Arkansas has picked up a future big man on the transfer market as Cal transfer Connor Vanover pledged to the Razorbacks on Wednesday.
The 7-foot-3 Vanover is one of college basketball’s more unique talents thanks to his massive size and floor-spacing ability (35 percent from three as a freshman). During his freshman season at Cal, Vanover put up 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in only 17.5 minutes per contest as he was an effective player in limited minutes.
A native of Little Rock, Vanover will be moving much closer to home with this transfer as he’ll have to sit out the 2019-2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Vanover will have three seasons of eligibility remaining once he’s able to take the floor for Arkansas.
Although Vanover still needs to add more strength to compete down low, not many players in college basketball can be a natural rim protector and a three-point shooter at the same time as Vanover has intriguing long-term upside. Late in the season, Vanover started to figure some things out, including a 24-point performance against Stanford and 18 points against an NCAA tournament team in Washington.
Report: Arkansas expected to hire Nevada coach Eric Musselman
Arkansas is expected to fill its head coaching vacancy by hiring Nevada’s Eric Musselman, according to multiple reports.
Musselman has helped lead the Wolf Pack to national prominence over the past four seasons as he led the program to three NCAA tournament appearances — including a Sweet 16 trip in 2018. Going 110-34 during his stint in Reno, Musselman has also spent time as a head coach in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
Known for being a high-level recruiter who is willing to regularly stock his roster with transfers and graduate transfers, Musselman has done well to adapt to modern college basketball roster building during an era of high player turnover.
Building Nevada into a perennial top-25 team in a down Mountain West is no easy feat as Musselman deserves credit for taking the Wolf Pack back to previous heights.
Musselman will replace former head coach Mike Anderson as he made three NCAA tournament trips in eight seasons with the Razorbacks. While the former Nolan Richardson assistant played a style reminiscent of the old Arkansas national title teams, he never gained consistent footing in the SEC, or with the Arkansas fanbase.
Three NCAA tournaments in the last five years was not enough to keep Mike Anderson at Arkansas.
The former Nolan Richardson assistant who has helmed the Razorbacks for the last eight years is out as head coach, a source confirmed to NBC Sports.
Richardson had guided Arkansas to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2016-17 and 2017-18, while also getting there in 2015, but failed to reach the Big Dance this season as the Hogs slumped to 18-16. Overall, Richardson went 169-102.
Prior to returning to Fayetteville, Richardson led Missouri for five seasons, taking them to the NCAA tournament in his final three seasons there with an Elite Eight trip in 2009. He also coached at UAB for four seasons.
Despite a solid run of success, Richardson wasn’t able to get out of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend, topping out at the second round in both 2015 and 2017.
Arkansas will be sure to gauge the interest of Chris Beard, who led Arkansas-Little Rock to an NCAA tournament victory in his one season there in 2016, and perhaps Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, who has led the Cougars to national prominence since taking over in 2014.
NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Zion Williamson to go No. 1, R.J. Barrett No. 4
Periodically throughout the rest of the season, we will be posting an updated mock draft here on College Basketball Talk.
This will be different than other mocks, mind you. We’re not as much projecting who is going to be picked where — that is impossible to do right now, as the NBA season is just past the halfway point and the NBA changed their lottery rules to flatten out the odds of who gets the first pick — as much as take a look at where, in a vacuum, a player should be picked.
With that in mind, one of the objectives of this mock will be to take a deeper dive into a handful of the most intriguing prospects in the mock each and every time we update. This isn’t meant to be just a place to rank prospects, the goal is to open up the floor for some discussion about the players that need the most discussing.
Oh, and one other note: We’re only talking about the college kids here. I could sit here and pretend like I know something about Sekou Doumbouya beyond what I Googled and found on YouTube, but the truth is I don’t know a damn thing about him.
I’ll stick to what I know for now.
And that is these prospects:
1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
At this point, the question isn’t whether or not Zion Williamson is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the question is just how far back you have to go to find a prospect that was better than him entering the NBA.
For me, you have to go all the way back to Anthony Davis, which is ironic, because one of the questions that whoever ends up with the No. 1 pick is going to have to ask themselves is if it would be worth it to give up the opportunity to draft Zion in exchange for a player like Davis.
That’s a different conversation for a different day, and while I do think it is important to note that Zion is not a perfect prospect — the jumper is a question mark, he has a habit of overpursuing defensively to make a play, at some point his balls-to-the-wall style of play combined with his playing weight will eventually take a toll on his body — it is his combination of ruthless efficiency on the offensive end of the floor (he’s shooting 68.3 percent from the floor; his offensive rating on KenPom is over 130 with a usage rate above 28 percent; his PER of 42.1 is a record for Division players in the Basketball Reference database, with second-best coming in at 36.9) and the things he lets you do defensively.
Because there has never been a player that is more perfectly suited to playing the five in a small-ball lineup than Zion Williamson with the exception of maybe Draymond Green.
It starts with just how good of a rim protector Zion is. He stands 6-foot-7 and his arms aren’t incredibly long, but he’s a freakish athlete (duh!) with a quick jump that has a knack for knowing when and where he needs to be. And it’s not just the simple fact that he is able to block shots — it’s that players know that he is capable of blocking shots. Like all great rim protectors, his presence in the paint has an effect on how aggressive opponent are going into the lane.
The third clip below is the perfect example. Louisville point guard Christian Cunningham is in the middle of the lane precisely where you need to be to beat a zone, and he is too scared of Zion to get a shot off, eventually turning the ball over:
Along those same lines, Zion can cover an unbelievable amount of ground in no time. In each of the clips you see below, the shooter is open when he decides he is going to shoot, and Zion erases the shot anyway. Humans are not supposed to be able to move like this, especially humans that are the size of Zion Williamson:
But to me, this last edit is the most important thing we need to discuss. Let me just get this out of the way first: Zion gets beaten off the dribble a lot more than he should based on how good his reputation is defensively. He needs to be more consistent defending on the ball in space, but he is also just 18 years old. College freshmen are not supposed to be finished products defensively. Based solely on everything that he is physically capable of doing, I fully expect this part of his game to come along in the long run.
And I say that because he shows flashes of being a terrific perimeter defender, sliding his feet and changing directions and using his bulk to edge off drivers without letting them turn a corner. When he can do things like this in flashes, it’s hard not to imagine that he’ll get more consistent in time:
We know how much trouble he is going to cause defenses playing in a league that is as spaced out as the NBA is. But it’s that promise that he has on the defensive end of the floor that sets him apart from past elite prospects.
The question I keep finding myself asking is what players in the NBA I wouldn’t give up for control over Zion Williamson for the next nine years, four of which would come at the discount price of a rookie contract.
There aren’t many.
2. CAM REDDISH, Duke
The last time that I posted a mock draft, I spent 700 words explaining why I think Reddish is the No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft. I think that, a month later, all of that still holds true. To me, his ceiling is what makes him so intriguing, but that does come with some risks. There are times where he appears to be almost indifferent. He definitely needs to tighten up his handle, and, frankly, he needs to be better than a 33 percent three-point shooter. His floor is certainly worrisome, and I do not believe that he is the type of prospect that every franchise should take with the No. 2 pick. Fit will matter here more than it does in other cases.
3. JA MORANT, Murray State
I’ve toyed with the idea of bumping Morant up to the No. 2 spot, but I am not quite ready to make that leap. What makes Morant so promising is that he possesses all the skills you want out of a point guard in a league where players of his ilk — Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose, etc. — have had a tremendous amount of success. He’s an electric athlete with more highlight-reel ability than anyone this side of Zion. He’s an excellent passer that can really read the floor and operates in ball-screens. He needs to become a better shooter (33.8 percent from three), his turnovers are an issue (5.67 t/o’s per 40) and he can be inconsistent defensively, but he has the potential to be a franchise point guard. If you’re an NBA team drafting in the top three, odds are pretty good you need a franchise changing talent. Morant could be it.
4. R.J. BARRETT, Duke
Barrett may be my blind spot in this year’s draft. On the one hand, his production has been absolutely insane. He’s currently averaging 23.3 points, 7.5 boards and 4.1 assists, and the last time that a player in a high-major program did that was during the 1992-93 season. His name was Anfernee Hardaway.
The issue I have is the eye-test, not the production that we’ve seen. Barrett is not an elite-level athlete the way that, say, Zion or Cam Reddish or even someone like De’Andre Hunter is, which is a concern because his game in the halfcourt is, essentially, straight-line drives going to his favored left hand. Mike Krzyzewski has done a fantastic job this season of scheming actions to get Barrett downhill going to his left, and at the college level, he can overpower players once he gets to the rim.
At just 202 pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and, like I mentioned, without that elite athleticism, I can’t see his game working as well in the NBA as it does in college. His jumper definitely needs work — he’s shooting 33.3 percent from three, a number that drops to 31.3 percent when you remove the first 12 minutes at Virginia — and he’s not a real threat pulling-up at this point. The games against N.C. State and Syracuse were promising because of his willingness to pass the ball, but for the most part, those have been the exception to the first 27 games of his season.
Barrett is also young, so I fully expect him to continue to improve, and based on his competitiveness and the way he’s produced everywhere he’s played, I do think he’ll be around for a while.
I just think there is a ceiling to what he can be, and that ceiling does not include “franchise talent.” My guess is Barrett maxes out at four or five years somewhere in the vicinity of the best year of Shabazz Muhammad’s career — 13.5 points, 4.1 boards and 1.2 assists — and that is not enough for me to pass on the chance for Reddish or Morant to hit their ceiling.
5. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia
For my money, the thing that makes Hunter so intriguing as a prospect is what he can do on the defensive end of the floor.
In just the last two weeks, Hunter has guarded all-american caliber players that play four different positions — Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Coby White, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye from North Carolina; and Jordan Nwora of Louisville.
He’s quick enough to be able to move his feet and stay in front of first round picks like Alexander-Walker and White and, as I broke down in the video below, he’s able to flip his hips and run alongside a driver while keep his torso square and staying on-balance if the dribbler stops. He can get over ball screens. He can chase shooters around off-ball screens and pin-downs — in the example I use in the video, he trails Johnson around five screens and still gets a contest on a jumper — and he is strong enough to hold his ground in the post while maintaining verticality:
Combine all of that with the fact that he averages an uber-efficient 15.2 points on the slowest team in college basketball while knocking down 47.4 percent of his threes and showing the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and score in the post. He took over in the second half of Virginia’s come-from-behind win at Louisville, scoring 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and that is hardly the first time that he has done that.
He is absolutely the perfect piece for the modern NBA, and while he’s not going to be the sexiest pick, whoever winds up with him will be adding an impact starter from day one.
6. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
Culver is one of the highest floor prospects in this draft. I believe that any team taking him is more or less locked into getting a starting-caliber NBA wing. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 (and might be closer to 6-foot-8) and has added some strength to his frame. He’s been terrific as a pick-and-roll option this year, and outside of a slump early in Big 12 play, he’s shot the ball well. I’m not sure he’s great shooting off the dribble, and I think his ceiling defensively is lower than some will realize, which limits his upside. I don’t think he’s an all-star, but I do think he’s one of the safest picks in the draft. In a year with so much uncertainty, that has value.
As weird as this may sound, Romeo Langford is one of the greatest scorers to ever come out of the state of Indiana and where he gets picked in June will revolve entirely around whether or not the team drafting trusts whether or not they will be able to develop his jumper.
He has everything else. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-6 wing with a plus wingspan. He’s one of the best in the country when it comes to finishing around the rim. He’s proven to be a really good defensive weapon when he’s engaged — which, frankly, has not bee quite as often as one might hope.But he’s shooting 27.1 percent from three, and that’s after a recent four-game run where he knocked down 11-for-26 from deep.
If you believe that his touch around the basket and the 72.9 percent he shoots from the free throw line is a sign he can be a 35-37 percent three-point shooter down the road, he’s worth a top eight pick.
8. NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina
I took a long look at Little the last time that I released a mock draft, and what I wrote there mostly remains true. Little has not had a great freshman season, and while some of that blame falls on his shoulders, it’s also worth noting that his skillset translates much better to the modern NBA game than it does a North Carolina system that requires big men to be big and wings to be super-skilled.
9. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
Johnson is a tough, competitive wing that is a plus athlete with the physical tools he needs to play the wing in the league. He’s a capable three-point shooter, although he tends to be streaky. He can really defend and he’s shown flashes of being a good scorer as a slasher, but he’s mostly a straight-line driver that has some limitations. He profiles as a high-floor, relatively low ceiling prospect in a position of need for many franchises.
10. DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt
Nothing new to add here. After a promising start to his freshman campaign, he saw any hope of trying to play his way into the being the first point guard drafted go up in smoke after tearing the meniscus in his left knee and undergoing season-ending surgery. That’s tough. But Garland was impressive in flashes — particularly in the first half of Vandy’s win at USC — and not only should he be healthy by the time NBA teams can start bringing players in for workouts, meniscus tears are not considered to be career-altering injuries.
11. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech
I’m not quite sure what to make of Alexander-Walker at this point. He’s been terrific this season, one of the most improved players in college hoops, and the skillset that he does have projects really well to the NBA — he can operate in ball-screens, he can really shoot it, he’s ambidextrous, he has the tools to defend at the one or the two. The concern, however, is that his numbers have fallen off a cliff with Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech’s point guard, out with an injury. In the six games Robinson has missed, Alexander-Walker is averaging 12.7 points and 3.3 assists while turning the ball over 4.1 times per game and shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 32.3 percent from three. That’s well off the pace that he set while playing alongside one of the all-time greats to come out of the Virginia Tech program.
There is no player in the country that has improved their draft stock more than Hayes, who did not even start a high school basketball game until his senior season. He’s very, very raw, but he has the size, the build, the length and the athleticism that you want out of an NBA five — his dad was an NFL tight end, and Hayes is built like someone that would have followed that path, but he didn’t stop growing until he hit 6-foot-11. He’s mobile, he had sensational hands and he’s been unstoppable at times as a roller in ball-screen actions.
And he’s raw, which means that he has a long way to go but that he can be developed however an NBA team sees fit. Sometimes a blank canvas is better than a player that already has bad habits ingrained.
13. BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga
I think there is an argument to be made that Brandon Clarke is a top five player in college basketball this season. One bit of evidence: The best PER that any Division I player has posted since the 2009-2019 season was 36.9, which was done by John Brown of High Point three years ago. Clarke is currently matching that number, and the only player that has ever put up a higher number playing more than 20 minutes in a season is Zion Williamson himself. For comparison’s sake, Anthony Davis put up a 35.1 PER, albeit against much stronger competition.
I am fully convinced that Clarke is going to end up being a terrific defensive player in the NBA. He is probably the best defensive player in college basketball this season, and I’m not entirely sure it’s all that close. The question with him offensively is whether or not you believe that jump shot is going to come around. I think that it will eventually, and he has proven that he is a hard-worker.
14. P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky
I was skeptical of P.J. Washington coming into the season. Hell, I was skeptical of P.J. Washington six weeks ago. But what he has done over the course of the last ten games — averaging 21.0 points and 7.9 boards while shooting 53 percent from three while carrying Kentucky to a tie for first place in the SEC — has been nothing short of outstanding. I do think his ceiling is somewhat limited, but to see him consistently banging home perimeter jumpers while being able to punish mismatches on both ends of the floor has me thinking that he has a ten-year NBA career ahead of him. He fits in the modern NBA far better than I realized.
15. ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova
I expect Paschall to drop well beyond this range, but I have a hard time envisioning a world where he doesn’t end up being a useful NBA rotation player and someone that can contribute to a playoff team. Today. He’s a chiseled 6-foot-8, he’s an explosive athlete, he can defend on the perimeter and, playing in that Villanova offense, he’s proven he can accept a role and be a guy that attacks closeouts. Betting on him with a top 20 pick means betting that his jumper can extend out to the NBA three-point line, and that’s a bet I’m willing to take.
16. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
The ideal for Hachimura is to be what O.G. Anunoby is — a versatile defender with three-point range that can finish above the rim and guard anyone from wings to centers. The problem is that Hachimura has the physical tools to be a really good defender but that it hasn’t all come together for him on that end just yet, and while he’s proven to be a good midrange shooter, he has an awkward release and is shooting just 31.3 percent from three in his career on only 67 attempts.
17. TRE JONES, Duke
Let’s just get this out of the way now: Tre Jones needs to become a better shooter for this pick to payoff value. I think he will. He’s a worker, he has NBA bloodlines and he’ll put in the time in the gym to get it done. And while he’s not shooting it great right now — 24.6 percent from three — he has shown nice touch on floaters and pull-ups in the lane. But at this level, teams just fade guarding him out to the three-point line. It’s the biggest reason the floor is always so clogged for Duke on the offensive end. He has to be better:
The rest of his game is what intrigues me so much. It starts with his on-ball defense, which is a game-changer for Duke this year. I’m not sure there is a better defender in all of college basketball, and Jones has the strength and athleticism to be able to do the same at the next level. His leadership qualities are exactly what you would expect from Tyus Jones’ brother — all the point guard cliches, he has them — and he’s proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight; if he can fit alongside the Big Three at Duke, he can fit in an NBA locker room.
18. COBY WHITE, North Carolina
I’ve come around on White, but I’m not sure that I few him as a point guard the way some other do. He’s a 6-foot-5 combo-guard that just turned 19 this week, and what has be on the bandwagon is that he’s just such a ridiculous shot-maker. You’re not drafting White to be the cornerstone point guard you grow a franchise around, you’re drafting him because you hope that he one day turns into Jamal Crawford 2.0.
19. BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
I’m not sure there is a player in the country that has improved a skill this season more than Bruno Fernando has improved his passing ability from his freshman year to his sophomore year. As a freshman, Fernando finish the season with 21 assists (and 53 turnovers). He’s nearly tripled that this season, averaging 2.0 assists per game while improving his assist rate from 6.9 to 15.0. Turnovers are still a bit of an issue — he’s not a natural passer and he can telegraph decisions a bit too much — and he’s has certainly not turned into Nikola Jokic, but at this point, Fernando is a player that Maryland can run offense through.
His passing ability also changes the way that teams are forced to defend him, because he is able to pass out of a double-team and reads when and where help will leave a teammate open:
20. KZ OKPALA, Stanford
Okpala fits the mold. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a solid frame that can shoot from the perimeter and operate ball-screens. He’ll be a rotation player, possibly a starter, in the NBA for a long time. The one concern here is that Okpala has regressed significantly from beyond the arc. He’s now shooting 36.8 percent from three, making just five of his last 28 attempts, after starting the season 23-for-48 from deep. He shot 22.6 percent from three last year.
21. KEVIN PORTER JR., USC, and BOL BOL, Oregon
If I had to guess, I think both of these guys would end up getting picked higher than this. Both have ceilings that are massive. Bol Bol is a 7-foot-2 center with a 7-foot-8 wingspan with a feathery touch from three and the ability to be a difference-maker at the rim. He’s also weak, soft, a defensive liability despite the shot-blocking and he may not actually like basketball. Then he broke his foot.
Porter, on the other hand, has had a weird season. After exploding on the seen with a six-game stretch in November that showcased just how lethal he is as a scorer, he got hurt, disappeared for six weeks with a thigh bruise and turned the whispers of off-court issues into a cacophony of alarm bells. Then he was suspended. To date, he’s played nine games in 2019, averaging 7.7 points and posting 16 assists while turning the ball over 20 times. He is shooting 12-for-24 (50%) from three, which was a worry, and anyone that saw him perform at Hoop Summit knows his ceiling is as the best scorer in this draft, but his floor is out of the league in two years.
How much risk are you willing to assume?
22. JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
Porter’s draft stock has remained high despite the fact that he is dealing with a devastating knee injury that was suffered in October. Like his brother and Harry Giles before him, how high he goes is likely going to be determined by the doctors that take a look at his knee. When healthy, Porter is (was?) an offensively-gifted 6-foot-11 lefty with three point range and an underrated ability to pass the ball. I don’t know what he’ll be defensively — unlike his brother, he had athletic limitations before the injury — but he sure would fit the modern NBA on at least one end of the floor. One other note: Jontay is younger than Reddish. That’s worth keeping in mind.
23. TY JEROME, Virginia
Jerome is a guy that I’m willing to go all in on as an NBA prospect. I’m not saying that I think this guy will be an all-star or anything like that, but he has all the makings of a ten-year NBA veteran that will find himself a role at the next level. He’s a big-time shooter that can create for himself on-the-ball despite a lack of athleticism and really understands how to use screens and move into space moving off the ball. He’s 6-foot-5, and while he doesn’t have even average NBA tools, he’s a heady player that works well as a cog in the best defense in the college ranks. He’s also tough as hell and he’s an absolute killer when it comes to making tough shots in big moments. He may not be Patrick Beverly, but I don’t see him being a liability. He needs to find the right fit — stinking him on Philly alongside Ben Simmons to give them some shooting and secondary play-making makes sense to me — but if there’s a job for the likes of Jalen Brunson and Fred VanVleet in the NBA, there is a job for Jerome somewhere.
24. DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas
Gafford is a tough prospect to get a feel for. On the one hand, he is on paper exactly what NBA teams are looking for out of a center. He’s tall, he’s long, he’s athletic and he can act as a rim-running vertical spacer as well as a rim protector. On the other hand, he’s not really someone that projects as a good perimeter shooter and he has heavy feet that likely limits what he can be as a switchable five at the next level.
25. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
On the one hand, I think that Williams’ lack of elite physical tools gets him something of a bad wrap. I think back to this stat from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic: Since 1992, there are just six high major players that have averaged at least 18 points, eight boards and three assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, and all six (Tim Duncan, David West, Jared Dudley, Evan Turner, Ben Simmons and Caleb Swanigan) ended up being first round picks. Five of the six have, or will have, long and successful NBA careers. Williams doesn’t quite reach that threshold anymore — 19.0 points, 7.6 boards, 3.3 assists, 56.9 FG% — but that belabors the point. People that produce the way he produces in college tend to be able to produce in the NBA.
The flip side is that Williams profiles more as a Caleb Swanigan than he does anyone else in that group. He’s not as tall as West or Duncan. He’s not as perimeter-oriented as Jared Dudley or Evan Turner. He sure as hell ain’t Ben Simmons. Tennessee is at LSU on Saturday and plays host to Kentucky the following Saturday. I want to see Williams in those two games before I make any sweeping changes to my current take.
26. ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, Tennessee
You know what you’re getting with Schofield if you are an NBA team. He’s a 6-foot-5 wing that’s built like a wrestler, that has a 7-foot wingspan, that is shooting 39 percent from three the last three seasons (345 attempts) and that is a virtual lock to be a plus defender in the NBA. He’s a perfect 3-and-D role player with defensive versatility that will be adored in an NBA locker room for the way that he plays the game and carries himself professionally. He will make a playoff team better in the late first round.
27. ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
Hagans, like Tre Jones, is an absolute game-changer on the defensive end of the floor that is very much a work in progress offensively. The difference here is that Jones, in spite of his limitations as a shooter, has a turnover rate that is half that of Hagans and has shown to be more comfortable running a team. He’s also six months younger than the Kentucky point guard. I do like Hagans quite a bit, but I do find myself wondering just how far away he is from being a total zero on the offensive end in the NBA.
28. JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
After a weird start to the season, McDaniels has settled in as the best player in the Mountain West that does not currently call Reno home. At 6-foot-10, he has a ton of skill and has proven to be a productive rebounder and a better defender than you would think out of a player that is a gangly 195 pounds. For me, everything here centers around the jump shot. I don’t think he’ll ever be mobile, fluid or explosive enough to be a three in the NBA and barring the kind of weight gain that I’ve made since leaving college, I can’t see him being a five, even the small-ball variety. He’s certainly worth a late first round pick if you’re betting you can improve on that 33.3 percent three-point shooting.
29-30. SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s, and MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
I love both of these guys as late first or early second round picks. Ponds has proven to be a much more efficient shooter and unselfish playmaker this season, and I can absolutely see him thriving as a back-up point guard that torches second teams around the NBA. Howard is a full-fledged scorer at 5-foot-11 that is one of the best shooters in the college game, but he struggles with length and athleticism and doesn’t have a clear-cut position defensively. He’s also younger than Trae Young, and it’s not smart to bet against guys that can shoot it the way he can shoot it.
Bubble Banter: All of Wednesday’s bubble action in one spot
GEORGETOWN (NET: 81, SOS: 80): During most seasons, Georgetown’s profile wouldn’t merit inclusion in any sort of bubble discussion. The Hoyas played an incredibly weak non-conference schedule. They were 5-7 in the Big East entering Wednesday night. But after knocking off Villanova at home for a Q1 win, somehow, the Hoyas continue to hold an outside shot at an at-large bid. Standing at 3-4 in Q1 contests and 4-4 in Q2 games, Georgetown has been respectable against the limited quality competition they’ve played. The 2-2 Q3 mark and the non-conference schedule will be a lot to overcome during the next few weeks.
FLORIDA (NET: 33, SOS: 29): Sitting at “First Four Out” status, the Gators might have just played their way in (for now) with a massive overtime road win at No. 13 LSU. Florida’s best Q1 win of the season could not have come at a better time as the Gators now have two such wins within the past five days. Although they’re only 3-10 against Q1 teams, that record looks a lot better than the 1-10 mark Florida was at last week. Riding a three-game winning streak, the next three games on the schedule (Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Georgia) are all winnable for the Gators as they have a chance to build some momentum heading into a final two games that includes a rematch with LSU and a road game at Kentucky. Florida still needs to take care of business the next few weeks, but this is the kind of win they desperately needed at this point in the season.
SYRACUSE (NET: 48, SOS: 24): Putting together a convincing ACC home win over No. 18 Louisville, the Orange helped themselves immensely with another Q1 win. Sitting at a No. 9 seed before this outcome, Syracuse now finds themselves at 3-4 against Q1 teams and a solid 4-2 against Q2 teams. Perhaps most importantly, Syracuse got the Q1 win here that they had to have. The final five games on the Orange’s schedule includes games against three top-ten teams — Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. So this Louisville win is a solid insurance policy heading into a rough final stretch. As long as the Orange don’t fall to Wake, while also ideally taking care of Clemson, they should be able to get in even if they drop a couple.
ARIZONA STATE (NET: 68, SOS: 67): Alternating wins and losses for seven consecutive games, the Sun Devils finally settled down and started mini win streak with a home win over Stanford. The win is only of the Q3 variety for Arizona State, but as a team hovering in “Last Four Byes” territory, they’ll take what they can get in the win column. The next Sun Devil game at home against Cal should be a breeze. Three consecutive road games to close the regular season is where things get intriguing for Arizona State as they finish at Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona. Work is still left to do, but Arizona State did what they were supposed to here.
OHIO STATE (NET: 45, SOS: 59): The Buckeyes did what they needed to do in taking care of Northwestern at home for a Q3 win. Snapping a two-game slide with the victory, Ohio State has a brutal Big Ten conference slate to end the regular season, as this is a positive start. With four of their last five games coming against top-25 teams (at Maryland, Iowa, at Purdue, Wisconsin), things are certainly going to be difficult for the Buckeyes. But they’ll also have ample opportunities to take themselves off the bubble as they have a lot of Q1 games left.
N.C. STATE (NET: 31, SOS: 209): Escaping with an overtime win over Boston College, the Wolfpack avoided a potentially disastrous loss to start a mostly easy stretch of schedule to end the season. Only a Q3 win on Wednesday, N.C. State has Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and a road return to Boston College left on the schedule. All of those games probably need to be wins for the Pack to feel safe. The most important game left, however, is the road game at Florida State that offers a Q1 opportunity to potentially solidify an at-large bid.
UTAH STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 122): Putting away New Mexico with a strong second half, Utah State did what they needed to do to earn a Q4 home win. Since the Mountain West is so weak this season, the Aggies are awaiting the opportunity to get another crack at top-ten Nevada as Utah State hosts the Wolf Pack on March 2nd. Until then the Aggies just need to avoid any other losses if they hope to get an at-large spot.
SETON HALL (NET: 60, SOS: 46): Trouble could be on the horizon for the Pirates after a home loss to Xavier. Suffering a Q3 loss at this point in the season could really sting as Seton Hall is now a mediocre 4-3 against that group. The good news for the Pirates is that they still have plenty of games to pick up quality wins. Road games at St. John’s and Georgetown and home games against Marquette and Villanova all spell opportunities for Seton Hall to strengthen the profile before the end of the regular season. But that’s also a very tough four-game stretch that will require Seton Hall to win at least a few of those games.
ARKANSAS (NET: 71, SOS: 46): Four consecutive losses likely takes the Razorbacks off the bubble after a blowout road loss at Auburn. Now only 1-7 against Q1 teams and 2-3 against Q2 teams, Arkansas just doesn’t have the quality wins to get into the Field of 68. If Arkansas has any hope of an at-large, they’ll have to win out to close the regular season — including a road game at Kentucky and home games with Ole Miss and Alabama. For a young team in the midst of a losing streak, that doesn’t seem very likely at this point.
BUTLER (NET: 49, SOS: 28): At “Last Four In” status heading into Wednesday, the Bulldogs dropped a game at No. 11 Marquette in which they led at halftime. Missing out on a critical Q1 road win will sting, as Butler sits at an uninspiring 1-7 against that group of teams. The Bulldogs can’t hang their heads with so many important games ahead. Two against Providence, a road game at Villanova and a home game against Xavier looms as Butler needs all the wins they can get to land in the tournament.
LIPSCOMB (NET: 38, SOS: 234): Falling to Florida Gulf Coast likely means the at-large dream is over for the Bison as they’ve now lost two of their last three games. While Lipscomb is still a big contender to potentially win the autobid out of the Atlantic Sun (along with Liberty), a Q4 loss — with an already-shaky at-large profile — isn’t going to cut it. At this point in the season, Lipscomb just doesn’t have enough Q1 and Q2 opportunities left to play its way back into an at-large position.
Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one spot
There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!
Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:
This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played.
We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning.
If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament.
On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Alabama, Baylor, Syracuse, St. John’s, Auburn, Washington and TCU.
Onto the weekend’s action.
OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners finally snapped a five-game losing streak by going into Fort Worth and picking off TCU, 71-62. I still think that the Sooners are in a tough spot as it stands, but they now how four Q1 wins and just one loss to a team outside the top 35 in the NET — at West Virginia (115), a Q2 loss. A 4-8 mark against Q1 is not great, and neither is their 16-10 record or 4-9 mark in the Big 12, but OU does have three more shots at Q1 wins, and that doesn’t count Texas at home. Their bid is in their hands.
SETON HALL (NET: 61, SOS: 36): Seton Hall may have just about punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon. They landed their third Q1 win of the season by going into Omaha and picking off Creighton (59), but making it all the more impressive is the fact that their first two Q1 wins came against Kentucky (6) on a neutral and at Maryland (21). They do have three unimpressive losses — they were swept by DePaul (91) and lost at home to Saint Louis (123) — but they are now 10-7 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They end the season like this: Xavier (104), at St. John’s (49), at Georgetown (79), Marquette (20), Villanova (19). Win three more games and they’re in. Win two more and they’re probably feeling pretty good.
MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 60): The Golden Gophers got screwed on a bad foul call in the final seconds of a loss on Wednesday night, which cost them a Q1 win. They bounced back by absolutely humiliating Indiana at home, a win that won’t carry quite as much weight on Selection Sunday but that will keep the Gophers heading in the right direction. I personally think Minnesota is in really good shape right now given their win at Wisconsin and a win over Washington on a neutral. The 3-7 record in Q1 games isn’t ideal, but their worst loss is only a Q2 loss at Boston College. They close the season like this: Michigan (8), at Rutgers (118), at Northwestern (72), Purdue (11), at Maryland (21). If they go 3-2 in that stretch, they’re dancing, and 2-3 might even be enough to get the job done.
FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 43): The Gators are not going to let us quit them. They picked up their best win of the season on Saturday, going into Tuscaloosa and pounding Alabama (45). That’s just Florida’s second Q1 win of the season. They are now 2-9 against Q1 opponents with a Q3 home loss to South Carolina in the mix. Their 14-11 overall record is not good, and their metrics are floated by the fact that they’ve played a lot of good teams close. Mike White’s team still has some ground to make up, but with two games against LSU (14) and a trip to Kentucky (6) on the schedule, they’ll have chances.
NEBRASKA (NET: 40, SOS: 70): I just can’t quit you, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won their second straight game on Saturday, adding another Q2 win by picking off Northwestern (72) at home. I know that they lost seven straight earlier this year, but the Huskers are now 8-11 in Q1 and Q2 games with a pair of Q1 road wins. That’s enough to keep them in the mix, and with a schedule that is just absolutely brutal in the final three weeks of the season — at Penn State (70), Purdue (11), at Michigan (8), at Michigan State (7), Iowa (28) — they’ll get five more chances to notch Q1 wins.
WOFFORD (NET: 28, SOS: 167): Wofford absolutely beat the brakes off of the second-best team in the SoCon, UNC Greensboro. They won by 30 points. It’s not a Q1 win because it’s at home, but it is their fourth Q2 win to go along with a 2-4 mark against Q1. As long as the Terriers avoid losing at Chattanooga and at Samford, they are an at-large team in my mind. A 15-0 league record against a conference with more top 60 NET teams than the Pac-12 deserves to get in.
ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 67): Arizona State has one of the strangest resumes in college hoops this season. They are 4-1 in Q1 games and have another Q2 win at UCLA (107). But they’ve lost four Q3 games — Princeton (90), Utah (101), at USC (145), at Vanderbilt (189) — and that doesn’t court their worst loss of the year, at home to Washington State (230) by 21 points.
TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Here is the catch-22 for life on the bubble: Entering Saturday, Temple winning at USF (76) would have been a Q1 win. The Owls went out and they beat the Bulls in overtime. The problem? That loss dropped USF to 76th in the NET, meaning that it is now a Q2 win and Temple’s resume is still a win over Houston (5) and not much else. The reality is that won’t matter all that much. The committee will take into account that winning South Florida, whether it’s Q1 or Q2, is not a game-changer, which is why I’m still of the mindset that Temple needs to win at least four of their final five regular season games and avoid an AAC tournament loss to one of the teams at the bottom of the league.
BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 25): The Bulldogs beat DePaul on Saturday night, getting the win they needed to set themselves up for a shot at an at-large. Butler plays at Marquette on Wednesday and at Villanova in two weeks. With just one Q1 win to date, Butler might need to get both to really feel comfortable.
VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 40): The Rams were up by 22 points at Dayton (82) early in the second half and blew the lead, but thanks to a late Marcus Evans bucket, they were able to get out of Dayton Arena with a win. The win at Texas (35) continues to look better and better, a 3-2 mark against Q2 teams is solid and with just one bad loss — a Q3 home loss to Charleston (113) — the Rams are the Atlantic 10’s best chance at an at-large.
BELMONT (NET: 60, SOS: 166): For the Bruins to have a chance at an at-large, they need to win out and lost to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament. On Saturday night, they smacked around Tennessee Tech. So far so good.
UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 126): The Aggies probably couldn’t afford a loss to Air Force, and they did what they needed to win — win. There are two things that Utah State needs to do in they truly want to get an at-large bid to the tournament: 1. Beat Nevada at home, and 2. Hope that Fresno State cracks the top 75 in the NET. If they two, that’s one less Q3 loss and one more Q1 win on their resume.
UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 83): UCF won against Memphis in Orlando, which gives them a sixth Q2 win but doesn’t do much to change the biggest flaw in their profile: A total lack of Q1 wins. The Knights play at Cincinnati on Thursday. That will be the game-changer.
TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 6): The Longhorns did what they needed to do on Saturday, knocking off Oklahoma State in Austin to avoid picking up their second Q3 loss of the year. The Longhorns are now 15-11 overall and just 7-6 in the Big 12, but they have the No. 6 SOS and No. 11 non-conference SOS nationally. Combine that with a neutral court win over UNC (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) and a win at Kansas State (26), and the Longhorns are in a pretty good spot.
LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 188): Losing to a three-win Kennesaw State team would have been a dream-killer for the Bisons. They won and live to fight another day.
N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 239): The Wolfpack lost at Duke on Saturday, which is what we all expected to see happen. The chink in N.C. State’s armor is that they played the worst non-conference schedule in the country, and when combined with A) just one Q1 win and B) a Q3 loss, Kevin Keatts is not in a place where he can feel comfortable yet. The most troubling part: N.C. State’s season ends like this: Boston College, Wake Forest, at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Boston College. They have one Q1 opportunity left. They really, really need to win it.
UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 46, SOS: 191): The Spartans were whipped at Wofford, losing by 30 to the SoCon leaders. It’s their second loss this week and probably takes them out of serious bubble consideration. We’ll keep them around, but they’re probably not going to have enough good wins.
ARKANSAS (NET: 63, SOS: 45): I don’t get the appeal of Arkansas as a bubble team. They won at LSU, which is nice, but that is their only Q1 win in seven tries and they are 3-10 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost at home to both Georgia Tech (118) and Western Kentucky (121), which are Q3 losses. What is the appeal here? What am I missing?
INDIANA (NET: 49, SOS: 36): Indiana is off the bubble at this point. They went into Minnesota and got absolutely poleaxed. The Hoosiers have now lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall to 13-12 on the season and 4-10 in the Big Ten. If they can somehow find a way to put together a winning streak late in the year, they have some great wins — at Michigan State (7), Louisville (16), Marquette (20) — and no bad losses, but that feels like saying if I can lose 30 pounds and get my six pack back I could be an underwear model.
CLEMSON (NET: 42, SOS: 33): The Tigers had a shot to land their second Q1 win of the season, but after erasing and eight point lead in the final minute and forcing a turnover with 3.5 seconds left, the Tigers had a layup blocked with that would have won the game. The result doesn’t really hurt their profile other than the opportunity cost — this is the kind of win that, on this year’s bubble, can jump Clemson up four or five spots in the seed list. That’s a tough miss.