Preseason Questions: When Will Wichita State’s Regular Season Streak End?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 14th, 2014

On March 2, 2013, Wichita State and Creighton played a game initially notable for the fact that it would be the Jays’ final regular season game in the Missouri Valley Conference. Somewhere in the midst of Creighton rolling to a 12-point victory in Omaha, the contest became less about the Valley swan song and more about Doug McDermott, who poured in 41 points on 15-of-18 field goal shooting. At the time, it appeared to be a day to quickly forget for Gregg Marshall’s Shockers, and forget they did: Wichita State was playing in the Final Four just five weeks later. Fast-forward from that point more than 20 months, though, and that regular season finale has developed a new reason for recall – it’s the last regular season game Wichita State has lost. The Shockers will be sporting a 31-game regular season winning streak when they take to the Roundhouse floor tonight, where New Mexico State will be the latest opponent to have a crack at snapping the streak. Gregg Marshall’s team will face challenges this season that never afflicted last year’s team, but it returns a nucleus capable of maintaining an established lofty standard. So we ask: How good can these Shockers be, and exactly when will the regular season streak end?

How Long Can Ron Baker And Company Keep Winning?

How Long Can Ron Baker And The Shockers Keep Winning?

Wichita State will miss Cleanthony Early. List as many reasons as you want for the magical run of a season ago – Gregg Marshall’s coaching; utterly committed team defense; grinding offensive execution – but the Shockers also had the luxury of Early, a player with the athletic tools to dominate any game if needed. In 2013, Early’s 39-point explosion against Southern Illinois saved the Shockers from a near-upset at home. Last year at Indiana State, he scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to stave off the Shockers’ primary Valley challenger. And in that lone, season-ending loss of 2014, it was Early who matched Kentucky’s NBA talent shot-for-shot down the stretch, keeping the Shockers afloat. The current New York Knicks forward may not have been the most consistent Shocker during his two years in Wichita, but his athleticism and scoring ability made him a dynamic dimension that few college basketball teams – power conference or not – could lay claim to. Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton will deservedly reel in plenty of acclaim this season, but for the myriad talents of that trio, none possess the game-breaking abilities of Early. This team will need to find its way without a take-over scorer.

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Welcome Back, College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 14th, 2014

At 8:00 AM local time today in Cheney, Washington, it will happen. A man will throw a basketball into the air, two other men will jump for it, and a new college basketball season will commence. Texas Southern and Eastern Washington will play a college basketball game that will almost definitely mean nothing, but they will be playing a college basketball game. Midnight Madness was fun and exhibition games offered a pleasant tease, but they’ll never leave you fully satisfied. It’s possible that a SWAC/Big Sky battle might also leave you wanting more, but that’s the beauty of today and beyond — more is on the way.

For The First Time Since This Moment On April 7, College Basketball Will Be In-Season

For The First Time Since This Moment On April 7, College Basketball Will Be In-Season (AP)

Shortly after things kick off in the Evergreen State, familiar faces – and familiar fun — will begin popping up all over the country. Shaka Smart and the gang will resume their HAVOC-wreaking ways in Annapolis against Tennessee. Duke can be found on an ESPN network (versus Presbyterian), while ACC rival Virginia will look to suffocate an intrastate foe (James Madison). National Player of the Year candidates will begin their campaigns: Marcus Paige in Chapel Hill (against North Carolina Central), Frank Kaminsky in Madison (versus Northern Kentucky), Jahlil Okafor in Durham. The game of the day features as many likely NCAA Tournament teams (2) as it does coaches with the last name Pitino, which I’ve heard is a fairly familiar surname in college basketball circles. It’s a beautifully inverted hibernation that begins anew today, as dozens more teams, coaches and players reappear for their winter stay in the collective eye of the nation.

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Preseason Questions: Does Louisville’s Departure Cripple the AAC?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 11th, 2014

By nearly any measure, the American Athletic Conference’s maiden voyage was a successful one. The odd new assemblage of schools that was the 2013-14 AAC sent four of its 10 members to the NCAA Tournament, and then UConn went out and won the whole damn thing. As a result, the one-year old AAC is currently the proud owner of more post-2000 national titles than the Big Ten and Pac-12 combined — who says a new conference can’t possess a little slice of history? The brilliant opening act was fun, but present and future prospects for the AAC have quickly turned murky. Much has changed in the six months since the Huskies cut down the nets in Arlington. Three new programs have joined the league — East Carolina, Tulsa, and Tulane – while two former league members – Rutgers and Louisville – have departed. The balance sheet of coming and going league members is laced with irrelevant basketball programs, with one massive exception – Louisville. Can a nascent and unsettled league survive the departure of one of college basketball’s premier programs?

Louisville's Move To The ACC? Should Be Fun For Pitino & Co., Less So For The American Athletic Conference. (Getty)

Louisville’s Move To The ACC? Should Be Fun For Pitino & Co., Less So For The American. (Getty)

If you’re wondering how Louisville is liking its new ACC digs, the answer – at least during this preseason – is very well, thank you. Six ACC squads populate KenPom’s preseason Top 25 (compared to just one from the AAC), including the Cardinals at a healthy No. 3. Identifying the ACC as tradition-laden is about as obvious as naming Michael Jordan an all-time great, but seeing conference-mates Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Syracuse in the top 20 sends a message loud and clear: Welcome to the big time, Cards. Read the rest of this entry »

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Preseason Questions: Is Utah’s Delon Wright Ready For Stardom?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 7th, 2014

Many college basketball fans still may not know who Delon Wright is – he remains a trendy selection for the “criminally underrated” superlative – but 12 months ago, no college basketball fan knew who Delon Wright was. The younger brother of NBA veteran Dorell Wright was a late bloomer who garnered little recruiting attention out of high school. He was a more coveted quantity by the time his two years at the City College of San Francisco had expired, but even then, Wright arrived on Utah’s campus with little fanfare.

Delon Wright Was A Pleasant Surprise Last Year; Are Bigger Things In Store For The Utah Senior This Season?

Delon Wright Was A Pleasant Surprise Last Year; Are Bigger Things In Store For The Utah Senior This Season?

What a difference a year can make. The efficiency tour de force that was Wright’s first D-I season has turned him into a preseason contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year and made his team a good bet to crash its first NCAA Tournament in a half-decade. Utah was picked second in the Pac-12 preseason poll, and for the first time in a long time, there are real expectations in Salt Lake City. Whether those hopes are fulfilled will partially be decided by how stirring an encore (and finale) Wright can deliver. The now-senior was brilliant last season, but also disappeared for critical stretches of a Utah season that ended in the NIT. Fans crave a different sort of postseason this year, but a critical question has yet to be answered: Is Delon Wright ready for stardom?

Statistically speaking, Wright kept everyone happy last year. Old school per-game enthusiasts were satiated by a nightly average of 15.5 PPG/6.8 RPG/5.8 APG across the board, while efficiency hounds marveled at Wright’s disruptive defensive habits (4.0% steal percentage, 3.5% block percentage) and a squeaky clean 119.2 offensive rating. His efficient offense was propelled by an eye-popping 62 percent two-point field goal percentage, an outrageous rate of conversion for a guard from inside the arc. By contrast, Louisville’s preseason All-America big man Montrezl Harrell had 97 dunks a season ago and still failed to match Wright’s gaudy two-point range percentage.

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Win And They Will Come: ESPN’s College GameDay Finally Shifts to Flex Scheduling

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on October 8th, 2014

While it’s doubtful we will bear witness to Katy Perry flinging corn dogs around Cameron Indoor Stadium this winter, the basketball spin-off of college football’s wildly popular College GameDay might finally gain a foothold of its own. The series is, at LONG last, moving to a flexible schedule that will allow the network to select the game and venue capable of supplying college basketball fans maximum intrigue. What’s more, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will join Rece Davis and Jay Bilas in a reconfigured lineup of on-air talent for the series. The duo should provide a welcome respite from the aimless rhetoric of Digger Phelps and Jalen Rose, the two men they will be replacing. GameDay has never felt like a requisite watch on winter Saturdays; might that begin to change in January 2015?

Seth Greenberg And Jay Williams Will Join The College GameDay Crew In 2015

Seth Greenberg And Jay Williams Will Join The College GameDay Crew In 2015

Last year’s slate of games actually played out nicely for the folks over at the Worldwide Leader, as even the sites saddled with underachieving hosts (Colorado, Oklahoma State) were accompanied by plenty of surrounding drama (thanks Marcus Smart!) when the crew came to town. In 2014, there were no trips to sub-.500 Missouri Valley schools (Southern Illinois, 2008), battles between SEC also-rans (Florida vs. Tennessee, 2009), or match-ups of NIT squads (Washington vs. Arizona, 2012). The flex schedule should ensure that none of the above – or anything remotely close to them – occurs in 2015, either. But the new schedule should do far more than simply ensure quality match-ups. Site selection now becomes something for fan bases to win each weekend; we’ve seen the fall travel itineraries of Chris Fowler and the football crew become a weekly news story as college towns battle for hosting rights. Basketball sites of years past have often failed to generate the local red carpet treatment afforded the football gang, but this new, more spontaneous selection process should have fans excited and cities better prepared to enjoy a weekend with GameDay.

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Digging Deeper Into ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on September 16th, 2014

The 2014-15 college basketball season may be creeping ever closer, but the folks over at ESPN are already thinking well beyond Indianapolis and the 2015 Final Four. Last week, ESPN’s group of college basketball insiders released their take on what Top 25 polls could look like over the next three seasons in a column entitled “Future Power Rankings.” The panel evaluated and rated programs on a 1-10 scale in five different categories — Coaching, Current Talent, Recruiting, Program Power, and Stability — then pooled the results to extract a singular score (out of 100) for each program. Coaching, Current Talent and Recruiting each counted for 25% of that final tally, while Program Power made up another 15%. Stability counted for just 10%.

Rankings and lists may seem particularly interesting on the slog through these college basketball-less months, but the exercise in responding is the same now as it will be in January, February and March: We will always have our gripes. Highlighted below are a few of the more controversial decisions — some method-based, others result-oriented — that ESPN’s committee of experts produced.

Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reasons To Keep Smiling; His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN's Future Power Rankings

Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reason To Keep Smiling, As His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

  • Redundancy Within Formula: In many ways, this list would have wound up more accurate, honest and interesting if the esteemed panel hadn’t been forced to break down each program into five components. The gimmicky, algorithmic path that they followed may offer more individual points of discussion (Is John Thompson III really that bad a coach? Is the power of Xavier’s program ACTUALLY significantly stronger than Villanova?) , but there’s significant overlap across many of the categories. The delineation between coaching and recruiting is often a difficult one — as Mike Francesa and John Calipari recently discussed — and stability also strongly correlates with a successful, entrenched head coach. In fact, save for Kentucky, every team in the top 10 of the rankings had a stability score that measured within four points of their coaching score (UK received a 98 for coaching and an 88 for stability). Looking elsewhere, recruiting and program power are another pair of categories with predictable overlap, as growth in either category inevitably fuels the other.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Rodney Hood

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 17th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Rodney Hood

School: Duke

Height/Weight: 6’9”/210 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid First Round

On The Journey From Duke To The NBA, Rodney Hood's Sweet Stroke Should Travel Well

On The Journey From Duke To The NBA, Rodney Hood’s Sweet Stroke Should Travel Well

Overview: It was Hood, not Jabari Parker, who was the Duke newcomer with the highest offensive rating last season (119.8 to Parker’s 111.7), and the Mississippi State transfer also doubled as the Blue Devils’ best perimeter defender to boot. The latter point may not be stating much on a team that finished 116th in defensive efficiency nationally, but Hood projects as a solid two-way player at the next level – something that may not necessarily be the case for his more-acclaimed former teammate. No, we aren’t starting a push for Hood to hear his name called before Parker’s on draft day, but the sophomore’s production to buzz ratio (the PTB?) clearly and quietly outdistanced that of Duke’s All-American. All year long, Hood showered in buckets from everywhere on the floor, shooting 49 percent from two-point range, 42 percent from three-point range, and 80 percent at the free throw stripe. He was also a capable ball-handler and passer for Coach K’s team (more assists than turnovers), and used his plus athleticism well enough on defense to earn Duke’s “Best Defensive Player Award” at the team banquet. His shooting touch may have eluded him at the most untimely of moments last season — he went just 2-of-10 from the field against Mercer in the Blue Devils’ shocking second round NCAA Tournament ouster — but Hood made quite the impression in his one and only season in Durham. He will almost surely be overshadowed by Parker one final time on draft night, but green room attendants should make room for two Dukies, because the 2014 lottery could very likely house both Hood and Parker.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Adreian Payne

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 12th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Adreian Payne

School: Michigan State

Height/Weight: 6’10”/240 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing -- Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

On And Off The Floor, Adreian Payne Grew Into A Man During His Time In East Lansing — Is He Now Ready To Help An NBA Team?

Overview: Four-year college players have found it harder and harder to sneak into the NBA Draft’s first round in recent years, but if you need an example of a player who properly utilized every minute of their four years of eligibility, look no further than Adreian Payne. When he arrived at Michigan State, Payne was a raw athlete on the floor and an at-risk student off of it (his ADHD playing a large role in the latter). Now, four years later, Payne doubles as a polished NBA prospect and a college graduate. A freshman who averaged nine minutes per game and shot 49 percent from the free throw line morphed into a senior who shot 42 percent from three-point range (and 79 percent from the charity stripe), as Payne led the Spartans to within a game of the 2014 Final Four. He posted an offensive rating of 113.5 as a senior (a far cry from the 89.5 rating of his freshman campaign), and put his athleticism to use on the defensive glass in grabbing 22.9 percent of opponent’s misses, the 78th best individual rate in the nation. What Payne lacks in fluidity he makes up for with a violent version of athleticism, often rattling rims with aggressive finishes. Sticking to the theme, Payne’s perimeter jump shot also isn’t the smoothest you’ll find, but on the back of that stroke (as slow as it may be), Payne developed into one of college basketball’s most lethal inside-outside threats as an upperclassman. It’s that rare combination of outside shooting touch and raw strength and athleticism — in a 6’10” man with a hulking frame, no less — that has made Payne one of the most desirable quantities in this draft, even at his relatively advanced age of 23. Will one of college basketball’s most notable success stories make an NBA franchise as happy as he made Spartan nation?

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Shabazz Napier

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 11th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Shabazz Napier

School: Connecticut

Height/Weight: 5’11”/175 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

Shabazz Napier Dominated The NCAA Tournament. Will His Proficiency Continue At The Next Level?

Shabazz Napier Dominated The NCAA Tournament. Will His Proficiency Continue At The Next Level?

Overview: Shabazz Napier’s inspired NCAA Tournament performance not only netted UConn its third National Championship in 11 seasons, but it also supplied his draft stock with an explosive surge. The Boston native was likely a mid-to-late second round pick if you asked scouts about him before the NCAA Tournament, but after averaging 21.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.5 APG on college basketball’s biggest stage, Napier is now a safe bet to be drafted in the first round. The college senior turned first rounder is a rare breed in today’s day and age, but the UConn faithful can tell you that the enigmatic Napier has always been one to shirk convention. The “confident” swagger that propelled Napier to stardom this March wasn’t always perceived as such; as an underclassman, he was seen as brash and erratic, a petulant youngster who struggled when shots didn’t drop or passes missed teammates. He outran that reputation under Kevin Ollie, but that doesn’t mean NBA teams won’t fear a regression to his less mature days. If he avoids such a step back and maintains his spectacular 2013-14 form, one NBA team will have added a gifted floor general to their roster. When it comes to competitiveness and confidence, few players have more of it – in this draft or any other – than Mr. Napier.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: T.J. Warren

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 6th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: T.J. Warren

School: North Carolina State

Height/Weight: 6’8”/220 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round

T.J. Warren's ACC POY Season Should Have Him First-Round Bound

T.J. Warren’s ACC POY Season Should Have Him First-Round Bound (USA Today Images)

Overview: For the better part of the 2013-14 season, NC State’s inconsistent results seemed to leave them at a safe distance from the hustle and bustle of the Tournament bubble – a measure of mediocrity that also kept T.J. Warren, the Pack’s bucket-producing star, under a relative veil of anonymity. But a series of March surprises – many of which Warren himself had little part in bringing about — would raise the sophomore’s national profile significantly. First came the surprise ACC POY award (over Jabari Parker), then NC State went out and posted an ACC Tournament upset of nose-diving Syracuse (in which Warren scored 28 of the Pack’s 66 points), a victory that set the stage for the biggest surprise of Selection Sunday: NC State’s inclusion in the 2014 Tournament. Warren’s stellar under-the-radar season suddenly became popular fodder for talking heads in advance of the quartet of First Four games in Dayton, and NC State and their star went out and validated the growing buzz in a first-round victory over local favorite Xavier. It appeared Warren and the Pack’s Tournament stay might extend another round when they held an 11-point lead within the final three minutes against #5 seed Saint Louis, but a late collapse from the free throw line brought a close to an NCAA Tournament appearance that few could ever see coming. Short as their stay may have been, the brief turn that the Pack took in the March spotlight exposed the talented Warren for what he likely was: The best scorer in college basketball not named Doug McDermott. He averaged 24.6 PPG on the season, went for 40+ points in back-t0-back outings against Pitt and BC in early March, and contributed at least 20 points in 31 of his 35 outings. No razzle-dazzle here (another reason for the lack of publicity), but Warren brought offensive production almost every time he stepped on the floor in 2013-14.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: P.J. Hairston

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 5th, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: P.J. Hairston

School: North Carolina

Height/Weight: 6’5”/220 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

It's Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Has Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?

It’s Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?

Overview: Thirteen months ago, everything was looking up for PJ Hairston. He had announced his return to a North Carolina team that was poised to build off a strong second half of the ACC season, a surge catalyzed largely by Hairston’s insertion into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup. He was to be the leader and primary scoring option for a preseason top-10 team, a tough, physical wing who could score the ball in a variety of ways. Last season looked to be a big year for both Hairston and the Heels… and then the summer happened. Camp and popsicles on the summer vacation was not for Hairston, as a series of violations — speeding tickets, marijuana possession, impermissible benefits received – would wind up costing the senior his final year of college eligibility. Hairston’s loss was a major blow for a UNC team that would struggle to find perimeter scoring options all season, but the suspension may not have injured Hairston’s basketball future as significantly. Sure, PJ was probably disappointed to not be a part of this Carolina season, but Hairston quickly moved on to the professional ranks after being ruled ineligible, latching on with the Texas Legends of the D-League in short order. Once in the Lone Star State, Hairston displayed the scoring touch that had made him one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive players, averaging 21.8 PPG (in just 32 MPG) in 26 contests with the Legends. Game to game consistency is still a major concern with the mercurial ex-Heel, but the diversity of Hairston’s D-league scoring (55% 2FG, 2.8 3FG per game, 87% FT) solidified his status as a likely first-round pick in this June’s draft. Hairston’s road to the NBA will have been far more circuitous than it appeared to be a year ago, but PJ is still right on time in arriving at his destination.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jerami Grant

Posted by Bennet Hayes on June 3rd, 2014

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Jerami Grant

School: Syracuse

Height/Weight: 6’8”/215 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Jerami Grant Feasted At The Rim During His Brief Stint At Syracuse, But Developing A More Varied Offensive Game Will Be A Point Of Emphasis For Grant At The Next Level 

Overview: I suppose there are some Syracuse fans capable of recalling the good times of the first three months of last season (in which the Orange ran out to a 21-0 start), but the lingering bitterness of a 3-6 close to the year is now difficult to avoid. Late February and March went as poorly as those months possibly could have for Jim Boeheim’s team, but the stench of that disastrous stretch appears to not have infiltrated the draft stock of Syracuse’s underclassmen, turned NBA hopefuls, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. We’ll get to Ennis a little later on, but Grant’s breakout sophomore season appears to have planted him solidly in the middle of the draft’s first round. The stupendous athletic ability that he displayed during infrequent spells on the floor in his freshman season was put to much better use last year, as Grant made the most of a significant increase in minutes (more than double) to boost his per game averages in points (12.1 PPG from 3.9) and rebounds (6.8 RPG from 3.0) in 2013-14. His offensive efficiency rating also leaped from 103.2 to 115.6 (280th-best in the country), as Grant avoided the perimeter and focused on what he does best: offensive rebounding and attacking the rim from 12 feet and in. Grant made significant strides in many fundamental areas of the game last season, but even more exaggerated development will be needed if the Syracuse product is to become a quality NBA player. He lacks any sort of perimeter jump shot (although he did improve his free throw shooting, making 67% of his attempts at the line as a sophomore), struggles to put the ball on the deck and create his own shot, and hasn’t been asked to play much man-to-man defense. All are areas of concern, but as long as highlight reels exist, reminders of Grant’s tantalizing upside are never far from reach.

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