Getty Images

Saturday’s Things to Know: Conference titles get decided; Murray State and Ja Morant earn an autobid

1 Comment

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Ja Morant, Murray State

Many consider the sophomore point guard to be among the nation’s best players, but Morant hasn’t received the type of national attention that he got on Saturday night. And the future lottery pick delivered in a big way.

Helping Murray State to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, Morant pick put up 36 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists as the Racers took down Belmont to earn the autobid in the Ohio Valley Conference.

With some fans tuning in to see Morant play for the first time, he didn’t disappoint, as he displayed the breathtaking playmaking ability and jaw-dropping athleticism that scouts have been raving about. One night after producing the go-ahead three-point play in the OVC semifinals, Morant again put his team on his back and got them back into the Big Dance.

March Madness just got soooo much better knowing that we get at least one more national showcase for Morant.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Michigan State Spartans

On Senior Day at the Breslin Center, if you’re going to kiss the Spartan logo at center court, then you better have the win in-hand before checking out for the final time. Especially when the Big Ten title is on the line and it’s a battle against bitter in-state rival Michigan when both teams are ranked in the top 10.

Michigan State rallied in impressive fashion in the second half to claim a share of the Big Ten title while also preventing the Wolverines from achieving the same with a 75-63 win. Trailing by eight points in the second half after a sluggish first 20 minutes, Michigan State started firing on all cylinders as junior point guard Cassius Winston’s hot stretch ignited a 25-4 Spartans run. After an ice-cold 1-for-8 start to the evening, Winston buried five straight shots to end the game with a team-high 23 points and seven assists.

This Big Ten title is especially impressive for Michigan State because the Spartans did it without Joshua Langford and Nick Ward playing for large stretches of time during the season. Missing two of their top players, and still earning a Big Ten title, speaks to the depth of the Spartans while Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo accomplished one of his most impressive feats.

Now the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, Michigan State is hoping to ease Ward back into the lineup so he can contribute during the NCAA tournament. The phrase “Izzo in March” is usually reserved for the NCAA tournament. But it feels okay to use it here given the extraordinary late-season circumstances.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

Co-ACC Champions North Carolina and Virginia: The Tar Heels swept the regular-season series with the Blue Devils to claim their share ACC glory as Roy Williams continues to own Coach K in the regular-season ACC title department since taking over the Tar Heels in 2004. Even though North Carolina had some question marks entering this season, most notably at lead guard, they’ve put themselves in position to potentially earn a No. 1 seed with their play this season.

Virginia shook off the historic NCAA tournament loss to No. 16 seed UMBC to earn another ACC title with a win over Louisville as Tony Bennett continue to have the league’s number. Looking stronger, deeper and more dangerous than last season, Virginia is the rare No. 1 seed with a legitimate chip on their shoulder entering the postseason.

Buckle up for a fun ACC tournament next week, as Duke, North Carolina and Virginia all have solid cases to potentially earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

LSU: Playing without head coach Will Wade and freshman starting guard Javonte Smart, the Tigers still took care of business in a big home win over Vanderbilt. The victory gave the Tigers the outright title in the SEC — something few could have predicted entering the 2018-19 season given the strength of Kentucky and Tennessee. The recent Wade/Smart scandal has dominated the headlines and cast a black cloud over young LSU’s surprising season. It’s also easy to forget that the Tigers had to deal with the loss of teammate Wayde Sims in late September as he was tragically killed in a shooting. There’s a very real potential that this SEC championship will eventually get erased from the record books. But for now, LSU deserves to celebrate a special season in which they’ve overcome some incredibly difficult circumstances to become one of the best teams in the country.

Purdue: Splitting the Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan State after a road win at Northwestern, nobody expected head coach Matt Painter and his Boilermakers to have this type of season. With only one returning starter in Carsen Edwards, and with a mostly-new supporting cast, Purdue has been one of the nation’s pleasant surprises this season as Painter deserves National Coach of the Year chatter. In a brutally-tough Big Ten, Purdue seemed to only get better as the season wore along as they proved to be more than just Edwards and his scoring punch.

Co-Big 12 Champions Texas Tech and Kansas State: Who could have predicted these two winning the Big 12 championship? While Kansas State was a preseason top-10 team in the eyes of some following last season’s Elite Eight appearance, Texas Tech is another included on the list of most surprising teams in the country. The Red Raiders overcame the loss of six of their top eight scorers as head coach Chris Beard basically put an entirely new rotation on the floor from his own Elite Eight appearance last season. The national focus has drifted mostly towards Kansas losing its 14-year Big 12 regular-season title streak. Not enough credit has been given to Kansas State and Texas Tech both overcoming slow conference starts to bring home a league title.

Seton Hall: The Pirates had the best week of any bubble team in the country, and frankly, there doesn’t feel like a close second place. Earning back-to-back Q1 wins over Marquette and Villanova, the top two teams in the Big East, Seton Hall essentially punched its ticket into the NCAA tournament by grabbing two more monster wins during the final week of the regular season. Myles Powell is playing with a ton of confidence right now and the Pirates will be a fascinating team to follow at Madison Square Garden during the Big East tournament.

Temple: A home win over UCF could be the final ingredient in getting the Owls into the NCAA tournament. In head coach Fran Dunphy’s final season on the sidelines, Temple is hoping to be the fourth team from the American to make it into the Big Dance. During a season where many bubble teams are hovering near .500, while drawing the ire of college hoops diehards, it’s hard not to root for a story where a respected veteran coach leads his team into the field.

Villanova (even in a loss): Suffering a disappointing road loss at Seton Hall, the Wildcats still got lucky enough to win the Big East title, outright, thanks to Marquette’s shocking home loss to Georgetown. Even though Villanova struggled down the stretch this season — losing five of their last eight games — they still captured a conference title during an up-and-down season. Earning a No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament was an added bonus as Villanova tries to figure things out before the NCAA tournament.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

Marquette: This recent stretch will haunt Marquette fans for years to come. Losing four straight games to close out the regular season, the Golden Eagles blew a shot at the Big East regular-season title on numerous occasions. As noted above, Villanova lost five of its final eight games. That allowed Marquette every opportunity to stay in the race. None of those chances were more apparent than Saturday. After the Wildcats fell to Seton Hall to begin the afternoon slate of games, Marquette took the floor at home against Georgetown knowing that they could win and earn a share of the Big East championship. And just like the previous three games, Marquette faltered in the final minutes to blow another winnable game. The Golden Eagles have been pitiful late in games over the last two weeks as they’re suddenly in a freefall heading into MSG for the Big East tournament. On the bright side, Marquette has single-handedly kept the Big East’s bubble teams afloat by gifting recent wins to Creighton, Seton Hall and now Georgetown.

Tennessee: Entering Saturday, the Vols were given a chance to be co-SEC champions with LSU. Tennessee squandered those circumstances with a road loss at Auburn to start the afternoon. Although it’s never easy to win at Auburn now that Bruce Pearl and the Tigers have that place rocking, Tennessee has to be kicking themselves knowing that they could have won the league in back-to-back seasons.

Loyola: We won’t be seeing Loyola and Sister Jean in the 2019 NCAA tournament following last season’s memorable Final Four run. The top-seeded Ramblers were upset by Bradley in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Saturday as Loyola’s two Conference Players of the Year, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes, were held to only 17 points combined on 7-for-27 shooting.

South Dakota State and Mike Daum: One of college basketball’s all-time greats will not be playing in the 2019 NCAA tournament as No. 1 seed South Dakota State shockingly fell to No. 8 seed Western Illinois in the Summit League tournament quarterfinals. Making an NCAA tournament appearance the past three seasons, it will feel bizarre not to have Daum and the Jackrabbits in the Big Dance during his final college season. Daum finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the loss as he only attempted 10 field goals on the night (making five).

FINAL THOUGHT

In looking over the power conference champions decided on Saturday, it’s crazy to think about how quickly things changed in college basketball throughout the course of this regular season. Let’s do a brief rundown in a bullet format to make things easier.

  • A few weeks into the season, Duke going undefeated was a legitimate storyline that people were discussing. Flash forward a few months later and North Carolina and Virginia split the ACC crown.
  • Listed as the preseason No. 1 team and national title favorite by many pundits, Kansas faltered and saw its dominant 14-year reign in the Big 12 come to an end. Kansas State started the Big 12 season 0-2 and Texas Tech was 4-3. Both of those teams pulled it together and shared the league title.
  • Within the last month, two top-10 tilts between Kentucky and Tennessee dominated the SEC headlines. LSU snuck in the back door to claim the SEC title over both of them. Outright.
  • Villanova was left for dead during nonconference play with losses to Furman and Penn. St. John’s and Marquette became trendy picks to win the Big East as conference play started. The Wildcats prevailed and still ended up gaining the Big East title.
  • And the Big Ten focused on Michigan’s early-season dominance only to see the Wolverines relinquish the league crown to rival Michigan State and Purdue. The Spartans lost arguably two of their top three players for most of conference season and still won while Purdue replaced four starters and became one of the nation’s biggest overachievers.

I guess the main point in all of this is that college basketball’s 2018-19 season has been absolutely insane — and that’s only touching on five major conferences to get to my point. That doesn’t even include the Pac-12’s historically awful season, Houston emerging as a legitimate top-10 team, and a point guard from Murray State being called the second best prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft only behind a dude who has been compared to LeBron.

Good luck predicting what’s going to happen over the final month of this zany season. All of the drama and surprises will be a ton of fun to watch.

The 16 NBA draft stay-or-go decisions that will shape college basketball’s 2020-21 season

2020 nba draft decisions
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The end of the 2020 NBA Draft early entry decisions period is now bearing down on us.

Underclassmen that opted to declare for the draft saw the deadline to remove their name and retain their collegiate eligibility bumped back to August 3rd due to the coronavirus pandemic. To be frank, the extra two months has not done much more than allow these players to try and get a better feel for what the basketball landscape will look like during the 2020-21 season.

But truth be told, so much is still up in the air. No one knows what college basketball is going to look like next season, not with college campuses likely to develop into mini-COVID outbreaks if students return to campus. No one can say for certain if the G League is going to happen next year, or if foreign leagues are going to allow Americans to enter their country based on the way that the United States has handled the pandemic.

Throw in the fact face-to-face meetings haven’t been made and NBA teams are currently more concerned about finding ways to keep their players that are in the bubble in the bubble, the kids making the most important decision of their lives are put in a terrible spot.

I don’t envy anyone having to make these choices right now.

But choices are going to have to be made.

And these are the 16 most influential stay-or-go decisions remaining.

For the most impactful transfer waivers, click here.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft 3.0 | Early Entry Tracker

2020 NBA DRAFT DECISIONS

1. LUKA GARZA, Iowa

This one should be obvious. Garza is coming off of a season where he averaged 23.8 points and 9.8 boards for a top 25 team, was named a first-team All-American and put himself alongside Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the race for National Player of the Year.

But he’s also in a unique spot where he doesn’t really project as a great pro because of his lack of athleticism and mobility. How often does a player that is that unquestionably great return for another year in the collegiate ranks? Cassius Winston did it. Doug McDermott did it. They were both preseason National Player of the Year favorites, which is precisely what Garza will be. It’s a big deal having him on the floor, to say nothing of the impact that he has on everyone else on that Iowa roster.

Depending on how the chips fall, I think that Iowa can still be in the mix as a top 25 team without Garza, and I don’t think that it would be crazy if Garza opted to take a deal overseas. He can make a lot of money in Europe.

But with him back?

I think this team is capable of getting to a Final Four and winning a national title. And if I had to guess, I would guess Garza is more likely to be wearing Iowa colors than not next season.

2. XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State

Michigan State is going to take a hit next season because they are losing Cassius Winston, but the Spartans will still have a chance to win the Big Ten title if they bring back Xavier Tillman.

For my money, Tillman had an All-American junior season. He’s the anchor of Michigan State’s defense, a leader in the program on and off the floor and an underrated weapon offensively because of his ability to pass the ball. He’s the piece that brings everything else together for this roster.

And there are going to be some weapons there. Rocket Watts will be a year older, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham. Joey Hauser will be eligible to play, and there’s a chance that Josh Langford will be back for his final season. Aaron Henry declared for the draft, but it seems fairly likely he’ll be back for his junior season.

But without Tillman, that is all just window dressing.

I would draft Tillman in the late first round if I was an NBA team. I think he’s the best two-way big man available in this year’s draft and a player that can impact an NBA game today. He’s already married. He had his second child in February. He’s mature and carries himself as a professional as it is. The smart financial decision here would probably be to enter the draft.

That said, he may be a guy that can improve his draft spot by being the focal point offensively. He’s also said that he will not be leaving campus without a guaranteed contract, and for some reasons, there are questions about whether or not he can get one. The way that Michigan State has set him and his family up on campus is wonderful, and he has a really good thing going while sitting a year away from a college degree.

At this point, I think Tillman is a legitimate 50-50 decision.

WHAT ABOUT AARON HENRY AND JOSH LANGFORD?

Henry is clearly a valuable piece to the puzzle for the Spartans, as is Josh Langford, who may or may not be returning after a foot injury cost him the 2019-20 season. Losing Henry would be a blow, but the sense I get is that he will be back in school. Langford is a bigger question mark, and there’s an argument to be made that his absence last season was the biggest reason that the Spartans struggled early.

3. COREY KISPERT, Gonzaga

For my money, of the three Gonzaga players who still have their names in the 2020 NBA Draft, Corey Kispert is the most influential. He’s a good defender and a great shooter as a 6-foot-6 wing, a role that gives him value as an NBA prospect. There’s a real chance that he can get picked in the late 30s or early 40s this year. That might be enough to get him to leave school.

Kispert’s skill-set also slots him in a position where the Zags really don’t have any depth to speak of. Mark Few’s teams pound the ball into the paint, and next season is not going to be any different given the amount of talented big men on the roster. But without Kispert’s floor-spacing, the lane can get clogged up awful quick. For a team that projects in the preseason top five, that matters.

WHAT ABOUT FILIP PETRUSEV AND JOEL AYAYI?

Losing Ayayi would certainly hurt, because his value as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker that can also space the floor is immense. The best teams in college basketball this decade all played with two point guards. Ayayi would qualify as point guard No. 2 on a team with Jalen Suggs. I think, however, he needs another season of seasoning in college.

Petrusev, however, is a totally different conversation. I’m not sure how he fits in the modern NBA. But I’m also not sure if he’s going to be able to improve all that much on the year he just had, not with Drew Timme on the verge of being Gonzaga’s next great center and Oumar Ballo ready to have a huge redshirt freshman season. Petrusev projects as a pro in Europe, and he can probably get paid pretty well next season somewhere other than the NBA.

college basketball preseason top 25
(William Mancebo/Getty Images)

4. TYRELL TERRY, Stanford

Tyrell Terry was one of the more underrated freshmen in college basketball last season. He averaged 14.6 points, 4.5 boards and 3.2 assists while shooting just under 41 percent from three. He’s listed at just 160 pounds, but he’s certainly on the radar of NBA teams and might even be able to sneak his way into the end of the first round.

So he has a very real decision to make.

Because, as a potential breakout star as a sophomore, Terry will be playing on a team with the potential to win the Pac-12. The Cardinal bring back everyone off of last year’s team while adding Ziaire Williams, a five-star, one-and-done freshman that will slide right in at the four. With Terry, arguably the best point guard on the west coast if he returns, Stanford could have two lottery picks on their roster and we could legitimately be looking at a team that can get to the Final Four.

Without him, do they even have a point guard on the roster?

5. JARED BUTLER, Baylor

I currently have the Bears sitting as the No. 3 team in my preseason top 25, and that’s assuming that Butler is coming back to school. That, however, is not a guarantee. Butler showed enough as a creator in isolation and ball-screens this past season that he could end up getting picked early in the second round of the draft, and that has been enough to make worse players opt to leave school.

The big issue with Baylor this past season is that they went through stretches where they just couldn’t score. Butler is, by far, their best scorer, the one guy that can go create a bucket out of nothing. Without him, how long will those scoring droughts last?

WHAT ABOUT MACIO TEAGUE?

Teague was Baylor’s second-leading scorer last season. I don’t think that he’s nearly the NBA prospect that Butler is, but having the two of them together are awfully important for Baylor to live up to their hype. The key for Teague: He just finished his fourth year in college. Does he want to return for his redshirt senior season?

6. CHRIS SMITH, UCLA

Smith is a really interesting prospect in this year’s draft class. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing that averaged 13.1 points and shot 34 percent from three and 84 percent from the line for the Bruins, who turned into one of the 25 best teams in college basketball by the end of the season.

UCLA brings back the majority of last year’s roster, but they already suffered one major blow this offseason when five-star point guard Daishen Nix opted to accept a contract from the G League instead of heading to Westwood. Losing Smith would be another significant blow to a program that was once considered a borderline top ten team heading into the 2020-21 season.

One thing that is worth noting here: Smith, a junior, is three months younger than Precious Achiuwa and Cassius Stanley, both one-and-done freshmen that are expected to be drafted this year.

7. YVES PONS, Tennessee

Pons is definitely not a guy that is going to make any preseason All-American lists if he opts to return to school, but he may just be the best defensive player in all of college basketball. At 6-foot-6 and the best athlete in the sport, Pons can quite literally guard anyone from a point guard to a center, and he can make a step-in three. His presence will allow the Vols to play all kinds of small-ball lineups, which is exactly what they need to do with the number of talented guards on next year’s roster.

He is a borderline first round pick in my mind, although I would expect him to go in the second round if he decides to keep his name in the draft. With Pons back, Tennessee is my pick to win the SEC next season.

8. AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois

Dosunmu had a really, really good sophomore season for the Illini, averaging 16.6 points and 3.3 assists. The problem, however, is that while he hit a number of big shots over the course of the season, he didn’t really do much to prove to NBA teams that he can actually be a consistent perimeter shooter. He’s not expected to be a first round pick and there’s a chance he could drop out of the top 45. Sometimes guys that are great college players don’t project well to the NBA. Dosunmu is that guy.

That said, the safe bet seems to be that Dosunmu will keep his name in the draft, and with some backcourt talent coming into the program, Brad Underwood should be able to survive the hit. But if he does come back, Illinois will have an outside shot at winning the Big Ten title.

WHAT ABOUT KOFI COCKBURN?

Despite a terrific freshman season, Cockburn is not expected to be drafted if he keeps his name in the draft. He’s a slow-footed, 280-pound center that is more likely to tear a rim off the backboard than he is to make a three. If this was 1990 and not 2020, he’d be a top ten pick. But as it stands, he has one of the easier 2020 NBA Draft stay-or-go decisions.

(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

9. REMY MARTIN, Arizona State

In addition to having the best name in college basketball, Remy Martin is coming off of a season where he averaged 19.1 points and 4.1 assists for a team that would have made the NCAA tournament had it been held. He’s a potential preseason All-American on a team that will add five-star freshman Josh Christopher and likely will return Alonzo Verge. With Martin in the fold, Arizona State will be in the same conversation as UCLA, Stanford and Oregon when it comes to predicting the Pac-12 champion. They may even be the favorite.

10. JAY HUFF, Virginia

I think that Jay Huff has quite a bit of potential as an NBA player. He’s 7-foot-1 with three-point range and the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and he’s also a rim protector that has spent four years playing for Tony Bennett. To me, he makes perfect sense as an off-the-bench big in the league.

That said, his production has not quite lived up to his potential. Even playing in a system that stifles scoring numbers, Huff’s 8.5 points and 6.2 boards as a junior was a disappointment. So I think he should come back to school, where he would anchor a lineup that should be much improved for the Wahoos.

11. TRENDON WATFORD, LSU

The Tigers are already losing Skylar Mays to graduation and Emmitt Williams to the professional ranks. But with five-star Cam Thomas headlining a solid crop of newcomers, Will Wade should have a pretty solid roster. Watford, who averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 boards last season, is a bucket-getting combo-forward that should be their best player if he opts to return to school.

WHAT ABOUT JAVONTE SMART?

Smart is coming off of a season where he averaged 12.5 points and 4.2 assists as a sophomore, and with Mays gone, the Tigers are going to need someone to anchor their backcourt. Neither Watford nor Smart are projected as first round picks, and if they follow Williams out the door, the Tigers would be one of the biggest losers of the early entry period.

12. ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas

Arkansas already lost Mason Jones, who was last year’s leading scorer, to the draft. Joe entered the season with some NBA Draft hype due to the fact that he is a 6-foot-7 wing that shot a lot of threes as a freshman and made quite a few of them. His sophomore season was not quite as efficient, and also featured a knee injury in the middle of the year that slowed things down.

The Hogs have some talented transfers in the fold and four four-star prospects enrolling this summer. They remade their roster is typical Eric Musselman fashion. Keeping a veteran scorer around could be the difference between fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament and seeing themselves ranked in the top 25.

13. MCKINLEY WRIGHT, Colorado

Colorado is already losing Tyler Bey, so the Buffaloes are taking a hit with early entries in this year’s draft. Wright matters, however, because he could be a preseason All-American. He’s coming off of a season where he averaged 14.4 points, 5.7 boards and 5.0 assists. He’s the kind of player that can put together a senior season where he throws a team on his back and carries them to a postseason run. Colorado is relevant with Wright in the fold. They are not without him.

14. ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan

The Wolverines not only lost Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske to graduation, David DeJulius to transfer and Isaiah Todd to the G League, but they are also missed out on Josh Christopher, who committed to Arizona State instead. If Livers’ decision is to leave for the 2020 NBA Draft, that means Michigan will be losing their three best players from last season and their highest-rated recruit. If he’s back, Livers is an all-Big Ten player that puts Michigan in the mix for the top 25 and a top four finish in the league.

15. SANDRO MAMUKELASHVILI, Seton Hall

Mamu is coming off of a season where he averaged 11.9 points and 6.0 boards as one of the more underrated big men in college basketball. Someone on the Pirate roster is going to have to fill the void left by Myles Powell, Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill, and Mamu would be that guys if he opts to return to school.

16. MARCUS CARR, Minnesota

The Golden Gophers have quite a bit left up in the air at the moment — their two most impactful transfers are both awaiting word on whether or not they will be sitting out for the upcoming season — but Carr may be their most important decision. I’m not sure that he has an NBA future, but he may have an all-Big Ten future if he returns to school. Carr averaged 15.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 boards last season.

The nine most influential transfer waivers we are waiting on

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the 2020 NBA Draft bearing down on us, the biggest question marks heading into the 2020-21 season are the players that have yet to decide if they are going to pull their name out of the NBA draft.

But there are also a number of transfers that are still considering applying for, or are already waiting on, immediately eligibility waivers.

These are the biggest names.

For the most impactful stay-or-go decisions, click here.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft 3.0 | Early Entry Tracker

1. OLIVIER SARR, Kentucky

Sarr is easily the most impactful transfer currently waiting on a waiver. As we have come to expect out of Lexington, Kentucky is turning their roster over completely, with a brand new crop of freshmen ready to carry the torch.

Brandon Boston is expected to be the best of the bunch. Terrence Clarke isn’t all that far behind. Devin Askew, as well as Creighton grad transfer Davion Mintz, should be able to handle point guard duties well enough. Throw in Keion Brooks, who is back for his sophomore season, as well as Cam’Ron Fletcher, that’s a pretty good place for Kentucky to start.

The problem is up front. E.J. Montgomery went pro despite having almost no chance of playing in the NBA in the near future. Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware are both highly-regarded, four-star big men heading to Kentucky, but neither of them are the kind of impact player that John Calipari needs at the five to be able to thrive. Sarr, however, is. He was a third-team all-ACC player a season ago, averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 boards. He put up 30 points and 17 boards on Notre Dame. He had 25 points against Duke. He went for 21 points and 13 boards against Arizona. He’s really good.

But he also has said publicly that he left Wake Forest because of a coaching change that occurred this offseason as well as the chance to improve his basketball life. Historically, the NCAA has not given out waivers to players that are transferring because of a coaching change. There have been players that transferred after a coaching change and got a waiver, but there was a reason beyond just a different staff that allowed them to get the waiver.

We’ll see what Kentucky cooks up.

Because with Sarr, they are a top ten team. Without him, the Wildcats are more of a back-end top 25 team.

2. LANDERS NOLLEY and DEANDRE WILLIAMS, Memphis

There were three dominoes that the Memphis basketball program has been waiting on.

The first fell last night, as Moussa Cisse committed to play his college ball for Penny Hardaway. Waivers for Nolley and Williams are the other two.

For my money, Cisse was the most important piece here. I detailed why in this column. Nolley, however, is almost as important. A 6-foot-7, 230 pound forward, Nolley averaged 15.5 points for Virginia Tech this past season as a redshirt freshman. He’s a really good shooter that was one of the best players in the conference before tailing off down the stretch of the season. Given the current roster makeup of Memphis, he’s also a perfect fit for a program that has a defensive anchor, a ton of guards and not all that much in between that can bring it all together. With Nolley and D.J. Jeffries on the wings, Cisse in the middle and the likes of Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax and Damian Baugh handling backcourt duties, the Tigers would be a top 20 team that could compete with Houston for an AAC title.

Williams, who averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 boards in 18 games for Evansville last year, is more of a big than he is a perimeter weapon, but he can still contribute in that role. Williams will be 24 years old by the time the season rolls around.

3. L.J. FIGUEROA, Oregon

Finding impact scorers on the transfer market has become something of a specialty for Dana Altman’s program, and Figueroa is no different. He averaged 14.5 points last season for the Johnnies, and he should be a really good fit in Altman’s offense. With a roster that already includes the likes of Will Richardson, Chris Duarte, Amauri Hardy, Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams, it may be tough for Figueroa to crack into the starting lineup, but getting a player like this eligible immediately is only going to help.

Figueroa appears to have a shot at getting the waiver due to the coronavirus pandemic. When Figueroa left, New York City was still the hardest hit place in the country.

4. MAC MCCLUNG, Texas Tech

McClung is a YouTube sensation known for his highlight reel dunks and ability to put up points in a hurry. He broke Allen Iverson’s record for points scored in Virginia high school basketball history. If there’s one thing that he can do on a basketball court, it’s get buckets.

McClung cannot, however, guard. Anyone. He’s a really, really, really bad defender. If there’s one thing that Chris Beard will not stand for at Texas Tech, it’s someone not playing defense. And if there is one thing that this Tech program desperately needed last season, it’s someone that could get a bucket.

Now, this all assumes that McClung is going to buy in defensively, Beard is going to put in the effort to develop him defensively and that the combination of those two things will allow McClung to beat out some of the more talented pieces on this roster — Kyler Edwards, Nimari Burnett, Kevin McCullar, Terrence Shannon — for playing time. But he is unquestionable a useful piece that Beard should be able to get the most out of, and I’m not sure there is a better place for McClung to be if he wants to fix the flaws in his game.

McClung may have a real shot at getting a waiver as well. Georgetown’s program went through quite a bit of drama in the last eight months, including a nagging foot injury that McClung just couldn’t seem to shake.

5. CHAUNDEE BROWN, Michigan

Brown is a powerful, athletic wing that averaged 12.1 points this past season at Wake Forest. He left the program after his junior season, entering the NBA draft and the NCAA’s transfer portal on the same day. That was more than two weeks before head coach Danny Manning was fired by Wake Forest. If Brown does receive a waiver, he would be a nice compliment to Isaiah Livers, who is still weighing whether or not to remain in the NBA draft.

6. BOTH GACH and LIAM ROBBINS, Minnesota

The Golden Gophers have quite a bit left up in the air at the moment — they are also waiting on Marcus Carr to decide whether or not he is going to pull his name out of the draft — but Gach and Robbins have a big impact as well. Robbins is a 7-foot center that averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 boards as a sophomore at Drake last season, while Both Gach is a talented wing that transferred back to Minnesota, where he played his high school ball, after averaging 10.7 points as a sophomore.

7. JAVON FREEMAN-LIBERTY, DePaul

I know it’s hard to get too excited about anyone that is going to be playing for DePaul, but Freeman-Liberty has a chance to be really good. He’s coming off of a sophomore season where he averaged 19 points for Valparaiso, and at 6-foot-4, is the kind of explosive guard that will draw the attention of NBA scouts.

Top prospect Jonathan Kuminga will enter G League program over NCAA

jonathan kuminga g league
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jonathan Kuminga announced on Wednesday night that, after graduating from The Patrick School last month, he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2020 and, instead of going to college, enrolling in the G League Pathway Program.

This decision will allow Kuminga, originally a member of the Class of 2021, to enter the 2021 NBA Draft, where he is considered a potential top five pick in what should be a loaded draft class.

As detailed in this story, the G League Pathway Program is an initiative that the NBA has developed for elite prospects competes with overseas deals — specifically the NBL’s Next Stars program — to provide a one-and-done year alternative to college basketball. Kuminga will join Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix and Kai Sotto as the inaugural class in the program. His deal is reportedly worth $500,000, which is similar to what Green was offered.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

Kuminga picked the G League over Duke, Kentucky, Auburn and Texas Tech. Tech was considered the frontrunner because his brother, Joel Ntambwe, is a member of their roster, but his decision to head to the G League caught no one by surprise.

As a player, Kuminga is an explosive athlete at 6-foot-8. He has long arms, the ability to play multiple positions and versatility on the defensive end of the floor. Prior to the pandemic, Kuminga was known as an elite athlete with upside through the roof, but he is going to have to develop offensively, particularly his shooting, if he’s going to reach that upside.

Moussa Cisse’s commitment makes Memphis a top 25 team

moussa cisse memphis
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Moussa Cisse committed to Memphis on Wednesday, which is huge for the Tigers. Any time you add a 6-foot-11 center that is a top ten prospect and a potential one-and-done player that could end up being the very best rim protector in all of college basketball this upcoming season, it’s a good thing.

A really good thing.

That’s precisely the player that Cisse is. He’s a terrific athlete that plays with a motor, loves to get on the glass and will be an impact defensive presence from the first day that he is allowed to play for the Tigers. More importantly, he won’t be put in a position where he is going to be asked to do much more than that for this Memphis team.

I spent much last summer trying to downplay the hype that surrounded Memphis as they brought in a recruiting class that ranked No. 1 in the country and featured a pair of one-and-done five-stars in James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa. The reason for that was simple: Not all No. 1 recruiting classes are built the same, and once you got past a pair of bigs that needed to be near the basket to be effective, the Tigers had a roster full of guys that had all the makings of being 2-3 year guys.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

D.J. Jeffries, Damian Baugh, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones. Those guys all had solid freshman seasons. More importantly, they all returned to school for their sophomore seasons, and as the saying goes, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Throw in the return of Alex Lomax, and Penny Hardaway has a pretty good core of perimeter players at his disposal even before you consider the potential that Landers Nolley and Deandre Williams get waivers.

The true value of the Memphis recruiting class wasn’t just Wiseman and Achiuwa, it was the fact that Penny had himself a solid foundation for his program moving forward. Unless you are Duke or Kentucky, the teams that get the most out of their one-and-done freshmen are the programs that can plug these guys in and ask them to do a job. The healthiest programs in the sport — Virginia, Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor — are the teams that can land elite talent while maintaining roster continuity.

And that’s precisely what Penny has set himself up with.

The hole in this Memphis team was in the middle.

There was not a player on the market better suited to filling that hole on Memphis than Moussa Cisse.

This addition gives Memphis a team that should enter the season in the preseason top 25 and will have a shot at contending with Houston for the American regular season title.

CBT Podcast: So are we going to have a college basketball season?

Conferences cancel tournaments
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to talk through … well, to talk about whether or not the Coronavirus pandemic is going to cause us to lose out on a college basketball season. Depressing, I know.