College basketball offseason: What to Watch

The offseason for college basketball can get pretty boring. There’s recruits committing, and seeing where your favorite players will go in the draft, but nothing much else happens.

I have a solution to your boredom. Have you heard of Isaiah Washington? He may be the flashiest player in high school right now, and he will be playing at Minnesota next year.

From New York City, a YouTube account named “Home Team Hoops” created a mini series about his life and how his style of play relates so well to the kids of NYC. It’s a really entertaining series and I highly recommend watching it. Here;s the first episode and if you’re interested, you can watch the entire series on the channel:

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Top Unsigned 2017 Recruits: Who’s still on the board?


The latest seven foot domino to fall in this year’s recruiting class was Brandon McCoy, who chose UNLV. Time for prospects is running low to choose a new home for at least a year, and there is still some serious talent left.

1. Mohammed Bamba
Bamba is the best player left on the market. He is 6’11” and has all the tools to lead a team. He as an inside game, an outside game, and elite defense to go with it. Bamba’s best friend Hamidou Diallo has been recruiting him to come to Kentucky, but he has offers from Texas, Duke, Arizona, and Michigan. If I were a betting man, I’d say Calipari lands him.

2. Trevon Duval
Duval will be the best freshman point guard in the NCAA next year, it’s just a matter of where. It seems his final two teams came down to Kansas and Duke, but Kansas has currently filled all of their scholarships, which more than likely means Duval is out. This means Duke is the overwhelming front-runner. He has a great shot from outside and is mature enough to take contact to get to the line. Duke should be stacked once again next year.

3. Kevin Knox
Knox has been intriguing to watch so far. It seemed he was leaning toward choosing Mizzou after blowing up his Instagram during his visit, taking pictures with the uniform on, etc. He would have joined top prospect Michael Porter Jr. and it seems they are really close when they played at the McDonald’s All American game. Now, sources say he is out of Mizzou and looking elsewhere, probably due to him most likely not being a one-and-done player. Other players include Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

Way too early 2017-18 top 10 rankings

While the end if the 2016-17 season is only a few weeks in the rear view mirror, it’s never too early for a look at the top 10 for next year. There are still dominoes to fall in reference to top commits, but we are in for a treat next year. More freshman talent is heading to top schools, along with a couple of veteran teams that will stay in the top 10.

10. Villanova Wildcats
The Cats will continue their Big East dominance and field another great team. Jay Wright is loaded with talent and will soften the losses of stars Josh Hard and Kris Jenkins. Tournament breakout star, Donte DiVicenzo, and Mikal Bridges will lead Nova to another Big East championship and score a top 3 seed in the bracket.

Markis Mcduffie

 

9. Wichita State Shockers
The Shockers won 31 games last season while losing two NBA players in Fred Van Fleet and Ron Baker. Leading scorer Markis McDuffie and the rest of their team who almost upset Kentucky last year will be back. Watch out for Wichita.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels

Joel Berry

UNC is losing Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson, but they’re keeping Joel Berry, who carried the Tar Heels last year at some points. As long as UNC has a reliable point guard, they will always be in contention. Roy Williams is still in on top recruit Kevin Knox, who still hasn’t chosen between UNC, Mizzou, Kentucky, Duke, and Florida.

7. Florida Gators
The Gators surprised everyone in the SEC playing their wa

KeVaughn Allen

y into the Elite 8. They will return key players KeVaughn Allen, Chris Chiozza, and John Egbunu. They could be the lone threat to upset that other SEC team in Kentucky.

6. Kentucky Wildcats
Speaking of that school in Kentucky, John Calipari, the featured subject in ESPN’s latest 30 for 30, is loaded up once again. If I haven’t already seen the 30 for 30, I’d hate him for taking what seems like half of the top prospects, but now I respect it. Go watch the documentary. To make this short, Coach Cal reeled in these 5-star prospects for this year: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Nick Richards, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt. To make matters even more ridiculous, Cal is still in on undecided players Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bomba. My god.

Miles Bridges


5. Michigan State Spartans

It’s finally time for the Spartans to live up to expectations this year. Projected lottery pick Miles Bridges will indeed come back for his sophomore season and will lead Izzo’s team. Izzo kept their entire roster from last year and brought in Jaren Jackson Jr., who will play a major role for the Spartans next year.

4. Louisville Cardinals
Louisville will finally be REALLY good this year despite Rick Pitino failing to bring in a true top prospect. But there’s a catch. Louisville’s top player, Donovan

Donavan Mitchell

Mitchell declared for the draft, but hasn’t received much traction, and could return. Their ranking depends on this and could slip a bunch if he decides to go down the path of the draft.

3. Kansas Jayhawks
Many fans think Kansas will have a falling out after last year, losing Wooden Award Player of the Year Frank Mason III and top 5 pick Josh Jackson. This is certainly not the case for Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks will return Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, who were key players in their run last year. 5-star big man Udoka Azubuike was injured the entire season last year, and will return next year. Transfer Malik Newman (5-star recruit two years ago) will provide superior athleticism and shooting to the squad, and Billy Preston, a top 20 high school player in the country will join Azubuike in the frontcourt. Kansas will be sneaky good next year.

2. Duke Blue Devils
Duke lost stars Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Harry Giles, but Coach K has added enough talent to land them a top 2 spot for next year. The Blue Devils will add top 10 prospects Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter, while returning Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden. Also, it’s looking more clear that top high school point guard Trevon Duval will be joining Duke, adding to their new talent. There are also whispers that Duke may get Allen and Kennard to return, but I don’t see that happening.

1. Arizona Wildcats
And the number one team in the nation will be the Arizona Wildcats. Zona added the best high school basketball player of the year, 7’0″ DeAndre Ayton, who is already being compared to Kevin Garnett. Key players like Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, and Kobi Simmons will most likely return. The Wildcats will be a safe pick for starting out the year number one in the rankings.

Kansas adds two 5-star transfers from Memphis

Kansas has just drastically improved their program following next season, as they landed two 5-star recruits Dedric and K.J. Lawson (yes, they are brothers) from Memphis.

Dedric (left), KJ (right)

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This is actually a huge deal for Kansas, even though the duo will not be able to play until after next season. Dedric Lawson was one of the nation’s top transfers available after averaging 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists as a sophomore this past season, and will have two more years of eligibility with the Jayhawks.

K.J. was injured last year, but averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds when he was on the floor.

Both can be impact players right away, and take the pressure away from Bill Self to attract a big 5-star recruit.

What makes this transfer even more interesting for the Jayhawks is that the Lawson bros actually have two other brothers, Chandler, a 4-star power forward (2019) and Johnathan, a 5-star small forward (2021). AND they have a cousin. DJ Jefferies is a 5-star small forward and he’s the 8th best rated player for the class of 2019.

Things could get pretty interesting for Kansas. Remember the last brothers to go to Kansas? The Morris bros turned out to be pretty damn good. Self could be off the hook from acquiring a top tier recruit for the next three years, and if he does, another championship banner could be hanging up in Lawrence soon.

ESPN’s latest 30 for 30, “One and Not Done” starring John Calipari comes to the Birthplace of Basketball, Springfield, Massachusetts

In case you don’t know yet, ESPN will be releasing their latest 30 for 30 film on April 13th. 

The film will be centered around the complex and controversial career of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Whether you enjoy the controversy Calipari brings, or you despise the change he has brought to the game, this 30 for 30 will handle both.

Jonathan Hock, a decorated director who has cooked up 10 Emmy Awards and has produced other 30 for 30’s such as “Through The Fire” (2005), “Survive and Advance” (2013), and “Of Miracles and Men” (2015), came to screen his latest film at Springfield College, which is 10 minutes down the road from the Hall of Fame.

Luckily enough, I am a student at Springfield College, and I got to see the film first-hand before anyone else, and listened in on a Q&A with Hock and his right hand man, Alastair Christopher.

First, a little about the film, without giving out too many details. It’s REALLY interesting. There isn’t much raw emotion and heart wrenching storylines like other 30 for 30’s, but the insight we get to see from one of the most talked about coaches of all time is unbelievable.

We get to see how Calipari developed his coaching style and recruiting prowess at UMass. (Side note: look for Marty Dobrow during the UMass section. He’s one of my professors and has great insight on Calipari from the perspective of the media.)

John Calipari with 19 year NBA veteran Marcus Camby

His downfall from UMass and Memphis play a huge role in the film also. While Calipari spends a lot of time explaining why he left both jobs, much still remains unanswered to whether he is dirty or not, which adds to his mystique.

Personally, my favorite part was the amount of material Hock had from former high-profile players (UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky) on what kind of coach he was. All of his former players love him, and see him as a father figure. I believe that this is what Hock was going for throughout the film. Calipari changed the game with the one and done rule to make life easier for kids. Any father wants to make his son’s life easier, and Calipari did whatever he could, even if it was making one of his great players leave for the NBA, and millions of dollars.

Here’s what I learned from the Q&A with Jonathan Hock and Alastair Christopher:

Calipari is actually quite nervous for this documentary to release. Even though he is no stranger to the limelight, it seems Calipari may be nervous to see what people think of the real him. Hock explained:

When you do a film about someone who’s retired, or not living anymore, they don’t call you a week before to tell you they’re nervous about it. We haven’t done a documentary on an active person since “Through the Fire” with Sebastian Telfair.

This is actually three films. It’s a life story, sort of American Dream, it is an all-access season behind the scenes, and it’s also a meditation on the meaning of college sports and education versus money in a system where everyone is getting paid but the people doing the work.

Sorry Karl Anthony-Towns fans, KAT won’t be featured in this film as much as Hock wished. But he was interviewed and apparently he was great. Too great…

We ended up not using him because he was too good. He said one thing about Cal, Cal is the one who wrote all of our stories, no, Cal was the paper that our stories are written on. He’s just saying this off the cuff, like dude, you’re 19 years old. It was too good, it felt scripted.

Kentucky fans will be pleased to see the cast Hock got from former players, despite KAT being “too good.”

Cal even had an impact on Alastair. (On being in the locker room with Cal’s players) He said:

He was inspiring to me, everytime he would glance at me I would go aww, I’m going to be the number one pick. He has a way of making you feel confident and feeling good.

30 for 30’s are famous for their ability to draw emotion from sports, and a lot has to do with the shots and the “feel” of the room Hock and Christopher get. Hock said:

You really have to impose the shot to show what the story is. You have to make that shot, the shot doesn’t make itself.And Alastair seemed to be able to just do that without even thinking. He could feel where the story is.

(left) Alastair Christopher, (middle) Jonathan Hock, (right) Marty Dobrow

“One and Not Done” will change your opinion of Calipari. You’ll see what being a college coach actually entails. You’ll see the bond he creates with his players and how genuine of a person he is. Whether he is genuine towards the NCAA rulebook is still up for debate, but you will respect the work he puts into caring for his kids.

Watch “One but Not Done” on Thursday, April 13th on ESPN at 9:00 PM EST.

National Championship refs need to be held accountable for gross end of game

North Carolina won, the Zags lost, but the biggest losers of Sunday’s National Championship game were the refs, and in turn, made loyal watchers sink into their seats with disappointment.

The entire game featured 44 fouls, 22 on each side, and 27 in the second half. 44 fouls in 40 minutes… But hey, at least they were fair. And what makes all of these fouls worse, college rules disqualify players after 5 fouls.

What was the plan for the refs coming into the game? “Let’s call a bunch of fouls so we can stop the game and have fans really on the edge of their seat.” No. There was zero flow to the second half, and it ruined an interesting game.

Arguably the hottest player in the game, Zach Collins for Gonzaga, fouled out with 5 minutes to play. Other star players were playing with 4 fouls, which makes them play differently. There was an obvious hesitation to be aggressive and make plays. Soft basketball is bad basketball, and stars like Justin Jackson, Peter Karnowski, and others were limited in their play.

The main message to the refs: swallow your whistles. Let the kids play and decide the outcome. Call the necessary fouls, and don’t you dare change the outcome of the game.

Twitter was furious with the refs too. LeBron James (maybe he shouldn’t be talking about bad refs) and Dwayne Wade tweeted about watching the second half.

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See @NCAA!! Normal fans aren’t the only ones who care about how the game is being played. We deserve better.

This call had me going bananas.

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These calls, man. Unless the kid is on the ground from an intentional elbow, there is no reason to call this. Let the kids battle for position. Teams weight lift during the season for this reason. The stronger player will get better position.

The overall game was great. A close game all the way until the end, and that’s all a fan can ask for in a championship game. It’s just too bad the players did more standing around than trying to win.

Why UConn’s dominance is good for women’s basketball

Women’s basketball is in the back of everyone’s mind for most, if not the entire year. Some may have never seen a game in their life, or are more drawn to the incredible dunks and flash the men’s side offers. But every restaurant and bar had the UConn Mississippi State game on Saturday night, and it was really really cool.

Geno’s squad was riding on 111 straight wins, and unless you live under a rock, you know the Huskies blow out basically every team that comes their way. The betting odds were absolutely ridiculous too. To win $100, you had to put down $7,000. Yup, seven thousand big ones.

Normal fans think UConn isn’t good for the game. Who wants to see 10 All-Americans win 111 games in a row? But we’re talking about it. All major sports stations and websites have an actual reason to talk about it, and people actually care.

Put any other team in that Final Four game. Say it was Mississippi State versus Clemson. No one is watching it. It’s not on ESPN. Bars are not filling up and going crazy after a game winner. Villins attract eyes. And for the majority of people begging for someone to take down UConn, they won. They’re reading about the game, and they will have a better view on women’s college basketball.

So thank you Geno, for building this great dynasty and forcing people to care about women’s sports. Sure we all love watching the Duke men, or Kentucky’s 5-star recruit starting lineup, but women’s basketball is pure. It’s fundamental. And it deserves more respect.

Geno is a great coach and a role model for all coaches (looking at you Zach Collins). Just look at what he said after the game. “Look, nobody’s won more than we’ve won,” he told reporters after the game. “I understand losing, believe it or not. We haven’t lost in a while, but I understand it. I know how to appreciate when other people win.”

Keep talking about UConn, and make an effort to follow women’s sports. They give just as much effort as the men and deserve so much credit. Check out college softball, it is personally my favorite women’s sport to watch and has so much emotion, especially with the great teams.

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell is no joke

Who had South Carolina as the last SEC team in the tournament? Nobody? Well actually, 0.6% of brackets had the Gamecocks in the Final Four, and that may only be the students and alumni down in Columbia.

Sindarius Thornwell // AP

But just like any Cinderella team, there’s a star. And he goes by the name of Sindarius Thornwell. He’s been great all season, and now that he’s is on the big stage, everyone is falling in love.

He gives you all the grit and toughness you need out of a player, but is so efficient, he can lead a team in points, boards, and fill up the stat sheet. He can also go off for 40+, like he did against Alabama.

The kid is averaging 21 points, 7 and 3, and most people didn’t know who he was, when in reality, he actually won SEC player of the year. He was the player that should have swayed you when you were picking your upsets.

As for the nexxt step, Thornwell could take the same path as another Cinderella story hero, Gordon Hayward. Both players’ draft stocks shot up, and both are big, versatile shooters.

On DraftExpress, writers questioned Thornwell’s explosiveness and speed against longer defenders, saying he will have trouble against longer defenders on Baylor, then Florida. Each game he has showed out and is playing his heart out in front of NBA scouts.

You should be rooting for Thornwell. He’s a senior, he had the chance to transfer to a better team and he stayed, and he’s a well-spoken, nice kid. Go Gamecocks.

Tweets of the tournament: The first two rounds

It’s 2017, and most viewers of any sporting event have their phone, tablet, or laptop right by their side crawling through the deep dark depths of Twitter, along with other social media sites. Whether it’s a meme or a hot take, Twitter can be as entertaining as any game, and the NCAA tournament doesn’t upset with giving content.

(FYI: There will be NO such thing as a Jordan meme in this post. They are simply overused and too easy. Plus, I already hit my Jordan meme quota for this blog, (1), and you can find that post here)

Here are… the tweets of the tournament (so far)

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Alright, this takes some serious analysis. First of all, Peter Griffin got shafted. He may not be winning any father-of-the-year awards, but he is MUCH more funny than Randy Marsh, and Family Guy is the superior show.

Darth Vader was incorrectly seeded, he has one of the most iconic lines in movie history.

God vs. Joseph of Nazareth … interesting decision to include this matchup.

LaVar Ball slander? A dad who believes in his kids and does everything he can to help them succeed? Questionable. Yeah, he spews dumb takes and is embarrassing his family, but I’d rather have a dad believe that I can actually be better than Steph Curry.

Final thought: If Danny Tanner doesn’t win, I will unfollow every Barstool related account. Hands down the best dad in history. Hugs for all.

Classic Duke shaming. Wouldn’t be March without it. In fairness, Luke Kennard is actually a really nice kid, and his story at Duke is admirable, but this may be an actual quote.

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Woah woah woah, who has the freaking time to make a twitter for their dog. Why would a dog fill out a bracket? Did she have Gonzaga winning? Maybe Butler? I bet Izzy the Basset Hound is glad Villanova was knocked out.

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Double Duke shaming!! I genuinely feel bad for this kid. I want to care about something this much, and props to him for caring that much about Northwestern basketball.

Also, isn’t it pretty ironic how the moment we remember most about this game featuring Northwestern (one of the most prestigious journalism schools in America) is a crying fan?

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This was basically me after not having access to internet during the second day of the tournament. What is worse though? Slowly seeing your teams fail to beat a team you’ve never heard of? Or checking your phone at midnight and seeing all of the red X’s next to your picks? Kind of like the band-aid argument.

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I never really got this meme, mostly because I never knew the origin. But it’s still funny for all of you slackers who forgot to fill out a bracket.