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How South Dakota State built a world around Mike Daum and kept a 3,000-point scorer

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OMAHA, Neb. — Mike Daum lives in a dream world.

It’s not one he invented nor is it an illusion. His is a reality purposefully, carefully and meticulously constructed to maximize Mike Daum.

It’s a world with a fundamental truth from which everything emanates.

Mike Daum is the best basketball player South Dakota State or the Summit League has ever seen, and as long as that has been readily apparent so too has another truth.

He’d have the opportunity to leave both for his senior season.

So from practice plans to roster construction to how film is watched to the program’s very culture, everything has been assembled to keep Mike Daum happy, productive and contented.

“We pretty much have tried to adapt how we play, how I coach our team, how we relate to our guys,” South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger told NBC Sports, “a lot of it has been based on Mike.”

So even with the brighter lights, bigger stage and chartered flights of potentially any Power 5 program at Daum’s disposal last spring, what could possibly compete with a life tailored to your strengths?

“At the end of the day, when you transfer, there’s nothing set in stone,” Daum said to NBC Sports. “I could transfer, there’s a possibility I wouldn’t play as much, there’s a possibility I wouldn’t start. There’s just a possibility that I wouldn’t do as well as I originally expected when you transfer like that.

“Where here, I knew my role, I knew my position.”

Both, of course, were designed with exactly Daum in mind.

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

It was clear early on Scott Nagy had hit it big with the unrecruited kid from Kimball, Neb.

Or it was once Daum sat out a season.

The 6-foot-9 forward redshirted his first year in Brookings after Nagy and his staff plucked him from obscurity when they watched him make 12 3s in a back gym at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas. The promise was there, but Daum needed refining.

That redshirt year produced a freshman season in which Daum averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as he shot 55.3 percent from the floor and 44.6 percent from 3 while collecting awards such as the Summit League’s top freshman, sixth man and conference tournament MVP.

After three NCAA tournament appearances in five years and a 21-season tenure,  Nagy left for Wright State after Daum’s freshman year. In came the longtime Iowa State assistant Otzelberger, who knew he was inheriting the conference’s best player but also one, because of that redshirt year, that would likely have the opportunity to chase college basketball’s upper echelon as a graduate transfer after his junior year.

“We didn’t get off to a great start basketball wise. Part of that was as a first-time head coach, I was putting so much pressure on myself on all the basketball parts – how we coach and teach and what we do,” Otzelberger said. “I was probably missing a little more on the people aspect of connecting with our guys and spending time with them and hanging out with them and getting to know them, and I think with Mike as I coached initially it was probably not the best fit or him. Then I tried to be adaptive to what would be the best coaching style to work with him as I got to know him better. I always felt like once we had that connection or that relationship and we built it, I just thought Mike was a guy that the relationship piece was really important to him. I think his friends here are really important to him. I think he realizes how Brookings has embraced him as a community, how he’s embraced Brookings.”

Whatever adjustments were made to fit Daum – they worked. As a sophomore he averaged 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as the Summit League’s player of the year while the Jackrabbits made another NCAA tournament appearance. He repeated as the league MVP as a junior while averaging 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds with the season ending in a third-straight conference tournament title and NCAA tournament appearance.

That’s when two years of whispers finally culminated into a chorus.

What’s Daum going to do?

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“I can’t lie,” Daum said of his oft-discussed senior-year status. “It was in the back of my mind, thinking about it, too, because maybe if I went bigger I’d get better exposure.”

After declaring for the NBA draft without an agent but failing to get a combine invite, Daum, though, said he didn’t even take a look at the landscape to survey his options.

In a year where Reid Travis left Stanford for Kentucky, it’s not hard to picture Daum leaving the eastern edge of South Dakota for a program where nationally televised games, NBA scouts and luxury travel are the norm. Where an otherwise wildly successful season won’t end with a bad night at the conference tournament in Sioux Falls.

“I felt like as a coach when you’re in the position,” Otzelberger said, “as crazy as it sounds, if what we could offer Mike and what we were doing on a daily basis, if he got to a point at some time he felt like he wanted the bright lights of a bigger school or conference or more games on ESPN, that I wouldn’t be doing my job all the way if I didn’t present options, tell him those will be out there and support him in doing that.

“More than anything, we just tried to, on a daily basis, try to make it the best for him and hope he felt it fit him, that it was something he wanted to continue to be a part of and that he wasn’t looking for something else.”

That plan that played out over two years, with Daum as the basketball centerpiece and his personality the center of how South Dakota State structured the program’s culture.

“It was a pretty straightforward decision for me to come back to school,” Daum said. “I felt so loyal to SDSU. My parents, how I was raised – you start something, you’ve got to finish it there. And the community of Brookings has always been so welcoming, help develop me with basketball and outside of basketball to become a better person.

“SDSU was just the place to be. I can’t get enough of coach Otz. I can’t get enough of my teammates. Those dudes are literally the best dudes I’ve ever been around.”


Anyone basketball player – or person, really – dreams of having the day-to-day built around them. That’s the life Daum lives at South Dakota State.

Rarely without a smile on his face or a laugh coming from his mouth, Daum just likes being happy. He loves to laugh. That’s why South Dakota State runs its operation with a more leisurely-bent than something militaristic.

“His way to lead is being upbeat and jovial and joking around with guys and playing pranks,” Otzelberger said. “For some programs or some coaches, maybe they think that’s not taking things seriously, but what Mike does is he makes it fun to be there very day. His leadership creates an enjoyable atmosphere on a daily basis.

“Our guys spend a lot of time with each other off the court. They enjoy being around each other as a group. It’s not four guys over here and three guys over here. That’s a big credit to Mike because he makes it fun and he loves being around the guys.”

Even film sessions are created with Daum – and his sense of humor – in mind.

“Mike is a big ‘Borat’ fan,” Otzelberger said of the 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen comedy. “We put together a video edit of some winning plays and (graduate assistant) Reid Tellinghuisen put Borat’s voice behind a lot of things and Borat scenes, and Mike literally was on the ground, rolling laughing like it was the greatest thing ever. Telling stories, reciting lines in front of the whole team. Then he’s doing all those impersonations.

“It was one of those Mike Daum moments where the little kid in him comes out.”

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

While the smile doesn’t leave once Daum hits the floor, any idea of him being a kid does. It’s a grown man averaging 25.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game this season. Daum is among the country’s leaders in usage rate, defensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn.

When he’s on the court, Daum is the center of the universe. Everything that happens seems to be a ripple effect from Daum’s play. He’s the focus of his teammates, the officials, opposing players and hostile fans.

South Dakota State’s offense is structured around him, hecklers are fixated on him, defenses are constructed to stop him and how physical teams are allowed to be with him is pivotal.

Preparing to play him is a singular headache of coaches of the Summit League.

“It sucks,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “He scores it from three, he pump fakes, he scores from the mid-post, he scores it from the post. They run him all over the place.

“Yeah, it blows.”

Daum’s abilities, as Hansen so aptly outlined, are unique as a 3-point shooting forward who largely plays below the rim with a plethora of devastating offensive moves. So, too, is that goofy demeanor. South Dakota State has been able to get the most out of both, largely by embracing both. While it’s natural to wonder what Daum’s final collegiate season could have looked like in the Big Ten or Big East, it’s not hard to imagine a bumpy transition for a program trying to acclimate a fifth-year senior accustomed to dominating play, the ball and the room.

“Ninety-five to 99 percent of the schools at the Power 5 conference level would have certainly loved to have a guy like Mike on their team. Who wouldn’t? He would have had those options,” Otzelberger said. “He could be successful anywhere, but at the same time we’ve kind of built everything around his abilities all the way around. There would have been different challenges because when you go into a different program and they have seniors and they have older guys that have been there for four years.

“Regardless of how good you are, they come in and they’re kind of skeptical and make you earn it over time. It’s not just a smooth transition where everybody says, ‘Here we go, let’s make it work for Mike.’ They’re saying you’ve got to fit in our puzzle rather than the other way around.”

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The pieces continue to come together around Daum at South Dakota State.

While Daum’s 3-point shooting has dipped this season, he’s been as productive as ever to move his career into historic territory. He just passed Oscar Robinson on the all-time scoring list and the 3,000-point plateau, something just nine others have ever done. Doug McDermott’s 3,150 career points is within reach.

He hasn’t generated the legend or cult following of a McDermott or Stephen Curry or Jimmer Fredette despite the sweet stroke and piles of points. He could finish as a top-five career scoring in the sport’s history with four NCAA tournament appearances.

He could have also chased something foreign, something tantalizing and something unknown. He could have grasped for a spotlight that could have made him a household name rather than a torment to Summit League coaches.

There wouldn’t have been that trip to an escape room, though.

“We split it up two teams and it was the same escape room but one team was on this side and one team was on this side,” Daum recalled, giddiness dripping from every word. ”The thing I could remember is none of us could figure out the clues so we were just yelling back and forth at each other through this escape room.”

Or the video game sessions that lead to you-had-to-be-there moments.

“We got Fortnite thrown up on the TV or there’s this one game we’ve got called Quiplash. It’s through the Playstation and it asks a question – have you ever played apples to apples? So it’s kind of like that, but you create your own answers,” Daum said between laughs of excitement. ”We’ll get on the screens and it’ll say if you were falling off a volcano, who would you grab to fall with you? We all just start roasting each other during these types of games. We’ll say some stupid, belligerent stuff and all of us are just crying laughing.”

While the basketball world has been built for Mike Daum at South Dakota State, it’s his teammates off the court that have created the life that continues to bring him so much joy.

“This group of guys, I can’t get over. This is the closest group of dudes I’ve been around on and off the court,” he said. “We all laugh at the same things. We all have this great sense of humor. We’re not offended easily. We all have thick skin and we can all kind of get on each other and laugh at each other. This time of my life, I know I’m going to miss when I look back at it. I’m going to miss those memories but I also know I’m going to be able to look back and laugh at the things I’ve been through.”

That’s why Mike Daum is riding a bus around the Summit League, playing in games that exist buried somewhere deep inside your DirecTV guide or streaming app rather than chartering around the country playing made-for-TV spectacles with a blue blood’s jersey on his back.

“A lot of times people are in search of the bigger, better deal. I think patience isn’t a strength of most. A lot of times people feel like the grass is greener. There’s something they’re not getting or don’t have,” Otzelberger said. “For him, what’s probably more important is relationships with coaches, players, friends, people in the community and the experience he has. He’s seen that be an equation that’s worked really well for him, so I don’t think at any time he was feeling like, ‘Well, this is hurting my future by doing this,’ and I feel how we utilize him and value him and the opportunities we create for him, hopefully that’s true, that he feels like, ‘Yeah, I might have gotten a few more games on ESPN or had a few more scouts at a game, but at the end of the day I maybe wouldn’t have been used in the same way or developed the same way or had that same connection or relationship.’

“Hopefully he feels like that piece that it was the right choice.”

For Daum, there is no doubt.

“It feels like I’ve been training this my entire life to just continue to succeed each day and get the most out of each day. I feel like I’m making the most out of it,” he said. “Our guys have done such a great job creating such strong relationships and camaraderie on and off the court that allows us to play so together on the court. Our guys are hanging out 24/7. When we’re at practice, we’re always laughing and joking together. When we’re off the court, we’re getting together for lunch, we’re getting together at night doing random things.

“This is definitely the best situation.”

It’s the dream, and eventually it’ll end.

Why, then, would anyone leave before they absolutely had to?

UConn officially back in Big East

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UConn is coming home.

On Wednesday, the UConn Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept an offer from the Big East Conference to join the league in all sports offered. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday in New York City where the school and the conference will make their reunification complete.

The move will allow for the Husky men’s and women’s basketball programs to return to a conference that prioritizes the sport and reignites rivalries that were lost five years ago, when UConn opted not to join the new Big East after the seven catholic schools departed.

UConn is expected to join the Big East for the 2020-21 season.

The Big East does not have football or hockey, which means that UConn’s football program will be left without a home. The American is not expected to allow UConn to keep their football team as a member of the league.

Yale, ex-basketball player settle lawsuit over expulsion

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Yale University and a former basketball captain have settled a lawsuit stemming from his expulsion over sexual misconduct allegations that he denied.

A federal judge in Hartford on Tuesday dismissed Jack Montague’s lawsuit. Details of the agreement were not disclosed. Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy declined to comment.

Lawyers in the case issued a statement saying only that “the parties have resolved the case to their mutual satisfaction.”

Montague sought monetary damages over his February 2016 expulsion. He also sought readmission to Yale, but went on to attend Belmont University in Tennessee.

Montague was expelled after the woman testified before Yale’s Unified Committee on Sexual Misconduct that much of a 2014 sexual encounter with the player was not consensual. No criminal charges were ever brought.

Montague’s lawsuit alleges that the accusations against him were brought by a Title IX officer who coerced the woman to cooperate with the complaint by informing her that Montague had received sensitivity training in another case. His lawyers contend that is a violation of the school’s own confidentiality rules.

That earlier case had involved an argument in which Montague allegedly shoved a folded paper plate down a woman’s top.

Montague also asserted that the woman told Yale that he likely didn’t hear her when she asked him to end the encounter.

Yale’s attorneys have said the woman, identified only as Jane Roe, made it clear that she did not want to have intercourse and that the school and its officials acted appropriately.

Montague also argued that his accuser was allowed to give a lengthy, emotional statement to the committee, while he was denied a similar opportunity.

Because of the expulsion, Montague, a guard, missed the end of his senior season at Yale, which included an Ivy League championship and first ever NCAA Tournament victory for the Bulldogs, a first-round upset of Baylor.

Texas Tech suspends Deshawn Corprew

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Texas Tech suspended Deshawn Corprew from the basketball team after allegations of assault, the athletic department announced on Monday.

A redshirt sophomore who appeared in 37 games last season, the 6-foot-5 Corprew has Title IX allegations against him, which means the school will investigate.

“Once Coach Beard was made aware of Title IX allegations against Deshawn Corprew, the men’s basketball student-athlete was immediately suspended from all team activities, pending a full investigation. Further comment will be withheld until the appropriate time,” A Texas Tech athletics official said in a statement.

Corprew averaged 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Red Raiders last season as he was a rotation player for the title-game losing team. Expected to receive more minutes with the loss of some key players, including top-ten pick Jarrett Culver, Corprew’s basketball future is unknown at the moment since nothing about these allegations has come out and the investigation is just beginning.

It’s difficult to judge the severity of the allegations and how it will keep Corprew away from the team but Texas Tech will have to figure out some other plans for his spot while he’s away from the team.

Oklahoma State hires brother of top 2020 prospect as assistant coach

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Oklahoma State made a splash on Tuesday afternoon as the Cowboys hired Cannen Cunningham as an assistant coach.

While Cunningham is an up-and-coming young coach who spent last season at Tulane as part of Mike Dunleavy’s staff, his hiring to Oklahoma State is significant because he’s the older brother of five-star Class of 2020 prospect Cade Cunningham.

Cade has spent the spring dominating the Nike EYBL and rising in the national rankings as he’s firmly in the discussion as the No. 1 player in his class after putting up ridiculously efficient numbers across the board. In speaking with NBC Sports at the Pangos All-American Camp earlier this month, Cade noted how much his brother aided in his overall development and improvement. Clearly, the brothers are close when it comes to basketball.

Oklahoma State was already viewed as a heavy participant in Cunningham’s national recruitment. Now that head coach Mike Boynton has made the move to hire Cunningham to a full-time assistant spot, Cannen just gives the Cowboys an additional recruiting advantage when it comes to landing Cade.

Cade Cunningham cut his list to 10 schools earlier this summer as Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Texas, Virginia and Washington are still involved. It’ll be interesting to see where Cade decides to take official visits and how many of these schools remain in the picture in light of Cannen’s hiring.

ACC Offseason Reset: Bluebloods reload; Louisville’s back; can Virginia repeat?

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking ACC.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

VIRGINIA’S TALENT EXODUS: The most interesting team in the ACC heading into the 2019-20 season is the reigning national champions.

That’s because the team that we are going to see come November will look almost nothing like the team we saw walk off the court in Minneapolis in April. De’Andre Hunter shocked no one when he left school for the NBA. There shouldn’t be any surprise that Ty Jerome left school, either. Kyle Guy was the player we all expected would be back in Charlottesville this season, but when you consider that A) he was coming off of the greatest redemption story in the history of the sport, B) two of his very best friends and fellow stars on that title winning team were leaving school, and C) the NBA has never valued the one thing that Guy does at an NBA level more, it isn’t all that shocking that he ended up getting picked late in the second round.

But we’re done with last year at this point. Next year is where things get interesting, because this will be the most difficult job that Tony Bennett has had during this run where UVA has been one of the ACC’s elite. Not only did he lose his top three players, but two of the three left a year earlier than we expected heading into last season. That puts the ‘Hoos in a really tough spot. The only guard on the roster with any kind of playing experience is 5-foot-8 sophomore Kihei Clark, which is not exactly ideal for a program that changed the way that they play last season.

The key is going to end up being the development of Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff. Both of those guys are extremely long and athletic with three-point range. For my money, Diakite is the guy that needs to take the biggest leap. I think he could end up being one of the best defenders in all of college basketball next season, and if the ‘Hoos are going to live up to their preseason hype, they will need him to make as big of an individual jump as anyone in Bennett’s program has made in his decade at Virginia.

Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

CAN LOUISVILLE LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?: Speaking of living up to the hype, it only took Chris Mack a year to get the Cardinals to a place where they are heading into a season as a legitimate national title favorite. Part of it is the newcomers he has coming in — five-star Samuell Williamson headlines a loaded six-man recruiting class while grad transfer Fresh Kimble fills the hole they had at the point — but the biggest reason to be bullish on the ‘Ville this year is who they have returning.

Dwayne Sutton is back. Steve Enoch is back. Malik Williams is back. Those guys are all going to be important, but not quite as important as Jordan Nwora, our way-too-early ACC Player of the Year and a potential All-American. Nwora was one of the most improved players in the country this past season, and I fully expect him to develop into one of the league’s premier scoring threats playing the same role that Trevon Bluiett played for Mack at Xavier.

TOBACCO ROAD RELOAD: Duke lost Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, among others. North Carolina lost Coby White, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Nassir Little and Kenny Williams. There are six top 25 picks in that group, and that doesn’t include Luke Maye, who was an All-American in college.

And, as I’m sure you probably know, both programs reloaded this year. Duke did it via the freshmen, bringing in another loaded class that will be joining Tre Jones in Durham next season. North Carolina did the same — Cole Anthony is going to score a ton of points doing what Coby White did this season — but they also added some experience, bringing in a pair of grad transfers to fill out their roster.

As we have seen in the past, winning is not always easy when your roster is built around freshmen. It will be interesting to see how these groups all come together.

CAN ANYONE OUTSIDE THE BIG FOUR COMPETE?: The top four in the ACC all have very real national title hopes.

I’m not sure there is another team in the league that should be ranked in the top 25. If there is, my guess is that it will be N.C. State. The Wolfpack had some ups-and-downs last year, but they more or less return all of their important pieces from last year, including star guard Markell Johnson. Florida State will be interesting as well, and if there is a sleeper in the league, it is Notre Dame, but more on them in a second.

ARE THERE SANCTIONS COMING FOR ANYONE IN THE LEAGUE?: The FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has come to a close, but the NCAA’s is just starting to ramp up. A number of programs are expected to get hit with a Notice of Allegations stemming from what came to light in the last two years, and a number of programs in the league — Louisville, N.C. State, Duke, North Carolina, etc. — were either directly or tangentially linked to things that were reported by media outlets or came up during the trial itself.

How many of the teams in the ACC have something to worry about?

Tre Jones (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE

  • ZION and RJ, Duke: The most entertaining duo in college basketball shocked absolutely not one when they left school for the NBA. Thanks for the pageviews, fellas.
  • VIRGINIA’S BIG THREE: The Cavaliers turned the most embarrassing loss in NCAA tournament history into one of the greatest redemption stories in all of sports. If Virginia is going to remain among the ACC’s elite, Mamadi Diakite is going to have to be a star.
  • UNC’S BIG FOUR: The Tar Heels are going to look very different next season, as their five-best players are all playing for checks these days.
  • BUZZ WILLIAMS and KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Virginia Tech: It took Buzz five years to get Virginia Tech to the point that they were good enough to come with one possession of getting to the Elite Eight, and that’s all it took for him to get back to Texas. Williams is now at Texas A&M, and while both Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker left, as expected, the one relative surprise was that Kerry Blackshear followed them as well. Blackshear is the most sought-after grad transfer in college basketball and will likely head into next season as a preseason All-American. We just don’t know who he will be playing for yet.
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State: He spent the season coming off of the bench for the Seminoles, but his loss will hurt as much as any in the league. Kabengele was quietly the force that allowed Florida State to be able to matchup with anyone and everyone in college basketball last season.

WHO’S BACK

  • TRE JONES, Duke: Jones was the one freshmen from last year’s recruiting class to return to Duke. A defensive pest that spent much of the year banged up, Jones will have a full offseason to develop his offensive repertoire. He’s only going to be a sophomore, but he’s exactly the kind of “veteran” leader a young Duke team will need.
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville: We wrote about Nwora earlier, but his decision to return to Louisville was as impactful as any early entry decision. He’ll be an All-American caliber player and the star that the Cardinals, as a preseason top ten team, can lean on.
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia: Is this the year Diakite makes the leap to being elite? I’m betting that it is, and I fully expect him to make the biggest year over year improvement that we’ve seen out of anyone in Bennett’s Virginia tenure.
  • N.C. STATE: The biggest name to know is Markell Johnson, but with seven of their top nine returning and a couple talented transfers enrolling, the Wolfpack are probably the best of the rest.
  • CHRIS LYKES, Miami: There may not be a more entertaining player in college basketball than the 5-foot-7 Lykes, who averaged 16.2 points last season.
  • JOHN MOONEY, Notre Dame: The Irish bring back one of the best 1-2 punches in college basketball in Temple Gibbs and John Mooney, something that will be bolstered by a talented five-man sophomore class that should be ready to contribute more this season than they did last season.

WHO’S COMING

  • DUKE’S FRESHMEN: Vernon Carey Jr. is probably the biggest name to know, but Matthew hurt may be the most important. He’s precisely the kind of big, floor-spacing four that the Blue Devils were missing last season. Wendell Moore Jr. could end up being a one-and-done as well, and Cassius Stanley is going to posterize at least three unsuspecting defenders this year. Book it.
  • COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony has a shot to end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and playing for UNC is probably the best way for him to showcase his ability to create offense. He plays the same way that Coby White did, only he’s super-charged athletically. I think it’s a good bet that Anthony ends up leading the ACC in scoring.
  • JOE GIRARD III, Syracuse: Girard is one of the most prolific scorers in New York State high school history. What kind of offense will he be able to produce for the Orange?

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-ACC TEAM

JORDAN NWORA, Louisville (ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR)
COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
JOHN MOONEY, Notre Dame
VERNON CAREY, Duke

Cole Anthony, Jon Lopez/Nike

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. DUKE: Last year, Duke was the most talented team in college basketball, but the talent did not fit together as well as it could have. They had too many guys that all do the same things — drive to the rim, finish at the bucket — and not enough guys to do the thing that would create space — i.e. shoot the ball. Shooting could still end up being an issue this season with Jones at the point, but the way Duke’s pieces fit together this year works better.

2. LOUISVILLE: I’m all-in on the Cardinals this season with Jordan Nwora coming back. He’s the perfect big wing for Chris Mack’s offense, and they have a talented recruiting class that will fill the holes in their roster. It only took a year for Mack to get Louisville to the point of contending.

3. VIRGINIA: I’m higher on Virginia than the consensus opinion, and that’s because I think that Bennett is going to find a way to develop the guys in his program the way he needs to. I’ve mentioned Diakite and Huff already in this column, but I also think that Braxton Key will make a big jump this year.

4. NORTH CAROLINA: Cole Anthony is going to get all the attention for the freshmen, and I do think that the Tar Heels have a pair of grad transfers in Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling that will play important roles, but we should not overlook the addition of Armando Bacot. He is the perfect big man to play in Roy Williams’ system, and even with a trio of juniors in front of him, I think that he’ll be an impact player as a freshmen.

5. N.C. STATE: The Wolfpack are going to have to replace the production of Torin Dorn, but there are some pieces on this roster — namely C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels and Jericole Hellems — that I think can take a step forward this year.

6. FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles are going to have a number of pieces that they need to replace — namely Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele — but this was a team that went 12-deep at times last year, with a huge recruiting class coming in and a couple of pieces — Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker, specifically — that have yet to really hit their ceiling.

7. NOTRE DAME: John Mooney and Temple Gibbs are the big names, but the players that will be really interesting to monitor this season will be Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski. What kind of leap to they take as sophomores?

8. CLEMSON: The Tigers lose a ton this offseason, with four of their five starters graduating. Aamir Simms didn’t quite take the leap that we expected him to take, but with a pair of grad transfers coming in — Curran Scott from Tulsa and Tevin Mack from Alabama — there should be some backcourt reinforcements.

9. MIAMI: Chris Lykes will be back and ready to do the things he did that made him one of the most entertaining players in college basketball last season, but one of the keys for the Hurricanes will be Oklahoma transfer Kameron McGusty. Can he come in and be a secondary scorer for Jim Larrañaga?

10. SYRACUSE: The Orange lose Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu. That’s a lot of talent to replace. With the likes of Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard and Elijah Hughes on the roster this season, I expect the Orange to be better offensively than they have in the recent past.

11. VIRGINIA TECH: Replacing Buzz Williams is not going to be easy for Mike Young to do, especially when it comes at a time where he is going to have to replace Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear, too.

12. GEORGIA TECH: I loved Jose Alvarado in high school, and with James Banks coming back, the Yellow Jackets return a sneaky-good 1-2 punch and four of their top five scorers. That said, the cellar in the ACC in a long way from the middle of the pack.

13. BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles, who went 5-13 in the ACC last season, replaced Ky Bowman with Derryck Thornton. That’s suboptimal.

14. PITT: I’m going to need to see it to believe it with the Panthers. After starting ACC play 2-2 with wins over Louisville and Florida State last year, Pitt reeled off 13 straight conference losses.

15. WAKE FOREST: Danny Manning is in his sixth season at Wake Forest. He’s won more than five ACC games in a season just once, and he is coming off of a year where the Demon Deacons finished 11-20 overall.