For two years running, champions did not play during the “Champions Classic.” We mention this, only because the inflated rankings ahead of a nationally televised ESPN game, is almost laughable. Last year, Michigan State came into the Champions Classic ranked 13th in the nation. They finished week 18 of the AP rankings at season’s end outside of the top 25. In fact, they only received one AP voter’s vote. Yet, for tonight, it’s #1 versus #2. And we should be happy that college basketball season has arrived!
BY MATTY D.
For us college basketball junkies, the NBA Summer League is Christmas in July. It’s like watching an All-Star game of America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association players. There’s even a nostalgia about it. When Johnny O’Bryant III and Jarnell Stokes jump to the top of the stat charts for points and rebounds, you reflect on how it “felt like yesterday” you saw them as 18-year-olds flexing their way through the SEC. But for them it’s serious. So many super talented American athletes will never make an NBA roster. The Jarnell and Johnny’s of the basketball world have seen how hard it is over theses few years. And here are the rookies that we see making an NBA roster in 2017-18, despite not being selected in the first round.
5. Nigel Williams-Goss, Utah Jazz, former Gonzaga Bulldog
Obviously, the loss of Gordon Hayward opens the Jazz up to a vacancy for another primary ball-handlers. Williams-Goss already looked like a pro while running point for the Final 4-bound Gonzaga Bulldogs. He averaged 5 assists per game across his collegiate career. We could easily see Williams-Goss behind Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum at the point guard depth chart.
4. Anthony Gill, Cavaliers, former Virginia Cavalier
A Virginia Cav becomes a Cleveland Cav. And you have to think that LeBron James fully aware of what Gill’s fellow UV teammate, Malcolm Brogdon, did with up-and-coming East Coast contending Milwaukee Bucks. Virginia and Tony Bennett specifically is solidifying a reputation of planting rotation-ready players in the NBA. The Cavs are in desperate need to get younger. Players like Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson might have difficulty keeping a roster spot with what Gill brings in terms of low post grit. In college, Gill played power forward (even center at times when fellow summer leaguer Mike Tobey was on the bench). In the NBA and on the Cavaliers rotation, he can be a slightly smaller version of the types of things Tristan Thompson brings to the court.
3. Reggie Upshaw Jr., Milwaukee Bucks, former Middle Tennessee State Raider
This guy is a winner. Upshaw Jr.’s eye test report showed us how his sweet left-handed jumper and ability to stretch the defense propelled his Raiders to March Madness upsets. He looks like a Michael Beasley with the addition of court-awareness. His college team was a bunch that enjoyed rugged defense that turned into up-tempo offense. And Upshaw was the most athletic in a cast of finishers. The Bucks are seemingly stockpiling a bunch of hybrid forwards like Upshaw (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Thon Maker), so he would hypothetically be in great company to model his game for the NBA.
2. Caleb Swanigan, Portland Trailblazers, former Purdue Boilmaker
College Basketball Eye Test.com’s founder Matty D. is glad he started trolling Chad Ford in the winter of 2017 about Swanigan’s first round draft-worthy game. This kid’s got game. For all the so-called draft experts who said he was too slow and unathletic, we have one question for you. Was that same question uttered about Detroit Piston champion Ben Wallace? Because “Biggie” Swanigan’s game is looking more and more like a carbon copy—only Swanigan has the midrange jump shot and offensive foot work. In a city where Zach Collins was drafted first round, Portland may just have discovered that their best two forwards are rookies.
- Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors, former Oregon Duck
The rich get richer. Jordan Bell is an elite shot-blocker. On a roster where rangy defenders like Andre Iguadala, Kevin Durant, Draymon Green and Klay Thompson already cover a lot of ground, Bell’s wingspan could help make up for any lapses. We leave you with this example…
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BY MATT DE SARLE
It’s the Final 4. By now, each team has proven it belongs. But there is one matchup that we, as college basketball fans, cannot help but root for.
UNC versus Gonzaga would be the perfect pairing of polar opposites. But it would be the perfect alignment of player matchups that would give this fantastic 2017 NCAA Tournament the climax it deserves.
Gonzaga, the mid-major power nestled in the wildness of the West Coast. Give coach Mark Few all the credit for building this program to it’s current stature, but the West Coast Conference is still a mid-major conference.
UNC, a true blue blood across the college basketball landscape, with any East Coast bias easily bolstered by basketball legends like Michael Jordan and vocal ACC alumnus like Jay Bilas.
On the court, you’d have a smattering of guards that can handle this moment. For Gonzaga, it’s Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins and Jordan Matthews who will handle the load. On UNC it’s Joel Berry and Nate Britt. Like champion NCAA guards in the last two decades (think Khalid El-Amin, Nolan Smith, Peyton Siva, Sherron Collins, Mateen Cleaves), none of these guards may ever be an NBA All-Star. But, within the next 48 hours, they can be champions.
At the center of the action are two giants who have been playing college ball, it seems, since George W. was in office. Przemek Karnowki had his college basketball tenure extended by a nasty back injury. Kennedy Meeks’s McDonald’s All-American appearance was beside current, experienced NBA mainstays like Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. This would be a fun battle to watch down low with a combined weight (generously listed) at 564 pounds being tossed around.
And every memorable championship game needs the pinning of two X factors against one another. Both teams have that under appreciated do-it-all 4 man in Jonathan Williams and Isaiah Hicks. Each is listed at 6-9. Each is capable of guarding a hot shooter or agile post threat. Each could easily walk away from this game with a double-double and Final Four MVP recognition.
And then, there’s the thoroughbred. No one is playing better across the nation than Justin Jackson right now. He has aptly been compared to Richard Hamilton during CBS/Turner Sports telecasts of the Sweet 16. Our fingers are crossed that this NCAA Title game can be as rewarding as the one between UCONN and Duke that featured Hamilton in 1998.
10. Isaiah Zierden, Creighton
We start with a classic barbershop part and neat comb.
9. Ky Boyman, Boston College
Boston College may not be in the tournament, but that won’t stop this “red head” from cracking our top ten.
8. London Perrantes, Virginia
Are you old enough to remember Kid n’ Play?
7. Xavier Cooks, Winthrop
The Winthrop big man alternates between Bone Thugs and Bob Marley
6. D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin
Beware opponents, it’s building towards a Taxi Driver look
5. Dylan Ennis, Oregon
Just a touch of Oregon’s neon yellow.
4. Hanner Mosquer-Perea, ETSU
He spent his layover year after the Indiana transfer to master his hairdoo.
3. Justin Tillman, VCU
Sensational hair, posterized
2. Jalen Moore, Utah State
Jalen returned for his senior season to make this list
1. Kyle Guy, Virginia
The man bun wins.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will feature many dangerous mid-major programs. Matty D. previews 5 potential Cinderella teams for 2017.
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Yes. Florida State’s basketball team is really good. The Seminoles are a perfect example of why the eye test is important. There could be a moment when you are watching this Florida State team dominating a half during the elite 8 and ask yourself, “why didn’t I know about these guys?” The Seminoles have three pros. Jonathan Isaac and Dwyane Bacon are locks. I would argue Xavier Rathan-Mayes will make an NBA roster. And that trio epitomizes why this Florida State team is special. Generally, like Virginia and Wisconsin, coach Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State teams are known for their defense, but an inevitable scoring drought would kill them in the tournament. Not this team. Rathan-Mayes stormed into the SEC in his freshman year, scoring at will. Now, as a junior, his game has evolved into a traditional point guard, something that this talented Seminoles squad needs. Senior center Michael Ojo (like Villanova champion Daniel Ochefu) is the typical under-appreciated utility center who does his job. If Bacon or Isaac play offense like the first round picks they’re projected to be, this is a very dangerous team.