What To Take From Kansas’ Gold Medal World University Games Run

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 14th, 2015

Yesterday, Kansas brought home the gold for the United States by beating Germany in double overtime in the World University Games championship. Hosted in Korea, the event was sort of funky, as USA Basketball’s commitment to the Pan-Am Games led them to essentially outsource its participation to the Jayhawks, who beat out other schools for the opportunity. It was also interesting in that two likely members of Kansas’ 2015-16 rotation (Svi Mykhailiuk and Cheick Diallo) had to skip the event because they weren’t American citizens, and two others (Brannen Greene and DevonteGraham) sat out due to health reasons. They were replaced by SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose, so while you can’t take the gold medal away, it’s important to remember that between the roster changes, a busy schedule that had the team playing eight games in 11 days, and the rules of international play, you should tread lightly before drawing too many conclusions from Kansas’ run. That being said, there were some interesting developments worth noting.

Wayne Selden left opposing defenses in his dust during the World University Games. (Mike Yoder/Lawrence Journal-World)

Wayne Selden left opposing defenses in his dust during the World University Games. (Mike Yoder/Lawrence Journal-World)

  • The team got an early leg up: This isn’t so much about any particular player, but more about the team’s participation as a whole. Kansas enjoyed extra practices and reps they wouldn’t have otherwise received because of the NCAA’s restrictions on summer practices. That’s an advantage, but one that was earned by virtue of being selected by USA Basketball. For an experienced team that already figured to be in the Top 5 of most preseason polls, any additional time the team is able to spend together should work in their favor, even if the precise impact of those extra practices can’t be measured.

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Steve Prohm Inherits a Fascinating Situation at Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 9th, 2015

It’s not often that a new head coach inherits a team ready to win big right now, but then again, it’s also not often that a successful college coach gets snatched up by a pro team in June, putting his boss in the unenviable position of finding an early summer successor. While former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm doesn’t have many of the characteristics typically found in a new power conference coach — a connection to the school or its recruiting base; a strong reputation among the program’s boosters; a deep NCAA Tournament run to make him an easy sell — nothing in the immediate post-Hoiberg era at Iowa State is typical, and that makes the future in Ames one of the most intriguing situations to monitor heading into next season.

Steve Prohm arrives in Ames with immediate expectations. (Dave Martin/AP)

Steve Prohm arrives in Ames with immediate expectations. (Dave Martin/AP)

Prohm takes the reins of a squad that will likely be among the preseason top 10 in most polls, and one that could ultimately go down as the best in Iowa State basketball history. Because of that, the new head coach will have to answer a number of questions not normally posed to a first-year man. He will of course have the right to bring in his own staff, but in a scenario where the short game for the program is just as important as the long game, he may need to be more careful than in a typical situation. For example, will Prohm retain assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger, a man whom he beat out for the job but also with which the current team is already comfortable? If he doesn’t, or if Otzelberger leaves on his own accord, what kind of impact might that have on the current roster?

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How Fred Hoiberg Left His Mark on College Hoops in Five Short Years

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 2nd, 2015

You could say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg‘s departure to the NBA has been the world’s worst-kept secret, but his eventual plan to return to the professional ranks wasn’t. Named head coach of the Chicago Bulls earlier today, now is the time to look back on Hoiberg’s college coaching career and recognize his legacy as an offensive innovator willing to gamble on players with checkered pasts. His keen ability to combine the two resulted in the Cyclones becoming one of this decade’s most successful programs.

Though his return to Ames was relatively brief, Fred Hoiberg revitalized a downtrodden Iowa State program.

Fred Hoiberg didn’t take long to revitalize a downtrodden Iowa State program.

Following the heyday of the Larry Eustachy era, it was a mystery whether Iowa State would again become a consistent winner. The program had fallen on hard times after Eustachy’s untimely exit from Ames in 2003 — a mixture of poor on-court results with alcohol addiction off of it — and churned through two more head coaches between 2003-10, with just one NCAA Tournament berth to show for it. While it sounds crazy in hindsight, athletic director Jamie Pollard’s move to bring Hoiberg home in April 2010 was viewed as a significant risk by most in the media. Nearly all coaching moves are gambles to some extent, but Hoiberg came to Iowa State with zero head coaching experience at any level and, despite his enormous local popularity, many were uncertain whether he could revitalize a program that had suffered four straight losing seasons and hadn’t won more than nine conference games in any year since 2001.

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Early Summer Big 12 News and Notes

Posted by Brian Goodman on May 29th, 2015

#HoibergWatch has been the dominant storyline in the Big 12 since the season ended back in April, and with the Chicago Bulls head coaching job now vacant, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before The Mayor makes his next move, even if nothing’s official at this very second. We’ll have more on where Iowa State could go from here once the situation plays itself out and we get some resolution, but in the meantime, there’s been no shortage of other Big 12 activity to discuss.

Is This It for Hoiberg's Run in Ames? (AP)

Is This It for Hoiberg’s Run in Ames? (AP)

  • On Wednesday, commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced that the Big 12’s membership had given him full authority to hand down punishments to schools should they fail to adequately prevent students from rushing the court. While it’s a well-intentioned decision, it’s really tough to look at this development as anything more than a knee-jerk reaction to last season’s messy incident at Kansas State’s Bramlage Coliseum, where one student appeared to target Jamari Traylor and others inadvertently pinned members of Kansas’ coaching staff against the scorer’s table. While there’s been (misguided) uproar in the past over court-storms, it seems highly unlikely that the conference would have done anything if things hadn’t gone sideways after the Wildcats upset the Jayhawks that night. Moving forward, while the threat of severe punishment might keep future incidents from getting out of control, it’s no guarantee, and it’s important to note that the chaos from February was the exception, not the rule. The reality is that dozens of stormings take place all across the country each and every year without incident, and the pearl-clutching among many (though certainly not all) in the media is just way over-the-top. Court-storms make college basketball unique from other sports and provide memorable experiences for both the players and students, and isn’t that what college is all about? Yes, once in awhile, there may be an occasion where things get out of control, and in those specific cases, punishment beyond the simple reprimanding Kansas State received in February may be justified. Before getting too wound up, we’ll have to see how this broad policy ends up working in practice, as compared to a more specific policy like the SEC’s, which dishes out automatic fines regardless of whether or not anyone actually gets hurt. At the onset, though, this has the feel of using a flamethrower to take care of a housefly.

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Commitment of Cheick Diallo Shores Up Kansas’ Frontcourt

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2015

The biggest weakness of last season’s Kansas team was its season-long struggle to consistently protect the rim. Perry Ellis has never been known for his defense and probably never will be, but a frontcourt of he, Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander and Landen Lucas swatted only 12.3 percent of opponents’ shot attempts on the season, the team’s second-worst mark since 2005. Kansas’ results on the defensive glass were similarly uncharacteristic (and galling). The Jayhawks rebounded just 68.4 percent of opponents’ misses in 2015, their lowest rate in five years and a mark among the bottom half nationally (205th) for the first time in the Bill Self era. While Kansas didn’t really miss a beat offensively in winning an impressive 11th straight Big 12 title, the Jayhawks clearly weren’t the same team we had grown accustomed to on the other end. Thanks to Tuesday’s commitment from one of the nation’s top big man prep standouts, however, that deficiency could be addressed as soon as next season.

With Cheick Diallo in the fold, Kansas is on its way to restoring its reputation as a defensive stalwart.

With Cheick Diallo in the fold, Kansas is on its way to restoring its reputation as a defensive stalwart.

After an NCAA eligibility issue effectively ended Cliff Alexander’s college career, the Jayhawks needed an immediate influx of size and defense to shore up their frontcourt. Self got busy on the recruiting trail and ultimately beat out Kentucky and St. John’s for forward Cheick Diallo, a 6’9″, 225-pound athletic wonder. While he lacks offensive polish, Diallo’s shot-blocking prowess, rebounding ability and motor renews the hope that Kansas’ front line will return its typically intimidating defensive force.

The native Malian (he arrived in the United States in 2012) will arrive in Lawrence this summer with as many accolades as imaginable. He’s a consensus five-star recruit who played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, capturing MVP honors in the former as one of the few players who showed great energy in the showcase event. He also suited up for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this month, where he went for 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes of action.

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SEC Way-Too-Early 2015-16 Power Rankings

Posted by Greg Mitchell on April 23rd, 2015

The SEC coaching carousel’s dust appears to have settled with Avery Johnson, Rick Barnes and Ben Howland having moved into their new offices at Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi State, respectively. Kentucky’s John Calipari is making the recruiting rounds with a new pitch after seven more of his players declared for this summer’s NBA Draft. Anthony Grant is getting re-acclimated to the assistant’s chair next to Billy Donovan at Florida that has worked out so well for both of them in the past. There’s still more to be determined about how the SEC will look heading into next season, but here are some way too early predictions on the season to come.

Tyler Ulis should contend for SEC Player of the Year honors next season (AP Photo)

Tyler Ulis should contend for SEC Player of the Year honors next season. (AP Photo)

Coach of the Year

  • John Calipari, Kentucky

Player of the Year

  • Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Freshman/Newcomer of the Year

  • Ben Simmons, LSU

All-SEC First Team

  • Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
  • Stefan Moody, SG, Ole Miss
  • Danuel House, SF, Texas A&M
  • Ben Simmons, SF, LSU
  • Skal Labissiere, C, Kentucky

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ACC 2015-16 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 21st, 2015

Now that most of the NBA Draft entry decisions involving ACC players have been made, we can now make some reasonable preliminary guesses about how next season’s ACC standings will look. More roster changes will inevitably occur with a few prominent recruiting targets still on the board (e.g., Brandon Ingram) and some unanticipated transfers, but we can already get a sense as to the overall strength of next year’s league even this far out. The table below that shows the 15 players of this year’s all-ACC teams reveals just how dramatically different the conference will look next year.

All-ACC

Attrition From the All-ACC Teams Show that Virginia and North Carolina Look to Lead the Conference Next Season

Overall, the league doesn’t appear to have as many elite teams next season – Duke and Louisville both lost their top four players while Notre Dame said goodbye to its top two. That leaves North Carolina and Virginia as the only remaining ACC teams that appear to return enough talent to become national title contenders. The good news is that next year’s middle of the pack looks to be much deeper, meaning that the league will have an opportunity to earn as many as eight or nine NCAA bids next March. Here are our 2015-16 ACC Way-Too-Early Power Rankings.

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Big Ten Storylines Heading Into Next Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 17th, 2015

There are still some dominoes to fall in terms of Big Ten roster turnover in coming weeks but we already have a pretty good idea of how the league will look next year. Here are a few things to ponder as Big Ten fans brace themselves for seven months without any games with which to occupy their time.

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

  • Return to Multiple Conference Championship Contenders: Wisconsin essentially went wire-to-wire this season, going from the unanimous preseason favorite to winning both the conference regular season and postseason titles. Next season should be a bit more like the 2013-14 campaign with several teams with a realistic shot to win the league. Maryland is rightfully getting a good deal of love in the preseason “way-to-early” top 25 lists. The Terps will return two of their top three players in Melo Trimble and Jake Layman and will add a bruiser down low in freshman Diamond Stone. Indiana (assuming both Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. return to Bloomington), and Michigan State could also very well start the season in the top 15 nationally. Thomas Bryant will give the Hoosiers someone to keep defenses honest inside, while Sparty adds Eron Harris, Devonta Davis, and Caleb Swanigan to a nucleus of eight players who were contributors on a Final Four squad. These three should all challenge for the top spot in Big Ten play next season.
  • Wisconsin Rebuild: It will be fun to observe how Bo Ryan replaces the multiple talented pieces that he is losing from a group that went to back-to-back Final Fours. He has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt so as to figure that players like Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter will break out with more playing time next season. Getting key starters Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig back is also a pretty decent starting point. How far will the Badgers actually fall, and how long will it take for the newcomers to make an impact?

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2014-15: ACC Year in Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 17th, 2015

The 2014-15 season will go down as one of the most successful campaigns in the ACC’s long and illustrious history. It was the kind of year that commissioner John Swofford must have envisioned when the conference completed its last round of expansion. It was also important for the league to have this kind of performance after an extremely disappointing run last season, its first as a giant 15- team group featuring some of the biggest names in the sport. Before we put a bow on the season, let’s take a quick look at how the season played out with a review of some of the highlights and lowlights.

Highlights

Notre Dame celebrates its first ever conference tournament championship. (Evan Pike/USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame celebrates its first ever conference tournament championship.
(Evan Pike/USA TODAY Sports)

Regular Season Excellence. The ACC began the year with four schools ranked in the preseason AP top 10 and the league maintained a strong presence at the top of the rankings all season long, finishing with five of the final poll’s top 17 teams. In addition to Duke’s fine year – which included Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000th career win, Virginia was also a mainstay at the top of the rankings, getting off to a 19-0 start on the way to the Cavaliers’ second straight ACC regular season title. Perhaps the Cavaliers would have joined Duke in Indianapolis at the Final Four if not for an untimely late season injury to Justin Anderson. The ACC’s surprise team was clearly Notre Dame, as Mike Brey’s program won its first conference tournament in school history in only its second year as an ACC member. The Irish’s near-upset of undefeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight may have been the best game of the entire NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wrapping Up the Pac-12 and Looking Ahead to 2015-16

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 16th, 2015

The National Championship game is now more than a week behind us and the Final Four is almost two weeks back. Stanford’s “magical” NIT run ended 14 days ago and Arizona’s loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, capping off the last meaningful Pac-12 action of the season, is nearly three weeks ago. With Arizona State’s coaching vacancy filled and early-entry and transfer season fully in swing, that means it is well past time to put a bow on the season and begin to think about what comes next. Below, we’ll review each Pac-12 team and offer up grades on each team’s season. We’ll also take a look at what could be around the bend the next time college basketball rolls around.

Sean Miller, Arizona

Despite Regular Season and Conference Tournament Titles, The 2014-15 Wildcats Came Up Shy Of Their Grandest Goals. (AP)

Arizona (A-)

The goal all year long was a Final Four. Wrapping up some unfinished business and all. Well, that goal was left incomplete. Business is still pending. Still, you’re not going to see me come down too hard on the Wildcats. While their three regular seasons losses were all suspicious in nature, their Elite Eight loss to national runner-up Wisconsin was just one of those things that happens between great teams. Sean Miller’s postgame press conference after the Badgers shot a 105.0 percent eFG in the second half was one long extended verbal shrug, a “what can you do?”, a “sh– happens.” Arizona ended its season playing its best basketball, some of the best basketball being played by any team in the nation. The Wildcats just happened to lose to one of maybe two or three other teams that were capable of playing better. We have to tack a “minus” onto that well-deserved “A” simply because I would guess Miller and T.J. McConnell and Stanley Johnson and all the rest would agree that the overall result of the season was tinged with some disappointment. Without a doubt, though, the Wildcats were the best team in the Pac-12. And were it not for Buzzsaw Badger, they might still be celebrating in Tucson.

What’s next: McConnell is out of eligibility. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley have said they’re forgoing their remaining eligibility to pursue NBA careers, a decision Johnson is likely to make as well. But this is Arizona. And this is Sean Miller. The ‘Cats will be fine. Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York will return and take on bigger roles. Sophomores Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic will be relied upon to take big steps forward. Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson and junior college transfer (and 2014-15 redshirt Kadeem Allen) will jump right in. And then there’s a recruiting class featuring Allonzo Trier, Ray Smith, Justin Simon and Chance Comanche (ESPN top-100 recruits, all) that may not even be finished yet. Yeah, don’t cry for Miller and his Wildcats; they’ll be back. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Final Look at Wisconsin’s Two-Year Run

Posted by Alex Moscoso on April 16th, 2015

It’s been more than a week since the final buzzer went off at Lucas Oil Stadium, signaling the end of the National Championship game, another Duke national title, and the last moments of an incredible two-year run from the unlikeliest of powerhouses, Wisconsin. This year’s squad of goofy and affable but supremely talented Badgers had come up just a little short in the biggest game of their lives. With a nine-point lead, 13:23 left on the clock, and two of Duke’s best players, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, on the bench due to foul trouble, Wisconsin was certainly as close as any Big Ten team has been in 15 years to winning the crown. But there would be no story book ending. Instead, things played out as they usually do in college basketball, as the team with more talent eventually took control and won the game. Even if not on this night, Bo Ryan’s program throughout his 14 seasons in Madison has consistently bucked that trend, winning a bunch more games than what his roster suggested was possible.

Wisconsin is the most efficient offensive team in a long time. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Wisconsin has accomplished much in the last two years, including a change in the perception of its program and coach. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

This group of Badgers was no different. Sure, they boasted the National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky, but the senior was a shining example of expectations exceeded — going from an unheralded high school recruit to the shiniest of college basketball stars. But in the end, the Blue Devils surged on the back of a little-used but nevertheless talented freshman, Grayson Allen. The bouncy guard effectively ended the narrative many casual fans hoped would win the day — that of a pristine basketball environment of yesteryear with in-state kids playing all four years for their home university, versus the more itinerant one-and-done culture of today. This thinking vastly oversimplifies the makeup of both these teams and programs, of course, but it is a common sentiment in college basketball and it is one of the reasons the Badgers attracted so many new fans in their run to the Final Four.

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O26 Never-Too-Early Top Five (and More)

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on April 15th, 2015

Don’t look now, but college basketball season is only seven months away! Okay, so that may seem a bit far off, but it’s never too early to gin up a little excitement for the sport we love. Let’s examine a few O26 teams that are sure to make some noise in 2015-16.

Top Five

Wichita State will be right back at it in 2015-16. (Photo : Getty Images Sport)

Wichita State will be right back at it in 2015-16. (Getty Images Sport)

  1. Wichita State. Fred VanVleet is back. Ron Baker is back. As is Gregg Marshall, much wealthier after a sizable pay raise. With one of the country’s top backcourts and most sought-after coaches rejoining the fold, it almost goes without saying that Wichita State – on the heels of three-straight program-defining seasons – should be very good again next season. Of course, the Shockers will have to adjust to life without guard Tekele Cotton (9.8 PPG) and big man Darius Carter (11.4 PPG), but the late-season development of Evan Wessel (12 points against Kansas in the NCAA Tournament) along with forward Shaq Morris (4.7 PPG) should help mitigate those departures. So too should the addition of Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp and a solid recruiting class. Expect another year of big things from Wichita State next season.
  2. Gonzaga. Gone are WCC Player of the Year Kevin Pangos, guard Gary Bell Jr. and wing Byron Wesley (10.6 PPG). Still, barring an early leap to the NBA, Kyle Wiltjer (16.7 PPG), Domantas Sabonis (9.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and center Przemek Karnowski (10.9 PPG) are each returning for what should be one of the top frontcourts in America. Sophomores Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, both former prized recruits, bring plenty of talent (if youth) to the backcourt, where senior Kyle Dranginis will likely help both guys blossom. Throw in very good depth – like 6’8” Angel Nunez, who was granted another year of eligibility – and you quickly see why the Bulldogs could be top-15-worthy next season. Oh, and did I mention that the Zags are in contention for Drexel transfer Damion Lee (21.4 PPG), the nation’s fifth-leading scorer? Read the rest of this entry »
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