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Who will be next head coach to win first national title?

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Last April, after a decade of proving himself as one of the very best coaches in all of college basketball, Tony Bennett shook the monkey off of his back for good as he led Virginia to the greatest redemption story in the history of sports.

The Cavaliers, if you have somehow forgotten, went from being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in 2018 to the national champs in 2019.

We may never see anything like that ever again.

But there are a handful of coaches that could follow in Bennett’s footsteps by joining the list of people that can put “Won A National Title” as a line item on their resume.

These are the eight coaches that are the most likely to do that in the next five years, with an added bonus of the threes most difficult names to leave off the list.

THE FAVORITE

1. MARK FEW, Gonzaga: This is obvious. Gonzaga is a top ten program nationally, they are just two years removed from a run to the national title game, they are churning out lottery picks at a rate we’ve never seen from a mid-major and their ability to A) tap into the transfer market, and B) identify and bring in overseas talent will ensure that their floor is as a top 25 team every year. Few is going to breakthrough eventually.

THE SECOND TIER

2. CHRIS MACK, Louisville: For my money, Mack is the best coach in college basketball to never reach a Final Four, and if the way his first season at Louisville played out is any indication, he’s going to lose that title pretty soon. Not only is he coming off of a 20 win season and NCAA tournament trip that few expected, he brought back his best player, brought in a loaded six-man recruiting class and has his program sitting pretty as a preseason top seven team.

Now, the major question mark here is the NCAA. What kind of punishment is the program going to face as a result of the recruitment of Brian Bowen? On the one hand, Louisville is not far removed from the fallout from the escort scandal, where they had Final Four and National Title banners taken down as a result of strippers and hookers that were provided to players and recruits by a member of the coaching staff. On the other hand, everyone involved is both of those incidents is long gone – from the AD to the head coach to the players and members of the coaching staff. Is the NCAA going to come down hard on an entirely new regime that, as far as we know, has never been on the wrong side of NCAA rules? Who knows, but that’s the reason why I have Mack a notch below few.

Chris Mack (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

3. CHRIS BEARD, Texas Tech: Beard is a tough one here, because he is the only guy on this list that could end up working somewhere else within the five-year window. Obviously, if he stays at Texas Tech he seems like he would be a decent bet to breakthrough. The Red Raiders, when healthy, were the best team in the Big 12 two years ago, and this past season they ended Kansas’ reign atop the conference before making a run to the national title game. As of today, they are a consensus preseason top ten team. Beard’s ability to rebuild from scratch on a year-by-year basis means that the Red Raiders will likely always be in the mix, and it makes me confident that, wherever he ends up if he does leave Lubbock, his team will have a shot at being very good, very quickly.

4. MATT PAINTER, Purdue: I have the utmost respect for Painter’s coaching ability. In the last four years, he’s managed to play three very distinct ways. It started with all 6-foot-9, 250 pounds of Caleb Swanigan playing the four alongside A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. When Swanigan left, his team got better by putting four shooters on the floor around Haas. When four of the five starters on that team left, he totally rebuilt his offense by allowing Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline to run off as many pindowns and DHOs as they could handle.

Should I mention that, in three of those four seasons, Purdue finished as a top ten team on KenPom, and the fourth season they finished 19th? Painter is a monster.

Mike White (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

THE NEXT BEST

5. MIKE WHITE, Florida: White, at 42 years old, is the youngest coach on this list by a significant margin, and while he has yet to truly live up to the legacy that Billy Donovan left in Gainesville, he’s been to the last three NCAA tournaments, he’s won at least a game in all three – including a run to the 2017 Elite Eight – and he has a preseason top ten team returning this year. I think this is just the start for White, who is arguably the best coach in college hoops under the age of 45.

6. CHRIS HOLTMANN, Ohio State: Holtmann has been a head coach for five seasons since he took over for Brandon Miller in 2013-14, and he’s won at least 20 games in all five seasons, he’s won at least one NCAA tournament game in all five seasons and, I think it’s fair to say, in each one of those five seasons he outperformed expectations. He’s only heading into his third year at Ohio State, which means that the arrow is going to continue to point up.

7. BRUCE PEARL, Auburn: Pearl is another coach that is currently sitting squarely in the NCAA crosshairs, and while he, personally, is only tangentially connected to the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, Pearl has plenty to worry about. He’s already served a show-cause for lying to NCAA investigators, he was nearly fired 18 months ago because of his refusal to speak to Auburn’s investigators and he will undoubtedly get dinged by the NCAA with failure to monitor and/or head coach responsibility charges because of Chuck Person’s actions while on staff.

That said, Pearl has found a perfect fit for himself at Auburn. He’s coming off of a Final Four run, he’s sending players – hi, Chuma Okeke – to the NBA and he’s been able to recruit their replacements – hi, Isaac Okoro – to maintain the stability of his program thanks in part to his uptempo style. Throw in the fact that he’s turned Auburn Arena into one of the tougher places in the SEC to play, and I think he’s going to continue to succeed.

Penny Hardaway (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

THE X-FACTOR

8. PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis: To be completely honest, I am not quite sure where to put Penny on this list. The fact of the matter is that he has spent one year as a head coach at the college level. We don’t really know what to make of him as a head coach, and given the fact that this Memphis team is being wildly overranked heading into the season, there seems to be a good chance that the narrative on Penny could end up being that he’s a recruiter, not a coach, come the end of the season.

When that happens, remember this warning. And also remember that Penny landed two top ten recruits and seven top 100 players in his first real recruiting class, including a five-star from New York and a top 30 prospect that decommitted from Duke. He’s going to continue to land recruiting classes like this, and with the majority of this year’s No. 1 ranked class being two or three years players, I think everyone is a year early on the Memphis bandwagon.

We’ll see if all of that leads to a chance at winning a national title.

THE THREE TOUGHEST NAMES TO LEAVE OFF

SEAN MILLER, Arizona: “Most likely.” We’re talking about probabilities here, right? That cannot be done without factoring in the chance that A) Sean Miller gets fired, B) Sean Miller gets a show-cause and C) the Arizona program receives some kind of significant punishment for their involvement in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. In a vacuum, it’s hard to ignore the success, both on the court and on the recruiting trail, that Miller has had, but it is also impossible to ignore what they could be facing in the very near future.

MIKE HOPKINS, Washington: I get why the college basketball community is bullish on Hop. He won 21 games in his first season with Washington, he won 27 games and the Pac-12 regular season title last season and he just landed a pair of top ten prospects in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. But before I go all-in on him, I want to see how well he does coaching one-and-done talent and what happens when the rest of the Pac-12 is actually worth talking about.

RICK BARNES, Tennessee: Barnes is the oldest guy on this list by seven years, he is coming off of two years where he had the Vols as close to program’s ceiling as you can get and, with Grant Williams, Jordan Bone and Admiral Schofield gone, they are entering something of a rebuilding stretch. I think that he has found a place where he can have sustained success, but he doesn’t crack the top eight on my list. .

Mick Cronin lands first five-star recruit at UCLA

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Less than 24 hours after cutting his list to five schools, five-star point guard Daishen Nix committed to UCLA.

Nix is a 6-foot-5 point guard from Alaska that’s currently playing his high school ball in Las Vegas. He’s known for his court vision and elite basketball IQ with a developing jumper and a feel for the game that cannot be taught. He ranks as a top 15 prospect, according to 247 Sports.

He was Mick Cronin’s top target at the point guard spot, and Cronin landed him. That’s notable, because one of the concerns that people had about UCLA’s decision to hire Cronin was whether or not a coach known for his toughness, his intensity and his team’s propensity for being defense first would adjust to playing at California’s flagship program, where tempo is a must and defense has been, for the last half-decade, optional.

And while it remains to be seen how the team and program will adjust to his coaching style – I will have a story coming on that later this week – at the very least, Cronin has proven that he can dip his toe in the west coast recruiting waters and get a player that he prioritized.

Who are the best basketball prospects that have yet to play in the NBA?

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Over the course of the next two weeks, Pro Basketball Talk will be rolling out a project that we have been working on for the last month: Ranking the top 50 players five years from now.

Players ranked 46-50 were unveiled today.

You can find that list here.

In the meantime, since it is relevant, here at College Basketball Talk we are going to take a look at the guys that, in 2024, may actually deserve a spot on a top 50 players list that you may not know about just yet.

So without further ado, here are the ten best prospects that have yet to play a game in the professional ranks.

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1. Emoni Bates, Class of 2022

Bates is the shoe-in at No. 1 on this list. Over the years I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the scouts that do recruiting rankings and cover the sport at the high school level. These guys have been in the business for a long time – some for decades – and every single one of them rave about Bates in a way that you don’t often see players get talked about. One called him the best freshman he’s ever scouted. One called him as good as any prospect that he’s scouted in more than 20 years in the business. One called him the best prospect in high school hoops, which is exactly where I have him on this list. Personally, I think that he’s the closest thing that we’ve seen to Kevin Durant since Kevin Durant.

I wrote a story on Bates from Peach Jam back in July, and one of the things that I made sure to note in that story is the danger that comes with this level of hype at this age. Many of the things that are being said about Bates were said about Renardo Sidney at the same age, and we know how that turned out. Part of the reason I’m a little less-hesitant to make such proclamations with Bates is that he has an alpha mentality and competitive streak that you don’t see all that often. So not only does he have the physical tools as a super-skilled, 6-foot-9 scorer with range out to the NBA three-point line, but once he gets on the court, he’s an a–hole in all of the best ways.

2. Cade Cunningham, Class of 2020

Cunningham is tailor-made for modern basketball. He’s a 6-foot-7, 220 pound point forward. He’s a tough, physical and athletic wing that, two years ago, made the transition to playing the point full time. He has the savvy, the maturity and the polish of an NBA veteran. He doesn’t have the highlight reel athleticism of guys like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, but he has the kind of functional athleticism that will allow him to split the defense, avoid the charge, absorb the contact and finish in traffic. He was the MVP of the EYBL circuit this past season, and if he continues to improve his shooting stroke, there’s a very real chance that he gets picked with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.

I think the best way to phrase it is this: He will likely be the first player to ever get compared to Luka Doncic, and I’m not sure how much more complimentary you can get.

James Wiseman (Elsa/Getty Images)

3. James Wiseman, Memphis

4. Evan Mobley, Class of 2020

I’m listing these two together because they really are quite similar prospects. Both stand 7-foot. Both have the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow them to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. Both of them are capable defenders with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And both of them are skilled enough where they have the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens.

Now, there are some differences. Wiseman, at this point, is probably more physically developed – he is a year older – while Mobley, at 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds, is going to have to make the absolute most of the meal plan USC gets him on. Mobley, on the other hand, seems to be more accepting of the fact that he’s destined to be a five in the NBA while Wiseman, in the words of one NBA draftnik, “thinks he’s Giannis when in reality he’s a lot closer to Myles Turner.”

There is nothing wrong with being Myles Turner. He just turned 23 years old and he is coming off of a season where he averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 boards and an NBA-best 2.7 blocks while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s really good. But he also knows what he is and what he isn’t, and he isn’t Giannis.

5. Jonathan Kuminga, Class of 2021

Kuminga is a super-explosive, 6-foot-8 wing that is just now starting to figure out how good he has the chance to be. He has all the physical tools that you want out of a wing – height, length, athleticism, versatility – and he has shown that he is willing and able to defend multiple positions. The big thing with him in the long-term is going to be how well his jumpshot develops, and if that comes along, his upside is as high as anyone on this list. I do think it’s worth noting that at Peach Jam, he was in the same group as Terrence Clarke and Patrick Baldwin Jr. and justified his spot on this list.

6. Jalen Green, Class of 2020

Green has all the makings of a future top five pick. At 6-foot-5, he’s a naturally gifted scorer that makes the game look easy. He’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, where he can finish above the rim and also has a shiftiness about him in the lane. He’s a capable ball-handler and passer, but he’s going to make his money as a bucket-getter. If his jumper catches up to the rest of his game, look out.

7. Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Edwards is a big time scorer and athlete that has the ideal physical tools for a combo-guard. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-5 with length and explosive athleticism. His game is well-rounded. He’s a good shooter that can also operate in ball-screens, create for his teammates and shoot off the dribble. In theory, he’s an ideal fit for a sport that is becoming more and more reliant on scorers that can create in isolation with shooters spacing the court. Part of the reason he stayed home to play for Georgia is that Tom Crean coached both Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade in college, and those two are what Edwards has the potential to be at the next level.

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8. Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Anthony is going to get a lot of hype heading into the 2020 draft. Beyond the simple fact that he is the son of UNLV legend and NBA journeyman Greg Anthony, Cole Anthony is headed to North Carolina, where Roy Williams is going to slot him into the same role that he used Coby White in last year. He is going to get a lot of shots, he’s going to score a lot of points and he’s going to have a lot of highlight reel plays in the process. My big question with Cole longterm is that I’m not convinced that he is big enough to play off the ball, I’m not sure he is a natural point guard and I don’t know if he is quite good enough to be allowed to play the way he has throughout his career at the NBA level. There is definitely some potential here, but I think the fit at the NBA level makes more sense with Green and Edwards than it does with Anthony.

RISING SON: Cole Anthony remains grounded while following his father’s footsteps

9. Terrence Clarke, Class of 2021

Clarke is a wiry-strong, 6-foot-6 off-guard from Boston that has the potential to be the No. 1 pick in whatever draft he ends up in. (There’s a chance he can reclassify into 2020.) He’s an explosive athlete that can finish in traffic while also displaying a high-level feel for the game. He’s an improving shooter that can create off the bounce in isolation, and his court vision and passing gives him the upside of having some positional versatility down the road.

10. Patrick Baldwin Jr., Class of 2021

As one coach at a top ten program told me this summer, Patrick Baldwin Jr. “is the best shooting big man I’ve ever scouted.” Still just heading into his junior year in high school, Baldwin recently went through a growth spurt that saw him sprout up to 6-foot-10. He needs to add some strength and weight to his frame (what 16 year old doesn’t?) but that size and shooting ability is not something that we see all that often. The big question for Baldwin is how well the rest of his game develops. Is he simply a pick-and-pop five, or will he continue to develop a floor game and the physical tools that will allow him to be a plus-defender in the NBA?

THREE THAT JUST MISSED THIS LIST

Jaden McDaniels, Washington: McDaniels’ upside is as high as anyone on this list save for Bates and Cunningham. At 6-foot-10, he’s a skilled wing with a perimeter game and a developing shooting stroke. It’s not hard to watch him play and see what he can be if he continues to put in the work, but he has a ways to go to get there. He’s still just 190 pounds and, at this point, more of a prospect that a producer.

Paolo Banchero, Class of 2021: Banchero is a tough prospect to gauge the ceiling of. He’s already 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds with a frame that should easily be able to hold more muscle, but without the kind of physical tools that will set him apart from the field. I think it’s also fair to say that his best skill at this point is how well-rounded he is. Put another way, he’s one of those guys that can do everything well – he can shoot it, he can pass, he can beat bigger defenders facing up, he can hold his own defending the paint, etc. – with an exceedingly high basketball IQ. Put another way, outside of continuing to stretch out his shooting range, I’m not sure just how much better he’s going to end up getting.

Jalen Johnson, Class of 2020: Johnson’s biggest strength at this point is probably his basketball IQ and passing ability at this size. He’s a 6-foot-9 lefty with a complete skillset and the kind of floor vision at this size that will make you think Ben Simmons lost his Aussie accent. Already committed to Duke, Johnson will likely continue to generate buzz as his defense and perimeter stroke improve.

Michael Avennati makes court filing alleging Nike cleared payments to Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford

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Lawyers for Michael Avennati filed a court motion on Wednesday alleging that Nike approved under-the-table payments to Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford while they were still in high school.

The alleged offers, which were for $35,000 to Zion and $20,000 to Langford, were found in “text messages, emails and other documents fro 2016-17” and prove “Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” the motion, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleged.

Specifically, the motion alleges that:

  • EYBL manager Jamal James texted EYBL director Carlton DeBose and Nike’s recruiting coordinator John Stovall asking if they would be “willing to do … whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re now going to do for the [redacted because he is still a minor] kid in Michigan.” Stovall responded “Langford – 20 Zion – 35 [unnamed minor] – 15”. Stovall added that it was a bad idea for the offer to be put into print.
  • DeBose said in a text message with an unnamed Kentucky assistach coach that the shoe company was “funneling payments to high school players through at least 10 different EYBL coaches.”
  • An EYBL coach told Nike executives he was concerned about the money being paid to players and their families because it won’t end well for Nike and innocent coaches “will be deemed guilty by association.”
  • DeBose told Nico Harrison, Nike’s VP of North America basketball operations, that he’s “willing to bet that 38 of the 40 teams in the EYBL had to pay a moderate to considerable ransom to families just to play in the EYBL.” He also said the arrangements are “being viewed as a contract” by the players and their families.
  • Another Nike executive, Rachel Baker, allegedly said she was worried about carrying cash through an airport.

All the quotes listed above are from the motion itself. It refers to emails and text messages, but they are not attached. The motion can be read in its entirety here.

The motion does not make clear whether or not the money was actually delivered. Both Zion and Langford played their final season of AAU basketball on the Adidas circuit. Langford’s father was the coach of the AAU program that his son played for.

“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”

Avenatti was arrested in March and charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose the way that the shoe company and its grassroots basketball league, the EYBL, funnel money to the elite high school players and their families. He threatened to hold a press conference at the start of the NCAA tournament announcing these allegations of misconduct.

Adding to the drama is the fact that Avennati represented Gary Franklin, who was the coach of the California Supreme at one point in time. Deandre Ayton, Bol Bol, Aaron Holiday, De’Anthony Melton, Solomon Hill and Brandon McCoy were among the players that spent time on his roster. The motion to dismiss also contains allegations that Franklin was directed by DeBose to make payments to people associated with Ayton, Bol and McCoy, and that he submitted false invoices to Nike to disguise the payments as expenses for the 501(c3) he operated.

Arkansas dismisses forward Gabe Osabuohien

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has dismissed forward Gabe Osabuohien from the men’s basketball program.

Coach Eric Musselman announced the move Thursday without disclosing the reason.

“We have set a level of expectations for our student-athletes on and off the court,” Musselman said. “After discussions with Gabe, it was decided that it would be best to part ways. We thank him for his time at Arkansas and wish him well.”

The 6-foot-8 Osabuohien was born in Toronto but played at Little Rock’s Southwest Christian Academy. He played in 54 games with eight starts in two seasons with Arkansas. He scored 128 points (2.4 per game) and had 136 rebounds (2.5).

Ollie gets win over UConn in one arm of dispute

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HARTFORD, Conn. — The arbitrator in the dispute between UConn and Kevin Ollie has ruled that the former basketball coach is protected by a union contract when it comes to the standard the school must meet in proving his firing was justified.

The collective bargaining agreement between the school and the American Association of University Professors, of which Ollie is a member, requires a showing of serious misconduct in order to fire an employee for “just cause” and also affords Ollie other union protections

UConn had argued that Ollie’s personal contract superseded the union deal, allowing it to fire him in March 2018 for a broader range of offenses.

Arbitrator Marcia Greenbaum, in a decision filed on July 31, found that neither Ollie nor the union waived his union protections when signing his latest contract.

The arbitrator plans hearings to determine whether UConn fired Ollie for just cause, or if he is owed more than $10 million that was left on his contract, which was through June 30, 2021.

“Serious misconduct is the standard that now has to be proved by the university,” said Michael Bailey, executive director of UConn’s chapter of the AAUP. “I think, as the arbitrator said in her discussion, that is a heavy burden to be placed on the university.”

The school acknowledged Tuesday that the ruling will make proving its case more difficult.

“Nonetheless, UConn remains confident it can prevail in this matter, even against the higher standard, especially in light of the recent NCAA ruling,” said Stephanie Reitz, the school’s spokeswoman.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions last month placed the UConn program on two years of probation and sanctioned Ollie individually for numerous violations of NCAA rules during his tenure.

The Committee on Infractions said the violations mainly stemmed from improper pickup games at which student managers kept statistics for coaches, the use of a video coordinator as a coach, which resulted in more than the allowable number of coaches, and free training sessions provided to three players by a trainer who was friends with Ollie.

The NCAA issued a three-year, show-cause order for the former head coach for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and providing misleading statements to investigators and failing to monitor his staff.

That means that any NCAA member school that might hire Ollie must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows why those restrictions should not apply.

But Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said that does not mean the firing was justified.

“One should not assume that the NCAA’s recent action, which was totally lacking in due process protections, will have any relevance before an impartial arbitrator,” he said.

Bailey said he is hopeful that, in the absence of a settlement, the arbitration process can be concluded by the end of the year.