TBBC Fantasy Series: Sleepers, Locks, Over-valued players

Some people player fantasy sports (personally, if it’s not fantasy football, I don’t have any interest in it). With games a few days away, we take a look at a few players from a fantasy perspective, and how they might fair this season.
Sleepers
Jabari Bird, California – Bird didn’t receive a ton of national love on an average Cal team in ’13-’14. He averaged 8.3 ppg and 2 rpg last year. That should change this season.
Bryn Forbes, Michigan State – The grad transfer from Cleveland State who should add a shooting touch to the Spartans.
Aaron Cosby, Illinois – A Seton Hall transfer who will step into a secondary scoring role with Darius Paul gone on a year-long suspension.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma – The 6-4 guard made a huge jump in scoring (7.8 ppg to 16.5 ppg) from his freshman to sophomore years.
Ian Chiles, Tennessee – Yet another grad transfer who will lead a very inexperienced Volunteers team.
Freshman to watch (Note: We’re leaving out the obvious ones of Okafor, S. Johnson, Alexander, etc.)
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas – Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre have been getting all the love, but Graham could piggy-back on that to double-digit points as the Jayhawks’ point guard.
Goodluck Okonoboh, UNLV – He’s a 6-9 shot-blocker who is much-needed for Dave Rice this season.
Chris Chiozza, Florida – There won’t be a lot of pressure on Chiozza with the talent the Gators have. I expect him to use that to his advantage.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State – Scouts are enthralled with him. He’d be getting more love, but his earlier eligibility issues stunted his hype.
Myles Turner, Texas – Texas is getting sleeper status and Turner, a highly-touted forward, is at the center of it.
Locks (Guys who will consistently put up great numbers)
Jahlil Okafor, Duke – The 6-10 sure-fire one-and-done is about as safe a bet as there is this season to average around 15 and 8.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky – WCS has gone from mildly-heralded recruit coming to Lexington, to guaranteed NBA Draft first rounder. Might be the best-shot blocker in program history.
Marcus Paige, North Carolina – The Cousy Award leader will be counted on to get the UNC offense running. Probably the best point guard in the nation.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville – He went from a high-motor recruit to 6-8 big with wing skills who’s improved his perimeter shot this season.
Briante Weber, VCU – One of the best defenders — maybe the best — in the nation. Definitely the best one-on-one defender, hands down (or up).
Over-valued players (Guys who won’t have to do as  much as originally thought)
Cliff Alexander, Kansas – He’ll get his stats, probably around 11 ppg and 6 rpg. But what he won’t do is lead the team in points and rebounds as some seem to think.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State – A lot of people believe coach Tom Izzo will lean on him heavily. I don’t see it. There’s enough talent to ease it off of him.
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky – He’ll be a great point guard….next season. This is Andrew Harrison’s role and Ulis should learn all year. Just watch his assist-to-turnover ratio.
Players who are worth more than their stats
Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin – Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky may get the pub (and it’s well-deserved) but it takes a smart, patient point guard to run the Bo Ryan sets. That’s Jackson.
T.J. McConnell, Arizona – On a team full of athletes, McConnell will be the one in charge of getting the team in focus.
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga – The stats show a good player (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 59.3 FG percentage). The stats even lie. Karnowski is an even greater defensive presence.
Michael Frazier II, Florida – He’s going to be this season’s Ron Baker. He’s more than a shooter.
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State – Being a transfer, it’s easy to miss him. But he’s combines a great mix of distribution (3.7 apg last year) and defense (1.8 spg).

It’s here: The 2014 Backboard Chronicles All-American Teams

First Team

-Marcus Paige, G, Jr., North Carolina – Arguably one of the Top 2 point guards in the nation (more on that below). He’ll be one of the front runners for the Cousy Award and might have to shoulder more of the scoring load with James Michael McAdoo gone. That’ll be interesting considering he clocked 17.5 points per game last season, along with 4.2 assists per.

-Fred VanVleet, G, Jr., Wichita State – Here’s that other member of the Top 2 point guard club I was talking about. I really didn’t want to choose between the two so I went this way. While Paige is more dynamic, VanVleet might be the coolest guy on the floor. Even-keel the whole way. He dished out 5.4 assists per game last season and gets a lot of the Shockers’ production back (sans Cleanthony Early, obviously).

-Georges Niang, F, Jr., Iowa State – I had Niang pegged as a guy that would come out for the 2014 NBA Draft. The college game is better for him not doing it. Niang has the ultimate “old man” game with a variety of moves, both midrange and under the basket. His spot-up game is on point too, hitting 48 threes last season. He’ll be relied on a little more with Melvin Ejim gone.

-Karl-Anthony Towns, C/F, Fr., Kentucky – I normally don’t put freshman in these spots, but Towns has been too hyped since he was an 8th grader to ignore it. I watched him in the UK Scouting Combine/Practice/Brilliant Calipari PR move and was impressed. There aren’t many times when you say that about a player in practice, but you can say that when that practice includes around 8-9 future NBA Draft picks. He’s hitting threes at a decent pace for a non-Durant guy his size, too (127 in three years as a prep).

-Cliff Alexander, C/F, Fr., Kansas – OK SO MAYBE I LIKE THE FRESHMAN THIS YEAR (My 2006, sophomore-in-college self nods in approval) I saw Alexander play a few times in AAU, and every time I did, he was a monster. He tried to rip the rim down every single time he was under the basket. Kansas won’t miss Joel Embiid (that much) with Alexander in, because Alexander isn’t the project Embiid was. His post game is incredibly polished.

Second Team

-Juwan Staten, G, Sr., West Virginia – Here’s a guy who doesn’t get the love he should. Staten was the best player on a bad team last season, averaging 18.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5.8 apg as the Mountaineers finished 17-16. In 2014-15, he’ll be looked to for everything as the top 3 scorers behind him are gone. But Bob Huggins brings in host of junior college talent in Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton, BillyDee Williams and Tarik Phillip. It’ll be interesting to see if the three freshman (including redshirt Elijah Macon) will contribute early.

-Delon Wright, G, Sr., Utah – Another guy who didn’t get the national respect he should’ve. That’ll change this season. Wright averaged 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 5.3 apg for the Runnin’ Utes last season and helped them shock a number of people under coach Larry Krystkowiak (yea, I had to Google the spelling, at least I tried first), going 21-12. Utah could make the NCAA Tournament this season, and Wright will be a big reason why — if they do, or if they don’t.

-Stanley Johnson, G/F, Fr., Arizona – Sean Miller has a type, and that type is “slender with a ton of bounce.” Johnson slides right into the spot vacated by Aaron Gordon. He’s got a better penetration game from the perimeter and a slightly better jumper. He should enjoy his one season in Tuscon. At which point he’ll break up with Miller and the Wildcats head coach will have to find a new crush.

-Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville – Everyone said he was gone to the NBA Draft, including this guy. But he went back to Louisville and has landed on everyone’s All-American list. I’m one of the few that put him on their second team. The reason why has nothing to do with his talent. If he lands on all first-team rosters, it won’t shock anyone. But if he does, it’ll be because he improved his midrange game, which was already vastly improved last season, when he finished with 14 ppg and 8.4 rpg.

-Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke – I swear, I’m not fishing for clicks. I like Okafor. I think he’s a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. But it’s the preseason, and in the preseason, I look at what’s coming in. Duke has a lot of talent, per usual. For that, I think that Okafor won’t need to do a lot to start out. I really think he’ll average somewhere around 11 ppg up until ACC play, where coach Mike Krzyzewski will unleash him on the North Carolinas, Virginias and Louisvilles. But there will be an adaptation to the college game, and that lands him on my second team. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally wrong and he goes for 20-12 per and is a bonafide first team All-American by mid-season.

Third Team

-Joseph Young, G, Sr., Oregon – If there’s a player in Division I college basketball who will be asked to do more for his team this season, please show me and I’ll swap him with Young in this spot. After the dismissal of Daymean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin for their alleged involvement in a sexual assault case, combined with the fact that highly-touted recruit JaQuan Lyle didn’t enroll at the school, that doesn’t leave a lot in the metaphorical cupboard for Young. I was against Young’s transfer waiver being granted when he left Houston, but after seeing all that Dana Altman lost, I’m ok with it. Even if it’s just because he has a least one totally competent scorer (18.9 ppg) on his roster.

-Marcus Foster, G, Soph., Kansas State – He was possibly the best freshm— no, he WAS the best freshman no one was talking about last season. The Wichita Falls, Texas native set the Big 12 on fire (in a two-game stretch, he went for 34 against then no.15 Texas and backed it up with 20 against then no.7-ranked Kansas) and came back for more in Manhattan. No one will miss him this season, as he’s got help in the form of senior Thomas Gipson (11.7 ppg), Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.

-Andrew Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky – Once he figured out how to distribute last season, Kentucky was a better team for it. He averaged 10.9 ppg and 4 apg, en route to helping a late-season resurgence in Lexington. Now with a plethora of weapons to hit for threes, midrange jumpers and lobs, he could very well lead the nation in assists. Harrison makes this team go, as he proved it late last season. This year, that shouldn’t change.

-Kelly Oubre, F, Fr., Kansas – Every list has a WTF? pick, Oubre is mine. He’s got the credentials to be an All-American, but can he do it with the likes of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander in front of him? I think so. He’s got more athleticism than either Ellis or Alexander in the face-up game and if he can stay consistent on defense, this could be his lone season in Lawrence. I see the potential, so I’m giving him a spot. Being left-handed doesn’t hurt.

-Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Jr., Kentucky – He didn’t come to Kentucky with a ton of hype, but has really become the most well-developed player in his two seasons under Calipari. Cauley-Stein has a good shot at being a Top 5 pick if he can raise his midrange and baseline jumper game, but he’ll also have to prove to scouts that he’s over the ankle injury. Yea, I’m reaching for reasons that WCS will have to improve, because there aren’t many.

Player of the Year – Marcus Paige

Freshman of the Year – Cliff Alexander

Defensive Player of the Year – Willie Cauley-Stein 

 


The new villains of college basketball for 2014-15

The differences in Aaron Craft and Marshall Henderson were astounding, really.

When you think about it, the 2013-14 basketball season, in part, was a study of how two men can be seen as “evil” to different people on totally different ends of the spectrum. Craft was, by all accounts, clean-cut, nice and did all the right things. Though he was still hated as if he somehow victimized an entire student section.

Then you had Marshall Henderson, who was 180-degrees in the other direction. The history with drugs. The arrests. The four schools in five collegiate seasons. Not to mention all the trashing-talking, jersey popping and general anger he incited….and that was just against Auburn.

They were the villains of the 2013-14 season (the last two seasons, really). But those two were seniors and have exhausted their eligibility.

So now we search for the next batch of possible prospects who are ready to cause fans to be ejected, security to be beefed up around the visiting bench and boosters’ wives to leave games early.

One caveat: No Duke players. Because, for the love of God, that’s just too easy. And y’all are better than that.

Ryan Boatright, Sr., G, UConnThe Mouth – There aren’t many great players going into 2014-15 that are known for their trash talk, but Boatright is one of them. He’s a smaller, talkative point guard who loves to get the the basket (12.1 ppg. 3.4 apg) and isn’t afraid to let you know that his game is up there with the best. He’s got a mouth to match his talent and I’d bet your life that we see it on a national stage.

Ron Baker, r-Jr., G, Wichita State - The Gun – Ron Baker has a well-rounded game (13.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 spg) , but he’s known for his range more than anything. He’ll piss off a fanbase from deep nightly (38 percent from 3-point range last year) and he’ll do it quietly, which added another dimension to how he’ll drive opposing fans crazy.

Aaron Harrison, Soph., G, KentuckyMr. Big Shot – Despite the insane amount of talent that recently descended upon Lexington, there’s no way student sections around the SEC forgot about Harrison’s big shot tour of March 2014. Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin fans sure as hell won’t. Every time the game is in the balance late, you can bet no. 2 will get more flak than his brother or the freshman phenoms  for the Wildcats. And he and his 13.7 ppg will probably get the same attention from opposing defenses.

Kevin Pangos, Sr., G, Gonzaga - The Tradition – Pangos carries on a long, proud legacy for the Zags: Shorter, white point guards who somehow get to the rim with ease. John Stockton, Matt Santangelo, Dan Dickau, Derek Raivio, now Pangos. He’s already the most hated man in the West Coast Conference and, while he’s had some attention on a national stage, it should increase this season as a senior, where he should improve on his 14.4-point, 3.3-rebound, 3.6-assist per game averages. If anything, Pangos is already hated at Wazzu.

Siyani Chambers, Jr., G, Harvard and Wesley Saunders, Sr., G, HarvardThe Nerds -It’s the smart kid syndrome. Despite the Crimson having  one of the better mid-major programs in the past five years under Tommy Amaker, the average fan at a college basketball game is going to prey on the fact that they go to a smart-kid school (which is a compliment, but you get the idea). Chambers (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Saunders (14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) have arguably the most talented mid-major backcourt in the land — rivaling Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter of Georgia State — and they’ll hear all about how they don’t belong all season.

Tyler Haws, Sr., G, BYUThe Jimmer Effect – I know, I know. It’s an easy play. But sometime you have to point out the obvious. He’s a white guard at BYU who gets all of the buckets — 23.2 ppg on 46.3 percent shooting, 40.4 percent from 3. He’s going to be the focal point of the Cougars attack and their opponents’ defensive strategy. And you can bet that he’ll be at the center of every student sections disparaging chants (though a lot of sections are slacking. Seriously, what’s wrong with you people? Get creative.)

Marcus Foster, Soph,, G, Kansas StateThe Most Known Unknown – You’re welcome for the 3 6 Mafia drop. Foster had very few offers coming out of high school and he made the most of his Kansas State one. He averaged 15.5 points last season and with Oklahoma State losing so much and Texas bringing back a ton of good-but-not-marquee players, there needs to be a star in the Big 12 OUTSIDE of Lawrence, Kansas (though he’ll have to fight Georges Niang.) Foster could definitely be it for Bruce Weber’s team. He’s already probably made many enemie in Spokane.

Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Twitter at @David_Harten or email me at tbbchronicles@gmail.com.


#Twitter Game Strong: The best CBB players to follow

It took (almost) 72 years, but it finally happened. Grant Gibbs exhausted his eligibility at Creighton. With that, Gibbs must give up his unofficial title as “College Basketball’s Best Player Twitter Follow”.

It’s with this thought in mind that we search. We search for the best college basketball players to follow on Twitter. We kept the search strictly to those that play, and kept coaches and administrators out of the quest because, we all know @CoachMiles and @CoachChrisMack have the Coach Twitter game on lockdown.

We judged players on three main criteria:

1.) Tweet volume – It’s a subjective phrase. It could be enough that they warrant a follow, but not so many tweets that they’re just simply responding to every little RT and subtweet they see. It’s not worth it to get 1-2 entertaining tweets to wade through a swamp of “haha ur crazy bruh!!!!” tweets. You’ve got to find a happy medium.

2.) Entertainment value – Duh. If you want to be the best college basketball player in the Twitter game, you’ve got to be able to get and keep an audience. Equal parts funny, interesting and smart. Though it doesn’t necessarily mean funny is a requirement. If it’s a guy who has thought-provoking or informative tweets, that’s definitely a good place to start.

3.) Personal quality – College dudes are gonna be college dudes. Lord knows I was one once. So it’s cool to have weird stuff going on in their feed. But as long as that feed is also fun to read, it’s fine. Keep cursing to a minimum, fandom and diversity to the maximum.

So, with the parameters set, we searched. Here’s what we found to be the top follows on the college basketball hardwood (complete with a ton of — probably unnecessary — hashtags).

Georges Niang (@GeorgesNiang20) – He’s a thought-provoking type who #appreciates the fan base he plays for at (RT) #IowaState. He also doesn’t mind crowd-sourcing things for his future, something that could serve the almost-#surefire pro after college. If that doesn’t work out, maybe he has a career as a #motivationaspeaker . He likes to tweet — over 11,200  to his credit — but most are with a positive vibe, so it’s alright.

Fred VanVleet (@FredVanVleet) – VanVleet might be the most #grateful college #hooper on #Twitter. He came out of high school with little #fanfare and since the success of the 2012-13 #WichitaState squad he’s been one of the best point guards in the nation. He doesn’t take much for granted and lets you know it, but won’t clog up your #feed (less than 5,000 tweets). He’s also cool with passing along the love to others. Also, dude’s a #realist.

Kyle Wiltjer (@kwiltj) – The guy loves to #clown. The former #Kentucky forward and current #Gonzaga transfer loves to roll over his #Instagram game into Twitter, but still uses the good stuff in 140 characters. He also likes to throw in a few #struggletweets. All in a neat package of less than 5,000 tweets.

Dakari Johnson (@SafariDakari44) – The #Kentucky big man loves to #motivate, isn’t afraid to #askaquestion and, damn it, he’s proud to be from #Merica. The probable future #NBADraft pick give you an #insideview into his day and loves a good #movie. He also does it all in less than 7,000 tweets. On a team full of stars, Johnson takes the Twitter prize.

Oh and that Twitter name is awesome.

Sam Dekker (@samdek1) – Dekker, along with being one of the top returning players in the #B1G and a linchpin in the #WisconsinBadgers hopes for a second straight #FinalFour, mixes a blend of bro humor, sports savvy and general opinion . A true pioneer in the #TwitterCBB game with #HotSportTakes, #diverse #sports interests and all that. It’s just a shame he doesn’t tweet more, with only 325 to date.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Twitter at @David_Harten or at tbbchronicles@gmail.com.


The best Father/Son package deals in college basketball history

College recruiting is a giant gray area. There are a number of ways to lock up recruits that aren’t wrong and don’t break any rules. Their only crime is being obvious.

One of those ways is a prominent college coach hiring the parent of a prominent prep player to, eventually, earn a signature on a National Letter of Intent.

It (officially) happened on Wednesday with Memphis coach Josh Pastner’s hiring of Keelon Lawson as his third assistant. It’s no surprise the at a successful Memphis-area coach (Lawson was the head man at Hamilton High School and has won a state title for the school) could and would get an assistant job for a program in an area that’s a hoops hotbed.

It just so happens that Lawson has four sons, all of which are staring — or will be staring — major Division I offers in the face. D.J., Detric, Chandler and Jonathan Lawson all have a shot at being near the top of their respective prep classes, D.J. had already committed to Memphis prior to his dad’s hire, and Pastner smartly hired their dad to help get them to campus.

It’s far from a new trend in college basketball. Temple just hired Rick Brunson for their coaching staff. Brunson’s son, Jalen, is one of the top players in the class of 2015.

It’s worked in the past at some places. Other places it didn’t. Here’s a look at some of the best father/son package deals in college basketball.

Danny and Ed Manning – Kansas, 1984

In the spring of 1984, Danny Manning was the hottest name on the high school hardwood. Ed Manning, a 10-year NBA veteran, was his father. Larry Brown, then the coach at Kansas, wanted to sign Manning. So he made the move to hire Ed as an assistant on his staff, which in turn, netted him Danny and four years later, helped the Jayhawks raise a national title.

Danny Manning went on to average 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and shot 60.5 percent from the floor before being selected as the first overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. Ed Manning followed Brown to the Spurs, joining his staff as a scout.

This may have been arguably the greatest father/son package in the history of college basketball. Anything that leads to a national title has to be up for that discussion.

Although….

Mario and Ronnie Chalmers – Kansas, 2005

I’ve got to give it to the Jayhawks. When the package it, they go all-in. Ronnie Chalmers was a big-time high school coach in Alaska and his son, Mario, was the best player in the Great White North in 2005. Not to mention, he was ranked as the a Top 2 point guard in the nation by most recruiting services.

Kansas coach Bill Self wanted Mario, as did most of the coaches in Division I. But Self was the one who hired Ronnie Chalmers as his director of basketball operations, which all but sealed Mario heading to Lawrence. Three years later, Chalmers helps Kansas to their first national championship since their last famous father/son package was on campus in the Mannings.

Mario Chalmers stacked up three-year averages of 12.2 points, 3.8 assists and shot 41.8 percent from three-point range and was selected in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft. Ronnie Chalmers resigned from his post at Kansas right after Mario went pro in 2008.

Allan and Wade Houston – Tennessee, 1988

The Houston’s situation was made even more interesting with fact that Wade was an assistant under Louisville coach Denny Crum for 13 seasons. During his son Allan’s senior year at Ballard High School in Louisville, Houston was hired as the head coach at Tennessee.

Allan Houston, who would be named Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky and would help the Bruins win the state title in 1988, was rumored to be a strong UofL commitment before his dad got the Vols job. He promptly committed to UT, and flourished in Knoxville from 1989-1993, finishing as the school’s all-time leading scorer, averaging 21.9 points per game. Wade Houston got out of coaching after the 1993-94 season.

Allan would go on to be the 11th pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, while Wade lasted one more season at Tennessee before being fired with a 65-90 career record and just two NIT appearances to his credit.

Dajuan and Milt Wagner – Memphis, 2001

Dajuan Wagner was another possible Louisville target whose father had strong ties to the Cardinals, but then got a coaching job with another school and the son followed. Dajuan was arguably the best scorer in the 2001 class and, like his father Milt, was a standout at Camden High School. Milt went on to star for Louisville as part of the Camden Connection that Crum had forged with recruits in the area and started as a fifth-year senior on the Cardinals’ 1985-86 national championship team.

Those around the fanbase thought Wagner was a lock to follow his old man. But, just like with the Houston episode, Milt Wagner was hired as a coach by another program, John Calipari and Memphis, prior to Dajuan’s graduation from high school.

Wagner signed with Memphis, led them to the NIT title in his lone season with the Tigers, clocked 21.2 points per game and shot 45.3 percent from three before being selected as the 6th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Milt was most recently a member of Tony Barbee’s staff at Auburn. Barbee was fired after this past season.

Got a better idea? Did we forget anything? Hit us on Twitter at @TBBChronicles or at TBBChronicles@gmail.com.

 

 


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.


How Kendall Marshall’s injury affects the Tar Heels, individually (duh)

Without Kendall Marshall's 9.8 assist-gasm per game, UNC's scorers will be forced to transform their games a little bit.

-Ok, obvious headline. But all I keep hearing about is how North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall’s fractured wrist will affect the team as a whole. No one, however, has addressed exactly how.

Sure, this means one of the top distributors in the nation won’t be dishing out assists if he doesn’t play against Ohio — which by all accounts, is a winnable game without him, which is why I believe they save him for the Elite 8 — but what does it limit the Tar Heels main bigs/shooters from doing? A quick look.

Tyler Zeller (16.4 ppg, 55.4-percent from the field): By-in-large, Zeller has been the model of consistency for UNC this season. He’s a definite when it comes to ball distribution in the post (it has to go through him, a la David Padgett for Louisville from 2005-08) but it’s when he gets the ball down low, he does his best work to put it in. Zeller is hardly a face-up guy, which means he lives to get the feeds. Without a penetrate-and-dish PG like Marshall, Zeller will have to learn to possibly live 10-to-15 feet from the basket and use the mid-range jumper he’s slowly developed, or expect double-teams all night.

Harrison Barnes (17.3 ppg, 45.0-percent): By far the one player on the squad who will miss Marshall the least, should he not play. Barnes is nearly NBA-ready with the ability and size to slash in the lane and also create his own shot off the dribble. He doesn’t need Marshall to create for him, but it doesn’t hurt. He does however, benefit probably the most from the defensive collapses that Marshall draws on his forays to the bucket. Barnes will have to create more if Marshall doesn’t play, which could also shine some much-needed light on whether or not this is his final season in Chapel Hill.

James Michael McAdoo (5.8 ppg, 45.5-percent): He’s almost a Barnes-light. He does what the Super Sophomore does, only to a lesser-experienced extent. McAdoo needs Marshall because frankly, he goes off what the floor general tells him. Expect him to take more set shots, if for no other reason, because he’s not going to be able to move much with the ball.

John Henson (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 50.3-percent): As if it wasn’t bad enough when Henson when down with a wrist injury of his own, now this. Henson has since returned, but while he’s mainly a defensive presence, he’s the soundest on the court for UNC when it comes to acting on the Pick-And-Roll and knowing when to cut to the hoop for a Marshall pass (hence, the dude gets a ton of put-back slams with his insane length). Henson will have to get on the same page with freshman point-man Stilman White quickly or just hope for a lot of second-chance dunks.

Reggie Bullock (8.7 ppg, 42.8-percent): He’s in the same boat as his freshman cohort, James Michael McAdoo, but he lives in the post. Look for Bullock to become the garbage man. He’s going to be looking for a lot of second-chance points, a lot of free throws. Just whatever he can get.

UNC can survive without Marshall, but that means to key players for the Heels will be forced to take on new roles. Roles that could mean if they make a run to the title without Marshall (again, he hasn’t been ruled out yet) it could be a greater run than last year’s UConn team to the ‘ship.

-PHOTO: NATIONOFBLUE.COM/GOOGLE IMAGES


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