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.