Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

College Basketball 2019-2020 Preseason Top 25

9 Comments

There is so much that is going to happen between now and the time that next season starts that it almost seems foolish to publish a preseason top 25 today.

But we’re doing it anyway!

A couple of notes: Who is going to head to the NBA is very much in the air right now. There are still a number of freshmen that have yet to announce where they are playing their college ball. The transfer market has barely heated up. For decisions that are up in the air, you’ll see an asterisk next to their name. We’re making predictions on what certain players will do and ranking based off of them. 

So with all that said, here is the preseason top 25.

1. MICHIGAN STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward
  • WHO’S BACK: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman

2. KENTUCKY

  • WHO’S GONE: P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis
  • WHO’S BACK: E.J. Montgomery*, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Nick Richards*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, E.J. Montgomery

3. DUKE

  • WHO’S GONE: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish
  • WHO’S BACK: Tre Jones, Marques Bolden*, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier*, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey

4. VILLANOVA

  • WHO’S GONE: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Jahvon Quinerly
  • WHO’S BACK: Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree, Brandon Slater
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Bryan Antoine, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

5. LOUISVILLE

  • WHO’S GONE: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Nwora*, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Steve Enoch*, Malik Williams, Darius Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, David Johnson, Aidan Igiehom, Quinn Slazinski
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Darius Perry, Samuell Williamson, Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams

6. MARYLAND

  • WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
  • WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan*, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith

7. KANSAS

  • WHO’S GONE: Lagerald Vick, Silvio De Sousa*, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Devon Dotson*, Quentin Grimes*, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac McBride, Christian Braun
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike

8. VIRGINIA

  • WHO’S GONE: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt
  • WHO’S BACK: Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite*, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kadin Shedrick, Justin McKoy
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff

9. MEMPHIS

  • WHO’S GONE: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Antwann Jones Jr.
  • WHO’S BACK: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
  • WHO’S COMING IN: James Wiseman, Rayjon Tucker, D.J. Jeffries, Malcolm Dandridge, Damian Baugh, Lance Thomas, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Boogie Ellis, Rayjon Tucker, D.J. Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman

10. TEXAS TECH

  • WHO’S GONE: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Khavon Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Chris Beard, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Andrei Savrasov
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jahmius Ramsey, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Kevin McCullar, Khalid Thomas, Russel Tchewa, Terrence Shannon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jahmius Ramsey, Davide Moretti, Deshawn Corprew, T.J. Holyfield, Chris Clarke

11. GONZAGA

  • WHO’S GONE: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Geno Crandall, Jeremy Jones
  • WHO’S BACK: Killian Tillie*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Admon Gilder, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Brock Ravet, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zahkarov
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Brock Ravet, Admon Gilder, Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev

12. SETON HALL

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Nzei
  • WHO’S BACK: Myles Powell*, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Taurean Thompson, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Tyrese Samuel, Dashawn Davis
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu

13. NORTH CAROLINA

  • WHO’S GONE: Coby White, Nassir Little, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Seventh Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks

14. ARIZONA

  • WHO’S GONE: Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther
  • WHO’S BACK: Brandon Randolph*, Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Alex Barcello, Ira Lee, Devonaire Doutrive
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Max Hazzard, Terry Armstrong, Christian Koloko, Zeke Nnaji
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee, Chase Jeter

15. UTAH STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Quinn Taylor
  • WHO’S BACK: Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta*, Diogo Brito, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alphonso Anderson, Liam McChesney, Sean Bairstow
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Diogo Brito, Abel Porter, Sam Merrill, Brock Miller, Neemias Queta

16. SAINT MARY’S

  • WHO’S GONE: Jordan Hunter
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Dan Fotu, Jock Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Malik Fitts, Jock Perry

17. XAVIER

  • WHO’S GONE: Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, Kyle Castlin, Elias Harden
  • WHO’S BACK: Quentin Goodin*, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs*, Tyrique Jones*
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kyky Tandy, Dahmir Bishop, Zach Freemantle, Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, Tyrique Jones

18. CREIGHTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Sam Froling, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw
  • WHO’S BACK: Davion Mintz*, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Martin Krampelj*, Jacob Epperson, Damien Jefferson, Marcus Zegarowski
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Shereef Mitchell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mintz, Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Martin Krampelj

19. COLORADO

  • WHO’S GONE: Namon Wright
  • WHO’S BACK: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Maddox Daniels
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Shane Gatling

20. AUBURN

  • WHO’S GONE: Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Chuma Okeke*
  • WHO’S BACK: Jared Harper*, Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jared Harper, J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore

21. TENNESSEE

  • WHO’S GONE: Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone*, Grant Williams*
  • WHO’S BACK: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons, Derrick Walker Jr., John Fulkerson, D.J. Burns, Jalen Johnson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Josiah James, Drew Pember, Davonte Gaines
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Josiah James, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson

22. HOUSTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Corey Davis, Breaon Brady, Galen Robinson
  • WHO’S BACK: Dejon Jerreau, Armoni Brooks*, Cedrick Alley, Brison Gresham, Fabian White, Chris Harris, Nate Hinton
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Caleb Mills, Justin Gorham
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Dejon Jerreau, Armoni Brooks, Nate Hinton, Fabian White, Brison Gresham

23. VCU

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Gilmore
  • WHO’S BACK: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Sean Mobley, Vince Williams, Mike’L Simms, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crawford
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jarren McAlister
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Sean Mobley, Marcus Santos-Silva

24. OHIO STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Kaleb Wesson*, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Kyle Young, Justin Aherns, Musa Jallow, Jaedon LeDee
  • WHO’S COMING IN: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddel, Ibrahima Diallo, CJ Walker
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson*

25. DAVIDSON

  • WHO’S GONE: Nathan Ekwu, Dusan Kovacevic
  • WHO’S BACK: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luka Brajkovic, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Carter Collins, David Czerapowics, Bates Jones
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Hyunjung Lee, David Kristensen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Luka Brajkovic

Duke Freshmen Williamson, Barrett Top AP All-America Team

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
1 Comment

The season did not end as Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett intended. The fabulous freshmen came to Duke to win a national championship and their bid came up short with a loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

Williamson and Barrett still managed to make a bit of history.

The Duke duo was named to The Associated Press All-America team on Tuesday, becoming the second freshman teammates to make the first team in the same season. They were joined by Tennessee’s Grant Williams, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Ja Morant of Murray State.

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall were the only other freshman teammates to take first-team AP honors in 2010.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson electrified college basketball with an array of thunderous dunks and soaring blocks, occasionally having to tilt his head to avoid hitting it on the backboard. He was selected unanimously by 64 voters as a first-team All-American. He averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots and 1.8 steals per game while leaving everyone wondering what he would do next.

“He’s got the most incredible first step,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s why he’s getting all those steals. He can take one dribble and cover more space than most human beings that I know can do. And so then he has the strength to finish at the end. So he’s not Superman, but he’s damn close.”

Barrett arrived at Duke as the higher-rated recruit and while everyone fawned over his high-flying teammate, the athletic 6-7 guard quietly had a superb season in Durham. Barrett led the Blue Devils with 22.9 points, grabbed 7.5 rebounds and dished 4.1 assists per game on a team that came a game short of the Final Four.

Williams was the SEC player of the year a season ago and may have been even better while winning the award this year.

The 6-7 junior averaged 19 points per game while shooting 57% and had 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and lead the Vols to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years.

Morant was the most exciting player in college basketball not named Zion, lighting up highlight reels with emphatic dunks and no-look passes.

The 6-3 point guard may have turned himself into an NBA lottery pick his sophomore season, leading the nation with 10 assists per game and averaging 24.6 points to become Murray State’s first first-team All-American.

“He’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates.”

Winston is not the most athletic player, even on his own team. He is heady, ultra tough and a big reason the Spartans are in the Final Four.

He averaged 18.9 points, 7.6 assists and was Michigan State’s go-to guy when a big shot was needed.

___

Statistics through March 17

First Team

Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-7, 285, freshman, Spartanburg, S.C., 22.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 69.3 fg pct, 1.8 blocks, 2.2 steals (64 of 64 first-place votes, 320 points).

Grant Williams, Tennessee, 6-7, 236, junior, Charlotte, N.C., 19.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 56.5 fg pct, 82.6 ft pct, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals (49, 286).

RJ Barrett, Duke, 6-7, 202, freshman, Mississauga, Ontario, 22.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.1 apg (44, 275).

Ja Morant, Murray State, 6-3, 175, sophomore, Dalzell, S.C., 24.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 10.0 apg, 50.3 fg pct, 81.0 ft pct, 1.8 steals (43, 272).

Cassius Winston, Michigan State, 6-1, 185, junior, Detroit, 18.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 7.6 apg, 40.4 3-pt fg pct, 84.0 ft pct (42,268).

Second Team

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, 6-8, 230, junior, Toyama, Japan, 20.1 rpg, 6.6 rpg, 60.9 fg pct, 1.0 steals (25, 207).

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, 6-6, 195, sophomore, Lubbock, Texas, 18.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 steals (15, 188).

Markus Howard, Marquette, 5-11, 175, junior, Chandler, Ariz., 24.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.0 apg, 40.6 3-pt fg pct, 3.5 3-pt fg/game, 88.7 ft pct, 1.1 steals (11, 186).

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, 6-10, 237, senior, Milan, Ill., 17.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 53.1 fg pct, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 steals (6, 139).

Carsen Edwards, Purdue, 6-1, 200, junior, Atascocita, Texas, 23.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 84.3 ft pct, 3.3 3-pt fg/game, 1.4 steals (6, 133).

Third Team

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, 6-7, 225, junior, Philadelphia, 15.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 53.0 fg pct, 45.7 3-pt fg pct (3, 125).

Dedric Lawson, Kansas, 6-9, 235, Memphis, Tenn., 19.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 82.4 ft pct, 1.1 blocks, 1.3 steals (3, 110).

Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, 6-8, 215, junior, Phoenix, 16.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 69.3 fg pct, 3.1 blocks, 1.2 steals (4, 92).

PJ Washington, Kentucky, 6-8, 228 sophomore, Dallas, 14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 51.5 fg pct, 41.9 3-pt fg pct, 1.2 blocks (1, 79).

Kyle Guy, Virginia, 6-2, 175, junior, Indianapolis, 15.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.3 3-pt fg pct, 83.6 ft pct (1, 44).

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order)

Keith Braxton, St. Francis (Pa.); Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan; Tookie Brown, Georgia Southern; Chris Clemons, Campbell; RJ Cole, Howard; Jeremy Combs, Texas Southern; Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati; Mike Daum, South Dakota State; Jordan Davis, Northern Colorado; Cameron Delaney, Sam Houston State; Lamine Diane, Cal State Northridge; Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson; Rapolas Ivanauskas, Colgate; Ty Jerome, Virginia; Cameron Johnson, North Carolina; Anthony Lamb, Vermont; Fletcher Magee, Wofford; Caleb Martin, Nevada; CJ Massinburg, Buffalo; Garrison Mathews, Lipscomb; Luke Maye, North Carolina; Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky; Sam Merrill, Utah State; Jaylen Nowell, Washington; Miye Oni, Yale; Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s; Myles Powell, Seton Hall; Admiral Schofield, Tennessee; Marial Shayok, Iowa State; B.J. Stith, Old Dominion; Matisse Thybulle, Washington; Jake Toolson, Utah Valley; Marques Townes, Loyola of Chicago; Tremont Waters, LSU; Coby White, North Carolina; Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra; Cameron Young, Quinnipiac.

Thursday’s Sweet 16 Recap: Cline shines, Tech advances, Kihei Clark’s big day

Getty Images
1 Comment

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Ryan Cline, Purdue

Cline had a career-high 27 points on Thursday. He scored 22 of those 27 points in the second half, and Purdue needed every single one of them despite the fact that they held a 17 point lead with 15 minutes left. That’s because Tennessee made a furious rally down the stretch to take a three-point lead on two different occasions — both times answered by a Cline three — and force overtime.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech held a team coached by John Beilein to 44 points in the Sweet 16.

Let me say that again for the people in the back.

Texas Tech held a team coached by John Beilein to 44 POINTS.

What the Red Raiders did to a very good Michigan team on Thursday night was ridiculous. Michigan never got close to a rhythm against the Wolverines, and the result was a second straight trip to the Elite 8 for Chris Beard’s crew.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Kihei Clark, Virginia

Clark is a kid that I have bee pretty hard on this season. He’s a weird fit on this Virginia team, and he has moments where he looks like he shouldn’t be on the floor in an ACC game. That did not happen tonight, because he was arguably the best player on the floor for the ‘Hoos.

Clark finished with 12 points and six assists, but it was the three-pointer that he buried with 5:21 left in the second half that was the biggest shot of the day. That three ended an 18-5 run and tied the game at 45. It launched a game-ending, 11-4 surge by Virginia, who won 53-49 and advanced to the Elite 8 for the second time in Tony Bennett’s tenure.

FINAL THOUGHT

Someone is finally going to get the recognition that they deserve in the South Region.

Tony Bennett has been an utterly dominant coach during the regular season, winning four of the last six ACC regular season title, three of the last six ACC tournament titles and entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed four times during this stretch.

Building this Virginia program into the behemoth that it is should never be looked down on.

Matt Painter has been similarly impressive, especially in the last four years. During that stretch, he has turned Purdue into one of the most successful teams in the Big Ten. They have won two of the last three Big Ten regular season titles and, in 2018, finished one game out of first place with a 15-3 conference mark. They’ve done all of this despite graduating significant pieces each and every offseason.

These two men are two of the best currently doing in the collegiate ranks.

And on Saturday, one of them will get their first trip to the Final Four.

That is great news for whoever wins.

And whoever loses will have to wait at least one more year before the rest of the world truly understands how good they are.

Gonzaga reaches Elite 8 with win against Florida State

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
1 Comment

Duke may have the best cadre of NBA talent. Virginia may be more disciplined. North Carolina may have more tradition.

The three No. 1 seeds that are not Gonzaga all have something the Bulldogs don’t. That’s not all they have in common, though.

None are as good, consistently high-level as the ‘Zags.

All of Gonzaga’s powers were on display Thursday as they got up big and then held No. 4 Florida State at bay in a Sweet 16 matchup in Anaheim to claim a 72-58 victory at the Honda Center to move a game away from the program’s second Final Four in three years.

Gonzaga has a brilliant chance to do what that 2017 group couldn’t.

Win a national championship.

With two likely-lottery picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke wreaking havoc on both ends of the floor, dynamic guards like Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell, Jr. and high-level role players like Geno Crandall, Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie (an NBA prospect in his own right demoted due to injury), Gonzaga has the talent, experience and versatility to be the class of the country.

It’s certainly not breaking news, but it’s worth a reminder after a loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC title game brought back the old questions about how built the Zags were for the Big Dance.

It’s hard to picture something constructed in a better position to thrive in March.

Clarke is a two-way force of nature who has become one of the country’s premier players. He scores (15 points), rebounds (12 boards), protects the rim (5 blocks) and can defend in space. He’s basically Zion Williamson West with less-cool-but-pretty-cool dunks (and highest-end NBA potential).

Hachimura, who had 17 points and four rebounds, has been the better NBA prospect of the two, but that’s maybe debatable now. Not because of anything Hachimura has done, though. He’s still a lotto pick. He and Clarke are an incredible duo.

They aren’t alone, though, and it was clear in Gonzaga’s control of the Seminoles, who trailed for all but 11 seconds of the game.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 14 in the first half, but Florida State trimmed it to four in the final minutes of the game before ultimately stopping short of completing the comeback . That’s when Gonzaga ripped off seven-straight points to finish the game. The talent, the experience and let’s not forget Mark Few is pretty good at this coaching thing, too. 

Everyone knows Gonzaga is good, but just look at not only what they did to Florida State, but how they got contributions from up and down the lineup. Norvell had 15 points. Perkins had 14 points and five assists. Kispert added seven points while Tillie and Crandall gave boosts off the bench.

Trent Forrest was the only Seminole player to notch double figures, finishing with 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

Gonzaga basketball may as well go dormant for two months in the winter during WCC play, but don’t forget this is the team that topped Duke – without Tillie – to win the Maui Invitational. This is the program that hung with the Tar Heels until the end in the 2017 title game.

They’re not Duke, Virginia, North Carolina or any other team left in the field.

They’re better.

WATCH: Terance Mann, Brandon Clarke throw down Sweet slams

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Leave a comment

It’s going to be hard for there to be a better pair of dunks Thursday – or maybe the rest of the week – then the pair that Terance Mann and Brandon Clarke threw down in quick succession in a Sweet 16 matchup between Florida State and Gonzaga.

First, was Mann, going coast-to-coast, looking like he was going to lay it in and then remembering that dunking is way cooler so doing that instead.

Next came Clarke in transition, throwing doing down a tip-dunk that just Mann look like a guy that should just do layups.

 

Cofer on the minds of Florida State teammates at Sweet 16

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Phil Cofer is not with Florida State but he was very much on the minds of his teammates as they practiced Wednesday.

The Seminoles are in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year but the senior forward is in Georgia preparing for his father’s funeral on Saturday. Mike Cofer died on March 21 following a long illness.

Florida State (29-7) will face top-seeded Gonzaga in the West regional semifinal Thursday, with the winner facing either Michigan or Texas Tech on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.

Fellow senior Terance Mann said he has talked to Cofer over the past couple days and said he is doing better.

“He just wished us luck, told us he will be watching, just talking about the game and what our game plan was,” Mann said.

Cofer received a call in the locker room in Hartford, Connecticut, after Florida State’s first-round victory over Vermont informing him of his father’s death. Mike Cofer, who played 10 seasons in the NFL for the Detroit Lions, battled amyloidosis for over a decade. It is a rare disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in organs with the potential to cause many health issues. It is the same disease which caused Matt Millen to get a heart transplant last Christmas Eve.

Phil Cofer remained with the team for their second-round victory over Murray State before flying home the following day. Coach Leonard Hamilton said Cofer originally intended to join the team in California, but those plans changed once he returned home and learned about the arrangements.

“Once they sat down as a family and discussed it, it became obvious that the best thing for him to do was to sacrifice being out here with his teammates and take care of the family business, and I agree with him,” Hamilton said.

Cofer has been the team’s emotional leader the past two seasons. He led the team in scoring last season, averaging 12.8 points as Florida State made the Elite Eight. Cofer has been plagued by injuries this season. He averaged 7.4 points and missed 11 games due to a foot injury.

Cofer also did not play in either NCAA Tournament game last week due to a right foot injury.

“Phil has always been a great teammate,” said sophomore forward Mifondu Kabengele, who leads the Seminoles in scoring (13.4 points per game). “Whatever he has been going through this season has been tough. We understand. We are going to play hard for him and get him through it this time.”

Hamilton, who is in his 31st year as a college coach and 17th at Florida State, has faced plenty of situations over the years, but he said this is the first where a parent of one of his players has died during the NCAA Tournament or this late in season.

Hamilton credited sports psychologist Joseph Carr with helping the players and staff once they learned of Mike Cofer’s death.

“Kids talked about and shared their experiences, and I think it did a lot to bring us somewhat back into the right focus,” Hamilton said. “You never really know when you’re dealing with those types of things how it manifests itself in different responses. Grief appears, raises its ugly head sometimes in different forms. I hope we have addressed it properly.”

Mann, who had “Mike Cofer, 3-21-19” scribbled on his left shoe for the Murray State game, said he plans to do the same thing Thursday. Mann, Cofer and center Christ Koumadje have led the Seminoles to three straight NCAA Tournaments and a school-record 98 wins.

“All the trials and tribulations that we have been through have brought us closer,” Mann said. “I think the Elite Eight run last year solidified our class and how close we are.”

Hamilton hopes his team can overcome the adversity and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1972. The Seminoles have already dealt with injuries and a 1-4 start in Atlantic Coast Conference play to win 16 of their last 18.

“It’s been very challenging, but our guys are focused, and we’re hopeful that how we represent ourselves will be a reflection of the respect we have for Mike Cofer and the Cofer family,” Hamilton said. “I think for the most part our guys have grown and we have turned our attention to the game preparation as it relates to Gonzaga.”