Yes, Monday night, TCU beat Grambling State, a team that has zero wins against Division I teams this season.
Yes, TCU’s 12-0 record consists of victories over three SWAC teams, the worst team in the Pac-12 (Washington State) and what will probably turn out to be a middle-of-the-pack SEC team in Ole Miss.
Yes, TCU hasn’t been challenged all that much. But that’s not anywhere near the point that will be made in the following paragraphs.
Bottom line, when you look at the no. 25 ranking on the Associated Press Top 25 poll right now, you see “TCU” next to that number. The Horned Frogs — the same program that went 0-18 in Big 12 play last season and 9-22 overall — are ranked in the Top 25, in basketball. And judging by what they’ve got on the roster, there’s nothing stopping them from being a .500 team in conference play by March and, dare anyone say it, an NCAA Tournament team.
Trent Johnson’s team doesn’t do it pretty. His top scorer is Kyan Anderson at 12.8 points per game. Next on that list? Kenrich Williams at 9.5 per. But the Horned Frogs’ scoring depth has made having a big-time scorer unnecessary, with six players averaging between 9.5 and 7.4 points per game.
But the Horned Frogs are winning collectively. They’re in the Top 50 nationally in rebounds, points and assists per game, as well as team field goal percentage and blocks (which they’re ranked 10th prior to the Grambling win). They’re 13th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 55.7 points per game. They’re not just winning, but winning effectively.
Again, the schedule sucks, we know. But look at the program’s last two seasons in non-conference play, which included 18 total wins. Losses to Tulsa, Houston and SMU in 2012-13 and Longwood last season. Despite easy non-conference slates then, they still lost games to beatable teams. Their progress to this point is purely just a decent step in the right direction.
The development of talent is also an obvious contributor to TCU’s early success. Karviar Shepherd going from highly-touted freshman to dependable sophomore (a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game, with 14 points and nine rebounds against Ole Miss) has helped. Senior Amric Fields’ staying dependable despite his stats dropping has set an Unselfish tone. Nine players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game.
As the sentences above have shown, TCU has become all about depth. Anderson paces the team — he also leads TCU with 4.6 assists per game — but behind him are a group of players who seem to do whatever’s asked of them.
Is anyone expecting Johnson and his team to challenge Kansas for Big 12 supremacy? Nah. But for a team that has only been to seven NCAA Tournaments in their history, the last coming in 1998, finding their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble would be extensive progress.
Find David on Twitter at @David_Harten.
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.
–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
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, UConn – The 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, Kentucky – Mr. 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, Harvard – The 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, BYU – The 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 State – The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.