By John Fanta
This was supposed to be college basketball’s big night – Championship Monday. While COVD-19 has cut that and so many other events off, here’s to hoping you are safe and healthy with your families.
- Transfer Market is Heating Up
While these times are challenging, we can still talk some college basketball. My overarching thought at the moment? “Transfers are at an all-time high” has become a phrase that we end up saying every year in the sport. Last year, there were in and around 500 players who entered the portal. This year is trending to go beyond that mark, and there’s an added element potentially. The NCAA is still in deep talks to potentially end the rule for undergraduate players to have to sit out a year before they can play at their new school. This would allow players to be immediately eligible. If this decision occurred, it could lead to as big of an avalanche as we’ve seen.
In just the last 24 hours, Ohio State point guard Luther Muhammad and Purdue 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms have announced that they’re transferring. It was already gotten compared to NBA free agency in regards to the amount of movement in the sport. That will only increase with immediate eligibility.
Here are three more thoughts across the world of college hoops:
- Blue Bloods, New Blood
What’s not new? Duke and Kentucky as consensus Top-10 preseason teams. That’s what you can expect heading into 2020-21. What is new? Freshman backcourts that expect to make a high impact. Gone will be Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans for the Wildcats, as well as potentially Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley. The trio of five-star prospects coming into Kentucky will be thrown right into the backcourt, with Mater Dei product Devin Askew stepping in at point guard and a pair of wings in Brewster Academy’s Terrence Clarke and Sierra Canyon’s BJ Boston joining him. Clarke and Boston are two of the top seven recruits in the nation according to 247 Sports. You could expect John Calipari to go after a grad transfer to help stabilize the freshman next season as well.
Mike Krzyzewski does not have as drastic of a turnover, but loses a player that he’s called a godsend in Tre Jones. Like Calipari, Coach K ushers in a five-star trio as well, with point guard Jeremy Roach (Paul VI Catholic), combo guard DJ Steward (Whitney Young) and the highest-ranked Blue Devil prospect, small forward Jalen Johnson (Nicolet) coming in.
- Rick Pitino’s Return is Good for College Basketball
Why? Because Rick Pitino is one of the best coaches in the history of the sport. He’s a palpable figure in the sport, and his return – coming at Iona – is a fascinating storyline. In recruiting, Pitino’s already reeled in a six-member class for 2020, highlighted by three-star Christ the King prospect Ryan Myers. In scheduling, the Gaels have already upgraded just by these discussions taking place. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported Monday that Pitino is working on securing a date with Minnesota at Madison Square Garden next season. That would mean Rick would face his son Richard inside The World’s Most Famous Arena. Pitino also told Rothstein that the Gaels would play Kentucky at Rupp Arena if the Wildcats returned the game at MSG. For a figure this monumental in the sport of college basketball to take over a MAAC school in Iona provides such a unique situation. The Gaels have been the kings of the conference, so winning won’t be new. The buzz around it will be, and it will be fascinating if (and inevitably when) Iona is back in the big dance with Pitino on the sidelines.
- No Slowing Down in Omaha
Creighton was selected seventh in the Big East Preseason Poll. The Bluejays finished seventh…in the AP Top 25. With all five starters back, and 95 percent of its scoring, Creighton has Final Four potential heading into 2020-21. Rising junior point guard Marcus Zegarowski, an AP All-America Honorable Mention selection, is one of the best at the one position in college basketball. Accompanied by Ty-Shon Alexander, a wing who took a large leap defensively, and the underrated sharpshooter Mitch Ballock, the Jays have the perfect senior duo built for something special. Greg McDermott’s program could be argued as the team to beat in the Big East heading into next season.
The Wooden Award is up for grabs with two represented in the Big East
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