We know about the stars of the 2020-21 college basketball season. The all-Americans and one-and-done elite freshmen. But what about those underrated performers who don’t get the attention they deserve?
Here’s a look at 25 names to remember going forward during this unique college basketball season.
Aluma spent his first two college seasons at Wofford, where he averaged less than 7.0 points. However, the 6-foot-9 Maryland native is off to a strong start for the ranked Hokies. Through his first four contests, Aluma averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. He scored 23 and pulled down eight rebounds during Virginia Tech’s 81-73 overtime win over then-No. 3 Villanova on Nov. 28.
Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert is a preseason all-American, big-man Drew Timme has been surrounded by hype and freshman Jalen Suggs is a blue-chip elite for the Bulldogs. Then there is Ayayi, who has been nothing but solid during his first two seasons with the Zags. Through the first three games of his junior season, now a regular starter, Ayayi averaged 13.7 points, while shooting 57.6 percent, and 7.7. rebounds.
Thompson led Georgetown to the 1984 national championship, becoming the first Black coach to win an NCAA title. In the 1980s, he led the team to three Final Fours. He took over the Georgetown program in 1972, inheriting a team with a 3-23 record.
He recruited and developed four players that now are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson.
Thompson was named Big East coach of the year three times and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1999. His cause of death is unknown.
The NCAA has officially canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, NCAA president Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors said Thursday in a statement.
A Wednesday announcement had suggested the NCAA planned to move forward with the tournaments without fans in attendance. However, in the 24 hours since Wednesday’s press release was issued, the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS have all postponed their seasons, and virtually every Division I conference canceled their own tournaments, prompting the NCAA to reconsider its stance.
The NCAA said in its statement:
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”
In a statement released Wednesday, based on a recommendation from the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that no fans would be allowed to attend NCAA Tournament games to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Only essential staff and limited family attendance” will be permitted, the statement said.
Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | January 21, 2020 by Shane McNichol
The four days between Selection Sunday and the round of 64 games of the NCAA Tournament is one of the most fun periods for sports fans. Brackets are distributed, analyzed and agonized over. Everyone has a common goal: find the Cinderella team.
There are few joys as sweet as predicting an upset, especially when the team you stood up for makes a run past the first weekend.
Finding the teams capable of an upset is certainly easier once the field is set, yet there is some real value to checking in on possible Cinderellas earlier on in the schedule. Let’s take a look at teams with a chance to make waves in March, limiting our search to mid-major teams currently rated no higher than a 11 seed in ESPN’s most recent bracket projection.
Before this season, the Dukes would not have figured into a list like this one. The program has been in a nearly permanent downturn, winning more than 20 games in a season just twice in the last 40 years. It came as a surprise then when the Dukes started 10-0, with just three teams left unbeaten when they suffered their first loss on December 22. Duquesne’s early schedule helped. The Dukes played no true road games and didn’t face a KenPom top-100 team in their first 10 games.
Even after losing two games, Duquesne looks like a team to fear in the Atlantic 10. Wins over Davidson and Saint Louis has the Dukes tied atop the conference standings. Defense has been a strong point, as Duquesne leads the nation in block rate. Junior big man Michael Hughes swats 5.2 shots per 40 minutes, and Duquesne only allows a conference-low 60.0 points per game in A-10 play.
The case against Duquesne comes from their competition atop the conference standings. Dayton is a true top-10 team and Final Four contender, meaning Duquesne likely needs to beat the Flyers (or pick up crucial quality wins over Richmond or VCU) or win the A-10 Tournament to reach the Big Dance.
4. Stephen F. Austin
While Duquesne might have a prayer at an at-large bid, Stephen F. Austin does not. The Lumberjacks are the only KenPom top-150 team in the Southland and only played three power conference teams in their nonconference schedule. The Lumberjacks’ play against top competition was positive, though. Stephen F. Austin played Rutgers and Alabama tough, and most memorably, topped Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium at the buzzer in overtime.
Stephen F. Austin has a history of NCAA Tournament success, appearing in four of the last six tourneys. The Lumberjacks won first-round games in 2014 and 2016, with a last second tip-in from Notre Dame stealing a spot in the Sweet Sixteen away from SFA.
All of those Lumberjack teams shared one common trait: fierce pressure defense. The Jacks have led the nation in forcing turnovers in three of the last five seasons and haven’t ranked outside of the top 30 in that stat since 2013. Division I teams are averaging about 13 turnovers per game this year. Just one of Stephen F. Austin’s opponents was able to stay south of 15 turnovers, while 12 teams have coughed it up more than 20 times against the Jacks. In the pressure of the Big Dance, that makes for a terrifying opponent.
The only thing as scary as meeting a high-octane defense in the NCAA Tournament? Facing a team that can score from all over the court.
The Zips shoot the 9th-best 3-point percentage in Division I and lead the Mid-American Conference in points and 3-pointers made. Junior guard Loren Cristian Jackson is sinking 45 percent from long range against DI opponents and scoring 17.5 points per game. Three other Zips hoist more than four threes per game and make better than 36 percent from outside the arc. Akron can space and attack a defense as well as any team in college basketball.
The Zips gave Louisville and West Virginia tough tests on the road, but Akron had two of its worst shooting performances in those games. If they catch fire in March, they can upend their portion of the bracket.
Everything in college basketball changes when conference play begins.
Those in power have done wonders to drum up interest in early-season action, with big name teams being featured in tournaments and showcases for the first few months of the season. But blowout wins over cupcake opponents and sloppy early-season play are littered throughout that part of the schedule.
Conference play brings rivalries, road games with student-sections, and a landslide of upsets. In short, it’s the reason we love college basketball. On top of that, succeeding in one of America’s toughest conferences is the best way to prove yourself before March Madness tips off.
With that in mind, here are the early favorites to win the six biggest conferences in college hoops.
ACC – Duke
The Blue Devils might be the boring and obvious pick, but at this point in the season, they are also the most qualified. Duke’s overtime home loss to Stephen F. Austin was a bad mishap, but it’s their only blemish so far. Aside from that slip-up, Duke has impressed with wins over Michigan State, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami.
The ACC’s other top contender, Louisville, lost at home to Florida State this weekend and only gets to play Duke once this season — a road game at Cameron Indoor. Advantage to the Blue Devils.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Big East – Butler
It’s always somewhat shocking to pencil anyone into a Big East title that is not Villanova, yet Butler’s play so far this season has been eye-popping enough to earn this level of respect. The Bulldogs have just one loss, by one point at 4th-ranked Baylor.
Head coach LaVall Jordan has Butler winning games on the defensive end of the floor. The Bulldogs rank fourth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, thanks to top-ten performances in 3-point percentage allowed, effective field goal percentage allowed and defensive rebounding rate. Butler fights to get stops and follows them with rebounds.
Offensively, everything churns through senior guard Kamar Baldwin. His 14.7 point per game average doesn’t fully explain how capable he is of taking over a game in crunch time.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Big Ten – Michigan State
A few weeks ago, when Ohio State was 9-0 and ranked in the top three in the AP Poll, this answer would have been different. Back then, Michigan State was just 6-3 and clearly had some issues on the offensive end.
Since December 8, Ohio State has lost three of its last five games, while Michigan State has sparked a six-game winning streak. The Spartans are now two games ahead of the Buckeyes in the loss column in Big Ten play and sit a full 1.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference in the standings.
Make no mistake — the Big Ten is college basketball’s toughest conference and will be an absolute battle all season long. Even so, any team eager to compete for the title will need to go into the Breslin Center in East Lansing and win. With Tom Izzo on the sidelines and Cassius Winston patrolling the court for Sparty, that’s not likely to happen much, if at all, this season.
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard got his first taste of the school’s rivalry with Michigan State from a coaching perspective on Sunday, and it didn’t go so great.
Things started getting away from the Wolverines in the second half, as Michigan State star Cassius Winston began to heat up. Howard was also angry that no foul was called while Michigan forward Austin Davis was driving to the basket, and that led him to run all the way onto the court while the Spartans were in the middle of a fast break.
Howard’s technical actually meant that the referees had to stop play and wipe out a Winston three, so in a strange way, it benefited the Wolverines in terms of the score at that moment.
If there was any doubt about James Wiseman’s college future, it was settled on Friday.
Wiseman, the Memphis freshman who is expected to be a top NBA draft pick, has officially signed with Excel Sports for his NBA representation. This officially wipes out his NCAA eligibility.
This was the next logical step after Wiseman withdrew from Memphis just over a week ago. He doesn’t appear to have any plans to temporarily play overseas and is just going to focus on being as ready as possible for the June draft. It’s risky, but teams are already well-aware of him and what he can bring.
Wiseman’s eligibility had already been in question over money he received from coach Penny Hardaway to move to Memphis. He won’t face any further consequences as a result of that, but the school might well be paying for its decision to play Wiseman with questions about his eligibility for some time to come.
The 2010s were a wonderful time in college basketball that saw a variety of great teams and great players come through some great arenas and gyms in the country. There were can’t-miss one-and-dones as well as four-year players who developed over time. Some became big-time NBA stars, and others found their professional paths taking them elsewhere.
We will attempt to wade through all the great talent of the past decade and pick the players to fill our 13 allotted spots to form our All-Decade team. The list includes two No. 1 overall picks and eight Naismith Award winners. Enjoy!
1 of 13
Jalen Brunson, Villanova
Brunson has the distinction of starting for two national championship teams. In 2016 he was more of a role player, as Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beater to beat North Carolina for the NCAA championship. He was a much larger part of the equation for a Villanova team that in 2017-2018 was ridiculously efficient and a lethal three-point shooting squad. The national Player of the Year was the perfect point guard for a team whose offense had some many diverse weapons but needed the right leader to bring it all together. He averaged 18.9 points and 4.6 assists for the 2018 national champions.
2 of 13
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis may be the best player of the 2010s and certainly had the best freshman season of the decade. Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game in 2011-2012, earning him national Freshman of the Year honors as well as numerous Player of the Year awards. His 188 blocks that season were more than what most Division I teams had all year. To top it all off, Davis led Kentucky to the 2012 national championship where he earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.
3 of 13
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
“Jimmer Mania” ushered us into this decade. As a senior in 2010-2011, Fredette led the nation in scoring (28.9 ppg) and was the consensus National Player of the Year. Despite playing at BYU, his games were of national interest and his scoring exploits were a regular feature on highlight shows…including a 47-point effort against over Utah where he hit a half-court shot to close out a 32-point first half. He set many school and Mountain West Conference records and became a folk hero of sorts for fans around the country who were craving a Steph Curry-like, long-range gunner.
4 of 13
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Hield was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year but it was his senior season that stands out as one of the best of the decade. In 2015-2016, Hield averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 45.7 percent from three and winning the Wooden Award as the top player in the nation. This is how good Hield was: After scoring 46 points in a win over Kansas at “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks fans gave him an ovation. He would lift the Sooners to the 2016 Final Four before a nine-point effort from Hield ended their season in a 44-point route by Villanova.
5 of 13
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Unlike many on this list, Kaminsky wasn’t a highly rated high school star nor was he the prototypical scorer one associates with an eventual national Player of the Year. He broke out during his junior season when he finally made it into the starting lineup and raised his scoring average from 4.2 to 13.9 ppg. As a senior, it increased to 18.8 points, which was quite a feat considering the Badgers played a deliberate style of offense. He was huge in Wisconsin’s win over undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four before losing to Duke in the NCAA championship game. Not only was Kaminsky tough to deal with in the post, but he also shot over 41 percent from three during that senior season.
6 of 13
Frank Mason III, Kansas
Mason was many different things during his four years at Kansas. He was a role player who was the tough-minded point guard then became an All-Defensive player as a junior. As a senior he shined, averaging 20.9 points and 5.2 assists, winning the Bob Cousy Award, and he became the national Player of the Year. It wasn’t just that he was a good player all year, but he also was at his best in the biggest games and one of the toughest guards of this decade.
7 of 13
Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott had arguably the best four-year career of anyone in the past decade. He was a three-time First Team All-American, a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and the 2013-2014 leading scorer and Wooden Award winner. When he finished his college career, he was fifth all time in scoring. He could put up points in a variety of ways as a post player and a shooter. (He made 49 percent of his threes as a junior.) He wasn’t just a great scorer though. As a senior he gave up his scholarship and became a walk-on to give a teammate a scholarship opportunity.
8 of 13
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Okafor dominated the paint in Duke’s national championship season of 2014-2015. He was one of the more efficient big men whose combination of footwork and soft touch overwhelmed opponents who already had to deal with Duke’s other weapons. For the year, Okafor averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while winning the ACC’s Player of the Year Award. That team had a major impact on Mike Krzyzewski’s recruiting philosophy of taking on more and more one-and-done players.
9 of 13
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
People tend to forget about how good Sullinger, a Columbus native, was for Ohio State. As a freshman, he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds and helped lead the Buckeyes to a 34-3 record and the top overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. He led them to the Final Four the following year, as his stats stayed around the same but he became a much better outside shooter.
10 of 13
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Valentine was a do-everything offensive talent at Michigan State. In his senior season, he averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists for the Spartans and won several national Player of the Year Awards. In a win over Kansas, Valentine became just the fourth Spartan to record a triple-double, joining Magic Johnson, Draymond Green and Charlie Bell. His unique blend of size and athleticism mixed with being a 44 percent three-point shooter made him a matchup nightmare. 11 of 13
Kemba Walker, UConn
Walker’s run in March 2011 is legendary. The Huskies finished 9-9 in the Big East standings but used an epic five-wins-in-five-nights conference tournament run (which included a buzzer beater against Pittsburgh) to lock down an NCAA Tournament berth. Once in the Big Dance, Walker carried UConn on his back and led it to the program’s third national championship. In that junior season, he averaged 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists and was a finalist for several Player of the Year Awards.
12 of 13
Zion Williamson, Duke
Have you heard of him? Williamson took college basketball by storm in 2018-2019, as it seemed as if every moment of his college career was dissected and debated. It was certainly covered by ESPN with a streaming series and wall-to-wall coverage of his exploits. (The network even had a camera devoted to him when he was injured.) His powerful yet graceful dunks filled highlight shows, but it was his motor and smile that made him a fan favorite. Sure the media overkill turned some fans away, but his impact on the sport was undeniable even if for just one season.
13 of 13
Trae Young, Oklahoma
Young led the nation in scoring in 2017-2018 with a 27.4 ppg average. He also led the country in assists that season (8.7), becoming the first player to ever head both categories. Seriously…how does that happen? He got off to a hot start at the beginning of the season before the Sooners cooled off a bit during conference play, as turnovers and his defense were criticized. Still there was no playmaker like Young all decade long. His 22 assists against Northwestern State tied the single-game record.
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