In Midst of Recruiting Scandal, Duke Remains Supreme

There hasn’t been a more talked about off-season in college basketball than this year. By now everyone knows about the FBI investigation that flipped multiple programs upside down, and likely isn’t going anywhere for sometime. The investigation has exposed all the flaws and corruption that exist in college recruiting. Despite the negativity surrounding recruiting, one thing remains constant. Duke is number one.

Last night, RJ Barrett, ESPN’s #1 player in the class of 2018 announced his commitment to Duke over Kentucky and Oregon. Barrett solidified himself as the premiere recruit in the 2018 class with his play in the U19 FIBA games this past summer. He led Canada past Team USA, coached by John Calipari, in the semifinals on his way to a gold medal.

With Barrett’s commitment, Duke has now landed the top ranked recruit in four of the last five recruiting classes. In the those five years, Coach K has landed a total of 22 players ranked in ESPN’s Top 100. Barrett gives the Blue Devils three of the top ten next year already.

Five lottery picks in the last three years and countless McDonald’s All-Americans prove that when it comes to recruiting, it is Coach K, along with John Calipari, at the top of the list. And with players like Barrett, Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval, Gary Trent and Cam Reddish waiting for their draft nights, you can expect that lottery number to continue to rise.

A lot of people like to label Coach K a cheater. When top recruits choose Duke, critics like to make pay-for-players jokes. Whatever your personal opinion may be, facts are that coaches all over the country are getting busted for illegal recruiting. None of them have the last name Krzyzewski. The FBI investigation is expected to be around for awhile. Duke may come up, they may not. But until that day comes, you have to admire and respect Coach K’s ability to bring in the best of the best.

ACC Basketball: 17-18 Conference Preview

The ACC is often dubbed the best conference in college basketball. With basketball blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see why the conference garners the respect it has. This year the ACC has it all: defending champs, potential #1 pick, and additional NBA prospects all over the place. Let’s take a look at how the ACC Conference was voted in the preseason.

Projected Finishes

  1. Duke – No shock. Duke is the Preseason #1, and for good reason. Marvin Bagley is one of the most talented players in the country and Duke has a true point guard in Trevon Duval. Grayson Allen returning to form will be the piece that puts this Duke team over the top.
  2. North Carolina – This will be a different look UNC team, mainly in size. Meeks, Hicks, Bradley and Justin Jackson all leave. Joel Berry is the team’s nucleus but he’s dealing with several injuries to start the year. Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson will be big in Berry’s absence. Fellow senior Theo Pinson is a crucial piece to the puzzle. He’s Roy Williams’s Swiss Army knife and will use a different role every night.
  3. Notre Dame – Bonzie Colson torched ACC bigs for 18 and 10 a night last year. Mike Brey will need an increased effort from TJ Gibbs for his team to compete with the best of the ACC. Improvement there, plus Colson and Matt Farrell, gives the Irish solid foundation going into the year.
  4. Miami – The Hurricanes have a veteran guard in JaQuan Newton, highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker, and potential breakout player in Bruce Brown. The keys for Miami will be Walker’s health; He had ACL surgery over the summer but has been cleared completely. If he is healthy out the gate, Miami will be a nightmare opponent.
  5. Louisville –  I think Deng Adel will be one of the best players in the conference in his senior year. The biggest piece for Louisville will be replacing Donovan Mitchell. VJ King will get the first crack and if he can do an adequate job, Lousiville can possibly have as smooth a transition a possible.
  6. Virginia – UVA will have an exciting back court with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall. Their issue will be upfront, where they are very thin outside senior Isiah Wilkins. The Cavaliers need to replace their top three scorers in London Perrantes, Austin Nichols and Marial Shayok. Grad transfer Nigel Johnson will help fill some of this loss. A bit of a college journeyman, Johnson averaged 11 points a game last year for Rutgers. He will bring that scoring mentality to Charlottesville, for what will be his third NCAA team.
  7. Virginia Tech – They lose their top 2 two scorers in Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, but they have a solid core returning. Chris Clarke has the ability to lead them in scoring and rebounds. Buzz Williams also has a strong group of guards, including Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Top 100 freshman Wabissa Bede and Nikeil Alexander-Walker.
  8. Florida State – Florida State being eight was a bit of a surprise considering they lost two NBA players and one G-League player. FSU rotated a lot of guys last season, so they do return players who experienced ACC play. None will be more crucial than Terrance Mann. Helping in the back court is highly touted freshman MJ Walker. If the Seminoles can get production out of the great size they have on their roster, they could soldif this pick at eight.
  9. Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech enjoyed a nice NIT run before running into a red hot TCU team in the Championship game. The Yellow Jackets have one of the better one-two punches in the conference in Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, both of whom received preseason All-ACC honors.
  10. Syracuse – Syracuse was a underwhleming team last year to say the least. Not Tyler Lydon or Andrew White leaves them with even less than last year. Tyus Battle will be their best player and they will need junior Frank Howard to be much more consistent than last season. I do think Cuse has a couple of nice freshman that are a year away from really making an impact.
  11. Wake Forest – Bryant Crawford was overshadowed by John Collins at points last year. That will not be the case this year, as he will be shine for the Demon Deacons. Upfront may be somewhat shaky, but strong guard support with Keyshawn Woods, Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin will lead this team.
  12. NC State – It’s year one under Kevin Keatts and that’s good news for Wolfpack fans. Keatts fortunately starts his tenure with a good veteran presence. Abdul-Malik Abu returns and Baylor grad transfer Al Freeman gets added into the mix. NC State also has a great freshman in Lavar Batts that will turn heads. 
  13. Clemson – Clemson loses their all-conference talent in Jarred Blossomgame, but Tigers fans will see a more balanced offense this year. They return four of their top six scorers, all of which averaged 7-10 points last year.
  14. Boston College – I don’t need to tell BC fans about Ky Bowman and Jerom Robinson. Despite the struggles BC’s had, and may have, these two can score with anyone in the conference. Jordan Chatman also returns as the team’s third leading scorer, though there a big drop off between second and third.
  15. Pittsburgh – It will be a tough year for Pitt fans, as they watch Jamie Dixon and TCU flourish and their team struggle. They lose 65 points a game from a team that was bad last year. This year will be a lot of evaluating young players and see who fits for the future.

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year – Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame)

I mentioned it above, Colson dominated last season in the paint. Crowned an undersized post player, Colson proves you don’t need to tower over opponents to have success. Colson has the ability to beat defenders from inside and out. Add to it the fact that Mike Brey is great at putting Colson in positions to best succeed, and you have trouble if you’re on the opposing sideline. Duke has the diaper dandies, UNC may be the returning National Champs, and Louisville and Miami have better NBA prospects, but Notre Dame has the Player of the Year.

Freshman of the Year – Marvin Bagley (Duke)

Again, this is really not a surprise. Duke has a number of talented freshman, and Miami does have a super talented player in Lonnie Walker, but none of them compare to Bagley. Many have called him the best prospect since Lebron, and his arrival has been long awaited. On a loaded Duke team, Bagley’s numbers won’t reach their maximum potential, but you will see his ability to change the course of a game several times throughout the year.

All ACC Teams

First Team 

Bonzie Colson – Notre Dame

Marvin Bagley – Duke 

Joel Berry – UNC

Grayson Allen – Duke

Ben Lammers – Georgia Tech

Second Team 

Bruce Brown – Miami

Quentin Snider – Lousiville

Deng Adel – Lousiville

Josh Okogie – Georgia Tech

Jerome Robinson – Boston College

ACC Games To Watch for Upcoming 2017-18 Season

With the basketball season right around the corner, starting Nov. 10, let’s break down some highlighted games and match-ups in one of the most talented, lethal conferences – the ACC.

A few exhibition games here and there, we won’t see action as a collective until the 19th annual Big 10/ACC Challenge Nov. 27-30. The conference leads the Big Ten in the challenge, 11-5-2.

ACC conference play

The ACC starts conference play Dec. 9, when Duke travels to Boston College. Don’t expect a riveting contest between the Eagles and the Blue Devils. Boston College has finished dead last the past two season, and they had an infamous 0-18 conference play record during the 2015-16 season. The battle begins in a conference that has won eight of the last 17 NCAA Championship Tournaments and combined for 63 Final Four appearances.

Tough proving ground for the faint-hearted.

The following match ups are in chronological order as the season progresses and give fans some excitement to look forward to.

Virginia at Virginia Tech –  Wednesday, January 3rd

Why not highlight a showdown between the two in-state teams. Virginia is looking to find its identity again on the road. Last year Virginia Tech topped off Virginia in a double overtime game in Blacksburg. It may be a down year for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers, which will make this rivalry all the more interesting during the 17-18 season. 

North Carolina at Notre Dame – Saturday, January 13th

Any game that pits two of the most talented players in the conference head-to-head. Joel Berry II is an all-around stud, when healthy. He is an early favorite to win ACC Player of the Year. But Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson, another favorite to win the PoY, is going to protect his house when the Tar Heels come to town.

Duke at Miami – Monday, January 15th

Miami is a contender in the ACC. This isn’t news. They won the ACC title in 2013, and they see no reason why this year isn’t their year. Highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker is recovering from a knee injury, but should be back by the start of the season and fully healthy by this game. The game is highlighted because Duke is favored to win the ACC with their talented group of incoming freshman, giving the Hurricanes the ultimate proving ground early in conference play. Duke will look to outplay with talent in order to overcome a more experienced, sized Miami team.

Louisville at Miami – Wednesday, January 24th

Miami could have momentum coming into this contest if they manage a win at home against Duke. Louisville’s season is going to start with distraction, as Rick Pitino will be suspended the first five games for an off the court scandal. In early season polls, Miami sits atop of the Cardinals, who while was a No. 2 seed in last year’s tournament lost a key piece in Donovan Mitchell.

Duke at UNC – Thursday, February 8th

It’s the rivalry game we as basketball fans wait all season for. It’s part one of the epic saga between two powerhouse programs, separated by the 10-mile stretch on Tobacco Road. This game will be a perfect gauge of talent among the two programs. For obvious reasons, this game is going to draw the attention of the entire NCAA, not just the ACC. 

Last season’s results: Duke topped UNC, 86-78, at Cameron while the Tar Heels had the final say at home, closing out the season with a 90-83 win.

Louisville at Duke – Wednesday, February 21st

This is a big test for Louisville. The Cardinals look for a pair of wins in thee days against UNC and Duke. Two wins would give Louisville a boost up in polls and nods for better seeding in the tournament. While back to back games against UNC and Duke is never easy, the Cards have a veteran team capable of handling this tough test. It won’t be an easy year for the Cardinals. Hopefully they have talent to back up the team.

UNC at Duke – Saturday, March 3rd

The battle on Tobacco Road part two is a hands-down, no-brainer hyped game. Why not save the best for last. UNC not only has to take on a prolific Blue Devils team, but they have to keep their focus in one of the most legendary gyms in Cameron Indoor. At this point in the season, you can expect the two teams to be vying for the best eye bid. It will be a challenge to take on the Crazies at home. Not to mention it’s senior night for Grayson Allen. Talk about your momentum. 

Player watch list:

  • Joel Berry II, UNC

  • Deng Adel, Louisville

  • Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

  • Grayson Allen, Duke

  • Bruce Brown, Miami

  • Marvin Bagley, Duke

Best Thing All CBB Season: Champions Classic

Marvin Bagley shook up the college basketball world Monday night when he announced his commitment to Duke and reclassification to the Class of 2017. Many put Bagley at the top of the Class now as the most prized recruit, over Michael Porter Jr. The move also gave Duke, who is welcoming in three McDonald’s All-Americans, an absolutely loaded ’17 recruiting class. After the Bagley news settled in, my mind jumped right to the Champions Classic; this year is going to be absolutely loaded with college talent.

While an event that features college basketball blue bloods, and four Hall of Fame coaches is sure to always draw attention, this year is different. Let’s take a look at each team as they head into the 2017-18 season.

Kansas

Kansas may have the least hype heading into the season of this quartet, but don’t be fooled, Bill Self’s team is still the favorite to win the Big 12. Self will return a good core from last year’s Elite Eight team. Yes, Frank Mason and Josh Jackson are gone. A returning cast of DeVonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and LeGerald Vick is a solid group to contend. The Jayhawks will also get back Udoka Azubuike, who missed most of last season with a wrist injury.

New to the Jayhawks will be freshman Billy Preston, a 6-10 forward from Oak Hill University, as well as Malik Newman. Newman was a former five-star recruit who will suit up for his first game action at Kansas after transferring from Mississippi State. If KU can pull a rabbit out of a hat and land five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson-and get him eligible- they will join the conversation as National Championship contender. For now, front court depth will remain a question mark for Rock Chalk.

Kentucky

Spoiler alert: John Calipari has another great recruiting class coming into Kentucky. The Wildcats lose a lot of pieces from last year’s team, but bring in a strong class, featuring 5 five-star recruits. Kentucky’s strengths will be at the wing and in the back court, not to say they are weak in the front court by any means. With Kevin Knox and PJ Washington, Kentucky has two elite wings who can get out on the break and finish everything around the rim. With a back court duo of Hamidou Diallo- who practiced with the team during the second half of last season- and Quade Green, Calipari has a team that will love to get up and down in transition and make highlight reel plays above the rim.

Add Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and a returning Wenyen Gabriel, and Kentucky has a group of bigs that will mainly be asked to protect that paint and own the glass, things each of them have proven capable of doing. Kentucky may have lost a lot, but in typical John Calipari fashion, he brought in a new wave of future Pros to Lexington. SEC favorites once again.

Michigan State

Similar to Kansas, Tom Izzo does not have a recruiting class coming in that compare to Kentucky and Duke’s. Also like Kansas, he has a very talented group returning with a year of experience under their belt, and a hunger for improvement. The Spartans saw a lot of ups and downs last season, with four freshman playing crucial roles. All four return for their sophomore campaigns including Miles Bridges, who was a lock to be a lottery, and likely even a top 10 pick in last Spring’s NBA draft. Also returning are Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn. These two guards will be crucial for any success next season, as they will be leaned on to control the offense.

Despite the tremendous nucleus returning, Izzo still managed to bring in Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #8 recruit in the Class of 2017. As a 6’11 stretch forward, Jackson brings versatility to a team that is already versatile. He and Bridges, two assumed lottery picks should they declare for the 2018 Draft, can play multiple spots on the floor. Giving a coach like Tom Izzo so many combinations to run is a dangerous thing come March.

Duke

Last but not least, Duke. As mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils changed the game when they landed Marvin Bagley. Coach K had already inked three of ESPN’s top seven recruits. With Bagley, they now have four of the top eight. Bagley, paired with Wendell Carter, gives Duke two Top 10 recruits joining Marques Bolden in the front court in Cameron. While depth is always a concern, all eyes will be on Bagley to carry the load and solidify their preseason #1 ranking.

The Blue Devils also landed the best possible freshman to replace Frank Jackson and Luke Kennard. Coming to Durham this season is top point guard Trevon Duval and top shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. Duval is an explosive point guard; think Dennis Smith-esque. Trent is one of the best scorers in the class. As ESPN called it, he’s a “bucket getter,” and loves the ball in his hands when his team needs to score. With him and Bagley on the floor, Duke should not have any problem finding ways to score the basketball.

This is a brief overview of four of the top teams in college basketball next season. An in-depth look could go on for pages. The Champions Classic is always stacked with NBA lottery pick talent among four high profile college basketball programs. This year however is a bit different; no team is going to be “down” from last year. When it’s all said and done, this year’s Champions Classic could produce the #1 Overall Draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, as well as at least 10 first round picks, most of which will be lottery picks. Get excited, college basketball is almost here.

Marvin Bagley’s Possible Impact if He Reclassifies

It was reported weeks ago that Marvin Bagley, the top player in the class of 2018, filed paperwork to re-class and enroll in college next season. Last night, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Bagley will make his college decision tonight. This move is less about playing college basketball this season, and more about declaring for the NBA Draft this Spring. Bagley is doing everything possible to make himself eligible for a team by this Fall. With his commitment coming tonight, let’s take a look at how Bagley could impact the six schools with the chance of landing him.

Duke

Many perceive Duke to be the favorite to land Bagley tonight. The Blue Devils once again brought in a strong recruiting class. But with Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum going pro, Amile Jefferson graduating and Chase Jeter transferring, there still could be added firepower to the front court in Cameron. The addition of Bagley would deepen Coach K’s roster, something they have struggled with come March. Bagley, who already took an official visit to Duke, could slide right into the line up alongside Wendell Carter and give Coach K a much more solid front court duo to compliment a strong back court ofTrevon Duval and Grayson Allen. Having landed Tre Jones yesterday, it could be quite the two days for the Blue Devils if Bagley chooses Duke.

USC

USC woud love to pick up where they left off last season with a late commitment from Bagley, who has already taken an official visit. The Trojans won a play in game before winning a last second thriller over SMU in the NCAA Tournament this past March. They return key contributors to last year’s NCAA team and are expected to be a top team in the Pac 12 this year. Unlike most teams on this list that could use front court help, the Trojans’ two top returning players are 6’10 Bennie Boatwright and 6’11 Chimezie Metu. While this would be a problem welcomed by head coach Andy Enfield, it could prove to be an issue if the three cannot play together.

UCLA

Steve Alford would love nothing more than to replace two NBA lottery picks with the probable #1 overall pick of whatever draft he enters. After losing Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf to the NBA, Alford has holes to fill. He also lost son, Bryce and fellow senior Isaac Hamilton to graduation. Those four players contributed 60 points per game last year for the Bruins. And while Alford’s incoming group of freshman is another strong group, Bagley would put them over the top and give Arizona a run for its money for Pac 12 champ. Bagley would be paired alongside incoming freshman Cody Riley, and give UCLA as big and strong of a front court as any team in the country.

The three schools above are clear favorites to land Bagley, as he took official visits to all three spots. However, anything can happen in the college basketball world. Arizona, Kentucky and Kansas are all long shots to land Bagley, but with three of the best recruiters in CBB running each team, you can’t call them dead. My guess is Bagley ends up at Duke and there will be a new preseason #1 in College Basketball. Twitter seemed to agree.