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College Basketball’s Best Wing Forwards

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The lead guard position is the deepest in college basketball this season, but wings aren’t all that far behind. 

And I have a theory on that.

One of the most valuable positions in the NBA these days are wings that can defend everyone from a point guard to a power forward and are capable of knocking down an open three. Throw in the ability to attack a close out off the dribble and the willingness to play within a system, and you understand why a guy like Trevor Ariza’s NBA career is spanning into a second decade. The trickle-down effect here is that guys like Jaron Blossomgame or Josh Jackson or O.G. Anunoby focus on developing the perimeter skills necessary to be able to space the floor, making them more valuable at the professional level in the long-term.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it and this just happens to be a year where there are a lot of talented players at this position. Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of guys on this list that will spend a lot of time in the NBA.

Before we dive into the top 20 wings in college basketball, a quick disclaimer: We used four positions to rank players – lead guards, off guards, wings and big men. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, he’s probably slotted in a different position.

Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top 100 Players

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men

Villanova guard Josh Hart (3) shoots in front of Georgetown forward Isaac Copeland (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Villanova guard Josh Hart (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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1. Josh Jackson, Kansas: I don’t think it’s crazy to compare Josh Jackson to Andrew Wiggins. They’re both supremely-athletic, 6-foot-8 wings that will play a critical role on a Kansas team that has the talent to win a national title. The difference between them? The comparison isn’t perfect – Jackson is more polished as a scorer and a passer while Wiggins was a more athletic, raw talent – but here’s the major point that needs to be made: Wiggins wasn’t ready to play a alpha-dog role that he was forced into. Jackson is, but he won’t be asked to, not with the veterans on the KU roster.

Wiggins has a negative rep from his time at Kansas, but he averaged 17.7 points and was the best perimeter defender in the country on a team that very easily could have made the Final Four had Joel Embiid stayed healthy. He was damn good, and Josh Jackson has a chance to be better.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart’s ability to guard different positions and attack the glass on both ends of the floor made him the most valuable piece that Villanova had on their roster last season. It’s impossible to over-value how good he fits on that team. His NBA potential is a question mark, however, the same way that Buddy Hield’s was heading into last season. Can Hart make the same kind of jump that Hield did?

3. Jayson Tatum, Duke: Now that we know his foot injury is not something serious we can move on discussing Tatum as the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. There are been rave reviews about Tatum coming out of the Duke camp during the preseason. He is, essentially, a 6-foot-9 kid with a shooting guard’s skill-set. Think Brandon Ingram, only more fluid and more skilled with less hair and less tattoos.

4. Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks was a tough guy for us to rank on this list. When healthy, he’s an awesome college player that is a perfect fit for Oregon’s offense. He’s a guy that could average upwards of 20 points on a top five team. He’s a first-team all-american. But … he’s got this foot issue that will likely keep him out for the start of the season, and if you know anything about foot issues, they don’t necessarily just go away. His health may be the single biggest x-factor in college hoops this side of Harry Giles III.

5. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson: Blossomgame is the most under-appreciated player in college basketball. He can guard anyone outside of the nation’s best low-post scorers. He averaged 18.7 points for a slow-paced Clemson team. He shot 44.6 percent from three on more than 100 threes attempted. But he plays for Clemson, so no one notices him. Trust me. You should take notice.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25: Jaron Blossomgame #5 of the Clemson Tigers dunks against D.J. Foreman #1 and Jake Dadika of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the Men Who Speak Up Main Event basketball tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 25, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clemson won 76-58. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jaron Blossomgame (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

6. O.G. Anunoby, Indiana: Anunoby is a tough player to rank on a list like this for a couple reasons. He’s a potential breakout star that didn’t post great numbers last season. His value lies in his ability to play a role more than his ability to score 20 in the Big Ten. He may be a better NBA prospect than a college player. But he’s also a 6-foot-8 defensive menace that can guard four positions, hit threes, get to the offensive glass and beat people off the dribble.

7. Malcolm Hill, Illinois: If Blossomgame is the most under-appreciated player in the country, Hill isn’t all that far behind. He’s what we like to call a bucket-getter. He can score in the post. He can score on the perimeter. He hits threes. He beats people off the dribble. He’s got a jab series. He can hit step-backs. He is a great college scorer.

8. Miles Bridges, Michigan State: There may not be a better athlete is college basketball than Miles Bridges. He’s a freak to the point that I may demand to see a birth certificate if I’m to believe that he isn’t from outer space. The concern with Bridges is going to be his ability to score. Michigan State desperately needs a go-to guy, so Bridges will have the chance to show what he can do offensively. It also means he’ll risk being exposed.

9. Trevon Blueitt, Xavier: Edmond Sumner is the guy that has been getting all the hype this season, which is why it may surprise you to find out that Bluiett was actually Xavier’s leading scorer last season. He’s not as athletic as some of the other wings on this list, but he is a terrific shooter that can defend bigger players.

10. Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Jackson is a tantalizing prospect because of his height, his length and his touch in the lane. The issue is that he hasn’t consistently shown the ability to take over games at the college level. With Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson gone, it’s Jackson’s time.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

11. Kris Jenkins, Villanova: You’re going to remember Jenkins as the guy that made the national title-winning shot last April. You should also remember him as a sniper from three whose ability to defend bigger players was why Villanova was able to create so much space and so many mismatches offensively.

12. Deng Adel, Louisville: By the end of the year, this may be too low for Adel. He struggled with injuries last season, but people in and around the program rave about how good he’s been behind closed doors. Will that show through on the Yum! Center floor this season?

13. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State:

14. V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame: Beachem is a guy that deserves to get more attention than he’s gotten in his career. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 sniper that will be playing the Pat Connaughton/Tim Abromaitis role in Notre Dame’s offense. Don’t be surprised when he’s averaging 18 points and shooting 43 percent from three at the end of the year.

15. Kelan Martin, Butler: Martin was Butler’s most dangerous scorer last year, and with the amount of talent that the Bulldogs lost to graduation, don’t be surprised to see him lead the Big East in scoring this season.

RANKINGS: Top Frontcourts | Top Backcourts

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers handles the ball in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Nigel Hayes (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

16. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: This will seem low for a player with Hayes’ profile and a preseason Big Ten Player of the Year nomination this fall. It will also seem low if he shoots better than 36 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three, like he did last season.

17. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Thornwell has averaged 13 points, 4.5 boards, 3.0 assists and more than a steal per game in his three years at South Carolina. At some point he is going to get the respect he deserves as one of the best players in the SEC.

18. Kevin Hervey, UT-Arlington: One of the most talented mid-major players in the country, Hervey was drawing attention from NBA scouts when he tore his ACL last winter.

19. Andrew White, Syracuse: White is one of the best volume shooters in the country, and he’ll join Syracuse to play the role vacated by Malachi Richardson. The question is whether White will be able to accept being the third or fourth option offensively.

20. Isaac Hamilton, UCLA: No one talks about Hamilton when talking about UCLA, but he averaged 16.8 points for the Bruins as a junior.

ALSO CONSIDERED

  • Rawle Alkins, Arizona
  • Jamel Artis, Pitt
  • Isaac Copeland, Georgetown
  • Mustapha Heron, Auburn
  • Kyle Kuzma, Utah
  • Jeremy Morgan, Northern Iowa
  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas
  • Omar Prewitt, William & Mary
  • Devin Robinson, Florida
  • Duncan Robinson, Michigan
  • Maverick Rowan, N.C. State
  • Ray Smith, Arizona

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.