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.

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.

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!