1.) Bruce Pearl, Auburn – Duh, right? From the moment he stepped on campus, Pearl has started to stock the program with talent now (Cimmeon Bowers, K.C. Ross-Miller) and later (Kareem Canty, three four-star recruits in his 2015 recruiting class). He’s got the fire to coach again after the show-cause. This team could sneak into the NIT.
2.) Kim Anderson, Missouri – If not for Pearl, this would be my top hire. I know a few Mizzou alums, and I got the same response from all of them, “we’ve tried the big names like Haith and Mike Anderson. We’ve tried the hot assistants in Snyder. Why not try this?” Anderson is a Mizzou alum, a Missouri native and a long-time DII coach in the state with a national title to his name. Why not?
3.) Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech – Kudos to the Hokies for showing their commitment to their basketball program. Williams is already getting commitments himself (three four stars for 2015), it’s just going to take time for the program to develop. And this just won’t be the year, more than likely.
4.) Danny Manning, Wake Forest – I was skeptical about this hire. Then I thought about it. Manning isn’t too far removed from his playing days, and his name also endures with the older folks who know him from his “Danny and The Miracles” days at Kansas. If he can recruit, he’ll do fine.
5.) Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State – Tinkle is a Montana guy. Somehow, the Beavers’ brass got him to Corvallis. It doesn’t hurt that Tinkle locked up his prep star son, as well as his assistants’ kin, who is a great prep player himself. Time will tell of his enthusiasm translates to wins in the Pac-12.
6.) Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette – This is a solid match. Woj (I’m not spelling his name more than once unless required) loves basketball tradition coming from Duke. Marquette has a lot of that tradition stuff. If he can recruit, look out.
7.) Kelvin Sampson, Houston – We all forget, Sampson went to 13 NCAA Tournaments in his final 14 college coaching seasons before burying himself in a show-cause penalty at Indiana. He’s off to a good start with the Cougars getting Chicken Knowles to stick around and recruiting Devonta Pollard out of junior college.
8.) Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee – (DISCLAIMER: This is without including the NCAA investigation, it’s too early to factor it in) Tyndall has just won on the low major level of Morehead State — while finding and developing Kenneth Faried — and on the mid-major level at Southern Miss, where he maintained what Larry Eustachy left him. Now? He just has to do it on the high level stage.
9.) Orlando Antigua, South Florida – Antigua was able to recruit to Kentucky. Now, he has the Sun Dome to use, not Rupp Arena (which isn’t exactly a downgrade) and a major city like Tampa. If he can keep that recruiting going for USF, he’ll be fine in the AAC.
10.) Cuonzo Martin, California – Martin wasn’t appreciated in Knoxville. Still, in his one season with his players (two seasons cleaning up the mess left after Pearl was fired) he made the Sweet 16 after underachieving in the regular season. With Jabari Bird to build around, Martin could thrive in Berkeley.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ernie Kent, Washington State – Once upon a time, Kent rebuilt Oregon into a team that made seven postseason appearances in his 13 years in Eugene, including two Elite Eights. He’ll have to rebuild in Pullman the way he did with the Ducks.
Best Value For Their Contract – Sampson: It maxes out at a total of $4.5 million over five years. For a coach with his resume at a place like Houston, that’s a steal.
Best No One Is Talking About – Kent: As the afforementioned blurb stated, Kent has rebuilt before. He can do it again. And in the same region. Which means he’s familiar with everything around him.
Best, Considering the Talent on the Roster – Antigua: He has nine freshmen, redshirt freshman or sophomores on the roster. Add in two junior college transfers, and that’s 11 inexperienced players on the roster. Tyndall feels his pain, and is narrowly edged out here. He’ll have a tough road to travel as well.
Other notable coaching hires: Doc Sadler, Southern Miss; Jim Christian, Ohio; Bob Walsh, Maine; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Jason Gardner, IUPUI; Mike Dunlap, Loyola Marymount; Mike Rhoades, Rice; Heath Schroyer, Tennessee-Martin;Earl Grant, College of Charleston; Kevin Keatts, UNC-Wilmington; Scott Padgett, Samford; Mike Maker, Marist; Saul Phillips, Ohio; Tic Price, Lamar; Dan D’Antoni, Marshall.
We’re taking a look at some of the nations most popular college basketball conferences this season. In this installment, we take a look at the ACC, for seasons change and all that.
-Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville
-Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke
-London Perrantes, Soph., G, Virginia
-Olivier Hanlan, Jr., G, Boston College
Breakdown – Harrell, Okafor and Paige and mortal locks for most first-teams. It’s not even close, really. The last two spots? I really looked at Perrantes and how quickly he grew up as a freshman under Tony Bennett. I think he’ll be key in how well the Cavaliers do after losing Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Hanlan will be asked to do pretty much everything in Jim Christian’s first season.
Predicting The Finish
Duke – Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones headline an amazing recruiting class. Rasheed Suliamon should be doing Rasheed Suliamon things. It’s Duke. It’s Mike Krzyzewski. It’s another season.
North Carolina – Outside of the afforementioned Meeks and Paige, look for J.P. Tokoto to emerge this year. The real winner here though, is Meeks’ waistline.
Louisville – New team on the block with an All-American candidate in Harrell. But the real focus is on Terry Rozier, who has been viewed as a possible first-rounder in the 2015 NBA Draft if he lives up to his potential.
Virginia – The scary thing is, this Virginia team might be as good as last year’s and the lost Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Perrantes plays beyond his year and Malcolm Brogdon has the skills to be the ACC’s top scorer.
Syracuse – With Dejuan Coleman coming back, this team will have their best chance at having a solid low-block presence. Rakeem Christmas should have a great senior season, but watch for yet another Joseph on Jim Boeheim’s roster: Kaleb.
Pittsburgh – Durand Johnson could be a darkhorse for ACC Player of the Year and will pace a pretty solid team for Jamie Dixon. Look for Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter to string together a lot of good performances.
North Carolina State – What do you do when you lose your entire offensive gameplan? No, Mark Gottfried didn’t shred it on accident or anything. T.J. Warren just left for the NBA. Cat Barber and even Desmond Lee could pace this squad.
Sleeper Team – Virginia Tech – Forgive me, but there’s just something about Buzz Williams. The man finds way to make something out of nothing. He’ll get a lot out of Seth Allen and somehow, he’ll find a way to make this a middle-of-the-pack team.
The Rest….because there’s only so much you can saw about sub-par teams
Kennedy Meeks, Soph., F, North Carolina – Not only will Meeks, who averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds, benefit from Paige being his point guard for another season, but he also lost around 50 pounds, which could greatly help his conditioning on the court. He’s not exactly a ‘sleeper’ with all stats like that and the McDonald’s All-American label, but I think you could see a double-double of 17-12 per out of him if all the hype is true.
Most Likely To….upset Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season
Calling it an upset, that eliminates the top teams. That said, I’m going with Wake Forest on March 4. Danny Manning has like magic or something in his coaching acumen. He pulled a few good wins in his time in Tulsa. He may have to rip all the tread off Codi Miller-McIntyre’s figurative tires to get it, but for some reason, I see Wake pulling the shocker at the end of the season. Maybe it’s because it’s 2 a.m. and I decided to finish this up now.
We’re profiling the most popular conferences in Division I until we decide that the conference isn’t popular, at which point we might stop, or we might keep going into the one that’ll get less hits. This segment? We take on the conference that’s as bad at basketball as it is good at football: The SEC.
That’s not like it’s the well actually it is the conference’s fault. It’s elite at the top with Kentucky and Florida, and then the rest. The rest being average to bad. Below we’re going to take a look at it. It won’t hurt, we promise.
-Aaron Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky
-Michael Frazier II, G, Sr., Florida
-Jordan Mickey, F, Soph., LSU
-Bobby Portis, F, Soph., Arkansas
-Karl-Anthony Towns, F, Fr., Kentucky
It’s not like we couldn’t put Kentucky’s starting five here. We could’ve. We almost did. I mean, seriously, we might’ve typed it out. But instead, we opted to look into the conference. Jordan Mickey’s gonna save Johnny Jones from getting fired. That and the fact that LSU is gonna be pretty good this season. Harrison has improved and Towns is just a stud. Portis will pace Arkansas and Frazier is the best shooter in the league.
Predicting the Finish
1.) Kentucky – All that talent returning. All that talent coming to campus. Duh.
2.) Florida – Losing Chris Walker for two regular season games due to suspension is rough. Billy Donovan lost four starters of last season’s squad and Frazier will asked to lead the team.
3.) LSU – This is the moment Johnny Jones has been waiting for. The conference is just bad enough for the Tigers to be good again. But honestly, Jordan Mickey will emerge, Jarell Martin may have an all-SEC year and Josh Gray averaged eleventy-billion points in junior college. That should help.
4.) Arkansas – Finally, Razorback fans will stop thinking Mike Anderson is just keeping the seat warm for Nolan Richardson. Bobby Portis can really play, Alandise Harris does a lot for a guy his size and you’ll probably see a lot more from Moses Kingsley than you expect.
Sleeper Team – 5.) Tennessee – This is all going to be dependent on how the Vols respond to Donnie Tyndall. The roster has been turned over to the point that it’s meth-user-side-by-side-picture unrecognizable with nine new players. I still see it. That pudgy little man works magic on the bench.
6.) Auburn – It’s going to happen folks. Don’t fight it. Don’t make it weird. Bruce Pearl is going to stare into your eyes and make sweet, sweet love on that court with a laundry list of new guys like Antoine Mason, Cimmeon Bowers and K.C. Ross-Miller. Difference is that he’s been in this league before, so he knows how to please.
7.) Georgia – I’m a big believer in continuity. Mark Fox’s team has that. The teams below his on this list don’t, really. Neither does a divorced family. The Bulldogs will be better than a divorced family. They return 3 of their top 4 scorers from a team that won 20 games.
8.) Missouri – Kim Anderson, a Missouri native and former Tiger player, is up from Central Missouri, where he won a Division II title last season, to take the flagship job in his state. This is like when that prick from college joined a fraternity for the “career connections,” which you never thought would happen. Then 15 years later you see him and he’s the CFO of a huge company because the guy who hired him was also in that frat. Also, They lost Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross.
9.) Vanderbilt – You know what? I like Kevin Stallings. Sure, he didn’t even try to recruit after John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley and Jeff Taylor left. He’s still the guy who made the Commodores pretty good at basketball in the last decade. Damian Jones is basically all the scoring that returns, but Stallings has to get this right. His job is probably on the line.
10.) Texas A&M – First of all, there are 18 dudes on the Aggies’ roster, that’s like a Tom Osborne-era number of walk-ons in college basketball terms. But Alex Caruso might be the best point guard outside of Lexington in the conference, if Jalen Jones gets eligible, he’ll make an impact and Alex Robinson was a coup for coach Billy Kennedy.
11.) Ole Miss – What’s life like in Oxford after Marshall Henderson has left? I don’t want to find out, actually. But nonetheless, Andy Kennedy and City Grocery both press on, unsure of what they’ll do with his Saturday nights. M.J. Rhett could be the best player on the Rebels’ team with only one year of eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer.
12.) Alabama – Can Anthony Grant save his job with a bunch of transfers? If he can, he’ll be buying Ricky Tarrant, Michael Kessens and Christophe Varidel some Archibald’s all season long.
13.) Mississippi State – I wanted to rate you higher, Rick Ray. I wanted too. But you’ve lost your best player for the first part of the season to injury, the team is still hella young and there wasn’t enough promise to conclude a major jump in 2014-15. I didn’t order the Code Red.
14.) South Carolina – Frank Martin has reason to be angry. And if he doesn’t, he makes those reasons up. Sindarius Thornwell can play. The end.
Alex Caruso, G, Jr. Texas A&M – Dude can pass and most people know that. But he’s played for a program that’s gotten little pub in his time there. This season could be different, whether the Aggies are good or not. Leaning towards not, really.
Most Likely To….be a coach that gets fired midseason
Anthony Grant, Alabama – There are three true candidates here. Grant is just the one that is the most obvious. He’s tanked in recent seasons, his one recruit in 2012 is no longer on the team and he’s mortgaged his recent future in Tuscaloosa on a gaggle of transfers and Justin Coleman. If it doesn’t work, HE GONE.
Taking a look some of the top Division I conference in college basketball. In this installment, the B1G is profiled.
-Caris LeVert, Jr., G, Michigan
-Rayvonte Rice, Sr., G, Illinois
-Terran Petteway, Jr., G, Nebraska
-Sam Dekker, Jr., F, Wisconsin
-Frank Kaminsky, Sr., F, Wisconsin
Breakdown – The best five players in the B1g (I’m going to keep calling it that, so get used to it) are pretty clear-cut. Except for Rice, I think you’ll see the remaining four players here at the end of the season. Rice, I believe is the one that will break out for the Illini and surprise a few people. As for the front-court being all Badgers? There’s a reason they’re the heavy favorite to win the league.
Predicting the Finish
1.) Wisconsin – Key players like Traveon Jackson, Dekker and Kaminsky are back. Bo Ryan always has his teams near the top and that won’t change.
2.) Nebraska – I’m a bit higher on the Huskers than some. I really like Petteway’s game and Tim Miles has what #Nebrasketball has sorely needed to be competitive: Relentless enthusiasm.
3.) Michigan State – It’s Tom Izzo. And if history tells us anything, the losses of Gary Harris and Adreian Payne won’t hurt them much.
4.) Ohio State – This team is year away from contending for the B1G title. Trevor Thompson will help in 2015-16. This season, Amir Williams could have a year that makes him a first round draft pick.
Sleeper Team – 5.) Illinois – Rayvonte Rice will carry this season with Darius Paul suspended for the season. The emergence of Aaron Cosby will be crucial for the Illini to contend within the conference.
6.) Iowa – After stumbling late but still making the NCAA Tournament, it’ll be interesting to see who steps into the leadership role for the graduated Roy Devryn Marble this year. Aaron White is the top candidate.
7.) Minnesota – Andre Hollins will be looked upon to do a lot. But it will be Elliot Eliason who will be the most important player for coach Richard Pitino. Consistency will be key from him.
8.) Michigan – John Beilein always seems to have his teams “there” when necessary. However, losing Mitch McGary unexpectedly will have a much bigger effect than some realize. No player over 6-9 on the roster.
9.) Indiana – Coach Tom Crean over-coached last season. This season, he should hand the keys to Yogi Ferrell and let players like Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. do what they do best.
10.) Penn State – Can one player carry a team? D.J. Newbill is about to find out. Pat Chambers has to find a sidekick to the senior to have any chance at contending this year. Brandon Taylor could be the guy.
11.) Purdue – It felt like Matt Painter lost a lot of important players in the offseason, whether he did or not. But they return A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis, who could have a big year.
12.) Northwestern – Chris Collins did an amazing job of getting and keeping the commitment of Vic Law. But the program is at least a year away.
13.) Maryland – Mark Turgeon needs to win this season. But I can’t see it with the roster he has after all the offseason transfers.
14.) Rutgers – Let’s face it, this move was a dumb one by the B1G. Eddie Jordan might be able to surprise a few teams, but I don’t even see 6 wins in the conference for the Scarlet Knights. It’ll be the Mack And Jack (Myles and Kadeem).
Bryn Forbes, GS, G, Michigan State – He quietly took his spot with the Spartans and could be one of the key players for Izzo this season. He averaged 15.6 ppg at Cleveland State and could do almost as well in East Lansing, where he could be the deep threat Izzo needs. He hit 42.4 percent of his threes last season for the Vikings.
Most Likely To…..end a game in the 90s
-Minnesota at Michigan State – 2/26/15 – Because guessing which game will end in the low 40s is like asking if Bo Ryan wants to press fast forward on his DVR. Richard Pitino has proven to be like his old man in that he likes to run and shoot the three (in his own style) and Tom Izzo is going to have a lot of guards this season who like to get out into transition. If both teams are hitting their shots with consistency, it could finish in the 100s in regulation.
–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.
–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.
–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