In my last installment of Freshmen Hooper Hype, I’ll be breaking down the next couple of top recruits, who coincidentally are both committed to Kentucky. Their recruiting class, like Duke, also boasts top-10 recruits in point guard De’Aaron Fox and power forward Bam Adebayo, two players who are very likely to be huge pieces of the Wildcat rotation this season. They, as always is with Kentucky, have big shoes to fill with the departures of Marcus Lee, Charles Matthews, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, and Tyler Ulis.
So far in my posts, I’ve covered my top five recruits of 2016, but now I’ll move on to finishing out the Duke recruiting class (Despite my fundamental dislike for Duke and their perennial dominance, I have to respect it, and the brilliant recruiting job Mike Krzyzewski does, especially this year). Per usual, Duke’s full 2016 team is looking scary good–at least on paper. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are two forwards who both have a legitimate chance of being the No. 1 Draft Pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Coach K rounded out this year’s class with three more top-40 recruits, two of which are consensus top-15, in point guard Frank Jackson, center Marques Bolden, and power forward Javin DeLaurier. The question is–with all this young prep star talent, can they be unselfish and polished enough to win a championship at the collegiate level? I think they can at least get close, but only time will tell.
Frank Jackson — PG 6’3”, 208 lbs
The explosive Jackson is ranked No. 5 on 247Sports and No. 12 on Rivals. He’s got stellar leaping ability; most of his highlights center around high-flying and athletic trick dunks. Jackson also showcases the some good range and has a nice stroke. At 6-foot-3 and 208, he’s already filled out nicely, but doesn’t necessarily have elite size that would translate easily to the professional level. Jackson, like many of the prospects Duke nabbed from this class, is more of a scorer than passer. He’ll need to improve his vision and learn to use the weapons he has around him in Giles, Tatum, Bolden, and junior guard Grayson Allen in order to really show how much upside he has. He’ll have an immediate starting spot, along with the chance to make an immediate impact, but there’s no telling what offensive option he will become with all the scorers on this team surrounding him.
You can see Jackson’s above-the-rim play here:
Marques Bolden — C 6’11”, 250 lbs
Bolden may only be a quarter-inch taller than his teammate Giles, but he’s got over 25 pounds of more muscle on him, making him the more natural choice for center. While it seems likely he’d earn the starting spot over Chase Jeter, Coach K hasn’t really said what he’ll do here. He’s already projected to be the No. 8 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft due to his physical tools; the 6-foot-11 Bolden has a wingspan of 7-foot-6. Part of his advantage seems to be that he’s bigger and stronger than everyone on the court–and even though this won’t necessarily be the case in college, he’s big enough to out-muscle many collegiate big men. He’s shown scouts that he has pretty good mobility for his size, however, physicality isn’t everything. Bolden will need to develop into a serious defensive weapon if he wants to be able to play successfully at the next level. As seen on his mixtape, he’s best when he can be a catch-and-shoot player. If he develops some serious footwork skills and handles down low, Bolden could become one of the most desired professional prospects to come out of next year’s draft. Similarly to all of the other Blue Devils, it has yet to be seen how Bolden will work with his new teammates, all of whom are used to being huge stars wherever they play.
Check out Bolden’s upside on his BallisLife.com mixtape here:
Javin DeLaurier — PF 6’9”, 215 lbs
DeLaurier, the only four-star recruit in this high-powered recruiting class, could be the dark horse that surprises everyone in later years–however not this season. The power forward is smaller and more offensively limited than Harry Giles, but he has potential as a defender, and is probably the best team-player to come out of this recruiting class–Duke may need him to help glue the team together on defense as the third man off of the bench. He’s ranked No. 39 nationally on both 247Sports and Rivals. DeLaurier isn’t likely to start this season despite this high ranking, nor to leave the team after one year unlike the rest of Duke’s recruits. It’s unclear how much Coach K will use him in the first year due to the return of Amile Jefferson, who was granted a medical hardship waiver and will play one more year. Scouts on DraftExpress have called DeLaurier a power forward with the skill set of a center, so it’s possible that he could get more time backing up Marques Bolden and Chase Jeter than Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson. DeLaurier will add needed depth to the Duke frontcourt, which will become especially handy if Giles health fails him during his freshman campaign.
Check out DeLaurier’s potential as Duke’s eighth man this season:
Others currently entering Duke’s active roster this season:
Jack White — a top-5 forward from Australia, and three-star recruit.
Justin Robinson — redshirted last season, son of NBA legend David Robinson. Likely reserve forward–three-star recruit in 2015 class.
This week I preview the next three highly regarded players to come out of the class of 2016 and what could make them stand out in the 2016-17 season, along with providing mixtapes of each. Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, and Markelle Fultz have the potential to be high-end lottery picks in the 2017 NBA Draft if they’re able to develop and mature quickly. Each is a bit different in style and upside, but all three have the potential to be a stand out player for their respective teams this season.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down some of the most and hyped freshman entering the NCAA in the 2016-17 season, as well as providing readers with the best mixtape video I’ve found of each. Today, I’ll start with the consensus top-2 players recruited this year: Josh Jackson, a shooting guard headed to Bill Self’s already impressive Kansas squad, and power forward Harry Giles, a very important part of Duke’s newest powerhouse recruiting class.
Everyone loves a good underdog win, unless of course your favorite team is the one getting trampled. March Madness is always riddled with upsets, and this year, in which there were the most losses by No. 1 ranked teams in NCAA regular season history, there’s bound to be an aura of unpredictability surrounding the whole tournament.
Here are my predictions for what could be the biggest upsets in each region:
Chattanooga (No. 12) over Indiana (No. 5)
Yes. Indiana won the Big Ten regular season conference title. But their conference strength of schedule was last in the conference. Yes. They have senior star Yogi Ferrell. But without Robert Johnson or James Blackmon, Jr., they are shorthanded, and were just upset by Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Indiana’s momentum is lacking while Chattanooga is just coming off winning the Southern Conference tournament, and have an ongoing five-game win streak. They are filled with upperclassmen, all of whom are capable defenders, and have already created a few upsets this year, including wins over Dayton, Illinois, and Georgia. Although they have an RPI ranking of 53 while Indiana is ranked 24, the Mocs shouldn’t be overlooked just yet.
UNC Wilmington (No. 13) over Duke (No. 4)
The reigning 2015 National Champion Blue Devils are very shorthanded this year, using only a seven-man rotation regularly. Along with the players who left for the NBA last year, a key loss on this year’s team was senior Amile Jefferson, who was lost just nine games into the season to a foot injury. The wear and tear has been evident with Duke’s players, who went 3-4 in their last seven games of the season, including a loss to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament in which they failed to score in the final seven and a half minutes through overtime. Their star guard, Grayson Allen, was especially affected and fouled out in overtime even though he didn’t even record one foul in regulation time. Duke’s fatigue could give way to a solid and experienced UNC-Wilmington squad who has an RPI rating of 47 coming into the tournament. Even though they haven’t played any games against a top-50 team, they are 4-2 against numbers 51-100, and have won 10 of their last 12. This momentum, along with their depth (they go 10 or 11 deep at times) and experience, could be enough to pull down Coach K’s struggling and tired Blue Devils.
South Dakota State (No. 12) over Maryland (No. 5)
Maryland didn’t quite implode as much as their fellow Big Ten member, Iowa, but they did struggle at the end of the regular season. Many college basketball fans wonder how Maryland could be beaten as much as they were in the second half of the season since they combat any team with a very balanced attack and strong defense, and yet, they lost five of their last eight games. Maryland’s problems come from their high number of turnovers; the Terps turn the ball over 12.9 times per game, and teams that have beat them were able to capitalize on this. When star sophomore point guard Melo Trimble (14.4 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.5 RBG, 1.3 SPG) is forced to do most of the work offensively, he struggles to finish around the rim and has been shooting poorly from behind the arc (33 percent). This was seen best when Maryland lost to the lowly Minnesota Gophers, a team the Jackrabbits beat soundly. South Dakota State may play safer defense than a lot of teams, but they are experienced, have a firecracker offensive talent in freshman forward Mike Daum (15.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG), and have momentum coming into the game. If SDSU’s defense can get Trimble flustered and make him do too much, they have a decent chance at upsetting the Terrapins in the Round of 64.
Iona (No. 13) over Iowa St. (No. 4)
Finally, the world will meet senior guard A.J. English (22.4 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG) in the big dance. He led the Gaels to a MAAC tournament championship over the Monmouth Hawks, and is the No. 10 scorer in all of Division-1 NCAA basketball. They are on an eight game win streak, and truly peaking at the right time. Scoring 79.6 points per game (31st in nation), and creating 16.8 assists per game (15th in nation) make them a huge threat to Iowa State. The Cyclones have lost two in a row, and despite being in the Big 12, this is never the best way to enter a tournament. Likely a very high scoring game, both teams are offensive juggernauts (Iowa State scores 81.8 PPG, 15th in nation) and struggle to defend, which could result in a shootout. Additionally, Iowa State struggled last year, getting beat out by UAB in their very first game by a single point (60-59). History could repeat itself in 2016, as they have a tough draw in the Iona Gaels.
All of the games above have pretty big seeding differentials. I’ve put some of my favorite not-as-crazy upsets below.
VCU (No. 10) over Oregon State (No. 7)
Tres Tinkle is out with a foot injury, and without their best big man, Oregon State will be forced to play small ball. While this isn’t too much of an issue, as they rely mostly on the backcourt of Gary Payton II and Stephen Thompson Jr., it may become a problem to not have an inside threat since VCU’s two guards and small forward, Melvin Johnson, Korey Bilbury, and JeQuan Lewis combine for an average of 4.0 steals per game.
Temple (No. 10) over Iowa (No. 7)
Iowa has lost five of their last six games, and Temple’s Quentin DeCosey (15.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG) and low turnover average (9.2, No. 1 in the nation) may prove to be a problem for Iowa’s defense.
Wichita St. (No. 11) over Arizona (No. 6)
This one just screams the cliché my high school basketball coach used as his mantra: “Defense wins championships!” Wichita State has the number one defense in the nation, per Ken Pomeroy, and these are two tournament-tested teams that have had huge expectations in the past two years. In fact, this one could be the best game in the Round of 64, and it could turn into a great upset for the Shockers, despite the fact that Arizona’s offense scores 81.2 PPG (19th in nation).