CBB Central Podcast: Breaking Down Ohio State and Nevada

Today on the show, Brad and Kevin tackle two new teams: Ohio State (14:30-44:10) and Nevada (44:15-1:15:11). Chris Holtmann’s time at Ohio State got off to a terrific start. Can he keep it up in year 2? Expectations have never been higher in Reno, but can Eric Musselman manage his roster and space the floor well enough to be a top 10 team?

Intro topics include Bryan Antoine pledging to Villanova and the continually-developing Geno Crandall saga at Gonzaga.

CBB Central Podcast: Deep Dive Previews on North Carolina and Washington

Today on the show, Brad and Kevin tackle two new teams in their deep dive preview series. They start off with North Carolina (10:20-42:45), which projects to contend once again thanks to a strong returning core and an elite recruiting class. Then, they get into Washington (42:45-1:08:00), which had a successful year one under Mike Hopkins and looks to take the next step in 2018-19. They also briefly touch on Tre Mann’s commitment to Florida and Mike White (1:40-5:20) and Geno Crandall’s eligibility (5:20-10:20).

 

5 Mid-Majors Not Getting Enough Attention in 2018-19

By Kevin Sweeney

If you call yourself a college basketball fan, chances are you know plenty about Gonzaga. After all, they may enter the season as the overall preseason #1 team in the country. The same could be said about Nevada and the expected top-10 team Eric Musselman has put together. You’ve probably heard about Rick Stansbury signing 5-stars at Western Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago bringing back a ton of talent from a Final Four club, and Mike Daum still mauling opponents in the Summit League.

Yet every year, the biggest storylines in mid-major basketball seem to come out of nowhere. Loyola went 8-10 in the Missouri Valley in 2016-17 before shocking the world this past season. Most of the nation’s eyeballs hadn’t focused on Nacogdoches, Texas to watch Stephen F. Austin until they came a fingertip away from the Sweet 16 the year before that. So, with colleges across the country getting underway and college basketball season just around the corner, I decided to highlight some sleeping giants across the mid-major landscape prepared for huge years in 2018-19.

Northeastern (23-10, 14-4 CAA)

Bill Coen remains one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball, and his 2018-19 Huskies roster has a chance to be his best one yet. Coming off a season in which they won 23 games and blew a huge lead in the CAA Championship game, Northeastern brings back more than 87% of its scoring and adds a talented transfer in George Washington transfer Jordan Roland. The Huskies play great defense, have a terrific point guard in redshirt senior Vasa Pusica, and shoot the ball very well. This team may not wow you with their athletes, but they have the talent & experience to win a game or more in the NCAA Tournament.

Illinois State (18-15, 10-8 MVC)

Loyola will receive the majority of the preseason notoriety in The Valley, and rightly so. But there’s another potential top-50 team coming out of the MVC, and that’s this Illinois State club. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented trio than Milik Yarbrough, Keyshawn Evans, and Phil Fayne in all of mid-major basketball. The trio fits together so perfectly– Yarbrough handles primary creation duties with a 41.4% assist percentage, pairing nicely with a scoring point guard like Evans while Fayne does the dirty work. WIth more depth and some talented newcomers joining the fray, ISU could have a special season.

East Tennessee State (25-9, 14-4 SoCon)

What Steve Forbes did last season with this ETSU club was remarkable. Despite losing 4 of their top 5 scorers from a 27-win NCAA Tournament team, Forbes led the Buccaneers to 25 wins in 2017-18. Forbes recruits physical athletes who can score and compete at both ends, helping put together elite defenses that make every basket tough to come by. This year’s club sees a fair amount of roster turnover once again, but Forbes has a pair of rising sophomores to build around in wing Bo Hodges and big man Mladen Armus, and a talent group of incoming freshmen and transfers should help ETSU remain near the top of the SoCon.

Rider (22-10, 15-3 MAAC)

Rider’s top 5 scorers last season were either redshirt freshmen or sophomores. That should inject immense fear into the rest of the MAAC, given the Broncs took home a share of the league title despite their youth. That top 5 forms a perfectly-designed core that allows them to create mismatches against any mid-major foe. Dimencio Vaughn and Frederick Scott are a pair of multi-positional wings who possess the combination of strength, ball-handling, and shooting to intimidate opposing defenses. Jordan Allen is a pure shooter, and Tyere Marshall is a steady presence in the post. The glue holding it all together is Stevie Jordan, the rising junior point guard who led the MAAC in assists a season ago and gets to the rim at will.

Kevin Baggett’s MAAC tournament record is less than ideal (0-6 in last 6 MAAC quarterfinals, 0-3 as 1 or 2 seed), but the Broncs have the talent to get over the hump this year.

Harvard (18-14, 12-2 Ivy)

Non-conference play was a big disappointment for the Crimson last season, as they stumbled out of the gates to a 5-9 start. Despite losing star guard Bryce Aiken for much of the season due to a knee injury, Harvard turned things around during conference play behind the other members of Tommy Amaker’s elite 2016 recruiting class, with Seth Towns claiming Ivy League Player of the Year and Chris Lewis providing a strong frontcourt presence. That 2016 class gets a year older, and Amaker brings in yet another strong group this year that can help accentuate the strengths of the team’s current core. Top-200 point guard Spencer Freedman will allow Aiken to move off the ball and embrace his ability to score the ball, and I was impressed with do-it-all wing Noah Kirkwood during his time with the Canadian U19 national team. Look for the Crimson to find their way back to the Big Dance this season.

CBB Central Podcast Homer Episode: Going In-Depth on Providence and Northwestern

Today on the show, Brad and Kevin tackle two teams near and dear to their hearts. Brad’s alma mater Providence brings in a great recruiting class, but is it enough to contend with some key graduations? Meanwhile, Kevin’s Northwestern Wildcats look to rebound from a disappointing 2017-18 campaign, but questions at point guard loom.

Be sure to follow Brad (@BradCav2) and Kevin (CBB_Central) on Twitter.

CBB Central Podcast: Previewing Maryland and Syracuse

In today’s episode of the CBB Central Podcast, Brad and Kevin preview 2 teams they have strong opinions about. Kevin has been down on Syracuse all summer, but Brad is much more optimistic about the Orange meeting their high expectations. Meanwhile, Brad simply can’t understand the preseason Maryland hype with Kevin Huerter gone.

 

Be sure to follow Brad (@BradCav2) and Kevin (CBB_Central) on Twitter.

Column: NCAA’s Latest Attempt To Save Face Fails

By Kevin Sweeney

“Committed to Change”

Those were the words plastered atop the NCAA’s midday Wednesday release. That release announced a host of rule changes in college basketball, championing supposed player-friendly legislation in the wake of the federal investigation that has shaken the game to its core since the September 2017 indictments.

At first look, the changes appeared to be moves for the better. The first points one comes across when reading the release are all about player flexibility, and on paper, all seem like great moves.

RELEASE

Yet in the “fine print” of these talking points, it quickly became clear that the rules were limiting and poorly thought-out. More official visits seemed like a great way to level the playing field for recruits without the financial ability to travel across the country visiting schools. But increasing the number of official visits a player is allowed from 5 to 15 while only increasing the number a team is allowed to host from 24 to 28 over a rolling 2 year timeframe makes little to no sense.

Allowing high school and college basketball players to have agents represent them was a seemingly positive step, and one that many around college basketball had suggested for years. A closer look, however, reveals that high school players will only be allowed agents if they are deemed “elite” by USA Basketball.

Anyone see a problem with this?

What about these rules, for the college players?

Because it’s so easy to just terminate a relationship with someone who bought you food and flights with the thought that they’d get paid in the future, once the athlete turns pro.

Finally, we get to perhaps the biggest bombshell of the bullets above, that players will be able to return to school if they go undrafted. Yet once again, a deeper dive shows that only players invited to the NBA Draft Combine would be allowed to return to school, limiting the impact of this legislation to at most 25-30 players per year. Why not simply allow all players who enter the draft to return if undrafted?

Add in the already-discussed-at-length new recruiting period changes that diminish the July live period and re-emphasize high school programs in the recruitment process. If you’ve been on Twitter in the last several weeks, you’ll find a whole host of reasons why that’s a bad idea.

There are some pieces of the new rules that are good for the game. Forcing schools to pay for former players to go back to school and finish their degrees is a great move. A few other great moves in this are “Coaches and athletics staff must report athletics-related income from any source outside their school, such as an apparel company,” and a move that would seemingly give the NCAA subpoena-like power in their investigations: “As a term of employment, school presidents and athletics staff must commit contractually to full cooperation in the investigations and infractions process.”

The root of the NCAA’s problems is amateurism. In a system in which high-level players worth hundreds of thousands if not millions to their schools can only accept a college scholarship, there are bound to be under-the-table dealings. Did anyone expect the NCAA to simply back down on everything they have been built on and allow players to be paid? No.

At some point, the NCAA has to address this. Opening things up to allow players to profit off their own likeness is the most-discussed common ground. Instead, they attempted a quick PR stunt.

Had these rules been implemented the right way (less restriction on who could have agents, what players could return to school, and better communication with USA Basketball and the NBA, etc), they could have been seen as a move towards common ground. Instead, the NCAA looks like a laughingstock once again.

The only thing the NCAA is committed to is the status quo. Next time, make some real changes.

 

Top Ten Mid-Major Players By Position: Center

By Kevin Sweeney

Today concludes the mid-major positional rankings! Thanks so much for reading this week, I’ve set page view records on my website, gained a bunch of Twitter followers, and gotten to interact with tons of cool people.

We finish up the list with the center position. At the mid-major level, there are a lot of true power forwards forced to masquerade as centers given how difficult it is to recruit high-level big men at smaller schools. That said, the group I’ve assembled has a ton of talent, and a lot of guys I went in expecting to make the cut missed out.

The Top Ten:

  1. Mike Daum (South Dakota State)
  • Vitals: 6-9, 235 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 23.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, .462/.425/.851

The Dauminator enters his final season of college basketball as one of the best players in college basketball. The Nebraska native is the 2-time defending Summit League Player of the Year, and barring injury will make that 3 straight this season. An elite shooter and high-level rebounder, Daum is a near-unstoppable offensive force that makes his teammates better simply by how much attention he draws from opposing defenses. SDSU has pieces around Daum to win an NCAA Tournament game, something they haven’t done despite reaching the Big Dance each of the last 3 seasons.

2. Devontae Cacok (UNC-Wilmington)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 240 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.7 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 0.9 apg, .585/.000/.612

Cacok’s transition from hyper-efficient 3rd offensive option in Kevin Keatts’ pressing system to offensive focal point went well last season, leading the nation in rebounding and posting almost 18 points per game for the Seahawks. However, that transition didn’t come with wins, as UNCW struggled in year one of the CB McGrath era. Cacok is the constant force for this rebuilding program, and they’ll hope to surround him with enough backcourt talent to get back into CAA contention.

3. Yoeli Childs (BYU)

  • Vitals: 6-8, 225 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, .541/.313/.643

I bet big on Childs before last season, and the Utah native made me look good. His 33 points in the WCC Tournament against Saint Mary’s opened a lot of eyes, but Childs put up big numbers all year long. He’s physical in the paint and has developed his face-up game to be able to hit 3’s. For BYU to contend for an NCAA bid, they’ll need Childs to have an even bigger 2018-19 season.

4. Drew McDonald (Northern Kentucky)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 250 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, .464/.337/.802

It’s hard to overstate just how important McDonald has been to the Northern Kentucky program. After struggling in their first 4 years as a D1 program, McDonald’s ascension into a star has led NKU to a pair of 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament berth. Now, the bruising big man gets one last crack at leading the Norse to a Horizon League title, and in the process could score his 2,000th career point.

5. Cameron Krutwig (Loyola-Chicago)

  • Vitals: 6-9, 260 pounds, Sophomore
  • Stats: 10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, .598/.000/.735

This is probably an aggressive ranking for the sophomore, but I’m a massive Krutwig fan. The big-bodied in-state product was a key contributor on the Ramblers’ Final Four team, impressing with his high basketball IQ, excellent passing ability, and extremely developed post game. With a summer in a college weight room under his belt, Krutwig should be able to take the next step and dominate in the Missouri Valley.

6. James Thompson IV (Eastern Michigan)

  • Vitals: 6-10, 240 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 14.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg, .672/.500/.607

Thompson has averaged a double-double every season of his collegiate career, an absolutely remarkable statistic. And while his offensive game hasn’t taken the next step yet, Thompson has a very real chance to conclude his career a 2,000 point scorer and in the top 10 all-time in total rebounding. While he doesn’t get the recognition as one of college basketball’s elite, the Baton Rouge native has put together an incredible career.

7. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky)

  • Vitals: 6-10, 220 pounds, Freshman

The reclassified 2019 prospect now ranked #6 in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2018 made the decision to commit to Western Kentucky, where his guardian Hennssy Auriantal was named an assistant coach shortly after his commitment. Regardless of one’s feelings Rick Stansbury’s recruiting tactics, it’s impossible not to salivate at Bassey’s potential. A physical specimen with the tools to dominate at any level of basketball (let alone the C-USA), Bassey could average a double-double from day 1. Plus, he’ll benefit from the tutelage of grad transfer DeSean Murray, who joins the program from Auburn this season.

8. Nathan Knight (William & Mary)

  • Vitals: 6-10, 235 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 18.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, .575/.306/.769

Knight had a breakout season in 2017-18, posting massive numbers for a William & Mary team that exceeded expectations last season. He has high-level physical tools for this level at 6-10 with a 7-2 wingspan, scores efficiently in the paint, and started to develop his 3-point shot. Plus, he’s a very good passer, a big asset in Tony Shaver’s offensive system. The CAA has a lot of star power, and forgetting about Knight among them would be a big mistake.

9. Grant Golden (Richmond)

  • Vitals: 6-9, 240 pounds, Redshirt Sophomore
  • Stats: 15.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, .498/.275/.625

Chris Mooney’s offensive system plays through versatile bigs with high-level passing ability. Golden may not have the same floor vision that his predecessor TJ Cline, but his offensive talents will have to carry this Richmond team in a critical year for Mooney’s job security. The next step for the Virginia native is developing a consistent 3-point jumper.

10. Phil Fayne (Illinois State)

  • Vitals: 6-9, 215 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 15.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.9 rpg, .595/.000/.514

Fayne is the perfect 3rd option next to Milik Yarbrough and Keyshawn Evans, a high-level athlete who finishes well around the rim, put the ball on the deck, and switch defensively. He’s efficient and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to succeed, making him so valuable to a Redbird team that I believe will contend for an at-large bid.

Honorable Mention:

Nico Carvacho (Colorado State), Trayvon Reed (Texas Southern), Pauly Paulicap (Manhattan), Demajeo Wiggins (Bowling Green), Loudon Love (Wright State), Trey Porter (Nevada), Josh Cunningham (Dayton), Rashaan Holloway (UMass), AJ Brodeur (Penn), Chris Lewis (Harvard), Trey Moses (Ball State), Shawntrez Davis (Bethune-Cookman), Matt Rafferty (Furman), Cameron Jackson (Wofford)