If you watch college basketball religiously, you saw a lot of sleeper picks in the 2022 NBA Draft. Here are 5 players to keep an eye on during their NBA career.
5. Blake Wesley, #25 Overall Pick for the San Antonio Spurs
If you’re an NBA fan, you might be curious why San Antonio is shedding so much young talent. They traded Derrick White mid-season. He proved to be a pivotal piece for the Eastern Conference Champion Celtics. Then, the Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks. Murray had become a prime example of how the San Antonio organization continues to draft and develop young talent to reach their potential. They were patient with the thin, raw Murray early in his career and it paid off. Now, the national consensus might be how the Spurs are throwing in the towel. One SB Nation article says the Spurs are setting their “relevancy back years.”
However, if you look at the three first round picks in 2022, you’ll realize that the silver spurs are just re-loading their firearms down in the Alamo.
Blake Wesley is a supremely athletic wing who can contribute minutes immediately to an NBA club. He led Notre Dame to an NCAA Tournament berth last season, taking possessions coast to coast and leading the Fighting Irish to a first round victory over Rutgers. He is listed at 6-4, but easily slices down to lane getting to where he wants. He should develop his three-point-jumper, as every NBA ball player needs to. However, he is a great value as the #25 overall pick.
In fact, the Spurs can benefit from some in-house competition at the swingman position right away. At the 20th pick, the Spurs picked up 6-5 shooting guard Malaki Branham from Ohio State. He showed great flashes of scoring ability late in his short tenure with the Buckeyes. In the top 10, San Antonio also looked to re-kindle the spirit of their former funky Spur, Dennis Rodman, by picking Baylor’s slippery defender/rebounder Jeremy Sochan. NCAA obversers have to give the Spurs draft an A+.
4. Kennedy Chandler, #38 Overall Pick for the Memphis Grizzlies
Ironically, this pick was made by the San Antonio Spurs as well…
Kennedy Chandler was regarded as one of the best incoming freshman for last year’s college basketball season, but he got off to a slow start in SEC conference play. The SEC is tough. And he had a few 5 and 6 turnover games. His backcourt mate Zakai Zeigler out-shined him at teams in the rotation. Still, the point guard progressed to finish by averaging nearly 14 points and 4.7 assists per game in his freshman campaign. Now the Grizzlies get a potential perfect counterpart to Ja Morant in the backcourt. Mike Conley spent years swirling around defenses with his dizzying speed in Memphis. Chandler’s low-to-the ground, solid handle can have the same type of impact. He is not a high-flyer like Morant is (nobody is), but his speed and handles could balance out the offense.
The Memphis Grizzlies also nabbed another high quality value pick late in the second half of the draft. They added VCU’s Vince Williams Jr. Injuries nagged his last season as a Ram, but Williams Jr. is an all-around mature player. He is a 6-7 forward who can handle, assist, and defend.
3. EJ Liddell, #41 Overall Pick for the New Orleans Pelicans
This could actually be the steal of the draft. If the Pelicans actually see Zion Williamson play in the 2022-2023 campaign, New Orleans could have the all-linebacker squad for the NBA. There’d be some serious muscle inside. Liddell is built similarly to Williamson, listed at 6-7 and 243 lbs. However Liddell is probably actually a more skilled basketball player at this juncture. He can operate in the post and around the perimeter. His strong base gives him great positioning around taller players in the post. He has been an impact player for Ohio State since he stepped on campus. The Pelicans keep piecing together a winning roster with winning players. Liddell fits the mold of someone who could thrive in the Bayou.
2. Isaiah Mobley, #49 Overall Pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a no-brainer for the Cavs, re-uniting Isaiah with his younger brother Evan Mobley in Cleveland. The two played together for a year at USC when they lead the Trojans to the Elite 8. There could be a Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol type of tandem here. Isaiah Mobley would be the more burley of the two. Evan Mobley nearly won the NBA Rookie of the Year with his great touch around the rim and quick spring to the glass. Isaiah Mobley is a super skilled big man. Both brothers have exceptional hands. At 6-10, Isaiah Mobley is one of the best perimeter shooters for his size in the draft. After Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr.’s three point efficiency of 39 and 42 percent respectively, Mobley registered a 36% 3PT percentage in his USC days. Oddly enough, he shot 44% from 3PT during his second year at USC.
The Mobley brothers could be a handful as a high-low option with the Cavs. I am surprised every other NBA franchise let this happen. It’s like when your buddy has a second tier running back that you know he loves in fantasy football. He’s firmly on the record loving that RB. But you let him pick that dude up in your snake draft on his quick second turnaround pick in the 7th round. This could be both marketing and basketball gold for the Cavaliers.
1. Ben Mathurin, #6 Overall Pick for the Indiana Pacers
This honor comes straight out of the college basketball eye test playbook. Bennedict Mathurin was a man amongst boys in so many of the clutch games that Arizona played last year. He chewed up the talented Illinois backcourt for 30 points in a high profile, early season non-conference showdown. In March Madness, he served up a serious facial against TCU to rescue his Wildcats from a hard-fought upset loss. He dropped 30 again in this thrilling overtime win. Mathurin has a little Russell Westbrook in his game. He is simply relentless. However, he has a smooth stroke around the perimeter. Watch the dunk below and pay close attention to the killer instinct demeanor. Mathurin is of Haitian decent and grew up in Montreal. He attended the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City, Mexico. His diverse skills and killer instinct will win him international appeal.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Keels, #42 Overall Pick for the New York Knicks
Keels seeks out contact as he rushes to the rim. He doesn’t have the same ups that Derrick Rose had at his age, but it could be interesting to watch these guys play together. They both have the running back mentality. They share the mentality launching over the goal-line in order to score. Keels got lost at times at Duke with what his role is, whether a facilitator, off-ball shooter, or Alpha male scorer. The Knicks would be wise to assign Keels a role and see it blossom.
From the long-shots like Longwood to the blue chips like Baylor and Duke, here is your user-friendly guide to get caught up on every NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament team for 2022.
BY MATTY D.
This guide is a work-in-progress on Selection Sunday and the following Monday….
Arizona Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
This is very surprising to say, but Arizona might have the best combo guard in the entire nation. If you are reading before the tournament tips off, the nation is about to meet Benedict Mathurin. He is like watching a Russell Westbrook who is more willing to pass and also capable of hitting an open three pointer. Mathurin plays with great pace as does this entire Wildcats squad. They ran USC out of the gym in a late February matchup on national TV. The irony there was that they looked like “Dunk City” against the former Florida Gulf Coast Coach. At 6-11, Azoulas Tubelis is a nightmare matchup for defenses as he also runs the floor with ease on the fast break. A team that can keep its foot on the gas pedal is very dangerous in March. Tommy Lloyd is a first time coach, but he has spent decades as an assistant at Gonzaga. And so it shouldn’t be shocking to see his team play with this sort of offensive firepower. And, it’s possible this team makes a magical run with a “first time coach” in name only.
Baylor Bears 2022 College Basketball Summary
Baylor has fortified its position as a blue blood this season. No one expected this team to be competing for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost three rotation guards from its national championship team, plus lost powerful power forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua late this year to a season-ending injury. You’d be stupid to write off the Baylor Bears at this point. However, they’ve out-paced expectations about three times over already. After transferring to two different locations, point guard James Akinjo has finally found a comfortable home in Waco. His play this season has sustained their championship potential. I think Baylor’s prospects to make its way back to the Final Four rest on the abilities of Kendall Brown and Matthew Mayer to score the ball. Akinjo has played injured down the stretch. Flo Thamba and Jeremy Sochan have provided stellar backcourt play in aggravating offenses and attacking the defensive glass. Junior Adam Flagler returned for a junior season and provided a stable scoring threat at shooting guard. The X factor for this team might come down to the scoring abilities of Brown and Mayer late in games and late in the tournament.
Bryant Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
The headline from Bryant’s dominate NEC Championship win against Wagner was all about the brawl that happened among fans in the crowd. It was an embarrassing live TV moment on national TV as it took administrators literally over a half hour to sort out before resuming a blowout with just over 4 minutes left. Still, don’t overlook the fact that Bryant has the nation’s leading scorer. There is a well established tradition in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament where leading scorers find a way to serve the upset (Read 5 more trends that stuck as annual traditions by clicking here). It happened with CJ McCollum and more recently, Max Abmas. Peter Kiss looks like Jimmer Fredette out on the court the way he hops around and scores from all three levels. He doesn’t have the 3-point range that Fredette did, but he can dunk with authority unlike Fredette did. Kiss talks a lot of trash and might just excite a neutral site crowd to cheer for his team. Peter Kiss led the nation in scoring, but still didn’t get voted as his own conference’s player of the year. That’s likely because of his bad sportsmanship when showing up opponents (this was showcased in the ESPN broadcast of the championship game). Bryant has some size and confuses offenses by alternating between man and zone defense. This should be a fun game to watch between Bryant and Wright State because both teams have some exciting elements to their play.
The Titans lost a pair of games to Mountain West Conference teams late in the fall, which is worth looking at as a measuring stick now. They played a clean game against Wyoming, only giving up 8 turnovers. But they jacked up 16 three pointers, only hitting 12 of them. E.J. Anosike is their best player at power forward. He operates well from the mid-range area. The question is who can step up as the number two scorer? In the game against San Diego State, 6-6 senior guard Tray Maddox Jr. led the way with 15 points. However, again Cal State jacked up 22 three pointers, only making 7 of them. Cal State is middle-of-the-pack in offensive and defensive metrics. They bottled up Big West Player of the Year (point guard) Colin Slater, forcing him to turn the ball over 5 times in a loss. The Titans have the athletes to compete, but they are not among the most feared mid-major teams entering the tournament. I think it’s fair to say that a ten point loss to a power conference team is a likely expectation for this team’s ceiling.
Colgate Raiders 2022 College Basketball Summary
Colgate won the Patriot League championship in convincing fashion. They handed Navy a 16 point defeat. Colgate is headlined by a pair of senior guards, Tucker Richardson and Nelly Cummings. They score a combined 27 points per game. 6-10 forward Keegan Records adds 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. The Raiders are a top 100 offense, according to Kenpom.com. But when I watched them, I wasn’t wowed. So I dove into the numbers to help discover why. Kenpom also has them listed as the 203rd ranked adjusted defensive efficiency, which will rank among the worst with tournament teams (Delaware, South Dakota State and Bryant being in the same vicinity). Colgate was dominant in the Patriot League, but that shouldn’t be expected in a top-heavy NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2022.
Gonzaga Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
Whether fair or unfair, I look through Gonzaga’s team through the lens of “will this be the year that they finally win a championship?”
And sadly, my answer is no for one simple reason. Last year’s Gonzaga team was actually more talented than this 2022 campaign. And that’s why, with even more national champion threats out there, I can’t imagine Gonzaga winning it all. Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert were first round picks in the NBA Draft. Suggs looked like Jason Kidd in a Gonzaga uniform, only he blocked shots too. Losing those players cannot be overlooked. Yes, Chet Homgren is a great prospect and having an outstanding freshman season for the Bulldogs. But he got punked by Paolo Banchero in their early season matchup when the Duke bigs went after Gonzaga in the post (and won the game). That November 26, 2021 game looked and sounded like a National Championship game. Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard was the best point guard on the floor. However, Drew Timme and Chet Homgren were outplayed by Mark Williams, Banchero, and others in the post. Timme had 17 points, but he also struggled with 5 turnovers. Watch highlights of this game and try to make an argument that Gonzaga should be the odds-on favorite right now (which it is) to win a national title. You can’t.
As it was aptly put by Jim Nantz and the CBS Broadcasting crew at Iowa won its surprising Big Ten Championship, this team has a family theme. Coach Fran McCaffery is coaching his two sons. And the Murray brothers are mainstays in the rotation. Keegan Murray is a stretch forward who can play inside out. He is among the nation’s best players. Iowa can be streaky from the three point line, but if they’re hitting, watch out! And while the family theme is the popular narrative of the Big Ten season finale, it’s a point guard who is emerging that’s become the show in my opinion. Tony Perkins started the season logging minutes in the teens or single digits. He’d produce 1, 2, or 3 assists per game. Now, he is averaging 25+ minutes and has dished out 19 assists in the last four games. He is averaging nearly 12 points in those clutch games (wins against Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, to name a few). This team lost Luka Garza to graduation and the NBA. And while they didn’t replace him with a core post scorer, they have plenty of quality college basketball players around the paint to pick up the slack. This team earned its way to a 4 or 5 seed, which should result in regional preference. However, it’s worth noting that they’ve played sub top 25 basketball earlier this season. This would quality as a very high ceiling and a low floor type of team. For now, they are Big Ten Champions!
If you are looking for a low seed to get blown out, this might be the bet for you. That’s a fair statement, only because of the historic nature for which Jacksonville made this tournament. Bellarmine won the ASUN tournament, but can’t compete in the NCAA Tournament because of its recent transition from Division II. That leaves Jacksonville State, which didn’t even make the championship game in the ASUN. It is the regular season champion. You hate to see a team make the tournament in this way. You could say the Gamecocks are playing with house money. Or, you could recognize that it enters the NCAA tournament with a NET ranking of 140. That would rank near the very bottom 5 of the tournament qualifiers.
Kansas Jayhawks 2022 College Basketball Summary
The Kansas Jayhawks continue to dominate the Big 12 in historic fashion. Head Coach Bill Self has led the team to the conference regular season title (or at least a share) in the last 16 of 18 seasons. This is incredible. As for the makeup of this team, Arizona State point guard transfer Remi Martin probably didn’t have as successful a season as Allen Fieldhouse fans had hoped to see. With the Sun Devils he flashed some spectacular and exciting play. He’s been a bit muted in his crimson and blue. Conversely, shooting guard Ochai Agbaji has carefully improved his game over the years and is a likely NBA first round talent. Agbaji can and has carried KU to victories by himself. He has “get on my shoulders, teammates” type talent. The Jayhawks have a front line that can certainly compete, but there are no similar premium stars down low. By most accounts, power forward David McCormick has not been consistent enough during his KU career. He can score a double-double, or become a non-factor. His game log is riddled with double-doubles, but when it comes to the high profile games like against Dayton and Texas Tech, he registered 4 points 6 rebounds or 5-and-5 respectively. You wonder if an elite team can focus on shutting down Agbaji in its defensive strategy and find its path to victory.
Kentucky Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Things were looking great for Kentucky mid-season, but they started getting a little shaky late. The Wildcats messed around with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt late in the season. Then finally, they were exposed in the post by Tennessee. As great as Oscar Tshiebwe has been at power forward this year, and he has been amazing, he cannot do it alone in the post. If you’re new to college basketball, Tshiebwe is a finalist for the Karl Malone power forward award and he looks the part. However, on defense Tennessee and other teams were able to penetrate and get some easy hoops down low against Kentucky. And so UK needs to find more support in the post. TyTy Washington is one of the highly touted NBA prospects on this team, but between injury and a lack of aggression, he has not looked dominant down the strength. Davidson transfer Kellan Grady epitomizes the nice touch of senior leadership that this team has. He races around the wing without the ball looking for an open shot akin to how Reggie Miller and (his fellow Davidson Wildcat Steph Curry) does. The veteran experience is a welcomed change of pace for the historically youthful Coach John Calipari-led teams. However, you shouldn’t expect this team to get embarrassed by a 14 or 15 seed, but you should also not book their plane ticket to the Final Four just yet.
Longwood Lancers 2022 College Basketball Summary
Any observation about the Longwood Lancers has to start with its fantastic point guard, Justin Hill. The sophomore from Houston navigated the Lancers way through the Big South Tournament to a championship. He is strong, smart, can score and probes with the right tempo for the moment. He was really impressive to watch down the stretch and leading to its tournament berth. Defenses can’t let him penetrate to around the free throw line, because Hill will make the right decision in that top of the paint. Like many mid-major teams, Longwood is missing length at the rim. However, 6-4 Virginia Tech transfer Isaiah Wilkins brings the beef. He is a handful at 220 lbs. (on paper), but can stretch the defense to have to guard him behind the line. Longwood ranks within the top 100 teams in the nation with 3 pointers made this season, at 252. A lot of people have never heard of Longwood basketball. Based on what we are watching from this team in early March, that is likely to change soon.
Loyola Chicago Ramblers 2022 College Basketball Summary
This team has one holdover from the Final 4 team and a lot of the same winning qualities. For one, they don’t quit. They were losing by double digits early in their championship game against Drake when they went on a serious run. The run was fueled by tempting the Bulldogs to take bad threes (which they did) and turning those long rebounds into a transition offense. They only commit 12 turnovers a game as a team, which is right outside of the top 100 among the NCAA. However, they show a steady hand and methodical approach under pressure. Forward Aher Uguak has taken his game to a new level. He can score in the traditional post, but also run the floor with the rest of his offense. Loyola should be feared just as the were when former coach (now Oklahoma’s head man) Porter Moser was there.
LSU head coach Will Wade just got fired by the university as a result of NCAA violations discovered as part of an FBI probe. And while federal investigators had the phone lines tapped, LSU Tiger players continue stripping opposing offenses of the ball. In an odd twist, LSU sticks as one of my 5 best long-shot values to make a Final Four in 2022. Click here to read more about how the LSU Tigers stock should be bought at a discount.
Montana State Bobcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Like many high seeds, Montana State will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four. They got multiple contributions in an impressive Big Sky championship win, but that league hasn’t been as competitive nationally in the last 5 years as compared to the previous 5. The Bobcats’ signature non-conference game this season was a four point loss to Colorado. They also got smoked by the sexy offense of South Dakota State.
Murray State Racers 2022 College Basketball Summary
This team is as scary a mid-major team as they come. Holdovers from the Ja Morant (Sweet 16) team, KJ Williams and Tevin Brown, are just a pair of their very athletic group. Brown set a record for the most threes made in his OVC career. KJ Williams is the OVC’s most valuable player. Williams is listed at 6-10 and 245 pounds. He looks like a Demarcus Cousins with his huge frame, but he was showing off his three point touch in the OVC Tournament. This roster is a great collection of experienced upper class-men and up-and-coming stars. Sophomores Justice Hill, Trae Hannibal, and DJ Burns add a combined 28 points per game. Murray State can play up-tempo, but defend against a grind-them-out type of team. To be true to their brand name, the Racers can run any team out of the gym.
New Mexico Aggies 2022 College Basketball Summary
Watch out for this team! The Aggies have the one ingredient that so many mid-majors starve for, but cannot secure. They have a dynamic scorer who can take over a game. Teddy Allen has had a turbulent NCAA career. It seems like ages ago where he was instant offense as a freshman coming off the West Virginia bench. But now he’s the star of the show in Las Cruces, New Mexico. New Mexico has the other ingredient that so often keeps mid-major teams from advancing: size. The roster is constructed of three players at 6-10 and taller. Redshirt senior Johnny McCants (at 6-7) also brings some toughness down low. Entering the tournament, the Aggies had out-rebounded its opponents this season 1,228 to 999.
Richmond Spiders 2022 College Basketball Summary
You are going to hear countless times about how the Richmond Spiders “stole a bid” from someone. Use your eyes. They actually secured a bid for the Atlantic 10 Conference, which legitimately had six teams deserving of a bid. There was Davidson, St. Bonaventure, St. Louis, Dayton, VCU and then Richmond. All of those teams rank somewhere in the top 30 to top 70 throughout the season in the NET Rankings. And so this story about how Richmond “stole a bid” by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament should be turned on its head. Luckily, the conference will not be punished for its first through sixth best teams beating up on each other. As for the Spiders themselves, there is a “Big 3” here. Jacob Gilyard has a very accomplished NCAA career. He is taking advantage of the COVID-19 extra year and taking the NCAA’s record for most career steals. As shown in that A10 title game, he can also run and offense and score when necessary. Tyler Burton is a budding pro as a 6-7 small forward. And Grant Golden is a 6-10 center (listed at power forward but he plays the 5 most times) who the offense runs through. This team spaces the floor terrifically, trusts each other, and is battle tested. There are no shortage of role players such as Nathan Cayo and Matt Grace. And Sullivan Kulju might make the NCAA Best Hair list if he keeps this up from the sidelines.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits 2022 College Basketball Summary
The Jackrabbits are a problem. For anyone watching championship week in full, you already know how dangerous this team is. They have one of the nation’s best offenses, which is crazy to think about stemming from the Summit League. Yet, they scored at a 69% field goal percentage in a semifinal game during the championship (watch below). The Jackrabbits knock down threes at an NCAA record pace. They’ve won the most games (28) in program history. This team is under seeded if they are not a 12 or lower.
The Peacocks were a championship result from the MAC after the convincing favorite from that conference, Rick Pitino’s Iona team, got shocked by a 9 seed in the opening round. The Peacocks performed valiantly in their championship game against Monmouth. They got key players into foul trouble, contained a 7-footer in the post, and kept Seton Hall transfer Shaver Reynolds from getting into the zone offensively. Like many high seeds, they will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four.
UAB was on life support multiple times this season. They were all but declared dead in a Conference USA Championship semifinal game. Yet, UAB is here! The Blazers are one of my favorite long-shot odds to make a Final Four. Click here to read why the UAB Blazers are so dangerous and to see the rest of my top 5 future values.
Vermont Catamounts 2022 College Basketball Summary
Watching the American East Championship game on a Saturday morning is a tradition of March Madness. Yet, in 2022 it was fairly non-competitive for the first time in recent memory. Vermont knows what it’s doing on offense. The Catamounts blew out UMBC. They’ve won 17 games in conference, which is an impressive accomplishment;ishment by itself. Senior Ryan Davis might look like an agile version of a left tackle at 250. Yet, he is the American East player of the year. Vermont is top 10 nationwide in assist-to-turnover ratio. They also rank in the top 10 nationwide in limiting their turnovers. Vermont might not win outright in their first round matchup, but they should test the defensive scheme of some major power conference team somewhere.
Villanova Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Jay Wright’s team has perhaps the best point guard in the tournament. Collin Gillespie does it all on the basketball floor. In this, his final season, Gillespie has had a knack for hitting the dramatic game winner. This Villanova team looks familiar. Its features a 4-guard lineup on the floor for large chunks of the game. They are not deep and they are not especially tall, but you wouldn’t dare say they can’t make a deep run. The players have a lot of tournament experience. Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, Caleb Daniels, and Brandon Slater all starred in a Sweet 16 berth last year and a competitive game against eventual champion, Baylor. They do not have a center at 6-10 or above, but center Eric Dixon‘s role has greatly improved over the years. In a February 5th game against a taller frontline in UCONN, Dixon showed out with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Villanova has been the Big East’s best chance at a Final Four team in the last decade or so. Although UCONN and Creighton are playing well down the stretch, Villanova should still be considered the Big East’s highest ceiling team.
The Raiders win the award for most resilient team, up until this point. They stormed back against Oakland and also in the Horizon Championship game, both on national TV. Big man Grant Basile is a problem down low, measuring at 6-9 and 225 lbs. His traditional post play allows some wings to fly around and hit mid-range jumpers. This is the stereotypical team that can agitate a super power. For you bettors out there, don’t ignore a huge spread if the Raiders come out flat in the first half. They have the comeback “bug” right now. However, this isn’t a team I would expect to make a magical Sweet 16 run.
Yale Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
Yale made it look easy at times against a tired Princeton team in the Ivy League Championship game. Tertiary players like Matthew Cotton are blossoming at the right time for this team. They are getting contributions from almost a full roster. If you remember, Yale was one of the earliest advocates of halting play amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple interesting storylines developing from that, including this note according to the Yale Daily News:
“Yale guard Azar Swain ’22 scored a game-high 23 points as the Bulldog defense held Princeton’s strong three-point shooters in check for most of the game. Swain, who took a leave of absence last year to preserve his final season of Ivy League eligibility, was named the Most Outstanding Player of Ivy Madness.”
Cinderella can reside in the Power 5. In 2021, Georgetown surged in unlikely fashion after a horrible regular season. The Hoyas went dancing in March Madness as the Big East Tournament winner. The team had only gone 7-9 in the conference regular season and had an overall record of .500 (13-13).
Similarly, Oregon State went from an expected pre-season bottom feeder in the Pac-12, to The Elite 8.
Here are seven teams that could burst a bubble team’s dreams. It shouldn’t shock anyone who is watching college basketball to see these teams in a conference tournament championship game.
Maryland Terps 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Big Ten Conference
In an era of global turmoil, it’s safe to say that Maryland still had a rocky season. They brought in two highly touted transfers in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. However, the Terps season got off to a slow turtle crawl. They lost to in-state non-rival George Mason. And Head Coach Mark Turgeon and the administration, reportedly, agreed to part ways mid-season.
Danny Manning took over as head coach. As you watch the team play, they are slowly rounding into form. A game against Nebraska in mid-February showed off their ceiling. Yes, it’s a lousy Nebraska team, but you saw freshman forward Julian Reese show off his stuff.
The roster is still beefed up with veteran players who have been in plenty of March Madness battles. Eric Ayala and Donta Scott come to mind. It was Danny Manning and the Miracles which made one of college basketball’s most magical runs ever. If some Big Ten teams get complacent during their conference tournament, it could be the Terps that go on a miraculous run.
Florida Atlantic Owls 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Conference USA
By NCAA Tournament standards, Conference USA is a major conference. Just in the last decade, look at what Middle Tennessee and North Texas have done to wreak havoc on the bracket. UAB, North Texas and even Louisiana Tech have been on the radar for modest at-large chances this season. However, the Florida Atlantic Owls are staying up late into February with relevant play in its league. In a seven game stretch over January to February, they won 6 of 7 games in conference. That includes the Owls’ dominating win against Louisiana Tech where the Owls shot 52% from the field, 45% from 3 point territory, and led by as many as 20 points.
Like many deep sleepers, this team features some sizable international talent. Its front-court features size and versatility with players from Kosovo, Russia, Senegal and Kongo all contributing.
Arizona State Sun Devils 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Pac 12 Conference
This one is simple. You cannot watch the Arizona State Sun Devils inspired play against Final 4 favorite UCLA and not be inspired to think they can go on a magical run. After an era of Arizona State pumping guards into the NBA, its powerful forwards forced the action against UCLA late. They beat the Bruins and the Oregon Ducks in February. They also scored a win against Colorado and were very competitive against an AP Top 5 team in Arizona.
Forwards like Jalen Graham are dropping double digits with regularity late in the season.
Bobby Hurley is one of the sports all-time great point guards. Perhaps he can be the floor general as head coach of the Sun Devils and lead them to a conference crown.
Utah State 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Mountain West Conference
Google the phrase college basketball elder statesman, and Brock Miller’s mug shot might pop up. This team is as aged as the sandy ledge of a mountain boarding the small town of Sandy, Utah. And they can shoot. Sure, big man Neemias Queta moved on to bigger and better things. But there’s still plenty of residue remaining to roll up a run. You could look at their record and say they’re toast. Or, you could look at their record and give props to just how good the Mountain West has been this year. Wyoming, Colorado State, and San Diego State are likely tournament teams regardless of what happens in the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies are only middle of the pack in terms of college basketball’s best three point shooting team. On February 24th they ranked 159th in the nation with a pedestrian 34% from 3PT. However, that’s not indicative of the shooting stroke you could see from senior leaders Miller and Justin Bean. So why not let loose in Vegas and roll the dice with a bunch of bombs from downtown during Champ Week?
George Mason 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Atlantic 10
The Atlantic 10 is filled with teams that are capable of “stealing a bid.” In fact, it will likely happen. Davidson has enjoyed a lead atop the league for most of the season. However, they face stiff competition with St. Louis, VCU, Dayton, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and George Mason, to name a few. George Mason is coached by former Mizzou baller Kim English Jr. They are a bit of a mystery, with a lots of bad losses on their record. However, they have one of the conference’s purest shooters in Colorado transfer D’Shawn Schwartz. 6-9 forward Josh Oduro is having a solid season. He averages 18 points and 7 rebounds on the season. Their wins over St. Bonaventure, Dayton and Richmond should be noted as proof this team could compete for the conference championship.
The list of second generation basketball players seemingly grows each year, with sons of former NBA players competing in college hoops nationwide. Below is a full list of sons of NBA dads we’ve spotted in college basketball. If we have missed any, please tweet us at CBBEyeTest.
CLICK HERE FOR LAST YEAR’S LIST OF SONS OF NBA PLAYERS IN NCAA 2020-2021
The leading man for the second generation players list of 2022 has to be Jabari Smith. He is a likely top lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
As a freshman, Jabari Smith Jr. is leading the Auburn Tigers as a possible future 1 seed for March Madness.
His father, Jabari Smith senior, had a lesser-known NBA career versus some of the names below. He played 108 games in his NBA career.
One of those blasts-from-the-past is Brian Shaw. His son B.J. Shaw wears the same number 20 and competes with UC Davis.
Another important rotation player from that series was Ron Harper. As you may know, his son Ron Harper Jr. is one of the best “juniors” across the college basketball landscape.
Ron Harper Jr. had one of the season’s most memorable moments when his buzzer beater helped defeated the then-number 1 ranked Purdue Boilermakers.
You cannot have a conversation about the 1990s Bulls without talking about Scottie Pippen. Yes, his son is playing college basketball too! Scotty Pippen Jr. is being coached by another all-time NBA great, Jerry Stackhouse, and averaging over 19 points for Vanderbilt in his junior season.
Note that the Generation Z player spells his name with a “Y” while pops spells Scottie with an “i.e.”
What sort of tangent would this article be about the 1990s Bulls without a reference to Dennis Rodman?
Steve Kerr’s son Nick played college basketball with Cal a few years ago, which means that 1996 Bulls team could have fielded a full team of future fathers of college players.
Meantime, those 1996 Orlando Magic had a few scholarship players in their gene pool, too.
The most famous Magic ever, Shaquille O’Neal, has a son playing college hoops right now at LSU.
This story wouldn’t be complete without a Shaq-and-Penny connection. Penny Hardaway is actually coaching his son with the Memphis Tigers in 2021-2022 as well. Jayden Hardaway has earned his minutes over the years and is now a regular rotation player with the Tigers.
The 1990s Eastern Conference is well represented in this list.
Dikembe Mutombo’s son Ryan continues a big man family legacy at Georgetown.
At midseason, Simaki Walker’s son Jabari Walker already had eight double-doubles for Colorado.
Former Indiana Pacers guard Harold Workman’s son Bryce plays D1 ball.
The East Coast doesn’t just dominate this status of talent inheritance. On the West Coast, players like James Keefe of Stanford and Eric Williams Jr. of Oregon are sons of NBA players.
Jamal Mashburn’s son is following in his footsteps, in more ways than one. Jamal Mashburn Jr. has also followed a Pitino coach. In fact, Mashburn Jr. played for Rick Pitino’s son Richard at both Minnesota and now with New Mexico.
New Mexico basketball has two sons of NBA players in the rotation. Eddie House’s son Jaelen House is another scoring guard on the team.
Otis Thorpe’s son DJ Thorpe plays for the Cal Bears.
Here’s another random, 1990s sir name, nostalgic, NBA nugget: Marčiulionis.
Do you remember that name?
The second generation NBA talent discussion has an international flair as the son of Sarunas Marciulionis has been imported from Lithuania to St. Mary’s basketball. Augustus Marciulionis is a 6-4 freshman with the Gaels.
It’s not only the 1990s Eastern Conference powers represented, but also 1980s NBA playoff teams with sons in power 5 schools. Cleveland Cavalier’s great Larry Nance’s son Pete continues carving out his own professional basketball career. That status would mean that he follows in both father, and brother’s, footsteps.
Pete Nance is leading Northwestern as a possible tournament team.
Nance continues a growing trend of second generation players populating the entire Big 10 Conference.
According to IUHoosiers.com, Trayce Jackson-Davis is the “son of for Indiana Pacers standout Dale Davis and Ray and Karla Jackson.”
It’s the season of giving and college basketball is delivering in its last weekend before Christmas.
The schedule for Saturday, December 18th features critically important games in-conference and out of conference.
Let’s start with the much-maligned Memphis Tigers. They have caught criticism because brining on two 17-year-olds (who re-classified in high school) top NBA prospects hasn’t jived yet. After a four game losing streak, they stopped the bleeding with a season saving resume building win against highly ranked Alabama. Today, they have another important regional and non-conference matchup. They catch Tennessee as a 5 point underdog.
Tennessee just recently played Texas Tech in a game that was probably the ugliest watch of the season among top 50 teams. Although Texas Tech has retained its toughness epitomized by since departed coach Chris Beard, neither team could score the ball. Texas Tech won, but it wasn’t pretty. If the Red Raiders show any signs of those same offensive struggles, they’ll get run out of the gym against Gonzaga. The Zags are one of America’s best offenses.
And let’s spend some time with Conference USA. This conference never gets any credit, despite pulling upsets repeatedly in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. You’ve heard of the Hilltoppers because Western Kentucky is always dangerous. Last year, North Texas beat Purdue outright in the field of 64. This year, LA Tech is a real threat with big man Kenneth Lofton, Jr.
On this date, Conference USA gets a chance to prove itself again. UAB is a favorite hosting West Virginia. LA Tech battles with LSU. And Western Kentucky hosts Louisville. No one should be surprised if the conference nets a 2-1 record there.
Meantime, one conference is diving into its conference season full steam ahead. And that’s the Big East. Friday night Creighton blew Villanova out of its gym to immediately shake up the power structure of the conference. On Saturday, Providence has an opportunity to validate its own strong start. They open up conference play, surprisingly as a 6.5 point underdog, against UCONN. Ed Cooley is doing it again. His Friars have started the season 10-1 with wins against top 50 (if not top 25) teams Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Texas Tech. The Friars only loss is to (embattled) Virginia.
A night cap to keep an eye on is the Oregon Baylor game. At first glance, this looks like it should be a blowout for Baylor. But true college basketball fans know better. Oregon has embraced a litany of transfer students and they’re paying the price of patience for that decision. Coach Dana Altman has to, once again, prove his worth as a top coach when it comes to development and continue grooming this group. Right now it’s mixed bag of talent that hasn’t clicked. Meantime, Baylor lost four starters from its national championship team and hasn’t missed a beat. They’ve surprised a lot of people being voted this week as the #1 overall team in the AP Poll.
Thanks for reading this article. Follow CBBEyeTest on Twitter, where author Matty D. shares his observations and predictions. Ahead of every Saturday, he shares his picks against the spread. The current record for his “Suspect Spread Saturday” series is 13-6-1 early in this 2021 season.
The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament overcame COVID-19 in 2020-2021 to produce on of the best tournaments ever. This version of March Madness featured a Cinderella 15 seed nearly making the Elite 8, ten double digit seeds making the field of 32, and one final upset for the record books.
And we buried our lead about 2021’s March Madness. That’s because historic basketball icon UCLA actually made the Final Four as an 11 seed!
Despite the unusual year including quarantines and mask-wearing, college basketball observers shouldn’t be surprised by some of the normal antics. Here are 5 normal ingredients that renewed themselves as fixtures in a melting pot of madness.
6. Skaky Teams Get Shocked in The First Showdown
This happens literally every year. A team that has flirted with the AP Top 10 throughout the season gets bounced in the first pair of days. People look at the roster on paper and ask, “how can this happen?” This year was saw NBA draft pick Jericho Sims surrounded by a fleet of future (possible) lottery picks like Greg Brown and Kai Jones. You watched them lose at home down the stretch of the regular season to other in-conference mid-Top 25 AP programs like West Virginia and Texas Tech and ask “how is this happening?”
5. Leading Scorers Nationwide Need Be Feared Regardless of Conference, Size
If CJ McCollum and Harold “The Show” Arceneaux haven’t taught us anything, then Max Abmas and the Oral Roberts Eagles have made it officially official. The scoring abilities of a guard who ranks top 5 (or first overall) in scoring nationwide can translate in the tournament.
4. CBS Hosts a Questionable Yet Must-See TV Immediate Sunday Matchup
Wichita State basketball fans are still not over the let-down of losing to 8 seed Kentucky on Sunday, March, 23rd of 2014. Sorry, too soon? Yet, they have good company now this season with Illinois basketball fans. Anyone who follows basketball, especially the inner workings of how the bracket is constructed, knows that Illinois had no business playing Loyola Chicago as a 9 seed just 72 hours into the tournament. And yet, it happened. Loyola Chicago was ranked in the neighborhood of the 10th best team in the nation when the tournament started, according to which poll you subscribe to. However, the Sunday matinee television programming of Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers renewing their Cinderella ways against an in-state foe was too flavorful for the NCAA to pass up.
You tell me that NCAA and CBS aren’t working together to make that storyline possible, and I have the Clark Street Bridge I want to sell you. The game was amazing and Loyola Chicago dominated down the stretch to upset the 1 seeded Illinois. It was just too good of a television programming moment for committee and/or television executives to pass up.
And it happened again. The following year, in 2022, Sister Jean returns to the road to root on her Ramblers. That’s because CBS and/or the committee arranged for a perfect All-American showdown against Christian-founded schools, Villanova and Loyola Chicago. And with each team’s early play on Friday, this sets up perfectly for a holy matchup right after Sunday mass. Was this divine intervention on the bracket construction, or might the hands of man have his fingerprints on this one?
In fact, let’s just have the NCAA and TV executive comes out and say it. “We schedule the bracket in such a way to provide great sports drama on television!”
I mean, I for one would not protest that sentiment if it got published to the record. I want sexy matchups in the bracket, but I would prefer we call it for what it is.
3. Getting Back Together with the Ex – NCAA Committee’s Fascination with Reunions
To take this a step further, the orchestration of great storylines goes far beyond this niche Sunday matchup. The committee also loves to arrange for an awkward date between two exes. That also makes for great TV drama! The most recent example is how Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer will be playing against his old team in round 1. The committee didn’t even wait for the field of 32 to re-unite this broken relationship!
The marriage between players and their ex-teams in the field of 64 or the field of 32 has happened countless times. It also frequently happens for coaches. The most recent example that comes to mind is when 11 seeded Arizona State got paired with 6 seeded Buffalo in the first round. That presented an awkward meeting between Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley and his former school. What’s even more suspect in this situation, is that the mid-major team was the higher seed. It’s not only that Buffalo played against its former coach. The players also got the opportunity to play their former coach on the heels of their highest-ever tournament seeding. What drama! And the mid-major Buffalo Bulls in fact did beat the 11 seeded Arizona State Sun Devils in 2019.
2. Play-In Game Winners Gain Momentum and Beat the Odds
Last year, UCLA won it’s play-in game as an 11 seed and continued its magical run all the way to the Final 4. As improbable as this sounds, the play-in game winner has become very dangerous. Those teams carry momentum. They get the natural advantage of getting familiar with the arena on a Tuesday or Wednesday before they play the at-large opponent on Thursday or Friday.
In 2018, Syracuse made the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed after beating Arizona State in the play-in game.
In 2017, 11 seed USC upset (4 loss) SMU in the first round after winning its play-in game.
In 2016, Fred Van Vleet and the 11 seed Wichita State Shockers beat Vanderbilt in the play off game before upsetting 6 seed Arizona.
And so this trend of the 11 seed gaining momentum…is gaining momentum.
Fun fact: In the last 30 years, an 11 seed is much more likely to make a Final 4 as compared to a 6 seed. The last 6 seed to make a Final 4 was the Fab Five in 1993. Meantime, there have been four 11 seeds to make the Final Four since 2006 (George Mason, VCU, Loyola Chicago, and UCLA).
Future NBA Greats Don’t Always Dominate
If you’re a fan of 1990s NBA hoops, think of the best players of the past 3 decades who actually played some college basketball: Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan. None made a Final 4. In fact, most of these greats struggled to advance beyond the first weekend.
Conversely, the media darling doesn’t always excel. Jimmer Fredette and Luka Garza became National Players of the Year, as well as media darlings. However, they never cracked the Sweet 16.
Final Thought: In closing, it’s a murky picture. Some might even say it’s madness. As you pick your bracket in future years, remember that your future NCAA legend should be good, but not too great. The team should be must-see TV, but not have a tragic character whose reputation could never outpace his play. Good luck with that.
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Check out our Elite 8 Articles. Just click on your pick below…
What is the eye test? Here, the eye test means that you celebrate and respect the nuances on the basketball floor that can’t be seen in a stat sheet. A defender can affect an offensive set without a block or steal, a senior can hold an underclassmen accountable with tough love, and a hockey assist can set up a game winning basket. The collegebasketballeyetest.com is dedicated to retweeting and sharing first hand observations, whether that’s from fans inside the arena or watching all the action on television during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Here is a list of the most important players in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, according to the eye test over the stat sheet. In other words, here are the glue guys propelling the best teams in America. Enjoy our starting 5.
PG Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga
In today’s college basketball landscape, with the popularity of “one-and-dones” and “the transfer portal,” it takes a special player to commit to being an upperclassmen at a winning program. Enter Joel Ayayi who entered his junior year at a newly cemented blue blood program, Gonzaga. Ayayi did well in his sophomore campaign as a starting point guard, but still had room to grow. And so when other point guards entered the equation, many other players might have become a flight risk to guarantee playing time. Joel Ayayi stayed. And he proved that he can run among future lottery pick Jalen Suggs and newcomer transfer Andrew Nembhard. Ayayi can control a game with the way he defensive rebounds from the guard position and gets this dangerous offense into instant mode on the other end. His efficiency in the areas of free throw percentage and three pointers has only improved. He has great hands to harass and poke the ball from opponents in the post. Joel Ayayi has elite speed when dribbling. When you think of “getting downhill,” this guy comes to mind. It shouldn’t be a surprise if Ayayi cashes in a triple double in the tournament because his ten points are almost guaranteed and because of the way he rebounds. Consider this: he grabbed 18 rebounds in the game against Iowa and also finished with 6 assists and 11 points. I mean, that’s Iowa! Joel Ayayi is the glue guy we need running any successful Glue Guy All Star Team.
SG Da’Monte Williams, Illinois
One of the secrets to Illinois’s success this season has been the certainty of the rotation. Senior shooting guard Da’Monte Williams started the season at shooting guard, but slid to the bench mid-way into the season to make room for freshmen Adam Miller and Andre Curbello, who started to accumulate more minutes. Did Williams complain? No. He only responded by continuing to check the other team’s most dangerous wing scorer, rebound on all areas of the floor, and take an open 3 pointer with no hesitation to expose teams that haven’t scouted properly. Williams is a strong shooting guard who can help out in a variety of ways in the post. He can have a mean streak on the floor, ripping balls away from opponents and showing lots of fire at both ends. Da’Monte Williams is the type of player championship teams need. Entering the tournament, he should be proud of co-leading the Illini program that he helped re-establish with a 1 seed.
Jordan Schakel might be the Aztecs starting shooting guard, but we are slotting him into the all glue guy team here at small forward. At 6 foot 6, Schakel can confuse the opponent with exactly which position he does play. When starting forward and fellow senior Matt Mitchell was out with injury this mid-season, Schakel picked up the slack in terms of scoring. And so Schakel offers flexibility for the roster. Aztec fans tell me on Twitter that he has started 20 games this season at the shooting guard spot, but can play small forward as well.
Jordan Schakel’s San Diego Aztecs team made it comfortably into March Madness as a 6 seed after winning the Mountain West.
Schakel is third in the nation in 3 point efficiency. He has a knack for knowing when to double the post. Schakel can be seen calling out plays on the defensive end like a veteran linebacker. Jordan Schakel doesn’t block a lot of shots, but when you watch him you’ll see that he contests everything. He plays 29 minutes a game and has reached the 24 point plateau in four games this season. But as you watch him play, you realize he never hunts shots. Still, he averages 14 points per game which is up 4 points from his junior year. This guy is a selfless example on the court and epitomizes what it means to be a glue guy.
PF Kyle Young, Ohio State
Kyle Young ended the season in concussion protocol. The Ohio State Buckeyes need their glue guy if they’re going to advance to a Final Four. Young rebounds, defends the best post player most times, can knock down threes, and definitely shows the best hustle among all the glue guys nationally. Young is the type of player that wins over a neutral crowd with his hustle. It’s too bad that he’s in concussion protocol and that there isn’t a neutral crowd of people this year. Still, Kyle Young is a slam dunk for the All Glue Guy team.
Myles Johnson is cool under pressure and snags the rebound or blocks a shot when his Rutgers team really needs it. He is the prototypical last line of defense that can erase mistakes up front. Moreover, he is just a great player and a total teammate. You can even look to what his leadership has been doing off the court. Myles Johnson has a long wing-span and uses it perfectly for outlet passes and passes from the post. When doing so, he looks like an Olympic Athlete in water polo. His arm slings back and his body patiently buoys before making the right play. He never see him sweat or the paddling underneath. Johnson is a favorite to watch. His effort, rebounding and timely plays are to be admired. In this year’s Big 10, you almost needed a legitimate center to compete for an NCAA bid. Myles Johnson rounds out the All Glue Guy Team with a lot of class.
The full body caricatures were designed by the artist Eilvain on Fiverr.com.