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)

Top Ten Mid-Major Players By Position: Power Forwards

By Kevin Sweeney

At this point in college basketball, I’d argue there is more versatility at the “power forward” position than there is at any other spot. Some 4’s run offense, others are floor-spacers, while some still represent that bruising force of old. It is this divide that made ranking the power forwards so difficult, but I took my stab at assembling the best ten.

Previous Rankings:

Point Guards

Shooting Guards

Small Forwards

The Top Ten:

  1. Jordan Caroline (Nevada)
  • Vitals: 6-7, 230 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 17.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, .474/.324/.709

Caroline might be my favorite player in college basketball. The bruising forward does a little bit of everything for Nevada, tasked much of last season with dealing with much larger centers due to Nevada’s lack of frontcourt depth. Now, with Trey Porter and Jordan Brown incoming, Caroline’s role should change quite a bit. Offensively, he’ll still float on the perimeter a fair amount, though he’ll need to be a consistent 3-point shooter to maintain Nevada’s elite spacing. Defensively, he’ll defend more in space against wings than he did last season. It’s his ability to do it all that makes him so valuable, allowing Nevada to go to small or big to match up best with the competition.

2. Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State)

  • Vitals: 6-10, 195 pounds, Redshirt Sophomore
  • Stats: 10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 apg, .586/.211/.788

McDaniels’ huge redshirt freshman campaign was a testament to the work he put in while sitting out as a freshman, and I can’t wait to see the next step in his development this season. An uber-athletic forward who competes at both ends, McDaniels led the Aztecs in both offensive and defensive rating last season. As he develops his outside shot, McDaniels will skyrocket up NBA Draft boards.

3. DeSean Murray (Western Kentucky)

  • Vitals: 6-4, 210 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats (Auburn): 10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, .455/.321/.840

After stops at Presbyterian and Auburn, Murray will conclude his collegiate career at Western Kentucky, where he’ll provide a valuable veteran presence on a young but exceedingly talented Hilltopper squad. Murray was so important to Auburn’s success a season ago, an ego-free hustle player who did all the little things for a Tiger team that was in contention for a #1 seed until late in the season. He’s a beast on the glass, defends multiple positions, and has expanded his offensive game to include the 3-point shot. Look for a big year from the the North Carolina native.

4. Seth Towns (Harvard)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 205 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 16.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, .419/.441/.805

The defending Ivy League Player of the Year is an absolute matchup nightmare. An elite 3-point shooter, Towns handles the ball like a guard but has the requisite size and length to guard bigs. A former 4-star prospect from Ohio who chose Harvard over a slew of high-major offers, Towns has lived up to the hype so far and has the talent to make the jump from the Ivy League to the NBA at some point in his career.

5. Jordon Varnado (Troy)

  • Vitals: 6-6, 235 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, .478/.289/.738

On track to become a 2,000 point scorer, Varnado was slowed by a broken foot but still put up huge numbers for the Trojans. Varnado is a load in the post and has an improving floor game that makes him extremely hard to guard in the Sun Belt. Him and Alex Hicks form the conference’s most formidable frontcourt, but they’ll need someone to step up and fill the void of Wesley Person in the backcourt to contend for a conference title.

6. Jarrell Brantley (College of Charleston)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 250 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, .500/.385/.821

Brantley is a BEAST. His 250-pound frame makes him tough to guard in the post, and he has developed a reliable 3-point shot that is valuable in pick-and-pop looks. After dealing with a knee injury that limited him for most of the non-conference slate, Brantley returned to form by conference play to lift the Cougars to a CAA title. It wouldn’t surprise me if he averaged a double-double this season.

7. Jordan Brown (Nevada)

  • Vitals: 6-11, 210 pounds, Freshman

Brown’s commitment to Nevada and Eric Musselman sent shockwaves through college basketball. He was the second 5-star to ever sign with the Pack, a result of a 3-year effort by Musselman and his staff that was detailed magnificently by Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Brown should see his fair share of time at both the 4 and the 5 for the Wolf Pack, but given one of the things cited by Brown throughout his recruitment was Nevada’s willingness to let him play the 4, I chose to put him amongst the power forwards.

Given Nevada has the #1 SG, #2 SF, and #1 & #7 PF’s (along with possibly a ranked center in Trey Porter), it’s not hard to see why expectations are sky-high.

8. John Konchar (Fort Wayne)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, .482/.384/.648

Konchar is one of the most unique players in college basketball, an undersized point forward who combines high-level floor vision with crafty finishing ability and a steady 3-point shot. He also wreaks havoc on the defensive end, averaging 2.5 assists per game. Konchar’s physical tools won’t wow you, but he’s almost always the smartest player on the floor, and that changes the game.

9. Anthony Lamb (Vermont)

  • Vitals: 6-6, 227 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, .468/.318/.829

The clear preseason frontrunner for America East Player of the Year, a healthy Lamb is a scary sight for the rest of the conference. The Rochester, NY native missed much of last season with a broken foot, but when healthy is almost unstoppable. Per 40 minutes last season, Lamb averaged 24.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. However, John Becker likes to use Lamb in spurts to get the most out of his star forward, a strategy that has been very successful thus far. However, a heavier minutes load may be on tap for Lamb with Drew Uruquart and Payton Henson graduating from the program.

10. Alessandro Lever (Grand Canyon)

  • Vitals: 6-10, 230 pounds, sophomore
  • Stats: 12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, .453/.321/.766

After being mostly a role player for the early part of the season, Lever blossomed into a star down the stretch for the Lopes. In the season’s final 16 games, Lever averaged over 18 points and 5 rebounds per game. He then impressed with the Italian U20 National Team this summer, averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in the event. As he becomes more efficient and disciplined, GCU will have one of the best big men in college basketball.

Honorable Mention:

Jace Hogan (Jacksonville), Scottie James (Liberty), Ed Polite (Radford), Justin Pierce (William & Mary), Tyler Seibring (Elon), Roland Griffin (Iona), Elijah Minnie (Eastern Michigan), Nick Perkins (Buffalo), Shakur Juiston (UNLV), Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky), Will Rayman (Colgate), Jakeenan Gant (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Top Ten Mid-Major Players By Position: Small Forward

By Kevin Sweeney

We are halfway through our rankings, and that means it’s time to rank college basketball’s best swingmen, the small forwards. While I found the small forward spot to be a bit weaker than the point guards and shooting guards, there is as much NBA talent at the top of these rankings as there are any position in college basketball.

In case you missed them, here are links to my shooting guard and point guard top ten lists.

The Top Ten:

  1. Milik Yarbrough (Illinois State)
  • Vitals: 6-6, 230 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.8 apg, .453/.290/.804

One of college basketball’s best transfers a season ago, Yarbrough headed to Normal after 2 years at Saint Louis and did not disappoint. In the college game, he can switch 1-5 defensively, create offense for others, and is an absolute load in transition. His passing ability meshes perfectly with Illinois State PG Keyshawn Evans, who is more of a natural scorer, making Illinois State extremely hard to guard. If he can straighten out his act off the floor, he has a chance to be a very good NBA player.

2. Cody Martin (Nevada)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 205 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 14.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, .516/.294/.701

Cody comes in at #2 among small forwards after his twin brother Caleb topped my list of shooting guards. And while Caleb will likely earn most of the headlines preseason, in my opinion Cody is the most important player on this Nevada club. With Lindsey Drew’s health in question as he recovers from a torn achilles, Cody Martin will have a lot on his plate in terms of creating offense. Cody will have to distribute well and keep the ball moving to make sure the multitude of Nevada’s offensive options get touches.

3. Justin James (Wyoming)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 180 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 18.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, .472/.308/.726

Another Mountain West standout, James has improved every season of his collegiate career. A long, athletic slasher who thrives as a secondary ballhandler, James will see an increased workload with Hayden Dalton, Louis Adams, and Alan Herndon all graduating. He’ll need an even bigger senior season if the Cowboys have hopes of a top-half Mountain West club.

4. Dylan Windler (Belmont)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 195 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, .559/.426/.718

It’s safe to say Dylan Windler flies under the radar. He can walk down the streets of Nashville and not have anyone recognize him:

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the nation’s best small forwards. Windler is absurdly efficient, an elite shooter, and cleans the glass with the best of them. If not for Ja Morant’s high-flying presence in the OVC, Windler would be getting a lot more preseason love for OVC Player of the Year.

5. Cameron Young (Quinnipiac)

  • Vitals: 6-6, 205 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 18.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, .422/.303/.754

There have been few breakout seasons more stunning than what Young put together last year. In 2016-17, Young played a grand total of 8 minutes over 6 games and didn’t make a field. Last season, under new head coach Baker Dunleavy, Young exploded into one of the MAAC’s best players. Then, Young surprisingly received a 5th year of eligibility from the NCAA, allowing him to return for one more year at Quinnipiac. His presence makes the Bobcats a MAAC title contender, and his experience should be valuable in the development of Quinnipiac’s elite incoming recruiting class.

6. Garrison Matthews (Lipscomb)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 21.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, .465/.381/.799

The best way to describe Matthews’ game is polished. The senior wing scores at all 3 levels, and when he heats up from outside, he can’t miss (see: A-Sun title game vs FGCU). Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and the winningest season in program history, the Bisons bring back all 5 starters and have a chance to be one of the better mid-majors in college basketball this season. With Matthews, they have a scorer who can keep them in games against any level of competition.

7. Vance Jackson (New Mexico)

  • Vitals: 6-9, 235 pounds, redshirt sophomore
  • Stats (2016-17 at UConn): 8.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, .409/.397/.676

Jackson could be listed anywhere from the 2 to the 4, and while he’ll see time at all 3 at New Mexico, I listed him at the 3 for the purposes of these rankings. Jackson left me wanting more at times in his freshman season at UConn, settling for long-range jumpers rather than using his size to attacking the rim. In Paul Weir’s up-and-down system, Jackson’s length will be valuable on defense and he should get lots of chances to play downhill in transition. We know he can shoot the ball, but developing the rest of his game will be what determines Jackson’s NBA future.

8. Miye Oni (Yale)

  • Vitals: 6-6, 210 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 15.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, .405/.310/.750

I’ve been a fan of Oni’s game since I saw him light up Markelle Fultz’s Washington team in his collegiate opener. He’s done little to change my mind since, showcasing his skills as an intriguing 3 & D NBA prospect. Key in those chances will be his jump shot returning to form, after the California native shot just 31% from 3 after knocking down 40% of his triples as a freshman.

9. Dimencio Vaughn (Rider)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Redshirt Sophomore
  • Stats: 16.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, .508/.351/.764

Vaughn is a matchup nightmare in the MAAC. He’s extremely strong, and nearly impossible to guard in one-on-one matchups. Rider’s roster is loaded with versatile combo forwards that can shoot & drive, surrounded by a talented distributor in Stevie Jordan. This is the perfect system for Vaughn to thrive in, as he gets to operate in plenty of space and attack closeouts to get to the rim at ease. He has a chance to set all kinds of records if he remains at Rider for all four years.

10. Jeremy Harris (Buffalo)

  • Vitals: 6-7, 176 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 15.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, .471/.418/.787

Harris has a great chance to become the latest player to go from junior college to the NBA. One of the top JUCO recruits in the nation a season ago, Harris chose Buffalo and couldn’t have found a more perfect fit. An elite shooter and versatile defender, Harris’s 23-point outburst against Arizona led the Bulls to a stunning upset victory this past March, and he is positioned to help Buffalo strike fear into high-major programs this year as well.

Honorable Mention:

Courtney Stockard (Saint Bonaventure), Eric Williams (Duquesne), Javon Bess (Saint Louis), BJ Stith (Old Dominion), Sandy Cohen (Green Bay), Myles Stephens (Princeton), Daniel Utomi (Princeton), Marques Townes (Loyola-Chicago), Terry Taylor (Austin Peay), Kevon Harris (Stephen F. Austin), Zach Jackson (Nebraska-Omaha), Matej Kavas (Seattle)

Top Ten Mid-Major Players By Position: Shooting Guard

By Kevin Sweeney

Today is Tuesday, and that means it’s time to rank the top shooting guards in mid-major basketball. Now, if I were Brad Stevens or another positionless basketball pioneer, I’d only rank point guards, wings, and bigs, but I decided I’d do my best to rank all 5 positions to the best of my ability. And while the shooting guard spot doesn’t have quite the same depth as point guard, there was still a ton of talent to sort through.

And if you missed it yesterday, here are my point guard rankings:

  1. Caleb Martin (Nevada)
  • Vitals: 6-7, 205 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 18.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, .454/.403/.749

It was 2 summers ago that Caleb and his brother Cody committed to Nevada. In choosing the Wolf Pack and Eric Musselman over a slew of other suitors, the Martin twins helped lay the groundwork for this Nevada program. Now, they return for one final season, with legitimate national title aspirations. Caleb is perfect for Musselman’s system, a long wing with great size who is a high-level shot-maker. With the added depth that Nevada adds thanks to several high-level transfers, Martin should be fresher and more impactful when on the floor after rarely getting a chance to rest last season.

2. Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra)

  • Vitals: 6-1, 185 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 24.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, .449/.366/.799

From 1.6 points per game as a freshman to more than 24 points per game as a junior, Wright-Foreman is back for one more electric season in Hempstead. There, he’ll likely look to develop as a point guard as he continues his transition from undersized scoring guard to do-it-all playmaker. However, Wright-Foreman’s ability to put the ball in the hoop will always be his strong suit, and there are few players in the nation I’d rather give the ball to if I needed a bucket. He scores at all 3 levels, and has a killer instinct that makes him super fun to watch.

3. Kellan Grady (Davidson)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 185 pounds, Sophomore
  • Stats: 18.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, .501/.372/.804

One of the most mature scorers I’ve ever seen as a freshman, Grady returns as a leading candidate for A10 Player of the Year. Grady is already garnering NBA Draft buzz, but for now is tasked with bringing Davidson back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. While it’s unlikely Grady (or any Davidson player) will ever get out of the shadow of Stephen Curry, the Boston native has a chance to become one of college basketball’s household names this season. Without Peyton Aldridge, Grady will shoulder even more of the scoring load, but I’m confident he’ll have no trouble helping keep the Wildcats in A10 contention.

4. Fletcher Magee (Wofford)

  • Vitals: 6-4, 193 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 22.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, .484/.439/.907

In my opinion, Magee is the best shooter in all of college basketball. The reigning SoCon POY is absolutely unstoppable from downtown, making more threes than anyone in the nation a season ago with 148 triples. He doesn’t have much more to prove at the collegiate level, other than leading his club to a NCAA Tournament. Last season’s win over North Carolina was memorable to say the least, but in order for the Terriers to win a SoCon title they’ll have to improve defensively.

5. Deshon Taylor (Fresno State)

  • Vitals: 6-2, 185 pounds, Redshirt Junior
  • Stats: 17.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, .439/.386/.833

Taylor tested the NBA Draft waters this offseason, opting to return to Fresno State for his final season of college basketball. He’ll do so for new coach Justin Hutson, who took over for Rodney Terry this spring. Hutson is fortunate to inherit one of the Mountain West’s best players in Taylor, who’ll see more time running the show after playing in more of an off-ball role his prior two seasons in Fresno.

6. CJ Massinburg (Buffalo)

  • Vitals: 6-3, 194 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, .468/.405/.743

From a low-profile recruit to MAC Player of the Year frontrunner, Massinburg’s rise has been fun to watch over the last 3 years. Now, he has a chance to further etch his name into the Buffalo record books, with 2,000 career points and back-to-back MAC titles within reach. Massinburg truly does it all on the floor, defending multiple positions, rebounding the ball extremely well, and shooting over 40% from downtown. The Bulls will be one of the nation’s best mid-majors, and Massinburg is a major reason why.

#7. Isaiah Reese (Canisius)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 185 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.7 apg, .463/.359/.881

Reese not winning MAAC Player of the Year last season was a travesty, but he should enter this year as the MAAC’s premier player. Capable of playing either on or off the ball, Reese rose to prominence last season thanks in part to the extra minutes he saw due to Kassius Robertson’s transfer to Mizzou. While at the time, the loss of Robertson appeared devastating for the Golden Griffins, it allowed Reese to reach his full potential, and now Canisius has a legit NBA prospect on their hands.

#8. Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s)

  • Vitals: 6-1, 160 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 11.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, .508/.443/.754

Ford quietly established himself as one of college basketball’s rising stars last season, averaging over 11 points per game last season for Saint Mary’s. With 3 starters graduating, the California native will be thrust into a huge offensive role this season. The biggest question is what that role will entail, as some project Ford taking over primary point guard duties from Emmett Naar. He could also remain off the ball, with redshirt freshman point guard Kristers Zoriks running the show.

#9. Jerrick Harding (Weber State)

  • Vitals: 6-1, 170 pounds, Junior
  • Stats: 22.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, .530/.425/.882

The most prolific scorer to don a Weber State jersey since Damian Lillard, Harding is a fearless scorer at all 3 levels and a big reason the Wildcats have a chance to contend with Montana for a Big Sky title. Where Harding has to improve is the defensive side of the ball, where he was a net negative for the Wildcats a season ago. Becoming a more complete player will only elevate Harding status as one of college basketball’s elite scorers.

#10. Taveion Hollingsworth (Western Kentucky)

  • Vitals: 6-2, 165 pounds, Sophomore
  • Stats: 13.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, .480/.378/.791

It’s hard to believe that Hollingsworth slipped through the cracks and wound up at Western Kentucky, but Hilltopper fans are extremely happy he did. A natural scorer, Hollingsworth made a major impact a season ago on a WKU team that won 27 games and is now poised to be an even bigger piece on this season’s C-USA favorites. With Darius Thompson graduating, the ball will be in Hollingsworth’s hands a lot more, and he should have plenty of room to operate with 2 elite bigs in Charles Bassey and Desean Murray drawing lots of attention in the post.

Honorable Mention:

CJ Burks (Marshall), Desmond Cambridge (Brown), Michael Oguine (Montana), Max Heidegger (UCSB), Grant Riller (College of Charleston), David Jenkins (South Dakota State), Shannon Bogues (Stephen F. Austin), Jaylin Walker (Kent State), Jordan Goodwin (Saint Louis), Tyler Hall (Montana State), David Efianayi (Gardner-Webb), Kyle Allman (Cal State Fullerton), Jhivvan Jackson (UTSA), Roosevelt Smart (North Texas), Devin Cannady (Princeton), Eugene German (Northern Illinois), Francis Alonso (UNC-Greensboro), Joe Rosga (Denver), Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern), Detrick Mostella (Jacksonville State)

Check back tomorrow for the small forward rankings!

Top Ten Mid-Major Players By Position: Point Guard

By Kevin Sweeney

Last year around this time, I began to see poorly-crafted top 50 and top 100 players in college basketball lists. While the premise of ranking players is fun and creates conversation, it is nearly impossible to get right, given the differences in position, level of play, and role. To solve some of those flaws, I decided to rank my top ten mid-major players at each position, and it was a huge success.

Guess what?

THE RANKINGS ARE BACK!

We begin today with the point guards, and they were by far the most difficult position to rank. There is so much depth throughout mid-major basketball at that spot, and players I would have thought to be shoe-ins for a top 10 spot didn’t wind up making the cut. As always, shoot me a comment or tweet to tell me why your favorite player should have been higher!

The Top Ten:

  1. Jon Elmore (Marshall)
  • Vitals: 6-3, 185 pounds, redshirt senior
  • Stats: 22.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, .439/.356/.826

Elmore has a fairly strong case for being the best mid-major player in the country. While numbers in Dan D’Antoni’s shoot-happy offensive system tend to be inflated, the fact that Elmore is the only player in the last 25 years to post averages of at least 22 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in a season speaks for itself. He even has an NCAA Tournament win under his belt, thanks to a memorable 27-point performance to lead the Thundering Herd past Wichita State this past March. Despite not having much more to prove at the collegiate level, Elmore is back for one more year, and he’s the primary reason Marshall should be seen as a legit bracket-busting candidate once again.

2. D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State)

  • Vitals: 6-3, 195 pounds, junior
  • Stats: 21.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.4 apg, .461/.292/.702

Simonds is a prototype modern lead guard. A former 4-star recruit who spurned high-major offers and interest to play for Ron Hunter at Georgia State, Simonds hasn’t disappointed one bit. He excels in the open floor, is an elite finisher at the rim, and creates shots for others. The scariest part of the defending Sun Belt Player of the Year’s game is that he still has room for improvement, especially as a shooter. If he can up his 3-point shooting into the 35-38% range, Simonds will be on plenty of draft boards in 2019.

3. Luwane Pipkins (UMass)

  • Vitals: 5-11, 185 pounds, Redshirt junior
  • Stats: 21.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, .430/.426/.788

Perhaps no player in the country benefitted more from a coaching change last offseason than Pipkins, who blossomed into a superstar under Matt McCall after an up-and-down freshman season in Amherst. The diminutive playmaker deserves a ton of respect for how he played last season, especially given that the Minutemen spent portions of the season with just 5 scholarship players available. He competed from horn to horn, making big shot after big shot to carry UMass through the grind that is the Atlantic 10. Now, Pipkins will be surrounded with much more talent, as 4 high-level transfers enter the mix to compliment returning all-freshman selection Carl Pierre. With an elite point guard leading the way, don’t be surprised if UMass competes for an A10 title in year 2 of the McCall era.

4. Ja Morant (Murray State)

  • Vitals: 6-3, 170 pounds, sophomore
  • Stats: 12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6.3 apg, .459/.307/.806

There’s no player in mid-major basketball with as much potential as Morant, the high-flying point guard with elite floor vision who wowed in his freshman season at Murray State. Now, the keys to the Murray State program lay entirely in the hands of the South Carolina native after spending a year next to Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller, and I can’t wait to watch him do things like this:

and this:

and maybe a little bit of this:

Developing a consistent knock-down 3-point jumper is the only thing standing in the way of Morant potentially being a lottery pick down the road. For more on his draft prospects, check out this story from Jackson Hoy over at The Stepien.

5. Clayton Custer (Loyola-Chicago)

  • Vitals: 6-1, 185 pounds, redshirt senior
  • Stats: 13.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, .528/.451/.770

Missouri Valley Player of the Year. NCAA All-Region. A Final Four.

The toughest thing on Clayton Custer’s plate for this season is attempting to replicate what he did last season. Truth be told, it’s hard to be much better. Custer was everything you could want as a point guard, protecting the ball and running the team when necessary, but changing the game with his deadly outside shot and polished floater package when the opportunity presented itself. His runner that hit every bit of rim imaginable to beat Tennessee in the Sweet 16 will be remembered most, but those who followed the Ramblers all season know Custer made plays like that all season long when it mattered most. So while he may not play with the same flair as some of the other players on this list, he’s clearly one of the nation’s elite floor generals.

6. Chris Clemons (Campbell)

  • Vitals: 5-9, 180 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 24.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, .452/.371/.861

It’s hard to find a player more exciting to watch in college basketball than Clemons, an absolute dynamo who packs a ton of punch into his generously-listed 5-9 frame. He’s explosive off the bounce and unafraid to go up into the trees and finish at the rim, while shooting proficiently and making sound decisions at the point guard spot. Should he stay healthy, Clemons will become the first (or second, depending on how much Mike Daum scores) to score 3,000 points in a collegiate career since Doug McDermott. He’s clearly the best player in the Big South, and has a very real chance to end his Campbell career by leading the Camels to the NCAA Tournament.

7. JaQuan Lyle (New Mexico)

  • Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, redshirt junior
  • Stats (2016-17 @ Ohio State): 11.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, .458/.407/.720

The only newcomer to grace this list, the former top-25 recruit Lyle heads to New Mexico after beginning his career at Ohio State. Lyle’s on-court production has never been a problem, but a flurry of off-the-court woes have consistently stunted his career dating back to his high school days. If reigned in, Lyle is a monster, a big-bodied lead guard who can shoot the ball, distribute, and get to the rim at will. I see him thriving in the pressing system that Paul Weir has implemented in Albuquerque, where he’ll get lots of opportunities to wreak havoc in the open floor.

8. RJ Cole (Howard)

  • Vitals: 6-1, 175 pounds, Sophomore
  • Stats: 23.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 6.1 apg, .394/.359/.770

Before last season, no freshman since 1992 had averaged at least 23 points and 6 assists per game. Two did last season.

One’s name was heard on ESPN during virtually every college basketball broadcast and was a top 5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The other was RJ Cole.

Cole came out of nowhere to post historic numbers for Howard, first opening eyes with tough shot after tough shot in a 27 point, 8 assist outing against Indiana in the season’s first week. He continued his dominance throughout the season, scoring in double figures in every game of his freshman campaign and never playing less than 30 minutes in a game (he played in 40 or more minutes in 10 games).

The next step in Cole’s game is turning his elite production into wins for the Bison, who went just 10-23 last season. With two 20-point-per-game scorers coming back and the addition of a strong recruiting class, Howard has the pieces to turn it around this year.

9. Otis Livingston (George Mason)

  • Vitals: 5-11, 175 pounds, Senior
  • Stats: 17.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.4 apg, .436/.382/.857

Despite almost never leaving the floor, Livingston put together a big season while helping an undermanned George Mason team to a top-5 A10 finish. Livingston is just solid in every way, a leader on the floor, an excellent playmaker, and a sound 3-point shooter. Almost every team in America would love to have him as their point guard, and I don’t think Dave Paulsen would want anyone else running the show for his club as they enter the 2018-19 season with high expectations.

10. Vasa Pusica (Northeastern)

  • Vitals: 6-5. 210 pounds, Redshirt Senior
  • Stats: 17.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, .504/.427/.807

After a pair of fairly uneventful seasons at San Diego, Pusica transferred across the country to Northeastern and thrived. A big lead guard, Pusica is deadly from deep, efficiently scores at all 3 levels, and runs a team well. Back for one more season, don’t count out Pusica in a loaded CAA Player of the Year race, especially if he can push his Huskies over the top after finishing second in the conference a season ago. The Serbian won’t wow you athletically, but he’s the perfect player to lead Bill Coen’s scrappy bunch.

Honorable Mention:

Ahmaad Rorie (Montana), Tookie Brown (Georgia Southern), Jeff Dowtin (Rhode Island), Marcus Evans (VCU– health concerns), Bryce Aiken (Harvard), Matt Morgan (Cornell), Jordan Barnes (Indiana State), Keyshawn Evans (Illinois State), Sam Merrill (Utah State), Colbey Ross (Pepperdine)

Check back tomorrow for my top 10 shooting guards!

Top Ten Transfers Still on the Board

By Kevin Sweeney

Preparations for the 2018-19 college basketball season are well underway, with many teams on campus taking classes and working out as they build towards a title. However, many rosters are still not finalized, with one or two scholarships still available to add a piece that could impact this season or future years. And while most of the top transfers are already off the board, there are still several top talents out there.

Here are my top ten transfers whose recruitments are still open:

#1. Geno Crandall (North Dakota)

  • Grad transfer with one year of eligibility remaining
  • Stats: 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, .503/.417/.728

A late add to the grad transfer market who didn’t announce his intentions to depart North Dakota until June, Crandall immediately became the best player on the board. A guard with good size who can play either the 1 or the 2 and score at all 3 levels, the Minnesota native would be a plug-and-play starter for nearly every team in the country. He’s efficient, shoots the 3 extremely well, and also defends at a high level. Crandall is reportedly considering Xavier, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Colorado State, and New Mexico State and would be a season-changing pickup for any of those programs.

Update 7/5: Crandall has announced his commitment to Gonzaga.

#2. Ehab Amin (Texas A&M-CC)

  • Grad transfer with one year of eligibility remaining
  • Stats (2016-17): 16.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, .462/.289/.716, 3.4 spg

Amin originally committed to Eric Musselman and Nevada, but chose to decommit once the Martin twins returned to school for their senior seasons. Now, he has taken visits to Rutgers, Boston College, and Oregon in addition to the visit he took to Wichita State before signing with Nevada. When healthy, Amin is a dynamic two-way player, a defensive catalyst who led the country in steals as a junior and a creative offensive player proficient at getting to the rim. However, there may be some lingering effects of the hip injury that costed Amin his 2017-18 season that may hamper his effectiveness in his senior campaign.

UPDATE (6/29): Amin has committed to Oregon, per his Twitter page.

#3. Zane Martin (Towson)

  • Sit 1, play 2
  • Stats: 19.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, .458/.380/.696

One of the biggest breakout stars in college basketball this season, Martin elected to leave Towson for greener pastures this offseason. His ascension began with several massive performances during his team’s international trip to Canada this past summer, and that strong play continued into the 2017-18 season. That big season earned him a spot on the All-CAA Second Team and interest from college basketball’s elite.

Despite earning official visits, it appears that Maryland and Ole Miss are no longer in contention for Martin.

#4. Demontrae Jefferson (Texas Southern)

  • Sit 1, play 2
  • Stats: 23.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, .420/.394/.823

The newest high-profile addition to the transfer market, Jefferson departs Texas Southern in the wake of his head coach Mike Davis heading to Detroit. A dynamic lead guard despite standing just 5-7, Jefferson never backs down from a challenge. He opened the season by playing in 40 or more minutes in 4 straight games, and consistently gave Texas Southern a fighting change against higher-level competition. It will be extremely interesting to see where Jefferson lands to complete his college career, as he is one of the most fun players to watch in the entire country.

#5. Bryson Williams (Fresno State)

  • Sit 1, play 2
  • Stats: 13.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, .596/.250/.602

Williams’ recruitment has been long, but there hasn’t been much information about where he’ll land. He has taken visits to UTEP, Arizona, and Oregon, and new Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson is still working to convince Williams to return for his junior and senior seasons. On the floor, Williams is a strong, 6-8 forward with excellent skill in the post who could use a potential redshirt year to develop as a shooter. However, a return to Fresno State would form an outstanding pick-and-roll pairing in Williams and Deshon Taylor.

#6. Stone Gettings (Cornell)

  • Sit 1***, play 1
  • Stats: 16.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, .487/.368/.825

Gettings is a non-traditional graduate transfer. He announced earlier this offseason his intent to sit out the 2018-19 season at Cornell to finish his degree, then graduate and transfer for his final season of eligibility. The timetable for a commitment is unclear, but given the historical precedent that former Ivy Leaguers Evan Boudreaux and Makai Mason have set, it seems like Gettings will commit at some point this summer. A native of Malibu, CA, Gettings is a unique big man with excellent passing ability and a smooth jumper. He’d be a solid piece for a high-major in his final season of college basketball.

#7. Justin Roberts (DePaul)

  • Sit 1, play 3
  • Stats: 4.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, .383/.324/.714

Roberts showed promise during his freshman campaign at DePaul, but elected to transfer for the rest of his college career. DePaul fans clamored for more playing time for Roberts throughout the season, but Dave Leitao consistently lamented some “freshman mistakes” and kept his youngster on the bench. I’m a big believer in Roberts’ upside, and believe he’d be a steal for a lot of programs at this point in the process.

#8. Adonis De La Rosa (Kent State)

  • Grad transfer with one year of eligibility remaining
  • Stats: 11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, .564/.000/.785

De La Rosa’s journey through the college basketball world will take one final twist, as the 7-footer who began his career at St. John’s before transferring to a junior college and resurfacing at Kent State will use the grad transfer option. He’s a polarizing prospect, a turnover-prone true big man who will be 24 years of age before the 2018 season gets underway and is coming off a torn ACL, but his ability to score in bunches in the post is valuable. Given that a school would get De La Rosa’s scholarship back for 2019 anyway, he seems well worth the gamble as the piece that could put a team over the top.

Update 7/2: De La Rosa has signed with Illinois, per multiple media reports.

#9. Schadrac Casimir (Iona)

  • Grad transfer with one year of eligibility remaining
  • Stats: 10.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, .442/.458/.823

Casimir is the perfect piece to add to your rotation. While several hip surgeries have diminished him into almost entirely a spot-up shooter, Casimir is an elite catch-and-shoot guy and a winner. Those around the Iona program have raved about him since the first day he arrived on campus, and the diminutive guard has been a part of 3 NCAA Tournament teams. Reportedly considering Arizona State, Rutgers, FGCU, and Southern Utah, Casimir visited Florida Gulf Coast 2 weeks ago. I’m sure almost any team would gladly welcome a guy who shot 46% from 3 and has made the NCAA Tournament 3 years in a row into their program.

UPDATE 7/1: Casimir has committed to Florida Gulf Coast, per multiple media reports.

#10. Najja Hunter (Rice)

  • Sit 1, play 3
  • Stats: 6.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, .433/.310/.590

Hunter’s numbers from his rookie campaign don’t jump out at you, but a closer look makes me think he could be the steal of this year’s transfer class. A well-regarded prospect coming out of St. Benedict’s Prep in NJ, Hunter exploded onto the scene late in the season, averaging more than 19 points and 5 rebounds per game over his final four games. A wing with excellent size and scoring ability, Hunter could be a all-conference player at his next stop with an added year of development.

Other names to watch: Jonah Antonio (Mount St Mary’s), Josh Ayeni (St Bonaventure), Pedro Bradshaw (Eastern Kentucky), Jeremy Combs (LSU), John Dewey III (Sam Houston State), Tyrik Dixon (MTSU), Greg Eboigbodin (Illinois), Troy Holston Jr (South Florida), Jermaine Jackson Jr (Detroit), Antwain Johnson (MTSU), Mustafa Lawrence (Missouri State), Tyler Maye (VCU), Jalyn Patterson (LSU), Marcell Pettway (Nevada), Isaiah Ross (UMKC), Matz Stockman (Minnesota), Quatarrius Wilson (McNeese State).