College Basketball Nation: 2013 NBA draft

King: Game plans for replacing lottery picks

July, 5, 2013
7/05/13
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Jason King takes a look at 12 programs that are replacing lottery picks. Here's an excerpt from King's story:
Saying goodbye is never easy. Especially when you're bidding farewell to a Wooden Award winner, a first-team All-American, a 20-point-per game scorer -- or perhaps even a player who turned pro before he was ready.

At some point, though, it's time to move on.

One week after the 2013 NBA draft, programs across America are adjusting to life without their stars. The transition can be particularly difficult for schools who lost the elite players, the best of the best ... the lottery picks.


Read more from King by clicking here.

Podcast: UNLV coach Dave Rice

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
4:00
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UNLV coach Dave Rice discusses whether he was surprised that the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, how Bennett can improve and more.http://proxy.espn.go.com/blogadmin/collegebasketballnation/wp-admin/edit.php?page=statusPage

Podcast: Indiana coach Tom Crean

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
12:08
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Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean comments on his expectations for Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, the comparisons of Oladipo to Dwyane Wade and more.

Audio: Maryland coach Mark Turgeon

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
2:44
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Maryland coach Mark Turgeon discusses his excitement surrounding the possibility that Alex Len will be the top pick in tonight's NBA draft, talks about Len's development on and off the court over the past year, explains why Len's game will translate well in the NBA and much more.
I remain unconvinced by the argument that the 2013 draft is historically bereft of talent. I think the meme that has seemingly defined the draft thus far -- that an athletic shot-blocker with a torn ACL (Nerlens Noel) could go No. 1 means the entire draft itself is awful -- misses the point in a variety of ways.

That doesn't mean there are 10 franchise-changing stars in this year's haul, but there are a handful of good pros, if not more -- Noel, Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo -- plus plenty of intriguing players (like C.J. McCollum and Jamaal Franklin, to name a couple favorites) littered throughout. It's not a great draft, but we're not talking about Stromile Swift at No. 1 here. This isn't 2000.

With that said, here comes the kicker: Alex Len might go No. 1 in this year's draft.

[+] EnlargeAlex Len
Jonathan Newton / The Washington PostMaryland center Alex Len and his huge wingspan could be headed to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft.
In his latest mock draft, Chad Ford notes that while Cleveland is still heavy on Noel at No. 1, strong competition has emerged in the form of Len, who is seen as more polished offensively, and thus more likely to fit in a pick-and-pop game with Cavs star guard Kyrie Irving. Draft Express recently moved Len to the top of its prospect rankings. New Orleans Times-Picayune writer Jimmy Smith tweeted Monday that Len was now the "likely choice" for the Cavs at No. 1. Sheridan Hoops has this:
Recent buzz out of Cleveland has centered around Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, and Ben McLemore as targets Cavs GM Chris Grant has started to re-examine. It appears Grant might pass on Noel, who has loads of upside but is very raw offensively and likely won’t play his first NBA game until at least January 2014.

All season long Len has intrigued Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas with his skills, length, and upside. It appears Ilgauskas may be swaying others in Cleveland to join him on Len’s bandwagon.

First of all, I can't believe I didn't know Zydrunas Ilgauskus was a member of the Cavs' front office. But he is indeed, an assistant general manager, and apparently one with enough juice to exert some form of pressure on the organization to draft his preferred player.

Should we be surprised by Len's sudden ascension? It's not hard to figure out why NBA scouts would love him: He's a legitimate 7-footer who scores around the basket and blocks shots, with the added benefit of great footwork and hands and a childhood background in gymnastics, which must go some way toward easing a GM's tension of drafting any big man with injury concerns. Len was solid for the Terps as a sophomore; he rebounded well, scored efficiently, and blocked a boatload of shots.

Len has always had the NBA on his horizon. In this sense, no, it's not surprising. But considering how so-so Maryland was last season, how little love Len got in end-of-the-year award voting, and how much attention has been paid to other top-five draft picks, seeing Len not only among that group, but in serious contention to go No. 1 overall is jarring, isn't it?

Every year, the NBA emphasizes the divide between what we see on college courts and what scouts project for the next five to 10 years. This might not be the most extreme example, but it is an example nonetheless. This draft could be wild.
1. The NCAA will have a portal available in July on its website for Final Four sites to make proposals for 2017-2020; a decision on sites for those years will be made later in 2014. The NCAA won't put any restrictions on the proposals, meaning that a city that doesn't have a dome can make an offer and the NCAA will discuss it. The NCAA has made one decision on domes -- it is done with them in regional finals. Mark Lewis, the NCAA's vice president in charge of championships, said using domes for regionals was a trial run for future Final Fours. But the upcoming Final Four sites have already had the dry run, so the NCAA doesn't need to do this anymore. Lewis said regional finals should be in arenas, and that will be the plan going forward. The next three Final Fours are in Arlington, Texas, in 2014; Indianapolis in 2015; and Houston in 2016.

2. Connecticut should get the credit it deserves for getting its Academic Progress Rate scores up to the appropriate level to qualify for the 2014 postseason. The Huskies got the necessary criticism for not qualifying last season. But the problem with the APR is that it goes back four years, not two. The most recent past of the Huskies has been good enough to stay eligible for postseason. UConn had to fix this problem and it did. The Huskies were the highest-profile team to sit out due as punishment for poor scores -- embarrassing and humbling for the school and program. Now the onus is on the school to keep the APR score high and for the Huskies to be once again a conference title contender.

3. Nerlens Noel will go to Washington (where the Wizards hold the No. 3 pick in the June 27 NBA draft) Friday after originally planning only to visit the teams with the top two picks -- Cleveland (set for June 20) and Orlando, earlier this month. Noel may also visit No. 4 Charlotte. Ben McLemore will visit Cleveland the same time Noel is there. Cleveland is getting a slew of calls about the No. 1 pick. The Cavs will listen, but they have to decide if a player in the lottery will help them next season or in 2014-15. The difference between the players in the lottery and those projected to go in the middle of the first round is marginal, according to one general manager. With that being the case, what is the point of making a move just to make a move?
1. Character does count. Of course, it matters when it is put alongside talent. But the two players in the NBA draft lottery who continue to get high marks for character, performance and readiness are Indiana's Victor Oladipo and Georgetown's Otto Porter. In a draft that may lack franchise players, teams are searching for low-maintenance players who can help. And Oladipo and Porter are fitting that more than others, according to a number of a teams. Oladipo can come in and contribute in more than one way, offering up a high-energy second-unit player. Porter can be a scorer who may flourish more in an open game. Neither Oladipo nor Porter will likely last long on draft night.

2. NBA teams are like college coaches in that they will buy into the latest trend. And the search for the next Paul George is the latest example. The player who is creating a George-like buzz is Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The 6-foot-5 Georgia wing was a high-level scorer for the Bulldogs. Now, Georgia is obviously a higher-profile school than Fresno State where George played, but the Bulldogs, like their same mascot named team to the West, were hardly known nationally the past two seasons. Caldwell-Pope isn't someone who was featured much at all nationally. But there are already comparisons being drawn between the two players. Don't expect Caldwell-Pope to last late in the lottery.

3. Indiana's Cody Zeller is a perfect example of a player who won't be affected at all by one poor performance on a national stage. I was in Washington, D.C., in March when Zeller played small and short against Syracuse's zone. He had no lift against the zone and couldn't find his shot, let alone get out and be effective as a big man. That is now deemed much more of an aberration than the performances Zeller had during the season when he did run the floor and was effective. Zeller's athleticism on display in Chicago at the draft combine last month and his workout regimen is making him much more of a safer pick than other big men. Zeller didn't look like an NBA player during that Sweet 16 loss, and the media didn't hold back in referencing his in ability to stand out. But he'll be one of the first big men to hear his name called on June 27, making his decision to leave look like the right one.
In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five NBA Draftees Since 1989 (Syracuse)

1. Carmelo Anthony (2003)
2. Derrick Coleman (1990)
3. Sherman Douglas (1989)
4. Billy Owens (1991)
5. Hakim Warrick (2005)

Sixth man: John Wallace (1996)

The rest: Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Wesley Johnson, Andy Rautins, Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene, Demetris Nichols, Damone Brown, Etan Thomas, Jason Hart, Dion Waiters, Lawrence Moten, Conrad McRae, David Johnson, LeRon Ellis

[+] Enlarge Carmelo Anthony
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonCarmelo Anthony is one of the few former Syracuse players who have truly succeeded in the NBA.
Why they're ranked where they are: Syracuse cracked the top 20 largely due to the overall success of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Coleman. Anthony is a future Hall of Famer and has plenty of time to boost his accomplishments. Coleman (16.5 PPG career average), an enigma throughout his time in the NBA, earned rookie of the year honors in 1991, made an All-Star appearance in 1994 and was twice named to the all-NBA team. Billy Owens and Sherman Douglas were decent pros too. And Dion Waiters, who averaged 14.7 PPG in his debut last season, could blossom into an NBA standout in the coming years -- and certainly could crack the Cuse top five in the near future. But let's be real: Syracuse squeezed into these rankings. Sure, the Orange boast 21 draft picks since 1989. Few, however, have actually succeeded at the next level. And there are multiple guys on this list who were projected to be stars but were ultimately professional letdowns. The Minnesota Timberwolves chose Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry with the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Curry led his team to the NBA playoffs this year. Flynn played in Australia. That’s why Syracuse stands at No. 20. Too many disappointments. It’s a surprising reality for a college program that boasts one of the game’s most fruitful legacies. Syracuse has earned most of its accolades, however, with players who weren’t admirable NBA contributors.

Why they could be ranked higher: Syracuse’s sheer numbers are impressive. Even though the program hasn’t produced many high-level professionals since 1989, it has sent nearly two dozen players to the league in that time span. Plus, the list features a bunch of young players who have been in the league for a short time, so their success is difficult to assess at this point. If this were a quantitative measurement alone, Syracuse might have a case for elevation. Producing one of the NBA’s best players doesn’t hurt its argument either. Coleman, Douglas and Owens held their own for years in the league too.

Why they could be ranked lower: If we’re real about this thing, then we’ll admit Syracuse hasn’t exactly been a factory for NBA talent since 1989, the year that the two-round system was implemented. After Anthony, there’s a major decline in the talent pool. And when you move beyond Coleman, you won’t find many players who competed at a high level for more than a few years in the NBA. Many failed to live up to the hype. Warrick averaged double figures for three of his first four years in the league, but the 19th pick in the 2005 draft has bounced around the NBA since then. The Timberwolves selected Wesley Johnson at No. 4 in the 2010 draft, when Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George were available. Johnson could be a solid role player with the Phoenix Suns, but he’s no star. Etan Thomas was the 12th pick in the 2000 draft. He averaged 5.7 PPG over a nine-year career. We had a lengthy discussion about this list. Trust me. Syracuse wasn’t a sure thing when that discussion started. Considering all the players who fizzled at the next level, I think Jim Boeheim's program is lucky to have a slot. Without Anthony, the Orange wouldn’t be on this list.

What’s ahead? There are still a few unknowns in the discussion about Syracuse’s NBA legacy. Anthony continues to grow as a player. He has scored 17,846 points in 10 seasons. And he just turned 29 this week. As I mentioned earlier, Johnson could continue to mature and play a more significant role in the future. Waiters is an athletic winger who had a strong year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is he a future All-Star? Maybe, maybe not. But there are a lot of talented prospects who failed to average 14.7 PPG in a season during their careers. The Boston Celtics envision a bright future for Fab Melo, a 7-footer who’s still raw. It’s also important to monitor the players who will enter the draft in the coming years. Michael Carter-Williams might be a lottery pick this summer. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant could warrant spots in the first round next summer. The perception about Syracuse’s ability to produce NBA talent could change in the near future. There are still a variety of young players with the ties to the program who can’t be thoroughly analyzed at this point in their NBA tenures.

Final thoughts: There are a few ways to look at this list. Yes, Syracuse is at No. 20. That’s probably surprising considering the program’s stance as one of the most consistent and successful units in college basketball. Anthony, however, is the only true NBA superstar that the squad has produced since 1989. But I also think this list helps the Orange. Boeheim’s guys haven’t found a lot of success at the next level, yet the team is a perennial national title contender. That’s impressive. This is a specific barometer. It was not created to assess a program’s collegiate value. Syracuse’s consistency is notable, despite the struggles its players have had in the NBA. Still, the Orange’s standing in the league could change in the coming years. A number of players who are in the NBA now or will be in the league soon could push Cuse up this list and others like it. Right now, however, No. 20 makes sense.
College basketball fans define themselves almost as much by what they are as what they are not -- namely, fans of the professional game. But for all the shared denial about the quality of the NBA, or its defense, or whether NBA players take too many steps, there can be no denying the long shadow the league casts over all things college hoops.

This has usually, if not always, been the case since the Toronto Huskies first met the New York Knickerbockers in Maple Leaf Gardens, but it has accelerated in the modern post-Michael Jordan era as the NBA's global popularity exploded and salaries and shoe contracts came along for the ride. Since 2006, the NBA age minimum has compelled the best young prospects to play at least one season in college. Where college coaches used to do everything they could to keep stars in school, some have ingeniously made a fast path to the NBA draft the biggest selling point on offer.

The shadow doesn't stop at the elite. Every year, hundreds of high school prospects enter college with one goal in mind, no matter how mathematically improbable. Every year, a few dozen players leave school early to chase their dream whether they're ready or not. Every year, Nike and Adidas pour millions into grassroots basketball, peddling exposure and influence to thousands of kids on the off-chance one of them is the next LeBron James.

Frankly, the shadow has never been longer.

[+] EnlargeRick Pitino
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsLouisville has NCAA chops aplenty, but where might the Cardinals rate in NBA pedigree?
It is no surprise, then, that we're keeping track. In the modern game, draftees are more than a point of pride, more than barometers of longevity or strength. They're currency.

Then, after players are drafted, a funny thing happens: The analysis stops. Players are drafted or they aren't; the program has done its work or it hasn't; and we all turn to the next crop of talented guys. College fans don't spend much time tracking the larger trajectories of former draftees' careers. (OK, OK: Wake Forest fans may occasionally rent a highway billboard to lament the descent of a program that unleashed insurance agent Chris Paul and basketballing replicant Tim Duncan into the world. That'll happen.) But more often than not, college fans don't care. Why would they?

That got us thinking: What if we did care? What if we ranked schools based not on how many players they sent to the draft, but on how good those players' careers were? Forget sheer quantity; let's focus on quality. What would those rankings look like?

So that's what we did. With the help of caffeine, our editors, a daunting all-time NBA draft results spreadsheet and too much time spent looking at career splits, we ranked the top 20 programs by what we're deciding to call "NBA pedigree."

What does "pedigree" mean? That's part of the fun, of course, figuring that out. But our methodology isn't all that complex. It's almost entirely based on the careers of former collegians drafted since 1989, the start of the two-round era (before then, it was seven rounds, and 10 before that, and 21 before that). It's a combination of the performance, longevity and legacy NBA fans discuss when they debate the greatest players of all time.

Which college program has borne the most great players in the modern draft era? Does having one or two Hall of Famers and not much else lend a program more "pedigree" than one that has produced a spate of average 10-year pros? Which do we value more, and why?

These are the questions we'll attempt to answer in the coming weeks, as we count down to the June 27 NBA draft. Each day, in ascending order, we'll dive into one team's best NBA players drafted since 1989. We'll account for the legacy of retired players and active veterans; and we'll look ahead at young players whose career stories are yet to be written. We start today with Myron's look at No. 20 Syracuse.

I can't predict you'll agree with our rankings or our reasoning, but that's to be expected. (NBA people can't agree on the top five players in the game today, let alone the best ever.) That, too, is part of the fun. And that's one prediction I'm willing to try on: This is going to be fun.
1. The new Big East pulled off an officiating coup from its competitor the American Athletic Conference when it landed veteran official John Cahill as its coordinator. Art Hyland, who is retiring as the old Big East's coordinator, will stay on as a consultant. The news of these moves was conveyed to coaches during meetings in Florida on Monday and Tuesday. The American conference was also interested in Cahill and will search for a coordinator. The two conferences will likely compete for the same pool of officials when they play on the same date, mostly Saturdays. The buzz on the meetings was positive as the 10 schools, with their coaches and athletic directors, discussed the future with their television partner, Fox sports. The coaches weren't tipped on the next commissioner, but were told a name would be revealed soon. The schools still don't know which days they will be playing on during the conference season as Fox plans the winter schedule.

2. Tuesday's NBA draft lottery worked out perfectly for Nerlens Noel. If Cleveland takes him No. 1, he won't have all the pressure on him to produce immediately as he returns from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. The Cavaliers have a star in Kyrie Irving, a first-team all-rookie player in Dion Waiters and can afford to wait on Noel if need be next season. Noel would probably not be best served in Orlando (the Magic got the No. 2 pick), where the expectation would be for him to contribute sooner. The past two centers Orlando has picked at the top of the first round -- Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal -- are unfair comparison. The Cavs have flourished in finding the right young talent through the draft in the post-LeBron era. Noel would fit in well with this organization.

3. Mike Rice might never get another head or assistant coaching job in the sport. But he must not have been looking to be coddled or seeking sympathy in entering John Lucas' program in Houston -- Lucas doesn't do either. He plays it straight and will work with Rice on anger management. Rice has to be a productive member of society for his family, and one would assume he needs to work. If there was anyone in basketball who can help Rice in his recovery, it's Lucas.
1. Oregon is now one-year U. The Ducks under Dana Altman have made a habit of finding players for one season who can make an impact. UNLV's Mike Moser is the latest to choose Oregon in this situation, picking the Ducks over Washington and Gonzaga. Moser, who will be at his third school in his college career after starting out at UCLA, follows Devoe Joseph (Minnesota), Olu Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) and Arsalan Kazemi (Rice), who all flourished in their one season in Eugene. Adding transfers with more than one year left is also fair game -- the Ducks have taken in Wake Forest's Tony Woods. But credit the Oregon staff, led by Altman, for filling needs. The Ducks have needed mostly big men as their young guards develop; losing E.J. Singler and Kazemi off last season's NCAA team left a glaring opening for a rebounder and a potential inside scorer. If Moser can return to being one of the best on the boards in the country, as he was two seasons ago (an elbow injury slowed him this past season), the Ducks will have the complement needed to young guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Meanwhile, Memphis' Tarik Black was on campus Tuesday and will leave Wednesday for visits to Georgetown, Kansas and Duke, according to a source with direct knowledge -- so the Ducks could add even more to the stable of one-year transfers. As one assistant coach who has recruited these type of players said, the one-year player at the end of his college career is in high demand because he can make more of an impact than an average freshman.

2. The NCAA rules committee, men's basketball tournament selection committee and the National Association of Basketball Coaches board met Tuesday in Indianapolis as one group to discuss the NCAA tournament and any potential rules changes. The rules committee should have a decision on any changes sometime Thursday. NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt and West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who is on the selection committee, were both present; according to sources, neither has shown signs that his selection as the next commissioner of the new Big East is imminent -- though sources said the new league's presidents are close to a decision. If that is the case and it's not Gavitt, a former Big East associate commissioner, or Zaninovich, a favorite of many in the league, it could be someone from outside the league. That list is broad but could include Tim Brosnan, a Major League Baseball executive. Someone like Brosnan would make sense considering that the new Big East has partnered with Fox, which has a strong relationship with MLB. A few administrators would prefer a strong person in the NCAA membership who has already been a commissioner. But the new Big East presidents -- who also selected former CBS executive Mike Aresco as commissioner of the old Big East, now the American Conference -- were looking for someone with strong television connections. The new Big East needs to get a commissioner soon, with the clock ticking toward fall sports starting and an office, championships, bylaws, scheduling and compliance still to be determined.

3. Next week's NBA draft combine in Chicago could be one of the most intriguing camps because of the parity in the draft and the unknowns beyond some of the top players. The injuries to Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len mean there are even more questions than answers heading into the event. There is hardly a consensus beyond the top three of Noel, Bennett and Ben McLemore. Team workouts will be even more important for so many players who could play their way not just into the first round but into the late lottery. This will be even more of a need draft for teams picking after the top five and looking for a specific position. Which player is the best available will be highly debatable since you could ask 10 people at a given spot and receive 10 different answers.

3-point shot: NBA deadline looming

April, 24, 2013
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1. A number of college stars still have major decisions to make this week on their NBA draft plans and, according to either coaches or family members, the decisions are down to 50-50 for Miami's Shane Larkin, Michigan State's Adreian Payne, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Louisville's Russ Smith and Baylor's Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. You can probably add Syracuse's C.J. Fair to this list of players still undecided as Sunday's NBA early-entry deadline looms. Miami and Creighton desperately need their All-Americans to return. If the Baylor players decide to stay, the Bears could be the third-best team in the Big 12. If they do not, Baylor might be lucky to be in the NIT.

2. The one-and-done rule gets all the headlines, but the number of transfers is what is stunting team growth and winning with consistency in a number of spots. Alabama had a chance to be a top-four SEC team, but that became much more difficult with the decision of Trevor Lacey to transfer. Tony Chennault wasn't a major contributor for Villanova after transferring from Wake Forest -- but he's on the move again in search of more playing time, while possibly sacrificing a chance to win. Players transfer for a host of reasons. But impatience is usually high on the list.

3. Pac-12 officials meets next week in Phoenix and, according to the league office, commissioner Larry Scott might not address the Ed Rush resignation in any great detail, nor will he get into the tension between the league and Arizona over the $25,000 fine levied against head coach Sean Miller. The league office contends that the Miller fine had nothing to do with the "jokes" Rush made at an officials meeting in which incentives were said to be offered for calling a technical against Miller; Rush has said he was joking, but wanted officials to enforce the rules on the court and in bench decorum. The league is conducting an internal investigation into the incident and how it was handled; a finding is due in June. Arizona wants Miller's fine rescinded, but there has been no indication that will occur.
1. Creighton's Doug McDermott is nowhere near close to making a decision on whether to declare for the NBA or return to the Bluejays, his father and coach Greg McDermott said. Greg McDermott said Doug will take this call down to the NBA's April 28 deadline -- the only one that really matters. Doug McDermott isn't feeling any pressure about the April 16 NCAA deadline -- and that's good, because that one means nothing. The NCAA doesn't put out a list on that date and neither does the NBA. The only deadline that produces an early-entry list is the April 28 deadline. A player could say he's returning to school next week and then declare 12 days later without any issue. Doug McDermott has one of the toughest decisions of any player, because if he decides to leave his dad will face a difficult season in the Bluejays' first season in the new Big East. If Doug stays, Creighton has a chance to contend for the new league's title.

2. New Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said Wednesday that the timing was right and he just had a feeling that he needed to move after 15 years at Niagara. Mihalich is trading one set of problems for another. Niagara, north of Buffalo, N.Y., isn't exactly in fertile recruiting territory, but Mihalich has made it work and competed for league titles in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Hofstra, on Long Island, is in a fertile recruiting area but is in rebuilding mode. The MAAC and the Colonial Athletic Association are typically one-bid leagues at this juncture. Mihalich has had other opportunities to leave but chose to stay. He said every time he considers one, the same two questions come to mind: Who is the president and who is the athletic director? Mihalich felt comfortable with current AD Jeff Hathaway, who previously held the same position at Connecticut, and president Stuart Rabinovitz. Hathaway wanted a sitting head coach and stayed true to his goal in the search.

3. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin praised the "mature decision" by junior Sean Kilpatrick to return for his senior season. Cronin is convinced Kilpatrick will work on his game enough to be a draft pick next year. Kilpatrick will have a new backcourt mate with Cashmere Wright gone; those in the running to replace Wright will include freshmen Kevin Johnson and Troy Caupain and junior Ge'Lawn Guyn.

Video: Russ Smith to enter NBA draft

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
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After winning the NCAA tournament, guard Russ Smith will forego his senior season at Louisville to enter the NBA draft.
1. The NCAA's random date of April 16 to declare for the NBA draft isn't pressuring a number of players into making quick decisions. Coaches are now savvy to the date as being meaningless. That's why Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk may wait to decide until the NBA's own early-entry deadline of April 28. Olynyk is probably going to be the same player in the NBA whether he declares next season or this. He is a Wooden All-America and, if he were to return, would be one of the contenders for player of the year. Missouri's Phil Pressey is also weighing a similar decision over the next few weeks. A number of players haven't outlined their intentions but have plenty of time, like Miami's Shane Larkin, Kansas' Ben McLemore, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Georgetown's Otto Porter, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams, Louisville's Russ Smith as well as Indiana's Cody Zeller. Cal's Allen Crabbe joined the list of draftees earlier Wednesday. I fully expect Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Michigan's Trey Burke to declare soon. No official word out of Connecticut, but the staff is anticipating -- at this point -- that guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will return (smart move if it happens, since they don't have an NBA home to go to next season).

2. The Big Ten suddenly got incredibly younger with this week's two coaching hires -- Northwestern announcing Chris Collins and Minnesota tabbing Richard Pitino. The under-40 club will give the league a new look. The two take over programs that are striving for consistency, but both desperately need an upgrade in facilities to hang with the big boys. Collins and Pitino will need to use their youthful enthusiasm to build momentum since the dollars aren't in place for facilities they were used to -- Collins was at Duke and Pitino at Louisville and Florida before his stop at Florida International. Northwestern had been looking at Collins for quite some time. But Pitino was clearly a new name for Minnesota in the past week as athletic director Norwood Teague looked for an off-the-grid-type hire like he made at Virginia Commonwealth. Pitino got off to an impressive start in his coaching career at FIU with the upset of Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt tournament and a chance to earn the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth. Now he'll face his toughest challenge of his career. He has a brand name in basketball, which carries weight, but will need to put together a strong staff to quickly earn the trust of his players this spring and summer. This can work at both places. Memphis, for example, has been a soaring success under Josh Pastner. Pastner led the Tigers to conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances as a young, vibrant assistant-turned-head-coach of a major program. Collins was a fit at Northwestern so there's no issue there. But give Pitino a chance to see if this could work.

3. Old Dominion looked like it was set to go to former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton before the Monarchs and athletic director Wood Selig tabbed American's Jeff Jones. This hire came out of left field, but might end up being one of the better fits. Jones played and coached at Virginia and should be able to recruit well in the fertile Tidewater area. Jones had made American a consistent Patriot League contender, which isn't easy to do in a conference where Bucknell and Lehigh are the anchors. ODU knows who it is and wanted to gravitate toward a coach that made sense. This hire does.

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