of the better offensive teams in the league from an efficiency standpoint last year. But they have to get better defensively if they’re to make a move up the standings.
11. San Jose State: Already working with limited talent, losing Rashad Muhammad (transferred to Miami) doesn’t help Dave Wojcik at all as he looks to rebuild.

Duke’s Justin Robinson discusses lost season, becoming a leader

Leave a comment

Justin Robinson was starting to figure things out.

The Duke senior forward saw his role increase as the postseason approached. Against rival North Carolina, Robinson made key plays on both ends of the floor. Robinson finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three assists in 25 minutes. The ACC tournament was next on the schedule for Duke.

Then, the college basketball season was cut short. Robinson and his Duke teammates were among a large group of teams with seasons that would never get completed.

Robinson sat down with his brother Corey to discuss how he and his teammates handled season being canceled, his favorite tournament memories and how he grew into his role with the Blue Devils.

Report: MSU basketball player accused of sexual assault

Getty Images
Leave a comment

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a Michigan State basketball player is asking the Michigan attorney general’s office to investigate, according to a published report.

ESPN, citing a police report and emails obtained through a public records request, reported that Michigan State University police told prosecutors they had probable cause that sophomore guard Brock Washington raped the woman on Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent. Police referred the case to county prosecutors, who declined to file charges this month.

An MSU police spokesman said that the attorney general’s office requested the case file and the department was cooperating.

After a loss at Indiana on Jan. 23, coach Tom Izzo told reporters that Washington had been suspended. He did not elaborate.

Washington did not play again this season. He played a total of 19 minutes this season before the suspension.

A team spokesman did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday. The AP also left messages with the MSU police.

ESPN said it attempted to reach Washington and his current attorney. A previous attorney, Peter Samouris, said he wasn’t familiar with this case but that he spoke with Washington and Washington’s father last week.

“It’s my understanding he’s not going to be charged, and he doesn’t wish to speak,” Samouris told ESPN. “He’s maintained his innocence 100% of the time.”

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said in a statement to ESPN that she did not charge Washington because the case “does not meet the burden of proof that we must present to a jury.”

The woman told ESPN she met with an assistant prosecutor earlier this month and was told that she had been “too intoxicated to prove that it (sexual contact) was forced.”

“That was the whole point of the charge, that I was too drunk to consent to what happened,” the woman said. “The prosecutor failed me completely.”

The woman told ESPN she requested that the AG’s office investigate her case.

ESPN, citing police records and an unidentified source, said Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2018 – under a provision allowing offenders to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction. A female student reported that Washington forcibly groped her on Aug. 29, 2017, according to ESPN.

Michigan State has been at the center of several high-profile sexual assault claims in recent years. The school was rocked by the sexual abuse scandal involving sports doctor Larry Nassar, and several basketball and football players have been accused of misconduct as well.

More AP college basketball:

and

NBA draft process remains uncertain for college stars

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Uncertainty in the NBA draft process means a chaotic next few months for college basketball’s stars.

The COVID-19 outbreak stalled the NBA season. The future of the regular season hasn’t been determined. The postseason with it. The 2020 NBA Draft still remains a complete mystery.

Through it all, college basketball’s best players have deadlines for pro decisions coming up. Changing times have made for a more difficult NBA draft process than normal. It also might have ramifications for future college eligibility for certain players.

Before the 2019 NBA Draft process, the NCAA revised its former policy. Student-athletes could sign agents and retain college eligibility last summer. That process helped players like Kansas’ Devon Dotson and Louisville’s Jordan Nwora test the 2019 NBA Draft waters before returning to school this season.

The sport’s top agents largely ignored the new NCAA certification process for 2020. Only 23 agents have even been certified so far. As noted by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, that list of NCAA-approved agents don’t come from bigger firms. So college players have been given a small group of agents to help them navigate the process. At least if they wish to keep college open as an option.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony also noted that many agents are more focused on their current NBA players and the surrounding chaos in the NBA than they are 2020 draft prospects.

Of course, prospects can also risk navigating the NBA draft process alone. An agent, even from a “smaller” firm, has NBA connections. Agents help give feedback to potential clients who test the waters. A player going through the process alone doesn’t get that benefit. With limited NCAA-approved agents, some players could opt to do things themselves the next several months.

Top players who intend to stay in the draft will still sign with the sport’s top agents. That part will stay the same. But during a unique draft process, players being limited to only 23 agents to retain eligibility is not what the NCAA should be looking for. Workouts have practically been eliminated. The draft might be pushed back. And the NCAA isn’t helping its own student-athletes by placing so many restrictions that limit returning eligibility.

Tarleton State’s decision to hire Billy Gillispie is shameful

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Billy Gillispie is the new head coach at Tarleton State.

But the truth is that Billy Gillispie, the former UTEP, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kentucky coach, should never again be allowed to coach basketball at any level, which is what makes Tarleton State’s decision to hire him to lead the program into the Division I ranks next season all the more shameful.

He’s abusive, he’s manipulative, he treats the people in his program horrifically and you can never be quite sure when his next drunk driving arrest is going to happen. He’s had at least three since his coaching career began. When he was the head coach at the University of Kentucky, he had a driver because the school could not trust that he would not get behind the wheel while hammered. Case in point: exactly five months after Kentucky fired him — when he no longer had a driver supplied to him by the school — he was pulled over at 2:47 a.m. in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, for DUI. He plead guilty two months later despite refusing a breathalyzer.

Every stop that he has been along the way, there are stories about the way that he treats players, his assistant coaches and the people he interacts with around the program every day. There was the time at Kentucky he made Josh Harrellson sit in a bathroom stall during halftime because he was “playing like s***,” or the time he made Harrellson ride home from a road game in a van with the team managers. There was the time at Texas A&M that he made a player break up with the girl he was dating — a booster’s daughter — on the charter flight home from a game, in front of the girl’s family.

Then there was Texas Tech.

As Jeff Goodman, then of CBS Sports, reported at the time, Gillispie’s treatment of the players was just horrific. He had his team practicing for four hours a day — including one day where they went for eight hours — just obliterating the NCAA’s limit of 20 hours per week. It left one player on the team with stress fractures in both legs that he was forced to play through. He lied to players about scholarship offers, stringing them along until he had someone better to give the scholarship to. He did the same thing with coaches trying to get a spot on his coaching staff. According to Goodman’s reporting at the time, former Indiana guard Tom Coverdale quit his job as a Junior College coach to be an assistant on Gillispie’s staff only to get to Lubbock and be told that he was going to be an assistant strength coach that paid half as much. He would force everyone with the program — including radio and TV broadcasters — participate in layup lines at the start of practice. Anyone that missed a shot at to run the stadium stairs.

“It was mental warfare,” said a source that has worked with Gillispie in the past. “Everyone had to have a clear understanding. He was the ruler. He has a major complex with making sure everyone knows he’s in charge. For no reason, just to flex. Meeting at all times of the night, meeting on Christmas Eve, just to see if anyone says, ‘can’t coach, wife said no.’ Then he’d overcompensate with gifts for the family, for the kids.”

Like any abusive relationship, he breaks down people he has control over, builds them back up by showering them with compliments and promises that it will never happen again only to repeat the process all over.

And then there was the incident with Chris Beard.

Fed up with the way that he treated people in the program — as many as 30 people left Texas Tech, from players to secretaries, in the 18 months that Gillispie was in charge — Beard confronted Gillispie about it in a meeting with Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt. Things got heated. The two had to be physically separated. Beard was paid a hefty chunk of money to be quiet about it, and he was sent on his way, taking a job in the ABA before ending up back in Lubbock.

Those are just the stories that I feel comfortable enough to publish.

Tarleton State knows exactly what they’re doing in hiring Billy Gillispie. None of his issues are a secret. Things haven’t changed since he took over at Ranger College, a JuCo in Texas, three years ago. But the new president at the University wanted to make a splash. He wanted to transition to Division I, and he wanted to win as soon as he got there. The WAC is hardly a powerhouse, and if there is one thing that Billy Clyde Gillispie can do, it’s win basketball games.

He did so at UTEP and he did so at Texas A&M. Odds are good Billy Gillispie will also win at Tarleton State.

And in the process, he’ll treat everyone that he deems beneath him — student-athletes, staff members, whoever — terribly.

Is that really worth it?

2020 NBA Draft Early Entry Tracker

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is CBT’s full 2020 NBA Draft early entry tracker. You’ll find a full breakdown of what players are deciding. We’ll track signing with agents, testing the waters and returning to school here. 

Underclassmen have until Sunday, April 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST to declare for the 2020 NBA Draft.

A deadline of Monday, June 15th at 5 p.m. EST is set for underclassmen to withdraw and retain college eligibility.

Of course, these dates are subject to change given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation.

Here is the full list of the underclassmen who have declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. You can also find a list of the biggest names we’re waiting on.

NBA DRAFT EARLY ENTRY

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

NBA DRAFT TESTING THE WATERS

  • SADDIQ BEY, Villanova
  • TYLER BEY, Colorado
  • JERMAINE BISHOP, Norfolk State
  • JORDAN BRUNER, Yale
  • MARCUS CARR, Minnesota
  • JALEN CRUTCHER, Dayton
  • RYAN DALY, St. Joseph’s
  • DEVON DANIELS, N.C. State
  • KENDRIC DAVIS, SMU
  • L.J. FIGUEROA, St. John’s
  • D.J. FUNDERBURK, N.C. State
  • ALONZO GAFFNEY, Ohio State
  • JIMMA GATWECH, Huntington Prep (WV)
  • JAYVON GRAVES, Buffalo
  • RAYSHAUN HAMMONDS, Georgia
  • ELIJAH HUGHES, Syracuse
  • FERON HUNT, SMU
  • HERB JONES, Alabama
  • MASON JONES, Arkansas
  • KAMERON LANGLEY, North Carolina A&T
  • SABEN LEE, Vanderbilt
  • KIRA LEWIS, Alabama
  • ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan
  • CAM MACK, Nebraska
  • SANDRO MAMUKELASHVILI, Seton Hall
  • NAJI MARSHALL, Xavier
  • KENYON MARTIN JR., IMG Academy (FL)
  • REMY MARTIN, Arizona State
  • MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown
  • ELIJAH OLANIYI, Stony Brook
  • JOHN PETTY JR., Alabama
  • NATE PIERRE-LOUIS, Temple
  • JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, Villanova
  • JAY SCRUBB, Louisville
  • PARKER STEWART, UT Martin
  • MACIO TEAGUE, Baylor
  • XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State
  • JORDAN TUCKER, Butler
  • KEITH WILLIAMS, Cincinnati
  • MCKINLEY WRIGHT, Colorado

NOTABLES RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • DEREK CULVER, West Virginia
  • OSCAR TSHIEBWE, West Virginia

NOTABLES YET TO ANNOUNCE

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
DERRICK ALSTON, Boise State
COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
BRYAN ANTOINE, Villanova
JOEL AYAYI, Gonzaga
JARED BUTLER, Baylor
VERNON CAREY, Duke
AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State
LUKA GARZA, Iowa
JOSH GREEN, Arizona
ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
AARON HENRY, Michigan State
MATTHEW HURT, Duke
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana
ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas
DAVID JOHNSON, Louisville
A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
SCOTTIE LEWIS, Florida
TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky
JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington
WENDELL MOORE, Duke
JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
YVES PONS, Tennessee
NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, Kentucky
JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech
NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
JALEN SMITH, Maryland
CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke
ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
TYRELL TERRY, Stanford
TRENDON WATFORD, LSU
ROMEO WEEMS, DePaul
KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
KAHLIL WHITNEY, Kentucky
ROBERT WOODWARD, Mississippi State

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | NBA Draft Early Entry (link)

WHEN IS THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to take place on June 25th, 2020, but that date is up in the air due to the spread of COVID-19. At the very least, the league is preparing as if the pre-draft process is going to be drastically different than it has been in past seasons.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE FOR AN EARLY ENTRY TO DECLARE FOR THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

Underclassmen have under April 26th to declare for the draft. Those that don’t sign with an agent have until June 15th to pull their name out of the draft and return to school.

WHERE CAN I FIND A 2020 MOCK DRAFT?

Right here, thanks for asking.