University basketball broadcaster and reporter
With just over a week to go from the conclusion of one of the NCAA’s wildest tournaments, college basketball’s heavyweights are working to prove that this year’s collection of teams in the Final Four, outside of ‘UConn was indeed an aberration. And the programs that have the most ownership aren’t doing it by poaching talent from the transfer window, where more than 20% of Division I players currently reside, but by keeping the players they have.
Duke’s case is as strong as any for a preseason No. 1 ranking heading into 2023-24, and it will be hard to beat where the Blue Devils are right now. ACC freshman Kyle Filipowski made the unique choice to return to school despite being a potential top-20 NBA Draft pick, joining guard Tyrese Proctor and to striker Mark Mitchell to decide to return to Durham.
In addition, the Blue Devils will bring in four 5-star recruits, and that’s not counting Mackenzie Mgbako (No. 7 overall recruit for 2023 by 247 Sports) who reopened his recruitment after Filipowski’s decision to return. Averaging 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season on 44 percent shooting, the 7-foot-7 Filipowski stole the show in Durham and has become one of the best big men in college basketball .
The next big story for Duke will be whatever Jeremy Roach decides to make. After a junior year in which the 21-year-old averaged 13.6 points and 3.1 assists per game on 43 percent shooting, the Blue Devils point guard declared for the draft while maintaining the your eligibility for college.
My take on this decision: Roach is a very good college player and his value will never be as great as it would be if he returned to Duke for his senior season. There are NIL opportunities for him in Durham that could very well go beyond what he would do at the pro level, and Roach could cement his name in the history books by leading the program to the national championship. If Roach returns, Duke will be a clear preseason No. 1 entering next season.
Regardless, in a world where the Bluebloods are criticized for winning recruiting wars but not having the experienced horses to get the job done in March, that won’t be the case for Scheyer entering his second season at Duke. He’ll have the best of both worlds, and if Proctor carries the late-season momentum he had next season into the backcourt, the Blue Devils could end up being a standout unit.
But Duke isn’t the only big-name program getting big performance news. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are a lock for a preseason top-10 spot and should be considered a national title contender entering 2023-24. Because? Because the Spartans have gotten old and the Hall of Famer will keep his entire starting court intact heading into next season.
The biggest news came from Tyson Walker, who announced on Monday that he would be returning for a fifth season. Walker, a transfer who came to East Lansing after two years at Northeastern, went from a questionable guard to one of the best backcourt players in the country.
His return gives Izzo a closer and a star, as Walker posted 15 points and three assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor, which included a pair of 30-point efforts in the Big Ten game and a total of seven games to 20 or 20. more. He will join senior AJ Hoggard and junior Jaden Akins on the perimeter. Hoggard is the primary distributor, having dished out six assists per game last season, while also having the knack for big scoring performances, while Akins came into his own down the stretch with six outings. double figures in the last seven games.
The momentum continued for the Spartans on Tuesday when 6-foot-8 small forward Malik Hall announced he would return for a fifth season in East Lansing. Hall’s versatility and length make him a tough matchup for opposing teams, and the biggest piece of the puzzle for him is staying healthy. A foot injury limited him last season (8.9 PPG, 44%, 4.3 RPG), but games like his 20-point performance against Kentucky in the Champions Classic last November showed all he can do when it’s 100 percent and in rhythm.
While the loss of shooting guard Joey Hauser is key for Michigan State, Izzo brings in one of its best recruiting classes ever, ranked third in the nation according to 247 Sports. Five-star prospect Xavier Booker, No. 8 among all incoming freshmen, should serve as a significant addition to a frontcourt in need of a shake-up. Plus, there’s point guard Jeremy Fears to add another option to an already loaded backcourt, along with a pair of four-star recruits in forward Coen Carr and wing Gehrig Normand.
Everything is looking up for the Spartans heading into next season, and it’s almost as if the dramatic loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament was the perfect thing for this team to use as fuel to push through and reach the Final Four for the first time in five. years. At 68, Izzo will have his best chance to win a second national championship and break the Big Ten title curse, a stretch that dates back to his championship in 2000.
And as an added treat for college basketball fans: Duke and Michigan State will meet in the Champions Classic on Nov. 14 in Chicago, with Kentucky-Kansas being the other matchup.
Five more stories to check out…
1. Where is it Hunter Dickinson heading? Sources tell FOX Sports that the Michigan transfer and Virginia native will visit both Maryland and Georgetown this weekend. The 7-foot-1 former All-American is arguably the biggest name to ever enter the net, averaging more than 18 points and nine rebounds per game in each of the past two seasons en route to the honors All-Big Ten. Will the DeMatha Catholic product opt to return to his home area? At the end of the day, NIL will play a big role, and if there is a bigger offer from someone else, nothing should be ruled out. Dickinson would make the Terrapins a lock for the preseason top 20, if not the top 15. If he ends up like Hoya, he would be the key piece for Ed Cooley to build his team in Year 1 at Georgetown. This is a fluid situation and fascinating recruitment to control.
2. Mike Woodson and Indiana got a big name Monday with a former 5-star recruit Kel’el Ware, who moves to the Hoosiers after an underwhelming season at Oregon. The 7-foot-18, 18-year-old averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game with Dana Altman last season, averaging 16 minutes per game in 35 contests. One takeaway: Before we start proclaiming Ware the heir to Trayce Jackson-Davis’ throne, let’s wait and see if Woodson and staff can get Ware to play to his potential. It brings more questions than answers to the upcoming season.
3. Where is it Adam Sanogo is it going to end UConn sophomore Donovan Clingan’s decision to return to Storrs points to the fact that the 7-foot-2 Bristol product is filling in at the starting center heading into next season. But Final Four standout Sanogo has yet to make his next move public. Will Sanogo, who is not projected to be a high draft pick, opt to go pro? Will you be entering the transfer portal and transferring to a new university destination? It would be hard to fathom him leaving after winning a national championship, but in the world of the NIL, everything is on the table.
4. The Muss Bus continues to roll. Eric Musselman has become one of the most consistent roster builders in college basketball, hooking Houston transfer Tramon Mark, Washington transfer Keyon Menifield and Temple transfer Khalif Battle.
The big questions to monitor for the Hogs in the coming days and weeks: What is the status of Jordan Walsh and Devo Davis? If both players return, Arkansas will have the pieces in place to make a fourth straight run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament if not more.
5. Three other names to see on the portal: Oral Roberts transfers Max Abmas, Creighton transfers Ryan Nembhard and Stanford transfers Harrison Ingram…
Friday comes a big decision from one of the portal’s biggest names: Washington State transfer TJ Bamba, who is going through the NBA Draft process but will decide between Villanova and Georgia Tech if he stays in college next season
The 6-foot-5 guard from the Bronx, N.Y., took a sizable jump in production last season, averaging 15.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game on 43 percent shooting. Most notably, Bamba had a 36-point performance on 13-of-20 shooting from the field in a March 2 win over Washington.
What would it mean for each program to land Bamba?
For Villanova, Bamba would be the perfect addition alongside Justin Moore on the perimeter and would provide the necessary boost for Kyle Neptune and his staff for a critical second season on the Main Line. The expectation levels at Villanova have changed and the Wildcats will have to find a way to reach the NCAA Tournament in a challenging Big East. Bamba would boost their chances as the Cats still lost some big pieces from last year.
For Georgia Tech, it would be a touch for first-year head coach Damon Stoudamire, who takes over a Yellow Jackets program that went 15-18 last year and made just one tournament appearance of the NCAA since 2010. Stoudamire, 49, takes over. after two years as an assistant with the Boston Celtics. He had been in the college game for the previous 10 years, serving as the head coach at Pacific from 2016-21. Landing Bamba would be important in the rebuilding effort.
Stoudamire was the starter Wednesday, completing the hiring of associate head coach Karl Hobbs, who comes from Rutgers, where he served in the same role for the past six years under Steve Pikiell.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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