Who is the mid-major coach that will be the hot name on the market this coming spring?
Gregg Marshall will be one of the top hottest names on the coaching market this coming off-season.
Gary Randazzo – I don’t know if you can consider a school with the national prominence of Harvard a mid-major, but technically the Crimson qualify by basketball standards. Tommy Amaker has been beyond impressive in leading his team to an Ivy League title and securing the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1946. He was a star player for Duke, and is part of Mike Krzyzewski’s legendary coaching tree. VCU’s Shaka Smart is probably the most obvious pick, especially considering the Illinois job is open. As others have pointed out, whether he’s ‘looking’ or not Butler’s Brad Stevens will always top most wish lists during the off season.
Chris Fisher – VCU's Shaka Smart is making his second go around as the chic name as a potential replacement but look for Wichita State's Gregg Marshall to be mentioned for several openings as well. Marshall helped build the Winthrop program into an NCAA Tournament team before doing the same with the Shockers.
Brad Allis - Obviously Shaka Smart will be the No. 1 target for most big time programs and I’d expect Illinois to make a huge push thanks to his ties to the area. Long Beach State’s Dan Monson already had his chance at a high major program, but Minnesota is a tough place to win. Monson will need the right opportunity, but he could get another shot. Butler’s Brad Stevens missed the tournament, but he can still have any job he wants and after the difficulties this season, he may look for greener pastures. Dayton’s Archie Miller is probably a year or two away from leaving the A-10 school, but expect him to be at a High Major sooner rather than later.
William Gunter – Shaka Smart and Gregg Marshall are the two big names that are on the market and will certainly command the attention of any big name program looking for a coach. An under the radar candidate that should get more attention to is Belmont head man Rick Byrd. Although his age could be a question as he is almost 59 however Byrd has done big things at Belmont including five trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last seven years.
Horace Neysmith - I know Shaka went down this road last year after his Final Four finish in 2011 but he would have to a front runner right now. He came back with another good year and upset the coach I would select as another hot target this Spring, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State. Marshall has done a good job and is bound to be a target of programs looking to take a step forward.
Will the conference changes by Memphis and West Virginia have any effect on their recruiting?
GR – No for Memphis. Josh Pastner recruited the south when he was an assistant coach and lead recruiter at Arizona under Lute Olson and as an assistant under John Calipari at Kentucky. I don’t see Pastner varying from a recruiting formula that has gotten him to this point. He’s already demonstrated an ability to secure top talent from the Memphis market for the Tigers, and has always had deep ties throughout the state of Texas, especially the Houston market. I doubt his approach will change in the years ahead. West Virginia is a different story. The Mountaineers are accustomed to battling it out with other Big East schools for prime targets in basketball rich markets like Philadelphia and NYC. Will these same players be as excited to play in the Big 12 compared to the Big East? Personally, I’m not seeing it. Bob Huggins may lure some east coast talent, but he’ll need to figure out some ways to break into the south and lower Midwest markets, which may prove difficult initially.
CF – While Memphis will be aided by the ability to now recruit to what is viewed as a marquee conference, it may be more difficult for both the Tigers to kids from the south to play the majority of their games in the northeast and West Virginia to recruit kids largely from the northeast to play most of their games in the Midwest.
West Virginia moving to the Big 12 could have an impact on recruiting the northeast region.
BA - Memphis does not need much help, but playing Louisville, Cincy and UConn instead of UTEP, SMU and Southern Miss can only help. Josh Pastner is an ace recruiter and being the Big East will make him even tougher on the trail. West Virginia is another story. They will probably be fine as long as Bob Huggins is there, but will Northeast kids want to give up road games in places like D.C., NYC and Ohio, to play in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas? It’s still big time basketball, but the Mountaineers may have to alter their philosophy a bit.
WG – Memphis will likely receive an added boast as they can now make more of an impact in the northeast as the Tigers will have yearly games at Connecticut, St.John’s, Seton Hall and with Villanova in the Philadelphia area and Georgetown in the DC area. West Virginia on the other hand trades all that for games in the Midwest. I do not think it is a good trade off as West Virginia can now make a move maybe in the Texas market but probably loses a good bit of the northeast market.
HN - The most negative impact on recruiting I believe will be for West Virginia. The Mountaineers have made a living off the NY/NJ area, mostly due to the stronghold of the Big East in the Tri-State area, that will be lost playing in the Southwest. Memphis going to the Big East opens up their recruiting base to the Northeast and brings back former conference rivals Louisville, Marquette, Cincy, and Depaul.
Which college prospect this year is likely to make the biggest impact in the NBA next season?
GR – Kentucky’s Anthony Davis has all the makings of an NBA star. I expect him to help lead the Wildcats on a deep tournament run in the weeks ahead, adding to his allure as the top pick in June’s NBA lottery. Out west, one reason why the Pac-12 struggled so much this season was the simple fact that there were very few, if any, NBA ready players on league rosters. It’s likely that Washington will lose two of its impact players, freshman guard Tony Wroten and small forward Terrence Ross. Unfortunately, despite each having a strong season, they didn’t have much of an impact in helping Washington turn the corner. As a result, I don’t see either making a big splash in the NBA as rookies next year. One player I’ll be most interested in is Xavier’s Tu Holloway. He’s better known this season for instigating the massive brawl with Cincinnati, but he’s an absolute scoring machine and has the skills to transition to the point guard position on the next level.
CF – Kentucky's Anthony Davis. He's already shown how much he can impact the game on the defensive end but what's scary is that Davis is just now beginning to scratch the surface of his potential offensively. NBA scouts and GMs consider Davis to be a can't miss prospect and as he gets more and more comfortable, his offensive game will come to resemble something between Chris Bosh and Kevin Durant with the defensive prowess of a Marcus Camby.
BA - Because of his defense, Anthony Davis will be able to find a spot from day one. While his offense may not be fully formed from day one, his ability to alter and block shots should get him into a starting line-up right away. While other players may ebb and flow, Davis could have a nice consistent baseline of success.
WG – I thought Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger was the most NBA ready player last year and that opinion has not changed this year. In fact, Sullinger appears to have slimmed down and has averaged a double-double this year with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sullinger should be able to step right in for anytime next season and put up solid numbers right off the bat on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor.
Jared Sullinger averaged a 17 points and 10 rebounds this season and will be one of the top players picked in the upcoming NBA draft
HN - Thomas Robinson. I love his strength, toughness, motor and athleticism. Robinson has improved every year and is physically ready for the next level, giving him the nod over the other top prospects. Harrison Barnes also comes to mind.
Which top player in the 2013 class is poised to have a big summer and potentially make a big jump in the rankings?
GR – I’ll have my eyes on point guard Ikenna Iroegbu and do-everything prospect Jordan Banks. Iroegbu, who will again suit up for the Belmont Shores traveling team, returns to Los Angeles after spending his junior season far from home at Oak Hill Academy. Iroegbu has tons of talent, but was erratic last spring and summer on the AAU circuit. I’ll be interested to see if he’s been able to hone his skills to match his athleticism after playing a year at Oak Hill. Similarly, Banks is another west coast prospect who has lived in the shadows of 2012 Arizona Gabe York in both high school (Orange Lutheran) and in AAU ball (Compton Magic). Banks really came into his own this season for Orange Lutheran, helping to lead his club to a California CIF Southern Section 1A title, and a second round appearance in the state tournament. Like Iroegbu, he plays for one of the more prominent AAU clubs out west and will have plenty of opportunities to go up against the nation’s best in the months ahead. Lastly, highly-touted shooting guard Jabari Bird (Salesian High School/Drew Gooden Soldiers AAU) will either live up to his high player ranking, or continue to mystify me with his inconsistent play. Bird has one of the prettiest jump shots around and can get off the floor with the best of them. However, is he a star or a role player? Last summer he filled a team need. This summer the Drew Gooden Soldiers will ask him to be a star.
CF – Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind shooting guard Jajuan Johnson – Don't be surprised if you see the lanky 6-foot-4 guard in the 5-star range before all is said and done. Johnson is a scoring machine who has drawn comparisons to Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry. His length and athleticism also make him a terror on the defensive end, where he can play passing lanes and get out in transition.
BA - If Jordan Bell can continue to improve his offense, then he has the athleticism and explosiveness to be an impact player. Right now he is a shot blocker and rebounder who gets most of his points by being aggressive. If he develops some polish, watch out. Ikenna Iroegbu was one of the hot young point guards at the start of last summer, but needs some big performances to move back up the rankings. He has the speed and size to be an elite point guard, but he has to learn to play under control and make good decisions. He does that and he has a chance to be a top-15 point guard in the class. If he doesn’t, a mid major is going to add some serious speed two years from now.
WG – Two players that could have a big spring and summer and really boost their stock is Miami guard Sam Singer (Miami, Fla/Ransom Everglades) who went for a 51 point game this year and appears poised to showcase versatility with Florida Gold Coast. Another player to keep an eye on is Texas forward Jordan Mickey (Arlington, TX/Grace Prep). The 6-foot-7 forward seems to get better each time out and plays with a high motor that makes him tough to keep off the boards around the basket. Mickey is the type of athlete that can have a big time game and explode on the scene.
HN - If Austin Nichols has spent time in the weight room he can have a huge impact this spring/summer and climb the rankings. Nichols is a skilled forward who can use both hands within 10 feet of the basket. He can shoot it to 17 feet and is a solid passer, making him a valued high post option. The added strength will allow him better post position against bigger defenders and will make him tougher defensively and on the glass.