Category: News

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.

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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.

2018-2019 Big XII Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Barry Brown, Kansas St

Jaylen Fisher, TCU

Sagaba Konate, West Virginia

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

Dean Wade, Kansas St

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Dedric Lawson

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Kansas

Memphis transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson are eligible just in time for Bill Self. That’s because the Jayhawks have to replace Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailluk, and Malik Newman. The Lawson twins will be joined by newcomers Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack. Junior Udoka Azubuike and senior Lagerald Vick will provide stability and extra production for what I believe to be the best team in the country.

2. Kansas St

A direct beneficiary of UMBC upsetting Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Kansas St was able to use that fortune to make a run to the elite 8. That run was made, for the most part, without senior forward Dean Wade. He’s back and will be joined by other key returners in fellow senior Barry Brown, junior Xavier Sneed and sophomore Cartier Diarra. This is clearly Bruce Weber’s best team since being in charge in Manhattan.

3. West Virginia

“Press Virginia” is now a system that people believe in, but that belief will be put to the test now that Jevon Carter is in the NBA. There is still plenty here including one of the best rim protectors in the country in junior forward Sagaba Konate. Returning with him in the frontcourt will be senior Esa Ahmad and junior Lamont West while junior James Bolden will attempt to replace Carter in the backcourt.

4. TCU

Head coach Jamie Dixon is showing why he was so successful at Pitt. He’s turned this program around in short order with the help junior guard Jaylen Fisher. Fisher’s health is the key to season as he’s already had two knee surgeries this calendar year. Sophomore forward Kouat Noi, senior guard Alex Robinson and freshmen R.J. Nembhard, Kaden Archie and Kendric Davis will need to pick up the slack if Fisher isn’t at full strength early.

5. Iowa St

The Cyclones return much of what was a very competitive, albeit last place team in the Big XII last season. One the best scorers in the conference senior guard Lindell Wigginton is back with his backcourt mate senior Nick Weiler-Babb. Sophomore Cameron Lard returns in the frontcourt and he’ll be joined by Virginia transfer Marial Shayok and freshman Talen Horton-Tucker. There’s is plenty here to get the Cyclones back to the tournament.

6. Texas

Head coach Shaka Smart isn’t on the hot seat, but he might be if he doesn’t get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament this season. The problem is he may not have the roster for that kind of a run. Sophomore Matt Coleman III and senior Kerwin Roach II return in the backcourt for the Longhorns. A top-10 recruiting class should be able to provide plenty depth for Texas. Watch out to see if Texas can replace Mo Bamba’s rim protection.

7. Texas Tech

Chris Beard is making a name as one of the best X and O’s coaches in the country and he’ll have to use all of that to get his Red Raiders back to the tournament. Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith are gone leaving sophomore guard Jarrett Culver to carry the torch from last year’s outstanding team. Transfers Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney will be looked to for help as well. Freshmen Khavon Moore and Kyler Edwards are solid pieces for the future.

8. Baylor

This is one of the most intriguing teams in the league because there are so many unknowns. Transfers Mario Kegler and Makai Mason will be big pieces to their success while freshmen Matthew Mayer and Flo Thamba will have to be ready to hit the ground running. The league is probably just a little too difficult for the roster head coach Scott Drew has this season.

9. Oklahoma

The Sooners are going to have a helluva Trae Young hangover. Young dominated the ball last season and didn’t have much to work with. That is a significant reason why Oklahoma faltered down the stretch. Senior guard Christian James and sophomore forward Brady Manek do return though. Grad transfer Aaron Calixte will be tasked with replacing Young.

10. Oklahoma St

The Cowboys almost made the tournament last season, but head coach Mike Boynton lost quite a bit from that team. He’s going to need transfers Mike Cunningham and Curtis Jones as well as freshman Isaac Likekele to make an instant impact. The Cowboys are in a rebuilding year, but Boynton has the program in good shape.

A Parent’s Fear

WaydeSims

20-year-old Wayde Sims was killed early Friday morning in a shooting near the Southern University campus. The junior LSU forward was expected to have an increased role for the Tigers this season.

“We want to remember Wayde, what a great person he was,” LSU head coach Will Wade told the media. “Besides the fact he had the best impression of me on the team, he was just an unbelievable person and was continuing to grow and had just done a great job building a bridge with our team.”

He is the son of Wayne Sims, who played in what many consider to be the golden era in LSU basketball from 1987-91. After Wayne Sims finished his playing career, he decided to stay in Baton Rouge and raise his family.

That fact must be doubly tough right now. As Wayne Sims has most likely watched the video of the fight that preceded his son’s murder, he must be sick that his son was killed in the place he knew  – playing for the school, which he probably believed was his birthright.

He was the 2015 Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year after he led Baton Rouge’s University Lab High to its third consecutive state championship.

So Sims wasn’t some stranger in a strange land. He was at home and knew the layout. So did his parents. The Sims family was famous in Baton Rouge so there was no pause about sending Wayde to LSU.

It’s the fear that every parent has when they drop their kids off at college. They raise their kids to the best way possible. They give their kids every advantage they can. Wayne Sims gave his son his alma mater.

None of that kept his son safe and that’s terrifying. I have a 7-year-old daughter. She speaks about college ofteand my wife and I are doing everything we can to help get her there. There is no goal more important to me in life than making sure my daughter gets to be whatever she wants.

The fact that I can do everything correctly, drop her off at college and have no control over what happens next keeps me up at night. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

LSU will hold a candlelight vigil for Wayde Sims on Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

 

 

How Good Was Villanova?

 

Nova Champions
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

 

After championships are decided in major sports, the first response is to compare the champion with the previous champions in that sport. That is often foolhearty because things change over the years.

However, you can compare teams against their era and this Villanova team not only stacks up well, but is probably one of the top two or three championship teams over the past 10 years.

How do we know that? Just look at the domination. The Wildcats average margin of victory in its nine postseason games was 17.7. The only team in that run that was ranked outside of the RPI top-60 was first-round opponent, Radford. Their record against the other No. 1 seeds in throughout the season was 3-0 with an 18.7 margin of victory.

Villanova was No. 1 and No. 11 in adjusted offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency respectively for an overall KenPom rank of No. 1.

In two of the Wildcats four losses, junior guard Phil Booth didn’t play and in their first loss, it took Butler shooting 60 percent from three just to beat them.

Villanova had pros in juniors Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Erick Paschall along with freshman Omari Spellman and sophomore Donte DiVencenzo, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

It is foolish to think that just because Brunson was the only five-star recruit that this team is somehow less than. Speaking of which, he played maybe his worst game of the season in the national championship game and the Wildcats still won by 17.

The way they run offense and the way they all can shoot as well as being more than capable on defense leads me to believe this is one of the best teams of this era and is certainly the best since Kentucky won the title in 2012.

 

Cincinnati 70 Memphis 60 AAC Semi-Finals

The No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) raced out of halftime to defeat the No. 5 Memphis Tigers (21-13) 70-60 in the first semi-final of the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Cincinnati started the second half on a 21-2 run and out-scored the Tigers 41-18 overall in the half. Senior forward Kyle Washington said it was a position the Bearcats had been in before, but not one he’d like to be in again.

“We’ve been in that situation before, to tell you the truth,” Washington said. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation. We have to come out from the gate with a sense of urgency.”

Memphis went into the half with a 42-29 lead in large part because freshman guard Jamal Johnson went 4-4 from behind the arc. Cincinnati senior forward Gary Clark said his team didn’t follow the scouting report and let Johnson get comfortable.

“When you let a guy like that get comfortable then the rim gets bigger,” Clark said. “In the second half we just tried to adjust and not let him get comfortable looks.”

Sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland led the Bearcats with 18 points while Clark added 17 and 12 rebounds. The Tigers were led by Johnson’s 17 points with an additional 12 by junior forward Kyvon Davenport.

The Bearcats move on to face the winner of the game between No. 3 Houston vs. No. 2 Wichita St. There is speculation surrounding the future of Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith so the postseason may be in the cards for them.

Houston 84 UCF 56 AAC Quarterfinals

The No. 3 Houston Cougars (25-6) overwhelmed the No. 6 UCF Knights (19-13) 84-56 in the last game of the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals on Friday night.

UCF had been a great defensive team all year, but allowed Houston to shoot 58 percent while forcing only eight turnovers. Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said it was because his team’s familiarity with UCF.

“Because we played, we’re familiar with the teams, there’s certain matchups that we like and we try to go at certain matchups,” he said. “We talked about getting certain players in foul trouble before the game.”

The Cougars were led by junior guard Galen Robinson, Jr.’s 18 points and senior guard Rob Gray’s 17. Junior guard B.J. Taylor scored 20 for the Knights while freshman guard Ceasar Dejesus added 10.

Houston moves on to play No. 2 Wichita St on Saturday. UCF awaits word on a possible NIT bid.