Tom Crean to Become Georgia Head Coach

Tom Crean is getting set to become the new head coach at Georgia. After letting go of Mark Fox, the University was quick to make a hire and get a new regime started in Athens. Georgia was able to land Crean after Thad Matta turned down the job earlier in the week. Frankly, the deal makes sense for both sides.

For Georgia, they are getting a coach who is anxious to get back onto the sidelines. After being let go by Indiana, last season, Crean spent this year in the broadcasting booth. He was heavily rumored to be a candidate to land one of the high profile jobs out there. Georgia is getting a coach who is more than capable to recruit in the highly competitive SEC. This is a guy who recruited the likes of Thomas Bryant, Victor Oladipo, OG Anunoby and Noah Vonleh. He will not have a hard time selling players to Georgia.

For Crean, the Georgia job is a better job than most jobs available right now. The biggest job Crean was rumored to was Pittsburgh. Georgia is a much better job for a number of reasons. For one, UGA doesn’t need a complete overhaul like Pittsburgh. After going winless in the ACC, the Panthers program needs to scrap everything and start over. That’s a tall task for a coach. Crean will be able to recruit better at a stable program like Georgia. The SEC being strong this past year will also go a long way in selling his program.

A year ago, Tom Crean was fired on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. 365 days later, he had a job.

Will Wade’s Recruiting Tactics Being Investigated by NCAA

Will Wade is the latest coach to have his name come across headlines this weekend. Yahoo Sports once again was the source reporting that the NCAA is investigating Wade’s recruiting tactics at LSU. According to the report, NCAA officials have spent the last six months examining the issue. Wade is in his first year as head coach at LSU. The investigation begin shortly after he hit the recruiting trail for the Tigers.

It’s not shocking to learn about this report when you see the class LSU has coming in for next season. The Tigers have four Top 50 recruits committed for next season, headlined by Emmitt Williams (#21 according to ESPN) and Nazreon Reid (#22). Other commits include Louisiana native Javonte Smart and IMG Academy’s Darius Days. Smart and Days are ranked 35 and 49, respectively, by ESPN. There’s having strong recruiting classes in your first year as head coach, but Wade has knocked one out of the park with this one.

There’s also Tremont Waters, who Wade secured shortly after taking over as head coach. Waters, a former Hoop Group Jam Fest MVP, has averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 assists and 2 steals a game this year. After decommitting from Georgetown and opting for LSU, he’s been one of the most sensational freshman in the conference. That’s saying something in a conference with Collin Sexton, Kevin Knox, Jeremiah Tilmon, and more.

It’s important to note that this investigation has nothing to do with ongoing FBI scandal. It is an entirely separate investigation being run by the NCAA itself. Friday, when a list of names were released with players who received impressible benefits from ASM Sports, LSU had multiple players on the list. None of these players played under Wade in his short tenure at the school, but this new report adds insult to injury.

It’s unclear if the NCAA will find anything that they deem illegal with Wade’s recruiting over the past year. But with all the news that has come out involving the FBI wiretaps, it’s interesting to learn about a separate investigation led by the NCAA. When LSU compiles a recruiting class comparable to the likes of Kansas, Kentucky and Duke, it raises an eyebrow. It could turn out to be 100% clean and good recruiting, but if Mark Emmert and the NCAA really does want to clean up the sport, more investigations like this are needed.

Michael Porter Jr. Cleared for Madness

Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. returned to practice Friday, being cleared to play just four months removed from major back surgery.

Though positive news for the top-ranked 6-foot-10 freshman forward, it’s still uncertain he’ll dress for Saturday’s conference contest against Kentucky … or if he’ll be in playing plans for the remainder of the regular season.

But it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t.

News in November of his once thought of as season-ending surgery put a damper on his collegiate career outlook as the No. 2 overall prospect of the 2017 class (No. 1 before Marvin Bagley reclassified). But his absence wasn’t the know-all, say-all for his team. Mizzou has since survived the wild SEC this season, exceeding expectations of the team without the star. The Tigers are 8-7 in a competitive conference and 18-10 overall. So why scramble to fit Michael Porter Jr. into a game plan that has been working just fine without?

The Tigers travel to play a struggling Kentucky squad Saturday. Even if Michael Porter Jr. were to contribute minutes to the team, Mizzou wouldn’t need to work miracles to earn a ‘W’ in Cat country. Missouri travels to play a docile Vanderbilt group Tuesday before the Tigers wrap up the season at home against Arkansas March 3. Missouri is a dominate 12-3 at home, and can easily go 3-0 to finish the regular season of conference action. The Tigers are in a six-way tie for third now in the SEC.

The other factor in this is the possibility of Porter playing alongside his brother, and for his dad, at least once this year. Family is a big piece for Porter, whose brother Johntay reclassified to 2017 just for the chance to play with Michael. One collegiate game on the court with his brother and dad would mean the world to Porter Jr.

Missouri set itself up nicely postseason play creeps up. The addition of a healthy, talented Porter Jr. gives the Tigers a scary edge as March Madness approaches. But there Is no need to rush the freshman in.

Everything That’s Wrong With Kentucky Basketball

It’s been a historic season for the Kentucky Wildcats. Just not the kind of history the Big Blue Nation is used to. For the first time in almost two decades Tennessee swept the Cats, and Kentucky is barely treading  in the thick of the SEC. After falling to Tennessee at home Tuesday, John Calipari and company find themselves in unfamiliar territory. This team is barely .500 (6-5) in a above average conference at best. They made their way back in the AP polls the past two weeks after watching from the outside in. It was the first time the school was unranked since 2014.

So what’s going on?

You can blame youth, as this is Calipari’s youngest team of his tenure in Kentucky, and thee youngest group in the entire NCAA. That’s not a great excuse for a man all too familiar with a constant flow of faces fresh off the AAU circuit though. Big Blue Nation has been (barely) hanging on in recent weeks as their beloved Cats look like a shell of a team they can be on paper. The win in West Virginia was for sure a statement win, but the problem seems to be bringing the same style of play to the next game.
Inconsistency is the only consistent thing for the group. And it is apparent in games. Whether or not the green crop is lacking because of the big stage or not, fundamentals seem out of the window.

Their last win? It was a struggle against a team holding steady at the bottom of the conference in last place. How they got there? Two made free throws to force OT. It was a celebration and seeming miracle to force the extra play. At the end of the day it’s called a charity stripe for good reason. Nothing was done extraordinary, yet you would think it was a three ball with the clock running out.

BBN isn’t used to losing, but this too shall pass. And there are two different courses this team can take from here on out. Two different roads to season end points. Just six years removed since a title and three since their historic win streak…Kentucky’s season is far from over. It’s just the odds aren’t stacked in their favor.
Kentucky hits the road for its next two contest – a trip to College Station for Texas A&M Saturday before visiting a No. 8 ranked Auburn Wednesday in prime time.

SEC Basketball 2017-18 Conference Preview

More seasons than not, the SEC is viewed as “Kentucky and then everyone else,” by those unfamiliar to the conference. Even when teams like Florida have been good, or McDonald’s All-Americans like Malik Newman have been in the conference, Kentucky has always been heads above the rest of the conference. That will remain true this season, but on a smaller level. The SEC will be very good this season, and have loads of talent all across the board.

Projected Finishes

  1. Kentucky – This Kentucky team has the talent in the freshman class that rivals Wall/Cousins/Bledsoe, Davis/Kidd-Gilchrist & Towns/Booker/Lyles. The issue is this Kentucky team has ZERO upperclassmen. The Wildcats have one returner who played significant minutes last season. That will cause some growing pains initially. Eventually, I expect the trio of Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green to run this team. Calipari is great at getting players to buy into their roles and Kentucky is littered with guys who serve specific roles.
  2. Florida – Nipping on the heels of the young Wildcats will be Mike White’s Florida Gators. The Gators return a back court of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza, who each serve different purposes on the floor. Allen led the team in scorring, while Chiozza is more defensive minded. The Gators also add two Top 100 recruits to a front court that brings back John Egbunu and Kevarrius Hayes.
  3. Texas A&M – The Aggies have my Player of the Year pick in Robert Williams. Williams impacts the game on both ends of the floor and I think will take a giant step forward this year. A&M gets back most of it’s production from last year. Joining Williams, Tyler Davis, DJ Hogg and Admon Gilder bring back a strong core from last season. Freshman JJ Caldwell and Savion Flagg only add to the depth of this team.
  4. Alabama – Alabama could be the third best team in the SEC, but uncertainty regarding Colin Sexton forces me to put them below A&M. Sexton is a tremendous and exciting player. If deemed eligible, he we be one of the best players in the conference. In addition, Alabama returns basically everyone from last year and is one of the more veteran teams in the conference. Add to the mix another Top 100 player in John Petty and Alabama will be good. A cleared Sexton will make them great.
  5. Missouri – Missouri is one of the most interesting teams in the country, let alone conference. Obviously they have Michael Porter Jr, potential #1 pick and the 1A/1B recruit in the country with Bagley. The challenge will be mixing a strong freshman class, which also includes Jeremiah Tillmon, Blake Harris and Johntay Porter, with returning players like Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips. The talent is there for Mizzou to compete, the question is will they?
  6. Arkansas – Arkansas showed everyone last year that they are a tough out. They’re chaotic defense causes fits for opponents, as Seton Hall learned, and UNC was lucky enough to escape. That defense will remain a constant this season. The Razorbacks also have a good tandem in Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford to lead the charge.
  7. Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt was an NCAA Tourny team last year, and should have won their first game if not for some late mishaps. The Commodores bring back a trio set on not making the same mistake twice. Seniors Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson will give Vandy strong leadership to compete in a tough SEC. And with the home court advantage they have, that’s all they can ask for.
  8. Auburn – This is an important year for Bruce Pearl and Auburn. For one, they have the FBI Investigation looming over them. Next, they have multiple players suspended indefinitely to start the season. Third, Auburn has under performed despite strong recruiting classes the past two years. Bruce Pearl has brought in five Top 100 recruits during his time as head coach, and he will bring in two more this season. This should add up to wins eventually, but it hasn’t yet.
  9. Mississippi State – Similar to Bruce Pearl and Auburn, Mississippi State returns a great 2016 recruiting class that featured four Top 100 recruits. Ben Howland has another Top 100 recruit in Nick Weatherspoon coming in. Add to this youthful mix, All-SEC second team Quindarry Weatherspoon and you should expect the Bulldogs to make a jump from last season.
  10. Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy sees his leading scorer return in Deandre Burnett. Burnett will get assistance on offense from Terence Davis, who averaged 15 points a game last year. Those two should be able to handle a the timely baskets, and Memphis transfer Markel Crawford should pitch in as well. Combined, these three should ease the pain of losing Sebastian Saiz.
  11. Georgia – The Bulldogs have one of the best players in the conference in Yante Maten. He’s a SEC Player of the Year candidate despite a Georgia being so lowly ranked. The problem is behind Yaten there isn’t much of anything. JJ Frazier is gone and unless someone else steps up, it’ll be a one man show in Athens.
  12. South Carolina – South Carolina’s run last year was nothing short of incredible. With Frank Martin inspiring on the sidelines, you can expect Carolina to compete on a nightly basis. The issue is the talent. The gamecocks lost a lot from last year’s Final Four club. Chris Silva is their most experienced returner but he was not a go to scorer on offense. There is a lot of opportunity for players to step up this year.
  13. LSU – Will Wade is turning LSU around, but he may need another year to really make an impact. Antonio Blakeney leaving hurts for this year, but LSU does have scorers coming back in Duop Reath and Brandon Sampson. Newcomers Tremont Waters (ESPN #34 recruit) and Randy Onwuasor (So. Utah transfer) will help as well, but LSU is a year away from making a significant jump in the conference.
  14. Tennessee – Tennessee returns two of its top four scorers, but combined they account for 20 points a game. Tennessee lacks size. Their three biggest players are a junior (Kyle Alexander) who averaged 3 points and 4 rebounds last year, and two freshman (Zach Kent and John Fulkerson). Struggle to score and lack of size does not bode well against the Kentuckys, Floridas and Texas A&Ms of the world.

Projected Awards

Player of the Year – Robert Williams (Texas A&M)

Maten and Porter Jr will be names tossed around for this award all year, but I’m going with Williams making a big jump in his second year. He passed on the NBA to return and better his draft stock. Dominating a on both ends in what is a much better SEC Conference will surely do that. His ability to block shots at a high rate, as well as bring in double-doubles nightly make him more than qualified to be POY.

Freshman of the Year –  Michael Porter Jr (Missouri)

Kevin Knox and Colin Sexton are going to be tremendous to watch. They are not Michael Porter Jr. The hybrid 3/4 will be dynamic for Missouri. This Tigers group is in need of a leading scorer, someone who can take over. Porter will be that guy and as the season goes on, he will get more and more sets run for him specifically to break down his defender and score.

Coach of the Year – Mike White (Florida)

Finishing behind Kentucky is no easy task, when A&M and Alabama are as good as they are this year. The difference between one and four is as minimal as its ever been in the SEC. I think White will have his Gator team behind Kentucky all season. I think he’ll cause fits defensively for the conference’s diaper dandies and have Florida marching into the tournament ready to make a run.

Projected All SEC Teams

First Team *

Robert Williams – Texas A&M

Yante Maten – Georgia

Michael Porter Jr – Missouri

Kevin Knox – Kentucky

Quindarry Weatherspoon – Mississippi State

Second Team

Colin Sexton – Alabama

Austin Wiley – Auburn

KeVaughn Allen – Florida

Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky

Matthew Fisher-Davis – Vanderbilt

*Pending Sexton’s eligibility, if cleared sooner than later, he will be First Team All-SEC