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The 68 Things We Cannot Wait To See In College Basketball This Season

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College basketball officially kicks off on Friday night. Here are the 68 things we’re looking forward to the most this season.

1. How David Padgett deals with the spotlight in his first head coaching job. This is a difficult situation, but he’s got a lot of talent to work with and a solid staff to lean on. – Raphielle Johnson

2. The nonsense that the NCAA comes up with to try and fix college basketball while ignoring the obvious, easy, necessary answer: End Amateurism.- Rob Dauster

3. Bonzie Colson getting buckets like only Bonzie Colson can. – Travis Hines

4. Will Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton play more like be the motivated potential No. 1 pick he can be or the passive center that barely gave an effort during some games during high school. – Scott Phillips

5. What weird controversy will find Grayson Allen. – TH

6. The unknown. The best part about college basketball are the story lines that pop up out of nowhere. – RD

7. Where Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley ends up after he leads his team to the Sweet 16. – RD

8. Aaron Holiday. He’s so much better than simply being Lonzo Ball’s understudy, and we’ll see it this season. – RD

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9. J.P. Macura and the art of talking trash. – TH

10. Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura. You’ll understand why soon enough. – RD

11. BYU’s Yoeli Childs. Ditto. – RD

12. Miles Bridges dunking on anyone and everyone. – TH

13. Seton Hall’s team of veterans prove that you don’t have to have one-and-dones to win. – RD

14. Mohamed Bamba’s impact at Texas. Don’t know if I’d put the Longhorns in the category of Big 12 title contender, but they aren’t far off thanks to Bamba’s arrival. – RJ

15. The backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett at St. John’s. – TH

16. How will Kentucky adjust to being a team that lacks a significant veteran contributor from the season prior. This is unlike any team John Calipari’s had in his tenure there. – RJ

17. That Duke/Michigan State matchup in the Champions Classic. Could be the game of the year until we get to March. – RJ

18. How Kansas and Bill Self puts this roster together. Do they have anyone that can play the four? – TH

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19. Montana State’s Tyler Hall shooting three-pointers with a Steph Curry-level green light (he attempted 8.8 per game last season and made 42 percent of them.) – SP

20. People at the Final Four in San Antonio pretending that the River Walk is interesting. – TH

21. People realizing that Svi Mykhailiuk, a senior on Kansas, is four months older than Billty Preston, a freshman. – RD

22. Cincinnati proving that you can be a great college basketball team without having any preseason hype. – RD

23. The Jaylen Adams/Matt Mobley backcourt at St. Bonaventure. Do yourselves a favor and check those guys out at least a couple times this season. – RJ

24. Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington and JellyFam taking over college hoops. – SP

25. The growth of Carsen and Vince Edwards, and Purdue repeated explaining that, no, they are not actually related. – RD

26. Michael Porter Jr. being awesome and leading Missouri back to the NCAA tournament. – TH

27. Chris Mullin vs. Patrick Ewing on the sidelines. Given how fierce that rivalry was when they were players in the Big East, this should be fun. – RJ

28. The joy of listening to Bill Walton calling late-night Pac-12 games. – SP

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29. The Ivy League conference tournament since the league is loaded this season. – SP

30. Kentucky’s growth this season. They’re going to take some lumps early, but they should be a contender come March. – RD

31. Angel Delgado bullying everyone in the paint. – RD

32. The ridiculous backcourt battles in the Big East. – SP

33. What happens next in the FBI investigation since people are being indicted. What will they tell? Who’s next? – RJ

34. TCU taking the next step and actually reaching the NCAA tournament. – TH

35. How Dana Altman will decide to use Troy Brown in his offense. – RD

36. The Mountain West’s never-ending battle to return to national relevancy. Can they be a two-bid league again? – RD

37. Will the SEC actually be improved? On paper there are good reasons to believe so, but can’t blame people for wanting to see it before they buy in. – RJ

38. Seeing if Ethan Happ can carry Wisconsin to another top-four Big Ten finish with this young roster. – TH

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39. Seeing if perpetually-underrated Conference USA can get a win in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. – SP

40. The American title race. Cincinnati and Wichita State would be my favorites, but SMU, UCF, UConn, Temple and Houston will all be heard from as well. I’d be shocked if the winner had fewer than four league losses. – RJ

41. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga battling it out in the WCC. BYU should be in mix as well, and don’t sleep on San Francisco, but that feels like a two-horse race. – RJ

42. How Northwestern handles success and expectation after their first trip to the NCAA tournament. – TH

43. Seeing how much UCF’s Tacko Fall has improved since last season. – SP

44. How Jim Boeheim handles a potentially tough season at Syracuse. – TH

45. The “Go-Go Gadget” arms of Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba. – SP

46. Duke’s Wendell Carter. He’s a damn-good player with absolutely no preseason buzz. – RD

47. The race for who will become the presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton. – TH

48. If there’s a serious challenger to Arizona in the Pac-12, or if Arizona and Allonzo Trier thrive despite the FBI investigation. – TH

49. Wichita State competing for the first time in the AAC after moving out of the Missouri Valley. – TH

50. Auburn’s search for a new head coach once Bruce Pearl is run out of town. – RD

51. Trevon Duval’s progression at Duke. For all the talent on that roster, really think he holds the key to a national championship. If he runs the show as well as his talent leads many to believe he can, they’ll be in San Antonio at minimum. – RJ

52. DeAndre Ayton at Arizona. That team’s loaded, but he’s the toughest matchup on that roster. And given how last season ended, those veterans should be plenty motivated as well. – RJ

53. The ever-increasing slate of good college hoops being played on Thanksgiving thanks to this year’s PK80. – SP

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54. Mike Daum at South Dakota State. There aren’t many guys his size who can score inside and out while threatening to be a 50/40/90 guy in college basketball. He’s special. – RJ

55. A healthy season of Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright playing together at USC. – SP

56. Watching Grand Canyon try to make the NCAA tournament during their first season of eligibility. – SP

57. Provindence shocking everyone when they play their way into being a top 20 team in the country. – RD

58. Vermont winning a game in the NCAA tournament and thus confirming that T.J. Sorrentine is no longer hitting them from the parking lot for the Catamounts. – RD

59. Devonte’ Graham getting his own chance to shine at Kansas with the departure of Frank Mason. – SP

60. Will coaches that staunchly support playing two bigs – Cuonzo Martin, Roy Williams – learn to embrace small-ball the way that Bill Self did? – RD

61. Giddy Potts become a mid-major darling. Who doesn’t love chunky little guys that fire up threes? – RD

62. DePaul and Illinois playing for the first time in 60 years. – SP

63. The Big East race. I really think it’s going to be closer than some people think. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all capable of winning the league, and Villanova’s still Villanova. – RJ

64. A healthy Oregon State. That’s a tournament team with everyone on the court, especially Tres Tinkle. – RJ

65. How UCLA deals with initiating an international incident, and whether or not the Ball Family rips the program apart at the seams. – TH

66. What South Carolina does for an encore. They lost a lot from the Final Four team, but you know Frank Martin’s guys are going to compete. – RJ

67. Oklahoma freshman Trae Young pulling up from unfathomable distances for three-pointers. – SP

68. How Jim Larranaga puts all those quality guards to good use down at Miami. The Hurricanes have the tools to win the ACC. – RJ

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.

Report: One-and-Done rule could be eliminated for 2021 NBA Draft

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The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of ending the infamous one-and-done rule that forces many potential professional basketball players to head to college for at least one season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, citing a league memo sent to NBA teams late this week, the league office is indicating that “eligibility rules” for the NBA draft could change as soon as 2021 or 2022 — but not earlier. The league is currently trying to figure out how the FBI’s investigation into college basketball will play out while also trying to navigate the player development changes that would be needed for high school players to once again potentially enter the NBA. Recently, the NBA has started to allow its teams and front-office personnel to attend elite summer high school events as the Pangos All-American Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp both had an NBA presence to watch elite Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects.

Lowe’s report mentions that the one-and-done rule is not mentioned directly by name, but the NBA is trying to warn its teams before the 2018 NBA Draft. These future changes could be on the horizon and teams need to understand what they are doing with future draft picks in potential trades.

The scenario of a 2021 NBA Draft in which high school players might be eligible is a fascinating subplot for college basketball, and the sport at-large, over these next few years.

As Lowe pointed out in his report, whenever the rule is eventually opened up, it will create one large mega draft in which two elite classes of high school players would be draft-eligible in the same year. With potentially double the lottery-level and first-round talent of a typical NBA draft, it would force a lot of elite college recruits to exam the possibility of reclassifying up in order to get ahead of that mega draft and be in a pool with fewer elite prospects.

It also gives the high school players themselves a unique decision with regard to their potential college futures. If an elite high school prospect is one year away from entering the NBA draft out of school, would some go to college or would they try to go for a postgrad year and follow in the footsteps of players like Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons?

The expanding presence of the NBA’s G-League is also a factor in all of this as salaries for the league are increasing and becoming more respectable — giving high school players a viable professional option in the United States instead of college for one year before moving on to the draft.

There are still way too many moving parts to truly speculate how this will all go down. But at least we know that the NBA appears to be viewing 2021 or 2022 as the potential change to the one-and-done rule. We’ll have to see how elite high school prospects start potentially adjusting to reclassify while colleges also might have to adopt some new and unique recruiting strategies if they rely on one-and-done players to fill out their roster.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

Villanova lands late commitment from four-star prospect

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Villanova made a late addition to their 2018 recruiting class on Friday afternoon as they landed a commitment from four-star prospect Saddiq Bey.

Bey was originally committed to N.C. State, but he asked out of his Letter of Intent in mid-May as the Wolfpack ended up over the scholarship limit. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward is a good fit for the way that Villanova likes to play, as he can guard different positions, plays with the toughness you expect out of a kid from Washington D.C. and is a capable scorer.

Bey is also a product of Sidwell Friends, the same high school that produced former Villanova star Josh Hart.

He will joined a recruiting class that also includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, four star prospects Cole Swider and Brandon Slater and Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo.

The news was first reported by 247 Sports.

Marvin Bagley III, a ‘Nike kid’, to sign endorsement deal with Puma

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Marvin Bagley III will reportedly sign an endorsement deal with Puma in the NBA.

It’s a five-year deal, according to reports, that will pay Bagley and his family quite a bit of money and will allow them to fund an AAU program for Bagley’s younger brother. That program will be coached by Marvin Bagley Jr., and that gets to the heart of what makes this decision so surprising.

Bagley III has always been considered a “Nike kid”. He played for Nike AAU programs throughout his high school career. The last two years, his father ran the program that he played for, originally called Phoenix Phamily but eventually changed to Nike Phamily. That meant that Nike was able to legally pay Bagley Jr. a significant amount of money to fund that program. Eventually, Bagley would up enrolling at Duke, one of Nike’s flagship college basketball programs.

This is not the way that it is supposed to go for a shoe company like Nike. The reason they spend as much money as they do in the youth ranks is to keep as many kids as possible loyal to the brand. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will end up having a chance at being an NBA player as early as 15 years old, but what’s harder to do is to predict who will actually be able to move product. Did anyone think James Harden or Damian Lillard would be worth a signature shoe? So these shoe companies will spend a relatively small amount of money to fly those kids around the country during their high school years, keep them decked out in their gear and hope that lottery ticket eventually pays off.

What is a couple hundred thousand dollar investment when the payoff is hundreds of millions of dollars in shoe sales? All you need to do is land one Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to make the math work.

But that isn’t all that the shoe companies are looking for here.

With the amount of money that they have invested in sponsorship deals with these schools, they need to protect that investment. We saw it with Adidas and Louisville. They funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen, a Nike kid, to get him to an Adidas school not because they thought he would end up being an uber-profitable spokesman but because they needed to protect their investment at the college level.

So while it’s easy to look at this and same that Bagley’s time spent at Duke helped him get a big, fat shoe contract, I think it’s the other way around. He helped Nike — without getting his market value — during his one season at Duke, and what it got him was a shoe contract worth roughly $1 million a year, according to Oregon Live.

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Bagley’s value to these brands is no different now than it was when he was playing for the Blue Devils.

Why is it only now that he’s allowed to cash in on it?