NBA Live Mock Draft Podcast Results

With the NBA Draft less than 48 hours away, Kevin and Brad invited special guest Patrick Wong on to do a live mock draft. The guys went through all 60 picks switching off pick-by-pick to project what many have called the best draft class in more than a decade. Picks were made based on what WE would have done, NOT what we think the teams will necessarily do.

Here are our picks: (K = Kevin, P = Patrick, B = Brad)

Round 1:

  1. Phoenix (K)– DeAndre Ayton (Arizona)
  2. Sacramento (P)– Luka Doncic (Real Madrid)
  3. Atlanta (B)– Jaren Jackson Jr (Michigan State)
  4. Memphis (K)– Marvin Bagley (Duke)
  5. Dallas (P)– Mo Bamba (Texas)
  6. Orlando (B)– Trae Young (Oklahoma)
  7. Chicago (K)– Michael Porter Jr (Missouri)
  8. Cleveland (P)– Wendell Carter Jr (Duke)
  9. New York (B)– Mikal Bridges (Villanova)
  10. Philadelphia (K)– Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
  11. Charlotte (P)– Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky)
  12. LA Clippers (B)– Robert Williams (Texas A&M)
  13. LA Clippers (K)– Collin Sexton (Alabama)
  14. Denver (P)– Kevin Knox (Kentucky)
  15. Washington (B)– Lonnie Walker (Miami)
  16. Phoenix (K)– Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech)
  17. Milwaukee (P)– Aaron Holiday (UCLA)
  18. San Antonio (B)– Khyri Thomas (Creighton)
  19. Atlanta (K)– Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova)
  20. Minnesota (P)– Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State)
  21. Utah (B)– Kevin Huerter (Maryland)
  22. Chicago (K)– Mitchell Robinson (Western Kentucky)
  23. Indiana (P)– Elie Okobo (Pau-Lacq-Orthez)
  24. Portland (B)– Jacob Evans (Cincinnati)
  25. LA Lakers (K)– Chandler Hutchison (Boise State)
  26. Philadelphia (P)– Moritz Wagner (Michigan)
  27. Boston (B)– Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
  28. Golden State (K)– Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech)
  29. Brooklyn (P)– Grayson Allen (Duke)
  30. Atlanta (B)– Melvin Frazier (Tulane)

Round 2:

  1. Phoenix (K)– Jalen Brunson (Villanova)
  2. Memphis (P)– Troy Brown (Oregon)
  3. Dallas (B)– Gary Trent Jr (Duke)
  4. Atlanta (K)– Issuf Sanon (Petrol Olimpija)
  5. Orlando (P)– Dzanan Musa (Cedevita)
  6. New York (B)– Omari Spellman (Villanova)
  7. Sacramento (K)– Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky)
  8. Philadelphia (P)– Bruce Brown (Miami)
  9. Philadelphia (B)– Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy)
  10. Brooklyn (K)– Kevin Hervey (UT-Arlington)
  11. Orlando (P)– Chimezie Metu (USC)
  12. Detroit (B)– Vincent Edwards (Purdue)
  13. Denver (K)– Shake Milton (SMU)
  14. Washington (P)– De’Anthony Melton (USC)
  15. Brooklyn (B)– Jerome Robinson (Boston College)
  16. Houston (K)– Kenrich Williams (TCU)
  17. LA Lakers (P)– Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  18. Minnesota (B)– Rawle Alkins (Arizona)
  19. San Antonio (K)– Isaac Bonga (Frankfurt Skyliners)
  20. Indiana (P)– Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky)
  21. New Orleans (B)– Wenyen Gabriel (Kentucky)
  22. Utah (K)– Landry Shamet (Wichita State)
  23. Oklahoma City (P)– Alonzo Trier (Arizona)
  24. Dallas (B)– Alize Johnson (Missouri State)
  25. Charlotte (K)– Kostas Antetokounmpo (Dayton)
  26. Philadelphia (P)– Rodions Kurucs (FC Barcelona)
  27. Oklahoma City (B)– Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot (Levallois Metropolitans)
  28. Denver (K)– Arnoldas Kulboka (Brose Bamberg)
  29. Phoenix (P)– Trevon Duval (Duke)
  30. Philadelphia (B)– Donte Grantham (Clemson)

Notable Players Undrafted: Devonte Graham (Kansas), Tony Carr (Penn State), Devon Hall (Virginia), Malik Newman (Kansas), Svi Mykhailiuk (Kansas), Theo Pinson (North Carolina), Billy Preston (Kansas), Ray Spalding (Louisville), Brandon McCoy (UNLV), Angel Delgado (Seton Hall)

With Hot Recruiting Start, Rodney Terry Positioning UTEP for Long-Term Success

By Kevin Sweeney

In the days following UTEP’s hire of Rodney Terry to replace Tim Floyd as head basketball coach, I graded the hire a B+.

I’m already regretting not going much higher.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a first-year coach with more early momentum than Terry. Since departing Fresno State this March in a move that surprised many, Terry has laid a groundwork for winning for years to come while reinvigorating a fanbase that had long been frustrated with Floyd’s inability to bring the consistent success they had come to expect during the Don Haskins era.

Terry entered a near-impossible position from a roster standpoint. 3 key senior talents graduating, younger players transferring, and the rest of the old staff’s recruiting class departing for other collegiate homes. In front of him was 9 open scholarships late in the 2018 recruiting process, with the team in need of a talent injection for both the coming season and beyond.

Yet Terry has managed the roster masterfully, with the help of a strong staff with a rolodex of recruiting contacts throughout not just Texas but the entire country (and beyond). Former San Diego head coach Lamont Smith is the biggest name on staff, a experienced recruiter who had begun a big turnaround with the Toreros before off-court trouble led to his departure this Spring. Terry also brought over assistants Nick Matson and Brian Burton with him from Fresno State, with Burton bringing strong Texas recruiting connections and Matson providing experience from his work across the country. That staff has allowed the Miners to hit the ground running on the recruiting trail.

The first domino to fall was physical big man Efe Odigie, a Houston native who elected to follow Terry from Fresno State, where he had signed originally. Next was Nigel Hawkins, a scoring guard with multiple high-major offers who committed shortly after visiting in late April. Terry then landed Deon Stroud, a former 2019 prospect with several Mountain West offers who elected to reclassify to 2018 and #JoinTheMovement a year early. The most recent prep prospect to pop for Terry and company was high-upside Canadian big man Kaosi Ezeagu, who held offers from Butler and South Carolina but chose the Miners instead. The only miss by Terry’s new staff was Rivals top 150 recruit Isaac Likekele, a former Fresno State commit who elected to head to Oklahoma State instead.

And while Terry’s ability to put together a strong freshman class in such a short amount of time deserves credit, the work he has put in on the transfer market is even more impressive. He’s earned a pair of pledges in NJIT transfer wing Anthony Tarke (15 points, 6 rebounds per game) and former San Francisco guard Souley Boum (10 points per game, WCC All-Freshman selection), and had Fresno State transfer big man Bryson Williams (13 points, 6 rebounds per game) on campus for a visit this weekend. With 3 scholarships still available, Terry still has plenty of room to add talent to the roster for this year and beyond.

One key reason for Terry’s early success and momentum has been his ability to excite and connect with the strong UTEP fanbase, one that averaged well over 6,000 fans per game in the 2016-17 season (most recent NCAA Attendance Report available). The Miners have used Twitter as their friend, with Miners fans and coaches constantly tweeting with hashtags like #BlueCollarMentality, #JoinTheMovement, and #NewEraUTEP.

Social media is a huge area that more teams need to focus on exploiting, and UTEP is the perfect example of this. Twitter is a great way to connect fans and get them excited about the upcoming season, and I expect to see a lot of massive crowds filling the Don Haskins Center for years to come. If the recruiting momentum continues, it won’t be long before UTEP establishes itself as a perennial contender for Conference USA titles and NCAA Tournament berths.

Sorry about the lack of content on the site recently, I’ve been super busy. Will be ramping things up for the summer soon!

Nevada Showing Top-To-Bottom Effort Necessary to Become Elite

By Kevin Sweeney

When UT-Arlington fired head coach Scott Cross in stunning fashion earlier this Spring, I went on a rant (to put it kindly) blasting their decision. UTA Athletic Director Jim Baker reportedly had clashed with Cross on multiple occasions about Cross’s inability to turn the Maverick program into “The Next Gonzaga”. My criticism was simple– becoming the next Gonzaga, Xavier, Butler, or Wichita State takes more than simply an elite coach. Obviously, those programs needed their Mark Few, Pete Gillen, Brad Stevens (or Barry Collier) or Gregg Marshall to ascend to the level that they are at now, but it takes a top-to-bottom effort, from the president of the school all the way down to the fans, to build a program and a culture with staying power at the elite level of college basketball.

Nevada has found their elite coach. Now, can they establish themselves as the next elite mid-major program? Yesterday, in the aftermath of the Jordan Brown commitment, I saw yet another reason why I believe they will.

The hashtag #RiseAndShinePack was all over my Twitter feed yesterday morning, as coaches and their wives shared videos of themselves celebrating landing the McDonald’s All-American Brown.

It was a fun, humorous way to celebrate the news, while also engaging the entire fanbase to tweet out how they celebrated the news. It was the latest great marketing play by the Wolf Pack as they become the new “sexy” name in college basketball.

From the embrace of Twitter to their wide variety of jerseys to the big raise and contract extension Musselman received after last season, Nevada is doing everything right on the path to continued success. Between the fun brand of basketball that the Wolf Pack play and the variety of efforts to connect with the fanbase, ticket sales have spiked, as have donations to the program. Those increases in revenue without a doubt play a big role in Nevada’s ability to pay Musselman, who received a raise from his $400k salary to over $1 million after winning the Mountain West title in 2017.

Obviously, Musselman’s time in Reno may not last forever. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has struggled to live up to the program’s lofty expectations, and a program with the facilities, money, and pedigree like UCLA may prove enough to draw Musselman away from Reno should that job open up. Without a doubt, his name will be mentioned in connection with every major job opening for as long as he remains the Pack’s head coach. However, Nevada is positioned to capitalize on this run of success in a way that other programs that have flirted with national prominence (including this very same Nevada program just 10 years ago).

The biggest factor in college basketball remains money, and Nevada still needs work in that area. Not only do they lag far behind the powers I mentioned before, but they lag behind much of the Mountain West in basketball spending as well (though that number doesn’t factor in the significant raise for Musselman).

 

$$$

All data in the chart is per ESPN college basketball analyst Mark Adams’ Facebook post (data from 2016–17 year. 

That said, with ticket sales rising drastically and potential for significant NCAA Tournament revenue coming down the road, the time seems right for the Wolf Pack administration to ramp up spending. They’ve already invested in a brand-new practice facility, thanks in no small part to a $1 million gift from Pack alum Ramon Sessions. Still, that top-to-bottom commitment from everyone from the biggest figures atop the university to boosters to even the Wolf Pack fans who follow me on Twitter.

Potentially replacing Musselman is possible– Nevada AD Doug Knuth has made strong hires in football, women’s basketball, and men’s basketball all in his relatively short tenure in Reno. Butler and Xavier have consistently lost their coaches to bigger programs but have a culture of hiring great coaches and not missing a beat.

The one hurdle that can’t be overcome long-term is money. If Nevada hopes to be the next Gonzaga, they must avoid the same mistakes that countless other programs have made.

Breaking: Siena to Hire Jamion Christian?

By Kevin Sweeney

The biggest remaining domino in the 2018 coaching carousel has fallen, maybe?

Siena has hired Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian to be their next head coach, per Rodger Wyland of WNYT in Albany. Wyland reports that a press conference is hoped for on Friday.

UPDATE: Jon Rothstein now is reporting that the hire has yet to be finalized, but that Christian is a leading candidate. A spokesperson for Siena says no offer has been made.

UPDATE 5/1: Marisa Jacques of Spectrum News in Albany is reporting that Siena will name Christian their next head coach after all.

Christian replaces Jimmy Patsos, who resigned earlier this month amidst allegations of verbal abuse against players and managers following an 8-24 season.

The 36-year-old Christian, a Shaka Smart disciple, heads to Loudonville after an impressive 6-year run at Mount St. Mary’s, where he took the Mountaineers to 2 NCAA Tournaments and never finished below .500 in conference play. Christian consistently recruited extremely well to “The Mount”, bringing in talents like Elijah Long and Miles Wilson into the program. However, just like most of the NEC, his rosters were consistently set back by transfers, as Long headed to Texas, Wilson to Miami, and Mawdo Sallah to Kansas State after last season’s NCAA Tournament berth. At Siena, with much better facilities and a bigger conference, Christian has a chance to keep those types of talents for 4 years, something Siena fans should be excited about.

However, Christian inherits a difficult situation at Siena, as the Saints are coming off a brutal season and have seen several key players announce their intent to transfer. Freshmen Prince Oduro, Roman Penn, and Jordan Horn have all requested releases to transfer, and Nico Clareth, who left the program midseason, is currently on the market as a sit 1, play 1 transfer. Penn and Horn look like decent bets to return, but Oduro appears to be gone, with multiple high-major programs already expressing interest. Clareth has received interest from several mid- and high-major programs, but would be a sit 1, play 1 transfer. Christian’s first job will be to re-recruit those 4 players, and from there, he’ll have to get to work recruiting late in the cycle to add talent.

To me, this is about as good a hire as Siena could have realistically made. The brief flirtations with Rick Pitino were quite fun to watch, but it would have been an extremely risky hire with all the negative publicity and potential show-cause penalty to come. Getting an up-and-coming coach who plays a fun style and recruits well will indubitably be welcomed by Siena fans, as they look to get back to the heights of the Fran McCaffery era.

As for Mount St. Mary’s, the program is left in a bit of a lurch. Making a hire in May is very difficult, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Mountaineers will be able to hire from within, as the staff there is inexperienced. The new coach will inherit a talented young core, but will face roster balance issues (no rising juniors or seniors on the current roster) as well as could set into motion a mass transfer exodus from the program– something that is all too familiar for their NEC foes.

“Testing The Waters” Has Gone Too Far

By Kevin Sweeney

Scroll through the Twitter feeds of any national college basketball media source, and you’ll see tweet after tweet of players declaring for the NBA Draft. Most of those will come with the caveat that the player won’t sign with an agent.

As of 3pm today, there were 140 players who had entered the draft, with 80 not having hired an agent (those numbers are per NBADraft.net). Some of the names on that list, like Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, and DeAndre Ayton, are recognizable to even the most common of college basketball fan: collegiate superstars at big-time programs who were long expected to be NBA lottery picks. Others, however, are much less well-known.

How much Matt Morgan tape did you watch this season? What about Fred Sims or Takal Molson? Did you scout Tramaine Isabell or Elijah Minnie?

These are 5 excellent college basketball players. Isabell (Drexel), and Morgan (Cornell) all averaged more than 20 points per game for their respective teams, while Molson won Freshman of the Year in the MAAC and Minnie was 3rd-team all-conference in the MAC this season. They will all make money playing professional basketball, and if they are lucky, a lot of it.

Their chances of being drafted by an NBA team this year? About the same as my odds of winning the lottery.

The rule change in 2016 to allow players to work out with NBA teams and get better feedback about their draft prospects was almost universally well-regarded. Players get more flexibility and feedback during a process that is cloudy at best. Colleges get to keep players who may have otherwise made ill-advised decisions. And NBA teams get to evaluate more players for both the current draft but potentially for future ones as well.

Yet in just 3 draft classes, things have gotten out of hand. The punchline “you might as well tweet out the list of players that AREN’T declaring for the draft” gets thrown around a lot.

To be clear, I’m not advocating revoking the rule. This freedom is without a doubt a good thing and an improvement from the previous system.

What I’m advocating for is an even more wide-open system: one in which every player who is draft-eligible may be contacted by college and professional scouts, coaches, and front office personnel? Remember John Calipari’s publicity stunt in the first year of the current system of having every single player (including walk-ons) enter the draft without an agent? Well, just like that.

Take our earlier example. Molson is just a freshman and far from a professional basketball player at this point. I’d bet anything he’s on a collegiate roster next season, whether that be at Canisius or at a different school. With the current rules in place, Molson is using one of his two opportunities to “test the waters” before being forced to leave school on his 3rd time declaring for the draft. Why not simply allow him to reach out to NBA teams and other pro clubs (let’s be honest, the odds of a 6-5 shooting guard from the MAAC making an NBA roster are slim to non) and hear what he needs to work on each year. If teams want to work him out, go ahead and work out. If teams want to guarantee they will draft him or sign him if he goes pro, let them do that. Give the players all the freedom in the world, without all the media attention that really tells us nothing.

The benefit of the current system is that it gets players’ names out there via the national media. The thought process is that if nothing else, just being on the list might get a few extra NBA eyes. While this line of thinking is valid, the vast majority of college coaches (even at low-major schools) have contacts in the NBA world, and would have no issue helping players connect with teams and get their names out there. AAU and high school coaches also may have useful contacts at their disposal. Besides, NBA scouts are a presence at high school and AAU events and do extensive college scouting, having info on all the players that are even conceivably draft material. Of course, the NCAA could also just allow players to have agents while still in college, but we all know that’s unlikely.

Let’s just simplify the process. Let every player get contacted by pro teams. 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine, players would have to either sign with an agent or officially return to school.

If the NCAA is dead set against letting any agent interaction into the college game, at least cut out the completely unnecessary middle step in the NBA Draft process.

 

Column: Just Pay Your Coaches if You Don’t Want Them Anymore

By Kevin Sweeney

Last night’s big story in college basketball came out of Loudonville, NY, when reports of verbal abuse against embattled Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos surfaced. Among the allegations are Patsos calling a student manager with OCD “the next Unabomber”, along with kicking managers off the team bus and making them walk to a game.

This allegations… suck. They suck bad. As someone who grew up a fan and season ticket holder for Siena basketball, my heart dropped when I read these allegations. There’s simply no place in college basketball for this type of stuff.

All that said, there’s a reason this came out now, and it’s the latest example of a growing trend in college basketball that no one should like.

When things go south on the court, athletic directors and other administrators begin looking for dirt.

We saw this earlier this offseason with both UConn and Pitt firing their coaches for cause (Stallings later accepted a settlement). Before that, Larry Eustachy’s name was ramrodded in the media for verbally abusing players before he took a settlement (about 25% of his buyout). The timing of all 3 (and the seemingly impending 4th) line up with when a team’s on-court performance went downhill.

Eustachy, coming off winning Coach of the Year in the Mountain West and a 24-win campaign, got off to a slow start this season. Most believed he wasn’t the guy at Colorado State long-term, but a $3 million buyout stood in the way. In February, verbal abuse allegations surfaced, and Eustachy was placed on administrative leave and eventually resigned with a settlement of $750,000.

With Patsos, it’s hard not to see the connection between when this comes out and Siena’s recent struggles. After an underwhelming 17-17 mark in 2016-17, the Saints fell flat on their face with an 8-24 mark in 2017-18. Fans of the program were ready for a change, but a hefty buyout reportedly between $750k and $1.2 million stood in the way, especially for a school in not the best shape financially.

And now, a month after the season ended and days after rumors around the college basketball landscape of Pat Beilein being next in line at Siena began to surface, this report is released. Something smell fishy to you?

Siena and everyone who knows college basketball knew who they were hiring when they did this search. After all, they played against him for several years. Patsos is certainly old-school, a guy who was known to yell at kids. In short, if Siena was worried about a guy who would yell and scream at players because he might cross a line, Patsos was never the right candidate for the job. That’s not to say he wasn’t hireable, as he had done admirably at Loyola (MD) and is also known for the most part as a good guy who was well-liked by his players. But Siena clearly had no problem with taking on a guy who they knew would bring some antics along with him.

Yet now, when the school desperately wants out of a contract that they extended twice in Patsos’ first 3 seasons, this info leaks?

Siena made its own bed with this contract, as did UConn, Pitt, and Colorado State before them with big buyouts they couldn’t afford. If you didn’t want him there any more, pay him his buyout and go get Pat Beilein or whoever else you choose to hire. Don’t spend a month bargaining with him while you gather evidence of something that had been going on far before this season, then destroy his reputation and make him virtually unemployable by any Division 1 program.

Ask yourself this: would this story be out there if Siena went 24-8 this season? Or would there have been a quiet, behind-the-scenes reprimand, maybe a fine, and a story kept out of the spotlight?

Siena is better than this, and college basketball is better than this. In all 4 circumstances, the only cause these coaches are being fired for is not winning enough games.

Kevin Sweeney’s Way-Too-Early Top 25

By Kevin Sweeney

The bad news: there aren’t any college basketball games until November.

The good news: you get to read my (and literally every other college basketball writer in the country) WAY-too-early top 25 for the 2018-19 season.

There’s certainly a lot of guess work involved in putting together a list like this, especially given the fact that most rosters aren’t close to finalized. NBA Draft decisions are likely to make the biggest impact, but there are also some high-level transfers and 2018 recruits that could make a big impact on the 2018-19 landscape.

That said, let’s have some fun and take a look at my earliest thoughts on the 2018-19 season.

#1. Kansas

Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk will both be gone for sure, but the Jayhawks bring in a TON of talent from both the transfer and prep markets. Dedric Lawson enters from Memphis as a legit Big 12 POY candidate, and his brother KJ (12 ppg, 8rpg) along with Cal transfer PG Charlie Moore (12.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) are no slouches either. Combine that incoming trio with elite recruits like Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, and David McCormack, and the Jayhawks will be elite once again. The draft decision to track is Malik Newman, who exploded onto the scene in March and is expected by most to at least test the waters. If he returns along with Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick, Kansas will be the clear #1 going into next season.

#2. Villanova

I’m working on the assumption that Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will go pro, but the rest of the team’s core will return. If so, I believe Villanova has as good a chance as any to repeat as national champions. The trio of Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, and Eric Paschall is as strong as any returning group in the country, and Jay Wright brings in an excellent recruiting class headlined by Brunson’s heir apparent in Jahvon Quinerly and a floor-spacing combo forward in Cole Swider. Jay Wright seemingly has mastered bringing the spacing and shooting concepts from the NBA to the college game, which also factors into my decision to keep the Wildcats this high despite losing two players the caliber of Bridges and Brunson.

#3. Virginia

The first ACC team off the board for me is Virginia, not the Duke team hyped up by everyone thanks to an off-the-charts recruiting class. For a regular season top 25, I’ll bet on the experienced club that was dominant this season. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter should return, as should several key role players from this year’s club, that was the #1 overall seed before a stunning upset at the hands of UMBC. I trust Tony Bennett’s system (at least in the regular season) and I trust these veterans to come back and work even harder than they did last season after a crushing end to the season.

#4. Duke

I couldn’t go any lower on the Blue Devils with the raw talent on this roster, but I refuse to fall into the trap that most will and pick Duke #1 or #2 in the country. Over the last 10 years, Duke hasn’t been a team that dominates in the regular season, and those problems have been accentuated as Coach K has continued to embrace the one-and-done. Duke is bringing in the top 3 players in the 2018 class, along with #9 Tre Jones, and while that talent is enticing, it’s natural to expect some regular season bumps with freshmen contributing virtually all the production. I expect the Blue Devils to hover in the #4-#8 range throughout the regular season, but will certainly be as dangerous as any in March.

#5. Gonzaga

Killian Tillie’s potential draft decision looms large here, but if he comes back, everyone except for Johnathan Williams & Silas Melson will be back for a Gonzaga team that went 32-5 this season. Add San Jose State transfer Brandon Clarke into the mix, and this team goes from really good to elite. I see Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura making big strides after showing signs of brilliance this season, and Mark Few also brings in a top-70 player in the class of 2018 in stretch big man Filip Petrusev. Gonzaga will be a legitimate Final Four contender next season.

#6. Kentucky

For the purposes of this, I’ll assume that Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go pro and the rest of Kentucky’s core returns. If that happens, Kentucky could have a “veteran” group of sophomores already in place to compliment a very solid class that fills a lot of needs. Keldon Johnson is the headliner, a hard-playing wing who can do a little bit of everything. Immanuel Quickley will help solidify the point after Quade Green struggled as a lead guard this season, while Tyler Herro is a polished pure scorer who will make big contributions in the backcourt. I think the pieces fit a lot better with this potential roster than they did this season, when a lack of shooters seemed to plague the Wildcats all season.

#7. Nevada

If Caleb and Cody Martin, along with Jordan Caroline, return for Nevada (they are all expected to at at this point), this is a legit top 10 team. Lindsey Drew comes back from an achilles injury that cost him the end of the 2017-18 season, and the Wolf Pack add 4 transfers who combined to average more than 64 points per game at their previous homes. They address their biggest weakness (frontcourt depth) with UNO transfer Tre’Shawn Thurman and a pair of highly-regarded freshmen in Vincent Lee and KJ Hymes. This will be the deepest, most talented team Eric Musselman has had at Nevada, and look for him to do big things with it.

#8. Tennessee

Assuming no unexpected departures, this will basically be the same team as this season. Grant Williams will enter next season the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year, and Admiral Schofield made big strides this season. Tennessee feels like they are one impact piece from being very real national title contenders. We’ll see if Rick Barnes can find that piece (perhaps via the grad transfer market) and continue the Vols’ ascension to the top of the college basketball world.

#9. Oregon

Even if Troy Brown elects to head pro, I love the potential of this Oregon team. They have a stud PG in Payton Pritchard, some high-upside returners like Kenny Wooten, Abu Kigab, and Victor Bailey, but perhaps most importantly, an outstanding recruiting class. Bol Bol is the NBA’s next unicorn, a 7-1 big capable of doing everything on the court. Louis King has limitless upside and can play multiple positions, and Will Richardson out of Oak Hill is an excellent guard who will see time right away. Putting all these pieces together may be a challenge, but having a returning core headlined by Pritchard is important in situations like these. The Ducks enter the season as my favorite in the Pac-12.

#10. Michigan

Even if Moe Wagner doesn’t return, I think Michigan will be one of the elite teams in college basketball. John Beilein brings in an excellent recruiting class headlined by Canadian combo forward Ignas Bradzeikis and East Lansing native Brandon Johns. Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Isaiah Livers are very likely to return, with Poole and Livers primed for breakout years. Beilein remains one of the coaches I trust most in college basketball to get the most out of his guys, so I don’t have as much concern as others might about the potential loss of Wagner.

#11. Michigan State

This will be a new-look Spartan team, losing stars in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson to the NBA. However, a strong core featuring Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, and Nick Ward should return. Combine that with Big Ten breakout candidate Xavier Tillman and a recruiting class with 5 4-star recruits, and there’s hardly reason for worry in East Lansing despite losing 2 guys who will likely be top 10 picks this June.

#12. Auburn

After overachieving significantly before falling flat on their face come March, Auburn is an interesting team to place in this top 25. The Tigers bring virtually everyone back and add 3 high-level talents in Danjel Purifoy, Austin Wiley, and Samir Doughty to the rotation. Anfernee McLemore, perhaps the team’s most important player this season, should be back healthy after missing the end of the season with a gruesome leg injury. That said, this team had great chemistry and played with a massive chip on their shoulder after Purifoy and Wiley were suspended for the season thanks to the FBI investigation. Where you place Auburn in this 25 shows whether you believe that momentum can continue with a massive talent injection, or if we could see some subtraction by addition. Make no mistake, the Tigers have National title-level talent.

#13. North Carolina

As of now, I’m not sure what to make of the Tar Heels in 2018-19. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, and Kenny Williams all return for Roy Williams, but the team’s 2 primary offense creators graduate in Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. Coby White and Nassir Little make up the best recruiting class the Tar Heels have had in quite some time, but they’ll have big shoes to keep one of the nation’s best offenses running smooth.

#14. West Virginia

The senior backcourt of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles graduates, but West Virginia brings back a strong core from what was a top 25 team all season long. Sagaba Konate drew headlines for his highlight-reel blocks, and with another year of offensive development has a chance to be one of the elite players in college basketball. Teddy Allen showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman and should be one of the breakout performers in the Big 12. My concern with this team is how their identity changes without Carter. Bob Huggins’ defense was great before and it will be great again, but Carter was a leader on the floor whose toughness and energy rubbed off on his teammates. Losing a team’s emotional leader is always underrated.

#15. Kansas State

Another team that brings virtually everyone back, Kansas State is one of the safer teams to project coming into this season. At worst, they are a clear NCAA Tournament team that can’t quite crack the top 25. At best, they could be a top 10 team. The Wildcats are deep in the backcourt, have on of the most versatile forwards in the country in Dean Wade, and are coming off an Elite Eight run that gave them a taste of March glory. I’d love to see this team add one more quality piece to the frontcourt for next season.

#16. LSU

The talent Will Wade is bringing in with his first full recruiting class at LSU is nothing short of remarkable. 3 top-30 recruits headline the nation’s #4 recruiting class. Add that to SEC Player of the Year candidate Tremont Waters and some other key cogs returning in the backcourt, and you get a really talented, versatile roster that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. Naz Reid’s ability to distribute and stretch the floor as a big man will be extremely valuable, and Emmitt Williams gives this team a big-time athleticism boost that can guard multiple positions. If everything comes together as hoped, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Tigers are SEC title contenders.

#17. NC State

Losing Omer Yurtseven is a big blow for Kevin Keatts and company, but this NC State team gets a massive talent injection after a surprise NCAA Tournament season this year. CJ Bryce and De’Von Daniels come in on the wing as sit-out transfers, both guys who can really shoot the ball and create off the bounce. A backcourt featuring those 2 guys along with Torin Dorn, Braxton Beverly, and Markelle Johnson will give opposing coaches nightmares all season long. Add in some of the length Keatts wants to play his up-tempo style in 4 4-star recruits over 6-6, and NCSU will have the depth and talent to thrive in that system.

#18. Maryland

I’m a believer in Maryland this season despite a disappointing 2017-18 campaign. The star backcourt of Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter comes back, along with high-upside big Bruno Fernando and physical wing Darryl Morsell. Then comes the recruits, headlined by 5-star big man Jalen Smith and a pair of top-100 guards that will take some of the load off Huerter and Cowan. Mark Turgeon enters this season feeling some heat, but I expect a big bounce back year from the Terps.

#19. Virginia Tech

Everyone except for Justin Bibbs is back for the Hokies, including 3 double-digit scorers in the backcourt. Look for Nickeil Alexander-Walker to continue his development after an excellent freshman season, and VT should get Ty Outlaw back after he missed this season with an injury. Basically, Virginia Tech brings back every significant piece from this year’s team and gets significantly deeper in the frontcourt. Watch out.

#20. Purdue

There will without a doubt be apprehension about putting the Boilermakers in the top 25 with what they lose from this team, but Carsen Edwards is back and likely to be a preseason all-American to lead the way. I’m excited to see how Matt Haarms expands his game on the offensive end after a solid freshman campaign, and Nojel Eastern is a high-upside piece if he can improve as a shooter. Plus, Matt Painter already swooped in for a big grad transfer in Evan Boudreaux, a 6-10 Big who was a double-double machine at Dartmouth.

#21. Washington

A season that exceeded expectations ended on a sour note in year 1 of the Mike Hopkins era in Seattle, but it certainly gave Huskies fans reason for optimism for the future. UW’s top 7 scorers will be back, including freshman sensation Jaylen Nowell. Add in a strong class and the potential improvement that rising sophomores Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright could show, and this roster looks very dangerous in 2018-19.

#22. Mississippi State

If no one leaves unexpectedly for the NBA Draft, this team has a chance to be the best in Starkville since the Rick Stansbury era. One of the most talented backcourt in the country will now be complimented with excellent big men, as 5 star Reggie Perry joins a group that already featured Abdul Ado and Aric Holman. Top to bottom, this roster is loaded with talent and anything less than an NCAA Tournament bid would be a disappointment.

#23. Stanford

I’m likely in the minority with Stanford in the top 25, but I’m a if believer in the Cardinal this season. Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey depart, but Jerod Haase brings in another terrific class to compliment returning stars Reid Travis, Daejon Davis, and Kezie Okpala. This team rally found its stride once Okpala returned to the lineup, and I’m excited to see a full season of this group together.

#24. Texas Tech

A lot of key pieces depart for Chris Beard, but the freshman duo of Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith should be back to anchor this Texas Tech roster. That’s good news for Red Raider fans, as that pairing has almost limitless upside. Add in Khavon Moore, an athletic combo forward, and Beard will once again have the athletes and length he loves. Beard has been active in grad transfer recruiting as well, so look for the Red Raiders to add 1-2 more pieces through that.

#25. Loyola-Chicago

This isn’t just throwing a bone to the little guy coming off a deep run. Loyola has legit talent once again, bringing back arguably their 3 best players from this season’s Final Four team. Add in the x-factor in New Mexico transfer Aher Uguak, a high-upside combo forward who has drawn rave reviews during his redshirt year, and this team has a chance to be really good once again. Porter Moser is building something special at Loyola.