Season Preview: The SEC

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.

All-Conference Team

-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

The Breakdown

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.

Sleeper Player

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.

 

 

 


Season Preview: The B1G

Taking a look some of the top Division I conference in college basketball. In this installment, the B1G is profiled.

All-Conference Team

-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).

Sleeper Player

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.


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 

 


TBBC conference previews: The B1G

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

Preseason All-Conference team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most likely too….

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

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

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

Preseason, postseason predictions

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

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