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Best Bets: Previewing Tennessee-Kentucky, Big 12 title race, Nevada-Utah State

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Here is everything you need to know when betting the biggest games this weekend.

As always, this is coming out before the Vegas lines for Saturday’s games, so we are using projections from KenPomTorvik and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out. 

No. 4 KENTUCKY at No. 7 TENNESSEE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 74, Kentucky 71
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Tennessee 74, Kentucky 71
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 73, Kentucky 72

The biggest game of the weekend could end up acting as the de-facto SEC title game, as two of the three teams currently tied for first in the SEC standings will square off in a rematch of a blowout that happened in Rupp Arena two Saturdays ago.

The final score of that game was 86-69, as P.J. Washington went for 23 points, Keldon Johnson finished with 19 and Kentucky used a 14-0 run to open the second half and blow Tennessee out of the water. That game was won, however, by the job that Reid Travis did on Tennessee’s all-american forward Grant Williams and the strength that Travis has in the paint. His absence — assuming his knee injury keeps him out — may end up being the difference-maker on Saturday afternoon.

Let me explain.

Tennessee’s offense is unique in the sense that they are a hyper-efficient team that relies more on two-pointers than any hyper-efficient offense I can ever remember seeing. In an era of analytics and Morey-ball and the Golden State Warriors, the Vols operate on post-ups and mid-range jumpers. Just 24.3% of their point come from three-pointers, which is 333rd nationally. Villanova, they are not.

So much of that offense is created by the way that they run offense through Williams, running actions that A) get him isolated in the low- and mid-post, and B) use his strength to seal off shot-blockers when Tennessee’s guards drive. Travis is uniquely suited to being able to take that away because of just how strong and physical he is:

By no means does that mean that Kentucky cannot win this game.

For starters, E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards are actually better offensive rebounders than Travis, and that may actually be the most exploitable part of Tennessee’s defense. And if there is a real weakness in Kentucky’s defense, it is their ability to run people off of the three-point line.

And all of that comes before the simple fact that Tennessee’s guards are not going to have it easy trying to break down Kentucky’s perimeter defense. That’s the knock on them. Their backcourt is not a game-changing backcourt, and if there is something Kentucky’s guards do well, it’s guard the ball.

PICKS: It will be interesting to see where this line opens, but at first glance I do think I like Tennessee, assuming it ends up around the Tennessee (-3) that the metrics are projecting. Part of that is because the Vols are playing at home. Part of it is because of the absence of Travis.

But I think that it is also worth mentioning here that after the win in Rupp, Tyler Herro told reporters, “I think they’re scared of him, honestly,” referring to the way Tennessee views P.J. Washington. After Tennessee’s win at Ole Miss on Wednesday night, Admiral Schofield told reporters, when asked about the Kentucky game, “Hopefully we aren’t scared of PJ.” That team is aware of Herro’s quote. They are going to be play in a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena. And the concerning part of that is that during this recent Tennessee slide, one of their issues is that they haven’t been playing with the same level of toughness. This is essentially the same team as last year, but where they were a top ten defense nationally last year, this year they are sitting outside the top 35.

I fully expect Tennessee and their roster full of upperclassmen built like body-builders to be up for a fight against a Kentucky team that will start four freshmen and a sophomore.

No. 9 MICHIGAN at No. 17 MARYLAND, Sun. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan 65, Maryland 64
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Michigan 65, Maryland 63
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Maryland 64, Michigan 63

Michigan bounced back from last Sunday’s home loss against Michigan State by absolutely boat-racing a Nebraska team that looks to be dead in the water. Maryland, on the other hand, followed up a week where they won at Iowa and beat Ohio State by losing to Penn State by 17 points.

The x-factor here is going to be the health of Charles Matthews. He did not play on Thursday night after injuring his ankle against the Spartans, but Michigan did push back against a report that said he suffered a serious ankle injury.

I don’t love this matchup for the Terps from a personnel perspective, not when Bruno Fernando is going to have to deal with Jon Teske and Anthony Cowan is going to have Zavier Simpson in his face for 40 minutes. Missing Matthews would be a major loss on the defensive end of the floor, but with Isaiah Livers starting, Michigan should be able to space the floor better.

That said, since the blowout win at Villanova in November, the Wolverines have lost on the road against the three teams ranked highest on KenPom that they’ve played. In total, they’ve dropped three of their last six road games, and Maryland has not lost at home in Big Ten play and has lost just twice in College Park all season long.

PICKS: If I can get Maryland as an underdog at home, I am going to take the Terps and the points. If we get word that Matthews is going to be playing, I like the under as well.

No. 6 MICHIGAN STATE at INDIANA, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan State 72, Indiana 64
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Michigan State 72, Indiana 65
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan State 75, Indiana 62

Michigan State is coming off of their biggest win of the season — beating Michigan in Ann Arbor — and now get a chance to land a bit of revenge on the Hoosiers for an overtime loss they took at home a month ago that is still, to the day, the single-most head-scratching result of the season.

Before beating Wisconsin in double-overtime on Tuesday night, that win at Michigan State was the only win that Indiana had to their name since January 3rd. They have lost 12 of their last 14 games as their offense has devolved into a stagnant mess.

Sparty has their own issues, however. They are playing without Nick Ward and Josh Langford, which leaves the entire offense on Cassius Winston’s shoulders. He was the initiator on 45 of their 57 possessions in the win over Michigan, and 36 of those 45 possessions involved him using a ball-screen.

Indiana is going to know what’s coming. Can they stop it?

PICKS: This is tough. On the one hand, I think Michigan State has a statement to make, and with a Big Ten title very much within their reach, I expect them to play like it. I think that it is also worth noting here that that game was somewhat fluky. Michigan State shot 8-for-22 from the free throw line and the Hoosiers, who shoot 30.8 percent from three (323rd nationally) made six straight second half threes.

That said, assuming this line ends up around Michigan State (-9) — the average of the metrics — I think I like the Indiana side here. In their last eight games, Indiana has covered that spread seven times.

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No. 5 NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: North Carolina 76, Clemson 71
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: North Carolina 75, Clemson 73
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: North Carolina 78, Clemson 71

This feels like a trap.

Because based on the way that the metrics are projecting this game, the line looks like it is going to end up somewhere around North Carolina (-5), and that seems way too low. The Tar Heels are rolling right now. They have won four straight, 11 of their last 12 and 15 of 17 since the loss to Kentucky on Dec. 22nd. In the last 10 days, they’ve won in Cameron Indoor Stadium by 16 points and knocked off both Florida State and Syracuse at home by an average of 13 points. They’ve climbed into the top five of every ranking on the planet, and they are widely considered one of the few teams that can realistically be listed as a national title favorite. Win out, and they are, at the worst, co-ACC regular season champions. Clemson has one win over a tournament team and that came at home against Virginia Tech when the Hokies were without Justin Robinson.

And they’re only giving five?

PICKS: I think I like Clemson here. The Tigers are right on the NCAA tournament cutline — we have them as the first team out — and this will be their last chance at adding a Q1 win to their resume. The last two times that the Tar Heels have played at Littlejohn Coliseum, they struggled. They lost last year and in 2017, the national champion Tar Heels got taken to overtime by a 15-loss Clemson team. I don’t know if Clemson wins, but I do think they keep it close.

No. 11 TEXAS TECH at TCU, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 68, TCU 64
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Texas Tech 69, TCU 65
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas Tech 71, TCU 64

Part I of the Big 12 title race tips off in the afternoon, as the Red Raiders head to Fort Worth to take on a TCU team that really needs another win or two to seal up an at-large bid. The Horned Frogs are just 6-9 in Big 12 play and have lost four of their last five games. Chris Beard’s club has won six in a row, and the first time there two teams got together, Tech was up 16 by halftime and won 84-65.

PICKS: I like Tech to cover, assuming the line opens around (-5), and I also think that this game goes over the total if it’s in the low 130s. The Red Raiders got the dud out of their system when Oklahoma State took them to overtime in Lubbock on Wednesday. Prior to that game, they had been shooting 47 percent from three in their last five games. The last time these team played, TCU let Tech shooting 9-for-21 from beyond the arc.

BAYLOR at No. 16 KANSAS STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas State 64, Baylor 60
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Kansas State 65, Baylor 59
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kansas State 64, Baylor 59

Somehow, Baylor is still in the Big 12 title picture despite seeing seemingly half their roster get injured and running out a rotation that includes seven newcomers. If they win at Kansas State on Saturday, they will be in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, just a game off the pace set by Texas Tech. They have to win this game to have a chance.

Kansas State, on the other hand, already owns a win over the Bears — which came in Waco — and are playing for the right to say that they ended archrival Kansas’ streak of Big 12 regular season titles. Motivation abounds.

PICKS: For me, the pick here is Kansas State even if the line opens around (-5), and the reasoning is pretty simple: Dean Wade will be playing. He is the best shooter and the best passer on Kansas State, and the Wildcats have been much, much better against zone defenses with him available. It is worth noting that Cartier Diarra likely won’t play for KSU while Makai Mason and King McClure will be back for the Bears, but I still lean towards Bruce Weber’s club here. I’m betting on Bramlage to turn back into the Octagon of Doom and for Kansas State’s defense to win out.

No. 12 NEVADA at UTAH STATE, Sat. 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Utah State 72, Nevada 71
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Utah State 73, Nevada 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Utah State 74, Nevada 73

There is so much on the line for Utah State in this game. They need this win if they want to have any sense of comfort heading into Selection Sunday with the Mountain West’s automatic bid. They are also still playing for a Mountain West regular season title — they’ll be tied for first place with Nevada if they can get a win.

But here’s the wildest part: This is going to be the first time all season long that the Wolf Pack will play a game that qualifies as a Q1 game, according to the NET. Other than the win in January at home against the Aggies, Nevada has playing just one team — Arizona State (63) — that ranks in the top 75 of the NET. They’ve struggled on the road this season, including a loss at San Diego State the last time they left Reno, and the Spectrum can get rocking for a big game.

PICKS: All that said, I’m going to have a very hard time betting against Nevada to win a conference game if they are getting a point or two, as all of the metrics suggest. I’m not convinced USU has the perimeter defenders to be able to slow down the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline, and I worry about Nevada being able to go small and play Neemias Queta off the floor.

I’m going to hope Nevada opens around (-3) and take the USU money-line.

North Carolina’s Seventh Woods to transfer

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Seventh Woods announced on Thursday afternoon that he will be transferring out of the North Carolina program.

“My three years here at UNC has been nothing short of amazing,” Woods said in a statement posted to Instagram. “Two regular season championships, a National Championship and group of brothers that I would cherish for life. I wouldn’t go back and change any decision I’ve made but I do feel like it’s time for a change.”

Woods was a viral sensation as a freshman in high school, when his ludicrous dunking exploits went viral in a youtube video produced by Hoopmixtape. He eventually ended up being a top 30 prospect, but he never had the chance to be the starting point guard for the Tar Heels. He played behind Joel Berry for the first two years of his career and Coby White this season. With Cole Anthony committing to play for the Tar Heels this week, Woods was again staring at a role coming off the bench.

This past season, the South Carolina native averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 assists.

Kansas and Adidas extend apparel contract despite recent controversial history

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Despite facing a likely NCAA investigation due to previous recruiting practices by an Adidas employee, the University of Kansas opted to extend its apparel contract with the shoe giant on Wednesday.

Signing a lucrative 14-year extension worth $196 million total, the Jayhawks will stay in Adidas gear for the foreseeable future — despite the company damaging the program’s reputation during the first college basketball corruption trial.

Former Adidas runner and AAU coach T.J. Gassnola testified in federal court last October that he made payments on behalf of the company to Kansas basketball players Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Preston never ended up playing for the Jayhawks while De Sousa was suspended two seasons by the NCAA — something Kansas appealed and hopes to shorten after he already missed the 2018-19 season. Kansas will likely hear from the NCAA about an investigation shortly as the trial created national headlines.

But even after Adidas put the school in an uncomfortable light, the company gave Kansas a sweet deal that is tough for them to pass up. Worth $14 million annually, the deal will be one of the largest by an apparel company in college sports as Kansas and Adidas have already been partners since 2005.

The extension will pay the Kansas athletics department an average of $3.86 million more per year in base compensation and an astounding $4.12 million more per year in product allowance. The new extension also allows for Kansas to get a significant amount of early money in the deal as the school will receive $11 million annually in base compensation from Adidas in each of the next two years before the number drops back down to around $4 million.

While Adidas certainly hurt the Kansas brand (and maybe even recruiting for the 2019 class) the company clearly felt it needed to make a grand gesture in order to keep the Jayhawks apart of the brand. As one of the flagship Adidas programs for the past 14 years, the Jayhawks have gone on a record-breaking Big 12 regular-season title streak while also winning a national championship.

It’s controversial for Kansas to continue its business ties with a company that hurt them, but the significant boost in annual compensation — coupled with significant money the next two years — was clearly too good for the school to pass up.

College basketball trial names big-name head coaches during Christian Dawkins video

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The college basketball corruption trial directly mentioned a few of the sport’s most prominent head coaches in a video played during testimony on Wednesday.

As college basketball’s second corruption trial began its second day in New York, known runner and convicted felon Christian Dawkins mentioned names such as Arizona’s Sean Miller and Louisville’s Rick Pitino during a video played for the courtroom. Dawkins seems to imply that Miller cheated in order land center Deandre Ayton while also appearing to absolve Rick Pitino of knowing any improper recruiting existed during his time at Louisville.

According to a report from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, the video was played as government witness Marty Blazer was directly examined by the prosecution. Blazer was among two who met with Dawkins in New York on a yacht in 2017 when the video was recorded. Blazer will continue to take the stand when the trial resumes as the defense will get to question him later this week.

“And the the thing with (former Arizona assistant) Book (Richardson), Arizona is like, Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on,” Dawkins said on the FBI’s video. “I can call Sean and have a conversation like, this is what’s going on. Like, this is what’s needing to be done.”

Dawkins also paraphrased Miller speaking about Ayton in the video by saying, “‘I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.'”

Blazer’s testimony then backed up Dawkins’ notion that Miller cheated to get Ayton.

“I understood him to mean that Sean Miller was talking about inappropriate things with recruiting, paying the money and those sorts of things,” Blazer said during testimony. “Sean Miller was taking care of everything for Deandre Ayton and his family.”

This is the first time Miller has been directly named in court since initial ESPN reports in February 2018 tied him to allegedly cheating to get Ayton. While Dawkins is merely speculating that Miller is cheating, the under-oath testimony of Blazer adds another element to what Dawkins is claiming. Dawkins’ theory, and Blazer’s testimony, still doesn’t directly provide proof of Miller, or Arizona, cheating to land Ayton. It’s merely speculative at this point. But it lends more credibility to the argument that it could have happened and will be a subplot to watch as the trial continues.

It’ll be interesting to see if Miller is also asked to testify in court as defense attorney Steve Haney said Wednesday that he will ask the judge to reconsider the initial ruling that Miller won’t be apart of the trial. If he were to testify, Miller wouldn’t be on federal trial for any wrongdoing, but Arizona and the NCAA would be interested in what he has to say if asked about any of these implications under oath.

Dawkins also gave his thoughts on fired Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — as he appeared to back up Pitino’s claim that he didn’t know about cheating going on to help land Brian Bowen. Pitino was ousted from the Cardinals before the 2017-18 season as he remains in an ongoing lawsuit with the school over the rest of his lucrative contract.

“Rick Pitino may be the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on” when it came to what was happening in his program,” Dawkins said.

“Rick has no clue what’s going on at his school. Most of the bigger guys, they know,” he continued.

The NCAA will likely continue to investigate Louisville regardless of what Dawkins says in this trial, but Pitino and his team will undoubtedly try to use this claim from Dawkins to help their case against the school to claim the rest of his contract.

According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, during Wednesday’s testimony a screenshot of a text from Dawkins that said, “these are my guys” listed names that included Arizona’s Sean Miller and Book Richardson, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Dwayne Stephens and Dane Fife, LSU’s Will Wade and Greg Heiar, N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts and UNLV’s Marvin Menzies.

There is no direct evidence that Dawkins actually spoke to all of these people as that evidence has not been presented in court yet. It’s also important to remember that Dawkins did not know he was being recorded during this meeting as he’s attempting to land business on a yacht. It’s entirely plausible that he name-dropped high-profile coaches and linked assistants he spoke to with their bosses in order to impress who he was speaking with.

But now that those names have been listed during the actual corruption trial, it’ll be fascinating to see what else plays out as Blazer’s testimony likely continues through the week.

Recapping The Coaching Carousel: Who were the biggest winners and biggest losers?

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The 2019 college basketball coaching carousel has not quite finished spinning — of this writing, there are two jobs that are still open: Howard and Morgan State — but barring something unforeseen, all of the relevant coaching changes have been made.

That means it is time for us to sit back and figure out who won, who lost and who was left out of this year’s carousel.

And more than anything, the most interesting part of the coaching changes that were made this season had to do with who was not involved instead of the guys that got new gigs.

WINNER: COACHES IN THE FBI’S CROSSHAIRS

To date, the only head coach that has lost his job as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has been Rick Pitino, and I think there is an argument to be made that Pitino would have kept his job had he not found himself in a second embarrassing scandal in the span of less than two years. Put another way, he was fired as much for having an assistant coach pay for hookers and strippers for players and recruits as he was for Brian Bowen getting paid.

It looks like the rest of the head coaches that were caught up in this mess are going to survive. Bruce Pearl got an extension last season, before he led Auburn to the 2019 Final Four. USC’s Andy Enfield has a ton of talent on his roster this season, and after missing the NCAA tournament last year, the Trojans look like they are in the mix to be a top 25 team again this season. Arizona’s Sean Miller had a rough 2018-19 season, but he’s bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country this year and looks like he’ll head into next season as a favorite to win the Pac-12 again. Like LSU’s Will Wade, Miller dodged a bullet as a judge ruled that he will not have to testify in the current trial happening in New York. Bill Self may have seen his Big 12 title streak come to an end as a result of this investigation, but if Kansas gets Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes back next season, they will enter 2019-20 as the favorites to start a new streak.

It’s not over yet, but at this point, it looks like all of those coaches are going to live to fight another day.

(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

LOSER: DIVERSITY

To date, there are 53 Division I head coaching positions that have opened up this spring, and of those 53, 51 of those jobs have been filled. Of those 53 jobs that opened up, 17 of them had a black head coach leave, either after getting fired or jumping to a better job. Take away the four HBCU programs that opened, and just three of the 13 programs that previously had a black head coach replaced them with another black head coach — George Washington, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

All five high-major programs that fired a black head coach — Arkansas, Alabama, Cal, UNLV and Washington State — replaced them with a white head coach.

Compare that with the white head coaches that left their jobs. There were 36 of them, and 30 of those 36 programs replaced the previous white head coach with another white head coach, including seven of the 11 high-majors. St. John’s, Tulane, Temple and Vanderbilt were the only high-majors that fired a white head coach and replaced him with a black head coach.

In total, just eight of the 65 head coaches in Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) are black. Every head coach in the Big Ten and the Pac-12 is white. That’s just 12.3 percent, significantly behind football, where 12 of the 65 Power Five head coaches are black.

Both the Big East and the American have embraced diversity, as half of the schools in both leagues have black head coaches, but even then, just 21.8 percent of the head coaches in the seven leagues that we can call high-major are black.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that percentage is significantly lower than the number of current and former high-major players that are black.

And don’t, for a second, think that the people discussing those numbers aren’t also discussing how the four assistant coaches that were fired as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college hoops corruption are all black and the five head coaches that have remained employed with their seven-figure salaries are all white.

WINNER: COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

Pat Chambers has been the head coach at Penn State since 2011. He has not yet made an NCAA tournament, but he wasn’t fired this offseason thanks to an impressive surge at the end of the season from the Nittany Lions. Dave Leitao finished tied for last in the Big East again this season, but since DePaul finished with a winning record, he was brought back for a fifth season. Jim Christian missed his fifth straight tournament with Boston College and will now be asked to win without Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, because he will be back on Chestnut Hill for a sixth year. Chris Mooney survived at Richmond. So did Josh Pastner, who has struggled at Georgia Tech and currently is dealing with an NCAA investigation into his program.

But perhaps the biggest name here is Danny Manning. He’s made one NCAA tournament in five seasons at Wake Forest, and has yet to finish above .500 in ACC play in a single season. In four of the five years he’s been in Winston Salem, the Demon Deacons have won five or fewer league games. He’s had talent on his roster, too — John Collins, Bryan Crawford, Devin Thomas, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Jaylen Hoard, Chaundree Brown.

Some guys on the hot seat lost their job — Steve Alford, Ernie Kent, Tim Miles, Chris Mullin, etc. — but it wasn’t the bloodbath some expected it to be.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

LOSER: HIRES THAT MAKE GEOGRAPHICAL SENSE

Nate Oats grew up in Watertown, Wisconsin. He played at a Division III program in Wisconsin, then spent the first 22 years of his coaching career in and around the great lakes. Six seasons at the Division III level in Wisconsin, 11 years at the high school level in Detroit, six years at the Division I level at Buffalo. He was just hired to takeover Alabama from Avery Johnson. That is a weird, weird fit. I have little doubt that Oats will be able to do well with the players currently on the Alabama roster, but I do not know how he is going to be able to recruit. One source connected to high school recruiting in the south told NBC Sports he can’t know how Oats will do at that level “because I don’t know him. I’ve never even shaken his hand.”

The same can be said for Mike Anderson at St. John’s. Anderson has spent the last 37 years coaching in Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, and now he’s heading up New York City to rebuild the Johnnies? That, too, is a weird fit.

(That said, I’ve come around a bit on this hire after talking to a couple of smart people. He’s going to need to make a hire that can get him on the right side of the power brokers in NYC, but I think the ’40 Minutes Of Hell’ brand might be able to work for St. John’s in the Big East. New York doesn’t have the greats that it has had in the past, but there is talent to be found and, an abundance of toughness and athleticism everywhere you look. I don’t know if that is a style that can win the league or get to a Final Four, but I do think it could be good enough to make the Johnnies relevant on an annual basis, and that’s not something that we have said in a long time.)

Perhaps the biggest example of this is Mick Cronin. A Cincinnati native that has spent his career coaching in Ohio and Kentucky, Cronin is heading out west to take over California’s flagship program, UCLA. Not only is it a weird fit geographically, but stylistically, too. Cronin is a screamer, he’s intense and he built a consistent winner with the Bearcats based on defending and rebounding. He’s like Ben Howland, only smaller and angrier. Howland did make three Final Fours, but he angered enough people in SoCal to get himself fired after winning a Pac-12 regular season title.

We’ll see if it works out better from Cronin.

WINNER: THE STATE OF TEXAS

Let’s start with the obvious: The best hire of this year’s carousel was the one that was probably the longest in the making — Texas A&M bringing in former assistant Buzz Williams to take things over. Buzz is a Texas native that had built Marquette and Virginia Tech into top 10 teams before heading to College Station, and I fully expect him to find a way to do the same thing with the Aggies.

That said, the biggest winner in this year’s carousel was probably Houston, who held off Arkansas and kept Kelvin Sampson as their head coach. Sampson has led the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, and they came within a possession of knocking off Kentucky and advancing to the Elite Eight this season despite the fact that they lost Rob Gray. He’s a terrific basketball coach, one that will keep Houston at or near the top of the AAC as long as he is on the sidelines. The same can be said for Chris Beard, who will be returning to Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to the Big 12 regular season title and the Final Four, next season.

Also worth mentioning: Jamie Dixon and UCLA couldn’t work their way around his buyout, so he is still at TCU. And not that he was going anywhere, but Scott Drew is still at Baylor.

The level of coaching in the collegiate ranks in the state of Texas has never been higher …

LOSER: THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

… and that’s not necessarily a good thing for Shaka Smart, who has yet to find the level of success at Texas that he had at VCU. That was weighing on the minds of many within the coaching industry this year, as there was plenty of speculation that Shaka would try and find a way out of Texas before Texas sent him packing. And the heat isn’t going to get turned down at all any time soon, not with the competition that he has in his own state these days.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

SIX MORE WINNERS

NEBRASKA: Nebraska fired Tim Miles after what felt like half-a-decade on the hot seat, replacing him with Fred Hoiberg. Miles was a good coach that had some bad luck in his final two seasons, but I’m not sure there is a better fit for Nebraska that Hoiberg. The job isn’t all that different from Iowa State — same part of the country, same passionate fanbase, same homecourt advantage — which is where The Mayor had a ton of success before jumping to the NBA.

MIKE YOUNG: Young has been a basketball coach for 33 years of his life, and 30 of them were spent at Wofford. This past season, as the Terriers head coach, Young led his team to the best season in program history before replacing Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech. He’s the first coach since 2003 to go from the SoCon to a power five program, and it’s a job in the heart of Southern Virginia, where Young’s roots lie.

CINCINNATI: Losing Mick Cronin is a tough blow for the Bearcats. He led them to nine straight NCAA tournaments, and that is nothing to scoff at. He’s a really good basketball coach and was a perfect fit for that program. But Brannen is a solid replacement, a guy that led Northern Kentucky — a recent addition to Division I — to two NCAA tournaments in the last three years. He has roots in Kentucky and Ohio as well. He’ll do well there.

WASHINGTON STATE: Kyle Smith is the first coach since Jan Van Breda Kolff in 2001 to leave the WCC for a better job in a bigger league, as he left San Francisco for Washington State. Before that, he led Columbia to the best season they’ve had in the KenPom era. He’s won at tough jobs, and Wazzu might just be the toughest high major job in college basketball.

THE SEC: Buzz Williams taking over Texas A&M is the obvious big name here, but Rick Barnes remaining at Tennessee because UCLA wouldn’t pay his buyout is huge for the Vols. Eric Musselman replacing Mike Anderson is probably an upgrade, and while Nate Oats in Alabama is a weird fit, he should be able to, at the very least, get the job done with the group currently on the roster. LSU and Auburn look like they won’t have to fire Will Wade and Bruce Pearl, at least not yet, and while Jerry Stackhouse is an outside-the-box hire at Vanderbilt, he’s replacing a guy that didn’t win a league game last season.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: The Colonials went out and made a really nice hire to replace Maurice Joseph, hiring Jamion Christian away from Siena. Christian is one of the brighter young coaches in college hoops, having taken Mount St. Mary’s to two NCAA tournaments in five seasons before getting the job at Siena.

TWO LOW-KEY HEAD-SCRATCHING HIRES

SOUTHERN MISS: Doc Sadler spent five seasons at Southern Miss, winning 20 games this part year and just about erasing the memory of the NCAA sanctions that were left over from Donnie Tyndall’s tenure. Then Sadler left to become an assistant at Nebraska, a school that fired him, and instead of hiring Mark Adams — the man responsible for Texas Tech’s defense and a legend in the Texas JuCo ranks — Southern Miss hired Jay Ladner, a guy that went 17-16 at Southeastern Louisiana last year.

NEVADA: Nevada’s decision to replace Eric Mussleman with Steve Alford isn’t a terrible hire by any means. Alford had quite a bit of success as the head coach at New Mexico before taking over at UCLA. The head-scratching part is the fact that he got a 10-year deal from Nevada.

2019 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?

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Here is a full list of the players that have signed with an agent, declared and are testing the waters and those that have decided to return to school. The NBA released its official list of early entry candidates as it includes 233 total names –175 coming from colleges or other educational institutions. 

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until May 29th to remove their name from consideration and return to college. With players now allowed to sign with agents, we’re not designating players who are “testing the waters” vs. declaring with an intention to stay in the draft.

One change worth remembering here is that underclassmen are now allowed to hire an agent to help them navigate their way through the NBA draft process, and that is expected to increase the number of players that test the waters of the draft. 

The NBA Draft Combine will be held May 16-20 this year. 

This will be updated throughout the spring, as more and more players put their names in the mix. 

2019 EARLY ENTRANTS

  • MILAN ACQUAAH, California Baptist
  • BRYCE AIKEN, Harvard
  • NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech
  • AL-WAJID AMINU, North Florida
  • DESMOND BANE, TCU
  • R.J. BARRETT, Duke
  • CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • TROY BAXTER JR., FGCU
  • DARIUS BAZLEY, Princeton High School (OH)
  • KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR, Virginia Tech
  • PHIL BLEDSOE, Glenville State
  • BOL BOL, Oregon
  • MARQUES BOLDEN, Duke
  • JORDAN BONE, Tennessee
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • DAQUAN BRACEY, Louisiana Tech
  • KEITH BRAXTON, St. Francis (PA)
  • IGGY BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
  • OSHAE BRISSETT, Syracuse
  • ARMONI BROOKS, Houston
  • CHARLIE BROWN JR., Saint Joseph’s
  • MOSES BROWN, UCLA
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga
  • NIC CLAXTON, Georgia
  • AMIR COFFEY, Minnesota
  • RJ COLE, Howard
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ANTHONY COWAN JR., Maryland
  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
  • JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati
  • CALEB DANIELS, Tulane
  • TULIO DA SILVA, Missouri State
  • AUBREY DAWKINS, UCF
  • JAVIN DELAURIER, Duke
  • SILVIO DE SOUSA, Kansas
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
  • ALPHA DIALLO, Providence
  • JAMES DICKEY, UNC Greensboro
  • DAVID DILEO, Central Michigan
  • DAVON DILLARD, Shaw
  • LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State
  • DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
  • JASON DRAGGS, Lee College
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • CJ ELLEBY, Washington State
  • STEVE ENOCH, Louisville
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JAYLEN FISHER, TCU
  • SAVION FLAGG, Texas A&M
  • DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas
  • DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • QUENTIN GOODIN, Xavier
  • TONY GOODWIN II, Redemption Christian Academy
  • KELLAN GRADY, Davidson
  • DEVONTE GREEN, Indiana
  • QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas
  • JON AXEL GUDMUNDSSON, Davidson
  • KYLE GUY, Virginia
  • RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • JERRICK HARDING, Weber State
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • KEVON HARRIS, Stephen F. Austin
  • JAXSON HAYES, Texas
  • DEWAN HERNANDEZ, Miami
  • TYLER HERRO, Kentucky
  • AMIR HINTON, Shaw University
  • JAYLEN HOARD, Wake Forest
  • DAULTON HOMMES, Point Loma
  • TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State
  • DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia
  • TY JEROME, Virginia
  • JAYCE JOHNSON, Utah
  • KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
  • MARKELL JOHNSON, N.C. State
  • TYRIQUE JONES, Xavier
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State
  • SACHA KILLEYA-JONES, N.C. State
  • LOUIS KING, Oregon
  • V.J. KING, Louisville
  • NATHAN KNIGHT, William & Mary
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • MARTIN KRAMPELJ, Creighton
  • ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
  • CAMERON LARD, Iowa State
  • A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
  • DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas
  • JALEN LECQUE, Brewster Academy (N.C. State recruit)
  • JACOB LEDOUX, Texas-Permian Basin
  • NASSIR LITTLE, UNC
  • TEVIN MACK, Alabama
  • JERMAINE MARROW, Hampton
  • NAJI MARSHALL, XAVIER
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky
  • JA MORANT, Murray State
  • ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida
  • KOUAT NOI, TCU
  • ZACH NORVELL JR., Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN NOWELL, Washington
  • JOEL NTAMBWE, UNLV
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
  • CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn
  • KZ OKPALA, Stanford
  • MIYE ONI, Yale
  • DEVONTE PATTERSON, Prairie View A&M
  • REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
  • JALEN PICKETT, Siena
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JORDAN POOLE, Michigan
  • CLETRELL POPE, Bethune-Cookman
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • KEVIN PORTER JR., USC
  • MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
  • PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon
  • NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
  • BRANDON RANDOLPH, Arizona
  • CAM REDDISH, Duke
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • NAZ REID, LSU
  • NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, South Florida
  • ISAIAH ROBY, Nebraska
  • AYINDE RUSSELL, Morehouse
  • KEVIN SAMUEL, TCU
  • PAUL SCRUGGS, Xavier
  • SAMIR SEHIC, Tulane
  • JOSH SHARKEY, Samford
  • SIMI SHITTU, Vanderbilt
  • NIKE SIBANDE, Miami OH
  • JUSTIN SIMON, St. John’s
  • D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State
  • JAVONTE SMART, LSU
  • JUSTIN SMITH, Indiana
  • DERRIK SMITS, Valparaiso
  • LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State
  • JALEN SYKES, St. Clair College (Canada)
  • ETHAN THOMPSON, Oregon State
  • KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga
  • DONNIE TILLMAN, Utah
  • TRES TINKLE, Oregon State
  • OBI TOPPIN, Dayton
  • RAYJON TUCKER, Arkansas-Little Rock
  • JUSTIN TURNER, Bowling Green
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
  • COBY WHITE, UNC
  • JIMMY WHITT, SMU
  • JOE WIESKAMP, Iowa
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • CHARLES WILLIAMS, Howard
  • EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU
  • GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
  • ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
  • HOLLAND WOODS II, Portland State
  • KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
  • ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
  • MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
  • TRE JONES, Duke
  • JALEN SMITH, Maryland
  • CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State