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.
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!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter Resigns as Louisville Trustee
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, who is also a prominent University of Louisville booster, submitted his resignation to the school’s board of trustees Wednesday after reports surfaced about his use of the N-word during a conference call.
Louisville board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom announced Schnatter’s resignation stating that he believed “[Schnatter’s] comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values.”
Additionally, Papa John’s announced Wednesday evening that Schnatter had resigned from the company’s chairman seat.
Papa John’s issued the following statement in the aftermath of the story breaking.
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session are true,” the statement read. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
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