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

Grant Williams will remain in 2019 NBA Draft

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

Grant Williams announced on Friday morning that he will be staying in the NBA draft after an All-American junior season with Tennessee.

Williams averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 boards, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals this past season, helping lead Tennessee to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and on a run to the Sweet 16, where they lost in overtime to Purdue.

This is probably the right decision for him to make. While he is somewhat undersized and limited athletically, Williams is such a smart and savvy players. He really understands how to pass, he can defend multiple positions and, most importantly, he has a skill-set that should allow him to be able to contribute as a role player at the next level, particularly if his three-point stroke is as good as it has looked in postseason workouts.

Williams is slotted in at No. 19 to San Antonio in the most recent NBC Sports mock draft.

Tennessee will now have to play the waiting game with Jordan Bone, who is still undecided on his status. The Vols currently sit 22nd in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

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

Mark Brown/Getty Images
2 Comments

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

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

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

WINNER: COACHES IN THE FBI’S CROSSHAIRS

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

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

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

(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

LOSER: DIVERSITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINNER: COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

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

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

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

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

LOSER: HIRES THAT MAKE GEOGRAPHICAL SENSE

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

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

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

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

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

WINNER: THE STATE OF TEXAS

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

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

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

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

LOSER: THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

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

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

SIX MORE WINNERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWO LOW-KEY HEAD-SCRATCHING HIRES

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

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

The 21 most important ‘stay-or-go’ NBA draft early entry decisions

AP Photo/Corey Perrine
2 Comments

This single most important and influential decision when if came to this year’s NBA draft belonged to Cassius Winston.

The Grand Maester of the Michigan State offense, Winston put together an All-American season as he led Michigan State to the 2019 Big Ten regular season title, tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. Over the weekend, the 6-foot point guard announced that he will be returning to school for his senior season, immediately ensuring that the Spartans will be the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25 and locking them in as favorites to win next year’s national title.

But he is far from the only important decision that is left to be made in this year’s NBA draft process. At 11:59 p.m. on April 21st, the deadline to declare for the NBA draft came and went. The players who put there name into the mix — more than 130 that we know of — will have until May 29th to pull their names out of the draft.

Here are 21 decisions that will have the biggest impact on the 2019-2020 college basketball season.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

KERRY BLACKSHEAR

Blackshear might be the single-most influential player in all of college basketball, but to figure out where he is going to have influence, the 6-foot-10, 250 pound forward has a couple of decisions to make. For starters, he has declared for the NBA draft, and given that he is 22 years old and more or less fully developed as a player, now may be the best time for him to make the jump to the professional ranks. If he does decide to return to school, he’s going to have to decide where to play: He’s a redshirt junior and a graduate transfer, which means that the Virginia Tech big man may end up being a former Virginia Tech big man. Every school in college basketball will want to get involved. We’ll see where he ends up.

IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS and JORDAN POOLE, Michigan

Michigan essentially had two players on their roster last season that you could trust to be threats on the offensive end of the floor night in and night out: Poole and Brazdeikis. Now it looks like there is a real chance that both of them to could end following Charles Matthews lead and remain in the NBA draft despite the fact that neither look like they will be a first round pick.

That’s a major concern for John Beilein, because with Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers all back, Michigan will have a case to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country if both Iggy and Swaggy Poole return. If both end up gone, the Wolverines may never break 60 points in a game next year.

DEVON DOTSON, QUENTIN GRIMES and UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

This one is tricky because we have yet to get official word on whether or not Azubuike has actually declared for the draft*; he did last season and ultimately opted to return to school. Of the three, I think Dotson is probably the most important, as the Jayhawks don’t have anyone nearly as good as he is at the point. If Azubuike opts to enter the draft, Bill Self does still have David McCormack on his roster, who will be an adequate replacement. Grimes is the x-factor here. A former top ten recruit, I think he’s probably the most likely to keep his name in the draft this year even if it’s as a second round pick. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the best plan of action — I do think there is still a chance that he could come back to Kansas and play his way into the first round with a big sophomore year — but I get it. If he’s gone, the Jayhawks do have some perimeter pieces that will be able to fill the void in Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett.

With all three back, we’re talking about Kansas as the surefire best team in the Big 12 and potentially as a top five team. If they’re all gone, then it is going to be a long, long season in Lawrence.

*(Since this posting, Azubuike has announced that he is returning to school.)

Grant Williams (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

GRANT WILLIAMS and JORDAN BONE, Tennessee

This may sound counterintuitive, but I think that it is true: Bone is the more likely of the two to leave school this year, but Williams would have a much bigger impact on the Tennessee program if he opts to return. Bone was a bit inconsistent as a junior, but when he was at his best, he was the best guard in the SEC. Losing that hurts, but the truth is that with Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden and Josiah James in the mix, there is enough backcourt talent in Knoxville to withstand his departure.

I’m not sure that is true with Williams. Tennessee does have some big bodies on their roster, but Williams would be in the conversation with Cassius Winston for preseason National Player of the Year if he opts to come back to Tennessee for another run at a national title. And with Williams back, they would very much be in that conversation. As it stands, Tennessee is No. 22 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

A source close to the situation told NBC Sports that they think there’s a “50-50” chance that Williams is back.

KYLE GUY and MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

I fully expect that both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter will remain in the NBA draft for good. That leaves Guy and Diakite as the players who are up in the air. Everyone should know about Guy by now. The reigning Final Four MOP, Guy led Virginia in scoring last season and is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball. For a program that lacks perimeter depth, Guy’s return would obviously be enormous.

But Diakite’s return is just as impactful. He’s such a monster on the defensive end of the floor, and I’m not sure people realize just how good he is. His offensive game is coming along, but the value is that he would be a perfect pairing next to Jay Huff if Virginia wants to play big and that he is versatile enough to defend on the perimeter if needed when Virginia plays small. It’s not a coincidence that the most productive six-game stretch of Diakite’s career came during the run to the NCAA title, when he averaged 10.5 points, 8.2 boards and 2.7 blocks.

Kyle Guy (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

There are a few Louisville players that have declared for the NBA draft, but for my money, Nwora is the one that matters the most, and it is not close. One of college basketball’s most improved players, Nwora is will be a first-team All-ACC player and a potential All-American if he comes back. He will be the veteran scorer that the Cardinals need as Chris Mack brings in a loaded, six-man recruiting class. With Nwora back, the Cards will be a top ten team.

KILLIAN TILLIE and ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga

Assuming that Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke are both gone, Tillie becomes the most important player on Gonzaga’s frontcourt if he opts to return to school. And Norvell slides right in as the projected leading scorer. Frankly, with those two and Corey Kispert on the roster, I think the Zags will have more than enough scoring to keep things rolling as their talented six-man recruiting class gets some experience.

The reason they are as low on this list as they are is that I still think there is a ceiling to what Gonzaga can be because of their point guard situation. Right now, they are in a position where they’ll have to decide between freshman Brock Ravet and sophomores Greg Foster Jr. and Joel Ayayi. I would not be surprised if there was a grad transfer that was in the mix here at some point.

ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland

The Terps already got word that they are getting Jalen Smith back for his sophomore season. With the rest of last year’s promising recruiting class in the mix — Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, Ricky Lindo — the only thing they need to ensure that they are a preseason top ten team is their star point guard. Cowan, if he returns, will be in the mix for preseason All-American honors.

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

This one isn’t difficult. Seton Hall returns basically everyone from last season if Powell comes back. They should still be relevant in the Big East if he doesn’t, but he was arguably the most dangerous scorer in college basketball this side of Markus Howard last year, and assuming he’s back in the fold, we have the Pirates at No. 12 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

Myles Powell (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

PAYTON PRITCHARD and KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

Assuming that Louis King ends up staying in the draft, Pritchard and Wooten are the two guys that will matter for Oregon next season. They are the two pieces that allow Dana Altman’s system to work the way that it is supposed to work — a high-scoring lead guard and an uber-athletic five that can protect the rim and finish lobs. With both of them back, I think Oregon is a top 10-15 team and the best team in the Pac-12.

E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky

Montgomery is interesting here. He’s super-talented, and he plays a position for Kentucky where the Wildcats are going to really lack some depth this season, but we’ve yet to see him prove that he is anything more than ‘loaded with potential’ at the SEC level. I think Kentucky needs him because they need to keep bodies in their frontcourt, but I’m on a wait-and-see mode before I decide just how much of an impact I think that he is going to make.

CHUMA OKEKE and JARED HARPER, Auburn

I would make the argument that these two were the two most important players on Auburn’s team this past season. If I had to guess, I would say that Okeke is probably gone. He proved just how good he is this past season, and his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in the NCAA tournament likely won’t be complete until December. If he returns to school, it might end up being a two-year decision, but if he comes back and is fully healthy, he is miles better than Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore and the other options the Tigers have in their frontcourt.

Harper is a bit more up in the air, and while he was terrific this past season, especially in March, I do think that J’Von McCormick’s emergence has given Bruce Pearl some breathing room. He can do a lot of the things that Harper does, just not quite as well.

NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State

Utah State is currently the No. 16 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25, and much of that has to do with the fact that we are assuming Queta ends up returning to school. His size, his ability to protect the rim and how well he finishes makes him extremely valuable in the Mountain West and helps the Aggies matchup with teams from bigger conferences.

Rick Barnes: If they paid my buyout, I’d be at UCLA

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
9 Comments

There is nothing unusual about a currently employed college basketball coach interviewing for the same position at another university.

What’s uncommon is when that coach speaks the truth about the hiring process and what happened if he does not end up getting the job.

You cannot say “I was trying to get up outta here” when you have to recruit, fundraise and continue to run the program you almost left.

Well, you can’t unless you’re Rick Barnes.

Barnes met with the media on Tuesday afternoon, and he was blunt and honest about his flirtation with UCLA last week.

“It has to make sense from a financial standpoint. And the bottom line is, we just couldn’t work it out, the buyout,” Barnes said, according to The Athletic, who added that when Barnes was asked about what would have happened had they met the buyout, Barnes said, “I think I would have been the coach at UCLA.”

There’s a lot to dive into here.

Let’s start with this: Barnes has never made a secret about how much he loves Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and the program he has built. I genuinely believe him when he unloads all of that coach-speak. That said, this is UCLA, and they came in with an offer that was, reportedly, for $5 million-a-year. That’s a lot of money to go coach at a blue-blood, and I don’t know if there are five coaches in all of college basketball that say no to that.

I think Tennessee fans are smart enough to understand that, because they know there are a lot of football coaches that would leave good jobs to take over Philip Fulmer’s program.

Frankly, I think the embarrassing thing here is for UCLA.

Barnes joins Jamie Dixon on the list of coaches that UCLA went after but could not come to terms with because they could not agree to a deal on a buyout.

Which begs the question: Why in the world are you going after a coach if you know you cannot afford to pay the buyout that is listed in his contract that is public record?

Why?

This is like going car shopping and walking into the BMW dealership and telling the salesman that you’ll make the standard monthly payments but you’re not going to make the down payment they require.

It’s dumb.

And when it eventually leaks out, because everything does, it makes you look foolish.

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.