UCF’s B.J. Taylor Playing with Sense of Urgency

bj taylor

UCF (14-3, 4-1) fifth-year senior guard B.J. Taylor is a hometown kid in his last year and that finality is not lost on him.

“This is me, Tacko (Fall), Chad’s (Brown) last season as we always say,” Taylor said. “So we’ve got to make the most of it because this is our last shot to make a deep run in conference and into post-season tournaments.”

This is UCF’s best chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in program history. Much of that depends on Taylor, who is averaging 17.1 points per game. He was named the preseason player of the year in the American Athletic Conference and was a dark horse all-American candidate.

So it was no surprise that down the stretch in Saturday’s 64-62 win over Tulsa , the ball found its way into Taylor’s hands.

“We put B.J. on the ball. He’s played on the ball his entire career,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought putting him back on it in this game and have him kind of get us organized – use that experience as a fifth-year senior and he delivered.”

Taylor finished the game with 15 points, including the last five.

Now Taylor’s leadership will be put to the test as he has to make sure his team is prepared to go on the road and not have a let-down performance against Tulane, one of the worse teams in the American, on Tuesday. He said that the team needs to be focused and not take the Green Wave lightly.

“We know we control our own destiny and we know it’s on us to make happen what we want to happen,” said Taylor.

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2018-2019 Preseason All-Americans

National Player of the Year:

R.J. Barrett, Duke

First-Team All-American:

R.J. Barret, Duke

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

Caleb Martin, Nevada

Tremont Waters, LSU

Second-Team All-American:

Mike Daum, South Dakota St

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Kellan Grady, Davidson

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Shamorie Ponds, St. Johns

Third-Team All American:

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Markus Howard, Marquette

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

Eric Paschall, Villanova

Dean Wade, Kansas St

2018-2019 Big East Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Kamar Baldwin, Butler

Jessie Govan, Georgetown

Markus Howard, Marquette

Eric Paschall, Villanova

Shamorie Ponds, St John’s

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Mustapha Heron, St. John’s

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Villanova

The defending national champs lost quite a bit from the championship team, but it appears that head coach Jay Wright has reloaded. Senior forward Eric Paschall is an all-American candidate and he’ll be the leader of the squad along with senior guard Phil Booth. To bolster the two seniors is a top-15 recruiting class featuring Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider, Brandon Slater and Saddiq Bey as well as Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo. There is plenty here to continue the Wildcats’ dominance of the Big East.

2. Marquette

This will be one of the highest-scoring teams in America. Led by juniors Markus Howard, Sam Hauser and Sacar Anim, the Golden Eagles should make their return to the NCAA tournament this season. They do have to repair their issues on the defensive end, but if they’re at least competent there I don’t see many teams that’ll be able to keep up with them.

3. St. John’s

This has to be the year for the Red Storm. This is by far the most talented team head coach Chris Mullin has had at St. John’s and its quite possibly the best roster in the league. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds is the favorite for Big East Player of the Year, but there will be plenty of talent around him in senior forward Marvin Clark II and junior guards Justin Simon and Mustapha Heron. Chemistry could derail this train, but St. John’s has too much talent to miss the tournament.

4. Providence

Head coach Ed Cooley continues to recruit at a high level and is doing more reloading than rebuilding these days. The Friars will have quality experience in their backcourt with junior Alpha Diallo and senior Isaiah Jackson. Senior forward Emmitt Holt appears to be healthy after missing last season. Freshmen A.J. Reeves, David Duke and Jimmy Nichols along with sophomores Nate Watson and Makai Ashton-Langford will be key piece of Providence’s future.

5. Butler

When speaking about the Bulldogs the “Butler Way” is the phrase that is often used, but it’s a real thing. LaVall Jordan stepped right in and got Butler back to the tournament last season and it would be foolish to think they won’t do it again. Sophomore Big East Player of the Year candidate Kamar Baldwin leads a team that’ll expect Duke transfer Jordan Tucker to be an instant contributor. Senior guard Paul Jorgensen returns as well, but sophomore guard Aaron Thompson’s jumper will be important to how far Butler goes this season.

6. Xavier

The Musketeers lost quite a bit last season from Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Karem Kanter as players to Chris Mack as head coach. Travis Steele takes over for Mack and has junior guard Quentin Goodin and sophomore forward Naji Marshall to move the program forward. Transfers Ryan Welage, Kyle Castlin and Zach Hankins will have to contribute as well.

7. Georgetown

Patrick Ewing appears to have the program headed in the right direction in his second year, but that progress was slowed a little bit when Marcus Derrickson decided to leave school early. The Hoyas still have senior all-conference candidate Jessie Govan along with sophomores Jamorko Pickett and Jahvon Blair. The backcourt was upgraded with freshmen James Akinjo and Mac McClung. The future is bright, but not enough to compete for the tournament this season.

8. Seton Hall

Seton Hall’s famed class featuring Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo have all graduated and now junior guard Myles Powell is left to lead the program. Transfers Quincy McKnight and Taurean Thompson will have to be ready help Powell for the Pirates to see if they can continue this run.

9. Creighton

Injuries have dealt the Blue Jays a tough blow the past few seasons, but this year the struggles will be because they’ve lost talents like Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas and Toby Hegner. Junior forward Martin Krampelj’s health is also a concern. There just isn’t the caliber of players here that coach Greg McDermott has been accustomed to since Creighton moved to the Big East.

10.DePaul

The Blue Demons still are just trying to find their footing in the Big East. This year they’ll have a senior backcourt of Eli Cain and Max Strus to help try to usher them out of the cellar of the Big East. Transfers Jalen Coleman-Lands and Femi Olujobi enter the program to assist with that process. They’re playing in a new arena and have a promising recruiting class coming next season and it appears it’ll be then when we can expect a jump from this program.

2018-2019 Big Ten Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

James Palmer, Nebraska

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Michigan

The national runners-up lost Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahman, but this blog believes head coach John Beilein knows what to do with what returns. Those returnees are the trio of guards senior Charles Matthews, junior Zavier Simpson and sophomore Jordan Poole. The Wolverines also brings in a top-20 recruiting class featuring Ignas Brazdeikis. Plenty for Michigan to, at least, be one of the top teams in the league.

2. Nebraska

A better non-conference strength of schedule and this team probably would’ve been in the Big Dance last season. They weren’t, but the Cornhuskers have a lot returning from a team that won 13 conference games last season. They’ll be led by seniors James Palmer, a player of the year candidate, and Isaac Copeland as well as junior forward Isaiah Roby. Those three will lead the best Cornhusker team since the 1990’s – a team that will be a threat to win the program’s first ever NCAA tournament game.

3. Michigan St

Last season was one of the strangest in Tom Izzo’s tenure as head coach at Michigan St. From the team being overshadowed by the school’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal to the team’s early exit from the tournament. Two first-round draft picks in Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are gone so it will be up to juniors Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford to step up. This probably won’t be the best team Izzo has coach, but he’ll probably enjoy not having to answer questions that needed to be asked.

4. Wisconsin

Wisconsin fans are used to winning so last season was such a departure for them. This season should see a return to the tournament because so much of the roster returns including senior forward Ethan Happ, who will be an all-American candidate. Happ is the leader of a lineup that sees its top eight scorers from last season returning. The Badgers look to be back.

5. Indiana

Speaking of teams that could be back, Indiana had an up-and-down season last season, but look to be headed for greener pastures. Coach Archie Miller brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the country led by Indiana high school legend, guard Romeo Langford. He’ll be asked to be a key member of the supporting cast around senior forward Juwan Morgan, who will be one of the best players in America. This program is certainly on an upward trajectory.

6. Purdue

The Boilermakers are at the tail end of the second great run under Matt Painter. They have to find replacements for Isaac Haas, Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias in a hurry. Fortunately, national player of the year candidate, junior guard Carsen Edwards doesn’t leave the cupboard completely bare. He’ll be plenty good enough to carry the load for Purdue this season.

7. Maryland

With everything going on at Maryland, the start of basketball season has to be a welcome respite. That being said, it better be a good season for head coach Mark Turgeon. He enters this season needing to usher his team to the tournament and the talent is there to do it. Junior guard Anthony Cowan has to be the leader of a team that returns sophomores Darryl Morsell and Bruno Fernando. Five-star freshman Jalen Smith leads an incoming class that also features Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala. There will be nowhere to hide if this doesn’t work.

8. Iowa

Head coach Fran McCaffery is going to have to get a better defensive performance out of this team to prevent a repeat of last season’s disappointment. I think he can and with the firepower returning in juniors Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook and sophomore Luka Garza. Those three in addition to freshman Joe Wieskamp should have the Hawkeyes in the mix for a NCAA tournament berth.

9. Minnesota

Injuries and other types of roster attrition plagued the Gophers last season. They’re healthy now and there is enough talent here to get back to the NCAA tournament. The story is whether there will be another scandal to derail, not only the season, but also coach Richard Pitino’s tenure at the school. Senior Jordan Murphy will be an awesome weapon for a Minnesota team that could finish much higher than this prediction if everything goes right.

10. Penn St

Tony Carr declaring for the draft is keeping the Nittany Lions from being a top-5 team in this league. He and Shep Garner are huge losses. The cupboard isn’t bare as juniors Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins and sophomore Josh Reaves return. Freshmen Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton will provide depth and will be great pieces for the future.

11.Northwestern

Two years ago the Wildcats made the program’s first ever NCAA tournament and had people thinking the team would be even better last season. Then the season started and it was clear that people overrated their talent. This season Northwestern will be aided by returning to Welsh-Ryan Arena for home games after playing in Rosemont last season. Seniors Vic Law and Dererk Pardon should be steady hands for head coach Chris Collins.

12. Ohio St

Head coach Chris Holtman put together one of the more surprising seasons in all of college basketball last season. The Buckeyes had no expectations, but led by Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate they earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. They’re both gone and leave a sizable hole to fill. Sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson and senior guard C.J. Jackson will attempt to fill that hole along with freshmen Luther Muhammad and Jaedon LeDee.

13. Illinois

Coach Brad Underwood’s first season was not a good one, but there’s reason to be optimistic here. Sophomore guard Trent Frazier and junior forward Kipper Nichols return to a team that’ll also feature one of the best freshmen in the country in Ayo Dosunmu. It’s a little too soon to expect a tournament run this year for the Illini, but it’s coming.

14. Rutgers

Rutgers gave its fans a glimmer of hope during its run in the Big Ten tournament last season, but the fact of the matter is this team still won’t be competitive in the league this year. Sophomore Geo Baker and Freshman Montez Mathis could be a solid backcourt in the future.

2018-2019 Atlantic-10 Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Kellan Grady, Davidson

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Josh Cunningham, Dayton

Grant Golden, Richmond

Kellan Grady, Davidson

Mike Lewis, Duquesne

Otis Livingston II, George Mason

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Carte’Are Gordon, Saint Louis

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Davidson

Led by the best player in the league, sophomore guard Kellan Grady, Davidson will remain one of the toughest teams to prepare for in the league. The Wildcats certainly have a big hole to fill with Peyton Aldridge. However, Grady, junior guard Jon Axel Gudmunsson and coach Bob McKillop’s offense will be enough to win the regular season title.

2. George Mason

Led by senior guard Otis Livingston II, not many teams in the A-10 will have the returning talent that coach Dave Paulsen has at his disposal. The Patriots return four players that averaged double figures last season. That kind of experience, depth and talent in this league separates teams. Given that this is a bit of a transitional year for the league, George Mason can do some major damage.

3. Saint Louis

Travis Ford is doing what most other programs in this league can’t do and that’s recruit with the big boys. Freshman forward Carte’Are Gordon is an absolute steal and leads a recruiting class that’s better than many power conference teams. He’ll be balanced by a backcourt of sophomore Jordan Goodwin and senior Javon Bess. Expect Maryland grad transfer Dion Wiley to provide depth in the backcourt as well. The Billikens have NCAA potential.

4. Saint Josephs

Coach Phil Martelli is the dean of this league and he has another team that’ll be able to challenge for a NCAA berth. The return of sophomore forward Charlie Brown Jr. from a broken wrist gives hope to a squad that is one of the elite programs in this league. Throw in senior guard Chris Clover as well as fellow sophomore forwards Anthony Longpre and Taylor Funk and the Hawks will be a threat all year.

5. Dayton

Head coach Anthony Grant has had success at every stop and you can see it coming at Dayton. The Flyers return senior forward Josh Cunningham, who is a all-conference candidate. He’ll lead a team that also features junior guard Trey Landers, sophomore guard Jalen Crutcher, and sophomore guard Jordan Davis. The latter three will be dynamite next season, but it’s probably one year too early for NCAA tournament glory.

6. Rhode Island

The Rams lost head coach Danny Hurley to UConn and Jared Terrell, E.C. Mathews, Stanford Robinson to graduation. They have some stability as new coach David Cox was an assistant under Hurley. He was able to lock down the best recruiting class in Rhode Island history, which will be led by forwards Jermaine Harris and Dana Tate. Sophomore Fatts Russell and junior Jeff Dowtin are expected to do an adequate job in the backcourt in this transitional season.

7. Duquesne

What Keith Dambrot has cooking at Duquesne is special. The talent on the floor is improving while the cosmetic things around the program are as well. The Dukes home court is getting a major renovation that will allow them to compete with the rest of the league. While that’s great for the future, this team will, at the very least, be competitive in the present. The backcourt of junior Mike Lewis II and sophomore Eric Williams Jr. will tough to deal with.

8. UMass

UMass struggled a great deal last season, but has one of the best scorers in the conference in junior guard Luwane Pipkins returning. He will be surrounded by transfers Jonathan Laurent and Curtis Cobb – both of whom are expected to contribute immediately. Sophomore guard Carl Pierre and senior center Rashaan Holloway should also provide a lift.

9. La Salle

New La Salle head coach Ashley Howard comes over from Villanova where he’ll have some talent at his disposal. A deep backcourt of senior Pookie Powell, junior Isiah Deas as well as sophomores Jamir Moultie and David Beatty gives him something to work with. Moving forward, assistant coach Kenny Johnson’s involvement with the FBI probe could become a distraction for this team.

10. Richmond

The Spiders had a catastrophic start to last season, but were able to rebound to be respectable in league play. Then Khwan Fore and De’Monte Buckingham transferred. Head coach Chris Mooney was believed to be on the hot seat last season and if that was the case it’s engulfed in flames right now. Sophomores Grant Golden and Jacob Gilyard while junior Nick Sherod gives him something to work with.

11. St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies are coming off a great season that saw them upset UCLA in the First Four. It’s a good thing that they made the most of that season because it’s going to be tough sledding without Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee. Senior forward Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin are expected to provide a big lift while freshman Osun Osunniyi, a coup for the program, while be asked to produce right away.

12. VCU

Mike Rhoades rebuild at VCU is still ongoing as the Rams should struggle once again this season. Returning for the Rams will be juniors De’Riante Jenkins and Isaac Vann. Rice transfer Marcus Evans’ health is the x-factor for the Rams though. If he can return to his old form, it could propel them up the standings. If not, it’ll be another long winter in Richmond.

13. Fordham

Without question the toughest job in the league and it won’t be pretty this season. The difficulty in recruiting has coach Jeff Neubauer leaning on Europe to find players, which is why sophomore Ivan Raut from Montenegro and senior Prokop Slanina from the Czech Republic are the top returning players. Will be another season at the bottom of the standings for the Rams.

14. George Washington

Head coach Maurice Joseph is going to need some time to get this turned around. Four of the top five leading scorers in conference play are gone from this team while Chris Sodom, a player that was expected to add depth in the post, left before ever playing a game. Sophomore Terry Nolan is going to have a lot of responsibility and he may not be ready for it yet. Going to be a long year in Foggy Bottom.

2018-2019 Mountain West Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Caleb Martin, Nevada

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Jordan Caroline, Nevada

Justin James, Wyoming

Caleb Martin, Nevada

Sam Merrill, Utah St

Deshon Taylor, Fresno St

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Jordan Brown, Nevada

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Nevada

The Wolfpack will have no peers in this conference as it doesn’t have many peers nationally. Nevada will be one of the best teams in the country and the Mountain West, generally, isn’t a league that’ll have multiple teams that can compete with a team like that. Seniors Caleb and Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline and Lindsey Drew all return to help create one of the more talented and experienced starting fives in America.

2. New Mexico

The Lobos were poised to become a serious NCAA tournament contender, but transfer guard Jaquan Lyle tore his Achilles – dealing a blow to New Mexico’s chances and the possibility for more than one at-large bid from this league. Senior guard Anthony Mathis and sophomore Makuach Maluach return and there are enough quality transfers to keep them in the top half of the league.

3. San Diego St

The Aztecs finished the year on a high note by winning the Mountain West tournament and playing a great first-round game against Houston in the NCAA tournament. They will have to replace Tre Kell, Malik Pope and Max Montana so this season will be a bit of a challenge. Senior guard Devin Watson will have to lead this team while sophomore forwards Jalen McDaniels and Matt Mitchell will be part of bright future for the program.

4. Utah St

Junior guard Sam Merrill and senior Dwayne Brown Jr. return for a Utah St team that’ll be one of the better teams in the Mountain West this season. Merrill will be an all-conference performer, but he’ll need to Brown to step up production to offset the loss of Koby McEwen. Junior guard Diogo Brito will have to produce as well and the Aggies will need their juco transfers to contribute immediately.

5. Fresno St

The Bulldogs lost Bryson Williams, Jaron Hopkins, Ray Bowles and Jahmel Taylor, but there’s enough to keep Fresno competitive in the Mountain West. Senior guard Deshon Taylor will be one of the best players in the conference while transfers Braxton Huggins and Noah Blackwell are well-equipped to make sure Taylor isn’t a one-man show. This team will be just fine in the Mountain West.

6. UNLV

The Rebels aren’t ready to challenge the top of the conference this season, but under coach Marvin Menzies, it’s only a matter of time before they’re at the top of this league and in the national conversation again. Senior Shakur Juiston will lead the team. Freshmen Bryce Hamilton and Trey Woodbury will compete for minutes. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is an intriguing prospect.

7. Wyoming

The Cowboys are going to be a tough out this year with senior guard Justin James at the helm. He’ll be great, but without Hayden Dalton, Alan Herndon and Louis Adams he’ll have to be. Sophomore guard Hunter Maldanado is the top candidate to help James shoulder the load.

8. Boise St

Head coach Leon Rice has done a remarkable job building this program up, but he’ll be without his top three scorers this year in Chandler Hutchison, Christian Sengfelder and Lexus Williams. Senior center Zach Haney and junior forward Justinian Jessup will have to step up while juco transfer Roderick Williams will need to provide an additional boost.

9. Colorado St

This program was in disarray as former coach Larry Eustachy  had to resign in the middle of last season. Despite that, new coach Niko Medved comes with promise and hope for a program that has proven it can be good. Juniors Anthony Bonner and Nico Carvacho and seniors J.D. Paige and Deion James return to give Medved a nice group to work with for this season.

10. Air Force

The military academies are the toughest jobs in Division I basketball. While Army and Navy are better equipped in the Patriot League, it’s a whole other ball game in the Mountain West. The Falcons struggled last season and will most like do so again. Junior forwards Lavelle Scottie and Ryan Swan will be the top players this season.

11. San Jose St

This was one of the very worst teams in the country last season and it may not get much better this season. Head coach Jean Prioleau is in his second season and this rebuild is massive. His top three scorers are all gone. Freshman guard Seneca Knight will be asked to be the savior of this program.

2018-2019 American Athletic Conference Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

B.J. Taylor, UCF

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Jalen Adams, UConn

Corey Davis Jr., Houston

Tacko Fall, UCF

Jeremiah Martin, Memphis

B.J. Taylor, UCF

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

DeJon Jarreau, Houston

Projected Order of Finish:

1. UCF

The Knights thought they had a chance at an at-large bid last season, but injuries ravaged them all season. UCF’s two all-conference level players, seniors B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall, only played in one game together last season while Aubrey Dawkins missed the entire season altogether. All three are healthy and along with sophomore guard Ceasar Dejesus, senior Dayon Griffin and junior Terrell Allen, they appear to be the best team in the American. Time to see how they play with expectations.

2. Cincinnati

The Bearcats enter the season with quite a bit to replace. Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans and Gary Clark are gone as headcoach Mick Cronin looks to new guys to replace their production. With Cronin’s defensive system it won’t be as hard as it would be at other places. Expect Cronin to turn to juniors Jarron Cumberland and senior Cane Broome to fill in the blanks.

3. Houston

The Cougars are coming off of their best season since the early 90’s. However they have to replace one of the best guards in the country in Rob Gray Jr. The nation was introduced to Gray during the postseason, but everyone in Houston is preparing for life without him. Senior guard Corey Davis Jr returns as one of the best shooters in the country while his backcourt mate Galen Robinson will steady the ship. UMass transfer DeJon Jarreau and freshman Nate Hinton will also add a punch. The Cougars should be in the bubble conversation.

4. UConn

It ended poorly in Storrs for Kevin Ollie, but new head coach Dan Hurley has UConn fans excited for the future. With senior all-conference candidate Jalen Adams returning with junior Chirstian Vital the Huskies will have one of the best starting backcourts in the American. Just how good the depth of their backcourt depends on the health of sophomore Alterique Gilbert. If he’s healthy, Husky fans dreams of the returning to the tournament are not far-fetched.

5. Memphis

Like UConn, the Memphis fanbase has been energized by a new coach. However, it’s ramped up by 1,000 in Memphis as Penny Hardaway has returned to lead his alma mater. Hardaway inherits a team that played good basketball at the end of the season. Seniors Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Kareem Brewton and Mike Parks will lead a team that expects to challenge the top of this league. With freshmen Alex Lomax, Antwann Jones, and Tyler Harris, the future is bright for Penny.

6. SMU

SMU is a team that started the season hot before being ravaged by injury. The team managed to remain competitive and never gave up on coach Tim Jankovich. Returning for the Mustangs will be senior guard Jahmal McMurray while the health of senior guard Jarrey Foster will be a concern. Transfer Isiaha Mike and sophomore forward Ethan Chargois will need to provide additional scoring.

7. Temple

Head coach Fran Dunphy is a Philly legend, but he’s entering his last season before handing the reigns over to Aaron McKie. This transitional year will be interesting as the Owls will have plenty talent in the backcourt with junior Quinton Rose and senior Shizz Alston. Those two will give opposing coaches headaches all season as they attempt to give Dunphy the proper sendoff.

8. Tulsa

Frank Haith continues to do an unremarkable job at Tulsa. It’s not one of the better jobs in the league, but the program is as lukewarm as lukewarm can get right now. For that to change, Haith’s trio of upperclassmen, seniors Sterling Taplin and Daquan Jeffries and junior Martins Igbunu, will have to step up to replace Junior Etou and Corey Henderson.

9. Wichita St

Not since Gregg Marshall took over Wichita St has he had a rebuild like the one he has now. The Shockers have to replace Shaq Morris, Landry Shamet, Austin Reaves and Connor Frankamp. Senior forward Markis McDuffie is the key returner and Shocker fans are still waiting for him to reach his potential. Expect freshmen Morris Udeze and Jamarius Burton to earn minutes right away.

10. Tulane

Mike Dunleavy got his Green Wave off to a surprising start last season, but by the time league play started they had already come down to Earth. Melvin Frazier and Cameron Reynolds are gone off of a team that already struggled. So it will be up to juniors Ray Ono Embo, Samir Sehic and senior Jordan Cornish to try to dig the Green Wave out of the depths of the American.

11. East Carolina

Head coach Joe Dooley returns to ECU to try to do something no other coach in ECU history has done and that’s make the Pirates relevant. That won’t be easy, but at least he’ll have junior forward Seth LeDay at his disposal. The backcourt of sophomore Shawn Williams and senior Isaac Fleming will also help.

12. USF

The Bulls probably won’t be that great, but that’s not indicative of the long-term prospects here. There’s a renovated on-campus arena and a second-year head coach in Brian Gregory with plenty to sell. Not much returns from last season, but there is a young nucleus featuring sophomore guard Davids Collins, freshman guard Xavier Castaneda and freshman center Michael Durr that could be the foundation of something big.

2018-2019 Pac-12 Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Bennie Boatwright, USC

Noah Dickerson, Washington

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Tres Tinkle, Oregon St

Kris Wilkes, UCLA

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Kevin Porter Jr., USC

Projected Order of Finish:

1. UCLA

Head coach Steve Alford has the unenviable task of trying to navigate the harsh and unrealistic UCLA fan base. His seat is as hot as it gets and he’ll probably need to make it to the second weekend to save his job. The backcourt trio of sophomores Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and junior Prince Ali will be one of the best in the country. Freshman center Moses Brown will be tasked with being the defensive anchor. There’s plenty of talent here, but the Bruins will have to keep the noise away.

2. Washington

No one expected the Huskies to be as good as they were last season, but they managed to find themselves to the bubble. This season should see the Huskies become one of the best teams in the Pac-12. Senior forward Noah Dickerson is a true low-post scorer that will be tough for anyone to guard. Throw in the 2-3 zone and the combination of a true star plus style of play can lead Washington to a Pac-12 title.

3. Oregon

The Ducks missed the tournament last season after making a Final Four run the year before. The talent here this season is impressive. Junior guard Payton Pritchard and senior forward Paul White return along with a top 5 recruiting class featuring Bol Bol and Louis King. Texas A&M-CC Ehab Amin will also be able to produce right away as well for this Pac-12 title contender.

4. USC

Injuries never allowed the Trojans to meet their full potential last season, but there is enough talent here to get back to the tournament. The frontcourt is set with senior Bennie Boatwright and junior Nick Rakocevic. Junior guard Jonah Matthews will also be a key contributor. However, the Kevin Porter Jr. is the wild card here. The possible one-and-done prospect could be enough to make USC a truly dangerous team.

5. Arizona St

The Sun Devils started out the season as hot as any team in the country as they climbed all the way to a top-5 ranking. People will remember them for faltering down the stretch just as much. Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice are gone from that team. Sun Devil fans should not fret though as sophomores Romello White and Remy Martin return along with newcomers, transfer Rob Edwards and freshmen Lugentz Dort and Taeshon Cherry.

6. Oregon St

Head coach Wayne Tinkle did the impossible by getting this program to the NCAA tournament in 2016. The past two years have been less than stellar. There is talent with The Thompson brothers in the backcourt and the coaches son, Tres Tinkle, in the frontcourt. The Beavers will be a middle of the pack Pac-12 team and, with the right victories, can get into the bubble conversation.

7. Colorado

Head coach Tad Boyle is one of the most underrated coaches in the country so there is no concern whether this team will be competitive. The backcourt of sophomore McKinley Wright IV and senior Namon Wright will be among the best in the Pac-12. Sophomore Tyler Bey and junior Lucas Siewart will be important to just how good this team can be.

8. Arizona

Outside of Louisville, no team was tied up in the middle of the FBI investigation as much as Arizona. That cloud will remain over the program for the foreseeable future. That plus having to replace DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic will prove to be tough for head coach Sean Miller. Transfers Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther will have to hit the ground running as will freshmen Brandon Williams and Devonaire Doutrive.

9. Utah

The Utes are in a transitional period as a program as head coach Larry Krystkowiak attempts to get his team back to the tournament. Senior guard Sedrick Barefield returns to try to help move the program forward. Freshmen Both Gak and Timmy Allen are the future of the program, but they’ll have to be prepared right away.

10. Stanford

Injuries took a huge toll on the Cardinal last season and then Reid Travis transferred to Kentucky. Now head coach Jerod Haase is back to square one. Sophomores K.Z. Okpala and Daejon Davis return with other young pieces like sophomores Kodye Pugh, Oscar da Silva and freshman Jaiden Delaire. Stanford is at least a year away.

11. Washington St

This is the single toughest job in a power 5 conference. Head coach Ernie Kent knows this now as his time is running out in Pullman. Making matters worse is Malachi Flynn’s transfer to San Diego St. If Kent is to get out of this hole, he’ll need his numerous about of juco transfers to mesh and be productive.

12. California

Head coach Wyking Jones is having difficulty keeping his best players from transferring. The roster this year is young and needs a few years for seasoning. It’s going to be tough this season for Jones as his team struggles with an improving Pac-12.

2018-2019 ACC Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

R.J. Barrett, Duke

Preseason All-Conference Team:

R.J. Barrett, Duke

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Marcquise Reed, Clemson

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

R.J. Barrett

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Duke

Coach K has another stacked squad featuring the top recruiting class in the county. R.J. Barrett leads that class along with internet sensation Zion Williamson. There is so much talent here, but not much depth or experience. There is also a question mark at the center position. I’d feel a lot better about putting Duke in the Kansas/Kentucky class if there were upperclassmen who could be trusted. However there is still plenty here to win Coach K his sixth national title.

2. Virginia

On a Friday night last March, Virginia let every other team that had ever been upset in the NCAA tournament off the hook by becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. That embarrassment has been a cloud hanging over the program all offseason. However, sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter missed that game and it would, at the very least, been a lot more competitive if he played. Tony Bennett remains one of the best coaches in college basketball and has Hunter along with juniors Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy returning with Alabama transfer Braxton Key immediately eligible. This is still a dangerous squad.

3. North Carolina

Ever since senior forward Luke Maye hit the game winning shot against Kentucky in the 2017 South Region Final, he’s become a household name nationally. The all-American candidate leads a Tarheel team that expects freshmen Nassir Little and Leaky Black to make instant impacts. Coach Roy Williams is going to have to learn to live life without Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, but with those three along with seniors Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson, he has plenty to work with this season.

4. Syracuse

Remember when Syracuse was in trouble with the NCAA and they had a plan for head coach Jim Boeheim to transition from coaching? Me neither. Boeheim has a really good team on his hands led by junior guard Tyus Battle. The all-league candidate leads a team that also returns sophomore forward Oshae Brissett and senior guard Frank Howard. The Orange has been living life on the bubble recently, but that shouldn’t be an issue this season.

5. Clemson

No one thought head coach Brad Brownell would even make it to coach last season’s team let alone make the sweet 16. However, that’s exactly what happened and the Tigers are primed to make a return trip to the Big Dance this season. Senior all-conference candidate Marcquise Reed leeds an experienced team that also features fellow seniors Sheldon Mitchell and Elijah Thomas. Freshman John Newman III is expected to help offset the losses of Gabe Devoe and Donte Grantham.

6. Virginia Tech

Buzz Williams really talented core returns lead by senior guard Justin Robinson and junior forward Kerry Blackshear, Jr. Senior Ahmed Hill and sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walk are also expected to be key components. The biggest question is when senior forward Chris Clarke will return from suspension. Whenever, it will be, there should still be enough to get the Hokies back to the Big Dance.

7. Miami

With Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker in the NBA, coach Jim Larranaga is going to have to find pieces to replace their production. The pieces he’s most likely to turn to are in his backcourt with sophomore Chris Lykes, junior Dejan Vasiljevic, senior Anthony Lawrence II and grad transfer Zach Johnson. Expect the Hurricanes to continue to be one of the toughest outs in the league.

8. Florida St

Another NCAA tournament season turned into a surprising tournament run for the Seminoles as they came withing a game of the Final Four. C.J. Walker transferring leaves a question mark at the lead guard, but head coach Leonard Hamilton will use a lot of people anyway. Seniors Phil Cofer and Terance Mann will lead this Seminole club with junior Trent Forrest also being key cog in the backcourt. Freshman Anthony Polite’s health will be a key concern for the Seminoles. Expect senior David Nichols to contribute as well.

9. NC State

No one expected NC State to make the NCAA tournament in head coach Kevin Keatts’ first season at the helm. This season may be a little tougher with Al Freeman, Leonard Freeman and Omer Yurtseven all out of the program and freshman Manny Bates injured to start the year. Sophomore Braxton Beverly and senior Torin Dorn will have to step up. Transfers Blake Harris and C.J. Bryce will be important as well.

10. Boston College

The Eagles are a Jerome Robinson return from being a sure-fire tournament team. That’s still not out of the realm of possibility though. Juniors Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic return along with senior Jordan Chatman to try to replace Robinson’s production. Freshmen Jairus Hamilton and Wynston Tabbs could become key contributors as well.

11. Louisville

Not many programs dealt with more upheaval than this one last season as the Cardinals played with an interim coach. They’re now led by Chris Mack, a coach many say is one of the best in the country. He’ll have plenty to repace as Quentin Snider, Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding are all gone. Akoy Agau transfers back into the program with Khwon Fore, Steven Enoch and Christen Cunningham to provide instant relief. However the success of the season most likely rests squarely on the junior forward V.J. King’s development.

12. Notre Dame

Bonzi Colson’s early season injury put a damper on the Irish’s entire season, and it still almost made the tournament. He along with Martinas Geben and Matt Farrell will be difficult to replace. Complicating things is sophomore forward D.J. Harvey’s health. He’ll need to be ready to help junior guard Temple Gibbs. Freshman Prentiss Hubb has a bright future for Notre Dame, but will be thrown to the fire early. Could be a rebuilding year in South Bend.

13. Georgia Tech

Josh Pastner’s first year almost saw the Yellow Jackets sneak their way into the NCAA tournament. Last year was a totally different story. NCAA violations, false claims against Pastner, and an embarrassing home loss to Grambling and he is squarely on the hot seat. With Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson have moved on so Pastner will lean on his guards, junior Shembari Phillips, junior Jose Alvarado and freshman Michael Devoe. Shaping up to be a long year.

14. Wake Forest

Speaking of hot seats, Danny Manning’s is warm in Winston-Salem. Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore did him no favors by leaving school early. His team lacks the talent right now to compete in the ACC. If it weren’t for Pitt having to replace just about its entire roster this would be the worst team in the league. It could get ugly in the Triad.

15. Pittsburgh

Not many coaches had a more disastrous run than Kevin Stallings at Pitt. That’s why Jeff Capel is now the coach. The Panthers are going to rely on transfers and freshmen entirely in a situation that is going to take some time to turn around. Freshman Xavier Johnson will be a good player down the road. Capel has his work cut out for him.

2018-2019 SEC Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Tremont Waters, LSU

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Reid Travis, Kentucky

Tremont Waters, LSU

Quindary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St

Austin Wiley, Auburn

Grant Williams, Tennessee

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Emmitt Williams, LSU

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Kentucky

The Wildcats, per usual, bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. This year, however, there is quality experience mixed with that. P.J. Washington and Quade Green return to a team that adds freshmen Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley and E.J. Montgomery. To top it off, grad transfer Reid Travis brings his rugged game from Stanford. This team has the perfect mix to be a dominant force all season.

2. Tennessee

The Volunteers caught everyone off guard last season as it won a share of the SEC title with a team of unknown guys. That’s not the case anymore. Reigning SEC Player of the Year, junior forward Grant Williams, returns along fellow juniors Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden as well as senior Admiral Schofield. They will have to play with expectations this season, but with so much returning, it’ll be difficult to see them not competing with Kentucky.

3. Auburn

Like Tennessee, Auburn shocked everyone by winning a share of the conference title. Unlike Tennessee, you could see there was talent on this roster. This season we will get to see most of it. The backcourt of senior Bryce Brown and junior Jared Harper are back and they’ll once again get to play with juniors Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley, both of whom missed last season due to NCAA suspension. Mustapha Heron and Desean Murray are gone, but there is enough here to keep Auburn near the top of the SEC.

4. LSU

Head coach Will Wade enters the season with a lot on his plate. The program is dealing with the death of Wayde Sims. He’s also allegedly been caught on wiretap discussing possible payments to a recruit. Despite that, he has loads of talent on this team. Five-star freshmen Emmitt Williams and Naz Reid join all-America candidate, sophomore guard Tremont Waters, to give the Tigers one of their most talented teams since Shaq was roaming the campus.

5. Mississippi St

This has to be the year for head coach Ben Howland. We’ve been patiently waiting for the full turnaround in Starkville and this appears to be it. The top 5 leading scorers, led by Nick and Quindary Weatherspoon are back for a team that held it’s own in the SEC last season. Expect the Bulldogs to do more than that this season and get back to the NCAA tournament.

6. Florida

The Gators were up-and-down last season, but still managed to garner a No. 6 seed in the tournament with 12 losses. That was due to talent and while Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov are gone, there still plenty of weapons left. Senior guards Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen as well as junior forward Keith Stone will be joined by a great recruiting class featuring Andrew Nembhard. Point guard may be an issue, but the Gators will be fine.

7. Vanderbilt

The collective scratching of heads came when head coach Bryce Drew was able to secure the commitments of ballyhooed freshmen Darius Garland, Simi Shittu and Aaron Nesmith. Those three and Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan are expected to expedite the rebuild in Nashville. The Commodores struggled last season, but there is Big Dance talent on the roster now.

8. Alabama

Head coach Avery Johnson proved he could come into college and get the job done from a recruiting standpoint. While lottery pick, Collin Sexton, is with the Cleveland Cavaliers now; Johnson was able to secure another top class. The leader of that class will be Kira Lewis, who’ll be able to follow the lead of senior Donta Hall, junior Dazon Ingram and sophomore John Petty. It’s not a slam dunk that the Crimson Tide will make the tournament, but they will be in the conversation.

9. South Carolina

Head coach Frank Martin has a solid team, but the program hasn’t capitalized on its Final Four run from two seasons ago. There is experience here with senior forward Chris Silva, junior forward Malik Kotsar and Georgetown transfer guard Tre Campbell, but the talent isn’t there to keep up with the top of the league.

10. Missouri

Losing Jontay Porter for the season is crushing to the Tigers hopes for a return trip to the Big Dance. Coach Cuonzo Martin will turn to transfers K.J. Santos and Mark Smith as well as freshman Xavier Pinson to help keep the program afloat this season. Seniors Kevin Puryear and Jordan Geist leadership skills will be put to the test in what will be a challenging season in Columbia.

11. Ole Miss

New head coach Kermit Davis turned Middle Tennessee into the premier program in Conference USA before coming to Ole Miss and he’s already off to a good start. Getting freshman Blake Hinson on campus was a coup and there is enough returning in seniors Terence Davis, Bruce Stevens and junior Breein Tyree to keep the Rebels will out of the cellar of the SEC.

12. Texas A&M

Not many teams rode the roller coaster the way Texas A&M did last season. The Aggies started the season with a big win over West Virginia, but struggled mightily in the first half of SEC play. They were able to sneak into the tournament where they blew out North Carolina to reach the Sweet 16. Much of that team is gone so this will be a trying season for head coach Billy Kennedy.

13. Arkansas

The Razorbacks picked a bad year to rebuild. Arkansas lost almost everyone from a NCAA tournament team a year ago. Now, who does return is future first-round draft pick Daniel Gafford. He’ll be putting his talent on display all season, but with a 7-person recruiting class, it’s going to take a little time to get it going again.

14. Georgia

New head coach Tom Crean is in a full rebuild at Georgia. It won’t be easy. This team will need sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton to take a sizable leap forward to compete with the rest of this league. Seniors William Jackson II and Derek Ogbeide will have to be the leaders Crean leans on. The Bulldogs will struggle.