68 Things We Can’t Wait To See This Season

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (AP Photo/James Crisp)
1 Comment

Here are the 68 things that we are looking forward to the most from the 2015-16 season:

  1. Maryland finally facing Georgetown in a game that actually counts. If only it wasn’t overshadowed by the Champions Classic.
  2. Speaking of which, the Champions Classic. Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Michigan State. It doesn’t get much better than that until …
  3. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The highlight? Maryland at North Carolina and Indiana at Duke on back-to-back nights.
  4. Is Kentucky’s Jamal Murray the real deal?
  5. Can Kentucky’s guards actually co-exist?
  6. What about Skal Labissiere? Can he actually produce this season? Will he see the ball enough?
  7. Can Ben Simmons make LSU relevant?
  8. Shaka Smart at Texas. Can Havoc work in the Big 12?
  9. Derrick Jones. No explanation needed.
  10. How much of an impact will the new rules actually have? Will scoring increase? Is it going to come at the expense of game-flow?
  11. Can Mark Turgeon actually make Maryland a contender?
  12. Just how good is a healthy Marcus Paige? It’s going to take us another couple of weeks to figure that about.
  13. Bob Huggins’ sweatsuit.
  14. John Calipari’s Armani suits.
  15. Everyone’s talking Skal and Simmons, but what about Duke’s Brandon Ingram?
  16. Speaking of freshmen, Cheick Diallo’s eligibility. Will he play?
  17. Speaking of Kansas, which Wayne Selden do we see this season?
  18. Can Cuonzo Martin lead Cal to a Pac-12 title?
  19. The impact that Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes have on SEC hoops. They’re already making a difference in a league that’s on the upswing.
  20. The Kris Dunn show.
  21. Kyle Collinsworth triple-double watch.
  22. Relevant hoops at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym.
  23. Is Oklahoma really worth the hype?
  24. Tum Tum running things up in East Lansing.
  25. Hilton Magic. Is Steve Prohm the man that can unseat Kansas?
  26. Who does Bo Ryan have waiting to spring on us at Wisconsin?
  27. A deep postseason run from Tony Bennett to justify his playing style.
  28. How in the hell does Grayson Allen follow up the last college game we saw?
  29. The last hurrah for Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet.
  30. The Demetrius Jackson Show.
  31. Ben Howland’s return to the college game, and what happens when he puts the ball in Malik Newman’s hands.
  32. Will Indiana’s defense be good enough to make them relevant in the Big Ten title race?
  33. And can the Hoosiers withstand the external pressures with a fan base calling for their coach’s job?
  34. Speaking of external pressures, what about Louisville? With the scandal going on around them, can a team of new pieces find any kind of success?
  35. Will Kansas extend their string of Big 12 titles to 12?
  36. Will Arizona’s many newcomers defend at the level Sean Miller will demand of them?
  37. UCLA has a ton of talent on their roster, but can Steve Alford find a way to put it all together before the start of the NCAA tournament?
  38. Can anyone take control in a wide-open Pac-12 race?
  39. How do Cal and LSU handle the hype that will come with their talented newcomers?
  40. The rest of the national media play catch-up when they realize just how good Henry Ellenson is.
  41. How many rebounds is Rico Gathers going to get? And will he end up declaring for the NBA, NFL or WWE Draft?
  42. How will Gonzaga account for the loss of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley on the perimeter?
  43. Just how good is Daniel Hamilton going to be for UConn this season, and will Sterling Gibbs follow in Kemba and Shabazz’s footsteps?
  44. And will Kyle Wiltjer actually factor into the National Player of the Year race?
  45. Can North Carolina function with the pressure of being a national favorite with the NCAA cloud hanging over them?
  46. Can Villanova get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament?
  47. A much tighter Big East race than it’s been the last two seasons.
  48. Marquette incorporating a talented freshman class and whether or not that can get them back to the tournament.
  49. Can UAB repeat their run to and through the opening round of the NCAA tournament?
  50. Purdue’s front court. Is it enough to get them back to the NCAA tournament?
  51. UC Irvine’s Mamadou N’Diaye vs. UCF’s Tacko Fall (assuming he gets eligible). That’s two dudes that are 7-foot-6.
  52. Speaking of tall guys, how will Jakob Poeltl develop in his sophomore season?
  53. Miami is going to sell out season tickets this season. Are those fans going to see an ACC title contender?
  54. SMU playing for nothing but pride and winning the American.
  55. How hoarse Tom Izzo will be if his team makes it back to the Final Four again.
  56. Oregon State’s Gary Payton II getting reinforcements.
  57. The 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon.
  58. Will Florida State’s talented newcomers allow them to live up to the hype?
  59. What will N.C. State do for an encore after getting to the Sweet 16?
  60. Mick Cronin’s return to the sidelines at Cincinnati. Can they be a top 25 team?
  61. How North Florida deals with being the target in the A-Sun. They have the pieces needed to repeat.
  62. Rhode Island’s emergence as a favorite in the Atlantic 10. You’ll like Hassan Martin. I promise.
  63. Press Virginia.
  64. Can Seton Hall avoid another implosion?
  65. This Ryan Anderson character. Just how good is he?
  66. Ever heard the name Jalan West? You should.
  67. A wide open season where there is no consensus best team or best player, which leads to a crazy tournament and …
  68. … something that tops this:

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

uconn transfer portal
Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports

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

ncaa charge
Jordan Prather/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

marquette smart
1 Comment

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

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.