IU Basketball Enters a New Era

Key Departures: OG Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Josh Newkirk (RS Sr.)

SG: Robert Johnson (Sr.)

SF: Collin Hartman (GS.)

PF: Juwan Morgan (Jr.)

PF: De’Ron Davis (So.)

Key Reserve Players:

SG: Devonte Green (So.), SG: Curtis Jones (So.), SF: Freddie McSwain Jr. (Sr.), SF: Justin Smith (Fr.), SG: Al Durham (Fr.), PF: Clifton Moore (Fr.), C: Tim Priller (Sr.)

Discussion:

Miller time. Well, actually, it’s Archie Miller time. The Indiana basketball program is legendary and historic, and Archie Miller is hoping to bring this school back to prominence. Consistency will be the key. Tom Crean had up and down years in Bloomington, so in order for Miller to have the utmost success, Indiana must be relevant year after year. Miller has a steady and seasoned veteran point guard in Josh Newkirk. Newkirk averaged nine points and just over three assists per game last season. He will run this offense, and he will bring leadership at the point guard position. He is also a very capable 3-point shooter.

Robert Johnson has returned for his senior season, and will immediately step into a larger scoring role with James Blackmon no longer in a Hoosier uniform. He has improved his scoring per game every single year, and averaged 12.8 points last season. Johnson is also a very good perimeter threat, and a solid rebounding guard for his size. I expect him to average at least 15 points per game as a senior. Collin Hartman has returned for his fifth season, and his presence on and off the court cannot be overstated. Hartman has dealt with a plethora of injuries throughout his Indiana basketball career, most recently, a season ending knee injury last season. Hartman has always been a fan favorite, he was beloved by Tom Crean, and his leadership will be huge for this basketball team. Hartman can stroke it, he shot 47.5 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore. Getting back to being a 40 percent 3-point shooter will be a huge addition for the Hoosiers. Indiana is extremely dangerous when you see Hartman playing as a stretch four (similar to how Michigan uses Duncan Robinson).

Juwan Morgan will be an important piece in the rebounding department with Thomas Bryant gone. He will be joined by rising sophomore De’Ron Davis. Morgan is an efficient player in the paint, and he will be asked to score more this season. Davis is an explosive forward, who is still raw offensively, but is a player who will keep getting better and better. Both these players need to own the paint for Indiana. Lanky freshman forward Clifton Moore will see occasional big man minutes off the bench, along with senior Tim Priller.

Shooting guards Curtis Jones and Devonte Green return for the Hoosiers for their sophomore campaigns. Both players received quality minutes and experience as freshmen. It is such a luxury for Archie Miller to have these two guards to bring in off the bench. I was very pleasantly surprised with how well Devonte Green played, especially with his 3-point shooting. He led the Hoosiers with a 43.6 percent mark from downtown. Having these two sophomores, along with freshman Al Durham, gives Archie Miller plenty of depth at guard.

Justin Smith is the highest ranked recruit coming in for Archie Miller for 2017. Smith is an athletic forward who can really attack the rim. I really like his size, length, and defensive potential. I think Archie Miller will play a lot of small ball this year, so I think you will see Smith playing both forward positions. Freddie McSwain is another athletic forward for Archie Miller to bring off the bench as well.

I think Archie Miller is just the man for this Indiana job. He is a tremendous coach and recruiter, and we should see Indiana contending at the top of the Big Ten very soon. This first year will be a tough one, especially in a very competitive conference.

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J.J. Caldwell Suspended First Five Games

Redshirt freshman J.J. Caldwell will be suspended for the first five games of the season according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Caldwell was expected to take over the point guard duties for the Aggies, which was a major issue for the team last season.

Caldwell is a passing sensation and he will definitely be missed as the season gets underway. However, luckily, the Aggies have some options in his absence. Duane Wilson Jr., a grad transfer from Marquette, will step right into the starting role for these five games. The former 53rd ranked recruit on the ESPN Top 100 Chart in 2013, will be an extremely important piece for Texas A&M.

A pair of four-star freshman point guards in Jay Jay Chandler and T.J. Starks will also be called upon for extended playing time during Caldwell’s suspension. Unlike last season, Billy Kennedy has plenty of point guard options at his disposal.

Jarred Vanderbilt Out Three Months

Freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt will miss three months with a left foot injury. Vanderbilt, the 19th overall recruit on the ESPN Top 100 Chart for 2017, figured to be a key piece for the Wildcats this season. A do-it-all player, Vanderbilt can play both forward positions.

The primary beneficiaries in the absence of Vanderbilt will be Wenyen Gabriel and P.J. Washington. Both Gabriel and Washington will be fighting for a starting position. As mentioned in an earlier post, Gabriel has apparently had a stellar offseason/Summer, and has really made strides as he heads into his sophomore campaign. I predicted that Washington would be in the starting lineup, but I could see it going either way. Kevin Knox may be asked to play additional minutes as well.

I never had Vanderbilt in my projected starting lineup heading into the season, but that does not diminish the importance of his loss. This injury will hurt Kentucky because the Houston native can bring so much to the table. However, the Wildcats do have an embarrassment of riches this season, so I do expect them to be fine.

Rawle Alkins Out 8-12 Weeks

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Arizona’s Rawle Alkins will miss 8-12 weeks due to surgery on a fractured bone in his right foot.

Rawle Alkins was in my projected starting lineup going into the season. Alkins chose to return to Tucson for his sophomore year. Candidates to start in his absence include freshmen, Emmanuel Akot and Brandon Randolph. Akot is a true small forward with playmaking ability, and a guy who can impact the game on both ends of the court. Randolph is a scoring guard, who has already showcased his talents this offseason for Arizona. He is a true bucket getter. Will Sean Miller insert Randolph into the starting lineup alongside Allonzo Trier, another scoring guard? I personally would plug Akot into the starting lineup because I like his length, and his potential impact defensively on the wing.

Regardless, Sean Miller has two great options while Alkins is recovering.

Immanuel Quickley Chooses UK

To no one’s surprise, Immanuel Quickley chose the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday evening. Quickley is the third ranked point guard on the ESPN Top 100 Chart for 2018. He is the first committed player for the Wildcats in the class.

Quickley continues the outstanding point guard lineage for Coach Calipari. As it is every season, there is pressure for Kentucky players to be one and dones, due to the fact that the program reloads every season. A player like Quade Green is in this boat. With Quickley coming in next season, this is the year for Green to showcase his talents, and then head off to the NBA.

Darius Garland remains as the final five-star point guard available in the class. Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Duke will have to battle it out for his services. If he does choose the Blue Devils, Coach K will run with two point guards, considering Tre Jones has already committed.

The Oregon Basketball Turnover

Key Departures: Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Casey Benson, Kavell Bigby-Williams

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Payton Pritchard (So.)

SG: Elijah Brown (GS.)

SF: Troy Brown Jr. (Fr.)

PF: Paul White (RS Jr.)

C: M.J. Cage (RS Fr.)

Key Reserve Players:

PF: MiKyle McIntosh (GS.), SF: Keith Smith (So.), PF: Roman Sorkin (Sr.), SG: Victor Bailey Jr. (Fr.), SF: Abu Kigab (Fr.), PF: Kenneth Wooten Jr. (Fr.)

Discussion:

After getting to the Elite Eight two seasons ago, and advancing to the Final Four this past season, Oregon enters a new era, and their core is essentially gone. Dana Altman has a load of new pieces to work with, making the Ducks a question mark, but also a dark horse in the Pac 12.

Mature beyond his years, Payton Pritchard is the prototypical point guard that you want to run your program. Pritchard played 28.3 minutes as a freshman, and the led the team in assists per game at 3.6. He is fearless, he works hard, and competes. Like Ty Jerome of UVA, Pritchard is poised for a young point guard. This is his team now, and he will be the leader for this team.

Dana Altman brings in Troy Brown Jr., a five-star small forward (4th ranked small forward in the class), who is an absolute stud. He will form quite the scoring duo with Elijah Brown, the grad transfer from New Mexico. Elijah Brown averaged 21.7 and 18.8 points per game in his two seasons with the Lobos. Both players will get plenty of buckets this season for the Ducks.

Paul White is now eligible to play for the Ducks this season. The former 34th ranked player in the 2014 class transferred from Georgetown, and was a high school teammate of Jahlil Okafor. White is a very skilled power forward at 6’9″. He has a good basketball IQ/instincts, is a good passer, can play inside and outside, and can impact the game on both ends of the court. He is extremely versatile. Redshirt freshman, M.J. Cage will be required to step up at the center position. Cage is an athletic big man and will need to own the paint on both sides for the Ducks.

MiKyle McIntosh should receive plenty of minutes at forward this season. The grad transfer from Illinois State averaged 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last season. He is an athletic and explosive specimen and adds another dimension to this team. Veteran, Roman Sorkin and freshman, Kenneth Wooten, should receive power forwards minutes off the bench as well.

Keith Smith played sparingly as a freshman, and will receive perimeter minutes off the bench with freshmen, Victor Bailey Jr. and Abu Kigab. Bailey Jr. is an athletic shooting guard, with a sweet lefty stroke from the perimeter. Kigab is a work horse from Prolific Prep. He will bring a competitive edge to this team and will impact the game in a variety of ways. Whether it be defensively, scoring, or hustling for extra possessions, he will make his mark on this program.

The Ducks bring in some grad transfers and recruits in order to fill the departures of their star players. I think Arizona and USC will run the Pac 12, with UCLA right behind them, but Oregon could be the dark horse in the conference of champions.

What to Think of Syracuse Basketball 2017-2018?

Key Departures: Tyler Lydon, Andrew White III, John Gillon, Tyler Roberson, Taurean Thompson, DaJuan Coleman

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Geno Thorpe (GS.)

SG: Tyus Battle (So.)

SF: Oshae Brissett (Fr.)

PF: Matthew Moyer (RS Fr.)

C: Paschal Chukwu (RS Jr.)

Key Reserve Players:

PG/SG: Frank Howard (Jr.), PG: Howard Washington (Fr.), C: Bourama Sidibe (Fr.), PF: Marek Dolezaj (Fr.)

Discussion:

To the dismay (and surprise) of many, Syracuse did not make the NCAA tournament last season. The Orange finished 19-15, and 10-8 in a powerful ACC conference. Jim Boeheim has a young team to work with this season, so it will be very interesting to see how this team will compete.

Grad transfer Geno Thorpe comes in to take the role of John Gillon from last season. Thorpe is a combo guard who averaged 15.1 points, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals for USF last season. His addition was a huge get for this young Syracuse team. At 6’4″, Thorpe will fit very nicely at the top of the zone. He will have an impact on the court when it comes to running the offense, but will also wreak havoc on the defensive end. Frank Howard has been in and out of the dog house for Coach Boeheim the past two seasons. He has played well at times, but hasn’t been consistent enough for Boehiem to trust him as a starting point guard for this team. He can distribute the basketball, but he isn’t much of a scoring threat, and can make poor decisions/is turnover prone. Confidence is the big key for him. I expect Howard to play minutes behind Thorpe, along with freshman Howard Washington. The good thing about these point guards is that they all provide good length at the top of the zone on defense.

One of the biggest disappointments for Syracuse was the surprise departure of Tauren Thompson. Taurean Thompson and Tyus Battle were both expected to be the rising stars for this program as they entered their sophomore years. So, Syracuse retains one star and loses one star. I expect Tyus Battle to average between 15.0-18.0 points per game this season. It was a really smart decision for Battle to return to Syracuse in order to improve on his game and to work on his craft. With Andrew White gone, Battle should see plenty of touches on the perimeter. If he can get his 3-point percentage up to the 40 percent mark, he is really going to be special. The combination of Battle and Thorpe at the top of the zone should be tough for opponents to deal with as well.

People don’t know much about Oshae Brissett because he is from Canada. He is a 6’8″ small forward, giving Syracuse a legit wing player in this lineup. Brissett brings length/athleticism, he plays physical when attacking the basket, can be a slasher, can rebound, and can run the court in transition. I think he will have an impact on both ends of the floor. His shooting consistency from the perimeter is my question mark. My x-factor player is redshirt freshman Matt Moyer. With the departure of Thompson, Moyer will really have to step up. Moyer is a guy who can play inside and outside. He has an unorthodox release, but he can spread the floor with his ability to shoot from the outside. He is only 6’8″, but his wingspan and length is impressive. He can really finish above the rim with explosiveness. He is a versatile forward, is a matchup problem, and is absolutely someone you should keep an eye on.

Paschal Chukwu suffered a torn retina in his right eye last season, so he was only able to play in seven games. He did average two blocks during those seven games, and when healthy, the 7-footer can be a tremendous rim protector and defensive paint presence. Bourama Sidibe should see minutes behind Chukwu. He has the potential to provide a similar impact, and is another big body for Boeheim to use. Marek Dolezaj could see some minutes as a freshman as well, depending on how deep Boeheim decides to go with his bench.

Syracuse loses a lot of valuable pieces from last season, but they have some exciting players to work with this year. The ACC is tough, but there is a chance Syracuse can make some noise.

Teams That Could Surprise: Auburn Basketball

Key Departures: T.J. Dunans, Ronnie Johnson, LaRon Smith, T.J. Lang

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Jared Harper (So.)

SG: Mustapha Heron (So.)

SG: Bryce Brown (Jr.)

SF: Danjel Purifoy (Jr.)

C: Austin Wiley (So.)

Key Reserve Players:

PF: Anfernee McLemore (So.), PF: Horace Spencer (Jr.), PF: Chuma Okeke (Fr.), PG: Davion Mitchell (Fr.), SF/PF: DeSean Murray (RS Jr.), SG/SF: Malik Dunbar (Jr.)

Discussion:

The Tigers had an 18-14 record last season under Bruce Pearl, the best record since the 2008-2009 season. Bruce Pearl has been able to bring in high-level recruits, he is building a new culture, and he is revitalizing this basketball program.

Bruce Pearl brought in an absolutely stacked recruiting class in 2016, headlined by Mustapha Heron and Austin Wiley, two five-star recruits. Heron led the team in assists and points per game last season, while also shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range. Heron brings physicality (can play multiple positions), he can shoot from the perimeter, and he can finish at the basket through contact. He was born to get buckets, and only failed to reach double figures in one game last season. Wiley is a natural big man to feed it to in the paint. He can score/finish around the rim, and can also block shots on the other end. Wiley is a player who will continue to get better. Jared Harper was also a part of the 2016 recruiting class, and is the starting point guard for Bruce Pearl. He averaged 11.4 points and 3.0 assists as a freshman. Talk about a terrific backcourt, Harper joins Heron and Bryce Brown (who also shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season).

Danjel Purifoy was the second leading scorer for the Tigers last season. He brings versatility and competitiveness as a forward in this starting lineup. Bruce Pearl has a terrific stash of power forwards (all former four-stars) with Horace Spencer, Anfernee McLemore, and Chuma Okeke. Spencer didn’t have a full healthy season last year due to a shoulder injury. He is an athletic power forward, who is extremely explosive when finishing above the rim. He can really attack. Anfernee McLemore gained valuable experience as a freshman, averaging 5.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play. He also led the Tigers in field goal percentage at 68.3 percent. With more playing time, McLemore will be able to become an even bigger part of this program. Chuma Okeke is a versatile freshman forward coming in who has stretch four ability, he can get to the rim, and can really rebound the basketball. He moves well, and will be able to contribute in many different ways for this team. And if that wasn’t enough, Bruce Pearl also brings in DeSean Murray. Murray is only about 6’3″-6’4″, but plays much bigger than that. He is a very good rebounder for his size, and can play both forward positions. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.4 rebounds for Presbyterian in the 2015-2016 season.  If he can improve on his shooting and develop a legitimate perimeter shot, he will be a very good piece for this team.

Davion Mitchell comes in as a four-star point guard and will play behind Jared Harper. Mitchell is an athletic, energetic, and jumpy guard. He can really attack the basket and can play above the rim. Mitchell has good ball handles, he is crafty, and can dish the ball too. Malik Dunbar, a junior college transfer, also comes in. Dunbar is a physical guard/forward who will bring scoring off the bench, and he is a guy who can make an impact on both ends of the court.

There is so much talent on this roster. Just like when I discussed Texas, Alabama, and Missouri, youth is all over the place. Will this team be able to mature together as a group, can they make damage in the SEC, and can they get into the tournament?

Teams That Could Surprise: Oklahoma Basketball

Key Departures: Jordan Woodard, Kristian Doolittle (Suspended for Fall Semester), Dante Buford, Darrion Strong-Moore

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Trae Young (Fr.)

SG: Kameron McGusty (So.)

SG: Christian James (Jr.)

SF: Rashard Odomes (Jr.)

PF: Khadeem Lattin (Sr.)

Key Reserve Players:

C: Jamuni McNeace (RS Jr.), PG: Jordan Shepherd (So.), SG: Ty Lazenby (Jr.), PF: Matt Freeman (RS So.), PF: Brady Manek (Fr.), C: Hannes Polla (Fr.)

Discussion:

After reaching the Final Four in the 2015-2016 season, and having a record of 29-8, the Sooners had an underwhelming year in 2016-2017. Oklahoma went 11-20, the worst record ever under Lon Kruger in Norman. The losses of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler really had an incredible effect on this basketball program. With Trae Young deciding to stay local, the Sooners will look to get back to the tournament this year.

When Trae Young chose his hometown school, he knew how impactful that decision would be. Instead of choosing a school like Kansas, he chose to be a part of a rebuilding project. A lot of pressure is on his plate to come in and “revive” this basketball program. Young officially takes the reigns from Jordan Woodard. Talk about a point guard who can shoot, Young can stroke it from anywhere. He has really good handles and court vision for a point guard as well. In addition to scoring on his own, he will be able to distribute the basketball to his teammates. Having senior point guards in the conference like Devonte’ Graham and Jevon Carter, Young has tremendous competition at his position.

The sophomore Kameron McGusty joins Trae Young in the backcourt. As a freshman, McGusty was the second leading scorer for the Sooners. I anticipate that his scoring will increase in his second year, and I think Trae Young will be able to set him up for easier shots/buckets. Increasing his 3-point shooting to around 40 percent will also be something that could really help out his game. Christian James and Rashard Odomes need to make a strong impact in the starting lineup as well.

Khadeem Lattin, now a senior, returns for his final season in Norman. Lattin has averaged 2.1 blocks per game for two consecutive seasons now, and is one of the best rim protectors in the nation. Having been on the Final Four team a few years ago, he brings valuable big game experience and leadership too. Lattin is a really important player to have on this team.

Jordan Shepherd should see good minutes off the bench behind Trae Young. As a freshman, Shepherd averaged 4.3 points and 1.5 assists in just 17 minutes of play. The Sooners also bring in junior college standout Ty Lazenby. Lazenby is a combo guard who is capable of bringing instant scoring off the bench for this team.

Center Jamuni McNeace should see the bulk of the big man minutes off the bench, while Matt Freeman should see an increased role this season. McNeace is a threat to throw down lobs, and to finish easy buckets around the hoop. I think Matt Freeman has only scratched the surface on his shooting potential. Lon Kruger also brings in a pair of four-stars in Brady Manek and Hannes Polla. Manek is a power forward who can really stretch the floor, and Polla is a big body to throw down into the post. With Kristian Doolittle suspended for the Fall semester due to academics, these bigs will really have to step up in his absence (Doolittle had a very successful freshman season).

With Trae Young coming to Oklahoma, the Sooners should be back on the rise in the Big 12. I really think that they can have a bounce back season. They definitely have a chance to be dancing again.

 

Teams That Could Surprise: TCU Basketball

Key Departures: Brandon Parrish, Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn, Malique Trent, Michael Williams

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG: Jaylen Fisher (So.)

PG: Alex Robinson Jr. (RS Jr.)

SF: Kenrich Williams (Sr.)

SF: Jalon Miller (Jr.)

PF: Vladimir Brodziansky (Sr.)

Key Reserve Players:

SG: Desmond Bane (So.), C: Kevin Samuel (Fr.), PG: R.J. Nembhard (Fr.), SG: Shawn Olden (Jr.), PF: Ahmed Hamdy (GS.), SF: Lat Mayen (Fr.), PF: Kouat Noi (RS Fr.)

Discussion:

Jamie Dixon chose to leave Pittsburgh for his alma mater, and he made an immediate impact in his first season. The Horned Frogs finished the season with a 24-15 record, which happens to be the best since the 1997-1998 season. They also went on to defeat Georgia Tech in the 2017 NIT Championship.

Jaylen Fisher did not have the chance to finish last year’s season due to a broken wrist, and he recently suffered a torn meniscus in practice in early August. However, it sounds like he will be ready for the start of the season. Jamie Dixon has the luxury of having both Fisher and Alex Robinson (transfer from Texas A&M) in his backcourt. Both point guards combined for just under ten assists per game last season. Robinson only trailed Jawun Evans and Monte Morris in assists per game in the Big 12. Fisher and Robinson can set up their teammates, but they can also score for themselves. This backcourt is extremely good, and I think Fisher will have an absolute breakout season. Kenrich Williams returns to this starting lineup for one more season. Williams nearly averaged a double-double last season with 11.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. He brings a ton of versatility with his ability to score, rebound, pass, and with his defensive ability (can match up with guards and forwards). He works extremely hard on the boards, and only trailed Johnathan Motley in that department last season. JD Miller also brings versatility to this lineup with his ability to play both forward positions.

The Horned Frogs also get Vladimir Brodziansky back, a really good big on both ends of the floor. He was an All-Big 12 Second Team member, and Big 12 All-Defensive Team member last season. He only trailed Lual-Acuil in blocks per game in the Big 12. Brodziansky is super skilled offensively. He is a very good pick and role player, and is able to finish all the way at the rim or can hit the pick and pop jumper. Defensively, he has really good instincts in the paint, takes up space in the post, and can block/alter shots. Just like Ben Lammers of Georgia Tech, he is one of the more underrated bigs in the nation.

Desmond Bane brings the most experience off the bench from a season ago, and is one of the better 3-point shooters on this team. He played over 20 minutes per game last season as a freshman, and will continue to have a big role off the bench. Freshman R.J. Nembhard will play behind Fisher and Robinson in terms of point guard minutes. Nembhard brings a lot of athleticism to the point guard position, as he can finish above the rim. He can score it and pass it, and should see be a really nice piece off the bench. Shawn Olden (from NMJC), is a lefty shooting guard with a sweet stroke, and will also see guard minutes off the bench.

Freshman center Kevin Samuel and VCU grad transfer Ahmed Hamdy should see the bulk of the big man minutes off the bench. Samuel is a big dude with a lot of potential, and could develop into a solid big man under Jamie Dixon. Kouat Noi and Lat Mayen are two lanky forwards from Australia with a lot of room to grow. I can see them playing both forward positions, but see Mayen as a more natural wing player.

TCU is a football and basketball school now. Jamie Dixon has flipped this program around instantaneously, has brought in recruits (like Fisher), and had a ton of success in just one season. Be on the lookout for the Horned Frogs in the Big 12.