Arizona's forecast? Hot
Tommy Lloyd's team has new uniforms to go with a new roster and high expectations. Plus, Kentucky's recruiting momentum, thoughts on Sean McNeil's prospects and more.
It’s tough to fully think about college basketball on a day when Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, then worked its way north. Here’s hoping residents find shelter and stay safe.
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Let’s get to the college hoops news.
1. Tommy Lloyd’s encore
Thirty-three wins. Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament titles. A Sweet 16 appearance. Three players selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.
What does Tommy Lloyd have up his sleeve for Season 2 in Arizona?
It starts with a fresh look. The Wildcats unveiled uniforms Wednesday that honor that 1988 Final Four squad (it’ll be 35 years since Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr walked the campus in Tucson), and there will be a consistent reminder of that team, too: Kerr Kriisa prefers Kerr on his jersey instead of Kriisa.
It also means getting healthy. Incoming point guard Kylan Boswell, who reclassified to enroll early at Arizona, is progressing in his recovery from foot surgery, telling 247 “I’ve gotten back into just on-court stuff. I just recently got cleared to start jumping on my foot. It’s basically just how I feel, if I’m confident and stuff like that, but not really a time stamp.”
But how does Lloyd put it all together? That’s a central question in its Almanac preview. The Wildcats are ranked No. 14, and despite losing Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry to the draft, they could compete for another 1-seed if guards Pelle Larsson and Kriisa continue to develop.
OK, here’s one more peek at what’s ahead for Arizona. To read the rest, and the previews on the 362 other D1 teams, not to mention features on incoming freshmen, coaches on the hot seat, All-American teams and more, you’ll have to buy The Almanac. It’ll be the best $20 you spend all year.
2. Kentucky has entered the chat (for 2023 recruits)
Duke’s sat atop the 2023 recruit rankings for a while thanks to its five incoming 5-star prospects. Michigan State, UConn, Ohio State, Iowa State and Oregon all jumped spots during the last two months thanks to various commitments.
And Kentucky? It’s still sitting pretty with three 2023 commits. But it could cement an all-time class soon.
Its Big Blue Madness event on Oct. 14 will have Top 10 recruits DJ Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw in attendance, along with already-committed recruits Reed Sheppard and Justin Edwards. More interesting is that neither Wagner nor Bradshaw is expected to attend any Louisville events.
Recruiting sites predict that Bradshaw will choose Kentucky when he makes his college announcement on Nov. 16. Will Wagner follow suit and pick the Cats over the Cards?
If he does, that will give Kentucky four of the top 10 players in the class, per the 247Sports composite. Wagner is tops, Justin Edwards is second, Bradshaw is sixth and Robert Dillingham is ninth. Sheppard is just inside the top 30. That’s a class that could dethrone Duke from the top spot.
3. Ohio State’s guard question
Is there more to Sean McNeil’s game than just 3s? Ohio State sure hopes so.
“Of course you’re going to see the 3s, but I feel like you’ll see a couple highlight plays sprinkled in there, playmaking, creating for others, mid-range, all that,” teammate Gene Brown told the Columbus Dispatch. “If he gets going, he gets going. He can score in bunches.”
McNeil earned the reputation as one of college basketball’s top flamethrowers in his three seasons at West Virginia — 56 percent of his 765 field-goal attempts came from 3.
So about that “creating for others” comment. McNeil previously played an off-ball role, looking to run off screens and set up his quick-fire jumper. But Ohio State lacks trustworthy point guard options. It begins with freshman Bruce Thornton, a top-45 recruit in the 2022 class and Oklahoma State transfer Isaac Likekele. Both have the size and strength to push defenders inside, while McNeil is a smaller guard who isn’t super strong or athletic.
If coach Chris Holtmann needs McNeil to expand his game, that makes sense as the Buckeyes adjust to a roster mostly filled with new faces. But I think McNeil is valuable playing the role he played in Morgantown, which means likely flanking Thornton on the wing and limiting his playmaking duties. That shooting is the difference-maker.
THE DTF PODCAST
Having second thoughts
Most season outlooks are positive. It’s easy to be optimistic about new players, and what’s ahead.
But sometimes you gotta be more critical. Not necessarily slam someone, but figure out when to pump the brakes. Like how Rob Dauster, John Fanta and Terrence Oglesby do with a handful of teams here.
THE FAST BREAK
Links as you wonder what the Pickleball fuss is all about.
Two overseas players from Texas Rio Grande Valley, Alex Horiuk and Noels Slivackis, were ruled ineligible for this season. But, there’s more: The NCAA also is taking away a year of eligibility.
VCU partnered with Advance to educate its players on NIL.
Le Moyne College in Syracuse wants to transition back to D1, where it had been in the early 2000s. Eventually.
Andrej Stojakovic, son of long-time NBA standout Peja Stojakovic, cut his list to Oregon, USC, UCLA and Texas.
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