2016 NBA Draft: Who are next year’s candidates to be breakout lottery picks?

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The 2015-16 season turned into the year of the senior for a couple reasons, the biggest being that guys like Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine, both seniors, exploded in their last year on campus. They split all of the National Player of the Year awards, and deservedly so. Both were awesome, and both could end up being lottery picks on Thursday night.

The other reason was that the freshmen class was not really all that impressive, especially in comparison to the Class of 2016. Put another way, if the one-and-done rule wasn’t a thing, Hield and Valentine probably wouldn’t be lottery picks this year. That means that we likely won’t see many guys go from the second round this year to the lottery next year.

But it’s possible.

Here are the candidates:

THE NAMES YOU ALREADY KNOW

Grayson Allen, Duke: A conversation that I had with an NBA scout during the ACC tournament has always stuck out to me: What makes Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray markedly better pro prospects over Allen? He’s the same size, he just as — if not more — athletic, he shot 41.6 percent from three, he’s a more versatile offensive threat. He’s predictable offensively, yes, and that performance he had against Kentucky in the Champions Classic is going to stick in the mind of a lot of people. I’d still rank Buddy and Murray over Allen simply because both of them are elite at a particular skill that is incredibly valuable in the NBA right now, but the idea that those two are in the conversation for the No. 3 pick while Allen was considered, at best, a borderline first rounder is crazy to me.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is probably the best guy to compare to Hield, isn’t he? He’s a terrific college guard whose major limitation as an NBA prospect is his ability to shoot the rock and his ability to create offense for himself one-on-one. Hart, who was the best player for last year’s national champions, has received plenty of exposure during Villanova’s three-year reign atop the Big East. NBA front office folks know what he can do. If he’s going to play his way into being a lottery pick he’s going to have to do like Buddy did and turn himself into a shooter first and foremost.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: I can’t quite quit Hayes just yet. He did not have a good year as a junior, that’s not in dispute. He shot just 29.3 percent from three and 40.0 percent from inside the arc last season, a year that also saw his rebounding numbers take a significant hit. But he can shoot — his splits as a sophomore were 54.1/39.6/74.4 — which makes me wonder how much of his struggles were some combination of mental, struggling to adjust to life after Bo Ryan and, perhaps most significantly, a shot selection issue as he tried to prove that he was a wing. Hayes is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and perimeter skills. He the mold of a small-ball forward at the next level. Will his skill level catch-up?

Xavier's Edmond Sumner (4) shoots over Wright State's Justin Mitchell (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Xavier’s Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

THE NAMES YOU SHOULD KNOW

Edmond Sumner, Xavier: I might be the biggest Edmond Sumner fan that didn’t birth him. He’s an athletic 6-foot-6 point guard that is still growing into his body. He’s also still learning how to be a point guard — he’s a bit turnover prone, and he functions better in attack mode than as a facilitator — but there’s so much potential there. It will be interesting to see what he develops into next season, but he’s got the ability and the potential to be a first round pick one day.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse: Lydon is going to show up on every one of these lists for two reasons: He can block shots and he can hit threes. Having a guy that can protect the rim on the defensive end of the floor and spread the floor on the offensive end of the floor is about the most valuable combination of skills on the market at the NBA level simply because players that can do both of those things are rare. Lydon has some flaws he needs to fix — most notably, he needs to spend the summer in the weight room and the cafeteria — but if he takes the jump everyone expects him to take, he’ll be another guy Jim Boeheim crushes for leaving school too early.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson: Blossomgame is a guy that could have had a guaranteed contract as an early second round pick this season. He might have been able to play himself into being a late-first rounder if he proved during workouts that his 44.6 percent three-point shooting wasn’t just a result of limited opportunities. He’ll get the chance to do just that as he returned to Clemson for his senior season.

O.G. Anunoby, Indiana: I’m not sure Anunoby fits the criteria here, considering that he didn’t declare for the draft and spent much of his freshman season playing limited minutes behind Troy Williams. But once Tom Crean realized what he had in Anunoby, he became a integral piece of Indiana’s puzzle. He’s such a talented and versatile defender, if he can make himself into some kind of offensive threat on the perimeter he’ll be a first rounder. If he turns into a guy that can average 15 points and shoot 40 percent from three, he might be a lottery pick.

FIVE MORE NAMES YOU MAY NEED TO LEARN

  • Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: I’m enamored with Mitchell, who is the kind of big, powerful and long athlete that can play the combo-guard spot. I’m expecting a monster sophomore season out of him. Adel, a 6-foot-7 wing, was a guy that folks around Louisville thought could be the best member of last year’s freshman class. He spent much of the season banged up. What happens if he’s healthy?
  • Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas: Svi has long been considered a potential first rounder given his size and shooting ability. He’s spent two seasons at Kansas playing primarily a back-up role, but he enrolled at school a year early and only just turned 19 years old. Get this: he’s four months younger than Josh Jackson, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2016 and a soon-to-be Kansas teammate. What kind of hype would he have if he was a freshman this season?
  • Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt: I’m enamored with Kornet but we still need to see him put it all together. Players that can block shots and hit threes have value these days. Kornet shot 40 percent from three (on 3.6 3PAs per game) as a sophomore and 28.0 percent as a junior. He averaged 3.0 blocks as a junior and just 1.1 blocks as a sophomore. Can he do both of those things as a senior?
  • Shake Milton, SMU: Milton classifies himself as a point guard, but he’s 6-foot-5 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan. He shot 42.6 percent from three and had a 1.78 assist-to-turnover ratio. What happens when he gets to spend more time on the ball with Nic Moore gone?

 

 

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

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STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.

New Mexico State suspends player after shooting

Nathan J. Fish/Sun News/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State’s athletic director says power forward Mike Peake has been suspended indefinitely from the basketball team in connection with last month’s fatal shooting of a student from a rival university.

Mario Moccia also told reporters that neither he nor the school could comment on Peake’s enrollment status as a student. The 21-year-old Peake has not been charged in the Nov. 19 pre-dawn shooting on the University of New Mexico’s campus in Albuquerque hours before the host Lobos were to play the Aggies. That game was canceled along with the Dec. 3 rematch in Las Cruces.

“Mike is suspended from our basketball team until the completion of the university’s investigation and the investigation of the proper authorities,” Moccia said. “When those investigations will be complete, I can’t say.”

State police investigators said 19-year-old Brandon Travis conspired with two other UNM students and a teenage girl to lure Peake onto campus.

The subsequent shootout left Travis dead at the scene and Peake hospitalized with a leg wound that has required several surgeries.

A brawl at an Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces was a precursor to the shooting, police said.

First-year NMSU men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar was not made available to talk to media until 10 days after the shooting.

He expressed his condolences for Travis and his family and said he took full responsibility for the actions of multiple players who sneaked out of the hotel on that morning of the game.

But until Monday, NMSU officials had not spoken publicly about any specific discipline for Peake related to the shooting.

“If there is criticism over this decision, I am in a position to take it on myself,” Moccia said. “I’ve known this player for years and I know what kind of person he is. I didn’t feel a need to rush to judgment. I wanted to give the investigation time to play out before making any decisions.”

Peake, a 6-foot-7 junior from Chicago, played one season at Georgia before transferring to Austin Peay. He joined New Mexico State in 2021 and averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds last season, helping the Aggies reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent State for 73-66 win

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that entered Monday undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.