MID-MAJOR TOP RETURNING GUARDS: #4 – Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA

We’re continuing our top mid-major guard countdown today, and slotting in at #4 is Jhivvan Jackson, of the University of Texas at San Antonio. A rising senior, Jackson has been one of the most prolific scorers in the country regardless of conference, and he has only improved his numbers in each of his three seasons thus far. After 18.4 points per game his freshman year, Jackson improved that mark to 22.4 in his sophomore season, before shooting up to 26.8 points per game, ranking second in the country in the 2019-2020 season. 

Jackson played for a UTSA team that mustered just a 7-11 record in Conference-USA play, leading the team in scoring while ranking second in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and assists (2.4 apg). He recorded five double-doubles last season, scoring 30+ points on 12 occasions with a season-high of 45. Jackson notched some impressive performances against Power-5 competitions, including UTSA’s season opener at a very solid Oklahoma squad, when he dropped 24 points and 13 rebounds on the Sooners. Against Oregon State, Jackson posted a 28 point, 5 rebound, and 5 assist stat line, entering C-USA play on a hot streak that he kept alive for the majority of UTSA’s conference slate. One of his most impressive performances of the season came in a big home game against Louisiana Tech, who finished the year 13-5 in C-USA play and was one of three 20-win teams in the conference. Jackson put up a monster performance, scoring 37 points led by his 8-15 shooting from 3-point range. He also brought down five rebounds and dished out six assists to lead the Roadrunners to an upset victory. In his three chances against the top three teams in the conference  – North Texas, Louisiana Tech, and Western Kentucky – Jackson averaged just under 34 points. 

The scariest thing about Jackson’s prolific output in his junior season is that he was somewhat inconsistent from beyond the arc. As shown in some of his biggest games, when he was hitting long-range shots at a high rate, the UTSA standout was an absolute game-changer and one of the most lethal shooters in the country. In twelve games that Jackson shot the 3 at a 40% clip or better, he averaged over 32 points per game, so if he irons out some of his accuracy issues, he could be one of the best scorers in recent NCAA history. Last season, Markus Howard led the country with 27.8 points per game, and nobody has eclipsed 30.1 for a season since 1997. If Jackson returns for his senior season locked in from distance, he might light up Conference USA and single-handedly push UTSA back towards the top of the conference. 

Ultimately, Jackson’s steady improvement of three collegiate seasons and his prolific scoring ability, even when shooting at less efficient clips, landed him at #4 on our countdown of the best mid-major guards in the country.

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #5 – Grayson Murphy, Belmont

Today, we’re starting our countdown of the top 5 mid-major guards returning to college basketball for the 2020-2021 season. Starting off the countdown at #5 is Grayson Murphy, entering his junior season for the Belmont Bruins. Murphy has been a consistent contributor for the Bruins over his first two collegiate campaigns, averaging a touch under 30 minutes per contest and shooting over 50% for his career. 

The biggest strengths that landed Murphy on our list is his efficiency – he was a top-100 player last year in efficiency rating and one of the top-ranking guards – and his versatility. Although he is just Belmont’s third-best returning scorer at 9.8 points per game, Murphy led the Bruins with 6.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds, the latter being a mark that ranked him around the best rebounding guards in the country. 

With three plus skills in his scoring, rebounding, and distribution, Murphy’s career has been marked by his consistency and ability to constantly impact games one way or the other. He posted five double-doubles last season, coming very close to a triple-double on several occasions. In an early January road contest at UT Martin, Murphy dropped 19 points on 80% shooting, dished out 12 assists, and collected eight rebounds, leading the Bruins to a key conference victory. 

Another one of the reasons I’m high on Murphy heading into the 2020-2021 season is he ended his sophomore campaign playing some of his best basketball of the season. Over the final month, including Belmont’s Ohio Valley Conference Championship run, he kept his rebounding and assist averages around the same, while improving his scoring total to nearly 12 points per contest. With Belmont returning most of their conference champion team, Murray figures to be a key contributor for the Bruins once again, and he may get a chance to display his versatile skill set in front of a national audience if Belmont can return to March Madness. 

Murray’s consistency, efficiency, and versatility on a highly successful Belmont squad are noteworthy, and it earned him a top-5 spot in our countdown of the best mid-major guards in the country.

Ranking The Power Conferences in Football, Basketball, Baseball

With Playoff berths and bowl games, March Madness appearances and trips to the NCAA Tournaments on the line, conversations always arise every season about which conferences are the most competitive in every sport. The SEC, Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and Big East in basketball battle for supremacy, so let’s rank them in the major sports – football, basketball, and baseball. 

Baseball

  1. Pac-12
  2. SEC
  3. ACC
  4. Big 12
  5. Big 10

The top two in this list was pretty clear, as the Pac-12 and SEC have long been the most dominant conferences, combining for 30 College World Series titles between the two of them. The Pac-12 leads the way with 18 (titles won by an active Pac-12 member) although current members USC, Arizona State, Arizona, and Stanford have combined for 23 championships. After Spencer Torkelson was taken first overall this past year, the Sun Devils lead with four #1 overall picks in the MLB draft. The only major category the Pac-12 trails in is total CWS appearances, where they fall just short to the SEC (103-101).

The ACC comes in third, despite having just two College World Series titles as a conference. The ACC gets to Omaha frequently (96 total appearances), but they rarely bring it home as Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina represent the top 3 programs with the most CWS appearances without a championship (46). Current member Miami has four championships, but only one as an active ACC member, and Virginia has the other ring. It was a battle between the Big 12 and Big 10 for the cellar, and it was the Big 10 taking last place with only 29 total appearances in Omaha, albeit six championships. Texas and Oklahoma State have combined for 32 first round draft picks, and no Big 10 school has more than 10. 

Basketball

  1. ACC
  2. Big East
  3. SEC
  4. Big 10
  5. Pac 12
  6. Big 12

The ACC was the clear choice for #1 here. They’ve won three of the past five national championships and are tied for the most with 15 overall. They have the most NCAA Tournament appearances with 398, the most first round draft picks with 202, and tied for the most #1 draft picks with 11. No contest

After that, it got a little dicey. I was leaning towards the SEC for second, but the Big East’s recent superiority tipped them over the edge. They have three championships since 2013, whereas the SEC hasn’t won one since 2012. It was close to a toss-up for their but I went with Big East at #2, and the SEC for #3. 

After those initial three selections, the Big 10, with 11 #1 picks (T-1st), 132 1st round picks (132), and 10 national championships (4th) were the clear choice to slide into the fourth slot. They haven’t been very relevant, with only one title in the 21st century, but there’s lots of history and talent in this conference.

The Pac-12 and Big-12 were separated by a razor-thin margin and bring up the rear in the power conference rankings. The Pac-12 used to be one of the best, but they’ve faded from relevancy in recent years. Despite 15 national championships – tied for first with the ACC – the Pac-12 was largely fueled by UCLA’s dominance and their 23-year championship drought is the longest ongoing drought by any major conference. They slot in fifth, with the Big 12 bringing up the rear, running last with 50 first round draft picks, only one national championship, and next-to-last in NCAA tournament appearances. 

Football

  1. SEC
  2. Big 10
  3. ACC
  4. Pac-12
  5. Big 12

I would say it was the dramatic unveiling of the best conference of the best college sport, but did anyone ever doubt who was finishing #1 here? Led by Alabama’s recent dynasty, the SEC have 25 national championships, including ten of the past fourteen. They’re second all-time in #1 picks and first-round picks, and top to bottom, they have more elite talent and depth than any other conference.

The Big 10 and ACC were a toss-up for second place. People love to mock the ACC, but they’re the only non-SEC conference to win national championships since 2005. They may not be loaded with talent top to bottom every year, but they’ve boasted some of the best teams of this past decade, and throw in Miami’s dynasty in the late 20th, early 21st century, and the ACC isn’t the laughingstock people make them out to be. However, the Big 10 does edge them out – they have 296 first round draft picks, which ranks first, eight #1 overall picks, and 22 national championships, marks that rank third and second respectively. Their biggest knock is a lack of recent national success – Ohio State has won two titles this century, but that’s it for the Big 10.

Bringing up the rear is the Pac-12 and Big 12 with championship droughts of 16 and 15 years respectively. The Pac-12 has featured some elite talent with 14 #1 draft picks, but they rank last in total first-round picks and national championships. USC’s mini-dynasty from 2003-2005 helps the Pac-12 avoid the basement, an honor belonging to the Big 12. The Big 12 only have two championships since 1985 – every other conference has at least three titles since 1997. Oklahoma has really been the only team doing anything on the national level since Vince Young and the Longhorns in 2005, which lands them in the basement.

Overall, regarding these three major sports, the SEC has to be considered the most complete conference, with the ACC coming in a close second. Both came in with a trio of top-3 finishes and a #1 ranking. Overall, I’d rank the SEC #1 and the ACC 2. After that, I’d say the Pac-12 takes #3, fueled by their dominance on the diamond, and the Big 10 clocks in at #4. The Big 12 was the clear choice for last place, as they took last place in two of the three sports, with their fourth-place finish in baseball saving them from a sweep of the cellar.

BIG 10 Basketball: Forwards/Centers To Watch

The 2019-2020 college basketball season may have abruptly ended prior to March Madness, but it’s not too early to take a look at next season – we will be looking at a few of the top players in college basketball entering next season. Today, we’re checking out the top three returning forwards and centers in the Big 10. Incoming freshman recruits were not included in these rankings – these only cover players who have already played a collegiate season (or at least, most of one season). 

#3. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Jackson-Davis may have soared under the radar on a mediocre Indiana team next year, but even if he can’t single-handedly lift the Hoosiers back to glory, the rising sophomore forward looks ready for big things next season. Jackson-Davis’s stats were relatively modest in his freshman campaign  – 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game – but he shot 57% from the field and put up some massive games in high-profile contests. After putting up solid numbers in a breezy start to Indiana’s non-conference slate, Jackson-Davis raised some eyebrows with a 15 point, 8 rebound performance against #17 Florida State. 25 points and 15 rebounds in an overtime victory over Nebraska, a double-double against #21 Iowa, and a 27-point, 16-rebound effort at Minnesota highlighted a few of his top performances in conference play. The Big 10 was one of the most wide-open conferences, so the Hoosiers have a chance to shoot back up into the mix for the top seeds, and expect Jackson-Davis to be leading the charge. 

#2. Trevion Williams, Purdue

After averaging 5.2 points per game in his freshman year, Williams upped his numbers to 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. A 52% shooter, Williams has a clear weakness at the free throw line, but his game off the charity stripe has been on an upwards trajectory since he arrived at Purdue, and I feel like he’s ready to explode in his junior year. He showed hints at such an explosion in Big 10 play this past season, recording double-doubles in games against #13 Penn State, at Wisconsin, and versus Michigan. His true monster performance came in a brutal double-overtime loss at Michigan, where, in front of a hostile crowd in Ann Arbor, Williams posted 36 points and a whopping 20 rebounds. He’s showcased high ceiling and potential to this point, and that looks like it’s getting ready to come together, which is great news for the Purdue Boilermakers. 

#1. Luka Garza, Iowa

No chance it was going to be anyone else. This is, of course, assuming Garza comes back to the Hawkeyes for another season, which it seems likely he will do. He is currently not projected as a selection in most mock drafts, but the Iowa star was an absolute beast this past year, one of the consensus top-2 players in the country. Averaging a touch under 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, Garza scored 20+ points in his final sixteen contests of the year. Picking out his top games is to pick diamonds from piles of jewels. He put up 44 points on Michigan when they were ranked #4, 38 points against Indiana, and 34 points and 12 rebounds against a ranked Penn State squad. No contest here, Garza is the best returning player in the country, and clearly in the Big 10.

Thomas: Best and Worst Atmospheres in College Basketball

Yesterday, we looked at the best and worst atmospheres in each Power 5 conference in college football, and today we’ll do the same on the court, checking in on the best college basketball atmospheres in the power-6 conferences (including the Big East). 

Big East

Worst Atmosphere: DePaul

A really bad team makes it hard to bring in fans, and the Blue Demons exemplify that, with easily the lowest per-game attendance in the Big East. They were just 3-15 in conference play this past season, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, and they’ve had a share of last place in the Big East in ten of the past twelve seasons. Safe to say the student body isn’t exactly coming out in droves for most of their games. 

Runner Up: Georgetown

Best Atmosphere: Creighton

It was a tough race at the top for the best atmosphere in the Big East, but the nod goes to the Blue Jays who are in the Big East, despite hailing from Nebraska. Nebraska loves their college sports teams – the Cornhuskers were ranked the top Big 10 football atmosphere yesterday – and Creighton is no exception. It didn’t hurt that Creighton was really good this past season, but as the Blue Jays rallied down the stretch to claim the Big East regular season title, CHI Health Center Arena was roaring in Omaha, led by the notorious “Creighton Blue Crew”.

MEMPHIS, TN – FEBRUARY 4: Fans of the Memphis Tigers “Blue Crew” cheer on their team during a game against the Xavier Musketeers on February 4, 2012 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Xavier 72-68. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Runner Up: Marquette

Pac-12

Worst Atmosphere: Washington State

The Cougars are much more of a football school – whether it was Anthony Gordon throwing a million touchdowns, or the iconic Gardner Minshew taking snaps under center, Washington State has had some studs on the gridiron. The same cannot be said on the court, where the Cougars haven’t placed in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. ‘08 was also the last year they posted a winning record in Pac-12 play. Coming of entertaining football seasons, basketball just isn’t much of a product to be watched in comparison. 

Runner Up: USC

Best Atmosphere: Arizona
The Wildcats have the second-biggest arena by capacity in the Pac-12, yet they were one of just two teams to produce a sellout in 2019, and the only team to record multiple, as Arizona home games saw capacity crowds flood through the gates four times last season. The Wildcats are traditionally a contender for Pac-12 glory, and they’re fans get hyped down there in Tucson. Easy call here. 

Runner Up: Washington

Big 12

Worst Atmosphere: TCU
The Horned Frogs aren’t even a top-3 program in their own state, so it’s hard to generate a lot of excitement at their games. Their crowds are among the smallest in the Big 12, which has several teams that just pack crowds into their arenas night after night. It was a battle for the bottom between two Texas programs, and TCU loses out as the worst atmosphere in the Big 12. 

Runner Up: Baylor

Best Atmosphere: Kansas

Was there any doubt? Kansas is one of the toughest places to play, and with a horrific football program, gamedays at Allen Fieldhouse is where it is at, if you’re part of Jayhawk nation, or just a fan of great college basketball. The long-time dominant force of the Big 12, Kansas has one of the best homecourt advantages in college sports, backed by a rocking and raucous crowd every night. 

Runner Up: Iowa State

Big 10

Worst Atmosphere: Rutgers

We spat all over Rutgers in football, and unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, we have to the same here. At least in football, they can be considered the best college team in the state (as sad a statement as that is for New Jersey), but they don’t have that notoriety in basketball, as Seton Hall is a far superior team most seasons. Rutgers was actually not horrible this past season, but years of struggles makes any athletic atmosphere less than electric at Rutgers. 

Runner Up: Northwestern

Best Atmosphere: Wisconsin

Maybe a bold pick, but the Badgers actually in the Top-5 for average attendance per home game. The Badgers are a few years removed from their era of March magic, making a couple of Final Four runs and beating undefeated Kentucky in 2015, but Wisconsin still packs in fans for home games to cheer on a team that is often in Big 10 championship contention. 

Plenty of passionate basketball fans up in Wisconsin

Runner Up: Nebraska

ACC

Worst Atmosphere: Wake Forest

In a basketball-crazed conference, the Demon Deacons’ consistent struggles on the court struggle to bring fans to their ACC contests, where they are oftentimes uncompetitive. Wake pulls an upset here and there, but they are not consistent enough in their success to entice too many fans to come through the gates. 

Runner Up: Boston College

Best Atmosphere: Duke

This is an absolute no-brainer. With a 9,314 seat arena, the Duke Blue Devils pack in 9,314 fans to every home game, with the thundering cheers of the “Cameron Crazies” leading the way. No matter where you sit, you’re close to the action, and you really can’t beat the atmosphere in Durham on gameday, where they also host the biggest rivalry in college basketball once a year. 

Runner Up: Virginia

SEC

Worst Atmosphere: Texas A&M
When basketball season is sandwiched between football at Kyle Allen Field and baseball, where the Aggies have one of the most vocal fanbases, the action on the court tends to play second fiddle to their primary sports. The Aggies don’t have extremely small crowds, but the SEC has some of the best atmospheres in the country, and they simply don’t bring enough tradition to the table to rise out of the cellar. 

Runner Up: Ole Miss

Best Atmosphere: Kentucky

The Wildcats have NBA draft lottery talent playing every single year, and fans are bunching together at the gates trying to get into Rupp Arena. One of the most historic programs in the nation, Kentucky is a must-see team on any die-hard college basketball fan’s to-do list. 

Runner Up: Tennessee

Daily Headlines: USC lands 2nd Top-50 Quarterback

USC didn’t waste too much time thinking about the loss of J.T. Daniels, as they reeled in their second quarterback ranked in the ESPN top 40 recruits for the Class of 2021. After landing 19th-ranked Jake Garcia, the Trojans got a commitment from #37 Miller Moss, who picked USC over Alabama, LSU, and UCLA. Moss said throughout his recruitment that staying in or close to Los Angeles, so UCLA was a top competitor for his services, but Moss said he wasn’t shyng away from the competition under center, and USC now have the luxury of picking from two of the top signal-callers of the 2021 class. 

Clemson’s Justyn Ross out for the season, career in danger

Clemson’s title hopes took a bit of a hit on Monday, as it was announced that projected #1 wide receiver Justyn Ross will miss the 2020 season. It might be even more serious than that, as head coach Dabo Swinney said it’s not a certainty Ross can play football again after it was announced he would undergo surgery for a congenital fusion in the neck and spine area. It was a birth defect discovered this past spring, and anyone can only hope that Ross’s career isn’t over. Clemson will hope to replace Ross’s production as they eye another run at the College Football Playoff. 

Clemson gets leading scorer back for another season on the hardwood

Clemson became known for their wacky, upset-crazed basketball team last season, as the Tigers were only in NCAA Tournament bubble discussions due to their various stunning upsets, with three top-6 upsets over Duke, Florida State, and Louisville. Their team got a big boost for their NCAA Tournament hopes next season, as leading scorer Aamir Simms announced he is withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to Clemson. He averaged 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest last season. 

LSU schedules historic games

LSU’s football program took a historic step on Monday, scheduling their first-ever contests with Southern and Grambling, two Louisiana football teams they have never played. Grambling and Southern are fierce FCS rivals, and Southern is 10 miles from LSU’s campus, yet despite 92 years of shared history, the teams have never met. Both schools are historically black colleges, so it’s a good statement by LSU at the current time of turmoil. LSU will host both games, welcoming Southern on September 10, 2022, and Grambling on September 9, 2023.

Daily headlines: South Carolina WBB lands Commitment from 5-star Saniya Rivers

Not all the recruiting action has been happening on the gridiron – South Carolina women’s basketball got some very welcome news on Saturday, landing a commitment from Saniya Rivers, rated by ESPN as the #3 prospect in the Class of 2021. Rivers is an extremely athletic guard, who is explosive off the dribble and drew rave reviews for her ability to finish plays in traffic. The Wilmington, North Carolina product averaged 25 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in her junior season at Eugene Ashley High School. She joins fellow 5-star guard Aubryanna Hall as the second elite recruit in South Carolina’s 2021 class. Their 2019 class ranked #1 in the nation, but the Gamecocks fell out of the top 20 last season. South Carolina was ranked #1 this year when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. UConn, Texas, NC State, and many other schools were known to be in pursuit of Rivers’ services.

4-Star CB Deuce Harmon commits to Texas A&M

Texas A&M scored a huge win on the recruiting front, as the Aggies landed 4-star cornerback Deuce Harmon, a top-20 player at his position for the Class of 2021. With 46 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble, Harmon was a dynamic contributor for Denton Guyer, making a state championship game appearance. He’s the first defensive back out of nine Texas A&M commits in 2021. Texas also made a strong bid for the in-state talent, while Notre Dame briefly appeared to be a contender for his services, but ultimately, the Aggies won out, earning the commitment from one of their earliest offers, as Harmon is headed to College Station.

Andrew Nembhard exits NBA Draft, leaves Florida

Andrew Nembhard, a former Florida guard, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft, but he is not staying with the Gators, as he will be taking his talents elsewhere after two years in Gainesville. Nembhard averaged 8 points per game in his freshman season, and he upped that mark to 11.2 last season. He’s also an excellent facilitator on offense, averaging a touch under six assists per game. Nembhard didn’t always have a high shot volume with Florida, but he had some excellent performances, with 25 and 24 points in wins over Georgia and Texas A&M respectively. He recorded two double-doubles and shot 44% from the field. It was a surprising decision, as not many expected Nembhard to transfer, so no real list of favorites has emerged to land the rising junior.

UAH Hockey Saved By Donations

Jackson Wilson reported yesterday on the end of the Alabama-Huntsville Hockey program, but the Chargers have a temporary reprieve. Between crowd-sourcing, and two major donations, UAH raised over $750,000 dollars to save the hockey team. Their efforts worked, although time will tell whether enough UAH players will stay with the program, after many looked to transfer following the initial announcement.

NBA Draft Feature: Onyeka Okungu, C/PF, USC

USC was a very young team this season with a lot of potential, and they were just starting to play their best basketball as the season came to a close, sitting at third in the Pac-12 when the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation. Many of their young players emulated the trends of the USC season – promising talent, seemingly peaking at the right time. The Trojans saw this especially in star freshman Onyeka Okongu, who is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming draft. It’s hard to pick out a true weakness in the California product’s game, as, except for a couple of tough games, put up solid numbers for the Trojans all season, and he was looking very smooth in USC’s system by mid-March. Averaging a touch over 16 points and 8 rebounds per game, Okongu combined for at least twenty combined points and rebounds in 10 of his final 12 games. He eclipsed 20 points in four of those games, 10 points in 11 of them, while bringing down enough boards for five double-doubles. Okungu will not spend a lot of time on the draft board, as he will be an enticing prize for many NBA GMs. 

Top Games

Okungu put up some gaudy numbers in non-conference play, but those stats were built up against teams like Long Beach State, Harvard, and Pepperdine. Nothing against those teams, but you don’t become a projected lottery pick from beating up on mid-majors in early-season games. Rather, we’ll focus on two very impressive performances that Okungu put forth in Pac-12 play, starting with their conference opener,
In his first Pac-12 action, Okungu and the Trojans visited Washington State. While the Cougars were not the class of the Big 12, any road game with such a young team was going to be difficult. However, Okungu didn’t shy away from the lights, easily leading USC in scoring with 27 points, ripping down 12 rebounds, and swatting away three shots, en route to a 65-56 victory to start their conference slate. He was a wildly efficient 12-14 from the field.
Just 16 days later, in a home game against Stanford, who finished with 20 wins on the year, USC found themselves in a slog of an overtime battle with the Cardinal. Okungu rallied the Trojans to victory in that must-win contest at home, as he chipped in 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and four blocks on the defensive end. 

Projection

As mentioned before, it’s difficult to find a true weakness in Okungu’s game. His ceiling is as high as anyone in this draft class, and his athleticism, strength, and rebounding proficiency all play well into his powerful style on the court. Standing at 6’9, he as decent, if not great, size for an NBA center, but scouts laud his exceptional length as a way to make up for a few of his inches. It certainly seemed to work, as he was one of the best rim protectors and shot blockers in the country. Even if there are concerns about whether he sticks at center long-term, he can also play as a power forward. Scouts’ biggest concern is a need to polish his offensive game, as he is very used to simply overpowering opponents with physical dominance in the paint. However, his defense projects as NBA-ready, and Okungu could slot into an NBA lineup, or at least be a very effective contributor off the bench, right away.

Prediction: Round 1, Pick 1, Golden State Warriors

That’s right. Not Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, or James Wiseman will be going first overall int his draft. It’s Onyeka Okongwu. This is dependent on the Warriors getting the first pick, as they’re one of the few lottery teams with chances at being a playoff team in 2020-2021. This is why Okongwu is such an appealing pick – he can learn from Draymond Green, slotting in as a backup power forward for the once-proud dynasty, or he can challenge for the starting position at center. With Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, the Warriors don’t need offensive stardom from Okungwu, but if he protects the rim, plays solid defense, and chips in with a handful of buckets each game, all things he seems perfectly capable of doing right away in the NBA, he would be a great addition to this Golden State squad.

Daily Headlines: Texas A&M and Texas to resume basketball rivalry

It’s slim pickings for daily headlines today, as there’s been a lull in the recruiting action on the gridiron, and if there’s anything to talk about in the sports world, it’s the current efforts of the NBA and NHL resuming their season this summer. 

Daily Headlines

Aggies and Longhorns revive series on the hardwood

There’s been a lot of discussion about Texas and Texas A&M resuming their fierce rivalry on the gridiron, but while we have to wait for further news on that, the two schools did announce they would be meeting again on the basketball court, as their women’s basketball teams were announced as opponents in the Big 12/SEC challenge. It may not be the clash of titans hoped for by football fans, but their contests have provided some excellent competition in the past, although they have’t met on the court since 2014. The Longhorns have had more success in the series, winning four straight and owning a 62-23 record against the Aggies, but their in-state rivals have had more success on the national level recently. They won the national title in 2011, whereas Texas has not been to the Final Four since 2003, reaching only one Elite Eight in that time frame (2016). This match-up, regardless of the sport, is a classic rivalry, and we can only hope this game serves as the springboard for more contests between the two teams, both in women’s basketball and across other sports. 

Other Headlines

  • NCAA offers detailed plan for athletes’ return to campus by June 8
  • Power-5 Leagues continue to push for athlete compensation law, but they have not had a breakthrough.
  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is optimistic for a full college football season and an on-time start
  • Minnesota to not use Minnesota Police for major sporting events after George Floyd tragedy
  • Luka Garza yet to make decision on NBA Draft, five days before his deadline to decide

NBA Draft Feature: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton

The video in this article was made for collegetalking.com by Bryan Mallet. Please check out Bryan’s YouTube and Instagram pages for more great sports hype and highlight mixes!

In the 2019-2020 basketball season, Dayton power forward Obi Toppin dominated college basketball in a way that isn’t frequently done. Sure, Dayton didn’t play in a Power-6 conference, but that largely meant that Toppin drew double-teams, sometimes triple teams, yet he still put up huge numbers night in and night out. Those numbers (20 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) came even with Toppin averaging 31 minutes per game, often playing under 30 due to Dayton’s blowouts. He was still the Flyers’ leading scorer in 19 of their 31 games, while leading in rebounding 17 times. Toppin garnered high praise from his peers, with Michigan State’s Cassius Winston saying “He made the game look way too easy on a nightly basis” in an interview back in March. Even if the numbers don’t shock you, only watching Toppin play can truly show the ease with which he dominated the game, flushing down powerful dunks, recording massive blocks – 12 games with two or more – and simply fueling the Flyers through their wildly successful season. The mid-major power lost just twice, both times in overtime – once to Kansas and once to Colorado. 

This video was made for Collegetalking.com by Bryan Mallet. Follow him on Instagram @bmalmedia and his YouTube channel to see all of his work

Top Games

Picking just one or two top games from a player as consistent as Toppin is an exceptionally difficult task, but the two contests we’ve decided to highlight are his season opener against Indiana State, and a late-December clash versus North Florida. In the opener, as Dayton gotten their feet under them against the feisty Sycamores, Toppin simply became their answer to every Indiana State charge. Scoring 29 points on 10-16 shooting, collecting twelve rebounds, and finishing out the game with an 8-11 performance from the free throw line in an 86-81 victory to start the season.
Against North Florida, Toppin posted a season-high 31 points, while also notching 8 rebounds in a breezy post-Christmas win. Toppin also showed up in big games, averaging 21.9 points in games decided by less than 10 points. He put up 18 points against Kansas at the Maui Invitational, often while doing battle against Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike, a 7’0 force in the paint. 

Projection

Toppin has a lot of strengths that NBA scouts love, including his ability to avoid fouls as a big man, averaging just 2.2 per game in 2019-2020, and his offensive efficiency is excellent. At 6’9, 220 pounds, Toppin fits in well as an NBA power forward, although he could probably improve his rebounding a little bit. Averaging a touch under eight rebounds per game certainly does not drop any jaws, given Toppin’s size. He still figures to be one of the top power forwards available, and he’s a virtual shoe-in to go within the first ten picks of the draft.

Prediction: Round 1, Pick 7, Chicago Bulls

Toppin could go way earlier than this, but I think a few of the teams projected to draft earlier than the Bulls simply have other needs. The Hawks and Cavaliers will likely look for best available playmakers, like Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, while the Knicks will likely look to target their point guard of the future. There are a few concerns about where Toppin’s ceiling is, and so teams looking for high upside may go elsewhere. If the Warriors pick #1 and are looking for an NBA-ready player for them to surge back into championship contention, I would not be surprised at all to see Steve Kerr bring Toppin to Cali. However, after the Warriors, I think the Bulls are next most logical spot for Toppin to slot in, and he’ll be headed to the Windy City, where he fills a big need for a versatile 3 or 4 type of player to star alongside point guard Zach LaVine.