The hatred Michigan State coach Tom Izzo already has for Twitter undoubtedly intensified Wednesday as a result of an alcohol-fueled rant by one of his former players.
Garrick Sherman, an ex-Spartans big man who later finished his career at Notre Dame, unleashed a memorable series of tweets about his two years in East Lansing. Among the subjects the 6-foot-10 center touched on included his poor relationship with Izzo, rampant marijuana use among his Michigan State teammates and the time he urinated in a condom to help an ex-Spartans wing pass a drug test.
(And, warning, some of Sherman's language was NSFW)
At the final four izzo told me “not to fucking embarrass myself in front of a crowd bigger than my home town” after I air balled a shot 😂😂😂— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
If that last tweet doesn’t make me twitter famous I give up— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
Besides, What is the ncaa gonna do?! Give my final four ring to Utah state, the next relevant university who didn’t bend the rules behind us— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
Izzo might actually hate me more ( if that’s possible) when he loses scholarships cause I drunkenly spilled half his team smoked weed 😂😂😂— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
The timing of Sherman's tweet coincided with the end of his professional team's season in the country of Georgia. It was well past 2 a.m. in Georgia when Sherman began tweeting and he acknowledged that he had been drinking for quite a while.
Yes I know my tweets have been more risqué than usual. Our season ended today so I may or may not have consumed some alcohol.— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
Over/under 100 followers I lose on this drunken rampage— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
Why would Sherman reveal things that paint the Michigan State program in a bad light? He insists it was to spotlight the ineffectiveness of the NCAA rather than to embarrass Izzo or the Spartans.
If nothing else gets accomplished. Let this Twitter rant show the inability of the ncaa to do anything at all of substance— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
You guys miss the entire point lol every team in NCAA smokes. My point is NCAA is a joke. I still cheer for MSU. I have no resentment at all— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015
Last time, I don’t dislike msu. I like them. Honestly!! I liked my teammates!!! I just think the NCAA is a joke. But do as you wish Twitter— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015
Such an epic rant wouldn't be complete without a couple more cheap shots, and Sherman definitely did not disappoint.
First target: Kentucky
Honestly,though if the ncaa is concerned about my helping out a teammate through being sober,Kentucky players salary should be more concern— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015
Next up: Doug Gottlieb, whom Sherman had feuded with previously over a crack the CBS analyst made about his beard.
Where’s my boy Gottlieb? I wanna go at his bitch ass one more time lol— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015
Sherman was a role player at Michigan State who blossomed into a quality starter his final season at Notre Dame. He averaged 13.5 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds for an Irish team that collapsed in the second half of the season after losing star Jerian Grant.
So Sherman had a few nice moments as a college player. None are quite as memorable, however, as Wednesday's Twitter rant.
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The NCAA's annual release of the newest Academic Progress Rate data will once again have minimal impact on the upcoming college basketball season.
None of the teams penalized for substandard scores hail from major conferences or even quality mid-major leagues.
Alcorn State, Florida A&M, Stetson and Central Arkansas are the only four teams that received postseason bans for the upcoming season. Alcorn State, Central Arkansas and Savannah State also face practice time restrictions, while Florida A&M faces that and other potential penalties including scholarship reductions, coach-specific punishment and contest restrictions.
To avoid a potential postseason ban, teams must achieve a multi-year APR score of at least 930. The power-conference programs with the least margin for error are Texas Tech (935), TCU (937), Mississippi State (938) and Washington State (938).
The NCAA used the release of APR scores to issue a press release trumpeting that the overall four-year APR scores had increased by two points nationwide and that the boost was fueled in part by football and men's basketball. Average scores for men’s basketball players increased four points to 961 and for football players increased five points to 956.
“More college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom, and I applaud their commitment to academic achievement. We are pleased and proud of their accomplishments," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the release. "Our goal always has been to encourage students to achieve academically and earn their degrees. Every year, Division I students prove that both academic and athletic success are achievable.”
How much stock should be placed in the APR formula is certainly debatable, but the high scores across all sports should serve as a reminder of the lunacy of the freshman ineligibility proposals from the Big Ten and other conferences earlier this year.
If "more college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom" under the current model, then the idea of adopting a decades-old rule that would force all freshmen to sit out a year seems only more unnecessary and implausible.
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Thanks to an annual salary that has ballooned to nearly $8 million per year, John Calipari has priced himself out of the market for many NBA gigs because all but the most lucrative ones would require him accepting a pay cut.
Now the Kentucky coach's top assistant is in a similar position in terms of landing a head coaching job at the college level.
Kenny Payne has signed a three-year deal worth a total of $2.1 million, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday. His average annual salary of $700,000 is higher than at least 22 of last season's NCAA tournament head coaches, according to USA Today's annual study, and more than twice as high as at least 14 of them.
What that means is Payne probably won't leave Kentucky until a power-conference program offers him a head coaching job — or at least not until a deep-pocketed mid-major comes along. Payne would have to take a significant pay cut to coach at even the most successful small-conference programs.
It's unclear where Payne ranks among the highest paid assistants in the country because private schools like Duke aren't legally obligated to report salaries, but there's a good chance he's very near the top of the list. SMU assistant Tim Jankovich reportedly received a contract worth $700,000 a year in 2012 when he left his job as Illinois State's head coach to become the coach-in-waiting for the Mustangs whenever Larry Brown decides to step down.
Payne's new contract represents a $200,000 annual bump in pay over his previous one, a reward for a 38-1 season in which Kentucky fell two wins shy of becoming the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win the national title with an undefeated record. Fellow Kentucky assistants John Robic and Tony Barbee both signed one-year contracts this offseason, Robic's worth $415,000 and Barbee's worth $375,000.
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Three weeks after he left to become the new coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former Florida coach Billy Donovan found a unique way to express how much his two decades in Gainesville meant to him.
He and his wife took out a full-page ad in Sunday's Gainesville Sun to say goodbye to Gators fans and thank them for their understanding and support.
One reason saying goodbye was tough for Donovan is because he has so many good memories from his Florida tenure. He built a program that had previously only been to five NCAA tournaments into a national power, winning two national titles, reaching four Final Fours and advancing to the Elite Eight seven times.
Credit Donovan for a great gesture that will surely further solidify the affection Florida fans have for him. Here's the full text of the message from Donovan and his wife:
“GOODBYE” is so difficult, especially after having spent two decades in this community. (And as you’ve seen before, leaving you all has never been easy for us!)
"The University of Florida and Gainesville embraced us from the day we arrived so long ago, and we have grown to love not only this local community that has so loved us, but all of Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Fransisco, to all over the nation and globe.
"We are so grateful to Jeremy Foley, staff and leaders at the University of Florida, along with scores of players and coaches who have become part of our family. And, of course, the Rowdy Reptiles.
We leave with hearts full of love and cherished memories of euphoria and heartbreak — on and off the court — shared at every step with our Gator family.
We are excited for all that Mike White brings as he puts his own unique mark on Florida basketball…Fannnnntastic!
And so, rather than goodbye, …until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
— Billy and Christine Donovan
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In a wide-ranging interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times earlier this week, North Carolina coach Roy Williams explained his greatest frustration with the NCAA's investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.
"It would help if the NCAA would just tell us what the allegations are," Williams said.
Williams apparently got his wish soon afterward. North Carolina announced Friday it has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, but chancellor Carol L. Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school will not release the details of the report until a later date.
“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” Folt and Cunningham said in a joint statement. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible.
"The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law. When that review for redactions is complete, the University will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the news media. When we respond to the NCAA’s allegations, we will follow this same release process."
The NCAA announced last June that it was reopening its investigation into academic irregularities at North Carolina when some people of interest who previously wouldn't speak with investigators agreed to cooperate. Enforcement staffers cannot force anyone to speak with them since they do not have subpoena power.
The decision to reopen the investigation came soon after Kenneth Wainstein uncovered new information about the irregularities in North Carolina's African-American Studies department. His report revealed that more than 3,100 students were involved during an 18-year span and that student-athletes accounted for nearly half the course enrollments.
Another factor in the NCAA's decision to reopen its investigation was surely the explosive allegations made by Rashad McCants, a member of North Carolina's 2005 national championship team. McCants alleged that his academic advisers at North Carolina steered him to take sham classes in the school's African-American Studies department in order to ensure that he remained eligible. He also accused tutors of writing some of his term papers and said he passed classes in which he only seldom showed up.
Both North Carolina coach Roy Williams and many former Tar Heels players have since refuted McCants' allegations. In a statement released last June, the other members of the 2005 national title team insisted they "attended class and did our own academic work."
"We want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims," they said in a statement. "We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety."
It's difficult to predict the severity of North Carolina's punishment without knowing the details of the Notice of Allegations, but anything from a postseason ban, to scholarship reductions, to the vacating of past wins is certainly possible.
That uncertainty has hurt North Carolina on the recruiting trail already. Negative recruiting by rival coaches has contributed to the Tar Heels swinging and missing on a handful of recent high-profile recruits including Class of 2015 stars Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram.
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The departure of seven key players from last year's 38-win juggernaut didn't cause John Calipari to scale back his non-conference schedule for next season.
The Kentucky coach has assembled a non-league slate loaded with marquee games against name-brand opponents.
A Champions Classic matchup against reigning national champion Duke will provide the first test of how good next year's Wildcats will be. The Blue Devils lost four starters from their title team, but they'll reload behind returning standouts Matt Jones and Grayson Allen and the nation's most decorated recruiting class.
Among the challenging games Kentucky will play in December include a visit to UCLA, a neutral-court matchup with Ohio State in Brooklyn and a home game against rival Louisville. The Bruins should be highly motivated after the Wildcats embarrassed them in an 83-44 rout last December and the Cardinals should again have a Top 25 caliber team despite the loss of stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier.
Perhaps the most challenging non-league game of all for Kentucky will come Jan. 30 at Kansas as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The likely preseason top-five Jayhawks return much of their perimeter talent from last year's Big 12 championship team and bolster their frontcourt with the arrival of top recruits Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg.
"Putting a schedule together, especially one like this, is fun," Calipari said in a school-released statement. "Having to play those games is a different story. To understate it, this will obviously be a challenging schedule for a young team like ours, which lost more than 85 percent of its scoring and nearly 80 percent of its rebounding. We're excited for the challenge."
Kentucky indeed will enter next season with more questions than usual thanks to an uncharacteristic string of recruiting misses this spring. Elite prospects Ivan Rabb, Malik Newman, Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown and Stephen Zimmerman all turned down offers from the Wildcats, leaving them with far less depth than they had last season.
Opening the season in the top five is still a possibility for Kentucky thanks to the return of standout point guard Tyler Ulis, breakout candidate Marcus Lee and a now healthy Alex Poythress. They'll join a recruiting that class that will definitely include Rivals No. 1 overall prospect Skal Labissiere, wing Charles Matthews and high-scoring combo guard Isaiah Briscoe.
There's also still a chance Kentucky could add highly touted Canadian point guard Jamal Murray if he opts to sign with the Wildcats and reclassify from the Class of 2016. That would certainly help Kentucky navigate a schedule that should again be one of the nation's toughest.
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At a time when the NCAA is fighting the perception it profits from the images and likenesses of its unpaid athletes, one of its member schools has launched an advertising campaign that will only further weaken that already shaky argument.
LSU is using highly touted incoming freshman basketball player Ben Simmons as the centerpiece of a 2015-16 season ticket promotional blitz that will include billboards and print and social media advertising. The "25 is Coming" campaign is such a blatant reference to Simmons' jersey number that the school didn't even bother to pretend otherwise in the release it sent out Wednesday.
"This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number '25,'" the release stated. Through this '25' campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center."
Did LSU have concerns about whether its Simmons-heavy ad campaign was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited? An athletic department spokesman did not immediately return an email from Yahoo Sports seeking comment, but a subsequent report from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell may shed light on why the Tigers felt comfortable with their approach.
A New Era: LSU official tells me it had permission from Ben Simmons to market him like this, compliance approved it pic.twitter.com/xdaZ6BzSD4— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 21, 2015
A tweet Simmons sent Wednesday evening corroborates the notion that he was aware of the campaign and he is on board with it.
Can't wait to throw on the Number 25 this season for #LSU— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) May 21, 2015
LSU is certainly not the first program to try to monetize the arrival of a top incoming recruit without explicitly using his name and likeness in advertising.
In 2007, Memphis put up a season ticket sales billboard that featured a picture of a red rose and the slogan "Witness a Rare Fall Bloom," a thinly veiled reference to incoming freshman phenom Derrick Rose. In 2012, UCLA trumpeted the arrival of highly touted freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson with a splash page on its website the day after signing day announcing in all caps, "The Future Is Here." Below were pictures of each freshman and information on how to order season tickets.
What makes LSU's ad campaign more notable is that the climate of college sports is different now.
Ex-UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon won a highly publicized lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging the organization's use of names, images and likenesses of athletes for commercial purposes. The Northwestern football team exerted further pressure for change last spring when it voted whether to unionize.
In 2013, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas goaded the NCAA into leaving the jersey sales business by exposing that typing the name of a high-profile college player into NCAA site's search function produced that athlete's jersey for sale. The NCAA has long insisted that jerseys hawked by its member schools aren't connected to specific players because they only have numbers on the back and not names.
It probably shouldn't be a surprise that LSU would try to include Simmons in its marketing efforts simply because it would be a missed business opportunity not to do so.
The 6-foot-8 Australia native is Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2015, a projected top-five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and the most anticipated prospect LSU has signed since Shaquille O'Neal. He's part of a promising LSU recruiting class that also includes high-scoring guard Antonio Blakeney and Louisiana Mr. Basketball Brandon Sampson.
It makes sense LSU would market the arrival of Simmons and that class. It just further pokes holes in the NCAA's antiquated concept of amateurism that the Tigers have chosen such a blatant approach.
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John Calipari's "Players First" recruiting philosophy and the Kentucky fan base's thirst for championships clashed again Wednesday when the Wildcats coach addressed a crowd of 3,000 business executives after receiving a humanitarian award at Rupp Arena.
Most of the 15-minute speech consisted of Calipari describing the qualities a good leader should have and explaining how he gets his players to come together in pursuit of a common goal. The only potential surprise was what Calipari insisted Kentucky's primary objective last season was.
"Last year we started the season with a goal," Calipari said. "You may think it was to win a national title or win all the games, [but] it was to get eight players drafted. Well, how can you be about your team if you're worried about getting players drafted? We kind of work it the other way. What are your dreams? What are you looking for? What are you trying to get out of life? How can we help you with that?
"For me, the mission for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on. Now in our state, they want my mission to be, 'win national titles, win national titles.' My mission is bigger than that."
Wednesday's speech certainly isn't the first time Calipari has made headlines by seemingly prioritizing draft picks over championship rings.
When Kentucky had five players selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Calipari riled longtime fans and former players by proclaiming it "the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program." When Kentucky became the first college program to produce the No. 1 and 2 picks in the draft two years later, a beaming Calipari told reporters, "Somebody told me they are going to call it the Blue Room instead of the Green Room."
It's understandable that many Kentucky fans chafe at the idea of Calipari valuing individual achievements more than team accomplishments, but those people should consider the purpose of such comments. In reality, Calipari is using the media to speak directly to recruits, many of whom care more about identifying the best platform to reach the NBA than selecting a program where they can win a national title.
Does Calipari care deeply about winning championships at Kentucky? Yes. His disappointment after last month's Final Four loss to Wisconsin was proof of that.
Does Calipari care more about producing draft picks than winning titles? Doubtful. Both are surely important to him, but he recognizes that attracting elite prospects is the best way to contend for championships every season.
Do fans have a right to be irritated whenever Calipari insists championships are secondary to him? Probably, but they should also understand why he says that stuff too. It's a calculated recruiting tactic — nothing more and nothing less.
Ultimately, Kentucky will fall at least one shy of Calipari's goal of eight draft picks since Alex Poythress suffered a season-ending injury in December and opted to return to school. The Wildcats could still get seven players drafted next month, an impressive enough accomplishment that Calipari should once again get plenty of face time on draft night.
Maybe this time he'll stop short of calling it the biggest night in Kentucky basketball history, but you can bet he'll still find another way to sell his program to recruits.
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The past two years, Virginia's modest non-conference slate didn't reflect its sudden emergence as a national power.
That will change next season when the two-time ACC champions will play a non-league schedule worthy of their newfound elite status.
The marquee non-league game on Virginia's schedule next season will be a potential top 10 clash against reigning Big East champion Villanova. The Cavaliers will host the Wildcats next December and play a return game in Philadelphia the following season, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday.
In addition to that intriguing matchup, Virginia will also host a loaded Cal team expected to crack the top 20 in the preseason polls next year. The Cavaliers will also visit Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, face Big 12 power West Virginia on a neutral floor in the Jimmy V Classic and travel to George Washington in a return game of a home-and-home series that began last season.
The rest of Virginia's non-league schedule won't be known until the Cavaliers release it, but that quintet of games is a major improvement. Only Maryland's surprise emergence as a Big Ten power and Davidson's unexpected rise to Atlantic 10 contention made last year's slate respectable.
Virginia should have enough returning talent to thrive despite its upgraded schedule.
Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon, starting point guard London Perrantes and frontcourt standouts Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey all return. The Cavaliers will count on rising sophomore wing Marial Shayok to enjoy a breakout season and help replace the departed Justin Anderson.
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When Wake Forest invited comedian Stephen Colbert to deliver its commencement address on Saturday, athletic director Ron Wellman had to know a joke at his department's expense was surely going to be part of the speech.
The Demon Deacons endured a dismal 2014-15 school year in the major sports, finishing with a 3-9 record in football, a 13-19 record in men's basketball and a 13-20 record in women's basketball.
Sure enough, Colbert didn't disappoint. He mocked the state of the Wake Forest athletic department with a joke that referenced the student body's longtime tradition of toilet-papering the trees in the quad after memorable victories.
"Still, while Wake has been a trailblazer, this is a school that respects tradition," Colbert said. "Traditions like rolling the Quad with toilet paper after big wins. And this is actually an eco-friendly tradition because, looking at this season’s win-loss record, you guys saved a lot of paper."
To be fair to the 2015 Wake Forest graduating class, they did find reason to roll the quad in spite of the school's lack of athletic success during their four years in Winston Salem. In March 2014, they celebrated the resignation of basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik by toilet-papering the trees.
Colbert's joke received more chuckles than boos but immediately afterward he found a way to get even the most ardent defenders of Wake Forest sports back on his side.
"Let me win you back," he said. "Duke sucks."
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Purdue will certainly be bigger after landing a McDonald's All-American for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday afternoon.
Whether the Boilermakers will also be drastically better will depend on Matt Painter's ability to turn a logjam at center into a strength rather than a weakness.
Five-star prospect Caleb Swanigan is a strong, sure-handed low-post scorer who is most comfortable in the paint on both ends of the floor. He joins a frontcourt that already possesses a pair of centers with similar skill sets — 7 footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.
For that arrangement to work, Swanigan is probably going to have to spend the majority of his time at power forward.
The upside will be that Purdue will frequently have two dominant rebounders and low-post threats on the floor, which should create mismatches against smaller opponents who play only one true big man at a time. The downside will be that Swanigan will have to prove on defense that he can stay in front of more nimble Big Ten forwards like Indiana's Troy Williams, Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff.
Spacing on offense also could become an issue since Haas, Hammons and Swanigan are each most effective within six feet of the basket. Neither Hammons nor Haas have a single 3-pointer in their Purdue careers, while Swanigan hasn't had a reason to develop a consistent jump shot to this point because he has always been able to overpower opponents around the rim.
The other concern for Purdue is the lack of a proven point guard to get the ball to those low-post weapons in spots where they like to score. The Boilermakers hope that Texas-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill can be as steady as Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus turned out to be this past season, but Hill played in a weaker conference than Octeus and didn't post as impressive numbers.
All those issues may diminish Swanigan's immediate impact for Purdue, but his addition is still a plus for a Boilermakers program that had to work hard to land him. Swanigan initially committed to Michigan State last month before backing out of his initial pledge two weeks ago.
Once Swanigan cooled on the Spartans, he considered two other options besides Purdue. He could have joined close friends and fellow elite recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb as part of the most anticipated recruiting class Cal has signed in decades. Or he could have capitalized on late interest from Kentucky and helped fill the void created by the departure of seven key players from last year's Final Four team.
Purdue out-dueled the Bears and the Wildcats because Swanigan is from just up the road in Fort Wayne and because it had been recruiting him the longest. Matt Painter also had a natural advantage in the form of Roosevelt Barnes, Swanigan's guardian and a former Purdue linebacker.
Excellent depth at wing and in the frontcourt gives Purdue hope of beginning the year in the top 25, but the Boilermakers may still be hard-pressed to contend in the Big Ten even with Swanigan. Preseason top-five Maryland and fellow top teams Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin will each be formidable competition.
Some have already said that Swanigan's decision could give Purdue one of the nation's top frontcourts, but that also might be a bit premature.
Skilled forward Kyle Wiltjer, mammoth center Przemek Karnowski and elite prospect Domantas Sabonis all fit together perfectly at Gonzaga. Perry Ellis and top recruit Cheick Diallo could form a great tandem at Kansas. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson also have good chemistry at North Carolina.
For Painter, building an elite frontcourt could be more challenging. One option is developing Swanigan's perimeter skills this summer. Another is utilzing more zone to enable his big men to stay around the rim.
It's a good problem for Purdue to have, but Painter will have to be creative to solve it.
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At a time when the Illinois football program is already under investigation for alleged mistreatment of players, the school's women's basketball coaches also face similar accusations.
Parents of three of the four Illinois players who have left the program since the end of the 2014-15 season sent letters to university officials alleging misconduct by head coach Matt Bollant and associate coach Mike Divilbiss. The Champaign News-Gazette published copies of the letters, which accuse Bollant and Divilbiss of creating racial tension on the team, emotionally and verbally abusing players and jeopardizing their health by forcing them to play through major injuries.
Many of the issues appear to stem from alleged favoritism shown by Bollant and his staff toward players he recruited as opposed to holdovers as he tried to establish a new culture within a program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003. Bollant attempted to instill toughness in his players after replacing Jolette Law in 2012, but the families of former players Jacqui Grant, Taylor Tuck and Taylor Gleason believe that he went too far.
Gleason's father alleged that the coaches referred to Law's former players as "crabs" and would threaten to leave them on the sidelines throughout practice so they wouldn't "infect" the rest of the team. Many of the black players on the team were recruited by Law.
"The code word for racial issues and tensions on the team was the word "culture" and the need to separate Jolette Law's players from the current recruits," Grant's father wrote. "Jolette Law's players were referred to as "the dog pound". At one point, there was an idea to hold separate practices for the African American players in an effort to get them to quit."
The families also described an atmosphere in which coaches belittled players about personal issues and threatened to pull scholarships without sufficient cause. They allege that Tuck was forced to play with a high ankle sprain, Gleason was forced to play with TurfToe that was later diagnosed with a broken foot and Grant was forced to play with an enlarged spleen while suffering from mononucleosis.
“As a lifelong resident of the State of Illinois, this is nothing less than shameful,” Grant's father wrote. “Matt Bollant is the orchestrator. Mike Divilbiss is the muscle. The balance of the coaching staff are spectators. The results are both embarrassing and intolerable to anyone with an ounce of common sense and morals.”
In the wake of the allegations first published in the Daily Illini, Divilbiss has resigned as associate head coach and LaKale Malone has been promoted as his replacement. An Illinois spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that Bollant is not facing disciplinary action at this time after an internal investigation that began in late April found that no violation of NCAA rules or university policy had occurred.
Bollant took Illinois to the WNIT in his debut season in Champaign before enduring losing seasons both of the past two years. Before coaching the Illini, he enjoyed a tremendous five-year run as Green Bay head coach, taking the Phoenix to four straight NCAA tournaments including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in 2011 and 2012.
Grant, a two-year starter for Illinois, intends to transfer to DePaul, as will guard Amarah Coleman. Gleason is transferring to Oakland and Tuck will graduate this spring.
Michael White's first big victory at Florida arrived months before he'll coach the Gators in a game for the first time.
The former Louisiana Tech coach persuaded highly touted shooting guard prospect KeVaughn Allen to honor his pledge to Florida.
Allen, Rivals.com's No. 67 prospect in the class of 2015, had been wavering since Billy Donovan jumped to the NBA to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder. His stepfather John Curry told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly a couple weeks ago that Allen intended to seek a release from his letter of intent, but White was able to gain Allen's trust on Monday after meeting with him in person.
Allen's decision to attend Florida ensures that White will retain three out of the four members of Donovan's final recruiting class. Forward Keith Stone and forward Kevarrius Hayes will join Allen in Florida's 2015 class, but forward Noah Dickerson received his release from his letter of intent last week.
Of the four signees, Allen could be the most critical next season. The high-scoring 6-foot-2 Arkansas native will likely have a chance to play immediately at wing with Michael Frazier declaring for the NBA draft and fellow starter Eli Carter opting to transfer.
It would give Florida more hope of a bounce-back season in year one under White if Allen proves capable of handling a big role as a freshman. He'll join a nucleus that includes returning starters Kasey Hill and Dorian Finney-Smith and capable reserve forwards Devin Robinson and Alex Murphy.
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One thing is clear after watching the above video of Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams reading mean tweets about himself.
He doesn't take himself too seriously.
Williams laughs at himself constantly while borrowing an always funny bit from the Jimmy Kimmel Show. He chuckles at someone insisting he has the "fattest neck" they've ever seen. He howls when someone says his hoarse voice sounds like he gargled with barbed wire. He even smiles when someone compares one of his ties to a Super 8 bedspread.
The only other takeaway from the video: How does Williams not know who actor Channing Tatum is? Take a couple hours off from recruiting this summer, Buzz, and go watch 21 Jump Street.
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The outlook for UConn improved dramatically over the weekend when the Huskies landed maybe the most accomplished graduate transfer to change schools this spring.
Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall's leading scorer this past season, announced he has chosen UConn over Ohio State, Pittsburgh and a handful of other top suitors.
The addition of Gibbs, fellow graduate transfer Shonn Miller and a pair of top 100 recruits gives UConn hope of bouncing back from a 20-15 campaign last season that ended with an opening-round NIT loss. The Huskies have enough talent to potentially crack the preseason top 25 despite the graduation of star guard Ryan Boatright.
There's no bigger reason for optimism than Gibbs, who should replace Boatright as UConn's main perimeter threat to score himself or create for others. The 6-foot-2 rising senior averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists and shot 43.6 percent from behind the arc this past season for a Seton Hall team that ascended into the top 25 in early January but crumbled amid injuries and internal dissension thereafter.
Playing alongside Gibbs in the backcourt will be returning wings Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis, both promising double-digit scorers who struggled with consistency this past season. Sometimes Hamilton and Purvis would perform like the scoring threats UConn needed alongside Boatright last season. Other times Hamilton would struggle with shot selection and Purvis would all but disappear, leaving Boatright to attempt to carry the offense by himself.
The other insurance policy against that this season is the arrival of high-scoring guard Jalen Adams, Rivals.com's No. 23 recruit in the Class of 2015. He'll likely begin the season as Gibbs' primary backup at lead guard but also should see plenty of playing time alongside the Seton Hall transfer when coach Kevin Ollie opts to go to a lineup with multiple ball handlers who can attack the rim.
UConn appears to be in solid shape in the frontcourt as well with defensive anchor Amida Brimah returning and Miller and promising freshman Steve Enoch joining the fold. Brimah is an elite shot blocker who is blossoming into a threat to score around the rim, while Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season at Cornell and should help cover up Brimah's weaknesses on the glass.
The quality of that supporting cast is a big reason Gibbs selected UConn over the other programs who were pursuing him. He needed to be sure he was making a good decision after previous stops at Texas and Seton Hall did not go how he planned.
At Texas, Gibbs was a lightly used freshman on an NCAA tournament team, unsatisfied with his playing time and unsure if he could carve out a bigger role with fellow guards Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo set to return the following season. At Seton Hall, Gibbs had all the playing time he wanted but it was for a team in disarray and a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2006.
At UConn, Gibbs hopes to have the best of both worlds. He'll have the chance to showcase his ability for a team that has a chance to return to the NCAA tournament and do some damage after the disappointment of sitting home this past March.
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At a time when Drew Summerlin felt the lowest, the 11-year-old with Asperger's received a morale boost from his favorite basketball team.
University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams sent Summerlin an autographed team picture and a heartfelt letter last week encouraging him to remain strong despite months of torment from bullies at his school.
The envelope from Williams arrived about two weeks after a group of boys attacked Summerlin during lunch at Iroquois Middle School in Rochester, N.Y. Summerlin sustained a concussion severe enough that he had to stay home from school the next few days.
"I'm so sorry and upset with what you have been going through," Williams wrote. "Someday those kids will realize how terribly they acted and will be ashamed.
"Drew, I want you to know that I am so proud for how you have handled things and know you are a kind person and anyone would be lucky to be your friend. Although life is not always easy, don't ever give up and continue to be the person that you are."
The Summerlin family initially had no idea how Williams learned of their son's plight, but they have since discovered they have a childhood friend of Drew's father to thank. A North Carolina spokesman said a man named Derek Nipper sent Williams video of Drew discussing the attack clad in a North Carolina T-shirt and told the coach that the boy was a huge Tar Heels fan.
Drew Summerlin indeed watches almost every Tar Heels basketball game with his father, a North Carolina native and lifelong fan. The autographed photo and letter from Williams was such a touching gesture to Summerlin that his parents intend to frame them and hang them in his room.
"Oh my goodness, he was so excited," his mother Jaime Summerlin said. "He kept saying, 'Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?' It was really cute. We're trying to take a negative thing that happened in our son's life and turn it into a positive. The Tar Heels definitely helped with that."
Seeing their son happy was special for his parents because Summerlin had endured a rough couple months at school.
Summerlin's mother said the bullying began when one boy in his class made up a "you have cooties" game called 'The Drew Touch.' Whenever one of Summerlin's classmates would touch him, someone would yell, "You've got The Drew Touch." If that child touched another classmate, they would yell, "Drew Touch, can't touch back."
The teasing escalated when the same boy began harassing Summerlin on Instagram. His mom said the boy called Summerlin profane names, made fun of his disability and even went so far as to say, "I f---ing pray for his death every night."
"My husband and I were struggling to figure out just what to do about this situation, the right thing to do," Jaime Summerlin said. "I had been calling and emailing the principal. They tried a few times having the boys get together and talking but when they get out of the office, the picking on him started right up."
For Summerlin's parents, last month's attack was the final straw.
Unsatisfied with the school's response, Jaime Summerlin asked her son how he'd feel about sharing his story with several local TV stations. He agreed in hopes his anti-bullying message would help prevent other kids from going through what he has endured.
The publicity helped grow an anti-bullying Facebook group known as #DrewTouch. Many of the group's 2,800 members wore blue for Drew last Friday or posted pictures of themselves holding up signs with the hashtag #DrewTouch written on them.
Of all the support Drew has received, the letter from Williams is still among the most meaningful to him.
"Our whole family is big Tar Heels fans," Jaime Summerlin said. "The Tar Heels play and our lives stop. Everyone watches. For them to take the time to do that was an amazing gesture."
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The Big Ten-ACC challenge will again provide maybe college basketball's most anticipated non-league game next season.
It will be Maryland at North Carolina on Dec. 1 in a potential preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
The Tar Heels are a strong candidate to begin the season atop the polls thanks to the return of four starters from a 26-win Sweet 16 team. All-American candidate Marcus Paige, potential breakout star Justin Jackson and talented big men Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each might have been selected in this year's NBA draft had they opted to declare.
Maryland also is a contender for preseason No. 1 if its returning standouts mesh with some promising new arrivals. High-scoring point Melo Trimble and versatile forward Jake Layman return from last year's breakout season, while elite freshman center Diamond Stone, talented former Georgia Tech power forward Robert Carter and ex-Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon are the best of the crop of newcomers.
Great as the North Carolina-Maryland game could be, there will be some disappointment that the Terps were not pitted against former ACC rival Duke. The storylines for that matchup of likely top 10 teams would have been especially compelling with Sulaimon facing his former team and Krzyzewski facing the program he vowed never to schedule again after the Terps left the ACC for the Big Ten.
Instead Duke will host Indiana, not a bad consolation prize considering it's a battle of blue bloods and likely preseason top 20 teams. The reigning national champs will reload behind the nation's best freshman class, while the Hoosiers return the core of last year's high-scoring NCAA tournament team and add freshman big man Thomas Bryant to shore up their frontcourt.
The Duke-Indiana matchup is probably the best of an intriguing slate of second-tier games that also includes Louisville at Michigan State, Virginia at Ohio State, Wisconsin at Syracuse and Michigan at NC State. Heck, even Purdue at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame at Illinois and Florida State at Iowa all pit potential NCAA tournament contenders against each other.
Credit organizers for again putting together a slate replete with plenty of must-see games. The ACC leads the series 10-4-2, but the Big Ten won last year's event.
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Three months after the passing of one of college basketball's coaching icons, the man who worked by his side for three decades has also died.
Bill Guthridge, former North Carolina coach Dean Smith's longtime assistant and eventual successor, died Tuesday night at age 77. North Carolina confirmed the news Wednesday morning.
Guthridge and Smith were nearly lifelong friends who grew up 90 minutes apart from one another in Kansas. Their coaching careers took them to different places for awhile until 1967 when Smith asked Guthridge to leave his alma mater Kansas State and come work for him as an assistant coach at North Carolina.
Over the next 30 years, Guthridge remained by Smith's side, turning down head coaching opportunities at Arkansas and Penn State to stay at North Carolina. He helped Smith lead the Tar Heels to 30 seasons of 20 or more wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships, the first in 1982 and the second in 1993.
When Smith retired unexpectedly in 1997, he pushed for North Carolina to reward Guthridge for his loyalty and promote him to head coach. Guthridge coached the Tar Heels for three seasons before stepping aside, earning Naismith coach of the year honors in 1998 and leading North Carolina to Final Four appearances in 1998 and 2000.
One of Guthridge's most significant feats as an assistant coach was discovering a skinny shooting guard from Wilmington named Mike Jordan. Guthridge discovered Jordan before any other ACC program thanks to a tip from the athletic director in his county.
"When I first saw him, he jumped out at me because of his athleticism and competitiveness," then-North Guthridge told Yahoo Sports in 2012. "I thought we should recruit him, but I didn't know how good he would be."
Jordan soon became North Carolina's top priority after he dominated Smith's basketball camp the summer before his senior year. Guthridge and Smith out-recruited the likes of Maryland, South Carolina, Duke and NC State after other schools became aware of Jordan's talent when he emerged as the best player at the prestigious Five-Star Camp in Pittsburgh later that summer.
Though Jordan earned ACC freshman of the year honors and sank the game-winning shot in the national championship game his first season with the Tar Heels, it wasn't until the start of his second season that Guthridge realized he might be coaching one of the best ever.
"We couldn't believe how good he was as a sophomore," Guthridge recalled. "We ran a drill in practice where players went one-on-one against each other. There was nobody who could stop Michael and Michael could stop everyone. That was really something then."
Guthridge kept a small office next to Smith's at the Smith Center in retirement and was a regular at North Carolina games until health problems began to take a toll. His wife told the Raleigh News & Observer earlier this year that her husband had been diagnosed with a heart condition five or six years earlier and that his memory was rapidly fading.
Perhaps it's fitting that Guthridge's death came so soon after Smith's. They were inseparable for decades at North Carolina, so now Guthridge is following Smith once more.
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It's probably no coincidence that word of John Calipari's imminent contract extension at Kentucky leaked out Tuesday evening hours after a potentially attractive NBA gig opened up.
This was likely a strategic move from the Wildcats aimed at quashing the Calipari-to-the-NBA speculation that pops up every spring.
Many of the beat writers covering Kentucky reported within minutes of one another Tuesday that school officials were close to finalizing a one-year, $8 million contract extension with Calipari that would run his deal through 2022. Like previous contracts, this one also includes a $1.6 million bonus if Calipari is still the coach of Kentucky on July 1, an extra incentive for him to remain in Lexington.
Whereas Calipari's previous extensions have been formally announced once they became official, word of this one came the same day as the New Orleans Pelicans fired coach Monty Williams despite 45 wins and a playoff appearance. That gig could be intriguing to Calipari if New Orleans shows interest due to the presence of two of his former players, blossoming superstar Anthony Davis and ex-University of Memphis guard Tyreke Evans.
The New Orleans job is one of several potential jobs with players with ties to Calipari that could become available this spring. A divorce between Tom Thibodeau and Chicago appears imminent barring a deep playoff run from the Bulls, while David Blatt's longevity in Cleveland could also be determined by how the Cavs fare the next few weeks.
Calipari has turned down overtures from NBA franchises before during his Kentucky tenure, but seldom have they boasted a playoff-caliber roster and a potential future league MVP entering his prime. Though Calipari was one of a handful of elite college coaches who passed on the Cleveland job last spring, that was well before anyone was certain LeBron James would return there.
There's no guarantee New Orleans will have any interest in Calipari or any of the other jobs will open, but the contract extension with Kentucky won't prevent him from talking to an NBA team if he wants. He's clearly content in Lexington, yet he's also still free to pursue his dream job should it become available.
In reality, this contract extension merely serves as a preemptive strike against annual speculation Calipari could return to the NBA, something that creates uncertainty among prospective recruits and whips Kentucky's fan base into a frenzy.
It doesn't change the fact he could still leave, but it certainly sweetens the pot for him to stay.
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Having failed in its bid to land Alabama graduate transfer Ricky Tarrant this spring, Clemson missed its best chance to address its lack of perimeter scoring in time for next season.
Instead the Tigers will have to settle for adding a fellow transfer who won't be eligible to play for them until the 2016-17 season.
Ex-Robert Morris guard Marcquise Reed, last year's Northeast Conference freshman of the year, announced Monday that he will transfer to Clemson. Reed had also reportedly visited USC, UMass and Tulsa before deciding on the Tigers.
The addition of Reed should eventually help shore up Clemson's biggest weaknesses — its inability to score efficiently and its lack of perimeter shooting.
The 6-foot-1 Reed averaged 15.1 points per game and shot 41.3 percent from behind the arc for a Robert Morris team that lost to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He was at his best against the toughest teams he faced too, lighting up the Blue Devils for 22 points, erupting for 24 against North Carolina and scoring 21 against the very same Clemson team he now will join.
Clemson has lacked many perimeter scorers of that caliber during Brad Brownell's tenure. For the past four seasons, the Tigers have remained competitive in the rugged ACC because of their formidable half-court defense, but they have finished an average of 211th nationally in points per possession.
Reed will help just like Tarrant would have had he not chosen Memphis. The upside is Clemson gets Reed for up to three seasons. The downside is the Tigers will have to wait a year for him to be eligible to contribute.
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Sixteen years after Lute Olson vowed Arizona would never schedule regional rival New Mexico again, the Wildcats' boycott is over.
The two schools announced Monday they will begin a two-year series during the 2016-17 season with the Lobos visiting Tucson on Dec. 17, 2016 and the Wildcats heading to Albuquerque on Dec. 16, 2017.
“It’s exciting to add big games like this to our upcoming schedule,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said in a school-released statement. “I am very appreciative of Coach Miller and Arizona Director of Athletics Greg Byrne for scheduling this series and agreeing to come play us on our home court. These will be great games for our fans, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to play a program like Arizona."
Arizona's decision to revive the series reflects the fact that tension between the two programs has eased since Olson's retirement. Olson originally vowed to "unequivocally" discontinue the series in 1999 after a controversial finish to New Mexico's 79-78 upset victory over the eighth-ranked Wildcats in Albuquerque.
New Mexico trailed by one point with 4.6 seconds left, but Lobos point guard John Robinson II found time to take the inbound pass, zoom downcourt and feed teammate Damion Walker under the basket for the game-clinching shot. Olson was irate afterward because replays showed that the clock may have started a fraction of a second late, giving New Mexico more time to get the ball down the court.
The two teams played once more the following season in Tucson — the last game of a four-game series — before Olson's boycott went into effect. Arizona has scheduled home-and-home series against Mountain West powers UNLV and San Diego State under Sean Miller, but only now are they doing the same for New Mexico.
The timing of the scheduling agreement could be better for a New Mexico program that endured an injury-plagued 15-16 season this past year after three consecutive seasons that ended with NCAA tournament bids. Neal will have 20 months to replenish his roster and get the Lobos ready for their first matchup with Arizona in 17 years.
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Only a small percentage of players are athletic enough to pull off the dunk Louisville signee Donovan Mitchell attempted while messing around over the weekend.
Even fewer have the creativity to conceive of it.
Mitchell, a highly touted guard from Connecticut, began by sinking a 3-pointer from the wing. Then as the ball fall is falling through the net, he sprints to the rim, catches it in midair and throws down a ridiculous windmill slam.
Video of Mitchell's dunk spread quickly on social media and cracked SportsCenter's top 10 plays. It even surpassed the soaring off-the-wall dunk that earned him perfect scores last month at the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Night of Future Stars.
Of course, Mitchell's dunking ability is only one reason Louisville fans are eager to see him in action next season. The dynamic 6-foot-2 guard will team with point guard Quentin Snider and Drexel transfer Damion Lee to help replace the perimeter scoring the Cardinals lost when Terry Rozier turned pro, Chris Jones got dismissed and Wayne Blackshear graduated.
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When Duke captured its fifth national title last month in Indianapolis, dismissed Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon had to watch the celebration from home on television.
Next spring, Sulaimon may have the chance to experience the joy his former teammates felt albeit while wearing a different uniform.
Maryland announced Monday that it has landed Sulaimon, bolstering a roster that was already one of the five strongest in the nation. The 6-foot-5 Houston native will be eligible to play his final collegiate season right away assuming he is able to earn his sociology degree at Duke this summer as expected.
Sulaimon is a high-risk, high-reward addition for Maryland because of the way his once-promising Duke career ended. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski dismissed him in January, explaining in a terse statement that Sulaimon had been "unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program."
One month after Sulaimon's dismissal, the Duke Chronicle reported that two female students had accused him of sexual assault during the 2013-14 school year, but neither formally reported the incidents to the police or Duke's Office of Student Conduct. Sulaimon has since denied those allegations and insisted that his dismissal was a result of his poor attitude as his playing time dwindled.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon felt comfortable offering Sulaimon a second chance since he has known the former Duke guard since he was in seventh grade. Turgeon recruited Sulaimon heavily while coaching at Texas A&M before losing him to the Blue Devils.
“He was a very polite and poised young man and I recruited him while I was at Texas A&M because of his commitment to both academics and athletics," Turgeon said Monday in a school-released statement. "We competed against Rasheed on multiple occasions in the ACC and I was reminded of his dynamic playmaking ability. During our conversations with Rasheed and his parents, Kenny and Angela, Rasheed expressed the importance of proving that he is committed to being a great student-athlete and a selfless teammate. I have full confidence that Rasheed will embrace this opportunity at the University of Maryland."
If Sulaimon can avoid further off-court trouble, he could be the final piece Maryland needs to contend for a championship next season.
They have an elite point guard in rising sophomore Melo Trimble, a skilled combo forward in NBA prospect Jake Layman and a pair of good big men in coveted freshman Diamond Stone and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter. The only potential hole was at shooting guard, where the Terps would have counted on reserves Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to replace Dez Wells had they not found help on the transfer market.
Sulaimon projects as the heir apparent to Wells because of his knack for creating off the dribble and his ability to defend the opposing team's best perimeter scorer.
A former McDonald's All-American who averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman at Duke, Sulaimon might have been a first-round draft pick had he left school the following spring. His playing time and production diminished the following two years as other talented wings eclipsed him in Duke's rotation, leading to issues behind the scenes.
Now Sulaimon has a second chance to salvage his career and compete for a championship.
"I am extremely grateful to the University of Maryland and Coach Turgeon for this opportunity to further my education and continue to play the game I love," Sulaimon said in a statement. "I’m looking forward to starting this next chapter at Maryland."
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The simplest move Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley could have made in the wake of the departure of Billy Donovan would have been to wave $4 million a year at Dayton's Archie Miller, Xavier's Chris Mack or another established coaching star.
Needless to say, Foley chose not to play it safe.
In an offseason in which Mississippi State and Tennessee both hired veteran coaches who have reached the Final Four and Alabama hired a former NBA coach of the year, Foley risked the future of the Florida program on a man who has never made the NCAA tournament. He quickly zeroed in on Lousiana Tech coach Michael White, a hire that surely sent all but the most basketball-savvy Gators fans scrambling to Wikipedia once it was announced on Thursday night.
Not bothering to interview other splashier candidates exposes Foley to criticism if the hire turns out to be a bust, but passing on bigger names in favor of White may turn out to be a shrewd gamble. The 38-year-old son of well-respected Duke athletic director Kevin White is an energetic, ambitious up-and-comer who embodies much of what Florida sought in a coach even if he doesn't have NCAA tournament appearances to offer as validation.
White's youth belies his experience because his childhood groomed him for a career in college athletics. Dinners with coaches, administrators and donors were regular occurrences throughout his youth as his dad jumped from athletic director gigs at Maine, Tulane, Arizona State and Notre Dame before arriving at Duke in 2008.
The jump to the SEC also shouldn't faze White, a former four-year starter at point guard for Ole Miss who later spent seven years as an assistant with the Rebels on Andy Kennedy's staff. White has longstanding recruiting ties throughout the Southeast and has been particularly successful mining the state of Florida for talent during his Louisiana Tech tenure.
Hired in spring 2011 to resuscitate a long-struggling Louisiana Tech program coming off a 2-14 season in the WAC, White engineered a turnaround in startlingly speedy fashion. He won 18 games his debut season and 27 or more games each of his next three, capturing at least a share of three Conference USA regular season titles with players few Division I programs even bothered to recruit.
Guard Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech's leading scorer last season, weighed less than 140 pounds in high school and only received scholarship offers from the Bulldogs and a Division II college in his native Arkansas. Center Michale Kyser, the team's top shot-blocker and rebounder, signed with White only after backing out of his letter of intent to Lamar when the school fired its coach. And Florida native Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, who was fifth in the nation in assists last season, had zero Division I offers when White fell in love with his passing ability while watching YouTube clips of him late in his senior season.
White will obviously need to do more than uncover below-the-radar recruits to win at Florida, but his style of play should make for a smooth transition. Whether or not he sticks with the full-court pressure he favored at Louisiana Tech, he's likely to play an aggressive, up-tempo style that mirrors how Donovan's teams won at Florida.
The challenge for White will be proving Florida's recent emergence as a basketball juggernaut is a product of the caliber of its program and not merely the caliber of its former coach. Before Donovan willed the Gators to two national titles, four Final Fours and seven Elite Eights, they had only been to the NCAA tournament five times in program history.
Donovan left White with a brand-name program but not with a loaded roster. The Gators failed to reach the postseason this past March and their second-leading scorer Michael Frazier declared for the draft, their third-leading scorer Eli Carter is transferring and their top recruit KeVaughn Allen intends to seek a release from his letter of intent.
Nonetheless, Florida remains a top 20 job nationally because the school has the resources and recruiting base to provide the right coach a platform to contend for Final Fours and national championships.
White clearly gambled wisely when he turned down opportunities at Missouri and Tennessee last spring in hopes of landing a better job in the near future. Now we'll see whether Foley too took a shrewd risk targeting a coach with zero NCAA tournament appearances rather than one with a more proven track record.
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The 6-foot-8 Fort Wayne, Ind., native has backed out of his commitment to the Spartans less than a month after he gave it, ESPN.com and other outlets reported Thursday.
Swanigan's decision can't be viewed as a complete shock considering his initial commitment to Michigan State was a mild surprise. He also chose not to sign either a letter of intent or grant in aid document that would have made his verbal commitment binding.
Rivals affiliate GoldAndBlack.com reported Thursday that Swanigan is "likely headed to Purdue," which is a short drive from his home and recruited him heavily. Another possible destination is Cal, which appeared to be on the verge of landing him before he chose Michigan State and has a highly touted recruiting class that includes fellow five star recruits Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown.
Why would Swanigan change his mind so abruptly? It's probably a safe guess that the influence of his guardian Roosevelt Barnes was a factor. Barnes is a former Purdue linebacker and has a longtime friendship with Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, a former Purdue basketball player and assistant coach.
The loss of Swanigan is a blow to Michigan State's depth next season but it won't drastically alter the outlook for the Spartans. They still could begin next season in the top 10 in preseason polls thanks to the potent wing tandem of Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris and a deep frontcourt that will feature potential breakout candidate Marvin Clark Jr., returners Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling and promising 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis.
Swanigan's impact actually could be potentially greater at either Purdue or Cal.
At Purdue, he'd likely slide to power forward, enabling him to play most of his minutes alongside either senior A.J. Hammons or 7-foot rising sophomore Isaac Haas. At Cal, he'd address the team's lack of depth in the frontcourt. He'd either start alongside Rabb if the Bears opted for two big men or become the first big man off the bench if Cal started four perimeter players.
Whatever Swanigan chooses, it probably won't be Michigan State.
Seven days ago, he was "100 percent" committed. Now he's back on the market.
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A Kentucky gubernatorial debate on live radio turned vicious on Wednesday when one candidate called a rival the most loathsome name imaginable to hoops fans in the state.
James Comer described fellow Republican candidate Hal Heiner as "the Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics."
The jab was the culmination of verbal sparring between the two candidates over an article that appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday alleging that Comer had assaulted a woman he dated while the two were enrolled at Western Kentucky in the 1990s. Comer flatly denied the accusations and accused the Heiner campaign of being behind them.
The Laettner reference was timely since the debate aired on Kentucky Sports Radio, a popular statewide show with a heavy emphasis on Kentucky basketball.
Laettner became one of the most hated men in the state of Kentucky during the 1992 East Regional finals when his iconic buzzer-beating jump shot enabled Duke to oust a beloved Wildcats team. Big Blue Nation hasn't forgotten Laettner's 31 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the field and the free-throw line, nor has it forgiven the way he intentionally stepped on the chest of Aminu Timberlake underneath the basket during that game.
Word of Comer's zinger reached Laettner on social media, but the former Duke star had a clever retort of his own.
Well done, Christian, but it's probably good Heiner didn't respond with that one liner during the debate. A generation of Kentucky fans may never have forgiven him.
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The success Oregon has enjoyed in the past with graduate transfers helped the Ducks land another one.
They won a month-long recruiting battle with Baylor and Illinois on Wednesday when former Villanova guard Dylan Ennis committed.
Ennis started all 36 games for Villanova last season and averaged 9.9 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Big East champions, but the fifth-year senior chose to transfer because he wanted the chance to play point guard in his final college season. Incumbent starter Ryan Arcidiacono is returning to Villanova next season and top recruit Jaylen Brunson also plays point guard.
With Pac-12 player of the year Joseph Young graduating this spring, Oregon had an opening at point guard. Ennis should compete with reserves Ahmaad Rorie and Casey Benson and incoming freshman Kendall Small for playing time at point guard. He could also play alongside Rorie or Benson too since Dana Altman has often used two ball handlers at one time in years past.
Baylor and Illinois both had playing time available at point guard, but Oregon's history suggests it's easy for transfers to thrive quickly. Young, Devoe Joseph, Arsalan Kazemi and Jason Calliste all became impact players immediately with the Ducks despite only having a few months to pick up a new system.
The arrival of Ennis further solidifies Oregon as an NCAA tournament team with a chance to contend in a wide open Pac-12 next season. The Ducks return almost every key player besides Young from a team that won 25 games, surged late in the season and pushed eventual national runner-up Wisconsin into the final minutes before falling in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament.
The only question with Ennis' commitment is whether it hurts Oregon's chances of also landing five-star Canadian guard Jamal Murray should he opt to reclassify to the 2015 class. The Ducks are considered one of the favorites to land him, though numerous other high-major programs are also in pursuit.
Regardless, the addition of Ennis is a valuable one. It provides Oregon a veteran option at a position in which the Ducks were in need of one.
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In the past six weeks, Florida has lost its head coach to the NBA, its second-leading scorer to the draft and its third-leading scorer to a transfer.
Now the Gators may also have to wave goodbye to their top recruit too.
Shooting guard KeVaughn Allen, Rivals.com's No. 67 prospect in the class of 2015, will seek a release from his letter of intent, his stepfather John Curry told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly on Tuesday. Curry said that Allen could still end up at Florida depending on who the Gators hire to replace Billy Donovan, but he also wants to consider other schools.
"I guess the best way to put it is he's going to keep his options open," Curry said.
“His whole draw to Florida, besides a beautiful university, [was] the coaches. And that goes for a lot of high school kids. They go to a coach, that’s who they go to.”
What could hurt Florida's chances of retaining Allen is that athletic director Jeremy Foley appears to be taking his time making a new hire. Foley told reporters at his news conference Monday afternoon that his goal is to make the hire "sometime in June" so that the new coach is in place in time to recruit during the July evaluation period.
If Florida loses Allen, that would be a major blow to its chances of bouncing back quickly after missing the NCAA tournament last season. The high-scoring 6-foot-2 Arkansas native would likely have a chance to play immediately at wing with Michael Frazier declaring for the NBA draft and fellow starter Eli Carter opting to transfer.
Numerous schools will undoubtedly express interest in Allen if he gets his release from Florida, but in-state Arkansas could have the best chance to land him. Arizona, Baylor, UConn, Tennessee and Memphis were also among the programs initially involved in his recruitment.
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Even though a historic freshman class propelled Duke to its fifth championship last month, the unsung hero for the Blue Devils was their lone senior.
Quinn Cook set the tone for the season when he ceded the starting point guard job to Tyus Jones without complaint, thrived despite moving off ball and evolved into the veteran leader such a young team needed.
An emotional Cook reflected on his journey at Duke's end-of-the-year banquet in the video above. He began by sharing the story of the nadir of his Duke career, a 2011 Maui Invitational matchup with Michigan in which he went scoreless and barely played.
"My team's doing well, and we're playing great," Cook recalled. "Every time someone made a shot, the bench goes crazy, but you see little Quinn not cheering at all. I wouldn't get up, nothing, because I was embarrassed I wasn't playing.
"The next day, Coach K tells me he has some clips to show me. I'm thinking, 'What are they about to show? I didn't play.' They showed me not cheering, me not doing anything. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I felt me and coach Capel had a great relationship, and he told me, 'You should take that jersey off and go home.' From there, I changed."
Cook became a productive player for Duke the next two years, but Mike Krzyzewski needed more from him as a senior. The Duke coach had a heart-to-heart chat with Cook last offseason that the senior guard says has stuck with him ever since.
"You called me and my mom into a meeting and you were brutally honest, but you gave me confidence I could lead these guys," Cook said to Krzyzewski. "From that day on, I didn't want to let you down. I made it my agenda to be the first one at practice and the last one to leave."
It helped Cook that he had teammates eager to be led. He cited numerous examples, from Jahlil Okafor texting after last year's opening-round NCAA tournament loss to Mercer say that won't happen again, to Justise Winslow asking for guidance and tough love before he even got to campus, to Tyus Jones comparing he and Cook to Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright the night of last year's national title game.
"I get all this credit for being a great leader, but you guys were so easy to lead, especially the young guys," Cook said. "I can remember us getting in a group chat the day UConn played UK last year and saying that was going to be us next year."
That prediction came true for Duke. And self-deprecating as Cook is, he was a big part of it.
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If the perception before this spring had been that John Calipari can land whichever recruits he wants, that changed in a hurry the past few weeks.
All five of Calipari's primary targets during the spring signing period selected other schools over Kentucky, forcing the Wildcats to scramble to identify second-tier options.
The sting of losing a series of recruiting battles for the first time in his Kentucky tenure led Calipari to write a blog post Monday morning in which he seemed to speak directly to potential targets in future classes. Calipari hinted that the platoon system he implemented this past season hurt Kentucky with prospects this spring and repeatedly insisted it was a one-time experiment.
In his zeal to emphasize that future recruits should expect to have the chance to play 30-plus minutes per game, Calipari even exaggerated how short his rotations have been in the past. He wrote that his 1996 Final Four team at UMass used only five players when sixth man Tyrone Weeks averaged 18.5 minutes per game and fellow reserves Charlton Clarke and Inus Norville both played nearly 10 apiece.
In all my coaching career, I’ve always played six, seven or eight guys. As a matter of fact, at UMass in 1996 I played five – the sixth man played single-digit minutes. My guards played 39 minutes a game. I’ve done this all kinds of ways, playing as many as eight or nine guys, which I thought was a bit much, but never have I ever tried to play 10 until this year.
Now, the question became, why would you have that many players where you felt you had to play everybody? Well, Willie, Alex and the twins decided to come back to be better prepared to chase their dreams. .... The only way I could figure out for all of them to eat was to platoon. I didn’t feel comfortable trying to sub 10 guys in and out. I thought it would hurt every player if I did that. I needed a way for every player to help themselves, their team and their teammates.
If you ask me if I’m ever going to platoon again, my answer is NO. Last season was an absolute outlier. It’s just not the way I like to coach. I would rather play seven or eight guys because I believe that gives us the best chance to win. I think we wrote the book on platooning this year, but I hope we stick it on the shelf and never have to use it again.
It's telling that Calipari had to pledge never to run a system that propelled Kentucky to a historically successful 2014-15 season. The Wildcats won their first 38 games and reached the Final Four playing nine or 10 players per game, yet what many recruits noticed is that no Wildcats averaged more than 25.9 minutes or scored more than 11.0 points per game.
The one mistake Calipari did make is not penning this blog post a month sooner.
Opposing coaches would have found ammunition for negative recruiting whether he played 10 guys reduced minutes or left a couple former McDonald's All-Americans to languish on the bench, but Calipari should have had the foresight to address it immediately after the Final Four. At that point, 10 of the top 20 prospects in the Rivals 150 were still undecided on their college destination.
It's impossible to say whether writing this blog post a month earlier would have helped Kentucky land one or two of its spring targets, but it certainly couldn't have hurt. The Wildcats instead lost elite wings Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Jaylen Brown (Cal) and lost coveted big men Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas).
None of Kentucky's opponents will take pity on the Wildcats considering they return former McDonald's All-Americans Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress and add highly touted November signees Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe. At the same time, it was unusual to see Calipari trying to fill out next season's roster by signing a junior college prospect and offering a scholarship to a three-star forward who had just committed to N.C. State.
The closest Calipari came to acknowledging the platoon system may have played a role in that recruiting futility was a line late in his blog post. Wrote the Kentucky coach, "It’s amazing people could try to use that against us, but I guess you have to come up with something."
Calipari was wise to address the negative recruiting ploy before it impacts Kentucky with its class of 2016 targets.
In the wake of a disappointing spring recruiting period, however, you have to wonder if he wishes he had done it sooner.
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So much for the idea that one-and-done players aren't interested in a college education.
Former Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns returned to his New Jersey high school over the weekend to sign autographs. He also spoke with reporters and revealed that while he is no longer enrolled in spring semester classes at Kentucky, he is determined to eventually earn his degree from the school.
Towns said he has already enrolled in online classes for next fall and he intends to continue taking classes online even while playing in the NBA. Former Duke star Jabari Parker, a top pick last year, also vowed to earn his college degree while playing professional basketball.
"I’ll be taking them with any NBA organization I will be with, I will be taking them online," Towns told NJ.com. "Let it be one class, two classes maybe three. Still gets me steps closer to having that degree in my hand.”
Towns is considered the likely No. 1 overall selection in next month's NBA draft after playing one year for coach John Calipari at Kentucky.
Each year critics howl about a small handful of players who come out of high school to play only one year of college basketball before moving on to the NBA. Players do so because of an NBA rule that prevents them from joining the league straight out of high school. The critics complain that the one-and-done player makes a mockery of the idea of college basketball being both about the sport and education.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences have proposed making freshmen ineligible in some sports, in part, to combat the one-and-done phenomenon. That short-sighted approach is unlikely to take hold.
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No longer will Willie Cauley-Stein merely be known as the most versatile defender in this year's NBA draft.
Now the former Kentucky 7 footer also is receiving attention for an unusual name change.
Cauley-Stein has filed an order to legally change his middle name to "Trill," his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday. Marlene Stein told the newspaper that her son's full name now is Willie "Trill" Cauley-Stein because "Trill" is the "nickname his 'boys' call him."
Cauley-Stein was actually born "Willie Durmond Cauley Jr." but his father fell out of his life when he was young. He has gone by Willie Cauley-Stein since enrolling at Kentucky in order to honor his mother, but he hadn't filled out the paperwork to legally change his name until now.
The name change is fitting for a player with a reputation for being a free spirit. Cauley-Stein still has room for growth offensively, but his ability to finish at the rim, attack the glass and defend multiple positions gives him a good chance to be a lottery pick next month.
The only downside to Cauley-Stein's new name is that he didn't go all the way with it. How great would it be to hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver introduce him as "Trill Cauley-Stein" when he gets drafted?
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They've printed the phrase "Havoc Lives Here" everywhere at VCU the last five years, from billboards, to T-shirts, to giant banners in the student section.
The slogan still rings true even though the coach who coined it left for Texas a month ago.
Texas has withdrawn its attempt to federally register variations of the “Havoc” trademark, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Monday. The same day Smart was hired as the next coach of the Longhorns last month, Texas officials applied to register the marks “HORNS HAVOC” and “HOUSE OF HAVOC” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Retaining the "Havoc" slogan is momentous for VCU because it is central to the program's marketing and branding efforts.
The Rams' style of play has been known as "Havoc" since Smart used the phrase while describing his vision for the aggressive, swarming full-court press he intended to install. That slogan gained greater significance as VCU rose to national prominence, making a stunning Final Four run in 2011 and advancing to four more NCAA tournaments the past four years.
VCU has already trademarked "Havoc" with the State Corporation Commission of Virginia, which would have given the Rams a good chance to win a legal battle had Texas opted to go that route. The strongest argument the Longhorns could have made was that their variations on "Havoc" were sufficiently different not to be confusing.
It's especially important to VCU to still be known as the home of "Havoc" because the coach hired by the Rams will continue to use that defensive model. Will Wade is a former assistant under Smart who had the wisdom to rename his style of play "Chaos" when he left to coach Tennessee-Chattanooga the previous two years.
Ultimately, it makes sense for Texas to back off not only because of the likelihood it would lose a legal battle but also because the Longhorns may not even adopt the "Havoc" model under Smart.
He has said Texas will play fast and aggressively, but he has also said he won't necessarily press from start to finish the way he often did at VCU.
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It's difficult for Tim Floyd to lure top-tier talent to UTEP, so the Miners coach took a risk others may not have to secure a former top 50 prospect.
He has signed former Oregon standout Dominic Artis just over a year after the standout point guard and two teammates were at the center of a sexual assault investigation.
Oregon dismissed Artis, fellow starter Damyean Dotson and Providence transfer Brandon Austin last year after a female student accused them of raping her the night of the Ducks' March 8 victory over third-ranked Arizona. Investigators concluded there was "no doubt the incidents occurred," but authorities declined to charge the three players, citing conflicting statements and actions by the alleged victim.
"We did extensive research on Dominic's history and character through people who have known him since he was a child, and throughout his high school and college career," Floyd said in a statement. "Based on our due diligence, meeting with Dominic and his parents, and the endorsement of Matt Willms who played with Dominic in prep school, we feel comfortable adding him to our team.
"I understand where some may be concerned. I have a daughter of my own. This was not a quick decision. A lot of research and conversation occurred before we chose to move forward. Dominic made a poor decision, and as a result has learned a tough life lesson. But I believe he is a good person and is worthy of a second chance."
UTEP's decision to take a chance on Artis underscores the risks some programs are willing to take to raise their stature in college basketball. The Miners have averaged 20.6 wins per season during Floyd's five-year tenure, but they have finished no higher than tied for second in Conference USA and they have neither made the NCAA tournament nor won a postseason game in the NIT or CBI.
What Artis will bring UTEP is a pure point guard the likes of which the Miners haven't had in a while.
The 6-foot-1 California native started 25 games as a freshman, averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists and helping propel the Ducks to a 28-win season and a Sweet 16 berth with his ability to create off the dribble and his fierce on-ball defense. He tailed off a bit as a sophomore as he lost his starting job while serving a nine-game suspension for selling school-provided shoes and never regained the consistency he showed during his freshman season.
Nonetheless, Artis projects as an impact player in Conference USA if he can avoid further off-court trouble. His presence should allow rising sophomore combo guard Omega Harris to play off ball where he is most comfortable. Artis' ability to create for himself and others also will help the Miners find ways to score despite the early departure of leading scorer Vince Hunter to the NBA draft.
"I am grateful to Coach Floyd for giving me another opportunity, a second chance," Artis said in a statement. "I made a mistake and used poor judgment, but I have learned from this. I am excited about this opportunity at UTEP."
Artis is the second of the three Oregon players who have received a second chance. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson signed Dotson last month in hopes that the talented wing can help accelerate the Cougars' bid to become competitive in the American Athletic Conference.
Ultimately, how Floyd's gamble is regarded will come down to how Artis plays and how he behaves.
Artis is capable of becoming a standout point guard for UTEP, but another off-court misstep could bring a torrent of negative publicity for him and the school and raise questions regarding whether Floyd and his staff vetted the Oregon transfer's past sufficiently.
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The last time a point guard transferred from Washington to Gonzaga, Dan Dickau became the WCC player of the year and a first-team All-American.
The Zags can only hope history repeats itself.
Gonzaga landed another former Washington point guard Sunday when ex-Huskies star Nigel Williams-Goss committed to the Zags. Williams-Goss, one of the most coveted transfers on the market, will sit out next season and have two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2016-17 season.
The addition of Williams-Goss should help keep Gonzaga nationally relevant after next season when it will lose Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer to graduation and could see NBA prospect Domantas Sabonis declare for the draft. Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists as a sophomore at Washington and is a pass-first point guard who makes his teammates better.
Williams-Goss will join a backcourt that should also include former top 100 recruit Josh Perkins, but having two point guards on the floor shouldn't be an issue for the Zags. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has successfully played multiple point guards at the same time before and at 6-foot-3, Perkins and Williams-Goss are both big enough to defend opposing wings.
What made Gonzaga attractive to Williams-Goss besides its perennial success as a program was its ball screen-heavy offense and its recent history of developing players who have to sit out a year.
Two years ago, Kelly Olynyk emerged from a redshirt year with a stronger upper body and a revamped post-up game, enabling him to go from bench warmer to first-round draft pick the following year. Last year, Wiltjer showcased superior athleticism and a more well-rounded offensive game compared to his days as a pick-and-pop specialist at Kentucky.
Williams-Goss' decision to opt to go that route was a mature one. He didn't feel he was improving rapidly enough at Washington and he wasn't projected as a first-round pick in the NBA draft, so he opted to remain patient and transfer even if it meant sitting out a year.
Of course, Williams-Goss' destination probably won't sit well with Gonzaga-hating Huskies fans, but they'll have a chance to express their displeasure in person.
Gonzaga and Washington will end a 10-year non-conference scheduling hiatus during the 2016-17 season, which is the first year Williams-Goss will be eligible for the Zags.
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When sweet-shooting wing Kenny Williams committed to North Carolina on Saturday, it was a potential coup for the Tar Heels for two reasons.
It provides North Carolina a pure shooter who could crack the rotation as soon as next season if he spreads the floor with his 3-point prowess and proves to be a competent defender. It also prevents fellow ACC and national title contender Virginia from adding a recruit who could have addressed its biggest weakness.
Outside shooting is a concern for both the Tar Heels and Cavaliers entering a season in which both should begin in the top 10 in the polls.
North Carolina lacked any consistent shooters around Marcus Paige two years ago and still finished 256th in the nation in 3-pointers made last season despite the emergence of Justin Jackson and Nate Britt as threats from the perimeter. Virginia tailed off dramatically from behind the arc after Justin Anderson went down with a fractured pinkie in February and then the Cavaliers lost Anderson to the NBA draft last month.
Given their need for a perimeter shooter, Williams was an appealing option for both the Tar Heels and Cavs after he asked to be released from his letter of intent at VCU last month when coach Shaka Smart left for Texas. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is Rivals.com's No. 89 recruit in the class of 2015 and shot the ball so well for his AAU team that veteran coach Boo Williams said J.J. Redick is the only player he's coached with a better jumper.
Williams visited both Chapel Hill and Charlottesville before selecting North Carolina on Saturday, calling it his dream school. He'll battle the likes of Britt, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II for playing time alongside Paige in the backcourt. Virginia meanwhile will have to hope that Marial Shayock develops enough to replicate some of Anderson's production at wing and Evan Nolte rediscovers the jump shot that abandoned him last season and emerges as a capable perimeter threat off the bench.
A commitment from a borderline top 100 recruit isn't typically cause for wild celebration at North Carolina, but forgive the Tar Heels for feeling good about this one. The threat of potential looming sanctions from the school's academic fraud scandal has made North Carolina an easy target for negative recruiting and has prevented Roy Williams from landing the elite prospects he pursued for this class.
Nonetheless, North Carolina remains loaded for next season, and the addition of Williams only adds to that. He provides the outside shooting the Tar Heels need and prevents a rival from addressing a weakness.
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One of the schools on Jaylen Brown's list has been to the Final Four four of the past five seasons. Another played for the national championship two years ago. A third has captured the title twice in the past decade and could start next season atop the polls.
Brown didn't select any of them late Friday night. To the surprise of fans from Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, the nation's best small forward prospect chose California instead.
The stunning commitment from Brown was a fitting way to end a high-drama recruitment that kept even the coaching staffs involved guessing until the very end. At different points over the past year, UCLA, Kentucky and Michigan were perceived as the favorites to land Rivals.com's No. 3 overall prospect. None of them got him in the end.
Cal wasn't even perceived as a threat to land Brown until six weeks ago when he unexpectedly visted the Bears unofficially. Brown's relationship with head coach Cuonzo Martin and assistant Tracy Webster was undoubtedly a selling point, as was the fact the Bears could be every bit as good next season as all of the other marquee programs recruiting him.
Next season already had the chance to be Cal's most anticipated since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray when elite big man Ivan Rabb chose the Bears over Kentucky and Arizona and point guard Tyrone Wallace opted to return to school after flirting with declaring for the draft. Add Brown to that mix, and the Bears have a realistic chance to go from missing the NCAA tournament in Cuonzo Martin's debut season to cracking the preseason top 10 entering his second year.
Cal is loaded on the perimeter and light on frontcourt depth behind Rabb, so there's a good chance the 6-foot-7 Brown will see substantial playing time at power forward in a similar role to what Justise Winslow filled at Duke late last season. He has the size and muscle to defend opposing power forwards at one end and the quickness and strength to attack them off the dribble at the other.
The mismatches that would create make that potentially Brown's best position in college even if he projects as a small forward in the NBA. It would also allow Wallace, former McDonald's All-American wing Jabari Bird and high-scoring guard Jordan Mathews to join Brown in the starting lineup, ensuring Cal has its five best players on the floor at the start and end of games.
That quintet is among the most talented starting fives in the nation. With Arizona replacing four starters and Utah trying to overcome the loss of do-it-all star Delon Wright, Cal should be considered no worse than the co-favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.
Brown's decision to choose Cal was also noteworthy because it marked the fifth time this spring that an elite recruit has passed on an offer from Kentucky. The Wildcats have also lost out on coveted five-star prospects Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Cheick Diallo (Kansas) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), forcing them to scramble to fill out their roster with some second-tier options.
In this case, John Calipari's loss is Martin's gain. In a Cal-versus-Cal recruiting battle, Brown apparently preferred the school to the coach.
Rivals.com video of Jaylen Brown:
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The top unsigned prospect in the class of 2015 has narrowed his list of prospective schools to four.
Six-foot-7 forward Jaylen Brown, Rivals.com's No. 3 prospect, eliminated Kansas on Thursday, leaving only Cal, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina in contention.
Wherever Brown chooses, his decision will have a profound impact both on that school's prospects next season and on the national landscape. Here's a look at how Brown fits in at each of his four remaining schools and which one needs the Georgia native most:
If Cuonzo Martin were to add Jaylen Brown to a recruiting class that already includes elite big man Ivan Rabb, then next season might be Cal's most anticipated since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray. The Bears conservatively would crack the top 15 in preseason polls thanks to the return of perimeter standouts Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews and the arrival of Rabb, Brown and slashing wing Tyson Jolly.
Cal's connection to Brown is the friendship between him and Rabb and the relationship Martin and his staff have established during the past year. Is that enough for the Bears to win a head-to-head recruiting battle with some of the nation's elite programs? It's a long shot, but don't count Martin and his staff out because they've made it farther than anyone would have guessed already.
Cal is loaded on the perimeter and light in the frontcourt, so there's a good chance Brown would see substantial playing time at power forward in a similar role to what Justise Winslow filled at Duke late last season. The mismatches that would create make that potentially his best position in college even if he projects as a small forward in the NBA.
Whereas Kentucky has won most of the recruiting battles it has entered the past few years, the Wildcats have endured some body blows this spring. They've lost out on coveted five-star prospects Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Cheick Diallo (Kansas) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), forcing them to scramble to fill out their roster with some second-tier options.
Brown represents maybe Kentucky's final chance to add another elite recruit to their 2015 class, though Thon Maker remains a possibility too if he opts to play college basketball next season and is able to gain eligibility. Brown would likely play mostly small forward at Kentucky, adding size and strength to a perimeter corps that includes undersized point guard Tyler Ulis and 6-foot-3 combo guard Isaiah Briscoe.
Add Brown to a roster that includes elite incoming freshmen Skal Labissiere and Briscoe and returners Ulis, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, and the Wildcats are a lock for the preseason top five and a contender for the No. 1 slot. Subtract Brown from that roster, and while nobody is crying for poor talent-starved Kentucky, the Wildcats would enter the new season with more questions than usual.
One of the Big Ten's best collection of wings might evolve into the nation's best if Brown were to join the Wolverines. He'd be part of a group that includes projected 2016 first-round pick Caris LeVert, high-scoring Zak Irvin, rapidly blossoming Aubrey Dawkins and intriguing transfer Duncan Robinson.
Like at Cal, Brown would probably spend a lot of time as an undersized power forward were he to commit to Michigan. It's a position that would help mask Michigan's weakness in the frontcourt, get the Wolverines' best players onto the floor together and allow Brown to exploit mismatches.
It's difficult to get any semblance of a read on Brown's recruitment, but the consensus is the Wolverines are a very strong contender. They benefit from Brown having a lot of family in Michigan, from being the only Adidas-affiliated school he's still considering and from potentially jumping into the preseason top 10 if they were able to land him.
North Carolina is already a strong candidate to be preseason No. 1 thanks to the return of all but one key player from last year's 26-win Sweet 16 team. Add Jaylen Brown to a roster that already includes All-ACC guard Marcus Paige, potential breakout star Justin Jackson and standout big men Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, and it would only cement the Tar Heels as the preseason favorite.
Though North Carolina is the closest remaining school to Brown's Georgia home, it doesn't appear proximity is a big factor considering he already lopped Georgia and Georgia Tech from the schools he is considering. The Tar Heels also would have to overcome the possibility that NCAA sanctions from their academic fraud scandal could jeopardize their ability to compete in the postseason next year, which has made them vulnerable to negative recruiting.
If Brown were to look past that the way fellow top 10 recruit Brandon Ingram could not, he'd fill the starting spot vacated by J.P. Tokoto's surprise decision to turn pro. Brown would likely play either wing spot for the Tar Heels and would add perimeter scoring and a defensive presence.
Rivals.com video of Jaylen Brown:
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As Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley begins his search to find a replacement for Billy Donovan, this is the challenge he faces.
He must identify someone capable of proving that the school's recent emergence as a basketball juggernaut is a product of the caliber of its program and not merely the caliber of its former coach.
Though Florida made a surprise Sweet 16 appearance in 1987 under Norm Sloan and an unexpected Final Four run in 1994 under Lon Kruger, the Gators were hardly a perennial national power before Donovan. They had only made the NCAA tournament five times in program history until Donovan arrived 19 years ago and willed Florida to two national titles, four Final Fours and seven Elite Eight appearances.
What will aid Foley in his search is that he's pitching a top 20 college basketball job that should be attractive to plenty of potential candidates.
Florida has a big-budget athletic department that can afford to spare no expense on facilities, recruiting or salaries for assistant coaches. The school is also located in a state that is rich with talent, meaning the next coach can afford to build the program with mostly in-state prospects while venturing to Atlanta or elsewhere to win an occasional national recruiting battle.
The fact that Florida remains a football school despite Donovan's success is something most coaches will see as an advantage too. There will always be more pressure to win on the Gators football coach than his basketball counterpart even if Donovan has raised the bar to the point where merely making the NCAA tournament every year is no longer the benchmark for success.
Foley's history in coaching searches suggests he'll target an up-and-coming head coach from a program outside the power conferences. That's what he did when he plucked Donovan from Marshall in 1996, Urban Meyer from Utah in 2005 and current football coach Jim McElwain from Colorado State this year.
If Foley opts to go that route again, his first phone call should be to Archie Miller.
The 36-year-old Dayton coach would be a home run hire because he possesses the pedigree, demeanor and skill as a recruiter and tactician to enjoy success at a name-brand program. He led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2014 and arguably did an even better job this past season when they won 27 games and reached the round of 32 despite only having six healthy scholarship players and none taller than 6-foot-6.
Miller could opt to stay at Dayton and wait for an even better power-conference job to open the next few years, so Foley either needs to make him a lucrative offer he can't refuse or identify some backup plans.
Two pie-in-the-sky options are Gregg Marshall and Bruce Pearl, but the Wichita State coach probably isn't leaving after signing an extension worth more than $3 million a year and the Auburn coach is only entering his second year with the Tigers and probably isn't ready to leave. The more realistic alternatives to Miller are guys like Xavier's Chris Mack, Minnesota's Richard Pitino, Murray State's Steve Prohm and Louisiana Tech's Michael White.
Of that group, Mack is probably the most accomplished and most attractive candidate. Pitino has coached under Donovan in the past and would certainly receive Donovan's endorsement, but his two years with the Gophers haven't proven he's ready for the Florida job. Prohm and White have enjoyed success in smaller conferences, but it's a huge leap from where they are to one of the SEC's flagship programs.
Should Foley opt to go with an assistant, he could hire Anthony Grant or John Pelphrey from Donovan's staff, though both of their middling track records as head coaches could make that an unpopular decision with the Florida fan base. Foley could also try to lure Jeff Capel from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff if he's undeterred by the former Oklahoma coach's checkered history of NCAA violations.
Whoever the new coach is won't step into an easy situation.
Donovan went an uncharacteristic 16-17 in his final season at Florida and leaves behind a roster riddled with question marks. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith and point guard Kasey Hill are the only two of the Gators' five leading scorers expected back next season, though a recruiting class featuring four Rivals 150 prospects should offer a boost.
Ultimately, this coaching search should offer a litmus test for what caliber of program Florida is and what caliber of program it wants to be.
A few years ago, Arizona appeared to be in jeopardy of slipping from among the nation's elite after Lute Olson's retirement until it hired Sean Miller and quickly reemerged as the West's premier program. Florida needs to find its Miller, a coach who can maintain what Donovan built and show Florida's recent success is sustainable.
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The surest sign that the 2015-16 college basketball season will be wide open arrived this week when the gambling site Bovada released its championship odds.
Not one team has better than 10/1 odds to capture the title.
Below is a look at Bovada's early favorites to win the national championship and some analysis from me on where there could be some value for gamblers:
TIER 1: FAVORITES
Duke (10/1), Kentucky (10/1), Michigan State (10/1), North Carolina (10/1)
Analysis: The four co-favorites are each name-brand programs, which suggests a couple of things. Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina will all be really good next season and more money will be wagered on them than some of the less well-known elite teams. Of this quartet, North Carolina is the safest bet to meet expectations since the Tar Heels return all but one key player from a Sweet 16 team. The others are more boom-or-bust as Duke will rebuild around the nation's most talented freshman class, Kentucky will lean heavily on returners Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress and Michigan State will blend a mix of promising transfers and freshmen with experienced veterans like Denzel Valentine.
TIER 2: CONTENDERS
Maryland (14/1), Kansas (16/1), Iowa State (18/1), Virginia (18/1)
Analysis: If you're seeking value, this is a good spot to find it. All of these teams have rosters comparable or better to the teams above them even if none advanced beyond the NCAA tournament's opening weekend last month. The most appealing bet might be Kansas, which found the missing frontcourt piece it sought by landing elite recruit Cheick Diallo to protect the rim, rebound and run the floor. Maryland is also an intriguing option since the Terps have star power at four of five positions and are on the hunt to add a shooting guard via the transfer market. Rising sophomore Melo Trimble is one of the nation's elite scoring guards and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and coveted freshman Diamond Stone provide an interior presence.
TIER 3: DARK HORSES
Arizona (20/1), Gonzaga (20/1), Villanova (22/1), Indiana (25/1), Oklahoma (28/1), Louisville (33/1), Michigan (33/1), Wichita State 33/1
Analysis: Whereas the top eight teams have fewer questions than this group, there's still some potential title contenders here. Gonzaga will boast maybe the nation's best frontcourt, but the Zags will have to replace their entire starting perimeter corps from last season. Indiana returns each of its top perimeter scorers from last season and adds an interior presence in Thomas Bryant, but will that be enough to fix the Hoosiers' well-chronicled defensive woes? The best bet among this group may be Michigan simply because of the possibility the Wolverines add consensus top-five recruit Jaylen Brown. While Michigan's frontcourt still has question marks, the Wolverines would win a lot of games with a group of wings that would include Brown, Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Aubrey Dawkins.
TIER 4: LONG SHOTS
Notre Dame (40/1), Texas (40/1), Texas A&M (40/1), Utah (40/1), Wisconsin (40/1), California (50/1), Florida (50/1), LSU (50/1), Miami FL (50/1), Ohio State (50/1), SMU (50/1), Syracuse (50/1), UConn (50/1), Baylor (66/1), NC State (66/1), Butler (75/1), Dayton (75/1)
Analysis: I don't see the national champion emerging from this group, but there are some teams that are undervalued. Butler returns maybe its three best players from a team that was a basket away from the Sweet 16 last month. Syracuse is adding a heralded recruiting class to a roster that still includes perimeter standouts Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. LSU boasts an experienced backcourt and elite recruits Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney, though the Tigers' history of underachievement raises question exactly how good they'll be. Cal could also make a big jump after adding Ivan Rabb to a roster that is loaded with perimeter talent.
TIER 5: SHOTS IN THE DARK
Cincinnati (100/1), Florida State (100/1), Georgetown (100/1), Providence (100/1), Purdue (100/1) San Diego State (100/1) UCLA (100/1), Vanderbilt (100/1), West Virginia (100/1), Oregon (150/1), Xavier (200/1)
Analysis: Of the teams with odds 100/1 or worse, I included the ones here that probably are better than their line would indicate. Cincinnati returns its entire rotation from a Round of 32 NCAA tournament team. The return of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and a promising rising sophomore class has Georgetown appearing in most way-too-early top 25s for next season. Providence will have the nation's top point guard in Kris Dunn, San Diego State has Top 25 potential if Malik Pope blossoms as a sophomore and perpetually underrated Oregon is once again flying under the radar. Are any of these teams going to win a title next spring? Probably not. But there are worse ways to spend $10 than plunking it down on one of these long shots and rooting for them for them to pull a stunner.
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Three months after he was dismissed from Duke and three weeks after he watched his former teammates celebrate winning a national championship without him, Rasheed Sulaimon finally broke his public silence.
The ex-Duke guard conducted an interview with ESPN.com on Wednesday in which he denied that he had committed sexual assault and insisted those allegations were not the primary reason coach Mike Krzyzewski booted him off the team in late January.
"I have never sexually assaulted, not only anyone on the Duke campus, but anyone period," Sulaimon told ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman. "It's not in my nature at all. I have great respect for the role of women in society. I would never demean or do anything to a woman in this manner. No, I've never done anything like this in my life."
Sulaimon's denial comes nearly two months after a Duke Chronicle report that the junior guard had been the subject of rape allegations prior to his dismissal. The newspaper reported two female students had accused Sulaimon of sexual assault during the 2013-14 school year, but neither formally reported the incidents to the police or Duke's Office of Student Conduct.
Sulaimon would not specify what specific incident led to his dismissal, but he intimated that most of the problems between he and Krzyzewski stemmed from his poor attitude over diminishing playing time during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Once seemingly headed for stardom after averaging 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman, Sulaimon saw his importance diminish as talented wings like Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook eclipsed him in Duke's rotation. Krzyzewski even left the former McDonald's All-American on the bench for an entire game against Michigan during the 2013-14 season, cryptically telling reporters afterward, "He has to play better than the guys who played tonight."
"I'm a very competitive guy and I believe I should have been starting," Sulaimon told ESPN.com. "Quite simply, I just got frustrated. In retrospect, in looking back on it, I didn't handle it well at all. My immaturity and me being frustrated with hitting adversity, I think it greatly impacted my relationship with Coach K heavily."
Despite his diminishing production each season at Duke and the severity of the sexual assault allegations, Sulaimon will be a coveted player on the transfer market this spring. He remains enrolled in classes at Duke and is working toward graduating this summer, which would make him eligible to play his senior season right away at the school of his choice.
Maryland was the first school to be linked to Sulaimon, a natural fit given the Terps' hole at shooting guard. The ESPN.com story indicated Sulaimon has received interest from more than a dozen other schools including Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, George Washington, Houston, LSU, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, SMU, Texas, Texas Southern and Texas A&M.
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Former Louisville point guard Chris Jones will not have to defend himself in court against rape and sodomy charges.
A grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict Jones and co-defendants Jalen D. Tilford and Tyvon Walker after hearing two days of testimony.
The charges stemmed from an incident that allegedly occurred at an off-campus apartment early on the morning of Feb. 22. Jones plead not guilty to the charges a few days later and his lawyers later predicted the evidence against him would be insufficient for the case to go to trial.
"Police never should have charged Jones." Jones' attorney Scott C. Cox told WDRB in Louisville on Wednesday. "If he had been a regular person, no charges would have been filed."
The grand jury's ruling ends a tumultuous year for Jones in which he went from senior starter on a Final Four contender to basketball exile.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino dismissed Jones the day after the alleged incident when he learned the senior point guard had violated the curfew to which he'd agreed. Pitino had initially suspended Jones indefinitely the previous week when a female student accused the senior of sending her a threatening text message, but the Louisville coach permitted the senior to return to the team after surrendering his cell phone and agreeing to a curfew.
Jones was averaging 13.7 points per game and a team-high 3.6 assists at the time of his dismissal. He dropped out of school and moved off campus after charges were filed so he could focus all his attention on the case.
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On the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, one of the buildings that withstood the attack will host a special commemorative event.
Pearl Harbor's Bloch Arena will host a college basketball doubleheader that will pit likely preseason top 15 teams Oklahoma and Viilanova in the marquee game and Oregon and Navy in the nightcap.
"We are honored to play in this Pearl Harbor event and we will use this occasion to pay our respect to the fallen," Navy coach Ed DeChellis said in a release announcing the event. "It will be very special for Navy to play on the base on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack and we are looking forward to joining Oregon, Villanova and Oklahoma in a great field."
The Oklahoma-Villanova should attract plenty of attention since it figures to be one of next season's most anticipated non-conference games.
The Sooners return four starters from a 24-win Sweet 16 team including reigning Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield and standout forward Ryan Spangler. The Wildcats return five of their top eight players from a 33-win team that won the Big East and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament but was upset in the round of 32.
Anticipation for the Oregon-Navy game won't be the same from a basketball standpoint, but the emotional element of that matchup should be memorable. It will surely be emotional for the Midshipmen to play at the same base at which about 2,400 people were killed, catapulting the United States into World War II.
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The missing element in Kansas' frontcourt this past season was a big man who could alter shots at one end and finish above the rim or in transition at the other.
The Jayhawks may have filled that void Tuesday.
Cheick Diallo, MVP of the McDonald's All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic, committed to Kansas, selecting the Jayhawks over a long list of schools including Kentucky, Iowa State and St. John's. The 6-foot-9 native of Mali is rated Rivals.com's No. 5 recruit in the class of 2015 even though he didn't begin playing basketball until four or five years ago.
Diallo is the perfect complement to rising senior Perry Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt because their strengths are so different.
Ellis atones for modest length and athleticism with a polished repertoire of back-to-the-basket moves and a mid-range jump shot consistent out to nearly the 3-point arc. Diallo isn't going to scare anyone if Kansas feeds him the ball in the high post or on the low block, but he runs the floor exceptionally, finishes at the rim, rebounds at both ends and uses his impressive timing and wingspan to protect the rim on defense.
The presence of Diallo and and Ellis eases the pressure on incoming freshman Carlton Bragg to make an immediate impact and enables Jamari Traylor to remain in a reserve role. Diallo's defensive presence should also give Kansas' guards the security to play the passing lanes and apply increased ball pressure without fear of surrendering an uncontested layup if they get beat.
Pair Kansas' suddenly deep frontcourt with its loaded backcourt, and the Jayhawks have the look of a potential preseason top five team. Frank Mason and Devonte Graham form a capable duo at point guard and Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk provide options for the Jayhawks at wing.
Kansas has made a habit of adding impact freshmen late in the spring the past few seasons, from Graham and Mykhailiuk last season, to Andrew Wiggins the previous year, to Ben McLemore a couple years before that.
Diallo is the latest one. And like his late-signing predecessors, he fills a major void.
Rivals video of Cheick Diallo:
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Another option has emerged for programs in pursuit of an impact transfer guard this spring.
Seton Hall's leading scorer Sterling Gibbs reportedly is leaving the Pirates and should be eligible right away at the school of his choice after his graduation this spring.
The list of marquee suitors should be long for Gibbs, a deadly spot-up shooter with the ability to create for himself off the dribble as well. The 6-foot-2 combo guard averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game as a junior and shot 43.6 percent from behind the arc, briefly leading Seton Hall into contention for an NCAA bid before injuries and chemistry issues sent the Pirates into a February tailspin.
Ohio State and UConn are potential destinations for Gibbs, the Asbury Park Press reported. It's unclear who else will express interest, but Gonzaga, Maryland and Marquette have been among the name-brand programs in the market for a transfer guard this spring.
Gibbs' decision to transfer is only surprising because he told ZagsBlog.com and SNY.TV he was "definitely coming back" after the Pirates' 78-56 loss to Marquette in the first round of the Big East Tournament. The in-fighting in the Seton Hall locker room and the chance to play for a winner right away surely contributed to his change of heart a month later.
There have been several reports of friction between Seton Hall's upperclassmen and its heralded freshman class over playing time and shot selection. Frustration boiled over when senior Brandon Mobley described Seton Hall as 13 individuals rather than a united team and when Gibbs and freshman Isaiah Whitehead had to be separated by an assistant coach during a timeout late in a February loss to Georgetown.
Gibbs’ close friend Jaren Sina announced his intent to transfer the next day. Gibbs chose to endure the rest of the season, but now he too is leaving.
The departure of Gibbs leaves a huge hole in Seton Hall's lineup and diminishes the chances of the Pirates achieving the breakthrough season coach Kevin Willard may need to quiet his critics. Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington are now Seton Hall's best options at point guard and both are certainly more renowned for their scoring than distributing.
Seton Hall's loss will be someone else's gain. Between Gibbs' productivity and the number of programs in the market for immediate help, his options should be limitless.
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Even though Maryland fell short in its pursuit of coveted former Drexel star Damion Lee earlier this month, the Terrapins still haven't given up on landing a transfer guard this spring.
They're reportedly one of 10-15 schools in pursuit of former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
Already lots of love for Maryland in pre-preseason hoops, also hearing College Park could be a possible landing spot for Rasheed Sulaimon— Joe Giglio (@jwgiglio) April 28, 2015
Can confirm earlier reports from a source that Maryland is one of the schools recruiting former Duke player Rasheed Sulaimon.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) April 28, 2015
Maryland's interest in Sulaimon is a risk considering the circumstances preceding his January dismissal at Duke. The Duke Chronicle reported in March that two female students had accused Sulaimon of sexual assault during the 2013-14 school year, but neither formally reported the incidents to the police or Duke's Office of Student Conduct.
It's unclear how big a role those incidents played in Sulaimon's dismissal because Mike Krzyzewski has said only that the junior guard had been "unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program." Sulaimon is the first player coach Krzyzewski has dismissed from the program during his tenure at Duke.
Maryland's potential willingness to gamble on Sulaimon could reflect that the Terps believe they're one piece away from title contention.
They have an elite point guard in rising sophomore Melo Trimble, a skilled combo forward in NBA prospect Jake Layman and a pair of good big men in coveted freshman Diamond Stone and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter. The only potential hole is at shooting guard, where the Terps will count on reserves Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to replace Dez Wells unless they can find help on the transfer market.
Sulaimon is a potential fit for Maryland both because of his talent and his history with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.
When Turgeon coached at Texas A&M, he heavily recruited Sulaimon and was close to landing the Houston native until Duke swooped in. Sulaimon averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman at Duke, but the former McDonald's All-American's playing time and production diminished the following two years as other talented wings eclipsed him in Duke's rotation.
Sulaimon remained enrolled at classes at Duke after his dismissal from the basketball program and would potentially be eligible immediately at his transfer destination if he can graduate this summer. If not, he could either transfer and sit out a year or opt to begin his pro basketball career.
It's unclear who Maryland's competition to land Sulaimon will be, but the prior relationship between him and Turgeon isn't the Terrapins' only advantage. They also can point to the success Wells had at Maryland after leaving Xavier under similar circumstances as Sulaimon left Duke.
In the months following his dismissal at Duke, Sulaimon had to watch his former teammates play better in his absence and ultimately capture the national championship.
He has to be eager to get back on the floor, and Maryland certainly could be a logical landing spot.
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It might be as soon as next season that the Auburn basketball team is as fun to watch as the off-court antics of head coach Bruce Pearl, but right now Pearl still has a comfortable lead in the fun department.
He added to his lengthy list of, um, awkward, but hilarious moments recently by participating in a lip syncing battle with Auburn women's soccer coach Karen Hoppa. Pearl donned a blonde wig and skipped around stage at one point doing his best version of Taylor Swift's hit "We're Never Getting Back Together."
With a guitar dangling from her neck, Hoppa matched Pearl with the Bon Jovi hit "You Give Love A Bad Name" at the annual AUSPY's, the athletic department's awards night.
Pearl returned to coaching last season after serving a three-year show-cause penalty for rules violations that cost him his job at Tennessee. His lip sync battle was not the first time the showman side of his personality has emerged at Auburn. He dressed up as Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn at the school's version of Midnight Madness in October, sank a trick shot in the school's arena and he surprised a marketing class at Auburn last fall, too.
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If a clear-headed look at next season's top teams is difficult the morning after the national title game, now is the time when the 2015-16 landscape gains some clarity.
The NBA's early-entry deadline passed Sunday night, meaning we know which players are entering the draft and which will return to school. Many of the key transfers and class of 2015 recruits have also revealed their destinations by now too.
With that in mind, here's an updated look at next season's top 20 teams. There's a change at No. 1 from the previous version and Cal and Georgetown have both entered the list.
1. North Carolina
Key losses: F J.P. Tokoto
Key returners: G Marcus Paige, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Brice Johnson, G Nate Britt, C Joel James, G Joel Berry II, F Isaiah Hicks, G Theo Pinson, F Desmond Hubert
Notable newcomers: F Luke Maye
Outlook: Despite the surprise departure of ultra-athletic forward J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina has to feel very fortunate about how the draft declaration period turned out. Preseason All-American Marcus Paige, rapidly blossoming forward Justin Jackson and interior standouts Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each never seriously considered turning pro, ensuring the Tar Heels will have enough returning talent to make a championship push for the first time since 2012. North Carolina will miss Tokoto's deft passes, high-flying transition dunks and solid perimeter defense, but the Tar Heels will be fine if one of their young players embraces an increased role. One option is starting either Nate Britt or Joel Berry II and allowing Paige to move off ball. Inserting wing Theo Pinson into the starting lineup is also a possibility. If the departure of Tokoto is one potential pitfall for North Carolina, the NCAA's investigation into their academic scandal is the other. North Carolina can only contend for a national title if they're eligible to play in next year's postseason, something which cannot be considered a certainty just yet.
Key losses: G/F Dez Wells, F Evan Smotrycz, G Richaud Pack
Key returners: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Dion Wliey, G/F Jared Nickens, F Damonte Dodd, F Michal Cekovsky
Notable newcomers: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter, G Jaylen Brantley
Outlook: The two things Maryland needed to make the jump from good to elite happened within days of one another in late March. Elite big man recruit Diamond Stone committed to the Terps and star lead guard Melo Trimble revealed he will return to school for his sophomore year, ensuring Maryland will have one of the nation’s best inside-outside duos. The graduation of Dez Wells is certainly a blow for Maryland, but the Terps have other complementary scorers capable of supporting Trimble and Stone. Power forward Robert Carter is a former top 100 recruit who anchored Georgia Tech’s frontcourt before transferring last spring. The presence of him and Stone would allow Jake Layman to transition back to his more natural wing position. And Nickens and Wiley should help absorb Wells' playing time and production unless Maryland adds a transfer. The Terps had to overachieve a bit and win more than their share of close games to give Mark Turgeon a breakthrough season this past year. If Stone is as good as advertised and Trimble and Layman continue to develop, the Terps could take another step forward next season.
Key losses: F Karl-Anthony Towns, G Aaron Harrison, G Andrew Harrison, F Trey Lyles, G Devin Booker, C Dakari Johnson, C Willie Cauley-Stein
Key returners: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, F Marcus Lee, G Dominique Hawkins, F Derek Willis
Notable newcomers: F Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews
Outlook: Though Kentucky lost seven players to the NBA draft from a team that won its first 38 games this past season, the Wildcats will still reload rather than rebuild. They'll build around three returning standouts and a recruiting class that could swell in size in the coming weeks. Rising sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis and incoming lead guard Isaiah Briscoe will likely share ball handling responsibilities and play alongside one another at times too. Skilled forward Skal Labissiere should be an impact addition, Marcus Lee could finally inherit a greater role in the frontcourt after riding the bench for two years, Alex Poythress will likely be a key frontcourt contributor too if he regains his explosiveness after knee surgery. How high Kentucky rises in the preseason poll could depend on what other prospects John Calipari is able to land this spring to bolster his roster. Elite wing Jaylen Brown, big man Cheick Diallo and forward Thon Maker are each still considering the Wildcats, but none are considered locks for Kentucky. Thus it's very possible Calipari may have to solidify his roster by tapping the transfer market.
4. Iowa State
Key losses: F Dustin Hogue, G Bryce Dejean-Jones
Key returners: G Monte Morris, F Georges Niang, F Jameel McKay, G Abdel Nader, G Matt Thomas, G Naz Long
Notable newcomers: G Deonte Burton, G Hallice Cooke
Outlook: The one silver lining to Iowa State’s stunning opening-round NCAA tournament loss to 14th-seeded UAB is that it will surely drive the Cyclones this offseason. That gives the reigning Big 12 tournament champs a good chance to be even better next season when they return every rotation player besides shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones and forward Dustin Hogue. Offense will undoubtedly be Iowa State’s hallmark again with jet-quick point guard Monte Morris, potential preseason All-American forward Georges Niang and blossoming big man Jameel McKay spearheading a fast-paced, free-flowing attack. Returners Naz Long and Matt Thomas and transfer guards Hallice Cooke (Oregon State) and Deonte Burton (Marquette) will also bolster the perimeter offense. What the Cyclones must improve is their defense, which surrendered the most points per game and the third most points per possession in the Big 12. Scoring in the high 70s and low 80s was typically enough to overcome that this past season, but Iowa State often couldn’t string together enough stops to win games when their transition game got bogged down and their jump shots weren’t falling.
Key losses: F Kelly Oubre, F Cliff Alexander
Key returners: G Frank Mason, G Wayne Selden, F Perry Ellis, G Devonte Graham, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Brannen Greene G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Notable newcomers: F Carlton Bragg
Outlook: Thanks to the presence of point guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham and wings Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas was always going to be pretty loaded on the perimeter next season. The return of Perry Ellis ensures the Jayhawks have a low-post scoring threat to pair with all that backcourt talent. Ellis averaged 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season, shot 45.7 percent from the floor and hit 39.1 percent of his 3-pointers. A sprained right knee suffered in Kansas' regular season finale against West Virginia limited his effectiveness in the postseason, contributing to the Jayhawks' early Big 12 tournament exit and round of 32 NCAA tournament loss to Wichita State. With Ellis back and top frontcourt recruit Carlton Bragg also joining the mix, Kansas should improve upon that NCAA tournament finish and battle with Iowa State and Oklahoma for a 12th straight Big 12 title. The Jayhawks' outlook would improve further if Bill Self is able to land one of the elite recruits he is pursuing this spring, but they're in good shape even if Jaylen Brown, Cheick Diallo and Thon Maker all decide to head elsewhere.
Key losses: F Darion Atkins, G Justin Anderson
Key returners: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes, G Marial Shayok, F Evan Nolte
Notable newcomers: F Jarred Reuter
Outlook: Virginia's hopes of emerging as the consensus preseason No. 1 team likely evaporated when wing Justin Anderson opted to turn pro instead of returning for his senior season. The Cavaliers saw firsthand his importance late this past season when his fractured pinkie derailed a promising season. With Anderson either not on the floor or not at full strength, Virginia's methodical yet highly efficient offense lacked enough outside shooters and became too reliant on Malcolm Brogdon to create off the dribble. They missed more shots and committed more turnovers, creating more transition opportunities for their opponents and reducing the effectiveness of their formidable defense. Virginia returns enough talent to again be an upper echelon ACC team next season, but they need other perimeter scorers to emerge if they're going to win a third straight league title and finally make that elusive deep NCAA tournament run. They'll also need to account for the loss of Darion Atkins, one of the ACC's elite positional defensive players.
Key losses: G Quinn Cook, F Justise Winslow, C Jahlil Okafor, G Tyus Jones
Key returners: G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen, F Amile Jefferson, C Marshall Plumlee
Notable newcomers: G Luke Kennard, F Chase Jeter, G Derryck Thornton, F Brandon Ingram
Outlook: When Tyus Jones announced he will enter the draft earlier this month, it left reigning national champ Duke without a point guard on next season's roster. Six days later, the Blue Devils found a creative solution to that problem. Highly touted point guard Derryck Thornton committed to Duke last week and intends to reclassify from the high school junior class to the senior class. Thornton, who had been a consensus top 15 prospect in the Class of 2016, will join the Blue Devils in the fall and likely will be given every chance to replace Jones as the team's starting point guard. If Thornton can handle the point guard position, it will allow title game hero Grayson Allen to play mostly off ball and focus on scoring instead of distributing. Allen, returning starter Matt Jones and incoming freshman Luke Kennard would share minutes at wing. Elite 6-foot-8 wing Brandon Ingram can play either forward spot and will be joined by returners Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee in the frontcourt along with Rice transfer Sean Obi and highly touted freshman big man Chase Jeter. The Duke team that takes the floor in November will bear little resemblance to the one that cut down the nets in Indianapolis earlier this month, but the Blue Devils won't fall far. Assuming Thornton handles the transition to college, Allen and Jones mature into leaders and the freshmen make an impact, Duke can still contend for an ACC title and make another deep NCAA tournament run.
8. Michigan State
Key losses: G Travis Trice, F Banden Dawson
Key returners: G/F Denzel Valentine, G LouRawls Nairn, G Javon Bess, F Marvin Clark Jr., C Matt Costello, C Gavin Schilling, G Bryn Forbes
Notable newcomers: G Eron Harris, F Caleb Swanigan, F Deyonta Davis, G Matt McQuaid, G Kyle Ahrens
Outlook: Even though Michigan State graduates stars Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, there’s reason to believe the Spartans could enjoy a better regular season next year than this past season’s surprise Final Four team did. The optimism stems from the debut of coveted West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, the return of last year’s top recruit Javon Bess and the arrival of a strong class. Harris, a slashing combo guard who averaged 17.2 points as a sophomore for the Mountaineers, should emerge as a perimeter scoring threat capable of easing the burden on returning standout Denzel Valentine. They’ll likely be joined in the starting lineup by pass-first point guard LouRawls “Tum Tum” Nairns, with Bess attacking the rim off the bench and incoming freshman Matt McQuaid providing outside shooting. Marvin Clark Jr. could be the heir apparent to Branden Dawson at power forward, while Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling both made strides last year at center. The Spartans will also welcome promising 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis and 6-foot-8 five-star recruit Caleb Swanigan.
Key losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Gary Bell, G Byron Wesley, F Angel Nunez
Key returners: F Kyle Wiltjer, F Domantas Sabonis, C Przemek Karnowski, G Silas Melson, G Josh Perkins, G Kyle Dranginis, C Ryan Edwards, G Eric McClellan
Notable newcomers: None
Outlook: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis all flirted with the idea of turning pro before opting to return to school, ensuring that one of this past season's best frontcourts will remain intact. Now the question for Gonzaga is whether last year’s reserve guards will be able to handle increased roles with four-year starters Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell graduating and fellow senior starter Byron Wesley gone too. Josh Perkins showed flashes of ability as a pass-first point guard before suffering a season-ending broken jaw in December. Sophomore Silas Melson, senior Kyle Dranginis and Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan will likely share playing time at wing. The Zags are also in search of a transfer who can bolster their perimeter corps. If the backcourt can simply knock down open shots and play solid defense, Gonzaga's frontcourt is formidable enough that the team will have a chance to approach or even exceed last year's 35-win Elite Eight campaign. Sabonis intrigued NBA scouts with his athleticism, Wiltjer is as skilled as any player his size in the nation and Karnowski is a mammoth center with a strong back-to-the-basket game.
Key losses: F TaShawn Thomas, G Frank Booker
Key returners: F Ryan Spangler, G Isaiah Cousins, G Jordan Woodard, G Buddy Hield, F Khadeem Lattin
Notable newcomers: C Akolda Manyang, G Christian James, G Rashard Odomes
Outlook: The Sooners would have contended for an NCAA tournament bid had Buddy Hield turned pro, but they have a chance to accomplish something far more memorable now that the reigning Big 12 player of the year has announced he'll be back for his senior season. They will conservatively begin next season in the top 15 in the polls thanks to the return of four starters from last season's 24-win Sweet 16 team. They also figure to be squarely in the Big 12 title chase along with perennial favorite Kansas and potential preseason top 5 Iowa State. The catalyst for Oklahoma will be Hield, one of the highest-scoring guards in the Big 12 both of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 native of the Bahamas averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior, impressing NBA scouts enough that he had a chance to be a late first-round pick had he opted to enter the draft. The concern for Oklahoma is its depth and whether a replacement for forward TaShawn Thomas will emerge. Returner Khadeem Lattin and junior college transfer Akolda Manyang will need to step up alongside Ryan Spangler.
Key losses: G Dylan Ennis, G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston
Key returners: G Ryan Arcidiacono, G Phil Booth, C Daniel Ochefu, G Josh Hart, F Kris Jenkins
Notable newcomers: G Jaylen Brunson, G Donte Divincenzo, F Tim Delaney
Outlook: Three starters depart from a 33-win team that crashed out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32, but Villanova could still be the class of the Big East again next season. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and center Daniel Ochefu are both expected back and the Wildcats have some wings and forwards ready to assume greater roles to help replace Darrun Hilliard, Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston. Six-foot-5 rising junior Josh Hart, who averaged an efficient 10.1 points per game off the bench last season, should take over for Hilliard as Villanova’s top scoring threat. Joining him in the starting lineup will likely be forward Kris Jenkins and promising rising sophomore guard Phil Booth. The X factor for Villanova will be how big an impact highly touted freshman point guard Jalen Brunson is ready to make. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench behind Arcidiacono, but his polished offensive game may demand ample playing time if he can pick up Villanova’s defensive concepts quickly enough.
Key losses: G T.J. McConnell, G/F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, G Stanley Johnson, F Brandon Ashley
Key returners: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York, C Dusan Ristic, G Elliott Pitts, G Parker Jackson-Cartwright
Notable newcomers: F Ryan Anderson, G Kadeem Allen, G Allonzo Trier, G Justin Simon, F Ray Smith, F Chance Comanche
Outlook: Arizona won’t duplicate this past season’s 34 wins after losing four starters to graduation or the NBA draft, but the Wildcats can still have a highly successful season if their returners mesh with their talented newcomers. They have four freshmen and three transfers who should each challenge for playing time and keep them in contention for another Pac-12 title and deep NCAA tournament run. Projecting Arizona's frontcourt rotation is easier than the backcourt because lone returning starter Kaleb Tarczewski will anchor the Wildcats in the paint. Rising sophomore Dusan Ristic and incoming freshman Chase Comanche will compete for playing time behind Tarczewski at center and skilled transfers Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Mark Tollefsen (San Francisco) will share time at power forward. It gets more crowded at wing, where highly touted scoring guard Allonzo Trier, rangy forward Ray Smith and high-scoring redshirt Kadeem Allen should immediately push returning sharpshooters Gabe York and Elliott Pitts for playing time. Rising sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright should get the first crack at replacing T.J. McConnell at point guard, but freshman Justin Simon's size and defensive prowess should earn him immediate playing time. How high Arizona ascends will depend mostly on how fast the team can develop good chemistry and how quickly the freshmen acclimate to college basketball. The Wildcats may take some early lumps, but if they figure it out by March, watch out.
13. Wichita State
Key losses: G Tekele Cotton, F Darius Carter
Key returners: G Ron Baker, G Fred VanVleet, F Rashard Kelly, F Shaquille Morris, G/F Evan Wessel
Notable newcomers: G Conner Frankamp, F Markus McDuffie, G Landry Shamet, F Eric Hamilton, G Tyrone Taylor
Outlook: Not long after Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall agreed to lucrative contract extension, the Shockers received more good news. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, stars of Wichita State's 30-win Sweet 16 team, both decided to return for their senior seasons. Retaining one of the nation's premier backcourt duos solidifies the Shockers as a preseason top 15 team with a chance to be even better than they were last year if the supporting cast around VanVleet and Baker proves reliable. The other perimeter players who will be competing for minutes alongside VanVleet and Baker are sweet-shooting Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp, defensive stopper Zach Brown and Rivals top 100 freshman Landry Shamet. None of those guys are as versatile as Tekele Cotton, but all should contribute. Wichita State's backcourt has to be outstanding because the Shockers again have frontcourt questions. Undersized senior Evan Wessel will be pushed by several younger players at power forward. Rising sophomore Shaq Morris is probably the heir apparent to Darius Carter at center after making the Valley’s All-freshman team this past season, but he needs to improve his conditioning and strength to fully tap into his potential.
Key losses: G Stanford Robinson, F Max Hoetzel
Key returners: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon, F Troy Williams, C Hanner Mosquera-Perea, G Nick Zeisloft, F Emmitt Holt
Notable newcomers: C Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan, F Ogugua Anunoby
Outlook: The addition of five-star big man Thomas Bryant could go a long way to shoring up the frontcourt issues that plagued Indiana this past season. The 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American chose the Hoosiers over Syracuse, Kentucky and Missouri, among others, giving Tom Crean the quality interior presence he lacked last season when he had no backup plan after Noah Vonleh turned pro. What Indiana needs most from Bryant is for him to defend opposing big men and contest shots at the rim. The Hoosiers surrendered the most points per possession of any Big Ten team this past season because their perimeter players couldn't stay in front of their men off the dribble and they lacked a true big man to erase mistakes at the rim. The presence of Bryant surely gave perimeter standouts Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon and Troy Williams more reason to return to school. All three looked into their draft stock before ultimately deciding to come back to Bloomington, ensuring Indiana will return its eight leading scorers and giving the Hoosiers hope of making a big jump after barely sneaking into the NCAA tournament this past season. They'll likely be viewed as a preseason top 20 team and a threat to challenge Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race.
Key losses: G Jabril Trawick, C Joshua Smith, F Mikael Hopkins, F Aaron Bowen
Key returners: F Isaac Copeland, F L.J. Peak, G Tre Campbell, F Paul White, G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Notable newcomers: F Marcus Derrickson, C Jessie Govan, G Kaleb Johnson
Key losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods, G Jackson Aldridge
Key returners: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Chrabascz, F Kelan Martin, F Tyler Wideman, F Austin Etherington
Notable newcomers: G Tyler Lewis, C Nate Fowler, G Sean McDermott
Outlook: Few Big East teams return a duo as talented or experienced as rising seniors Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Dunham averaged 16.5 points per game this past season and shot 41 percent from behind the arc as Butler won 23 games and nearly reached the Sweet 16. Jones averaged 12.7 points by aggressively attacking the rim in his return after missing the entire previous season due to injury. By the end of the season, forward Andrew Chrabascz had emerged as a capable third scoring threat, and he too is back. So is rising sophomore Kelan Martin, who flashed the potential to be a big-time scorer down the road. Butler will miss point guard Alex Barlow’s toughness and leadership and forward Kameron Woods’ defense and rebounding, but they’re pretty well-equipped to replace both. N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis figures to inherit Barlow’s starting point guard job, while forward Tyler Wideman or incoming freshman Nate Fowler could take over for Woods. Butler will also benefit from having the same coach for back-to-back seasons for the first time in a while. In short, the Bulldogs have endured a couple years of instability and appear poised to challenge for the Big East title.
Key losses: F Max Bielfeldt
Key returners: G Caris LeVert, G Derrick Walton, G Zak Irvin, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins, F Kameron Chatman, F Mark Donnal, F Ricky Doyle
Notable newcomers: F Moritz Wagner
Outlook: All signs had been pointing toward Caris LeVert forgoing his final year of eligibility and entering the draft until the projected mid-to-late first-round pick suffered a season-ending foot injury in January that complicated his decision. Suddenly, it was no longer such a sure thing LeVert would be selected in the first round even though the 6-foot-7 wing had led Michigan in scoring (14.9), rebounding (4.9) assists (3.7) and steals (1.7) prior to the injury. LeVert announced last week he will return for his senior season, a decision that solidifies the Wolverines as a preseason top 25 team and gives them hope of challenging Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana for next year's Big Ten title. Michigan will be loaded on the perimeter with veterans Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton Jr. splitting time at point guard and LeVert, Zak Irvin and a rapidly blossoming Aubrey Dawkins sharing minutes at wing. There's also still the chance Michigan adds elite wing Jaylen Brown to the mix if he selects the Wolverines later this spring. The frontcourt will be a bigger question, but there’s reason to be optimistic. Forward Kameron Chatman and big men Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle should all be much further along after a year of growing pains this past season. Michigan endured a frustrating, injury-plagued 2014-15 season that didn't seem all that promising even before LeVert's injury. Expect a bounce-back campaign from the Wolverines next season with all but one rotation player back.
Key losses: G Josh Gassser, F Sam Dekker, C Frank Kaminsky, F Duje Dukan, G Traevon Jackson
Key returners: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter, F Ethan Happ, F Vitto Brown, G Jordan Hill
Notable newcomers: G Brevin Pritzl, F Alex Illikainen, F Charlie Thomas, F Khalil Iverson
Outlook: One of the biggest reasons Wisconsin's title game loss has to sting so much is the Badgers aren't likely to get another championship shot anytime soon. They will lose five members of their seven-man rotation either to graduation or the NBA draft including national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, fellow projected first-round pick Sam Dekker and backcourt stalwarts Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson. The two marquee players expected to return are promising point guard Bronson Koenig and versatile forward Nigel Hayes, both of whom have all-Big Ten potential. The key to Wisconsin's season is both those guys making the leap from complementary pieces to stars and a supporting cast emerging around them. Joining Hayes in the frontcourt rotation will probably be returning forward Vitto Brown and 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, who looked like a future standout in practice last season. Who will play alongside Koenig at wing is a bigger question, but athletic guard Zak Showalter had some nice moments off the bench late in the season and redshirt freshman Jordan Hill and true freshmen Brevin Pritzl should also see playing time. Is that nucleus enough for Wisconsin to crack the top 20 nationally and finish in the top four in the Big Ten? Maybe, maybe not, but as long as Bo Ryan is still coaching the Badgers, it's probably not wise to bet against them.
Key losses: F David Kravish, F Christian Behrens, F Dwight Tarwater
Key returners: G Jabari Bird, G Jordan Mathews, G Tyrone Wallace, G Sam Singer, C Kameron Rooks, C Kingsley Okoroh, F Roger Moute a Bidias
Notable newcomers: F Ivan Rabb, F Stephen Domingo, F Davon Dillard
Outlook: Cal's hopes of ascending in the Pac-12 pecking order received a huge boost last week when point guard Tyrone Wallace revealed he will return for his senior season. Wallace had flirted with declaring for the NBA draft for most of the past month after averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his first year playing point guard, but the long, athletic 6-foot-5 rising senior wisely decided to stay in school and work on cutting down his turnovers and improving his outside shot. The return of Wallace should land Cal a spot in the preseason top 25 next fall and give the Bears a chance to challenge Arizona, Utah, Oregon and UCLA for the Pac-12 title. Some of those teams may have more depth than Cal, but the Bears have as talented a nucleus as any of them. Cal's strength should be a backcourt that features Wallace, high-scoring Jordan Mathews and former elite recruit Jabari Bird. While last year's top big man David Kravish is graduating this spring, Cal could be in better shape in the frontcourt than it was last season when it lacked both a rim protector and capable backups. Five-star power forward Ivan Rabb promises to be an immediate starter and impact player and Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks should share time alongside him. Adding to the excitement for Cal is the possibility the Bears could add one more elite prospect. Wing Jaylen Brown, a consensus top-five recruit in next year's class, is considering the Bears and four other elite programs.
Key losses: F Yanick Moreira, F Cannen Cunningham, G Ryan Manuel
Key returners: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore, G Sterling Brown
Notable newcomers: F Semi Ojeleye, G Sedrick Barefield, G Shake Milton
Outlook: Having narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last year and suffered a heartbreaking first-round upset this past March, SMU enters the offseason still hungry for postseason success. Next season could be the year it happens for the Mustangs thanks to an intriguing combination of proven returners and talented newcomers. SMU's best returning player is combo guard Nic Moore, a volume scorer who could move off ball next season to make room for top freshman Sedrick Barefield at point guard. Sterling Brown and Ben Moore are likely to begin the season in the lineup at the forward spots, but look for Moore to give way to Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye once the former top 100 recruit becomes eligible in mid-December. While Ojeleye couldn't crack Duke's rotation behind Justise Winslow and Amile Jefferson, he should be an impact player for SMU. The last remaining starter figures to be Markus Kennedy, assuming he doesn't run into academic issues again. He'll be SMU's top low-post threat. While it could take time for the new and returning talent to mesh, SMU could be at least as good as it was this past season when it won the league and earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. It should be a duel between the Mustangs and Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference crown, with UConn and Memphis also potentially entering the race.
Others worthy of consideration: Cincinnati, Utah, Baylor, Notre Dame, LSU, Louisville, Oregon, San Diego State, Dayton, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, VCU, Xavier, Florida State, NC State
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The Blue Devils have assembled a formidable recruiting class capable of filling many of the holes created by the departures of freshman stars Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.
The latest addition came Monday when 6-foot-8 wing Brandon Ingram chose Duke over in-state rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State and national powers Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA. Ingram, Rivals.com's No. 4 prospect in the class of 2015, is the fourth Top 25 prospect the Blue Devils have landed as part of this year's recruiting haul.
Derryck Thornton solved Duke's point guard issues and became the heir apparent to Jones when he chose the Blue Devils last week and agreed to reclassify from the high school junior class to the senior class. Previously, Duke had signed elite big man Chase Jeter and sweet-shooting wing Luke Kennard.
Whereas the addition of Thornton addressed Duke's greatest weakness, the arrival of Ingram will add to the Blue Devils' greatest strength. Ingram joins a stable of wings that includes returning starter Matt Jones, title game hero Grayson Allen and fellow incoming freshman Kennard.
The solution could be using Ingram at both forward spots the same way Duke used Winslow during the latter half of this past season. Ingram can create mismatches like Winslow even if he's taller and lankier but not as strong and defensive-minded as his predecessor.
If Thornton handles the transition to college basketball, Allen and Jones thrive with increased responsibility and the rest of the freshman class makes an immediate impact, Duke has a real chance to be the sport's first repeat champion since Florida in 2007. The Blue Devils will almost certainly start the new season in the top 10 in the polls and could even begin in the top 5.
When Duke won the national championship earlier this month, the Blue Devils relied most heavily on the nation's premier low-post scorer, a bruising, bullish wing and one of college basketball's steadiest pass-first point guards.
The Duke team that takes the floor next November will bear little resemblance to that one with one key exception: Both will be loaded with talented freshmen.
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The most inspirational player in college basketball will trade his jersey for a suit.
Two-time plane crash survivor Austin Hatch will end his playing career and accept a position as a student assistant, Michigan coach John Beilein announced Monday morning. The school has obtained permission from the NCAA to continue to pay for Hatch's education but not have his scholarship count against its limit.
"This is, and has been, a very difficult decision; one that we have been discussing with Austin over the last few months," Beilein said in a statement released by the school.
"Over the past year, we closely observed Austin's academic and athletic progress. In the end, Austin and our staff agree that the waiver is the proper next step. This change allows Austin to devote the necessary time he needs to be successful in his studies and obtain a Michigan degree. We also wanted to be sure we continued our commitment to Austin keeping his full scholarship in place for the next three years. This waiver allows for both."
That Hatch managed to play basketball at Michigan at all is remarkable considering everything he endured before arriving in Ann Arbor.
In 2003, he and his dad walked away from a 2003 plane crash that killed his mother, 11-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother, In 2011, Hatch experienced a sickening case of déjà vu. His dad was flying the family to its Michigan summer house in June 2011 when the small, single-engine plane plummeted nose-first into a garage along a residential street north of Charlevoix Municipal Airport, killing Hatch's father and stepmother and critically injuring him.
Hatch emerged from a medically induced coma eight weeks after the crash, but the recovery process has been long and arduous.
Physical therapy helped him regain his ability to walk, to catch and shoot a ball and eventually to play the sport he loves again, but the 6-foot-6 wing likely will never regain the athleticism and coordination he had when Michigan initially recruited him. Crossword puzzles and word searches helped Hatch regain the mental acuity needed to return to class, but staying focused in class and completing assignments are a greater challenge for him than they once were.
“As I have progressed through this first season, I know that I am not where I want to be, both academically and athletically," Hatch said in a school-released statement. "My priority is academics and I feel that it is in my best interest to devote more time to my studies. This decision honors my father, and it is something that I know he would agree with and be proud of me for making.”
Hatch's decision could be advantageous for Michigan from a basketball standpoint too because it frees up a second vacant scholarship. One of those is earmarked for German forward Moritz Wagner, who has committed to Michigan but has not formally signed. The other could go to five-star wing Jaylen Brown or fellow Rivals 150 prospect Kenny Williams should either commit to the Wolverines this spring.
Though Hatch won't become the basketball star he once appeared destined to be, he still produced some incredible moments in his lone season as a Michigan player.
He made his Michigan debut during a summer tour of Italy. He scored his first point in a November exhibition game. One month later, he got in the box score again in a game that counted, drawing a foul on a top of the key 3-pointer and draining 1 of 3 free throws, earning pats on the back and high fives from his teammates and a standing ovation from the Crisler Arena crowd.
That will be the only point Hatch scores as a college basketball player, but he's apparently come to terms with that.
“Basketball has always been a huge part of my life, however, it is what I play, not who I am,” Hatch said. “It was a goal of mine to return to the game that I love so much and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for Michigan. After all that I have been through, it was a dream come true for me to put on a Michigan jersey and get into a game at Crisler Center."
Video of Austin Hatch's emotional free throw against Coppin State:
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The landscape for next year's college basketball season became a bit clearer Sunday night when the NBA's early-entry deadline passed.
Forty-five players have announced their intention to forgo their remaining college eligibility and declare for the draft. A handful of other top prospects have opted to delay NBA riches another year and return to school to try to improve their stock.
Here's a look at which programs were hardest hit and which will begin next season in better than expected shape:
FIVE BIGGEST WINNERS:
1. Maryland: Both freshman point guard Melo Trimble and junior forward Jake Layman probably would have been second-round selections had they entered the NBA draft. Their decision to return to school instead cements the Terrapins as a preseason top five team and one of the leading contenders to win the Big Ten next season. Maryland will have perhaps the Big Ten's best frontcourt next season with McDonald's All-American Diamond Stone at center, coveted Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter at power forward and Layman sliding down to his more natural small forward position. The Terps will miss the scoring, distributing and leadership of Dez Wells in the backcourt, but Trimble should be one of the nation's best scoring guards as a sophomore and Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens should absorb much of Wells' playing time.
2. Wichita State: Not long after Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall agreed to lucrative contract extension, the Shockers received more good news. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, stars of Wichita State's 30-win Sweet 16 team, both decided to return for their senior seasons. Retaining one of the nation's premier backcourt duos solidifies the Shockers as a preseason top 15 team with a chance to be even better than they were last year if the supporting cast around VanVleet and Baker proves reliable. The third perimeter player alongside VanVleet and Baker will likely either be defensive stopper Zach Brown or Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp, neither of whom are quite as versatile as graduating senior Tekele Cotton was. Undersized senior Evan Wessell will be pushed by several younger players at power forward and Shaq Morris is probably the heir apparent to Darius Carter at center.
3. Gonzaga: One of this past season's elite frontcourts will return intact next year. Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis all flirted with the idea of turning pro before opting to return to school, a decision that ensures Gonzaga will be in the preseason top 15 and gives the Zags hope of reaching their first Final Four. Even though Sabonis had a chance to be a first-round pick had he left Gonzaga after his freshman season, it was Wiltjer who most strongly considered declaring for the draft. The skilled 6-foot-9 forward already has spent four years in college and was coming off a season in which he averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, shot 46.6 percent from behind the arc and earned All-American consideration. Wiltjer ultimately announced he was returning to school last week because concerns about his poor defense made it possible he would not be drafted.
4. Providence: Had Kris Dunn chosen to declare for the NBA draft, Providence would have entered next season in rebuilding mode after losing its top four scorers from a 22-win NCAA tournament team. The Friars instead will retain their star point guard one more season, giving them a likely preseason All-American to build around and making them a threat to finish in the upper echelon of the Big East. Dunn's decision to return to school was among the most surprising of any player given his draft stock and his injury history (two previous right shoulder surgeries). He might have gone as high as the late lottery in this draft after a season in which he averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Dunn can solidify himself as a lottery pick next season if he cuts down his turnovers and improves his jump shot, but he also could hurt his stock if he plateaus or suffers an injury.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners would have contended for an NCAA tournament bid had Buddy Hield turned pro, but they have a chance to accomplish something far more memorable now that the reigning Big 12 player of the year has announced he'll be back for his senior season. They will likely begin next season in the top 10 in the polls thanks to the return of four starters from last season's 24-win Sweet 16 team. They also figure to be squarely in the Big 12 title chase along with perennial favorite Kansas and potential preseason top 5 Iowa State. The catalyst for Oklahoma will be Hield, one of the highest-scoring guards in the Big 12 both of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 native of the Bahamas averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior, impressing NBA scouts enough that he had a chance to be a late first-round pick had he opted to enter the draft.
Other winners: Utah (retained projected first-round pick Jakob Poeltl), Indiana (retained projected second-round pick Yogi Ferrell and potential early-entry candidates Troy Williams and James Blackmon), Michigan (retained potential late first-round pick Caris LeVert), Cal (retained potential early-entry candidate Tyrone Wallace), Notre Dame (retained potential early-entry candidates Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste), North Carolina (lost forward J.P. Tokoto to the draft but retained Justin Jackson, Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Kennedy Meeks), Georgetown (retained star guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera after he initially declared for the draft).
FIVE BIGGEST LOSERS:
1. UNLV: In Dave Rice's four-year tenure as UNLV coach, constant roster turnover has been a huge impediment. Seven of the Rebels' nine rotation players from their 2012-13 NCAA tournament team did not return the following year. Five of UNLV's top eight players from a disappointing 2013-14 team were not back last year. Now Rice will have to endure more of the same this offseason after leading scorers Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood both entered the NBA draft. Vaughn, a freshman shooting guard, is a projected second-round pick, while Wood, a sophomore forward, has a chance to go late in the latter half of the first round if he impresses during pre-draft workouts. The timing of those departures could be especially damaging for Rice. He needs a bounce-back season after failing to reach the postseason both of the past two years.
2. Virginia: The costliest departure any team endured may have been Virginia losing possible late first-round pick Justin Anderson. The Cavaliers might have been the preseason No. 1 team in the nation next fall had Anderson returned to school, but they'll instead enter the season with some question marks after losing their second-leading scorer. Virginia was a fixture in the top five in the polls for most of this past season until Anderson suffered a fractured pinkie in February. The Cavaliers never really recovered from his absence because their methodical but efficient offense suddenly lacked enough perimeter shooters and became too reliant on Malcolm Brogdon to create off the dribble. Virginia missed more shots and committed more turnovers without Anderson, creating more transition opportunities for their opponents and reducing the effectiveness of their formidable defense. The fate of 2015-16 Virginia now depends on other perimeter scorers emerging in support of Brogdon to avoid a repeat of the final month of this past season.
3. NC State: All the elements were in place for a special 2015-16 campaign for NC State until its leading scorer made an unexpected decision. Trevor Lacey opted to forgo his final season with the Wolfpack and enter the NBA draft even though there is probably a better chance he goes unselected than that he is taken in the second round. The departure of Lacey will force returning starter Cat Barber and West Virginia transfer Terry Henderson to handle most of NC State's perimeter scoring. That duo and a solid frontcourt can take the Wolfpack back to the NCAA tournament, but a preseason top 20 ranking is probably no longer realistic, nor is contending for the ACC title. Lacey has received criticism for his decision, but he'll turn 24 in October, young by real-life standards but not for a basketball prospect. Another year in college would mean forfeiting another year of earning potential, something a lot tougher to do at 24 than at 19 or 20.
4. Florida: How many programs lose two players with eligibility remaining to the NBA draft after a sub-.500 season? How many programs lose two players with eligibility remaining to the NBA draft even though there's a good chance neither will be selected? Florida is the sole answer to both those questions after shooting guard Michael Frazier and forward Chris Walker both declared for the draft. The 6-foot-4 Frazier could get a look in the second round because of his outside shooting prowess. The 6-foot-10 Walker probably will garner a training camp invite on size and athleticism alone, but the former top 10 recruit is unlikely to be selected in the draft after a highly disappointing college career. Walker could not crack the starting lineup on a Florida team that desperately needed him to fulfill his potential this season, averaging only 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds and often looking lost on defense.
5. Kentucky: Unlike last spring when a handful of Kentucky underclassmen unexpectedly returned to school, the Wildcats lost almost every top prospect they could have. Seven standouts from this past season's 38-1 team jointly turned pro: Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson. The reason Kentucky isn't higher on this list is the same reason Duke and Arizona aren't either despite losing a trio of players apiece to the NBA draft. All three of these programs recruit at a level at which they expect to lose players early every offseason and all three of these programs are well-stocked for next season in spite of the departures. Kentucky will build around point guard Tyler Ulis, frontcourt standouts Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress and a recruiting class headlined by Rivals.com No. 1 prospect Skal Labissiere. The Wildcats would still like to add another impact player or two this spring, but they'll crack the preseason top 5 next fall regardless.
Other losers: Arkansas (lost projected first-round pick Bobby Portis and projected second-round pick Michael Qualls), LSU (lost potential first-round pick Jarell Martin and potential second-round pick Jordan Mickey), Murray State (lost potential first-round pick Cameron Payne), Syracuse (lost likely second-round pick Chris McCullough) Eastern Washington (lost likely second-round pick Tyler Harvey), UTEP (lost potential second-round pick Vince Hunter).
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Indiana dropped 10 of its final 15 games last season culminating with an opening-round NCAA tournament loss, but April has treated the Hoosiers far better than February or March did.
Not only did they land a commitment from an elite big man who should help shore up their frontcourt woes, they also had each of their top three scorers decide to return to school instead of entering the NBA draft.
The final player to make his decision was point guard Yogi Ferrell, who postponed a planned announcement Saturday night out of respect for the family of the slain Indiana student whose body was found near campus the previous day. Ferrell will stay at Indiana for his senior season, CBSSports.com and other outlets reported Sunday morning.
Whereas forward Troy Williams and guard James Blackmon announced their intent to return earlier in April, Ferrell's decision dragged out until the deadline for underclassmen to decide whether to enter the draft. The 6-foot point guard averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists this past season and improved his 3-point shooting and assist-to-turnover ratio, but he still was unlikely to be selected any higher than the second round.
Ferrell's return cements Indiana as a preseason top 20 team and a threat to challenge Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race. This past season's eight leading scorers are each expected back, plus the Hoosiers add elite center prospect Thomas Bryant and get back redshirt sophomore forward Devin Davis.
What will ultimately determine how good Indiana can be is if Bryant provides the low-post scoring threat the Hoosiers lacked last season and helps improve a defense that was among the nation's worst.
Indiana surrendered the most points per possession of any Big Ten team this past season because its perimeter players couldn't stay in front of their men off the dribble and it lacked a true big man to erase mistakes at the rim. The 6-foot-10 Bryant is a McDonald's All-American with the skill to be a scoring threat at one end and the size, length and motor to contest shots and hit the glass at the other.
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The steep decline of Chris Walker reached its nadir Friday afternoon.
It was then that the onetime top 10 recruit announced he's leaving Florida and declaring for the NBA draft despite having virtually no chance of being selected.
In two tumultuous seasons at Florida, Walker delivered occasional flashes of athletic potential but never came close to blossoming into an impact player.
The 6-foot-10 forward didn't become eligible until early February as a freshman and played sparingly off the bench for a Final Four-bound Florida team, averaging 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He made little impact in the postseason for the senior-laden Gators, scoring only seven points and logging only 18 total minutes in five NCAA tournament games.
The Gators needed Walker to play a bigger role as a sophomore after losing their entire starting frontcourt, but he wasn't up to the task, He frequently looked lost defensively and was constantly a step slow on rotations, which was a major reason he logged only 14.6 minutes per game and averaged a modest 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Such numbers represented growth for an average raw young big man, but expectations for Walker were far higher than that when he arrived in Gainesville. This was a kid who was a McDonald's All-American; who chose the Gators over national powers Kansas and Louisville; who was a projected lottery pick before he played his first college game.
Why was Walker such a disappointment? Florida coach Billy Donovan has blamed a combination of a suspect work ethic and overblown expectations.
The immensely gifted Walker dominated in high school because of his mix of explosiveness, athleticism and size. He never spent time developing a low-post or mid-range game because he never saw a need. He could block shots, run the floor and dunk with ease and too many people around him were telling him that was good enough.
"My biggest challenge and issue with Chris is his consistent work ethic," Donovan told reporters in Gainesville in January. "That's big for him. When you're in high school like he was, sometimes you can dominate a game, block shots and use your athleticism because he's not going against anyone his size. Now at this level, he's going against more guys his size, a lot of guys who are physically stronger. He's having to figure things out.
"He has been really coachable. He's trying to get better. The only thing that is going to continue to hold him back is his work ethic, a consistent work ethic. He's had some days where he is good in that area, and he has had some days where he's been very poor. That's the thing he has to get better at. His work ethic today is better than when he first got here, but it still needs to get better."
Continuing to develop that work ethic under Donovan's tutelage was a potentially good situation for Walker, but the path he is taking now will be much tougher.
He's not listed among DraftExpress.com's top 100 prospects, which means he almost certainly won't be drafted and would be lucky to have the chance to play his way onto an NBA roster in training camp next fall. Instead he'll probably wind up toiling in anonymity in the D-League or overseas, both environments that require incredible self discipline for prospects to develop.
There are few signs Walker has that level of discipline.
Though he handled his lack of playing time at Florida with more unselfishness and class than many in his shoes would have, it takes more than just a good attitude to make the jump from raw D-League big man to an NBA roster. He'll have to motivate himself to get in the gym and address his shortcomings while playing games in far-away outposts in front of crowds that often number in the hundreds, not the thousands.
If Walker can do that and develop some offensive skill and defensive awareness, perhaps he'll someday tap into the physical tools that once made him a top prospect. Otherwise, the sad tale of a once highly touted player is unlikely to have a happy ending.
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Six months before he coaches his first game at Mississippi State, Ben Howland has already achieved a meaningful victory.
The first-year coach landed a commitment Friday from elite scoring guard Malik Newman, Rivals.com's No. 8 prospect in the class of 2015. The son of former Mississippi State forward Horatio Webster chose the Bulldogs over a long list of more high-profile programs including Kentucky, Kansas, LSU and North Carolina State.
That Howland was able to land Newman is especially impressive considering he took over at Mississippi State less than a month ago. The hire forced Newman to more strongly consider staying home as a result of Howland's history of success at UCLA and Pittsburgh and his track record of producing successful NBA players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo.
The arrival of Newman gives Howland a real chance to contend for a postseason bid in his debut season in Starkville. Mississippi State returns five of its top six scorers from a 13-19 team that lost nine games by six or fewer points under former coach Rick Ray.
Newman and senior Craig Sword will form one of the SEC's better backcourt duos. Newman is renowned for his ability to create space for himself and score in bunches and Sword led the Bulldogs in scoring both of the past two seasons. Veterans Fred Thomas and I.J. Ready and Rivals 150 guard Quinndary Weatherspoon should also contribute on the perimeter.
Gavin Ware, Mississippi State's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder last season, should anchor the frontcourt. The 6-foot-9 rising senior will also be joined by incoming power forward Joe Strugg and rising sophomore Demetrius Houston.
While Newman isn't likely to stay at Mississippi State for more than one season, his presence for even just next year will help the Bulldogs.
It's a credibility boost for the program and an opportunity for the Bulldogs to enjoy success in Howland's first season, which should only help him recruit for the all-important class of 2016.
Rivals.com video of Malik Newman:
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How high expectations will be for Oklahoma next season always largely depended on whether Buddy Hield returned to school.
The Sooners still could have contended for an NCAA tournament bid had Hield turned pro, but they have a chance to accomplish something far more memorable now that the reigning Big 12 player of the year has announced he'll be back for his senior season.
Oklahoma will likely begin next season in the top 10 in the polls thanks to the return of four starters from last season's 24-win Sweet 16 team. The Sooners also figure to be squarely in the Big 12 title chase along with perennial favorite Kansas and potential preseason top 5 Iowa State.
The catalyst for Oklahoma will be Hield, one of the highest-scoring guards in the Big 12 both of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 native of the Bahamas averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior, impressing NBA scouts enough that he had a chance to be a late first-round pick had he opted to enter the draft.
Hield will be the centerpiece of an experienced backcourt that also includes returning starters Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins. The Sooners will have to replace graduating senior Tashawn Thomas in their frontcourt, but double-double threat Ryan Spangler returns and returning forward Khadeem Lattin has a chance to take a bigger role.
Bolstering Oklahoma's depth is a recruiting class that includes Rivals 150 guard Rashard Odomes, fellow guard Christian James and 7-foot junior college transfer Akolda Manyang. The Sooners will also have key reserve Dinjiyl Walker and Dante Buford, a four-star signee from 2013 who redshirted last season.
Last year's Sweet 16 appearance marked Oklahoma's deepest NCAA tournament run since Blake Griffin's final season in 2009. With as much talent as the Sooners return, they have a great chance to get even further next March.
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Cal's hopes of ascending in the Pac-12 pecking order received a huge boost Thursday when its best player announced he's staying in Berkeley.
Point guard Tyrone Wallace revealed he will return for his senior season after flirting with declaring for the NBA draft for most of the past month.
Wallace emerged as a potential second-round pick last season when he averaged 17.1, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his first year playing point guard. Staying in school gives the long, athletic 6-foot-5 guard a chance to cut down his turnovers, improve his 31 percent 3-point shooting and fulfill a promise to his late grandfather to earn his diploma.
The return of Wallace could land Cal a spot in the preseason top 25 next fall and should give the Bears a chance to challenge Arizona, Utah, Oregon and UCLA for the Pac-12 title. Some of those teams may have more depth than Cal, but the Bears have as talented a nucleus as any of them.
Cal's strength should be a backcourt that features Wallace, high-scoring Jordan Mathews and former elite recruit Jabari Bird. Returner Sam Singer and 6-foot-7 Georgetown transfer Stephen Domingo should provide perimeter depth off the bench.
While last year's top big man David Kravish is graduating this spring, Cal could be in better shape in the frontcourt than it was last season when it lacked both a rim protector and capable backups. Five-star power forward Ivan Rabb promises to be an immediate starter and impact player and Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks should share time alongside him.
Adding to the excitement for Cal is the possibility the Bears could add one more elite prospect. Wing Jaylen Brown, a consensus top-five recruit in next year's class, is considering the Bears, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and others.
While the Bears would gladly take a commitment from Brown, the reality is they're already in good shape for next season either way.
It was a mild disappointment when Cal missed the NCAA tournament last season after getting off to a 10-1 start. It would be a monumental disappointment next season if the Bears weren't part of March Madness.
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The most prized graduate transfer on the market will join a program that desperately needs a scorer of his caliber.
Former Drexel wing Damion Lee announced Thursday that he has committed to Louisville, providing a jolt of offense to a Cardinals team trying to overcome the loss of 82 percent of its scoring from this past season's 27-win campaign.
Lee received offers from the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga, Maryland and Marquette because he was one of the few transfers who were both immediately eligible and capable of making a real impact. The 6-foot-6 rising senior averaged 21.4 points per game for the Dragons this past season, fifth most of any Division I player in the nation.
Louisville could promise Lee guaranteed playing time at wing after losing leading scorer Terry Rozier to the NBA draft, fellow starter Wayne Blackshear to graduation and backups Anton Gill and Shaqquan Aaron to transfers. Incoming combo guard Donovan Mitchell and wing Deng Adel will also surely contribute, but Lee's presence decreases the pressure on both of them to make an immediate impact.
Whereas Louisville looked more like a fringe NCAA tournament contender than a potential preseason top 25 team when the season ended, the addition of Lee and Cleveland State graduate transfer Trey Lewis elevates expectations for the Cardinals a bit.
Lewis is a knock-down shooter who can start alongside Quentin Snider or also handle the ball when the starting point guard comes out of the game. Lee, Mitchell and Adel give Louisville a talented group of wings. And while the Cardinals won't have a frontcourt player of Montrezl Harrell's caliber, Chinanu Onuaku and Mangok Mathiang made some strides last season and incoming freshman Ray Spalding should be a factor too.
All in all, it's a Louisville team that will surely take some time to mesh as everyone gets used to their roles, but it's also a roster that has potential too.
Given how bleak things looked for the Cardinals even a few weeks ago, that itself is worthy of celebration.
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On the eve of his announcement whether he'd stay at UNLV or turn pro, forward Christian Wood tweeted a picture of himself and three of next year's Rebels with the caption, "Kinda a cool pic. What do yall think?"
UNLV fans thought it was an omen. Turned out it was Wood giving them false hope.
Wood announced through a video on his Twitter account Wednesday night that he'll skip his final two years of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. The athletic 6-foot-11 sophomore is projected as a late first-round pick and could rise even higher if he impresses in pre-draft workouts.
A role player as a freshman, Wood enjoyed a breakout year this past season during an otherwise forgettable winter for the UNLV basketball program. He was second on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, averaged a team-best 10 rebounds per game and developed into a very capable rim protector on defense.
The departure of Wood dims some of the optimism UNLV generated last week when it landed a commitment from skilled 7-foot incoming freshman Stephen Zimmerman. Wood and Zimmerman could have emerged as one of the nation's elite frontcourt duos, but the Rebels instead will have to settle for pairing their prized freshman with Oregon transfer Ben Carter or returners Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.
UNLV needs its frontcourt to be special because its backcourt lacks elite talent or outside shooting in the wake of leading scorer Rashad Vaughn's decision to enter the draft.
Six-foot-6 combo guard Patrick McKaw will almost certainly be one of the starters after displaying great promise during the second half of his freshman season. Incoming freshmen Jones and Jaylen Poyser, Rutgers transfer Jerome Seagears and returners Jordan Cornish and Daquan Cook all figure to compete for playing time as well.
Coaxing a bounce-back season out of that group will be critical for UNLV coach Dave Rice because his job could very well depend on it.
In Rice's four-year tenure at UNLV, he has stockpiled more talent than any Rebels coach since the program's golden era under Jerry Tarkanian, but all that talent hasn't translated into a return to the glory days just yet. UNLV has yet to finish higher than third in the Mountain West under Rice, nor has it won an NCAA tournament game, falling in the opening round in both 2012 and 2013 before missing the postseason altogether the past two years.
Rice's challenge will be getting the Rebels back to the NCAA tournament next season, a goal Wood's presence would have surely helped him attain.
Instead UNLV will have to overcome the loss of three starters including far and away its two most productive players.
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Hoping to douse the speculation over whether he'll leave for an NBA job this spring, UConn coach Kevin Ollie released a carefully worded statement Wednesday reaffirming his commitment to the Huskies.
Ollie insisted he will not pursue another job this spring but stopped well short of guaranteeing he'd be at UConn next season.
"As I have said many times, I am proud and honored to be the head basketball coach at the University of Connecticut and I have no plans to pursue other opportunities," Ollie said. "We are already excited about next season and I am looking forward to preparing our team to be the best we can be on the court, in the classroom, and in our community."
Ollie's statement came only hours before Oklahoma City formally parted ways with Scott Brooks. My Yahoo Sports colleague Adrian Wojnarowski wrote last week that the Thunder were still evaluating Brooks and that Ollie and Florida coach Billy Donovan were both potential candidates should the job open.
Ollie is potentially a good fit for Oklahoma City because of the respect he earned during his brief stint there as a player at the end of his career. Thunder general manager Sam Presti acquired Ollie in 2009 in hopes that the hard-working 36-year-old journeyman guard would serve as a mentor for young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Presti told Yahoo Sports in 2012 that he was so impressed by Ollie's approach to the game at the end of the 2009-10 season that he took the veteran to lunch to discuss his post-basketball goals. What Presti learned was Ollie had interest in a coaching or front office position with the Thunder but his first choice was to return to his alma mater and coach under Jim Calhoun.
Ollie could have to make a similar decision again this spring if Presti decides to make him an offer — and his statement Wednesday leaves him plenty of wiggle room to go in whichever direction he chooses.
In reality, Wednesday's statement was likely aimed at opposing coaches who will use the interest Ollie has received from NBA teams as a way to negatively recruit against the Huskies. This statement is Ollie's way of speaking directly to recruits and telling them he intends to remain at UConn even if he still leaves himself an out should the job of his dreams come along.
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The last time Maryland and Georgetown scheduled a regular season game against one-another, a handful of current players on both teams weren't even born yet.
The 21-year wait will finally end next season.
CSNWashington.com reported Tuesday that the Terps and Hoyas will finally meet in College Park as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tip-Off Games pitting teams from the Big East against teams from the Big Ten. Maryland and Georgetown will play a return game at the Verizon Center during the 2016-17 season.
While it's ridiculous that the two regional rivals have played so infrequently, the timing of the renewal of the series is at least ideal.
Maryland will likely begin next season in the top five in the polls as a result of the return of standouts Melo Trimble and Jake Layman and the arrival of transfer Robert Carter and top recruit Diamond Stone. It wouldn't be a surprise if Georgetown joins the Terps in the preseason rankings thanks to the return of star D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and the potential development of young standouts L.J. Peak and Isaac Copeland.
Petty differences are the main reason the teams haven't scheduled a regular season game since Maryland's epic 84-83 upset victory in 1993 capped by guard Duane Simpkins' game-winning shot late in overtime. Maryland argued the next game in the series should be in College Park, while Georgetown viewed that 1993 game to be a neutral-court matchup even though it was played at the Verizon Center.
The two schools have only faced each other a couple times in tournament play since that 1993 game. The Terps beat Georgetown in the 2001 Sweet 16 and the Hoyas got some revenge by throttling Maryland in a 2008 game.
Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson raised hopes the series would restart in 2011 when he told the Washington Times he was in "serious conversation" with Georgetown about renewing the series, but the optimism didn't last long.
First Georgetown athletic director Lou Reed warned the Washington Post negotiations were "far too preliminary" for fans to get excited. Then former Hoyas coach John Thompson Jr. lashed out at Anderson for publicizing the negotiations, telling ESPN 980 that "the AD at Maryland is not the person that schedules for Georgetown" and that "you don't negotiate through the damn newspaper."
Perhaps that's the reason Tuesday's news broke via sourced reports rather than via an announcement. Both sides are keeping things hush-hush until all the details have been agreed upon.
A poll on the Georgetown-themed Casual Hoya site asked readers how they felt about Georgetown and Maryland meeting next season. The results perfectly summed up how cool it is for both fan bases and how ridiculous it is that it took this long to make something so obvious happen.
As of Tuesday evening, 318 readers answered, "Exciting!" Only 18 said, "Meh."
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