Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Re-ranking the 2009 recruiting class

Leave a comment

July’s live recruiting period, the last of its kind, just finished up, meaning that the Class of 2019 have fully had a chance to prove themselves to the recruiters and the recruitniks around the country.

Scholarships were earned and rankings were justified over the course of those three weekends, but scholarship offers and rankings don’t always tell us who the best players in a given class will end up being.

Ask Steph Curry.

Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be re-ranking eight recruiting classes, from 2007-2014, based on what they have done throughout their post-high school career. 

Here are the 25 best players from the Class of 2009, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

1. Kawhi Leonard (48)

Despite a controversial 2017-18 season and a forced trade to the Toronto Raptors this offseason, Leonard is still only 27 years old and arguably the best two-way wing in the NBA. A former NBA champion and Finals MVP, Leonard has two first-team All-NBA selections to go along with winning Defensive Player of the Year twice. In a significantly weaker Eastern Conference, the Raptors are hoping Leonard gives them the edge to finally make a Finals push.

2. John Wall (1)

Wall has ascended into a perennial NBA All-Star and playoff performer as he’s become one of the best floor generals in the league. Putting up great numbers and making clutch plays during the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Wall also made an All-NBA team (third team in 2017) and an All-NBA Defensive Team (second team in 2015) within the last three years. Although Wall made some key plays in the playoffs, the Wizards have struggled to make a significant dent in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

3. DeMarcus Cousins (2)

Arguably the top player in this class from a pure talent perspective, Cousins has molded into a new-age threat in the middle. With his combination of inside ability, and an improved perimeter game, Cousins became a nightly triple-double threat for the Pelicans last season until a torn Achilles’ ended his 2017-18 campaign prematurely. Although Cousins has made two All-NBA Second Teams and four all-star games, he hasn’t played in a postseason game since Kentucky was eliminated by West Virginia during the 2010 Elite Eight. Cousins made a controversial decision to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors this offseason as he chases his first postseason appearance.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

4. C.J. McCollum (UR)

It took two seasons for McCollum to crack the starting lineup in Portland, but he’s thrived as an efficient 20-point-per-game scorer over the past several seasons. Forming one of the league’s best backcourts with point guard Damian Lillard, McCollum was the league’s Most Improved Player and also led the NBA in free-throw percentage during one season.

5. Khris Middleton (140)

Quietly one of the best two-way wings in the NBA, Middleton put up great numbers during the 2017-18 season after a left hamstring injury sidelined him for much of the previous season. Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season as he didn’t miss a single game for the Bucks. Also stepping up his play in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, Middleton scored 24.7 points per game and shot 61 percent from three-point range in the seven-game series loss to the Boston Celtics.

6. Hassan Whiteside (87)

A classic late-blooming big man, Whiteside has become one of the NBA’s most productive big men over the last few seasons. Leading the league in blocks and rebounds during a season within the past three years, Whiteside puts up some monster numbers with the Miami Heat. But the perception of Whiteside might have changed in the postseason this year. Whiteside struggled to stay on the floor thanks to his lack of floor-spacing as he only played 15 minutes per game during the Heat’s first-round exit.

7. Eric Bledsoe (23)

Bledsoe has become a solid mid-level starter at point guard as he helped lead the Bucks back into the NBA Playoffs after a mid-season trade from the Phoenix Suns. Putting up solid all-around numbers during the past few seasons, Bledsoe emerged into a reputable scorer and distributor once the Clippers moved him to the Suns a few seasons ago. Although Bledsoe has put up numbers, he hasn’t played in many postseason games to this point in his career. Bledsoe was also soundly outplayed by the Celtics’ Terry Rozier during stretches of the first round.

8. Avery Bradley (4)

Just finishing a lost season between Detroit and the Clippers, Bradley was one of the key pieces in the revival of the Celtics the past few seasons. Known mostly for his perimeter defense, as he’s a two-time All-NBA Defensive Team member, Bradley has also improved his offense to become a consistent double-figure scorer and solid three-point threat. Bradley re-signed with the Clippers this offseason as he’s hoping for a bounceback 2018-19 campaign.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

9. Derrick Favors (3)

A consistent piece in the Utah Jazz frontcourt, Favors has been a double-figure performer and key rotation player on a playoff team the past two seasons. Although Favors never developed into a consistent scorer after a positive start to his pro career, he is a beyond serviceable big man who has improved as a shot blocker at the NBA level. Favors just re-signed with Utah this offseason to a 2-year, $36 million deal, as he’s also one of the highest-paid players on this list.

10. Kelly Olynyk (UR)

With his ability to play inside and outside, Olynyk has become a valuable reserve big man who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Miami Heat last offseason. Since Olynyk can knock down three-pointers, his versatility has enhanced lineups he’s played with in Boston and Miami as he’s one of the best backup big men in the NBA.

11. John Henson (5)

Spending his entire six-year run with the Milwaukee Bucks, Henson is a frontcourt rotation member for a playoff contender. A solid shot-blocker who spent much of this season as a starter, Henson is content to be a rim protector and limited scorer on a team filled with offensive weapons. Unfortunately for Henson, he battled some back issues with the NBA Playoffs as he had to miss most of the Celtics series.

12. Mason Plumlee (55)

A former All-American and four-year guy at Duke, Plumlee has been a solid rotation big man in the Western Conference. After starting his career with the Brooklyn Nets — which included a selection on the 2014 FIBA World Cup team — Plumlee was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, and eventually, the Denver Nuggets. Plumlee averaged nearly 20 minutes a game and put up decent stats for Denver this past season (7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds per game) as he’s in the midst of a three-year, $41-million contract.

13. Lance Stephenson (11)

The up-and-down pro career of Stephenson has been fascinating to follow. At one point, Stevenson was a triple-double threat for the Indiana Pacers as he had some fierce battles with LeBron in the Playoffs. Then Stevenson left the Pacers, and played for a staggering six teams in three seasons before regaining some of his previous form as a role player with Indiana. In a strange twist, Stephenson has signed with the Lakers this offseason, as he’ll be teammates with James, his former rival.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

14. Alec Burks (UR)

At one point, Burks looked like a potential double-figure scorer as he was one of the bright, young pieces the Utah Jazz were building around. But Burks has fallen out of favor the past few seasons, as he only appeared in 64 games in 2017-18 as Donovan Mitchell fever swept through Utah. Burks did find a way to become more consistent in the NBA Playoffs this season.

15. Mike Muscala (UR)

Not many would have pegged Muscala as a steady NBA big man at this point in his career. But he spent five seasons on the Atlanta Hawks before getting traded to the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason. The big man has been able to stick in the league thanks in-part to his 37 percent career three-point percentage.

16. Rodney McGruder (84)

McGruder came out of nowhere to start 65 games for the Miami Heat during the 2016-17 season, as he proved himself to be an NBA-caliber player. A stress fracture in his left leg limited McGruder to only 16 games with the Heat last season. McGruder is in the midst of a three-year deal.

17. Tim Frazier (109)

A reserve point guard on the Wizards this past season, the former Penn State product has grinded to stay in the league. Frazier has played for five teams in four NBA seasons, as he averaged close to 15 minutes per game playing behind John Wall this past season.

18. Solomon Hill (27)

It took some time for Hill to find his way into the league, but he earned his stripes as a frontcourt rotation member with the Pacers and Pelicans. Known more as a defensive presence, Hill only played in 12 games for the Pelicans last season as he was recovering from a torn hamstring.

19. Isaiah Canaan (UR)

Canaan has played in parts of five NBA seasons with five teams, as he played 19 games for the Phoenix Suns last season. Canaan had some solid games for the Suns, before they released him in late January when he fractured his left ankle. The Suns have re-signed Canaan for the 2018-19 season.

20. C.J. Wilcox (108)

Playing in parts of three NBA seasons for the Clippers and Magic, Wilcox has bounced between the G League and the NBA. Wilcox missed all of last season after right knee surgery as he was on a two-way contract with Portland. The Pacers recently signed Wilcox to a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season.

21. Travis Wear (60)

Out of the NBA for two seasons after playing for the Knicks during his rookie campaign in 2014-15, Wear grinded his way back into the league this past season, as he appeared in 17 games for the Lakers. The Lakers were so impressed with Wear’s performance that they signed him for the rest of the season. He’ll start the 2018-19 season on a two-way contract with the Lakers.

22. Brandon Paul (42)

Another late-bloomer who grinded late into the NBA, Paul played in Russia, Spain and Turkey before latching on with the San Antonio Spurs on a fully-guaranteed contract last season. Paul appeared in 64 games for the Spurs as he put 2.3 points per game. The Spurs opted to waive Paul on July 31, making him a free agent.

23. Derrick Williams (UR)

The former No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft hasn’t found a way to consistently stick in the league as he’s bounced around the league the past few seasons. After playing in 50 games with the Heat and Cavaliers in 2016-17, Williams signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers this past season, as he only appeared in two games.

24. Thomas Robinson (31)

Another former top-five pick who washed out of the league prematurely, Robinson last played in the NBA during the 2016-17 campaign when he suited up for the Lakers. After playing for six NBA teams during his career, Robinson signed on to play professional in Russia last season.

25. Hollis Thompson (63)

Thompson spent four seasons with the 76ers and a brief stint with New Orleans before moving on to Greek powerhouse Olympiacos last season. At the height of his NBA career, Thompson averaged 9.8 points per game while averaging 28.0 minutes per contest for the 2015-16 76ers.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FIVE NOTABLES THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE TOP 25

Renardo Sidney (16)

Still regarded, to this day, as one of the most talented high school underclassmen of his generation, Sidney was never able to sustain any sort of consistency when it came to basketball. After washing out at Mississippi State, Sidney tried to join on with the G League and a Venezuelan pro league. At least Sidney can claim he was, at one point, a No. 1 pick. The Compton Airmen of the California Basketball Association drafted Sidney No. 1 overall in 2016.

Royce White (19)

The former Houston Rockets first-round pick has been more notable for his mental health advocacy than his pro playing career. White did start to make some waves in the basketball world when he won MVP of the Canadian NBL during the 2016-17 season. Helping the London Lightning to a league championship that season, White’s issues re-appeared the following season. In April, in the midst of the NBL playoffs, White was suspended 11 games for a verbal outburst towards an official and the deputy commissioner of the league. White signed to play in Italy for next season.

Jordan Hamilton (6)

The highest-ranked player out of high school to be left off this list, Hamilton played parts of five seasons in the NBA before starting his overseas career. Hamilton has spent time in Russia, Turkey, Israel, Italy and Venezuela during his well-traveled professional career.

Xavier Henry (8)

At one time regarded as the No. 1 player in this high school class, Henry spent parts of five seasons in the NBA before playing in the G League the last several years. Henry last appeared in the NBA in the 2014-15 season when he appeared in nine games for the Lakers.

John Jenkins (15)

A first-round pick of the Phoenix Suns after three years at Vanderbilt, Jenkins was never able to carve out a role as a deep-shooting threat. After four seasons in the NBA, Jenkins eventually made his way over to Spain.

 

CBT Podcast: Monday Overreactions on Gonzaga-Tennessee, Pac-12 is one-bid, Kentucky isn’t top 25

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rob Dauster was joined by Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports to break down everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is there an actual good basketball team in the Pac-12? Is Kentucky a top 25 team? Is there a top tier of teams in the sport, and where does Kansas actually fit into that top tier? We get into all of it in this podcast.

Open: Is the Pac-12 a one-bid league?

11:45: Tennessee beat Gonzaga and The Admiral is awesome

23:30: Is there a top tier of teams, and where does Kansas fit in it?

30:10: Kentucky is not a top 25 team

41:00: Getting to the Elite Eight was actually a bad thing for Bruce Weber

AP Poll: Kansas returns to No. 1 as Gonzaga drops to 4th after loss

Getty Images
1 Comment

Kansas is back where it started the season.

The preseason No. 1, the Jayhawks are again the top-ranked college basketball team in The Associated Press Top 25 despite struggling to get past New Mexico State at home. Kansas received 57 first-place votes from a 65-person media panel in the poll released Monday, sliding into the top spot after previous No. 1 Gonzaga lost to Tennessee.

No. 2 Duke moved up a spot and received four first-place votes. No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Gonzaga, No. 5 Michigan and No. 6 Virginia received the other first-place votes. No. 7 Nevada, Auburn, Michigan State and Florida State rounded out the top 10.

The Jayhawks were the preseason No. 1 but dropped a spot after Duke decimated then-No. 2 Kentucky to open the season.

Gonzaga moved to No. 1 after beating Duke in the Maui Invitational title game, lasting two weeks before losing 76-73 to the Vols on Sunday in Phoenix.

Kansas (8-0) kept winning, though it needed a big game from Dedric Lawson to beat New Mexico State in Kansas City on Saturday. Lawson, a preseason All-American, had 20 points, including the final 14 for Kansas, and 10 rebounds in the tighter-than-expected 63-60 victory.

Kansas played without center Udoka Azubuike, but coach Bill Self was not buying any excuses for the struggles.

“We were fortunate tonight,” he said. “How in the world we’ve won these games … it’s one thing to not play well, it’s another thing to not play well and not be intellectually into the game and that was certainly the case tonight.”

It was good enough to get the Jayhawks past the Aggies — and move to No. 1.

Tennessee picked up its biggest win in four seasons under coach Rick Barnes by knocking off Gonzaga in the Colangelo Classic and has its highest AP ranking since hitting No. 1 in 2007-08.

The Vols (7-1) kept their poise and made the biggest plays down the stretch, holding off the Zags 76-73 after Admiral Schofield scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half and hit two key 3-pointers.

The victory was Tennessee’s first over a No. 1 team since beating Kansas in 2010 and Barnes’ first in 31 years as a head coach.

Tennessee matched the biggest climb of the week, moving up four spots from No. 7, while No. 15 Ohio State, No. 17 Villanova and No. 18 Mississippi State also moved up four.

No. 19 Kentucky had the largest drop this week, losing 10 spots to No. 19 after losing to Seton Hall in overtime. No. 25 Kansas State was next at nine.

Furman moved into the poll for the first time last week, thanks to a resume that includes wins over 2018 Final Four teams Villanova and Loyola-Chicago.

The Paladins (10-0) moved up two spots in this week’s poll to No. 23 after beating Elon and South Carolina Upstate. Furman plays Charleston Southern on Tuesday and UNC Wilmington Saturday.

This week’s poll had a rarity — three teams tied for the final spot, meaning there are 27 teams in the top 25.

Syracuse, Indiana and Kansas State all came in at No. 25 after receiving 118 points. It’s the first three-way tie in the AP Top 25 since three teams shared No. 13 in 1991.

The Hoosiers are ranked for the first time since climbing to No. 3 in 2016-17. The Orange moved back into the Top 25 after beating Northeastern and Georgetown. The Wildcats dropped nine spots from No. 16 after losing to Tulsa.

In addition to Syracuse and Indiana, No. 21 Marquette and No. 24 Houston each moved into the poll this week. The Cougars are ranked for the first time since hitting No. 21 last season and the Golden Eagles are back in the poll after dropping out in Week 3.

AP Top 25 poll
First-place votes in parentheses

TEAM LAST
1. Kansas (57) 2
2. Duke (4) 3
3. Tennessee (1) 7
4. Gonzaga (1) 1
5. Michigan (1) 5
6. Virginia (1) 4
7. Nevada 6
8. Auburn 8
9. Michigan State 10
10. Florida State 11
11. Texas Tech 13
12. North Carolina 14
13. Virginia Tech 15
14. Buffalo 17
15. Ohio State 19
16. Wisconsin 12
17. Villanova 21
18. Mississippi State 22
19. Kentucky 9
20. Arizona State 20
21. Marquette —
22. Iowa 18
23. Furman 25
24. Houston —
t-25. Syracuse —
t-25. Indiana —
t-25. Kansas State 16

Monday Overreactions: Kentucky, Kansas State are not top 25 teams

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Admiral Schofield, Tennessee

Have yourself a day, Admiral.

You may have missed it while watching the Miami Dolphins somehow land a win over the New England Patriots or trying to figure out whether or not Patrick Mahomes is actually human, but the most entertaining game of the day on Sunday was No. 7 Tennessee’s win over then-undefeated No. 1 Gonzaga.

And the hero of the afternoon was Schofield, Tennessee’s overlooked, 6-foot-5 pro wrestler of a wing.

Schofield had a career-high 30 points against the Zags. He scored 25 of those 30 points in the second half. He scored 11 of those 25 second half points in the final 3:18, all of Tennessee’s points as they closed the game on an 11-5 surge. His three with 22.1 seconds left gave the Vols the win.

The narratives abound after this performance, and I touched on most of them here. This was a statement win for a Tennessee team that most had yet to put into the same conversation as the Dukes, Gonzagas and Michigans of the world. This was a statement performance for Schofield, whose defensive versatility, toughness, professionalism and ability to bang home threes makes him an awfully intriguing NBA prospect. There’s the rise of Barnes at Tennessee coming at the same time as Shaka Smart, his replacement after getting fired at Texas, is struggling to win in Austin.

But mostly, this was just a thrilling basketball game that was capped by a tremendous performance for a guy that doesn’t get enough credit.

It’s really not all that different from the title game of the Maui Invitational, when Brandon Clarke’s performance against Duke thrust him into the national spotlight.

Myles Cale (22) and Myles Powell (13), Rich Schultz/Getty Images

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Seton Hall Pirates

Exactly one week removed from losing at home to a Louisville in a game where the Pirates blew a double-digit first half lead, Seton Hall made the trek up to Madison Square Garden to take on that other team from the Commonwealth, as the No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats played away from Rupp Arena for the first time since they were embarrassed by Duke at the Champions Classic.

And despite both of the Myles’ — Powell and Cale — playing like they were shaving points for the first 35 minutes, and despite Keldon Johnson hitting a halfcourt prayer at the buzzer in regulation to force overtime, Seton Hall finished the job and their fans were able to hop on NJ Transit to head back to Newark with a smile on their face.

I do think it is important here to reiterate just how bad both Myles Powell and Myles Cale were for the majority of this game. Powell finished with 28 points, but he scored 17 of those 28 points in the final five minutes of regulation and also buried a three in overtime. He had been totally held in check by Ashton Hagans until then.

Cale was even worse. He finished with 17 points — that number is still shocking when I see it — but he shot just 4-for-18 from the floor and had one of those nights were everything seemed to roll off the rim. He was visibly frustrated, punching the air and cursing to himself on more than one occasion.

And then, with 9.5 seconds left in overtime, he casually pump-faked Keldon Johnson out of his shoes and buried the three that gave Seton Hall an 84-83 win.

Winning a game when you don’t play all that well is impressive, especially when it lands you a win that could end up looking as impressive as this one does come March.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. KENTUCKY IS NOT A TOP 25 TEAM

The Wildcats have now played two games outside of Lexington this season. One of them was an absolute beatdown at the hands of Duke, a 118-84 drubbing that served warning of just how good Duke is this season and just how far Kentucky has to go.

The other came on Saturday, when the Wildcats couldn’t put away a Seton Hall team whose two best players were struggling, losing in overtime to the same team that lost to
Nebraska by 23 points and Saint Louis on their home court.

Frankly, that’s not the end of the world. We’re just nine games into the season. Kentucky still plays Utah, North Carolina and Louisville before the start of SEC play, and they do play Kansas in January. Backloaded non-conference schedules can create for weird resumes early in the year. That said, the bigger issue here is that Kentucky has not actually looked all that impressive in the games they’ve actually won at home this year. They struggled with Southern Illinois. They struggled with VMI. They needed a late run to make the win over UNC Greensboro look respectable. They’re allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent from three. They have three five-star point guards on the roster and still manage to turn it over on 20.8 percent of their possessions.

Kentucky has been here before. Need I remind you that last season we were having these very same conversations about the program, and that actually turned out pretty well. If P.J. Washington could make free throws Kentucky probably would have ended up in the Final Four.

No one will be shocked to see John Calipari figure this thing out.

But right now, Kentucky is just not all that good …

Bruce Weber (Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

2. KANSAS STATE IS NOT A TOP 25 TEAM, EITHER

… and neither is Kansas State. The Wildcats lost a road game for the second straight Saturday, this time going into Tulsa and falling to a team that is middle-of-the-pack at best in the American.

The Wildcats have a serious offense problem. As it stands, they rank 102nd in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They mustered all of 46 points in the loss at Tulsa. As a team, they are shooting just 28.2 percent from three, which is good for 313th nationally. Their effective field goal percentage is a horrid 47.7 percent. They’re shooting 65.6 percent from the free throw line, and somehow manage to give away live-ball turnovers as much as anyone at the high-major level.

This is a concern because these are all things that are not supposed to happen to a team that has a stable of talented, veteran guards. Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes, Cartier Diarra. These guys have been serious disappointments, to say nothing of what we’ve gotten out of preseason all-american Dean Wade.

And it creates an interesting conundrum for Bruce Weber.

There’s been some longstanding angst in Manhattan over his tenure. Kansas State has been fine, but they haven’t risen to the levels that they were at during Frank Martin’s heyday. They had to watch as Weber was given an extension as Kansas State alum Brad Underwood was hired by both Oklahoma State and Illinois since 2016. Last year’s run to the Elite Eight could end up being the worst thing that could have happened to him, because it created massive expectations this season on a team that really wasn’t all that good last year.

If K-State can’t get this thing figured out, how are the folks in Manhattan, Kansas, going to feel about him?

If he can’t make a team that is coming off an Elite Eight and was ranked in the top 15 in the preseason relevant, will he ever?

3. THE TOP SEVEN TEAMS IN THE COUNTRY SHOULD BE CONSENSUS

The elite tier of teams have set themselves apart already this year. They are: Kansas, Tennessee, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan, Virginia and Nevada.

How you rank them will differ based on what you value when ranking teams. Kansas has the best resume of the seven, but they have struggled the most over the course of the first month of the season and are currently without starting center Udoka Azubuike. The Jayhawks also beat Tennessee, who beat Gonzaga, who beat Duke, with all of those games coming on neutral courts, but if you were forced to bet your left arm on one of those four teams winning a national title, you’d probably rank them the other way: Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Kansas.

Michigan has been utterly dominant at times this season. Virginia, too. Nevada is probably the x-factor, but it’s hard to ignore that they just one six straight games away from home, including trips to USC, a game against Arizona State in LA and a de factor road game against Grand Canyon on Sunday night.

If you have an argument for why someone other than these seven teams should be ranked in the top seven, I’d love to hear it.

4. SYRACUSE IS BACK TO BEING THEMSELVES

Less than a month after the sky was falling on Syracuse, the Orange appear to have righted the ship.

Syracuse has won five straight games. They knocked off Ohio State in Columbus. They dismantled a good Northeastern team. They erased a 13 point halftime deficit in a rivalry game against Georgetown, winning when Tyus Battle knocked down a jumper with just 2.5 seconds left on the clock.

And at this point, Syracuse is more or less exactly what we thought they would be this season. They’re an elite defense. Tyus Battle is getting buckets, and the load he’s had to carry has been eased by the emergence of Eli Hughes and Jalen Carey. They are still struggling to shoot the ball from three, and their games are hardly aesthetically pleasing, but they are back to their winning ways and I cannot see a way that changes.

5. INDIANA IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE

At this point in the year, Indiana’s offense is a work in progress. That’s what you should expect from a program that starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a banged up Juwan Morgan. There were always going to be some growing pains early in the year.

What’s promising is that even with those growing pains, Indiana is still winning basketball games. The Hoosiers are 8-2 on the season. They’re 3-1 in games decided by one possession. They’ve landed four wins against teams that are ranked in the top 50 on KenPom. The only losses that they’ve taken this season came at Duke (everyone is going to lose at Duke this year) and at Arkansas, a 73-72 loss where the Hoosiers missed a layup and a tip-in in the final five seconds of a tie game before committing an over-the-back foul that sent the Razorbacks to the free throw line for the winning point.

The Big Ten is loaded, so it will be interesting to see where the Hoosiers finish within the league, but it will be a major disappointment if Archie Miller can’t get this team to the tournament and win at least one game.

Big East Commissioner hints at potential expansion

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Big East made an important move for the conference’s future over the weekend by securing another 10 years at Madison Square Garden for the league’s annual conference tournament.

While the new iteration of the basketball-only Big East isn’t as deep or talented as its predecessor, having the iconic Garden to host the league’s postseason is a huge part of the Big East’s identity. The conference might not be as strong top-to-bottom as the ACC or the Big Ten in most years. But March wouldn’t be March in college hoops without the Big East Tournament in the Garden.

The timing of the Big East’s extension at MSG also gave league commissioner Val Ackerman the chance to address some questions — including some talk of potential league expansion. Adding members has always been a touchy subject for the 10-team conference, since all of the schools have a very specific profile while all being basketball-focused schools.

But UConn always gets brought up with regard to the Big East — as the AAC has never felt like a natural fit for the Huskies. There are also other schools probably doing whatever they can for a shot at playing the Big East’s conference schedule and national television deal. The league itself has been coy about adding other teams until Ackerman spoke this weekend.

By noting that the Big East has the capability of adding more teams, the league could be making a push at adding one or two more teams. Now that other basketball conferences are going to 20-game league schedules, the Big East is only at 18 with a true round-robin schedule already in place. They could add another team and upgrade the conference schedule to more games if they decided to do so.

So it’ll be fascinating to see if the Big East tries to enter the college arms race from a basketball perspective. I’m sure UConn fans would love to see their school make the jump back into the league. It’s just hard to speculate where things stand so early in the process.

(h/t: Bobby Reagan, Barstool Sports)

NBC Sports Top 25: Duke back to No. 1, Tennessee hops Gonzaga

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
3 Comments

Here’s the conundrum that is going to face voters in the top 25 this week: What do you do with Kansas?

When it comes to resume, Kansas probably has the strongest one of any team in the top seven. They’ve beaten Michigan State on a neutral court. They’ve beaten Tennessee on a neutral court. They’ve beaten Marquette on a neutral court. Every win they have in Phog Allen Fieldhouse this year comes against teams ranked in the top 135 on KenPom.

And then there is this: Kansas has beaten Tennessee. Tennessee has beaten Gonzaga. Gonzaga has beaten Duke. Duke, according to some, can beat the Cavs, which officially means that Kansas is a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Or something like that.

The point is that it makes total sense to rank Kansas No. 1 based on what they’ve accomplished this season, but I think that even the most irrational Kansas fans will cop to the fact that these Jayhawks haven’t come close to hitting their stride yet this season, and that’s before you factor in the loss of Udoka Azuibuike to an ankle injury.

The difference between the top seven teams this season is marginal, particularly if you are not as high on Duke as I am, and while that means there really isn’t all that much difference between Nevada at No. 7 and whoever it is that you are going to rank No. 1, it does mean that a team like Kansas — who is in a bad run of form — drops to sixth in this ranking.

And to be frank, as long as your top seven is, in some order, the same as my top seven, your ranking is probably going to be just fine. I’d quibble with ranking Nevada in the top four, and I think it’s probably silly to have Duke, Tennessee or Gonzaga outside the top four, but there are arguments to justify it all. I’m sure Kansas fans will call me a Duke homer and say that Bill Self must ignore my calls, but the truth of it is that there are a lot of really good teams at the top this year. Parsing through a jumbled mess like that is never easy.

I dropped Kentucky all the way out of the top 25, as I did Kansas State, but I’ll go more in depth on that in the Monday Overreactions column.

Here is the full top 25:

1. Duke (9-1, Last week: 2)
2. Michigan (10-0, 3)
3. Tennessee (7-1, 6)
4. Gonzaga (9-1, 1)
5. Virginia (9-0, 4)
6. Kansas (8-0, 5)
7. Nevada (10-0, 7)
8. Auburn (8-1, 8)
9. North Carolina (7-2, 9)
10. Florida State (8-1, 10)
11. Texas Tech (8-0, 11)
12. Michigan State (8-2, 13)
13. Virginia Tech (8-1, 14)
14. Wisconsin (8-2, 15)
15. N.C. State (8-1, 17)
16. Ohio State (8-1, 19)
17. Arizona State (7-1, 20)
18. Purdue (6-4, 18)
19. Villanova (8-2, UR)
20. Syracuse (7-2, UR)
21. Marquette (8-2, UR)
22. Buffalo (9-0, UR)
23. Mississippi State (8-1, 25)
24. Iowa (7-2, 23)
25. Nebraska (8-2, 24)

New Additions: 19. Villanova, 20 Syracuse, 21. Marquette
Dropped Out: 12. Kentucky, 16. Kansas State, 21. Creighton