With the majority of the major transfers picking their new homes, the coaching carousel coming to a halt and the draft deadline passing at the end of May, the college basketball season is beginning to build a much clearer picture.
Yes, it’s only June and teams are just now getting on campus with the intentions of their first summer workout sessions, but there is a strong idea of what teams will look like come October and November.
What we do know is the ACC is projected to be one of the best conferences in the nation, if not THE best, and Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville are the sure-fire top-four teams in the league.
We know Florida State, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will all likely be boarder-line NCAA Tournament teams while Notre Dame is expected to take a step back with the departure of Demetrius Jackson.
But there are three teams that offer intriguing potential. Casual basketball fans may not expect them to launch forward into the national spotlight, but whether it’s because of incoming recruits, eligible transfers, or continuity, these teams could finish in the top 1/3 of a monster of a league.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
At the beginning of the offseason, North Carolina State was in a state of flux due to departures of Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber (NBA Draft with an agent), Abdul-Malik Abu (NBA Draft without an agent), BeeJay Anya (NBA Draft without an agent) and the Martin twins (transferred to Nevada).
A month and a half later, things are looking upwards for Mark Gottfried and company. The Wolfpack landed Turkish big man and future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven while Abu and Anya opted to return to school.
It may take time for Yurtseven to adjust to the speed of the college game (he’s only 17), but his presence in the pick-and-roll with five-star point guard Dennis Smith will form a dangerous one-two combo.
Then there’s the depth in the backcourt that the Wolfpack possess. Charlotte transfer Torin Dorn is eligible, Terry Henderson will finally be healthy after dealing with a serious ankle injury, Shaun Kirk has more experience and Maverick Rowan is a capable sharp shooter who should be better in year two.
The only bad news is that Barber isn’t returning and Lennard Freeman had a rod inserted into his leg and could possibly miss the entire season.
But with the new additions, the losses may not be all that devastating. Smith should slot in immediately as the starting point guard, while Abu and Anya have the experience to make up for the loss of Freeman.
The Wolfpack, who are dealing with a lot of moving parts, are capable of making the Big Dance if they play their cards the right way
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell received the best possible news on the NCAA’s NBA Draft deadline: His best player Jaron Blossomgame announced he was returning to school for one more season.
Blossomgame was an elite player in the ACC last season as he averaged 18.7 points per game and grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game. He should take another step forward next season due to his athleticism, versatility and ability to score from all areas of the floor.
Clemson isn’t a one man show though. While Blossomgame is by far the team’s best player, the Tigers also return rising senior guard Avry Holmes and rising junior forward Donte Grantham. The program adds Robert Morris transfer Marcquise Reed, Vanderbilt transfer Shelton Mitchell and Texas A&M transfer Elijah Thomas.
That is excellent news for a team that won 10 games in the ACC without a true home court advantage. Littlejohn Coliseum was undergoing renovations last year (it will be done for this season) so Clemson had to travel 45 minutes to Greenville to play their home games.
The Tigers can do serious damage in the ACC and will be a sleeper nationally.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies finished seventh in the ACC last year after winning 19 games overall and finishing two games above .500 in league play. Head coach Buzz Williams has done a remarkable job turning around the program and they should be even more experienced and improved in 2016-17.
Virginia Tech returns Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, Justin Bibbs, Devin Wilson, Ahmed Hill (who is coming off injury), Chris Clarke, Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Zach LeDay. In other words, the only two players off last year’s squad that Williams is losing is Jalen Hudson (off to Florida) and Satchel Pierce (off to Penn State).
Even though they don’t have much size and have an overload at the guard position, this team has chemistry, talent and athleticism.
They will need to buckle up their defense, but overall, the Hokies could win more than 10 games in a daunting league because of their continuity.
Video Surfaces Showing Agent Christian Dawkins Promoting Connections to Top Coaches
Another layer has unraveled in the college basketball corruption trial on Wednesday when a video recording of a conversation about paying college coaches and athletes was played on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Paula Lavigne.
In the video dated June 6th 2017, aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins brags about his connections to top NCAA basketball coaches, including Arizona head coach Seam Miller.
When referring to incoming (at the time) Arizona player Deandre Ayton (who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns) Dawkins says Miller told him, “I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.”
Dawkins is currently on trial for allegedly bribing college coaches.
Marty Blazer, a former financial advisor who was being questioned by prosecutors and who was present for the conversation, said the reference was about Miller “taking care” of payments for Ayton.
“Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on. I can call Sean and have a conversation … like this is what is needing to be done,” Dawkins said on the video. He said that Miller is, “talking on the phone about stuff he shouldn’t be talking on the phone about.”
Unites States District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled back on Friday that defense attorneys could not subpoena Miller and LSU’s Will Wade to testify during the federal bribery trial.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
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