Jawun Evans to Oklahoma State: Cowboys Land 5-Star PG Prospect

Oklahoma State received a major boost to its 2015 recruiting class thanks to a commitment from highly coveted point guard Jawun Evans.

Reggie Rankin of ESPN.com reports the Cowboys edged fellow finalists Illinois and USC in the race to land the rising star out of Dallas. He also passed along comments from the program’s newest commit, who said the style of play was a key factor.     

“The style of play at Oklahoma State fits more with the way I already play with my travel team … and that will make the adjustment easier,” Evans said. “I like to push the pace and I am great on defense. I will pick up my teammates when they are down. Be a leader.”

Evans is a 5-star prospect who ranks just outside the top 20 nationally for the class of 2015, according to 247Sports‘ composite rankings. The outlet, which rates him as the No. 8 prospect in its own rankings, notes 18 different programs showed interest in the backcourt general before he made his decision.

The thing that stands out most with the Justin F. Kimball High School product is his quickness. He plays the game fast, but doesn’t look out of control. It’s a delicate balance that he’ll likely have to redevelop once he reaches the college game.

Garrett Tucker of HoopSeen is bullish about the point guard’s chances of success, in large part due to his ability to get up and down the floor:

Aside from that, Evans already displayed advanced scoring ability on the offensive end and a defensive work rate that championship teams need from their point guard. From a raw talent standpoint, he’s the complete package, which is why he was given the 5-star distinction.

In terms of taking his game to the next level it starts with continuing to add variety on the offensive end. He likes to attack the rim to score or dish out to open shooters, but learning to score consistently against elite interior defenders will be a learning process.

He also figures to add some bulk to his frame. At 6’0” and 165 pounds, he doesn’t have great length. So he’ll have to add some strength in order to play with the same level of ferociousness on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma State will hope he can do that without sacrificing any quickness.

All told, the outlook is very bright for Evans. Cowboys fans will hope his arrival helps spark a recruiting boost in the months ahead.

 

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College basketball countdown: No. 27 Minnesota

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected NCAA tournament field of 68.

      
 

 

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College basketball countdown: No. 28 Kansas State

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected NCAA tournament field of 68.

      
 

 

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Villanova Basketball: Factors That Will Make or Break Wildcats in 2014-15

Just like every program across the nation, the Villanova Wildcats will come across some make-or-break moments throughout the 2014-15 season. 

Whether it be big games, numbers put up by certain players or coaching decisions, there are sure to be a few factors that will determine the Wildcats’ fate. 

Below we take a look at the biggest factors that will change the landscape of Villanova’s season.

 

Production Levels of Starting Guards

Last season, James Bell came out of nowhere to deliver big numbers for the Wildcats in the points department.

Now that Bell has graduated, the duo of Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard will have to replace the 14.4 points per game that the guard put up last season. 

The two top starting guards for the Wildcats combined for 24.2 points per game during the 2013-14 season, but Arcidiacono saw a slip in production, as he was down two points from the total he recorded in his freshman year. 

For the Wildcats to succeed throughout the entire season, the two stars will have to show their experience and rise to the occasion in every game they suit up. 

Of course they will have an off night or two, but for 90 percent of the games, this pairing needs to lead the Wildcats in points for a successful run into the postseason to become a possibility. 

 

Nonconference Record

It may seem odd to talk about NCAA tournament resumes in October, but for Villanova to earn a favorable seed in March, it must win big nonconference games. 

The big names that stick out on the nonconference slate for Jay Wright’s side are VCU, Illinois, Syracuse and either Michigan or Oregon. 

Beating VCU, a team that always shows up during March Madness, early in the season should benefit Villanova in some way, shape or form. 

If the Wildcats can get past Shaka Smart’s Rams, they will take on either Michigan or Oregon in the Legends Classic final.

No offense to Oregon, but everyone in the Villanova camp would probably prefer a chance to take down a premier Big Ten team instead of the Ducks. 

A win over the Wolverines would do wonders for Villanova’s resume, and so would a win over rival Syracuse, which is always in contention for a top-tier seed in March.

As for the Illinois game, it never hurts to have a win over a power conference team just in case they catch fire during conference play.

 

Consistency off the Bench 

The Wildcats were extremely lucky to receive terrific contributions off the bench from Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart last season, but you can’t always have players ready to shine right away. 

With Bell now out of the fold, one of those two players will jump into a starting role, while the other will become the go-to sixth man for Wright. 

Other than the sixth man, Villanova will have Dylan Ennis, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges and Darryl Reynolds to rely on. 

Out of that group, Ennis is the only player with a decent amount of experience, while the other three are still relatively new to the college game. 

With some uncertainty surrounding the bench situation past the seventh man, the Wildcats may have to use a short bench at times, which has the potential to backfire. 

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Duke uses special method to unite roster of newcomers

The Blue Devils men’s basketball team shares private experiences through a special activity.

      
 

 

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Duke Basketball: Factors That Will Make or Break Blue Devils in 2014-15

“National championship or bust” may be asking too much from the Duke Blue Devils in the 2014-15 season, but it is certainly a “deep run in the NCAA tournament or bust” scenario for the team.

Mike Krzyzewski’s squad inexplicably lost to Mercer in its first game of the last NCAA tournament and needs to redeem itself quickly. Landing an absolutely loaded recruiting class certainly helps in that regard, and now it is time to win some basketball games.

There are a few things that will make or break this freshman-dominated squad on the path to an ACC crown and potential deep postseason run.

Let’s take a look at them.

 

Defense

Duke finished 116th in Ken Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted defensive efficiency during the 2013-14 campaign, which is the only explanation for how the team ranked No. 2 in pace-adjusted offensive efficiency saw its season end after one tournament game.

The perimeter defense was lackluster at best and consistently let ball-handlers get to the rim with relative ease. The guards also failed to close out on perimeter shooters far too often.

The interior defense wasn’t much better and didn’t have much of a shot-blocking presence. Beyond allowing opponents to get to the rim, the big guys weren’t quick enough on their rotations to protect the basket.

Fortunately for Duke fans, the answer for the defense comes in the form of two players in particular.

Jahlil Okafor will man the paint while Justise Winslow patrols the outside. Winslow can defend up to four positions thanks to his length, athleticism and quickness and will likely find himself guarding the opponent’s best player almost every night.

Winslow will be a security blanket for the perimeter defenders, who will now be able to take more chances knowing the big guy is in front of the rim.

Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com had some high praise for Okafor:

I’m not saying Okafor is going to be Tim Duncan because that wouldn’t be fair. Duncan is one of the best big men to ever play basketball at any level, but Okafor is going to be the best pure center that the college game has seen in quite some time.

The 6-foot-10 Okafor is a throwback. In a time where fewer true five-men are playing the game and the position is filled with shot blockers or power forwards masquerading as centers, Okafor is like a mid-1990s NBA big man with post moves, craftiness and incredibly long arms. The Chicago native is the type of jaw-dropping talent that comes along once every couple of decades. 

Duke just can’t have an incredibly poor defense and accomplish its season goals of a conference title, Final Four appearance and national title run. Okafor and Winslow will make sure the Blue Devils are drastically better on that side of the ball.

 

Rebounding

Duke finished an abysmal 193rd in the country in total rebounding last year.

There is not much to add here that is different than the themes of the defense section. The Blue Devils cannot afford to rebound like that for a second consecutive year and expect to win any type of championship, be it in the conference or on a national stage.

Again, Okafor will be critical here. His incredible strength will help him clear out space on both ends of the floor and grab the majority of rebounds that come within arm’s length.

Don’t overlook Amile Jefferson, who was Duke’s best big man a year ago and finished with 6.9 rebounds a night.

Ideally, Marshall Plumlee would provide some help off the bench in the rebounding department, and Winslow will contribute on the glass thanks to the same length and athleticism that help him as a lockdown defender.

The defense will also naturally improve with better rebounding because those easy second-chance opportunities will fade away.

 

Early-Season Performance

Duke will challenge itself this year in the nonconference portion of its schedule with showdowns against Michigan State, Temple, Connecticut and Wisconsin. What’s more, not a single one of those games will take place in the friendly confines of Cameron.

That may be a problem with so many inexperienced freshmen.

We are not suggesting that the Blue Devils have to enter ACC play with an undefeated mark, but these games will be critical in terms of building confidence and preparing for conference play.

Duke will not be the same team in March as it is in November and December, but it also cannot afford to lose multiple blowout contests against some of the nation’s best teams.

The freshmen need some positive experiences in raucous environments before starting ACC play.

Fortunately, Krzyzewski has some battle-tested leaders on this young roster. He suggested as much recently, via The Herald-Sun:

As a team and as a staff, we could not be happier to have Quinn [Cook] and Amile [Jefferson] as our co-captains. They’re two veterans, returning starters. They know us, they know what we want to accomplish and their personalities just fit in so perfectly with the development of teamwork on our team. We’re very excited about having them as captains. 

If Duke picks up a couple of impressive nonconference wins, it will prove beneficial for seeding purposes come Selection Sunday. Battling with the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State and the defending champion Connecticut will also set the stage for a formidable conference run from a confidence standpoint.

 

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NCAA Basketball Preseason Rankings 2014: Predicting Initial Top 25 Poll

If the NCAA tournament is like Christmas for college basketball fans, then the release of the initial Top 25 rankings are the equivalent of the first decorations and holiday music in the stores.

It may not be the real thing quite yet, but it reminds us of what we are so excited about in the first place.

The 2014-15 season is right around the corner, and some of the blue-blood programs in the country are stacked with talent. Teams like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas will be among the nation’s best, which should set the stage for a thrilling month of madness in March.

With that in mind, here is a look at a prediction for the initial Top 25 rankings.

 

Digging Deeper 

Duke

Ho hum, another season and another Duke team near the top of the polls.

This time Mike Krzyzewski has the Blue Devils among the nation’s best because of a loaded recruiting class that includes dominant big man Jahlil Okafor, point guard Tyus Jones and versatile weapon Justise Winslow. Throw in the returning veterans Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, and there is a lot to work with here for Duke.

Okafor is the name that immediately jumps out as the potential No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft.

He is incredibly strong and clears out space down low with some impressive post moves. He also controls the glass with his rebounding prowess and will shore up Duke’s interior defense, which was a major concern last year.

Winslow and Jones are also solid defenders who give the Blue Devils more potential stoppers on that end of the floor. The primary reason Duke went home so early in the NCAA tournament last season was the guards couldn’t prevent penetration and the big men couldn’t swat opposing shots away when the ball made its way to the basket.

Okafor, Jones and Winslow should take care of that this year. 

Scott Gleeson and Nicole Auerbach of USA Today had the Blue Devils at No. 1 in their early rankings and made many of the same points: 

Despite losing their two best players and most prolific scorers in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, the Blue Devils will be loaded once again come fall — enough to land as our preseason No. 1. They’ll return veteran guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon as well as developing big man Amile Jefferson. Coach Mike Krzyzewski brings in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, which includes the best high school prospect in the country — 6-10 center Jahlil Okafor. He’s joined by two top-10 recruits in point guard Tyus Jones and versatile wing Justise Winslow. Duke’s woes this past season stemmed in large part from of its lack of an interior presence. 

 

Wisconsin

We can talk about the Dukes and North Carolinas of the world all we want, but it was Wisconsin that made it to the Final Four last season and narrowly missed a shot at the NCAA title when Aaron Harrison drilled a gut-wrenching three-pointer in the final seconds of the semifinal.

The centerpiece, quite literally, of the Badgers’ attack in 2014-15 will be Frank Kaminsky, who will use his versatility to lead the team from the inside and out. Evan Flood of 247Sports noted that Kaminsky was named a preseason All-American in some circles:

Kaminsky won’t be all by himself, though. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes give Bo Ryan multiple options at the forward position, while Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser will patrol the perimeter. 

Wisconsin’s starting five is the best combination of Final Four experience and talent in the entire nation. The Badgers appear to be the class of a Big Ten that has a number of good teams but no real great team (besides Wisconsin) and could very well seize a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

 

Kentucky

The team that knocked Wisconsin out at the Final Four will also be among the nation’s best yet again.

Kentucky will have the familiar freshmen studs who always anchor its lineup, but there is an air of experience that is not always there for John Calipari teams. Aaron and Andrew Harrison are the recognizable names in the backcourt, and Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress should anchor some of the big men and forward responsibilities.

It would still be a mistake to overlook the freshmen this year, especially with Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis arriving on campus. Between the veterans and youngsters, Calipari has depth at every position and will likely have a more talented group of five on the bench at any given time than most teams have on the floor.

Towns is perhaps the most intriguing one of the bunch, and the big man captured the eyes of NBA scouts when he was named the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 21.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and an astounding 6.4 blocks a game as a senior in high school.

One scout discussed Towns with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports: ”He’s very skilled and has a very good feel for playing the game of basketball. He’s strong. He plays his position well. There are not a lot of basketball players with his feel for the game. He can face up and make jump shots. He’s special.” 

The NBA will be the ultimate destination for Towns and plenty other Wildcats, but they will look to win a title in Lexington first.

 

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Injuries slow SDSU freshmen Cheatham, Pope

Fisher: SDSU freshmen Cheatham, Pope probably won’t be ready for season opener

      
 

 

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Injuries slow SDSU freshmen Cheatham, Pope (Yahoo Sports)

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher yells during the first half in a regional semifinal against Arizona in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State coach Steve Fisher says his two freshmen big men probably won’t be ready for the season opener Nov. 14 due to injuries.


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Arkansas State games selected for ESPN3

Arkansas State men’s, women’s games against Texas State to be carried by ESPN3

      
 

 

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