Basketball is a year round sport, so due to that we’re going to do a year round mailbag. We’re still going to run this every Friday like we do during the season, but we’ll be talking about college hoops, transfers, NBA Draft, NBA and recruiting questions. That’s right you get an NBA and college hoops mailbag all rolled into one every Friday. Reminder you can always submit questions on Twitter @barstoolreags
Craziness, that’s what is happening. First, you had Silvio de Sousa ruled out during the offseason. Then there was the chance he would play and ultimately got fucked over by the NCAA. You had Udoka Azubuike’s injury. You have Lagerald Vick taking a personal leave. Hopefully everything is alright for the kid, who has had battles before. Now, as for on the court, I’ve talked about it before. This group of wings and guards have simply never progressed from day 1. Quentin Grimes was supposed to be a top-10/15 guy. He’s not that. He looked the part against Michigan State but nothing since. Dotson has been okay. Marcus Garrett (who has been injured) needs to win the small ball 4 lineup and when he doesn’t it’s a struggle. This team can’t shoot. It’s just not a well-put together team from roster fit. The streak is officially in jeopardy.
First – it starts with Nick Ward. He hasn’t looked like the Nick Ward we saw to start the season the last 3 games. He’s averaging about 10 per game in this 3 game stretch. He’s getting pushed out of the way and out of position. That’s where it has to start. Nick Ward needs to get better/back to who he was before. Second, turnovers. Illinois they had 24 turnovers. Third, they need consistency from the wing. Langford isn’t coming back. They need Ahrens/Henry/Brown to give them something from the wing on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter who of the 3 does it, just someone. Finally, they need Cassius Winston to keep being an All-American. Foster Loyer has hit a bit of a wall which makes Winston not really have a backup and that vital to the Spartans. I think they’re fine in the longrun but that’s what’s happened recently.
I think they need to worry about winning the Big South Tournament first. That tournament is going to be a ton of fun with Chris Clemons and Campbell, Winthrop and Radford all there. Now, if Radford wins it, they have some quality guards that can make that 4/13, 3/14 game intriguing. I really like Carlik Jones, who hit the game-winner in the Big South Tournament title game last year. Him, Ed Polite and Travis Fields are a great trio. I think they’ll be a popular ‘watch out for this team keeping it close’ team if they get to the bracket.
He’s on the shortlist. You can talk me into him, Scott Drew or Rick Barnes for sure. Maybe even Steve Prohm. Again, I hate the ‘ceiling’ question. It’s so goddamn stupid because who knows. Would anyone say Loyola’s ceiling last year was the Final Four? No. Now, expectations? That’s a better way to look at it. I expect this team to be a top-5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and play on the second weekend. They use guys like Sutton and Nwora to create mismatches with the athletic wings centered around a big. Plus, I’ll trust Chris Mack.
Let’s rule out all of the obvious answers. No Buffalo, Nevada, San Francisco, Wofford, etc. Give me Northern Kentucky. We’ve seen them make the NCAA Tournament recently. We saw them run a damn football play to get the ball inbounds and seal a game a month ago. They have a guy in Drew McDonald that can be a mismatch with his ability to step out and shoot. They have a great up and coming coach. They have a top-65 offense. Remember the name Jalen Tate too.
Worst case scenario is missing out on any big name guys and signing the equivalent to Tim Hardaway to a ridiculous contract again. I mean I’ll take Boogie. Will it be a let down? Sure, depending what else happens. But, there is way worst scenarios. Overpaying for an inefficient wing that you already traded once will take the cake. If we’re talking about just the big name free agents, I’d say Kemba/Butler might be worst case sceario, but again, that’s a huge upgrade!
Obviously you have Luka being the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Guys remember Kristaps too. Assuming you can sell FA’s on his ability to return to that or wait a year and let him prove it (and then re-sign long term) you have two guys that are still coming into their prime to sell. Obviously this summer is huge with free agents. Maybe the West loses a couple of guys and you can sell them on being the next dynasty with Luka on a rookie deal, Kristaps locked up, roleplayers and no state tax. But, that’s how you have to sell it. Potential combined with what we already know about these two.
Iowa is such a weird team to me. They are so good offensively, but you sometimes forget that. They have the quality wins and have avoided a bad loss. I think you see them somewhere around a 6 seed when it’s all said and done. They have a chance to get pad their record with a schedule down the stretch with two games vs Rutgers, home against Northwestern and home against Indiana. Winning just those 4 games gets you to 22 wins. I think again this is a team that has potential to make the second weekend because of the offense. But, yeah, I think you enjoy this season. They have just one senior on the roster so it feels like they arrived maybe a year early.
Villanova and Marquette are the two favorites to win the Big East. I mean I’m not going to overthink it, they are the two teams that can. Obviously matchups will matter once it happens i.e. if St. John’s draws Marquette I like St. John’s. That’s mostly because Justin Simon can really bother Markus Howard. We have examples of him already doing that. But I’ll take Nova/Marquette vs the field most likely.
My take about Syracuse from the preseason stays the same (which has been correct). They were one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament last year and made a run. That didn’t warrant a top-15 preseason ranking. People got caught up on the NCAA Tournament run. This is a team that’s going to struggle with offensive consistency because of the ISO set and potential lack of shooting. The 2-3 zone will continue to bother the hell out of people. They are going to win a couple games they shouldn’t (Duke) and lose games they shouldn’t (Old Dominion, Georgia Tech). They are a top-40 team with the potential to win a couple NCAA Tournament games because of the 2-3 zone and Tyus Battle going nuts.