Michigan didn’t take too long to find their replacement to Derrick Walton Jr.
Star Ohio point guard Jaaron Simmons will be transferring to Michigan next season, first reported by Jason Arkley of the Athens Messenger. This comes to many of us in Athens as a shock, because most people on campus expected him to return to OU for his senior season or head to the draft after he declared on March 27.
Simmons didn’t hire an agent — as many collegiate athletes are now taking advantage of being able to do that — but it’s clear he heard some sort of feedback that pushed him to transfer to a Power Five school.
“It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Simmons told Arkley. “We have a great relationship. Nothing negative happened, there was nothing bad about it. I’m just trying to do what I think is the best for me as an individual.”
One cannot be upset with Simmons, who is coming off averaging 15.9 points and 6.5 assists per game, both team bests that helped him get named First Team All-Mid-American Conference. Simmons showed that he had the capabilities of being the leader of a team after star forward Antonio Campbell was lost for the season in the beginning of MAC play.
Simmons will finish his collegiate career as a Wolverine, so with that in mind, how his decision affects both teams:
What this means for Michigan:
Michigan has their floor general for next season as this stiffens the blow of them losing their top two players in Walton Jr. and Zac Ervin.
Simmons gives them leadership with big play moments — most notably a career-high 38-point performance against MAC rival Akron.
The Wolverines are still waiting to hear if D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner will return next year. Both saw their stock rise substantially after their Sweet 16 run in this years past NCAA tournament.
If Wilson and Wagner return to team up with Simmons, this team would have a solid core group of guys to count on early in the season and will be in contention in what was considered a down year for the Big Ten.
What this means for Ohio:
Absolute sheer heartbreak.
As a fan of the school, it sucks to see your best player leave your school. This team was so fun to watch a year ago as they got better as the season progressed.
From a basketball perspective, this team would have been the odds-on favorite to win the MAC next year with Simmons running the show.
The scene was set. Akron, the regular season winner of the MAC, will lose their top two players — senior forwards Kwan Cheatham Jr. and Isaiah Johnson. OU had a clear ride to the top of the MAC East.
But now Simmons joins three other OU teammates who will no longer be suiting up in the green and white next year.
So now what?
First, the Bobcats must pray for a miracle that Campbell gets granted a medical redshirt, which is already a long shot.
So plan B is the rise of two men: Sophomore Jordan Dartis and freshman Jason Carter.
Dartis, the team’s best sharp-shooting guard, is coming off of averaging 12.6 points-per-game. As of now, he will most likely be relied on heavily early in non-conference play to assume point guard duties.
But Dartis can’t do it by himself, he’ll need a lot of help too and it all starts with Carter.
Many people counted out the Bobcats when Campbell was lost for the remainder of the season. Little did we know that Campbell’s injury would open the gate for Carter to rise to stardom.
In Campbell’s absence, Carter was inserted into the starting lineup for the final 26 games and he took the opportunity and ran with it.
Carter averaged 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. Over that span, Carter had five double-doubles, something we will grow more accustom to next year.
This will be a team that many teams in the MAC will not recognize at first and a team that will take many people in Athens time to get used to as well.
But who knows, we doubted this team when Campbell went down, maybe they’ll prove us wrong again.
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!
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.
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