By Ken Cross
After Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Johnson departed Louisville for the NBA Draft, the Cardinals were relieved when the 6-7 junior Deng Adel pulled his name out and announced on May 24 that he was coming back for his junior season.
Adel is a huge piece of the puzzle for the Cardinals as coach Rick Pitino has noted he will play more at a 2-guard position with savvy Quentin Snider on the point. Then, V.J. King will pop into the small forward position and make the Cardinals a tough matchup in the backcourt.
Pitino noted that Adel told him he wanted to try to win a championship and go to a Final Four as well as to try to be a lottery pick. Adel will allow the Cardinals to have as much length as anyone in the nation.
“We have a lot of terrific returning players who are highly motivated,” said Pitino, “Recruiting has never gone as well as it has in the last couple of years. It is very exciting times for us as our players are coming back for all the right reasons.”
Reshaping the Cavaliers
Virginia coach Tony Bennett should have received more credit than he did for the 23 wins that the Cavaliers recorded in 2016-17. After all he had only one legitimate scorer in senior guard London Perrantes.
Consummate reshaping is in order in Charlottesville as Marial Shayock transferred to Iowa State, Darrius Thompson left for Western Kentucky, and Jerred Reuter bolted for George Mason.
So what’s up with the Cavaliers? Why all of the upheaval?
Part of it is pace of play. We live in a world where everyone wants to do everything faster than the next person. According to kenpom.com, Virginia was last in pace of play this past season. Yes, that’s 351st out of 351 Division 1 teams as the Cavaliers averaged 21 seconds per possession.
This puts too much pressure on the offense to perform because it limits possessions; not to mention, it chases away the 5-star and 4-star athletes at warped speed.
Needless to say, Virginia is going to rely almost totally on incoming graduate transfer Nigel Johnson, freshman Marco Anthony, and red-shirt freshmen Jay Huff and De’Andre Hunter to come in and score consistently. The 6-11 Huff has to be the only scoring threat in the paint for Bennett.
Irish, Brey, guards, milestones …
It’s incredible that Mike Brey starts his 18th season at Notre Dame, but what is not incredible is his rate of winning as he is likely to go over 500 wins in his career and 400 wins with the Fighting Irish this season.
Brey’s only losing season was in 2013-14 when the Irish had to transition into the ACC after 25 wins the year before. One common denominator in his success is that he has always had a plethora of guards that could dominate games and virtually set up any type of offense he chose.
That guard sport is a role call alright as it started in 2001 with Matt Carroll and continued through the years until last season with the judicious Matt Farrell on the point.
Farrell, who returns for his senior season, was 29th in the nation in assist rate, according to kenpom.com. That statistic takes his number of assists and divides it by baskets made by his teammates while, in this case, Farrell was on the floor.
Looking to the future, Brey snagged his guard for the ’18-19 campaign and much further where he inked Gonzaga High School star Prentiss Hubb for his 2018 recruiting class. Hubb is a point guard, but also could be type cast as a combo guard with his shooting ability.
The beat goes on in structuring the perimeter at Notre Dame.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) May 24, 2017
Larranaga heading off a storm
Jim Larranaga is one of the top recruiters in college basketball as he has built Miami into a treacherous stop in the rigors of the ACC. Now, he has to worry about early NBA defections like any one else.
Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker are two underclassmen that could get NBA nods if they have strong 2017-18 seasons. Brown came in and was a key shooter in the backcourt last year while Walker chose Miami over Kentucky, Arizona, Syracuse, and Villanova in becoming the latest heralded freshman with a South Beach address.
Larranaga has two scholarships left and hosts Mount St. Mary’s transfer Miles Wilson next week. Wilson is one of the top players on the transfer market and hints that Auburn is in the mix with the Hurricanes.
Berry, Berry, Good
North Carolina’s Roy Williams got a reprieve of sorts when point guard Joel Berry decided to return to the Tar Heels for his senior season. Berry, the anchor on the Tar Heels’s national title run, could join select company if he leads UNC back to it’s third consecutive Final Four.
Of course, Carolina will be talented, yet inexperienced as Williams will use Berry, Theo Pinson, and Luke Maye as the catalyst of a youthful 2017-18 squad.
Kenny Williams also has star potential on the perimeter as does sophomore Seventh Woods.
Up next…a dynamic Deacons duo
With leading scorer and rebounder John Collins headed to the NBA Draft as a likely top 20 pick, where do the Wake Forest Demon Deacons turn next?
The scoring is probably going to be a dual effort between point guard Bryant Crawford and shooting guard Keyshawn Woods. Both players proved they not only could score but could create off the dribble for Collins as well as each other.
Crawford was second on the team in scoring at 16.2 ppg while leading in assists at 5.5 and then getting to the free throw line as well. Crawford shot 82.6 percent while getting to the line 172 times.
Woods shot 49.5 percent from the floor while averaging 12.5 points per game. He also shot 43.8 percent from three.