The Champions Classic Draft: For when the event is that good

Tonight, The State Farm Champions Classic delivered two quality games to millions around the world from the friendly confines of Chicago. The event featured four of the Top 5 teams in the nation and didn’t disappoint. There’s a solid shot that at least 5-6 players taking part in the event are currently spending their final (or only) season in college during 2013-14, and most are deserved of that.

A bunch of players in this four-team event are already NBA-ready. With that in mind, and using just the players in tonight’s event, how would a draft look using just Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State?

Ladies and gentleman, the 2013 TBBC Champions Classic Draft.

Using just one round (because no one is draft walk-ons) we take a look at the talent in this event and how they would fare in a situation where the massive about of talent on the United Center was the only talent you could choose from. I kicked it around, and this is what I came up with.

(NOTE: I included the players’ entire body of work up to now, including Tuesday’s results, as a the measuring stick for where they went in the draft.)

1.) Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas – Duh. The Top 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Duke. He showed everyone he can play on the biggest stage, now he just has to maintain that.

2.) Julius Randle, F, Kentucky – It was already a race between Wiggins and Randle for next year’s top pick. Randle showed some flaws (free throws?) but it’s obvious the big stage doesn’t scare him. He finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

3.) Jabari Parker, F, Duke – The third of the trio of talented freshman to show off on Tuesday night did exactly what every expected too, with 27 points and 9 rebounds, including 4-7 on threes. Well, looks like they’re all gonna be alright.

4.) Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State – The senior is following in a long line of experienced bigs to play under Tom Izzo. He finished with 15 points and just three boards, but he showed a variety of post moves and a face-up game that can hang.

5.) Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky – He’s starting to get it under John Calipari, you can tell. Harrison is the point guard, the most important position in that Dribble Drive Motion Offense. He finished with 11 points and three assists, along with four turnovers, which has to improve.

6.) Keith Appling, G, Michigan State – I really think he could end up as a dark horse lottery pick in the June draft. The senior had 22 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals for the Spartans. Easily the best stat line of the night.

7.) James Young, G/F, Kentucky – The 6-6 shooter had an off-night (3-11 from three) but had 19 points in the loss. He’s got a pull-up game that is pro ready. He’s just got to become more consistent.

8.) Gary Harris, G, Michigan State – The sophomore is fully healthy and showed it with 20 points on the night. He was projected as a one-and-done in 2013, but he made the right decision to come back.

9.) Rodney Hood, G/F/, Duke – The Mississippi State transfer has a lot of “best transfer of the season” hype surrounding him. I think he will live up to it. The redshirt sophomore finished with 11 points in an average showing. He’ll need a few weeks to assimilate.

10.) Rasheed Suliamon, G, Duke – The sophomore probably had the quietest 13 points you’ll ever see, but we all know Suliamon is capable of more. He’ll show it later on in the season.

11.) Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky – A guy who was supposed to be gone after one season has improved dramatically in Year 2. The final line is Ben Wallace-esque, 7 points and 12 rebounds (7 of them offensive). The nasty streak has to develop if he wants to be a success in the NBA.

12.) Branden Dawson, F, Michigan State - Dawson has either a double-double or near a double-double in Sparty’s first two games. He had 8 points and 9 rebounds on Tuesday night. A guy who can do both consistently will get a look in the NBA. A long one.

13.) Tarik Black, F/C, Kansas – The Memphis transfer is a brute that has a game built just like Ben Wallace (second BDub reference!). I don’t care that he didn’t score a point. I want him on my team because he’s not afraid of contact, which is key in the League.

14.) Quinn Cook, G, Duke - More and more, Cook looks like the true point guard Mike Kryzewski wants him to be. He finished with 10 points, 3 assists and 2 boards. If he develops, he’s gone after this season. His decision making has to improve, though.

15.) Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky – Calipari’s ultimate project from 2012-13 has proven to be a successful one. The 7-footer had 5 points, 7 boards and two blocks with only 2 fouls in 27 minutes. He might want to stay another year, but if he came out he’d have a shot to get drafted at a decent slot.

16.) Perry Ellis, F, Kansas – Ellis really hasn’t gotten the love he deserves in two seasons in Lawrence. First because of en McLemore, now Wiggins. Well, that can’t happen much longer after games of 24 points and 7 rebounds like he had against Duke.

17.) Brannen Greene, G, Kansas – Greene will eventually make a splash, which is why he’s a bit high on this list. He only had 5 points, but his consistent stroke is undeniable. He’s going to make some team happy as a result whenever he comes out of KU.

18.) Joel Embiid, F/C, Kansas – He’s only been playing basketball for three years, but Embiid is a 7-footer who shows the makings of being a great defensive big man. He had 2 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists against the Blue Devils, which previews an all-around game.

19.) Dakari Johnson, F/C, Kentucky – He’s such a project pick, but if Daniel Orton could parlay one mediocre season into a first round selection, Johnson, a much more polished freshman, definitely can. The 6-11 Johnson had 2 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes.

20.) Wayne Seldon, G, Kansas – This is probably too low, but Seldon doesn’t look like a great pro. He’s great in the Jayhawks’ system, with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists against Duke, and in this crop, he’d be a Top 20 pick.

21.) Tyler Thornton, G, Duke – I can always get behind a senior glue guy that the younger guys listen to. Thornton, despite the lack of stats, is that guy. Which works great on a bench and in practice. And late in games. No mistakes.

22.) Travis Trice, G, Michigan State – Now that he’s healthy, look for  Trice to make his presence felt more often. Trice is a solid defender who provides depth at multiple positions. He had a bucket in 14 minutes.

23.) Naadir Tharpe, G, Kansas – Tharpe is just a calming presence on the floor. He had 7 points and a bevy of 3′s in the stat box (rebounds, assists, turnovers, fouls.) It’d need to be the right team, but Tharpe could be a serviceable defensive guard.

24.) Denzel Valentine, F, Michigan State – He might be a bit higher if he wasn’t a product of the flow of the game. Valentine finished with 5 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.

25.) Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky – He probably, like his brother, was a first round pick if the one-and-done rule wasn’t around. But now he has  a year to develop that jumper. He finished with one bucket and he and Young will be battling each other for the NBA scouts to see who could be the best 2-guard out of the duo.

26.) Marcus Lee, F, Kentucky – We’re talking about ONLY this game, remember? Lee has some skill, or Cal wouldn’t have recruited him. He played 1 minute, but he will come around this season and have a Darnell Dodson-type impact (without the whole leaving the team thing.)

27.) Marshall Plumlee, F, Duke – He’s a Plumlee, so he’s got to have that game like his two older brothers, right? After redshirting and dealing with injuries his first two seasons, the youngest Plumlee to head to Duke is healthy and ready to contribute. His game translates to the NBA because like his brothers, he’s not afraid of contact, Kendrick Perkins style.

28.) Conner Frankamp, G, Kansas – NBA general managers love guys who can stretch a defense. Frankamp can do just that. In a few seasons, he’s going to fit that Brady Morningstar role really well.

29.) Jarrod Polson, G, Kentucky – I really think Polson gets overlooked for his acumen. This kid can play when called upon, and I think Calipari picks his spots with this guy. He didn’t play Tuesday night, but he will definitely in SEC play.

30.) Frank Mason, G, Kansas – You can’t ignore a guy who hits 11-12 free throws and caps the night with 15 points after just 3 points in their season opener.

Got praise? Got a problem? A tip? find David via email at Judson.harten@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten.


Why is Iowa State’s transfer model so successful?

On Wednesday, former junior college standout Jameel McKay announced he would transfer from Marquette after less than half a semester and enroll at Iowa State.

This should surprise no one. Not the transfer after not even playing a game for (presumably) no off-the-court issues, that’s just weird. But the fact that McKay has decided to defect to Ames, where transfers seem to flock like a successful Island of Misfit Toys. Since Fred Hoiberg took over the Cyclones prior to the 2010-11 season, the program has had 13 different JuCo or four-year school transfers.

The Mayor has successfully parlayed a mix of freshman and transfers into two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, but can this continue?

In defense of Hoiberg, he’s not bringing in players with troubled pasts or chemistry issues. He seeks out players that are looking for a home after leaving a program — let’s focus on four-year players for now – and brings them in to his system. That’s not without a few red flag cases. Korie Lucious was kicked off the team at Michigan State, came to Ames and enjoyed a solid senior season. He also brought in a player like Royce White, an elite talent who still battles severe anxiety disorders, which has hindered his ability to fly on team charters. He catered a bit to White (he rarely, if ever, flew to  a game. Driving to the Cyclones NCAA Tournament second round loss to Kentucky in 2012) and got a ton out of him, and White ended up as a first round NBA Draft pick.

Junior college players are seen as plug-and-play guys. Depending on the program and the coach leading it, some schools really use these players, some don’t. Hoiberg is the former, obviously. Since his first season, Hoiberg has had nine JuCo transfers on his roster. Five of them have finished in the top five in scoring for the Cyclones at the end of the season. He gets the most out of the  talent that he brings in offensively. Hoiberg doesn’t view junior college players as simply hole-fillers for a season or two. Which is probably why he gets so many good ones. Two JuCo Top 100 players, Dustin Hogue and K.J. Bluford, committed to the Cyclones prior to this season.

It’s not necessarily a new practice. With the supposed transfer culture going around in college basketball, roster turnover has made it more common to expect a bevy of new players yearly. Before Iowa State, mid-and-low major programs have thrived off bringing in transfers. But not many high major teams, which is what the Cyclones are doing, well.

Got a problem or suggestion with the piece? Got an idea for a better one? Reach David Harten at tbbchronicles@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten.


Deal with the new hand-check rule, because the game will be better for it

Yes, folks. Even though the new hand-check rules the NCAA put in place seem like a problem, what with exhibitions finishing with 70 free throws off a billion fouls, everyone needs to chill.

As with all new rules: 1.) Referees have a hard time calling them the right way at first and 2.) Teams have a hard time adjusting their style of play to it. However, once teams adjust, it will improve a major problems that arose last season.

The first was, believe or not, all the fouls. Last year, refs were just calling one-on-one fouls with no basis other than the one that has stood for years. That is, you can’t physically impede the process of the ball-handler and going for steals is now an even bigger gamble. This led to maximum drives to the basket and a subsequent spike in free throw attempts. Well, think about this: There’s now a set rule. Meaning it’s now in the books that hand-checking is to be at a minimum.

After teams adjust, the good ones at least, we’ll start to see smarter defense by the teams that know how to play smart defenses. Meaning the Louisville’s, Kansas’ and VCUs of the world. You’ll definitely see more blowouts as a result, but that’s the nature of the game. Adapt or die.

So once teams realize that calling hand-check fouls is no longer subjective according to which referees have their game, they’ll start to figure out how to beat ball-handlers to spots for charges (which is also slightly altered this season) and to cut off lanes. They’ll learn to keep active arms and slide consistently, switch on screens and communicate. They’ll slap the floor, hike the shorts and focus in on staying in front of their man, rather than just trying to get the bump to keep them back.

That, in turn, will improve scoring. With less contact means more space, and the faster, guard-oriented teams will take advantage of the extra area to slash. Physical teams such as West Virginia and South Carolina (the product of physically-dominant coaches in Bob Huggins and Frank Martin) will suffer, but that may also force them to play zone, another adjustment.

Keep in mind this (obviously) won’t be immediate. But when looking at what this rule could mean, come February, this might be the one recent change the NCAA got right.

Got an idea for a piece? Got an opinion? Reach David at tbbchronicles@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten.


Five transfers with the best storylines of the 2013-14 season

The transfer culture of college basketball is something that will always be up for debate. With every passing year, coaches, players, media and administrators argue over what the future of players leaving and entering new programs should be. Very rarely are two transfer stories exactly the same because players leave for all sorts of reasons. But regardless of the why, a few players have storylines to be aware of and watch as they begin play with new teams this year.

When looking at sleeper transfers, one of the first names to keep in mind is Arizona’s T.J. McConnell. “Sleeper” means that he’s not a big name outside of serious hoops circles. After two seasons where he was far and away the best player at Duquesne, McConnell was looking for a program that was not only playing on the highest level of the college game, but one that was consistently successful. He found the Wildcats, who are looking for an answer at point guard following the graduation of Mark Lyons. The 6’1″ redshirt junior averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists in 2011-12 with the Dukes and should get the ball to start the season. A  good year for him should get him a good amount of publicity.

Mike Moser would know about publicity, after a 2011-12 season in which he averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds for UNLV. With all the hype entering last season, Moser suffered through injuries and the subsequent sloppy play to the tune of 7.1 points, 6.1 boards and shooting a 36.9 percent clip from the field. He took advantage of the graduate transfer rule and will spend his final season at Oregon, the third major program in  Moser’s career. With Arsalan Kazemi gone, the 6-8 Moser can replace Kazemi with his well-rounded game. Moser has essentially been three different players in his three collegiate seasons (minus his redshirt year). An underutilized swingman at UCLA, then with the Rebels, a one-year wonder as a redshirt sophomore and finally an injury-prone disappointment last season. With one season left in college, which player will Moser end his career as?

That’s the same question you could ask Josh Smith at Georgetown, although he was only one type of player throughout his career at UCLA, an underachiever. He has a chance to erase some of that reputation under coach John Thompson III, if he gets his mind right. In two-and-a-half seasons at UCLA, the 6-10 Smith averaged 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 56.5 percent from the floor, although he proved he couldn’t stay on it, which was his biggest problem with the Bruins. He clocked just 19 minutes per game in Westwood, bottoming out at 13.7 minutes per in six games last season before deciding to transfer. Smith made the best decision he could’ve for himself, choosing to play for a program that historically cultivates some of the game’s best big men — Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Roy Hibbert, to name a few – under a coach who has both developed and learned how to develop players from his legendary father. Smith is in a great spot for a second chance.

There might not be a player more deserving of a second chance than Maurice Creek. When healthy early in his career at Indiana, Creek was dominate, averaging 16.4 points in the 12 games he played as a freshman before a dislocated kneecap ended his season. He was never quite the same after that, playing in 42 games over the next three years (including redshirting the 2011-12 season with a ruptured Achilles), mainly due to injuries and not being able to get back into the lineup as the program began bringing in more talent while he recovered. The 6-5 Creek gets that second chance with the Colonials, getting back to being healthy and playing alongside a solid corps of talent. It probably won’t make up for an injury-riddled first four years, but a good senior season could help ease the pain, so to speak.

With the departure of Creek, Indiana had a guard spot to fill. What better way to do so than to bring in a graduate transfer of their own, with the added bonus that this one already had family ties to the Hoosiers. Everyone remembers a certain Gordon, Eric, who left an indelible mark on Bloomington in his one season with the program before going on to NBA success. Now, enter his younger brother Evan Gordon, who has had a bit of a nomadic college career, spending two seasons at Liberty averaging 12, then 14.4 points per before heading to Arizona State for one season on the court, where he averaged 10 points in 32.2 minutes per game with the Sun Devils. The rest of his stats at ASU weren’t eye-popping – 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, a solid 1.3 steals per game and a 74.4 percent clip from the free throw line – but he can score, which, with the loss of Victor Oladipo, Tyler Zeller and Christian Watford, three of the team’s top four scorers last season, is valuable.

As are all the transfers on this list.

Got a story idea? Advice? Just want to complain? Reach David at judson.harten@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten.


The TBBC Fantasy Series: The nation’s most valuable players

So, you’ve done what only a few hoopheads do and entered a college basketball fantasy league….Nah, let’s go in another direction.

Every year, there are certain players that do more than most for their teams. Whether it’s scoring, giving quality minutes, assists, reducing turnovers, etc., these guys do it. So you can count on them doing it for whoever you cheer for.

Below at the most valuable players in the nation. Not necessarily the best overall, but the best in terms of delivering on a consistent basis.

Top 5 most valuable players in the nation

1.) Doug McDermott, F, Creighton – This one was incredibly easy. The guy can not only score, but score in different ways. He averaged 23.3 ppg last season and that came shooting 54.5 percent overall and 49 percent from the three point range. Tack on his 87.5 percent from the free throw line and he’s probably the nation’s easiest pick to pour in 20+ a night.

2.) Russ Smith, G, Louisville – This selection is more about how much Smith is going to have the ball this season than his production. Smith was 11th in KenPom in possession percentage (meaning he got the ball a lot per possession) getting the rock on 32 percent of the Cardinals’ possessions. Now as the total scoring threat — and Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva gone — this is his team and it’s his ball.

3.) Travis Bader, F, Oakland – This is a guy that no one talks about if you don’t know a ton about hoops. One of the nation’s top gunners from deep (139-360 from three this season), Bader averaged 22.1 ppg last season, quietly. Je also shot 88.5 percent from the free throw line and got there 202 times last season. Need points fast? It’s all Bader.

4.) Augustine Rubit, F, South Alabama – Rubit played in 30 games last season. He recorded a double-double in 16 of them. In his three seasons in Mobile, he’s clocked a double-double in two of them and missed out on three straight after averaging 9.2 boards as a sophomore. He stuffs the stat sheet.

5.) Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State – When a player passes up a sure-fire ticket to a Top 5 selection in the NBA Draft, there’s no way you can avoid getting him on this list. Smart does everything — 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists — and does it in the biggest games, averaging 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4 assists in seven regular season games against Top 25 opponents last season. He’s only no. 5 because unlike McDermott, Rubit and Bader, he has other NBA talent around him as well (Smith does as well).

Top sleepers

1.) Kyle Vinales, G, Central Connecticut State – Vinales flirted with the idea of transferring to a place with a higher profile. After briefly committing to Toledo, Vinales came back and he’ll be better for it. Vinales was among the top players last season playing 38.2 minutes (almost a WHOLE game, people) while averaging 21.6 points. He carries the Blue Devils, who rely heavily on Vinales, and that shouldn’t change this season.

2.) Jerelle Benimon, F, Towson – Like Rubit, he’s another double-double machine. But he gets the sleeper tag because he’s only done it in one season. And did it big. The former Georgetown bench warmer averaged 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds for the Tigers last season and with the program poised to be a CAA contender, he’s gonna get the pub he deserves.

3.) Sim Bhullar, C, New Mexico State – YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH 7-FOOT, 5-INCHES. He shot 62.1 percent from the field and that was as a freshman where he averaged 24.4 minutes and 10.1 points per game. After a whirlwind summer where he enrolled late with Aggies, imagine what he will do with an entire college offseason under his belt?

Freshman to watch (That aren’t the obvious ones)

1.) Jarell Martin, F, LSU – Martin was a top prospect coming out. Then Johnny Jones got the Baton Rouge native to stay home and the national pundits seem to ease up on the hype. But keep an eye on him. He’s got a efficient half-court point guard in Anthony Hickey and a veteran presence in the post in Johnny O’Bryant III to take the heat off him. Because he won’t be the focal point, he could produce a lot.

2.) Sterling Brown, G, SMU – This will be the point guard in a Larry Brown-led offensive scheme. Brown got out on the break with the ball in high school and that’s what Brown will want to do this season. Don’t be surprised of Brown is one of the top assist men in the AAC.

3.) Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas – I got to watch this guy a lot in high school. He’s a 6-10 power forward with a serious work ethic. He has range from 16-18 feet and as long as he gains some weight, can be an all-freshman team player in the SEC.

Locks for production

1.)  Javon McCrea, F, Buffalo – He’s been the best player in the MAC for the past two years (yes, he has) on one of the worst teams. The Bulls went 14-20 last season and now under new coach Bobby Hurley, McCrea has an astute basketball mind to learn from. McCrea’s 18 points, 7.9 rebounds were earned as the focal point of every opponent’s defensive plan. And he averaged a career worst….55.7 percent field goal percentage last season.

2.) Jason Brickman, G, LIU-Brooklyn – Make way for the definition of a point guard. Brickman’s assist average has increased by at least one full dime each season, leading the nation last season with 8.5 assists. Most of that was without Julian Boyd, the Blackbirds best player. Boyd recently re-tore his ACL heading into his 6th year, and now Brickman have to do even less to work with.

3.) Briante Weber, G, VCU – You can’t argue with the nation’s best on-ball defender, going by the stats. The junior has averaged at least two steals per game in both his previous seasons and he’s the best defender on the best defensive team in the nation. You have to acknowledge the defense.

Over-valued Players

1.) Marshall Henderson, G, Ole Miss – This pains me to say, because I love the way Henderson plays. But his 20.1 points per game that led the SEC came on 38.1 percent shooting overall and 35 percent from three. He did this averaging 10.9 threes TAKEN per game. He serves a role. He has serious game. But his numbers are deceiving.

2.) Jahii Carson, G, Arizona State – Carson is a pro, there’s no debating that. But his 18.5 points and 5.1 assists — both solid — came at the other end of averages of 2.5 fouls and 3.5 turnovers per game. He’ll have to clean those up with Evan Gordon no longer in the backcourt this season.

3.) James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina – Have to give a hat tip to Kevin Doyle for this one. JMM has time to make up for what has amounted to a sub-par career so far. The junior has averaged 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30 minutes per in two seasons, which isn’t bad. But McAdoo was a five-star recruit who was supposed to team with P.J. Hairston to be the heir apparent for Harrison Barnes. What he does while Hairston is out (however long that is) will be critical to his legacy in Chapel Hill.


The JuCo Jump: The best junior college players in D-I for 2013-14

Every year there’s a different crop of recruits that make their way to Division I campuses. Not the freshman that are hoping to make an impression. Not the four-year school transfers that are looking for a fresh start. These are the ones that may have ended up at their first stop due to extenuating circumstances. These are the junior college transfers.

With most (if not all) of those players on campus by now, we take a look at the top JuCo transfers and what kind of effect they’ll have on their teams’ season.

JuCo Jump Preseason Player of the Year

Yanick Moreira, C, SMU – The 6-11, 220 pounder averaged 18.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a 2.3 blocks for South Plains (Texas) Community College last season and was MVP of the junior college national tournament when South Plains won the NJCAA national title in 2011-12. Larry Brown likes his versatile bigs and the Angola native can work the pivot and step outside the paint to defend and shoot.

All-JuCo Jump Preseason All-American Team

Chris Jones, G, Louisville – Last season’s national JuCo player of the year made his way to Louisville to take the place of the graduated Peyton Siva at point guard. The 6-0 Jones averaged 21.8 points per game last season and led Northwest Florida State College t back-to-back JuCo national title game appearances in his two years with the Raiders.

Chad Frazier, G, UAB – The 6-4 Frazier took awhile to figure out where he wanted to go to school after two years at Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College, committing to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State before settling on the Blazers. But he was a consensus Top 20 JuCo recruit last season and averaged 16 points, five assists and four rebounds for Gulf Coast last season.

Kenny Cherry, G, Baylor – Gone is Pierre Jackson, another former JuCo transfer, and enter 6-1 State Fair Community College guard Kenny Cherry. The Canadian-born guard averaged 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season and shot 41 percent from three-point range. He doesn’t seem to have the small-man explosiveness that Jackson possessed (few do) but he might be the guy to remedy the PG issues the Bears had coming into the season.

Jelan Kendrick, F, UNLV – Here’s a name some still remember, mainly because the 6-6 Atlanta native was at two Division I schools, yet never played a game at either. Kendrick lasted almost a semester at Memphis before being dismissed, then lasted about one year (as a redshirt) at Ole Miss before leaving that program as well. He spent last season at Indian Hill (Iowa) Community College, averaging 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He’ll take the spot left by the transferring Mike Moser.

Yanick Moreira, F, SMU - Per his JuCo P.O.Y. status, Moreira just has the ability to make an impact in a big way. He also will be the focal point of a fresh recruiting class for the Mustangs on a team that expects to contend in the AAC this year.

All-JuCo Jump Underrated Team

Desmond Lee, G, North Carolina State – The New Mexico Junior College product can fill it up, averaging 20.3 points per game at 43.3 percent clip last season. He’ll be asked to team with the likes of Anthony “Cat” Barber and T.J. Warren to be the trio that keeps the Wolfpack at pace with North Carolina and Duke in 2013-14. The 6-4 Lee might also step into some of the point guard responsibilities for the departed Rodney Purvis.

Tre’Vaughn White, G, Duquesne - You have to have the leading scorer in junior college on this list somewhere. White had a great career at Independence (Kan.) Community College, clocking 26.1 points per game. He now heads to Pittsburgh to play for the Dukes, and there’s little doubt the 5-10 guard will be the focal point of the offensive scheme. He’ll help alleviate the loss of second-leading scorer Sean Johnson.

James Kelly, F, Miami – Kelly is one of seemingly a brand new roster for the Hurricanes, who are replacing their Top 6 scorers from last season. You could almost call the 6-7, 250-pound Kelly Reggie Johnson-lite, with his size making him a load in the middle. He averaged a double-double of 17.3 points and 10 rebounds at Owens (Ohio) Community College last season.

Darius Carter, F, Wichita State - Whaddayaknow? Wichita State puts a player on this list. The 6-7 Carter is in the same mold as the graduated Carl Hall, who helped the Shockers to the Final Four last season. The Vincennes (Ind.) University product averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 54.4 percent from the field last season for the Trailblazers. He’s also Maverick Carter’s cousin. Yea, that Maverick Carter.

Joseph Uchebo, C, Pittsburgh - It’s not everyday that one quality seven-footer get replaced by another (near) seven-footer. Steven Adams left for the NBA Draft after one season and that left a massive hole in the middle. Enter Uchebo, a 6-11, 260 pound product of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College who averaged 12.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in 2011-12. The reason he isn’t getting a ton of publicity is because he spent last season nursing a knee injury that got him a medical redshirt. He’ll have three seasons left to play for the Panthers.

Team with most at stake with JuCo players

Illinois State – And it’s really not even close. The Redbirds and coach Dan Muller don’t have a single player on their roster that was there two seasons ago and in total, they’ve got four players from the  JucoRecruiting.com Top 100 on their 2013-14 roster in Zach Lofton, Daishon Knight, Bobby Hunter and Mike Middlebrooks. With no seniors on this roster, those four juniors will be looked upon for leadership, even though, like a lot of the players on their roster, this is their first year in an Illinois State uniform.


TBBC conference previews: The B1G

Like most other seasons, the Big Ten has a ton going for it. It’s a mixture of playmaking guards and dominant post men that will be the trademark of the league…and that’s just in the state of Michigan. But there’s a ton of talent from Happy Valley to Lincoln.

Preseason All-Conference team

G-Aaron Craft, Sr., Ohio State – 2012-13 stats: 10 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.1 spg. Duh, right? One of the best on-ball defenders in the nation and not to mention a totally underrated game-managing point guard. Plus he recently got engaged. Being settled down can help a man’s game, I think.

G-Gary Harris, Soph., Michigan State – 2012-13 stats: 12.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 41.1% three-point percentage. After starting his collegiate career with a foot injury, Harris assimilated to the college game with little lag time in the middle of last season. Now as a fully-healthy guard in a Tom Izzo system, Harris is expected to take a solid jump in efficiency this year.

G-D.J. Newbill, Jr., Penn State – 2012-13 stats: 16.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg. Jermaine Marshall transferred to Arizona State, so the Nittany Lions’ show is all Newbill’s. He’s on a team that isn’t expected to pull a ton of upsets this season, but that shouldn’t stop a guard with serious game from getting his numbers.

F-Mitch McGary, Soph., Michigan – 2012-13 stats: 7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 59.8% field goal percentage. This time last year McGary was expected to be a dominant big man. He wasn’t until late in the season. Now we’re right back where we started. This time with some proof that he possesses that takeover ability.

F-Adreian Payne, Sr., Michigan State – 2012-13 stats: 10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 54.6% field goal percentage. He’s the stud of this conference, in my opinion. A prototypical Big Ten big man with the touch around the rim and the ability to navigate in traffic for rebounds and putbacks. He’s going to have a big year, so long that he stays healthy.

Preseason Player of the Year- Adreian Payne – I don’t really see a more polished player in this conference. There might be more athletic players, but none that possess the discipline that Payne has to be as efficient as his is.

Sleeper player- Roy Devyn Marble, Sr., Iowa – Great name, great game. Marble was near the top of the conference in scoring last year and with a better team this year, he should get the publicity he deserves. Expecting a lot from this guy.

Team rankings

Michigan State – Payne anchors the post, Harris will control the ball on the perimeter and as long as he stays healthy, this could be his last season in East Lansing. Travis Trice, who averaged just 4.8 ppg last season, could become an x-factor this season. Tom Izzo knows how to put together a solid team year-in and year-out.

Michigan – It’s not a surprise here. They lose Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke to the NBA, but Mitch McGary’s surge in March last season, coupled with Nik Stauskas coming back with Jordan Morgan will still make some sizable noise. Caris LaVert could be an underrated piece this season. Watch out for freshman Zak Irvin to make an impact in his first season in maize and blue.

Ohio State – All of the Buckeyes top scorers return besides DeShaun Thomas, and they also have one more season of ball-hawking goodness from Aaron Craft. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and his 9.2 ppg last season are expected to improve with Thomas gone, as well LaQuinton Ross, whose numbers aren’t just expected to improve, but skyrocket. OSU will definitely need more from 6-11 Amir Williams, who is the only 6-8-plus player on their roster.

Indiana – The Hoosiers will have to replace a lot of scoring. Specifically their Top 3 bucket-getters from last season in Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford. Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell are the obvious leaders, but Jeremy Hollowell should make a sizable jump in his sophomore year. The Hoosiers are also sporting an 8-man recruiting class led by studs Troy Williams (when he returns from injury), Stanford Robinson and Luke Fischer.

Iowa – This one is a stretch. Call it a gut feeling. The Hawkeyes return nine of their Top 10 scorers off a team that went to the NIT Final Four last season. All those players averaged at least 10 minutes per game as well. Roy Devyn Marble is going to be a steady presence that gets the national publicity he deserves this season and what’s more? Fran McCaffery finally gets the team he’s been building towards since he arrived in Iowa City.

Wisconsin - Bo Ryan will have to replace some scoring. Leading scorer Ben Brust (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 79 assists) does return, as does Sam Dekker (9.6 ppg, 36.1 three-point percentage)and Traevon Jackson (6.9 ppg) coming back as well. Frank Kaminsky (6.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 28 mpg) will be asked to do more in the post.

The rest

Purdue – The Boilermakers Top 3 scorers return in Terone (13.5 ppg) and Ronnie Johnson (10.3 ppg, 139 assists) with A.J. Hammons (10.6 ppg. 6 rpg). It’s going to be interesting to see who steps into the hole left by D.J. Byrd.

Minnesota – Losing Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe will hurt and as of now, new coach Richard Pitino has only one freshman on his roster. He does have both Hollins’ boys (Andre 14.6 ppg, Austin 10.7 ppg) back along with big man Elliot Eliason (13.7 mpg), but a number of low-end role players will have to grow up.

Illinois – There are few teams that will rely more on transfers this season than the Fighting Illini. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice is eligible, as is Illinois State graduate defector Jon Ekey. Tyler Griffey’s 7.2 ppg and 3.5 rpg will be much needed since he’s the top returning scorer who played at in Champaign last season.

Penn State – Losing Jermaine Marshall to Arizona State was a huge blow. Allen Roberts, a graduate transfer from Miami (Ohio) comes in to fill the spot, and leading scorer D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) makes it back as well. The biggest boost will come from Tim Frazier and his 16.3 ppg, though it came in four games last season before he went out for the season with a torn ACL.

Northwestern – Chris Collins will have a decent team on paper in his first season in Evanston, but no one should look at it as a litmus test for his tenure. Drew Crawford was lucky enough to get his medical redshirt and his 13.5 ppg will be needed. Dave Sobolewski (9.8 ppg, 127 assists) returns and three redshirt freshman enter the mix.

Nebraska – Ray Gallegos (12.5 ppg, 46 steals) returns, but not a ton more. Watch out for David Rivers (5.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg) to break out as a junior, as well as Shavon Shields (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg).

Most likely too….

…Average 20 points and 10 rebounds – Adreian Payne – He averaged 10 and 7 per game, but with Harris and Appling coming around, solid shooting on the perimeter and the fact that post play is a bit down in the B1G this season, he could beast his share of teams.

…Be a first round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – Glenn Robinson III, Jr., Michigan – This is a given. There are a number of candidates here. McGary, Harris, Payne, etc. But he passed up first round money to come back. Another solid season locks him into the Top 10, probably.

…End up first-team all-conference after being left off the preseason team – Andre Hollins, Jr., Minnesota – He might be the most complete player in the league that no one seems to care about. Averaged 14.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game. With the right season under Pitino, Hollins could not only get onto the first team, but in the first round of the draft.

Preseason, postseason predictions

Regular Season conference champions – Ohio State – Smith, Jr., Craft, Ross. That upperclassmen trio alone can do a lot for any team. People remember that Deshaun Thomas left, but they forget that not much else did.

Conference tournament champions – Michigan State – With the best big man in the conference in the post and the leadership of Tom Izzo, there just isn’t a time that anyone should ever doubt the Spartans, especially not in March.


TBBC Conference previews: The ACC

The Backboard Chronicles is kicking off the 2013-14 season by taking a look at all Division I conferences and giving you the skinny on the best, worst, and most interesting things in each one. Today, we look at the ACC and what they’ll bring this season.

Preseason All-conference team

G- Ryan Anderson, Jr., Boston College – The best player in that conference that absolutely no one is talking about, unless you’re a hoophead. Anderson quietly put together one of the better seasons in the ACC. The Lakewood, Calif. native averaged 14.9 points and eight rebounds and shot 47.6 percent last season for a 16-17 Golden Eagles squad. He’s the dark-horse for ACC Player of the Year

G- C.J. Fair, Sr., Syracuse – Is there another player in college basketball that did more, but got less publicity than Fair? He led the Orange in scoring (14.5 points) and rebounds (seven per game) and was overshadowed completely by point guard Michael Carter-Williams and senior Brandon Triche. Fair didn’t mind. He was the model of consistency for Jim Boeheim’s crew last season. And admit it, you forgot that ‘Cuse goes to the ACC this season.

F- P.J. Hairston, Jr., North Carolina – Yes, Hairston is probably going to miss a few games with the NCAA looking into his dealings with an agent/agent runner and whatnot. He’s still a Top 5 player in the conference. He averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season, and the 6-6 Hairston should headline this Tar Heels team when he comes back — whenever that is.

F-  Jabari Parker, Fr., Duke – After all the guessing on whether Parker would take his two-year Mormon mission, Parker decided against it (early) and that’s great news for Mike Krzyzewski. Parker was a Top 3 consensus player in the 2013 class and should join a solid cast of newcomers in Rodney Hood and Matt Jones. It might just be one year (or not, being that Parker doesn’t fit the atypical personality of most of today’s top players) but it’ll be a good one.

F/C- Akil Mitchell, Sr., Virginia – Another pick that comes with a disclaimer with Mitchell coming off a broken hand in July. As long as Mitchell is healthy, the Charlotte native averaged 13.1 points and 8.9 rebounds and could get close to the 15 and 10 mark this season. The 6-8 banger shot 54.5 percent from the field last season and maintains as one of the top low-post marksmen in the league.

Preseason Player of the Year –  C.J. Fair – New conference, same game. Fair comes from one of the top conferences last season in the (old) Big East and even though the ACC improves this season, it improves mainly because Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are coming over. It’ll translate. Expect 17-18 ppg and 7-8 rpg consistently from Fair this year.

Sleeper player

Rodney Hood, R-Soph., Duke - During the 2010-11 season, Hood averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds for a Mississippi State team that was on its way down at the end of the  Rick Stansbury era. Now with Parker, Jones and Semi Ojeleye coming to campus, coupled with the emergence of Rasheed Suliamon and the return of Andre Dawkins, Hood’s first year with the  Blue Devils is getting much love. But he should do enough to earn All-ACC honors if he plays like he did in his year in Starkville.

Team Rankings

Duke – Coach K, Rasheed Suliamon, a stellar freshman class headlined by Jabari Parker. What’s not to love? Oh, and the whole “consistently staying at the top of the conference no matter what” thing. Really watch out for Rodney Hood, and Andre Dawkins makes his return to the Blue Devils after taking a year away from the game. Tyler Thornton is a low-key glue guy for this team. Quinn Cook should be much improved as well.

Syracuse – Again, new conference, same attitude. Jim Boeheim doesn’t have to worry about much when it comes to his players adjusting to the ACC. They played in a conference that routinely got 7-11 teams to the NCAA Tournament beforehand. Now? He’s got C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas and could be better if center DeJuan Coleman develops — which is something the Orange expect him to do.

North Carolina – This was a risk to put the Tar Heels this high, and it has nothing to do with P.J. Hairston. Reggie Bullock is gone and other than James Michael McAdoo, there isn’t another proven talent for Roy Williams. That said, Marcus Paige should take over full-time with the graduation of Dexter Strickland at point guard — both averaged four-plus assists last year. Nate Britt could come in and contribute as a solid sixth man behind Paige. Eyes will also be on senior Leslie McDonald, who averaged 7.2 points per game last season and could take a larger role as a scorer.

Virginia – The Cavaliers took everyone by surprise last season, being picked to finish near the lower-middle in the ACC and finishing in the Top 5. With Akil Mitchell healthy, Joe Scott (16.3 ppg) maintaining his perimeter presence (42.5 percent from 3) and sophomore Mike Tobey developing (6.8 points, 2.9 rebounds in 30 games last year) this could be a better team under Tony Bennett than some outside of Charlottesville believe.

Boston College - Ryan Anderson made many people believers last year, and he’ll continue to do so. But don’t sleep on Olivier Hanlan, who actually led the Golden Eagles in scoring (15.4 ppg). In fact, Steve Donohue’s Top 6 scorers return. This is the year that the Eagles get back to the NCAAs, because this is a team that, even last year, everyone knew could be great come 2013-14.

Maryland – Mark Turgeon was one of the luckiest coaches in the land when Dez Wells landed in his lap after being unfairly cast off from Xavier. Now, even with Alex Len leaving early for the NBA, the Terrapins have a shot at getting back to the NCAA Tournament this season. Nick Faust’s 9.3 ppg has to go up — which could happen since he averaged 12+ down the stretch last season — along with Wells’ steady presence at guard, this team should maintain. Jake Layman could be the guy that takes the Terps to the next level, if he starts consistently.

Notre Dame – Jerian Grant, this is your time. Combined with Eric Atkins, these two could form the most experienced backcourt in the ACC. Grant (13.3 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Atkins (11.2 ppg, 5.5 apg) will be able to dish the rock, but to who? Jack Cooley graduated, so it’ll be up to someone to step into the post, maybe Eric Katenda?

Pittsburgh – Jamie Dixon and the Panthers were a little taken aback when freshman Steven Adams left for the NBA (it was the right decision). That thinned them a bit in the frontcourt, but redshirt senior Talib Zanna can shoulder the load, averaging 9.6 points last season. However, that was with Adams to spell him. Look for Joseph Uchebo, a junior college transfer, to possibly come in and fill the role left by Adams. Lamar Patterson should be able to maintain what he did last season with 10 ppg.

The rest

North Carolina State - This time last season, Mark Gottfried’s squad was looking like a team that could throw a wrench into the ACC title picture for a few years to come. Now? Rodney Purvis is gone, as is C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell (to the pros) and Scott Wood graduated. All five starters are no longer in Raleigh. T.J. Warren will be asked to lead the Wolfpack along with six incoming freshman and just one senior. This team is a year away.

Georgia Tech - This was a young team last year. Their Top 2 scorers, Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.8 ppg) and Robert Carter, Jr. (9.9), are now sophomores. The biggest wild card will be the play of graduate transfer Trae Golden from Tennessee. Brian Gregory has to make some sort of impact with this team.

Miami – Jim Larranaga took a group of incredibly experienced players (the average age of the Hurricanes last year was around 23 years old) and made a Sweet 16 appearance. Now? Back to square one. The Top 6 scorers are gone. Angel Rodriguez getting a waiver might be the biggest piece yet to fall.

Florida State - With Xavier Rathan-Mayes being declared ineligible for the season, even more of the load is now on Okaro White and a cast of role players. Watch out for guard Devin Bookert, who shot 52.5 percent (32-of-61) from three last season.

Virginia Tech – Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer, is gone off a 13-19 team. Now what for coach James Johnson? Second-leading scorer Jarell Eddie (12.3 ppg) is back, but a lot of guys will have to step up.

Wake Forest – C.J. Harris is gone, but Travis McKie and Devin Thomas return, along with the addition of graduate transfer Coron Williams, who averaged 9.2 points and shot 41.6 percent from three with Robert Morris last season. The team features 10 sophomores.

Clemson – Brad Brownell doesn’t have much to work with this season. Devin Booker and Milton Jennings are gone. K.J. McDaniels (10.5 points, 5 rebounds, 58 blocks last year) will take on the burden. Jordan Roper shot 41.4 percent last season from three. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Tigers.

Most Likely Too…

…Record a triple-double – Ryan Anderson, Boston College – Could Anderson be another Michael Carter-Williams? Anderson exhibits the do-it-all game that lends itself to that. Given the right opponent (a bad one) it could happen.

…Be an All-American – Jabari Parker, Duke – He’s shown not only the physical game, but the mental aspect that is so critical to withstand the pressure of playing as a high-profile player at Duke.  That usually equals consistent big-time play.

…Hit more than one game-winner – Dez Wells, Maryland – We should call this the Michael Snaer Award. Wells seemed to always be there for  the Terps last season. With Pe’Shon Howard gone, he’ll shoulder the scoring load for a team that has a few players that could step into consistent roles. It may just be because he’s the lone scorer on that team.

…Lead the nation in one statistical category – Devin Bookert, Florida State – in three-point percentage – As previously stated, Bookert shot over 50-percent from the three and it wasn’t something small like 11-for-20. He can stroke it. With expectations lowered this season in Tallahassee, Bookert could surprise some people by hitting consistently from deep.

Preseason, postseason predictions

Regular season conference championsDuke – A bevy of new talent (Jones, Parker, Hood) mix well with a nucleus of veterans (Suliamon, Quinn Cook, Alex Murphy, Dawkins, Thornton) and do what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team does, win consistently.

Conference tournament champions – Syracuse - Tyler Ennis jumps right into the role left by Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair earns Lottery Pick status and veteran role players like Christmas, Coleman and Baye Moussa Keita do what they do and the Orange win their first ACC Tournament title in their first season in the league.

Agree or disagree with something? Let us know at tbbchronicles@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten or @TBBChronicles.


The Backboard Chronicles 2013-14 Preseason All-American team

It’s that time of year again. College hoops is here.

Yea, I get it, college football season is in full-swing. Cool. Here on this blog, though, no. It’s college basketball season because we say it is. Because Mark Emmert says it is. Or something.

Ok, first order of business, it’s been six long months, you’re trying to figure out exactly who is coming back and who left for the pros (or who listened to the wrong people). Never fear, The Backboard Chronicles has 15 of the best players in the nation in three neat, organized teams.

Without further ado , The Backboard Chronicles 2013-14 Preseason All-American team.

And big ups to you if you actually read the first five paragraphs of this post and didn’t scroll down. You’re detail-oriented.

FIRST TEAM

G- Andrew Wiggins, Fr., Kansas – This one is summed up in one word, “duh.” Or one sound, whatever. Wiggins is by-in-large the greatest prospect most scouts have seen since LeBron. And to some, it’s not even close. Wiggins picked the Jayhawks over Kentucky and Florida State. Now, as a result, Bill Self’s team went from being on-par with Oklahoma State and claiming at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 Conference title to being favored over the Cowboys.

G- Marcus Smart, Soph., Oklahoma State – Speaking of Oklahoma State, meet the guy who will be responsible for dethroning Kansas. Smart was criticized for turning down Top 5 Lottery Pick money and coming back for his second year — though this guy thinks everyone should back off and let Smart do what he thinks is best for him. Smart paced Oklahoma State with 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season and all signs point to his boosting those numbers this season.

F- Doug McDermott, Sr., Creighton – The guy can flat out score. Post. Perimeter. Mid-range. In transition. Doesn’t matter. And he, like Smart, turned down a shot at being a decently-high NBA Draft pick for another year in the college ranks, playing for his dad with the Bluejays. The 6-8 offensive dynamo clocked 23.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot 54.8 percent from the field, 49 percent from three-point range and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. His exposure will boost with Creighton moving to the new Big East this season.

F- Jabari Parker, Fr., Duke – Call it a bold prediction, Parker will be here at the end of the year. Parker has been a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the focus of a number of recruiting profiles. But Parker is the crown jewel of a pretty solid recruiting class for Mike Kzyzewski. A 6-8, 225-pound slasher with a bevy of transition moves, Parker will have his way in the ACC. Maybe even ACC Player of the Year honors.

F/C- Julius Randle, Fr., Kentucky – There doesn’t seem to be a way to get through a preseason player list without including at least one from Calipari’s super-class. Julius Randle is that dude this year. Randle is a 6-9 post monster who can eat undersized (and even fairly-good sized) forwards for breakfast. He’s also already challenging Wiggins among the pundits for the 2013 NBA Draft’s top pick.

SECOND TEAM

G- Russ Smith, Sr., Louisville – Smith almost left for the pros after last season. While I believe every player is free to make their own decisions (well, at least after their freshman year, David Stern) Smith made the right call to return. Smith went from unknown freshman to college basketball’s most mercurial sophomore to a bonafide star as a junior. With Peyton Siva gone and JuCo All-American Chris Jones in, it’s not unrealistic to think Smith’s 18.7-point average might hold this season. He’ll have to improve on the 2.7 turnovers and 32.8 percent clip from three.

G- Jahii Carson, R-Soph., Arizona State – Carson was the greatest redshirt freshman in the nation not named Ben McLemore last season, dropping in more points (18.5) and assists (5.1) than McLemore — albeit on a lesser talented team. Carson decided to come back, and as a result he’s expected to maintain what he did in Tempe last season.

F- Jerrelle Benimon, Sr., Towson – “Who?” Yea, I can here that now. But the Georgetown transfer proved he’s not just thriving in a new system under Pat Skerry with the Tigers. Benimon averaged 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds and shot 65.4 percent for a revived Towson team that won 18 games a season removed from a one-win campaign. He was the CAA Player of the Year in 2012-13. He can do that again this year. And more.

F- P.J. Hairston, Jr., North Carolina – If there’s anyone ready to see some hardwood, it’s Hairston, considering the offseason he’s had. Rental cars, agents, runners, they’ve all been a part of his summer. But off-the-court antics aside, Hairston can play. He’s already practicing with the team and there have been varying reports on how many games the 6-5 swingman will miss due to NCAA violaHAHAHAHAHA sorry couldn’t get through that. We all know Hairston will miss maybe an exhibition game. The junior averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and shot 43.1 percent from the field.

F/C- Adreian Payne, Jr., Michigan State – Tom Izzo has a way of just getting the best out of all of his players, be it a walk-on or five star. Payne is one of those guys. Payne went from seven points to 10.5 last season and from 4.2 rebounds to 7.6. Payne’s biggest boost came at the free throw line, where he went from 69.7 percent to 84.8 percent. If he stays on this track, he’s going to terrorize the B1G.

THIRD TEAM

G- Gary Harris, Soph., Michigan State – After fighting off some early injury struggles, Harris ended up with a solid freshman season clocking 12.9 points and 1.4 assists per game. Now that he’s 100-percent, Harris should pair with Keith Appling to form a Top 2 backcourt in the B1G. This pick is based on Harris’ potential, and even with a sprained ankle he suffered in early August, I fully expect him to come back renewed and possibly turn himself into a first round draft pick.

G- Joe Jackson, Sr. Memphis – I believe in Joe Jackson. A Memphis-born product who was expected by a lot of people to spend one season at home before bolting for the pros, turnovers have remained his problem — he’s averaged at least 2.4 per game in this first three years with the Tigers. However, Jackson’s scoring production has improve yearly and it’s well-documented that Jackson bleeds Memphis. The guy has the drive and skill set, and this season he should put it all together.

F- C.J. Fair, Sr. Syracuse – There are a lot of arguments that Fair, who led the Orange in scoring despite being in the background to Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland all last season on the way to a Final Four. Fair might’ve been the most underappreciated player on a high-major team last season, with averages of 15.7 points, seven boards and shooting 47 percent overall and 46.9 percent from three-point range. Fair could’ve gone pro, probably landing on an NBA roster. Instead, he’ll be looked at as the leader and best player for Jim Boeheim.

F- Mitch McGary, Soph., Michigan – This one was a coin flip between McGary and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. McGary wins because honestly, he’s got more room to expand his game. McGary made a late-season move to 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds last year and he’ll be asked to do more down low with Tim Hardaway gone and Glenn Robinson III expanding his role.

F/C- Alex Kirk, R-Jr., New Mexico – Yet another product of the developmental redshirt year. Kirk went from 4.7 points and 3.7 boards in 2010-11 to 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds last year. He could’ve gone pro and taken advantage of the hype — a la Kelly Olynyk — but with Olynyk, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len coming out, the draft was front-loaded with big man talent. The 7-footer could really improve his draft stock with a solid season. He’ll get it.

(And no honorable mentions. Honorable mentions are for the weak.)

Follow The Backboard Chronicles on Twitter at @TBBChronicles and David Harten at @David_Harten.


With Virginia, it’s a choice of good wins or bad losses

It’s a simple question: With their resume, does Virginia have the resume to bypass the seemingly endless amount of other teams on the proverbial Bubble and make it into the field?

Consider me as one of those who thinks yes, without question. And it all has to do with their quality wins.

According to RealTimeRPI.com (the site I swear by when it comes time to look at such things) the Cavaliers have seven wins over Top 100 RPI teams. Four of them are against the Top 50 in North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wisconsin and now, Duke. The three Top 100 wins are Florida State*, Tennessee and Maryland.

(*Yes, somehow Florida State is still a Top 100 team.)

So we have the wins out of the way. Now, we have to look at the other side of things, the part that might actually weigh on the Wahoo’s NCAA Tournament chances more than anything. The bad losses.

And man, they’re awful. In fact, you could make a case that everything I’m writing is total crap, and these should keep them out.

On the season, Tony Bennett’s team is 20-8. Of those eight losses, six are against teams outside the RPI Top 150, including what could turn out to be the shot to the jugular to their Big Dance chances, the 63-61 loss to a dreadful Old Dominion team that ranks 323rd in the RPI*.

(*I understand there are other ways of determining what Virginia’s chances are. But the RPI is the main factor by which the NCAA Tournament Committee decides, so by that rationale, one has to think like the committee thinks.)

In fact, before back-to-back losses to North Carolina (20th) and Miami (3rd) on Feb. 16 and 19, all of the Cavaliers’ losses were to teams outside the Top 150.

So yea, one might see exactly why the case can be made that Virginia has some work to do, possibly even needing a decent run in the ACC Tournament.

But here’s my main argument, with the numbers all laid out: Those disgusting losses early in the season to bad teams, all of which were in the CAA (George Mason, Old Dominion, Delaware), don’t mean as much as getting four wins over sure-fire tournament teams in Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.

Had the conference wins come in a lesser power conference such as the SEC or Big 12, which range from “bad” to “a bit down” this season, I’d say otherwise. But this a season in which even Miami, who isn’t traditionally a power in the conference, is dominant, and the ACC has shown to be  up there with the B1G this season as a best-of-the-best conference (though I believe the B1G to be the best overall, the ACC a slight second).

So the Selection Committee has to ask itself: What do we value more? Good wins or bad losses? When it comes to Virginia, the answer to that question will decide whether they’re celebrating or sulking on national television during the Selection Show in a few weeks.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

 


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